Short Takes: December 2022
RIP Doddie Weir
I begin this takes with the news that Scotland Rugby legend George “Doddie” Weir has lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease, at the age of 52. He was described as a gentle giant off the field, but was a warrior on it. I have seen some archive highlights of games and his power and presence are immense, and is an inspiration to many who followed. I remember his diagnosis being covered during the Six Nations a few years ago, and the creation of his foundation trying to find a cure, and supporting those suffering. A sporting treasure who will be sorely missed. Rest well, Laddie.
“CaNcEl CuLtUrE cAnCeLlEd GiNgErBrEaD mEn!” Boo Fucking Hoo.
It’s that time of year when the anti-“Leftie Snowflake” brigade get their feelings hurt again. The latest so-called “cancel culture” are complaining that the term “gingerbread men” has been replaced with “gingerbread people”. Considering there is not a gingerbread penis is sight, the ambiguous nature of person is inoffensive, unless you are an over-grown anti-liberal man-child…. Sorry, I meant “Adult-Child”…
Wishing ultra-endurance cyclist Tegan Phillips a speedy recovery
South African rider Tegan Phillips has been hospitalized just 2 days into her attempt to be the first woman to complete, and therefore set a record, for Cairo-Cape Town, the unsupported riding challenge across Africa. Tegan, 30, suffered seizures and heat stroke just 155km into her attempt, believed to be caused by low blood sodium from a low-grade infection, or an undiscovered adrenal condition preventing salt retention not picked up from her intensive training rides. She is going to have extensive tests back home to find out the cause, and to prevent it from happening in the future. She hopes to have another crack in February, providing all her tests give positive signs.
Wishing you a speedy recovery and best of luck for your next attempt, Tegan!
The Adidas Cycling Hijab – A Great Move
Quite often, the barriers between sports and Arabic/South Asian women have prevented growth and inclusivity in the industry. Sports clothing can often seem too revealing or risque for Asian women to be comfortable and discourages their demographic from participation. However, in recent times, some sportswear brands have begun to introduce products that help break down these barriers. The Rio Olympics in 2016 saw an American athlete perform with a generic sports-specific hijab for the first time, along with a few other athletes from around the world sharing the stage like never before. At the time there were none that were cycling specific, but this move by Adidas is a game changer for girls around the world.
Some Kunt’s a sore loser.
Actions speak louder than words, so the proverb goes. Judging by an inflammatory post released on social media earlier this week, rebel musos The Kunts are still pretty upset at missing out on Christmas No.1 to internet duo LadBaby. Mark and Roxanne Hoyle, the two masterminds behind the LadBaby channel, broke records over several years by releasing sausage roll themed parody singles on behalf of foodbank charity The Trussell Trust, claiming 4 consecutive Christmas No.1s in the process. The last two years Kunt released “Boris Johnson is A Fucking Cunt” (2020) and “Boris Johnson is Still A Fucking Cunt” (2021), both of which only managed to chart at no.5. For some reason, Kunt seems to have taken offence to LadBaby’s achievements and have snapped “lyrics in progress” of a song that is rather unsavoury towards the Hoyles and their achievements. Talk about sour grapes?
Strep A: Be Alert, and Stay Safe!
Winter 2022/2023 is upon us, and fresh out of a COVID pandemic, another contagious health concern is growing in the UK. There has been an alarming increase in Streptococcus A infections, which causes Scarlet Fever, and has lead to the deaths of at least 8 children since September. Strep A is easily treatable with antibiotics, and complications are rare. But please be vigilant for the symptoms, and follow any health advice given to you.
What a Pain in the Ear!
Some residents in the village of Holmfield, West Yorkshire, have found themselves plagued with a low constant humming sound for the last few years. This noise, which registers at the bottom of the audio frequencies (between 10 and 200 Hz), is a constant misery for the handful of residents that can hear it. Scientists have measured that the sound is definitely there, and it is making a misery of livelihoods for anyone who hears it, especially when other background noise dissipates. Despite efforts from the local council, the source of the noise cannot be found. Hopefully someone can find the source of “The Hum”, and a solution to fix the problem along with it.
Short Takes – November 2022
“The heat sent us mad” – Boris Johnson
Disgraced ex-PM Boris Johnson made an appearance at the COP27 climate meeting, talking about the unprecidented heatwave that hit the UK last summer. During his speech, however, he joked that the record 40 degree temperatures seen in London was possibly the reason for “unexpected political turmoil”. Had he left out that quip, he might have actually sounded meaningful for the first time in his political career. Instead, he tried to make light of multiple scandals (all of shich showing utter contempt for the Public and the Law) followed by a disastrous change of leadership in which one of the most exclusive clubs decided that an incompetent nobody was up to the task of running the country. Just give up and go home, BoJo.
What a Twit!
So, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter was confirmed, followed by mass sackings, pictures of staff sleeping on the office floor and a mass exodus of celebrities and other users. No surprise. Twitter already had a hard time weeding out hate speech that was disguising itself as free speech. Now it has someone in charge who actively promotes such bile. Not to mention, he has shown exactly how he has made such a vast fortune: Exploitation. I’m glad I stopped using the platform ages ago.
*Whilst gathering more content for this, Musk has reinstated Donald Trump’s account. Muks’s critics have projected a description of him on the side of the Twitter HQ building, such as “Corrupt”, “Space Karen” and “Worthless Billionaire”
You Do You, Fripp.
Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox’s Sunday Lunch recital videos are still coming out with their full-on hijinks and raunchy costumes. A lot of King Crimson fans have taken a dislike to guitarrist Fripp’s weekly YouTube series, but in his own words, he doesn’t give a fuck. And rightly so. Their latest cover, of The Cramps’ “Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?” is an intriguing and entertaining take on the 1985 hit. The couple are clearly having fun and that’s all that matters. They are also on tour in autumn 2023 in the UK, bringing their Sunday Lunch theatrics to the stage. Might get a pair of tickets for myself and my wife.
