Friday, July 31, 2009

People in Stourport

I don't know if we've had a tourist visit or if it's truly the start of the tourist season here, but the numbers wandering around with backpacks and guidebooks certainly increased. Big yays for the town trade etc. except for the problem that the town is also the only route for the through traffic.

So yes people trying to cross the road in odd places, not helped by the poor parking of cars, and the unsynchronised pedestrian crossings all lead to tailbacks; which I'm sure don't help form a good impression of the town.

Off one of those notes someone mentioned to me that they hadn't seen any wardens about for a while, I wonder what's going on?

Mums all go to Poundland

Though some of my readers may not believe it even I, a high-powered business woman earning a decent wage writing erudite prose for many a national paper and with my perfect family, am feeling the credit crunch.

It was under such constraints that I first heard of the "Poundland" from one of my servant's cleaners where apparently all items cost only a 'pound'. As we were a little low on Beluga and I needed some new crystal champagne flutes I thought it an excellent idea to pay a visit and incidentally write about my encounter with this strange world as a service to my readers.

Learning that those of an unfortunate background tend to be found in such places I decided to dress low-key digging through my extensive wardrobes for designer clothes that were at least two years out-of fashion, ah the hardships I put up with.

The first problem I encountered was that my local "Poundland" did not possess any customer parking and I ended up parking in a muncipal car-park and having to purchase a 'ticket' from a vending machine. It then seems that "Poundland" expects its customers to seek it out and I ended up in a section of the town I'd never visited before with other oddly named stores such as "Cinton Cards" and "Foot Locker" whatever they are.

Then I found it huddled between an "H. Samuels" and something called a "Superdrug". I teetered on the edge of entering repulsed by both the glaring advertising with its liberal use of exclamation marks and the shell-suited behemoths trundling past dragging their kicking and screaming children along, but finally I plucked up the courage to enter.

I stood for some time at the entrance until I realised that no assistant was about to present themselves to take my order, apparently "Poundland" is self-service. It was an oddly liberating experience to size up my own purchases and compare products though I was puzzled as to how I would be able to carry anything especially just after my manicure.

Trying to avoid eye-contact I glanced at my fellow shoppers and realised they were all carrying some type of ghastly rigid plastic container. "Was I supposed to have brought one with me", I mused. Not being able to see an assistant around, such poor service, I steeled myself and addressed one of my fellow shoppers trying to pick the one with the least clashing clothes and amount of fake tan and eye-liner.

"Could you possible tell me where I might obtain one of those?" I asked pointing at the basket in my least posh voice so she could understand me.
"Wot one of dese?" she replied pointing at what appeared to be a constipated Budha ornament.
"No I meant the container" I elucidated.
She frowned at me and I made ready to run in case she pulled out a knife.
"Dey're by der entrance" she continued to frown at me.
I backed off with a hurriedly spoken "thank you" and made a beeline back to the beginning of my trek. Sure enough piled higgledy-piggledy were a stack of plastic baskets from which I managed to extract one.

With basket in place I felt much more 'at home' and set off from where I started. At long last I found an assistant identified by some strange cardigan type covering.
"Young man", I asked. "Where do you keep your Beluga?"
"Our wot?" he said obviously confused
"Your caviar?" I explained.
"We don't do dat we got some fish over der dough" He waved in a general direction "Might find something der". He then went back to stacking shelves.

Taken aback both by his unwillingness to escort me and that a store could exist that didn't sell caviar, I wrote off obtaining any champagne flutes and ended up in what appeared to be a gardening section surrounded by the same constipated Budhas I'd seen earlier. There were also some odd looking contraptions advertised as Solar Lights and tins of paint of some hideous shade "This explains a lot" I thought.

More wanderings and I start to spy products with names I recognise from watching the servants on the CCTV - Cadbury's and Colgate to name but two. I slip a few of them into my basket something for my children so as they can learn to truly appreciate their own everyday products.

I was stymied by the eggs though. Not a sign of British stamped farmhouse organic just a pack labelled "12 Medium Fresh Eggs" I wasn't sure I wanted eggs that weren't wholly fresh only medium fresh and forgetting for a second where I was I commented on that fact to my current neighbour.
'I don't know,' said the woman, slipping some Rolos and a pack of balloons into her basket and vanishing in the direction of toiletries.

Giving up I headed with the flow to where it appeared we were expected to pay for our items I wondered briefly if I could persuade them to offer me the contents for free if I mentioned their store in a national newspaper, but decided not to risk it in case the crowd turned ugly, or at least uglier than they currently were.

As I stood in the queue I looked at the contents of my basket and was surprised by how much had found it's way into it. Of course it was all cheap tacky stuff and looking at the bulging contents of my fellow queuers baskets I felt some small pity that for them this was obviously all they knew and all they'd ever know - clothes made from shiny artificial fabrics and toys that look like they're about to be broken simply sitting there.

But I pulled myself together by reminding myself that most of their shopping would be paid for by the likes of you and I - honest hard-working taxpayers.

I finally reached the checkout and would you believe they don't accept American Express!

[Now also featured on the Daily Quail]

Foreigners 'taking' our organs.

A statement released today by the Real British Fascist Society highlights yet more perfidy on the part of Johnny Foreigner. 'Not only are they taking our homes, our jobs, and our women it seems they also want our organs' was the bold statement. 'Even now swarthy, hook-nosed, greasy foreigners with their thick lips and slanty eyes may be tripping over their robes to disembowel you with their strange curvy knives while you sleep at night' it continued. 'Recognising the innate superiority of the white race their voodoo hocus-pocus religions have led them to believe that they can become more like us by slowly replacing their under-evolved organs with our advanced ones'.

'It's what we've been saying all along' claimed a spokesperson. 'And frankly this government's response is pitiful. We won't rest until every decent white person in this country has the right to string-up any foreigner that even looks at them funny. It's important that the message is made clear - British organs in British people.' He then added ' Unless you've got a really hot foreign maid in which case you should be able to put your British organ wherever you like.'

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Platinum Bioshock

Happy dance when I polished off the final level in Bioshock and watched the trophies pop up -

Brass Balls
A Man Chooses
I Chose the Impossible
Platinum Trophy

Oh yeah... then just for fun I started a New Game Plus just to see what it'd be like to play with all my plasmids and tonics already available oh and to be a bar steward and harvest all the Little Sisters instead of rescuing them.

You don't get all your stuff back straight away until you hit the Medical Pavilion and get to a gene bank which makes the first encounter as tough as ever, but you do get the Plasmids that you would otherwise collect after that point in their upgraded forms (if you'd bought them that is)

While not as tense and difficult once you're a walking arsenal of death it is kind of fun to turn the tables on a group of Splicers who previously would have had you running around screaming for a health station as they smashed your head in with wrenches. Ah Naplam - scientific wonder ;-)

Roadwork update

The signs at the end of High Street were finally being taken down this morning so what's that been a week, two weeks since the work was finished?

[Update - except for some that have been left outside the pub on the pavement]

Nothing has yet been done in York Street though the cones on the far side have been removed and double-stacked along the outside edge.

[Update - all done and all the cones etc. removed, looks like they've square cut it out and refilled it.]

No news as yet about the outcome of the Gilgal meeting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Car widths increasing?

My father is looking for a new car, but is having the same difficulty I did namely width. The newer model of his current car is about 5 inches wider and although it will fit (just) in the garage he wouldn't be able to exit. In fact I've been looking around as well for him and it seems every new model in the 'Supermini' bracket is anywhere between 2 to 6 inches wider than mine and mine's wider than his current car.

This got me thinking so I conducted a non-rigorous test with the Ford Fiesta which has been manufactured for some time now and is considered a 'compact' car. It seems that on average each new model gains an extra inch in width.

So anyone living in an older house most likely has a garage constructed with older models in mind and are getting squeezed out, which also might explain the number of cars parked on drives and roads.

However there's also another side to this with regard to the width of roads in this country. A quick search reveals that the 'standard road width' is around 7m that is 3.5m per lane; now the cars I've been seeing are around 1.9m and they're considered small.

So as you don't want to drive in the gutter over the drains you need to leave at least half-a-metre out. Add on the 1.9m and call it 2.5m, assume the other lane is the same and that leaves a clearance of 2m between lanes, which is fine. But again that's for the small cars.

A random selection of new 'family' cars and MPVs shows up that they tend to have a width of a little over 2m so makes little difference in terms of width on a standard road, but how many roads are deemed to be standard?

From the TIA conducted on behalf of Tesco the widths of most of the roads in Stourport can be found.

