I don't iron any clothing and haven't for about 10 years now. Why do people iron their clothes? It certainly isn't to make them last longer, or to save time, or to make sure that people know that they washed them. Is it to make the clothing appear as though it is brand new out of the packaging? It could also be to make sure people are aware that the person wearing the ironed clothing is wealthy enough to afford to iron their clothes; and certainly wealthy enough to not have to work hard enough physically to crease said clothing. At least, that's why the Victorians still ironed their clothes.
People sometimes point out my creased shirt and ask questions, such as "Did you forget where your iron is?" or give advice like "If you roll your shirt up it won't crease up as much in your bag after you've ironed it!". I usually placate them with throwaway lines like "Well, I cycle to work and change when I'm here, so I don't bother.", but this is not the whole truth. I vehemently disagree with ironing on an ethical and ecological level. I am not just lazy...
After reading about the history of ironing, I am still bewildered why this custom and tradition is kept up. It is clearly a class issue, those of the upper classes used to be the only ones with ironed clothes, now the lower classes can buy an iron for less than two hours wages. However what is the ecological impact ironing has on the planet, and don't we all hate doing it? I am clearly not the only one out there with such questions:
An excerpt from the 2nd article in the Independent sums up what I had already felt on a more philosophical level, I always assumed that ironing used more energy in joules than even the mechanical energy required to spin them in the washing machine:
"A couple clicks of the mouse, then a figure appears at the bottom of the screen. Our household EDUs is 1,282. A breakdown shows that our actual clothing EDUs is quite low at 558. But then there's the laundry, which at 724 EDUs is slightly alarming. It includes 324 from washing and a whopping 400 from ironing.
The ironing is what did us in, more environmentally damaging than our washing. "It's like having the kettle switched on for seven hours straight," says Phil. But more shocking, if we add seven tumble-dryer loads a week. The figure more than doubles..."
Obviously the excerpt and the full article, (well worth a proper read) allude to the fact that tumble drying is also pretty ecologically harmful. I don't tumble dry myself, but I may on occasion have been tempted to as it is a functional device. We don't like to wear wet clothes, we may be forced to wear something soon after washing it, and it won't dry naturally quickly enough. I plan around the fact I don't have an iron or a tumble dryer by washing my clothes before I need to wear them by a few days (usually...). the article then goes on to give bulletpoint advice on improving the ecological impact of your wardrobe:
"iron only where necessary..."
When is ironing necessary? I can't imagine.
I am clearly not the only person writing about this issue:
If there is one thing to take away from reading this webpage, STOP IRONING!
What is the real difference between a cyclist and a "Pseudo-Cyclist"?
As a passionate cyclist, I take to the roads frequently and am amazed by the amount of other people who happen to own bicycles, who ride them like idiots. I must preface this with the fact that as a teenager, I did my cycling proficiency test at school. I learnt how to ride a bike safely, how to make sure drivers don’t kill me due to my own lack of care and attention. I check behind me and indicate each and every time I make a turn, often for up to 20 metres before the actual turn and use the appropriate signals to pull out or slow down to stop at lights. I don’t hop on and off the pavement at my own convenience and I don’t run red lights. I wear high visibility clothing; I have a front and rear reflector, front and rear lights, and a helmet of course.
I say of course, but the majority of "people who ride bikes" I see are riding around aren’t even a wearing a helmet. I use the term "people who ride bikes" instead of cyclist, because I believe that these people are not cyclists. In fact, they make cyclists look bad. We who make every effort to be seen, and to ride safe are undermined by these lunatics. My personal checklist for finding out if you are a cyclist or not, is as follows:
1. Helmet: If you are not wearing a helmet on your bicycle then you are a fool.
2. High-Visibility Clothing: If you are riding a bike on the roads, it makes a lot of sense for you to stand out to drivers, who are going to kill you if they don’t see you. Don’t let them get away with saying they didn’t see you. Not "essential" unless you enjoy being hit by cars.