Somebody’s in a bit of a Pringle…
The UK franchise of snack maker Pringles landed in a little hot water following a typo in posters for their new Multi-grain snacks. In order to laugh off the error, and to ensure cutomers get the right information, they have released a promotional video on their website and advertising platforms, titled Multi-GRAIN, not Multi-GRAN. I am relieved to announce no dear old ladies were harmed in the making of the product, and the advertising campaign.
World Cup Fever, or Farce? (07/11)
Normally, with just 2 weeks to go until the biggest individual global sporting event, the party atmosphere and excitement that usually explodes seems non-existent. The controversial FIFA World Cup in Qatar has been grabbing headlines, for all the wrong reasons. The country’s migrant worker death toll during construction varies vastly depending on the source, the country’s human rights and LGBTQ+ stance has always been an argument for opposition from the beginning, and it’s timing in the middle of most countries’ domestic seasons have caused major concerns as star players are set to miss out through minor injury. Add in the fan accommodation being flat pack containers, it’s all a bit Nazi youth camp. Even Blatter has come out and admitted awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a mistake.
Iran’s team show the way to protest.
The Iranian Men’s Football Team refused to sing the National Anthem in protest against the current political regime’s treatment of women, further putting global pressure on the Government in Tehran. Fans also joined the boycott by booing and jeering as the anthem played in the stadium in their opening match against England, in a show of solidarity for the women and young girls risking everything fighting their oppression in the country. Following the farcical statement from 7 European Nations withdrawing their promise to wear “One Love” pro-LGBTQ+ Captain’s Armbands after FIFA threatened them with encouraging referees to issue Yellow Cards for offenders, it’s nice to see Iran showing how public displays of dissent should be done.
More Catterpillar Cake shenanigans!
‘Tis the season of goodwill and good roasting, apparently. Aldi’s new festive advert has a little easter egg that makes a cheeky dig at rivals M&S over the Colin vs Cuthbert catterpilar cake row. In a nod to the World Cup, Kevin the Carrot is watching a football match on TV, but if you look closely in the top corner of his screen, you will see the scores read CUTH 1-0 COL, with the team colours being Cuthbert with Aldi’s blue, yellow, red and black, and Colin with M&S’s black and white from their chequered displays. I would wonder what Wendy’s twitter would say, but as above, I have lost all interest in the platform.
Heppy Retirement, Sebastian Vettel!
4x Formula 1 World Champion hung up his helmet after a career spannning 16 years. Whilst I wasn’t a fan of him during his RB days, his presence and his activism have been a huge force for good during his time in the paddock, and will be sorely missed. Danke Seb!
Short Takes: October 2022 (Part 2)
Is it a speed camera? Is it a bird box?
A resident fed up of constant speeding on his road has installed a bird box on the edge of his front garden… that looks like a speed camera. As the installation is on his own property, and is not signposted as a speed camera, it is technically legal. But it has ruffled a few feathers on social media, including one person moaning about slowing down. Perhaps if the tit didn’t speed in the first place he wouldn’t be in that situation! Personally, I think it’s a good idea. Even if nobody ends up in front of a Beak, at least the Police didn’t have to foot the Bill for it’s installation!
Who’s next for the Downing Street Merry-Go-Round? (20th Oct)
Names are already flying around in the new Tory leadership race, with the last two runners up Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt the bookies favourite to get the job that gives them the keys to No. 10. Somewhat lower on the list but apparently with support both former premiers Theresa May and Boris Johnson are being touted for a sensational return to Downing Street. Whilst none of them serve up an excting prospect, you kind of feel Sunak could very well be vindicated for his prediciton of Truss’s economic plan. Whether or not his plan would fare better remains to be seen.
UPDATE – After all other candidates dropped out, Rishi Sunak has become Prime Minister by default. Whilst market confidence has shored up and stabilised over the consensus that he would win, a return towards austerity is not entirely welcome. He was the best option from a bad bunch, but that’s not really saying much.
Rocket Ronnie should hang up his cue.
Record breaking snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan caued a stir in his latest interview following his shock second round defeat at the NI Open. He said the game had become “an emotionless type job” and “I quit mentally about eight years ago and I just take what I can from the sport.”
Another inspiring Women’s Sport Story
Following the women’s rights turmoil that has engulfed Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country, Switzerland recently stepped in and hosted the women’s National Cycling Championships. The winner, 19 year old Fariba Hashimi has also secured her first professional cycling contract, with Israel-PremierTech-Roland. Her sister, Yulduz, has also signed for the team’s development squad. Chapeau to Switzerland for their generosity in hosting this race, and to the participants, who now all live outside their country of birth.
Harrison Ford to join MCU
Star Wars and Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is set to replace the late William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2024 due release of Captain America: New World Order.
BBC in trouble over Durdle Door stunt for Doctor Who
The Lulworth Estate, which owns the land on which the iconic Durdle Door sits amongst the Jurassic Coastline, have hit out at the BBC for its dishonest application for permission to film the location for the Doctor Who Centenery Special, in which the 13th Doctor regenerates atop the cliff. The clip was shot with Whittaker and the TARDIS filmed from a green screen superimposed onto drone footage of the Durdle Door. The BBC asked permission to film on the estate without suggesting that anybody would be pictured, virtually or otherwise, on the historical and geological attraction. The Estate have claimed they would have denied the request on public safety grounds had they known this was to take place; with members of the public likely trying to imitate the scene and putting themselves in danger.
