john-legend

Serenading the wife

OK, here’s the deal. I’ve had an idea. It might be a bad idea, it might be insanely good. I don’t know. But I’m going to give it a go. We’ve been married ooooh, quite a long time, been together about 25 years now. Married about 18 years or something. No one could accuse me of being romantic. Not because I think the right stuff, I’m just shit at implementing it. I always manage to cock it up.

So the plan is thus: It’s December 2016. By the time I get to February 14th 2017, I will implement my plan. I intend to get good enough at singing and piano playing within 2 months, to be able to serenade my wife with John Legend’s ‘All of me’.

*** I should point out, this is a secret from my wife. I practise with headphones on, I hide the score when I’m not around ***

Here it is if you’re not familiar with it, which I wasn’t.

 All of me

Nice enough but not really my thing. ACDC and The Stones is where my musical tastes tend to reside. 

I can play the piano…a bit. I’ve been playing it for 10 months. And because I’m old, progress is quite slow. I can’t sing. I’ve never tried, I’ve never had training, my voice is terrible.

So that’s where we are. This page is mostly for my own benefit to track progress, but it’s a good laugh for anyone who wants to have a look.

Here’s the score I’m using. For those not familiar with accompaniment music the top stave is guitar, the bottom two staves are piano. So I’ll be playing the bottom two staves, bottom-most is left hand, upper one is right hand. (One nice thing about modern music is it tends to have a lot less crazy shit on the score. Look up the madness that is ornamentals for an example of classical music confusion)

All of me – piano score 

I’m not sure if this is the original score or not, I suspect it isn’t but it sounds close enough for my purposes. 

18/12/16 – Piano practise has begun. I’m leaving singing until I have the piano sorted. The score extends to 6 pages. Piano practise is usually approached in sections. Choose a section of music, play that repeatedly, until it’s nailed, move to next section, then put them all together.

27/12/16 – Illness completely stopped play for quite some time, but it did make me realise the accompaniment music would be awful if my singing was (which it will be), so I got hold of a different score arranged by a lady called Joyce Leong. I’m not uploading the score because she sells her arrangements but here she is playing it, this is what I need to sound like.

Joyce Leong – All of me

OK,  so I’ve been learning for an hour or so but then my wife came home and started making lots of noise in the same room (plus she almost twigged when she stood behind me and listened near my headphones) so I saved my last recording and this it is. Pretty bad so far, you can tell where I start to struggle.

First attempt

The elephant in the room (humans)

“Come on everyone, we’re off the to the beach!”

“Yay! Going to the beach is brilliant! Let me get me get my…..woooahh, hang on. Going to the beach can be dangerous. Because there are”…..[insert risk here]

What did you say? Was it ‘sharks’? Course it was. The beach is dangerous because of sharks.

Bollocks.

There ain’t no sharks at the beach. If you live in the UK, there has never, ever, ever been a person eaten by a shark. Ever. Apparently back in 1937 a boat was capsized and three people died, but really, you’re more likely to get killed by picking your nose.

So why do we think about sharks when we consider beach risk? Well mostly, because humans are utterly useless at assessing risk. For the most part we have absolutely no idea how to look at risk and determine how bad it is and what the best way of mitigating it is. (We’re very big fans of risk transference but more on that later)  Because we’re all a bit thick, to be quite frank.

Well, that’s a little unfair. There’s some externals. Mostly made up of other humans. But generally, we’re thick.

Humans are also useless at assessing risk  in the other direction. Here’s a risk I see a lot (I work in Information Security).

halifax-phish

Phishing emails. Insanely common, mainly because we’re terrible at assessing risks. They work so well because humans just love clicking on those links. They don’t stop to think, they don’t consider the long education programs they’ve been subjected to. They don’t recall the phishing tests they see regularly from their *brilliant* information security team. Nope, they just click. I can absolutely guarantee I will get at least a 5% success rate with any phishing campaign I fire at an organisation. Absolutely guarantee it. And I only need one click for the campaign to be a success.

It works because links look so common, so anti-climatic, so inert that some people will never believe they are dangerous when the reality is they can be incredibly, devastatingly dangerous. (Phishing emails now the most common initial attack vector for all successful breaches, by far). That’s a whole different discussion but these attacks can and do cost companies hundreds of millions of pounds and it all begins with a single, thoughtless click.

Where else are humans rubbish at assessing risk? Out on the roads? Yes, I expect we are.

