Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Some time ago whilst amusing myself on t’interwebs, I came across a motorcycle rally. Unlike previous rallies I’d attended which mainly involved falling over in fields, this one seemed to mainly be based on actually riding the bikes…

In the vein of orienteering the National Road Rally is a “scatter” rally where you attempt to ride between control points, trying to keep the mileage covered and number of control points to meet certain category requirements. In essence it is one large excuse for a rideout. So having persuaded a friend to accompany me, we awaited our packs to drop through the letterbox with 2 weeks to go…

The  planning pack!

The planning pack!

The maps and information arrived promptly with 2 weekends to go so we set to planning our route. Quickly it became apparent that there was not much in the way of controls in the north east. So we would have to head south a little bit to Thirsk for our first “start” control. Thereafter you have to try an plot a route taking in enough control points and covering a mileage appropriate to your category – we decided to be bold and aim for the gold daytime category. Basically visit 12 control points, in less than 10 hours with mileages between 260 and 280 miles.
Planning the route seems simple, provided with a matrix of the points and the mileage values for the legs all you have to do is work a route out within your mileage limits and going roughly where you want. All seemed vaguely familiar to riders of a certain age…

Mind the aspidistra!

Mind the aspidistra!

So having constructed routes, prepped bikes and made some route notes, we set off…

All set for the off....

All set for the off….

Our first control and start point was Teasdale bikes in Thirsk.

Stamp me!

Stamp me!

We quickly realised that a) There were a lot of fantastic bikes of all vintages about to set off and b) most of them were heading our way!
Thirsk - Not just our start point it seemed...

Thirsk – Not just our start point it seemed…

Even more starters...

Even more starters…

2 blokes, half a head of hair...

2 blokes, half a head of hair and not on top…

A rather sedate and gentlemanly start ensued as dozens of bikes set off on their first leg. We all wound our way out of Thirsk heading west towards Harrogate. We took it steady rather than tearing off, simply enjoying being in company with some superb vintage bikes instead.

Our 2nd control was near Harrogate, kindly manned by the Ilkley and District Motor Club. Already a queue had formed awaiting stamps but we were quickly and efficiently onwards having gained our first stamp on the road.

Harrogate. Fine gents giving me my first stamp

Harrogate. Fine gents giving me my first stamp

At this point we got our first taste of some of the weather in store as we set off for Skipton. The heavens opened, my gopro mount gave up the ghost (new sticky pad up to the job my arse) and they say you should never ride frustrated and angry. Well I proved it. Having blasted past the control point I tried for a quick u-turn in a barely used layby to discover it was inches deep in glistening wet mud. Fortunately no bikers went past as I picked myself up off the deck suitably embarrassed having dropped this bike for it’s first time ever. No-one to blame but myself, and a good wake up call. Luckily no-one saw so let’s keep it between ourselves ok?

A good check over to make sure the bike was ok to continue and I headed back to the control where I collected my wits and a third stamp from the chaps from BMF north west. Then, reunited up with my buddy we headed on…

Skipton. Got there in the end...

Skipton. Got there in the end…

The rain kept on and off as we headed for out of Skipton towards our next control at Accrington, Apologies to the Amigos running the control, completely forgot to grab a quick photo!

The next control was a “virtual” control at Wigan. This is one you count towards your controls and mileage but not actually a point to visit. We logged it on out way to the next manned control at Warrington. This was probably our longest stretch on motorways and dual carriage ways as we skirted Manchester, and again the West proved to be the wet side of the country.

Warrington. More stamps and a break...

Warrington. More stamps and a break…

We reckoned this was about half way round for us, so after collecting our next stamps courtesy of the guys from the Moto Guzzi owners club we decided it was a good time for a rest break as the control which was at a full set of services. Got to keep fed and hydrated!

No idea how w stay this trim....

No idea how w stay this trim….

We set off for Congleton and all the rain we had seen so far was as but a light bit of drizzle. At times we were reduced to a crawl in sheeting torrents and roads became rivers. Wetsuits would have been more in keep rather than waterproofs. We eventually pulled into the Anchor Inn where the local Congleton and District Motorcycle club bravely manned the awning where we got our stamps and laughed in the face of the elements…

We gave up on any hope that the weather would let up and headed back out into the storm on our way to Ashbourne. The friendly gents from the Vincent Owners Club stamped us up – Apologies again as I completely forgot to grab a quick photo mainly due to my buddy showing up with cakes he rustled up from the local bakery whilst I got fuel.

The ride on towards Tideswell should have been through some spectacular countryside and rock formations in the Derbyshire National Park. What we could mainly see was copious amounts of water however. More and more bloody water. I swear I saw the animals paring up and looking for an ark at this point. I’m pretty sure we took the scenic route as well, but as the visibility was more akin to something from the shipping forecast I can’t be sure.

