So, the snow defeated Cardiff Council pretty easily

After our “blizzard” of Friday morning which left about 4-inches of snow in and around central Cardiff, and then with the sky pouring white stuff most of the day on Friday, Cardiff Council seems to have retreated and called it quits. I haven’t seen a council vehicle in days, the roads are a mess, nothing has been cleared since the snow dropped and this is causing chaos – with cars getting stuck, unable to move at junctions and all normal services (buses, mail, rubbish collections) seemingly cancelled or on a limited service (with regard to buses).

Of course, all of this stems from the single point of failure, and that is that if you don’t clear roads and pavements, nothing else can function – and this leaves the burden firmly on Cardiff Council’s door. The repercussions of them not doing their job, and making roads passable, means that all other efforts are doomed to fail, it’s simple really.

I was at Penarth Road this morning, just after the snow started falling, watching buses with “Sorry, not in service” on their signs and returning to the depot. The picture this afternoon is pretty grim for anybody that has to travel around Cardiff – their Facebook page is being continually updated with service cancellations, because the state of the roads is making many routes undriveable.

Snow at Penarth Road & Clare Road, Grangetown, Cardiff. 20/12/2010.

Here is a picture I shot at the intersection of Penarth Road & Clare Road in Grangetown today – this is one of Cardiff’s main roads, and it hasn’t had any attention at all since the snow first fell – a clear example that Cardiff Council do not have the equipment to handle large scale snowfall.

Many council’s across the UK are hiring snow ploughs, a rental service that is available in South Wales, but Cardiff has clearly opted not to do this – and I’m sure many people would like to know why.

Update: Cardiff Council have tweeted that they currently have 4 gritters working the city, 3 of which have ploughs. The questions that must be asked now then are,

a) Why have they not been deployed before? It snowed 3 days ago.
b) Why are there so few for such a large city?
c) What do they class as a “strategic route” and “principal road”? I would have thought Penarth Road & Tudor Street would have been, considering the trunk traffic that the former takes and the bus routes that rely on the latter.

Update: Cardiff Council have pointed me to this map on their website (beware, it’s not very user-friendly) which shows all of the routes that are to be salted (doesn’t say anything about ploughing, salting won’t do very much over the sludge) during winter times. If there are currently only 4 gritters out at the moment, they won’t even touch a portion of these routes – they have 12 available, according to this page on their website, where they boast about having “26 gritter drivers and loader drivers trained to City and Guilds Winter Service Operations 6159 standard are scheduled to be on a rota.”. So where have they been until now, or do they have weekends off?

Update: The page that Cardiff Council pointed me towards has some information on footways, and the salting plan for pedestrian walkways; and as far as I can tell none of the plan was executed. I walked through the City Centre yesterday and nothing had been salted or cleared, and the snow was forecast. See the details here.

We all love a good human interest story

I was contacted a few days ago by somebody at the South Wale Echo who knew we had recently had a baby and was asked if we’d like to be in this weeks “People” pages, of course I accepted.

Misia & I both wrote a little bit each about how things have gone in the first 10 weeks and it was published today, the 16th of December, and here it is. (Click for higher resolution, so you can read the words).

We were both sat in a very awkward position on the sofa, making it hard to hold the baby and not fall off the sofa ourselves, and also Tristan wanted to look at us rather than the camera, but it didn’t turn out so bad.

The Virgin Media Player – Why did they even bother?

Anybody who follows me on Twitter will know that I have recently returned to Virgin Media for my television, fixed-line broadband and telephone after moving back into a cabled area, and they will also know the major issues that I have been having with the service that I receive from them, particularly with regard to the broadband – allegedly the fastest in the UK, but rarely able to even get near to top speed and consistently suffering from outages.

So now they have launched the “Virgin Media Player”, a model not dissimilar to that of the BBC iPlayer or Channel 4’s 4OD – offering television shows and movies on-demand, in this case to customers who subscribe to their full television package, which I do.

The first question has to be, will it work? And the answer, almost immediately, is no.
The site looks very good, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye and it makes use of AJAX technologies, programmatically it is very advanced, but the pitfall comes when you try to watch content – surely, the reason that it exists.
On my 50mbps broadband pipe the playback is of poor quality and is stuttery. I made three attempts to get an episode of South Park to play before giving up, it just would not load.

Advertising banners point out the fact that they have a mobile version of the site where I could watch videos on the move – the question I had to ask myself here was; “Do I want to give myself a coronary trying to get it to work?”, and the answer was … let’s do it.