High Street - 5.6m, although they call it one-lane it is like York Street two so 2.8m per lane.
York Street - 6.5m, but does that take into consideration the parking bays? 3.25m per lane
Vale Road - 9m, but that's three lanes. 3m per lane.
Lion Hill - 5.8m, two lanes 2.8m per lane.
Mitton Street - 7.4 - 5.5m, two lanes so with the variable width that's 3.7m - 2.75m per lane
and finally good old Gilgal - 5.5 - 4.35m, again two lanes to 2.75m - 2.175m

So driving through Stourport in a normal 2m width car and allowing for drains the maximum space between two cars would be 1.5m in York Street dropping to a crash in Gilgal unless you drive in the gutter in which case you're looking at a maximum gap of 30cm.

Gosh I wonder why people slow down in Gilgal?

Now a Ford Transit is 2.374m in width, add on a drain distance and that's as wide as some of our lanes.

Although I'm using Stourport roads here this applies to a lot of older roads around the country - vehicles appear to be getting wider while out roads stay the same width. From the C&U regulations (helpfully not available on line) it appears that the maximum width of a vehicle is 2.55m which was set in 1986.

We seem to be getting rather close to it.

Army compensation

Much whining seems to be going on in the press regarding the amount the MoD is willing to pay out to injured soldiers.

I'm sorry do I have a different definition of "compensation" to the press? If I'm asked to perform duties outside of my job's remit I may be compensated, if I'm fired because of cost-cutting measures I may get compensation; but both of those are voluntary. However if an injury occurs during my job due to negligence on the part of my employer I may be eligible for compensation, but that's for a court to decide.

So what's going on with the army? We hear that a soldier out on patrol got shot in the thigh and another injured in training received compensation for such... why? Just out of curiosity what are we (because after all it's our taxes that fund the army) paying them for? They're soldiers - fighting is what they're supposed to do, getting injured is sadly part and parcel a likely consequence of that.

They weren't conscripted they joined up voluntarily, are they saying that had they known they'd end up fighting they wouldn't have joined? I'm confused to me it's like joining the fire service then complaining I've been burnt dealing with a fire, hardly an unexpected occurrence.

Now if it was the MoD's fault they were injured then fine that's a court matter, likewise if their contract of employment set out a disability pension then that's that; but compensation for doing what they're paid to do?

Monday, July 27, 2009

York Street pothole

It seems I spoke too soon, this very minute they're repairing it and have coned off the stretch of road opposite to stop cars parking there.... oh I crack myself up at times. What they've actually done is replaced the little square of orangeness with a big rectangle of orangeness blocking off access to some of the disabled parking bays. As I drove past an Initial van had double-parked on the left-hand side before it and a delivery van had parked on the right-hand side after it.

Oh and presumably the people in charge of this road furniture aren't in charge of the end of High Street's stuff as that's all still there.

[Update 28/7 - Saw it last night without any traffic around; it's a work of art. No seriously I could transplant it to a Modern Art exhibit and call it something ironic such as 'Men Working'. The barriers form a tight-knit rectangle with the cones trailing off from the outside corners to the pavement at equal angles forming a symmetrical trapezium and just for good measure a neat line of cones along the outer edge of the barrier. Almost a shame it'll get messed up when they actually start working there]

[Additional - and just for fun the business opposite is having some work done and has scaffolding out closing the pavement]

The saga of Liz Jones

The Daily Quail does a delightful little spoof on the latest outpourings from The Daily Mail's Liz Jones. For those fortunate enough not to have encountered her writings before she seems to make a habit of pointing out how terrible everything is, or at least how terrible everything appears to be from her five-star hotel's balcony just before she rushes off to another important power-meeting or rare-oil massage.

Seriously you don't need to even rewrite her stuff to spoof it.

Just because I had riding lessons didn't mean my family had any money. I was always mortified that the only proper 'kit' I owned was a pair of second-hand cord jodhpurs and a velvet hard hat that was so precious I kept it enveloped in plastic all week.
How terrible for you only being able to afford riding lessons.
We walked over to her. Lizzie immediately put her head straight up, like a llama, and galloped towards us. It was as if she had been waiting for me. She nuzzled my trousers, and I gave her the organic M&S carrot batons I had brought with me.
'Because I've been abroad and seen llamas in real life' note also the casual (hah) mention of the carrots, oh no these aren't ordinary carrots these are M&S organic carrots... for the horse.
We think she has been beaten up by a man, mistreated and then tossed aside because they couldn't handle her,' said the woman.
Dear little gods subtext much?
I think of the words a psychic healer had once said to me.

Minster Road works

I don't travel along the dual-carriageway between Kidderminster and Stourport much, and no-one's mentioned this to me, but the layout of the works being done on the exit to Stourport from this carriageway is insane.

Picture a dual-carriageway as it merges into two-way traffic. As you might expect the right-hand lane joins with the left-hand one, however just before this point a slip-road allows traffic to turn right and is forced into conformity by concrete dividers. Just beyond the merging point is a left-hand turn and this is where the roadworks are taking place.

Now given the layout it would seem to me the most logical thing to do would be to set up traffic lights at the blockage, but put the waiting point the other side of the left-hand turn at the merger point. That would mean traffic coming out of it can see the lights and that both it and anyone trying to turn into that lane won't be blocked by the queue entering Stourport.

However I'm still not entirely sure what they've done. At first glance it would appear that they were trying to divert all traffic into the right-hand turn, except this would be an insanely long diversion for the amount of work being done or they're traffic turning right is then supposed to turn left and drive down the wrong side of the road, which wouldn't work for the longer vehicles. Either way traffic from that left-hand turn further up wouldn't know when they could leave.

What is there is almost as confusing the traffic travelling correctly up the left-hand lane is forced into the right-hand lane by cones. This is fun because obviously you get traffic charging up the right-hand lane in an effort to overtake everyone or to turn right. Once in the right hand lane a gap in the cones allowed the traffic to get back into the left-hand lane they'd just left. In the meantime traffic turning right is prevented from doing so by a traffic light which is nonsensical as they'd be naturally prevented from turning by any oncoming traffic anyway. This however makes sense if we were all supposed to turn right and the gap in the cones was a mistake, except that creates the problems I've already mentioned and the layout of the cones was set up after the concrete dividers forced the traffic into the slip road so you'd be led into a kerb if you hadn't noticed the diversion.

I'm baffled! Actually no I'm not this is just the sort of half-arsed thing I've come to expect whenever anything more complicated than 'go around the hole' crops up.

[Additional - Seems I'm not the only one who got annoyed by it, though it appears the original set-up was a four-way set of lights]

On another note the works at the end of High Street have finished, I haven't mentioned them before because they didn't affect the traffic one jot being a closed lane on a two-lane one-way system with plenty of room to manoeuvre; except they finished last week and all the signs are still up warning of roadworks and, although three-quarters of the previously closed is now open, you still have to use the other lane because the cones directing you into the other lane are still up.

Oh and the barricaded pothole in York Street is still present and yes people are still parking to either side of it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

At last a water meter read.

Huzzah we've finally matched water meters to buildings. As a recap the problem arose when a certain contractor changed all the meters over, we got charged for our unit (call it Unit 1) and we should have been charged for an empty property (Unit 3), however Unit 2's meter was assigned to Unit 3's and Unit 2 was estimated against the meter that was taken out.

So we got our bill and the bill that should have gone to Unit 2. After someone came down and turned off the stopcocks the issue was resolved except it left the question of the whereabouts of the meter for Unit 3.

So we get a bill for our Unit 1 and a bill for unit 3 which is a meter read... hang on you don't know where the meter is. Nope they were still trying to charge us for Unit 2; now just for s&g we get a new bill with a different meter number on it with an estimated usage, except they're using the start meter read from Unit 2 which as mentioned is a completely different unit.

So they've come down once more, tested the meters we know exist and checked a stopcock that turns out to definitely feed to Unit 4 and doesn't feed Unit 3 (with the plumbing you never know) and they spy another cover that seems to feed Unit 5.

They turn it off and Unit 3's water stops but Unit 5's doesn't, now this could have been fun if it turned out that they'd been charging Unit 5 on this meter but luckily after phoning it in it turns out that the meter "isn't listed". So it's got to be Unit 3's.

At the same time I get a reading from the meter. Now the original bill was a meter read that wasn't for us started at 5 and was read at 161. The new meter they tried to 'con' us with of course started at 161 and had an estimated end read of 591! The current read on the meter - 91; yeah my thoughts exactly.

Who is Anna Willamson?

A blink and you'd miss it moment on GMTV in the switch from the couch to the GMTV news logo resulted in what looked like an 80's style computerised graphics equaliser with "Anna Williamson" sitting top right.

Turns out she's a presenter of Toonatik i.e. weekend GMTV.

So what was that all about then?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gilgal Roadworks - 2

It appears the plans to essentially shut-down Stourport from the end of August until the middle of September have attracted some negative criticism gee I can't think why.

