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

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Category archive: Environment

Sunday October 29 2017

Not all the photos I put up here were taken ten years ago or five years ago, or several weeks ago, or yesterday.  This one, I took about an hour ago, when out shopping:

image

Yes, leaves on the ground, the traditional signs that say: summer is definitely over.  And it is.  Today I awoke to discover that I had got up an hour earlier than I thought.  In three days time, it will be November.  Even as I write this, a lady on my television is prophesying the first of many frosty nights, of the frosty season.

The good news is that throughout this frosty season I will be able to see, and photo, stuff through the trees, instead of the trees just blocking everything out.

What surprises me is how green some of these particular leaves were.  I guess many of them fall off while still green and only a day or two later turn brown.  Photoing makes me see more.

Saturday October 21 2017

Today.

… although early signs are that it will not hit as hard as expected.

In other words, not nearly as impressive as Hurricane Ophelia.

Wednesday July 26 2017

I have a new camera, and I am not as happy as I would like to be about the photos I am photoing with it.  They often seem vague and blurry, as if seen through a mist.

But then again, the humidity levels during the last week or two have been very high.  Maybe the views have all looked as if seen through a mist because they were seen through a mist.

Here, for instance, is a photo of a favourite building of mine, the big decorated box that is the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, as seen from Westminjster Bridge, which is quite a way away:

image

But I got to work with my Photoshop clone, and beefed up the contrast, and darkened things a bit.

Thus:

image

Which looks a bit better.  I’ve chased away some of the mist.  The trees look greener.  The details of the ROH’s exterior decoration are clearer.

I have a vague recollection of trying to reset my camera, so that it did things more darkly and more contrastingly.  Maybe at that point, I contrived to do the opposite of what I thought I was doing.

But then again, not long after taking that photo, I took this one, of the giant 4 outside the Channel 4 headquarters building at the top end of Horseferry Road, a short walk away from where I live.  I often go past it on my way home after an afternoon of wandering, and so it was that day, nearly a week ago now:

image

That looks bright enough and clear enough, doesn’t it?  That’s without any zoom, i.e. space filled with blurriness.  And without this weather making its presence felt, the picture doesn’t look like it needs any artificial editing attention.  So maybe the camera is fine, and it has been the weather.  And I just made the weather better.

Sunday July 23 2017

Today is the Women’s World Cup Final at Lord’s, mentioned here earlier.  They’re calling it the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket, and they’re not wrong.

So, what does the London weather do?

A dry start for many with some sunny spells. Through the morning scattered showers are likely to develop, locally heavy with a risk of thunder in the afternoon before dying away during the evening.

Could have been worse.  Sounds like (a) they’ll get a game, but (b) it will be a terrible let-down, involving Duckworth and Lewis.  This is the much feared and universally not understood formula for deciding who wins a cricket match, by calculating a revised target in fewer overs for the side batting second, or, later, by guessing who would have won if it hadn’t rained so bloody much and put a stop to everything.

Meanwhile, I’ll be journeying to Newton Valence, in faraway Hampshire, to see GodDaughter 2 in Le Nozzi di Figaro.  This was to have been outdoors, but wisely, it has already been moved into the barn:

The Long Barn is one of the most spacious and exquisite barns in Hampshire. Nestled in the picturesque village of Newton Valence, amidst spectacular rolling countryside, The Long Barn offers breathtaking views from one of the highest points in the South Downs National Park.

But how breathtaking will those views be today?

Let’s hope those sunny spells make their presence felt.

Thursday July 06 2017

Indeed:

image

Normally I’d explain.  Where, when, what, blah blah.  But the heat is so hot that I cannot bear to spend any more time next to my computer stroke fan heater than I absolutely have to.  Commenters are welcome to explain everything if so inclined, which I know they won’t be.  On account of the heat, and on account of not being that bothered.

My bedroom is cooler, and it is to that that I will now repair.

