Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Loyalty cards - keeping it simple

On side note on my trip to Merry Hell was being asked if I had a loyalty card for HMV. Well it's not a store I use that much either physically or virtually, but what the hey.

So it costs £3, but I get 1000 points. I get a point for every penny spent which can be exchanged online.
"So can I use it in store?"
"No, well yes you can put credit on it online and then we can swipe that credit off here"
"No thanks"

Seriously - a physical loyalty card that can only be utilised online?

I checked out the site, you get access to special stuff, but oh look at the T&Cs "Points will expire if unused for a period of 2 years" now is that if the points are unused or the card is unused? I also like the way they keep referring to it as "Your Card" despite "Your Card is issued by and remains the property of HMV UK Limited" yeah. Anyway indeed 1p = 1 point or "1pp" so take whatever is on offer and divide it 100 to discover how much you need to spend to get it. So what's on offer - take a look. Whoo hoo a Glee Music notepad for only 8500 points, so spend £85 and get a notebook free; whoo hoo?

Okay sure if you're spending that much anyway, but how convoluted.

Oo a Hideo Kojima A3 signed print only 350,000pp so spend £3,500 in less than two years and it's yours free.

Subway Deluxe Photos

The Kidderminster Arts Festival Subway Deluxe are now all sorted and posted in their own group on my Flickr page. Be advised it was dark so the flash was necessary at times so I shot at an angle, and due to the size of some of the pieces I took the photo with the camera up against the opposite wall hence the crookedness.

Everything onward from, my personal fave, Girl with Spray Can are works I didn't see started; darn. In some cases work appears unsigned or signed by someone not listed on the Facebook group. If you know the artist for some of the work unassigned drop it into the comments or send it by Flickr.

Rights of way

Delightful little argument with the window cleaner. Discussing crossings and he mentioned that the Co-op entrance needed one. "Who's got right of way there?" he asked.
"The cars" I replied. "the pavement ends. Pedestrians have right of way on pavements"
We then diverted onto cyclists on pavements and crossing the road, then back to
"So there should be a crossing at the entrance of the co-op" he stated
"I agree, but as there isn't the cars have right of way"
"But what if you're talking and not looking and a car hits you"
"That's your fault"
"Fine" he says and storms off.

I mean seriously the pavement ends just as it does at the roadside what sort of response would anyone expect from something along the lines of 'Well I was just crossing the road and wasn't paying attention as I stepped out and got hit by a car; I blame the driver'

Vale Road car-park take 3

It seems the complaints regarding turning the currently free Vale Road car-park into a Pay-for has resulted in some additions to the page outlining them.

As a fine example of what can be done when you moan (to whit the inclusion of maps) we now have the original agreements between Stourport Urban Council and Thomas Vale regarding that piece of land. Now it may be true that the land was donated for the building of Vale Road but this document displays that that land did not include the current site of the car-park which was subject to a sale in 1947 between TV and SUC for the sum of £1000.

The only condition that appears to exist is that a "quick fence to a height of not less than five feet " be maintained on the eastern border.

So that just leaves the financial document that states a price change won't occur until a crossing in Vale Road is built, which isn't happening.

Way too fast

Not done a Name and Shame in a while so here we go. Hello to BN55 AYF Sunday morning who thought that taking the Gilgal-Mitton road at 50mph was a good idea, and who roared past me on the right as we turned the corner on the CoW corner then almost lost control of their vehicle as they moved to the left hand lane and had to come to a sudden slowdown with the traffic already in it..

3D Television

One of the things I did manage while I was at Merry Hell was to check out the 3D televisions both at the Sony Centre and Best Buy. I had to wait at the Sony Centre as a group were there, two on the coach and two behind watching; not with the glasses mind just 2D. One of the staff was holding a pair of glasses so from this and the conversation I guess they'd just tried it. I stood I waited, they left and the staff member went to put the glasses away.

Um hello standing here close to the television not moving like to offer me a viewing. Nope I had to ask. I got the glasses and they fitted nicely over my own, the 3D section was cued up and I watched the aquarium demonstration. Yep I can see the 3D effect and it's mildly impressive, or it would be if it wasn't flickering so badly. Terrible, I mentioned this and got "Well it's 200Hz so you're not going to get any better"; excellent.

In Best Buy they had four televisions up an LG a Samsung, a Panasonic and I think another Samsung, but only one pair of glasses LG's. Turns out the kids break them and at £100 a pop not something to leave out and they don't seem to want to keep a staff member on hand to offer them. So great introduction there - kids break the glasses and they're expensive. So one pair means a queue, although that would indicate some sort of order - a bunch would perhaps be more descriptive. One group had a look, then the kid had a look and then the glasses got passed to the next in the bunch which was me, no it got passed to a oriental group instead.

He looked through them as his kid tried to snatch them from his face, the kid used them, then back to the father, as the kid tried to grab them again, then to the kid, then to the father, then to the wife, then to the kid, then to the father, then back to the kid [sigh]. Finally they decided to leave and the father indicated that the kid should pass them onto me. He looked shocked at this as if I'd suddenly materialised next to him. Anyway I  don't know if it was the tuning, but using LG glasses with the other televisions didn't really work, but they were fine with the LG and a lot less flicker than the Sony.

Hmm I wonder if they'd set the Sony ones up correctly?

A trip to Merry Hell

As it's been a while I thought I'd check out Merry Hill and any Bank Holiday bargains that might be going on. I left nice and early and arrived just before 10am so only a few stores were open, HMV being one of them I browsed around there for a while.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Subway Deluxe

And there I was hoping for a foot-long with a choice selection of the finest  meats and cheeses and I end up at an art exhibit :-)

I managed to get there around the 11am start to find only four artists working in the subway, one working with acrylics on what might be deemed a classical landscape piece, two using spray paints each working on two areas; and then all alone in the other subway entrance one young man gently layering paper on the wall.

A little later a young lady turned up with more spray paints and set up opposite the painter. When they surfaced the two entrances and left blank areas they were assigned to an artist for obvious reasons due to the size requested and it seems that the artists assigned to the other side hadn't arrived. A couple were coming up from Devon so yeah I can forgive them :-) At the same time some had dropped out and the two spray painters had gallantly stepped in to fill the void.

