Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

There is a rather worrying list of stuff that you can’t turn off, because there is no OFF switch.   

We all know about standby status on TVs, where the wee red light glows, but when you arise from your sofa you can go and turn the TV off (as you should).     Videos and DVD players have standby modes – well, something runs the clocks on these, so these don’t go off completely.

Freeview boxes cannot be turned off, likewise Modem Routers.    And I wonder how many phone charger (and other) transformers are left plugged in and turned on (guilty on that one).

OK, standby modes don’t use a lot of energy, but add it all up, and it gets a bit worrying.    Most of the problems could be sorted by a simple change of design …………. and a change in behaviour.

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Perth Caledonian Cinema Hygiene

A visit to Perth Cinema last night.  

It was actually not a pleasant experience.    The whole building stank of stale popcorn, and Cinema 4 which we were in was (let’s say) less than fresh.    It was really pretty stinking.   My feet were actually sticking to the carpet in front of my seat.    The place needs powerwashed and disinfected.

I also just don’t get why the people behind us arrived late and then proceeded to demolish  what sounded like a three course popcorn fest in the noisiest wrapping known to man.    It was 8pm – had these folk not had their tea for goodness sake?     Pretty gross to listen to during a film.   No wonder they had the sound turned up so loud.

Looks like I will have to drive to DCA in Dundee where the two cinemas are clean and don’t do popcorn.    (They also put on much more interesting films).     It shouldn’t be like this.

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How much snow does it take to block a motorway?   Not much at all.   What on earth was going on on the M90 this morning at the Kelty section?    I remember being stuck on this section last year – there were 2 inches maximum of snow.   Everything simply ground to a halt.

Why does this happen?    How come other countries manage to get it right?     The Councils have armies of gritters and ploughs, but we seem to be particularly useless at keeping things going when it snows.   

To be fair, too many people go completely daft when driving in snow.   They expect to be able to take the same amount of time for a journey, and drive accordingly.    In bad weather, the first question should be “is my journey really necessary?”

The townie 4×4 drivers are the very worst, as they consider themselves invincible, and think that they won’t skid and will be able to stop as normal.    Once 4x4s start to skid, everything can happen twice as fast unless you are careful.   I had such a loony behind me this morning, simply going too fast.     

So if you are a 4×4 driver and snow is the only time that you are ever in 4 wheel drive proper, then tempting as it is to test the vehicle to its limits, you should slow down:    you will climb a hill better than 2wd, and be steadier on the road, but downhill, you are just as vulnerable.   You are still heavier than a car and will take longer to stop.

I wish we had snow for longer each year – simply for each batch of fresh drivers to get some practice in how to drive safely in winter conditions.

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Booking Fees

Here is something that I really don’t get:   booking fees.     I call it a monumental rip-off, and fail to understand why the price of a ticket cannot be inclusive.

Price of two tickets to see Van Morrison:  £60 plus a £6.25 booking fee.    That’s a whole extra 10% …….. why?   How much does it cost to process tickets and send them out/keep them for collection?

Most things I go to do not attract booking fees, although the Ambassadors Group have started charging at Theatre Royal in Glasgow and the Festival Theatre and Kings in Edinburgh as well.

Nothing annoys people more than seeing a price and having to pay more …… airlines are the biggest offenders, and people who charge extra for using a credit card – usually too much extra.     Don’t these people know that cash is the most expensive way to pay for something, and can’t they put a value of their account being credited directly by electronic payment? 

2007 should be the year when all travel and event ticket prices become inclusive.

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The Times – New Font

The Times has moved on to a new font  for its headlines as from yesterday to be more in keeping with its tabloid compact format.

I really don’t like this messing about with fonts, as The Times changed it only fairly recently in 2002 to the Times Classic font.     There is a sprinkling of a sans font in there as well, which looks really odd and out of place

And what on earth have they done to the poor old lion on the masthead?    Apparently they were having problems making a lion that looks straight out at you fierce enough, so this one looks sideways.     It is all a bit too cartoony for me, and looks like a modern woodcut.      Actually, looking back I’m not sure that they have had the lion quite right since 1786.   

I suppose it is a bit like a good friend getting new glasses – we’ll get used to it, and they are the same person underneath.

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The Scottish BAFTAS were on TV the other night – highlights from the awards ceremony the previous night.    Red Road deservedly won 5 awards.

But rather incredibly the director of Red Road, Andrea Arnold,  did not turn up at the ceremony to collect her award.    Neither did the best actor Tony Curran to collect his.    Red Road is a really good, if very adult Scottish film.    It won the Cannes Jury Prize.     How many British films do that?

So just why were these key people not there?     How many nominations does it take to attract the main players?    I thought film was supposed to be about teamwork.   Thank goodness best actress Kate Dickie was there to collect hers.

Normally these award ceremonies have video clips of the winners who can’t make it on the night – busy filming on the other side of the world etc.       Not this one – there were no excuses or explanations given.   