Wednesday June 21 2017

One of the many aspects of the horrible Grenfell Tower fire that makes it such a compelling news story is that the scene of the crime (which is what most now assume it to be) is so very, very visible.  This is not the kind of horror that can be sealed off by the police and hidden from view.  There it is, in all its photogenic horror, and there it will remain for quite some while yet.

Yesterday I lunched with GodDaughter 2.  She has been allowed no time to recover from her recital (the pizza in yesterday’s posting was consumed just after that happened), but instead has been plunged into rehearsals for this showVery hot, apparently.  Lots of stage lighting, and lots of standing around, as is the way with complicated rehearsals.  I, meanwhile, was also nearly immobilised by the heat, and just wanted to get home again and be truly immobile.  So, we spent less time together than we would have had the heat been less hot.

imageBut she did show me this photo, on the right there, which was taken by a friend of hers and along with a million other such photos, has been circulating on social media.  This particular photo was taken (I think I have this right) after the fire had erupted, and then been turned entirely black and dormant by the firemen.  But then, the fire got back into business, nearly a day later.  And I bet the heat made a difference to that too.

As for the politics of this, I don’t think Mrs May will recover from the bad press she has had as a result of this disaster.  (GD2 was very eloquent about that.) But my hope is that the Corbynistas are overplaying their hand.  People, says John McDonnell, have a right to be angry.  Of course they do.  But if too many of the people being angry are thought to be politicos who are merely pretending to be angry but who are really having the time of their lives, the Corbyn project might suffer.  I’m sure the Corvbyn high-ups are aware of this danger, but knowing what is happening with something is not the same as necessarily being able to stop it.  (Ask any fireman.)

In general I hope that what I heard Matthew Parris saying on the television on the night of the election is right, to the effect that the Corbyn phenomenon will now be subjected to the sort of serious critical scrutiny by the voters which last time around they bestowed only upon Mrs May.

Friday June 09 2017

I am consoling myself for the depressing current state of British politics by thinking about cricket, which has been pretty good, despite the weather.  The Champions Trophy is in full swing, and the hosts, England, have not been eliminated after their first two games.  They have, on the contrary, already got to the semi-finals.

The big victims of the weather have been the Aussies.  They were about to win their game against Bangladesh by a mile, and if twenty overs of their run chase had been completed they would have won.  But, to the tune of four overs, their run chase did not last for twenty overs.  Instead there was rain, and they got only a draw, or whatever it’s called.  The Aussies could well lose tomorrow, to nothing-to-lose already-through England, and if they do, they’re out.

On Tuesday, England beat NZ in Cardiff, with Cardiff seeming to be just about the only place in England (so to speak) where a nearly full day of cricket was possible.  On Wednesday, the South Africa Pakistan game was another of those Will-They-Complete-Twenty-Overs-Of-The-Run-Chase? games.  They did, and Pakistan won it, which was a surprise.

But then, whatever Pakistan do, it’s a surprise.  The cliché question is: Which Pakistan team will turn up?  And the cynic’s reply is: Either the Pakistan team that has been paid a small sum of money to win, or the Pakistan team that has been paid a rather larger sum of money to lose.  That may be a monstrous slur, and of course no official-type commentator would be allowed to say such a thing out loud.  But really, the contrast between the rubbish that Pakistan served up in their first game, against India, and how they played then against South Africa was downright bizarre.

Especially dramatic was yesterday’s amazing run chase by Sri Lanka, to beat India at the Oval.  And guess who won that game for Sri Lanka.  Yes, it was BMdotcom’s favourite cricketer:

Mendis was named Man of the Match for his innings of 89 off 93 and Mathews said that he and the team had benefited from speaking to Sri Lanka’s previous No. 3 before the match. “He [Mendis] met Kumar Sangakkara to get a few batting tips, and he’s the king, and we all look up to him. We all get advice from him, all the batters. He taught us a lot of good things on how to play on these tracks. Yesterday the guys met him and took a lot of advice and went out there and implemented it.”