In between the blanks on the surfacing itself were some nice stencils put up by Ian Boyd Walker who informed me it was a 150 year old Japanese wallpaper pattern.

Anyway I've got some beginning shots and works in progress, hopefully I can pop down tomorrow and get some of the finished articles then sort them out.

In the meantime good old Tav (whom I bumped into, or to be more precise he recognised me) has posted some up on the facebook group.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A sensitive council

One of my neighbours died recently, he'd been ill and in-care so it wasn't anything sudden. He lived alone so his house was now empty. Apparently a couple of days before the funeral the relatives received a phone call from the council asking if the house was still furnished. Um? Well apparently if it was they could still charge council tax on the property.


onClick is not a link

For the last entry I linked through to the Bakugan and Mighty Beanz however I didn't link through directly to the page, but instead to the English part of the site. In both cases I was taken to the links I use above which demanded I chose a language to view the site in. Except clicking did nothing, why not? Because I use NoScript which disables javascript scripts from running also I allow them to, it's a nice added safety precaution.

Except why is that stopping me from using this page? A look at the code tells me all.

<input alt="English" border="0" onclick=
 src="images/uk.png" type="image" />

What the hell? So they're using a button (input) which is supposed to be part of a form (and isn't) to run a piece of javascript to set a cookie (part of SetLanguage) and take me to another page. Odder yet is that Japan and Korea use a direct link.

What is interesting is that Mighty Beanz uses exactly the same code. I don't mean similar I mean identical even down to the domain used by the cookie. Odd as they seem to be manufactured by two different companies.

Bakugan gets better once you reach the English page, the menu bar is made up of

<div class="leftNavMenu mouseOverImage divLink" href="/news/"

Not even an onClick, but what's with the bare "href"? Turns out they use a bit of javascript to detect the divlink class and then apply a click attribute using the href contents. Why? Seriously why not just use a simple "a" link?

I can't see it cutting down anything, the link information still needs to be present so why do it in such a cumbersome manner?

It's never too young to stereotype

Over the last few weeks I've been tuning in to CITV of a morning simply because they're re-running "The Batman" cartoon. Damn fine show but it does mean getting exposed to a whole heap of children's adverts.

There's the Mighty Beanz ad for a race track - build the track, fire your beans up to the top and watch them race down; played with by two boys of course; what piqued my attention was one of the track layout options presented "the u-curve" um but doesn't that mean that the 'bean' on the inside has an advantage over the other?

There's also the crash race track, which I have to admit seems to understand its market well. Again played with by boys you send your cars into a loop to crash, but here's the clever part - it seems there a plate at the base of the loop you can load it with six (?) toy cars, hit the button, and watch them being propelled into the air just to crash into each other. No waiting just simple mindless destruction, over and over again.

Also amusing is "by Character". You get some girl (or boy) to restate the name of the product and then get replaced by what is a probably trademarked voice announcing "by Character" I just find it funny.

Speaking of Character what are the point of Zhu-Zhu pets?

One scary advert was for realistic animals, they had realistic movement. If by realistic you mean sitting there and moving their heads back and forth,the scary bit though are the eyes. They glow in the dark - green. Is it just me is that nightmare material?

However what prompted this entry was a board game, a dating board game aimed, judging by the girls playing it, at pre-pubescent girls. You get clues from a telephone as to whom you're dating "Will he be geeky [picture of guy with glasses] or gorgeous [male model pose]" hey HEY why can't he be both?

Oh and The Batman and it seems most of the shows are sponsored by Bakugan a game played apparently by flicking marble like robots at each other then claiming victory for no apparent reason. Yay I won!

Loss of internet

Just doing some work and couldn't access the internet, hmm happens in the past on some sites opening a tab to Google usually wakes it up. No Google. I try pinging, DNS works, just no reply. I check the router status, ADSL link is fine but no PPP. I try to reconnect. Nothing. I power off then on the router, no connection. I plug in a normal phone and the line is fine.

I give it some time to see if it's a sporadic fault and get on with something else. Still not on I call the tech support. She's just in the middle of trying to transfer me to tech when I hear a bum-da-la-bum behind me. It's the incoming mail sound. I bend round and look at the front of the router and ping the light's back up.

Pfft always the way.

Lane closure on Areley Common 2

The lane closure had vanished by the afternoon, which is annoying as that's when I got the return call from Worcester Highways regarding it. Turns out they had no knowledge of it at all. Yep, someone just turned up and cordoned off a section of the public highway without any permission.

Despite what I said I couldn't 100% identify them as Severn Trent Water so they'll be looking at what was dug up and trying to trace it back to whoever would be working on it. Why the bother isn't this as petty as I thought it seemed? Well what they did was illegal and if you let one group get away with it what's to stop them doing it again; say next Saturday when the carnival tries to roll through town?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lane closure on Areley Common

It appears Severn Trent Water are doing some emergency work on the grass between Areley Common and the Dunley Road opposite Hermitage Way. So far so what.

However in order to do this they've decided to park their vehicles in the road and cone them off.

The white part indicates where they're working. The red part where they've closed off the lane and the green part is the old bus-stop that was purposefully left as a parking point for service vehicles. So coming out of Hermitage Way you can see the in-flow of traffic from Dunley Road, but coming down Areley Common the parked vehicles obscure the view.

Now this might just be temporary while they offload tools, but a hole was dug, a digger placed and their trucks still parked. So a quick call to Highways and Transport on 0845 607 2005 and it'll get passed on for examination.

I'm sure it's emergency work and this may seem petty of me, but the point is they have to learn they can't just turn up and do this sort of thing without thinking through what it affects.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red painted arrows 2

As mentioned some red arrows painted on the roads of Stourport. Although I'm not sure where they start I can now see where they lead and it's a little confusing.

So starting at Areley Common a turn right onto Dunley Road. Approach the bridge and find three straight arrows. Over the bridge into town, up Bridge Street, into High Street and a turn right at the end of High Street with another turn right leading to Lion Hill and another turn right into York Street. Turn left back into Bridge Street, back over the bridge and just past the three arrows a left turn into Harold Davies Drive.

So what the hell is that all about? Why take you over the bridge and back instead of just putting in a right-turn? Who are these meant for?

Auto-tune what's the fuss?

