The Blog of Zakspade

February 2018 Archive
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Angels
Wednesday 28 February, 2018
When I was a kid, my mum used to tell me that thunder was the Angels moving the furniture about in Heaven.

Then I learnt to read and I discovered that is was not so, but the image of Gabriel barking orders to some of the lesser Angels as they struggled to move a heavy wardrobe across an ethereal floor, has never left my mind.

Yesterday I set out in brilliant sunshine to walk into town. While it looked bright and welcoming, it was bitterly cold. When I reached the end of my street and turned the corner in the direction of the town centre, I saw that the sky was black with clouds bearing goodness-knows-what. The blue sky and sunshine presented to me through the front window of my house was The Weather messing with me.

Within a couple of minutes it started to snow.

My concern was that I would end up soaked before reaching my goal. It appeared to be unfounded when I saw that what was falling from the sky was bouncing off my coat instead of sticking, melting, and adding a wetness that would eventually seep through.

The stuff that was coming down looked awfully like those little polystyrene balls used as filling in some packaging and soft furniture. The thought was reinforced by how it lay upon the ground and was whipped up by vehicles passing me as I walked alongside the road into town.

One of the Angels had clearly split open a giant beanbag.

 
Send in the Clowns
Monday 26 February, 2018
A section of road develops potholes and they become bigger and bigger until they become local news. At this point the council send a man out to draw circles about them.

Foolishly, drivers and members of the public think that these circles herald the  imminent arrival of a repair crew to fill them, but this is not the case. Weeks pass during which they grow further still, and in some cases, almost obliterate the paint used to mark them.

While it begins to appear that the marking about the potholes is there for decoration, other potholes appear in the surface near them and they become the traps that drivers fall into as they seek to avoid the others highlighted by fading paint.

Then it happens: road maintenance vehicles arrive and the occupants disembark. They set up cones and temporary traffic lights - then go away for a couple of days.

Upon their eventual return they fix the lights that have been displaying red in both directions since they were put up and they set about filling in the marked potholes. Once done, they pack up their gear and cheerfully drive away leaving a patched road surface and drivers rejoice.

Almost.

However, they studiously ignored the newer potholes that are now big enough to swallow a wheel. When an old chap stopped and asked the crew as they were packing up why they had missed some of the bigger potholes, the reply came back, ‘Not marked. Not our job. Finished our bit.’

Then he walked back to the lorry, lifting his knuckles from the ground only the once on the way so as to avoid one of the potholes his team had ignored.

The old man looked at me and shrugged. I smiled: at least the faulty traffic lights were going.

The determination of the crew suggested that they were in a hurry to get to the circus to perform that night. You know the act - the one with the car with the doors that keep falling off.

 
Setting Expectations
Friday 23 February, 2018
For a long while - indeed, before it was released to the public - I ran a copy of Windows 10 while being part of the Windows Insider Program, as a virtual computer.

As a result, I was unable to be sure that any of the odd behaviour was down to the Beta nature of the operating system version I was running, or how well (or not) it was running in a virtualised state. So I was a pretty crap member of the Program because I had nothing to report back that had any real value.

However, the only reason I was running various pre-release versions of the OS was so as to give me familiarity.

While I liked what I saw and experienced, it was only partial because it ran - at best - in an eccentric manner.

Unexpectedly I came into possession of a device running a retail version of it natively. I anticipated it being all the good points with the ‘buggy’ aspects being down to what I was using previously as being pre-release and run virtualised.

Having lived with Windows 10 for a couple of months I have come to realise that all those oddities were part of neither the Program or my method of deployment. File Explorer gets confused at times when copying or moving an old file over to a location where an identically named file already exists. Windows still connects to mapped drives before initialising the network driver (as it has done since Windows 95). It still defaults to Automatically Restart in the event of a BSoD (handy if you are a server, but totally useless on a PC or a laptop where visibility of the error code is more useful).

Yet Microsoft suggest that Windows 10 is fully developed and merely being tweaked and improved.

