Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sea fish size could shrink by 24%



The Press Association reports:-

Sea fish could be almost a quarter of their current size by 2050 because of global warming, scientists predict.

The scale of the tiddler trend took experts by surprise. They found that even minor changes in ocean temperature and oxygen level led to dramatic shrinkage.

Computer simulations...

Ah - computer simulations eh? Had me worried for a moment. Thought some real science was in the offing, rather than that sitting on your bottom in front of a screen they pass off as science these days. I suppose it makes a journalist's job easier though.

I even thought for a brief and fleeting moment BirdsEye might have to shrink their fish fingers - but no. In any event, I suppose they could just make that bright orange crunchy stuff a bit thicker and use even less fish. So no worries on that score.

Phew!  

Water bed


From DavidH

Take my advice

from andertoons.com

I've been wondering if Science and our Christian traditions are in the same boat. Here's a tentative angle on why that may be. It won't appeal to everyone and after further reflection, may not even appeal to me, but no matter, here goes.

B F Skinner equated science with advice or guidance, in my view a powerful idea. For me, the word advice is one way to see past the traditional divide between science and religion.

Both science and religion offer advice/guidance - technical advice in one case, spiritual and moral advice in the other. Good advice is a core aspect of both scientific and religious integrity.

By integrity here, I mean  a situation where the advice offered stems from highly visible and altruistic core values applied to particular situations. By altruistic advice, I mean advice offered for the common good in its widest sense.

Political speeches are forms of advice which usually disguise self-interest as altruism. In that respect they don't fool us, but that's not the point - the point is to insinuate ambiguous language into the public domain - to make it respectable and therefore suitable for other uses.

Placing advice/guidance at the centre, highlights the corrupting role of political power games which in my view are wrecking both our Christian and scientific traditions for the same basic reason. Power games cannot work when people, especially children, have free access to good advice based on altruistic values outside the political domain. They cannot work when ambiguity is challenged from a position of authority and for the common good.

Scientists don’t just hoover up data, devise theories and test them via experiments. They aim to offer the best scientific advice on how the physical world behaves in defined circumstances - for the common good.

If you do A you will get B.
If you do A you may get B or C but not D.

Advice is a surprisingly useful way to classify what scientists actually do, rather than what fantasists and authoritarians say they do. So scientific experiments are merely tests of scientific advice. If an experiment fails then the advice that gave rise to it was wrong. If you do A you do not get B and so on.

Tentative advice we call theories.

It’s no different to advising someone on the best place to get a decent cup of coffee or the best blogging platform, or the best holiday destinations. Many scientists would no doubt prefer or even insist that science is fundamentally different to these mundane activities.

It isn’t.

Scientists merely give technical advice about the real world – just like engineers, which is why the two activities are so similar. Technical advice about complex subjects such as human beings is difficult, so psychologist have as many problems as their patients. Economics is another complex subject where good advice is difficult to give. Not that the difficulties throttle back the advice.

Religion is slightly different, as here the advice is moral and spiritual - but still advice, still based on altruistic values and the common good.

By keeping the focus on advice based on altruistic values, I think it is easy enough to see how all kinds of advice can be twisted by political power games. Good advice can be morphed into coercive advice which is neither  disinterested nor altruistic. Eventually, advice may become an overt command - do this or else. The war against smokers is a particularly good example. Climate science and Islam are two more.

In totalitarian societies, advice doesn’t even have to be explicit. Big Brother watching you is all the advice you need. A CCTV camera on the High Street is a form of coercive advice, a symbolic raised fist.

Health advice on cigarette packs has morphed into threats.
Health advice on alcohol is morphing into threats.
Health advice on food will morph into threats.

For centuries our Christian traditions have been tainted by power games. Sound moral and spiritual advice becomes polluted by the politics of coercive power. Religious hierarchy becomes tainted by the elevation of personal ambition over altruistic spiritual and moral advice. Dogma takes the altruistic load off lazy and corrupted shoulders, so why should it surprise us if scientific hierarchy goes the same way?

In some respects it all seems to be an inevitable outcome of power games. We may criticize the past excesses of organized religion, but the real culprits are the power games we forever fail to tame.

In the same way, scientific advice has become tainted with political power games and the corrupting effects of personal gain. The Royal Society and the Met Office are evolving into bastions of privilege. They play power games with their scientific prestige and we should not be surprised that it has happened, nor should we naively expect the situation to improve of its own accord.

Science and our Christian traditions are in the same boat.

Climate science is the most blatant example of scientific advice hopelessly corrupted by political games. To my mind, the antics of climate scientists are mainly interesting for that reason. Problems with the corruption of our altruistic Christian traditions are not only reflected in the corruption of an altruistic scientific integrity, they share the same cause – non-altruistic power games.

This implies of course that scientific integrity is sliding down the same slope as our Christian traditions so things are not about to improve any time soon. Religious integrity and scientific integrity are fighting the same battle against the same opponents – and both are losing ground.

Selfish power games divert us from simple altruism and sound advice based on the common good – they always have.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Oldfool

You may or may not have visited Oldfool's blog - linked on my sidebar, but he has posted his last post. According to one of the comments he had a stroke on Sunday and passed away. I've been slow to post on his death in case it isn't so. Sadly it seems to be so.

I never commented on Oldfool's blog, but he wrote some delightful stories. His last post is particularly poignant.

The ratchet racket



One aspect of modern politics is how rarely our government puts things right after each disastrous social experiment.

The Conservatives in particular, we might expect to conserve, to be the party of mending the broken society they kept banging on about. If some things were better before they were changed, then the obvious corrective is to put them back as they were.

As drugs prohibition hasn’t worked, maybe we could try leaving it to personal choice as we did in Victorian times. Okay we’d want a prominent warning of the packs, but that’s all. Because that’s how things once were – a warning on the bottle and a verbal caution from the chemist behind the counter. What can’t we go back to that? Why is policing the preferred way?