The big story for the tabloids, other than Cameron's new addition to the family, is the purported use of Auto-tune in ITV's X-Factor. Gosh they're cheating and conning the public into voting for people who can't sing. Well no not really, as soon as the winner (or loser) steps into a sound studio their voice is going to get tweaked before it hits a CD; is that cheating?

It could be called a con in that the audience believe they're hearing a live performance when they're not, but how much of that is true too? Auto-tune works by trying to match your notes to the ones expected, apart from obvious electronic jiggery it gently takes out some of the bumps as it were. Now sure if you're totally off-key it can produce something perfect, but only by hand-tweaking each note. In automatic mode the note sung has to be close to the one expected for it to work, and as these are sung 'live' selective tweaking can't be used.

What is more insidious is that it can be used the other way around and this is also an allegation being thrown at the programme. Take someone who isn't very good and whom the producers think has no chance at all in the competition and run an off-key automatic auto-tune to make them sound even worse. The cameras can watch the judges wince and the audience can laugh at how this person could ever think they stood a chance.

If true that would be nasty.

Mark Garnier gets a mention

Though perhaps not one he'd welcome as he features in the first paragraph of this entry from the infamous Guido Fawkes political website for giving a Parliamentary pass to Susan Dennis or as Guido puts it "the nice lady who organises his dining society". A check on the list shows two other passes issued by Mr Garnier - Caroline Donnelly and Teresa Fitzherbert. It's possible the first is the same Caroline Donnelly who stood and failed to gain a seat for the Conservatives at Bromyard. Unsure as to the second

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taste of the world?

From the Shuttle we were informed of the second "Wyre Forest World Food Event" that features not only food from around the world but also "the very finest in food from the district" and when did they hold this gastronomical extravaganza? Yesterday between 11am and 3pm.

What could I have looked forward to? "representations from India, Persia, China and Italy" as well as locals such as "Bewdley Brewery, Vaccaro's Fine Italian Deli, Churchfield's Ice Cream and Kinver Sausage Co, plus a host of others".

Walkerno5's verdict as posted in the Shuttle -

Was it the weather, was it holding it when most people couldn't go, or was it the no-show from the brewery and the sausage company, and any indian or chinese food?

For whatever reason, it wasn't very good.
So presumably only ice-cream, Italian deli and Persian cuisine. Apparently the first ever Kidderminster Canal Festival wasn't bad and Tav's mentioned the Arts Festival at the same time. Sadly it ran on Thursday and Friday and for the final day Saturday my car was in for a service and it was just p'ing down so I was loathe to walk about for four hours.

Red painted arrows

I's spotted some red paint not long ago, but thought it a marker for a tilted cover; turns out it wasn't.

I spotted the first at Areley Common a red right turn arrow painted at the junction with Dunley Road. Then three straight arrows by the pedestrian crossing as you approach the bridge, and then a right turn pointing to Lion Hill. So where do they lead and who's put them down?


From yesterday when I finally managed to arrange pick-up of my PS3.

They'll pick it up, tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar they'll pick it up tomorrow
When I'm at lunch.

And yes they did, good job I have some very friendly people to leave it with.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stourport Bridge accident 2

The accident on the bridge had indeed cleared away, but what happened? I turn to our favourite local paper to find out.

Car overturns in field in Kidderminster
Four-car crash in Callow Hill
Road collision near Bewdley

Um we did have an accident in Stourport didn't we? I mean it was reported via the traffic feed on the Shuttle site; what with all the hold-ups and diversions it caused I'd have thought it would have at least warranted a paragraph.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stourport Bridge accident

Apparently a lorry has had an accident on the Stourport Bridge. Unknown as to injuries etc. On a callous note it's obviously blocked off traffic in both directions on the only bridge. Traffic is being diverted through Bewdley and then down the switchback.

[Update 5:30 - I've just been informed the bridge is now open. so let's see if the traffic has cleared]

Coming from the Kidderminster side that would lead you directly to Bewdley by-pass that you can't use as it doesn't connect to the switchback and thus you have to travel through Bewdley itself. To reach the switchback means travelling down a very narrow one-car at a time stretch of road so imagine having that extra slew of cars coming through in both directions. Oh and because of that it's off limits to the larger vehicles and no they can't go via the alternative route through the Holts because there's a weight limit on the bridge (this is why they come through Stourport).

Another bridge over the Severn, why do we need another bridge over the Severn?

Nabiel's Restaurant

I've had this down as Nabjel's for what I hope is for an obvious reason. But checking the menu it looks more like it should be Nabiel's. So yes I had a chance to look more closely at the menu.

Prices don't look too bad and it seems a reasonable selection and with 10% for collection only; that would mean going over the bridge and back (da-da-duuuum) but then again what doesn't?

Oh and first column bottom and third column top "Speical"; not something I would normally care about but the word is used and spelt correctly a lot of times elsewhere; so it just stands out more to me.

I am curious as to what their paratha is stuffed with. Just calling it "Stuffed Parata" doesn't help me work that out :-)

Odd computer crash

Just come back in to find the laptop waiting at the login screen rather than asleep. It's recovered from a "Blue Screen". Odd thing was we had a power blip earlier this morning and for whatever reason the local DNS wasn't working, in that I could still ping the local computers by IP address but not by identity. Turning the network on and off did nothing nor did flushing the DNS cache.

Now it's working. Odd that Event Viewer shows nothing untoward.


Another announcement from the Government regards car clamping, this springs to mind with an article from the Shuttle regarding an OAP being charged £150 to get her vehicle unclamped in Stourport.

This falls under the same category as private car parking and the 'fines' they can issue. the principal is that when you park on private land you are doing so either with or without the consent of the  landowner.

Media sensitivity

Sonia shouldn't have to think about Lockerbie today. Her father died in the attack just under 22 years ago although the pain is still there time has healed the wounds. She shouldn't have to think about it today in particular as tomorrow she's getting married. It should be one of the happiest days of her life.

But it's the anniversary of the release of the bomber so we've sent a camera crew around and someone to make her relive all those painful memories and get her opinions on these events all for you to watch.

Seriously though that first sentence is pretty much how the BBC Breakfast report started. I mean did the family themselves contact the media with an eye to stating their piece, or did some office-person get a list and just ring around until they found someone willing to talk about it? It was just that first sentence that had me shouting "Well don't remind her about it then" wow.

