Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Environment

Wednesday March 20 2019

Yes, I and a friend took a stroll around Stoke Newington this afternoon, and despite the drabness of the weather, spring was in the air.

And as if to confirm Spring will indeed be with us very soon, if it’s not here already, this was the scene outside the Anglo Spice Grill:

image

There were many other Stoke Newingtonian sights - animal, vegetable and mineral - to be seen and to be photoed, but today was a tiring day, with another activity in the evening before I finally got around to doing this.  So that will have to be your lot.

Monday March 18 2019

Further evidence (see below) that vapour trail light is my favourite sort of light:

image

That photo was photoed by me in June 2008.  In Quimper I think, but if not in Quimper, then somewhere close.

I had been browsing through the directory in which all my photos from that expedition are stored, and I was struck by how well the best of them came out, despite the fact that the camera I was using was quite antique compared to my current camera.  I had always supposed that there had been a big jump in photo quality for me when I got my Lumix ZX150, which was a few years after that.  Since that Lumix ZX150, I have had a Lumix ZX200, and now use a Lumix ZX330.  All of those Lumixes (Lumes?) being much of a muchness.  And I think that’s right, there was quite a jump.  Nevertheless, earlier cameras of mine, when the light was really good, did just as well.  Where they suffered, by comparison, was when the light was merely quite good.

Vapour trails are a feature of the Brittany sky.  Basically, you’re talking about half of all the airplanes from Europe to America, and half of all the airplanes from America to Europe.  So, in Brittany, if the weather is vapour trail weather, there will be vapour trails.  A lot of vapour trails.

France also has excellent street clutter, with lots of wires.  The wires go well with the vapour trails, I think.

Sunday March 17 2019

Was out in Bermondsey today, and as usual photoed lots of photos.  But the light was dreary, so here is a photo I took in the same place just under a month ago, on February 19th:

image

Vapour trail weather, which I love.  And not just for the vapour trails.  In such weather, everything looks good.  Those two birds, for instance.  They look very good.

Ah, the Summer of February 2019.  They don’t make them like that any more, except that they just did.

Monday March 11 2019

When I saw and photoed this sign, in London, yesterday afternoon …:

image

…, I thought it was some kind of electronic malfunction.  ULEZ?  Is that real?  Only one way to find out.  The Internet.

And the Internet was in no doubt.  ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone.  Question answered.

I just wanted to know if ULEZ was real.  It is.  The details, for now anyway, interest me less.  If you want to know more about ULEZ, you now have the acronym and the knowledge that it stands for something real, and you can learn all you want.

Thursday February 28 2019

Outside my front door, a few days ago:

image

I like how the sun picks out some of the branches at the top, but only some.

More “The February Summer of 2019” photos, of a similar sort, at Mick Hartley‘s.

Sunday December 16 2018

As I said earlier, a nasty old sofa is due to depart from Chateau BMdotcom, and nice new sofa is due to arrive.  And as I also said, I hoped it would be in that order.  Well, now it looks like the new sofa will be here tomorrow, while the old one is still here.  This threatened chaos.  In a place already suffering from severe infrastructural overload (aka IO, aka too much crap everywhere and nowhere to put new incoming crap), it’s all I can do to find space for a new copy of the BBC Music Magazine without it getting submerged.  Yet today I managed to liberate enough space for another sofa and still have a large chunk of change, volumetrically speaking.

The secret was getting rid of a whole clutch of things like this:

image

The main things that such devices store are empty air, and dust.  Lots and lots of dust.

I also found a pile of home-made versions of the same kind of thing, in which I had been storing more air and more dust, and (this time) nothing else:

image

That being about a decade’s worth of dust, going by all the bits of paper in the pile that I will soon be culling and compressing.

As one of my heroes, Quentin Crisp, once said, the secret with dust is not to stir it up.  Do that, and you find yourself living in a dusty home.  Just let it be and it behaves itself very politely.

I now learn (such is the internet) that what Crisp actually said was more like this:

There was no need to do any housework at all. After four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.

