Saturday, December 31, 2011

Almost ran me off the road

I haven't done a name and shame in a while, simply due to the fact if I listed everyone who changed lanes or used an island without indicating; or who cut me off that's all this blog would turn into. However this is a little different.

I'd just done some shopping in Kidderminster and was on my way home I'd proceeded down the right-hand lane of the dual-track towards the bus-station island which as indicated multiple times during the approach is the straight to Stourport rather than the left-turn to Worcester.

I pulled up at the junction alongside another car; then pulled forward; the car next to me did the same a moment later. I started to pass the Worcester exit when that car which was still next to me, but slightly further back, starting indicating to turn right into my lane. As there was nothing behind me I expected them to slow down and pull in behind me. They didn't. They decided to try occupy the same space as me and expect me to slow down to let them in. They finally realised they were running out of room and pulled in behind me; just as they should have done in the first place.

They flashed their lights at me and I gave a non-committal wave to which I received a two fingered salute. They they tail-gated me all the way through to the dual-carriageway and then just before it switches to 70mph  pulled out and pulled alongside me; then ahead of me and then almost into me. Seriously this wasn't a case of cutting me up or not seeing me they were running parallel to me and purposefully swerved into my path; back out and then did it again.

So if you see car registration Y598 JFM being driven by some old guy treat them as a psychotic menace on the road.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stourport still doesn't need a by-pass

6 minutes to get from the Kidderminster end of Stourport to over the bridge to drop something off - 30 minutes to get back.

The difference between Santa Claus and Father Christmas

As a festive offering I thought I'd post a little information on the Big Guys in Red given that I'd happened to mention this to my father and he responded with "I never knew that".

Santa Claus and Father Christmas are not the same person. Santa is an American derivative of the Dutch figure; Father Christmas is more English/German/pagan. In attitude Santa is the gift-giver while Father Christmas is the merry maker - Santa brings the booze; Father Christmas encourages you to enjoy it ;-)

In appearance Santa Claus wears a short jacket and a hat; Father Christmas wears a robe with a hood. Locally the Three Kings Parade features Father Christmas - the hoodie you do want to hug.

A 'fact' that does need to be scotched is that they both wear red and white due to the Coca Cola adverts - they both wore red but also green or brown prior to Coca Cola; however it could be said that red is now the predominant shade due this public perception.

On an atheistic note if you wish someone Happy Holidays and they get snotty about you not using the C word ask them why they don't consider this time to be a Holy Day which is where the word derives its meaning :-)

And on that note I wish everyone a happy,pleasant and fun holiday. See you in the New Year.

A new Stourport restaurant

The signs are up and it seems we have a replacement at the High Street end of Parkes Passage AD Gundum. I only glimpsed it as I drove past so not sure what they do in the way of food or even if I've spelt the name correctly, but at least it's a new business in Stourport that's not a charity.

[Update - Yes it has been that long. The name is A.D. Gustum and they deserve a plug simply for embracing the Italia theme so wholeheartedly. From their menu the cheapest 3-course meal would be £22.30, the most expensive £31.30 a head] 

Monday, December 19, 2011

DC Universe online messes up again

As before I happened to be awake early on Sunday morning and thought I'd give the game a quick try once again. Started the game and... yet another patch. 126Mb so okay not too long to wait. Patched and back and would you look at that it's alternating between exhorting me to visit the DCUO site and to buy the latest add-on. Hah yeah not likely let's just play; but first time to download the game assets.

I'm sorry you want to download how much? Over 1Gb? Gee this hasn't got to do with this new add-on does it - I'm not downloading the entire thing am I? Looks like I am.

Okay sure I need the skins and powers etc. but skins are about 100Kb each and this is over 1Gb.

Now the really annoying thing is that even if I forked out to be a Playstation Plus member my PS3 wouldn't wake up at night to download this because it's not a update - that 126Mb was an update. These are in-game assets that require the game to be running. Well I say running I mean displaying a single backdrop while asking you to visit their site or buy the add-on.

Sorry DCUO you've lost a potential customer because I'm not going to sit around for an hour to download the game and then sit in a queue for another hour just to play it.

But the rules don't apply to me!

Sharing a road on Saturday morning with an ambulance one of the Land Rover types rather than a van; no emergency or anything just travelling along.

Between the end of High Street and the railway bridge they - twice changed lanes without indicating with one time barging their way into a stream of traffic; exceeded the speed limit four times and halfway through turning left deemed it the right time to indicate they were turning left.

At least it wasn't a police car, but yeesh.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revelations - review

Have you played Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood? If so then congratulations you've played Revelations. There has been some gameplay tweaks and some minor additions, but nothing as major as the shifts between the other games.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lowering business rates - small business rate relief

One of the larger expenditures for any business is the amount of money handed over to the government in the form of rates a figure that, in the Wyre Forest at least, can amount to 40% of the amount that they may pay in actual rent. For a small business this can be a huge overhead. There are ways to lower this amount and the simplest is provided directly from the government in the form of Small Business Rate Relief.

The catch is that the government have no requirement to inform you of it or set it automatically if you qualify - it's something you have to apply for. Dig your way through the Business Link site and you'll hopefully reach the page goes into detail about how SBRR works. The key bits apply to this year Apr-11-Apr12 and part of next year Apr-12-Sep12. Keeping it simple if you are a business occupying a single site you probably qualify for relief.

As an example of the type of savings available consider if a property has a Rateable Value (RV) of £12,000. Without any relief in the Wyre Forest this would be multiplied by the Standard Rating Multiplier of 43.3p and the rates bill would be £5,196. With the SBRR it would be multiplied by the Small Business Multiplier of 42.6p and the rates bill would be £5,112 a saving of £84 per annum; which sounds petty. However if the property has a lower rateable value a sliding scale is introduced.

If the RV is less than £6,000 a relief of 100% is applied - there is no rates bill! Between £6,000 and £11,999 a sliding scale is introduced from 100% to 0%. If the scale is linear (surprisingly there's no information on this) then a RV of £10,000 rather than be the full rates bill of £4,330 would be the small rates bill of £4,260 with perhaps a third off resulting in a rates bill of £2,840.

That's a saving from the full amount of £1,490 per annum! All it takes is filling out one sheet of A4 paper that you can apply for from your local council or possibly even download and fill out.

Better yet although the relief starts from the date of application it can be retrospectively applied  to the last six months meaning you could get money back. In the above case paying the full bill monthly over ten months starting Apr11 and having paid the December amount that could be a rebate of £894. Wouldn't that be a nice present :-)

If you're a business owner find your last rates bill and check which multiplier you're on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Warhammer and painting - why use a RYB colour model?

As I've mentioned I did some Christmas shopping for Bratus Minor and I did end up buying him a "How to Paint" book. Prior to wrapping I had a flick through it and found they were using the Red Yellow Blue (RYB) colour model on how to mix paints. This is a popular model that painters use; but why?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another trip to Merry Hill

A trip out early Saturday morning to Merry Hill to pick up presents for the Bratii to take in on Sunday - left just past 9am and arrived around 9:40 and the car-parks were packed. The counter on the multi-storey was down or switched off and the top open level was blocked off with no warnings. Ended up near the back of the cinema.

Oddly though once in it didn't seem that busy. I hate to think what it's going to be like next weekend.

Friday, December 09, 2011

That EU treaty decision

From what I understand the situation ran something like this - the Eurozone countries want to enact tougher fiscal responsibility upon themselves, but want to enact it under the wider EU framework. Which would seem to mean that the EU as a whole would become responsible for monitoring it etc.

As in so much it comes down to differences in emphasis - Although the Euro meltdown is a problem for the EU; it is not the EU's problem. But that is what France and Germany appear to be trying to turn it into while complaining that the UK is interfering with things that aren't its concern.

Yep that's right according to Sarkozy trying to dump the problem from the current Eurozone only ECB system to the wider EU had nothing to do with the other EU members and they should all stay out of it.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Exam cheats

It seems to be the week for "well duh!" revelations. Lobbyists boasting about their political connections and showing no scruples over who they work for! Say it ain't so. Then we get to exam cheating - can I call it that? Let's say extreme exam guidance wherein some who work for the private companies that create exams brief the teachers of those subjects on the topics that will arise.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A new office telephone system

We were moving offices and as such had a new phone system installed that unlike our current ancient beast would integrate into the computers systems. Long story short we never moved in so we decided to have it moved over.

