Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Esteban on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Brian Micklethwait on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Brian Micklethwait on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Big Things on Boris Bikes
Rob Fisher on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Prudy on Skyscraper covered in Gothic sculpture proposed for Manhattan
Brian Micklethwait on Big Things on Boris Bikes
Javier on Big Things on Boris Bikes
Most recent entries
- A busy day and a collection of Big Things
- A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
- A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
- A good time of the year
- 148 to Burgess Park
- A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
- Another way to photo my meetings
- Quota Pavlova
- The first Brian’s Friday of the year tomorrow evening
- Walkie Talkie looking not that huge
- David Pierce on what it’s like using an electric scooter
- Shard behind the Tower of London (reprise)
- Big Things on Boris Bikes
- Two bits for Samizdata and a weird bridge in Poole
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Category archive: Environment
My life, in this digital century, has contained quite a lot of wonderful expeditions which I never got around to mentioning here. Take the trip that I and G(od)D(aughter) 1 made to Beckton Sewage Works, on September 21st 2013. The only time I mentioned this here, it would seem, was in this posting, where I mentioned that I otherwise did not mention it.
So, to go some way towards correcting that, here is a picture of some birds that I took that day:
You want to know why London contains so many birds? Sewage processing, that’s why. Birds love that. The Beckton Sewage Works is one great big open air bird canteen.
And here is a picture of a sign that I took, which explains that a huge new sewage tunnel was in the process of being constructed, at the time of our visit:
More about that here:
The 75-metre deep Beckton overflow shaft is the entry point for the Lee Tunnel, a £635million project just as ambitious as the more highly-publicised Crossrail. Over the past five years, engineers have built a 6km tunnel stretching from Beckton up to Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, east London. The Lee Tunnel will help prevent more than 16 million tons of sewage from overflowing into the River Lee each year by capturing it and taking it down to Beckton. The sewage treatment works itself is being upgraded and expanded by 60 per cent to enable it to deal with the increased volume.
And the Lee Tunnel is just the first phase of the even more ambitious Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km tunnel that will handle sewage from Acton in west London through to Abbey Mills in the east. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will deal with the 34 most polluting overflow points along the Thames. Work on the £4.2billion project, known popularly as the London super sewer, starts in earnest in 2017 with engineers pulling the chain, so to speak, in 2023.
And here is another photo I took that day, which I include in this posting because I like it:
Behind that fence may, or may not, be activity associated with the digging of the big tunnel. But, I think it was.
Happy Christmas, as and when you get around to reading this.
The weather this Christmas has been terrible. Warm, yes, but relentlessly cloudy and rainy. It seems like it’s been raining in London ever since I said here early last month that in London rain is quite rare. Wednesday was a brief respite, which the weather forecasters duly noted beforehand, but yesterday and today it’s back to mostly cloudy and rainy. So here is some Christmas photo-cheer from just before Christmas last year, when the weather was mostly what it should be around this time, suitably cold and frequently bright and sunny.
I mentioned earlier my intention to focus of a Friday on non-deline as well as feline members of the animal kingdom. This fine beast was to be seen last Christmas outside the old Covent Garden Market, where they used to sell fruit and veg - all that having moved to this place - and where they now sell stuff.
And here are two more photos, of the beast’s head, with a dose of that proper Christmas weather behind it, and of the sign at the beast’s feet, about how you mustn’t molest it in any way:
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom would not be BrianMicklethwaitDotCom if I hadn’t photoed photoers and stuck some of the resulting photos up here, so here are some of the many other photoers who photoed this reindeer. The first two have the reindeer on their screens:
And my favourite one didn’t have anything on her screen that I could see, but did have reindeers on her excellent woolly top.
Relevant website. Like I said, stuff.
Many more here, as Hartley adds, at Calvin Seibert’s My “Sand Castles” Flickr site.
Here, I think we can say with confidence, is another impact of digital photography. Seibert doesn’t say in his short introductory spiel (click on “show more") how important digital photography is in preserving something of these castles before the incoming tide or human destructiveness or accident claims them. But it obviously is. Would he have developed this way of sculpting, if he had had no convenient way of recording it?
And my other thought is that the website where Hartley learned about these castles, which is called Amusing Planet and which I had not previously heard of, will be well worth making regular visits to. It says in this post that Amusing Planet has now been in action for nearly eight years. I must have been there before. But, I didn’t pay any attention to the surroundings of whatever posting I was looking at. I should have.
This morning, I met up for a late breakfast in Eltham with regular commenter here Alastair. I took a ton of photos, because after we had breakfasted we checked out a great view of London just to the south, which Alastair had recently chanced upon and had told me about. But before I even look at all the photos I took, here is a photo that Alastair showed me today, which he took on November 1st. November 1st was very foggy, and this is the Walkie Talkie, smothered in fog:
If you like the Walkie Talkie, as both Alastair and I do, then: Hurrah! It’s the Walkie-Talkie!
