Monday, 28 February 2011

She's gone

Gaddaffi's once inseparable blonde Nurse has legged it back to the Ukraine. Which is a sign that there's not much life left in the old dictator.

No matter the powerless posturing of the current set of Western 'leaders', I've got a feeling whatever new bunch of governments arising in the wake of the protests may be tougher to buy than the batch of Middle Eastern dictators currently on the way out. Not that the big finance houses could afford them any more. I think the Saudi's are fairly safe for the moment as they've bought off their populace with a new batch of 'benefits'. However, the Middle Eastern domino's are toppling, and who knows what knock on effects will follow.

In a way it's rather like watching volcanoes and earthquakes. You can never quite be sure what's going to happen next.

The best thing the western powers can do so as not to stir up the anti western factions, is to stay well out of it. Not that they will of course.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Christchurch webcams

In case anyone wants to see what's happening in Lyttleton Harbour and Christchurch, there are available webcams. A couple in the town are out of action, but others are still up and running.

Lyttleton Harbour here.

Christchurch here. Although it looks like a bunch of stills have been put in as a placeholder while the main cameras are down. They do show the damage done by the shocks though.

Traffic cam links around Christchurch here.

Donation link to help the Kiwis is on the sidebar at the top.

'Flux ropes' and power generation

Two Russian researchers, Boyarchuk and Pulinets, posited back in 2004 that flares and associated Solar electromagnetic phenomena might induce Earth tremors and perhaps extra heat within the Earth’s nickel iron core. More recently, (2007) the NASA THEMIS experiment detected things dubbed 'flux ropes', or concentrations of electromagnetic force linking the Sun and the Earth. The net effect of these variations has, so I'm told, a minor effect on the inner Earth, and increasing convection of magma within the inner and outer mantle, rather like happens in boiling water. The extra energy venting itself via various volcanic outlets like ‘black smokers’ down in the various oceanic spreading zones, Volcanoes, and the melting of rock in subduction zones. At present there are no certain proofs in the public domain although such an induced heating effect is in line with electromagnetic theory, and can be observed under experimental conditions.

As an aside; this core heating effect is probably also why Venus has such a hellish corrosive soup for an atmosphere. Venus is, like Earth, thought to have a nickel iron core, and this is thought to be heated vigorously by its passage through the more tightly packed magnetic field closer to the Sun. As I've posted previously, volcanism is the culprit for Venus' atmosphere, definitely not CO2. For example if CO2 was the culprit, Mars would be a lot warmer than it is, having a similar concentration of atmospheric CO2 (About 95.32%) to Venus (96.5%).

To get to the crux of the matter; my friend Delcatto asked the question; “Could we harness the electromagnetic force from the Sun to provide power?”

My answer is ‘No’.

For the following reasons;
  1. The concentration of electromagnetic force, even at the poles, does not appear strong enough. If it were, then our biosphere would not be habitable, at least to us.
  2. Why? Because the Earth needs to have a molten core. Without it our fecund little world would be as dead as Mars. Life as we know it depends on a complex interplay of energies and forces requiring heat from both above (the Sun) and below (the Earth), which is what allows our fragile little 10 kilometer deep biosphere to exist, sandwiched between a figurative heaven and hell. Significantly reduce the heating effect of the Earth’s core, as would happen if enough of the electromagnetism at the poles were diverted for power generation, and, to put it bluntly, life on Earth would be (Eventually) buggered.
  3. To get sufficient concentration of force lines for power generation, you have to divert them from somewhere else into some kind of collector ring. It would not be a good idea to stick such a device over the polar regions of Earth, see reason 2, but near Venus to power something like a wormhole portal for interstellar travel? There’s an intriguing thought. If such a device were possible, power transmission issues would render transfer to Earth less than useful (Until some clever dicky rewrites the physics of power transmission that is). Venus would ‘benefit’ from the reduction in volcanism due to a cooler core and perhaps eventually become borderline habitable, or at least not quite so hostile as at present. However, such a cooling process would require (at the very least) a couple of million years. So, no panic there, then.
Which just gave me an absolutely spiffing idea for another science fiction story. Ta muchly.