The Government on drugs 2

At the same time as the announcement on dropping benefits for addicts under specific circumstances another connecting item came through about the government's ability to ban 'legal-highs' for a year until test results regarding harmful effects are produced.

On the face of it this seems a reasonable suggestion. Except( and you knew there was going to be one didn't you?) it has a few problems.

Firstly it strikes at the heart of our legal system which is that you can do as you wish provided it doesn't hurt anyone or they have reasonable cause to suggest it may hurt someone. In this instance there's suspicion but no reasonable cause.

The second and main point is that's it's discriminatory. If a product is sold without any "medical claims" unless it's demonstrated to be harmful it's perfectly okay to do so, this is how some vitamin stores, herbal practitioners, and homoeopaths can sell their wares. So what's the difference between what they're selling and 'legal-highs'? Why is there no suspicion that these other items may cause harm and banning them until tests show otherwise? Cynical me suggests that it's because herbal 'medicines' are popular, hardly a sound basis for a law.

Finally at least the ban is only for a year, or is it. Supposedly it's until tests are conducted, yet tests on such items unless they're highly dangerous can take years to see symptoms. So if the tests come back inconclusive will the ban be lifted or will it turn into a rolling ban until such time as the item in question is proved safe and even if the tests do come back with a clean bill of health will the government listen to the experts or the media?

Just seems to be a string of quick media friendly fixes being rolled out.

The Government on drugs

The media this morning stated the headline "Addicts to have benefits cut" of course once you get to past that it's not quite so stark. Addicts on benefits who refuse to participate in rehabilitation courses will have their benefits cut. It's difficult to fault after all why should we pay for their illegal drugs? Sadly it has a few faults.

Firstly who is an addict? I mean sure they can get to attend courses for free, but if it fails they'll end up with no money; so they're better off not admitting it.

Secondly the government is removing money from people who are still addicted. Do they think they're suddenly going to 'wake'up' and think "Gosh with no money I can't buy the drugs I need I'd better get straight and find a job"? These people are already doing something illegal and liaising with people who do illegal things why does the government think some moral line will be drawn?

So more liars on the benefit system with those who tell the truth pushed into crime. Not bad for one simple policy.

[Update - good old Daily Mash and their current blip at the bottom "Addicts who lose benefits totally
promise not to steal your telly"]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Proof-reading and editing

Not that I do a lot of that in my entries, I do try at least to flick through and I hope I spot most of the really big mistakes. However a recent activity has led me to a greater appreciation of these unsung heroes of the literary world.

In short I'm reading a self-published book as a favour to someone. That means no editor and no really proof-checking. In the latter respect it's not bad word processing software being what it is cuts a lot of the obvious stuff from the picture, but that can't cope with contextual or logic switches where Person X says "That answers your question" regarding a situation brought up by Person Y when Person X was not present, it's surprising how that can crop up even in professionally published tomes. So far this has been fine in that respect.

My greatest appreciation goes to the editors. Until you read an un-edited book it's difficult to appreciate the finished article; some may sneer at the poor text of a certain twinkly haemophile set of novels, but I'm betting it was much worse before it got to that point.

You can get redundancies, oo look's and jarring sequence breaks. I mean this book isn't bad so far (in fact it's rather good), but I can see where it needs tidying.

I can't say much about the book in question other than it's fictional, written by a local author, and set in this locality; and I currently hold book number 2 in a set of 2. Real conversation -
"Be careful with it"
pause "It's a book. It's a book I don't own"
pause "Yeah I didn't need to say that did I"

Coronation Gardens parking again

Just having to review my bit about parking meant checking the notice page which in turn led me to spotting the location maps had been put up (applause), which led me to checking said maps which just to prove that a picture paints a thousand words made me go "huh?"

As mentioned before I was curious as to the parking alongside Coronation Gardens despite the clear presence of double yellow lines. Now I'd read the notice, but it was the map on page 7 that made me actually connect the dots. It seems the council have headed to if you can't beat them join them territory in that, if the boundaries are correctly marked, this entire 'bay' section will become a Pay 'n' Display car park.

I'd love to see anyone who currently parks there arguing about that :-)

Not quite right from local Labour

Up pops another item in my reader Wyre Forest Tories turn Stourport Gateway into Carpark from Areley Kings Labour this is regarding the planned development around Lloyds Garage leading to the basins and ties in with the Pay and Display notices I've already looked at. To quote Labour

instead of a gateway transforming the character of the town centre, there will be……a car park.
Which is perfectly true in and of itself, however if you read the Statement which gives the reasons behind the notice
to provide temporary parking prior to the land being developed
In other words knock it all down and use it as a car-park until development can start. I agree it's a little off, but it's hardly a - we were promised a gateway and instead we're getting a car-park. At least not yet; if said car-park becomes a permanent feature I hope Mr Shaw will be putting most pertinent questions to those responsible.

iPhone 4, slow wi-fi and MobileMe

Yes DaBoss has the iPhone 4 after breaking the screen of his 3. We'd been using Windows Live to sync between computers and his Nokia via wire, but of course that doesn't work with the iPhone because it'll only work with the default message store in Outlook (bravo).

So I turned to MobileMe. Easy to create an identity, easy to set-up. The laptop information still only uses the default message store though - seriously Apple what gives. Anyway the 'cloud' updates nicely and I set up the same things on his new iPhone and wait.... and wait.

After an interminable amount of time it finally gets its one welcome email, but it's soooo slow. Is it a problem with our wireless router. I try the iPod I also have to configure, fire up the App store and there I am. Do the same on the iPhone and nothing. So exactly the same network different results.

I go online and find the fantastic information that the new iPhone doesn't behave well with some 802.11n networks. I drop the speed of the router - no change, I fiddle with more settings - no change. In the end I check the firmware and note an upgrade available.

I install that, watch the router lock up, unplug it, wait, replug it and find that they've changed the security screen tags so I figure out which was the setting we had before and would you look at that the iPhone connects at speed using the old settings.

So I can now read the mail, and the calendar downloaded, but not the contacts. I'll try a power on and off to see if it'll force it to read them.... yep little swirly circle has appeared - supposedly it's push technology so a change at one end pushes it through to all the other devices - hmmm yeah right we'll see about that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


As I've just said my PS3 died with a Riven disc stuck inside, the reason I was playing was that I'd just finished Myst also on the PSOne.

