Back To The Money

The BBC is still the best news site this country has and unfortunately it’s going to be destroyed by the current government because they report on news and are independent. Oh it’s not a glorious future for our country. Mind you, there are still times when the BBC News section falls into the populist click-bait type of “news” which isn’t news but more magazine. Perhaps I should expect it and be forgiving but I can’t. Some of us have to talk about what we see.

Not a “news” story

Money.

There, that’s a simple, easy, quick, and honest answer.

There are all these people out there around my age with money to burn and they will go and see this because they remember Back To The Future being a good film and they will want wholesome entertainment for the rest of their family. Just to be clear BTTF is a good film.

These juke-box musicals or film translations are easy money and rely on the original ideas being burned into the brains of the middle-aged. Have a look around and see all the shows and shit with their origins in the 80s.

Costly Wonder

Within visible distance from my house, about a mile away over the fields, I can see looming lights and flashing brightness. I had thought it was set up for a weekend when a friend performed some music thing at the Monastery down the road. There’s an actual piece of St Simon Stock’s skull down there and I think it’s where they draw their power. Have a google for Aylesford Monastery if you want to find out more.

Next to the monastery at the moment is a large temporary theatre showing a pantomime once or twice a day for about a month. It turns out that the lights and glitz are connected to the pantomime and it’s meant to be a Winter Wonderland.

WinterWonderLand
WinterWonderLand

I went there. No, I’m going to sound like an untrustworthy snob and I probably am but I don’t really like the health and safety aspects of carnival rides that are routinely reduced to fit on the back of a truck and moved around the continent. I do not think that all the best possible safety aspects are adhered to.

The Winter Wonderland consisted of lots of rides, a few food stalls and ticket outlets. It’s one of those places where the workers aren’t trusted with money, like in a Roman nightclub, and you have to buy tickets at centralised locations and use those tickets to go on rides. Twenty five tickets would set you back the discounted price of GBP20 or it was GBP1 each.

A ride on the shittiest ride was three tickets. The dodgems were five tickets a car and to me that sounds expensive. I was thinking maybe GBP3 would be more reasonable but I now realise I’m old and grumpy and harking back to the old days when things were cheap. I don’t get out much and perhaps that explains why I thought everything was pretty expensive.

The ice skating seemed reasonable though. GBP10 for an adult ticket which lasted for the entirety of a three hour window. I managed an hour and forty five and so I think I got my money’s worth along with a hurt wrist after having to do an emergency stop into the barrier with my arm. There’s plenty to remind me I’m getting old. Aches and pains and a natural tendency to moan about how expensive things are!

Paying For It

It has struck me recently that while I stream quite a bit of music the money I pay for this doesn’t seem to get back to the artists. I know that each Spotify steam is bugger all. Each stream of a song is about 0.4 cents or pence it doesn’t really matter. For an artist to make a living from Spotify they have to be best sellers really. Now, I will listen to an album a large number of times when I like the music. But I might steam an album once or twice. It seems to me that if I know I like the songs then paying for the album means I will listen to it more, enjoy it more and contribute to the artist more.

So, my first album purchase in probably over a year goes to: Leaether Strip.

I decided to buy two albums. A “best of” and a later album. Ironically I’m going to share them here via Spotify you can always search for these on your preferred content provider.

I think it should be an aim to buy an album each month. Preferably using Bandcamp or something similar where more of my payment goes to the artist.

Sometimes, It Happens

I’ve become quite philosophical about traffic jams. Rather than get annoyed and irritated I now realise there’s little I can do and so I relax. It is highly unlikely that I will lose lots of money through a traffic jam [being late for an appearance on Dragon’s Den maybe] and it is also rare that I have to be somewhere at a very particular time. As I work in education you might consider that I should be at work for the start of the day and normally I am there with plenty of time to get a coffee, do some photocopying and prioritise my emails.

This morning was a little different. Maidstone is updating and improving the bridges gyratory  in the centre of town. This means that occasionally they have to close the roads overnight so they can get the work done. This morning they failed to get the road cured on time and so there was a delay in opening Fairmeadow, possibly the most important through road in Maidstone.

This delay meant the two lane traffic was heading around the prison which is a single lane carriageway. Thus there ensued chaos. Well, not literal chaos but lots of cars going into not a lot of space and therefore lots of congestion.