Tideswell. Manned by lovely ladies

Tideswell. Manned by lovely ladies

We found the control and like sirens tempting sailors the lovely ladies from The Anchor stampers marshals tried to waylay us with pieces of fish and chips. Our resolve held though, and we managed to get away with just our stamps and maybe a few small pieces of home made millionaires shortbread…

Tideswell. He can sniff choccy cake from 2 miles....

Tideswell. He can sniff choccy cake from 2 miles….

We turned east and north once more as we began the return journey to the northeast in earnest at this point. We skirted Sheffield and crossed the M1 to the Moto Demon Speed Shop at Rotherham. As if to light our way home the weather finally cleared as well, and we began to see dry roads for the first time in hours.

Rotherham. The guys there were setting up for the night...

Rotherham. The guys there were setting up for the night…

There was a definite party atmosphere at the shop as they were gearing up to go through the night for the riders on the hardcore rally categories. As relative newbies however we had a schedule to keep, so after a short break for more food and caffeine we headed Barnsley bound…
Rotherham. He found the food again...

Rotherham. He found the food again…

Our penultimate control was courtesy of the Barnsley Bikers Club. A fleeting stop as we pushed on to make sure we could keep to our time limit.

Barnsley. End almost in sight...

Barnsley. End almost in sight…

Despite the highways agency’s best plans in closing the M1 (top tip for future rallies – check the planned road closures!) we still made our final control at Squire Biker Cafe with plenty of time to spare

Last stop. Squires Cafe.

Last stop. Squires Cafe.

Squires provided an ideal last port of call – the cafe and bar was open so we could bask in the glow of a great day and grab some more caffeine and admire our completed stamp collection..
Proud of my stamp collection

Proud of my stamp collection

The cafe allowed us a chance to talk over the day before setting off home. We both agreed on the whole a cracking day out. Some great scenery, if seen through a rain soaked visor. Definitely some great people met. The true test of the day was that we both immediately agreed it was something we would do again…

Back on the bikes to head home

Back on the bikes to head home

After a few days I’ve had the chance to consider the rally and there’s a few points for anyone considering it for a first time.
First up, just bloody do it!. The absolute worst that can happen is you don’t enjoy it and sack it early. Not much of a loss is it? The best that can happen? a fantastic ride out, meet loads of great people, see loads of great bikes and explore some of this fine land.
To help on the way –

  • Plan but be flexible. By all means have a route, but be aware of alternate fuel stops, roads etc
  • Take breaks. Drinks and food are a must. they help you stay alert and on the ball.
  • Any bike can do it! I saw scooters, classics, crutch-rockets, endurance tourers, customs and my own VN900C SE cruiser. If you can ride it on roads it’ll get round.
  • Make friends. Every person, and I mean every single person I met on the rally was friendly and happy to chat, give advice, tips, routes and laughs.
  • So hopefully I’ll you out there next year. I’ll maybe even go through the night this time!

    Finally, and the most important thing I wanted to say. The rally exists only because of the volunteers who give their time and effort so freely. Huge thanks are due to each and every one of them out there. not just those on my route, but at every control, behind the scenes, everywhere. Thank you all. See you next year!

    For those of a techy bent. I used an app called Glympse on an android phone whilst on the rally. It broadcasts your gps location to a web based map which you can send the link to via email, facebook, even texts. This allowed Mrs Spider to keep up to date with our progress and seemed to work really well – just remember to keep modifying the time period you are sharing for as it has a limit of 4 hours, but you can keep extending it. For a free app I was quite impressed!

    +++GNU Terry Pratchett+++

    3139932232_2fbbb87822_bQuick article on Beeb regarding change in facebook policy. Apparently it is up to users to condemn videos of beheadings.

    It really does speak volumes for us doesn’t it? We can allow murders to be videoed and shared, but if a woman goes topless, or Dawkins forbid 2 people consent to be videoed doing something perfectly natural we scream for the censor and create social taboos around it.

    Got to wonder if that’s the right way round.

    As some may know, I enjoy a bit of a play on twitter now and then. I find the immediacy entertaining, not to mention the continual amounts of “fail” that occurs when corporations or overblown egos come face to face with the real public and are unable to avoid their responses.

    I especially love the idea that politicians and those who seek power feel compelled to actually engage. If a tweet is framed reasonably it must be tough to avoid answering. Occasionally you get answers which is more than any other medium provides.

    Anyway, in response to one of my tweets the leader of Stockton Borough Council, Robert Cook engaged…
    ccok tweet

    The awful grammar of someone who is in charge of a public authority aside, his point being I do not use my real name.

    Is it a fair one? After all I do not use my real name here either, and I am on occasion somewhat disparaging about some people in positions of power.

    In response, I think no.

