Friday, December 21, 2012

How the new Tesco road fails

For the first time since the new bridge for Tesco opened we've had a confluence of events that resulted in traffic being commensurate with that which can be expected with a new housing development and a superstore.

If, in simplistic terms, one considers Stourport as a crossroads last night one 'arm' was closed and another slowed down by traffic lights leaving traffic building up through town and beyond. I decided to slip off down the new route and see how it would stand up. What I discovered was some major flaws in its layout

Coping with the end of the end of the world

It's now 11:12 GMT one minute past the end of the world and for all those believers still standing there's only one thought passing through their minds "How do I explain this in a way that won't make me look like an idiot?". Here's hoping I can help you out:

Tip #1. Go for the metaphysical. The world has ended, but not the physical world is was never going to be that; instead it's the dawning of a new spiritual world.

Bonus. Your claim can never be refuted.

Tip #2. Mistranslation. The Mayan calendar really started later so the end of the world is still yet to come.

Bonus. You can do this all over again.

Tip #3. "Hah fooled you" not as good as the first two in that this makes you look like a jerk rather than an idiot, but hey go with it if you've nothing else

Bonus. You can do this with any other idiotic thing you say in the future

Tip #4. Realise that this was all a crock of shit; go back into education; and learn about science.

Bonus. Actually learning something... yeah whom I kidding if you've gone this far you'd best stick with one of the first three options.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it; or not.

Has everyone ticked off the last item on the bucket list? Bid your family and friends farewell? Why not; don't you know the world ends tomorrow?

Yes the 21st day of the 12th month of the year 2012 is the end of time... according to the Mayans. Well actually not according to the Mayans, but according to all the kooks who happily misinterpreted Mayan inscriptions.

In essence:

from BizarroBlog (was BizarroComic)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Loading the question - bias what bias?

The Conservatives are interested in how fair you think their benefit reforms are and to get as much input as possible have, allegedly, launched an online ad:

Currently this ad doesn't feature on the Conservative's own site but has been picked up by a few others. There is a leaflet using the same imagery and featuring the Conservative logo and printing details; so it might well be genuine. Seriously though how can anyone coming to a survey from this advert give a fair opinion - "Oh yes I think the government should give more money to people who won't work than to hardworking families" How about to people who get assessed like this? Or this?

Oh but of course if you're in genuine need that's okay they're only targeting those to lazy to work who treat the benefit system as a right. I mean how else can you explain a 40% rise in convictions for benefit fraud? Have you been paying attention to my posts regarding statistics? That's a rise from 7,040 to almost 10,000. How many people on benefits in this country? Including all types of benefits - 30,000,000. So that's 0.03% convictions. So either there's a lot of genuine cases out there or those work-shy are damn good at not being caught.

But hey when have facts ever got in the way of good old political rabble rousing? Locate your supporters, find a group they don't like, and charrrrrrge!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Starbucks in Kidderminster

I had been reliably informed that a Starbucks had opened its doors in Kidderminster; heh what perfect timing. So where did the branch think was the best site for those wanting to down one of their beverages?

Was it the Swan Centre which has the Gourmet Cooks up top and the Baker's Oven and the Penny Black down below? How about the Rowland Hill centre with the Clock cafe? Don't be silly how could they compete with places selling both food and drink? Nothing small enough on High, Worcester, or Vicar Street that I can think of.

Oh wait silly me I know the ideal position for a Starbucks - just on the other side of the short Husum pedestrian bridge on the opposite corner from Caffe Nero; you know that other place that sells coffee.

I'd like to stress that I am, of course, sure this wasn't done with the intention of attempting to poach customers from Nero who have been there for a long while (since the area was re-built I think) and is all to do with how coffee is so much better when its purchase is confined to a small geographical area.

Local politics - 5-year olds in a playground

It's the single site again - our district council spending around £10m on new premises, in these economic times, in order to save £500k a year (savings which only seem to top renovation savings over a 25-year period). For some reason people are still whining about it despite the fact it's been built and now occupied; it's done, nothing more can be done, and it can't be undone so why can't they let it rest?

I don't know, perhaps it's because it appears the majority of the district didn't want it. Perhaps because despite having a town known world-over as a carpet manufacturer the site's carpet tiles came from a out of district supplier. Or perhaps it's because Mr Martin (Labour) claims the savings may only be £80k? (with a fuller 'letter' here).

