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Black Star RidersI saw this article today on the BBC website. Nottingham’s Rock City has turned 40.

Steel Panther (one gig)They’ve been shut down throughout the pandemic, and I’ve been worried they might not survive. It’d be a disaster if they closed for good.

The StranglersIt’s a brilliant venue. I must admit that some of the bands that play there aren’t my cup of tea, but the rock bands certainly are.

Sparks

Sometimes it’s a case of seeing them before they sell out to pop or rap. Other times, it’s a blast from the past, with bands you maybe grew up with and who are still going strong.

Brothers OsborneThen you get the genuine new bands who are good at what they do. In many cases, they’re big in America, but not so well known here.

HaimThen come the ones who are big here, but not as much so in the rest of the world.

Steel Panther (another time)And then there are the cult bands which most people have never heard of, but who have a huge following meaning they sell out unless you get in quick.

The Darkness - 1I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been now. Sometimes it averages once a month, and I’ve been doing that for many years.

The Cadillac ThreeThis year is one that will go down in infamy for the obvious reasons, but the future is looking a little brighter now as far as the pandemic is concerned.

The Darkness - 2

So here’s looking forward to Rock City’s next 40 years!

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COVID imageA potential COVID vaccine in Queensland, Australia, has been kicked out because… trial participants gave false positive test results for HIV – even though the trial coordinators had already suggested participants might produce antibodies that would do this.

You can only wonder if they’d have kicked it out for lower profile false positives. For flu, for example. Or Chickenpox. Or if it was more effective in men.

Just imagine. You might eventually have had a vaccine which was 100% effective against COVID. But because it gives a false positive for HIV – an automatic trigger for stupidity in the modern world – in the early stage trials, it is automatically designated 0% effective.

This world is mad. Really, it is.

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MeowTalk from AkvelonMankind has this never-ending belief that animals have their own languages. There’s maybe a possibility with apes and monkeys, but when you start moving to different branches of the evolutionary tree, I think you’re stretching it a bit.

The latest story is to do with a cat translator app – called MeowTalk – which aims to translate your cat’s meows into meanings.

The article on the BBC website says:

Research suggests that, unlike their human servants, cats do not share a language.

Each cat’s miaow is unique and tailored to its owner, with some more vocal than others.

Apparently, this isn’t seen as any sort of problem to the engineers who developed the app. But let’s be honest. It is. A big problem.

We had a cat once where visual clues were far more important in knowing what she felt. If she hissed and drew up to 20mls of blood from you, she was happy – but now fed up with being stroked (she could become fed up anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 minutes after commencement of stroking, but there was no obvious way of knowing which one it was going to be on any given occasion). If she hissed and drew 40-50mls of blood, it meant that she didn’t want to take the tablet you were trying to give her, but which she’d swallowed voluntarily when the vet had demonstrated how to do it only yesterday. If she hissed and drew more than 50mls of blood, she didn’t want to be flea-treated. Sometimes, as you walked past her on a chair, and if she was in a playful mood, she’d lunge at your leg and draw varying amounts of blood depending on whether she hit a vein or an artery without making any sound at all.

I don’t think they have an app for that, though if they did let me just say that ‘PsychoMeow’ is copyrighted.

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USA Election graphicAt last, Joe Biden has made it to the White House. It’s still disturbing that it was so close, but it’s the result America – and the civilised world – needed.

The Americans are lucky. They were able to rectify the crass mistake which occurred in their country in 2016.

Here in the UK, the one we made just before Trump was elected remains.

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David Lewis and familyTo all those tosspots on Facebook driving instructor (and anywhere else) pages who keep saying COVID-19 is all a con and overplayed just to try and keep working, try engaging your only brain cell and wake up.

I saw this story on the news tonight. David Lewis, from Pentre, Wales, lost his wife Gladys to COVID on Thursday. Then, the following day, he lost two sons, Dean and Darren, also to COVID. Other family members have also subsequently tested positive.

In future, and once we’re through all this, if anyone ever tells me they were part of this group of deniers and other assorted halfwits, I swear I’m going to punch them square in the face wherever they are.

You can donate to the GofundMe page here. It’s to help this poor bloke who now has three funerals to pay for, thanks to COVID-19

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COVID virus graphicOriginally published 22 October, Last updated 5 November 2020

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the SEISS has been extended to April 2021. It will be paid in two instalments – the first, covering November-January, and the second covering February-April. It was initially targeted at people who were working fewer hours than they normally would be as a result of the ongoing situation, and who were eligible for SEISS in the first place (i.e. received the first two grants), but with the latest development of a new lockdown with all lessons and tests being stopped then it is back to where it was earlier this year.

As I understand it, those who couldn’t claim previously still won’t be able to. I do feel for them.