Krisuvik swarm: count 425

In the screengrab, which is representative rather than definitive, as I couldn't be sure I was getting the whole lot on. The tremor count at the time of observation was 356 at 13:25 GMT in the last 48 hours. That is a hell of a busy weekend. I make it over 228 since midnight, local time and rapidly increasing. For preliminary data, that's going to keep someone busy.

Range of tremors is mostly 2+km depth on the third day of near continual swarm activity. No idea what this portends, apart from I'd still like some idea of what the water levels of Kleiforvatn are doing. It's still jaw meets desk territory.

More later today. This bears watching.

All data from Icelandic Met Office Earthquakes page.

Update: My goof. Count is 356, not 367. Revised.

Update: As of 15:00GMT 394 Tremors. That's a whole lot of shaking.

Added to top of sidebar: Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. Thanks to Small Dead Animals for highlighting the link.

Update: 425. Also peaking and shallowing. See data grab below.
27.02.2011 17:27:36 63.928 -22.034 1.1 km 4.1 90.07 4.8 km NNE of Krýsuvík
27.02.2011 17:25:21 63.920 -22.030 1.6 km 3.4 90.07 4.0 km NNE of Krýsuvík

Will be very surprised if something doesn't blow in the next 24-48 hours at this rate.

Update: 514 tremors in the Reykjanes peninsula area in the last 48 hours as of 22:25 GMT. Most close to Krisuvik.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Christchurch again

Just been reviewing data nabbed from the Christchurch Quake site. Seems to me that as the most recent activity is easing, returning gradually towards pre big hit levels. Magnitudes are mostly between 2-3, and some of it is going deeper. Way deeper. From around the 2-9km depth mark on Tuesday (The biggest quakes epicentres were about 5km down), to as deep as 38km at 04:45 (NZ time) 26/2/2011. Almost all in that narrow band just south of town. Wonder what's going on down there?

Hmm. My logic tells me there's nothing to worry about as the worst is past. My instinct is telling me not to take any holidays in Christchurch NZ for the next week or so.

I'm sure a proper volcanologist will tell me I'm being a bit paranoid. Yet having looked at this University of Arizona website, the Christchurch area was 'aseismic' from 1990-99. The Te Ara site tells a similar (but not quite) story. As always, the problem is insufficient information.

New link for British Columbia tremors

Via Environment Canada, this link contains details of earth tremors in South Western BC. Added to Volcano links on the sidebar.

If anyone is interested there was a 4.3 magnitude 300km WNW of WhiteHorse in the Yukon at 3:08 PST this morning, but there have been no reports that anyone 'felt' it.

Krisuvik activity 2 day swarm

Have been looking at the latest activity under Krisuvik with a little more critical eye in the wake of the revelation that the swarms at Hengill were caused by water injection into heated strata by the power station people. Having compared and contrasted the screengrabs I took at the time, there's a definite similarity in depth and intensity.

As the Krisuvik field is close to the large lake called Kleifarvatn, I find myself wondering if there's currently some form of leakage into the fault complex that might be a causative factor. According to it's Wikipedia page entry the lake has leaked periodically since a big quake in 2000. Wonder what the water levels have been doing recently?

Friday, 25 February 2011


You know, last night I felt so down that I called the Samaritans for counselling. Must have misdialled because I got though to this Pakistani call centre.

I told the guy on the other end of the line I was desperate, suicidal even. Then he got all excited and asked me if I could drive a truck.

No idea why..........

New Icelandic link

Courtesy of commenter Smiler03; a new treasure on the Volcanic matters blogroll. The Iceland Volcano and Earthquake blog.

He has the story about the recent Hengill tremor swarms being man made, and the juice behind the recent Krisuvik activity. Brief and to the point, with a better inside track than I could ever hope for.

When is an eruption overdue?

