Friday, August 28, 2009

PS3 Slim adverts

The latest American adverts for the new Playstation 3 Slim blipped up on my radar. Self-deprecating humour from the USA - say it ain't so ;-)

Anyway compare it to the one we get. Seriously Sony are you insane? Get rid of this gosh aren't we trendy/cool/fly piece of crap and just regionalise the American versions for us; this is the sort of stuff we've been enjoying for decades.

Some template changes

As you may have noticed I've changed the template slightly and added a third column. I've been unhappy with the placement of some of the elements particularly having to scroll down so far to get to the "Previous Rantings" and "Labels" while also wanting to keep the most current comments and links near the top.

Obviously it's a bit wider, but hopefully should still fit reasonably neatly into a standard resolution; seems to work under the major browsers (first time too which came as a surprise). Oh and of course because of the width change the top rounded background picture no linger fills the entire width, please bear with me.

Gilgal parallels

It's Summer Bank Holiday and we all know that means road and rail works. Now I've already agreed that in fact this really is the best time to do such work as plans tend to be more mutable, but a Liberal Democrat MP popped onto GMTV with something interesting to say (shock horror ;-) )

"It's just complacent, just easy, for Network Rail to shut a line; it suits them"
Gosh does that sound familiar folks? Of course Worces.... sorry Network Rail came back with how they examine every circumstance only do it when there's no other choice and a whole heap of other excuses most of us probably don't believe any more.

Because we know that the easiest course is the one they seem to take, we know that when utility companies talk about "minimising disruption" they mean minimising their disruption. Seriously what are we going to do about it, switch water supplies - can't; switch energy suppliers - not them who's in charge of the grid. They're only accountable to the council (except when it's an 'emergency' when they can do what they like) who in turn is accountable to us. If you don't like the way the councils are dealing with things just vote them out... in four years time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gilgal roadwork notices up

Someone's been a busy beaver we've got signs on the approach to the OGL Island from Worcester Road and Hartlebury Road, A sign on the approach to Gilgal from Vale Road and [scratching head] one halfway along Lion Hill which wouldn't be affected as they're not closing that section as far as we've been told so would only make a difference to those heading back through Gilgal who would see one of the other signs.
[Oh and additional they've placed it at the far side of the Boat Shed houses which means you can only see half of it until you're right on top of it - nicely done guys]

I'm sure there's also one from Minster Road to Gilgal, and possibly one from Worcester Street.

As you might expect it's a big fat chunk of text that you can't read in one pass unless you purposefully slow down. Essentially it's warning of delays... sorry delays? Don't you mean closure because that's what we've been told? Anyway delays on certain stretches of road including my favourite "THE GIL GAL" Gah!

No seriously when they start work I'm tempted to ask to see their permission to dig and point out that while they're allowed to dig up "The Gilgal" or even "The Gil Gal" they're not allowed to dig up "Gilgal" and are presumably digging up the wrong road. Hey that's the sort of nitpicking we have to put up with when signing forms in triplicate; time to pay them back.

[Update - I just re-read the notices in the paper and dammit it's a constant "A451 Gilgal" so I can't challenge the legally obliged notices and I'm betting that's what's on the forms too. Theoretically I could be petty enough to challenge the roadside notices for talking about "The Gil Gal" but I don't think that'll wash.]

Batman preorder prices

Well as mentioned I've been looking at the Collector's Edition version of "Batman: Arkham Asylum" for the PS3; do I go for the postcards, the comic, whatever. I'd put off getting it since the fun I've had with my hard-drive, but I'd thought I'd take another look.

Holy Crap the price has jumped from £59.99 to £99.99 on Amazon; Play have it for £199.99! Neither Game nor Gamestation have it listed any more which leaves me with HMV who are offering it at... £59.99.

And ordered, receipt printed, and email confirmation arrived.

Whoo that was a bit of a price-hike, if you're still interested head to HMV's Batman page now.

Parking in Stourport

A comment from Wyre Forest BNP that touched on parking restrictions in Stourport got me thinking about where you can park correctly in Stourport.

Green indicates Pay-and-Display (light for WFDC, dark for private), Red for free with restrictions (light for patrons, dark for other restriction), Yellow for on-street parking and Blue for the free car-park. Oh and for fun I added in on the far right the proposed Tesco car-park just to show how isolated it would be.

So five Green PnD car-parks which as you can see are all clustered along the riverside. Ten Red free car-parks. Eight patron only - two pubs, the council offices, four supermarkets and the library/surgery; two restricted - disabled only and the closed Swan Hotel.

The Yellow on-street parking which aren't seperated into bays so you can park at any point along their length, and for the High Street inset bays only an average car-width wide.

And finally the one and only Blue free car-park from which to get to town you have to cross a three-lane road and get over a canal.

Hopefully from this map you can see why I'm pushing for free half-hour (ish) parking at Raven Street that's the rightmost Light Green blob. Close to the town, off the street and balances out the Blue Vale Road car-park.

GCSE Results

Normally I wouldn't enter into the debacle of 'Are exams getting easier?' but it was a response by Vernon Coaker MP from the Department for Children, Schools And Families on GMTV that drew my attention.

We'd come back from the obligatory school results opening ceremony and Penny had pointed out a newspaper article to Mr Coaker about a return to O-Levels, she stated that some schools were choosing other methods of testing. The response?

Well a quick snippet about how GCSEs are widely recognised and then the ye gods listen to yourself statement that the Headmistress of the school featured was quite happy with them.

Really, you mean the person responsible for the school whose funding and standing is based on the results her pupils achieve is quite happy with a system that sees ever-increasing numbers of her pupils pass? I am surprised.

Another amusing snippet came from the Conservatives who apparently are worried about the widening gap between those failing and those passing hehehe Conservatives concerned about the equivalent of the haves and have-nots it is to laugh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another letter in the Shuttle

Just appeared; let's see the response.

Game design problems

Just a general musing on the shortcuts or other problems that seem to repeat in so many of the games I played in the vain hope that game designers will read this and think "Damn I'm just about to do that" and stop.

Psychic Warfare

Comes in two flavours, you're supposed to be psychic or your enemies are (or just as often both). Starting with your character you can tell if you're supposed to be psychic if you ever end up dead or with a fat chunk of your health removed and wondered "What the hell just happened?".

The important consideration of this trait is that there should be no way that you would expect what just happened to have happened. If you're running along in luminous tracksuit making as much noise as a steam train through enemy territory than a shot to the head is almost inevitable. If you're covered in mud indistinguishable from the surroundings cautiously edging through what should be a cleared area and a boulder falls on top of you, then you can be justified for thinking (or screaming) "what the...?"

This trait can often be referred to as "trial and error gaming" where you're presented with three otherwise identical choices two of which lead to instant death or severe maiming. With checkpoints and instant saves the reaction is "Well I won't do that again".

With other characters you get something like this: There's the enemy standing with his back to you oblivious to his imminent death. You sneak forward on silent feet, unheard, unseen until you reach the point where you can simply extend your arms and snap his neck. At which point he turns around and blows your head off with a shotgun.

The most obvious signs that you're encountering psychic enemies- Enemies with their backs to you (or at long distance) instantly pinpointing your location when you fire at them.
Enemies are totally aware of their surroundings and can easily navigate a route to reach or avoid you or other obstacles.
Enemies can track you through opaque cover to be ready to shoot you as soon as you pop your head out.

Sure we like a challenge, but preternatural powers shouldn't come into it.

Holes in your pockets

More a staple of the FPS genre this can be invoked whenever you stop and think "How the hell did that get there?". Who is it that leaves these medkits and scatters ammo around the place? Why is it that after picking up this unique experimental weapon scattered ammo crates will stock ammunition for it and merchants can sell upgrades for it?

Another facet of this tends to be that the stock of merchants increases in value as you progress; most notable in the Final Fantasy games where you're lucky if the starting city merchants stock a sharp stick, but the one in the middle of the desert, on a near inaccessible plateau can sell you a thermonuclear 'kill-em-all' bazooka along with plenty of ammo whenever you return.

But you have to stand there

This too comes in two varieties - cutscenes and event triggers. The former can be very annoying when combined with Psychic Warfare - you know exactly what's about to happen, you take appropriate precautions and then your character is dumped in just the wrong place by the cutscene because otherwise the framing would be wrong.

Event triggers too can be combined with Psychic Warfare; you can prance about in that room naked and nothing will happen until you flick that switch or step over that invisible threshold that signals the next event can occur.

Come with me if you want to live

Yes it's Escort Mission time. I don't think there's a single gamer out there who enjoys these and yet they continue to flourish. Normally those you are escorting are weaponless and have no sense of survival. Either they're constantly lagging behind because they can't run as fast as you, trying to join in to attack any enemies despite being useless, or haring off ahead off you before you've cleared the area of snipers and minefields.

Despite being almost universally loathed developers not only seem to make them an obligatory part of any story-line, but are trying to improve them by allowing you dog-like commands to control them - stay/heel. The result is a temptation to shout "stay" while you go ahead to clear out everything then "heel" to lead them through.