They came out checked the lines pronounced them okay and scheduled someone to come over and switch them over. This duly happened and as I was looking over the new system asked
"So where does it plug into the network?"
"It doesn't"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A new Warhammer hobbyist

As previously mentioned I inadvertently introduced Bratus Minor to Games Workshop, in particular the painting side, with the result of him purchasing a starter set of Warhammer 40k marines and paints. From a phone call last night this has gone down very well with him spending around 4 hours (of being quiet) on them so far and all from a 10 minute lesson at the store. It's so engrossed him that he's shut up about Lego Star Wars which has knocked his upcoming birthday gift list a little askew.

Bratus Pater's initial reaction of thinking of his wallet has subsided since he's been able to compare the prices of this previous interest with this current one. It's cheaper quite a bit cheaper. It's amusing as the two are quite alike - they're both kit pieces that you assemble and then never take apart (yes you can use the themed Lego pieces in other things, but they're designed for one set build). Warhammer models require more work; but they have the advantage that they are far smaller; and you're less likely to lose the bits up the Hoover. Ironically I consider them to be more customisable then the Lego themed kits too.

As I mentioned in the other entry there are some initial costs that can be incurred - a set of 10 paintbrushes or a base set of paints etc. will cost around £35, but brushes last a while and paints need only be topped up when required at  the pocket-money friendly price of around £3 a pot. It is really one of those hobbies where the requirements can stack up as high or as low as you want. Sure you can buy the Citadel Paint Station, but you can just use some newspaper and a jam jar of water. You can buy the Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboard; or just drop an old blanket over odd piles of books and use that as terrain with a shoe box as the fortress just like I used to do.Heck you don't even have to paint the models if you don't want to.

So now the question is what do I get him? My parents and I are able to pool monies so we can get something a little meatier, but what would be best? A paint brush set is no use unless he has the paints and vice versa; the black spray is handy but seems miserly despite the £9 price tag. Given what I know he's getting a particular set of paints would be worthwhile perhaps with a couple of brushes.

Hmm a Basecoat Brush for £3.60; a Wash Brush for £4.10; a Medium Dry Brush for £3.10. Some Goblin Green and some Thraka Green at £2.30 each as he'll need those. The Chaos Black Spray for £9.10 would save his proper black paint. Hmm some PVA Glue at £5.10 and some Static Grass at £5.10 for the bases. Possibly some Plastic Glue at £4.10 I'm not sure what he's using at the moment to fix the models.

Possibly drop the base's for some additional and duplicated paints... I'll have a word with his father to see how much he has left of the starter set. Maybe the How to Paint book instead or perhaps for Christmas

Monday, December 05, 2011

DC Universe online quick review

As mentioned I managed to download the loader for DC Universe; then the patch; then the entire 15Gb game. I then managed to create a super-villain and finally conked out when I saw the queue to start standing at over 2000. Well I happened to be awake early on Sunday morning and thought "Hey let's give it a whirl".

First things first - amusingly the opening sequence of  'adverts' are all in 1080p resolution; however the game itself switches down to 720p. Oh and it needed yet another 125Mb patch.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas alcohol sales pricing

An email popped up from Saimsbury's about the great savings they're offering for lager and cider; hmmm cider okay I'll bite and take a look.

This cider is reduced in price; this you can buy two of for this price; this you can buy three of for this price and this comes in three different sizes with different prices. So yeah easy to sort out or at least it would be if they displayed the saving and the price per litre. Beyond the extra information why would this be useful?

Consider the Stella Artois offers at the bottom of the page. Buy one 568ml bottle for £1.61 instead of £2.15 they even state it's 25% off. However I could buy eight 568ml for £10 instead of £11.95. Which is the better deal?

1.61/2.15=0.75 That is £1.61 is 75% of £2.15 and therefore is a 25% (1-0.75) saving just as they say.
10/11.98=0.83 That is £10 is 83% of £11.98 and therefore is a 17% (1-0.83) saving.

The single bottle is the largest percentage difference and therefore the better deal... or is it. How much do I actually get?

568ml = 0.568 litres 1.61/0.568 = 2.83. Therefore for the single bottle I would be paying £2.83 per litre. For the eight bottles that would be 10/(0.568*8) = 2.20 or £2.20 per litre.

So despite the single bottle offering the greater percentage off the eight bottle set is the better deal as a price per litre which is really the important thing. The full results are as follows:

[Update - I've altered this since WalkerNo5's comment and then re-altered it since mine own. The columns are as follows - Product; Number of products per unit; Percentage saving from normal price to sales price; Sales price per litre; Percentage of alcohol per product; Sales price per alcohol in litres; Amount of sales price per litre that contributes towards actual alcohol content]

NumbersavingSale/l ABVprice/l alcSale/ml alc
Aspall Dry421%£2.80 7.00%£39.94 £0.20
Aspall Perronelle120%£4.10 5.40%£75.93 £0.22
Babycham447%£2.50 6.00%£41.67 £0.15
Bulmers Crisp122%£2.93 4.50%£65.21 £0.13
Bulmers No17122%£2.93 4.00%£73.36 £0.12
Bulmers Original432%£1.99 4.50%£44.19£0.09
Friels Pure17%£2.93 4.90%£59.88 £0.14
Frome Valley116%£3.33 6.00%£55.56£0.20
Henney's Vintage116%£3.33 6.50%£51.28 £0.22
Kopparberg420%£2.25 4.50%£50.00 £0.10
Magners Irish118%£2.93 4.50%£65.21£0.13
Magners Irish839%£1.76 4.50%£39.12£0.08
Magners Original42%£3.03 4.50%£67.34£0.14
Magners Pear118%£2.93 4.50%£65.21£0.13
Magners Pear412%£3.03 4.50%£67.34£0.14
Magners Pear839%£1.76 4.50%£39.12£0.08
Sainsbury's Vintage118%£3.33 6.00%£55.56£0.20
Savanna Dry116%£3.33 5.50%£60.61£0.18
Stella Artois125%£2.83 4.50%£62.99£0.13
Stella Artois817%£2.20 4.50%£48.90£0.10

Biggest 'bang for your buck' Magners Irish or Pear eight-packs.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

This is how planning decisions are made.

One of the recent decisions that got made in the November 8th Planning meeting was regarding a temporary change of use on a parcel of land from industrial to residential. The full decision can be found covering pages 27 to 59 in this document.

I'll summarise:

Stourport Town Council - Recommend Refusal
Highway Agency - no comment
Environment Agency - Recommend Refusal
Severn Trent Water - no comment
Planning Policy - Recommend Refusal
Worcestershire Regulatory Services:
(Contaminated land) - it's industrial and as the change is to residential it needs a certificate.
(Noise) - "probably the most environmentally hostile sites within the District"  Recommend Refusal.
West Mercia Police - "The area in which this application is proposed has one of the highest rates of burglary in the District." Recommend Refusal
Health and Safety Executive - No hazards
Strategic Housing Services Manager - failed to answer
Worcestershire County Council Gypsy Liaison Officer - The people already living without approval on the site seem fine. Recommend Approval.
Watercourse Officer - Recommend Refusal.
Neighbours: Nine Objections. Recommend Refusal;
Seven signatures Recommend Approval
Officer comments: Recommend Refusal.

So casting your eyes over all the expert opinions the result should be quite obvious - the committee approved it. How did they come to this decision:

However, at the last Planning Committee, Members indicated that they were minded to approve the application on the basis that:
  1. there is an identified need for pitches;
  2. the site is located adjacent to Nunns Corner, a tolerated travellers site within the same floodzone;
  3. there is sufficient early warning of the flooding of the River Severn to allow occupiers to evacuate; and
  4. there are a lack of alternative sites.
Or to rephrase
  1. The pitches are required
  2. Two wrongs make a right
  3. They've got time to pack up and move
  4. For some reason none of the other 15 sites listed by the Baker report count
Seriously read these pages and see how many times this application is recommended for refusal with some arse-grab reason being found to cancel it out which amounts to 'But we really need more pitches'. It's pathetic.


So it's only taken a year, but I note that the entrance to York Street now sports a cross- hatch and lane divider. Sadly it doesn't extend all the way down York Street as it should, but it's a start.

My problem with sandbox games

For those who don't know I'll begin with a quick definition of a sand-box game. It is in essence an open-world game one in which the player is free to wander about and perform tasks that have little to nothing to do with the main story-line.

From the point of view of developers a sand-box game is what we the players are constantly demanding - we want choice (or at least the illusion of it). Rather than being dumped at Point A and herded along to Point B so as to be further herded along to Point C we want to stretch, spread out and do something different. One way to look at it is if you consider such types of games as books or films . After all in the majority of such we don't have a say in the actions of the protagonists - we're taken on a journey by the writer. Given that we like these things why shouldn't we like games that emulate that style?

