Wednesday, 17 February 2010

On the five-ring circus coming to town...

I happened to spot another bloggers' comments on how she loves the Olympics recently.

OK, it's an international sporting event, held once every four years. You've also got the Paralympics (held shortly after the main Olympics event in the same host city) and the Winter Olympics, held to the same schedule, with the winter version sandwiched smack dab between main events, every two years after the main event, so to speak.

But why am I commenting on this, in the year of the winter Olympics?

Simple. In two years, London's going to be a veritable nightmare of epic proportions - because in 2012, we'll be hosting this three-ring - sorry, FIVE-ring - circus, with all the of people/traffic/air congestion, security nightmares, and complete sense of bedlam that this will cause the residents of this city.

As a London Bus driver - politicians and their optimistic, condescending, and frankly self-serving statements not withstanding - I frankly doubt whether our road and rail networks can handle the sheer mass of humanity that's gonna descend on us: In fact I fully expect that this capital city and its' suburbs will grind to a halt through sheer weight of numbers descending on us each day of the circus that's coming to town.

It's a matter of what the planners call "infrastructure". In London's case, it's all to do with the width and amount of traffic loading that the roads can handle - their total capacity, in other words. Just have a look at how London currently handles a typical 'Rush Hour' in the afternoon... it takes three to four times what it normally does in off-peak times for normal car drivers - I, as a bus driver, have the advantage in using dedicated bus lanes to get past heavy traffic. Now, add in the loading for the Olympics, and you can forget lane discipline, your average London car driver will stick two fingers up at bus lanes, and drive down them, thus blocking them when everyone else follows suit.


Total and uncompromising gridlock. Not even Emergency Services will be able to punch their way through.

Forget the terrorist threats, the traffic'll do for London.

You may think I'm being defeatist or pessimistic about the potential problems we're looking at. I disagree. I think I'm being realistic.

Think I'll pre-book my leave now, and organise a decent holiday for my partner and myself, somewhere else that'll be sunny and pleasant, while the going's good

Saturday, 13 February 2010

They must be out of their tiny minds (again)...

I seem to be hitting the news of late...

Here's the article...

21 hour week?

Yeah, right. Remember the three day week? The cause was industrial unrest. The result was rather predictable. Most people earned less, and quality of their lives (the very thing that these gits are today saying would be improved on a three day week) suffered mightily, right across the nation. Hardly anyone was unaffected, and the repercussions of it are still, to some degree, echoing across the nation through changed employment and union laws, social welfare "reforms", and so on ad nausium.

Let's also, while we're at it, see home repossessions skyrocket, yet more people below the bloody poverty line, and so on. It's not like we haven't got enough worries without these bloody idiots trying for more social ills through their completely bonkers ideas for social reform, is it?

Can these muppits not see common sense for once? It stands to reason that if you work longer hours then yes, you won't see family and friends quite as much, but the flip side of that coin is that you'll earn more, your financial worries will ease over time and generally, you'll get to be able to buy what you want, when you want, rather than having to put it off because the bills are due in two weeks. You'll also get to have a shot at better holidays when you take leave from work, as you'll be able to afford to spend more on them.

Yes, it's a pain in the backside to have to work longer hours, but the payoff is better finances, and probably a happier home life from that as well.

In any case, the EU Work Time Directive is already with us, and that's made an impact, and not generally for the good in a few areas so, can we please let sleeping dogs lie for once, and not try to mess up the fabric of society with more cockeyed barmy ultra-left wing ideas of a socialist paradise? For pities sake, I'M a socialist (Liberal Democrats are the only viable Socialists left in the main stream, remember), and even I recognise that this 3-day week idea is a bad idea!

So, which is better... more money and an easier time when at home, or becoming a pauper and having your home repossessed?

You tell me.

Friday, 12 February 2010

It's about bloody time...

In 2003, shortly after the end of the Second Gulf War, six RMP Non-Commissioned Officers were murdered in Iraq, at a place called Majar al-Kabir, which is in southern Iraq, to the north of Basrah, following a riot and the subsequent protracted fire-fight and siege of an Iraqi Police Sub-Station.

Here's the BBC News article from today...

I spent near to seven and a half years in the T.A. as a Military Policeman, having joined in 1990, and leaving in 1997. It was by the Grace of God that no-one I knew was involved in the 2003 incident - they could so easily have been, however. The Corps, however, is a fairly small place, with at least one or two people in every Company knowing someone from each of the other Companies - it's only a Corps of about 1,700 or so, after all, which has to police the entire British Army - that's a lot less per head of population than the Metropolitan Police uses for London, for example. The murders of six of our number in such a horrendous manner shocked us all to the core. The effects are, to some degree, still being felt by many in the Corps and it's families.

Forget the freedom of civilians to say a war may be right of wrong, if you're a soldier, you go where the Army sends you, as you very well know. And that's precisely what the Soldiers of the British Army, both Regular and Reservist did before, during, and after, the 2003 Second Gulf War that unseated Saddam Hussein. They still are seven years on, in both Iraq, and now Afghanistan.

