Saturday, October 1, 2011

Biodegradable Indian Summers and stuff like that...

Warm, isn’t it?  I love this weather, despite the Climate Change alarm bells chiming loud and clear. But we’ve been having these ‘Indian Summers’ for – what? – three years now.  And yet, BBC24 News is dominated by the ‘story’.  Why?  It’s not news.  The Pope is Catholic, bears shit in the woods and September in the UK is warmer than July and August.

So let’s concentrate on the real matters at hand, eh...  the Islamist Cleric killed in Yemen, the EU legal threat over UK benefits, or the Greece bailout deal.  But this blog isn’t really about that; I trust you all to remain updated from your respective propaganda channels.  I want to move briefly to the little story about Welsh plastic bags.  No, they’re not world class singers just because they come from the valleys – this also applies to miners, school teachers and Post Office workers – but they now cost 5p each, every time you shop.

In my opinion, this is a brilliant idea.  It’s good for the planet in terms of reducing both unsustainable production methods and also non-biodegradable littering from the many shameless and lazy bastards that appear to inhabit England.  And it saves me from having to politely decline the offer of a plastic bag every time I buy as little as a chocolate bar or bottle of juice.  This is the Welsh Government’s way of ensuring chains like Coop are being even more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible.  For Coop, this initiative follows their “Bags for Life” and Fairtrade cotton offerings; they’re not merely trying to make an easy 5p or even recoup costs incurred by paying their plastic bag supplier.

But some folk simply don’t get it as far as I could tell from watching TV yesterday morning; BBC News 24 repeats stories throughout the day at a rate of approximately three times per hour and unfortunately there was one of our National Heroes on there yesterday getting all confused and making an idiot of himself.  Now I’m no doubt indebted to this guy for his brave services in Afghanistan or Iraq, but if I may paraphrase him: “The shop makes plenty of money so I don’t see why they cannot stand the cost of the bags.  Why should I pay for the bags?”  It’s like plaiting piss, it really is.  I know you all understand this latest initiative is to make us all think twice before idly accepting a plastic bag.  And I trust you all agree with the concept.  Right?

The best things in life are free.  Love, manners and apples from next door’s garden.  I’ll let you into a little secret; I’m a member of a very exclusive club.  I’m not sure when I signed up or who I spoke to in order to make the arrangements, but I’m definitely a member.  Or at least I reckon I must be.  The Manners Club – restricted access.  Because manners are free, but too many folk don’t have them.  It’s like Gold Card Membership and if your name’s not down then... “not tonight ladies”.  So, if I can figure out how, then I will organise membership for the following people:

One.  The lady who works at the BP “Corner Garage” who struggles to utter as little as ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’.  I don’t want to be serenaded or fanned with a palm leaf as I browse the windscreen washer fluid and Ginster’s pasties, but the basics should really be a given... especially if I’m making an effort to be cheery.  Poison Dwarf.

Zwei.  The bloke in Sainsbury’s who – as I was unpacking my basket – simply started using ‘my’ self-service checkout.  I never thought my being hung over would save an ignorant tosspot’s life, but it certainly did.

Trois.  People who block Tube platforms.  Picture the scene... Kentish Town station, southbound Northern Line platform and a group of European tourists stood RIGHT NEXT TO the platform entrance with the baggage from a Transatlantic Boeing 747.  Completely in the way.  One might interpret this as a lack of [self] awareness or practise, even, but for me it’s tantamount to simply lacking manners.  If I find myself reluctantly schlepping a suitcase around the Tube (or on other public transport), then my first priority – yes, first – is ensuring that I don’t hit anyone in the legs or block platforms and corridors.  So for me, people failing to do this are simply lacking in manners.  It should be the normal human condition to look out for each other, but alas...

Before I sign off, I want to go back to self-service checkouts.  I used one that time because I stank of booze, but I urge you not to use them as they are evil.  I checked my account again this morning and still no payments from Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer or Waitrose; just receipts.  Seeing as they don’t pay me a wage then I refuse to do their work.  If you do use self-service checkouts, then just be aware that you’re both being exploited AND keeping someone out of a job and on the benefits system which you probably contribute towards.