The BBC TV coverage was amateurish in the extreme, with annoying graphics (someone please tell them that less graphics and screen whizzy things can be more)  and shallow interviews.     OK, award ceremonies are not the time and place for in-depth discussion, but it just could have been done ….. better.      There were too few shortlisted in some categories.     All in all, the awards were a bit of an embarassment.  

It could have just been the TV editing, which had to squash a whole ceremony into a very tight timescale – so brutally edited that it made little sense.

BAFTA needs to look at this event for next year:   either run it professionally and intelligently or forget about it.    Perhaps they need to ditch the TV coverage, which would be a pity, as there is an opportunity to showcase the best of Scottish work.

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Park and Ride – Perth

Had to go to a 3 hour+  meeting this morning in Perth, so thought that I would use the Park and Ride bus.   Cost is £1 per person, and as it was only me, then this was cheaper than parking in the town centre.

I arrived in what I thought was plenty of time:   25 minutes to get into town.   The bus came in, I sat on it for ten minutes before it left.   The driver kept the engine running throughout – how environmentally friendly is that?   We head off into Perth, and stop en route to pick up and set down passengers.   I was a bit surprised by this as I thought that the deal was to take drivers straight to the town centre, not stop for folk who could have caught another bus.    The dedicated bus lane is inconveniently closed – road works.      It all takes ages, 25 minutes to go 2 miles.   I am just late for my meeting.

Coming back, I have to wait 14 minutes in town for the next bus.    That’s a long time to twiddle your thumbs.     I am the only person on the bus.

All in all, that’s a lot of hassle and time involved, and was actually fairly inconvenient – I was dropped off a good walk from where I had to be, and I had to drive extra distance to get to the Park and Ride car park in the first place.  

Anything up to 3 hours, and you can park for free in Perth within a very few minutes walking distance of the main centre.   After 3 hours, then you have to look at the options.    I know that Park and Ride is the green thing to do, but in this case, it did not balance the extra time and effort involved.

Perhaps next time, I’ll strap a bike to the back of the car and do Park and Bike.

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One of the most popular household purchases made recently was a DAB radio which we use every day in our kitchen.    Not only do you get lots of extra channels, but there is a remote which changes radio stations TV style.   We listen to a lot of radio.

But I do have some reservations:    the sound quality is not always as good as FM – even on the main BBC stations received at full signal.    Strange, because I thought that digital was supposed to be pretty perfect soundwise.     Turns out it is to do with bandwidth, and there has been a whole debate on the  BBC Radio 3 website about this.   

Also, nobody has thought of a standard to synchronise the broadcasting of DAB radio.    At the moment, if you have FM radios turned on all over the house, they all play at the same time:   the pips all sound together.    If you have two DAB radios in the house, they both play at different rates – even receiving the same signal.    And of course Freeview broadcasts at a different rate again.    I don’t know about Sky.

Time was when you could put on Radio 3 for last night of the proms and it was in synch with the TV.   Not a chance now.   Terrestrial TV and freeview TV are also at very different rates.

Which begs the question …….. which set of time pips are the correct ones?    The National Maritime Museum has an interesting article on this.    Apparently the delay can be as much as 7 seconds between receivers.

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Airline Ticket Prices

It is always amazing how a “cheap flight” suddenly does not look so cheap at all.

A £4 flight and a £34 flight.    Two passengers return Edinburgh to London, £76.    Looked a not bad deal.   But what’s this?   Taxes, Passenger Surcharge and Insurance Surcharge £93.40.     Now it comes to £169.40.   But there’s more:   a Credit Card surcharge of £4.95.   That’s almost 3%.    Don’t the airlines know how to get a deal with the credit card companies then?    

I suppose even at £173.35 or £87 each it is still a reasonable deal.   It is just the lack of being up-front about it that grates.

Better than those daylight robbers on the East Coast Main Line who don’t have any reasonable tickets at 3 weeks notice, leaving the minimum return £186 – each.     Railway ticket pricing is even more of a nightmare than airlines.   Buying singles being cheaper than returns, or buying two separate singles for part of the one journey being cheaper still sometimes.     Sheer lunacy, and should be stopped.

All this is not helped by the fact I would much rather go by train.   I really hate flying (but do it now after years of refusing) and I find airports with their security and queues really depressing places.

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Banking Hell.

I thought that changing a name on an association bank account would be easy.    Especially when I had filled in all the paperwork beforehand, and had my three specified pieces of identification with me.   The whole process took exactly an hour.   It was banking hell.

I joined in the queue for the tellers, thinking that this was a very simple thing that they could handle.    Apparently not.   I was told to join another queue for customer service (that one was out the door onto the street), and then I had to sit in a queue to see someone.  

The staff were friendly enough, but the bank badly needs a bigger branch.   Apparently they are moving into a bigger building in January.

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