Ask your average person in the street about road safety and they’ll almost certainly mention cyclists, either as victims or perps of road violence. As I said, thick. Cyclists are hugely benign as a source of road violence, comparatively but they’re a different group for most people so othering takes over. As for victims of road violence, cyclists certainly take a bit of a beating (sic) compared to say, car occupants, but it’s still an incredibly safe form of transport and no more dangerous than walking about the place.

What’s massively more dangerous than cycling, is *not* cycling. You won’t find any car company telling you that.

inactivity

There are a whole stream of epidemics hitting this country. Pollution, obesity, heart disease, all killers, but you can guarantee these average people in the street won’t consider these risks when carrying out their own assessments because they’re not obvious.

The dangers of cycling aren’t obvious either, are they?

safety1safety2safety3safety4

Oh…. You see, people *think* cycling is dangerous because they’re told it’s dangerous by a whole assortment of poorly informed, poorly intentioned organisations some of whom have plenty of skin in the game of making it look so (car companies are top of the list). The media quite happily buy into this by running near constant campaigns lambasting cyclists whilst ignoring their ‘most read’ sub-headings covering yet another killer driver.

Because nothing generates hits like ‘Cyclist’ on their front page. It’s like shouting ‘Shark’ at the beach.

There are no sharks at the beach.

Risk assessment demands a good level of common sense, don’t let the nonsense people feed you take yours away.

 

VFM

 

Just going to put this here.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-21-11-19

Lets ignore the fact it’s almost certainly a complete lie for the time being, Bloom posted this and then spent quite a lot of time defending himself with argument after argument mainly because it is such an utterly preposterous statement. Looking at his subsequent tweets it looks like he was trying to suggest that people in the UK don’t get value for money from their tax.

I’m not even that interested in it being Bloom who made the statement. Bloom is a spectacularly vile character and not worthy of much further comment. You can do quick google if you’re not already familiar with him, but you won’t like what you find. Bloom suggests that because he has never relied on the state for anything then he simply doesn’t get value for money from his tax. It is this perspective that is so horrendously blinkered that I just couldn’t let it pass.

Initially the premise that an individual could have no direct reliance on the state is completely unfounded and wildly untrue. Private schooling and private healthcare is certainly available to all those who are fabulously wealthy but I doubt even the most extravagant billionaire is prepared to fork out for their own police force and fire service.

Lets play with the theory though. Our theoretical Bond villain billionaire has elected to create his HQ in middle England. He has a hired army of security personnel, a private fire engine and crew on hold, a fully equipped hospital and ambulance service who follow him around the country (remember, no private health care can operate without provision of services from the state), private dentist, private bin men, paid for education from toddler to adult…the list goes on and on. Yes, he can accurately state he does not rely upon the state for anything…..directly.

I’m presuming he never uses the roads or trains or buses to get anywhere though. Or the air. He doesn’t get anything delivered, he is entirely self-sufficient, just like Bloom, (although the pedant in me wants to point out that the drains and indeed the water are provided by a  private company).

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-22-09-24

Our theoretical billionaire has decided to place himself in Britain for reasons that are not entirely clear to me because it’s clearly not a stable, safe, well governed, structured place to be….because of some kind of state funded democracy….oh.

And, of course, all those security guards and firemen all got educated and cared for on the state. They can’t afford all those niceties. Because they’re normal people, just like virtually all the other tax payers in the country. They haven’t each paid £1.5 million in tax in their lifetimes.

I’ll tell you what though, they each pay a small amount of tax, and there’s millions of them and what they contribute eclipses Bloom’s paltry lifetime payment. They all contribute to the state, they have no choice. And the state pays them back. It provides infrastructure and hospitals and schools and police and fire services and a whole plethora of quality services that support everyone, equally.

And it is fucking beautiful. Because that’s how the state works. The state isn’t there to support the Bloom’s of our world who have their own smallholding and are quite happy eating turnips all year round. The state exists to support all of it’s citizens, especially those who can’t even contribute. That’s precisely why we have a state and a government and a democracy who we task with making sure the tax we pay goes to the right people at the right time. 

I pay tax, Godfrey. I don’t get it all back and would never expect to. I’m not paying into the system to buy a tv or a car, it’s not for me. We all pay a respective amount because that’s a fair system. I’m paying for services I’ll never use. I’m paying for infrastructure I’ll never see. I’m paying for things I don’t even know exist. I’m paying into a system that provides support to people who haven’t been as fortunate as I have and I get excellent value for money, thanks. Without all the facilities that the state tax system provides, nothing else works.

