October 08, 2006

Logic and Rhetoric

Writing about web page /leeherrington/entry/hello_computer/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

I considered a comment on that entry


“Yes and that future’s COBOL!!

Or perhaps

“a future without IT consultants sounds good, one without business managers would be better!”

Or even

“the job of the software engineer (aka IT consultant) is to translate between the irrational, contradictory and ambiguous world of humans to the logical world of computers. The better you understand both worlds, the better the translation you can make”

And then I saw under Add a comment the anti-spam question “what is my middle name?”

Why didn’t he ask a better question, say “What will I be thinking next week?”

Mr. Lee Herrington wants to give up on Computer Science and follow a career in diplomacy.

September 06, 2006

Another anti–cycling rant from a motoring journo

This time it’s Sean O’Grady in the Independent

No bike can beat a car, even in heavy traffic.

Where does O’Grady live? Clearly not in a major city. Last February’s “commuter challenge” saw Chris May cycle from central Leamington to campus in 25 minutes, while Irina Motovilova took 38 minutes in her Mercedes C180 Kompressor. That’s where there is the opportunity to use a trunk road, in heavily built-up areas it’s easy for a cyclist to beat a motorist.

In inner London average car speeds during peak periods have been below 12 mph for years. It got below 10 mph in central London before the congestion charge. Link

I suppose Mr O’Grady lives in car-advert land, where all the roads are empty and there’s a Road Fund Licence. He rants that cyclists don’t pay it, neglecting to point out nor does anyone else. It was abolished in the 1950’s. It’s true that some cyclists (those who don’t own cars) don’t pay Vehicle Excise Duty – but petrol-driven cars which emit less than 100 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometer are exempt as well. Except for trunk roads, road repairs are paid out of local authorities’ budgets – which come from Council Tax. Where that leaves car-obessed students is an interesting question.

He also thinks cycling is dangerous. Yet the health benefits from regular exercise far outweigh the remote possiblity of a crash. A point to be considered as the obese waddle from the sofa in front of the TV to their 4×4’s.

The fact that third party insurance is about twenty times higher for motorists than cyclists gives some indication of the relative danger to other road uses of the two modes of transport.

O’Grady’s believes that government shouldn’t promote cycling. Yet many car trips are less than five miles. If people cycled such distances, many of the problems of congestion, pollution and injuries just wouldn’t occur. A massive saving for the taxpayer.

Behind it all I suspect is that O’Grady is scared that the promotion of cycling might be effective. That a turn away from pretending that painting white lines on pavements and carriageways provide cycling facilities towards an attempt to change people’s misconceptions about cycling (and O’Grady provides plenty of examples) just might work.

In York 12% of trips to work are cycled, four times the regional average – great improvements are possible.

August 10, 2006

Is a Motorist more important than a Cyclist?

It's clear that people like Jeremy Clarkson believe so (see link)

It seems that certain members of the judiciary believe likewise. A cyclist has recently been found guilty of Inconsiderate Riding because he cycled home from work by road instead of using a parallel cycle track. Details of the case

It's true that the cyclist was inconveniencing motorists. A handful would have to slow down to 20 m.p.h. over the a stretch of about 400 yards, which would have meant an increased journey time of perhaps 30 seconds each. That's assuming no tailback from the next roundabout. If there were a tailback of any significance, being delayed by the cyclist would have only meant that the motorists joined the queue later rather than sooner. No effect on total journey times.

What the judge chose to ignore was the inconvenience the cyclist would have encountered had he used the cycle track. As the track was on the right hand side of the road, he would have had to cross two or three lanes of traffic twice. He would have been forced to cycle more slowly as the track had a poor surface. He would have had to allow more time to fix punctures as the track usually had broken glass. Lastly he would have had to "circumnavigate a roundabout … in 6 stages without priority or protection". In effect the judge decided that a cyclist's inconvenience didn't matter.

We are all equal under the Law, but some are more equal than others. The case is going to be retried at a Crown Court. The website mentioned above includes a plea to consider contributing to the Cyclists Defence Fund.

August 08, 2006

Mobile phones & driving

Here’s the text of a letter I had published in the Coventry Evening Telegraph towards the end of July:

Seen at the roundabout at the end of the North South Road (Binley Road) – a man at the wheel of a driving instructor’s car, elbow on the window sill jabbering into a mobile phone.
Doesn’t he know that’s illegal? It not only takes a hand away from the steering wheel but also distracts the driver’s attention. It’s as dangerous as drink-driving.
With driving instructors like that, is it any wonder that driving standards are so low?

After publication, a woman rang me and told me of an incident where she saw a motorist using two mobile phones at the same time – one for each hand/ear. He used his elbows for the steering wheel. He was driving a big 4×4 – I expect he thought he’d walk away from any crash.