I actually do do some housework, mainly in my living room, so this doesn’t really apply to me and my home.  But I like his attitude.  That gag about being a “stately homo of England” is also a Crispism.  The link above is to a large stack of verbal Crispnesses.

Back to my dust.  To get rid of that dust, which did have to be got rid of because the receptacles containing it had to go, I had to carry them out of my bedroom very carefully, into the living room, and part of this involved stepping down from my bed to the floor.  Imagine doing that with a tray full of drinks.  But, all went well, and I have now liberated a hug gob of space which I had previously thought permanently clogged:

image

That will accommodate a lot of IO, in the days and weeks to come.  Those two boxes on the right can go too, come to think of it.  All they contain is big envelopes that I will never use and whose glue long ago stopped working.

Each time I have a campaign against IO, I think that I really have, this time around, completely run out of space.  But, each time, it turns out that there’s more, lurking in plain sight.

A good day.

Wednesday September 05 2018

One of the more tiresome things about Twitter is the way that a photo goes viral, without the photoer who photoed the photo getting any credit for the photo.

So, I am happy to report that, when I learned, via Mike Fagan, whom I follow, that a tweeter by the name of Arturas Kerelis reported that “someone” took this photo …:

image

… in Chicago, on September 3rd, the photoer was eventually identified.  Commenter Chris Gallevo, to whom thanks and respect, steered any who cared, which included me, to the Instagram site of Kevin Banna, where the above photo is to be found.

I was not able to discover what Kevin Banna himself looks like.  That’s the trouble with image googling the name of a photoer.  Are the results photos of him, or merely photos by him?  It’s not easy to know, without more labour than I was prepared to give to the question.

In a backhanded compliment to Banna’s photo, and also to the extreme drama that the weather in Chicago is apparently capable of providing from time to time, some commenters accused “someone” of having Photoshopped this image.  Other commenters assured us that the weather in Chicago that day really was very dramatic, in just the way the above photo portrays, and that it general it regularly lays on such displays and dramas.

Saturday August 11 2018

I can’t remember how Twitter caused me to arrive at this, but it did:

image

Bananas that are either not ripe enough or too ripe are a constant irritation to me.  This - bananas sold in sets of bananas of different stages of ripeness - looks like a rather good answer.

A commenter immediately joins in and makes this into an argument about plastic in the oceans, the latest Green obsession that replaced the fading fear of climate catastrophe, except that the recent heatwave has now got them back going bananas about how the climate has now changed.  Like there have never been heatwaves before.  The climate presumably is changing, because it always does, but that’s no reason for humans to stop selling stuff to each other.  Or for them to stop thinking of clever and helpful stuff combinations.

Thursday August 09 2018

The final full day of The Great Heatwave of 2018 was two days ago, on August 7th.  August 8th was a couldn’t-make-up-its-mind day, and today was a could-make-up-its-mind day, and it made up its mind to be cold and wet and generally horrible, perhaps in honour of the Lord’s Test between England and India, today’s first day of which was totally rained off.  One day, magic beams will rise up into the sky from around the boundaries of all major cricket games and will divert the rain into giant vats, also on the boundary, and play will proceed no matter what the weather beyond the ground.  (Such devices will also transform global agriculture, and make the entire population of the world obese.)

So, as I was saying, two days ago was the last day of the Heatwave, and maybe it was this heat which cause this lady to be wearing, in a street near me, this headgear:

image

This lady looked normal enough, apart from the headgear.  I made no secret of the fact that I was photoing her, and she clearly saw me doing this and didn’t seem to min.  Or maybe she was concentrating on her phoning and actually didn’t see me.  Either way, I waited until her face was hidden.

The sane explanation for the headgear was the heat.  And honestly, I do believe that this was what it was for.  That heatwave really was very hot.

Wednesday August 08 2018

I don’t believe I am the only man to have been deranged by the heatwave in the manner I am about to describe, in fact I know that I am not, because I had one of those How-Very-True You’re-So-Right type conversations with GodDaughter2’s boyfriend, Only The Other Day, about exactly this matter.

