Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't remember his name

Stephen Griffiths is a violent criminal and nothing more. The accused murderer of three Bradford sex-workers has been dubbed by the tabloid press as the "Crossbow Canibal" and this was the name he gave the judge when being charged today. This man was studying serial killers as part of a postgraduate criminology course and, it would appear, was obsessed with the mystique given to people who kill others. But he should not be given the notoriety that he seeks - no monikers, no fuss. His name is Stephen Griffiths, he needs no other. He did nothing remarkable or noteworthy - he victimised the most easily victimised - those that society protects and worries about the least. He shows that evil can also be pathetic. He stands accused of taking the life of three people who did absolutely nothing to deserve it. If found guilty, we should remember his victims: Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage, and Susan Rushworth and their families that mourn them. His unremarkable name should remain that. He deserves no more.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The first draft history

Some clever spark once said that journalism is the first draft of history. If you've been following the British general election saga, this week's "The Report" from BBC Radio 4 is fascinating listening and will be a source for future historians on how the coalition negotiations took place. Right down to Lord Mandelson texting his mate on the other side of the table to avoid his own team knowing what he was saying.

"Don't worry lads, I have a cunning plan..."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back on the road

Supposedly this has been one of the worst hayfever seasons in many years. Actually it's birchfever, the hayfever will start in a month or so but that doesn't bother me. A week ago the birch trees exploded their pollen in to the air, all of a sudden on the first hot day after a long winter and cool spring. Everything is covered in fine green dust of the stuff. It gets everywhere, inside and out and up my nose. Here it make my immune system over react and as result I become a huge, miserably ball of snot, sneezing and itching. It's enough to make you want to go and walk around bare foot in an African toilet pit (go on... be brave. Click the link. Actually just listen to the whole wonderful hour of parasitic pleasure).

It rained hard last night; annoying as I wanted to climb today and couldn't, but at least it cleared the air a bit and the hayfever lessens a little. This morning as the puddles receded a scum of green was everywhere - a fine paste of sodden pollen.

Pollen paste...


Myllykoski, Nurmijärvi (watch this bridge being swung at the end of this movie)

So as the crags would all be dripping, I decided to ride instead. Against my better judgement, a smooth talking Aussie has persuaded me to ride the Kallaveden Kierros with him next week, a big bike race - or more accurately "sportive" - in Kuopio. Simon decided we were going to do the real thing - the 200 kms - and signed us up as the "ABC Team" - the Australian-British Cycling Team. "Absolute Beginners Cycling Team" would be another option, and "absolutely buggered cycling team" will probably fit best by about 150 kms. So it seemed sensible to get the road bike down from shed wall and check it still worked. It did. Now I'm just worried whether my thighs will make it over that distance!

I've been getting a few tips on riding a 200 km sportive from the good folks of UKC, but if anyone is reading this and has done something similar please leave me any tips in the comments!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Vantaanpuisto Bloc

I made a little video of this small boulder I found in the woods.

Vantaanpuisto Bloc from Toby A. on Vimeo.

There is more info on the problems at UKC and a map at I wouldn't make a huge effort to get there, but it is worth a visit for anyone looking for some easier bouldering who isn't too far from it (it's just off the Tampere Motorway/Kehä III intersection - so very easy to get to).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stuff that works: Black Diamond Hotwires

Is good design always in part as much luck as judgement? When the Black Diamond Hotwire karabiner was released to the global climbing community I wonder if BD had any idea just how good a krab they had made? For any non-climbers who have been interested enough to read this far, until the Hotwire was released in, I think, 1995 all karabiners used a metal bar with a spring inside for the opening gate. Often now called ‘solid gates’ (as opposed to ‘wire gates’ like the Hotwires), the original design was more complicated and heavier. BD in using the wiregate design found that they could actually make the karabiners stronger – the few grammes saved by the gate design could be transferred to other parts of the karabiner body meaning a burlier design was possible at a relatively low weight – strong and light being the holy grail for climbing equipment designers. Wiregates also resist freezing better and don’t suffer from gate-flutter (which is too geeky to explain to anyone who doesn’t know what it is, but – in short - it ain’t cool).