After all, if heroin were to be cheaply available over the counter, is it not the case that the heroin addict is better off?  The argument for policing says we’d have more addicts, a possibility impossible to confirm unless we test it. Even so, wouldn’t it still be the case of comparing a number of better-off addicts with a lesser number who are certainly worse situated than they could be.

A cheap habit is a sustainable habit.

How about housing? If we have to pay high multiples of joint earning to buy a house, then shouldn’t we look back? Between 1919 and 1939 four million houses were built. Shouldn’t we increase supply by relaxing planning restrictions? No – it’s a ratchet racket. The bankers wouldn't like it.

Mortgages are millstones because that's what they are supposed to be.

Every change is a response to vested interests and intended to be permanent. There is no going back, no putting things right, no correcting obvious mistakes. It doesn’t matter how obvious the mistakes are or how simple the solution, once vested interests get their own way there is no real debate.

The narrative alters once changes are made - good or bad it makes not a scrap of difference. All is deemed to be progress by inerrant governments. Mistakes are never mistakes once their promoters get their feet under the table.

History is rewritten.
There is no going back.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Liar


What do you think of this cartoon? Funny or not quite funny?

Should children, even cartoon children, be depicted in this way, even for amusement?

I think not.

Yet I smiled.

Was democracy wasted on us?


A thought I usually try to resist thinking is the possibility that democracy doesn’t work in the UK. What’s more it never will because far too many voters are too idle or too thick to make it work.

I don’t like thoughts like this, because I don’t think they take us anywhere useful. The trouble is, they seem to explain the otherwise inexplicable. For example, why would anyone but a lunatic vote for Dave, Nick or Ed?

Because sometimes I look at our three main political parties, at their dishonesty, ineptness and general unfitness for high office... And I think... 

...We voted for the bastards didn’t we? It's our fault isn't it?

Collectively I mean – we voted for them and will do so again and again and again until it doesn’t matter any longer. Waste, incompetence, routine lying, bungling, expenses thieving and an endless litany of failures make hardly any discernible difference.

I find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that for most folks, this state of affairs is good enough.  Democracy wasn’t worth achieving – we’ve thrown it away almost as soon as we gained a finger hold. A few comforts, some repetitive entertainment, a doctor you don’t have to pay and that seems to be enough. Enough money and enough stuff to buy are enough - are the very definition, limit, boundary and entire meaning of enough.

It doesn’t seem to matter if we hand over the reins to a bunch of unelected EU bureaucrats and build windmills that don’t work because energy policy is controlled by mad people. It doesn’t matter if children are lied to about the climate. To most people it doesn’t seem to matter.

Just order a takeaway and open a bottle of wine.

Leave it to the professionals? We already have. That ship has sailed. For good or ill we made our collective choice and now it seems we'll have to live with it. Possibly for a long time. Possibly for a very long time indeed.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Met Office coin-tossers

This is the Met Office effort at predicting global temperatures taken from their own website. I don’t propose to go into it in any great detail, but I think it’s worth remembering how much it costs us to create graphs like this.


 Figure 1: Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1971-2000. Previous predictions starting from June 1985, 1995 and 2005 are shown as white curves, with red shading representing their probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (thick blue curve with thin blue curves showing range) starts from September 2011. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black and blue curves arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2010 to October 2011 whereas the first forecast period is September 2011 to August 2012.

The poor performance is obscured a little by making the graph much wider than it need be. If we magnify the right hand section we get this.



As anyone may see simply by looking at the actual temperature graph (black lines), there has been no significant trend up or down since 1998 – 14 years and counting. The Met Office model kiddies (white line) missed this hiatus, so the next prediction from 2011 (thick blue line) is for a very sharp rise indeed. To catch up with the earlier 2005 prediction I suppose. Forget the evidence, just keep the narrative going – it’s the bureaucratic way.

As we all know, the Met Office thinks it should have a more powerful computer to generate these fantasies.

Why? Won't a new pencil do just as well?

Their best effort was the 1995 prediction. The 2005 effort was considerably worse because of the continued temperature hiatus which they clearly didn’t expect, can’t explain and in any event disproves their CO2 theory.

How the 2011 prediction turns out remains to be seen, but the Met Office coin-tossers must be keeping their fingers crossed. Actually it is their only option – bet on a temperature rise. Remember that those making this decision will be senior staff and ten years closer to retirement when their latest prediction is compared to climate reality.

They may be lucky, they may be unlucky, only the climate knows and the climate isn’t giving anything away - not even to the mighty Met Office.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

US gas 75% cheaper by 2025


Story here. Read and weep. We are ruled by self-absorbed morons.

Box ticking


No doubt it's been said before, but box-ticking starts in the polling booth.

Control the boxes and you control the ticks.

Biodegradable plastics


Back in the seventies, I was given a couple of golf tees made from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a plastic produced by microorganisms under controlled conditions of physiological stress. It is similar in appearance to polypropylene and as far as the eye could tell, these golf tees were ordinary plastic tees. But because they were made of PHB, they were biodegradable. Tees lost in the rough would slowly rot away.

I tried leaving them in sewage sludge and if I remember rightly, within a week or so they had turned brown and the smooth surface had begun to degrade. Wikipedia lists is properties as:-

  • Water insoluble and relatively resistant to hydrolytic degradation. This differentiates PHB from most other currently available biodegradable plastics, which are either water soluble or moisture sensitive.
  • Good oxygen permeability.
  • Good ultra-violet resistance but poor resistance to acids and bases.
  • Soluble in chloroform and other chlorinated hydrocarbons.
  • Biocompatible and hence is suitable for medical applications.
  • Melting point 175°C., and glass transition temperature 2°C.
  • Tensile strength 40 MPa, close to that of polypropylene.
  • Sinks in water (while polypropylene floats), facilitating its anaerobic biodegradation in sediments.
  • Nontoxic.
  • Less 'sticky' when melted, making it a potentially good material for clothing in the future

PHB can be made in industrial quantities by fermentation, although it has taken decades for the process to become cost effective for certain specialized applications. However, the biodegradable tag has market value and there are products available which could surely appeal to a middle class market prepared to pay premium prices.