Early Santandar Debit Card

I was a little shocked Friday night to come home to find my new debit card had arrived in the post, shocked because my current one doesn't expire until March next year. Was someone ordering a new card in my name, was something wrong with the old one? I phoned the Customer Service team and beeped in 20 numbers plus numerous menu choices before I got to speak to someone.

Turns out so many people's cards are renewed in March they've decided to send some out early and i happened to be near the front of the queue. I explained how this might seem concerning to some and the nice lady apologised that there was nothing with the card to explain why this had been done.

Annoyingly that meant having to visit town so as to unlock it, which I wasn't planning on doing.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Xmas driving

So is it xmas that creates bad drivers or is just the same percentage with more traffic?

Entered the Crossley car park to find a driver coming round the corner on the wrong side. Managed to stop for the car indicating left as they turned right around the island. Watched a car speed past before cutting in to turn left. Got stuck as a van blocked the road trying to turn right from a side road onto the main. Pulled up behind the car that had sped past me and was now waiting to turn right.

And that was just this morning.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The joy of property rates

I've mentioned in the past how much councils charge business in rates (for services they don't receive) how this can be lowered thanks to Small Business Rate Relief which was set to be cancelled next year. What I can't seem to find is remarks regarding empty properties. I'll rectify that now.

Keeping it simple empty industrial properties were exempt from paying council tax rates. Some thought this unfair and some thought that it allowed landlords to keep rents high as they lacked incentive to rent out the building (such people being idiots as landlords are still required to pay utility bills from a zero-income building) as such the Labour government introduced a cap. If the Rateable value of your building was over £15,000 rates would need to be paid; the next year they raised the threshold to £18,000. In 2011 the Conservatives lowered it to £2,600.

Currently the council tax multiplier is set to 45.8p that means a property valued at £12,000 RV that stands empty and paid nothing now accrues a charge of £5,496 a year just as if someone was renting it. Recall that this is on something that is generating zero income. How would that translate to domestic property?

Take a property worth £100,000 rent per month is set to 1% or £1,000 which is an RV of £12,000 per annum. If it were a business it would pay that £5,496. In Stourport it's a Band E property and thus is charged £1,848.22 or almost a third the amount; oh and they'd have their bins emptied too.

Logic says that companies make more money. Except companies also have to pay tax - company, NI etc. which a household doesn't. So why are businesses charged in a different way to domestic premises? Isn't doing so a disincentive to all these home-start businesses?

I'm being serious if you start a business at home then you're supposed to notify the council as the room you call your 'office' is now subject to business levels of rates if used primarily for that function. So that's the full whack of domestic council tax plus the RV of that room multiplied by 45.8p. Assuming, of course, that you have permission anyway as your work may constitute a change of use and require planning permission.

It's a bit of a joke, but this distinction is not helping the economy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guido's tax claims

What's this Ed's claiming that the Conservatives are hurting the poor. Not according to Guido who has published a handy chart showing Income Tax rates from 2009-2010 and 2012-2013. Un-huh let's try this in full.

First off that's not all the tax, National Insurance has to be calculated too. So take an annual salary of £10,000 in 2009-2010 and subtract income tax of £705 and NI of £471.35 leaving £8,823.65. Let's do the same for 2012-2013 Income Tax of £379 and NI of £333 leaves £9,288. OMG Guido is right under the Conservatives the poor are better off. Um no because these are using absolute figures and there's the little matter of inflation to deal with.

Let me convert everything into Oct 2013 money (the latest CPI figures available) the calculation is quite simple take the CPI figure for the period you want to convert to subtract the CPI rate from the period you're converting from divide the lot by that last CPI figure and out pops inflation. Within a formula add 1 and then multiply. IOW:

(("CPI of Oct 2012" - "CPI of Mar 2010")/"CPI of Mar 2010")+1
(124.2 - 113.5) / 113.5) +1

So our 2009-2010 figure becomes £9,655.48 in Oct2012 money. Which is more than our 2012 figure of £9,288. So yes in absolute terms the poor have more money, but because that money now buys less than it did in 2010 they're worse off in relative terms.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korea launchs Twinkie hunting satellite

News just in that North Korea have launched their Twinkie hunting satellite ahead of schedule. The official broadcaster had this to say:

As was reported yesterday the first step of our great and glorious Twinkie hunt suffered some technical difficulties that would have prevented the launch. This was a ruse designed by our great and glorious leader to catch the perfidious Westerners off-guard. Who could consider that our technologically supreme country could suffer such? Only the jealous foreigners.