Because games are designed to be interactive; they're designed to be played. As such playing a game that obviously limits the player's choice can be as frustrating as watching a film that requires you to pick up the remote control every five minutes to pick which scene you want to see next. Given that, it seems to make sense to go in the opposite direction and give the players total freedom to do what they want and indeed some games were produced that had no story and just allowed free wandering. In almost all cases they were disasters - in most cases the players simply got bored. In turns out most of us like story and most of us like progression.

At which point we reach the current crop of sand-box games - they have a main storyline, but allow the player to roam off track and perform other actions. With games like Fallout 3 and Red Dead Redemption these should be the ideal games; so why do I have a problem with them?

I think the easiest way to illustrate this is to demonstrate the differences between a game like the latest Assassin's Creed and Red Dead Redemption. They both feature a large area; they both have main story lines to follow and they both allow the player to veer off and just run around and do other things. So why do I prefer the former to the latter?

Because Assassin's Creed tells me what those wanderings can produce whereas the extras in Red Dead Redemption have to be discovered.

It sounds silly, but in AC I know there are shops I can buy and where they are; I know there are viewpoints I've yet to climb and where they are located. Triggered quests appear on my map so I can find them. I don't have to do them in any particular order; I don't have to do them at all, but I know they are there and so if I choose I can plot my own path through the game that takes in as many or as little as these side-quests as I want.

In Red Dead Redemption I don't get that. Sure some quests pop-up; but there's so much going on that doesn't appear until it's found that to an extent I as a player am back to wandering around aimlessly if I want to experience them. Oh sure I don't have to do that I could just stick with the main story line; but how does that make the game any different from the linear herding style ones? Okay it would be my choice to do that; just as it would be my choice to go wandering. But only the former truly produces in me a sense of purpose. Rather than in AC where I'm heading to a location because I know there's a tower to climb; in RDR I'm heading out into the desert to see if there's anything to 'climb' and if there isn't it just seems I've wasted my time.

It's that not knowing that frustrates me. I've played such open world games many times over and often I would stumble on a side-quest and think "Damn I wish I'd known about this before as the reward given makes the other quests much more bearable" I'm not displaying frustration with myself for not finding this quest earlier I'm displaying frustration with the game for not telling me this quest existed in the first place.

Now I'm sure some people just love that sense of discovery and sure so much unknown territory allows each game to be different every time; I understand and accept that. It's just for me I can't get the same sense of completion out of these games as I can out of the others. I would like to be able to choose not to do a quest rather than not do it because I never knew it even existed. For me that's the real level of choice that games should be offering, but that may just be me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Revelations - Den Defence

One of the new additions to the Assassin's Creed series for Revelations is the Den Defence mini game. It's a simple tower defence game wherein enemies attack in waves down a narrow channel and you set up obstacles to keep them back. To put it bluntly - it's not very good, but it's not something that needs to be constantly done. However if you manage to win 3 such games that ticks off one of the items for the Assassin's Guild challenges which leads to a nice upgrade. So what's the problem?

The problem is that if you're playing the game 'properly' you never have to play Den Defence beyond the introduction. The mini-game initiates when the enemy becomes too aware of your presence; their awareness can be lowered by various easy means so there's little excuse for allowing it to escalate. If by some miscalculation it does jump to the point they attack if you've been training up your little assassin band you can appoint one of them as the Den leader and they will play the mini-game for you.

So the only way to gain this upgrade is to screw things up, which rankles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A trip to Merry Hill complete with Bratii

I had a phone call on Thursday - could I look after the Bratii Saturday morning while their parents do some shopping in Kidderminster on their own. I had no problem with that. Then on Friday I thought "Why not take them up to Merry Hill while the decorations are up, but before it gets really crowded". Bratus Pater was amenable to this and so on Saturday morning they turned up, we transferred them from car to car and off we went.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

It's always amusing to see how far the PR campaign works it way into the media. Today is of course Black Friday - or at least it would be if the UK had a Black Friday being defined as the day after Thanksgiving, which we don't have.

Anyway according to the i newspaper Black Friday is so called because it's the first time that the retailers make a profit i.e. use black ink rather than red; according to the BBC it's a tradition in America. Yeah; um no.

It was called Black Friday for the same reason the Euro had Black Wednesday - it was bad; with the first reported use in this context coming from Philadelphia indicating it was a police term used to describe the mass of traffic the city experienced on this day. The positive (?) tone only came about in 1981.

So although the start of the sales may be deemed to have started on the day after Thanksgiving in the USA and been so since the date became fixed in 1863. The tradition of 'Black Friday' in its current manifestation dates from 1981. Whoo-hoo 30 year old tradition.

I'd expect some better fact-checking from the Independent and the BBC

DC Universe online very initial impressions

I happened to be flicking through the Playstation store the other night to see what was new and what bargains were available when I spotted DC Universe.

Now previously you had to buy DCU physically with a free 60 (90?) day subscription. To continue required a subscription and handing over yet more money. If you didn't like it; tough you could trade it in but as you'd already used the free subscription code anyone buying it would have to pay again to actually play the game.

For some reason Sony didn't comprehend how truly insane this setup was until the game bombed. As such it's now available for free and to play for free with monies coming in from those who want extra abilities etc. Given its now free nature I thought it might be worth dipping my toe into the waters so I set it to download.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dead Island PS3 1.04 patch problems

I've already made some changes to my review of Dead Island due to tweaks from the latest patch labelled 1.04 but makes the game 1.3.0 (go figure) most notably that kicking now uses stamina. However it has led to some additional problems; and some still exist. In the order I encountered them:

Problem number 1: The character now seems to strafe like a dump truck. For the first time ever in a PS3 game I had to change the sensitivity of the sticks to get it back the way it was.

Existing problem 1: I mentioned that the re-spawning enemies seemed to have been fixed... I was wrong. In the police station I had enemies spawning directly in front of me - just appearing out of thin air.

Problem number 2: On occasion the quest guideline disappears if I set a custom waypoint and then remove it. Switching to other quests highlights the flag in red; but no guideline. As a bonus though any side-quest has the goal flag showing up on the map - so I'm guessing the game is confused as to which flag it should be pointing to.

Existing problem 2: The guideline (when it works) for the Voice from Above Quest still leads to a impassable wall in the Jungle.

Problem number 3: Disappearing weapons.  When upgrading or crafting; the weapon that is being altered can disappear. I first noticed this when modifying the reward from finding the crashed plane. I came out of the menu and found myself holding an invisible weapon. Assuming a one-off glitch later I created some pistol and rifle ammo and found both of these weapons had been removed from my inventory. I had to bomb out of the game rather than exit gracefully as it saves the current state when doing so. As an aside this seems to correspond with the disappearing guideline problem.

Problem number 4: Stacking. Meat-bombs and med-kits now stack to 30... sometimes. I've checked my inventory and found stacks of 30; 6; 5 and 2 Molotovs. Equipping and de-equipping doesn't cause a re-stack only dropping and picking up. Loading again can also re-stack or cause the stacks to separate in the first place.

I've yet to return to co-operative play due to the disappearing weapon glitch - as the game saves from actions of the other player and I really don't want to lose the weapons I've got thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Delivery Times

Had a parcel delivered the guy told me "You're lucky I was here at half-eight this morning and no-one was here so I came back" What you want a thank-you? We're a business and while some indeed open before 9am I think it's still the case that the majority don't. As such turning up before then and being surprised indicates a poor business model in the same way turning up at 10am at a residential address and finding no-one in.

Seriously how do we let delivery services get away with this?

Pandemic board game review

Still with the effort to entertain the Bratii without recourse to video games or the same board games every time I picked up a copy of Pandemic. This is another co-operative game in the spirit of Forbidden Island. In fact Forbidden Island is a simplified version of Pandemic and as such playing that first made for an easier introduction to the more complicated game.

The premise is simple - up to four viruses are infecting cities around the world and the players set out to cure them all. The players move around the board easing the infection rate of cities, building research stations and racing to cure the diseases before it becomes too late.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Government as mortgage provider

The government is now stepping in as a mortgage provider and the taxpayer will be taking the risks of the loans, because we all know how well that worked out in the USA. Ah but this will be different, rather than lending money to those who won't be able to pay it back they'll be using very tough criteria to determine who they lend money to.

So wait, if the government are only going to lend money to those whom they judge will be in a position to pay it back why aren't the banks prepared to lend this money to them? One could argue that the banks are currently being too cautious and having been burned once are reluctant to lend out the percentages needed for first time buyers despite the injection of cash from the government, but this is hardly going to encourage the banks to join in.

As an additional step the government is also looking to subsidise house building on land deemed economically unviable or those struggling to build on land for which they already have permission. In theory it's this latter approach that holds more promise. By building more houses supply will hopefully increase to match demand which will in turn lower house prices. In turn that means the amount the banks are willing to loan out will become a greater percentage of the house price and enable more people to purchase them... which in turn will push up demand, which will increase prices if supply isn't met. Perhaps an answer lies in prefabricated buildings.