Unfortunately the sadists have spotted this propensity and rather than address the main concern (the Escort Mission itself) either present you with a game over/mission failure if you stray too far or combine it with event triggers that only activate for the escortee.

AI can be shoddy at the best of times, but if you really really want to highlight how bad it is then by all means include an escort mission.

Bouncing off the walls

There you stand on a city border the highway stretching before you almost eager for you to race along it. You start forward to see what possible adventures lie over the horizon and are pulled up short by an invisible barrier.

Okay so no limitless games at the moment you're going to hit the boundaries of the 'world' at some point; but there are better methods out there then simply stopping dead for no apparent reason. Put a mountain in the way, an impassible gorge, have some alien overseer complain about you leaving the area and shunt you back; heck even a sand storm to turn you around. Not just a barrier.

Not the foot high wall

A similar problem to the invisible walls, but rather than present a world ending barrier you have something that in theory you could easily move over or through which you can't. The most obvious appears in any game where you unable to jump - the foot high wall something a crawling infant would get past, but someone able to carry 14 weapons and can kill zombies just by looking at them is completely stumped by.

Other than barriers the other manifestation of this trait are gaps that you should obviously be able to fit through but can't; the most conspicuous being a pillared façade which doesn't allow you to fit between the pillar and the wall.

Can't I just blow it up?

Unlike an invisible barrier door which is simply a visible form, but no less irritating, this is a door you're supposed to go through but can't because you don't have a key, haven't performed the correct mission, or simply hit the right trigger. Sadly plonking down concrete and steel barriers doesn't always translate into some settings and so you end up in the stupid position of possessing enough of an arsenal to destabilise a small country yet be unable to get through a wooden shack door.

So Mr. Door we meet again

Continuing from the previous now you've finished swearing at not being able to just fire a missile strike at that wooden door you now find that whatever triggers it open is quite logically no-where near the door itself. Now occasionally that can work, but still smacks of 'extending gameplay'.Trouble arises because once you've triggered the door most of the time you're expected to make your way back through everywhere you've just been. Why trouble? Well if you've cleared the place out then it's a boring slog; if you've event triggered some alarm or the enemies respawn then it's an annoying slog.

Is that the door?

Interruptions are a part of life; not all gamers hermetically seal themselves away, take the phones of the hook, and disconnect the doorbell whenever they play. To that end we need to be able to pause the game at any point in time. If you make any part of the game pauseless than you can guarantee that an interruption will occur at that point.

Advert Complaints

It is a truth universally acknowledged that anything broadcast will offend at least one person somewhere; most of the time we won't hear about it unless they've got a blog or write for a newspaper.

Yep that's right Guardian writer Peter Jones is complaining that the Compare the Market/Meerkat advert is racist; except of course he's not really. He's complaining on behalf of his Ukrainian girlfriend who was offended. Oh noes they're making a joke out of how some people pronounce the word market, presumably intimating that they're stupid.

Now personally I don't like the advert the "Simples [noise]" just grates every time and hadn't even realised (or cared) about the point of pronunciation. But accusing it of racism?

I presume Peter also insists that Louis Armstrong's "Let's call the whole thing off" is never heard in his presence; that any impersonator is verboten in his home; and that Frankie Boyle is most definitely not on his Christmas Card list (unless it's not racist for Scottish people to slag off Scotland?).

As mentioned by one of DK's commentators

'Um Bongo, Um Bongo,
They drink it in the Congo...'
May I also add "Too orangey for Crows" and the classic "Me Ears are alight" oh but those are all old and 'before we knew any better'. Oo I know how about all the shampoo adverts that only feature women or the Maltesers, the Special K et al adverts that demonstrate that it's only women who are concerned with calories, dieting, chocolate etc.

How about the badly dubbed adverts or the ones that can't even be bothered to regionalise their adverts such as any car advert that shows them driving on the wrong side of the road or the Stabilo advert that tells us that it's "erasable" while the kid rubs out the word "effaçable".

Go on Peter defend us from this filth, on behalf of the nation I implore you to continuously complain to the ASA in the hopes that will prevent you from having time to write for the Guardian.

GoCompare advert

Another grin-inducing advert. Nothing particularly spectacular and rather cheesy as the opera-style singer sings GoCompare in a cafe and the other patrons join in; except it redeems itself in the last few seconds.

"I wonder how much they're paying him?"
"He's only a tenor"

Well done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Listening to what is said

I'll start with a report from GMTV about the upcoming sales ban on incandescent light-bulbs, or at least that's what it sounded like; in a blink-and-you'd-miss-it the clarification was for 100W bulbs.

So to a hardware store we go and there the reporter tells us about banning frosted bulbs and being "encouraged" to use these energy saving ones. Okay see that word right there - encouraged? Now imagine I ran a retail store and had two main entrance/exits and I wanted to encourage people to leave via the one on the right. Well I could place the till closer to it, I could put up signs pointing to it; or I could do the equivalent of what's being done here and simply lock the left-hand door. Yeah that's not encouraging people to use the other door that's providing them with no choice.

So questions were raised to the Energy Minister about how said bulbs don't turn on immediately and take time to warm up, and the response was waffle about modern bulbs and how they "turn on instantly after a second or two". See what I mean about listening to what is being said. Heh no I won't be obtuse I know what was meant was that the bulbs turn on to instant brightness after a second or two without the lengthy warm-up. However one of the sofa bound (Richard?) pointed out that the bulbs were also dimmer and didn't give off the same quality of light. The response to that was also enlightening coming from a Labour (for the people) minister - "Those were obviously cheap bulbs".

Yep that's right folks we now have a new social measure, no longer will you need to check for flying ducks on the wall just check out the quality of their artificial lighting. Honestly, people aren't buying these bulbs because the equivalent priced versions aren't as good and then after banning the ones we want to buy a Minister has the cheek to say it's all our own fault for buying the cheap ones.

Oh and of course this isn't a Westminster initiative this comes from the EU and in a sparkling bit of coincidence our relational structure is laid bare again when I switched over to the BBC and found a brief snippet about selling films.

Turns out the 1984 law that allowed retailers to be fined if they were caught selling films or games to anyone under the age restriction placed on them is invalid because Parliament failed to inform the EU about it.

So here's how it goes - we're the 5 year old being told by a big brother/sister to stay away from the linen cabinet so much so that we now actively detour around it until our parents notice and proclaim "Well I never said to stay away from it".

Now I'll turn to the Daily (we're definitely not the Daily Mail) Express who seems to delight in contradictions not only from day to day but in one single issue.

A front page splash tells us why Anne Robinson might be the "antidote to ageism" yes that's right folks she had that plastic surgery to make her look older; just to hammer the point home turn over a couple more pages and we get a list of gadgets that could "roll back the years". So ageism is wrong, but there's nothing wrong with trying to look younger?

Wow next thing you know they'll be printing stories about how awfully thin some celebrity is looking next to an article about how much weight some other celebrity has gained.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Severn Trent Water departments

Kicked one of the tenants out last week and found they'd left us a mess. An attempt to tidy up led to the discovery of no water. Stop-taps were duly twiddled with no success so this led to a call to my second most favourite utility company Severn Trent.

Obviously no account number but hey with a business name, a postcode and a unit number how hard could it be?

I phoned the main number I had and after much on-hold they stated that they wouldn't disconnect unless asked to. Oh and then they finally found the property which was listed as "not a property" oh that helps.

So I tried a different number one I had from that fuss over the meter numbers when they threatened to disconnect a meter they couldn't find.

Oh will you look at that - this department finds the property, gives me the account number and helpfully tells me that yes indeedy they'd disconnected the water.

The account is going to be switched over and they'll contact us as to when it'll be reconnected - oddly although they disconnected it without gaining entrance to the property, they can't reconnect it without that access. Ah well at least they'll call first.

[Update - an hour later they called to say that someone had been over and reconnected it. So points for speed, though I think it helped that we knew they had someone in the area already]

Stourport stuff 2

Managed to have a wander around town on Friday noticing the number of empty shops that seems to be growing. On the plus side I poked my head into the new photography place opposite the old Job Centre - Essential(?) Enterprise Photography. He seems to be still setting up the retail side of things with stocks of goods that aid those who wish to continue a hobby of photography but can't for some reason; I'm guessing those with the shakes (heh like me at times) or those with physical impairments. Other stuff will be coming, but it seems at the moment to be a studio.

So if you're looking for that professional photo feel pop on by.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Veronica Mars on E4 take 2

As mentioned I switched to recording the 11am slot of Veronica Mars in the hope that a fixed start time would allow me to record the entire damn programme consistently. So how's that worked out?

Monday: Record 11:00-11:54. Programme starts 21 seconds in from record start and taken to end credits (mouse to WB logo switch) finishes with a time of 51:33.

Tuesday: Record 10:59-11:59. Programme already started misses "Previously on" runs to same point in end credits and finishes with a time of 52:52 though obviously programme should be longer.