There’s an unexpected item in the bagging area, so I’ve got to go!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"I wonder why people do that?" - #2, 05/04/11

Yesterday morning, on my way to the platform at King's Cross, I was forced to walk at a pace I would consider towards the slow end of the scale.  Especially considering the circumstances: train about to leave, barriers initially chosen by my good self and fellow commuters closed, needing to make a last minute detour to the working barriers.

The slow walking pace was thanks to a fully grown adult male with an overnight bag the size of a fucking toaster.  What is my problem with such a small item of luggage?  I don't have a problem with such a small item of luggage.  Until Samsonite fit wheels; allowing self-important businessmen to wheel such a small item of luggage behind them in the clean air.

It's all so fucking pointless!  Why don't these - usually hulking - people simply carry the luggage like in the good old days?  When men were men.  Instead of trailing it in their wake - like the synthetic dog they never had - while they slurp hot brown liquid from Starbucks.  I make exceptions for larger items of luggage and/or more slightly built commuters where the weight of luggage and commuter are approaching equilibrium.  After all; we do need to look after our bodies.

So the next time a 'Sales Executive' roles a shoebox over my feet or makes me walk at a pace which I consider unacceptable, I will be forced to kick said shoebox across the station concourse.  And I don't want to have to do that.  Not with my groin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"I wonder why people do that?" - #1, 23/02/11

Inspired by a journal I almost bought yesterday.  This series of social commentary will consist of concise observations of people - behaving in a good, bad, annoying, pleasing (etc) manner - along with my attempt(s) at possible explanations and/or understanding.

Most WHSmith stores I know of are pretty cramped places.  For example, the one on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre is a large store, but the aisle arrangement and the company's desire to stock a wide range of books and magazines has created a shopping experience which belies the generous floor space.  And then there are smaller stores like the one I ventured into yesterday on Baker Street; not much larger than my parents' kitchen.  No worries - I don't plan on writing to WHSmiths to offer advice - I don't exactly have the necessary retail experience.

BUT... I notice a lot of folk (mostly men it has to be said) insist on worsening the cramped situation by spending their entire lunch hour reading magazines from cover to cover (flick through by all means and make sure the magazine contains what you're looking for, but please do not read the entire issue) in the aisle, in front of the magazine racks.  Why?  Well I have given it some thought and have come up with a few possible reasons:

1. They cannot afford to buy the magazine, we are living in pretty difficult financial times after all.  So whatever one is looking for; try the internet.  Chances are, it will be in there somewhere!

2. They have nothing better to do with the lunch hour.  Have a walk and get some fresh air considering being stuck in the office all morning.  Or arrange to meet a friend or spouse for lunch or a drink.  Obviously, still buy the magazine and read it in the comfort of one's own home with a cup of coffee or a balloon of brandy.

3. They are too tight-fisted to buy the magazine.  I doubt there is any hope of reasoning with these people... wheel 'em out!

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in Episode #1 of "I wonder why people do that?" or if you are indeed a shop-reading-magazine-aisle-blocking person, then please get in touch and share your experiences.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Oh look, it's a fountain with horses..."

I'm currently spending at least a couple of weeks in thatLondon.  I had a job interview in Godalming (Surrey), on Wednesday - I was due down here to see Fran so simply extended the trip by a few days.  So now I'm waiting for the outcome of said interview... not too confidently to be honest, but we'll just have to see what happens.  Week days see me scouring the less-frequented areas of the capital in search of street art, quirky cafés and cheap snacks.  Mainly on foot.

This is all good as it saves wearing a hole in my Oyster card and I see things that otherwise would be missed while sitting on the Oxo.  I really like London and I could easily live here without a problem, but I am well aware it has its fair share of detractors... for usually the same, uninspired reasons: "it's too busy", "everyone is unfriendly", "it's expensive"...

