Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Grumpy Old Men

We had a Burns Supper on Saturday night – I know a little later that January 25th but it was date that most people could make. In the end there were 12 of us in total. it seems that calendars aren’t quite so packed in January as they might be at other times of the year. The Haggis (from Waitrose) was delicious and of course we had bashed neeps and tatties.

Now in my family (half Scottish and half English) we have always eaten mashed swede as the neeps, although often people talk about turnip. Well I can’t personally enlighten you. However there does seem to be enough of a controversy that the Guardian newspaper has this blog – “Are ‘neeps’ swedes or turnips?”. If you follow the link we had the vegetable on the right, well two of them actually. The article does actually say that neeps are swedes, as I know them but what  the Scots and the English don’t always agree on what is a swede and what is a turnip.  Anyway for me neeps are yellow, quite large and globular vegetables and taste delicious mashed with butter and pepper.

Seattle Market: – no swedes?

We also had Cranachan, which is a traditional Scottish desert, that I have ever only eaten on high days and holidays, well actually probably not that frequently. It is basically whipped cream, toasted oats, whisky, honey and raspberries. If truth be told I usually find it a bit sweet, but it went down a treat at our Burns' Supper. In fact apart from a small number of dissenters even those who hadn’t eaten Haggis before said how delicious it was. Mind you my wife’s excellent beef and gravy probably helped.

Why am I blethering on about this you might well ask – well I noticed that men of a certain age do deserve the term grumpy old men – we did spend quite a lot of time grumping. Which brings me onto this headline – “Award-winning postman ‘forced out of his job’ after being made to swap his bicycle for a trolley”. I despair of these sorts of decisions – the roads are congested, petrol is going up in price and will probably keep on going up. So what do we do – to stop people from stopping people using bicycles for work.  The CTC had a campaign – which rumbles on.  The new CEO is quoted as saying that “We have seen an increase in accidents linked to the use of cycles on busy road networks and in a number of cases these accidents result in major injury to our staff.”

A Letter box on the Church Wall - Risby

In one of strange coincidences (not) I have just posted around 40 leaflets through my neighbours door – democracy in action. naturally I used my bike to get around. Clearly I am not a trained Postie – but IMHO the biggest danger was the flipping letter boxes, my posting hand has gotten quite scratched. If we switched to a more friendly method of dropping off post – the American way? I reckon it would speed up things no end. I did it in shorts and no coat – the freezing weather was an incentive to jog around when not cycling.

It turns out that Nasa scientists weren't terribly sure where all the heat was going – well it is warming up the sea at half a watt per 10 sq feet. Of course there are some that feel that this is a form of greenwash to explain why there isn’t global warming. In my view there are enough humans on the Earth - it is bound to have an effect and we imperil future generations by not recognising that fact.

The Sea – Scarborough – soaking up all the heat!

Whilst grumping another thing caught my eye – it turns out that one skirmish in the Police war against the cyclist – wasn’t right – “Police cancel fines given to London cyclists for riding bikes in area where cycling isn't banned”.  To be fair I am not the greatest fan of fines as the method used to control errant behaviour in any case. As a citizen I want there to be better behaviour whether it is on the road or street or home for that matter. However a fine is a punishment and we tend to assume that fines put people off. Although there are many cynics who see fines as a way for public coffers to be filled.

Police Declare War on the Speeders

In the “war on the motorist” it turns out that “speeding fines are to go up to £100 to bear the brunt of Ken Clarke’s new victim, surcharge”. I have several concerns here, the first is that fines hit people with different levels of income very differently. The punishment effect is huge if you are barely scraping along as it it and it is inconsequential to the very rich.

Can’t delay – must get to Oakington as fast as possible

The second is that I am not concerned with revenge, I just want safer roads for cyclists please. I want behaviour to change – I am not convinced that speeding fines do that. Although I do not have any evidence to support my thinking I am a fan of “awareness courses”. They cost time – a more equitable “currency”, but also are an attempt to change behaviour rather than “just” punish it. Speed again and you go on the extended two day course?

Although there are some road problems that perhaps can’t be dealt with quite so readily. There is a “Call for harsher sentences as drink drive figures soar” (well here in Cambs anyway overall figures rose by 10% in a year). I wonder if we need to be more explicit about distinguishing between criminal behaviour and naughty behaviour. The data suggests that the number of “morning-after” drink-drivers has risen by 40%. Is this because binge-drinking is more prevalent and the option to use public transport is being eroded.

Perhaps we need to be more inventive with modern technology. Should any drink driver, on returning to driving have to fit a device to measure his or her alcohol level before the car will start. Perhaps persistent bad drivers should fit GPS monitoring devices.

In this instance a “Father and son (were) hurt as van ploughs into back of car” and then the van drove away. This is just appalling – but whilst the focus has been on the increased safety of car occupants maybe there also needs to be be more monitoring of the roads to protect the occupants from the poor driving of others. In fact I wonder it the increased safety of cars is a factor in more people drinking and driving – they are actually taking less risk now.  If we can afford air bags perhaps we should also have to have cameras and GPS.

After all if we had black boxes in our cars then it would be easier to prove or disprove whether whiplash had occurred.  Here is an example of a spurious claim being made against a driver – apparently the driver claiming the whiplash injury had claimed four times before. A similar problem happened to a friend who drove into a bus in America – the driver claimed whiplash – the hire car company got a physics involved who proved that the forces involved couldn’t have caused the injuries.

We also have a motorist who is a “flasher” here in Cambridge, he targeted a female cyclist in Grange Road and has a square-face and weathered complexion. 

It also turns out that Cambridge is going high-rise – the as the skyline shoots skywards. It was really the picture of Botanic House as it reaches completion that caught my eye. Apparently tall buildings have caused some controversy and guidelines will require significant for applications for buildings taller than six storeys.  If you like tall buildings then here are some interesting “Rooftopper” pictures. I like heights, but I don’t think I will be taking roof-topping up as a hobby.

Botanic House – Cambridge

And finally – Pink and baby Willow on their bike. Which leads onto the question posed by this blogger - blogged “Who is cycling for?. It makes the point that currently it is mainly hard-core cyclists and if you want more of the general population to switch to cycling then you have to make cycling appeal to them (and not the inadvertent elitists.) I don’t like that term – I have never felt that cycling is an elitist activity – and certainly not when I get sprayed by a car driving through a puddle at high speed next to me. 

I do agree that  we should “spend less energy telling other people how to cycle and more striving harder to transform conditions” though. Mind you we shouldn’t act like the Association of British Drivers who seem to get way too much air time. Have a chuckle on their views on speed limits – ‘cos if you didn’t chuckle you’d have to cry.

And really finally – I have found the ideal chrome App to manage my multitude of open windows – Session Manager – so far it has been doing what it says on the tin.


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