It is therefore with pride that I announce the launch of the world's first satellite. Hand-crafted by our glorious leader with super-advanced sensors to detect the elusive Twinkie.

As all our countrymen know the Twinkie recipe was formulated by our great leader in a moment of introspection as to be the perfect fuel source for a being such as himself that functions at such an elevated level. The formula was stolen by traitors and sold to a foreign company called Hostess, who in a fit of remorse and recognising the genius beyond the creation, regularly shipped crates of the fuel to our glorious leader's modest home.

However in shocking news the company is being shut down due to, as one spokesperson stated,"the pressures placed upon us by our decadent government and the traitorous leaders of the Southern areas of Korea who are jealous of Kim Jong Un's proficiency and genius all in the misguided hopes that this will slow down such a towering intellect".

Instantly our great and glorious leader put his genius to work developing a system that would detect Twinkies using state-of-the-art obesity sensors that would highlight the results of Twinkie abuse by those not blessed with his magnificent constitution. The launch has shown rampant abuse of this fuel source fit for the gods in decadent America indicating stock piles of his most worthy creation and our glorious leader has demanded that the tribute be reinstated.

Until our demands are met citizens are asked to contribute any and all food stuffs to meet our great leader's requirements and soldiers have already rounded up many volunteers who have been placed on a hunger strike until the situation is resolved.

Glory to our Leader.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Electronic Big Brother

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the government doesn't understand the internet. Back in 2009 there was an attempt to make Internet Service Providers keep tabs on all their users activities; in 2011 they wanted ISPs to block pornography. Now they want to revive that old 2009 attempt with a thin lick of paint.

The old bogeymen of paedophiles and terrorists are being trotted out to explain why the government wants to be able to see exactly where you visit online, who you talk to etc.and yet exactly the same reasons why this wouldn't work for censorship applies to this 'new' law.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Xmas lunch as the Dog at Dunley review

I got roped in to a Christmas lunch; my family and I had an elsewhere to be afterwards and rather than travel separately or run a pick-up trip it made sense for me to go along. Glad I did.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A look at UK debt.

I've mentioned the current belt tightening (for some at least) and how in theory this could be a long-term good thing. We've just had the news regarding the tax threshold increase which by itself is a good thing and about time too, of course it's not by itself and comes with a whole raft of benefit cuts. That means the salary 'bonus' that we would be spending within the economy will simply be recirculating within the same systems. Stepping away from that micro-economic situation I want to turn to UK debt.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Only in Russia? Nope pretty much anywhere

Driving back to work I headed up Vale Road towards the infamous filter/merge Gilgal. A stream of traffic heading into the left-hand lane, but I noted that if I slowed slightly I'd reach the junction at a point I'd be able to slip into the large gap after a white van at the end of the line. Well I would have, if a red car hadn't accelerated sharply to catch up with the end of said line.

I reached the junction as planned and slipped slowly and carefully into the right-hand lane putting me at a point behind the white van and just ahead of the red car both on the left. They were obviously travelling faster than I as they didn't have a sharp corner to negotiate and so both pulled ahead. The red car indicated and pulled in front of me. I indicated and switched to the right.

The red car then wavered and switched back in front of me, put on more acceleration to overtake another red car in front of them (who must have pulled over some time ago from the original stream) and then indicated and slammed themselves between the white van (on the left) and the other red car (on the right).

What a pillock

I like this, so they've stopped selling it

Long-time readers may recall that some time ago I suddenly started putting on weight and inches around my waist; ironically this was due to an attempt to change my eating habits to something healthier. A few modifications later and I'm back to where I was and all the new trousers I had to buy now require a belt.

One of the modifications made was a snack during mid-morning; I wanted something that was healthy (ish), light, and easy to eat. Cereal bars seemed like the ideal choice, but I found they were either full of sugar and fat or taste-wise far too intense for my palate. They also had the problem in that they were far too crumb-ridden not something to be eaten at a desk or near a computer unless you've got a handheld vac nearby. Going through various types I discovered something that seemed ideal - Fruit Bowl's School Bars.