Nonsense - it is still in Beta and the user base of more than 600 million is the development team.

 
Maths for the Politically Inclined
Wednesday 21 February, 2018
Written for a spot in my local newspaper.

I read that Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has promised to recruit an extra 110-130 officers a year during their term as a result of a proposed £12 per year rise in Council Tax in the country.

Out came my calculator.

Let me be pessimistic and select the lower figure.

The portion of the Council Tax bill that is used to go towards funding the police is set by the police and not the council. In addition they are unable to raise it by more than 2% without it going to a referendum. That’s not a claim on my part - it is just the law. Therefore, as there has been no such referendum I am left with no option but to believe that the share attributed to the police has been raised by no more than 2%. That means that the extra money to the police can legally only be less than £3.30 as part of the £12 to which the PCC referred.

Stay with me - it gets more interesting.

According to the budget being set by CBC, the amount to be collected in the form of Council Tax is around £144m - let’s call it £150m. From the average household bill it can be deduced that there are less than 102,000 households from which Council Tax will be collected. As my calculator is getting old, I’m going to round it all the way up to a full 102,000.

Now, if we multiply the number of Council Tax-paying households by the £3.30 increased contribution towards the police, we see that the most they can hope for is £367,200 extra over the coming year - or £3,338 for each one of the 110 police officers promised. That is somewhat below the National Average Wage and minus any training whatsoever.

Naturally I suspected my maths was a little wayward, so I ran through the calculations again to be sure, but unfortunately I came out with the same answer.

It ought to be understood that I rounded figures up or down to maximise the end result. If I were to have been more particular then that figure per each new officer would have been lower.

I will remember the claim when I cast my 117.3 votes in May 2020...

 
Man on the Moon
Monday 19 February, 2018
In July 1969 a man set foot on the Moon. That was a few months shy of 49 years ago.

Almost half a century ago, technology launched three men towards the Moon and allowed two of them to land on it and returned all three safely to Earth.

Over half a lifetime ago, humans walked on another world.

History tells us that the ingenuity of Mankind made it possible to transport three men to another planet and get them back home to terra firma.

Such a long time ago.

The same people; the same nation; the same technologically enabled society; is unable to stop kids slaughtering their school mates; and because of a lack of clarity of thought and the determination that allowed the feat of feet on the Moon, the act looks set to continue into the future.

We have come a long way in nearly fifty years, but appear to be using a shoddy map.

 
Days of the Week
Friday 16 February, 2018
You know those days when you wake thinking it is Friday, but it’s only Thursday? Or the Sunday morning lie-in interrupted by the phone call from your work colleague ringing to ask if you are alright because you didn’t turn up for the Monday 10 o’clock meeting with that important client?

I’m there today.

Except, me being me, it isn’t just a day out. No, it is a good few days and the locale.

Today’s Blog entry for Friday is being written on Tuesday by me in an invisible spacesuit sat at a crystalline desk in a cave on Mars. Or a planet that looks like Mars but is possibly in another solar system. Or different plane of existence.

Do they have Tuesdays on Mars?

 
Deserved Recognition?
Wednesday 14 February, 2018
It was very annoying. So much so, I took out my smartphone with the intention of making a note so as to write about the incident in this Blog.

Technology is a great thing when it works to save time and effort rather than waste it. First, it allows me to send a text to myself in which I can include notes or observations. It saves me having to carry a notebook about with me. Second, I don’t need to pick at it with my fingers because I can dictate the message and voice recognition inputs my words.

Neat!

‘Blog entry, full stop.’

Blog entry.

‘Arsehole parking on footpath drove at pedestrian walking along it to make them get out of his way, full stop.’

A******* parking on footpath drove at pedestrian walking along it to make them get out of his way.

Personally, I think it was too kind to him.

 
Malice Aforethought
Monday 12 February, 2018
There are rules and laws that govern vehicle construction. Some might say that they are there to ensure that certain people receive kick-backs from manufacturers during the design and build phases of their products, and others that it is to maintain a degree of safety for drivers and pedestrians.