So these materials can be made and markets for them may be developed. Oil is not the only possible source of plastics - merely the cheapest.

Until someone decides to subsidize PHB of course, which may already be going on via carbon credits. In the seventies we knew those golf tees were unlikely to be anything more than curiosities - possibilities worth investigating as university research projects, but with only a marginal chance of commercial success.

But in the world as it is now - who knows?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fooled again


I just bought a bag of smokeless solid fuel to burn on our multi-fuel burner. Not because I've a problem with wood, but I had a yen to try something different. I liked the idea of a pleasantly glowing bed of coal just as I remember it.

Oh dear.

Firstly the stuff is unbelievably filthy to handle. Yes I know it's supposed to be like coal, but this stuff leaves coal standing when it comes to transferring thick black marks to its surroundings.

Secondly it isn't all that flammable. Not quite in the asbestos league, but not easy to get going.

Thirdly, when it finally deigns to burn, it smoulders with a sullen glow, a dull red gleam about as welcoming as the glint in a demon's eye. 

Fourthly - the smell. Imagine setting fire to a pile of antique bakelite phones. It's a little like that, but not quite so acrid.

Why I bought something with eco in the name, I don't know, because eco means crap. It wasn't that I wanted an eco fuel, but this is what they had so I bought a bag to try out. 

Never again.

Taking the temperature

from andertoons.com

I have a digital thermometer thingy bought for £10 from Lidl. It has an internal digital thermometer and a separate, battery-powered temperature sensor connected via a short range radio link.

I hang the external thermometer on a rusty nail in the brick outbuilding attached to the garage. As the place has a pitched, tiled roof, one smallish west-facing window glazed with Stippolyte and isn’t heated, I reckon it gives me a reasonable outside temperature measurement without being exposed to the elements, including direct sunlight. It agrees well with the Met Office anyway.

It’s not a complex device, but I get max and min recordings inside the house and outside, in the outbuilding.

I don’t record the temperatures in a log or anything nerdy like that, I’m just interested in how the temperatures wanders up and down as seasons change. I’ve no idea how accurate my thermometer is apart from the crude Met Office checks, but as a former environmental scientist, I don’t really care – approximate will do. I’m not going in for NPL calibration for something so casual.

I also have an outside temperature display in the car and again I don’t know how accurate it is, but I suspect it’s near enough. It gives an anxious little ping and shows a snowflake symbol when the temperature outside the car drops to 4 °C or below. Presumably it’s warning me about the potential for icy roads.

Anyway, as I drive around the lanes of Derbyshire, particularly on early mornings when we’re setting off for a walk, I tend to notice how the temperature changes as we drive through the countryside. Warmer at low level and cooler if you climb into the hills, as you’d expect.

Sometimes it’s cooler in the hollows, especially during the winter months where conditions are right for inversions. The air temperature can easily change by 3°C over a short distance. In fact I’ve seen changes as high as 5°C over a few miles, driving out of a valley up into the hills.

So how would I measure the temperature of Derbyshire? Where would I put the thermometers and how many of them would I need? What would I measure - daily maximum and minimum or continuous recordings? How would I account for the differences between hills and valleys? How high off the ground should my thermometers be, or should I bury some of them to measure the temperature of the ground? Surely ground temperature is important?

How would I calibrate the thermometers and check that all readings had been taken correctly? How would I deal with faulty thermometers? How would I know when they were giving biased readings? How would I check for calibration drift?

And given I could sort out all of this, how would I check my network of Derbyshire thermometers? How would I compare them to another network which doesn’t actually exist? And how would I build a rationale to cope with the obvious fact that Derbyshire doesn’t have a temperature, that it all depends on how you measure it?

Because I’d need that rationale, wouldn’t I?

I’m not making an obscure scientific point here. I’m just pointing out some well-known problems behind the apparently simple issue of taking temperature measurements. Environmental field measurements, including temperature, used to be an important aspect of my job. I know how difficult it is – even with simple measures such as temperature.

I’m also interested in how climate moonbats (is that the correct term?) claim to measure global temperatures to a tenth of a degree, because I know it’s impossible. And by the way, the BBC won't tell you this, but there is no such thing as a global temperature. That is to say, it could only ever be a convention, yet still there is no agreement as to what that convention might be.

Environmental temperatures are conventions.

Monday, 24 September 2012

What a day


It's been such a wet, grey, dismal day that I lit the log burner for the first time since last winter. Not so much to keep out the cold, but for the cheery atmosphere it gives. 

The bits of wood on top of the burner to the left of the stove pipe are cedar from a tree we had down about two years ago. As the stove warms up, the cedar gives off a delicious aroma. I have another lump burning in the stove as a treat for the neighbours.

All I need now is a mug of strong tea and a plate of potato cakes with lots of butter and salt.  

The Scholar In The Narrow Street


Flap, flap, the captive bird in the cage
Beating its wings against the four corners.
Depressed, depressed the scholar in the narrow street:
Clasping a shadow, he dwells in an empty house.
When he goes out, there is nowhere for him to go:
Bunches and brambles block up his path.
He composes a memorial, but it is rejected and unread,
He is left stranded, like a fish in a dry pond.
Without - he has not a single farthing of salary:
Within - there is not a peck of grain in his larder.
His relations upbraid him for his lack of success:
His friends and callers daily decrease in number.
Su Ch'in used to go preaching in the North
And Li Ssŭ sent a memorandum to the West.
I once hoped to pluck the fruits of life:
But now alas, they are all withered and dry.
Though one drinks at a river, one cannot drink more than a bellyful;
Enough is good, but there is no use in satiety.
The bird in a forest can perch but on one bough,
And this should be the wise man's pattern.