Wednesday: Record 11:00-11:54. Programme starts 30 seconds later runs to end and misses end credits record ends with a programme time of 53:42 though again obviously should be longer

Thursday: record 11:00-11:59. Programme starts 1:30 minutes later runs to end credits and finishes 54:07.

So variable start times, variable end times and variable lengths. Gosh that sounds like the idle time to use some sort of start/stop signal doesn't it?

Kidderminster Drain Cleaning

Well someone wrote a letter to the Shuttle complaining about the state of the drains and it seems some arse has been kicked because they're cleaning out Ringway as I type.

Now you might expect as this is the main route in and out of Kidderminster some common sense would apply... yeah as if.

They've coned off the entire inner lane of the bus station island. Now of course that means that anyone coming to it in the right-hand lane from any of the entrances will find no-where to drive too; so they've coned off the incoming right-hand lanes of all the entrances. Except coming down from the Ringway where they've coned off the left-hand lane; oh and just for good measure they've coned off the left-hand lane going up the Ringway too.

Number of drain cleaning machines I saw operating along this entire stretch - one. There was one machine on the Ringway leading from the bus station island; once you got past it the cones still stopped you from accessing the left-hand lane for the entire length. Anyone using the island to get to Worcester Road or entering the island with no intent of using the Ringway found themselves penned in by cones protecting no workers and no machines.

As I'm coming to realise when our lords and masters talk about "minimising disruption" they're missing out on one key middle word - "our".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cracked competition

Well would you look at that, just for some fun I submitted an entry to for their Photoshop'ed "If Schools Told The Truth then just before the closing date submitted another one that I knocked out in 5 minutes and couldn't get the text to align properly.

Yep that one made #8.


Anyway the next is "Job's We'll Need in the Future"; hmm I'll have a think about it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wrong calls

Huh seems we're getting a few wrong numbers with people after Phipps and Pritchard's estate agents. Seems people must be reading a digit wrong and transposing two others. Does go to show that pretty much no-one every listens to what the person actually answers the phone with.

"Good morning/afternoon [not Phipps and Pritchard]"
"I've got a house for sale/interested in that house"
"I think you're after Phipps and Prichard"

I feel such fondness for the human species ;-)

Which magazine - September

The September edition of Which? dropped through the door this morning with a few interesting articles.

I'll lightly deal with a few before getting to the meat.

A quick review on PAS (Point and Shoot) cameras highlighting the niceness that is Face Detection, dynamic range and wide-angle lenses. Interesting for me to note that not one of the 12 compact cameras listed had a viewfinder, all relied on the LCD screen on the back, which made it most curious that one of the cons for the third-place Canon Powershot SX200 was "No viewfinder".

A quick review over cordless home phones and although the size of the phonebook was mentioned whether it was shared or not wasn't .

Printers and I was most amused to read "Inkjet printers are more versatile than laser printers because they can print photographs" and laser printers can't because? It's just data and colour laser printers use the same CMYK profile as inkjets. Okay they may lack the Photo Black or Light Cyan/Magenta of inkjets, but that doesn't mean they're incapable. Heck they can even print on glossy paper now. As of this minute they might not be as good as an inkjet, but they can be a mite sight faster.

[Update 26/10. The latest issue Nov 09 features a query from Deke Roberts on this very subject. The response from Which? was that most lasers won't print on glossy paper therefore are unsuitable, which is a far cry from can/can't]

And train fares. Turns out [shock horror] we're not always being told about the best deals available when trying to ride the rails. Gosh I'm sure it's got nothing to do with the number of different francises each selling multiple different tickets each with different stipulations about how they can be used.

Okay meat time - Parking charges investigated. Yay Which? research into parking fines. Amazingly they found that "most private parking signs were confusingly written" well you could have knocked me down with a feather.

We get a true-life tale highlighting the ever-helpful advice from the authorities in which a young man rents a flat with parking space and received a ticket when his permit slipped from view. The advice from the

letting agents, the flats' management company, Citizens Advice Bureau and the police all advised him to pay the £90 that the parking company were demanding
Yep that's right don't kick up a fuss like the man in Southampton who paid for his spot but somehow picked up the previous persons ticket and who won his appeal.

Anyway good old Which? provides a nice little flowchart for contesting parking tickets... no sorry that's contesting public sector tickets. Those are the ones placed by police or local authorities, have the force of law behind them, and a legal appeals procedure. Not a private sector ticket that can be made out by anyone, doesn't have the force of law behind it and doesn't have a legal appeals procedure.

A neat little twist appears in their checklist
Parking companies often threaten the use of baliffs. But unless they have a court order bailiffs can't enter your home by force...
That's interesting because they can only enter by force under two conditions 1) Recovering money owed to HMRC or 2) Recovering unpaid magistrate's court fees. Don't believe ask me the government. Ah but those are County Court bailiffs what about private bailiffs? Exactly the same thing. Also worth pointing out that bailiffs only appear with a warrant which means the matter has gone to court which if you do some searching seems to be the last thing parking companies want to do.

Now of course they can threaten you with the use of debt collectors who have no legal powers whatsoever. Indeed if you're happy to go to court to settle the matter you can accuse the parking company and any debt collectors of harassment if they keep asking you to pay the notice.

Which? magazine's FOI requests also pop up the interesting fact that six councils have targets of expected PCNs to be issued, and we all know where that leads.

Another tit-bit from the FOI is a minor contradiction. When you get a proper PCN there's often an early-paying discount of 50%. Now if you appeal within that discount window the clock should stop, it then restarts if the appeal is rejected. That means if you have 14 days to pay the discounted fine and appeal on day 4, even if it takes 5 days to reject you should still have 10 days remaining to pay the discounted fine. Should...

"DfT guidance says that councils should maintain the discount on a penalty charge notice even if the driver appeals and is rejected. However over 37% of councils that responded [...] do this in every case"

Yep that's right if you appeal and they take their sweet-arse time over it you could be hit with the full fine. Better to just pay up eh?

Final interesting statistics 60% of public sector appeals* in England and Wales in 07/08 were successful. The asterisk is most illuminating in that this refers to appeals that were rejected by local councils and taken to adjudication. That means the council got in wrong 3 times out of every 5 for rejected appeals where the fined person took it further. I could make much of that, but without knowing the number who appealed and won, the number who appealed and didn't take it any further or even the impossible figure of those who just paid up despite not believing they should but didn't want the hassle; the figures aren't much use.

So all in all a mixed report with some interesting bits, some not so useful and some downright confusing. Sounds like our current legal system all right.

My cousin's bus service closure

As mentioned previously I was meeting my cousin The Artist and family in the afternoon. I got a congrats for being published in the paper twice, but it seems he's trumped me by getting his visog in his local paper (he's done it before but a different local paper, and had his name in my local paper too the bar-steward ;-) ), awful photo though.

Due to a medical condition he's unable to drive and thus catches the bus into work each morning. Now the bus company has decided that the leg of the journey that allows him to do this isn't viable so they're shutting it down.

Turns out that for some reason this particular trip (or possibly leg) isn't subsidised and has been running at a loss so the bus company, quite rightly from their point of view, are shutting it down.

To me this just sounds like Beeching again - "Just take a car (or taxi) to the local station" except of course what happened was that once people have taken that step they see no reason not to complete the whole journey that way.

Trouble is I can hear a load of libertarians whining about supporting my cousin - he should take a local job, he should move closer to his place of work etc.; except of course they're all arseholes.

He's trained to do a job and the only available place to perform this much needed and highly demanded (think specialist hospital) work is in the 'city'. Of course it would be better to move closer, but he needs a house to accommodate his growing family (one daughter with another on the way) and that means a suitable property within his price range which you can't find in the 'city'.

See this is also where they fall down - you want a high-paid job move to the city, except you can't afford to move to the city because you don't have a high-paid job. Oh you can take public transport - until they cut the service; you can take a car - until they price you off the road.

[Cough] I'll stop that little diversion and get back to the point.

So he's in the paper and the bus company have replied with basically a "This is what we're doing tough!" which I'm sure we all recognise from the forthcoming Gilgal Fiasco. He's contacted his Conservative MP and got a Dear [name] yours [MP] with pretty much the same quote from the bus company in between.

Heh and that was the only reason he didn't go into an anti-Thatcher tirade to the paper; so he could liase with the Conservative MP who seems to have just taken the bus company's position.

Anyway he's been told by the council that they had no obligation to replace the service although they are assessing the situation and looking at finding a new operator to take over the service. Essentially they're cutting off a 19 mile stretch which would result in a 9 mile trip for my cousin to get to the first stop. This may sound minor but the nature of his work can mean some very early or late shifts and in a wider picture cuts off a lot of smaller villages from the main city.

Playstation 3 Blue Screw

Saturday was a nice day I was planning on seeing my cousin in the afternoon and I also bumped into him down town. While out and and about I thought I could do with buying a new hard drive for my PS3. I've got one of the original 60Gb models and I've only 5Gb left and as the instructions include a "How to change your had drive" I'd thought I'd give it a whirl.

