Daily archives: August 23, 2010

I hate how drivers keep killing pensioners

If you read opinion pieces in papers, and even moreso the comments section on any piece about road safety and bicycles, you could be forgiven for thinking that the greatest evil on the roads these days is cyclists who run red lights. Even though I’m not the RLJ (red light jumper) type, and get exasperated by the people who cross pedestrian crossings when they should be stopping instead, I want their critics to shut up or develop some perspective.

Cyclists do not ignore the amber light and then hit a pensioner whilst going 45mph. They’re unlikely to hospitalise two teenagers by driving into them. On a very, very rare and unfortunate occasion a cyclist will hit a pedestrian and kill them. But for every time this happens well over a thousand people are killed by motor vehicles.

So until people give a proportionate amount of opprobrium to drivers who ignore, or speed up for, the amber light, use their phone whilst driving, turn without signalling, speed and commit any number of other potentially fatal sins they can’t expect me to respect their opinion when they whine about cyclists.

The Pink Panthers

The fractions of seconds flicker past on the CCTV footage from the Exelco store in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza shopping district. As the clock races forward, an elegantly suited, tie-less western man enters through the front door and turns left towards a display cabinet. A second man walks in under an umbrella, his mouth and nose covered by a white anti-contamination mask. He reaches into a small rucksack and takes out a gun.

The seconds run by on the clock. The first man calmly opens a cabinet and picks out two items – a diamond-studded tiara and a jewelled necklace. The second man squirts a short burst of tear gas at the employees. Then they turn around and walk out. The clock shows 36.02 seconds.

This is the time it took the Pink Panther gang, the world’s premier “white glove” crooks, to commit one of the cleanest jewellery heists in Japanese history – netting almost £2m-worth of gold and precious stones. By the time the employees could react, the two men had disappeared. They were already weaving through Ginza’s heavy traffic on their getaway vehicles – later identified by police as bicycles.

The Guardian- The hunt for the Pink Panther gang.

There’s a story in this, for certain.

links for 2010-08-23

  • It might not look much. In fact, it looks practically suicidal.

    But two Danish inventors hope to launch the world’s first amateur-built rocket for human space travel.

    The homemade rocket is the brainchild of Danish firm Copenhagen Suborbitals, headed by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen.

    (tags: space rocket)
  • Boris and Barclays' mammoth bike scheme in the capital may be getting all the column inches, but on university campuses across the country, fleets of bikes are already available for hire, and from September the concept will be shifting up a gear.

    Schemes in Leeds and York – which offer university students and staff cheap bike hire for up to nine months at a time – are already well-established and growing in scale, and next month will be rolled out to campuses in Lincoln, Nottingham and Lancaster. The Nottingham project will start out with 460 bikes, with plans to increase this number next year

  • Cycling in this country is not exactly mainstream, but it does seem to be on its way to achieving that status.

    Commuting by bike has seen a huge increase in the last 10 years, and recreational and competitive cycling has also grown significantly. Growth leads to diversity and cycling has plenty of that. So what's mainstream and what's not these days?

    (tags: cycling bike)
  • A senior astronomer has said that the hunt for alien life should take into account alien "sentient machines".

    Seti, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has until now sought radio signals from worlds like Earth.

    But Seti astronomer Seth Shostak argues that the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence (AI) would be short.

    Writing in Acta Astronautica, he says that the odds favour detecting such alien AI rather than "biological" life.

  • For years the identity of BBC TV's Top Gear test driver, the Stig, has been the subject of frenzied speculation but now his identity appears to have been revealed and the aura of mystery surrounding him may be further shattered by his plan to publish his memoirs.

    The name of the driver who hides his identity behind a white helmet with a blackened visor was revealed today as Ben Collins, 35, a former Formula Three driver, described on his website as boasting "a reputation for being fast and aggressive".

    (tags: TopGear stig)

The shallow end of the meme pool 8

During the election I subscribed to a load of political blogs’ RSS feeds. After it I unsubscribed from most of them. Foolishly, I revisited the two most obnoxious of them again recently.

Richard Carvath stood as an independent candidate in Salford and Eccles, the seat retained by Hazel Blears and polled 384 votes. He claims, loudly and repeatedly, that he would have done better if the media, the big parties and homosexual-perverts hadn’t conspired against him. Homosexual-perverts is a favourite phrase of Carvath’s. He can’t just say homosexual, it has to be homosexual-pervert. He may have read somewhere that you can reinforce your message by using your preferred phrases regularly until the reader starts thinking in them as well. But he’s gone overboard- the Carvath blog is overloaded with them, every sentence employs a piece of similar wordplay, all of it of a level which should embarrass anyone over the age of ten. Homosexual-perverts abound, homophobic registrars who refuse to perform Civil Pervertships are conscientious objectors honoured with the title of Decents. I’ve seen him use the phrase Guardian-perverts as well, and it should be obvious who Barack Obortion is. I’m sure he thinks it’s all very clever, witty even, but it just looks like the ever less coherent ramblings of someone with serious mental problems.

