Friday, 27 April 2012

a week away

As previously mentioned I'm away on holiday next week.

I didn't initially have any plans for the holiday.  I was taking it mainly because otherwise it would be ages between holidays, since I didn't take any extra time at Easter.  It's also my birthday and I usually take some time off at my birthday, though not always a week.

Anyway, having not really had any plans I'm not off all over the place, going to see some friends on a couple of the days and then for the last weekend (the one with the bank holiday) I'm off to see my dad.

As with the holiday generally I'm seeing my dad as otherwise it would likely be months until I see him again.  It's not hugely convenient him living in the West Country as it means some very long drives to see him.  Some way off a "popping over" situation.  And the trains are useless and long-winded and expensive of course.

My other aim is to pull my finger out over the whole jobs thing.  I need to finish my CV and start actively applying for some of these jobs I've been looking at if I'm serious about this whole issue.

I've also got a fair few chores to do next week, like the shopping for shoes thing, so for a week I was just taking to have a break it's going to be quite busy.

Anyway, the point is this'll be the last blog for a bit more than a week.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

drought that never dried

It's no wonder the British have such a strongly developed sense of irony.

A couple of weeks back the water company where I live (and several others in the South and South East) declared a hose pipe ban.  Their reason for doing so was that it has been very dry over the last few years and, indeed, we were officially in drought.

Since then, of course, it has rained every single day.  And I don't mean that as an exaggeration - every day for the last couple of weeks we've had some rain.

Now don't get me wrong - I know this relatively short spell of wet weather (April Showers have really been living up to their name) is not enough to completely negate what have been a reasonably dry few years.  However, it is quite ironic that as soon as a drought is declared and a hose pipe ban goes into effect it starts raining.

Of course there's also the issue of leaks.  The record of the water companies is generally appalling on the leaks front.  Any small saving you personally can make is dwarfed by the amount of water that gets pissed away in leaks every single hour.  Of course there's a cumulative effect of us all saving a bit, but still, even a small amount of Google searching will bring up some eye watering (heh) stats.

But for me the whole thing is much more fundamental than that.

Our water industry is privatised (as, indeed, are most all of our utilities).  Now obviously if it were nationalised we would still also pay for the water, but with it being nationalised, surely these companies are under a different type of obligation to us, because we're now customers.

If you went to a shop and tried to buy some clothes you wouldn't expect them to only sell you half a pair of trousers because you were only allowed a certain amount of cloth.  If they did that you'd go elsewhere.

But to me that's a ridiculous notion for the utilities - it still comes out of the same pipe or down the same wire.  There may be a different person you're paying, but it's still coming from the same place.  To use the shop analogy it'd be like going up to a different sales assistant and now they're going to sell you exactly the same thing, but they're going to charge you a different amount of money, or they're going to put slightly different restrictions on the length of the trousers you're going to buy or when you can wear them.

It's a ridiculous situation.

I've also never had much truck with this notion that private companies are more efficient simply by virtue of needing to turn a profit.  It's a ridiculous and patently untrue notion.

Companies being driven by profit can just as equally lead to fraud, deceit, cost-cutting (as in the worst kind - skimping on safety, for example)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

the fast and the furious

What a terrible film.

It's weird.  I mentioned it in my review at the time, but I actually watched the fourth film in this franchise first and I thought that was much better than this.

I mean, I don't actually think the fourth one was a good film but it was sufficiently glossy and bombastic to be watchable.  This first film has a near identical plot (yes, it came first) but it somehow manages to be dull.

Perhaps there's some budgetary thing going on - the first was risky so there was a smaller budget, maybe?  After it was a success the sequels got more cash?  I dunno, it seems possible but generally sequels are done on smaller budgets.  I can't really be arsed to find out though, and you never really know with these budget numbers they give what and where that money was spent.

But my real issue was that the film just seemed like a bit of a mess.

While both films seemed like heavily planned action sequences strung together by not-very-much of any real interest, in this first one the problem seems to be that they don't really give a crap about the linking parts.  There seemed to be a lot of non-sequitors and bits that didn't actually make much sense, just in order to get to the next cool sequence.

But this is also a reflection of the cool sequences not really meshing together.  It shouldn't be necessary for the connecting bits to work quite as hard at joining the dots as the dots should really join themselves.

One of the particular bits that don't quite work is the supposed rival gang of Asians.  The real reason this doesn't work is that you end up with confused characters and motives.  I mean, the basic problem is that you effectively have two sets of bad guys and the hero is trying to infiltrate one.

The trouble is the team he's infiltrating we're also supposed to think "oh, they're not so bad - it's not like they kill anyone".  I mean, they're criminals, but it's the classic Hollywood bad-good people.  But because they have a properly bad set of guys you end up with this weird situation that he's trying to take down the good-bad guys and not the bad-bad guys.

It's all very weird and convoluted when it didn't have to be.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

i have no toes

This last Saturday I managed to flay the skin off of my little toe on my right foot.