I was clearing up some stuff and found the PC version I had, realised I hadn't looked at it for a while and tried to install it on Vista with no success (yes I looked at all the tricks it's that damn QuickTime), but I knew I had a copy on the PSOne, not so hot graphics but still the same game. So I gave it a whirl and remembered exactly why I hadn't played it for a while.

Stourport busy-ness 2

One thing I missed from the entry on the photos of Stourport was that next to the soon-to-be-open Santander was the Eden Group Property Services yay another Estate Agents.

What I swear wasn't there before is that on the other side of the building in York Street the store that was Prozik (sp?) has also been renovated and now has a sign up Thingymabobs (sp?) Dibblebugs which appears to be a children's clothes special occasions store.

Woo we're buzzin' now.

PS3 flashing red light

Last night I popped in my PSOne copy of Riven, just for fun; hopped my way through a bit and then my Playstation 3 powered off. Funny, no power cut as all the other electrics were working.

I hit the power button - green light, quick yellow light (oh dear) flashing red light. I killed the power, left it and tried again with the same result. Checked online for suggestions, reseated my hard drive, switched hard drives left it until this morning to cool down - flashing red light.

Now comments suggest Sony charge £150 for repairs, but I have this insured. I took out the extended warranty from Game when I bought it and extended it again past the expiry date a total cost of around £50. I called them up this morning not expecting a reply, yet there they were.

I now await a letter from their repairers with a Freepost sticker, which means I've got to dig out the original packaging, find a bigger box, find some bubblewrap, and then take it down to the Post Office.

Damn it.

[Update - As an aside I also contacted Sony direct. They gave me a new sequence to try and get the disc out - hold eject with power on, power off, power on while still holding it; I'll try that later. Also confirmed the Green, flash yellow, red, red flash meant a non-specific hardware fault and that as an out-of-warranty it'd be around £130 to repair]
[Update 2 - So eager I got two letters from the repair firm, both identical. Oh and no that trick to get the disc out didn't work]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mind workings - the artistic side

Another insight to just how my brain functions - yay? General browsing at the weekend I ended up at Cracked and this particular article about Zombie Technologies particularly the bit about phone books. Here's the process my brain took -

I wonder if something could be done with them?
Perhaps they could be recycled?
That's boring.
Could they be turned into housing materials?
Hmm could they be turned into something more interesting - some art project?
It'd be boring with just the phone books you'd have to add in the Yellow Pages etc.
Why not other catalogues too?
Why not add flyers?
Why not just flyers?
So why not keep all the flyers you get for a year, basic parameters - you didn't pay for it and it's not got your address on it.
Then encase it in clear plastic.
Hmmm. Boring.
Why not separate each flyer by month, then encase each month and stack them into a cube such that you could pull out and inspect a layer?
I wonder if some months would have a greater content than others?
I wonder if the types of flyer cluster around time periods, do you get more fast-food flyers during Winter?
I wonder if anyone's studied this it might be sociological interesting to know.
It might be interesting to marketing too. Discount on printing fast-food menus at a time when they want them to be printed gets more custom.
But surely someone would have spotted this trend in a company.
But would anyone else know?

So there you go 'artist' to scientific dissection in 30 seconds :-P

House prices again

Back to GMTV which is like reading a tabloid at times and they're still talking about house prices falling. Oh do they like their percentages, because obviously people still don't get it. According to the pretty swoosh graphics. House prices went up in the first quarter by 7% then down in the second by 2.3%; oh noes the sky is falling.

Let's say that before the rise you're house was up for sale for £100 (I know just go with it) an increase of 7% means at the end of the first quarter you could get £107, but then it falls by 2.3% all the way down to £104.54 which is still greater than the start of the year. Even if you take the latest figures that prices have dropped by another 1.7% that's still £102.76 which is still higher than the beginning of the year.

GMTV had someone on to talk about this, and amazingly he made sense. He said (as people do every year) that house prices tend to fall during the summer. So why the 'catastrophic' drop? Well people saw the house price rise in the first quarter and thought oo I'll put my house up for sale at just the point in the year that people aren't interested in buying.

So at a time when there aren't many buyers about there was suddenly a lot more houses on the market. Doesn't take a genius to work out what happens then, yet still this gets reported.

Newton's Laws lesson plan dream

As I've said I don't normally recount dreams, but I've been having really vivid ones recently and on Saturday night out popped a complete lesson plan for getting children to think about how Newton's Laws work.

In the dream I took a class out into the playground where I'd set up a trolley and chalked some lines next to it. The trolley was purposefully heavy and I demonstrated this by getting one of the pupils to try pushing it. I then recruited several and stated that I was going to time them as to how long it would take for them to push the trolley entirely over the line. I also stated that they weren't to overstrain themselves.

They pushed and it took 10 seconds. I then moved the trolley back to its start position and pointed out another line ten times the length of the trolley away. I then asked if it took 10 seconds to push the trolley the original distance how long would it take to push it to the next line?

Photos of Stourport Business

As per my master's bidding :-) I ventured out Sunday morning to take some photos of what's been happening all at once in Stourport.

So Nabjel's in York Street and I just know I'm going to spell that incorrectly at some point, along with their menu. Still proclaiming a grand opening on 28th July 2010.

The new Santandar with notice in the window stating an opening on the 16th August.

The new flush Drinkers World, I don't recall seeing planning permission I'll check on this.

The new Stourport visitor's sign that I'd spotted people looking at last month, but didn't manage to get a shot of; very nice it looks too.

And finally the scaffolding up on High Street and Bridge Street indicating the renovations being done to the buildings.

Damnit I forgot to upload the new boarded up windows on the Job centre, all shiny white. I also took some photos of what caused the closure of the High Street/ Lickhill Road junction. It's Severn Trent Water with a board up with the end of the emergency number cut off. By the time I got to it they've filled in around an access point. As soon as I get the chance I'll upload the photos and you can see what you think about how they've done it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The worrying phonecall

I got back from work around ten to six, switched the oven on and pulled out the pan and colander ready then went and got changed etc. Popped the garlic bread in the oven and set the timer; the bread takes 15 minutes but the water and pasta only take less than 10 so I settled down with a book (Anathem for those wondering).