Camera drone panic!

Watching BBC Breakfast this morning you'd think cameras were some new and scary bit of technology. They were talking about camera drones, essentially model helicopters slung with a still or video camera. Imagine these flitting about with someone hovering over your back-garden watching you the law has to be set to deal with this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sales pressure

Just had a phone call from my parents - they've had someone in to do a quote for some work done to the property. I'd already looked up this company and they've had no negative reviews, so no obvious problem there. What got me was the following - the quote is £Xk, but if you agree now, agree that we can use photos of our work and put up a board it'll only cost £(55%X)k.

So here's the thing why would agreeing now make a difference?

Okay so they may be working in the area, so in theory it should be possible to stagger workers, which is a cost saving. However agreeing to be a showroom is not a time limited thing. Taking before and after photos work now, but they also work six months from now. Again okay, if they get a lot of showroom agreements then they don't need any more, but the property in question sits on a main road (prime location) it's a semi-detached where the neighbours won't be having this work done (equivalent before and after always on display) so it's a perfect showcase for their work - they're not going to want to lose it.

I've just had another call they've dropped to (42%X)k, but only if they agree now, right now!

I really hate pressure sales of this type.

I've told them to ask for a 24 hour quote. If the company isn't prepared to go along with that f**k them.
They've given a 24 hour quote.

It's the dawning of the age of Austerity

age of Austerity, Austerity! Austerity!

Well okay not for the government who are spending less yet claiming more tax; or for the larger companies with their tax havens; or the energy and fuel companies raising prices beyond inflation; just, you know, for everybody else.

Perhaps someone should tell George that one of the signs of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. For anyone on the 'ground floor' the current situation isn't difficult to comprehend - the banks are scared to loan out money; energy and fuel cost us more and in turn raise the prices of goods; and more money is being removed in tax and having to be spent by individuals on cut services. Oddly enough that means that people have less money. Now when people have less money, they spend less. If they spend less that means businesses don't get as much money unless they're providing some essential need or can use the threat of imprisonment to claim it.

That means growth slows, and when growth slows banks are even less likely to want to loan money, and people are even less inclined to spend money; which means growth slows even more.

And George's solution to this - spend less money.


Growth needs to be encouraged and the banks certainly aren't going to do anything; so it's up to the government, but the message from them is - hoard.

Here's an adage for George- You've got to spend money to make money. Yeah I know with a personal fortune of around £4m and a trust fund in daddy's company, money just seems to throw itself at you with little effort, but perhaps you can put that Modern History degree from Oxford to use and consider how recession was dealt with in the past what worked and what didn't. Historically your current plan has never worked.

Yet this is the Conservative rhetoric and who are we to ask they place results above policy?

A stray email

My email programme was stating I had one email unread; yet no recent ones remained as such. Switching views I discovered an unread email from my provider stating that my mailbox was getting full. That's odd for several reasons.

1. I'm using around 11% of my limit
2. The email is dated 2/12/2011
3. I've archived off all the 2011 emails

So somehow an email has moved from my 2011 folder into my main folder, and marked itself as unread. How bizarre.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Dishonored endings - how they could have been

I'll be discussing the endings of Dishonored here and how they could have been better woven into the gameplay; therefore spoilers duh!

Dishonored PS3 review

I'll start give Dishonored the highest praise I can offer - it reminds me of Thief. Sadly though it's not as good, but then again what is?

You play Corvo another mute protagonist from a long line of mute protagonists, wrongly convicted of the murder of the empress, imprisoned, escaped, and seeking to restore the rightful heir to the throne. All set against a steampunkish victoriana industrial setting with magic. It's a little Thief 2 ish with camera-type  sentries and roving guards some encased in stilt-walkers all the while sneaking around to get to the goal; knocking out guards, hiding bodies, and picking up loot. That's if you want to, nothing wrong per se in killing all the guards and charging through. Well nothing overtly wrong but doing so will result in the 'bad' chaos ending.

The influences are clear mostly Thief 2, a dash of Bioshock 2 and a light brush with Assassin's Creed. So inevitably I'm going to be comparing this to Thief 2 so if you haven't played this game - what the hell is wrong with you! Go, buy it now it's dirt cheap and play it, then play it again on the hardest setting now come back after the week it's taken you.