Tag Archives: Wokingham

Wokingham Times Still Talking Pornography

After last weeks big front page story on Winnersh being top for searches for ‘pornography’ on Google, on this weeks Wokingham Times the story again makes the front page, abeit in a small part of one column, with what is as close to an admission that they got it wrong as I think the paper is going to get.

Alongside my posting on the subject last week, I also e-mailed a similar explanation of how Google Trends works to the editorial e-mail address of the newspaper. I was careful to not explicitly criticise the paper, however I expect that even the most hardened newspaper editor would probably be a little embarassed having spent a lot of time getting interviews with locals on something that was effectively misleading data from Google.

The latest article does mention the Google ‘best guess’ location algorithm – the source of the high marks, without actually expanding on how it works, nor mentioning the ‘normalisation’ of the figures that occurs to take account of location size. It does mention that the cluster of high-tech companies – including a couple of big data-centres – as a possible cause the high figure. However for residents of Winnersh it is still written from the point of view of there being an above average number of people searching for pornography, primarily because it is written as a report on online discussion on the subject triggered by their article, and the associated details of the discussion, rather than being a correction of a previously incorrect story.

Having said that, the paper this week isn’t all bad. St James has a nice little article talking about the new guide to the Churchyard we’ve just produced, including pictures of some of the significant graves, the author of the guide with Rev Richard, and a nice shot of the Church too.

New Job, New Desk, New Traffic Jams

New Desk

So after two days at the new job, I thought I’d share a picture of my new desk.

Each of the developers at my new job are equipped with a laptop, plus docking station, monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. The idea is that the developers have something easily portable to take out on site if needed, but when docked, it also means that effectively you get a dual screen setup to work with. Desk space wise it is much better than what I had at SSE. The office is entirely equipped with modern curved desks, so even compared with the large desks at SSE there is plenty of space. Compared to the small desks that most of the guys on my team at SSE work with it is positively palatial.

I was expecting the first week to basically be training on the various products and bits of software that the company sells. However this morning, after a brief introduction yesterday, I found myself chucked in at the deep end with a bit of coding for a customer, in VB.Net no less. As is the way with small software companies, there is a bit of rush on, and it’s all hands to the pumps to get a project out the door. So despite the fact that it’s not in my skill-set, (although since I have VB6 and C#, so it’s not massively difficult) it’s a question of picking up a book, and getting it done. Anyway, by the end of the day I had a custom control up and running, and had only tripped over a couple of the differences between VB.Net and C#. Certainly it does look like I’m going to get quite a variety of different languages and platforms to play with, as before I went home tonight there was a discussion about a potential customer who are involved in publishing, and therefore run their business entirely on Mac rather than PC.

Wokingham Traffic Queues

About the only frustration at the moment is nothing to do with the job, but more that, thanks to South-East Water, the journey is not nearly as quick as expected.

Rather than the expected 15 minute journey, the past couple of days it has taken between 30 and 40 minutes, thanks to the closure of a short stretch of the A321 near Tesco. As a result, everything coming in to Wokingham from the south west side is being directed across the level crossing, and not surprisingly it is tailing back, resulting in virtual grid-lock at rush hour. It’s not going to get much better either as once they finish the three weeks on this stretch, they then spend another thirteen weeks digging up the road further up the Finchampstead Road. Whilst South-East Water is absolutely right, the work has to be done or risk a main bursting, it is still going to be a long sixteen weeks…

Punch and Judy

It’s now a couple of weeks since my letter about the printing of endless letters from our local politicians appeared in our local paper, so I thought I’d just look at what has happened since.

Firstly, I haven’t heard anything from any of the politicians involved in the letter writing, not even the one who represents my ward. The two I directly named have also not responded through the letters page of the paper, indeed we actually had one week last week with no letters from local politicians in the paper at all! Having said that, on the front page of last weeks paper was a quite amusing cartoon with two of the people involved playing table tennis…

However, it was a brief restbite, as this week, one of the letter writers, the leader of the current administration has come back with a letter on a different topic, in response to a letter that a resident in Woodley wrote last week. Not that it makes much difference mind you, the structure is much the same as the letters on previous topics.