The (Ford) Fiesta’s Over?
Rumours are circulating that the popular small hatchback the Ford Fiesta is to be axed after 46 years. As Ford moves towards full electrification, the rumours follow a spokesperson quoted as saying; “Ford is changing and we are looking at all possibilities for our future portfolio of all-electric vehicles.”. This would leave a huge hole in their line-up as the Mondeo saloon has already been ditched, and the Focus range of large hatchbacks, sedans and estates are due to cease production next year.
Another case of Bad Apples?
Apple Inc SVPs Greg Joswiak and Craig Federighi have confirmed that their products will need to comply with EU regulations for USB-C charging ports by 2024, but are not happy about it. Their point about initial waste as thousands of Lightning Cable chargers become obsolete is valid, but considering they also force customers to regularly replace their hardware by constant new product upgrades and planned obsolescence of older products, it’s not much of a moral high ground to be standing on.
No Motoring On As Is: Enough is Enough!
After an increasing number of close calls from bad driving in recent times I decided to look at driving statistics and the Highways Act. What I learned next was horrifying.
It has become increasingly clear that the Highways Act, the Highway Code and other adjoining legislation that govern the way we use the roads are in much worse state than anyone could have predicted. Below I am going to list a few publications and my takes on the issues they represent.
Whilst your legal stance to drive automatically remains until the age of 70 (penalty points, disqualifications and medical surrender excluded) your photocard licence needs to be updated at least every 10 years as the photograph used must remain as a distinct likeness to the proprietor. This does not take into account any other necessary changes such as change of name, address, or licence grade changes such as addition of HGV classes etc. Yet, reports claim that nearly 1 MILLION photocard licences have expired and not been updated with the DVLA. Whilst it may seem small, it is a legal requirement for all information, including photos, to be up to date. Failure to do so can lead to a large fine. Simple clerical issues are not necessarily linked to poor driving standards, however it does bode the question, how many people are careless enough not to keep things up to date?
The use of “Extreme Hardship” to avoid driving bans is a major loophole that needs to be closed. Figures show that more than 83,000 people escaped an automatic driving ban due to these ‘mitigating circumstances’ between 2011 and 2020. It has allowed some people to ammass an obscene number of points, and has kept people on the road who went on to cause death whilst driving following their court case. Whilst there are a handful of cases where circumstances are genuine, the majority of them should not be considered as they are of an inconvenience more than an extreme circumstance, and in some cases repeated accumulation. The points ban is never going to be effective if people can repeatedly cheat the system.
There has been a rise in the number of MOT testers being disqualified from issuing certificates over the last two years, either due to improper practices or issuing fraudulent certificates. The UK’s MOT safety standard is one of the most comprehensive car safety checks in the world, and helps prevent potentially dangerous vehicles from causing accidents on our roads. However, the fact that people are actively cheating the system is one that should ring alarm bells. Whilst it is good that more dodgy mechanics are being stopped from such practices, the fact that there are more out there shows that the system needs much stronger reinforcement.
Nearly Two Thirds of AA members had not read the Highway Code changes that came into force earlier this year. The real number could well be even higher as you would think that motorists belonging to a motoring organisation would be more likely to look these things up. It is vital for every motorist to keep up to date with Highway Code changes as they do change regularly. However the 2022 changes were significantly larger than many changes made in a long time. This means that somebody who took their test in the 70s and 80s could have some 40 years of changes that they are unaware of, which is bonkers, and worse yet, dangerous.
The AA are also Pro-Cycling, as the shortest journeys we make by car are the worst for our vehicles, traffic levels and the environment. Their own research shows that better cycling infrastructure would be to the benefit of most of its members, as 20% already cycle and many more would like to replace short car journeys with cycling but are put off by current safety concerns. Additionally, the AA research concludes that traffic levels in our cities only needs to be reduced by between 5 and 10% in order to become free flowing. Active and Public Travel are the future. I will be discussing this in the future in detail.
Whilst I cannot find an article on the subject, it is often rumoured that professional drivers (couriers, construction vehicle drivers, HGV drivers etc) are given strict time constraints that can sometimes contravene traffic laws. Meaning that some drivers are forced to break laws in order to complete there job(s) within an alloted time schedule. This dangerous precedent, if true, must be addressed as these vehicles are the largest and most dangerous in an incident.
My YouTube feed seems to be full of UK based dash cam close calls and crash compilations as well, certainly more than there used to be. And a lot of the videos are published within the last 12 months. Even though I have recently changed my viewing habits to get them off my feed, they are still omnipresent. And the clips I have seen are rarely repeated.
When you factor all the above in, my own observations are as follows:
– Impatience seems more common than ever; I am seeing more people than ever speed up to avoid a red light, and ignore changing temporary lights, pulling out at junctions without properly looking
-I am overtaken at speed more regularly whilst driving at the speed limit
-Drivers aggressively forcing through or blocking merge in turn at every opportunity
– An increase in phone using drivers
– More close passes and dangerous overtakes whilst cycling
-Ignoring direction signs at junctions (going straight or right at left turn only etc)
– An arrogance amongst a certain demographic of drivers who act like they own the road.
Now, we all make mistakes. We are human, after all. But that is no excuse to repeatedly push boundaries and take increasingly careless risks, just because the last time you did it you got away with it. The UK has one of the strictest driving tests in the world, and yet once a licence is obtained, complacency slips in with experience as time goes by. The roads are busier than ever and something needs to be done as many road incidents, injuries and fatalaties are avoidable.
The political tornado that proves we are in for a long rough ride
The shock appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer replacing Kwasi Kwarteng saw swiftly followed with a reversal of many “mini-budget” policies. Whilst some approaches are an acknowledgement of realism, the policy change still fails to address glaring problems that only seem to widen the class pay gap further.