It is already (or at least was) the case that the Housing Corporation demanded that 25% of new homes it funds to be prefabs; yet that only accounted for 3% of the total housing being built. Will this new subsidy have the same criteria placed upon it? I doubt it, but this is an excellent chance for the government to get houses built quickly; to create more jobs in prefab factories and as demand will increase (as we're living longer and keeping our housing) these factories will only prosper.

As an aside this could lead to a new way of building houses - no roads. Build the prefabs and connect them with wide pathways (suitable for emergency and delivery vehicles to access with pull-ins to pass). Then off-site attached to the road build a set of garages one for each house capable of holding two cars and build a guest car-park next to it. Ensure it's well-lit, alarmed and the police patrol regularly. As residents are forced outside their homes beyond getting into the car they're more likely to meet and integrate with their neighbours; the kids can play in the green areas without cause for concern from busy roads.

MobileMe Outlook Calendar disappears

In combination with the password constantly being denied and having to be reset - the major problem is that every time it happens the calender in Outlook disappears. Annoyingly to integrate the calendar Outlook needs to be shut down and to add insult to injury an Apple support staff member informed me that the MobileMe control panel wasn't even used to sync it just to set it up.

So the password got reset, the calendar disappeared and I went about fixing it. No calendar. I ticked the box; closed the panel waited and returned to find the box had unticked itself. I checked the version of the control panel - latest. I updated iTunes (because the sync notifier is a part of that package and not included in MobileMe download; why?). I restarted the computer. No calendar.

I reset the sync data for the computer - no calendar.

Finally I unregistered the computer and then re-registered it. Closed down MobileMe; restarted it with calendar unticked. Waited half an hour and then ticked it; then waited some more and finally the "Setting up calendars box appeared" and the calendar has reappeared.

It seems patience is required; though why this would be the case for a computer programme is beyond me.

[Update - and despite working it's now decided not to. So long as I keep Outlook open it'll show the calendar; but if I close it down I've got to go through it all again to get it back]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Race relations

Still talk on the racist statements made and I still find myself explaining differences. In an attempt to condense everything down here goes.

Responding to a criticism of an ethic minority there can be a difference between "You can't say that because it's racist!" and "You can't say that because it's untrue!" the conditional lies in how a simple question is answered:

If a criticism made about an ethic group is true is it still racist?

If you answered that with "No" then the two responses are equivalent if you answered that with "Yes" then the two responses are different. Who cares, isn't this just hair splitting? Okay a little, but consider what happens when an untrue statement is made and both the Yes and No camps respond with the same "You can't say that because it's racist".  Now consider what happens if another, but this time true statement is made and the Yes camp just respond in the same way.

To them all those who point out that the statement is true are agreeing with or placating  racists; the facts of the matter don't matter.

What if a statement is made that some in the No camp don't know is true or not? If everyone responds with "That's racist!" are they doing so because they're in the No camp and consider it to be untrue or are they in the Yes camp and don't care?

Those in the No camp can be easily identified as soon as they start asking about facts; a little more tricky to place the Yes camp because although it may be the case they don't care about the facts and keep repeating that "it's racist" they might just be No campers who think the truth/untruth is so obvious it doesn't need spelling out.

Why do I think this is important? Well in the No camp the path taken is "This is racist because it's untrue"; in the Yes camp there's a danger that it could turn into "This is untrue because it's racist". If you can't see why that could be a problem mull it over for a while.

New Tesco will ease traffic in Kidderminster?

One of the comments on the WFA entry "Tesco and the Florist" was that the new Stourport Tesco will ease some of the congestion in Kidderminster. Will it? Consider the group of people who shop in Kidderminster:

  1. Those who are there to shop at the supermarkets and then leave.
  2. Those who are there to shop at the supermarkets and then shop in the rest of the town while there.
  3. Those who are there to shop in the town and shop in the supermarkets while there, and
  4. Those who are there to shop in the town and then leave.
Taken in turn for groups 1 and 2 a proportion of those will chose to use the new supermarket and thus not contribute to traffic; those in groups 3 and 4 will still use the town and therefore affect no change. In theory therefore traffic will decrease. No let's consider the rest of the town's shops.

For groups 1, 3 and 4 there will be no change to the town as they'll continue to shop/not shop there. However group 2 are only shopping while there; if there is no reason for them to be there they won't shop. So that's three no changes and one detrimental - the town will lose customers.

Now it's possible that those in group 2 will split and some will fall into group 4; that is shopping in the new Stourport Tesco and then going into Kidderminster; some may split and fall into group 3. Which leaves the customer base for Kidderminster more intact, but does little to alter the traffic volume.

In short a decrease in traffic is likely to lead to a decrease in custom for the town; so not really something that should be looked forward to.

As an aside for group 2 the theory is that the loss of Kidderminster town custom should mean an increase in Stourport custom. And if the situations were identical this would most likely be the case... of course they're not. The types of shops in Stourport don't match those in Kidderminster; neither does pedestrian access. This means people not shopping unless there is something they actually need rather than the browsing type of shopping that is so easily accessible in closely connected shopping systems (such as Merry Hill etc.)

In reality therefore I expect a drop in trade for both Stourport and Kidderminster town centres once the new supermarket opens unless a external factor can encourage shopping in these areas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A4025 incident

Police stopping traffic from using the A4025 early this morning. The "Police Slow" sign is still up; but it's clear now. Still a knock-on effect through town not helped by the fog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Smoking ban in private vehicles

The latest wheeze from the BMA is to call for smoking to be banned in private vehicles. I'd be amused at their naivety that they think Parliament can even do this if it weren't for the way that the previous smoking ban was handled.

The existing legislation wasn't included as part of Health and Safety regulations that businesses have to comply with to operate in this country it was instead tied in to the Health Act 2006. The sting in the tail is comes from sections 4 and 5 whereby:

4   Additional smoke-free places

  1. The appropriate national authority may make regulations designating as smoke-free any place or description of place that is not smoke-free under section 2.
  2. The place, or places falling within the description, need not be enclosed or substantially enclosed.
  3. The appropriate national authority may designate a place or description of place under this section only if in the authority's opinion there is a significant risk that, without a designation, persons present there would be exposed to significant quantities of smoke.
  4. The regulations may provide for such places, or places falling within the description, to be smoke-free only—
    1. in specified circumstances,
    2. at specified times,
    3. if specified conditions are satisfied,
    4. in specified areas,or any combination of those.
5   Vehicles
  1. The appropriate national authority may make regulations providing for vehicles to be smoke-free.
  2. The regulations may in particular make provision—
    1. for the descriptions of vehicle which are to be smoke-free,
    2. for the circumstances in which they are to be smoke-free,
    3. for them to be smoke-free only in specified areas, or except in specified areas,
    4. for exemptions. 
The most important point is that the requirement to do so for any "place" includes the need that there be a significant risk whereas there are no requirements for vehicles at all. So a simple Statutory Instrument that can only be approved or rejected by Parliament, and is traditionally given the nod by the House of Lords, is all that is required to ban smoking in every vehicle in this country with no requirement to justify their inclusion.

      Monday, November 14, 2011

      Stalking as an offence

      The news is that Stalking is to be made a specific offence. As it stands it's not but every newspaper seems to have cribbed the definition from the Crown Prosecution Service as a

      long-term pattern of persistent and repeated contact with, or attempts to contact, a particular victim
      which should ring alarm bells for the use of the word victim which is prejudicial. So besides that this is a good thing right? Possibly depending on how well the offence is phrased. Consider for instance a debt collection agency trying to obtain money from a 'victim' on behalf of their client - would their "long term pattern of persistent and repeated contact" be classed as stalking under a new law?

      Game Workshop's customer service

      One of the things I've always liked about Games Workshop is their level of customer service; as someone (I think it was Dan) pointed out they get a lot of their custom from word of mouth rather than scattershot advertising.

      I ordered some of their Print on Demand books from the Black Library back in May; now the thing with PoD books is they tend to take a while to be delivered and are often packaged separately. So the books came and I was happy.

      I'm now re-reading the Horus Heresy set and during Flight of the Eisenstein looked up some background reference on one of the protagonists. This led to a memory that there had been some books in relation to his future. A trip to the Black Library site and I found the book. It seemed familiar and I went to add it to my wishlist so I wouldn't forget it. "But haven't I already done that?" I thought.