Now I think every manufacturer that makes karabiners offers wire gate version – many just adding a wire-gate to a previous solid gate design. But the Hotwire was designed from the ground up as a wire-gate and has been unchanged for 15 years because the design was pretty close to perfect from the start. Other manufacturers now have wire gate krabs that are as good, but often after going through various less successful models to get to that point. But the Hotwire was not only the first ever wiregate krab sold to climbers, but for a long time arguably the best. Sadly, this year Black Diamond has removed the Hotwire from its range – but 15 years is a pretty good run for an item of climbing equipment. But happily they are replacing it with the new Hotwire (hurrah!) – they look great but have a pretty big legacy to live up to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The geopolitics of cement

I met a chap last week I know who had just come back from Afghanistan. He commented that it would be a good time to be in the cement industry in Kabul as they are throwing up concrete blast barriers everywhere. He reckoned the whole city felt very uneasy and all the expats were very gloomy and nervous - and that plus the blast walls reminded him of Baghdad in the even-worse-ole'-days.

Still on a cement theme, last weeks episode of This American Life had a remarkable interview with one of the tunnel owners who runs a business smuggling things into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. He noted that building materials still make up a lot of the produce going into Gaza after the war a year and a bit a go, but bizarrely now they are smuggling a lot of guns out of Gaza and into Egypt where they command a higher price. Supposedly the Hamas government in Gaza has banned the public carrying of weapons, plus there are so many stockpiled in the strip, there are now plenty of spares to be sold off to Egyptian crooks.

The Rafah crossing on the blockaded Gaza-Egypt Border (click to enlarge)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hot, hot, hot

Tony on Nahkhiirmees (7a)

Me on the aptly named Kesäpäivä ("summer day") a great climb but rather under-graded at 4

Summer arrived with a bang (or perhaps a sizzle) and suddenly Finland was the warmest place in Europe last weekend. Of course every birch tree in the country decides to dump its pollen at this point ensuring many people like me spending the weekend sneezing, rubbing their itchy eyes and falling asleep from taking antihistamine. I went climbing at Hyttyskallio with Tony and Anni, although my climbing was pretty lethargic and pathetic. Tony put in a sterling effort on Nahkhiirmees (7a) but didn't get the redpoint in sweaty conditions and took a whopper of a fall in the process! I belayed and enjoyed the sunshine. Thanks to Anni for snapping pics.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Time to vote folks

I started writing so much more, but I'll just let Gordon speak for himself:

Have a great election day everyone in the UK - whoever you vote for.

Monday, May 03, 2010

When any uniform will do

YLE has an interesting little story of a police investigation in Tampere, Finland's second city, where youths stopped fire fighters from putting out an open fire in a park:
A gang of youths managed physically to prevent fire officers from extinguishing an open fire in Näsinkallio Park. They also interfered with fire hoses being used to tackle the blaze started by the youths. The fire brigade was forced to leave the scene after the gang attacked rescue vehicles with bottles. Police were called in to restore order.
This happens regularly in rougher parts of the UK where any uniformed service represents the state and therefore a target of anger for some, but I haven't heard of it happening here before. I happened to be talking to a Finnish firefighter last week who is currently doing policy work. He was telling me about how the first responders on the scene of the Sello shooting in Espoo just after Christmas last year were firefighter, but they then had to leave the scene because they don't carry body armour in their fire engines and when the police got there they didn't want people in the shopping centre without vests on. Clearly firefighter don't expect violence against them as one of the risk they have to deal with. The paramedics do have vests in their ambulances and went in with armed police escorting them but only after some time had elapsed and unfortunately all the victims had died - although this is not to suggest that any could have been saved by paramedics getting to them quicker.

Like firefighters everywhere I'm sure the crew that turned up in Tampere weren't by any means softies, which makes you think the violence they faced was probably more than the YLE story's wording suggests.

On a vaguely connected note; whilst celebrating Vappu in a club last Friday night - a bit of a hipster/hippy kind of place full of harmless, friendly student types, I noticed the bouncer - who whilst kinda beefy and having that don't-mess air about him otherwise fitted in with the clientèle - was wearing a stab vest under his t-shirt. Is this now standard for Helsinki doormen?