The families of the murdered NCOs deserve, and the Corps of Royal Military Police needs, full and final satisfactory closure to this appalling incident.

It's taken the Iraqi authorities seven long and bitter years to get to this point.

I therefore sincerely hope that the Investigating Judge in Iraq keeps to his decision that there is enough evidence to justify a trial, and that the evidence collected points to guilty verdicts on the accused.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The good, the bad, and the completely bonkers!

One of the things - actually, to be strictly accurate, two of the things - that I miss when I'm not spending time with my better half, are The Furnatics, as I've come to call them, these being Achtung and Chunky... if you're a regular reader here, you'll know exactly who I mean. For those who aren't, and who therefore don't, they're my better half's pair of German Shepherd Dogs, and a nuttier pair of completely bonkers dogs you've never met

Since I'm a guest at my better half's place, and had been asked, I walked them the other evening (besides, I need the exercise!), and spotted this vista...

I'm a great lover of good vista (meaning 'view', not the computer operating system!) photos, and while my own efforts don't tend to do the great photographers even a touch at running for their money, do help to capture the sights for me...

This one, aside from reminding me that I was knackered, cold, and wondering just where the dogs were leading me, was nice :) It's almost at the moment where the stars start to become visible, while there's still a small amount of light available to see the gound by. Couple this with being in the sticks, without the hullabaloo of cop cars screaming past my flat on their blues and twos every ten seconds (it seems), and you can see why I like it here

I like those two furnatics as well, but for different reasons - having convinced themselves that the family is still here (Morning Chunky, get that wet nose outta my face!), they've now gone completely bonkers - right now, they're barking up a storm downstairs, probably wanting to get at the postman, while I'm tapping away on the computer, and my better half is enjoying a well earned lie-in

If the wages weren't so much lower out here, I'd move over here from London in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they are, and property prices are still stupidly high (and getting higher again) in the south, so I guess I'll remain an occasional visitor to these here parts, as usual, dammit.

Still, at least I can enjoy and savour moments like those in the photo above

Makes it all the more worthwhile

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Hypocritical contracts...

I may be on leave, but I keep an eye on the news, like many of us.

First off, here's the news article...

So, what do I think of Mr. Johnson's decision to cut the budget for the Metropolitan Police?

I think he's a typical politician. You cannot trust a blasted word he says in his manifesto.

So, what can be done about this?

Sod all.

Until we add law to the statute book to treat a manifesto as a binding contract if a party or person is elected, they'll be legally allowed to be as hypocritical as you could possibly imagine.

Now, I never voted for Mr. Johnson, I voted Lib-Dem, and have done for ages. And while I voted for Ken when he was about (I'm on the buses, and he's a proven track record in keeping the funding there, that's called enlightened self-interest - no-one ever said *I* couldn't be hypocritical!), there's no other Labour politician I'd vote for - I just don't trust 'em further than I could throw them, ditto the Conservatives.

Now, who does that leave in the mainstream? Yup. Lib-Dems.

Isn't it high time we gave them a chance at doing what they've been saying they can do?

Monday, 8 February 2010

"Why have speed camera warnings?"

I was asked a good question on the NavMii forums this morning, that warrants repeating here...

"in fact if you are sticking to the speed limits anyway why do you need a camera warning at all..."

It's actually a blindingly good question, but not for the reasons you might think of immediately...

OK, think about what happens when drivers see "Safety Camera". Most will glance down at their speedo to check their speed, thus taking their eyes off the road. The two or three seconds involved, bearing in mind that stopping time has direct relationships with reaction time, distance, and speed (see the chart to the left, pinched off the Highway Code website), is crucial for two reasons:

  1. It puts you in advance of the mass "look down, smack down" effect, thus giving you a fighting chance to avoid ploughing into the muppit in front who's likely to be standing on his anchors having realised that he's going a bit over the odds, and
  2. Having already (if neccessary) slowed down, saves you the indignity of being whumped up the rump by your following vehicle, who also may be in the process of executing a "look down, smack down" manouevre.

Thus by having a warning at an earlier stage in the journey, you are helping yourself avoid the potential for the results of the rippling "look down, smack down" effect.

So, there you have it.

SatNavs with Safety Camera warnings could prevent collisions!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

NavMii is now on the starting blocks...

OK, as promised, I haven't spent another penny on TomTom products. Instead, I've bitten the bullet, after doing my research, that is, and bought a copy of GeoLife's NavMii.

At thirty quid (close to a third the cost of the most recent release of TomTom for Windows Mobile, by the way), it's looking ok so far, and installed first time, with no faffing about, which was nice, as I followed the installation instructions to the letter .

Furthermore, it's working first time off the blocks, having identified and interfaced with the on-board GPS unit on my HTC Touch Pro 2 Smartphone, with the system then properly displaying my location in under thirty seconds (I had, I must admit, manually updated the QuickGPS files on the phone, so the TTFF (Time To First Fix) was about average.