I picked up a nice 320Gb 2.5" SATA drive from Maplin for £90 (with 160Gb for £70 no thought required) and took the two hours to back up my existing data.

Using a flat-head screwdriver I easily popped the cover and was confronted, as I'd expected, with the drive bay held in place by a blue cross-head screw. I picked up my smallest cross-head screwdriver fitted it and turned anti-clockwise (lefty loosey, righty tighter; yes I do have to think about it) at which point I thought "Damn this is in tight" and applied a bit more pressure and the screwdriver turned... sadly the screw didn't.

Yep I've managed to strip the head of the Blue Screw.

A quick search reveals I'm not the only one who managed to do this and some unsympathetic souls have a laugh and "You used the wrong screwdriver, you should have used a computer screwdriver". So what does the instructions say? "Using the correct screwdriver" oh well that helps.

Looks like Sony in their infinite wisdom used a soft screw and given that the majority of people out there are likely to possess normal screwdrivers what a daft decision that was. Oh and just for fun it's a round convex screw head rather than a hex so you can't even unscrew it using an hex bit.

I'm going to try and call Sony to bawl them out and see if I can get them or the Sony Centre to fix it. If not I'll try Maplin and see if they can do anything.

Oh and before anyone pipes in with suggestions a) A pair of pliers gains no grip on this screw as it's fastened so tightly, and b) I really don't fancy drilling it out myself.

The good news is that the Playstation still works so I retreated into Fallout 3 and shot a lot of people in the head; delightfully cathartic.

[Update 25/8 - Sony are picking up my Playstation and replacing the screw FOR FREE, whether that means I'll get it back exactly as before with exactly the same problem I don't know. But I will hunt around for some 'soft' screwdrivers. Knowing my luck I'll get the Blue Screw out then strip the hard drive caddy ones]

Vista scares the hell out of me.

Yet another update comes through on Friday, but not one that keeps demanding that the computer be restarted. Trouble is with Vista is that setting the power button to Shutdown when there's an update seems to mean Shutdown and restart which is annoying.

So I use the Start menu's shutdown option which just does half the update and finishes up when I next reboot it. This takes time.

So I switch it on this morning and go and sort out other things and I come back to see the equivalent of a DOS prompt with registry keys flashing past.

Oh s***!

I let it run and everything's fine, but damn not what I needed after the weekend I had.

Friday, August 14, 2009

British Troops are Dirty and Lazy, says US Chief

In a shocking outburst a US Marine commander denigrated our fine upstanding men and women for their lack of hygiene and the fact they're so lazy they're allowed to go home to visit their families after a six month tour. In a non-existent statement the commander stated "That's why we keep shooting them, we can't tell them apart from them dirty A-rabs" before playful making finger guns and shooting the aghast press corps with little Pow Pow noises.

In a rebuttal the head of the British Armed Forces didn't say "There is obviously some routine rivalry here that has made it into the public sector, but I assure you that... pooh can you smell that [holds nose and makes fanning motion] has someone let an US soldier in here? Careful now everyone if they don't like us then with their gazillion dollar millimetre accurate targeted missile system they might very well take out the building next door"

At which point an aide interjected with "Oo Burn!"

Open letter to Pelican Crossing users.

Dear Pelican Crossing users of Stourport,

As you may be aware Stourport can at times get a little overburdened with traffic and this can create queues.

Now what you may not be aware of is the protocol that exists when one of these queues intersects a pelican crossing - Rule 192 of the Highway Code states that the crossing should be kept clear.

Lack of knowledge of this rule appears to be leading some users to believe that because the vehicle has stopped the lights are on red and they are safe to cross. It also appears to lead some users to believe they can cross half of the road and stand in front of the queued car waiting for the other side to clear.

This would be wrong and covered by Rule 18. These rules and this clarification are for your own benefit as disregarding them could lead to your death.

Thank you for your time and cross safely.

Your friendly Mad Ranter.

Inspired recently by a man and his young daughter almost getting run over after blithely stepping out in front of lorry in the opposite lane presumably under the impression that the lights were on red because a car had stopped as part of queue.

Check before mass production

In the quest to make money I'm sure we've all seen the personalised franks on envelopes. Get your company name stamped by the Royal Mail.

Just had one come through the door -

Multi - store Gift Ca
Now on sale in your loc
Post Office® branch

Nicely done. Well hey it attracted my attention so I suppose job done.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stencil Artist visits Kidderminster

Appearing on the District Council site is news that

Local artist Dom Dunlea will be demonstrating his unique stencil street style art in front of Kidderminster Town Hall on the 25th of August.
And just to demonstrate that once again not one person on the Council 'gets it' the 25th is of course a Tuesday but it is being held from 11.30am onwards so that's okay then.

To all county councillors please repeat this phonetic mantra whenever setting up public events - Werrrrrrrrk, Werrrrk, Werrrrrrk.

Hopefully this will have the dual effect of reminding you that normal people work, while simultaneously making you sound like a chicken.

Batman Arkham Asylum demo review for the PS3

The demo was made available last Thursday, but I've only just picked it up for reasons of it being 1460Mb in size. Started the download at 17:45 and it finished installing at 19:40.

So a couple of intro screens and then the Dark Knight brooding on the roof corner of a building. I flick through the extras and we've got a bio on Batman and Joker and a Trophy section with only Batman listed so presumably no trophies which makes sense.

New Game and we're looking up at heavy rain falling from the sky, heavy clouds and the bat-signal lights up; not bad. Then we pan down the side of a building and ah the Judderman makes an appearance as the building and a lamp-post nudge themselves across the screen. Now as a reminder I'm on a 50Hz SD television, so this may look fine at 60Hz or via HDMI, but here and now it's damn noticeable. Okay the Batmobile screeches past with a rumble in my controller followed by a cockpit view of Batman and Joker seems he's taking him in. Next we get an excellent atmospheric shot of Arkham Asylum as the Batmoble heads in.

Into Arkham and some narrative, no subtitles. Hmm I didn't recall seeing the option, but I may well have missed it. Anyway some back and forth between Batman and Jim Gordon and... my telephone rings. I hit start to pause the scene and nothing happens... great. I hit the PS button to bring up the console menu which should put a halt to any game process and... the scene continues. I press every button and finally get a "Press [Circle] to skip" well I don't want to skip I want to pause but... So I'm into the game and now I can hit start to pause it and answer the phone.

Blah blah.

Okay I quit the game and restart it so I can watch the intro piece (video still juddery) and now I notice that the voice sync is off especially noticeable on the close-up of the Joker. Message to developers - If you're putting exposition in as part of a non-interactive scene we need to be able to pause and skip it; no arguments, no whining. In real life people can get disturbed and if we miss out on a vital bit of narrative because we can't damn well pause the thing we're going to be cheesed off. Likewise getting killed and having to watch the same piece of footage again and again is very tiring without a skip.

Into the game and it's tutorial time and my supposition that this is designed for HD is supported when a "Press [Square] to strike" appears. Sony haven't made matters helpful with their colour scheme - Green is a Triangle; Blue is an X; but for the the two symbols that could most be mistaken for each other, that being the Square and the Circle, we'll use two slightly different shades of red [Slap].

So I'm happily pressing square and using the analogue stick to pick the direction to strike I'm told this with a little analogue stick picture with a letter above it, the letter could be an L or an R, but it's too small to tell. The strikes are quite meaty and flow nicely for a single button control though every so often a bad-guy seems to get an electric shock, or possibly I'm fighting an uncostumed Spiderman in that a little burst of lightening bolt type symbols appear around an enemy's head.

Damn they just don't want to stay down, ah I see when I knock one to the ground and get close enough another instruction pops-up on screen a bumper button and Triangle. See I can tell it's a Triangle because of the shape and the fact it's green, the bumper button could be any one of four because on my TV the text telling me which it is is about 4 pixels high. Turns out to be R2 which logically is also crouch.

Okay next round and I'm told to "Counter using [Triangle]" uh-huh when? Oh when their spider-sense tingles, yeah might not have wanted to have that working during the first round and might want to have explained that a bit further.

Thump, thump, hmm combat is nice and meaty.

All dead, oops sorry incapacitated I have a look around and spot a ventilation grill so I head over to it. Damn Bats moves slowly it's like he's got a pole up his arse. "X to open" easy I press X and Bats grabs the edge of the grill and then in the middle of the screen I get a flashing X. Okay I know that means hammer the X button, but for a newbie I can imagine them trying to sync with the flash, anyway Bats peels off the grill and I duck in and find a floating Green Question Mark. Then to break the 4th wall I get a message telling me that The Riddle bio has been opened for me to look at with the Select button. Still kudos for taking me directly to that page rather than making me navigate the menu to find it.

I exit the shaft and ponderously head to where I last saw the Joker. Gordon pops up on the suspended TVs for no apparent reason and his bio is opened. Same happens for Oracle, and the main bad-guys later on too.