The one part of Kwarseng’s mini-budget that was actually popular, amongst the public, Tories and the opposition, was the reduction of the national basic income tax rate from 20p to 19p. Whilst it does not seem like much it could be the difference between whether or not some families have to choose either food or heating over winter. The 2 year energy guarantee would also have helped struggling families, even if the original policiy was met with staunch criticism of how it was conveyed. However, Jeremy Hunt has decided to reverse the two decisions by retaining the 20p tax rate and reducing the energy cap guarantee until April 2023. All of a sudden, those struggling who thought they had but a glimmer of hope, have seen it extinquished in one fell swoop.
The decision to also remove the cap on banker’s bonuses is also both baffling and infuriating. Let’s not forget, deregulated banks and their corruption within directly led to the financial crisis of 14 years ago. The cap was put in place as a measure to keep banks in line. It is nothing short of criminal to give banks power that has the capability of ruining people’s lives in such a manner.
As for the stamp duty, it fixes nothing. All it does is push prices further up leaving struggling first-time buyers in no mans land as rich developers hoover up all constructed assets to land bank on for profit. The only way to keep the housing market under control is a combination of tighter industry regulation, an influx of supply and schemes to prevent excessive land banking and pricing out of first time buyers.
For 12 years it has been obvious that austerity and trickle down economics do not work. People on the poverty line has increased massively: food banks have gone from rarity to everywhere, and now they are running out of donations; Part time and zero hours contracts have boosted employment figures to suit Government statistics, but leave those people on them out to dry with a shortage of income; the energy crisis was looming long before Ukraine and instead of re-regulating production and wholesale decided to de-regulate retail in order to protect companies from ruin, leading to huge waves of profits for producers and wholesalers.
With Partygate and the sexual assault furore the Tories could no longer hide behind circumstance as a defence for being unfit to govern. First they hid behind Labour infighting and antisemetism claims. Then they hid behind Brexit at the last General Election. Then, for a few months, they hid behind the pandemic. And now their blase attitude to decision making has caught up with them. With a new leader already under pressure the chances of an early GE being called seem to be growing with every decision and u-turn. It’s only a matter of time before Liz Truss has no option but to commit career suicide and call one, or resign faster than her Tory Leadership contest victory.
The forced fracking debate on 19th October proved yet another sticking point, as the Tory Whip forced all Party MPs to vote down a movement by Labour to ban fracking permanently, despite a number of them having personal opposition to the practice. This has lead to scuffles in the Chambers and claims of harrassment and bullying, as MPs were told they face expulsion from the Party if they voted against the Government. Add in a new scandal at the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, over sending a sensitive official email from her personal account, it is clear that the Government, and the Conservative Party as a whole, are crumbling faster than the delapidated building they operate from.
It’s almost a certainty that Labour are going to walk the next election. All they have to do is turn up and keep their mouths shut and they are a shoe-in. But that does not mean a change in direction will automatically solve the issue at hand. It will take much longer than one full term in office to fix these problems and lay the foundation to prevent it from happening in the future.
Labour themselves are in their own political turmoil. Hardline voters are turning away, and the Party finds itself back in the red as its party members dwindle rapidly. Their leader has ostricised many of their working class supporters, including the Trade Unions who have worked alongside the Party since their inception. Fresh racism rows continue to blight the party, even if these may be considered a few isolated incidents. Its economic policy is different, but not radically so, from the current status quo. It stands a chance of working but does not ensure a balanced short term/long term solution to the ongoing hardships felt amongst the nation’s most vulnerable.
How Labour gain power is not yet clear, however opinion polls suggest anything from a slight majority to a 2/3 landslide. 20/20 hindsight would be amazing, because it is important that any Labour Government, regardless of size, is properly held to account. In the event of failing to secure outright victory, a coalition with the Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru could be enough to keep them honest, but such a route is not a popular one, as it may result in powers to declare Independence, and therefore break up the Union of the British Nations. If they do not obtain a majority they may more likely try to run as a minority Government. That normally would make their task much harder, but as some of their major policies are much more in line with the most popular fringe parties they may not come across opposition often. The Conservatives in their current state are incapable of such a task, such is their moral authority in tatters. And yet the political pendulum looks set to swing wider and faster than ever before meaning that stability will be even harder to come by.
With that being the case, just having a Labour led Government will not be enough to ensure that the long term stability needed for the most vulnerable is provided. It is more important than ever to support the work of Trade Unions and fight against every decision made against the most vulnerable and the National Interest. Collectively the British public can ensure that the energy and finance sectors are properly regulated and that the decisions of those in charge of public services cannot prioritise profits at the expense of ordinary people and its workforce.
With both sides of the house embroiled in internal conflict, scandal and instability, we are realistically unlikely to see anyone step up to the plate and deliver an economic plan that ensures long term security for all. Therefore it is more vital than ever that the public, no matter how disenfranchising the current shitshow is, stays up to date on all happenings and collectively finds its voice to keep holding the Government to account.
Short Takes: October 2022
My IQ dropped just reading this post
What is it with conservative Americans? It’s a work of fiction for crying out loud. Don’t they understand the concept of fiction? Probably not considering how literal they take the Bible.
Solidarity to the women of Iran
Horrible news has been coming out of Iran for the last few weeks, sparked by the death of a woman in custody who was arrested for defying very conservative Hijab laws. Iran used to be quite a liberal Muslim country and women used to have a greater level of freedom thirty years ago than they do now, thanks to the current regime. Protests are springing up left, right and centre as women fight to protect their rights, despite more deaths and disappearances that leave many questions unanswered. I stand in solidarity to the women who are risking their lives for a basic level fo dignity and respect that should be a given right.
