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The Red Junction

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

A new junction has recently been installed in the city centre, based on similar ones pioneered in The Netherlands. The traffic lights have been removed from the junction between Jordon Well, Cox Street and Whitfriars Street and the junction has been coloured red:

Red Road Junction

Today was the first time I have been into the city centre since the junction was finished. Apparently the theory is that vehicles and pedestrians all have the same priority as each other and all vehicles need to slow down and navigate the junction with care. Similar schemes have been tried in Europe and they seem to work.

The 27 Club

Story location: Home / links /

Since Amy Winehouse died and joined the infamous '27 Club', I was wondering if there was any significance in the number of whether it was simply a statistical fluke. I found this website which plots the age at death of hundreds of celebrities who died of drug or alcohol related causes. The site finds that the median age is 38. When narrowed down to musicians, the most likely age to die is actually 27.

After discussing the phenomenon with colleagues I decided to run an analysis myself to see what kind of distribution you obtain by plotting the ages of celebrities from obituaries taken from the last 10 years. This doesn't favour any type of celebrity or any type of death and I expected a 'young' peak for reckless 'fast-living' celebs and an 'old' peak for people who died of more natural causes. Nigel, who I share an office with, said he expected a peak in the 60s, followed by a small dip, then another peak in the 80s. This was based on reading obituaries in the newspaper.

Celebrity ages at death
The histogram appeared to have 3 groups: young, middle and old, so I attempted to fit 3 'normal distributions'. When I did this I found the peak ages were: 42, 65 and 84.

Curb your Vituperativeness

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

I was reading a story on the BBC News website about parents trying to force schools to ban certain books.

The article features a quote from an author who wrote a series of books entirely in text-speak:

"It is so revealing to me the vituperativeness they address me with. They are angry,"

I could make a decent guess on the meaning of vituperativeness but I decided to google it to confirm my suspicions. Out of the first 20 hits on Google, all but one were dictionaries or similar word-related sites, most of them containing the same definition (harshly abusive censure). Google only found 3870 results, suggesting it isn't a word which normal people use in everyday conversation. I suspect the author, Lauren Myracle, said it to prove she knows longer words than those used in text-speak.

permanent link

Daily Mail Time Traveller

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

Proof that the Daily Mail is stuck in some kind of time warp. Apparently 1966 was only 33 years ago.

It was 33 years ago today...

The rest of the column discusses other events of the year, such as John Lennon claiming The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the England winning the World Cup.

A question in today's Daily Mail

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
Q: When Halley's Comet reappeared in 1969, that winter a flu epidemic killed more than 60,000 people in Britain. In 2008 Comet Nostradamus (and others) passed by, and now we face a flu pandemic. Is this mere coincidence, or were the ancients right to fear comets as bad omens and bringers of pestilence? What other natural disasters have been attributed to comets?

An interesting question, and one which is wrong on almost every level. The question's author may be referring to the theory of panspermia, where micro-organisms or disease can be brought to Earth by comets. Unfortunately the question gets pretty much everything else wrong.

Halley's comet did not appear in 1969. It was around in 1910 and again in 1986. I can't find any record of a Comet Nostradamus. There is a bright comet every few years - they aren't that rare so claiming co-incidence doesn't really make sense. Also the Earth passes through comet dust several times per year. The major meteor showers are associated with dust and debris from comets. If comets were all full of germs and pestilence, then there would be major outbreaks several times per year.

At least the questioner didn't claim the world was going to end in 2012.

It's All About Coventry

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

I recently received an email from somebody called Ben, telling me about his new website about Coventry. It's called It's All About Coventry and aims to be an honest, realistic and useful guide to the city.

There are "What's On" listings as well as reviews of shops, bars and restaurants. You can also add comments to any of the articles and reviews. It looks like it is going to be a useful site for both visitors and residents.

Another Welsh road sign

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

I spotted this on the BBC News site. From the page:

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

Welsh road sign

Drink up, It'll save the world

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

According to the BBC News website, scientists in Scotland have found a way of using whisky to clean up contaminated land. They are actually using a by-product rather than the whisky itself. It's good to know that as well as tasting good, whisky is also good to the planet.

Tesco USA

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

We were watching the BBC Breakfast News this morning and there was a story about Tesco opening a supermarket in the USA. We had the subtitles on because it wasn't easy to hear the reporter over the crunch of cereal.

The story was about Tesco trying to break into the American market by offering a range of affordable and healthy foods. We saw a customer carrying a punnet of fruit. The subtitles referred to the Man with the neck tureens. I suppose they'd be handy for carrying soup around...

Knock Knock...

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Who's There?
The Police with a battering ram...

We were on our way to work this morning but didn't get far because there were some police vans blocking the road. There were a few policemen standing around wearing body armour, with one carrying a battering ram. We stopped and watched for a few minutes while they smashed in someone's front door. They then encountered a re-enforced inner door which needed some other gadget, which resembled a briefcase but made a whirring noise when they used it. Unfortunately I couldn't see what was happening by then because the porchway was obscuring my view.

The police disappeared into the house. We didn't have time to stay and watch any more so didn't see whether anyone got dragged out kicking and screaming. We spoke to someone at the end of the road who told us it was a drug dealer's house.