    There are several reasons I prefer to remain largely anonymous (largely as a fair few people know full well who I am)

    My main concern is that of my loved ones. Those who take issue with matters of fact yet want to know your name are seeking to make it personal. They want to play the man not the ball. If they are prepared to do that then they may be prepared to attack those near to me convicted of their guilt by association. I am not willing to risk their professional or personal well being.

    Next it is precisely because they wish to make it personal. Without a name they must engage the point, the topic or the argument. They cannot sidestep valid points of question so easily. Since I make no points using my past behaviour as a supporting argument then my past behaviours or positions are irrelevant.

    Lastly protection. I may be employed in a sensitive position, I may be in charge of a controversial project, I may do business with those I criticise and wish to keep taking their money, or it may be more personal. Perhaps, yes, I am your father.

    So I guess my point here would be. Why do you want to know? I am not seeking gain power over my fellow man. Quite the opposite I wish I could be left alone. I do not seek to tell others how to live, I would have us leave each to live how they chose. I do not seek to take your earnings, your liberty or your belongings. Why does my name matter?

    At best because you want to check I am a voter of yours. That’s cynical and makes points no less valid. At worst it is so you can attack me personally instead of my arguments. Even more cynical, intellectually and morally bankrupt and does nothing to argue against any point I may make.

    So in my more usual language. Stop avoiding the question and actually give the people that pay for these arse-brained ideas an answer.

    In this case I’m thinking of 16 and 17 year olds. Not in that way you dirty minded sods… But a few things about on how we give them such a raw deal. It’s no wonder they’re pissed off and angry. They have every right to be as far as I can tell.

    Essentially we demand they act like adults, we heap the responsibility of adulthood upon them, except when it comes to considering their opinion. So they can join the armed forces, they can accept the responsibility of parenthood and marriage, they can have what little they manage to earn pillaged by the taxman under threat of force. But when it comes to considering them as a person in the own right? No vote, the means test for their eligibility to access funds for education depends on their parents – not on whether their parents are willing to pay mind you. They aren’t entitled to a full minimum wage, they do not receive the same consideration for emergency housing. Basically we shit on them.

    As someone whose late teens were somewhat strained I sympathise with them greatly, I was lucky and had great friends to help me out and look out for me, not all are so fortunate. We should either grant them the full protection and support that children are entitled to, or better yet treat them as adults. Grant them the respect any other adult would demand, consider them as a person in their own right not simply an extension of their parents. Maybe then we would actually have the right to expect them to behave as such.

    So Google “do evil” according to self anointed head of the tax inquisition Margaret Hodge MP. They did after all pay only £2.3m corporation tax on a £3.2bn turnover in the UK. Seems a bit dodgy I think we can all agree.

    Two things here, I’ll start with the hypocrisy first, and there is an MPs expense list sized shitload of it.

    Hodge is a shareholder in steel company Stemcor. Her family company (which include trusts and holding in the name of her children in order to avoid inheritance tax) latest accounts show that the business paid tax of just £163,000 on revenues of £2.1bn in 2011. Less than 1/100 of 1%. There are of course spluttered excuses that the company pays all the tax it owes under law and that she has no direct control (since she put it in trusts and her sprogs names to avoid even more tax)

    If you really want to choke on your conrflakes you can see her excuses trotted out here. (Students of body language, enjoy!)

    or here

    After all she is on record as saying “The tax you owe is a duty. It’s an obligation.”.

    So here’s my second point.

    They both obey the law. Maybe not the moral one we’d all like to see followed, but I suspect they have an army of highly paid accountants ensuring they follow the letter of the law. Like MPs who scammed the system, like public sector chiefs who pack remuneration boards with cronies, technically they have done nothing wrong.

    And who drafted the laws? Who decided on one of the most complicated tax codes in the world? MPs. Especially those that seem to have an interest in the countries taxation system. MPs like the Queen of hypocrisy Hodge.

    So before she drags more companies in to try and embarrass them into voluntarily filling up the exchequer, Companies that employ people who actually pay income tax, national insurance, VAT, fuel tax, council tax, inheritance tax & capital gains tax to name just a few (and so unlike her and the rest of her scumbag colleagues) Maybe Hodge ought to have a long hard look at herself and her holdings in tax avoiding Stemcor.

    After all if it’s so bad, then why isn’t there a law against it, or if it is why isn’t it enforced?

    300th post. Who’d have thought it would last this long eh?

    I think I deserve an introspective piece as a result. A bit of self indulgent navel gazing.

    There’s a piece in the Indy regarding the destruction of historically significant artifacts by religious extremists. Most recently the libraries containing ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu by Malian Islamisists, but they are just following a long and proud tradition of destroying knowledge. The Taliban were famously responsible for blowing up giant statues of Buddha, but if we go back further even Henry VIII had a good go at erasing monastic seats of knowledge.