Westminster is U-Turn City again
Liz Truss appears to be losing her authority already. No sooner has she announced massive tax cuts for the rich and a lift on the fracking ban, she has been forced to reverse the most controversial decisions due to uproar from within her own party, let alone the huge public outcry in tandem. The Conservative Party Conference has once again provided quite the ding-dong.
Labour are losing the plot, too
It seems increasingly likely that Labour are going to walk the next GE as the Tory Government capitulates in on itself handing the keys to no 10 on a plate. Yet the party itself needs to hold itself accountable for its failings. Racism scandal continues to rock the party, and it’s bizarre decision not to back union strikes confuses and concerns me. The Labour Party is primarily supported by Trade Unions and its members, and its decision not to back strikes in the wake of its members facing real term cuts due to the cost of living crisis means that it no longer represents the working class as a Democratic Socialist party. Whilst a Labour Government would reverse a lot of the damage caused by the last decade plus of Tory mismanagement, it must not be allowed to think it is winning on merit in order to keep it honest.
Boxed In or Boxed Out?
Another sporting doping controversy as the BBBofC refuse to sanction and prohibited the fight between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn, just over 48 hours before it was scheduled to take place, after the latter tested positive for a banned substance, clomifene (A women’s fertility drug). The fight was somewhat always steeped in controversy as there are 3 weight classes between the two men. The hype over this fight, surrounding the sons of two boxing legends, was incredibly high considering no titles were on the line. The whole situation could get uglier as Benn’s B samples are believed not to have been tested, and proper Anti-Doping protocols are not being properly followed. Also, the tests were carried out by a third party (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) on behalf of UKADA. Yet another gut punch to a sport’s crumbling reputation.
The FIA are crumbling again
The controversy surrounding the Gasly/Tractor incident, the points system and the early chequered flag during the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix shows that the FIA still have a lot of work to do to prove its competence as a sporting governing body. A full and transparent review must take shape as danger and confusion reigned supreme and overshadowed a deserved second WDC for Max Verstappen. Unless the cost cap report released 24 hours later leads to points deductions or disqualifications.
Who the hell audits Government petitions?
Social media posts have been circulating about a Government petition to ban Manchester City striker Erling Haaland from the Premier league; because they believe he is a robot. Not only is it astonishing that people truly believe that, even if he is breaking records left, right and centre and has only played a handful of games, but it has been allowed to get published as a petition and has garnered 1.9 MILLION signatures, to get debated in Parliament. Considering that auditors have to ratify all official Government petitions to ensure they fall under the jurisdiction of Parliament (Spoiler alert, this petition doesn’t; that is a sporting governing body decision), how the hell did this get clearance to be published?
Rest In Peace, Dame Angela Lansbury
This month, we say goodbye to a true entertainment legend, Angela Lansbury, aged 96. An actress whose diverse range and skills gave many people of different fandoms many memories, for over 8 decades. Her longevity and skills are a tribute to her unwavering dedication, and adoring fan base of all ages. From casting spells as Miss Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, to solving crime as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, she will certainly be remembered for decades to come. Rest in peace.
Another cycling scandal: Britich Cycling x Shell
British Cycling and energy company Shell have announced an 8 year sponsorship deal, causing outrage amongst the cycling community and environmentalists. The deal has been called “sportswashing at its finest” and it’s hard not to agree. For a sporting institute that also promotes active travel to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, to sign a deal with a manufacturer of said fuels seems very counterintuitive. Shell did say that they will use the partnership to promote better awareness amongst its motoring customers to ensure Britain’s roads are a safer place for all road users. So hopefully something good will come of this deal, but only time will tell.
Kwarteng’s KamiKwasi spell as chancellor over already
If the mini-budget fiasco wasn’t enough, newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng has been sacked a little over 1 month into the job. He is the second-shortest holder of that job title in British history. Embarrassment and problems galore for Truss and her Government. We could yet be in for more chaos and potentially yet another Tory leadership race before the next GE in 2 years.
Cadbury’s Mystery solved!
British chocolate maker Cadbury’s released two mystery flavour bars earlier in the summer, asking customers to guess their flavours. They finally announced on October 13, 2022 that Rhubarb & Custard was the flavour for Mystery Bar One, and Blue Raspberry Slushie was the flavour for Mystery Bar Two. Those who guessed correctly have gone into a prize draw for £5k grand prize with the winners set to be announced in due course.
Unpopular opinion: I hate people who moan about speed cameras and getting caught.
Yeah, I said it. People are getting upset and frustrated after a huge increase in speeding fines have been issued following a change in the rules around the margin of error for speed cameras. And quite frankly, they are getting annoying.
So last month, the Government quietly re-wrote the rules in regards to what margin of error speed cameras give before operating and the police issuing speeding tickets. In England, single static cameras used to operate with a 10%+2mph margin of error, meaning that enforcement would not issue unless a vehicle was measured to be passing at above 35mph in a 30mph zone, 46mph in a 40mph zone etc. This was to allow a margin of error in the measuring equipment, and that of the speedometer in the vehicle. The new rule is 10%+1mph meaning that those who travel between 34 and 35mph in 30 zones are now being prosecuted when they were not previously. This is not the case for Average Speed Checks, which calculate average speed between a much larger distance, something which is much more accurate and have no margin for error.
It is also worth noting that with the advancements in technology, newer equipment being used by law enforcement offers much more precise readings than its predecessors. This has allowed for a reduction in the tolerance rate to be justified, although I personally believe it should go much further.
