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Archive for the category “Milton Keynes”

Paying for Parking

During the working week, I regularly park in an area controlled by parking meters – not one per slot, but in big blocks, so you pay for your ticket/parking at a machine, and return the ticket to the car.

It’s an area/business that in many ways doesn’t seem to have kept up with progress at all, but in others is quite a way ahead of most other places. It’s very odd – and it seems like a lot of people are caught in that middle space between the two extremes.

You see, the meters themselves take cash, and only cash. There’s no facility to take card payments, let alone contactless. I assume that some of this is down to maintenance costs – the more things it can do, the more things there are that can fuck up.

Then at the other end of the scale, we can use online/mobile payment setups like RingGo to pay for parking, which is super-easy to do, and works really nicely.  (There are other parking payment providers, most of which are worse than RingGo, but they’re still getting used by various councils etc. around the country)  There’s no need for cash, it’s all smooth and simple to do, with the parking wardens having smartphone equivalents where they can check each vehicle’s registration and see if it’s paid for parking online.

Both solutions seem to work, either with the super-basic “put coins in the machine” or the semi-techie (but still really pretty simple once it’s set up) paying via mobile/online.  There’s also the ability to pay by phone using RingGo, but that appears to be overly complex.

However, both options seem destined to confuse the majority of people.  I regularly see people dredging pockets for change – which is becoming less common, with the prevalence of debit cards and contactless payments, so they’re surprised and unprepared for needing coins to park – or completely stumped by smartphone apps, or having problems with the paying by phone.

In some ways that harks back to people not being prepared, but at the same time I do understand that these meters are a bit of a surprise. They’re so low-tech in many ways, and people just don’t seem to expect that.  But they’re also unprepared for using their smartphones – despite this whole pay online/app thing becoming more and more common for parking – and don’t have the relevant app, or have it set up. And even with 4G coverage etc., it seems that a lot of them are utterly unable (or just unwilling) to sort out installing the app and just doing things the easy way.

I don’t know what the answer is. I think we’re in this weird hinterland at the moment, where we’ve still got simultaneous low-tech and hi-tech solutions, and people are just caught in the middle, too advanced to be happy with the low-tech, but a large number also still unhappy or uncomfortable with the hi-tech alternative, so they’re stuck in some kind of mid-tech wilderness.

It’s very odd, but interesting to watch and see how things go.

Parking Distances

One of the things I like about working (and travelling) in Milton Keynes is their attitude towards parking, along with a nice dose of apparent cynicism and understanding of human nature/lazyness.

Milton Keynes has been pretty much designed around the use of cars (I know, it wasn’t originally so, but the New Town concept pretty much was) and thus there’s a lot of parking available. Sure, the city gets busy, but there’s usually parking spaces available.

The great thing though – in my opinion – is that they organised (and priced) the parking according to proximity to the main areas that people use.  So the parking spaces that are the closest to the high-footfall areas are the highest-priced. If you go a bit further out – by which I mean a block, not miles – then the price is about a quarter of the highest-rate, which seems like a valid reward for being prepared to walk a bit more.

Note : I’m aware that this could also affect those with disabilities and mobility issues, but there are mobility and disabled spaces right next to the main areas, and they’re not at the high rates.

Down near the train station, there’s a great example.  The closest car-park to the station now charges £8 for the day.  But if you go to the next one – literally, the other side of the (dual-carriageway) road – then it’s £4. And if you’ve got a Milton Keynes Employee permit (which will be the subject of a separate post) then it’s even less – £2.40.  So an extra distance of maybe 20 yards can save at least 50% of the parking cost.

As a plan and concept, it understands human nature and lazyness, and take some advantage of it. I think that’s brilliant, to be honest.

On Being A Cretin

With life taking several turns over the last year, I’d given up a bit on going to the gym.  OK, I’d given up on it a lot. So I’d put my membership on hiatus, paying a small maintenance fee rather than the full monthly amount. (Because while I’m definitely an idiot, as will be shown shortly, I’m not a complete idiot)   It meant I wouldn’t have to pay a re-joining fee etc., and could reactivate things really easily once I was back to being in the mood for it.

Last month, I decided I wanted to get back to going.  Again, a number of reasons, but mainly just realising I wanted to do more, as well as some preparation for my idiot event in September – of which more later.

So I went to the PureGym website, logged in, and reactivated my membership.  Oddly, I had to pay a joining fee again, but I thought I’d just not read the terms and conditions properly, and it’s not a huge amount, so there we go. The proper payment comes out of my bank about a week later, and all good. Job done, I’m going back to the gym from June 1st.

Come June 1st, I look at my bank account, and there’s that maintenance charge again.  Weird.  Maybe it’s connected to that billing cock-up where I paid a joining fee.

So I call PureGym, to try and find what’s going on.  They tell me that the Direct Debit reference I’ve given them isn’t connecting to any of their records, so they’ll need more information from the bank, to know where that DD started, where it’s going etc.   Annoying, but indicative that a significant cock-up has occurred.

I ring the bank, and speak to someone there.  Let’s cancel that under the DD guarantee, here’s the details, it’s a Direct Debit for The Gym…   And a light goes on in my head.   I’m a cretin.

For whatever reason, I’ve got “PureGym” in my head as the one I’m going to. (And it’s one I was a member of, in two different locations)  Only that’s not the one I’m using. I’m using “The Gym”, and that’s where the maintenance payment’s come from. So I’ve re-joined a gym I don’t want, and not restarted the membership of the gym I do want.   For fuck’s sake.