Gosh could it be that said works would take place at the same time as the carnival is being held during the busiest trading season? Nah.

Anyway as a compromise they're being pushed back to the middle of September. Here however are two interesting quotes

"I still don’t see why the works can’t be carried out in January or February, when the town is quiet."

and the answer

"Carrying out these works at this time of year, rather than in winter, enables the contractor to work longer each day, due to the hours of daylight available, and the potential for bad weather delaying the project [...] There is also a danger that delaying the works might lead to even more disruption and inconvenience if people, or traders, were left without power during the dark and cold winter period or if the water mains burst before the new main had been laid"

So the work is so "essential" that not doing it could lead to power failures and burst pipes and that doing it now not only limits that possibility, but allows a lower chance of disruption because of rain and allows the workcrew to work longer hours. I feel a sneeze coming on... Ah ah bulls****.

Point 1: If the work is so essential why wasn't it done when Gilgal was re-surfaced, has it deteriorated that much?

Point 2: This is England the difference in weather between August/September and January/February is a little more rain and a bit colder which could easily apply to either period. I'd also like to point out these amazing new contraptions called 'awnings'. You can take on of these 'awnings' and use it to cover a site you're working on in order to keep out the nasty weather.

Point 3: The workers start at x o'clock and finish at y o'clock regardless of the time of year unless someone's paying them overtime.

and finally

Point 4: They're having to keep the road open for both emergency vehicles and "access to land" so they can't dig up the entire lot in one go so why can't one lane be left open with a speed restriction placed on it?

I suppose I'll have to ask in the comments.

[Additional - I'd also like to applaud the Shuttle for making this a page 3 item in the dead tree edition with a whopping great "'Ghost town' roadworks are delayed" headline rather than burying it on page 18 or such]

Television schedules

Here's a question for you - If you were planning to broadcast a programme at 9pm that had a potential audience of 1m and you learned that a rival was broadcasting a show that would attract the same audience at the same time, what would you do?

For me the logical answer is to show it at a different time and yet with regularity I find all the major broadcasters showing the same time of show at the same time as each other. If the goal is for higher ratings (i.e. a large audience) wouldn't it make sense not to broadcast shows that could split the pie into smaller slices?

At first this seemed illogical until I realised that ratings aren't the goal it's revenue and that comes from advertising. But still why would this affect things, after all in this technologically adapt age we know longer need to light candles and sacrifice chickens to get the recorder to work (although if it meant the broadcasters started at the times they state they will I'd give it a shot). But there is a difference between live and recordings.

When watching a programme live and the adverts come on you have three major options available

  1. You change channels or,
  2. You do something else or,
  3. You watch them.
There's enough of an audience in option 3 to sustain advertising, but what if it's a recording? Well the same three options are available, however you're less likely to change channels (if at all) and you can pause it when you like so no need to use the adverts as 'breaks'. This would seem ideal for advertising by pushing everyone into the 3rd option, except a fourth is added

4. You skip or fast-forward through them.

Advertisers hate recordings for this reason, and, I think, it is for this reason that adverts are getting brasher - they're trying to pack their entire message into the single blip you see as you speed through them.

So scheduling makes sense in the light that they want to put their best programmes on at a time when people can watch them live rather than record them. It also puts a new emphasis on the constant calls that we can watch programmes when we like from the various players available online because they don't allow you to fast-forward through the adverts. It's like watching it live, but whenever you want.

So best times = higher ratings = higher charge for advertising = more revenue. All makes sense; that is it makes sense for commercial channels. So why do the BBC play the same game? Because they're idiots, no okay that's unfair they've been conned into playing the same ratings game in order to prove their value and have been taking the same lessons from the commercial channels to do it. Except they haven't grasped the reason that the others do it this way.

Provided it's advertised well there is no reason (other than watershed) for the BBC to play the competition game and schedule any of its programmes at peak times 'against' the competition; in fact from the very first point I made in this entry its actually a detriment against them as their potential audience gets split 2, 3 or even 4 ways.

If the programme is good enough, the audience will find it. In fact the only time this fails is when the broadcaster themselves decide to seriously f**** it up by shifting it around the schedules, but with series link technology even that's less of problem than it used to be.

So a message to the BBC - stop playing the competition's game and stop thinking of BBC1 and BBC2 as major and minor channels. Put programmes on when they don't clash with the rivals and advertise them well - you don't need to care when people watch them, you don't need to care that they can fast-forward through them so stop thinking it matters and watch your ratings go up.

Police on Sandy Lane

This morning Sandy Lane Industrial Estate gained 4 police cars. Two parked next to Glazecare and two outside Wigleys. Talk suggests that they must have arrived after 8am and that originally there were three so a fourth must have joined them between around 8:15 and 8:30.

As yet no news as to their purpose for being there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Knife crime crackdown - failure?

The figures were realeased today regarding the levels of knife crime in the UK the result should be obvious from reading the headlines in the papers -

Knife murders increase in 10 force areas targeted by £7million crackdown on knife crime - Telegraph
EXCLUSIVE: Killings up in hotspots - Mirror
Stabbing deaths rise during high-profile £12million anti-knife campaign - Daily Mail
Deaths up during anti-knife drive - BBC News
Deaths on rise as government anti-knife crime strategy fails - Guardian

Other than not being sure how much the campaign cost I think that's pretty clear - it's a failure. Except read those headlines again and note the specifics. They're not talking about knife crime in its entirety, merely the fatalities that have resulted from it. Indeed if you work past the headlines every single news report I've listed goes on to say that overall knife crime has decreased.

It's also interesting to note that none of the reports compare more than two years' fatality rates stating only that it went from 119 to 126 (23+103 from 23+96). So what were the figures for the year before that, because if it was 111 or below then the increase from 06/07 to 07/08 would be greater than the increase from 07/08 to 08/09 which would indicate that the scheme might have had some success.

Except we don't get those figures because that might ruin the story that this project was a failure; a £7/12 million failure from our useless government and would prevent the newspapers' stoking up our fear that gangs of 'feral youths' are out there stalking us with machetes. Scare story and a government failure - facts wilt before its power.

GMTV's Solar Eclipse

The solar eclipse over parts of Asia was reported briefly on GMTV "started in India just after midnight" "lasted in Singapore for six minutes".

Two points some might question

  1. How can you have a solar eclipse at midnight and,
  2. If the sun travels East to West how can Singapore which is East of India see it later?
The answers are that it was midnight UTC which is about 6am in India and that indeed the sun appears to move East to West, but the moon travels at a different rate, for this period it can be deemed as stationary which means the shadow it casts moves from West to East.

But hey they're just reporting the news no need to explain it or even knock up a neat little animation. I swear they just can't be bothered any more or that it's 'too sciencey' and might turn people off watching.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gilgal logic

Whenever Gilgal gets mentioned at the Shuttle site someone always pipes up with something along the lines of "Ah it's bad drivers, they should merge" and I always respond with "They can't". The other line is that traffic shouldn't be stopping at the merge point but carrying on until a gap forms again I counter that this is illogical. I realise now I haven't explained the logic behind this, so I will lay it out now.

There are two premises I base this on:

  1. The majority of traffic wishes to use the left-hand lane.
  2. Any gap that does form will be filled by the first Vale Road car that meets it.
Both based on observation.

So the first logically step based on premise 1 is that the most likely place a gap will form is at the end of any queue formed in the left-hand lane where the traffic builds up.
If the queue doesn't reach the merger point then it will be filled by traffic from Vale Road until it does as per premise 2.
Thus given a sufficient quantities of traffic the end of the queue will always be either at or beyond the merger point.
Given the first logical step any gaps will form at the end of this queue.
Therefore if the gap remains it will be at or pass by the merger point and as per premise 2 will be filled by the first car from Vale Road it meets which will be the one waiting at the merger point.

Therefore if you decide to travel down the right-hand side you are waiting for a gap that is less likely to form than at the merger point or hoping someone will let you in which is just as likely while waiting at the merger point.

While it is possible that someone will continue down the left-hand lane and change lanes later there remains an even chance that they will do so either before or after your current position and that the gap will be closed up by the time you or it is reached.

Therefore when traffic creates a queue in Gilgal to increase your chances of joining the left-hand lane you should stop at the merger point.

Naughty Penny Smith

Following a news report that Michael Parkinson wouldn't feature on "Who do you think you are?" because his family line was 'boring' we returned to Penny and Ben on the sofa
"My family were iron workers", said Ben.
"I come from a long line of seaman", added Penny.

You could almost see the splutters in the gallery as after a brief pause she elaborated with "oystermen and lobster catchers". Even Ben couldn't keep the smirk off his face.