Well to be truthful, it depends where you end up while you're down here.  I took a swift walk from Camden to Waterloo on Friday early evening and I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise in the bracing February air.  However, for the first time, I let negative feelings about the capital creep into my thoughts.  At the time I was pissed off, but looking back and sitting here now I do realise it has helped me to understand the 'problem(s)' that some people have with London.  So my route was thus: Park Way - all fine, Regents Park - all fine, Great Portland Street - all fine, Regent Street - all fine, Whitehall - all fine, Westminster Bridge Road - all fine.  Anyone who knows London will realise there seems to be a gap in the street running order - how did I get from Regent Street to Whitehall?  Well, um, I took the direct-ish route and walked via Oxford Circus, Soho, and the squares: Leicester and Trafalgar.

What a fucking error that was.  Especially considering the time of day.  Let's see what we had:

2. Trendy teenagers walking 3-abreast as they looked for Carnaby Street and 'checked in' on their iphones;
3. [To save causing offence, let's just stick with] European school kids loitering en-masse at subway and tube station entrances;
4. Soho was busy, but it does have a certain charm and at least the people there are shopping and/or working; and
5. Blokes with flyers trying to get me into the Aberdeen Steakhouse - "fucking leave me alone.  Do I look like I've had my tastebuds laser-removed?".

However, the main problem I encountered really deserves more than a simple bullet point in a list.  Problem #1 is predominantly attributable to Wicked, Grease The Musical, Les Miserables, Hair Spray, Dirty Dancing et al.  Each to their own; if someone wants to pass a few hours watching an Olivia Newton John wannabe or pretending witches and wizards exist while eating their own bodyweight in Minstrels, then that is absolutely fine.  BUT when I hear over and over again "oh we went to see that show in London... it was great... and all the bright lights... it's really busy though, people everywhere; I couldn't live there", I cannot help think that whoever utters those words is completely missing the point.

Please don't travel to London to see a show, stand in the middle of Shaftesbury Avenue looking at an upside-down map and/or dawdle 5-abreast while gazing up in apparent amazement at The Trocadero or The Palladium AND THEN complain about the crowds.  Because... and here's the breaking news...; you might actually be the crowd - along with me and the few million other people walking through the Borough of Tourism.  I know; crazy, right!?

In other news, I'm looking for a 56cm Colnago C50 Pista frame and forks... if you have one in the loft, then please let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fly me to the moon. I'll sort the oxygen and gravity problems and if I don't, then I'll blame you for flying me there in the first place!

There is political unrest and a revolution under way in Egypt, yet the good old British package holiday tourist is managing to save face amidst the chaos.  Budget airline Jet2 has suspended flights to and from Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada with effect from 1st March, with the statement:

"Whilst the Red Sea resorts are not currently affected, the safety and comfort of our customers is our number one priority, and as such we do not want them to face the stressful uncertainty of whether their holiday will go ahead as planned.  Customers will automatically receive a full refund for the cost of their flights or holiday, plus a discount off a new booking."

Although I think they have taken away customer uncertainty over holidays in a rather perverse manner - by explaining "No, you're definitely not flying to Egypt in March.  Not with us anyway." - I do agree with Jet2's concern over the welfare of its customers.  I can imagine the first thing to happen should one of their customers come to grief as a result of the protests... "You flew me out here, said it was safe enough.  And now look what happened.  What're you gonna do about it?" Prudent work from Jet2, if you ask me.

So WHAT THE FUCK are retired businessman Peter O'Reilly, and his partner Jacquie Chorley harping on about?  Here we have two people who are more concerned with/interested in the fulfilment of their month in the sun rather than the very tangible elements of political revolution that are taking place literally down the road.  Mrs Chorley is quoted: "When I came out from Leeds-Bradford Airport last Friday there were lots of empty seats.  I suspect it is the empty seats they are worried about rather than my welfare."  To be honest I fail to see the logic in that argument... if Jet2 have flown people out, then they need to fly them back regardless of booking levels.