Tso Ssŭ - third century AD
Translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The US doesn't trust its media


U.S. Distrust in Media Hits New High


Story here.

Stupid, odious or both?


From the Independent



Lib Dem conference: Pensions could boost home ownership, says Nick Clegg.

So reducing the price of houses isn't one of Nick's options while screwing the last bent farthing out of any poor sod who wants to buy a grossly overpriced brick box, plus screwing their parents and grandparents - that's okay with Nick.

I'm fine with helping young people to buy their own home. That's not it. But houses are far more expensive than they need be and government could actually do something about it. Won't but could. Unfortunately lower house prices means smaller mortgages and we all know bankers aren't so keen on that. Even Nick knows, although that's not how the odious creep would put it.

So this is a banker-friendly policy Nick is advocating here - as we might expect from such an unspeakable and unprincipled shyster.

New short story


I've posted a new short story on my Haart Writes blog called Lance and Boyle. As usual, it can be accessed through the Short Stories tab on this blog.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

One to watch?


From junkscience.com.

Biggest Announcement in JunkScience.com History Coming on Monday!


You never know - it's surely worth a click.

Jo Nova down again


I'm not a devotee of conspiracy theories, but prominent Australian climate sceptic, Jo Nova's blog has been taken down yet again - surely it's beginning to look suspicious. It's a good site too, I visit regularly, although it's not on my blog sidebar.

33,000 generations


This is an interesting piece on evolution research by Michigan State University.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A team of researchers at Michigan State University has documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions.

The results, published in the current issue of Nature, are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.


The researchers are working on cultures of E Coli bacteria, which grow rapidly in a glucose medium so that thousands of generations of bacteria can be studied over a matter of a few decades.

Lenski’s long-term experiment, cultivating cultures of fast-growing E. coli, was launched in 1988 and has allowed him and his teammates to study more than more than 56,000 generations of bacterial evolution.

56,000 generations turns out to be more than enough for significant changes to evolve in the E Coli organism given the right environmental pressures. In this case, the pressure was the replacement of glucose, which the organism easily metabolizes, with citrate which it can't metabolize.

The experiment demonstrates natural selection at work. And because samples are frozen and available for later study, when something new emerges scientists can go back to earlier generations to look for the steps that happened along the way.

“We first saw the citrate-using bacteria around 33,000 generations,” Lenski explained. “But Zack was able to show that some of the important mutations had already occurred before then by replaying evolution from different intermediate stages. He showed you could re-evolve the citrate-eaters, but only after some of the other pieces of the puzzle were in place.”


I suppose in human terms, 33,000 generations would be well over half a million years. Not that we can scale up findings like this - it just gives a certain perspective to the thing. Leads one to wonder how long humans could take to evolve a stronger dose of common sense.  

I'm also reminded of something my mate KF told me a few months ago, about the reason coal formed during Carboniferous. As this piece says, coal was formed because there were no fungi capable of breaking down the lignin in wood. Once a fungus evolved with this capability, further coal formation was impossible because fallen trees would rot away due to the action of the fungus.

Presumably, before that fungus evolved, everywhere was chock full of dead trees which wouldn't rot properly, which is why we have so much coal. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Oddball drag racer


Reach for your coffee



The other evening I was reading my Kindle with a cup of coffee on the little bamboo table next to my chair, the gas fire gently popping and farting in the background. All very comfy. Sainsbury's instant coffee in a Sainsbury’s mug too – no expense spared. 

Anyway, I began to wonder how I was able to reach out, hook my index finger into the loop of the cup handle, lift the cup, swing it round to my lips and take a sip.

“Hang on,” I thought, “I’ve no idea which muscles and nerve signals to use here, I just do it. But how?” I took another sip just to check - works every time. Almost.

I know the words to describe all this of course – how to describe these semi-automatic physical movements we learn as we grow up. I know about that – as we all do.

But what if it went wrong?

What if I started tipping the coffee into my ear? Okay, it’s only Sainsbury’s instant coffee, so it’s not an enormous loss, but how would I put the situation right? Clearly if my autonomic bits failed in some way, I almost certainly wouldn’t be able to correct it via some voluntary action or sheer willpower.

“So is it the same with opinions?” I asked myself as I took another sip, my ear thankfully remaining free of coffee. "Is it possible for opinions to be much the same as our autonomic nervous system?"

Well I suspect there is a similarity of sorts. We can’t want our opinions, we just acquire them as we wend our way through life. They become autonomous aspects of what we are. Not entirely true of course, if we are blessed with a modicum of self-awareness – awareness of how we are influenced by the outside world and our reactions to it.

Blessed?

Yes, I think so - blessed. Spinoza used the word and I think it’s a good one. Understanding is quite synonymous with blessedness. We are blessed with an understanding. Or not, as the case may be.

Simplicity and truth of character are not produced by the constraints of laws, nor by the authority of the state, no one the whole world over can be forced or legislated into a state of blessedness; the means required for such a consummation are faithful and brotherly admonition, sound education, and, above all, free use of the individual judgement.
Benedict Spinoza - Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Stephen Crane



I’ve just finished a couple of Stephen Crane novels:


I’m new to Crane (1871–1900), but I’ll read more of his work if I can get hold of it. He was a fine writer who died from tuberculosis at the age 28 – a great loss.