So why is this change important? The purchasing and usage of speed camera equipment is expensive. To justify the use of equipment, it must effectively pay for itself within a certain timeframe. Therefore law enforcement will only consider using and maintaining equipment if it generates enough revenue to maintain and use it. This is why operational fixed cameras are becoming rarer, because they are easily seen and known about, people slow down when they approach them in order to avoid a fine, so they no longer generate the revenue they first did. Mobile units are much more unpredictable and are more likely to catch people out unaware.
Anecdotally, speedometers also have to fall within certain perameters on MOT tests, and must read lower than the actual speed of the vehicle, but within a certain percentage tolerance. The readings must remain in tolerance for the full lifespan of the tyres fitted: The small circumference change in tyres as the tread wears away makes a small but significant difference to distance travelled per wheel revolution, and therefore vehicle speed that is not registered by speedometers.
A large number of drivers attempt to use the margin of error tolerance to justify travelling that little bit faster. Assuming you believe your speedometer is approximately 10% under true value, your speedometer reading will be at 33mph for travelling at a percieved 30mph. You then decide to push up to the the 10%+2 tolerance and travel at a speed where the speedometer reads 38 or 39mph. If your speedometer is much more accurate than that 10% you are likely to be travelling between 36 and 39mph for a perceived speed of 35.
Public roads have never been more dangerous. Most roads have not changed in size yet are having to handle mugh greater volumes of traffic. Vehicles have also gotten larger; the average family car has a greater number of safety features including larger crumple zones to protect occupants in the event of an accident. Up until the pandemic, small hatchbacks were decreasing in popularity and larger SUVs were all the rage, and the trend hasn’t completely gone away. The increased weight of vehicles also has a bearing on speed and stopping ability; requiring more force to move and stop at any given speed and distance. Also factor in the increased volume of commercial and public transport vehicles on our roads, space is at a greater premium than ever.
This makes affective gaps smaller, meaning tighter angles to manouvre around obstacles and hazards. Margin for error is therefore reduced, thus increasing the risk of collisions, kerb strikes, mirror tappings etc. It is much easier to manouvre at lower speeds.
Relying on speed perception is also not a good method of judgement and control. For instance, a Caterham 7 car, which is low to the ground, very small and light weight, will feel much faster from the cockpit when travelling at the exact same speed as a Ford Transit van, which will feel comparibly slower. The size and driving position of a given vehicle always affects how fast or slow a perceived speed is in comparison to a vehicle’s true speed. The fact that vehicles are much larger gives people the feeling of travelling slower than 30mph when in fact they are travelling at or slightly above 30 adds to the problem.
Many local and regional authorities have been regularly reviewing speed limits where they are proving a particular concern; either accident blackspots, congestion areas (town centres, bottleneck junctions) and narrow country lanes, in an attempt to increase safety and environmental impact as people continue to flout them.
When learning to drive I was always taught that the speed limit was the maximum allowed and in any situation that has the potential to be hazardous, such as narrowings, partial obstructions, other vulnerable road users and even weather conditions to reduce speed as low as necessary. If you are passing parked cars closely, slow to 10-15mph. Taking some sharp bends that are blind, slow right down.
There are so many accidents attributed to speeding where people are injured or killed, which are often completely avoidable. The world around you is unpredictable and if you can’t avoid a sudden and unexpected hazard in time, something bad can happen. I take my son to school in the morning and I am genuinely concerned for the kids’ safety from what I see. Impatient drivers hammering it past cars, not looking (or distracted on their phones), and not giving way at designated crossings. And I genuinely feel that someone with my son’s temperament (Autistic, non-communicative, no danger concept and major curiosity) if given just a split second opportunity to run into the road he would take it, and out of nowhere. If that moment is unsighted between parked cars what chance do speeding drivers have of stopping?
It’s time all road users learn to expect the unexpected and actually pay attention to their speedometers instead of trying to beat them. If you speed and get caught, boo hoo. You broke the law. You made your bed, lie in it.
F1 needs to move on from 2021 controversy.
Recent rumours surrounding Red Bull’s potential breach of the 2021 cost cap have reignited debate over last year’s controversial World Championship battle, and have fuelled suggestions that Verstappen may be stripped of his title. Whilst there is no precedent for cost cap rule procedures, there is unlikely to be any impact on Driver’s standings from last year or this.
All conversation on 2021 standings should be dead in the water. Whether the current safety car rules so late into a race are appropriate, is a seperate matter and should be discussed so, even after Monza earlier this year. The rules as they are, are absolute. Providing they are followed correctly, we cannot complain about results, only the spectacle or lack thereof.
When it comes to the 2021 season, the three main events that shape that year are the farcical Belgian GP, Max’s Brazil track limit debate and of course, the controversial ending to Abu Dhabi. If the FIA were
to intervene with what powers it has, Verstappen would still, technically, be World Champion. So first, let’s put that to bed.
Firstly, the Belgian GP was played out to the rules as written at the time. It is true that the updated rules for 2022 would have nullified this race’s results should there have eben a repeat, however they were brought in as a reaction, and the result was ratified by the FIA as legitimate. There is nothing that can be done, as any case brought before any legal system would vote in favour of acknowledging the result, as they were carried out to the rules.
Secondly, whilst Verstappen probably should have been given a time penalty for his track limit enfraction during the Brazilian GP, the FIA pose no power outside of the race stewards to impose post-race penalties in such a manner. It is woth noting, that yes, a 5-second time penalty would have dropped
Verstappen down behind Valtteri Bottas in the race classification, and would have gone into the final race 3 points behind Lewis Hamilton. However, as the FIA cannot overrule the stewards on issuing time penalties, and the only retrospective punishment they could have given was a grid penalty for the following race. So the result from Brazil stands, and given Verstappen’s pace, any grid penalty would have been unikely to have affected his ultimate finishing position.
