Aug 08 2008

Cans of worms?

Category: GeneralDave @ 11:14

It’s a hot summer’s day. You go into a small shop and take a can of something cold and fizzy out of the fridge, pay for it and, before you’ve even left the shop, you’ve pulled the ring-pull and taken a long, satisfying slug that’s coolly trickling down your throat. Great!

Now we’ve all done this at one time or another but think about this for a moment: you’ve just stuck into your mouth something that you have no idea where it’s been nor now it’s been stored. You didn’t clean it before drinking, did you? Of course not.

Have you ever been in the back room of a small corner shop? Or even a big one? They’re not the cleanest of places. The cans are usually delivered in shrink-wrap packs which keeps the worst of the dirt off. However, if a pack is opened and then only partly used, some of the remaining cans will be left uncovered. The pack may be on or near the floor so any dust kicked around (and there will be quite a bit) is going to land on the exposed cans.

Now here’s the thing: places like that are often frequented by mice, rats, cockroaches, and other insects. Apart from leaving their traces on the floor, they may well walk across the cans, urinating and/or defecating as they go. When you open the can, as the liquid leaves the can and enters your mouth, some of it inevitably ends up on the outside surface of the can first, thus washing off some of whatever dust etc is there. Need I go on?

The incidence of food poisoning and similar ailments has increased a lot over the last couple of decades and I can’t help wondering if drinking from ring-pull cans has contributed to this rise. This may not be such a new problem of course – before ring-pulls people would carry around one of those shiny pressed steel can openers so even ordinary cans could be opened on the hoof. Ring-pulls simply increased can sales as they are so much more convenient.

I once discussed this issue with a local councillor who was looking for an “issue” to campaign on at a higher political level. He could see the sense of what I was saying and said he’d ensure that cans he used in the future would be clean, especially those used by his two little girls. However, he wasn’t interested in taking up the matter to campaign on as he felt there wouldn’t be many votes in it – and, I suspect, he didn’t like the idea of taking on so many vested interests. Who can blame him? Well I do: I thought he had integrity but he turned out to be just another politician.

I don’t buy or use ring-pull cans any more. Do you?

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Aug 06 2008

Tobacco – why we are still suffering

Category: GeneralDave @ 21:19

The anti-cancer campaign in the UK has had quite a bit of success in their campaign against tobacco advertising. True, it almost killed Formula 1 car racing but that has a limited shelf life anyway – it can’t last much longer in its current form (but that’s another story…). However, the latest thrust is to reduce the insidious advertising directed straight at young people, including those too young to buy tobacco yet. This focusses on point-of-sale issues such as posters in shops, especially small tobacconists, and the attractiveness of the pack which can carry images designed to attract younger purchasers. The anti-cancer people want to have the posters banned and the packs made plain black-and-white with no attractive images, etc. All very well and good and I for one have signed the petition to the UK government to further these aims.

However, I would prefer to see a swift move towards the total banning of all tobacco products and their classification as a class A drug. Tobacco kills and maims and does at least as much total damage to the population as cocaine. And yet it’s still legal to sell the stuff. It’s obvious why: the tobacco companies would go bust, at least in the UK, sending shocks through the stock markets; the government would lose massive tax income. In short, those results would send the UK economy into a tailspin. As an aside,it’s already almost in one so this would be a really bad time to push it even harder in that direction.

I understand the economic reasons why tobacco has not been banned in the past and totally disagree with them. I regard this a classic case of “big business” being given priority over the general populace: the government knows how bad tobacco is but it’s inconvenient for them to do anything about it. As long as the tax collected on tobacco products exceeds the cost to the NHS of tobacco-related illness they won’t disturb the status quo. I doubt they take into account, however, the additional cost to the economy of all the tobacco-related illness sick days taken. I suspect the Civil Service has a hand in this – senior civil servants would have a very rough ride if the government of the day really tried to put an end to tobacco.

So, to me, this issue is a prime example of why, in general, government cannot be trusted.