Maggie is quite short – more a novella than a novel and Crane’s first book published at his own expense when he was only 21 years old. It’s an extraordinarily powerful story of squalor and poverty in the Bowery district of New York. Maggie herself grows up in the middle of it, the pretty daughter of drunken, fighting parents and sister to Jimmie who grows up to become a stupid, cynical product of the slums.

The girl seemed to awaken. "Jimmie--" He drew hastily back from her. "Well, now, yer a hell of a t'ing, ain' yeh?" he said, his lips curling in scorn. Radiant virtue sat upon his brow and his repelling hands expressed horror of contamination. Maggie turned and went. The crowd at the door fell back precipitately. A baby falling down in front of the door, wrenched a scream like a wounded animal from its mother. Another woman sprang forward and picked it up, with a chivalrous air, as if rescuing a human being from an oncoming express train.

But there is to be no fairy tale ending for Maggie, who hardly figures in the book really. It just revolves around here like an all-enveloping miasma of mean and hopeless squalor written in such a way that you know there is no way out. Maggie is to be no Cinderella and eventually resorts to prostitution before she dies an obscure and soon forgotten death.

The Red Badge of Courage is quite short too - a powerful descriptive novel of the American Civil War. It follows the experiences of Henry Fleming, a young and naive volunteer.

His emaciated regiment bustled forth with undiminished fierceness when its time came. When assaulted again by bullets, the men burst out in a barbaric cry of rage and pain. They bent their heads in aims of intent hatred behind the projected hammers of their guns. Their ramrods clanged loud with fury as their eager arms pounded the cartridges into the rifle barrels. The front of the regiment was a smoke-wall penetrated by the flashing points of yellow and red...

The regiment bled extravagantly. Grunting bundles of blue began to drop. The orderly sergeant of the youth's company was shot through the cheeks. Its supports being injured, his jaw hung afar down, disclosing in the wide cavern of his mouth a pulsing mass of blood and teeth. And with it all he made attempts to cry out. In his endeavour there was a dreadful earnestness, as if he conceived that one great shriek would make him well...

Later he began to study his deeds, his failures, and his achievements. Thus, fresh from scenes where many of his usual machines of reflection had been idle, from where he had proceeded sheeplike, he struggled to marshal all his acts.

The books avoids names to create a strange, inhuman effect. Even Henry is almost always referred to as the youth. It works well in conveying the dehumanizing aspect of real war. The ugly, confused stupidity of it. The accidental heroes, of which Henry becomes one and the accidental victims soon forgotten. Just like poor, pretty Maggie.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Heard in the street

from savagechickens.com

While on my way to the shops this morning, I passed a group of chatting women. As I went by, I caught a fragment of conversation.

"When is it?"
"Some time in October."
"You need to look really ill."

Fantasy Island



Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise speaks to IPA members in Melbourne about climate change issues, particularly the absurd Australian carbon tax and its roots in the antics of the IPCC.

Note her reference to the UK as Fantasy Island at about 01:34. Apparently that unwelcome title has now passed to Australia.

She has researched games played by the IPCC in great depth, especially the extraordinarily flaky reality behind the sober public facade. Ms Laframboise has also written a book on the subject - posted on here and referred to in the video.

It's worth watching if you have the time. One weakness is that you can't see her presentation in this video, even though she is clearly referring to it. You have to listen.

Brief background:
Ms Laframboise's research has uncovered the reality behind the scientific pretensions of the IPCC. The IPCC has been thoroughly penetrated by green activists, particularly Greenpeace and the WWF. Many of its scientists are inexperienced and clearly selected for their commitment to the cause rather than their scientific work, their qualifications, publication record or indeed their integrity.

Many references in IPCC reports (the so-called climate bibles) are not peer-reviewed research, but anything from Greenpeace publications to newspaper articles. This apparent sloppiness is largely hidden by the sheer size of the reports, the availability of slanted summaries for journalists and policy-makers and the laziness of too many mainstream reporters. Ms Laframboise together with a few volunteers from around the internet have done a great deal of much-needed journalistic research into the IPCC and its machinations.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Romney spills some beans


Here is the BBC version of Mitt Romney inadvertently saying what everyone knows to be true. Indeed, it has even been suggested in some quarters that Romney may not be a born liar.

A secretly filmed video has emerged showing Mitt Romney disparaging Barack Obama voters at a private donor dinner.

The Republican nominee is shown saying the 47% of Americans who back the president do not pay income tax and would never vote for Mr Romney.

"I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," Mr Romney says.

Who goes first, Clegg or Cameron?


The latest UK opinion polls don't seem to give much comfort to Dave or Nick.  I'm not one for poring over such matters like ancient rune casters, but I am an interested spectator, particularly when it comes to the possibility that one of these odious clowns may be flushed away before the next election.


Ladies and gentleman



Although we may still address an audience as ladies and gentlemen, to what extent has it become an anachronism? For example, try a Google image search on ladies and gentlemen

Do we still have ladies and gentlemen? Do you know any of either species?

I suppose these were always somewhat ambiguous modes of address, varying from the formally polite to the sarcastic to genuine respect. To that extent things have not changed, but I suspect the aspiration to be a gentleman or a lady has changed. Allow me to speak of gentlemen to simplify things a little – at least for myself.

To my mind, one cannot easily aspire to be a gentleman these days, not in the upright, Dickensian sense. The impeccable manners and inflexible moral code both present difficulties in modern life. We are more casual in our dealings with other people, less inclined to hold mainly moral opinions and eschew strong political views. Maybe this is due to the more penetrative nature of mass communication.

I don't see it as a money or class issue, but more a case of having a highly detached and highly moral personal code. For example, one of Dickens’ fictional gentlemen was Mr Twemlow in Our Mutual Friend. Here he is, listening uncomfortably to a sneering dinner table discussion of lawyer Eugene Wrayburn’s marriage to Lizzie Hexam, a waterman’s daughter who saved his life. Twemlow, a mild little gentleman, is finally asked his opinion.

