Monthly Archives: September 2022

  • Reach Welsh titles’ exclusives: Hurricane Ian drops rain on Wales

    At the time of writing, Hurricane Ian, the ninth named hurricane of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, is off the coast of North and South Carolina on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Any remnant of said hurricane, downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it starts crossing the Atlantic, is not expected to dump any of its remaining rain on the shores of Great Britain for many days yet.

    The exact location of Hurricane Ian comes courtesy of the USA’s National Hurricane Center, as shown below.

    Image from National Hurricane Center showing current location of Hurricane Ian

    However, this has not stopped both Wales Online and the Daily Post (aka North Wales Live. Ed.), the 2 Reach plc regional news titles covering North and South Wales respectively, from coming up with similar misleading stories (fairy tales surely? Ed.) on today’s pages of their respective ‘news‘ websites. The Daily Post story can be seen here and the Wales Online story here. Note also the use of ‘amid‘ in the Wales Online headline (posts passim).

    Headline reads Hurricane Ian LIVE updates as US storm fall out hits North Wales with gale-force winds and downpours
    Which hurricane, Daily Post?
    Headline reads Live updates as rain and wind set to hit Wales amid expected Hurricane Ian fallout
    Same question to you, Wales Online.

    If the fourth estate cannot even get the names and locations of extreme weather events correct, what else should they not be trusted about?

  • Audacity 3.2 released

    When it comes to open source audio editing software, Audacity is the software package your ‘umble scribe has been using and recommending to others for over a decade and a half.

    The latest minor point release for the software – to version 3.2 – nevertheless brings some major new features, including real-time effects. Furthermore, the package will now run natively on Apple’s Silicon Macs, according to German IT news website heise, whose headline rates it as ‘Genuine competition for commercial audio software‘.

    Audacity was first released in 22 years ago and since then it has made major strides towards becoming a fully-fledged end-to-end production tool for everyone who works with audio, from multi-track recording and editing to podcast production, i.e. a complete digital audio workstation (DAW).

    The new version press release states that the Audacity team has been working hard to empower audio creators with the following highlights of this release: real time editing capabilities, VST3 plugin support and sharing, the latter via Audacity’s new sister service.

    For a full list of changes in Audacity 3.2, read the release notes.

    Audacity is available for download for Linux, Mac and Windows and your correspondent is awaiting the new version’s arrival in the Debian GNU/Linux software repositories.

  • Dear Bristol City Council…

    FAO: Neighbourhood Enforcement Team

    This morning we were surprised to see that your red and white NO FLY TIPPING [sic] sign in Ducie Road car park just off Lawrence Hill has stopped working.

    We and other local residents would be most grateful if you could send an enforcement officer round as soon as possible to restart it.

    Thanking in advance.

    Sgd. Tidy BS5

    No fly-tipping sign in Ducie Road car park above fly-tipped waste
  • Fossil fuel mined with weasel words

    Q: when is a land reclamation scheme not a land reclamation scheme?

    A: When it’s actually an open-cast coal mine covering four square kilometres of south Wales.

    Which transports us Merthyr Tydfil and its inappropriately-named Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme, which Wikipedia describes as a ‘major opencast coaling operation‘ to the town’s north-east.

    A general view of the Ffos-y-fran open-cast mine
    Ffos-y-fran: open-cast coal mine or proper land reclamation scheme? Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The scheme’s operators have this week filed an application to keep mining coal there for a further nine months until June 2023, according to Wales Online, with landscaping of the site completed by December 2024.

    As revealed by the Wales Online article, the main aim of the scheme is the mining of 10 million tonnes of coal.

    In your ‘umble scribe’s opinion, this is not reclamation in either of its definitions, i.e.:

    • the activity of getting useful materials from waste (unless the land itself is regarded as waste. Ed.); or
    • the activity of making land that is under water or is in poor condition suitable for farming or building.

    It is the pure and simple plundering of highly polluting fossil fuels for profit at a time when a climate crisis is occurring due to the past profligacy of homo sapiens – a misnomer if ever there was one – with fossil fuels, to which there is still no end in sight, especially under the less than benign apology for a government of one Mary Elizabeth Truss, which seems committed to continue fossil fuel extraction and shale gas in particular.

  • The tannery ghost?