Up some stairs and another tutorial moment. Press L1 to aim a batarang. Excellent what am I aiming at? Hmm reticule seems to be tracking something and changes colour when not on target, fine but what am I aiming at? I chuck a batarang and hit a wall, I keep going until it stops auto-tracking and head onwards. Oh a rat, I think; well that was worth the effort.

Wading through treacle I head down a corridor and a tannoy announces a break in section something or other 3 then in 2 then in 1 or some such while the overhead TVs show me the inmates streaming into corridors. Oh "Press and hold X to run" gee thanks I could have done with that two corridors ago.

Nice run animation with the cape streaming back. Onwards to a couple of guards confronting Zzsazz? Zssazz? Zsz... oh sod it the nutter who cuts himself a scar whenever he kills someone. Seems he's taken a guard hostage and managed to wire him up to the mains. Time to get stealthy.

Backing up I head to the next level and am told to use "Detective Mode" with L1. Woah I can see through walls and all those gargoyles look strange. What's that? Look up? Okee-dokee it's a gargoyle. Still want me to keep looking up? Ah triggers another prompt "Press R1 to swing up" Phump, swing and oo nice I'm perched on the gargoyle and have a nice overview of things. I swing to another gargoyle so I'm side on to Z and am told I can use a Glide Kick with the Square button. Hmm I think I'd prefer to get behind him first. Another swing and perch then a slow-motion glide-kick and Z is down.

Batman rumbles that he won't be down for long so I should incapacitate him and I get the R2+Triangle prompt; again I had this in the first stage tutorial shouldn't you have told me about it then? Anyway Z is now down and I'm whisked off to another uninteractive scene. Then back to control and Bats talks to Oracle over his headset in a move that would have Daniel Craig shouting "Get your finger out of your bloody ear" Oh and despite this being back in the game I can't do anything except walk around because Bats has his finger stuck in his ear.

Through another vent and at its exit a couple of guards get shot and the bad-guys loudly discuss how they were told to shoot anyone who tries to enter the hall. Fortunate that the vent is tucked into a corner allowing me to exit unseen.

Okay this bit is supposed to emphasise that Bats is just a man, walking out in front of the gun-men means getting shot and killed, you need to play it smart and that means Detective Mode to see through walls and those ever so handy gargoyles.

Up and over and down behind the three gun-men who never look around. Oo silent kill notice R2 to crouch, move forward, and then hit Triangle when prompted. Very silent takedown the other two don't notice a thing. Repeat twice, then head for another goon who's having a video conversation with the Joker - Silent takedown and sigh another vent to clamber through.

Now I'm in a big room with five armed goons wandering around. First things first zip up to a gargoyle and spy out the land. Hey one of them's broken off from the group and is trundling along beneath me. What's that Triangle? I can perform a silent takedown as I hang from the gargoyle wrap the guy in my cloak before hauling him back up tieing his feet and leave him dangling - yeah think I'll do that. Hmm he's making a bot of noise think I'd better move.

Yep the other guys are converging on their dangling colleague. Detective mode tells me their heart rate has increased. I swing from gargoyle to gargoyle and wait until again until one is separated and repeat the takedown. Cleverly you can only perform one such takedown from each gargoyle because obviously there's a guy dangling from it already. So I have to move about.

I take out another three and the remaining two are very jumpy now and shooting at shadows, another one down and only one to go and he's staying well away from the edge of the room. Glide kick and takedown; neat.

Control is snatched away again and I'm confronting the Joker who unleashes a 'mutant' and that's the end of the demo folks.

Okay building graphics are awesome, but the characters are a bit uncanny valley. Controls work and are nicely responsive. The faults I can pick are that this seems built solely with big-screen/HD in mind which makes interpreting instructions difficult; that you can't pause the cut-scenes; that Batman looks a right prat when talking to Oracle; and that finally I can see this getting repetitive unless something is changed in later levels - swing, takedown, swing, repeat.

Still it's Batman and probably the closest true representation of how he operates.

Veronica Mars on E4

I think I've worked out how producers schedule shows they look at a very short synopsis and use that. So for Veronica Mars which made it's terrestrial debut in the UK on E4 I'm guessing that the process went something like this:

Veronica Mars is a blonde rebellious High School student who as the daughter of a PI takes on 'cases' for her school friends.

"Sounds like Nancy Drew we'll broadcast it at around 7 in the morning and repeat it just before noon."

Now for a spoiler longer synopsis - Veronica Mars used to popular when she dated Duncan Kane and had his sister Lilly as a best friend, but when her father the Sheriff accuses the Kane family of murdering their daughter he's hounded out of office and becomes a PI and Veronica becomes a pariah at school. How will Veronica cope as she discovers her alcoholic mother had an affair with Duncan's father and that she left after being threatened with death threats against Veronica. Will she get over the split from Duncan and get together with Lilly's ex-boyfriend son of the abusive film star whose mother committed suicide and what will she think when she discovers that it was he who provided the drug used during her rape at a party?

"Sounds like Nancy Drew we'll broadcast it at around 7 in the morning and repeat it just before noon."

Things came to a head when I discovered it recording an episode just before midnight last night with an announcer claiming that "Due to the content of this episode we are unable to show this episode in its normal morning slot"

So bleary-eyed viewers this morning will get a "previously on Veronica Mars" and be thinking "What the...? I haven't see that"

Guys here's a couple of tips (again)- if the series you're showing needs to be edited or an entire episode cannot be broadcast because the content is unsuitable for the time slot you want to use you're trying to show it at the wrong time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Missed hospital appointments cost money.

Another report from BBC Breakfast about how much it is costing hospitals to deal with patients who don't turn up and fail to notify them. My first thought was "How is it costing them anything? The doctor's still going to be there regardless, it's not like a plumber losing time because they turned up and you weren't in"

The report clarified this by stating that when an NHS patient turns up they get money from the government if they don't then they don't, but they still have to pay the doctor. Ergo they're losing money.

Um so where do the Trusts get there money from in the first place? Wouldn't that be the government i.e. we the taxpayer? So as far as I can make out from this report the government pays the Trust to fund the hospital, the doctors and the staff, then when an NHS patient turns up the government pays them more money for seeing them?

So aren't we the taxpayers saving money by not turning up because we're not paying the Trust twice?

Now the only way I can see this being a problem is if the Trust aren't being given enough money to fund everything and are thus relying on the extra income from seeing NHS patients. In other words the Trust is given £500k, but needs £1m to run things and gets £500k extra as a result of seeing NHS patients.

So why don't they get the money up front, all this does is help create a conveyor-belt system whereby each Trust will try to maximise the number of NHS patients it sees to obtain the 'rebate' for each. Now if they're a private hospital and getting money for seeing an NHS patient then sure fine they're losing money, but in theory they should be able to get that money regardless of whether the patient turns up or not because they're a private firm that the government is contracting.

Anyway why am I fussing? Well when you start seeing headlines about how much money we're costing a service expect legislature to be passed to recoup that 'loss'. Also willing to bet that if we turn up, but the hospital is unable to see us we won't get any money for our loss of time because from the point of view of our lords and masters we're valueless.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Windows Mail search quirk misses emails.

Yes yes Windows Mail evil etc. I don't use it as my main email programme, but it's a handy built-in programme for one of the computers I use.

Anyone there it was and I needed to find all the emails from a certain person. I click on Find, type in the name, and there they all are. I open the one I want and continue.

Except somewhere in the back and forth I shut-down the Find window with its result list - damn there was another I needed now. Oh well no problem I open up Find again and repeat my search - 0 results. Say what?

I re-sort my main list and check yep they're still there and haven't been deleted. Now I've got them listed here, but still why couldn't Find um find them? I tried a few other ways of searching with no luck, Find was still happy to show me other people or items just not that list I had up before.

Then it clicked - I still had open the email I'd picked from the first search. I closed it down and re-searched. The list appeared.

Just to demonstrate this behaviour do a search, open one of the found items then without closing anything simply hit the Find Now button and see the 0 result replacing the list you saw a moment ago.

So it appears if you do a search in Windows Mail then open one of those items everything in the results list is hidden to subsequent searches until you close that item.

Now when you open an item from the search result the previous/next arrow buttons step you through that result list. So what happens if you search for something else and open an item from that result? Same thing happens as before. Each of the items retains its own result list to step through while at the same time both lists are excluded from any subsequent search while they remain open.

So just for fun I open a Find dialogue and do a search. Then without opening an item from that results list I open another Find dialogue and perform the same search - 0 results

The simplest thing I can think off is that each results list locks each item within it and prevents it from being searched; except why?

Imagine a hypothetical situation where you do a search for the Red list. Now open a new Find dialogue and do a Blue search. Now finally do a Red + Blue search - 0 results because all the Red and Blue items are 'hidden'.