If you hate the Walkie Talkie, and many do hate it, cheer up. In this picture of the Walkie Talkie, you can hardly see the Walkie Talkie at all!
It was something to do with the fact that it was unseasonably warm yesterday, which resulted in fog this morning in London, but only in patches. And the Evening Standard, which now keeps virtually ticking over at the weekend, reported on the various London fog photos people have been taking.
This, taken by this guy, is my favourite:
Cranes (and the Walkie-Talkie) in front of the fog. Shard stabbing through the fog.
It’s been a very bad last few days here at BMdotcom. First there was the domain name fiasco, and then last night and into this morning there was another interruption, caused by a power cut in a totally different part of London to me, which was in its turn caused by all that rain we had recently. And then the interruption was prolonged by the mishandling of this power cut by my rather creeky and out-of-date version of Expression Engine. The two events were unrelated. I think there’s a Macbeth quote that deals with this kind of thing. One of those plays about a king for whom things are starting to go badly wrong. But rest assured that there is no sign that BMdotcom is about to be dethroned permanently.
So anyway, here is one of those photo-postings made quick and easy by my “I just like them!” directory.
I just like this, taken in 2007:
And I just like this, taken a month ago:
That second one was already edited and ready to post, with its new name, but I don’t believe I ever got around to actually displaying it. If I did, well, take another look.
I do not promise more substantial stuff tomorrow, but I do hope for it.
I need to get out less, and this weather is not helping. I spent last night shovelling pictures from SD cards onto Godot (my mainframe computer) who has now returned, all the while revelling in how fast everything is, again, like wading through a vacuum. And now I have about a dozen catch-up type postings rattling around in my head, many of them involving recent photos, which I want to post all at once. But the weather out is just too good to ignore. Which means that by the end of today I will probably be even further behind.
But, I will now do one of these postings, which happens also to illustrate the excellence of the weather in London just now
Last night, on Westminster Bridge, I photoed a particularly excellent Bald Bloke Taking Photos. These two snaps of the gentleman in question make a nice pair, I think:
Excellent Bald Bloke Rift Valley on the back of his neck there.
I took photos, but almost everything I took was terrible. This one, much cropped and enhanced, was one of the least worst ones:
That’s Sam Bowman in the middle there, with his back to the window, and on the right, Worstall, holding his glasses, waiting for Sam to finish his intro. That almost everyone had their backs to the windows didn’t help me photo their faces.
The only half decent photo I took was when I got outside, and photoed people who were saying those prolonged goodbyes that happen at these kinds of events.
Through the upstairs window you can see the party continuing.
The gist of Worstall’s talk was that the Green claim that the earth’s resources are about to run out is based on a failure to understand the meaning of the word “reserve”. Reserves are not all the resources they even know about or know how to go looking for; they are the resources that they already have lined up to be extracted, given current market conditions and current technological ability. The entire point of “reserves” is that they are already on the warehouse shelf, metaphorically speaking, and are indeed about to “run out”, aka be consumed. That these “reserves” are about to be consumed does not mean that all the earth’s resources, known and unknown, easily obtainable at today’s prices and with today’s technology or difficult, are all about to vanish, any more than the fact that all the food now in warehouses will soon disappear and then immediately be replaced means that we are all about to starve.
I have long suspected-stroke-assumed something along these lines. Good to hear it spelt out in detail.
I recently decided to keep an eye open for newspaper front pages. Yesterday, I snapped, among others, this one:
It was the airplane nearly crashing, or seeming to, that got my attention.
I tried to chase up the story, and eventually found it, not in the Times, behind its paywall, but at the Manchester Evening News, and I found a slightly better version of the picture at the Daily Mirror, in a piece about the generally windy weather we’ve been having lately:
The Manchester Evening News quoted a spokesman for Monarch, the airline whose plane was featured in this picture. He had some interesting things to say about how the camera had, on this particular occasion, told somewhat of a lie:
A spokesman said: “Over the last few days the country has experienced extremely high crosswinds.
“The image depicts a completely normal landing given the weather conditions on the day.
“The image was taken at long range and therefore is deceptive.
“The foreground in this picture is higher than the touchdown zone on the runway - proven in this case by the lower wheel appearing to be in the ground, which was not the case.
“As seen in this image, it is common practice for pilots to perform a crosswind landing in these conditions.”
After I had had a closer look at this photo myself, I was going to say half of this myself. The foreground is higher, and makes the plane look lower. What I had not realised was that the plane was actually in the air.
I notice, however, that the subheading of the Manchester Evening News report quotes the bit about how this was a “completely normal landing”, above the photo that, as explained, makes it look anything but, thus deliberately suggesting Monarchical complacency. But the spokesman didn’t just say it was normal. He explained why it looked abnormal, without actually being abnormal.
