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.


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.


(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.


You will need to moderate your content before asking for a

1) Check out the Content Filters FAQs: 

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….


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.



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?


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.


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.