Month: August 2012

Signs of Europe

AMSTERDAM

Rembrandt

Stan

PRAGUE

Hmm?

I didn’t know they were real

Cubist Museum or crazy optimist

at the pub

at the pub

Street name, not an application

New World Order conspirators?

GERMANY

On the way to Germany

more untamed than the southern half

at the Underground station

at the U-Bahn station

oh, all right – well a got a free hug in Prague, anyway

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS

at the railway station

Ah, look who manages it – how can one be surprised there is no peace?

outside the “Peace Palace”

Oh, there he is again

I can’t walk all that fast – the streets are cobbled

not a good place for a car

yum

Mc Donalds is looking better

or maybe not

If I eat what Bart eats, will I get to be big like him, too?

I understand more than half of that sign!!

fairly understandable, too

OK

cupcake

At last, a map!!

The Olympics are over, but…

ANTWERP

A great station

This I can understand

oops

I need Google Translate

Now, it looks like I should eat what Brabo eats!

What would M. Suderman think?

And my favourite sign of the trip…

wow, they look like they have almost everything covered

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Flip flopping in Munich

It was sunny and 31 degrees in Munich – a perfect summer day to walk through the Englischer Garten, and to give my feet a rest from being imprisoned in shoes.

crossing a park near the Englischer Garten

approaching the park

on the path

another path

paving

ah, in the cool river

walking again

one quarter way through the park

Feet need a rest

some trees are dropping their leaves already – in the more natural northern half of the park

amongst the trees

another stream beckoned

wildflowers

crossing a stream on a bridge – heading back after a long walk

back in the hotel

Airport full body scanners, and avoiding them

I have mentioned the evil full body scanners on this blog in the past. Any radiation is bad, radiation is cumulative, and so should be avoided if at all possible.

I was aware that Schiphol Airport had these scanners, but I didn’t know which flights they were used on. It seems that they are not employed on flights within the  Schengen area, but they are on long haul. This is just an observation.

When I arrived at the departure gate I noticed two lines of people going through security, and all of them were going through one of the two scanners. To walk through the normal metal detectors takes perhaps three seconds, but to walk into the full body scanner machine, assume the “surrender” stance, and walk out takes maybe 10 seconds – three times as long. Boarding the plane commenced one hour 20 minutes before departure, showing a lot more time is needed. Half an hour or more extra.

EU law mandates that passengers have a choice as to whether they get scanned – but this doesn’t apply to the UK, strangely. Schiphol’s website stated people have a choice, but I notice that now they have removed this information from their website. You can download this new brochure, without the choice paragraph.

This is the paragraph they removed:

The choice is yours
This new way of inspecting persons may be different from what you are used to. This is why, for now, the use of the Security Scan is not obligatory.

But there is no notice to the effect that you have a choice posted, and people followed others like lemmings into the machines.

Obviously I couldn’t photograph this.

Many people still had a pat down after the scanner, so they submitted to extra radiation for nothing.

I just picked the line with the friendliest looking attendant and said I didn’t want to go through the machine, and that their website also stated this. I had a printout of this page, but didn’t need to show it. Another person appeared and asked me to remove my shoes and put them with my carry on luggage to be scanned by the normal machine. I was patted down, and then I picked up my possessions and quickly moved away from the source of radiation.

Newspaper articles have said US TSA workers are coming down with cancer.

Opting out was simple, the attendants polite, if a little put out, and faster than for those who were irradiated and then patted down anyway.

Travelling from Malaysia – direct to Amsterdam

One reason for choosing Malaysia in which to live is that it lies on air routes between the UK and Europe, Japan, and Australia. Connections are better from Bangkok or Singapore, but KL is improving.

However, with Japan and Australia’s ongoing radiation problems – Japan’s from Fukushima; Australia’s from “their” government radiating all outgoing passengers from the country – I won’t be travelling to either in the foreseeable future.

International flights do depart from Penang, but there is a limited choice, mostly to nearby countries, so I usually find myself travelling down to KL anyway to depart from there.

KLM is one of the useful airlines serving KLIA. They fly to Amsterdam, of course, and then have onward connections to many cities.

So I have just flown KLM to Prague, stopping over for a day in Amsterdam. The idea was to visit museums there.

The Klm 777 was very crowded, but comfortable and the flight attendents friendly and competent.

Amsterdam’s tourist office at the airport is open at 7, but in the city at 9 am. They very helpful.

Dawn in central Amsterdam

Last time I was there was four years ago, and there is still lots of construction. Most people in the city are either eating and drinking outside or serving those people. And there are lots of unique small businesses. High Street shops haven’t taken over and homogenized the place.

image

They sell a City card, valid for one, two or three days, and it allows free entry for most museums and covers public transport too. One extra advantage is that you avoid waiting at the Van Gogh museum.