As I've said before I feel sorry for Penny she starts the show at 6am then when the show proper starts at 7am she's relegated to the news desk as someone else takes her place on the sofa; and even when they go to be replaced by Lorraine she's still doing the news. Other than the crew (who for all I know also have a shift change) the only other one present throughout the show is whoever's doing the weather and even then there's two of them alternating days.

I suppose so long as she gets paid enough in return for the long shift, but with all the talk over what Fiona earned I doubt it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A new and improved UK citizenship test

With the same 24 questions and 75% pass rate as the official one, now including a couple of soap questions just for Uponnothing


I note with disgust that a Roadworks and a 'Right-hand lane closed' sign are still present on the approach to Gilgal from the lights despite there being no works for at least a week.

The barricade in the middle of York Street is still present, but the cones that prevented anyone parking to its left are gone, presumably because they're disabled spaces. As one might expect this isn't stopping anyone parking before or after it on its right.

Last week on one day I noted six vehicles parked up the kerb in High Street and two on the zig-zag approach lines to the crossing.

Do we actually have any traffic wardens patrolling the town?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good customer service

Again just to prove my sole goal in life is not to moan at things; herein lies an example of good customer service. The internet connection went down [runs in little circles waving arms in air]. So I started through the standard tests and noted that the 'train' was still active that is the phone line hadn't gone down, nor had the ADSL equipment. The router just couldn't locate the gateway; a closer look turned up a problem with the LCP (Link Control Protocol) which sadly doesn't narrow it down as to which end is at fault.

So I contacted our ISP and someone picked up the line - first good point not a menu not a "Your call is important to us, but not so important we'll hire more staff to answer it".

I explained the problem, she took some details and started to pass me to another department; a brief moment and she came back to tell me they were having problems with the main gateway in my area that they were working on it now so it should be back up soon, if it wasn't call them back. Second good point - instead of passing me through to the tech support to tell me this and waste their time, she passed me the message meaning she also has this information and can pass this on to other callers without bothering tech again.

I had some stuff to do out of office so I nipped out between the showers and sorted it out and came back to a happy glowing Internet connection - yay.

I then get a call from the same lady at our ISP to let me know that everything should be working now and to check we were okay. Oh and no I didn't give them the phone number they must have logged it automatically.

Total Telecom Ltd I salute you.

Real UK Citizens Test

Just something I knocked together yes sorry it's Flash

Playstation GamerTag

As Dan spotted I'd added on an advertisement for Sony to my blog in the form of a GamerTag except I should call it a Portable ID hah yeah as if.

This is something new from Sony and as such isn't quite up to speed yet. It only comes in one size (wide) and clicking on it rather than taking you to my profile takes you to a registration page.

A small fiddle around means I've shrunk it enough to fit into the sidebar and linked it to the main image so as to be legible. Hopefully Sony will introduce a short form ID and allow a link from it to my public profile.

I picked the infamous InFamous theme from those on offer which mildly tickles my humour and I've set my favourite game to BioShock being the only one from the drop-down list I actually owned (they've slowly added some more in since). Current mood is "wierd" [or "weird" even, sigh my typo] which of the choices on offer is probably the one I'll have to update the least.

So if you've got a Playstation 3 there's my tag send an invite and use me as a target in Killzone2.

Major Stourport Road Closure

Picked up from the Public notices in the Shuttle (page 60 and sorry Dan it's Flash). As you might expect not a murmur from the paper itself yet. This is going to need a map to make sense.

Condensing the big chunk o'text down - the top of Vale Road (though technically it's Minster Road) will be closed in both directions from the 14th August to the 17th August 2009; then just the Northbound section will be reopened.

Then from the 17th August until the 21st September 2009 the Blue Section of Vale Road, the Red Section of Gilgal and the Yellow Section of Worcester Road (one lane only from Gilgal) will be closed. So for all traffic trying to get from the town to Worcester Road the official diversion route is as shown:

Although "light vehicles can use [...] Wilden Lane" which does take a big chunk of, but goes past a school, an urban area, and means driving over the torn-up road that is Wilden Lane. This is also the route for anyone trying to get to Mitton Street from Kidderminster starting at Kidderminster though of course.

For anyone who's on the other side of the river they can of course use the unofficial diversion as shown here:

Except that will be for light vehicles only as there's a weight restriction in place on that bridge and there may still be water works going on at Ombersley.

Relief Road? Why would Stourport need a Relief Road? Just because shutting down one section of road that's about a third of a mile long results in a choice of diversions approximately 13 miles in length doesn't suggest any problems with the road infrastructure.

Oh and I didn't mention, but this is to "facilitate water mains renewal and high voltage cable replacement works". So the people who live there will not only have difficulty in getting out, but are likely to have power and water turned off at some point.

As Jim said "So they're digging up the only decent bit of road left in Stourport?" Yes, yes they are and adding in 5 weeks of chaos to boot.

[Additional - One interesting point is that due to the severe diversion they're having to ensure that emergency vehicles can get through, combine this with access to land is still going to be allowed and I have to wonder exactly why they felt the need to shut the whole thing down rather than just leave one lane open; which, let's face it, is pretty much how it works at the moment.]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Customer Service

A phone call from a domain registrar we use for oddities.

"Some of your domain names have expired"
"Really, which ones?"
"Let me look that up"

Now let's just get this straight I didn't call you to check on our domains you phoned us to tell us about them. So don't you think that in that case, and with the pretty much predictable path the conversation is likely to take, having that information ready before the call is made would be a good idea?

Seriously I was left tapping my fingers for a minute (I timed it) before he had the information ready.

UK Citizenship Test

Via AngryMob I quickly took the UK Citizenship Test. The pass mark is 75% so for 24 questions you need to answer at least 18 correctly - I got 15.

Now to be fair I'm supposed to have read the "Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship - the Official Publications" book a snip at £9.99; oddly enough I haven't.


  1. Immigrant group - Incorrect; damn I did know this.
  2. Constituency seats - Correct; as I've mapped them all.
  3. CofE - Correct; though with some thought as to the second name.
  4. Education - Correct; knowledge via moaning parents
  5. Job Applicants - Correct; though I wouldn't be surprised if the others became obligatory.
  6. Ulster Scots - Correct; wrenched from the back of my brain.
  7. Divorce - Incorrect; who the hell knows this beyond a lawyer or feminist historian?
  8. EU Parliament - Correct; because why have just one office.
  9. Prescriptions - Correct; I took a common sense approach rather than a Daily Mail one.
  10. New Deal - Incorrect; what the hell is "New Deal"?
  11. Children - Correct; again statistic wonk to the rescue.
  12. Muslims - Incorrect; but not far off I think I was mixing it up with minorities.
  13. Quango - Correct; though you could be forgiven for thinking it something else.
  14. Hospital - Incorrect; excuse me? P*** off!
  15. Training opportunities - Correct; again common sense applied.
  16. Census - Incorrect; I was wavering here.
  17. Voting - Incorrect; majorly so, though I now realise I misinterpreted one of the answers.
  18. Schools - Incorrect; really? Knock me down with a feather.
  19. Advice - Correct; good old common sense.
  20. Minutes - Correct; wonk.
  21. Speed - Correct; though it seems most don't bother.
  22. By-election - Correct; wonk.
  23. Under-age work - Incorrect; pathetic choice of answers, 10 or 12? Big effin difference.
  24. EU body - Correct; wonk.
So I note that of the questions I answered incorrectly at least 4 I wouldn't expect to have any knowledge on without prior study and of some that I answered correctly I doubt many others would unless they too had been delving into population stats and minutiae of Parliaments.

Except wouldn't you expect a test to determine 'UK-ness' to consist of questions that every current UK citizen should get right? 'Which side of the road do you drive on?', ' Takeaway fish and chips are normally wrapped in?' Instead this test appears to be a 'How well can you read and regurgitate the Citizenship book' which should at least knock out all those who can't afford the tenner to buy it.

[Update - Jim passed with 18, in his own words "I guessed a lot of them" see lucky people that's also the type of people we want in this country]

Bin collections

I was once again struck this morning by the thought of councils fining people who put their bins out too early. Today is the weekly recycling day, which means the stupid boxes with the stupid lids* get put out.

Now the bins are kept at the back of the house and I bring them through the garage to put at the front, due to the width of the garage this is only really feasible when the car's not in the way. So if I'm not planning to go out the night before the collection this means taking them out when I get home or when I leave in the morning. As I have space on the drive I usually leave them out at night and drop them next to the pavement in the morning either way.

Regardless of whether it's the weekly recycling or fortnightly normal collection the collection wagon normally drives down the opposite side of the street of a morning before turning around and heading back up mine. This means collection normally occurs after 2pm. Now that means in theory I could leave my bins on my drive until I head home for lunch and put them out then. Excellent just what the council welcomes as I'm obstructing things for the shortest period of time.