The former has been stricken as now it appears to be doing something else - Do a search for, say, "Dan H" and I get a list of results, now open a new dialogue and do a search for say "Orphi" and I get 0 results. Now Dan in the comments below suggests it may be using the existing list to restrict the search - except if you repeat the search you don't return the same list you get 0 results.

Now just for fun I did a search on my Inbox and got a result then opened a new search for my Sent Items and... got a result back. So it appears that each search locks the 'folder' it's searching in. Now this kind of makes sense when you consider how Windows Mail stores things - each item is a file stored in a corresponding directory so it may well be locking out that directory.

Just to go one further if you run a search on the "Local Folders" that includes subdirectories then try to run another search all folders are 'locked' if you run a search without subdirectories they're all 'unlocked'.

However as mentioned in the struck out section opening an item from the results list also seems to maintain that lock possibly in order for the previous/next buttons to step you through the results list and to answer Dan's question opening an item directly from the folder doesn't exclude it from the results.

So opening an item from the folder doesn't make the folder unsearchable, but opening one from a search result (or simply running a search that looks at that folder) does.

Okay sure it's a small free mail programme, but only being able to perform one search at a time and best of all not preventing you from performing multiple borked searches or even telling you that's what it's doing; nice, very nice.

Oops one final point for information this is for Vista which as I'm sure we're all aware uses a strange new search method, however running this same search via the built-in index doesn't produce the same 0 results. So Windows Mail doesn't seem to run using the Vista Index, which makes sense seeing as it can also run on XP.

Gilgal Roadworks - 5

Yes yes I'm going on about it, but I had a thought and a quick five minute search reveals the answer. The thought was "What have our local parties to say about the forthcoming Gilgal fiasco?" I turned to what should be the main and most up-to-date source of each party - their official website and to tag along their proposed MP's site too.

Areley Kings Labour - nothing.
And the MP site - nothing.

Wyre Forest Conservatives - nothing. Oh no wait there is a story regarding pushing back roadworks and closures that'd be Bewdley though and a story about Lichfield Street (which I can't directly link to).
And the MP site - a static page about the Stourport Relief Road (nothing about how the plans have been scrapped).

Wyre Forest Liberal Democrats - nothing.
And the MP site - nothing.

Wyre Forest Liberals - nothing
No MP site.

Independant Community and Health Concern - Yes oh yes we have a hit headed Stourport Roadworks. Deserves quoting in full

ICHC councillors brokered a meeting in the town council chamber to enable the main contractor involved in the extensive, and highly disruptive, 'Gilgal' road-works - originally planned to take place in the middle of the summer-holiday peak-congestion period - at ICHCs request, to explain the situation.
This meeting was also attended by some of the town's business community.
Cllr. Holden chaired the meeting, stating it was at Jim Parrish's request that it was convened.

The town's trades-people were appeased by the start date being put back to the 18th Sept; however, no consideration was given to ingress and egress of school pupils, mainly to the High School and Tan Lane sites.
ICHC have referred this to Colin Weeden in the Education Dept. in the expectation that satisfactory arrangements can be made before the start of the autumn term.

The general public have yet to be consulted in this affair and ICHC have requested that the Worcs. County Council press office release the news to the public.
So far they have been preoccupied with broadcasting quotes from various (Tory) County Councillors to media outlets.

Stourport residents are unhappy at the whole situation and the total lack of direct communication by the W.C.C. to all those who will will have their lives disrupted by this very important period of
re-constructive work.

To recap the roadworks can't be moved to January because they want to take advantage of the lighter nights and are worried about leaving residents without utilities during these months... unless you live in Bewdley in which case roadworks scheduled for April can be pushed back until next January because "it was felt that would affect popular events attracting tourists to the town, such as the carnival and Discover Bewdley weekend". And when did they want to start the roadworks in Stourport - oh yes during the carnival.

So of the five political groups in this District one is concerning themselves with Stourport. Oh and before they start whinging about how they've no representatives in Stourport or it's a County decision so it's nothing to do with them you ain't going to make any friends by ignoring it

Gee ICHC help set up the Millfields Action Group and ICHC apparently help broker a meeting about Gilgal; which political group seems to be putting their money where their mouths are and who would you want to vote for? I've been trying to stay apolitical but dammn!

More on compensation

I caught a report and interview on BBC Breakfast this morning, I missed the very first part of the intro so all I caught was a possible back-down on making compensation retrospective. "Oh this again" I thought and as such tried to fit the report and interview into a preconcepted 'army space' which got confusing very quickly as this had nothing to do with the military.

Turns out someone went to Egypt with their girlfriend and were killed in a bomb attack. The father of the victim was on the sofa for an interview and to make this clear he is not asking for compensation for himself.

The interview itself was peppered with tit-bits such as "You expect the government to help you" that luckily they had credit cards so they could fly out there even though "we didn't know who would be paying".

Woah I'm sorry, I really am sorry that your son was killed along with all the others, but what are you expecting money for exactly? As British nationals were involved I would expect the Foreign Office to keep an eye on the investigation and liaise with victims and/or their families; I would also presume that the Foreign Office would pay to have any remains transported back to the UK out of sheer decency, but that's it.

Bill asked the father about "travel insurance" and got a laugh in return - who goes on a holiday expecting to be blown up who goes through the small print of the policy? Well if you didn't whose fault is that? That'd be yours.

If I went skiing and was killed in an avalanche why would I expect my family to be compensated by the government, heck if I was mugged and killed why would I expect compensation.

Seriously what is going on with this country where we seem to be expecting the government to bail us out of things that went wrong from the choices we made and that had little or nothing to do with them?

Gilgal Roadworks - 4

Another piece of the jigsaw comes from someone I won't name in case it can be traced to the source and repercussions await.

As we are no doubt aware multiple events will be occurring at the Gilgal Fiasco and one of these will be the replacement of the lamp-posts.

So now I get reliable information that the scheduling for the replacement of these lights has not yet been set. That is the firm contracted to perform the task have yet to be told when they'll be doing it.

Now we're being told that everything is being done for us, to minimise disruption etc. but it seems there's a lose hand on the tiller and when that happens past experience tells me that works tend to over-run. So five weeks without Gilgal minimum.

Also as I doubt it'll show up on a search of the Shuttle site I'll append here my comment to the tesco plans which may have relevance.

Slightly off-topic, but does anyone think that we'd be looking at a complete 5-week closure of Gilgal if a Tesco had already been built there or would WCC hear the howls of protest from their executives all the way in Worcester?
My guess shut-down Gilgal in those circumstances - as if.

Predicting people

Welcome to my new game of "What happened next?" I give you a situation and any necessary background and you guess What happened next.

Situation 1: WCC have resurfaced a road and packed up, but oh no they haven't painted any road markings because that's a different division. Now given that this is a well-used road and that the WCC have gone on record that they prefer to work at this time of year due to the lighter nights when do you think the repainting work started?

Situation 2: You're in a van heading around a corner and into a swan neck curve that has a staggered junction at its end past this is a long straight stretch of road. As you come out of the first swan neck curve you hear a noise that suggests one of your side doors isn't quite shut properly. Where do you stop to check?

Okay answers -

1: If you said they'd start the work later in the evening while it was still light and traffic was less heavy - wow you are an optimistic soul.
If you said they'd start during the morning rush-hour I like the cut of your jib, you're so close take 5 points.
If you said they'd start during the evening rush-hour well done take 10 points

2: If you said that you'd wait until you passed the next curve and were clear of the junctions and stopped on the long straight stretch of road then I'm sorry you get no points.
If you said you'd stop on the next curve directly between the two junctions and in clear sight of the long straight stretch of road congratulations you get 5 points.
As a bonus - If you guessed that this is also where the bus-stop has been set-up have an extra 5 points.

Nope still not getting people at times.

Monday, August 10, 2009

WFA is back

For those who've been used to its long absence and have stopped checking in Tav seems to have resurrected the Wyre Forest Agenda. As his blog seems to get a lot more politicos reading and commenting then my humble site this is indeed a welcome return.

I look forward to seeing what he gets his teeth into first and the responses it garners.

Identity Cards for under-25's

A comment by Dan regarding the under-25 policy on alcohol purchases seems to have spread to the purchase of knives. A quick search pulled up a document from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association regarding the scheme which seems to be called "Challenge 25".

There are three points of interest in this short article. The first is that we have both a Home Office spokesperson and a police officer lauding the Challenge 21 scheme neither of whom voices any concern over this creeping age-limit.

The second point is that this has apparently been requested by "frontline staff" who want the

freedom to challenge more widely to ensure young people are not breaking the law, either attempting to purchase alcohol for themselves or for others who are under 18
Excuse me they already have the freedom to challenge anyone they like if they think that the alcohol laws are being broken - they're private businesses. They're not legally obliged to sell anything to anyone they don't want to provided they're not discriminating on the grounds of sex, colour, or religion etc.. All the Challenge 21 and now Challenge 25 is give them store/management back-up for doing what they should have been in the first place.