I refer to the fact that I, and many other men, do not merely wear a jacket to fend off frigidity.  We also wear it to carry stuff.  It is our version of a handbag.  In my case: wallet, cheque book and paying in cheques book (so I was born before you were - live with it) (both these items serve another purpose besides handling the financial instrument relics of the previous century, which is to fill up the pocket containing my wallet and stop the wallet falling out (which would be a catastrophe)), pen, purse, Old Git free London transport pass, keys, handkerchiefs, mobile phone, spectacle case with reading spectacles, spectacle case with spare camera batteries and spare SD cards (the latter for if I forget to put my regular SD card back in the camera), Disprins, cough sweets, regular sweets, eye allergy spray, and no doubt several other things I can’t now remember.

Unlike some men, I also carry an actual bag around with me on my travels, containing: a folder with paper to take notes, a shopping bag for if I shop, a camera, a book, a small bottle of fruit flavoured anti-dehydration liquid, any food I have bought, any spare garments I might need for if it gets colder, an umbrella, and even sometimes a laptop computer, on those days when I am in a mobile laptop computing sort of mood (although lately I have tended not to be in such a mood (too heavy)).

But, transferring all the clobber described in paragraph two above into the bag, and into the midst of all the clobber described in paragraph three above, is a serious derangement, not least because the bag gets far too full.  For remember, what if, late at night, if the heatwave abates, I need the jacket?  I have to have the jacket in the bag, just in case, even though it is far too hot to wear it and in fact, throughout the heatwave, it remained so.  So, with everything now in an unfamiliar place, much of it buried under other bits of it, all the usual reflexes stop working.  Nothing is any longer where it usually is.  I start suffering from that frightful female syndrome of digging about inside the bag, frantically trying to find whatever it is.  Which may in fact be in one of my trouser pockets, or maybe even my shirt pocket, for goodness sake.  Oh God, where’s my wallet (which contains all sorts of priceless stuff which I dare not even itemise (see above))?!?!  Etc..

Today, the heatwave sort of ended, as in: the weather oscillated between pleasantly warm and somewhat warmer.  But unfortunately the London Underground didn’t get the email containing the link to the short-term weather forecast, and chose to remain full of the horribly hot air that it had been accumulating throughout the previous fortnight, or however long it’s been.

But the discomfort I suffered was the discomfort of wearing my jacket when it was rather hot.  That I can live with.

But worse, just like the London Underground, I too found myself suffering a systemic hangover from the previous period of high temperature hell.  Earlier this evening I was in a pub, and when my pubbing was done, I picked up my bag, and visited the toilet, prior to leaving.  Luckily, while there, I realised that I had left my jacket on the back of the seat that I had been sitting on.  I reclaimed it, seemingly unmolested by plunderers, except that … hell’s bells, my wallet wasn’t in it! It was, of course, in the bag, where I had recently been learning instead to put it.

It’ll be a few more days before I recover my usual calm and suave demeanour, when out and about.

Thursday July 26 2018

Today’s weather:

image

Bloody hell.  And I’m feeling it already.

Also, I just had an email from a Brazilian friend, who is doing a talk at my place tomorrow evening, and who has been suffering from the heat.  I just got an email from her which included this, about how she doesn’t like ...:

… to complain about the heat after complaining so much about the cold ...

But she does anyway, as do I.

Good to hear it from a Brazilian.  Who probably came to live here partly because our weather doesn’t normally do this kind of thing.  No doubt in Rio now, it is an equable 24 degrees C.  Yes.

Monday June 04 2018

imageI find signs to be an endless source of fun and revelation, and I frequently photo them.  So I was much entertained by this New York Times story, about a sign that went wandering.  Across the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Sandy grabbed this sign from the town of Brielle, on the eastern coast of the USA, in October 2012.  But, on or around May 14th 2018:

A man walking along the Plage du Pin Sec, near Bordeaux, spotted it. The faded sign was missing a chunk, but he could still read the legend “Diane Turton Realtors 732-292-1400.”

“It was curious,” the man, Hannes Frank, 64, a semiretired software consultant who lives in Brussels, said by phone on Thursday. “I looked at it and found it quaint.”

