Saturday, 29 October 2016

Akhenaten and Bicycles

Hi everyone,

Reasonably quiet day here in my world.  I was up later than planned, at 0830.  Breakfast as usual, and then took the dog for his walk.  Sadly, he wanted to walk through one of the swampier parts of the farm, so I came back with a bunch of mosquito bites.  When I got back I cut up the vegetables for tonight's kai si mein, and then as nothing else was needed kicked back for a bit with some coffee and a book.

I've been reading Immanuel Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos on and off for a month or two.  It's heavy going, and I wasn't encouraged to persevere by Velikovsky's reputation as a fringe theorist among fringe theorists.  Today I said 'sod it' and decided to flip through the bits on Akhenaten (which genuinely does interest me) and call it a day.  It's probably enough to say that this book really isn't worth your time.  The basic argument is that somehow (I didn't pick up how) the accepted chronology of ancient Egypt includes a non-existent 600 year period.  This is why the histories of Egypt and of the Jewish people don't match up. I had a hard time following how Velikovsky was making this point, although that may reflect the stop-start way I read it.  He certainly seemed to follow the approach of most fringe theorists (Erich von Daniken and Gavin Menzies are also offenders) of declaring that because a piece of evidence might conceivably demonstrate such-and-such, it proves such-and-such.  It's not helped by Velikovsky's nondescript prose style which does nothing to hold the reader's interest.  If it were half the length and tightly written it would be a diverting argument, but as it stands it's really a book for experts in ancient near-Eastern history, and experts in ancient near-Eastern history have uniformly said it's drivel.

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

In the afternoon I decided it was well past time for my bike to be put back to work, so I got it out of the shed, checked the tires, wiped off the dust and put some oil on the chain and gears.  My legs weren't really up to a run, but they were happy to push pedals on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  I'd only planned on about 8kms but instead went about twenty because it was a beautiful day (Runkeeper stopped for a while and only counted 17kms).  As I pedalled along I did find myself thinking - couldn't you guess? - about how bikes could be used in emergency response work.  They've been used by the military in the past, after all.  And one of the old civil defence manuals I have recommends them for carrying messages in a post-atomic-bomb city.

Italian soldiers before World War I with
folding bicycles strapped to their backs.
Image from here

I found that it was an idea that sounded good right up until it needed to be applied.  Clearly, they would be useless for road rescue unless one were using nothing but hand tools and manual hydraulics.  By contrast, a 4WD can carry a hydraulic pump and rescue tools, and almost by definition the accident would be reachable by motor vehicle.  Storm damage would fare little better.  Yes, one could carry a chainsaw, rooftop safety gear, empty sandbags and plastic sheeting by bicycle, but it's not easy to imagine circumstances where an emergency response was required where a motor vehicle wouldn't work better (perhaps an extremely remote house, although someone who chooses to live so remotely is by definition unlikely to call the SES to manage storm damage.  The only application I could readily think of was use in land searches or remote area work where speed rather than thoroughness would give them an edge over crews on foot; even then it doesn't take much to see additional problems (like the risk of injury).  So much, then, for bicycles as an emergency response resource.

Not much more to note on today.  I think former-brother-in-law is coming up for the long weekend.  This will make Dad happy at least.

Hope your weekends are starting out well.

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