Twemlow has the air of being ill at ease, as he takes his hand from his forehead and replies.
‘I am disposed to think,’ says he, ‘that this is a question of the feelings of a gentleman.’
‘A gentleman can have no feelings who contracts such a marriage,’ flushes Podsnap.
‘Pardon me, sir,’ says Twemlow, rather less mildly than usual. ‘I don’t agree with you. If this gentleman’s feelings of gratitude, of respect, of admiration, and affection, induced him (as I presume they did) to marry this lady-
‘This lady!’ echoes Podsnap.
‘Sir,’ returns Twemlow, with his wristbands bristling a little, ‘YOU repeat the word; I repeat the word. This lady. What else would you call her if the gentleman were present?’
This being something in the nature of a poser for Podsnap, he merely waves it away with a speechless wave.
‘I say,’ resumes Twemlow, ‘if such feelings on the part of this gentleman, induced this gentleman to marry this lady, I think he is the greater gentleman for the action, and makes her the greater lady. I beg to say, that when I use the word, gentleman, I use it in the sense in which the degree may be attained by any man. The feelings of a gentleman I hold sacred, and I confess I am not comfortable when they are made the subject of sport or general discussion.’

I’m certainly not proposing we should go back to Dickens’ day socially, but I do wonder if we have allowed ourselves to lose something here. Many so-called gentlemen were nothing of the sort, but I get the impression that most people knew who were and who were not. As we do now.

The standard, when attained, seems to have been high. A certain upright, good-hearted individualism backed by an inflexible, yet compassionate moral code. A type who cannot easily be manipulated.

Maybe that's a clue - the independent aspect of being a gentleman. A reason why neither old style gentlemen, nor ladies are welcome in the modern world.

Because our exemplars are supposedly those who represent us in the House of Commons - the honourable ladies and gentlemen we know for sure are no such thing. Maybe a few are, but most are not. Maybe they never were and these ideals are best left where we usually find them - in fictional worlds.

Sad that, I think.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Royal jugs


Very late in the day, but I feel a curious need to say something about the Duchess of Cambridge's royal bosom. Not from personal experience you understand, although here I don't seem to be in such a large majority as one would usually suppose. Unfortunately for the royals and their acolytes, more pictures are apparently due to be published with the Duchess wearing even less than virtually nothing.

The point has been made all over the place that the royal couple were naive - still are presumably. Although not so naive now, after a rough lesson they shouldn't have needed. Don't their minders know how a telephoto lens works?

Image goes in one end - comes out enormously magnified - that kind of technical stuff?

Whatever one thinks of the paparazzi, they are a fact of life and it would have been easy enough for the Duke and Duchess to behave outside as if they were being observed through powerful optics - as indeed they were. Hardly surprising and no point getting angry, because it'll happen again unless they make changes to their behaviour.

Even a quick scan of the area with a pair of cheap binoculars, or even the naked eye, would surely have revealed the possibility of covert observation. If they had paid attention during science class, they might have remembered this vital piece of physics.

Light travels in straight lines.

Okay, Einstein may have changed that simple view, but we really don't need an Einstein in this case do we?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Dover Boys



Delightfully nutty Chuck Jones animation from 1942.

Shabby chic


Shabby chic seems to have been popular for ages. I'm not a follower of fashions, but nobody could possibly miss all those shops selling shabby chic - mostly fake admittedly, but the market seems to be there.

What's it all about, all that painted furniture, mass-produced objets trouvés and hand-crafted imports obviously made in bulk to strict standards?

I don't dislike the style myself, although it can be far too chintzy, but why it is so popular I don't know. As far as I can see, every single town in the UK has at least one shop selling the stuff. Little painted cupboards, chunky glass vases, artificially distressed bits of wood studded with coat hooks, cake stands, imitation baroque mirrors and picture frames, cake tins with fake vintage designs, imitation Victorian boot-scrapers, whole dining suites in painted wood - pastel shades of course.

Uncomfortable metal chairs, folding patio chairs with distressed paintwork, modern copies of Victorian four-legged stools and candlesticks in riotous profusion, often debased versions of older styles - as is so common with shabby chic. Lumpy notebooks with covers made from recycled straw, scented candles and so on and so on. You must have seen hundreds of shops stuffed with it - I certainly have.

What happens when it goes out of fashion though? Does it go genuinely shabby as buyers cling on to their first foray into domestic style, or is it all deeper than mere fashion?

Is shabby chic our way of preparing for the inevitable - the day when shabby becomes a way of life for those of us left outside the charmed circle of political power?

Shabby - but not chic.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Getting to them early

Skate (SSN-578), surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March 1959. 

ScienceNews for Kids reports the Arctic melt:-

During the winter, frozen sea ice covers most of the Arctic Ocean. Every summer, a portion of that ice melts away. Government scientists who keep track of those losses during the warmer months now report this summer has been one for the record books.

On August 26, Arctic sea ice cover fell to 4.1 million square kilometers (about 1.6 million square miles). That’s the smallest ice cover ever observed since scientists started using satellite data in 1979 to measure the yearly melt, note researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo.


True as far as it goes, but as this is aimed at kids, it might have been worth noting that the Arctic melts periodically during interglacials, which of course is where we are now. Arctic sea ice is also affected by factors other than global temperatures. But the kids are also told:-

Arctic sea ice plays an important role in Earth’s climate. Unlike glaciers and icebergs, which form from freshwater, sea ice forms when seawater freezes. Usually covered with snow, this ice cools the area around the north pole. The bright-white surface of sea ice reflects sunlight back into space like a giant mirror.