I think flay is the right word.  It wasn't deliberate, as such.  I mean, I didn't set out to remove the skin, but the thing that caused its removal was something I kinda thought may cause that to happen.

I'll stop being cryptic - basically, I put a plaster on the toe next to my little toe and the action of me walking has caused rubbing which has initially formed a blister, but that's then quickly burst and so the skin has scraped off.

I was kinda afraid this would happen, as I've had the same effect before where a plaster on a toe has rubbed and taken the skin off or otherwise injured another toe.  The irony of course is that I put the plaster on in order to protect the first toe from the effects of rubbing.

The reasons for both incidents of rubbing are somewhat complicated.

Essentially I need some new shoes.  In fact I actually need a complete set of new shoes.  I need some new work shoes as the soles are nearly worn through on my current pairs (I have two for stupid reasons not worth explaining).  I need some new trainers because my current ones are rubbish.  I need some new walking shoes because my current ones are worn out.

Luckily I'm on holiday next week so I'll take the opportunity to buy all my new shoes then.

The other cause is I have feet that are very wide but not very long.  I think if you measure the length of my feet I actually only have something like size 9.  However, because my feet are so wide I generally have to wear size 10 or 11.

And you know what they say about men with wide feet - difficulty finding shoes that fit properly.  I can occasionally get wide fittings, but generally only in work shoes for some reason.

Anyway, the wide foot thing means that my toes get squished together.  Now I don't know if it's a reflection of this squishing, but my smaller toes tend to curl under quite a lot and are very close together.  This means that the two combined - close toes and ill-fitting shoes tends to lead to le getting the rubbing effect that's cause my skin to flay off.

My toe is very much on the mend.  I've been strapping it up with plasters and that worked quite well.  I obviously didn't do any walking on Sunday or Monday and this rest has also helped.

I'm sure I'll be totally fixed by the weekend and I was already fine doing a very short walk this morning.

Monday, 23 April 2012


So the race went ahead.

It would appear that there were quite a few protests, but nothing impacted on the race itself after the Force India people being caught up in it on Friday.

One of the things that was very apparent though was that there were virtually no spectators.  I mean a big part of the problem with a lot of these new events is that there are no spectators, but this weekend the place looked virtually empty.

I've noticed it at Bahrain before but there don't actually appear to be that many places to watch the race.  Usually you have two types of spectators - those seated in grandstands and those standing.  Well at Bahrain there never appear to be any standing spectators.

I don't know if this is a deliberately move and you can't get to the areas where there are no stands (this is the case in Monaco and a few of the other street circuits) but it really does make the place look empty.  What's odd about it is that it's not because there are loads of stands - there are big bits of the track where the cars just drive around a bit of the dessert and nobody except a few marshals and TV cameras can see them.

At some of the other races where there are few spectators there are stands but they're empty, but at Bahrain there only appear to be a couple of stands and they were still empty.  Whether this was a consequence of the unrest (people staying away or being kept away) or is simply a further reflection of the fact that the event attracts few people anyway I don't know.  Certainly you'd think that foreigners would be less keen to visit and the BBC showed some footage on the way to the circuit of loads of security people and APCs.

Anyway, the race itself was actually not all that bad.  I wouldn't rate it as a great race, as such, but for a Bahrain GP it wasn't bad.  There was some overtaking (even if quite a bit of it was the artificial DRS-on-the-straight kind) and certainly a few things of interest happened.

In particular McLaren seemed to have a bit of a shocker.  Having had problems with a wheel nut in Button's pit stop in China (cross-threading, apparently) the same thing happened to Lewis Hamilton... twice!

With him having started in second place he ended up down in eighth, although it wasn't really clear that it was entirely down to the problems in the stops.  Having seemed to do well in Qualifying, during the race the McLarens didn't really seem to be up to speed during the race.

Jenson's car (engine or drive train it seemed like) packed up on virtually the last lap, although some sort of puncture issue had actually taken him out of the points on the lap before.

The weirdest thing was Nico Rosberg, though, who seemed determined to drive Leis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso off the circuit.  Both incidents happened in the same place and both were quite clearly him going too far.  It clearly states (and sensibly so) that you can't go pushing other drivers off the circuit, but in both cases that's what he appeared to do.

The stewards didn't punish him at all, but instead made some statements about how the other drivers weren't alongside.  Now of course they have all the views and angles and information and stuff, but from the TV pictures it looked like they were alongside and it's difficult to see why they would be going that far over if they weren't alongside.

In particular if Rosberg did nothing wrong then why wasn't Lewis punished?  He overtook off the circuit, which isn't allowed, but surely he only did that because Rosberg left no room?

I'm sure if the circuit hadn't had such big run of areas Rosberg wouldn't have gone quite to far as he did, but surely that's not the point - you can't go shoving other drivers off the circuit, veering way across like he did.  And we're not talking any small move or instinctive reaction - the Bahrain circuit is extremely wide and he moved across the full width of it, so it was a clearly deliberate move to push them off.

I'm all for letting them battle and I often tend to think the stewards over-react, but here I think it's gone the other way.