Unfortunately it was a very short test, I pointed my mobile browser, a very recent and popular handset – the BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 on an Orange 3G contract, and I was immediately told to “Please use a browser that is supported and make sure you are on a 3G connection.”

First thing to wonder here is; why are Virgin Media not supporting one of the most popular handsets on the market at the moment? The RIM BlackBerry is currently doing very well for itself and is increasing its market share month on month, Virgin Media are clearly cutting out a very large proportion of their user base.

The second thing to wonder is; If my handset was supported, would I only be able to use the service when connected to a 3G data source, and if so, why? I mainly use my BlackBerry for browsing when I am on WiFi. Are Virgin saying that I have to be on a slower connection to use their mobile service, and if so, why? This makes no sense at all.

So, this entire test was a major fail. The Virgin Media Player appears to have some good content, mostly what is on the “On Demand” section of my HD set-top box, but unfortunately I cannot access any of it, despite using “the UKs fastest broadband”, so what chance has anybody else got?

The Virgin Media Player is available to XL television package subscribers and can be accessed at http://www.virginmedia.com/player

How the leak of diplomatic cables will free us (but not really)

At the time of writing, Wikileaks has released 842 of the 251,287 US diplomatic cables that it has come into possession of by way of a leak from within the US Army.

So far it has been revealed that;

  • None of the governments involved in the conflict in Afghanistan are confident that the war can be won against the Taliban or that it can be turned into a viable democracy
  • Both the current and previous US Secretary’s of State have authorised “spying” on UN officials, including the Secretary-General.

These are just two points, there have been hundreds more and still there will be hundreds of thousands more revalations.

Of course, because the Americans are so involved in almost every country in the world, these cables also include quotes from prominent figures within these countries. Such as a William Hague, now First Secretary of State in our own United Kingdom, Ali Abdullah Saleh, President of Yemen and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabi, to name but a few.

What all of this means is that over the course of the amount of time it takes to release all of these cables (months? years?) we will slowly start to see how our governments really operate and what they really think, or at least, what they have said to the Americans and/or what the Americans perceive.

Of course, we all know that governments operate in secrecy from the electorate and what they say is not always what gets done or what they really think, but for the first time we can really get a broad view of what has been going on – where it concerned the United States at least.

What we won’t see is very much insight into domestic policy; I doubt that the US Ambassador wrote back to Washington concerning student top-up fees for example. What we will see is how they actually are concerned with international policy and action – for example how it is now becoming apparent that there have been secret US air strikes in Yemen – ordered by the Yemeni government.

We will start to see a different side to the US and other worldwide governments, one that we know is true and is not just “conspiracy theory”, and we should be thankful for that.

Having said that, I can see some potentially horrendously damaging cables still to come out; otherwise why is Hilary Clinton so worked up about the whole thing? I believe that we’ll see a lot of cables that conflict directly with US foreign policy and will cause the Obama administration to have to answer some very awkward questions at a very critical time.

Of course, there will always be things that we will not know, that is going on in government and affects us, but it has been chosen that it is to be kept from us, but at least from this we can get a clearer insight to guide us in the right direction in the future.

Tristan

It’s been two months since I blogged, and it’s no coincidence that it’s been two months since Tristan has been born.
It’s hard to think about yourself when there is another person in the world who is depending on you to get a start.
Everything I think about, day and night, since he’s been born, which is when it became real, is how I can make him into the most perfect person. I want him to have some of his fathers qualities, but none of his flaws.

This little person that I hold in my arms, he has no sin. None. He has done nothing wrong in his life. There is nobody that you could say of, of people you meet today.

My friends have been amazing. Jack Pascoe, Bianca Lepore; they come over all of the time, just to say hi, they understand that we can’t meet at the pub all of the time, so they come over and say hi.
Jack Pascoe and I had an awesome night in one Saturday; Jack and I watched a documentary and debated it, then when the baby became restless he rocked him to sleep. I’m glad I have friends like this.

Having a child has changed my life. I’m more conscientious now.

You can’t imagine how your life changes. From birth, especially. I knew things would change, from inception, but perhaps I didn’t take it seriously enough.
Tristan is a baby. But he and I get on, especially in the last few weeks. I can make him smile.
And the pinnacle came when my grandmother pointed out that he was following me around the room. He was, with his head and his eyes. He was following my voice and my movements. I moved right, his head and eyes moved right, I moved left, he moved left. He knows me. Someone depends on me.

It’s crazy, everything that I do is with my boy in mind. I have never been more selfless. I love Tristan more than anything. I’d die for him. He’s the most amazing person I know.
Everything I do is to further my boys development.