Sunday, 23 October 2011

Snippets That Interested Me

I'm taking a day off from trying to write a serious and intelligent blog, as the brain can only take so much. So I thought that I'd draw your attention to a few things that caught my attention in the last 48 hours. Readers of Friday's copy of the Metro will recognise some of the news items.

Barra the Underwater Sniffer Dog
The headline was: "Barra - the underwater body hunter". There's only ever been one dog in my life that I've adored. She was Dana, a rescue dog who was beautiful.

Apart from her, I haven't really been an animal lover of any description, but I can appreciate the role that some dog's play in the lives of human beings.

It's fantastic the work that hearing dogs; seeing dogs; hearing/seeing dogs and sniffer dogs do, but I'd never heard of an underwater sniffer dog before. That's hardly surprising as there can't be many of them. In fact, Barra in the picture is Scotland's first and only underwater sniffer dog. The English springer spaniel takes to rivers across the country to search for missing people with his handler. Barra can cover in a day, an area that would take a diver a week. What a fantastic dog. This interested me greatly for some reason.

Barra Airport
I make no apology for the appalling link between Barra the dog, and Barra the airport. In some ways they are both remarkable.

Barra Airport is the only airport in the world where planes land on the beach. It is situated on the wide beach of Traigh Mhor, on Barra Island, in the Outer Hebrides.

The airport is literally washed away by the tide once a day, and if you arrive on a late afternoon flight, you may notice a couple of cars in the parking lot with their lights on, which provides pilots some added visibility, since the airport is naturally lit. Official information warns you against hanging about on the beach, and signs can be seen saying, "Keep off the beach, when the windsock is flying and the airport is active". If you're interested, you can read more about the airport and see photographs here.

A newspaper article on Friday had this worrying headline, "Knife crime driven by smartphone robberies". The latest 12 month report to June 2011 by Police forces in England and Wales, showed that recorded robberies involving knives went up by 7% to 14,980. Robberies without knives also rose by 3%, to 76,786. Serious sexual crimes such as rape and sexual assault also went up from 44,415 to 45,498. It's OK though, because the figure the Police and Government want you to focus on is that overall recorded crime was down by 4%, from 4.3 million to 4.1 million.

New figures show that thieves with knives targeted smartphones to steal their owners' identities. Apparently, Samsung Galaxys, iPhones and Blackberrys can be so valuable to foreign fraudsters that they will pay twice the face value to get hold of them. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), "A smartphone owner's contacts, files, internet history, email addresses, bank account passwords and other documents are a goldmine for fraudsters".

ACPO worry that a large proportion of smartphone users still do not have pass codes on their phones, "leaving them vulnerable to possible ID theft and fraud". I'm so glad that I don't have a smartphone; my mobile phone is so out of date and basic, that I doubt even would give me anything for it. It just shows you though how careful you must be when using new technology, and the loss of a phone at knife point, may be the least of our worries.

The Prime Ministers office was asked about the rises in robberies with knives and burglaries. Their reply was, "When you look at the individual categories, some of the changes are not necessarily statistically significant". I would suggest that for those 14,980 people robbed at knife point, and the 76,786 others who have been robbed, that their ordeal is highly significant. Labour's Yvette Cooper does have a point, when she calls on the Coalition Government to "take urgent action to cut crime instead of just cutting police".

John Travolta
On a much lighter note, I loved the headline, "KFC fan Travolta denied grease fix". John Travolta was in London for an annual Scientology event, and fancied something to eat in East Grinstead.

Apparently, a member of Travolta's entourage called the local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet in advance to ask for a table to be reserved. The KFC worker told Travolta's assistant to join the back of the queue like everyone else. With commendable customer focus, and a knowledge of KFC rules, they said, "To me, customers are customers, no matter who they are". I took an instant liking to this worker.

However, I do hope that they didn't get into any trouble, for a spokesman for KFC later said that if Travolta a wanted to come back, they'd "happily bend the rules ... and in hindsight, of course, we would have reserved a table for him. It's not every day you get a Hollywood star eating in your restaurant".

It's nice to have it confirmed that while all men are equal, some are definitely more equal than others. I wonder if I could try and get a table reserved for me? After all, they do get very busy. We all probably know the answer to that one.

Occupy Nottingham
And finally. The 'Occupy Nottingham' protest site has had to move.

It's no longer directly outside the Council House, but at the far end of Old Market Square. The number of tents seems to have grown, but it doesn't seem as prominent.

I was wondering what was going to happen when the site was needed for the Christmas activities, now I know.

The outdoor ice rink is being built there, and we can't have peaceful protests spoiling people's enjoyment. At least they are still there, but I worry that being on the periphery, begins to negate the impact of their message. It's the age-old problem for long term protests; you become part of the scenery, and you're no longer really noticed. The question still remains for this admirable world-wide protest, "Where to from here?"

So these are the snippets that have interested me in the last 48 hours; I'm sure that there have been others that have interested you. Feel free to let me know what they are.

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