He starts off justifying the letter by saying that he assumes the letter writer is a new resident, and therefore unaware of what has happened recently. This allows him to lead in to an explanation as to how it’s not down to the current Conservative administration, and is entirely due to the hopeless Liberal Democrat administration that was in charge when the Conservatives lost control for two years between 2000 and 2002. Essentially it’s either them, the current Labour government, or an unelected quango that’s to blame for anything around here it seems. The letter as always finishes off with a final dig at the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrat response, that I’m sure will appear next week, will be much the same – just replace ‘Previous Liberal Democrat Administration’ with ‘Current Conservative Administration’, change the final dig to be at the Conservatives and you get the general idea. So to some extent the local politicians haven’t really taken the hint, to which I’m not overly surprised.

As for comment from other people, most interesting was someone at Church who asked me whether the letter in the paper was from me, and when I said yes, congratulated me, and said that he agreed wholeheartedly with what I had said. Having chatted on the subject with him a bit more, we seemed generally in agreement over how local politics should work.

From my point of view the fundamental thing about local politics is that you have pretty limited power, and much of what goes on is limited or driven from London. For example, although local tax rates are set locally, a large proportion of the council budget actually comes as a block grant from, and at a level set by the government. Indeed although there is some flexibility, the government even has powers to cap the tax rate set by a council. The housing issue is again something over which, in reality the local council have little control, as this is a national policy issue – housing numbers being set by the government. For all the fuss that is being made currently, the new houses will come, the only decision being where they go. It is interesting to note that in the current debate the Conservative administration have made much of blaming the Liberal Democrats for the numbers, however they say little about being able to reduce the numbers. In fact, had things been different and the Conservatives had held the council at the time, I’m sure that the numbers would be just the same. Again, even if our local council planning department refuses permission for building, a government department can reverse the decision. The fact is that we are in a location that has good transport links to London, more demand for housing than availability, and some significant areas of land that could be used for building. All the local council can do is to try and get the new houses in as acceptable form as possible.

Ultimately, the local council is about boring but essential things like collecting the rubbish, cutting the grass and fixing the streetlights, which is why there is even more of a disinterest in local politics than at a national level. If anything, when people do vote in their local elections, unless there is a high profile local issue, they are voting based on national politics. So whilst their new leader may be calling for the end of Punch and Judy politics I suspect on the ground in Wokingham that won’t happen, and we’ll carry on with the Punch and Judy letter writing in the local paper, over subjects that they have little control. Oh, and on the subject of things that they should be worrying about, the streetlights around here still don’t work properly…

Election 2005

So, the election is all over, with the result everybody had predicted, with Tony Blair returning to Downing Street. While compared to the results in 2001 and 1997 Labour has lost a large number of seats – their majority having dropped by more than 50% – the majority of 67 is one that would have been considered good in previous years.

The only party to significantly increase their proportion of the vote was the LibDems – the Conservative vote remained almost static, so the general analysis seems to be that the Conservatives failed to win the election. That is largely the impression I got from friends and workmates – although they didn’t much like Labour, the prospect of a Conservative government appealed even less.

Peter Snow

Peter Snow had some snazzy new graphics, this time highlighting the three-way battle between the major parties. Each mark represents a seat, with the positioning based on the relative votes of the three major parties. What is worth noting from the picture above is how few seats there are along the Labour/LibDem line compared to the Conservative/LibDem line, and yet the Labour/LibDem line is the line over which many LibDem gains were made.

On a local level, as expected Wokingham returned John Redwood as MP. In terms of the big parties Labour remained in third place, loosing 2.2% of their vote, 2% going to Redwood, and 0.2% to the UKIP candidate, who did somewhat better, but still got less than 1000 votes. In fifth place the Monster Raving Loony party achieved 1.2% of the vote, beating the BNP candidate by 193 votes. In last place, the Telepathic Partnership candidate got a grand total of 34 votes.

Whilst most of the campaign seemed pretty bland and predictable locally, the BNP candidate was at the centre of probably the most interesting event. As part of the process, local churches often hold debates between the various candiates. This time round, Rose Street Methodists held just such an event, however they refused to admit the BNP candidate. This is the classic debate between free speech and standing up for what you believe, and people I have spoken to about it are pretty equally split over whether or not the church was right to act as it did.