      I checked and it wasn't there "But I only remove books from the list when I buy them" this led to me checking my order history. Lo and behold it was one of the books I'd ordered back in May. "But I don't recall reading that" I checked amongst all my GW books and then all the others (which took some time) and couldn't find it. I located the original delivery note and discovered it was supposed to have been packaged up with another book which I did have. But I recalled that when that book had arrived it had done so by itself.

      I called Black Library; gave them the order number and they'll get another sent out to me no problem.

      Seriously six months after the order and they didn't bat an eyelid.

      Friday, November 11, 2011

      Discrimination Part 2

      I've already shared my thoughts on discrimination, how some laws meant to stamp it out may have create more of it or have other harmful effects; and why pointing this out doesn't mean you're on the side of the racists.

      However the topic has raised itself once again with a statement made by one of our Councillors and the reply from another. In essence Councillor A said something racist and Councillor B responded with the equivalent of "That's racist!". On the surface that might seem fine, I don't think it is and I find it worrying that people may consider that by itself that this is just fine.

      My pointing this out has led to the "biannual spat" between myself and Gobby Robby which as I've said in those comments I welcome because I hope it's making people think about their views (see also my conversations with the Bratii). My first comment on the page was to point out what wasn't said and that was the racist comment was untrue. Now again I think this is an important omission and I've tried to explain why in the comments; but as that's all in spread comment form I'll collect my points here.

      Terrorism ban failure

      Muslims against Crusades became a proscribed group as from midnight last night. This is all part of the attempt to ban groups that glorify terrorism or to be precise that Parliament consider to be glorifying terrorism.

      But they were already banned when they called themselves Islam4UK, but they too were already banned back when they were called Al Ghurabaa which in turn was already banned when they were called Al-Muhajiroun.

      Oh yes it's good to see that this ban is having such a real effect on stopping these groups.

      Thursday, November 10, 2011

      Windows 7 duplicate running programs

      So while running Windows 7 on the new computer up popped a message noting that one of the first actions upon starting was to run Outlook 'Would you like me to set it up so this programme starts automatically?' it asked me. "Yeah why not?" I said thinking that it would simply add it to the Startup folder designed specifically for this action. Well it didn't do that, but I don't really care.

      So why am I even writing this? Well I've got it set-up to update during lunch rather than 3am so on occasion I'll return to find it's restarted. So far so what? Well it seems that because it's restarted it runs the start-up programmes, which includes Outlook However because it also shut itself down while programmes were running it tries to restore its original state, which includes restarting Outlook.

      The result is two copies of Outlook running.

      Clever :-)

      Rage PS3 Review

      Once long ago Borderlands was promoted as a realistic shooter before Gearbox decided to go all cel-shadey and throw a ton of fun at it. But consider an alternative universe where they decided to stick with their original plan - and lo we get Rage.

      Wednesday, November 09, 2011

      Effing MobileMe

      So as mentioned MobileMe decided not to like one of the passwords. That fixed and everything seemed fine until I noticed there was no icon in the system tray. That's because it had turned off all the synching - which is the entire point of the MobileMe control panel.

      So I turned on synching at which point it started to sync the contacts while complaining that it couldn't sync the calendar because the login was incorrect. Um excuse me how can you sync one set of data, but not the other.

      I checked the version of the control panel 1.6.6 and checked for the latest version... 1.6.7 ah perhaps that will make a difference. One download later and an attempt to install. Oh I can't install it because it requires the latest version of iTunes. One massive download later and now everything is working again.

      So to summarise - it locked out the password without warning, turned off the functionality of the calendar for a previous version with no explanation and then demanded the installation of the latest version of a programme we don't use.

      Oh yes Apple are indeed the slickest and most user-friendly of companies.

      MobileMe can't sign in

      Although we're now supposedly into Apple's iCloud it's still technically in Beta and as such we're currently sticking to the proven MobileMe.

      Or at least we were until it stopped being able to sign in. Correct Apple ID, correct password what's going on. Having reset the password I can only guess - Apple have changed the criteria for the make-up of the password and the old one didn't correspond in one detail. As such I'm guessing that despite being correct it wasn't passing the parse test and was thus being rejected.

      Either that or they're having some fun with migration.

      Tuesday, November 08, 2011

      Batman: Arkham City review

      In short if you enjoyed Arkham Asylum chances are you're going to like this. There are difference though which may put off some or even encourage those who disliked the original to try it.

      The first major difference is the scope of the playing area. The majority of Asylum was spent within buildings with the odd venture into the gardens when travelling between them. Now it's as if the gardens are huge... and covered in buildings... and water. There's still a lot of interior work, but transition now integrates better within the game particularly with the side-quests.

      Side-quests are the second major difference. In Asylum the story was linear with the only off-piste jaunt being to track down the Riddler Trophies and Puzzle solutions. In City there are multiple side quests that occur within the city itself - some of the prisoners are being assassinated; Zsasz is up to his old tricks; someone's keeping an eye on you etc. None of these have to be done but they're a nice addition that doesn't clutter up the main quest log in the same way that Fallout and Dead Island can. Oh and the Riddler's still up to his old tricks, but he's pulled out all the stops.

      Riddler's trophies are the third main difference. His puzzles act in the same way as they did in Asylum,  find the incongruous item and snap it,  but the trophies have moved away from simply being in hard to spot/reach areas - now you have to work for them. Although some still are left just lying there the majority are protected and only a head-scratching use of the gadgets or moves available will unlock them.

      This then leads to the fifth and final main difference the gadgets and moves. The basic combat set hasn't changed and is still a flowing delight, but there additional moves that function against certain new types of enemy; and there are new gadgets (and new functions of old ones) which can be deployed even more smoothly in the heat of combat.

      Then there are the small touches. Travelling is much easier with the Grapnel Boost (which has to be earned) that allows a gliding Batman to pull himself up to a ledge and catapult himself off it. The Dive move allows him to pick up speed and pull up both of these allow travel across the entire city without the need to ever land.

      The Cryptographic analyser now works with passwords by matching one half of a word to another allowing for multiple attempts. The Riddler doesn't leave Maps around, but you can Interrogate the flunkies who set them up provided you don't knock them unconscious first. Oh and due to the size enemies re-spawn in locations so there's never a case of beating everyone up and then gliding through a ghost town.

      In essence Arkham City is Arkham Asylum made better which is pretty amazing given how good the first game was.

      Monday, November 07, 2011

      Water pipe ownership part 3

      I did receive a reply to my reminder regarding the transfer of the water pipes. Sadly though it was that sewerage companies already have rights to protect against building near such pipes.

      Well yes building near a sewer requires permission from the owner; which previously was often the same as the owner of the land... not any more.

      One small benefit was a link to Ofwat I didn't previously have which gives me the information that this is all being done

      under the Water Industry Act 1991
      and indeed checking on that and digging up the point about adoption of sewers
      102 Subject to the following provisions of this section and to sections 103, 105 and 146(3) below, a sewerage undertaker may at any time declare that—
      (a)any sewer which is situated within its area or which serves the whole or any part of that area;F1...[F2
      (aa)any lateral drain which communicates or is to communicate with a public sewer which—
      (i)is so situated or serves the whole or any part of that area; and
      (ii)is vested in that undertaker; or]
      (b)any sewage disposal works which are so situated or which serve the whole or any part of that area,
      shall, as from such date as may be specified in the declaration, become vested in the undertaker.
      But that just pushes the question back one Act. The government do not own these pipes and therefore under existing legislation have no right to transfer ownership of them or indeed allow anyone else to claim ownership of them.

      I now await another reply

      Wednesday, November 02, 2011

      Mark Garnier newsletter

      It seems posing a question by email to our local MP signs one up to receiving his newsletter. As such the October 2011 appeared in my inbox. I have no problem with this and I can always ask to be removed. So what news does our representative have for us?

      Kidderminster is not going to become a site for a British enterprise zone, however we are getting

      a planning order signed to encourage a speeding up of the planning process to enable new business to relocate to Kidderminster more quickly.
      So is anything to do with the Local Development Order which
      would allow the fast tracking of planning processes for future development
      and was created by the District Council via an Act under the Labour government in 2004?

      The Gypsy etc. sites also make the 'front' page as Mark's received "hundreds of emails and letters". I note he's not challenging the sites that have been chosen for us to choose from merely the number of pitches that Wyre Forest is required to have. At least he makes clear he has no authority in this matter and thus asks that any who contacted him also do so formally to the WFDC site, which incidentally requires you to login to use.

      Some pure news in that by next Autumn Kidderminster is looking to get the same ultra-fast broadband that should be going live in Stourport next Spring. Makes sense if they're already adding the infrastructure to Stourport.

      On the 'back' page we can read Mark's view on Europe. Pretty much a rehash of Dave's - it's good for us, but parts are bad for us. No mention on the referendum or how he voted and why.