She is also quoted: "This is my third time staying at this hotel and the staff here are wonderful and can't do enough for you. I feel completely safe here."  Oh that's okay then... if you return to your room every day to find the towels have been folded into a scene from 'Watership Down' and Azizi displays a kind, warm smile as he pours your sparkling wine, then what does it matter that Hosni Mubarak might be ready to stand down after a 30-year rule?  I'm with you on that one, Mrs Chorley, some people need to get things in perspective, right?

And this story is just a very tiny example of what is wrong with today's world - too many people setting out with only themselves in mind, in their own little worlds, no idea what's happening in their own state/province/county never mind at the other side of the world.  Seemingly perpetually obsessed with having the latest iphone application, orange skin, cheap petrol, a 4x4... I could go on.

Just to end on a slightly lighter note: something which came to mind on the train last Wednesday as we waited for passengers to alight in Doncaster (poor bastards).  Two things I REALLY don't understand in this world: 1. People's fascination with gadgets; and 2. How exactly does train spotting work?  Where's the challenge?

That is all from me for now - I have a fixed gear project to research.

Thanks for reading and Godspeed!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Science can be fun!

I nearly took a trip to Spillsville this morning.  35miles into a 40mile ride with 800m of climbing - any self respecting roadie will look to cheat the elements in this situation.  So I'm tramming through Havercroft, slightly downhill at ~25mph... Transit van up ahead which has slowed down for a traffic calming chicane so I managed to jump into the slipstream and draft for a while.  Now my experience of Transit van drivers is they don't slow down or stop for anyone.  Right?  Well I came across the jumpiest, most courteous Transit van driver this side of Watford.

Anyway at 30mph, he hits the anchors and stoops in between two parked cars to let opposing traffic through.  Yours truly also hits the anchors and manages to slow down.  However, the back tyre loses traction and consequently the wheel which it shrouds steps out to the side.  I'm skidding and fearing the worst, but luckily I kept everything in the correct orientation.

This had me thinking about vehicle stopping distances...

The Highway Code stopping distances are derived from a combination of driver thinking-perception time and the subsequent vehicle braking and stopping distance.  Braking systems on ‘modern’ cars allow them to decelerate at approximately 1.0g; indeed the Highway Code stopping distances are based on 6.57m/s/s or 0.67g.

Driver thinking-perception time will vary from subject to subject, but a conservative average value is taken for the purpose of the calculations.  The Highway Code stopping distances are based on a thinking-perception time of 0.7s.

Assuming a vehicle’s braking system is operating properly, the minimum stopping distance for the vehicle will be determined by the coefficient of friction between the tyres and carriageway surface.  According to the work-energy principle, the friction force must do enough work to reduce the vehicle’s kinetic energy to zero.

Braking and stopping distance
 µ = coefficient of friction
d = distance (m)
v = initial velocity (m/s)
m = vehicle mass (kg)
g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s2)
t = thinking-perception time (s)

Workfriction = -Fd = -mad = - mµgd = -½mvv so braking distance db = v2/2µg
Thinking distance dt = vt
Total stopping distance, d = vt + v2/2µg

If we consider a car travelling along the M62 at 70mph in clear and dry conditions; using these first principles, we can see how the Highway Code braking and stopping distances are derived.

v = 33.3m/s (70mph)
t = 0.7s
µ = 0.67
g = 9.81m/s2

Braking and stopping distance, d = 107m

Thanks for reading and not falling asleep!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We are not amused...

You'll notice I haven't updated my blog for over a month now.  I didn't forget about it or think 'fuck it', I just haven't had the urge to write.  You also may have noticed my best writing comes when I'm angry or need to get something off my chest.  No?  Oh... maybe my calm writing is okay as well then!?

So I'm here because I'm angry or because I need to get something off my chest?  Not really; I feel like I'm in a good place right now, happy with my current lot.  However; I found myself watching significant chunks of the Royal Variety Performance 2010 the other night.  Was it Thursday?  I enjoyed some of it, hated most of it and was astounded, frankly, at the average-ness of one or two performances.  I was commenting to a good friend and we were debating the [de-] merits of each act... I thought I may as well try and get my blog back on track by documenting the observations.