Glancing at the time I knew the timer would be about to start so I got up; at which point the phone rang. Caller ID said [Bratus Pater]. Hmm I knew my parents were out at something that often concerned him perhaps he'd forgotten the time or place or some such; or perhaps he just wanted a chat.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why currency doesn't always add up in Excel

Well I say Excel this also applies to OpenOffice's Calc and, judging by the number of demands sent out by companies for £0.00, several accounts packages.

Imagine you've bought an item for £15 and VAT at 17.5% has to be applied to that. You run the sum and the total is £17.63. But you've bought two different items both at £15, not a problem add the next item on and total them to £35.25. Anyone spotting that?

Stourport busy-ness

Still work going on at the job centre this morning, there's scaffolding up outside Pete's Prints next door and the junction of High Street and Lickhill Road next to the Swan is closed off. Everything seems to happen at once.

Oh and Drinkers World has pushed their front window out to level it out to the building and a Satandar sign has appeared on the York Street/Bridge Street corner building.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stourport Job Centre

I'm unsure as to the specifics but the front window boards have been taken down from the old Job Centre in Stourport on the corner of Bridge Street, ladders are up and people are moving about inside. Are we finally about to get the promised restaurant that isn't an Indian/Chinese/Tea/Cafe/Fish'n'Chip Shop? Don't know.

Speaking of restaurants I see the new Indian/Bengali place Nabjel's that took over from the notorious Bar St Martins still haven't removed the Grand Opening 29th July banner from the front and they had a Beer Pump Installation van outside. As they've had an advert in last week's Shuttle (but not the one before) I'm assuming they are open? They're supposedly open from 5:30pm but I don't recall seeing anyone around.

Clamping down on fraudsters, or at least one type of.

Imagine you were in charge of the country, and let's face it you'd probably do a better job, and a lackey appeared on bended knee with the reports on two programmes your beneficent self runs on behalf of the people.

The first programme estimates that fraudsters are making off with £1.5bn, the second programme estimates losses through fraud of £15.2bn. Which fraudsters will get your most attention? Which will you rail against before the press vowing to see they get their just desserts?

Decided? Well what if I then told you that the first set of fraudsters were unknown to you, had no really power and little in the way of influence when it came to how things run in this country. What if I then told you that the second lot contained people you probably know, and had power and influence. Would that change your mind?

Benefit Fraud losses: £1.5bn
Tax evasion losses: £15.2bn

The topic of a key speech from our Prime Minister - Benefit Fraud.

Not that I'm saying the reasons I give above are the ones our PM made and I await his next speech regarding his crackdown on tax evaders and imprisonment of those public servants found to be fiddling their expenses.

Hyundai i10 second year service

It's fast approaching the time for my Hyundai i10's second year service, my doesn't time fly. I have to do this in order to maintain the 5-year warranty and as such I think it best to have it done at a registered Hyundai garage to avoid any "But you didn't have it serviced at a... " wriggles. My first year service cost around £150, my second year's £300... say what?

Time to shop around, so I contacted another local garage or at least tried to. I've rung and had someone promise to get back to me. They've then tried to call me at home despite me giving them my mobile number (I'm already in their database). I've called them back and left a message. I've called them back again to find they'd left. I called again this morning and was put through to an answering machine again. Then lo and behold a call on my mobile, they'd tried my home number again and this time had the sense to try the number I gave them to call.

Oh they didn't have that information to hand, but they'd get it for me, was this the best number to contact me on? Yes, yes it is [sigh].

[Update - tried a third garage and got a price straight back. Not much different to the first one though he did go into more detail as to why it was more expensive this being a major service rather than a minor one]

[Update - second garage, even more expensive]

GMTV Competition

Something about the latest GMTV competition niggled at a part of my brain and this morning I realised what it was. It wasn't the question, that was easy for reasons we all understand; it wasn't the prize fund, that varies depending on their sponsor; it was the picnic hamper that was being offered.

Not the contents per se mind, although the close-up shot of Lungfish Caviar was interesting, it was the way it was being presented.

A standard setting three bright young things on a grassy field, trees in the background all set for a picnic. Except no plates, no glasses, no cutlery and no food; to be precise no accessible food. Instead of eating they were simply admiring the contents of the hamper and passing the unopened packages between themselves. How unreal.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


With regard to my outlining of the government's new house building incentive Orphi states that "Last time I checked, the problem was that nobody can afford the houses we've got, not that there aren't any." and what happens on GMTV this morning - an announcement that house prices have fallen; we've got the sellers just no buyers.

The problem is the difference between buyers and potential buyers. In simplistic terms supply outstrips demand, that is there are more houses for sale then people who want to buy them. This is not wholly true - there are more houses for sale then there are buyers who can afford them; it's a subtle difference that Orphi spotted. We have a combination of factors - the banks are 'correctly' cracking down on mortgages, and the market is waiting for the prices to hit rock bottom before they buy.

What is interesting to me is the mass doom and gloom panic that some media outlets want to turn this into an "As house prices fall so will the economy" type of thing as if that's the only thing keeping us going. I've mentioned before how odd it is that we expect house prices to always increase when we expect everything else to fall, and how prices made a sharp turn upwards as a multiplier of median wage.

So we see a contradiction here - if we build more houses then the supply will increase compared to those able to afford them and that therefore the price will decrease until supply matches that level of demand. At the same time we have the media wailing that the sky is falling due to the drop in house prices.

The solution is to ignore the media, but are any politicians willing to do that?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Government's new housing plan and its flaws

From BBC breakfast this morning I hear of the new government bribery incentive scheme for local government in regard to building new houses. The former plan was setting targets, this was a perfectly reasonable course of action to take - if you were a five-year old. Seriously -

"We aren't building enough houses"
"So let's make them build more"


I only tend to remember my dreams when ill or placed under some form of discomfort, even then I don't tend to record them as they tend to be boring to all except those who experienced them.This one was slightly different if only for its consistency so please forgive me for writing it down.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Our Survey says - ?

In my previous blog entry I mentioned the AA report that purported to link "iPod Oblivion" to pedestrian injuries. As an aside in the Mirror article it mentions a survey run by Kia Motors with the results that many motorists don't recognise basic road signs. Looking for this I spotted mention of a "Kia Motors UK Pothole Survey". Other than being about the road network what do these three surveys have in common.

