Weekendish: Travelling fast and slow
- 2 May 2014
A round-up of some of the best long and short reads, as well as video, from the BBC News website this week, with your comments.
This week, Peter Hodes, volunteer stem cell courier, told his extraordinary story in the Magazine. Peter travels around the world, picking up stem cells. He then has 42 hours - the length of time the samples stay cold - to get them to hospitals in the UK. He recalled one flight where he found out that a cabin attendant's partner had been saved by a stem cell transplant. Before he knew it, Peter had been upgraded to club class. "Everyday is the day before finals for this guy," tweets reader Kristela Garza from Edinburgh.
Since our article, the Anthony Nolan Trust, which matches patients with donors, has had a surge of people volunteering - with 18 times as many new visitors coming to its site as normal.
Not everyone has such a good reason to be in a rush as Peter, of course. In fact when was the last time you took a wander just for the sake of it? In some parts of the world, people are so used to cars that seeing someone walking can provoke bewilderment. "Walking becomes a radical act," says writer Merlin Coverley. But when people do walk, it seems their creative minds might also start going to places they hadn't planned. Reader (and writer and walker) Miles Richardson tweets that the article reminds him of the Scottish writer Nan Shepherd's phrase: "The mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination".
At the other end of the spectrum, the forthcoming anniversary of Roger Bannister's four-minute mile made writer Mary Beard ponder that while Bannister and his friends remained well-trained human bodies, modern runners have become "something not far short of specially constructed machines". She also reflected on the way in which history has overlooked Tom Hulatt, the working class runner from Derbyshire who came third in that famous race at Oxford's Iffley Road track. Owen Roberts emails his own recollection of Hulatt: "Tom told me himself that Banister had told him that they were going to try for the record the night it happened. He made only complimentary remarks about Banister's words to him."
Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it, said Benjamin Franklin. "I'm prepared to risk it," comes the standard rejoinder. This week travel writer Matthew Teller turned the question on Qatar. "The sense is deepening that, in the rush for development, something important has been lost," he wrote. It's a sentiment echoed by Italian expat Vito who tells us, "This is the demonstration that doesn't matter how much money you have. If you don't have culture, history and tradition your value is zero." Stepping to Qatar's defence is Nadeesha - originally from Sri Lanka - who writes, "Life here is comfortable enough if you are a white collar worker. Since I came here within these six months I have been able to do things I wasn't able to do for the last 30 years of my life."
The mystery of "Webdriver Torso" was highlighted by BBC News Online this week. Short (11-second) clips of blue and red squares and rectangles have been posted regularly on YouTube for the past few months, sometimes as many as 400 a day. "Automation software gone rogue, cartoon-loving aliens or the next generation of clandestine communications?" asks reporter Stephen Beckett. Readers of the article put forward various explanations for the videos, ranging from the technical to the far-fetched. Perhaps the last word should be given to jdgleave, who writes, "An anagram of 'Webdriver Torso' is 'Overtired Brows', which is what you will get if you watch too many of those videos."
Elsewhere on the web, author Douglas Coupland told the FT Weekend Magazine about his longstanding fascination with radiation, and his collection of memories of times when he had been exposed to it. "When I was a child, my mother was desperate for some time to herself, so she made my father, who was also a doctor, take my brothers and me to the hospital while he did his rounds. To babysit us my father simply locked us in the X-ray room where, on a vertical rack, rested a real human skeleton called 'George'."