Category Archives: People

Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I’m really not surprised that there are now some calls to do a safety review of the “Smart Motorways” concept.  It’s a particular source of interest as I travel on the M1 on a regular basis, and that’s one of the roads that will be looked at.

The concept of Smart Motorways ( flexible speed limits, the ability to make the hard shoulder into a running lane at peak times ) is a decent one, but it also missed out a couple of key factors.

The first – and most important – of those is that a huge number of drivers are fucking idiots, and have no idea how to handle the flexibility of the hard shoulder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I can see the hard shoulder being in use – with signs saying so every quarter-mile or so – and no-one using it. (Admittedly, I tend to then use it and make progress past idiots, but I’d rather see the lane being used correctly)   And of course there’s also a significant number of drivers who won’t even use the inside lane, preferring to stay in the middle one, overtaking fuck-all for mile after mile, which also screws things up.

The second factor is that they didn’t seem to think about what happens when someone does have a breakdown or an accident, it necessitates at least a full lane closure (because there’s no hard shoulder to get in to) which screws the traffic up worse than it used to.  Yes, there are refuge areas off the main running lanes, but there was a stat (which I can’t find in a story right now) that only something like 30-35% of breakdowns manage to get to the refuge areas rather than stopping in the live lane.

So yes, I’m not surprised that they’ll probably be getting reviewed – I do think they’re a good idea in general, but at the same time I don’t think they’re all that suitable for UK drivers, primarily because of some of their apparently unique behavioural traits.

Withdrawn

Over the last week, I was supposed to go to two different concerts. In the end I didn’t go to either of them.

The first one turned into a farce, with tickets not delivered, a venue with a remarkably disinterested customer services team, and all just became a lot more hassle than it was worth.  I’ve been in touch with them since, and there’s been some progress, but still, not a good experience at all.

The second one, well, I just wasn’t in the mood at all. I’d purchased the ticket when the gig was initially announced, but as it came closer to the day I was totally unfussed about it, not at all excited or even looking forward to it.  And then on the day itself, I’d been for lunch at one of my favourite places (newly re-fitted and re-opened) and was feeling epically fat as a result, which isn’t really conducive to a good concert.

In both cases though, I also just wasn’t really in the mood for dealing with people – and particulary the type of vacuous bastards that seem to be the gig-going majority at present.

I was going to write a bit more about how I was dealing with it, and some of the other stuff around sociability (or lack thereof) but at the moment I can’t really be chuffed to do so.

More during the week, I’m sure.

Reinsuring

The world of Car Insurance is very, very strange.  I truly don’t understand how it all works.

My car insurance is due for renewal in October, so I recently received the renewal gubbins from my current insurer.  They’ve put my insurance up by £60 for the year.  Bear in mind, I’ve not even spoken to them all year, let alone made a claim, and I’ve now got another year’s no claims discount as well.  And yet it’s gone up.

So I shopped around, doing the usual comparison website thing (Meerkats rather than opera singers) and got one that’s actually £120 cheaper than what I was being offered by the current insurer – and with slightly better cover.

Brilliant, I’ll sign up and do that.  Job done. And this is where it all gets weird(er)

My new insurer is actually one I used a couple of years ago. So when I log in to their ‘self-service portal’ to see my new policy, all I can see is the details of the old one. Fuck sake.  (It looks like the policy is actually tied to a combination of my username and password – so I can change password, and now view the new details instead – but I didn’t know that at the time)

So first things first, I call my current insurer to tell them I won’t be renewing with them. It’s the usual automatic phone gubbins, and gives the name of the insurance provider – let’s call them ABC Insurers, for the sake of argument.   I give the correct information, go through, tell them I won’t be renewing, explain why, and it’s as easy as that.

Then I call the new insurers. Who are also using ABC Insurers.  So I go through the correct information for the new insurance, get things sorted, get the documents emailed to me, and it’s as easy as that.

But it’s weird – I’ve used two different companies (well, two different front-ends) and given them the same information (obviously) but one faction is offering me a significantly better deal than both the one I’m on, and the renewal quote from the one I’m on.  But they’re both the same company underneath!

How the fuck does that make sense? Offering the same person two completely different prices (and slightly different packages/benefits)  Why not allow my current insurer to offer the same price as my new one?  It’s all just a bit bizarre.

Scheduled

At the moment, there’s an advert on TV for Just Eat, and it freaks me out a little bit.

There’s one part of it where they talk about people “ordering their usual”, and doing so at a specific time – implying that it’s the same thing every week.  And that just weirds me out, that there are people out there who do the same thing every week, who eat the same meals with little to no variety.

At the same time though, it’s odd in other ways.  I’m just as bad at being uninspired when it comes to meals and so on – but that’s when I’m just cooking for myself.  If I’m paying for it (i.e. a takeaway, a restaurant meal or whatever) then I’m going to go for random stuff that I fancy eating.

So I think it’s the combination – that there are people who are paying for their meal and still only having the same thing at the same time – rather than *just* that it’s the same thing every time.

Anyway, it weirds me out – even though in some ways I’m also a massive hypocrite about it, as I’m semi-guilty of the same thing, but only in the privacy of my own home…

Small Wins – Suited

As part of the “generally busy” of the last few weeks, I was asked to attend a funeral/cremation for the father of a friend of mine.  As the dresscode was described as “formal” I opted for my much-loved three-piece suit that I got made in Cambridge. Turns out, that suit is exactly 12 years old (I took delivery of it at the start of April 2007)

Anyway, when I tried it on, I was really pleased to find that it still fits just fine – the most I had to do was brush the dust off it, as I haven’t worn it that much in the last few years.

So basically, I’m taking it as a small win that actually I haven’t changed size/weight/dimensions over that 12 year period.  I know I’m still overweight and blah blah blah, but it’s been utterly consistent for over a decade, which I’m pretty happy with.  I know there have been fluctuations over that time, but this current state certainly appears to be my default.

And I’m OK with that.

Twelfth Night

Unsurprisingly, today is probably my favourite day of the Festering Season™

All the real Christmas trees are down, and waiting by the bins for collection, all the lights and decorations are down, and even the radio is back to playing normal music instead of being bloody carols all the time.

I know I’m a grumpy bastard, but getting rid of all the tat for another nine months is A Very Good Thing.

Endurance

The “Weekend Reading” posts by Gordon are one of my regular sources of interesting stuff – I know I’ll usually find something interesting there that I haven’t found/seen myself.

A few weeks back, he added a link to this story of endurance (and absolute lunacy) which I found fascinating.

Gary Cantrell clanged a bell at 6:40 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, signaling 70 runners to jog off into the woods on his farm in Tennessee. They had an hour to complete a 4.1667-mile loop trail. Easy. Most of the group finished with 15 minutes to spare. The bell clanged again at 7:40 a.m., and they ran it again. And at 8:40 a.m., and 9:40 a.m., and every hour after that until, one by one, they quit. There was no known finish line. The race went on, day and night, until the bell clanged and only one runner answered.

(That’s the introductory paragraph to the story)

I find myself hugely in awe of people like these – the determination to keep going, at the cost of just about everything, until they simply can’t do any more. I know my own endurance isn’t bad (well, at least in the context of general humanity) and that I can keep on going for a decent amount of time. While I’d never do a challenge like the Backyard Ultra, it’s not the walking/running that would destroy me, it’d be the time spent stopped each hour. If I’m walking (or working, driving, whatever) I can keep on going for as long as necessary. But when I stop, I stop. Restarting is (for me) far, far harder.

Regardless though, the entire concept of running four miles each hour, every hour, without a break – that’s awesome.