June 06, 2006

Reply from John Redwood

With 60% of people on cycles in London jumping red lights, it looks like some motorists would like to join in…..
As for white lines on pavements… Can anyone be surprised if cyclists behave like pedestrians, ignoring red lights and travelling in spaces reserved for walkers when the state paints white lines on pavements in a pretence that they are providing cycle facilities?

Subject: RE: Transport
From:"REDWOOD, John"
Date:Mon, 5 Jun 2006 12:30:23 +0100
To:"CAMERON, David" , ….

Dear Mr Riches,
Thank you for your response to the transport proposals. The idea of
creating a cycling lane on part of a pavement was ringed around with the
following protections:
1. It would be a local decision
2 It was only suggested if there were 2 good pavements, one on each side
of the road, and one of them was wide enough to accommodate both a safe cycle lane and a safe pavement.
The turn left at a red light would only be permitted if there was no
other person or vehicle wishing to use the road the vehicle was seeking
to turn into. Red would still mean Stop.

Yours sincerely

——–Original Message——–
Sent: 02 June 2006 23:11
To: CAMERON, David
Subject: Transport

Feedback submitted from the Conservative Party Website.

Name: George Riches

I read with dismay the proposals from the Conservative Party's economic
competitiveness policy group.

If the turn to the nearside rule works out as it does in Shanghai, the
image of the Conservative Party as the Nasty Party will be resurrected.

"...A few years ago, Shanghai banned bicycles from a number of main
roads. Now pedestrians complain they are being targeted unfairly. Cars
are allowed to turn right at a red light but they are supposed to give
way to pedestrians. In reality, though, cars barge through the crowds
with horns blaring and receive no punishment…".

Source: Financial Times 2 Jun 2006.

"Shanghai campaign targets at jaywalking" By Geoff Dyer


I might add that putting cycle lanes on pavements is dangerous to both
pedestrians and cyclists. See

June 05, 2006

"Crackley Motorway" back on the Agenda

Writing about web page http://iccoventry.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100localnews/tm_objectid=17168235%26method=full%26siteid=50003-name_page.html

With the proposed extension to Warwick University, ever more development at Birmingham International and now the idea to build homes for 100,000 people on the greenspace north–east of Coventry, the idea of building a new road from the A46 at Stoneleigh to the A45 west of Coventry is back on the agenda.

May 09, 2006

Perhaps there's hope

Follow-up to The end of Peugeot from George Riches: Complaints from a middle aged layabout

There's a plan for Peugeot to build the new model at the plant in 2009, for the plant to operate on a single shift until that date, and for the government to give financial aid.
union plan

What happened to ex–rover workers is pretty grim
link to BBC audio file

April 20, 2006

The end of Peugeot

Writing about web page http://iccoventry.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100localnews/tm_objectid=16963499%26method=full%26siteid=50003%26headline=your%2dviews%2don%2dryton%2ds%2dclosure%2d%2d%2d%2d-name_page.html

The long predicted demise of Peugeot's Ryton plant has happened

There will be the ritual hot air from the politicians and the Trade Union chiefs, but in a years time there will be a lot of unemployed ex–Peugeot workers. Some might find good jobs, but many won't.

Isn't the real problem is that there's no real career change culture in this country? People work for years in one job, getting ever more specialized and then, when times change, are thrown on the scrap–heap.

In a 2005 survey of Warwick University staff 52% of respondents answered 'disagree' or 'disagree strongly' to the statement

My development needs are regularly reviewed with my chair/head of department/line manager/supervisor

April 14, 2006

Stop sending me publisher files!

I don't like receiving microsoft publisher files.

As far as I know the only way of reading them is to get hold of microsoft publisher. That means either buying one, making Bill Gates even more rich and powerful or getting hold of an illicit copy. Handling illicit software is a very good way of getting infected with malicious software.

If people feel they have to use microsoft publisher they can download pdf995 (or similar) which will allow them to convert the printer output to pdf format. A format for which a free reader is legally available and which is used extensively on the web.

pdf995 can be downloaded from link

Use is legal. The only drawback is putting up with a short advertisement every time the user converts output to printer to pdf format. Readers of the pdf output suffer no drawbacks.

April 10, 2006

Fuel Poverty

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4892516.stm

The recent hikes in gas prices are hurting hard-up pensioners.

No doubt there are some who think that the daft old buggers should stop whinging and go onto direct debit. But that seems to ignore the fact that an important reason for poverty is that some people just can't manage money very well.

Before the 1970's it was unusual for working class people to have bank accounts. I'm sure that many of the working class elderly still find them strange and awkward. Pay-as-go is a convenient way of keeping track of costs. Of course the middle classes would have difficulty in grasping that, as they don't need to spend much effort managing their gas bills, they can afford to keep all their heating on constantly.

A solution has been suggested that plastic tokens should replace the coins with government paying the fuel bills directly, taking the money from social security payments. With the need to handle cash gone, billing costs would fall. Every summer the meter reader would return the plastic tokens to the pensioner, enabling the pensioner to easily keep track of fuel use.

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