      A logical snippet regarding the boundary review and having Hartlebury included within the Wyre Forest district. If we're going that far I'd also like to point out the incongruity of having Astley and Dunley in Malvern.

      Finally some pictures of all the things Mark's been doing for us... one quirk of the English language though regarding the Family Intervention Project
      which offers vital support to problem families
      Is that families who are having problems, families that are causing problems, or a mixture of both?

      Greek Bailout Part 3

      It may be political posturing, but at least Greece's Prime Minster George Papandreou is displaying some backbone. Allegedly his calling for a referendum was never mentioned as part of the bailout deal and has caught out other countries leaders as well as the markets.

      Personally I think this says much more about them than they intended. I mean putting this to the public after all the important people have decided the matter already! Who does this guy think he is - some sort of elected official whose power derives from the people and who is supposed to represent their will?

      Doesn't he know the public are all drooling idiots who need to be told what's best for them. I mean it's bad enough they get to vote for their leaders, but to let them have a say in what those leaders actually do that could affect the entire country over a long term period is utter madness.

      Next thing you know he'll be turning this referendum into a full blown question about staying with the Euro and what sort of example will that set for the much better run countries?

      Tuesday, November 01, 2011

      Gang warfare

      And so I see that it's the turn of this government to tackle 'anti-social behaviour' focussing on gang culture. Apparently this is a move prompted by the riots, which is amusing as the official analysis stated that gangs didn't play a pivotal role in those disturbances.

      But hey when have politicians ever let facts get in the way of policy?

      However this pressure on gangs introduces an important question - What is a gang? According to the BBC story the government are defining a gang as

      loose groupings of young people involved in criminality, defending their "territory" and fighting with other gangs.
      So Party MPs then? Perhaps not so young, and their grouping is more formal rather than "loose", but involved in criminality (expense claims?); defending their territory and fighting with other gangs (need I give examples?).

      Yup they kind of fit the definition and as such it's important that authorities intervene lest a young member of this society becomes ensnared by these so called 'Parties'.

      Monday, October 31, 2011

      The EU referendum

      A little late too the EU referendum party, but so what it deserves to be kept in the spotlight. Not necessarily the 'rebels' in the Conservative Party, but that Nick Clegg stated in 2008 that:

      "Nobody in this country under the age of 51 has ever been asked that simple question."
      No! No-one in this country has ever been asked that question. The vote in 1975 was whether we wanted to join the Common Market it was about trade and economy not politics. No one in this country has ever voted directly to join the EU.

      The second point is to remember the Eire EU Constitution vote. Everyone recall that? It was supposed to take place in 2005 or 2006 but never happened after the French and Dutch public rejected it. As all member countries needed to agree the constitution was dropped never to be heard from again.

      Well at least until it was reformed as the Treaty of Lisbon which contained many of the same elements but amended rather than replaced the old treaties.

      This time the people of Eire got to vote and rejected it and as again because everyone needed to agree it was dropped never to be heard from again.

      Until the next year when they asked the public if they'd changed their minds and this time they voted for it.

      Why is this an important thing to know? Because the EU referendum debate was triggered by public petition. So all those who think that the public has the right to decide for itself how and where our laws are implemented should simply ask again. If people still care they'll get enough votes and they can keep on doing this until they don't or the politicians finally accept what democracy means - People Power.

      Friday, October 28, 2011

      Orange Care

      Letter to the office:

      Your mobile phone is currently protected by Orange Care, which means that you can avoid the hassle of replacing it if it's lost, stolen, damaged or develops a fault.
      We wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of the benefits you receive with Orange Care and advise you of some changes to your Orange Care agreement which will come into effect on 5th December 2011.
      Ah the old carrot then stick approach. Okay I'll pass on the carrot what's the stick?
      The term 'Admin Fee' applicable in the case of a successful claim will now be called an 'Excess'
      Presumably because they've had trouble justifying £15 worth of admin fees?
      The amount of the 'Excess' that is payable on successful claims will change from £15 to £50
      Ah so they definitely can't justify £50 of admin fees. Of course we can just cancel, but woof that's a hell of a prices.


      Visibility down to 200 yards in places and people driving around with no lights on. "Gosh I'm in a Silver/White/Grey car driving through the fog I wonder if people can see me clearly perhaps I should switch on some form of illumination? Nah I'm sure they can see me"

      Thursday, October 27, 2011

      Warhammer 40k: Space Marine review

      I'm a fan of the Warhammer 40k setting and as such there's a lot going on in this game to tickle my fancy; sadly if you're not a fan there's a lot here that just doesn't work.

      In concept this is a formulaic shoot/hack third person affair and if you've played one then you've pretty much played this. If things had been left there then that would have been okay; of course they weren't.

      A near miss

      Nearly rammed the back of a car in Vale Road this morning. Driving along in the third lane with no-one behind me and only the one car ahead. As we approach Mitton Close and the entrance to the car-pack they suddenly hit the brakes and start indicating to turn down it.

      As always I'd left enough room to account for such sudden manoeuvres and simply slowed down to give them enough time to turn. At which point they pulled up into the turning blocking half my lane. They had stopped to pick someone up who was standing where so many stand at the entrance to the turn.

      Fortunately as mentioned there was no-one behind me and just as fortunately no-one in the second lane.

      I swear people don't think. Do the turn and stop a little further on, then turn around in the car-park don't just bloody stop.

      Wednesday, October 26, 2011

      The Political climate

      I've mentally noted this before, but there seems to be an attitude amongst some politicians local and national whenever it comes to having to ask the great unwashed public their opinion on something and I'm not just talking about not trusting us to answer 'correctly'.

      Yes I know some people hate my analogies/metaphors but tough ;-)

      A prisoner has been sentenced to death and is asked how they'd like to be killed - death by stoning or death by oxen (being pulled apart by such). He picks stoning as he thinks it likely to be the quicker and less painful method.

      As he's led to the stoning arena he passes what appears to be a hospital room with a single dentists type chair in the middle.

      "What's that?" he asks of his guard
      "It's the lethal injection room. You get given a dose of poison and just fall asleep and die" his guard replies
      "That sounds much better than stoning can I die like that please?" begs the prisoner
      "But you chose stoning" states the guard
      "But I didn't know that this was an option" cries the prisoner
      "That's your problem not mine" states the guard. "You should have asked; or at least researched all the available methods of death before picking one"

      Tuesday, October 25, 2011

      Water pipe ownership part 2

      Although I've been updating the original entry as this has been going on for some time I think the latest non-information deserves a new entry.

      As a brief recap we'd reached the point where the government is transferring property from one private owner to another and I'd asked exactly what right they had to do that.

      I mean if the government was transferring some of its property it would expect to be paid for it; and if the government was taking land it would pay the owners. In this instance property is being transferred and the owner is the one being expected to pay for that privilege.

      Given that it's been two months since this was being looked at I popped off an email and very quickly got a response that HM Land Registry have yet to get back with any concrete information.

      So yeah the government has enacted legislation which came into force at the beginning of this month without checking first to see if they can actually legally do what the legislation entails.

      Good old politics.

      Monday, October 24, 2011

      Photograph colour casts and perception

      I've covered this briefly before, but having finally managed to watch the Horizon show regarding colours and having to explain the concept to my godparents I think it's worth looking at again.

      One of the main problems with digital photography is taking a shot, looking at it and then stating "But why is it so orange/blue/red when it clearly isn't like that when I look at the scene in front of me?" The short answer is - because that really is what the scene looks like and the camera is correctly reproducing it.

      Tesco shuffle

      Having asked about the Tesco covenant I have been informed that Tesco were restricted to only food stuffs and convenience items however this seems to have been ditched in return for the extra 500 square metres of retail space they 'acquired' in planning in 2009.

      So it appears they're not only getting extra space, but are also no longer restricted as to what could be sold in it.

      Friday, October 21, 2011

      Tesco covenant

      Given that work is under-way at the Carpets of Worth site and Tesco's known propensity to apply for retro-active permission for changes made it's time to make sure all the ducks are in order.

      My Tesco tagged articles detail all the planning permissions and site drawings etc. there is however one niggling memory that I can't place.

      Someone somewhere (Shuttle/WFA/here!) stated that the new store would be limited in the types of items it could sell - so no clothing section etc. Checking through the documentation and decision notices I can find no such covenants stated.

      I cannot locate the originator of this statement; can anyone recall who it was? Was it you? Where did you get this information from?

      Batman Arkham City Collector's Edition packaging

      Just out of interest I wonder how many recipients of the Collector's Edition of Batman: Arkham City this morning have already dropped their figurine?