And we know it works because even nasty, awful people like Bloom have done very well for themselves. The wonderful irony that he is complaining about the tax system that is almost entirely funded by the less well off people in society that has provided an environment where he can succeed will always be lost on him. And even if it wasn’t, I doubt he’d care.

 

Spamtastic

You all know what spam is, right? of course you do. You’re on internet and it’s ubiquitous.

Spam arrives in all out inboxes all day, every day and unfortunately it’s a constant pain to deal with. Luckily, most of our ISP’s are deploying excellent capture tools which cut out a lot of the noise, for our personal email accounts at least. Certainly my Hotmail and Virgin email accounts get very little in the way of proper spam.

Where spam is a little more annoying is when it encroaches into our professional lives.  However, there are lots of enterprise levels tools for organisations to cut out most of the unwanted stuff. We have some very good tools deployed at my organisation (for reasons we’ll go into shortly) so the regular spam (Viagra, hair recovery, money management), tends to get caught. We don’t even offer users the option to receive that shit, if it’s talking about willies, wigs or wonga, it’s dumped out of hand. Likewise, if it’s get a virus onboard, a  malicious URL or any kind of dodgy looking attachment, that sucker is history.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of traffic that is very hard for automated tools to identify. Lets talk about that.

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Jon. I’m in charge of information security at a large organisation. One of my jobs is stopping unwanted unwanted emails coming into the business. Sadly this is a very fast moving and dynamic field so a lot of traffic is difficult to identify and block (for a computer). I’ve got access to the logs and can see that inbound marketing bumpf is a major problem. 95% of the million or so emails my company gets every week, are spam. Useless. Unwanted.

950,000 emails, every week, that no-one wants. This is happening to every company, world-wide.

 

What does all that noise look like to a professional? Well lets see. I tuned all my manually introduced filters so I was getting raw spam that only related to my role. I then removed any emails that could be explained because I’ve done business with the companies in the past. I removed any emails that could be explained by the few places that I’ve voluntarily given my email address to. After that, how many emails do you think I received last week?

303.

Three hundred and three emails that have been sent to me in an attempt to win my business at some level or other. Every week. Do one.

I’ve got no budget. I haven’t got the time or the inclination to go to VIP events. I know what the Internet of Things means, thanks. I haven’t got to my position by not understanding threats and risks, by the way. And no, I don’t want to buy any trend-leading shelfware.  All in all, none of these 303 emails are remotely interesting to me. I’ll even add that this stuff is turning me off to the companies who send it to me.

Big organisations working in the security field, the people you employ to target me are making me not want to use you. Stop sending me this shit. Stop sending it to all of us.

 

capture

It’s a new dawn

Yes, from tomorrow we will extend the success of our finger crossed campaign to the forgotten.

All current safety campaigns (whose success we are already comparable to after only two days), provide valuable support to road users. These campaigns stop road users being killed by explaining to them that respecting 1500kg vehicles is the way forward. These campaigns are incredibly helpful in telling road users to make themselves visible. Respect and hi viz are like a brick wall in front of useless womblecunts.

Unfortunately these campaigns are limited in their scope. Ask them to protect pedestrians on pavements and they will look at each other and shrug their shoulders. They have no answer to protecting pedestrians who walk about in their segregated, designated area.

THEY HAVE NOTHING!!

Well that’s where our campaign comes in. Fingers crossed works just as well for pedestrians as it does for all other road users. You want to be as safe as the other campaigns promise?

CROSS YOUR FINGERS!!!!!

fingers-template-yellow

You’re welcome.

Keep following us for updates. Next will be left hooks, one of the most common causes of driver-cyclist RTC. Respect has failed because you didn’t even know that driver was approaching you. Hi viz has failed because they must have seen you to pass you in the first place and yet they still turn left in front of you and destroy your life.

Have we abandoned you? Not on your nelly. Fingers crossed is right here, we’ve got your back. Cross your fingers and we will provide you with the same protection you get from respecting other road users in huge great, massive, metal boxes.

Fingers Crossed!

You can hardly access the internet nowadays without coming across a new road safety campaign. This is good to see as there’s a lot of people killed an injured on our roads. Safety campaigns will make things better.

Safety campaigns are funny old things. You’d *expect* them to focus on those doing the most harm. After all, it’s a complete and utter waste of time targeting pedestrians and cyclists and other victims of road violence, these people can’t stop other people driving into them can they?

What I’d *expect* to see is posters telling drivers “STOP KILLING PEOPLE YOU STUPID BASTARDS!!!” And I don’t really mind if it upsets the drivers who drive carefully because it’s saving lives, see.