A theme picked up from this post on Erik Klemetti's 'Eruptions' blog.

We keep on hearing in the media that this or that volcano is overdue, and that consequently "We're all doomed!". Yellowstone is 'overdue', Mt Baker, Mt Rainier, and just about every currently quiet volcano on the planet is 'overdue'.

The problem is that we still don't seem to understand more than the basics of what makes a volcano go 'foom!' We understand the what, but as to the underlying when and where, we're pretty much adrift, making half educated guesses. We are told that we're 'overdue' for a 'big one' (Earthquake) in this area, but the problem is that there is too little information available on the stresses building up in the crust below us. Ergo we get caught out when something like the Christchurch disaster hits. Millions, billions even are wasted on 'preventing' phantasms like (I really do get tired of the whole circus) man made global warming when there are far greater local risks from unmapped seismic activity. Then a cynical voice pops into my head saying "Ah, but you can't tax volcanoes and earthquakes, can you?"

A minor breakthrough in predicting volcanic activity has been published over at UBC Vancouver, where certain kinds of eruptions can be predicted by their sound signature. Specifically those with 'stiff' magma. Yet we're no closer to predicting when or if a Volcano will erupt, or a major earthquake will occur. Yes we can monitor swarm activity, but the information we get from that is currently very superficial.

The Earth under our feet talks, it resonates, it shouts. Humankind's problem is that we firstly have a poor understanding of what the earth's crust is trying to tell us, and secondly trying to listen is a little like having an in depth conversation in a Disco. There's a too much background noise, not just from human but from other activity. Isolating and eliminating various sound signatures is stuff that until recently was the purely the domain of military sonar specialists. Yet like trying to chat up an attractive person of gender choice (let's not be sexist here- meh), sound is only part of the communication. Relying on sound alone easily gets you into situations with metaphorical undergarments round knees and real red face. Depending upon the situation and whether you're having fun, or perhaps not.

Carrying on with the chatting up in Disco conceit, there's far more to detecting eruptions than simply sound. There's motion, expression, and perceived mood. Sometimes these moods are hard to divine, but they are there. So maybe sound detection alone is only a part of the answer.

It has been posited that changes in geomagnetism or even changes in the solar magnetosphere may have a subtle impact on volcanism, rather like Svensmark's cloud climate hypothesis; where increased particle bombardment from cosmic rays when the solar wind is low increases cloud formation, increasing albedo and thus reflecting sunlight away from the Earth's surface. Thus making the Earth cooler.

Study of other planets in the solar system tells us that volcanic activity can be driven by energy generated by a body moving through a magnetic field. Published work by Russian researchers Sergey Pulinets and Kirill Boyarchuk, amongst others, point in this direction. As Earth is known to have a nickel iron core, so it is suspected does Io, one of Jupiters Inner moons. Now Io, the moon in question, is a highly volcanically active place, and has a curious phenomenon suspected to be due to magnetic activity, a ‘flux tube’ of highly charged electrical activity connecting Io and Jupiter. It is thought that this produces an inductive heating effect in Io’s nickel iron core, driving the observed high level of volcanic activity. This is perfectly in line with accepted electromagnetic theory where a metallic body moving through a magnetic field will induce electromagnetic activity in said body.

It may interest anyone who gets this far in my often poorly structured posts, that similar 'flux ropes' between the Sun and Earth have been observed by NASA's THEMIS mission.

Ergo, it may be argued that observed changes in the interaction between the Sun and the Earth’s magnetic fields may have some effect upon the heating effect of the Earth’s core, thus providing a driver of volcanic activity. Local changes can be measured with magnetometers. Whilst this type of measurement alone may not be sufficient to act as a volcano / earthquake early warning device, in combination with stress meters, additional observations should be sufficient to build up a better picture of what the Earth is telling us, deep down.