      Step 1 - Remove the  flimsy plastic film surrounding the transparent obloid box.
      Step 2 - Pick up said box
      Step 3 - Swear as the contents of said box fall out of the bottom of it.

      Yeah it's set up like a display case with the opening flap on the base. If picked up by the sides, like most people would I'm sure, the heavy figurine pops the flap and everything falls out.


      I woke up early this morning to the darkness feeling a little hot and a little thirsty, thought "hum" and closed my eyes. I opened them to find myself standing in a nearby street, but everything was blurry. I realised I wasn't wearing my glasses. Had I slept-walked out the house? I headed back carefully through the blur and avoided the Christmas Carollers at the end of my street. The front door was unlocked and I headed in to the living room where I warned my father about the carollers heading our way and... wait this isn't right.

      I woke up.

      Still a little hot and thirsty I got up and padded downstairs where my mother had just finished a fruit cake and was insisting I try it as she'd changed the recipe. I said it was very nice but it was difficult to tell because my mouth was so dry and ... wait this isn't right.

      I woke up.

      Still a little hot and thirsty and in need for a pee I got up and headed to the toilet. Lost in contemplation I reached over to turn on the tap to the sink to run some water for my glass and... wait this isn't right.

      I woke up... at least I think I did. That sort of thing really screws up one's notions of reality.

      Thursday, October 20, 2011

      Yappy dog

      Oh for the love of... some bloody yappy dog has started up in a nearby yard sending out a series of yips on a five second on five second off pattern with some odd long pauses to make me think it's finally stopped before it goes off again.

      If you know of the toy dogs that yip then backflip then you also now know exactly the sound being made. It's as if this dog was the model for them.

      Really doing my head in.

      The Subway kiss of life and death

      As I've said before we're pattern seeking creatures in this instance I've noticed that whenever I mention to someone that the Subway in Kidderminster is open it then closes. If I mention that it's closed it re-opens.

      Of course there's nothing special about the fact that I'm talking about it, it's a natural progression of a franchise in a new area. Saying that though I now state that it appears open and thus if it suddenly closes again within the week you all know who to blame :-)

      Barclay - Joined up banking

      Being an Egg customer my credit card is now being moved over to Barclay. Frankly I wouldn't really care except

      a) they've changed my PIN;
      b) it now features the VISA contactless system which would allow a thief to buy a slew of £15 products before I noticed it was gone... okay I've just checked it will ask for my PIN "every now and again, for security purposes"; and
      c) Along with my card was another missive from Barclay asking if I wanted a Barclay Credit Card.

      I've had a look at all the places I can use my wonderful new contactless credit card. At least I tried to look. Using VISA's fantastic map system simply tap in a postcode or town to view such stores.

      Excellent except some are in completely the wrong place or have no identifying information and it will only show information within a radius of that location. Tap in "Stourport" and scroll around the map and there are no locations in Kidderminster. Of course there are they just don't get displayed until I tap in "Kidderminster" Gosh yes because I don't travel more than 2 miles away in case I get lost and scared. At least it's easy to see each location oh wait no I have to click on each rather than being able to hover over it.

      At least I can use it at "Weavers Wharf Retail Park" which as everyone knows is located on Worcester Road on the way to Hoobrook. Although personally I would prefer to use it at "." in Worcester Street.

      Dead Island Tips - Part 5 The Monster List

      It's not all traipsing about the island helping people out and practising skills there are monsters to fight and it always helps to know thy enemy.

      Wednesday, October 19, 2011

      Dead Island Tips - Part 4 Advanced tips

      Up to gaining access to the Lifeguard Tower the game covers pretty much all the knowledge needed to complete it, however it does leave a few things either unexplained, with fuzzy definitions; or doesn't mention them until later despite being useful right now.

      Tuesday, October 18, 2011

      Dead Island Tips - Part 3c The Resort Exploring the Lifeguard Tower

      With everyone safely transported to the Life Guard Tower it's time for a leisurely look around. Talking to Sinamoi sets a new quest - help the others around the station.


      Quests can be seen in the menu screen and come in two main types - at the top in white are the uncompleted quests; at the bottom of the list in grey are the completed quests. Only the white ones are of any real interest and they are split into three types.

      1. The main story quest - Completing this advances the story chapters and can open up new areas.
      2. Side-quests - Not needed to complete the story but can often good rewards for completion
      3. Continuous quests - Never-ending quests. So long as the criteria is met the reward is always on offer.
      Marking a quest as active will create a guideline and a goal flag to appear on the maps. Accepting a quest will set it to active; on completion of an active side quest the main story quest will become the active one.

      Stuff in the Station

      The representation of the station is full of new yellow icons. Once found these will always appear on the main map even when the player is out of range.

      Fast Travel

      A double arrow. It is possible to travel from any Fast Travel point to other selected Fast Travel points. For example it is possible to travel from the Tunnel FT point to the Life Guard Station, but not from the Life Guard Station FT point to the Tunnel. Fast Travel within the same area is instantaneous; Fast Travel between areas will require the game to load up that area.


      This icon appears to be either a fan-spread of money or cards. Buy or sell items here - it is inadvisable to sell any of the non-weapon pick-ups unless the cash is absolutely necessary as they are used in weapon modifications.


      Not appearing yet, but as a reward for completing a quest that can be found in the station, drivable vehicles will appear on the map as a yellow steering wheel. They will reappear eventually at their original pick-up points if abandoned. All cars have at least four spaces - a driver, a side passenger, and two flat-bed passenger spaces as well as four storage spaces. All passengers can use weapons while in the vehicle. Driving comprises of steering, acceleration and barking (check the manual for exact controls). There are no hand-brake turns; reverse or forward motion can continue even if the opposite control is used; the car will stop almost instantly if the driver leaves.

      Enemies can be run over and killed although this nets less experience than killing them 'by hand'; hitting enemies or items will fracture the windscreen until it is punched out. Enemies can still injure anyone in the vehicle.

      Next entry - advanced bits not covered.

      Dead Island Tips - Part 3b The Resort Quest

      Having rescued Sinamoi he now asks if you can get his key card from his bungalow and open up the Lifeguard Tower for them. A Quest and a Guide line now appear.

      Daybreak texting

      I'm normally one for small print, but in this instance my attention was drawn by the interjection of Adrian on the Daybreak show. He had just invited viewers to text comments to the show when I imagine a producer bellowed "Terms and conditions" down his ear at which point he hurriedly read out was had just flashed up on the screen that the viewers had to be 18 and over. So what?

      Well it means no-one can text in.

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      The world according to the Bratii

      With the Bratii on Sunday and somehow the conversation migrated to world leaders (I honestly don't recall how). Take into consideration that Minor is fast approaching 10 and Major is 15.

      Friday, October 14, 2011

      Greek Bailout Part 2

      I mentioned that Greece might be able to help itself by cutting import and export taxes or by devaluing its currency (if it were allowed to) and I wake up to find that instead they're increasing internal taxes. This is a short-term solution and not a good one for any country, for Greece it's a joke.

      Allegedly tax avoidance/evasion is endemic as such instead of people not paying 20% they'll not be paying 21% instead. To counter this a new property tax will be collected through electricity bills a difficult thing to avoid for property owners. Don't pay the tax on the bill and the power is cut off.

      How many will choose to have the power removed and to cook and light their properties with fire? How many businesses that have to use power will simply up and move out of the country? How many illegal splices will be run off the mains cable and the investigators intimidated (or bribed) into ignoring them?

      No business is going to start up knowing they're going to facing this tax. No business is going to hire new workers with this overhead.

      Greece is just digging a deeper hole for itself.

      Thursday, October 13, 2011


      So I've already noted that Hallowe'en begins on 17th September. I'll now note that Christmas begins on the 1st October.

      I'm also glad to note that I'm not the only one seeing this.

      Greek bailout

      On the breakfast news this morning a young Greek women stated "We don't want your money we want jobs". Excellent, so you're all willing to work for free then are you?

      You see a business can't expand and create new jobs unless they're making enough money to accommodate them. Likewise a new company can't start up and create new jobs unless they know that there are enough people out there willing to pay for their products and/or services.

      So if the Greek government wants to encourage new jobs it has only a few options available to it. It can lower taxation on businesses thereby allowing them to retain more money and thus expand their business and hire more people.

      Another option is to reduce tariffs on export; make it cheaper to buy from Greece and thus encourage more cash flow into the country.

      In both cases the downside is that the government itself loses money from tax revenue and is based on the assumption that the businesses will pump the additional money back into the Greek economy.

      A counter would be to increase tariffs on imports. This would have the effect of increasing the price of  goods made with imported material; however it could open up new markets within the country itself to provide those goods internally and thus also keep the cash internal too. Due to the low export tariffs such a company may be able to compete more effectively with the external company that used to provide the goods in the first place thus making even more money.