With luck, after King Kumar has ceased playing for Surrey at the end of this season, Surrey can, from time to time, get him to come back and talk to them before big games too.  Without him, their batting now looks like it will be decidedly thin.

To digress a bit from the Champions Trophy, Surrey (complete with King Kumar) will today be starting a four day county game against Essex, and outside my window it was, when I starting concocting this, raining.  Which means that it was quite likely raining also in the Guildford area, Guildford being not far away from me and Guildford being where this game is happening.  Yes, there has been a bit of rain in Guildford today, but otherwise the forecast is good for the next few days.  Play is scheduled to start at 1.10pm.

Contrary to cliché, it actually doesn’t rain that much in England.  It does rain, of course it does.  But not nearly as much as most foreigners seem to think it does, given how much we talk about it and grumble about it.  The problem is that English rain is not predictable, like a Monsoon Season, or some such thing.  And when it comes to cricket, it doesn’t take much rain to screw things up.

Today, it’s NZ v Bangladesh in Cardiff, but oh dear, I see that a “wet outfield” is delaying things.  But it looks like they’ll get a game.

One day ...  One day, someone will invent a magic lazerbeamy thingy that you will point upwards from the perimeter of a cricket ground, like a circle of upward-pointing searchlights zeroing in on a Lancaster bomber over WW2 Germany, which will divert the rain into big buckets on the perimeter and keep it off the pitch.  Rain stopped play will then be history.  We can all dream.

Meanwhile, King Kumar should lead prayers for the rain to hold off for the rest of this tournament, and for all rain currently earmarked by the weather gods for England to be deposited instead in South Africa.

Thursday June 01 2017

Incoming from GodDaughter 2, who has been in foreign parts for a friend’s wedding.  She did tell me where, but the only thing I remember for sure is that this is a picture, as luck would have it, of the very same sea, the Mediterranean, that I was posting about yesterday:

image

I recommend clicking on that.  There’s nothing special going on.  Nobody is photoing, apart from GD2.  There are no distant cranes, no container ship on the horizon.  I just think it’s very beautiful.

Taken with an iPhone.

Monday May 29 2017

About an hour after taking this photo, about happiness, two more photos that I took made me very happy.

The first photo was this one:

image

I had been hoping for something impressive in the way of a sunset, but this was better.  How come that big black line, somehow painted on the clouds?

Slowly, I worked it out.  There had to be a logical explanation, and my guess was that this was, to cut a long thought process short, the shadow of a vapour trail.  There was a vapour trail above the clouds, and the clouds were very thin, which meant that a shadow on the top of them registered underneath them also.

The trees were obscuring my view, because I was using them to provide shade.  But if I moved a bit, so I could see beyond and above the clouds, in the direction of the sun, would I be able to see such a vapour trail, above and beyond?

Yes:

image

There you go.

I’ve probably seen this effect before, but this is the first time I have really noticed it.  Image googling for “vapour trail shadow” got me to quite a few photos of similar things, but nothing quite like what I saw.

Some critics of digital photography complain that digital photography is a substitute for actually looking at things.  For me, digital photography has caused me to look at things more.

Monday March 27 2017

Today, in the cloudless weather ordained by our omniscient short-term weather forecasters, I took a quite long walk beside the River Lea, out east.  The clocks having just gone forward, there was suddenly a decent amount of daylight, so I took my time and just carried on walking, and now I am knackered.  So, it’s quota photo time:

image

That was taken at Canning Town, where I was switching from the Underground to the Overground.  It’s one of those I Just Like It photos, as in: I hope you like it too, but I realise it isn’t that remarkable.

There were no clouds in the sky, but there was something in the air.  Mist?  Pollution?  Whatever it was, it had the effect of turning all distant objects from their usual appearance to a flatly uniform grey, like I’d pushed some kind of Photoshop button.  Those are the Docklands Towers in the distance, looking flatly and uniformly grey.  That one pointy tower makes the whole cluster recognisable.  Increasingly, and as I think I am starting to say quite often here, I find myself valuing recognisability over mere beauty.