Well no because on occasion I've got back to find the bins have already been emptied and this morning they decided to take a different route and they were emptied at 8.15 this morning and fortunately I'd already been out to add some extra to them and moved them down at the same time.

So what the council seem to expect is people to put out the bins at the times they specify and only those times and to move them away when collected. This may seem reasonable and they can complain that people are too lazy to get up in the morning to do it, but this is how people are being conditioned to behave. Running down to make sure your bin is placed by 8am only to watch it being collected at 3pm is pretty much guaranteed to make people wonder why they bothered. Combine that with putting it out later and not having it collected because they came 'early' and you know what? I'll just stick it out at night and sleep in.

* They've provided lids to keep the water out of the boxes when it rains except the lids are concave with a ridge around the edge where they fit the boxes, in other words cheap plastic moulding. So yep they'll keep the rain out of the boxes while at the same time forming a centimetre deep puddle on the top that results in a dirty great splash of water if you try to move either the box or the lid - excellent design there folks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

School holidays 2

So up pops GMTV with a report from some charity that the government should provide subsidised child care during the school summer holidays; oo you know or they could not have such long holidays at all. Ah I've already dealt with this, but it's time for a true story.

Once upon a time the family Bratus decided to book a holiday, for reasons to complex to explain the best time for this would be near the end of the summer holidays; in fact at the end of the summer holidays. Sadly this would meant that the two Brats would miss out on the first two days of the school term, and as these were a Thursday and Friday for the family to come back on the Wednesday would have left that part of the holiday a bit flat.

So conscientiously they asked the school if it would be okay for the Brats to miss the first two days.
"Oh no", said the school. "We'd prefer them to be here for the start"
This seemed fair enough being the beginning of a whole new term with new teachers and timetables missing out could be difficult; so the family booked only a week off.

Just before the holidays started the family received a note from the two schools the Brats go to detailing the holiday period. Imagine the surprise of the family when they discovered that both schools had tacked on Teacher Training Days to the end of the holiday covering that very Thursday and Friday.

Well I say surprise I'm sure you can guess their real reaction. They're currently trying to see if they can add on the extra week they were told they shouldn't take by the school.

So what can we learn from this little lesson?

Firstly the cry that the period is required for training becomes a little pale when it seems a need to add extra days for training is a necessity.

Secondly why have the children come back on a Thursday only to break up the start with a week-end? Okay it could be argued that it's a stressful time that the weekend acts both as a break for the children and as a period of consolidation for the teachers to deal with any problems that have arisen. Except we get those Teacher Training days that just wave that argument away.

Any teachers out there want to comment?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yet another Tesco application

Seriously I've lost count now of how many planning applications they've submitted (oh wait it's been three online at least), this blipped up in the notices of the Shuttle (kudos to Jim for spotting it). According to the notice they are

Amended plans, secure by design statement and statement in relation to third party representations received
which just seems to translate to 'the plans have been altered after talking with people'.

Now what I hadn't noticed until I checked the numbers submitted was that the code supplied was identical to the one back in December 08/1053/EIA Now back in December I counted 56 documents split into 19 drawings and 33 supporting documents. We now have 26 drawings and 36 supporting documents. The latest two supporting documents match the titles here "secure by design" and "third party reps" which suggests I may have miscounted the originals by one (which is quite possible).

The Secure By Design rather than being the name of some snobby furniture store is about how the proposals
will deter crime and promote feelings of security and safety
presumably via some sort of aerosol tranquilliser or having guards dressed in Lycra and masks? No it's about regenerative influence and crystal power... okay not crystal power; basically make the site look good influence those areas around it and make sure there aren't large number of muggings, rapes, or murders occurring in the car-parks by, you know, making sure they're well-lit and stuff. Sort of the things you'd kind of expect a store to do anyway, but hey best to be explicit in such matters or not...
Consequently it is anticipated that, following the granting of outline planning permission, Tesco will engage in detailed discussion with all responsible authorities including officers of the Council and the appropriate representative of the Police.
Because who wants to deal with all that before you get outline planning permission, yeesh you mean you want this sort of security built-in from the start - get real. The rest is blah until you get to 3.3 which starts to deal in specifics.
It is proposed to improve the quality of Mitton Street as a pedestrian link between the store site and the town centre
and later
pedestrian crossing facilities to assist in providing a safe connection, via Mitton Street, to the town centre
Yes we've been down this road and we don't want it narrowed or have traffic lights fitted to it thank-you very much.
The potential to enhance Lodge Road as a safe and convenient route to the site for pedestrians will be investigated in consultation with the responsible authorities
Bloody hell that's almost intelligent why didn't I think of that? Oh wait would that be because Lodge Road doesn't connect with Severnside unless you knocked someone's house down?

The other points listed are to provide lighting on footpaths; duh.

In terms of layout those big windows will be aces for "natural surveillance" of areas except at night when they'll turn into partial mirrors. They'll also put CCTV in to deter crime, well how thoughtful of them.

A nice heading of "Activity" reveals
The development will create a significant amount of activity, both within the store and the neighbouring external spaces. This will involve both customers and staff, and other visitors including suppliers.
and later
The opportunity exists to create an active and well used public area adjacent to the store entrance
Wait how does this tie in with the assertion that this development won't have any significant impact of traffic?

Just for fun
The regenerative effects of the proposal will assist in creating a sense of use and ownership and, as a consequence, will promote feelings of safety and security.
Tesco intends to have in place a management plan to prevent trolleys being taken and possibly dumped off site. This is not expected to be a significant problem but it is nevertheless considered desirable to establish appropriate contingency measures.
Say what? Supermarket + trolleys + river = not a significant problem? Awesome.

The third-party statements take the form of replies to objections.

We start of with a 'The store size is non-negotiable nah nah nah nah' and the need for one is justified by stating that Wychavon council considered that Pershore could be better served by an additional store. Oh well if Pershore needs one of course we do too. The size is justified by the closure of the existing store, the addition being deemed enough to leave scope for other retailers. Oh and yes of course it'll stop the drip-feed to Kidderminster and encourage people to stay in Stourport; yes sort of right if you consider shopping in Stourport to equate to shopping at Tesco. They go into this in some length and boring detail. No seriously multiple pages with occasionally duplication of points level of detail.

Oo spelling mistake 2.14 "Kiddermisnter"

Hmm worth pointing out street surveys from 2006 that state
key improvements sought by Stourport businesses are increased choice/range of shops and flexible/cheap car parking
What and you think a mono-store with customer-use only parking is the answer to that. Need I remind anyone of my call to introduce half-hour free spaces at Raven Street car-park?

Still justifying the size and 2.40 "Kiddermisnter" again looks like someone added it to the dictionary by accident.

2.41 and 2.42 - oh the pain it hurts it hurts. First place an objective definition of easy walking distance of 300m then measure the distance from the "defined primary shopping area" (I'm guessing the edge of such rather than the centre) to the store entrance a distance of 195m. Excellent just ignore the "easy" part by having to fit a new pavement and pedestrian crossing. Also worth highlighting that the car-park can be used for "linked shopping trips" that is people shopping at Tesco can use the car-park for short-term (define short) parking to visit the town. Of course you'd have to be shopping at Tesco first (or after) which kind of negates the need to go into town which is what everyone's complaining about. And on, and on, and on until section 3 - Highways.

Summed up as 'Thwupppp!' for the entire two paragraphs. Skip 4 Conservation it's rubbish using words such as "importance" and "keenness"; so onto 5 Design.

Summation - there's no objective standard, we like our buildings to look the same as the others, and it was an eye-sore before. We'll do our best but we're not promising anything.

Which to be honest pretty much sums up the entire document.

Thermal picture of Worcestershire 2

Just chatted to someone who followed the link from my entry for the Thermal Map. Their house has a certificate stating that it conforms to the highest insulation blah blah; so of course their house shows up as brown - "Average Poor".

Turns out their house faces South and has a dark roof which is at least one of the points made in the 'hidden' details if anyone bothered to look.

Essentially it goes like this. Taking a hypothetical situation if you heated your house to 30° and had insulation that blocked off a third of that you'd register as 20°; if you heated your house to 20° and had no insulation you'd share exactly the same rating as the first house. If you heated your house to 10° and had no insulation you'd show up as better than either of them with an unheated and uninsulated building beating the lot.

Except of course you don't know that because it's set by an average. So there's no way of knowing if a building shows up as it does because it has bad insulation or just because you're heating your home above the average. Add to that the fact that you don't know when the image was taken and thus what temperature the building might have been and the whole exercise, as presented, starts to look a little futile especially as it has been mentioned it cost £75k to do.