You’d *think*, wouldn’t you? But no. Bizarrely, quite a lot of road safety campaigns tell the people getting killed and injured that they really need to look out for themselves. Quite how the campaign groups achieve this without it sounding like a veiled threat is actually rather impressive but they certainly do a good job.

now you see me

Dress like a railway worker, or you’ll get hit by a car because drivers can’t be expected to see perfectly visible people.

There’s also a running theme to encourage people to share the road and respect each other because it’s a two way street. Cyclists are, after all, always killing drivers. Or something.

respect

It’s not uncommon for these campaigns to be supported by car manufacturers for some reason that’s not entirely clear other than an obvious acceptance that the users of their products are hopeless fuckwits.

LIFEPAINT

Things must be better with all this safety being pushed out to unprotected humans moving about on 30lb, self-propelled vehicles, mustn’t it? Is it, chuff. Because no matter how much you tell cyclists to make themselves be seen and make sure people can see them or to wear a plastic hat, there’s still an issue that is being left out there. It’s these huge metal boxes that keep hitting people and killing them. Huge metal boxes being operated by other humans.

Now if you think these humans go about their business in a dangerous manner *until* they see a poster telling them to behave, you’re a jolly naive individual. If you think people are going to start looking and caring about people not in a car simply because they see a TV advert warning them of the hazards of not doing so, you’re a bit daft.

“Oh, bugger me, I’ve been driving like a complete tool for the last ten years and that poster showing a car giving some room to a cyclist has made me change my ways”

If you think you can educate bad drivers, you’re in a little cloud because these campaigns have been run for years and years and they make

absolutely

fuck

all

difference.

But I’m not going to let that stop me. You see, I’m going to start my own safety campaign. This will have the same effect as all the other safety campaigns so that’s good. My campaign, like many others, doesn’t bother telling the people doing the harm to sort themselves out, it’s entirely focused on the people suffering. Hopefully I’ll get sponsorship from Ford or someone. Volvo seem quite keen on blaming the people their customers kill, I’ll try a pitch there. But for now, onto the campaign.

 

Behold! The ‘Fingers Crossed’ campaign.

fingers-template

Looking to get home tonight? Fingers crossed you will.

Hoping you’ll see your family again? Fingers crossed you will.

Like having the usual number of arms and legs and heads? Fingers crossed they’ll still be there this time tomorrow.

It also comes in hi viz.

fingers-template-yellow

This campaign will be hugely successful for a great many reasons.

For a start it will achieve 100% of absolutely fuck all just like all the other campaigns.
It costs nothing, and more importantly, it costs nothing to drivers.
It’s quite simple in that it places all the onus on the victims of road violence, I mean, no-one driving badly is going to be crossing their fingers are they? That would be unsafe.
Once someone has driven over someone else they can quickly point out that the victim didn’t have their fingers crossed so they were asking for it.
It gives hope where there is none.

I’ve run out of benefits now but that’s not going to stop me either. I’m currently designing shirts to push the message out there.

“Fingers crossed you don’t drive into me”

“Please don’t kill me, my fingers are crossed”

And this will no doubt have as much impact on road safety as everything else because targeting the vulnerable is a sure fire way of stopping the strong and powerful from continuing to cause harm.

Stay tuned for updates particularly where we link up with our sister safety campaigns, “Pray to Jesus” and  “If I don’t tell my wife I’m shitting myself, maybe I’ll see her tonight”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockholm Syndrome

There’s a strange situation that takes place amongst cyclists sometimes. Or maybe it’s not that strange, but it’s certainly wrong. As wrong as fish. Maybe even wronger.

Allow me to outline a scenario that illustrates this situation.

A hostage is cycling along the road. He’s not doing anything wrong or confrontational, he’s just riding about the place. I dunno, he’s on his way to work. But he’s riding along. A hostage.

As he approaches a narrow section of the road, a hostage taker approaches in a car behind him. The hostage taker doesn’t  just nail it past him with inches to spare. The hostage taker waits behind.

After the road narrows, it goes round a sharp corner and then after a few hundred metres, the road widens and heads off in a straight line. The hostage, conscious that he is holding the hostage taker up, gives it a bit extra. He’s not a slow hostage by any means. This particular one is quite fast, 22-25mph on the flat. In a 30 mph section. So he’s not holding the hostage taker up by too much, but he does feel guilty about it. So he goes fast. Faster than he normally does, he goes fast until the hostage taker has room to overtake. Safely.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, the hostage waves his thanks to the hostage taker. “Thanks for not killing me”, he waves. “What a great person you are”.