The lady at the bank (having laughed) reinstated the DD for the Gym, and re-paid the money to them that’d gone out that day.  Then I went back to PureGym, explained that I’m a complete idiot, what had happened, and asked if it was possible to get my money and joining fee back from them.  No problem if not, we’d class it as an idiot tax, but if possible it’d be great.

And they did. It’s not a standard thing, but I’d not used the gym, it was still on the first full day of “membership”, and – I suspect most importantly – I’d admitted it was entirely my fault, and that I’m a moron.  (It also made them laugh, which is fine)

All told, I got lucky in many ways.  I’m lucky that (in general) my bank are pretty good on this stuff. I’m lucky that both gyms in question are month-to-month ones rather than contracts. I’m lucky that the people in both cases were nice, and obviously far more used to people shouting and swearing, and making out it’s all Their fault.

I’ve not lost anything (except some self-respect) and it’s all worked out.   But man alive, do I feel like an absolute cretin.

Five

Amazingly, I’ve been in the current house for five years today.  How time flies when you’re having fun, and all that piss.

As it stands, this is now the longest I’ve been in any one place since I moved out of the parental home. It’s certainly not my “forever” place (whatever the hell that means) but it does suit me for the moment – and even admitting that feels kind of weird.

There are two significant reasons why I’m more settled here than pretty much anywhere else I’ve lived…

  1. The location. To coin a cliche, it’s easy to get away from (as I’ve said before) with the M1 for North-South travel, and the A421 for East-West, both within easy reach. It gives me plenty of options, and lets me be away from here on a regular basis while still having somewhere that’s easy to come back to. Compared to (for example) living in Norfolk and Suffolk where it was an hour to get out of the damn county – or onto decent dual carriageway – and this is just easy.  Because of that, I’m not keeping on thinking about where would suit me better.
  2. The finances.  While I’m doing a lot better now, and could easily fund a move, it’s more about the credit-checking and so on that would go with any new tenancy.  At the moment, I’d likely faily it (or at the least it would cause problems) so it’s easier to stay here.  That wouldn’t stop me from moving if I really wanted to – but because of Reason One, that’s not currently the case.  And without an urgency to it, why cause myself more problems or hassle than I need to?

As things stand, my tenancies expire in November – because the first tenancy was just six months, and then they’ve extended as 12-month ones.  The bankruptcy comes off my record in August 2018.  Unless things change radically in the meantime, I think I’ll be here ’til then, and from there I’ll see how I go. So the odds are, another 18 months here, and who knows after that?

Theatrical

This week has, again, been somewhat theatrical (and with a fair dollop of travel, just for balance)

On Wednesday I finally got round to seeing the Harry Potter play, which was very good (and I’ll write some thoughts about it later on) but made it into a seriously long day. Because of the size of the story/play, it’s been made in two parts, both just over two and a half hours.  Including the break between plays, it meant I went in at 1pm (for performance starting at 2) and left just after 10pm.  Then including getting back to Euston, and the Train Of The Damned to get back to Milton Keynes, I got home at about half midnight.

Yesterday I was down in London, going to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.  I’d gone down earlier in the day, which was fine, and the play itself – again, very good, although I still need to formulate my thoughts and reactions to it a bit – was pretty complete, and ran to nearly four hours, including intervals.  So again, starting at 7pm, I didn’t leave ’til 11. Driving home was easier, but still, I wasn’t back ’til gone midnight.

This evening I’m back down in London for a friend’s birthday thing (and another late return home) and then tomorrow morning I’m over in Reading supporting another friend who’s running the Reading half-marathon (again) and raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust.

So yeah, busy, and there really is no sign of sanity impinging on my life at any point soon…

Valentinage

And here we are, once again, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day – one of the most pointless ‘special occasions’ known to man.

In a break with tradition, I’m being good this year.  The last few years, I’ve been an absolute dickhead, but not this year.

What I have been doing is booking a table for two at a restaurant for the evening of Feb 14th, and then going on my own.  It really messes with people, to be there, looking sad and abandoned on Valentine’s Day.

If I’m in a particularly cruel mood, I’ve also taken along a ring-box, putting it on the table.  That really gets to people.

 

This year though, I’m not doing it.  Instead, I’m off to see John Wick 2. Which will be mental, ridiculous, and hugely entertaining.

Open University IoP Lecture – Human Colour Vision

This week, I was lucky enough – or at least organised enough – to go and see a lecture at the Open University campus as part of their IoP Lecture Series, about Human Colour Vision, presented by Professor Andrew Stockman.

It was interesting, and covered the basics of both the biology and physics of human vision, as well as how easy it is to fool and confuse vision.

Being a bit of a vision geek, I understood most of the information coming in – although it seemed to boggle the minds of a fair few of the audience – but I still learned stuff about how light and colour are initially processed by the eye (“univariance” being particularly interesting) and the cell structures etc. that aid this process.

As always, the ways to mess with the brain about colour fascinate me – and although we didn’t see my two favourite images (below) on colour perception, there were others that were just as fun.

A and B are the same shade of grey - the brain just assumes they can't be

I’m hugely lucky, in that I live near the OU campus, so it makes it an easy evening of geekery – I didn’t know about this IoP series of lectures until recently, but you can be sure I’ll be going to more of them…

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