Lee Mack
I'm a fan.  I like his slightly manic style and he comes across as a genuinely nice bloke when he's interviewed.  He seems comfortable mixing observational comedy, one-liners and stories, but he didn't have his best night on Thursday.  I'd suggest that's probably down to the short time he had on stage and the way comedians' material has to be toned down for the Royal members of the audience.  Which is rather ironic, when you consider how they carry on in their spare time; inbreeding, sleeping with polo teammates' spouses, killing defenceless animals, dressing as Nazis and not worrying about casual racism.  I'm still with you, Lee.  Keep up the good work. 

Susan Boyle
The nation's favourite slightly mentally ill person.  No seriously, I don't mind her she seems harmless enough and her talent cannot be denied really.  But her kind of music bores me; there's no feeling involved.  Okay she might feel the music, but what about the lyrics?  What do the lyrics mean to 'SuBo'?  Well in the case of Thursday night's song choice, I'd guess they don't mean a hell of a lot.  Many respected commentators suggest that Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" (produced by Bowie if you're interested) documents his romanticised attitude towards a period of his own addiction to heroin.  Most of us cannot comment on such a topic, so Subo definitely cannot... a small sherry at Christmas and maybe half a bottle of Blue Nun if there's a wedding.  Choose life, Subo.

Cheryl Cole
I really cannot warm to this girl.  I think she's self-centered, manipulative and pretty bloody ruthless if it comes down to it.  And if we believe the newspapers; she's a fucking racist to boot.  Don't let the pretty face  - and it is pretty to be fair - distract you.  But let's be fair to Mrs Cole for a moment (is she still Mrs Cole or are we back to Miss Tweedy?  Which sells most records?)... she's made a glittering career for herself so far.  "Girls Aloud" were one of Britain's most successful pop bands and now she seems to be doing pretty well as a solo 'artist'.  Both those facts amaze me, but to each their own and people buy and listen to whatever pleases them.

She died on her arse on Thursday night though.  If the performance was good or great then I would have no problem commenting so.  But oh my; it was fucking terrible, embarrassing.  Flat, out of tune, nerve-wracked and the songwriting wasn't exactly inspiring either.  Epic fail, love.

Les Miserables
This kind of thing isn't really my cup of tea, but the talent on display was undeniable.  Compelling.  The actual show was on the same day as the student riots in London and you may have seen the news reports of Charles and Camilla's limousine being targeted.  So first we have the Royals being attacked by wannabe student revolutionists and an hour or so later, they're both lauding a performance documenting the June Rebellion (an anti-monarchist uprising of Parisian students).  I'm not suggesting things should have been different, I just found it interesting and rather amusing.

The Chelsea Pensioners
Knees up muvver braaarn.  No thanks.

Take That
I had to turn over to BBC2.  Gary Barlow is enormously talented: he plays the piano beautifully, has a strong and wide vocal range and he can write bloody good music and lyrics.  Just WHAT do the others do?  Besides dance about like dickheads, harmonise and bask in the limelight?

And now Robbie Williams has decided he wants to be back in on everything.  Does this have anything to do with his solo 'career' slowly drying up?  And already, he's taking centre stage as though he's the fucking messiah - Take That's and pop music's saviour.  Robbie Williams and his Take That Band.  Fuck off, Robbie and take your insecurity with you... go and play with your mate Johnny Wilkes and massage each other's over-inflated egos.

So there you have it; my unbiased review of the Royal Variety Performance 2010.  Or the acts I saw.  Not overly impressed as I'm sure you would have known before even sitting down to read this blog update.  I just cannot relate to entertainment for the masses; it doesn't light my synapses, pose questions or make me think about deeper meanings.  It's just there.  I have to qualify that the Les Miserables performance stood out in that respect.  Like I have already written; it's not my cup of tea, but at least you learn something from watching.

Thanks for reading and let's have your thoughts on the Royal Variety Performance 2010...