Going back to the chatting up in the disco conceit, thus may we be able to see what the object of our intentions (Seismic activity) is going to do by joining up the dots of sound, electromagnetism and observed local physical changes. Thus easing the task of knowing what 'mood' our potential date is in. Then we may have a better idea of what any given volcano or earthquake fault is liable to do, and perhaps get the hell out of Dodge before a Pompeii happens.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Grímsvötn grumbling

Just spotted this little grumble under Vatnajökull which is rather reminiscent of last years minor eruption and glacial floods.

Usual caveats about tremors and eruptions apply, so until someone can come up with a monitor that can measure the frequencies that theoretically indicate when a volcano is about to go foom, we're stuck with conjecture and old fashioned methods of measurement. I'm waiting to see what the big brains over at UBC are going to come up with.

Christchurch Quake distribution.

Regarding my post on the Christchurch Earthquakes. Here is a screengrab of published seismic activity during the last seven days in that area. From the 18th to the 25th February, New Zealand dates and times.

As I posited earlier, the majority of the activity, including the big ones, have all been located in a fairly tight geographical area in the north caldera wall of an extinct volcano. The dots show the epicentre of each tremor, colour coded for depth.

The thought occurs that if one side of a caldera shifts, that moves the stresses around, and it's only a matter of time before more tremors hit around the rest of the perimeter. When and where appear to be the only issues outstanding.

What's so great about freedom anyway?

A simple man's discussion of liberty and freedom.

In the workshop the other day, working on a couple of small projects I found my mind wandering as it sometimes does when my hands are busy. Nothing much, just a little combination carpentry and engineering, general workaday stuff I do as a volunteer. I found myself wondering in the wake of the various Middle Eastern protests, what is freedom? What does it mean and who does it really benefit? Is it really in the words of the song; “just another word for nothing left to lose”? Why is it preferable (or not) to the alternatives? Why are people prepared to fight and die to attain it? Why do we make such a fuss?

What do the words ‘freedom’ and / or ‘liberty’ mean?

Here are some dictionary definitions for ‘Freedom’
  • Freedom is the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints
  • Freedom is exemption: immunity from obligations or duties
  • Political freedom is the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression.
  • Freedom is commonly known as a state of being free from government oppression.
  • Self ownership
Similarly for ‘Liberty’
  • Autonomy: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence
  • Freedom of choice; "liberty of opinion"; "liberty of worship"; "liberty--perfect liberty--to think, feel or do just as one pleases"; "at liberty to choose whatever occupation one wishes"
  • Personal freedom from servitude or confinement or oppression
  • Shore leave: leave granted to a sailor or naval officer
  • Familiarity: an act of undue intimacy. As in “A downright liberty”
  • Liberty is a concept of political philosophy identifying the condition in which an individual has the right to act according to his or her own will. In feudal times, a liberty was an area of allodial land in which regalian rights had been waived.
So those are the dictionary definitions, but does being ‘free’ mean freedom from want or hardship? No. If anything it means you work a bloody sight harder to earn your daily crust. Longer hours, and there’s no extra money in it. There’s no magic support moolah from the state if work dries up. You’re pretty much on your own.

Does it mean freedom from fear?

Well yes and no. Fear is pretty subjective anyway. Having walked mean streets without body armour, with what often seemed every voice turned against me, I know that fear only gets in the way of dealing with daily risks. To be free of fear, you just have to look into your inner mirror and say; “Yes of course that scares me, but not so much that I can’t or won’t do anything about it.” Otherwise you’re just a soon to be ex-rabbit staring into onrushing headlights.

Does freedom mean having no ‘rights’?

Depends what you call a ‘right’, doesn’t it? Some contend that only an institution like a state or statutory body can grant ‘rights’. What these Statist ‘rights’ tend to be are generally along the lines of; “Whatever I want given to me for free, for doing nothing in return, right now.” Such as the ‘right’ to ‘free’ services like medical cover and education or the ‘right’ to safety (Whatever that means). For me a ‘right’ derives not from what I want from the state, but from what I should be free to choose for myself, providing I promise not to whine if I screw up and it all ends in tears.