It took me ninety five minutes to drive eight miles, the first four of those I covered in about ten minutes, the rest was Maidstone. I am happy to accept these delays as the improvements to the junctions will be worth it. Also, the extra time in the car gave me more time to listen to the Skepticrat podcast. Warning, there’s swearing a-plenty in this podcast and it’s political with a liberal bias. What else would you expect?

My general thoughts on traffic jams are that they normally mean someone is having a far worse day than you. Relax, there’s nothing you can do.

To give you an idea of the traffic chaos here’s a shot from Google maps:

A Bad Morning
A Bad Morning

I am going to find another map for you, possibly a larger version with a little more detail, but it would serve you well to see a version of a “normal” morning to compare, so I intend to do that also.

So, having said that here is a map of today, the next day, a day when the roads are working “normally”. Here you go, enjoy:

Maidstone Traffic
Maidstone Traffic

Animals In Sport

This communication is going to be a little different. This entire website contains a lot of stuff written by me, most of it is pretty dull. I’m not really sure of my motivation but it’s something to do and it makes me feel modern even though I’ve been writing web pages since 1995 [Imperial College Student Union web site].

Over the last year or so I have been thinking about horse racing and whether it is morally justifiable to allow this to happen. I have slowly come to the conclusion that there is NO moral justification for humans to use animals in sport.

I dislike the idea that we, as a species, put ourselves on top of horses and then race them as hard as possible around a track and that it is then broadcast for people to watch as sport. I do realise that it is a huge industry and that many people rely on this for their livelihoods but that doesn’t get around the fact that I find it impossible to justify as a just thing. Horse racing is a hangover from a time when we were not a liberal society. I would argue that our society (esp in the UK) is largely liberal and we seek reason for doing things. I do not see any reason why we take large beings and race them against each other for the financial gain of ourselves.

Sport is for human pleasure and social cohesion so we can only use humans to help us create that. I do not see any reason why humans should be using animals for sport. I would happily sign a petition calling for the end of animals in human forms of entertainment. Sport is, essentially entertainment. It doesn’t matter who or what wins, we just use it as a distraction from the more important aspects of our lives, such as our moral duty to save this planet and ensure everyone has enough to eat and freedom to be what they want. [Deep breath] Here goes:

Animals should not be used for sport

I’m pretty sure that this also goes for greyhound racing, fishing, cock fighting etc. As I said, this topic is one that I have been thinking about gradually and so “pretty sure” means I am working through the arguments in my head and trying to decide on what is “right”. Just in case you are wondering, I do NOT need a god to help me decide what is just.

I am happy for humans to be used in sport. Having said that, we generally don’t have to “destroy” humans if they fall in a race. Yes, some sports people die for what they do and that is sad, but at least they were (hopefully) aware of the risks.

I am reasonably happy to grow animals for food. I like eating meat and poultry and fish. I am aware of the inefficiencies of us growing meat to eat and that is a problem I should think about another time. We specifically grow animals to kill and then eat. I understand that, morally, that is different from growing animals to use as ENTERTAINMENT. This does not make me an hypocrite, just in case you were thinking that. I’ll explain my rationality for you: growing and eating animals to survive as humans is ok, growing animals for entertainment is not. Whether it is justifiable to grow animals for food, given the energy constraints this world faces I shall deal with another time.

I do know that when I try to put my thoughts down in writing that I struggle a little to get my ideas across. This is because writing is not a natural thing for me. I also haven’t spent all my time covering every aspect of this communication because I haven’t got the time. What you are reading here is the condensed version, putting my argument as simply as possible and trying to justify it. If you have problems with what I say, I don’t care. Perhaps you will start to think about this and work out what your arguments are.

315 Feet

The car had to go to the tyre and brake people this week. I had noticed the feel of the brake pedal was changing slightly from smooth to a bit jerky when releasing pressure. This didn’t really concern me but the fact that the rear discs were looking rusty and there was only a thin band of clean metal had me worried.

The car went in to ATS Euromaster at 08:30 and I’d had the call by about 09:30. New pads and discs at the rear (I’d expected that), two new tyres as the fronts were worn to just about legal. I hadn’t really expected that but then I don’t hang around and a little sliding when it’s damp is good fun (no kids in the car and only where it’s safe and there’s space). I had mentioned that there was a slow puncture on the nearside rear tyre and it’s just aswell.