    Wellington Road in St Judes runs along the west bank of the River Frome (aka the Danny in east Bristol. Ed.) offering views of the industrial buildings on the far bank.

    View of J. Scadding & Son's timber yard featuring brick remains of former tannery on the site
    The ghost of building past in the timber yard

    In front of the more modern timber sheds erected by current site occupants J. Scadding & Son, are some older structures of brick and stone, which appear to be nineteenth century industrial buildings. In the 19th century the banks of the Frome were densely crowded with industrial buildings, particularly for processes that required ready access to an abundant supply of water, such as brewers and tanners.

    A quick search through the vintage maps on Bristol City Council’s excellent Know Your Place website reveals that Scadding’s current site was occupied by the Earlsmead Tannery in the late 19th century, whilst Scadding’s website reveals the company only moved to the site in the mid-1950s..

    Late 19th century Earlsmead Tannery
    Site of Scadding’s timber yard in the late 19th century.

    Could those standing walls be Earlsmead Tannery’s remains?

  • Shropshire Star journalist gives up after enigmatic byline

    The screenshot below is the full extent of an article* which has appeared this morning on on the Shropshire Star website.

    Headline reads Aldi seeks go-ahead for signs at new Shrewsbury store
    You’ve got the headline, what more do you want?

    Given the modern journalistic tendency of trying squeeze the whole story into the headline, perhaps there was no need to write much more than a tokenistic byline, concerning which your ‘umble scribe would be most grateful if any readers knowing what the gfgfgfg byline signifies could offer their thoughts in the comments below. Thanks! 😀

    * = The article has since been removed.

  • Red kites and romantic ruins

    Your ‘umble scribe has just spent an enjoyable week’s walking with his sister (and her dog) in the Vale of Llangollen, an area which neither of us has visited for over 50 years.

    Llangollen itself is named after St Collen, a 7th century Welsh monk who is said to have arrived in Llangollen by coracle and founded a church beside the river there. No other churches in Wales are dedicated to him.

    One day’s walking was taken up with a gentle amble down to the Horseshoe Falls, a diversion to the parish church of St Tysilio in Llantysilio (recommended for its medieval woodwork and memorials. Ed.), then a gentle amble into Llangollen for lunch, followed by a short and vigorous climb up to the romantic ruins of Castell Dinas Brân, a 13th century castle set in the midst of prehistoric earthworks, which we had both visited separately in our youth.

    Castell Dinas Brân seen from the Panorama walk
    Castell Dinas Brân seen from the Panorama walk. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Word has it Victorian visitors to the castle ruins used to take their afternoon teas up there with them to enjoy whilst admiring the splendid views to the east across the Cheshire Plain and the more rugged scenery closer to hand up the Eglwyseg valley.

    When had just started our descent, we noticed a red kite patrolling the skies just above the castle ruins. Apologies for the less than perfect picture, which fortunately still shows the bird’s angled wings and distinctive forked tail.

    Red kit above Castell Dinas Brân

    Here’s a slightly better shot of a Welsh red kite courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    At one time persecution had reduced the country’s red kite population to a small rump mostly around Tregaron in Ceredigion, legal protection (they are covered by Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Ed.) and reintroduction schemes have now seen the bird’s population start to recover. Those schemes have seen the birds reintroduced to Scotland, central Wales and central England, especially the Chilterns. The present UK breeding population is estimated by the RSPB to be some 4,600 pairs. Its current distribution can be seen on the following map.

    Red kite distribution. Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    Red kite distribution. Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Blue denotes resident populations.

    As a child, your ‘umble scribe remembers reading in wildlife books that red kites were once so widespread, they were a common urban pest in the 16th century. Were they to repopulate urban areas that would make their reintroduction schemes the most successful to date: as part of their diet is derived from scavenging, they would thrive in our streets paved with discarded takeaway containers.

  • The Iron Lady’s successor – a ferrous weathercock

    The rise of the Thatcher fangirl, one Mary Elizabeth Truss, to the office of prime minister of the English Empire cannot be regarded as universally welcomed. Indeed her candidacy for the leadership of her party was supported by fewer than were seduced into putting an X against the name of her predecessor, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (Truss garnered 57% of the vote for leader by party members, cf. 66% for the lying scarecrow).