I can't find them.

Oh I can find references to them, I can find quoted results, but I can't find the actual survey itself or even a press release from the organisation in question from which this information was gleaned. So how were these surveys conducted? We don't know. Do the results published match the data gathered? We don't know. Do those who quote these surveys have access to all that? I'm betting not.

So if I were to state I'd run a survey and discovered that the majority of people think the Moon is made of cheese do you think it would get published in some 'the decline of science' article? I doubt it because I'm not a 'name'. However if I were to persuade the Royal Astronomical Society to issue a press release stating such do you think it would get published and believed? Would a single journalist contact the Society to check how the survey was conducted or would the 'name' of the RAS be enough to carry it through?

What do you think?

iPod Oblivion

GMTV called it iPod Oblivion and The Mirror calls them iPodestrians. If I were the Apple PR department I'd be in running-around mode right now because their product name isn't being used in a pleasant manner because what's under discussion are those pedestrians (and cyclists and vehicle drivers) wrapped in their own little cocoon of music (or chat or text) as they navigate the road network.

So why the sudden attention. the government has released figures showing a record low in road deaths and this was followed up by the AA apparently producing a report that claims that such lack of attention may be a factor in more than half of pedestrian injuries or deaths. I have to say "apparently" and "may" because the report isn't featured on the AA website, the closest I found was "Avoid being a zombie" written in January.

Will this change anything? Nope it's a story that so far only appears in two papers (as found by Google News) The Mirror as per the link above and a new one with a picture and the Telegraph which appeared just as I was finishing typing and the GMTV report which lasted about 5 minutes at around 7:30 and wasn't repeated as far as I saw.

It's no use educating children to do things correctly if their actions are going to be superseded by their parents, it needs to be reinforced. The children need to complain when their parents try to drag them across the street; responsible parents need to point these people out to their children with a loud "Now that's what you shouldn't do" in an attempt to shame those into the correct behaviour. That's the only way it might stop.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

How to use statistics in arguments

I've dealt several times with how you can make statistics state whatever you want by using mathematical tools without telling your audience what you're doing, but this morning's Breakfast displayed three great ways to avoid even having to do that.

The argument was between Brake and the Association of British Drivers regarding speed cameras. Being early in the morning you want to avoid complex arguments yet still refer to the studies done that prove your point.

Technique number 1: Use a different metric to your opponent.

The representative from Brake kept referring to collision statistics, the rep from the ABD to casualty statistics. This can keep an argument running for ages with the trick being for one side to show there's a connection to the other's metric while the other tries to show there isn't.

Technique number 2: Slip in a qualifier and hope no-one notices.

The rep for Brake kept discussing collision statistics as a general point and then in one sentence added "in that area". So before that was she referring to a decline in collisions as a whole, or a decline in the area in which a speed camera has been placed?

Technique number 3: If all else fails appeal to common sense.

Again used by the Brake representative. No sorry you can't keep quoting studies and statistics and then fall back on "common sense" if we could just do that we wouldn't need said studies.

I would also like to applaud the rep from ABD for his attempt to explain that there was a decline in casualties prior to the introduction of cameras and that the decline has decreased since that point. This had the presenters scratching their heads for a second as they tried to parse "the decline has decreased" into something they thought their audience would understand.

On the matter at hand. From the studies I see that speed cameras can reduce both collisions and casualties, but that this reduction seems dependent on many other factors some of which if changed could have a greater impact than the simple erection of a camera. In other words it's not as simple as Speed Cameras = Good/Bad

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Suddenly got noisier

Just picked up the dead computer, now It's Alive!!!! Heh they've fitted a beast of a power supply to it with extra fans and boy has the noise level increased. I mean at first the silence was quite odd, then I got used to it and now it's like sitting next to a hovercraft :-)

Cloned Meat

A wonderful reply from the FSA spokesman on Breakfast this morning. When commenting on the monitoring of cloned beef or milk entering the country, Bill popped in with a remark on how they're relying on the producers to tell them and that therefore there might be many more. The reply - 'Well we don't speculate we use science and evidence'

Damnit we want speculation, wild speculation. If you can't know then there well may be a hundred, or two hundred, or possibly Up to half of all UK beef may be cloned! that's the kind of headlines we want. We being the media of course.

It's interesting that during all this talk over cloned cows in the country with cloned meat and cloned milk entering our food chain that why this might be a problem is being glossed over. Sure in the interests of consumer knowledge we should be informed as to where our products come from so as we can choose for ourselves whether to purchase them or not; but it's not as if any other product is completely honest. I mean take the delightful "Packaged in the UK" great but all the contents come from somewhere else. How about "Assembled in only the best Chinese sweatshops" don't see that on flashy bits of hardware.

Now if this was GM food it'd be different. I'm not one of those Frankenstein food people and I recognise that to an extent GM has been going on in simple breeding and selection, naysayers should think on that next time they pick up an orange carrot. However there's a difference between selected breeding and inserting something that would never be possible to naturally combine.

But this is cloning, studies seem to show that the meat is slightly more fatty, that the animals seem to have more difficulty in being born and when they survive tend to be larger. That's it nothing outside the variation that occurs naturally in animals, particularly ones that have been selectively bred for so long.

Yet despite this we're not getting labels the EU is proposing a straight ban despite the fact that

"no safety concerns have been identified so far with meat produced from cloned animals,"
The ban is in fact being put in place due to concerns over animal welfare, reduction in biodiversity, and ethical considerations. Animal welfare? Are they treating clones differently to others, or is this the tendency for them to be larger? Reduction in biodiversity? Yep I'll go with that, but it's not stopped selectively bred mono-crops from dominating. Ethical concerns? Um what?

But hey the mob, or at least the newspaper headlines that think they represent the mob, has spoken.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Paris Hilton's My New BFF

Flicking through the guide yesterday to check I hadn't missed something I wanted to record I spotted on ITV2 "Paris Hilton's My New BFF"; no I wasn't planning on either watching or recording it just the title grabbed me for its inconsistencies.

The problem for me lies in BFF, to translate:

B stands for Best. That is superior or possessing qualities that place it above over comparables
F stands for Friend. A companion.
F stands for Forever. For all time, never ending.