Finally the third point
Challenge 25 will force all those over 18 but under 25 to carry photo ID if they wish to purchase alcohol.
That's "force" people to carry photo ID if they want to purchase alcohol, but in effect will force such to carry it if they want to purchase anything deemed hazardous such as knives. What this does is subtly indoctrinate the 18-25 age group (and the next generation) into accepting the need to carry photo ID around with them at all times. Then you slowly merge the driver's licence and passport into the National ID card on the grounds of 'cost' and 'lowering administration overhead'.

Think I'm paranoid? Just take a look at how our laws are ever so slowly removing our ability to do anything without our masters' permission while at the same time allowing our masters to do whatever they want without our permission.

Another point on Gilgal roadworks

One of the reasons stated for closing down Gilgal entirely is the conjunction of its width and the need for safety for the workers. Now I've little problem with that, except the roadworks that were going on over at Sandy Lane Industrial Estate last week reminded me of prior works, prior water works, that meant digging up the left hand lane (heading out) of Sandy Lane.

Now the road there is easily comparable to Gilgal in terms of width and is similar in terms of form if not gradient. Also as an industrial estate it has a relatively high volume of traffic of which a fair proportion are heavy vehicles. Yet throughout all the work they managed to keep a lane open and ran it with traffic lights.

So what's the difference? Easy - Sandy Lane is the only vehicular way onto or off the estate, to have shut it down completely would have shut down every single business on it. Gilgal, on the other hand, can be re-routed. A thirteen mile detour to be sure, but nonetheless an alternative route is possible.

So once again this isn't about safety, this is about time and hassle for them. They don't want the fuss and we don't count or even have a say in the matter.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stourport goings on

Separate to the joys of Gilgal roadworks we get a few more stories about Stourport.

First up is the page 7 story on how the Basin project has reached the finals in the National Lottery Awards "Canal basins need your vote to scoop Lotto award". In a long overdue move they are also publicising this competition somewhere over than at the Basins themselves with a nice long banner directly opposite the approach to York Street from Lion Hill. Vote for them at the awards page directly here if you want to.

Tesco rears it's glass-clad head again on page 10 with "Town 'let down' by latest store plan" seriously is there some taboo about mentioning town names in headlines or is it just space considerations? Essentially members of Stourport Town Council have "slammed" the new plans, but as they seem to realise they have as much influence over the decision as I have they acknowledge that the plan's success is a "foregone conclusion".

Actually to tie this to the Gilgal story one of the town councillors states "I am disappointed by the response of Worcestershire County Council's highway [...] We are looking now in September at a terrible five-week period of disruption with the closure of the Gilgal. When this store is built it won't be a five-week disruption but a permanent one"

That's Conservative Councillor David Little criticising the Conservative controlled County Council folks - fight, fight, fight!

Finally though this is to do with Gilgal it's not about the roadworks, but the ever-present jams. As mentioned a letter with my name on it (boo!) got published twice (yay?) [checking through again this got published twice in the newspaper, but three times on the site. Each time under a different title] and a response came back about how it's down to people not driving correctly. Well it seems someone else has decided to respond to that with essentially the conclusion I make in Gilgal Logic. So, glad it's not just me who realises this.

Gilgal Roadworks - 3

Once again we make the third page in the Shuttle and once again our town's name doesn't feature in the headline "Traders' fears over months of roadworks" (no link as it's yet to appear on the site) applause for the correct use of an apostrophe by the way; but it's still a misleading headline 'Fears grow over months of Stourport roadworks' would have been just as accurate and alerted residents.

Anyway they make an error regarding Phase 1 which the Shuttle informs us where the road will be "closed between the Gilgal and Worcester Road" nope that'd be Worcester Street and yes I criticised the Council etc. for constantly referring to "The" Gilgal, at least here they didn't capitalise it.

Because I seem to be stamping on the "The" I thought I'd better confirm my actions, I knew that the roadsign is just "Gilgal" and I knew that old maps named it that way, but evidence is key and that's where the Worcestershire Hub takes a lead in provided historical Stourport maps I can't link directly but zoom in on the Gilgal area and turn off all the maps except "C18: Before the Canal" and look at what's next to "The Dickens" gosh is that "Gilgal" all on its lonesome? Check every map after that date and it still appears without a definite article.

A delightful quote from Worcestershire County Councillor David Prodger - "We have agreed that the best solution is to work together and in as short a timescale as possible" First off I'm curious as to who are "we" and secondly as I've already mentioned timescale is only a concern because you're closing down the road; if you weren't than hey I'll be generous take all the time you need.

Tying in with a comment on the previous link about the Relief Road, the existence of which would pretty much render this entire problem moot, we get an article on page 5 "Campaigners welcome relief road decision" which starts off -

The Campaign for Better Transport has welcomed the Government's decision to abandon the Stourport relief road scheme
Not just this scheme but 21 others too and why? Because they're "out-of-date" and would be "too expensive" Excellent. Now hey I've been saying there's problems with the original scheme for some time now and I'm all for revamping and updating, but "abandon"? Perhaps "replace" might be better, that is assuming that they are replacing it and not just tossing it onto the rubbish heap in which case grab your torches and pitchforks.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gilgal Emergency Services

Now as I've pointed out the letter and leaflet regarding the shut-down of our town stated how emergency services will be able to get through. The letter with -

We have made special arrangements with the emergency services to make sure their needs are met
and the leaflet had an entire question answer dedicated to this about how access will be
available at all times
So what do we hear from Lemone?
With regard to the emergency services; it was said at the meeting that when one of them needs to get through they will ring the contractors
So there you have it folks if you're planning on having an emergency between the 21st September and the 25th October make sure you phone ahead. Because it's not as if the Fire Station and Ambulance points will take their time before they reach Gilgal and find it blocked.

Inadvertent consequence of Shuttle email facility

Checking through the Shuttle I read DaTa's entry on Fifth Columnists and thought to make a comment.

Now most systems allow you to access a feed of comments; or, when you add a comment, allow you to be emailed when someone else adds to it. The NewsQuest system uses a button you can press. Now I've always found this a tad annoying as you can type your comment then realise you want to see replies and then press the button. At which point the page reloads and your typing is removed.

As such I've got into the habit of pressing the button before typing. In this case after a re-read of my comment I decided not to post it and navigated away. So imagine my surprise when I get an email informing me that someone's added a comment to that entry.

It seems that the button press is independent of posting, so you can get email alerts on comments without having to add one yourself; that's actually not a bad feature.

Gilgal Fiasco

A letter just sent to the Shuttle:

From the hastily produced and distributed leaflet I'm sure all Stourport residents are aware of the plans to shut-down Gilgal for five weeks. The brochure repeatedly "hopes" that we "understand" the need for this. With that in mind I'd like to pose a question - Do you believe an authority that claims its goal is to minimise disruption to us when said authority originally scheduled works to coincide with our town's annual carnival?

Now the works have been pushed back, but still we're asked for our patience and understanding. I'm sorry but I not going to give them that without a lot more information than they've provided. We're assured that Gilgal will remain open for emergency access as well as to the residents, but are asked to take it on faith that this is "different to normal vehicle access". So I'll ask another question - Why can't one lane of Gilgal remain open with a vastly reduced speed limit and larger vehicles diverted through the already planned diversions?

Of course I won't be able to get a face-to-face answer until the first two weeks of September when the customer service mobile unit rolls into town, by which time it'll be deemed too late to alter the plans being imposed upon us.

FlipC, Stourport

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gilgal Roadworks leaflet

After the 'concerns' over shutting down what is essentially the main route into Stourport for 5 weeks Severn Trent, in conjunction with the other contractors, have commissioned a nice glossy leaflet to inform us as to why bending over and dropping our trousers is in fact good for us in the long term.

By working together, our aim is to keep disruption to a minimum as all the parties complete the work within the same time period
Okay first off shouldn't that be the normal method of operations and secondly this isn't a "disruption" it's a major f***ing catastrophe. See I don't know about you but I wouldn't object to a longer "disruption" if it meant you weren't shutting down the major route into our town.
On behalf of all the parties I would like to say thank you for your understanding and patience
Well that's bloody assumptious of you I'm offering neither understanding or patience.

Onto the 10-page leaflet entitled "Investing and renewing your essential services" subtitled "Working in a busy place to get the job done" see they're doing it for us so we can't complain.

So why are they doing it? Obviously it's to
carry out necessary asset renewal work
Excuse me, could you repeat that in common English please. Ah good the next page gives details. STW are changing a pipe; WCC are replacing street lights (a feat they managed to do on Vale Road over two afternoons I might add); e-on will be adding a 11,000 volt cable up Mitton Street from Worcester Road (so no real 'disruptions' from them); and good old Balfour Beatty will be the ones digging everything up, then re-laying everything, then digging everything up again to fix the problems they left behind, then re-laying it again, then ignoring the remaining problems.
What we are doing to keep disruption to a minimum
Oo would that be not closing down the major access route into our town? I'm guessing not.
If you use the Gigal route [...]
So that would be if you live in Stourport or visit Stourport or work in Stourport, you know just to narrow the field down a bit.
[...] you are probably aware that the road is very limited and narrow, meaning that the only way to do the work is to close the road
Oh and look at the jump there, did you spot it? Road is narrow ergo road must be closed. So just out of curiosity how does that work on single lane carriageways?
We understand that the one-way section which runs along The Gigal and into Mitton Street is a busy route used by locals and commuters especially between Bewdley and Worcester
No I don't think you do otherwise you'd a) realise why it's so heavily used by locals; b) wouldn't be referring to it as "The" Gilgal, it's just Gilgal; and c) wouldn't be highlighting just one type of journey as worthy of reference.