The pandemic is a developing situation, but it would appear that many instructors’ minds don’t work in the same way, and remain fixed in the past – and they were usually wrong even then.

When the SEISS extension was first announced it was during different restrictions, and was going to be 20% of earnings. This compared with 80% of earnings for the first grant, and 70% for the second earlier this year. However, it was still better than nothing. Then things changed, restrictions were increased, and the amount of the extension payment was raised to 40% of earnings. This was even better than still better than nothing.

On 2 November, this was changed to 80% for the duration of the lockdown, and 40% thereafter. However, it has now changed yet again, and will now be paid at 80% for the entire period November-January. The amount of the February-April grant has not yet been set.

You would have thought that instructors would have worked out by now that the situation can change overnight. But they don’t, and treat every change as somehow being carved in stone. No one knows what the next few months will bring, but at least those of us eligible for the grant will be covered.

Claims will open from 30 November 2020, and HMRC will notify people accordingly.

But if they’re paying it in instalments, how do they know we won’t still be locked down?

Oh, Christ! That was my response to this question before the latest change. Look, it doesn’t matter now, because it has already changed to 80% across the whole of November-January. You won’t have to worry about doing your sums anymore trying to work out the (absolutely meaningless) average overall figure. It’s 80%, period.

You’ve still got to pay tax on it

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You are being given a percentage of your pre-tax earnings without actually having to earn it, so you’ve got to pay tax on it. Anyone who expects otherwise shouldn’t be running a business.

 

Reminder: Use the proper GOV.UK link to find out the latest situation with the grant. Don’t just guess.

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US Election graphicI’m watching the drawn out process that constitutes ‘democracy’ in America. I shouldn’t complain – ours has its own quirks.

But looking at a BBC page where they ask a panel of typical US voters how they feel waking up this morning with the count ongoing, I just thought I’d add my own view.

The overriding question I have is this: why in God’s name is it so f***ing close?

Are there really that many people in the USA who want Trump in again? I mean, it was a mind-bogglingly catastrophic result that got him in back in 2016. But again? What kind of people actually want him as President after the last four years?

People are nuts.

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I rarely book theory tests for my pupils. However, one of my current lot had a practical test booked at the end of March and it was cancelled. We all know how the year panned out after that, and his theory certificate subsequently expired in June.

He doesn’t have internet access at home, and to cut a long story short as to why he hadn’t booked it himself, two weeks ago I booked his new theory test for him. The original date was 8 November – and you can probably see where this is heading.

Anyway, I got an email from Pearson VUE today, which says:

The Government has announced that England will be put under national restrictions from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Due to this, your theory test cannot go ahead.

You now need to reschedule your theory test at:

[link to booking]

When you sign in, you’ll see that there is a date and time for your test. This is not the actual date of your new test, this is just a placeholder, and you must change this to be able to take your theory test. You will need your driving licence number to do this.

Yours sincerely,
Chief Executive

When you click the link you have to log in with the candidate name, licence number, and date of birth,

As the email says, you will see a date given – it is not valid, so do not just leave it thinking you have a new date and time. You don’t. What you have to do is change the test centre, because that isn’t valid either. If you don’t, it will look like there are no available dates, but once you select the appropriate test centre available times and dates appear.

When I logged in, the dummy date given was 11 December and the test centre was identified as ‘NOTTINGHAM GBR’ with no actual address. The calendar widget showed no available test slots for the entire three month window. I selected the appropriate Nottingham test centre, and the address information was then given and available dates/times appeared on the calendar widget. The earliest was 23 December – there were available slots on only three days in December, then it was January.

Why is there no test centre mentioned on the rearranged date?

Groan! Something else to kick up a stink about. Look, the email tells you the date is a ‘placeholder’. If you log in and it says some time in December, it doesn’t mean you have a test in December – it states that clearly. What you have to do is select the appropriate test centre, then choose from whatever dates are available. And what dates are available will depend on who got there before you.

And you still need to be ready to go through all this again if the lockdown gets extended. If it does, it isn’t DVSA’s or Pearson VUE’s fault, anymore than having to cancel this time, or all the times before, have been. It is what it is.

No dates are available when I log in

Change the test centre. Then you should have dates to choose from.

The available dates are in January

Then book one and stop moaning. It is what it is, and complaining isn’t going to claw back lost time.

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DVSA LogoAs if it wasn’t already obvious – and it wasn’t to many ADIs out there – DVSA has issued a statement that theory tests are cancelled between 5 November and 2 December. They’ve clarified that with:

These measures mean all theory tests in England will be suspended from 5 November and restart on Wednesday 2 December.

An update on 13 November indicates that these dates are inclusive now, so tests restart on 3rd.

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