Now take that and place it in the title next to "New". So either she's broken-up with her last BFF in which case she doesn't understand the concept of "Forever", she's after another BFF in which case she doesn't understand the word "Best" or tragically her last BFF died, in which case is a TV show the best option?

Perhaps "Paris Hilton's My New Friend" wasn't punchy enough?

Monday, August 02, 2010

The new Kindle and why I'm not buying it.

Those who head through Amazon UK's front-page will find a block advertisement for the new Kindle - smaller, lighter and basically better and only £149 with the free 3G coverage. So will I, an avowed bibliophile, be picking one up? No, not unless they really get their act together.

The dropping of lines

So I can't find Paprika Pringles and WalkerNo5 can't find scratchings. I know my parents are getting a little annoyed with the Co-op because they can't find a particular sauce although I have no sympathy for their taste for that watery concoction much preferring the Tiptree versions (oo I didn't know they did a mustard sauce). Likewise I've been asked to keep my eyes open for Bachelors Rice in a world that seems dominated by Uncle Ben's.

I've long given up on the delicious Honeycup mustard and now it seems I'm also having to give up on the Ume Plum Seasoning from Clearspring which added a delightful zing not only to salads but also as a substitute for salt and vinegar on chips.

I've also switched from the Cassis and Cranberry Shower Gel to Chocolate and by personal choice I'm going to try the Lime (it was a big cheap pack) so expect the Chocolate to vanish should I not care for it.

What irritates me the most is not so much their disappearance, but that in so many cases it's just the one item from an entire range that vanishes. All the other flavours of Pringles are there just not paprika, all sorts of different mustards just none with honey and/or cider vinegar. So many Clearspring products just not the Ume, so many Original Source Gels, just not the Cassis and Cranberry.

I swear it's as if they're monitoring my shop and purposefully removing some of the 'oddity' items I bought regularly just to mess me up.

Sherlock failed to record

So the BBC's new Sunday evening uber programme Sherlock that was on at 9pm last Sunday and this Sunday last at 8:30pm (because consistency is for the weak) failed to record on my Humax last night despite recording flawlessly last week and being on the series link so to record every episode.

The only reason I found out was by getting a call ten minutes from my parents asking if mine was recording; a pause of the blu-ray I was watching and no it bloody well wasn't. So I started it manually. Looking on the forums it seems if I'd left it, it might have started up five minutes later.

So either the Hummy got confused with it starting earlier (and I note the EPG had it listed perfectly) or the start signal didn't get sent via broadcast, or possibly some mad combination of both.

[Update 3/8: From the DigitalSpy forums this has also been reported on an Alba, a Panasonic and a Hitachi recorder all starting 20 minutes late. It's the BBC]

Ah well at least as this is a major programme I can catch the repeat that's broadcast never! Yep there's a repeat on BBC HD and that's it; forget it's on, screw up the recording, or just have some technical problem and that's it tough.

At least I have iPlayer though that puts me at the whim of my broadband speed and the BBC; might just watch it on that until I hit the point I started recording then switch.

[and the reply]

Petrol prices

Every so often a letter pops up in the Shuttle about the apparent agreement in petrol prices in this area between the major retailers, often with veiled or not so veiled allegations of price-fixing. Well I'm not saying there isn't, but with the penalties attached to such I'd be looking for a different reason.

In Vale Road, Stouport we had what might be considered a perfect market example. Two major petrol stations literally next door to each other and another just around the corner. By the standard creed of market-forces this area should have enjoyed the cheapest petrol in the area - we didn't.

The first point so many seem not to understand is that the object of the exercise in retail is to sell your product for maximum gain. So if I make a twopenny profit on a certain goods the only way I'll reduce the price by a penny is if it will gain me more than double my current sales. So how does this relate to the petrol stations in Vale Road?

Well due to their proximity should one station lower their prices it becomes negligible to use it over the others, the only reason not to is if they sold an inferior product or couldn't cope with demand. So logically each should be cutting their prices to bring in customers; so why didn't that happen? Well as soon as one station cut their price the others did the same; again this should have driven down the price. Yet remember the initial maxim about maximum gain - dropping the price will bring you a surge of new customers, but only before the others retaliate with the same price-drop then you're back to the same situation and making less money. So each station would drop their price only if one of the others did.

So shouldn't this mean prices won't rise either? Not quite as the same principle applies. If for some reason a station has to increase its prices the logical step would be for the other stations to remain the same and benefit from the increased sales. Except that would mean the 'offending' station would quickly have to drop its price back to where it was as its sales dwindled. So the price should remain static yet it doesn't and again that's because of the "maximum gain" mantra. Once one station puts up its prices the others realise they can do the same and make more money. With no difference between the three the balance is maintained at an increased profit.

So prices should increase and we pay much more than anywhere else. Except these three stations aren't isolated. If the prices increase too much it becomes worthwhile to seek out another station outside of the normal 'comfort zone' of the purchaser. So the goal becomes to sell petrol for the most they can at a price that doesn't drive their customers to seek it elsewhere.

So all these stations deem themselves able to sell at 117.9p despite Merry Hill charging 112.9p because they think that Merry Hill is outside that 'zone'.

Note that none of this requires any contact between the stations other than checking each others publicly displayed prices.

Paprika Pringles

Yes, yes crisps bad for you high in salt and fat I know yet I like Pringles if only for the resealable and transportable tube. I like the Originals; I like the Barbecue, I can eat the Sour Cream and Onions; but I'm quite partial to the Paprika flavour ones. So where are they?

Sainsbury's don't do them, Tesco don't do them, Co-op don't do them, Hooty's don't do them, Iceland don't do them, Cooltraders had some and now they don't. I've a few more chains to check and then I'm down to the newsagent sized stores who occasionally stock the brand.

The site still lists them as existing yet I  can't find any. Anyone in the area spotted them; anyone out of the area having the same problem or are your shelves stacked with them?

Coronation Gardens, Kidderminster

For reasons I won't go into (yet) I found myself near the Coronation Gardens in Kidderminster site of the murals as depicted on Tav's Flickr Page. While I enjoy the murals it's difficult to get the full picture of the second set due to all the cars parking as shown to the right in the picture linked. Now to me this indent looks like an old bus-stop and certainly memories buzz at that which means it's public land and the double yellow lines along the edge mean no parking. So how come it was full of cars when I popped by?