Parking Charge Notices 3

Hopefully my final point on this to consolidate some of the [updates] on other entries. Under the Traffic Management Act 2004 Wyre Forest District Council is using Civil Parking Enforcement Regulations. That means a large chunk of dealing with parking is removed from the purview of the police and placed in the hands of the council.

That means it's the District Council putting tickets on your windscreen and taking you to court for failure to abide by their rules. Except what rules are those? I've dealt with the notices in car-parks and of course signs are put up on single yellow lines about parking restrictions, but if you look at the page detailing a whole load more; and the best bit is the last line

This list is not inclusive.
That means there may be more that they're not telling you about, which means they can give you a notice for an action you had no way in knowing was prohibited; good huh?

There's also something that needs to be pointed out is that this is a civil matter and not a criminal one it is therefore not 'illegal' to break these rules it is merely 'actionable' - you cannot be arrested, you cannot be charged, you cannot be imprisoned. Essentially the council are allowing you to park there provided you follow their rules and they're contending that you haven't. However PCNs are enforceable under statute law unlike those issued by private firms.


In searching out about Penalty Charge Notices I've mentioned bye-laws (that's how it's spelt in legislation even though I think it looks wrong). I don't like bye-laws and for a good reason which I'll put to you in the form of a test - try and find a list of bye-laws for your own district, go on I'll wait.

Did you succeed? I'm betting not. So consider that every district can have its own bye-laws and that thus, in theory, you should make yourself aware of them while in their district.

Consider how many different districts you might be passing through every day and that you have an obligation to discover any applicable bye-laws as "Ignorance is no excuse" and failure to comply is a criminal act and my dislike of them should be obvious.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Parking Charge Notices 2

One of the problems with all the dense text in the Excel Parking Services sign on Crossley Retail Park is that occasionally you miss the obvious.

So I fussed over the "failure to comply" in my previous post but I missed the obvious, to quote

Failure to comply with the following will result in a Parking Charge Notice being issued...
So where does the bit about a 2 hour maximum stay occur? Above it! Heh heh heh yep it doesn't occur at any point after the "failure to comply" it doesn't even allude to it. So technically as per the terms and conditions they can't issue you with a notice for parking over 2 hours because they haven't listed that as one of their rules, merely as a request.

Sometimes life is beautiful ;-)

Sigh okay remember this is a civil matter and therefore a case of "beyond reasonable doubt" and therefore stating they can't ticket you is a pedantic and might lose, but damn wouldn't it be worth it just to see their faces.

Planners - sadists or stupid?

A trip to Merry Hell on Saturday reinforced the question posed as the title. I present the following for consideration:

Primary evidence 1. A single lane splits into three as it approaches an island, where would you put a bus-stop? The answer appears to be just before the road splits. Okay you can overtake it using the oncoming lane - nope there's a concrete lane divider just before the bus-stop. Oh and just for fun where would you put a speed-bump? Yep next to the divider just before the bus-stop. The result is that a bus pulling up here blocks all the other traffic until it moves.

Secondary evidence - a bus-stop positioned just before the brow of a narrow hump-backed bridge.

Primary evidence 2. A single lane splits into two as it approaches a set of traffic lights to produce a straight/right split. Further back from this traffic is having difficulty getting into and out of a junction, what do you do? Answer - put in another set of traffic lights oh and just for S&G add in a pedestrian crossing between the two.

Secondary evidence - a mini traffic island with a two lane left/right split approach with the right-hand turn exiting to two lanes. Make the left-turn lane a right-turn lane as well.

Primary evidence 3. The cinema car-park. Okay I've said a lot about car-parks, but this is specific. You don't want cars blocking things up when they're trying to leave so the exit should be as painless as possible. So to stop cars from dilly-dallying force them out in one direction and prevent them crossing to the other lane to turn right. For this they've put a concrete divider in place - well done. However the second part is that the traffic should be able to get out and to this end it's not advisable to have the left-only exit connect directly with a pedestrian crossing.

Secondary evidence - the car-park actually extends past the pedestrian crossing and as such there is no reason why the exit couldn't be run along the edge to come out after it.

Make up your own minds, but I have to assume that they just don't like drivers, otherwise I have to consider that someone laid this all out on paper and thought "I don't see any problems with doing this"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vale Road works

Just to prove I'm not just about dishing out the negativity I'd like to applaud the Vale Road lamp-post replacement works. It would be easy to expect the street furniture crew to turn up at 8am lay everything out then bugger off while the actual works crew turned up at 10am, before disappearing at 4.30pm leaving everything still there; but no. The closure takes place after the morning rush and is gone by the evening despite them working since at least Monday on one side of the other. Well done this is the way it should be done whenever possible.

Pavement parking

As a throw-away remark in reply to Dan H I mentioned that I'd become more sensitive to reports of police doing things without quoting the authority under which they act. I've just realised I haven't quite mentioned why.

It's really all to do with a letter published in the Shuttle from Inspector Paul Crowley entitled On the beat regarding courtesy when driving and under-18's drinking alcohol. My comments along with others' can be seen, but it just highlighted to me how easily you can get away with stating X is illegal and leave it at that.

To summarise the points I made there Inspector Crowley made five assertions

1) Under 18s cannot legally purchase alcohol (in public?)
2) Under 18s cannot legally drink alcohol in public
3) Purchase of alcohol for under-18s is illegal
4) Parking on pavements can cause obstruction which is illegal
5) Driving over pavements is illegal

Two of those are incorrect; do you know which ones?

It's two and five. Alcohol can be confiscated from under-18s, but the act of drinking it is not itself illegal - Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997. Driving over pavements is not illegal if you are doing so to park on land within 15 yards of a road - Road Traffic Act 1988 s34. For anyone saying "Ah but what about Alcohol Restriction Zones, don't they make drinking in public illegal?" no they don't they just extend the confiscation of alcohol to everyone not just under-18s. Of course if you refuse to hand it over or discard it then you're in breach of the order and they can arrest you, but that's still not for drinking.

So as an addendum to "On the Beat" the Shuttle has received another letter from a Michael Dimbylow entitled Ways to Overcome the selfish minority. In the first paragraph he makes the assertion that "parking on verges and grass is also illegal.". And once again no attempt is made to back this up. Possibly because it may be wrong.

Why am I hesitant - because it's possible that the council have implemented a by-law prohibiting it. Now if I could obtain a list of all by-laws applicable I could check - anyone care to point me in the right direction? Anyway assuming that no such by-law is in place once again this is wrong.

There are no prohibitions to parking on pavements, verges or grass in and of itself. However doing so may incur an offence. For those going huh the answer lies in a few points. Firstly to park on the grass or pavement you might damage the grass or kerb and that's criminal damage; or you might be causing a danger or obstruction to other users by parking there. Finally what most people don't realise is that under case law the "public highway" is defined as from the border of private land to the opposite border and that any waiting restrictions painted on the road apply to the public highway. So that includes any pavements verges etc. So even if you're not parked directly on the road that has the double yellow markings they still apply to the pavement so expect a PCN.

As I say in the comment this all might seem pedantic, but it's an important distinction and even more importantly stops others from stating the all-encompassing "That's illegal!" without having to back that statement up.

[Update - for my own, and I suppose anyone else's, future reference it appears parking 'not on the carriageway' gets listed as a by-law. I suppose I should use "bye-law" as that's how it's spelt in legislation, but it just seems wrong. Also worth looking at section 4 of the Traffic Management Act which also introduced me to the Essex Act 1987 - yep an entire act that just applies to Essex how pathetic a use of legislation.]

[Update 2: Hah is it a bye-law or just part of the Civil Parking Enforcement? Sounds petty but if it's a bye-law breaking it is illegal; if it's not it's just actionable. As a definition I hold that an action against criminal law is illegal; against civil law - actionable.]

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Parking Charge Notices

There have been a couple of letters in the Shuttle about the trials and tribulations of parking charge notices as such I decided (as the paper hasn't bothered) to take some sample photos of different boards around Kidderminster.

[Additional - Just wanted to point out that in the case of the latter two car-parks you are parking on private land with the permission of the land owner provided you abide by the rules set down. Strictly speaking this is a contract and as such is bound by contract laws regarding legability and unfair terms - yes I'm looking at you Excel Parking Services Ltd]

The first from Bromsgrove Street car-park is a council-run affair as can be deduced by the Wyre Forest District Council logo at the top. Notice that they're talking about Penalty Charge Notices rather than Parking Charge Notices. That's because the former are listed under statute and the latter are just invoices from a private company.