Then we get the timetable running from 18 September until 22 November. Phase 1 is fine a weekend shutdown of the top of Vale Road, an event that will be even less disruptive than the weekend shutdowns of the bridge.

Phase 2 is the biggy the complete shutdown of Gilgal and past the Total petrol station up to Worcester Road for 5 weeks.
contractors will be taking advantage of the longer daylight hours and will be working weekends to complete the works in as short a time as possible
Again shouldn't that be standard working practice? Oh no of course not silly me this sort of concerted effort takes money.

Phase 3 open up Gilgal and shutdown one lane of Mitton Street which we've had done before so no biggy.

Oh and again they thank us for our "understanding".

Oo a nice section here of Q&As. And as our lead question we have the hot burning topic -
Why couldn't the work be done using traffic lights and keeping one lane open?
See a good question, how do they answer that?
We need to make sure that the work is carried out with everyone's safety in mind. The Gilgal is very limited and narrow and with the amount of work being done the safest and fastest way to do the work is to close the road completely.
Okay point knocked off again for "The" Gilgal, but how can you argue with safety well I'm looking at "the amount of work being done" now is that all together, because obviously the only reason for that is because you've scheduled it all at the same time. Now "safest" is solved by plonking a speed limit down as they do with everything else, as for "fastest" that's only a real concern because you're shutting down the entire road.

the next two questions are why the short notice and why do it now, quickly answered by wanting to get all the work done by all the different contractors and not wanting services disrupted later in the year. Fair enough. Next question however.
What is the main effect of the road closure?
Oo oo I know this is it "Seriously f***ing up Stourport?" Ah damn I'm wrong apparently it's
Traffic travelling towards Worcester will be most affected with the need for it to follow a fully signed diversion. Traffic from Worcester will not be affected as much as the existing route will still be available. Delays caused by the work may affect journey times and drivers are advised to allow more time for their journey.
Which goes to show that the county council don't know shit about traffic patterns around here. Point 1 is that Stourport is used as a Kidderminster by-pass because that's choked with traffic. Point 2 it's the main f***ing route into the town. So on both points stop talking about Worcester traffic damn they're egocentric. Pont 3 "may" sorry what was that again "may affect journey times" no shit Sherlock you think a 13 mile diversion "may affect journey times". That a 13 mile diversion during rush-hour through an already choked town "may affect journey times" I'm sorry I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But what about the emergency services? Glad you asked.
We have spoken with the emergency services and West Mercia Police who have had a leading role in sorting this problem out. Because The Gilgal is a vital route for the emergency services we will make sure that an emergency access space is available at all times to allow an emergency vehicle to go through The Gilgal with police and our assistance. We hope you will understand that this is very different to normal vehicle access and does not reduce the need for a full road closure.
Snort sorry "emergency services and West Mercia Police" does that mean the police aren't emergency services? Hmm it seems "The" Gilgal is a vital route gee why would that be, would it be the 13 mile detour necessary to get around it? Note the pre-emptive "hope we understand" about how this is different to keeping a lane open, um no sorry can't see the difference between allowing access to emergency vehicles and "Access to properties along The Gilgal" and keeping a lane open with a reduced speed limit and possibly re-routing larger vehicles along the diversions you already want to set up.

The last two questions are the dumb "What about the bus routes?" hmm disruption you think? And the pointless "Will you get the work done within the time you are stating?" how long is a piece of string?

If you want to discuss this with their "customer service mobile unit" they've provided a useful timetable of when and where they'll be around. Drawing on my vast psychic potential I foresee that these will be held on weekdays during normal business hours ommmmm.

Meh not far off they starting on Wednesday the 2nd September and running until the next Wednesday with, surprise, the weekend off. Because you know Stourport's just dead on a weekend. Times are 10am until 4pm except on Friday when they break up early at 2pm. But I am truly surprised because on Thursday and Monday they start at 1pm and finish at 8pm... but, but that's two whole hours that working folk might be able to see you; got to be a typo.

Also worth noting that this 'discussion' you can have takes place only a week before the work starts so does anyone believe that anything about this will alter the works being carried out in any shape or form?

Finally we get the pat text from those looking to screw us up as
Our Commitment and message to customers, residents and road users.
Damn they must really mean that Commitment to capitialise it like that. It's the same crap about how this is necessary and asking for our patience and how they're trying to keep disruption to a minimum.

But hey what else would I expect from our benevolent County Council.

Percentage statistics one more time

So just after I finished banging my head against the wall I caught the tail-end of an item about electricity prices and we get a pretty graph. Prices increased by 9% held steady then decreased by 10%. However "the graph shows a large difference but remember it's only 1%"... gah!

Okay let's do this nice and slowly.

Imagine your bill is a nice even £100 and it increases by 9%. Now to recap that percentage means "per 100 of the total" so that's percentage number * (total/100) as our total is £100 that's £100/100 or 1 multiplied by 9 which is 9. So 9% of £100 is £9 as this is an increase it gets added to our total making £109. Everyone with me so far?

Okay so if it decreases by 10% we do exactly the same thing but with our new figures. So 10% of £109 is 10*(£109/100) or £10.90. Subtract that from our total (£109-£10.9) and we get £98.10. Still with me?

So what's the percentage difference between our starting total and our new total? In other words what percentage of our starting value of £100 would I have to remove to reach £98.10?

The difference between the two values is £1.90 so what percentage of £100 is £1.90? value/total*100 or £1.90/£100*100 which obviously neatly cancels out to 1.9%

So ignore the graph as it's only 1% difference? Nope more like 2% unless they were basing all their percentage values on the starting value which would be naughty.

Merseyside parking ticket revoked

A report on GMTV this morning had me banging my head against the wall in frustration. It should have been a simple story - a businesswoman stops on double-yellow lines to unload her car and is caught by a mobile camera, she appeals and her appeal is upheld as no signs warning about cameras were in place; then we get an interview with her and a council official.

Of course GMTV manage to make a right dog's dinner of it.

First off is the amusing sight of the mobile smart car stopped on a single-yellow line underneath the time restriction sign; of course we don't know when it was shot or the time restrictions in place, but it amused.

Secondly we switch to the woman's (Rachel Johnson) interview in her car outside her business... presumably on the double yellow lines.

During the interview she tells us that the council told her she had no right to appeal. Eep flashing warning lights - if they'd done that then the ticket is null and void. You always have the right to appeal, what probably happened was that she appealed and they did an internal review and found no cause to reverse the ticket.

She then took it to a tribunal who found that as no camera signs were in place the tickets were invalid.

We then switch to Ben on the sofa with the council representative. Now remember she states she was unloading which you're allowed to do, so why did Ben keep stating that she had "parked"?

This popped up from an email later and he stated that it was the council who had alleged she was parked not unloading; well yes but it doesn't help if you back them up does it?

Another delight came from Ben when he told the official that she had been found "Not Guilty". Um no a tribunal can't find anyone not guilty or even guilty as this is not a criminal offence, they can be found liable or not liable.

Then finally it gets recapped in the news section by Penny who tells us that the Merseyside women appealed as there were no warning signs in place. Well not according to the news report and the interview you've just done where she appealed because she claimed she wasn't parking she was unloading.

Is it any wonder that so few have a clue about what they can and can't do when presented with this miss-mash?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Analytics time

I haven't really been paying that much attention to the traffic, but this month saw a shock arrival at the top of the page heap. "Michael Jackson alive?" ended up with 351 unique page views for the month of July can't quite grasp why as I don't even appear on the first page of Google. However a quick search proves that I can't even say anything in jest:

Worryingly I'll bet if I did some searching I would've have been able to find actual quotes rather than aetheric ones.
Yes yes I could have. Anyway hits spiked between July 20th and 27th, go figure?

The second highest hit has also proved the longest lasting in my chart. It seems I'm not the only one bemused by that "Damn IE7 and inline-block" 728 unique visitors since I posted it with 199 this month alone.

Next is "Naughty Penny Smith" sadly nothing pervy on the keywords I'm guessing just people who also couldn't believe what they heard.

And finally it seems Virtual Dub is still causing consternation on how to rotate videos judging by the steady trickle that continues to keep it in the top four.

So that's a little satire, some 'gossip' and two computer geek pieces. Perhaps I should stuff the local stuff and give my audience what they want... hold on none of you are paying me for this; sod it I'll carry on how I want :-P