The former persons usually wear tinfoil hats.

Those in the latter camp, less so.

To illustrate - imagine a car with huge bits of metal sticking out the front, seeming designed to break every bone of whatever hapless person or animal gets in the way. Picture a contrivance designed to mock the unfortunate who dared to be struck: a construction that says, ‘Serves you right!’

Yes, no one makes vehicles for the road that feature such things because the law won’t let them.

Enter the manufacturer of aftermarket accessories such as ‘bull bars.’

When out walking my dogs, a 4x4 parked backwards on a drive too short for it, jutted out onto the footpath and I snagged my arm on the bull bars attached to the front. They were a monstrous extension of the vehicle. As I looked back upon it, dragged as I was by my pack, I wondered about the damage it could wreak upon its victims.

As I write this I still have the bruises down my arm caused by my encounter with the stationary vehicle.

 
Leave it to the Experts
Sunday 11 February, 2018
Clearly there are things better left to those who know how best to do them.

The owner of the BMW that visits the area is one such person. He knows how to park his car ON the pavement, ON a corner and ON a drop kerb. In fact, each and every time I have spotted his car in the area, he has managed to achieve all three at the same time.

One day he had just got out of his car as I was walking by. I cheerfully remarked that that he had parked on the only drop kerb in the area serving that portion of road and his response was something akin to, ‘You keep walking and I’ll park my car where the fuck I want.’

It seemed a bit aggressive given the cheery and jokey manner in which I made my comment and the fact that I never mentioned that yet again he had partially blocked another junction and left only enough space for a single pedestrian on foot to pass his car.

He most definitely has a marked quality and it was remiss of me to attempt to undermine that skill and ability. I just wish that I had realised that very realistic Neanderthal impressions were part of his repartee.

 
Treading Carefully
Friday 9 February, 2018
Out walking the dogs I happened upon a car parked on the pavement. Not an unusual occurrence around these parts, but this one was a bugger because it was difficult to get past it on foot; let alone with dogs; a baby buggy; or a wheelchair.

However, with dogs, my walking on the road and going around it wasn’t a good idea because it was on a blind bend and I didn’t wish to be in the path of another clown, like the one who parked the car, to come around that corner with me and two dogs in front of them.

So I led the dogs down the narrow gap instead.

For a moment it crossed my mind to buy coats for my dogs with metal spikes and studs on the outside. I figured it would be such a pity if such a coat on a dog scratched the paintwork of inconsiderately parked vehicles.

Then I saw it.

The car had been keyed along its entire length. However, that wasn’t all. At one end of the groove cut in the otherwise pristine paintwork was a yellow Post-It note which read: “Next time dont park on the fucking pavment.”

I reached for my smartphone because I thought this would be an excellent photo to Post up on Facebook, or similar. Then as the phone made it into my hand the thought entered my head: If the owner was stupid enough to park blocking the path so comprehensively, and on a blind corner, then said owner would probably end up reporting a bloke with a couple of dogs as having done the deed if I was spotted photographing it.

My phone went back in my pocket.

 
Overflowing with Love
Wednesday 7 February, 2018
My local authority have made it known that they are considering moving refuse collection to thrice-weekly as opposed to the current fortnightly arrangement.

Residents are outraged.

Personally, I find most weeks tend to be close when it comes to filling the bin. Many a time there is not enough space and usually I end up having to be inventive when minimising the volume of rubbish. I walk to and from the town centre an awful lot and on collection days it is clear to me that I am not alone as most bins are full, or close to over flowing.

At the same time a £40 annual charge for carting away garden waste was mooted. I think that explains the suggested switch to a three-weekly regime. After a public consultation - something they have made an awfully big thing of - they will conclude that the Council Tax payers in the region do not want such a rota to be implemented and that it was a very silly and foolish idea in any case.

However, the annual charge for collecting garden waste will come into force and no one will complain because they will be a great deal of relief sighing going on over the power of the Little Man against a hugely unpopular and plain daft proposal. Hurrah for People Power!

Neat.