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Aug 01 2008

Reality Bites

Category: GeneralDave @ 20:40

The title of this article wasn’t my idea. I wrote a letter, late one evening in a fit of pique, to the BMF (British Motorcycling Federation) magazine, “Rider”. Much to my amazement, they published it virtually unchanged. It was a long letter & took up about 2/3 of a page. I didn’t think they’d publish it as it is just a bit contentious… many motorcyclists think they have a god-given right to do exactly as they please on the roads and to hell with everybody else. Anyway, the title was their’s and I use it here because it fits. Slightly modified, this is it:


I’ve recently seen a lot of letters in the motorcycling press about how “green” motorcycling is. However, a lot of the credibility of such arguments disappears when you don’t get your facts straight. The major ones I’d take issue with are fuel consumption and noise.

Let’s start with the easier one: fuel consumption. Small scooters and low capacity bikes do indeed manage excellent consumption figures. 100 mpg is not unusual. However, once you get to bigger engines, the picture changes dramatically. My old NTV 600 managed 45 mpg easily, 50 – 55 on a run. But my current ride – a VFR 800 – does 44 on a good day and 30 – 35 around town.

For comparison, my brother-in-law has a small diesel-powered people mover which can carry 5 people and a fair bit of luggage and regularly returns 50 to the gallon; My sister has a petrol-powered Punto; she’s never reset the MPG on the computer so it’s showing the average consumption over the four years she’s had the car: 50 mpg!

My point is that bigger bikes are no better – and in many cases worse – than a small/medium car.

Now for noise. OK, so loud pipe save lives, the mantra goes. However, that doesn’t give anyone the right to drive through urban streets disturbing thousands (yes, thousands) of people of an evening. Just think about it: riding from, say the centre of London to Croydon and using the bike the way some (many?) people do, the noise of your bike will be heard by several thousand people, including those living behind double-glazed windows, and will annoy a fair proportion of them (and no, I don’t know the figure).

The problem is that it’s not just your bike: it’s a lot of them, going past over a period of a couple of hours. It can be bloody annoying – I know it annoys me sometimes and I ride a bike which can be fairly noisy. As a rule, I will deliberately keep the noise down in urban areas, certainly in the evenings. My view is this: if you want to ride, you have to accept the dangers; you can’t minimise them at any cost to the rest of the community. It’s your choice: if you can’t stand the risk, don’t ride.

While I’m switching hobby-horses, here’s another one: Visibility.

Who the hell thought camouflage-patterned protective clothing for bikes etc was a good idea? So you’re riding along on your bike (which has a patchwork of colours all over it ‘cos it’s a race replica) and you’re wearing a bike suit which has a camouflage pattern in shades of grey all over it. Some idiot doesn’t see you & knocks you off & comes out with the immortal line “Sorry mate, didn’t see you”.

WTF did you expect? HULLO! YOU’RE WEARING CAMOUFLAGE!”.

Guess what camouflage patterns are meant to do: HIDE YOU!!

The twat who thought this one up should be charged with the murder of all those bikers killed as a direct result. Yes, the buyer has responsibility as well – they bought it – but I can’t imagine the manufacturer didn’t realise what they were doing.

But it doesn’t stop there: Black trousers and a black jacket actually aren’t too bad during the day because it’s a nice big block of solid colour (or absence of colour 🙂 that’s more visible than something broken up into random patches. At night it’s a bloody stealth suit and wearing it ‘cos it matches your black bike… again your choice: look cool or make sure other road users can see you. They mostly don’t go together. It’s not impossible, just not to everyone’s taste.

Just to make it clear: ergonomically a bike which is as far as possible one solid colour will be more noticeable to other road users than one which has, effectively, random patches of colour all over it.

I use my bikes for work: visiting clients. I rarely get the chance to do anything else with them. Nevertheless, I’ll admit it: I love speed, I love being on the bike and enjoy the more “interesting” moments when I can. But there has to be a balance. The days when you can go out & do almost what you want on a sports bike are pretty much over and will soon be gone completely.

Today’s sports bikes are dinosaurs which I suspect will be extinct within 50 or 60 years. Biofuel? Forget it – the case for biofuel is looking shakier every week. Whilst a hydrogen-powered car is a possibility, a hydrogen-powered bike isn’t! Battery technology is improving all the time & there may come a time when a rechargeable electric sports bike becomes a reality.

And then again, there may not.

Enjoy biking whilst you can but respecting the rest of society, not abusing it.

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