Routing hasn't been tested yet, but that's for this evening, when I drive over to the better half's place (some seventy-odd miles away from here as the crow flies) for a few days of leave from work - at that time, I suspect any shortcomings on routing will become apparent, but I suspect they won't be that bad, having read the forums over on the NavMii website and looked for such problems before deciding whether or not to buy the package.

And what, I hear you ask, swung my decision, given the lack of custom Points Of Interest files in the package? Easy. They've partnered with Pocket GPS World, to integrate their "Safety Camera" GPS location files into the package. Now, I've got a free subscription to the PGPSW files, having been credited with identifying a camera for the first time (that's a standard offer they maintain, by the way, hint hint, buy a subscription over there!), and since GeoLife have incorporated the PGPSW files into NavMii, the satnav package has become more useful to me.

So, knowing that GeoLife actually listen to their customers (you just need to look at their forums to see that), I decided to take a chance, and buy a licence. Rather than wait for the CD version to come in the mail, I opted for on-line purchasing and download, expecting a few hiccups along the way.

No such hiccups occurred - and on a Sunday, as well, normally the day of the week when things bought online tend to go a little, shall we say, pear-shaped. Well, not this time - the entire process of acquiring this package has been as smooth as the proverbial silk - colour me well impressed.

It's a good start.

Now, let's see if it can maintain the headway!

A few hours later...

Well... having driven from my home to my better halfs' place this evening, I'd say I made a reasonably good decision in buying NavMii.

Although the routing seemed to prefer maintaining 'A' roads over a shortcut that I know, and wanted me to stick on the M25, then the M4, rather than go the M25, M3, A322, A329, A329(M), and M4, to my destination (remember the standing order? Yup, if you're a regular reader here, then you guessed it, I was again tasked with bringing the KFC Family Bucket with me!), but that's really a minor issue.

It got all the "Safety Cameras" that I could see, and some that I didn't see until it mentioned them (just as well I keep within the speed limits!), so purely on a route I know very well, it performed adequately. There are minor issues, such as notification distances on the camera files, the lack of skinning customisation, and so on, but these aren't deal breakers.

An example of something that NavMii can't be expected to rectify immediately is mapping errors. The map data that comes with the package is supplied by TeleAtlas, and in a few places, appears to be a little off - for example, there's a mini-roundabout between Selsdon and Warlingham, at the junction of Limpsfield Road and Mitchley Hill (Google Maps link), that's been there for well over a year, and yet it's apparently failed to make it onto either of the main mapping data providers databases - TeleAtlas or NavTech, so GeoLife can't be held resonsible for that - it's a problem with the map provider - and again, while the satellite photos on Google Maps show the mini-roundabout, Google's map data doesn't show the mini-roundabout either!

As I said, minor issues, but nothing that can't be fixed in due course. All in all, I'm very happy with this package, and while it's a lot less sophisticated (less in the way of bells and whistles, in other words!) than, say, TomTom's recent offerings, this SatNav package does what it says on the tin, so to speak.

So, if you're looking for a replacement for TomTom, you could do worse than look over NavMii!

Footnote... I visited the TeleAtlas website map feedback pages the following morning, and added an amendment request for their maps - lets' see if that fixes that minor problem!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A shift in photos...

Alright, a shift in pictures this time...

I hate you too...!

First up, although this one's driving was fine, what caught my attention was the number plate...

Let's hope that a copper with sense of humour failure doesn't see that one dark and stormy night

A Senior Moment at the fuel bay, perhaps...?

Next up, it seems someone had a senior moment (that's the polite version!) back at the depot the previous night, and forgot to fill the bus up. Luckily, I had to take my meal break back at the depot, so all I was asked to do by the controller was swap buses, and take the almost empty of fuel bus back to the depot, instead of the bus I was driving. At least the damn thing didn't run out of juice before I got there!

Sorry, the ticket machine's done a bunk!

On returning to the roads after my meal break, shortly after taking over the next bus, the ticket machine (they're called various things, "Wayfarer", "ETM (Electronic Ticket Machine", "That ******* thing there", you get the idea!), not being content with refusing to communicate with the Oystercard reader (an RFID smartcard ticketing system) decided that it wanted an early night, threw up an "Abort" error, and petulantly refused to play anymore. Result? I was left to use the much hated "EPAK", or emergency tickets, booklet. These things, on a busy night, add about 500% to the time it takes to service a bus stop. You can see why we all hate the damn things. As it was, I only sold two tickets on EPAK, so it wasn't that much of a hardship, this time. The photo was taken at the routes' eastern end bus stand; the back (electronically smudged in key places, of course!), is the pain... still, it's easier than other "solutions" they've allegedly considered in the past, I'm reliably informed...

Unbounded arrogance...

And finally... the arrogance of folks who park on bus stops frankly knowns no bounds. Not five yards further on past the stop, there's a parking bay, designated for loading and unloading. There was even a space the size of his van there. But no, this arrogant git parked right on the short bus stop outside the bus stand, causing blockages every time more than one bus wanted to serve the stop. I bloody hope he gets a ticket. Maybe he'll learn to be a bit more sensible.

Well, probably not, I suppose. Arrogance like that doesn't just get remodelled in one swoop, does it?