Finally, Abu Dhabi. Verstappen and Hamilton were tied on points, but Verstappen was in the lead by vitrue of accumulating a greater number of race wins. Let’s not forget, Mercedes lodged a protest and legal action against the result, but were subsequently dropped. This is because the FIA does not have power to reclassify a race from a certain lap point. The only action they could have taken was to void the race result in its entirety. This would have had no bearing on the result of the championship, and was part of the reason Mercedes dropped their case. Furthermore, it could have harmed the reputation of the sport and its affiliates, so it is better off leaving the result as is from a business standpoint.
Now we’ve cleared that up, let’s see how the new developments weigh in on the debate.
The rumours are that Red Bull significantly overspent on its operations in 2021, which is somewhat believable when you consider that the FIA is investigating an as-yet-unnamed team for major breach of the cost cap regulations for 2021, and another for more minor infraction of the same regulations. All of Red Bull’s major rivals have come out together swinging, claiming it is the Energy Drink’s works team who are guilty as an “open secret” of the paddock. If rumours are true, and Red Bull are in serious
breach of the regulations, then the team could be facing a serious fine, amonst potential further punishments. But what could they be?
The most likely punishment depends on where and how most of the excess money was spent. If it was on the 2022 car build and development, the team could potentially face a points deduction or disqualifiaction from the Constructor’s championship this year. It is unlikely and also probably unfair if the drivers themselves will be punished regardless of where the money will be spent, so Verstappen’s ominous lead in the WDC should be unthreatened. However, the Constructor’s championship does come with additional caveats. Teams are now restricted on aero wind tunnel and CFD development time on a sliding scale, depending on their position in the constructor’s championship. Red Bull, last year’s runners up and are currently 1st by a
large margin, have the least amount of time available. Backmarkers Williams have the most. I assume that a punishment will include mitigation for points deduction in regards to development time.
However, if it relates to 2021, this is where rumours are flying in regards to last year’s WDC. The FIA have the power to disqualify teams and/or drivers retrospectively in instances of historical cheating being uncovered, however it is a power used rarely, and would need careful consideration. As the cost cap breach is considered a team issue, it would again be unfair to pin this on the drivers. Therefore disqualifying the Red Bull drivers from the 2021 WDC over such infringements is highly unlikely to happen, and would
most certainly be disputed. However, as with 2022, the most likely cause of action is solely Constructor’s disqualification. This would mean that RB would go from 2nd to 10th for 2021, and would likely need to return prize moneys and would be used to compensate the other teams for the subsequent loss of income. As the testing period from the 2021 positions has already been spent it is unlikely any development punishments will be made.
All the team principals are aware that if RB are found guilty that the only reasonable course of action in regards to the championships would be for only a constructor’s DQ. Any talk otherwise is nonsense and should be
considered so. Whilst I am sure that for the Silver Arrows, and their fans, learning that Red Bull may have illegaly bought their way to the WDC last year would be a bitter pill to swallow, the drivers are not in control of the team’s finances and resources. They can only race with what they are given, and fine tune their equipment with the help of their engineering team. What the teams spend their money on in terms of R&D, manufacturing components, upgrades etc is ultimately down to the heads of departments and the team’s upper management.
Any infractions on the cost cap must be punished properly to ensure that teams are deterred from doing the same thing again. Failure to do so will damage any effort to make the sport more financially viable, and also damage the sport’s attempts at building a more sustainable image. This could end up putting Audi’s 2026 entry into the sport in jeapordy and deter other potential teams and investors from joining the sport.
Uh-oh! A Motorcyclist just stole your K/QOM. (And we might not be able to flag the activity)
Training social platform Strava is having a troublesome time trying to seperate the frauds from the phenomenal on its segment leaderboards. This is causing outcry amongst its users and is adding to backlash the company has faced in recent times. So what can be done to tackle the problem of cheating on the app’s keynote feature?
The concept of a Strava segment is simple. After uploading a sporting activity to Strava, a cyclist can use their GPS file to create a segment of their route to offer a friendly competition as to who is the fastest person to ride that segment. These can be sprints, TT courses or climbs. The only factors for a segment are that it must be a minimum of 500m in length (up from 100m when the platform first started, and 300m from a few years ago), must be part of a real road, trail or paved network, and is not in a place where cycling is prohibited. Also, segments can be flagged as dangerous if segments follow shared footpaths or other obstacles that could cause harm to a Strava user or a member of the public.
Segments are meant to be a fun and friendly way of getting competitive without any reward or incentive. You don’t gain anything by obtaining a coveted crown on your local segment. The sole purpose is to challenge your mates on the local climb/course, to push each other and have fun whilst doing so. So surely, there’s no incentive to cheat, right?
Not so, it seems. The number of activities that have been flagged as potentially cheating of late has seen a huge rise, and there are beliefs that many more are being missed. It is frustrating as a platform user, as it sucks the enjoyment out of what is one of Strava’s key features that draws in so many users globally. So why would they do it, how do they do it, and what measures can be taken to stop them getting away with it?
Even though it’s been nearly two years (yet feels like only yesterday) that segment analysis and detailed KQOM leaderboards became exclusive to subscribers. However, you can still see a Top 10 leaderboard and obtain a K or QOM position on said leaderboard if you are a non-subscriber. Subscribers are by far less likely to be flagged as questionable, as quite often they provide additional data from their rides, such as cadence, power, heart rate and other performance metrics that can see in detail that they achieved goals legitimately. However that does not mean that mistakes happen (forgetting to finish a ride before packing your bike into the car, leaving your device running) or they won’t try to cheat at all.