I don’t usually like it when street lamps get in the way.  (Street lamps in London always get in the way, of every picture I ever try to take, or so it sometimes seems.) But I rather like the way these ones have come out.  The nearer one frames the view rather nicely, and the more distant one poses in a dignified way, in a way that fits in well with the rectangular shapes in the gas-holder.

I totally trust the weather forecasters.  I left my umbrella behind, and wore fewer clothes than ever before this year.  And it worked.  No rain, no cold.  And not quite so knackered from carrying unnecessary garments.  But still knackered.  So that is all, and I wish you all a very good night.

Sunday March 19 2017

It’s always sad when a bridge collapses, and there is a special poignancy about the recent collapse, in Malta, of this one:

image

That picture comes from the best report (courtesy the BBC) that I could find of this sad circumstance, the best because it had both a before and an after picture, of the bridge, and then of the same place, but without the bridge.

Malta’s famous Azure Window rock arch has collapsed into the sea after heavy storms.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the news was “heartbreaking”.

The Azure Window rock arch didn’t collapse because the top of the arch failed.  Rather did the pillar in the sea succumb to erosion.

Here’s wishing Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Dorsetshire …:

image

… happiness and long life.

Wednesday February 22 2017

The chapter of Tim Marshall’s book Prisoners of Geography (see also these earlier excerpts: Africa is (still) big. And Africa’s rivers don’t help, Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East) that I found the most informative was the one on The Arctic, because this is the part of the world that he writes about concerning which I know the least.  How catastrophic - if catastrophic at all - global warming will eventually become, and whose fault it will be if it ever does become catastrophic and what to do about it , are all matters of fierce dispute.  But the fact of global warming is not in doubt, as Marshall explains (pp. 267-271):

That the ice is receding is not in question - satellite imaging over the past decade clearly shows that the ice has shrunk - only the cause is in doubt. Most scientists are convinced that man is responsible, not merely natural climate cycles, and that the coming exploitation of what is unveiled will quicken the pace.

Already villages along the Bering and Chukchi coasts have been relocated as coastlines are eroded and hunting grounds lost. A biological reshuffle is under way. Polar bears and Arctic foxes are on the move, walruses find themselves competing for space, and fish, unaware of territorial boundaries, are moving northward, depleting stocks for some countries but populating others. Mackerel and Atlantic cod are now being found in Arctic trawler nets.

The effects of the melting ice won’t just be felt in the Arctic: countries as far away as the Maldives, Bangladesh and the Netherlands are at risk of increased flooding as the ice melts and sea levels rise. These knock-on effects are why the Arctic is a global, not just a regional, issue.

As the ice melts and the tundra is exposed, two things are likely to happen to accelerate the process of the greying of the ice cap. Residue from the industrial work destined to take place will land on the snow and ice, further reducing the amount of heat-reflecting territory. The darker-coloured land and open water will then absorb more heat than the ice and snow they replace, thus increasing the size of the darker territory. This is known as the Albedo effect, and although there are negative aspects to it there are also positive ones: the warming tundra will allow significantly more natural plant growth and agricultural crops to flourish, helping local populations as they seek new food sources.

There is, though, no getting away from the prospect that one of the world’s last great unspoiled regions is about to change. Some climate-prediction models say the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by the end of the century; there are a few which predict it could happen much sooner. What is certain is that, however quickly it happens and dramatic the reduction will be, it has begun.

The melting of the ice cap already allows cargo ships to make the journey through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian archipelago for several summer weeks a year, thus cutting at least a week from the transit time from Europe to China. The first cargo ship not to be escorted by an icebreaker went through in 2014. The Nunavik carried 23,000 tons of nickel ore from Canada to China. The polar route was 40 per cent shorter and used deeper waters than if it had gone through the Panama Canal. This allowed the ship to carry more cargo, saved tens of thousands of dollars in fuel costs and reduced the ship’s greenhouse emissions by 1,300 metric tons. By 2040 the route is expected to be open for up to two months each year, transforming trade links across the ‘High North’ and causing knock -on effects as far away as Egypt and Panama in terms of the revenues they enjoy from the Suez and Panama canals.

