the business of Venice

24 02 2013

When you think of Venice, you think of canals, obviously. But other than the canals, there are no motorised vehicles in Venice. No cars, motorbikes, trucks. Nothing. And the narrow laneways lead to steps and bridges, making any form of wheeled or motorised vehicles impractical. So how does the business of Venice get done?

Given the difficulty of traversing the streets of Venice with wheels, everything goes via the narrow and sometimes crowded canals. An excellent documentary called Venice 24/7 looks at the practicalities of life in Venice – including street names and numbers that are non-continuous, making finding addresses for emergency services vey difficult. (I was unable to capture a fire brigade boat, but Venice 24/7 also follows the fire brigade.)

My other big question, is how on earth have they retrofitted an electricity grid system, running water and sewerage in an ancient town with established buildings, water all around, sinking an average 1cm per year into the mud flats (but not evenly), and regular flooding that also fills the basements and ground floor rooms of buildings, houses, hotels and shops.

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Delivery boat on the Grand Canal

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And this is how goods and supplies are delivered to and from shops and businesses – handcarts. (above and below)

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Police boats (above and below)

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Water taxi

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Delivery boat unloading in the narrow canals

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Police boat in dock

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Early morning hand-cart deliveries, as the garbage waits to be collected (also using hand-wheeled trolleys)

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TNT postal deliveries

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Delivery of building materials – sand, concrete, bricks – also comes via boat

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Water buses

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More early-morning deliveries – preparing for the day before the tourists are up and about and the canals are crowded with gondolas. Note the crane on the boat furthest away, for unloading heavy goods.

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Buses leaving bus-stops on the Grand Canal.

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The boat on the left is the Magistrato Alle Acque – Servizio Informazione (Magistrate of the Waters)

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A row of Ambulance boats in dock near the hospital (above) and an ambulance on its way to a job (below)

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Waterbus driver – or pilot? captain?

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Bus route around the Islands of Venice

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Coast Guard

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prison guards

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Murder or Suicide? A twisted tale….

17 06 2012





Lunar-tics

24 03 2012

In my twenties I worked overnight for a medical locum service. We sent doctors out on the road to visit people at home overnight. Not quite medical emergencies, but at least in theory, things that couldn’t wait until morning.

Because I was studying at university at the time, and possibly because I was quite fond of a certain quality of life, I worked the weekends. Half of Thursday night (3am to 8am), all of Friday night (10pm to 8am), all of Saturday night, All of Sunday night and half of Monday night (10pm to 3am).

It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It paid very well. (Very well.) And there is an entire community out there that works weekend nights and we got to know each other and had chats and sometimes met up for breakfast at the Hilton or the Hyatt in the morning. And it was nice driving home when rush hour was heading in the other direction. Every so often, I actually had a social life on the weekend and I would swap with the woman who worked the weekday nights.

Which is where my full moon story comes in.

It was a well known fact for we night workers in the medical industry that full moons were weird. Not in an astrology way, in a literal sense. And sometimes really bad. And the worst of all full moons was the Saturday night full moon, probably because it combined with a major drinking / partying night.

Full moon nights would be characterised by:
• Pubs – more fights and more injuries
• Police and Ambos – more call-outs for drunks and disturbances
• Hospital EDs – more bizarre cases, more injuries from fights and falls
• Nursing homes – patients restless and wandering, falling
• Prisons – more disturbances amongst the inmates

So the whole full-moon-thing is a fact, not a fiction.

Of course the reasons might be different – less the “lunatic” and more the fact that additional light means people sleep less deeply, are more likely to be out and about on the streets, etc. Either that, or the tide has gone out on their brains. Present company excepted of course.

So back to the story. I used to comment on how completely bizarre some of my Saturday full moon nights were, and the lovely woman who worked the week nights used to sympathise.

Until one day she did a swap with me and actually worked the full moon Saturday night.

And swore she would never swap with me again.

So yes, Virginia, there is a full moon syndrome. And everyone working those shifts knows about it – medicos, nurses, police, ambos, publicans, wardens. And I have to say, the bizarre stories in the media (and particularly social media, which I monitor) come thick and fast at the full moon.

So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The next full moon at time of writing in Australia is 6 May 2012. You have been warned.