Okay charges apply from 8am to 6.30pm which suggests it's free to park before or after these times oh and find a space before buying a ticket. Conditions of Use are nice and clear - a ticket showing date and expiry time must be visible in the vehicle. Note that leaving it on your seat is not an option even if its visible as the next line states that it must be on the windscreen or dashboard. Okay everyone visible and in one of those positions.

Next we get a grammatical/spelling mistake for Blue badge holders "and the display their permit and time clock." Important to note that the holder need only be present at the start or end of the 3 hour time period. So someone can turn up 3 hours early to do some shopping before picking up the holder and they get to park free.

Then we get the interesting point that you can use a ticket bought in this car-park at another car-park provided they have the same fee structure; didn't know that.

Then the list of Penalties. They're all clear except 86 - "Parking beyond the bay markings" what does beyond mean in this context? 91 can also be deemed a little vague "Parking in an area not designated for that class of vehicle" sure that means don't park a car in a motorcycle bay, but on the flip side all the other bays are blank, which means you have to assume that you can park there unless told otherwise. Sounds petty, but I'll return to that point elsewhere.

Okay Blah 50% reduction if paid early (nothing about the timer being stopped if you query it) and the rules being viewable at the offices during hours you're probably at work yourself. Give them a tiny url or something.

Okay second photo is telling me that this is a pay and display car-park. There are a couple of these dotted about and this one is cleverly positioned so you can't read it on the way in only on the way out as it seems are all the others. In fact without rigorous checking I'll assert that it's possible to both enter and leave the car-park with out seeing one of these signs.

Notice that this slightly contradicts the main notice by stating that tickets must be placed on the inside of windscreens and that the need to find a space before purchase only need be done during "busy periods". In caps we get told that "vehicles must be parked in accordance with the current parking order" and that parking order is located where exactly? Is it that other notice? Is it the rules viewable at the council offices?

Okay two from Sainsbury's next a specific one detailing disabled and family spaces. Nice and simple - you can only park in the appropriately marked bays if you are a Blue Badge holder or if you're accompanied by 1 or more children under 12. Note unlike the council car-park you have to be the Blue Badge holder no picking up or dropping off. 50% of fines penalties monies collected will go to charity, note my strikeouts these aren't fines or penalties as they have no legal bearing.

Small print time

Town & City Parking have been appointed to enforce the conditions of parking on this private land. In the event that the conditions of parking are breached Town & City Parking may obtain the name and address of the registered keeper from the DVLA. Town & City Parking is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) and strictly adheres to the BPA'S [sic] code of practice for parking enforcement on private land and unregulated car parks. Further details of the BPA's Code of Conduct and Code of Practice can be viewed at
Meh, just note they can get details out of the DVLA.

Okay main parking notice. Okay for the use of "Sainsbury's Customers Only" fair enough, but what if I buy something from Sainsbury's then nip into town, am I still a Sainsbury's customer or is it Sainsbury's Only Customers? 2 hours maximum stay nice and big. Okay the park is patrolled and if you don't comply with the following you can get a penalty ticket of £50; again note penalty ticket not penalty and not fine. Okay let's look at those actions a little more closely:

You can't stay for over 2 hours, okay fair enough. You can only use Sainsbury's, damn that stops my trip into town. You can't return within 2 hours, no seriously read that again "No return within 2 hrs" now you and I know that's to stop someone using the car-park for 1 hour 55 minutes, driving off it and coming back for another 1 hour 55 minute stay; but by the phrasing if you finished your shopping then realised you'd forgotten something you could be ticketed for returning unless you'd waited 2 hours.

"Park only within marked bays", fair enough. "Disabled badge holders only in disabled bays", ah a little ambiguous here does that mean disabled badge holders aren't allowed to park in bays that aren't designated for disabled use? Again of course we know they mean that only disabled badge holders can park in disabled bays, but remember this is a contract you're accepting so would you accept any form of ambiguity like this if you were buying a house, a car?

"Parent & Child parking only within marked bays", as before ambiguous after all they've already said everyone is only allowed to park within marked bays so as written this is simply stating the same thing. Again we know that they mean that only parents and children can park in bays marked as Parent and Child, but they don't say that except on the other notice.

Sadly I can't even read the small print here except for the Important something Notice - nice small print. Oh and just to confuse matters it states that this is managed by Euro Car Parks Ltd. So have Sainsbury's hired ECP Ltd who have hired TCP, or are they each monitoring half of the car-park?

Onto Crossley Retail Park and compare this notice to the others - that's a lot of dense text there.

We start with an incongruous welcome followed by big bold all capped "2 hours maximum stay" along with a "No Return Within 2 Hours" yeah I've dealt with that ambiguity for Sainsbury's. All caps "No overnight parking" okay fair enough. Then, like Sainsbury's, we get an all capped "failure to comply with the following" they're talking about Parking Charge Notices of £100 dropped to £40 if you succumb early. Moreover you're threatened with recovery charges and court enforcement costs if you don't cough up. Ah yes "Welcome" indeed.

Now remember for the Sainsbury's rules I went through them in a 'if you do this then you get a ticket' type of way? I'm going to try and do the same here - heh.

So first off a big chuck of text all capped yeesh I'll spare you
Normal tariffs apply - please pay at machine(s) Please note that marked disabled bays are for valid disabled badge holders only. A valid disabled badge must be displayed in the front windscreen of the vehicle with all details clearly visible.
Where to start? Okay remember if you don't comply you get a ticket - so if you don't pay at the machine(s) you'll get ticketed - this is a free car-park there are no machines so technically everyone is breaching this rule. Next we're told that specifically marked bays are for disabled badge holders only - fair enough except note from the first line this rule is addressed to everyone so the next line in effect states that everyone has to display a valid badge or get a ticket. Follow that? Yes we know they're only talking about disabled bay parking, but they don't say that. I could also make a deal about which details they want displayed, remember the council car-park just wanted the badge and time-clock displayed.

Okay next "No Lorries or HGV'S." misused apostrophe, but I'm no saint so I'll let it go; I could say that as this is a "failure to comply" you have a double negative there, but I'll be generous and say that failure to comply with the rule stating no Lorries or HGVs is a ticket-able offence

"No Buses/Coaches or Caravans" as before.

Another big block of text:
When parking bays are present park correctly within an authorised marked bay. If marked parking bays are not present, do not park so as to obstruct other vehicles, entrances/exits, pedestrian walkways, doors, emergency exits or emergency vehicle access.
This is a similar ambiguity as penalty 91 for the council car-park - which bays are authorised and which aren't. If a bay isn't marked can I assume I'm authorised to park there? As before if there's nothing to say otherwise I'll bet the law would be on your side. And as with penalty 86 we're told to park "correctly" within such bays - define correctly; if I'm on the line is that wrong, or just if I'm outside it? How far back can I protrude, if at all?

"Lock your vehicle securely. Help reduce crime." Say what? Once again this is "Failure to comply" so failure to lock your vehicle securely (define securely) could get you a ticket as could failing to help reduce crime. No seriously that's exactly what this bit means if you read it as stated.

Gods another chunk of text:
Vehicles and their contents are left entirely at the risk of the owner/driver and no liability can or will be accepted by the land owner, nor Excel Parking Services Ltd, its servants or agents for any loss, damage distress or injury incurred howsoever caused to vehicles or persons other than that attributed to wilful misconduct by any or all of the aforementioned parties.
Seems fair enough at first glance except again this is a failure to comply so if you do try to take the land owner etc. to court over some loss they can give you a ticket because you're not accepting responsibility and that's a failure to comply. Also note the "wilful misconduct" section so if the land owner decides to drive a tank over all the cars that's not covered, but if they accidentally rear-end your car that's all your responsibility; that's what you're agreeing to by parking here.

Another bloody chunk o'text:
The car park is monitored by parking wardens. Parking enforcement in operation. Parking Charge Notice £100.00 discounted to £40.00 if payment is received within 7 days of the notice issue date. Additional costs will be incurred through late payment including any costs incurred through debt recovery and/or court enforcement.
Sigh once again a "failure to comply" so failure to um ensure that a warden is around or that enforcement is in operation can get you ticketed? Also note this is simply a repeat of what they've already told you as part of the failure to comply; so failure to comply with getting a ticket could get you a ticket? Also worth pointing out that additional costs "will" be incurred rather than "might".

Finally "For evidential purposes photographs may be taken of vehicles contravening the car parks terms and conditions" that's the terms and conditions attributed to the car park and thus the car park's terms and conditions - apostrophe people. Once again though this is in the "failure to comply section" so um preventing photographs of your vehicle being taken can result in a ticket?

Okay out of that section we finally get "Entry to or use of this car park is subject to the current terms and conditions of Excel Parking Services Ltd. Motorists utilising this car park hereby accept in full the terms and conditions." Which would be great if they made sense as written, which they don't.