Surely some confusion here between cause and effect. Is this a claim that melting ice causes the warming? It may also have been worth pointing out to the kids how little sunlight the Arctic actually receives - but no. We finish with:-

“It sets us up for another world of hurt next year,” Serreze told Science News.

It sets us up for another world of hurt next year? Are these people real? Unfortunately they are. Not real scientists though. There don't seem to be as many of those as there were in Enid Blyton's day.

Friday, 14 September 2012

New short story


I've posted a new short story on my Haart Writes blog called Two Pickpockets. As usual, it can be accessed through the Short Stories tab on this blog.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Musical rain


Rainwater guttering on the side of a house near Budleigh Salterton. I bet it was designed and built by somebody who loves the sound of trickling rainwater, as I do. This is a closer view of the curly bit from the roof.


I don't think it was done for show because it faces a track only a few walkers would use. I find this kind of delightful eccentricity quite uplifting.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Biodegrad ble blog posts



An ex itin  new d velopment by th s blog is the invent ion of the b odegradable  blog post, In our d ive for a low ca bon f ture, we have pro uced a fully b  degradable bl g p st which will disinte rate a few we ks after you read  t.

Ultim tely it is expe ted that all online cont nt will be biod gradable as the whole world tu ns to green r solution  ra  er than its c rrent depend     on f ss l fuels.

The f nal prod ct will be 100% rec cled blo  posts - as y   may  ave g essed.  

Mad or bad?

Byron 

Steve McIntyre has been shredding a paper by psychologist Lewandowskyet al called

“NASA faked the moon landing, Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”

The paper, which seems to be as McIntyre says, a scam aimed at manipulating opinion rather than a scientific paper, purports to show pretty much what the title suggests. McIntyre’s demolition of the scam can be found here, here and here.

Now I know I’m guilty of mildly abusing climate scientists in general and the BBC in particular, but I cannot imagine writing a scientific paper claiming that my abusive comments are scientifically true, however much I wished to mould the debate to my own views. I just wouldn’t do it.

Okay it’s no worse than calling sceptics deniers with the aim of linking them in the public mind with holocaust deniers, but I do tend to wonder if those who promote mainstream climate alarm are mad or bad.

I mean mad in the sense of incompetent, not insane, and this has tended to be my view for some time I generally see climate alarm as propaganda based on incompetent science. There is a political element, but I tend to view that as a separate issue. Now though I begin to wonder. I wonder if I should see the scientists as bad rather than mad - or some of them at least.

Because this paper is evil by any debating standard. The predictions of climate science are supposedly subject to the normal rules of scientific debate, but it isn’t so is it? The normal rules are being broken all over the place, quite deliberately. 

So – mad or bad?

Monday, 10 September 2012

False flag operations


Our police force is too big. Not just the police officers in uniform, but a far greater number who police our daily lives but wear no uniform. Policing is our modern obsession. Principles are not.

Because it must be obvious to many that much of what passes for politics in the modern world is a seemingly endless series of false flag operations. False flags widely used to insert more and more policing into civil society under familiar and once useful guises such as health or child care. From river inspectors to nursery staff who log childhood bruises, the modern trend is a policing trend.

Sadly, cradle to grave welfare doesn’t mean what it says on the tin. It means cradle to grave policing. Maybe they simply forgot to mention it. But in this we seem to have the essential political conflict of our time between:-

Those who believe a society should be governed.
Those who believe a society should be policed.

The two are entangled of course, but socialism, communism, fascism and even modern conservatism are all predicated on policing rather than governing. It’s easier for one thing, especially for busy MPs with expenses to claim.

Even US citizens will soon have a presidential choice between Obama who seems to believe in widespread policing and Romney who seems to believe he should be president. Not a happy choice.

Drugs policy is a false-flag tactic, a means to criminalise a once legal activity and introduce more policing into civil society. However strong the arguments may be for decriminalizing drugs or sticking with the status quo, established drugs policing is too well funded and powerful to be ousted anyway.

Yet drug prohibition seems aimed not so much at protecting us from drug abuse, because it doesn't do that, but at promoting policing simply for the sake of policing. It isn’t necessarily a case of malign central direction either. Policing offers a secure career and a certain amount of status to those impressed by spurious responsibilities. On the other hand, allowing people to live their lives as they see fit is no basis for a policing career.

Anti-smoking clamour comes across as yet another false flag. Waving the flag of perfect health, it seems bent on criminalizing a legal activity, to slip yet another policing tentacle into civil society. In the end I suppose, tobacco smuggling and illegal smoking will be their miserable reward, alcohol their next project.

Education and childcare in its widest sense have, step by step, been brought under the control of police-minded functionaries. The effect has been to destroy the independence of schools and teachers together with any real concept of parental responsibility.

Once the false flag of child abuse is planted, there will always be recruits and media pundits willing to rally round any new policing operation supposedly designed to protect children. Superficial sentiment and false flags mix well.

That is not to say that child abuse is unreal of course. That’s the malign attraction of false flags – the rallying call sounds less disingenuous if there is a genuine issue behind it all. Of course the purpose of the operation is not to resolve the issue or punish the guilty, but to police as many innocent people as possible.

Forever.

Climate change is a huge false flag operation. UN-mandated energy policing imposed on civil society on a global scale. The science may be silly, but the false flag is planted with a copious supply of useful idiots prepared to raise their shrill voices to the dismal cause.

As for discrimination, well there’s none of that - anyone may join and the attractions are obvious. Secure employment in the public sector or one of myriad outfits propped up by our taxes. None but the terminally principled could possibly resist.

Yet such is human nature that sometimes the malign delight of policing your neighbour seems to be enough - the simple sanctimonious thrill of finger-pointing. The Guardian made a business of it for decades.