Net-detectives

15 02 2012

photo credit: Mike Quinn

If Sherlock Holmes were alive today, would he be surfing the net? Would Hercule Poirot be using his “little grey cells” to analyse Facebook timelines seeking incriminating evidence and little “coincidences”? Would Miss Jane Marple be exercising her lateral thinking skills on coming up with obscure hashtags to search? And what would Barnaby do, if he couldn’t drive around the lush green landscapes of Midsomer, having near-misses on narrow forest tracks?

Well, the detective-fiction genre would be dead and buried given how easy some criminals seem to be making it for law-enforcement. No suspense, no clues, no high-speed chases.

What is it about social media that makes us behave in ways we would never behave normally? Why do we leave our brain next to the keyboard when we start typing? Maybe it is the sense of slightly-disconnected anonymity that we feel when we are online. Perhaps it is the sense of really large numbers – with X billion photographs uploaded on Facebook today, will they really find my photo? Or perhaps that false sense of “we’re all in it together” that comes from interacting with a keyboard instead of real human beings. But if there was a Darwinian award for criminals, these people would be up for awards.

Category One: Crimes committed online.
As well as the untold numbers of incidents of cyber-bullying (and in no way belittling the sometimes terrible effects of cyber-bullying), the infamous Nigerian scams which somehow still seem to lure in the unwitting, and various other scams, phishing sites etc, identity theft as revenge seems to be a growing pastime / crime.

Like the woman who impersonated her ex-boyfriend (a police officer) online and set up fake accounts in his name. She then posted allegedly altered photographs and disparaging comments such as “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun” and “I’m an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day,” on the site, purporting to be from him.  What was she thinking?

And the Rhode Island prison guard who set up a fake Facebook profile in his boss’ name.  A career-limiting move, one would have thought.

There are more, but the most amazing thing about these two particular instances is their proximity to law enforcement / corrections. Didn’t that give them any pause for thought? Both of these examples seemed to think that creating a fake online identity for someone else was not identity theft. I’m guessing that neither of these people had a criminal record previously. Think before you post – if it’s criminal in real life, it’s criminal online as well.

Category Two: Crimes announced and promoted online.
This bank robber announced his intention to rob a bank in advance online, posted photographs of himself online with the loot, and DURING the robbery he changed his Facebook name to Willie Sutton Jnr, referencing a 1930s bank robber. Well, at least he was a little creative and knew his history….

Houston police arrested three men and a woman after they bragged on facebook about their $62,000 heist. Such classy postings as: “WOKE UP DIS MORNING! BUST DOWN A SWISHA!!! LOOK IN THE MIRROR LIKE I’M ONE RICH … WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDREDS WIPE MY *** WITH DIS 50s :$:$:$:$:$:$.” and “IM RICH *****” on their own and each others’ pages. I won’t even pretend to understand some of that – but I do understand the $$$ bits!  They also announced their intention to “get $$$” a few days before the heist.

And the FBI arrested Anthony Wilson when he posted photographs of himself online wearing the same distinctive clothes he wore in a bank robbery.  He thoughtfully matched his CCTV photos.

And then there are the many examples of illegal drag racing filmed by the participants and uploaded….and the case of fugitive Chris Crego who skipped interstate but helpfully posted his whereabouts online at Facebook AND MySpace – right down to his place and hours of employment.

Category Three: I am so addicted to social media that I need to update my profile WHILE I am committing the crime.
In addition to the example of the Willie Sutton Jnr robber above, Johnathon G Parker attained notoriety (and arrest) by leaving his Facebook page open on his victim’s computer during a house break-and-enter. Now anyone who watches NCIS knows that you can trace back what sites a computer has been on – but leaving it on your Facebook account is REALLY helpful.

The list goes on but I won’t bore you, it is more of the same. I suspect Sherlock Holmes would be doing a face-palm right now.  I know I am.

So surprise, surprise, law-enforcement are using social media as part of their investigative tools, not only to identify the perpetrators, but also to gather evidence. As well as profiling suspects and putting out bulletins of wanted fugitives, traffic hazards and the like, they are increasingly scanning social media for potential crimes and hazards. Police officers are engaged in cyber-undercover operations luring out paedophiles.

And really, we just hope the crims keep making it this easy.