The north-east route, or Northern Sea Route as the Russians call it, which hugs the Siberian coastline, is also now open for several months a year and is becoming an increasingly popular sea highway.

The melting ice reveals other potential riches. It is thought that vast quantities of undiscovered natural gas and oil reserves may lie in the Arctic region in areas which can now be accessed. In 2008 the United States Geological Survey estimated that 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 90 billion barrels of oil are in the Arctic, with the vast majority of it offshore. As more territory becomes accessible, extra reserves of the gold, zinc, nickel and iron already found in part of the Arctic may be discovered.

ExxonMobil, Shell and Rosneft are among the energy giants that are applying for licences and beginning exploratory drilling. Countries and companies prepared to make the effort to get at the riches will have to brave a climate where for much of the year the days are endless night, where for the majority of the year the sea freezes to a depth of more than six feet and where, in open water, the waves can reach forty feet high.

It is going to be dirty, hard and dangerous work, especially for anyone hoping to run an all-year-round operation. It will also require massive investment. Running gas pipelines will not be possible in many places, and building a complex liquefaction infrastructure at sea, especially in tough conditions, is very expensive. However, the financial and strategic gains to be made mean that the big players will try to stake a claim to the territories and begin drilling, and that the potential environmental consequences are unlikely to stop them.

Monday November 28 2016

Today I visited Tottenham, and I intend to return tomorrow, both expeditions having been prompted by these two weather forecasts:

imageimageimage

That I have already decided this evening where I will be going tomorrow, and that I already knew last night what I was going to do today, is typical of how I now do these expeditions.  Trying to work out, in the morning, where I’ll go that day, given that the day is turning out nice, tends not to work so well.  Being old and tired and physically lazy, I have to have an interesting and attractive destination in mind as soon as the day starts, in order to force me out the front door soon enough for the expedition to amount to something.

In this respect, I am turning into my Dad.  When I was a kid I used to tease my Dad about all the planning that would go into family expeditions, and he used to justify this with questions starting with the words “What if?” What if, we get into an accident?  What if, one of us gets sick?  What if, the trains are disrupted?  We need a plan capable of taking care of everything.  I used to think he was being over-cautious, and that we ought to just get started and deal with problems as and when they happened, which they mostly wouldn’t.

Well, as I get older, I become less good at adapting, by which I mean that I can change a plan in mid plan, but that it takes longer and is more stressful.

But more fundamentally, I now suspect that my Dad may have needed his plan just to get him going at all.  Without a plan to drive the expedition forward, with artificially created deadlines and reasonably enticing objectives, maybe he just wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy he needed to lead us forth into the world at all.  Like me, he knew that he would be happier if he did get stuck into an expedition, and would be depressed if all he did was sit at home doing this or that amusing but trivial thing.  So, he would devise plans to make himself do what he wanted to do.  My Dad’s plans were not as he sold them to me, mere precautions.  His plans were energisers.

But maybe that’s just me.

Friday July 08 2016

When cute wildlife kills other cute wildlife, it has to be handled delicately:

‘We ask that members of the public exercise patience during this time. The City hopes to trap the caracal, collar the animal with a radio tracking device and to move it away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range. …’

That’s 6k quoting from this.  Says 6k:

Wouldn’t get that in the Kruger National Park, now would you?

I’m guessing: not.

Until today, I had no idea what a caracal was.  Blog and learn.  You mean you still don’t know?  Here you go.  Basically, it’s a big cat (or a small lion-coloured leopard) with big pointy ears.

Latin name of caracal: caracal caracal.

Thursday May 19 2016

Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):

image

That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.

I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.

imageThe email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”.  When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).

Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat.  See right.

Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane!  So very tall, and so very thin.  It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything.  I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London.  Not that Antoine’s crane is in London.  It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.

I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes.  When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.

It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.

As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below.  Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.