“Thanks, again.”

What the actual hell?

I should explain Stockholm syndrome at this stage. If you don’t already know, this is the positive emotional attachment that the victims in a relationship make with their captors. Originally coined after a lengthy hostage situation in a Stockholm bank vault, the expression is often used to describe the bond that builds between an abused party in a relationship and the abuser.

Well hang on Jon, just a minute. Drivers aren’t kidnappers. This particular one is old Mrs Whattle, she’s never hurt anyone in her life. She cares about people and she’s on her way the village hall to run a coffee morning for cancer victims. You’re just one of those cyclists who go on and on about drivers all being bad and all cyclists being good.

Well hang on Jon, I’m a cyclist and I don’t wave thanks to drivers who wait behind and then feel a surge of well being towards drivers when they pass safely and considerately as they are bound by law and common decency to do so….

I could be wrong. I often am. But I don’t think I am in this case. I don’t give a shit about the drivers perspective to be honest. Lets talk about the cyclists perspective though.

The vast, overwhelming majority of road transport infrastructure in this country is designed to work for drivers. Cyclists are allowed on some of it, and there is a tiny, insignificant proportion that is actually dedicated to cyclists, but on the main, drivers get full priority. Even in that there London where crazy people are building actual, dedicated, well thought out cycling infrastructure that isn’t knee deep in mud, there’s something like 15 miles of proper stuff. For 1000’s of miles of roads, 15 miles of it, has some sensible cycle infrastructure, in the best supported city in the UK.

W O W

And you would not fucking believe how much anguish those 15 miles of cycle lane have caused to the good citizens of our capital. Even celebrities have got involved. Not shit celebrities neither, real ones like Janet Street Porter, Sir Alan Sugar and Tom Conte. Those people are absolutely LIVID about this insane level of investment and disruption that is clearly designed to fold to the agenda of the all-powerful cycling lobby.

You see, even celebrities, the most perfect members of our society, have Stockholm Syndrome. They have been utterly convinced by the dogma that is doled out by the car trade, the road trade and the politicians making money out of them. They have fallen for the cause that the real kidnappers have held a ransom over us for years.

There is no all-powerful cycling lobby. This is the most hilarious thing anyone can ever say in the entire world. I’m hugely reluctant to accept that Janet Street-Porter has been hired by Mercedes to diss the all-powerful cycling lobby but I’m happy to accept she’s been fooled into swallowing the line (hook and sinker) that her captors have been feeding her. All our captors.

Tell you what, it’s time to stop this shit. We’re not sorry for the inconvenience.

fred

(Photo courtesy of alamy stock photo)

We don’t see your view, we don’t get your cause. Share the road? Yeah alright, equal space, equal rights, equal infrastructure, equal spending.

See our view.

 

 

 

 

How to destroy a brand

Do you remember when flickr was good? I do. It was actually the best photo sharing website available for quite a while.

Nice gui, good navigation, sensible policies, easy to embed photos from flickr into websites, forums and threads. Really quite nice.

Then, about three years back it all went tits up. They changed the sharing options so for a while it was impossible to place code on a forum that shared photos. They fixed that but then they changed the gui which was and still is absolutely terrible, so hard to flick (eh?) through all your contacts photos. They changed things so if you found a photo in someone’s photostream you couldn’t easily look sideways at associated photos. The apps were complete and utter bobbins.

And now this. I get this email from flickr.

This is a message from the Flickr Abuse & Advocacy team to
let you know that we've changed the safety level of your
photostream to "moderate". Having a "moderate" warning on
your account means we've determined there are items in your
photostream in the wrong categories.

*** If you'd like to resolve this, we ask that you please
read the following email and follow the instructions
completely before writing back for a re-review of your
account. ***

When people browse or search on Flickr, they can filter what
they want to see based on a safety level that they are
comfortable with - either Safe Search is on, set to
moderate, or off. As you upload stuff to Flickr, you need to
make sure that you're applying appropriate filters ("safe",
"moderate", or "restricted"). If you don't apply filters
correctly, there's a very good chance another member will
let us know - in fact that's why we've taken action today.

NEXT STEPS:

You will need to moderate your content before asking for a
re-review.

1) Check out the Content Filters FAQs: 
- http://flickr.com/help/filters/

A good rule of thumb is, bare breasts and bottoms are
"moderate." Full frontal nudity is "restricted."

(Please note: Content that you're sharing privately needs to
be moderated as well.)