But still pretty:
One day, a crane reserve (that link being to where the above cranes were photographed) will be a place where they preserve and worship our mighty mechanical lifting devices, not birds. And cranes, of the good sort, will indeed be worshipped, just as soon as they are all replaced by anti-gravitational plasticene which will be stuck underneath heavy stuff, so it can be taken up to the tops of buildings by robot building workers. In the future, buildings will mostly just be sprayed into the air, but some heavy things in them will still have to be made elsewhere and lifted to their required location.
Loadshedding, said favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k a few days back, is back, and it makes blogging very difficult. Is this, I wondered, some sort of psychological affliction? I dismissed the question as just one of those questions I could perhaps ask someone about, someone like 6k, but couldn’t be bothered to. Life is full of mysteries, and it looked like, for me, loadshedding would be one of them for ever.
But then came another 6k loadshedding post, this time with a ton of significant looking links, and at that point, I remembered Google. Google answers questions immediately, if it can at all.
When there is not enough electricity available to meet the demand from all Eskom customers, it could be necessary to interrupt supply to certain areas. This is called load shedding.
I see. It’s a South African electricity thing.
Looking ahead to demand for energy in the UK over the winter, Energy Secretary Ed Davey pledged over the weekend: “There will be no blackouts. Period.”
Period. The vehemence of that worries me. It suggests that quite a lot of people are asking the question, and that Mr Davey is starting to get angry about that fact. And if a lot of people are asking the question, maybe the answer is not as Mr Davey says it is. See also: “There is no question of …”. This means that there is, and that someone just asked it.
But, a little bit below the reporting of Mr Davey’s verbiage, comes better news:
Mr Davey’s reassurance comes days after a warning by Professor John Loughhead, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, about the “catastrophic” consequences of a two-day power outage to somewhere like the City of London.
A government science adviser said that power cuts are a bad thing, not that any such cuts are at all likely in the UK this winter. So, this quote actually works as a rather more reassuring denial of imminent power cuts than Mr Davey’s protestations.
Davey’s position is explained at greater length in this earlier report. He says that the Tory backbench attack on wind farms could lead to higher energy bills, and I’m sure it could. After all, if you waste a ton of money on wind farms, you may then get a small amount of energy. If you then scrap the wind farms you then get even less energy, but you still get the bill for the damn wind farms already built.
If wind farms cost more to keep running than they yield in energy, then scrapping them makes sense, and ought to reduce energy bills. But, the scrapping of wind farms might be used as an excuse to raise energy bills again, and could in a sense then be described as a cause of energy bills going up, in the sense that it made it easier for people who want energy bills to go up to contrive that. “Scrapping wind farms could raise energy bills” could be read not as analysis, but more as a threat.
Earlier this evening, I attended this gathering. I took a ton of photos, of which I choose this one to show you:
I choose that photo not because it is any great shakes as a photo, but because it focuses (insofar as it does focus) on what was in many ways the most impressive thing about this event, namely the number and quality of those who attended. In this respect, the evening reminded me of those big Liberty League gatherings that happen earlier in the year. Simon Gibbs and his helpers put in a huge effort to make this occasion work well, and to get a decent turnout of intelligent, paying customers.
Don’t get me wrong, the speakers were numerous and articulate, and all admirably concise, which was necessary given how many of them there were. A lot of ground was covered. A lot of food for thought was served up. If there was a big winner issue, so to speak, that best explains how much harder it has recently got to make ends meet, it was probably the cost of housing. There was general agreement that planning regulations need to be relaxed, although also general pessimism about the politics of accomplishing that. Also making a strong showing were energy costs, and the heavy and rising taxes on petrol and drink and tobacco.
But you can have all the speakers up front that you like. If enough aren’t there to listen, then your event falls very flat. This one was the opposite of that.
Yes, I love it when that happens:
Congratulations to Jackie D for capturing it.
Continuing on the getting old theme, when I was young, there were these expressions used by old people that I didn’t get. I knew what farting was, of course I did. But why “old fart”? I now know only too well.
And how could you be ”under the weather”? Again, I understand this now. It is extraordinary how much an old person’s mood depends on the state of the weather, and in particular the state of the sky. Is the sky clear and blue, and do you strut about in the world as if you owned the entire thing? Or are there these great piles of grey clouds bearing down on you, for you to stagger about under, in a state of gloom? Are their benign electronic particles wizzing about energising you? Or do other electrical influences blast into your brain and make it ache?
Just lately, London has had a lot of weather for me to be under, because it has been so hot and humid, and electrically active. But now, here I sit, in my kitchen/office, in my blogger’s uniform (pyjamas), next to my big old computer (which is also a big old fan heater), with the window as open as I could get it (it is a huge bother either opening this or shutting it so it will now remain open), and I am feeling fine, and in particular … rather cold.
As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder. That’s in London SW1. And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.
Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me. North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.
It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting. Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it. Which it does. He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.
NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4. Cook just got out, for 22. Ballance and Bell already gone. England are not playing at all well at the moment.
Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper. It may eventually come to that. Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if they continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?
See this earlier piece.