Strava uses data analysis such as acceleration and speed data recorded by devices to automatically check for potential fraudulent activities. If the algorithm deems an activity’s speed or acceleration data to be above a certain threshold, an activity will automatically be flagged. In instances which fall under that criteria threshold, users can flag an activity if they suspect it falls foul of cheating. It will then be analysed before being declared plausible or fraudulent. Sounds easy, but it is actually quite complicated.
So what methods do people use to cheat? In the case of cycling, one way to cheat is to use Electronicly Assisted bikes; these have their own activity category and KQOMs in Strava, and are not supposed to be eligible for cycling segments. They must be uploaded as E-bike activities. This is a fair system, as E-bikes do give a significant power advantage on technical terrain and going uphill, until their limiter cuts out. However, even accidentally, people can upload E-bike rides as a non-assisted ride activity. This is probably one of the harder ones to spot, but there is more often than not a much lower speed variability between uphill and on flatter or downhill terrain. But the more blatant cheats will use fully motorised vehicles. Specifically, motorcycles, as they can dodge traffic much easier and dirt bikes/motocross bikes can easily be manouvred onto natural trails that do not have many defence mechanisms against motorbikes. If a rider times their speed and acceleration carefully, they can beat the algorithm meant to try and detect them.
So in order to register a segment attempt on Strava, all you need is a GPS activity file recorded direct from your phone or smart training device (smart watch or GPS computer) from when you complete the segment. So providing your cheat method is not spotted, and you keep your speed within the tolerances of the algorithm, your attempt will register as genuine. But how is cheating kept at bay on other platforms? For instance, online virtual riding platform Zwift hold ameteur open races with no prizes, yet has a fairly robust system which deters and detects cheating very effectively. In order for race results to be registered, riders must have a (free)ZwiftPower account connected to their Zwift profile, and must also submit data from] a Heart Rate Monitor (mandatory, especially if using a “dumb” trainer) and preferably the power data from their smart trainer. This is to ensure riders are putting in the efforts required to perform on the platform, and any anomalies lead to disqualification from the official race results, and could lead to bans from races for repeat offences. If you do not have this data then your result will not be verified on ZwiftPower, even if you come last. So can we do something like this on Strava?
In theory, yes. One move Strava could make is to make the leaderboards subscriber only. This, however would be a highly unpolular move and would likely see a drastic drop in users. This is also a highly unlikely move as the company CEO has previously stated that the course segments are an integral part of what attracts people to Strava and will not be put behind the paywall of its subscription service. So what else could it do?
Strava could make it a requirement that all segment attempts are void unless certain data forms are present in the upload. This could be as simple as using a bike speed and cadence sensor, or, like Zwift, use power meter and heart rate data. The latter, however, is likely to be less popular, particularly amongst legitimate casual users of the platform. Power meters are expensive, only dedicated cycling enthusiasts can justify such an expenditure, if their pockets can stretch that far. It will exclude many of the platforms users despite being the most effective solution out of them all.
A HRM is much cheaper and would work, but again, casual platform users are less likely to own and use a HRM. (It is worth pointing out, some newer smart watches do have the capability of measuring wrist pulse built in, but they are also an expensive item).
The way in which it would negatively effect the least amount of legitimate users would be to use data from speed and cadence sensors. These are a similar price to entry level HRMs and are usually the first sensor purchases by most cyclists at any level, however, they are fiddly to install, and will need to be calibrated to your wheel size (either manually, or through using GPS data in use). Furthermore, Strava removed sensor connectivity from its phone app, as most people who used sensors paired them directly with a third party GPS computer. The use of Speed and cadence sensor data to deter cheating can be bypassed in the case of e-bikes, providing the bike’s own systems aren’t connected to the recording device.
The cheating cannot be left to continue unchecked as it is. It is not viable, and will see people leave the platform, and damage the integrity of Strava’s business. So action is required, and tying in supplementary data seems like the most obvious way to implement such measures. I, personally, wouldn’t mind either the speed/cadence or heart rate data (but perhaps not all of it) being used to verify my KOM attempts, even though I own 5 different bikes for different riding disciplines (on and off-road). Most of my bikes have speed and cadence sensors already attached but I would need to either make sure the remaining bikes have their own sensors, or invest in a HRM which I can use with any bike. Like many people, I cannot afford a power meter and even the cheapest options on the market are worth more than any of my bikes (except maybe my best road bike, which is probably worth about the same). People can choose whatever option will suit them best if they want to continue using the platform, and is unlikely to see a mass exodus of disgruntled users. There may be some who leave, but by excluding as few as possible, the app should maintain its integrity amongst the fitness and cycling communities.
West Bromwich Albion Women making an important stand
West Bromwich Albion Women’s Team have announced that from now on, their players will no longer wear white shorts after consultation with the team.
This announcement means that the Women’s team will switch to navy shorts with immediate effect. All future home kits will also include navy shorts for the women’s teams, regardless of the colour of the men’s team shorts, which are currently also white. The decision has been made after consultation with the full playing squad. In a statement on the club website, Albion Women captain, Hannah George, said: “It’s great that the club are supporting our change to navy shorts.
“Representing the club professionally and looking smart in the kit is really important to us. This change will help us to focus on our performance without added concerns or anxiety.”
Whilst such a move might seem long overdue, it highlights that there are still many obstacles facing womens sport in general that needs to be overcome. Both for participation and audience. But that does not mean that every step forward shouldn’t be celebrated. After all, this is a huge positive step when it comes to period awareness in sport. There is an ongoing concern between kit designers and professional athletes across a multitude of sports in an effort to combat period anxiety through wearing white clothing. Let’s hope all other women’s sports teams wearing white or pale colours follow suit in switching to darker clothing for their athlete’s legs. Well done, WBA Women.
The full statement on the Club website can be found below.