Many UK charities are funded by government to promote a whole raft of false-flag strategies designed to introduce yet more policing and do away with what little is left of traditional government. Principles and personal responsibility are passé – mass policing is the way.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

I was just sitting there


From PaulR

Hols

I'm on holiday in Budleigh Salterton, so limited posting.
Back Thursday.

Every little helps

Yggdrasil, the World Ash (Norse) - from Wikipedia

Global warming, climate change, climate disruption, climate leprosy – whatever the latest name might be, is nothing more than moral blackmail by a bunch of misogynist freaks.

There is one simple angle to the apocalyptic climate message. Everything else is froth and misdirection. Rising global temperatures, Arctic sea ice, glaciers, hurricanes and all the other guff are irrelevant to the core issue.

Carbon dioxide is the basic planetary plant nutrient. Without it we’d all die.

That’s it – that’s all the science you really need. It doesn’t really matter if global temperatures are trending up, down or sideways. There is no starting point from which to plot temperature trends anyway, but that’s not it.

Carbon dioxide can’t make the climate unstable with respect to temperature, otherwise it would have done so hundreds of millions of years ago.

The misogynist freaks who tell us otherwise are in the business of political control, not science, not the environment, not trees and cuddly animals, not saving the planet and certainly not human aspirations.

Carbon dioxide is plant food and the current atmospheric concentration is rather low compared to previous eras. According to Wikipedia, which follows the alarmist line, pre-industrial CO2 was 280ppm. Current CO2 is about 392ppm – a rise of 112ppm. The minimum level for plant growth is about 150ppm although it varies between species. If the pre-industrial CO2 had gone down by 112ppm, then a genuine climate catastrophe may well have occurred.

Fortunately the situation began to improve well before the huge rise in global population. Not only that, but the trend is still upwards, so if our luck holds out the next few generations will see major benefits. It’s almost as if we reached a CO2 boundary in a very complex process and are now drifting back towards some longer term state.

The immediate cause of the rise in CO2 is probably a result of equilibrium changes between oceans and atmosphere, but nobody really knows for sure. There may be a human contribution, but it seems unlikely to be significant. We’ve just been lucky I suppose. Climate scientists don’t know the cause, so they invent alarming reasons dictated by their political masters in the UN.

Even so, rising CO2 is good news, although we could do with more. It’s good for agriculture, good for forestry, good for poor people, good for world food production, good for you, good for me, good for future generations.

Forget the politics – rising CO2 is a genuine good news story.

So don’t cycle to work unless you have too or unless it’s quicker. Drive, because we need that CO2. It may be that our CO2 isn’t making much difference to the atmosphere, in fact it probably isn’t, but don’t let that put you off.

Every little helps.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

New short story


I've posted a new short story on my Haart Writes blog called Corrigan Blake. As usual, it can be accessed through the Short Stories tab on this blog.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Closeup


Ministry of Truth



Most of us must be familiar with George Orwell’s novel 1984 and main character Winston Smith’s job at the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. As we know, his job, and an enjoyable and rewarding job it was too, was to alter newspaper references to bring them into line with the true version of history from which we must all learn important lessons.

Now of course, the job would involve more and more editing of computer records, which presumably could not possibly be automated so there’s no chance of it happening.

How would we tell?

I’m sure our dynamic and principled Prime Minister David Cameron would make quite sure this kind of thing never happens, but just in case there must surely be a few official tests we need not apply ourselves.

For one thing, if I tried to write something such as:-

That utterly useless scumbag Nick Clegg should be kicked out of an office to which he was never elected in the first place.

I think that if we had covert government editing of online comment, that would be changed to something like:-

That utterly useless scumbag Nick Clegg should be kicked out of an office to which he was never elected in the first place.

And that’s essentially how we’ll know that something of genuine public concern, but entirely necessary in these difficult times is going on. It’ll all be done quite seamlessly of course, because I’ve no doubt that the software has not been under development for some time.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey


From PaulR

Flash of recognition



“Then you are utterly alone,” said Gideon in amazement. “Are you not afraid?”

“No,” responded Julia stoutly. “I don’t see why I should be more afraid than you would be; I am weaker, of course, but when I found I must sleep alone in the house I bought a revolver wonderfully cheap, and made the man show me how to use it.”
The Wrong Box - Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne (1889)
  
I don’t know how common this is, but every now and then I get a brief shock of recognition. It’s not easy to explain, so allow me to give an example.

I see an expensive car such as a high-end BMW turn into the supermarket. I would hardly ever give such a mundane event a thought because BMWs, even expensive BMWs are a common sight.

Every now and then though, I don’t see a BMW, but a fool. Not just a fool though – but a fool one should feel sympathy for. Not faux sympathy either, but genuine sympathy for a fellow sufferer hopelessly entangled in the human condition.

It’s very brief and not a reasoned reaction or coherent thought. It’s more like getting the point of a really funny gag. Something just clicks into place then life goes on. It’s not a flash of anger at how things are, but more like a peep into a well of infinite disembodied sadness. But it's not sadness either - just recognition. After all, many sad things aren't worth being sad about.

What fascinates me about these episodes is not so much the flash of recognition, but the way acceptance falls back into place afterwards. Life goes on and the foolishness of that BMW driver, although perfectly visible and known to all, stays just beyond the veil. Not even hidden really, but the veil seems necessary for life to go on.

It makes social criticism difficult to maintain because life can’t be one long flash of recognition. There are things that are wrong, things we could do much better, but life is comfortable and life must go on and anyway it’s pretty enjoyable most of the time.

So what has that got to do with the Robert Louis Stevenson quote above? Simple. I had one of those flashes of recognition when I read it. It couldn’t happen today. We are no longer anywhere near as dependent on our own resources as Julia. Life has changed - at least in the UK.

Wham! It hit me hard as soon as I read it – that well of infinite sadness. We are not what we could be. Far, far from it. But life goes on.