Eh? My photostream consists almost entirely of pictures of me on top of big hills or bad drawings. What the hell could have offended anyone?

 

Top of Newlands Hause

Ah, well while that’s not very pleasant I don’t think it actually violates flickr’s rules. SO what could it be? My drawings? Again, they’re not great but maybe one of them has offended someone….

Aaah…

Naked-ness. Bottoms. I’ve upset someone incredibly prudish, clearly. And obviously because they’re such insanely good drawings they’re so lifelike that someone is right now, vomiting because you can see someone’s bottom. You know, those things every single one of us has got. NO BOTTOMS.

Right, well I’m sorry about that flickr (not really), but FUCK YOU.

I could tolerate the appalling interface, the useless app, the webpage that’s always slightly bigger than my computer screen, but this, no, fuck…you.

Goodbye. I will maintain my flickr account, but I shall use it to display random acts of disobedience because stupid rules are stupid.

 

 

Try again

 

Did you ever think, that you’ve taken the wrong career path?

I don’t mean wishing you’d become a porn star or a millionaire novelist. I mean something normal. An actual normal job which earns no more or less than your current occupation, just different.

I’ve had thoughts about changing career in the past, just like most people do. Not doing my hobby for a job thoughts, I’ve done all that and realised much as it’d be great and everything, it wouldn’t be great. Doing something you do for fun, I think, could make you hate it. No, that’s not true. I got into IT because I liked messing with computers, and now I’m paid a lot of money to tell other people what to do with IT. I don’t hate it. It’s a little soulless at times but meh. Pays for bike bits and booze.

Anyway, my head has been turned. You see, I work in the water industry.

Water production is incredibly important. Honestly, if it fucks up, you’re about 12 hours from mayhem and death. It’s not very exciting though. Here’s how you make drinking water.

Collect some water, clean it up a bit, disinfect it a bit, give it to people to drink. Yawn. The scale is quite interesting and the delivery logistics are certainly challenging but that’s about it. I bet you didn’t know that we create a head, or service reservoir to maintain supply rather than producing on demand. Huge, great ,massive, swimming pool sized cisterns.  Obvious really, actually you probably did know that. See? Yawn.

water-treatment-plant-41-638

Shit.

Now shit is interesting. We all do it, but once you flush that chain you forget about it. But that’s where it gets really interesting. The things with humans is, we shit a lot, and someone has to take it all, get that nasties out, get the goods out, maybe make a bit of money out of it, return some of it to nature. Now *that’s* interesting.

Let me take you through the modern day sewage treatment process.

Once the raw sewage arrives at the treatment works, all the big bits need taking out. Toothbrushes, nappies that have made it this far, dead dogs. So it passes through a big grate and all the big bits fall into a skip. Those skips. N I C E. Interesting point. Apparently tomato seeds pass through the human body undigested, so lots of them fall into the skips that are full of nutritious material. Beautiful tomatoes at a sewage works.

Onwards for the sewage though. First off, we need to let it settle. Pump it into primary treatment. Big vat of water. Oily, frothy bits come to the top, hard, heavy bits fall to the bottom. All the bits that float to the top get pushed into a holding tank, sometimes this stuff is used to make…errrmm, brace yourselves…soap. Not really in the UK though.

Anyway, so now we have a load of fairly nasty water filled with properly dangerous microbes, and a load of sludge. This shit (I’m here all week), suddenly got interesting.

The microbe water goes off to be de-dangered using an aerobic biological process. Here a live culture of good bacteria (for want of a better phrase), process the water and remove most of the deadly bacteria by feeding on it. The culture must be kept alive and healthy, warm and fed with oxygen. Heat helps, I wonder where we can find some of that? Read on to find out. The clean water is dumped back into a local water source. Really, it’s good now. In storm conditions, large holding tanks capture the excess of wastewater but sadly, sometimes there’s too much and it, ahem, is just released. Sorry about that.

The sludge? Aah, here’s where things get awesome. You see, there’s an old Northern expression. ‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’, and sludge is very much, muck. Sludge is, one the whole, quite wet. And it’s not a huge amount of good to any one in that state. In the UK we used to spread it around the place to leave it to dry out. Slow though. The best thing to do with sludge is harvest its methane. Sludge gives off methane quite a lot. Especially when it’s nice and warm and wet.

So we’ve got some wet sludge. Pump it into a big tank, add plenty of heat. The bacteria in the sludge gets very excited and starts making methane as it’s post-excitement exhaust gas. It’s not very pure though so we push the gas through some scrubbing systems to make it nice and clean. Now we have pure methane. What are we going to do with that?

bg-cs-LayeDavyhulme

Put it in some big holding containers, that’s what. Inside the balls are big bags that fill up with methane.