      Both of those could work except that Greece is signed up to the Eurozone and thus there is no import duty within the EU. They could create a new tax, but I'd expect them to be reported to the WTO if they tried that.

      Instead both these measures could be implemented indirectly by devaluing Greece's currency - as it would no longer be 'worth' as much outside the country imports would be more expensive and exports would be cheaper.

      Except it's part of the Euro and thus has no say over its value.

      Welcome to the inherent problems of a common currency market.

      Oh and before anyone points out that the USA is the same type of system - they have the same problems. Note that Texas received a $1bn agricultural subsidy last year  what is that if not a bailout they don't have to pay back?

      Pretend each state is its own country that's signed up to a Common Market, Common Currency with Free Trade and movement across borders. Now look at how much each 'country' pays into the system compared to how much they take out.

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Knowing the law

      In my entry regarding taking photos Orphi asked

      what exactly can members of the public do to avoid being pushed around like this?
      I replied that they can stop accepting it by knowing the law; with that in mind here's the basics.

      Again first off I Am Not A Lawyer; however the best bit is that no-one needs to be because the basics really are that easy to understand.

      The base of law in the UK is that anything and everything is legal unless stated not to be. The law is then split into two main sections - case and statute. Statute law is that enacted by the state, for the UK that would be the Crown via the government; case law is made up of the decisions taken by previous courts.

      Both sets of laws can then be dealt with in one of two ways - civil or criminal. Civil is deemed to be between citizens; criminal that between a citizen and the state.

      The police can be involved in either types of law, but their powers derive from Statute Law; this defines what they can and cannot do under given circumstances. To take Law A detailing Circumstance A and Law B detailing Circumstance B a police officer cannot use the powers granted by Law A under the circumstances from Law B. In the case of the father taking photos the Prevention of Terrorism Act deals with the circumstances of control orders on specific individuals as this wasn't the case it didn't matter whether the Act gives an officer the power to confiscate property as it did not apply in this instance.

      It is also worth remembering that the police are held just as liable under the law as non-police; should the officer in the incident above have taken the phone and/or deleted photos they could be accused of theft and/or criminal damage because they had no right to do so.

      Now not everyone can memorise all the laws, however as the police act with powers granted under Statute Law should they wish to exercise such powers a member of the public being confronted with them can ask for the details. The officer is not obliged to provide them, but failing to do so or providing incorrect information could be considered prejudicial to their case

      How does this apply to private security? Private security have no additional powers and no additional rights beyond that of the ordinary citizen. They can detain a person if they think they've committed a criminal act, but only temporarily until the police arrive. They can use reasonable force to escort a person from private grounds if they are representing the owner. They can refuse entry to private grounds if they are representing the owner and use reasonable force to prevent such entry. They have no rights to confiscate goods and no rights to search a person or their property.

      Quite simple really.

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011

      The Wyre Forest Traveller site debacle Part 3

      There seems to be mutterings over the cherry-picking of sites apparently favouring the dominant Conservative council members. To which end I present the five short-listed sites and the ten second-tier sites along with their internal designations and ward locations.

      Censoring the internet

      Once again we get the message that the government truly doesn't understand the internet with supposed measures about to be introduced to block pornography unless the subscriber "opts-in". This will supposedly be handled at the ISP level. How exactly?

      Chances are the ISPs will simply create a black list of sites and prevent content from them. Except that's exactly what the majority of internet-protection software does anyway. Sure one could argue that the parents don't know how to install or configure them, but that's their problem and one they should fix themselves rather than handing off the problem to someone else.

      Oh and of course they don't really work. A black list is dependent on being updated and generally gets larger and larger. Blocking an IP address will block any multiple web addressed pointing to it, but providers will switch to dynamic addresses and so both IP addresses and web addresses will need to be maintained which the providers will simply change or forward.

      That doesn't even address anonymisers  whereby traffic is directed to that site then forwarded on to the requester using the covering address.

      Even in a business sense the government appears to be contemplating shutting down this entire branch of software production and potentially putting some companies out of business. After all way would anyone need this type of software when the filtering takes place at the provider's end?

      Stamp with FAIL.

      Taking photos

      Once again we see the misconceptions over taking photos being applied. This time to the Braehead shopping centre in Glasgow. Sadly like so much it's a case of 'he said, they said' so the exact terms being bandied about cannot be verified, but the context is clear.

      Firstly the obvious statement that I Am Not A Lawyer, but the statements I make echo and combine statements made by those who are.

      Monday, October 10, 2011

      The Wyre Forest Traveller site debacle Part 2

      My father drew attention to something that he read in the Shuttle; not wanting to take either his or their word for it I decided to read the actual Baker Associates Report. Page 28 section 5.16 lists 5

      potentially suitable sites for Gypsies and Travellers
      these are:

      Yard south of A456 - Clows Top
      Land off Lowe Lane - Fairfield
      Land off Wilden Top Road - Wilden
      The Gables Yard - Stourport-on-Severn
      Open land north of Sutton Park Rise - Kidderminster.

      On page 42 section 8.6 a further 10 sites are added as
      having potential constraints, but are considered worthy of further investigation for Gypsy, Traveller and/or Travelling Showpeople either to supplement or replace shortlisted sites in the short to medium term and to provide for long term needs, if required.

      They are:

      Land north of Habberley Road - Bewdley
      Site at Stourport Road - Bewdley
      Former Blakedown Nurseries - Blakedown
      Land at Lawnswood - Cookley
      Former school site - Kidderminster
      Lea Castle hospital site - Kidderminster
      Land adjacent Nunn's Corner - Stourport-on-Severn
      Saiwen - Stourport
      Former depot - Stone
      Redundant farm, St John's Road - Stourport-on-Severn

      As I and others have mentioned of these sites the Cabinet is allowing 7 through for public consultation. They are:

      Site at Stourport Road, Bewdley
      Former Sion Hill School Site, Kidderminster
      Lea Castle Hospital Site, Cookley, Nr Kidderminster
      Land adjacent Nunn’s Corner, Stourport-on-Severn
      Saiwen, Stourport-on-Severn
      The Gables Yard, Stourport-on-Severn
      Farm, St John’s Road, Stourport-on-Severn

      That is of the 5 sites shortlisted only one is on the public list, the other 6 were listed only for "further investigation" or to replace the shortlisted sites  in the "short to medium term". Perhaps any member of the Cabinet would care to make known exactly why four-fifths of the 'proper' list needed to be replaced and given this need what value for money this £17.5k report gave us?

      To put it another way either Baker Associates got four of the five main sites wrong for reasons they didn't investigate or they got them wrong for reasons they couldn't know.

      Friday, October 07, 2011

      Petrol cartel again

      Despite the number of times I and others explain it the price of petrol keeps reappearing in the Letters pages of the Shuttle. So let's try one of the argument again.

      Let's assume there is little to no new market in petrol sales. Sure there are those who have just learned to drive, but they're flightly; nice to have but can't be depended on quite yet. Unlike other markets there are few stating "Well I'd buy petrol if only it were a bit cheaper" or "I was planning a long car trip, but what with the price of petrol I won't". As such the core market is relatively static.

      With that in mind consider a hypothetical petrol station selling at 135.9p/litre. As we know VAT is 20% and fuel duty is 57.95p/litre the station is getting 55.3p/litre. To make life simple let's consider all of that as profit.

      This station sells 2,000 litres of petrol a day and thus makes a profit of £1,106. However a competitor sets up shop and starts selling at 130.9p/litre. The next day our first station realises they're losing 250litres worth of sales per day thus 'only' making £967.75.

      Simplistic competition dictates that our first station should lower their prices to match. However customers can be fickle things and in this case doing so would only lure back half the litres lost.

      Selling 1750 litres at 135.9p makes a profit of £967.75.
      Selling 1875 litres at 130.9p makes a profit of £958.75.

      Provided there are no more losses the first station makes more money by keeping the price at the same level and not matching the competition.

      The Conservative conference

      I've tried to avoid all thee of them, but the newspapers keep on about them. Once again out of all it what still drives me to a small fury is David Cameron telling the nation that he knows "tough things are". No David you don't "know" you can intuit how tough things are; you can see how tough things are; but you don't know how tough things are. In fact no MP can know how tough things are.

      The base salary of an MP is £65,738 per year that's over 2.5 times the median individual full-working wage in this country; using the 2007/08 figures that puts them in the top 5% of tax payers in this country. As Prime Minister there's an extra £132,923 on top of that putting him in the top 1% of this group at £198,661 per year. That's over 7.5 times the median wage.

      That doesn't even take into account expense claims.

      Stop telling me you know times are tough; you don't.