Put simply, the Statist wants a free lunch in exchange for a reduction in their liberties and increase in everyone else’s taxes. Contrariwise, the Libertarian doesn’t want the lunch, the extra tax, or the loss of choice. They just want to be able to run their own lives without having to ask permission all the time, or to have to pay for the choices of others.

Freedom can also be viewed as a balance between rights and obligations. You may have a right, but you have an obligation not to abuse that right to the detriment of others. Who also have exactly the same rights as everyone else. In a free society there should be no private law or privilege for the wealthy or famous. No ‘superior’ rights, such as in the case of vociferous minorities. No handicaps or positive discrimination to make things ‘fair’. Because any such bias in a truly free society is ‘unfair’. If you don’t understand that, well, you don’t ‘get’ the concept of fairness or freedom at all. We all have limitations, it's what you turn them into that counts.

Freedom also means not being subject to summary arrest or detention without evidence or charge. It means being able to voice an opinion without intimidation, physical or otherwise, or any form of detention. That means no one is allowed to thump you, or threaten to do so, for speaking your mind on a topic. No one is allowed to harass you or yours for not agreeing with them. It also means you can’t do that to others if you disagree with them.

Freedom also means the right of self defence. So if you tell someone to leave you in peace and they either threaten you, or attempt physical harm, you can take such steps as are necessary to negate the threat. In this situation, your right to prevent yourself or others being harmed should out weigh their right to disagree with you, should they escalate to violence first.

So what good is freedom anyway if you don’t really get anything out of it?

Ah, the question of the born slave. In a word; motivation. Freedom, or the self determination that comes as part of the package means you are master of your own destiny. It means choice. On the simplest level the power to make decisions for yourself without having to ask permission, with all the chances and thrills that brings. Once you’ve gotten past the fright of finding yourself firmly at the controls of your own life, it’s a remarkably refreshing experience, and not one you’ll give up without a bloody good fight.

So why are people willing to die for freedom?

A nice easy one, this. See also last sentence of previous paragraph. Self volition, freedom of choice and suchlike are fundamental human needs. I could trot out a whole bunch of buzzwords like ‘empowerment’, but that implies the power in question wasn’t an option in the first place. No one, apart from a slave, and not even then, likes being bossed around and told what they can think, say and do. Given enough provocation by an uncaring elite, even the most downtrodden worm will turn.

Looked at from an historical viewpoint it’s almost inevitable that an enslaved population will revolt. Chronicles from ancient civilizations to the present day are littered with such events. From Spartacus and before to the 20th Century Civil Rights movement and beyond. Having the ability to decide your own fate, at least for humans, is as natural as breathing. We are not a herd animal. Tribal yes, herd, no.

Hang on, this freedom thing just sounds like chaos, no one really wants that do they?

Whilst a state of absolute chaos where no rules apply, is undesirable, rigid enforcement is just as undesirable. All rules have circumstances in which an exemption is desirable for the benefit of others as a whole.

Humans, and just about every organic life form on the planet follow rules which can be ascertained by simple observation. The ‘simplest’ tribal society has a raft of rules governing dress, behaviour and diet. Yet what is right for them would most definitely not be appropriate for the average Western city dweller, and vice versa. Yet even in supposedly chaotic situations there are rules. Arbitrary and eccentric, but rules nonetheless.

There are certainly those who cannot function outside of a tightly defined set of rules. I’ve met a few and I understand one thing about them. Rules give them certainty. Rules define their tight little comfort zones. Rules are their security blanket. They long to dictate to others simply because it gives them a feeling of power which has been attained without first attaining either merit or ability. They want everyone to be the same as them, and can’t tolerate those who are different.

There is a saying that one man’s Anarchy is another’s business opportunity. For those who are prepared to ‘wing it’, the looser the system is the better. Yet even such a system has rules, which can be learned and worked within. All that you really need to know are the absolute boundaries beyond which you may not go.