What are we going to do with the methane? Chuck it into one of these of course.

GE-Jenbacher-Type-6-cogen-unit

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units turn biogas into electricity This is quite a big one. Believe me, once they’re up and running it’s quite impressive. These things generate megawatts of electricity which can be used to run onsite equipment (you probably didn’t know that the water/wastewater industry is one of the largest users of electricity in any country), or pumped back into the grid.

CHP’s generate a lot of heat so that can be pumped back into the start of cycle to get the sludge excited. It’s almost poetry isn’t it? We still haven’t finished with the sludge though. Once all it’s excitement is over it is dried out and turned into fertiliser.

Now you tell me all that isn’t more interesting than computers. I bet you didn’t realise your poo did all that after you’d flushed the chain, did you? And if you had a choice to work with computers or poo, I know which option you’d take.

Training, qualifications and Accountability

If you spend any amount of time on social media or online news sites looking at subjects that are even vaguely related to cycling (or often, not even tenuously linked to it) , you’ll very quickly come to the conclusion that cyclists are the devil’s spawn, who eat babies and kick kittens. Not because they are. Cyclists are just normal people who instead of getting in a car or using public transport, or god-forbid their heathen souls, walk to go somewhere, have decided to travel on a bike. They don’t change personality because they’ve left their car keys hanging up and lift their leg over a bike, but various commentators would have you believe this. During this anti-cyclist tirade it is not uncommon to raise the three mainstays of the cycling opposition party portfolio, tax, insurance and law breaking. I’m going to ignore the first two for the purposes of this discussion. I’m also going to largely ignore the general lawlessness, or not, of cyclists. (Personally I see way more drivers breaking the law than cyclists but everyone has their own experiences).

The issues of law breakers is an interesting one at a principle level because cyclists in the UK (and this may be the case globally) may lift their leg over a bike without any formal training whatsoever, and head off along a public carriageway causing mayhem, death, crushed dreams and heart attacks as they meander aimlessly without rigid guidance provided to them by the authorities. Valiant drivers will apparently crash their cars into flocks of old ladies just to avoid these callous menaces (because presumably the brake pedals don’t work) and all because there is no mandatory cycle training and test that allows someone to pilot what is clearly the most dangerous machine known to man, a 30lb bicycle.

Why are cyclists allowed to terrorise the law abiding drivers of Britain in this way? Drivers have to be trained extensively and must pass an incredibly difficult test before they are allowed to drive a car. This is what makes them paragons of virtue. Their detailed training and examination (the COP would have you believe), ensures that even if they wanted to, drivers are not able to make a single solitary mistake. This is what marks drivers out from cyclists who are unregulated, ungoverned and even worse, not accountable. Any driver who has been trained and tested, will commit hari-kari if they go even 1mph above the posted speed limit. (After pulling over safely and not parking on the pavement)

Why is this even allowed? Physics. That’s why.Well not just physics, I may mention externals later. but lets talk about physics.

BMX Bike Clipart

Here’s…errm, Jon. He’s on a bike. He’s not been bike trained or tested (I have but bear with me), he is liable to kill someone at any moment because without it being drummed into him through a rigid, formalised and commercially viable training program, he has absolutely no idea about what he’s doing. Honestly, it’s like giving him a machine gun or a chainsaw

The thing is, despite Jon being completely out of control, he only weighs 13 stone (sorry, 182lb) plus his bike which makes him 200lb. A 200lb bullet just ready to kill. Jon can make his bike go quite fast because he cycles a lot but on average, he moves at around 14mph. A 14mph bullet. If Jon careers into someone at 14mph on his reckless spree of abandonment (every morning jon kisses his wife goodbye, she never knows if the next time she’ll see him he’ll be in a coffin), Jon will stop moving, pronto. Really, physics aside, the person most likely to be hurt if Jon cannons into them, is Jon. That’s because Jon and his bike are slow and light, traffic-wise. Jon has what we call ‘low momentum’. If Jon were to aim his machine of death at a house, Jon would probably die and the house wouldn’t even notice it. Don’t forget, all these scenario’s only unfold because Jon is an unpredictable ninja of doom without training and testing.