Carvath is on a mission from God, the voice in his head. He recently had a nasty accident whilst climbing, breaking several bones and damaging his back. If it had happened to any of his growing list of homosexual-pervert enemies (which is anyone who points out how nasty his beliefs are) he would no doubt be crowing about how God had punished them for their sins. Because it happened to him it’s somehow a form of blessing and all part of his invisible friend’s holy plan. I can only hope he gets better mentally at some point as well as physically.

Real Street is the blog of Stewart Cowan, a Scottish evangelical christian who has yet to meet a conspiracy theory he doesn’t like. Recent favourites include a bus advert which is going to turn us all into Muslims and how trying to cut down homophobic bullying in schools is secretly a plan to legalise gay paedophilia. Cowan doesn’t mangle language as much as Carvath, but he does like to grasp at anything which he feels supports his prejudices whilst dismissing all evidence against them. The Daily Mail and conspiracy loving tabloids are right and anyone answering him with facts and basing their replies upon reality is obviously deluded.

Cowan has a couple of tame commenters who’ll up the frothing at the mouth quotient when necessary. English Viking hates foreigners who come over here to work and improve their, and our, lot. Ancient Danes and Norwegians who popped over for a little recreational raping and stealing are obviously okay, though. Len wants you to know the Truth and accept God, because science, reality and not hating people just because they’re different is obviously the work of Satan.

The natural response to the likes of Carvath and Cowan is this-

XKCD- someone on the internet is wrong

But in the long run that’s just a waste of time. They enjoy being wrong, and feel that having all the flaws of their arguments pointed out somehow proves their case. It’s far better to ignore them or point out elsewhere just how stupid they’re being today.

Which is what I know I should do, and what I shall try to do, but I’m not making any promises that I won’t pop over there occasionally and slap them on their own blogs.

Tiger- Part Ten

Jeremy Simpson nodded approval at Irwin’s memory. A call to MI6’s headquarters on the banks of the Thames- the striking building known as Legoland to many of its occupants- had returned sparse electronic notes which fleshed out Irwin’s recall. There had been, in the late nineties to mid noughties, a series of disappearances amongst the world’s disreputable club of arms dealers. Rumours had abounded, including one that they had all been victims of a gang of thieves.

With so many of the transactions conducted in cash, and occasionally diamonds or other easily transportable valuables, it was hard to track them. If anyone off the watch list came into possession of such booty, and were disciplined enough, the trail could go cold very quickly. So there was little to back up any of the theories about the retirement of any gun smugglers and it was generally notched up as one less bad guy. The disappearances had tailed off in the last few years. Until a report from January of an arms dealer and his family found in a bullet riddled Range Rover in Miami after rumours that an associate had ripped off a major client and promptly disappeared.

If the associate had been hijacked and killed then a large deal would have fallen through. There was no arbitration on the darker edges of the arms trade. The client wasn’t likely to sit down and try to work out a deal, they’d most often draw a gun.

So, were the pair next door part, or all, of a gang which had targeted arms dealers and stolen from them and their clients? In one way it was a dangerous trade to be in, the dead family in Miami was evidence of what happened to people who found they’d upset warlords or terrorists. In another way it was quite safe- who was going to tell the authorities that they’d been robbed whilst carrying out an illegal trade. So long as their victims remained in the dark about the identity of their robbers the gang could move relatively safely.

If this gang was able to target big deals, and they certainly had today, they must have access to some high level intelligence. If they could be made to talk they would be one hell of an asset. The gain would be so much more than Jed had hoped to get from the deal they had crashed. He was already working out how to get them out of the country- it wouldn’t do to give the French intelligence this valuable- and what sort of deals or threats would get the best information out of them. Jed wondered whether it might be worth abandoning the planned deal just to sweep these guys up quickly. The dark part of him started calculating the intelligence benefits against the loss of Williams’ wife and child.

Jed had a conscience, but he sometimes asked it to look the other way. This wasn’t yet one of those times. Irwin was good, he might recover Karen and Simon Williams. But even if he didn’t the two men holding Gerry Williams weren’t leaving the hotel free. Jed smiled. He was trying, by proxy, to do the right thing and save two innocent lives. But even if he failed at that he’d still come out of the day with far more than he’d expected going in.

Other fiction by Ian Pattinson

Ruby Red– available as an ebook through Lulu.com or for the Kindle.

So Much to Answer For– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Global Weirding– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Sounds of Soldiers– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.