3. Lights: I try to avoid riding my bike at night in the dark, but it is not always possible. I have a light set that cost very little compared to replacing a bike that has been mangled under the wheels of a car. Of course I will include front and rear reflectors, pedal reflectors and spoke reflectors here too, these are LEGALLY MANDATORY!
4. Bell: By law, all new bicycles are sold fitted with a noise making device or bell. If you do not have one on your bike, get one, fit it and ring it at pedestrians who walk in the bike lane and whenever you are about to overtake a fellow cyclist out of courtesy. I have a polite ding bell, and a klaxon for when people are still in my way after their second bell.
5. Bike Lock: I have seen obnoxious bicycle owners take their bikes into shops and fast food places and leave them in other people's way because they can't be bothered buying a bike lock. Inconveniencing others for the sake of one's own convenience is what narcissists do. Let alone kids who leave their bikes sprawled across the pavement outside shops while they go in to shoplift sweets. If you don't want your bike stolen, lock it, don't bring it everywhere you go.
Why Do I Care So Much?
I do care. I care too much really; because I feel like I have to explain myself to everyone I tell that I cycle to work. People immediately think I am part of the growing majority of bike owners they have seen on the roads/pavements. I just told a colleague that I bike to work and her immediate response was "You're not one of them annoying obnoxious £#%@s are you?”. I had to explain, that no, I am not; I am one of the good ones. I should not have to do this, I'm not saying proper cyclists should be revered or honoured in some way (medals would be cool...) but certainly not disrespected due to the bad behaviour of a few members of our peer group. I'm talking about anti-cyclist discrimination! I have heard drivers talk about the fact that we don't pay road tax therefore should not be on the roads, and that we don't deserve our own special lanes and why do we get so much publicity (aherm, we were on the roads first!). As if we are a nuisance! I have encountered nuisance bicycle owners; they have nearly knocked me off my bike! Hopping from pavement to road without taking the time to look behind them and check to see if I would have to brake hard and swerve dangerously to avoid rear-ending them! That is what prompted me to write this blog. Then it happened again. Then I noticed how many of the people I would have previously considered "Proper Cyclists", run through red lights, or pavement hop to get through them. I couldn't believe how few cyclists seem to signal and indicate properly, or even know which side of the road to ride on.
If you want to drive a car, you first must obtain a license and insurance and tax the vehicle. To ride a bike on the road, you just buy a bike and are let go on an unsuspecting public. I am not insinuating that there should be a test, there already is a test, it is called the cycling proficiency test, but there should be some form of governance. It is clearly not just their own lives they are risking, I have experienced my own life being staked on the ignorance of these pseudo-cyclists swerving in front of me like lunatics!
Other bad cycling habits I have covered in other blog entries such as wearing headphones, not using the handlebars on the road, texting/using the phone, there are plenty more I haven't covered as I had thought they were obviously wrong. Carrying shopping on the handlebars, trying to walk a dog whilst riding a bike (illegal by the way!), or trying to have a coversation with another pseudo-cyclist, cycling two abrest or worst of all, cycling the wrong way on a roadside bike lane.
There are also people who own bikes who are beyond "pseudo-cyclists" and have earnt themselves the title of "Suicyclist", people who are clearly trying to get themselves killed. Wearing all black clothing at night with no lights or high visibility clothing, no/obfuscated reflector, like some sort of bike ninja. Invisible to the naked eye, these cretins are definitely self nominated Darwin Award candidates.
Internet Censorship: The Internet Is Under Attack?