Carpooling Clipart

OK? Right, here’s errrm, Dave. Dave has been through a tight series of controls called ‘the driving test’. To pass this test, Dave was first trained by a bored and cynical relative highly trained driving instructor to an extremely proficient level before having to navigate what is probably one of the most difficult examinations normal people have to undertake, ‘the driving test’. This training apparently takes, on average, about 40 hours. That’s like a week of being in work. The test can be longer than half an hour. After this, Dave is deemed fit to drive anything with 3 or 4 wheels that weighs less than 3.5 tons. If Dave were as old as Jon he’d be able to drive something up to 7.5 tons. So in Dave’s capable hands, we have 7900lbs of Dave and incredibly well managed metal. Dave is allowed to go up to 70mph (but no further) but spends most of his time sitting in a great big queue of traffic. I mean his average speed is 30mph. Hang on, the RAC says here that the average speed on 30mph free flowing roads is 30mph. Given that there are many times people must drop below the speed limit, this must mean lots of people exceed the speed limit? But they’ve been trained… No, must be a mistake. Anyway, 30mph average in a 7900lb vehicle. That’s what we call in traffic terms, ‘high momentum’. If Dave drives into a house, the house will most certainly notice it. But Dave will never drive into a house because he’s been trained and tested. Dave never needs to take his test again because of the incredibly high standard of training he received when he was 17. Male humans at age 17 are very mature people. Not mature enough to drink in public or own a credit card but taking 3.5 tons of metal through a shopping centre? No problem.

yellow semi trailer truck clipart

This is fun, what’s next. Aah, Jane. Jane has taken and passed her HGV license. Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV’s), are quite big. And heavy, if it’s not clear. I’m surprised Jane even bothered to be honest. The insanely laborious and difficult hoops that Jane must jump through before she’s permitted to get behind the wheel of something weighing up to 44 tons!!!! Lets assume Jane only wants to drive lorries up to 30 tons though. To reach this, the pinnacle of driving expertise, Jane must not only pass her normal driving test but then must pass 4! Count them, FOUR more tests before she is allowed out delivering goods. It’s like the Krypton factor! All lorry drivers must have an above average IQ or something. At least. She must also receive 35 hours of training every five years as well as getting fitness to drive certificates every five years (once she’s over 45). Well, I don’t think anyone could be that well trained, do you? That’s almost as much training as I have to do every year so I can put letters after my name. Phew!

Anyway, 30 tons is 66,000 lbs (we’ll ignore Jane’s weight because I’m a gentleman and to be quite frank, it makes chuff all difference). Jane is allowed to deliver heavy goods at the same speed cars go so that’s a 30mph average. This is known in traffic terms as ‘like a bus momentum’. If in the impossible event that Jane drives her lorry into a house or a bridge I expect the house or lorry would cease to exist in it’s current form. But as I say, that never happens due to the galactic levels of training involved.

 

Physics time

 Jon’s momentum = 200 x 14 = 2800 lbs m/h
Dave’s momentum = 7900 x 30 = 23700 lbs m/h
Jane’s momentum = 66000 x 30 = 1980000 lbs m/h

Those are significantly different figures aren’t they? Momentum can be translated into risk quite easily. The bigger the momentum number, the more risk the vehicle represents. Since unfettered cyclists can in no way provide a baseline, we’ll have to use the car and lorry figures to help us understand where cycling needs to rest on the training graph.

risk

Oh. Well as far as I can gather while I look at the maths (and bear with me, I’m no lorry driver), this means that for cyclists to be trained to an equivalent level as other road users, we’d have to mash them in the head with a large brick, put a blindfold on them and then push them through a red light. Physics explains everything doesn’t it?

This is why cyclists don’t need training, a test or a certificate to let them ride on the road. They are the harmless sloths of our road system.  Yes they can be annoying when they do break the rules and yes, very, very occasionally they get involved in something unfortunate and hurt or kill someone else. These are terrible incidents but don’t for one minute claim that training will change this. If you’re already in fear of your life, and trust me, a great many cyclists are, then explaining to you carefully that cars can squish you flat and not even slow down, is not going to encourage you to share space with them. In fact, it’s more likely to encourage you to break the rules, get on the pavement and annoy people.

We simply do not give enough education and training *of the right type* to the Dave’s and even Jane’s of this world because as we can see, they keep killing people. If you want to talk about training, talk about regular re-testing of car drivers, talk about removing the license to operate from those people who display an inability to manage their high momentum vehicles and talk about sorting out the particularly unpleasant aspects of our traffic system before you even consider discussing something you find annoying.

Risks

Yes, yes, I know that risk is a lot more complex than just momentum. Lorries have bigger brakes and wheels and things, bikes are harder to see and hear.