And he got in touch with the enterprise advertised on the sign.  By their nature, signs can be very informative.

The NYT says that its preferred expert on flotsametrics reckons that, given how long this sign took to make its way to France, it may well have crossed the Atlantic not once, but three times.

Flotsametrics is the study of things that float.  Now that the Lefties – like the Lefties who own, run and write for the NYT - are giving up on the claim that capitalism is ruining the planet by ruining the weather, they are back to bitching about how capitalism squirts out lots of rubbish, and they have become particular obsessed with rubbish that hangs about in the sea, especially if it floats.  So this story is actually part of The Narrative, even though it is presumably also a genuine and a genuinely good story.

Once the capitalists work out how to transform all the world’s rubbish into – oh, I don’t know – something like gunk for 3D printers to turn into replacement body parts, the lefties will have to think of some other insult to throw at capitalism.  But for now, this rubbish thing is getting back to being their biggest complaint.  Again.

But just clearing the rubbish up is no good.  Oh no.  The rubbish must be stopped at source by stamping out capitalism, starting with plastic drinking straws.  The actual source of this oceanic rubbish is mostly rivers in poor countries.  But that’s a mere fact.  The Narrative is what matters.

This has been a spontaneous rant, which is why I am keeping it here, rather than switching it to there.

Monday April 30 2018

Some dqys ago, on a day when the weather was undecided about whether to be sunny weather or rainy weather, and was switching between both, I caught site of a roof near to my home.  Later, I could not decide which of the four photos I took to show here, so here are all of them:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

As to why I show them, well, see my title, above.

Usually; you want your camera to show what is really going on.  But this time, I enjoy its confusion.  If I did not tell you that this was wetness on those tiles, reflecting the sun, you would surely reckon that whiteness to be snow, or frost.

The human eye knows what it sees, so at the time I knew at once what this was.  My camera merely saw what it saw.

Monday April 16 2018

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down.  (I know, “bookmarks”.  Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links.  Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows - we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope.  Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns?  Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints?  The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise.  She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on.  But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump.  The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good.  Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is.  And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do.  You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it.  Jordan Peterson, take a bow.  That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood.  The only question is: By how much?  Trivially, or significantly?  My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam.  I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is.  These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”.  If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground.  I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did.  Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden.  As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe.  His name?  Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog.  As do I.  It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron.  He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history.  This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better.  And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was.  This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room.  The job is not done, but I have taken a chunk bite out of it.

Wednesday February 28 2018

Twitter is good at telling you about news, and today, the news has been: snow.  I know.  Who saw that coming???  Apart from the short-term weather forecasters, I mean.

Here are some snow pictures:

image

That would be a photo of the Shard.  Would be because it is mostly a photo of snow, and the Shard is only just make-out-able behind the snow.

Here are two more conventional snow photos, where you can see buildings but very boring ones, the ones outside my kitchen window:

imageimageimage

On the left, the snow descends.  On the right, my neighbours make a bendy triangle of footmarks.  I didn’t find those photos on Twitter, for I took them myself.

Without doubt my favourite snow-photo today was this:

image

Says @MisanthropeGirl: Satisfying.  I agree.

But if we are talking about snow and cold, nothing since then has touched 1963.  According to that story, in 1963 the sea froze.

Ah, 1963.  Marlborough lost its entire hockey season that term, early in 1963.  The frustrated school hockey captain was a famed future hockey international.  I still regret that I never got to see him play.

It gets worse.  That Christmas, the “house”, Littlefield, where I was a boarder at Marlborough College Marlborough Wilts, got burnt down, just before the “spring” term began.  We lived in huts, like prisoners of war.  The dormitory was another hut.  I had a hot water bottle.  When other Littlefieldsmen first saw this hot water bottle they sneered, but they were soon wanting to hire it from me, but I wasn’t having that.  I needed it in my bed.  And I distinctly remember, one morning, that this hot water bottle, in my bed, in the morning, had … frozen.  I swear.  There were icicles in it.

So, February 2018, I spit on your cold.  Your cold could not even freeze my spit.