According to many key sources of internet trends, the recent governmental seizure of control over the internet has been perceived as a threat to global freedom. The internet culture has flourished from what once was the domain of the knowledgeable few, to what is often called "Web 2.0"; user generated and driven content, shared and open to all interactively and easily. Nowadays, most people between their childhood and retirement age will spend time online regularly. They do so to catch up on the latest news, kill time watching funny videos of cats, keep in touch with long lost friends and relatives, etc... The list of activities people perform regularly online is pretty endless, as new applications of the internet are coming along every day. Some of the things people do online are currently illegal, in quite a few countries, and for years now the governments of those (often developed) countries have been trying to figure out how to enforce laws on the internet. From copyright infringement to "Indecent Pornography", it has been a game of cat and mouse, as technology on both sides is developed to outsmart the other.
We were all made aware of this arms race when sites like Napster and The Pirate Bay were legally challenged, when news of sting operations on paedophile and terrorist networks hit the papers. We were glad of our Government's action against those who would harm or way of life. Now however, it is our governments themselves who are threatening our way of life; in a new development in this arms race, we the people are being targeted with internet censorship.
The ACTA has been implemented in several "Freedom Loving" countries such as Australia, America, and now the United Kingdom has followed suit with the Digital Economy Bill (The DEBill is now The Digital Economy Act since it was pushed through parliament... shouldn't have dragged my feet writing this blog...). Now we have internet censorship, blacklisted websites and filtered content.
Internet Censorship: Spreading The Word!
So as far as I can tell, the internet is going to become more strictly controlled, surveilled, filtered and censored worldwide. Copyright piracy, inappropriate porn and terrorist communication are simply convenient distractions, so that dissent can be monitored and controlled. If any of the videos in the internet censorship playlist are removed, or if you can no longer gain access to this page then you will know that I was right.
Since the development of the internet, it has been used to express opinions and information freely with the rest of the world. Don't allow this tool to be used to gag and control you, speak out against this right infringement. Several organisations have interactivist campaigns you can join to let your voice be heard; The EFF, The ORG, 38 Degrees and of course Project Freeweb.
If we do nothing, we are in very real danger of losing access to the "real" internet like other less than free countries with more extreme levels of internet censorship ( an obvious example is the People's Republic of China (oh no, I guess that my site's blocked there now...)). Internet superstars such as Tim Berners Lee and John Perry Barlow have declared their opposition to internet censorship. Internet deity Google have spoken out against the global trend towards internet censorship measures and the state controlling the web. Google even released this handy tool to see how much your internet content is being filtered. We have to all stand together and say "No, we DO NOT WANT internet censorship, filtered content or our internet to be arbitrarily cut off!". Of course as with anything online, you have an overwhelming choice of mediums for interactivism to convey such a message!
Why Don't Some Drivers Indicate Correctly?
I am a humble pedestrian, occasional cyclist but never a driver, so maybe it will be hard for me to understand the effort involved in remembering to indicate. I know some of the Highway Code, I was thinking about taking my test some day, but the way some people drive just makes me think too much about dying at the hands of a moron. I personally find this off-putting.
Of all of the initial lessons one learns when mastering the art of driving, mirror, signal, manoeuvre is a mantra too quickly forgotten on the roads. Those flashing yellow lights are for warning all other road users of your intentions, those you are aware of and those you haven't seen. On many occasions, this negligence has lead to me being stood directly in front of a car making a turn towards me, while I was crossing the road, on one occasion it didn't quite stop in time and gave me a bump. What was really galling was the fact that these drivers seemed so indignant and defensive of the idea that it was their fault for not signalling.
Maybe it's a generational thing, in my experience younger drivers tend to be more guilty of failing to signal. Older drivers tend to indicate every time; my Dad for example indicates round car parks because it has become so second nature to him. This leads me to believe that it may have something to do with falling out of the habit due to some form of encumbrance, such as not being able to indicate for some reason. I noticed that upon looking into the window of the cars that don't indicate, about a 30% were ON THE PHONE, 40% were sticking their left gear changing hand somewhere else (up their nose, on the gear lever, on their face, drinking HOT coffee, TEXTING!). At least another 20% were resting their right arm out the window, the other ten were miscellaneous in case you were wondering.
