Yesterday I went cycling in Sydney with my good friend Aaron. It was the first time I had cycled in the CBD. We started from Town Hall, rode via Oxford Street, then a few laps around Centennial Park and ended up in Waverley for a BBQ and to watch the AFL Grand Final. As mentioned previously, I did wear a helmet.
Riding in Sydney, and observing other cyclists (many not wearing helmets) and the attitudes of motorists, I began to think about all the cities I had cycled in and drew a mental top-ten list for bicycle-friendly cities. Most cities on my list were in continental Europe (Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Münster etc), and Davis being the only one in North America. The infrastructure is there for safe cycling and the cities are designed not around the car but public transport.
Back in February this year I made an off-hand comment about how the Delhi Commonwealth Games will be a disaster. I said, “Indians and the Indian media will be far too busy trying to defend the disaster which will be the Commonwealth Games in Delhi this year.”
I could not have foreseen the farce which gained prominence in the past few days. With delays in construction, alleged use of child labour, squalid accommodation at the athletes’ village, an epidemic of dengue fever, athletes pulling out, and construction literally falling down. The Economist says the “games seem to have been cursed” from the beginning:
“The curses have included a terrorist attack in Delhi; corruption and over-invoicing; a heavy monsoon; dengue fever; the withdrawal of leading athletes; the collapse of a footbridge at the main stadium; the ceiling falling in at the weightlifting venue; the boss of the games’ federation calling the “village” of brand-new and allegedly luxury high-rise apartments built to accommodate the athletes “filthy and uninhabitable”; and warnings from a number of national teams that they might not come if things don’t improve more quickly than seems possible.”
Earlier this year I met Urban Ahlin, foreign affairs spokesman for Sweden’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats. He jokingly told me that “the only way to win elections in Sweden is to raise taxes!” This was a jibe at Sweden’s conservatives, whose only role it seems in politics is to advocate lower taxers and then be promptly defeated in the polls. The conservatives are currently in government.
Last weekend Sweden went to the polls. This time, the conservatives were not defeated, but they did not win a majority either. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party missed out on a parliamentary majority by two seats.
The real winners of the election were the Sweden Democrats (SD) who gained 20 seats. Some media outlets have incorrectly labelled them as the ‘far right’, ‘ultra-conservative’ and ‘Neo Nazis.’ They may have merged from some fringe and questionable elements but I would rather call them populist and they are more akin to the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) led by Geert Wilders.
In a follow up to my post on compulsory helmets, I found this piece from the BBC’s More or Less programme. This interesting statistical-mathematical-economics programme asked ‘is it really safer to wear a helmet when cycling.’
Citing a study that ‘found that for those wearing a helmet, motorists drove much closer when overtaking.’ The study’s author also concludes that motorists ’use a cyclist’s physical appearance to judge the specific likelihood of the rider behaving predictably.’ But another report rejects all behavioural research and says ‘that none of the studies was robust enough to prove that helmets affect behaviour.’ The problem, the reports says is that;
‘the data available about injured cyclists, from the police or hospital admissions, does not record whether they were wearing helmets or not. It is therefore difficult to draw definitive conclusions in favour of helmets.’
13 September 2010, 1 comment
, category: Ideas & Observations
The 2010 Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes was released last week. Launched in 1999, the indexes track the ‘financial performances of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide.’ A notable omission is Royal Dutch Shell. Though included since 1999, the reason why it was dropped is unclear. In June, BP was removed from the Indexes as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Anyone have any ideas or inside info why Shell was dropped?
13 September 2010, 1 comment
, category: Ideas & Observations
Cafe Naked in Newtown, Sydney is owned by my friend Charles. On the weekend, they serve a great array of vegan food. My favourite is the Morning After Giant Fry Up and the Pie Floater.
Their coffee is also great. Charles calls is genuine ‘slave-free coffee.’ Irrespective of what coffee you order, everything in the cup is Certified Organically Grown. The beans are Fair Trade. The grind on demand and use a naked (or ‘bottomless’) portafilters and serve a double shot, each time. The coffee is served in Italian Ceramic, Swiss Porcelain or French Glass. No cheap, child-labour-made china. So everything in the cup, including the cup is ‘slave-free’, hence genuine slave-free coffee. Now that is a unique selling point!
I am an internationalist. More correctly I am an Australian Internationalist. I am a passionate advocate of global engagement. I do believe we are interconnected and that ‘no man is an island entire of itself.’
But in order to aspire for global engagement, we need social engagement. Loosely, that is people engaging in society in all levels, both civic and civil. But in order for people to engage in society, they first must be included in society. Therefore, I believe that social inclusion leads to social engagement and ultimately leads to global engagement. The foundation for a globalised, engaged, interconnected, and a more peaceful world, is social inclusion.
I finally managed to see The Ghost Writer last night. Based on the Robert Harris book The Ghost. The move was good and kept you on your toes. It was almost faithful to the book. It helps to have the author pen the screenplay as well.
The Ghost was released when I was living in London and I saw the posters around the Tube promoting it. Harris is one of my favourite authors. Though I like his novels set in the last century than his foray into ancient Roman times. I made a mental note to read The Ghost.
I like many others thought the prime minister in the book (Adam Lang) had a striking resemblance to Tony Blair. Back then I wondered what will happen when Tony Blair releases his own memoirs.
Arup, Melbourne | 26 August 2010
Arup, Sydney | 25 August 2010