So on the whole the council car-park rules aren't too shabby and the Sainsbury's car-park rules are at least easy to read and simple, but the Excel ones - yeesh I'm betting a competent lawyer could rip it to shreds for how they've presented it.

[Additional - missed this. Remember that the Sainsbury's car-park notice specifically stated that it was for Sainsbury's only customers? Well guess what the Crossely Retail Park doesn't do? That's right Kidderminster now has a free-car-park. Just park there, then head into town. Provided you're not longer than two hours nothing they can do]

Arrest that scarecrow

A story from the Daily Express (sorry) about how a scarecrow was 'arrested'. It caught my eye for several reasons, check the story and see if you can guess why.

I'll retell the story in chronological order. A town is having a scarecrow festival and in order to promote it the organiser received permission to put up a scarecrow dressed in a police uniform by the roadside. A passing policewomen from another area sees it and takes it away back to the station. The organiser reports is stolen and three hours later the police admit they were the ones who took it and return it saying that as a 'speed gun' had been added it was "inappropriate". Okay everyone got that.

Point 1: By what right did the officer remove the scarecrow in the first place? It wasn't causing an obstruction and couldn't be deemed offensive. The best I can think of is littering, but I think that would be difficult to stick; perhaps 'impersonating a police officer'?

Point 2: The officer wasn't even in her jurisdiction. Now sure if an officer saw a criminal offence taking place I wouldn't expect them to shrug and say "Not my area", but what offence took place here? At the most all she should have done was contact the local constabulary and told them what was there.

Point 3: Apparently it must have taken her three hours to get the scarecrow to the station, because that's how long it took for anyone to call the organiser back after she reported it stolen. Now call me odd but I'd have thought that the news that a scarecrow had been brought in would make it round the station rather quickly.

Point 4: This is the one that makes by blood boil. Instead of just holding up their hands and saying "Oops our bad" the police try to justify their actions. Oh of course they do because as we know the police never ever make a mistake. How pathetic to give permission for a police scarecrow then claim that as it had a 'speed gun' it was inappropriate. Just feel the sanctimony oozing out of this quote

"Speed radars are used to ­prevent casualties on our roads and address the irresponsible actions of motorists. They should not be recreated by the roadside in jest."
Yep that's right a scarecrow with a pretend speed gun was presenting an "inappropriate message to passing motorists" and as such was removed for um... being inappropriate? Dear gods, dear little gods, if I were Devil's Kitchen I'd be spitting obscenities at the sheer arse-covering twaddle going on here. Oh and of course the newspaper doesn't bother asking exactly what crime had been committed that warranted such action just taking it as read that the police can do whatever they bloody well feel like.

Banning bottled water

It seems the residents of Bundanoon have banned retailers from stocking bottled water, well I say residents as according the AP out of a population of 2500 only 356 turned out to vote. For stat fans that's 14.24% of the population.

Sorry are you insane? Here's the deal - if your shops are stocking bottled water its because they're selling it and making money from it. There aren't any shady bottled water reps going around and slipping it onto shelves without the shopkeepers noticing, they're buying it.

So if you want them to stop selling bottled water STOP BUYING IT.

Do they seriously think that anyone who wants the stuff will suddenly turn to tap because they can't buy it locally? Nope they'll just drive to somewhere else (incidentally making a mockery of the eco-friendly cause of banning it) and get it there... as well as any other shopping that occurs to them.

Yes okay some might switch because they can't be bothered to travel, but all that means is that 14% of the population have caused inconvenience to possibly 86% of the rest. Neat let's see how long it lasts.

Gilgal Roadworks

Driving through this morning I found two signs on the side of Vale Road telling me that the right-hand lane was closed in Gilgal. From the guy setting up the last of the cones I'm guessing it had only just been put down and from the lines on the road I'm also guessing we're going to get some holes. Oh goody yet more patchworking that'll fall apart after a couple of months.

Now as I've already suggested anyone who decides to set up roadworks during the morning rush-hour should be forced to wear an "I'm with stupid" T-shirt with an arrow pointing upwards at themselves.

So with a lane closure and a 10mph speed limit on this, a main road in Stourport, what difference did it make to the traffic - bugger all. That's how Gilgal is treated anyway - the right-hand lane is barely used and you rarely exceed 10mph anyway.

What was interesting to me was the portable Give Way sign that had been positioned at the start of the coning on the right-hand side - who is supposed to give way to whom?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Severn Trent Water

About as much use as British Gas and British Energy, though to be fair part of the mess is not of their making.

Last year a certain subcontracting company I'll refer to as BB replaced all the water meters on the estate where I work; sadly it seems as they ripped out the old ones no-one thought to record their numbers and the new numbers of the ones replacing them.

So as landlords of some empty properties we're responsible for paying the water bills, we receive a bill for our property and one near-by which was quite a bit more than usual, but it's a big unit and you have drainage charges so...

It turned out that big bill wasn't ours it was someone else's so they owe us around £300, they then send through a bill for the correct property which they've backdated from an estimate to a meter read. Which would be fine if they could find the meter. Yep just read that again - they've provided a bill based on a meter read from a meter they can't locate.

Unsurprisingly enough I queried it and fun has ensued in trying to find it. In the meantime we've had a bill for around £50, however they owe us ~£300 and we're still getting bills for the hidden-meter property.

Last straw they've sent a Notice of Court Action for the £50 and a Disconnection Notice for the other property. As they can't find the meter I'd love to see them carry it out.

Once again phoning them up and it will be sorted just as it has been each time I've contacted them.

[Update - they've cancelled the two invoices. Something they could have done way back when]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Thermal picture of Worcestershire

Via the Shuttle I find that the heat-loss map of Worcestershire is up and running here.

First off applause for featuring a map that is navigable with a mouse drag. Yep unlike every other map that seems to get used by the either council instead of relentlessly having to click on arrows or pick a zoom tool you can drag the map around and scroll in and out. Huzzah now apply this to the roadworks and planning application pages and I'll shout your praises to the high heavens.

Likewise applause for doing it during the winter. Yeah it seems obvious, but I wouldn't have been overly surprised.

Okay it seems my house is "Average Good" err say what? The scale is as follows:

Average Good
Average Poor

Which reminds me of the alignments in most role-playing games. So if I live in an area with high heat loss and I'm slightly better would that put me in "Average Good" territory if I lived in an area with low heat loss would I be "Average Poor" for the same reading? Has this data been normalised taking the highest and lowest readings and quintiles created? Give us figures in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit and we can judge it better.

Anyway interesting to play spot the hotspot in the town centres. I'll have to print it out and confirm their identities next time I'm in that area.

[Update - a link at the bottom of the page takes you to more information and I quote "relative to the rest of the area surveyed" yeah I bet that gets forgotten when the dictates arrive from Westminster about insulation.]

Letter to the Shuttle

Well my letter's been published, but they've stuck my name on it. Now previously I sent it as FlipC and they asked for a name and location and done it as Name Supplied, Stourport. So this time I pre-empted their request by adding it to the bottom and they've printed my name... yeesh. So I've asked them to clarify their procedures for my future reference.

[Update - Wow that was a quick reply. They need them for legal reasons, yep guessed that, but otherwise I have to request that Name Supplied is used; despite me not doing that before]

Computer fun

I get a call last night from a friend who's having computer problems. He inherited a computer and printer from my aunt and the printer's gone "wonky" so on the spur of the moment he went out to buy another in this case an Epson all-in-one. Having been relatively well-trained one of the first things he tells me is that the operating system he's using is Windows 98.

"Ah", I say.
"So I put the disc in and it..."
"Tells you that it's the wrong operating system"

I've just switched on my PS3 so I head over to the Epson site to see what they say, head through support, tap in the model number and find I can go no further because they've neglected to add a "Go" button. Pulling out the laptop and repeating the exercise I discover that's because they're trying to be clever and matching up your text as you type to offer the right model in a floating box, which the PS3 browser apparently doesn't support.

No drivers for 98, but a Google search comes up with a step by step instruction from Epson to install manually. That fails at the first hurdle as the CD doesn't come with the folders suggested and a 'just find it' also fails.

Now I know that for HP you used to be able to install the 550 printer drivers and they'd work with pretty much any HP Printer, but I don't know if there are any generic Epson drivers around. He's got a separate scanner that works so he doesn't need to use that, and like my printer a lot can be done from the printer itself; so all he needs is the ability to print.

Now there is the Epson EasyPrint module but read it carefully. Despite saying in the blurb it supports Win98 when it gets to specifics that gets removed.

Trouble is he doesn't have an internet connection so I'd have to download it for him and courier it across; not really a problem just annoying if the first thing it bleats to me is about not supporting that operating system.

So anyone know?