What Can Pedestrians Do About It?
I have personally confronted drivers about their failure to indicate or being on the phone, sometimes a simple dirty look is enough to evoke a look of shame and apology. Sometimes they get out of their car and harass you verbally for telling them how to drive, but the advantage of being a pedestrian is that I can walk away, they are making a journey of some kind and usually want to get along, in their car. Maybe if it was the norm for people to be openly critical of other's stupidity things would be better. As for now I am the one with a chip on my shoulder from being bumped over by a car driver in this situation.
Now I am finally blogging about it, maybe I can convince people of why it's important to signal at all times to get into the good habit. Mirror, SIGNAL, manoeuvre is not just for when you see other cars around, but all the time, for the people you don't see (like in your blind spot) too.
I started a Facebook Group about this after I nearly got hit again, and shouted at the middleaged lady driver only to get the finger for my wisdom. Please join it and invite your friends, it's open to all and only takes a minute!
In summation this current trend in bad driving could be due to many of the other bad driving factors I have seen, or it could be a phenomenon of its own. This does not matter, what really matters is that it stops being so prolific. We need to scold drivers with a simple phrase that will put them right back in the learners seat; Mirror, SIGNAL, Manoeuvre!
Headphones & Earphones On A Bike - Is It A Distraction?
As somebody who very occaisionally will take his bicycle out for a spin, and only on cycle lanes, I can honestly say I have never even contemplated the idea of listening to music whilst cycling. For starters, when listening to music I can't help but move some part of my body along to the rhythm of the beat. This is a very Bad Idea when urban cycling, which requires fast changes in tempo all the time. If I was listening to music I would be slower to react to a change in the speed of what was going on around me.
The other downside is that, essentially, you can't hear very much of what's going on around you on the road. This is obviously very dangerous considering how quiet cars are getting these days, and they will practically be silent assassins when they are all electric cars. As much as you should be looking around you at all times on a bike, you should also be listening. Most times a change in revs in the cars around you can be a great indicator that they are about to do something to endanger your life.
Is Cycling With Headphone/Earphones On Dangerous?
Here is a great example of the kind of accident that can happen due to this incredibly Bad Idea. I have seen so many people doing this on a regular basis, I'm surprised that there haven't been more accidents. Obviously, there have been more than just this one, they just don't all get reported, probably because the embarrassed cyclist doesn't want people to think of them as the fool they are.
Cyclists also seem to find it hard to understand what a red light means, I have seen so many near misses out of the bus window at traffic lights. A cyclist will come steaming past us (Red Light Jumping or RLJ) as we roll to a stop, and nearly get side-swiped by a car coming towards the lights from the left as they change. Combinations of two or more bad road habits are all it takes to guarantee a road traffic incident.
The worst example of stupidity I have seen recently on this subject has to be when I saw a cyclist on a road coming towards me in full proffessional gear, pointy helmet, shorts and all. Despite all of his expensive stretched latex and nylon strapping, he was using both hands completely off the handlebars to send a text message as he stared intently at the screen of his expensive looking phone. He was also wearing earphones, at first I thought he was changing tracks but he clearly had a separate mp3 player hooked up to his headgear.
Can Cyclist Listen To Music Whilst Cycling In Safety?
With products like the Soundwalk Audio MP3 Cycling Speaker Vest, or Slipstreamz Cycling Earwear for Headphones out there I'm not sure if this Bad Idea is going to end without government intervention. These products are trying to market themselves as safety devices, as in you won't have to wear earphones to listen to your music. You don't have to listen to your music on your bike in the first place surely, music is distracting no matter how it is blasted at your ears.
So dear reader I leave it up to you to spread the word to the people who are still putting their lives, and the lives of innocent others, in danger. Proclaim (loudly, earphones/headphones remember!) to them that it is indeed a "Bad Idea!", with optional mime of taking off a pair of headphones.