    In her incarnation as Johnson’s Foreign Secretary over the last couple of years in Johnson’s cabinet of sycophants and Brexit zealots and during the party leadership campaign, Truss has hardly shone, managing top lose friends and alienate people, particularly important ones with whom the government wishes to negotiate trade deals, in particular the United States (a trade deal with the USA is regarded as the Holy Grail by those politicians who worship at the altar of Brexit. Ed.), by picking fights with those beastly foreigners on the other side of the so-called English Channel over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which she threatened to tear up, thereby trashing this country’s reputation as a firm believer in upholding international law.

    Nor have those beastly foreigners turned a blind eye to Truss’ roundabout route to arrive at the black-painted door of Number 10. They are only too aware that Truss started out as a member of the Liberal Democrats who is on record as supporting the abolition of the monarchy.

    During the Brexit referendum campaign, Truss still supported the country’s remaining in the European Union, only to do a 180 degree about turn before being elevated to high political office by the blonde scarecrow.

    In her climb up the Tory political ladder, Truss has made no secret of her admiration for the dreadful Margaret Hilda Thatcher, aka the Iron Lady, whose manner of dress and publicity stunts Truss has shameless emulated.

    Putting her changing political views and her imitation of Thatcher together, the French media have this week been referring to the English Empire’s fifth Tory prime minister since 2010 as the ‘Girouette de fer‘, i.e. the Iron Weathercock, as per the following typical example.

    Headline reads "Iron Weathercock: Europe reacts to Liz Truss becoming British prime minister
    Headline reads “Iron Weathercock: Europe reacts to Liz Truss becoming British prime minister
  • Surveillance for corporate profit

    Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) surveillance seems to be on the rise since your ‘umble scribe first reported on its use by B&NES for access control to the council’s rubbish tips recycling centres some years ago.

    It’s now being used by parking management companies to catch drivers who overstay their welcome in private car parks, as shown by the example below spotted in central Bristol today outside the snappily named Double Tree by Hilton hotel on Redcliffe Way.

    Sign warning of use of ANPR to control car park use
    Somebody’s watching you…
    The hotel car park in question is ‘managed’ by Smart Parking, whose website boasts the company is ‘Reinventing the Parking Experience’. The manner in which Smart Parking is ‘reinventing’ parking (minus the experience. Ed.) can best be described by your correspondent as ‘Orwellian‘.

    The adjective Orwellian is no exaggeration if one peruses the company’s marketing brochure to glean how ANPR is used. It states:

    Smart Parking’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) / license plate recognition (LPR) parking system is a simple, efficient and cost-effective way of off-street car park management.
    Cameras placed at entry and exit points take a timed photo of the number plate of each vehicle entering and exiting the premises. Customers then simply pay and walk, using their license place as identification. We can also configure sites to have validated parking which can include permit only, staff only, free limited time parking and definable grace periods, to name a few.
    As with our other solutions, SmartANPR/LPR work with the SmartCloud platform to deliver occupancy, stay rates and enforcement efficiency reporting for car park management and future planning.

    Note the American English usage of license.

    Of course, for any users who outstay their welcome, the company wants to make a profit with its penalty charges (note to any passing journalists, despite your constantly referring to these charges in your copy as ‘fines‘, they are in fact invoices; only the judicial authorities can impose fines. 😀 Ed.) and so needs to obtain details of the vehicle’s keeper from the DVLA. The DVLA is more than willing to divulge this information for a fee, as confirmed by the answer to a Freedom of Information Act request from 2012.

    The law allows the DVLA to disclose vehicle keeper information to those who can demonstrate a reasonable cause for requiring it. Reasonable cause is not defined in legislation but the Government’s policy is that it should relate to the vehicle or its use, following incidents where there may be liability on the part of the driver.

    The DVLA also charges a fee for the disclosure of this information, as the response further clarifies:

    The fees levied by the DVLA for Fee Paying Enquiries are set to recover the costs of processing requests and ensure that the cost is borne by the requester and not passed onto the taxpayer.

    Even so, the agency has fallen foul of the Information Commissioner’s Office for “not using the correct lawful basis to disclose vehicle keeper information“, as The Guardian reported a few months ago.

    Your correspondent feels an urge to submit another FoI request for the DVLA to enquire about the amount of money received by the agency for this service, but has more than a suspicion such a request would be refused on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

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