When I went to pick up the car it was still on the jacks so the guys could show me the problem that was causing the slow puncture. The inside of the tyre where the join normally occurs and is “welded” nicely was just a split. It had gone down to steel and would eventually have caused some serious issues. They believe it was a manufacturing fault and the tyre has been sent back to Pirelli and I hope I get a refund and I ended up paying for 3 tyres.

An interesting little fact that I hadn’t considered was that the new tyres went on the rear of the car and the worn tyres were swapped to the front. This is to try and ensure that when the car is on the limit it will understeer rather than oversteer. Understeer is much safer that oversteer and so by keeping the grip at the rear of the car (especially an estate where the rear is quite light) the car is safer to drive. Nice.

315 feet is the stopping distance of a car travelling at 70mph. This is the number given in the Highway Code. Most cars will stop much shorter than that. Should you ever be lost for a stopping distance then the formula s=v+(v^2)/20 works to give you the Highway Code numbers. The thinking and reaction time is the same number of feet as miles per hour and then the actual breaking distance is proportional to the speed squared. It’s all down to kinetic energy! See the Wolfram|Alpha stopping distance calculation here.

Stopping Distance Formula

In Sewer Ants

First things first. I love my dog. He is wonderful company, very playful and more than a little crazy. He doesn’t necessarily do as he is told but he fits in well to my family.

The renewal notice for his insurance came through about a week ago and the yearly premium has changed from GBP 400 to GBP 640. This was apparently due to increasing vet’s costs and his age being more of a concern. The whole reason I got the dog insured was to save on vet’s bills. Also, he’s only six years old and so has some way to go before he takes his final walk. A GBP 20 a month increase, or more than 50% increase, seems a little high.

I went to a price comparison website to see what other offers I could get and there were companies willing to insure him for last year’s rates but they would not cover pre-existing conditions.  Unfortunately for us, George has had a few fits over the couple of years and should this become more of a problem than it is currently then a new insurer would not cover that cost. Bugger.

I phoned my current company and they said they could reduce the level of cover to a lower premium which sounded nice, but it would be the same as taking out new insurance and so pre-existing problems would, again, not be covered. Double Bugger.

It would appear that I am stuck with these ludicrous price increases for the insurance for my dog. It would, in all honesty, be cheaper to buy a new dog each year than pay my new premiums!

Apologies to Terry Pratchet for the title of this communication.

PS3 Insurance no more

The other day I got a letter from Domestic and General who are the people who underwrite my PS3 insurance. My payments are to increase from £4.99 to £7.99! That’s a 75% increase! Now even given the ironic situation of times past I have phoned D&G and cancelled my policy. Somehow £60 a year seemed ok but nearly £96 is ridiculous. I’ve also cancelled my Sky+HD insurance as I’ve just had a new box.
Now, if the PS3 dies I’ll buy another. They are cheap enough. Then I’ll do my best to fix my classic 60 Gb model. It’s lovely! Lots of USB ports, PS2 backwards compatibility (suck on that you later model users), multimedia card slots and SACD playback because, yes, I bought some of those!
Now I just need to remember to back up my game saves regularly.

Financial Crisis Prediction

The date is 16 August 2011. A few days ago I had a chat with a friend of mine in Washington D.C. and we discussed the downgrading of the USA’s credit rating by Standard and Poor’s. We both agreed that there are at least two or three more years of finacial repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.
It looks as though the Euro might implode and other countries might find themselves being downgraded. I don’t think the Euro will disappear it is too important for that but I do believe that there is going to be a whole lot more of hurt for the whole world as markets realign the worth of everything. Ministers and world leaders aren’t allowed to speak the truth about the markets for fear that it will make things happen quicker. Those who we expect to speak for the countries are largely self interested and afraid of completely wrecking what is seen as a broken system (by me). This inability to speak of more financial pain is leading to a protraction of the crisis.
I am glad that I work for the state in a roundabout way and not in the service sector. I think the next few years are going to go from pretty bad to worse. Such is life.
It would be nice to see governments finally reigning in corporations and banks so that there is more regulation. It appears that those in charge of these institutions over the last few years have made their cash and are now nicely retired in their gated homes.
Oh for the good old days of stability!? When was that?