The Beginning of The End – 2015

ScroogeIt’s the start of September, and that means that we’re in the run-up to the Festering Season.

The signs are all there – X-Factor started last weekend, and Strictly Come Dancing starts this coming weekend.  I don’t watch either of them, but they’re both timed to finish up just before the Festering Season, and as such they qualify as the harbingers of doom.

I’m sure there are other pre-cursors to it (perfume ads on TV, for one) but these two are the main ones I notice now. It’s a sad state of affairs.

2014 Media – Films

In 2014, I saw 64 films at the cinema

As for the film count, I kept track. I do get a summary count from Cineworld – but they operate on May to May, which is the anniversary of when I started the account with the Unlimited Card. So I keep track for the calendar year instead. It’s a bit geeky (I know, who’d have thought, with me) but it’s of interest to me, if no-one else.

I won’t list them all – that’s definitely of interest to no-one else, and my film taste is frequently bloody awful.

Anyway, of those 64 films, only one wasn’t at a Cineworld (as usual, taking Father to see the Hobbit film at the closer cinema, which is an Odeon) because of that Unlimited Card.

Currently, that Unlimited card costs me £16.40 a month, which makes just under £200 a year. (£196.80, if we’re being accurate)  A single adult ticket to my local Cineworld cinema is £10.30. Seeing two films a month means the ticket pays for itself.

Now, it’s hard to work out the true savings, because obviously without that card, I would most likely have not gone to see as many films as I have. I’d have still gone, but only seen maybe half as many, even a third as many.

But even if we go right down to seeing a third as many films at full price as I have with the Unlimited, that’d be 21 films at Cineworld. So that would still be £216.30 – and that means that even at the most basic level, I’ve still saved at least £20 on tickets.  Looking at seeing half the films, that would be 31 films – which at full price would’ve cost me £320 – and the Unlimited ticket would’ve saved me £122.50.

As with the book target, I don’t know if I’ll see as many films in 2015. I’ll still see a fair amount – and as we’ve shown, as long as it’s more than two a month, that card is paying for itself.  That’ll do me for the moment.

Job Envy

It’s not often that I get envious of someone else’s job – but over the last month there’s been one man on TV whose life I could envy deeply. That man is Giles Clark, a tiger expert based at the Australia Zoo in Queensland. (Which is the one founded by Steve Irwin, which explains a lot)

He’s been the subject – well, the human subject, at least – of the BBC series “Tigers about the House”, where he raised two Sumatran tiger cubs by hand in his own house.

The Australia Zoo’s tigers are all fully acclimatised to having humans around – which allows them to go for walks with their keepers and so on, as well as lots of enrichment and stimulus that simply doesn’t happen in most zoos around the world. It’s been quite a spectacular thing to see – particularly the tigers leaping into their huge pool (tigers love to swim) with the cameras right there with them – and yeah, decidedly envious.

Additionally, because they’re so acclimatised to people, it means the Zoo can also offer “Up-close experiences” with the tigers (and other animals) for a fee. All the money made from those experiences – as well as photo-opportunities and the like – goes towards tiger conservation projects, and the series included Clark’s trips out to Sumatra to see those projects as well, and be involved with them.

I’m not a great fan of zoos in general – I don’t like seeing animals in cages, regardless of the size of those cages – but recognise that they now have a massive use in keeping certain species from extinction. But if there’s got to be zoos, I’d far rather they were like this, providing so much more than just “animals in enclosures”.

But yes, definitely envious of that kind of job. It’s one of the very few times where I look and think “If I’d could go back now and re-do secondary school etc., knowing what I do now, that’s the kind of work I’d aim for”

For information:

2014 Media – Books

In 2014 I read 105 books.

I know this because for the books I recorded it all on GoodReads, where I’d set myself the challenge of ready 100 books in a year. I did the same in 2013 and cleared the total easily, ending up at about 130 for the year.

This year I read less – mainly because I had three months while working for The Twat in London where I didn’t have the time to read much at all, due to excessive work and travel times. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been up around the same level again this year. As it was, I just scraped over the bar.

I’ve set the same target again for this year, and expect to do it, but probably by a similar margin to this year. The reason? I want to read some more of the classics, some stuff that makes me think more – and thus is perhaps a bit harder to get into.