The whole thing reminds me of the time I worked at an engineering company. A scrap metal company came every week to collect a skip of discarded strips of processed steel. They always sent the same driver and he managed to alienate just about everyone he ever talked to at the place, such was his lack of bonhomie.

One week we filled the skip with mainly tiny pieces of waste steel - iron filings and the like, and then ensured it was covered by normal scrap. The result was extremely dense content and a very heavy skip.

Mr Driver arrived and was his usual curt, gruff self. No one mentioned the nature of the skip contents. He hooked it all up, got in his cab, and then operated the controls to hoist the skip aboard his truck.

The skip stayed on the ground and the cab of the lorry rose. Oh how we all laughed.

The scrap metal merchants had to send out a larger vehicle to deal with the extra-heavy skip and they made the switch permanent. We got a different driver and everyone was happy.

If the stupid collection frequency proposal by the council were to be imposed then one way around the issue of not being able to close the lids on bins would be to condense the contents. That would result in bins 50% heavier than at present.

I wonder what the savings to the council would be if they were for ever having to pay sick pay and medical claims for back injuries to the refuse collectors?

- o - O - o -

I never normally add ‘riders’ to entries, but this time my hand was forced!

‘Thrice-weekly' means three-time-per-week. Many have pointed it out but missed the line, "Residents are outraged," below it. I was going for the 'Major Forby-Tatishall (retired)' at the end of letters from those who think they know how to run the country and believe everything they read in the papers without question of any sort.

My dad used to tell me that if you had to explain a joke, or irony, then it wasn’t funny or ironic.

Too subtle; too clever; point missed.

There is nothing to correct with the ‘thrice-weekly’ because its use was intentional and sort of the point... No, wait, I’m explaining again.

My bad. Sorry.

 
Earplugs?
Monday 5 February, 2018
Walking on the footpath beside a busy road, one expects a high level of traffic noise. It’s a busy road. Very busy; lots of vehicles.

However, I wasn’t prepared for roar of whatever it was that was approaching from my rear. The din was amazing.

I turned around to see what was approaching but I couldn’t make out the source. It wasn’t until the cause of the almighty racket reached me that I managed to identify it.

A huge 4x4 was travelling up the road at the same pace as the other cars but it had a flat tyre. Being a 4x4 with massive tyres, it made a massive noise when one of those tyres was flat and being driven on at speed. When I say ‘massive noise,’ think of the volume of an RAF jet skimming the rooftops.

The driver must have been aware, surely? Perhaps they had an urgent need to get to their destination? Or maybe they didn’t care?

The word ‘loud’ doesn’t begin to describe what was passing me.

Earplugs?

 
Fool on the Hill
Friday 2 February, 2018
I was about to walk down a short section of road that takes pedestrians through to a footpath when I spotted the car trying to reverse back up from where he had come to a halt.

Being a car driver in addition to a pedestrian, I stood to one side to allow him free passage. In addition I stood very deliberately aside so that my intentions would be clear to him in his rear view mirror.

The next five minutes were very entertaining before becoming scary.

First I marvelled at how impossibly difficult the driver found reversing in a straight line. There were cars parked down one side of the stub of road which left him only about one-and-a-half car widths up which to travel. He twice tried to reverse in a straight line with the steering on full lock and on both occasions crunched the wooden fencing of the supermarket loading bay next to the road.

At one point I thought about offering to reverse the car up the road for the poor old boy, but given his inability thus far, I wasn't too confident that he'd take it as an offer of help and that I'd later feature on a TV crime programme as a photo-fit.

I gave up waiting and took a wide berth about him and went on my way.

Then it struck me: the chap probably had a driving licence. Having driven 30 metres down a dead-end he was a danger to everything near his car. I wondered what would be the result if the same driver were faced with a young mother stepping out into the path of a car heading towards him? If it honked or swerved a bit, would his own car (on a '67' plate - so he could obviously afford to drive) mount the pavement and wipe out a bus stop, or similar?

Passing the driving test as a youngster surely doesn't mean you are competent for life, does it?