    As a person of a more scientific than religious slant it occurs to me that as a species we are just following scientific principles.

    Physics and the laws of thermodynamics state that all systems tend towards an entropy maximum, where entropy represents disorder in a system. It takes work to resist entropy.

    It appears that humans are hell bent on reversing the gains we have made and dragging ourselves back to an archaic level of ignorance, a maximum level of chaos and disorder. The technology we congratulate ourselves for inventing merely acting as a catalyst in a chemical reaction speeding the process of change within the system. From the AK wielding shouty nutters of sand blown disaster zones to the creationist hobbled science classes that are supposed to educate our children we are losing ground on every front.

    Ultimately one of the possible end states of the universe is called the heat death of the universe. A flat uniform sea of entropy, not of any specific level, but a minimum of activity in a bland featureless void.

    Perhaps we hurtle headlong into the heat death of civilisation. Sped along by hyperbole and hypocrisy, riding the back of the silicon age. Our ability to advance gradually slowing to a retreat into a moribund state of ignorance and intolerance. Forever to stagnate until nature finally takes pity and through famine, disease or the sun going nova finally puts us out of our misery.

    Hopefully we can do it with the minimum of fuss and leave the cockroaches to their turn in peace.

    Not to fall into the national stereotype or anything at this time of national crisis (well, minor snowfall I’ll grant you), but I quite like weather stuff. I find it interesting, just as well really as I have worked as a weatherman. (An awesome one naturally)

    So in a break from the traditional moaning, I though I would share some stuff on the net that may interest you

    First up. Weather charts. Not the stuff you get on the TV but proper ones, The UK Met Office charts are best, but curiously the best place to see them is not on their site! MetBrief has a full set, regularly updated.

    If you fancy watching an animation of the current precipitation then the last couple of hours of radar imagery can be viewed here

    Mucking about on the water? Then the inshore waters FX (forecast!) is here

    Fantastic satellite imagery is available via Dundee Uni receiving station (needs free registration) – hint: you want the latest images from the Meteosat SEVIRI Also worth looking at the gallery of spectacular images

    Want to know what it’s going to do and when? Probably the most accurate FX are the terminal airfield forecasts (TAFs) for aviation. You can look up your local one here and then once you’ve confused yourself, figure out the codes here

    Some good detailed forecasts can be found at the Met Office and BBC as expected, but another good source is here at the weather underground

    Or maybe we should bring back the Live TV version…

    Whatever you end up doing, have fun and stay safe!

    Do you have the freedom to restrict others freedoms?

    That in essence is the case before the Human rights courts. Can religion be grounds to insist or refuse on behaviour in the workplace.

    It is unfortunate that they seem to have swept up several cases into one as they are very different. But I think boil down to this. Are you free to give offence or can you stop someone offending you?

    First up is the wearing of crosses or religious symbols. Work places prevent them on the grounds it may offend someone. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work or constitute a hazard, and breaks no laws what’s the real problem? If someone wants to be offended by the sight of them – Vampires for instance – then they should of course free to do so.

    By the same token refusing to carry out work because the customer offends you. For example Islington Council registrar Ms Ladele who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. She is free to believe what she likes but not to be employed by all the taxpayers but to refuse to carry out work for those that personally offend her. Fine, be offended, and do the work you are paid for. You do not have the right to make the world fit your views. She does of course have the freedom to leave and seek other employment.

    Of course in a court of law if any of the applicants can supply evidence that their particular brand of fairy tale nonsense is actually true then the courts should listen. But I guess we’re not expecting any breakthroughs there are we?

    Bloody hell. Sense prevailed.
    The court took my advice on each and every case!

    Ring in the new!

    Ring in the new!

    Happy New Year! Wishing all my readers a prosperous and peaceful new year.

    As a new circuit of the blazing fusion reactor begins and we hurtle through the infinite Stygian void I will share some wisdom for you to ponder.

    I think I have cracked the secret for world peace and harmony.

    It is a three fold answer to global brotherhood, a trinity of universal humanity. What is this elusive trinity you wonder?

    Aircon, beer and bacon sandwiches.

    Before you scoff and shake your head in derision. Seriously consider. Name any trouble spot in the world, go on any one. Now tell me, is it in a hot place? is the local drink of preference something other than beer? and are they prohibited bacon sandwiches?

    I bet the answer to at least one of those questions is yes.

    So there you have it. World peace, achievable and in our time. Our Creedo shall be

    Avoid the heat for it makes man angry and shouty, slake his thirst with the golden liquid of the hop, and fill his hunger with the sauce laden sandwich of the pig. Then you shall have peace and brotherhood.

    Particular beer, bacon type and sauce I leave entirely to your taste. I’m off to do my bit for world peace, so crank up the grill, spank the bottom of that sauce bottle and drink up those brews.

    Here comes 2013… Do your bit!