There’s also going to be – probably – less reading time, as I want to be doing the other stuff on the project list as well. I don’t know if it’ll work out that way, but that’s the general intention.  If I don’t make the target number, I’ll be OK with it this time, because there’s a lot of other stuff happening too.

Come Jan 2016, we’ll see how I did on all of it.


Christmas Cheer

ScroogeAs always in the run-up to the Festering Season, the BBC is currently promoting the Eastenders Christmas Day special.

I don’t watch soaps, haven’t in years, and I really don’t get the appeal of them in general. But even in that sector, I truly don’t understand why so many people keep on watching Eastenders. It’s such an unremittingly depressing programme, one where nothing has a truly positive outcome. Even happy occasions – births, marriages etc. – have to have a downside, a negative touch. (Who’s the father? Who’s had an affair? What other explosion of emotion will happen?)

Christmas is, as always, the worst of all. There’s apparently going to be someone effectively going through the throes of a breakdown, so on Christmas Day there’ll be millions of people watching this whole thing of someone’s life collapsing around them.

Maybe it’s about making people feel better about their own lives – that no matter how bad they get, the people on Eastenders are suffering worse. I don’t know. But it’s a mindset that I simply can’t get my head around.

Backed Up

One thing that’s changed over the last four years is the way that I back up data. I used to have a big-ass (for the time) hard-drive that held all my backup files, but I haven’t (hadn’t) fired it up in years.

Now I use DropBox for most things – at least the things that aren’t commercially sensitive or need extra security, etc. I don’t necessarily trust/rely on them, but it tends to be where most of the stuff sits (as well as on through another paid-for service for my work stuff and so on) and it suits me to use them for the moment.  That may change a bit over 2015, there’s a more secure and privately-held service that might do better, but for now, DropBox suits me.

However, I recently realised that all my photos and music files were still sat on that old hard-drive. Which has sat untouched for four years, through four or five moves. Oops.

I fired it up over the weekend, thought I might as well bite the bullet and see if all’s well or if it’s dead and I’m screwed.

Thankfully, everything worked first time. I’ve pulled all the music data off, and that’s now sitting in multiple locations again. Next will be the photos – although I’ve also spent some time looking at old images and seeing what’s what (and just looking back at events of the last eleven years, which is what the drive holds)  It’s been quite the journey…


On the news last night, there was a story about how rural roads are more dangerous/deadly than motorways (which just makes sense to me – of which more in a minute) and one of their illustrations of this was this road sign

road_statsThis is supposedly a sign from “one of the more dangerous roads” – but 43 injuries in 3 years equates to 14 (point 3-recurring) deaths a year. That’s just over one a month. Not quite such a scary figure…  The same goes with 4 deaths in three years – just over 1 a year.

I don’t know if my viewpoint is a rarity, but I look at a statistic like that, and tend to think “I’ll go with those odds”.

And now, about those stats in the first place…

The stats in the story are :

  • 3 people a day die on rural roads
  • That’s 11 times more deaths than on motorways

To me, that all makes sense, for a number of reasons – including…

  • On motorways, people drive faster – but (in general) pay more attention when doing so. Sure, there’s still idiots – there’s idiots everywhere – but in general people are paying a bit more attention on motorways.
  • People definitely pay less attention – and drive worse – on non-motorway roads.
  • But also – on motorways, everyone’s going in the same direction. It’s *far* harder to have a head-on collision at speed on a motorway.
  • The speeds are higher, but with everyone going in the same direction, it also reduces the relevant impact speed. A head-on is the sum of the two impact speeds – so two cars hitting head-on at 60mph is an impact speed of 120mph. Even if you’ve got someone at 70 on a motorway hitting a stationary vehicle, that’s an impact speed of 70.
  • It’s not the same factor if you were to crash into someone ahead of you (for example) because they’re still going forward at 60-70mph anyway, so – as I understand it – if you’re going 70mph, and hit someone going at 60mph, the *impact* speed is 10mph – the difference, rather than the sum.

The other key factor is that I’m willing to bet that there’s one hell of a lot more miles of rural road in the UK than Motorway. In 2005, the DfT’s report said that the UK has 2,202 miles (3,523 km) of motorways.  According to this document, the UK’s motorways account for 1% – ONE PERCENT – of the total road space/distance.  So again, 11 times more deaths on roads that account for 99 times the road mileage.

All told, it’s just bad stats and shitty journalism