Incident at International

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

Due to a Security Alert, this train will not be stopping at Birmingham International

No explanation was given. Our train had stopped just short of the station before the announcement was made. When we got to New Street, I noticed that the next train to International had been cancelled. There was also an announcement saying that the next train to London Euston (which normally stops at International) would not be stopping there.

I don't know what happened there - I hope it was nothing serious, just something like accidentally unattended luggage.

Update: 09:15
The National Rail Enquiries web site has the following announcement: Train services on all routes via Birmingham International are being disrupted due to a security alert. Birmingham International is currently evacuated and train services are currently unable to call at this station

Update: 10:20
Found this:

BIRMINGHAM International train station has been evacuated this morning following reports of a suspect package.

British Transport Police ordered the station's operator Virgin Trains to close the building at 8.48am.
No trains are stopping at the station, although they are still able to pass through.

A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: "We can confirm that Birmingham International railway station is currently evacuated.

"Officers are at the scene following reports of a suspicious item and a person is helping us with our enquiries.

"Trains are continuing to operate through the station."

There was also news about this on the BBC website.

What's a portion of fruit?

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

According to a local news story, adults in Coventry know more about healthy eating than adults in other cities.

Seventy-five per cent of parents in the city understand about the recommended five-a-day fruit and veg portions, compared to just 60 per cent in Manchester and Liverpool, and 67 per cent in London.

Only nine per cent of Coventry parents could not name anything that counts as one healthy portion.

I'm sure the ignorant 9% must shop in our local ASDA, where the cake and biscuit aisles are twice the length of the fruit and veg aisles. But seriously, how could a so-called 'grown up' not be able to name a piece of fruit? Have they not heard of an apple? a banana? an orange? It's a miracle we aren't in the middle of a scurvy or rickets crisis.

Recently I've been finding it ridiculously easy to eat 5 portions of fruit during the day. A glass of juice, a banana, a few pieced of dried fruit, and that's it. Whenever Julian Graves have their half price offers, I stock up with assorted packets of dried fruit. 2 dried figs, 3 dried apricots, 5 prunes: not the start of the 12 fruits of Christmas but each counts towards the 5 portions per day.

Get a life, you sad ****ers

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

Earlier this year, a sculpture was erected in the middle of a roundabout in Stratford-upon-Avon. It depicts an armillary, which apparently is some kind of ancient astronomical tool.

For some reason, this has sent the residents of Stratford into an apoplexy, with people shouting abuse at it and holding a protest at the site.

For Christ's sake, it's only a sculpture. It's not obscene or pornographic or anything which should warrant such vitriol. The worst it could do is liven up a dull roundabout. Get a sense of perspective. If that's the worst thing happening in Stratford at the moment, then you are a very lucky town indeed. Otherwise, you are all a sad bunch of bastards and you should get a life.

The Bin Police

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

I remembered reading a news story recently about how local councils plan to introduce 'Bin Police' to enforce strict recycling policies and to stop people from throwing away recyclable material. I was wondering how such a policy could be enforceable when around here, people regularly throw rubbish into our bin. It happened again this morning when someone had moved our bin a few yards down the road and filled it with cardboard.

Funnily enough, when I tried to check a reference for the 'bin police' story, the only mention I could find was the new newspaper where I originally read it, the good old Daily Mail. Now I'm not too sure about the veracity of the story. You can sum up a typical issue of the Mail as follows:


displaying a journalistic flair for working itself up in a lather with very little regard for any actual facts. So I think I'll take the story with a pinch of salt.

Another food moron story

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

Good old Mail on Sunday, carrying the baton of outrage... After yesterdays story about people not knowing the origins of foodstuffs, we now get a story about the new 'Whole Foods Market' supermarket which has opened in London. I really wasn't expecting two completely different stories highlighting food ignorance and apathy in Britain.

To test out the new shop, they sent two people along:
Food writer Tom Parker Bowles, and the woman who shot to fame by shoving burgers through the school railings during the Jamie Oliver school dinners campaign. She claims to be championing freedom of choice when she really seems to mean freedom to feed unhealthy crap to their kids, freedom to fail to educate them about healthy food, freedom to encourage bad eating habits which will eventually kill them

There were some good quotes from her in the article. She seemed puzzled as to why more than one cheese existed, having only ever bought cheddar herself:

As for all those goat's cheeses, you must be kidding. Who would want to eat something that smelt of goat?

Hmmm. When even chavs-choice supermarket Asda manages to sell goat's cheese, how can someone who shops at Morrison's be so sceptical of it. I don't think Goat's cheese smells of goat - that's like saying ordinary cheese smells of cow. I don't know if she's been mis-quoted by the paper but when I read that I thought: 'what a moron'.

Further down the article she expressed incredulity that anyone would buy bread with fruit or vegetables in. Has she never heard of a fruit loaf? or bread with onions in? (I was going to mention olive bread but that's obviously foreign muck and she wouldn't be interested in that)

I won't say much about Tom Parker Bowles experience in the shop, suffice to say he seemed to drool over most of the specialist foods and liked the place.