As it turns out, this year it’s time to do a couple of renewals – both my Passport and Driving Licence will need replacing in the next couple of months.
The passport renewal was first, and came back earlier this week (and the old passport arrived today). It’s been fairly painless, all things considered (I’d rather have had a nice red EU one, but there we go)
Doing it all online, I also used my own phone to provide the photo, which was the only bit that was a hassle. It took several goes, including a rejected one, basically because of wearing glasses. Any reflection in them causes the processing to fail – and even the one that finally got accepted was rated as “Poor” in the upload tool. (Impressive, for a 12MP camera)
So it’s been a faff, but it’s also been painless, and generally quite efficient. I also set it up for text-message updates as it went through the process, which kept things informed.
Amusingly (and just to prove that they’re not really all that efficient) having received everything back, I also got a text message telling me that I could renew my passport easily by doing it all online…
At the moment, I’m seeing a lot more spam comments here than I used to.
It’s not insurmountable – only about 15-20 per day, and none of them actually show up on the site – but it’s still a pain in the bum.
I’m not sure why they’re happening – nothing’s changed at my end, I’ve still got the same set of plugins running as always. So I assume there’s been some kind of loophole found, and the spammers are trying to take advantage of it. (Although it seems pretty pointless in a site as under-used and under-viewed as this one now is)
All told, it’s just something else, another irritation I could do without.
I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions. This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.
From the article…
- In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
- The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
- By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
- On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.
The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)
From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute) This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)
As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas. Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely. But not this twerd, oh no. They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey. (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted) And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle. Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.
All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.
It’s been very quiet round here of late – mainly because of Lockdown 3.0, and there really hasn’t been much to do, or to report.
Thankfully, things seem to be slowly opening up again, and that’s making things look a lot more positive for the rest of the year.
Last weekend had some fun, in that the “Locked Up” crime writer’s online festival was held – organised by Luca Veste and Steve Cavanaugh (who also do the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast) It was all done via Zoom, with a range of (roughly) hour-long sessions with various writers. And it was thoroughly entertaining.
Even better, the entire thing was done to provide funds for The Trussell Trust, and was entirely reasonably priced at £20 for the whole thing.
I can actually see events like that being more common in the future – I think they make a lot of sense, allowing a sort-of-social event without needing to be social, and reducing costs along the way (it’s a lot easier to get people to talk for an hour from their own houses/offices, rather than having to bring them all in to a location, accommodate them etc.) while also opening it up to a larger audience, rather than limiting it just to people who can actually get to the location.
Yesterday, I got my first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.
It was an impressive piece of organisation (which is how you can tell it was sod-all to do with national Government) – i got to the vaccination centre at 8:55 for my 9am appointment, went straight through, giving necessary information and so on, sat down, got the jab, and was out again by 9:05.
Interestingly, I didn’t have to do the expected sit-and-wait for 15 minutes to check I didn’t have any kind of allergic reaction. I assume it was because I’d answered no to the questions “Are you on any other medication” and “Have you ever had an allergic reaction” – I know others on the same day in different locations still had to sit and wait – but no explanation was actually given.
Happily, twenty-four hours on, I’ve had no reactions of side effects at all to the first jab, which makes me fairly optimistic for things.
Obviously there’s still a way to go – there’s another three weeks before this dose is supposed to be fully effective, and my second dose is on 1st June. Even so, that means that by the end of June I’ll be as protected as possible.
Over the last year, a number of businesses have (unsurprisingly) moved out of the building where I have my office. The move to primarily working from home and so on has made them more aware of the costs of the offices, and in general I can see that it makes sense for them to downsize and so on.
What’s been more of a surprise is that other ones have moved in. Again, I get it for situations like mine, where it’s better to have the office, and where working from home isn’t practicable.
There are some of those new businesses though, that despite paying the office rental/lease for a year, haven’t actually been using the offices at all, and I really don’t understand that at all.
I suppose it’s a good write-off for tax purposes or whatever, but to me it’s still odd to be basically burning that cash for no benefit at all.
Obviously it’s not my problem, and nothing to do with me. It’s other people’s business decisions and so on. I just find it interesting, and slightly baffling.
This time last year, I was planning on going to a friend’s wedding over in Madeira, and bought some travel insurance along the way.
Obviously it didn’t work out, because of Covid and the like, and the insurance didn’t get used for any other trips, for similar reasons. Thankfully, I’d had a good deal on it, so wasn’t too upset. Them’s the breaks, and all that.
This week, I got the renewal letter from the company, telling me what I’d pay this year.
Now OK, there’s been a lot going on in the world this year, and I assume insurance has taken a kicking (although I wouldn’t have thought it was a huge one, in comparison to travel companies, credit cards and the like) but still, the increase from last year to this is a 50% rise. And bear in mind, there’s no way I’d be using it ’til at least May/June, so it would cost me more to able to use it for less time.
Needless to say, they’ve been told to fuck off. I’ll buy travel insurance again as and when I need it – but that’s still not going to be any time soon.