City Card

The idea was guerrilla museuming. Briefly visiting lots of museums to see their highlights. Amsterdam Museum, Diamond, Van Gogh, Hermitage, Jewish, Rembrandt, Film. VG was very crowded, and so not so much fun, but I could see many famous paintings. And the Hermitage was nicest with few people, plenty of space and many lovely Impressionist paintings.

The Hermitage in Amsterdam

Despite minimising walking by catching trams all around, my legs and feet were really tired due to the cobbled streets. So that was enough for one day. And the next morning I flew out.

On the train from Penang to Kuala Lumpur – minor updates

When I tried to book  a ticket online for the next day’s train Iu discovered you can book a minimum of two days in advance. And a maximum of two months. I had to purchase it at the station.

At the George Town ferry terminal there are now signs which indicate which of the two channels you should take for boarding. Anyway, it’s the left one.

There is now WiFi at the ferry waiting area. Penang Free WiFi.

The same WiFi is available at Butterworth station waiting room.

A lot of construction is going on at Butterworth – New platforms, double tracks, etc.

Butterworth Station construction

I see they are making considerable progress laying double tracks as I travel south. A great many road overpasses are being built over the lines, too.

Many windows in the carriages are almost opaque as they are double glazed, and water has condensed in between. The view is much less clear.

The carriages are very clean, but shabby. Many of the seat back tables are broken or missing. On this 8am train there is no trolley service.

Speed Camera Kills – drive safely despite speed cameras in Malaysia

“Speed cameras don’t reduce casualties — they are just for revenue generation.”

Chief Inspector Paul Gilroy
Northumbria Police
October 2003
A recent article in The Star states that, “Come September, more than 1,000 cameras will “keep watch” on roads across the country under the Automated Enforcement System (AES). There will be 566 speed cameras, 265 traffic light cameras and 250 mobile cameras (for places with inadequate infrastructure for installing a camera).”

To me this is very bad news, as it adds more danger to the roads than the considerable amount that already exists.

This graph shows how the introduction of speed cameras has resulted in around 5,000 extra deaths in the U.K.

In the UK they have started to remove speed cameras as studies have shown roads are safer without them. One example is Swindon
In the UK and Europe, speed cameras have almost killed me at least twice, where both times I was safely travelling below the posted speed limit, and speed limits have similarly endangered me.  Red light cameras are also dangerous.
So how can one drive safely, now that these extra hazards are being added to the already dangerous state of the roads in Malaysia?  The standard of driving here is appalling, and at least the absence of cameras has meant that you can concentrate on road conditions and other drivers. Once cameras are introduced you have to drive mostly viewing the speedometer  – like everyone does in the UK – and not pay much attention to road conditions and maniac drivers and motorcyclists.
To counteract the increased danger, I would suggest the following:
  • Ensure you know the speed limits where you drive
  • Know where fixed cameras are
  • A GPS unit should tell you about red light cameras, so keep its software up to date – cheaper than a fine, and better than whiplash from getting hit from behind – a common result of red light cameras.
  • Be aware that as the hunger for increased revenue from red light cameras increases, the timing of orange to red may decrease, so they can catch more drivers.  This is what they have done in the USA.
  • As you approach red light camera intersections drive a bit slower so the driver behind can stop – so then you will have the opportunity to either stop or accelerate. The latter may be better if the driver behind is talking on his phone.
  • You can use cruise control on the North South tollway so a camera doesn’t catch you
  • From about Slim River to KL the N-S tollway is three lanes each way – meaning the left lane is often empty as almost all drivers occupy the middle or right lanes.  Perhaps it is safer just to stay in the left lane, including overtaking the cretinous drivers who drive slowly in the middle lane.  If anyone does something stupid, you still have space to swerve onto the verge. This is against the law in Europe, but people don’t drive so stupidly in Europe.
  • As you approach where you know speed cameras are located be very wary of other drivers ‘ sudden braking or erratic driving. Keep as much distance as possible to avoid problems.
  • If these cameras cause you any problem you can consider making your member of parliament responsible .

There should be more ideas – all this is off the top of my head.  I couldn’t find much on the Internet, so I’ll keep on thinking about it.

So, how should road safety be improved in this country?  The usual answer is education of drivers, including by responsible policing where the police advise errant drivers rather than fining them, and by proper engineering of the roads to reduce or eliminate accident blackspots. But this is not actually my area of expertise, either.

For more information on speed cameras read the Association of British Drivers on the topic.