Yeah, but this liberty thing, it’s just people being selfish isn’t it?

Is it selfish to think of and for oneself, and allow others to do likewise? To quote Oscar Wilde from ‘The soul of man under socialism’;
“It is grossly selfish to require of one's neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he?………….…A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”
From De Profundis he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson;
“It is tragic how few people ever 'possess their souls' before they die. 'Nothing is more rare in any man,' says Emerson, 'than an act of his own.' It is quite true. Most people are other people”
Freedom and liberty, if they mean anything at all, are about the sense of possession of one’s own spirit. To own oneself is by turns exhilarating, exasperating and exhausting, but a hell of a lot more interesting and enervating than the simple trudging existence of modern human bondage. Who was it that said. “The unexamined life is not worth living”? Oh yes, according to Plato, good old Socrates.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Christchurch, NZ

My comrade in words the Angry Exile brought this site to my attention which kind of tells a greater story about the Christchurch Earthquake than the one currently being covered in the mainstream.

Often when an Earthquake is reported, all you see are the headlines, like '200 people killed in quake horror' for example. When you read the associated articles, they skim over the surface, glossing over important details that might be actually useful, apart from generating mere sympathy for the victims. The really interesting thing about the Christchurch tremors is the concentration of seismic activity and where it is happening.

What really did the damage was not one big quake, like the 7.1 magnitude on the picture from 4th September 2010, but a series of rapid hammer blows of 3-4+ magnitude after the main shocks of 6.3 and 5.7, which occurred within twelve minutes of one another. They were followed by a 5.9 magnitude quake less than two hours later. If you run through the sequence of tremors, you can see that the vast majority of the recent shocks recorded are in what is known to be the northern caldera wall of an extinct volcano. Having run through the recent sequences, I'd hazard a guess that what is happening under the Southern edge of Christchurch is a widespread collapse of the old volcanic vent system and magma chambers in the 2-12km depth range. Perhaps even slippage in the faults within the caldera walls as they 'settle'. Not directly related to the nearby Greendale fault at all.

I'm only an amateur observer of such phenomena, but that's what it looks like to me. Go look for yourselves. Run the sequence of 22nd February and you'll see what I mean.

Eyjafjallajökull again.

A bunch of small tremors today just over a kilometre down under good old Mt Unpronounceable. Usual caveats apply about tremors and eruptions. Magma chamber could be draining, not filling, no data on ground deformation or tilt etcetera, etcetera. So as usual pretty inconclusive, but surprising nonetheless. Nothing on the local webcam. Just small, shallow(ish) tremors.

Not much worth getting excited about. For excitement, Kilauea, Hawaii is having a few collapses in the crater wall, and the lava lake is rising. Bulusan in the Phillipines has been erupting for the past couple of days. Plenty of 'excitement' there.

Reykjanes peninsula activity is still grumbling away, but going deeper, and scattered tremors through Vatnajökull.

Meanwhile, back here on Vancouver Island it's snowing. We have an extreme weather warning no less.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

One Ceausescu moment coming right up

Quoted from this Al-Jazeera article.
"I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents ... I will die as a martyr at the end," he said.

"Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down ... This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post."

"I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired ... when I do, everything will burn."
Statement 1 and 2 I would say are true. Statement 3 is a lie because there have already been incidents where Libya's armed forces have fired on civilians.

My money is on it all ending like this;

Of course this is pure conjecture, but I'll back my conjecture, which is based upon observation and historical precedent, against any other prophesies.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Another one bites the dust?

According to the UK Daily Telegraph Libyan Dictator Gadaffi has legged it to Venezuela. That's something I never thought I'd see, rather like Morris Dancing Star Wars Stormtroopers.

Reuters has the Venezuelans denying the report. No confirmation by the most reliable news source in the region, Al-Jazeera as yet, but I hope that there is some sort of belated justice against Gadaffi's regime for people like those murdered at Lockerbie, and Yvonne Fletcher. Not to mention all those Libyans tortured and killed by the diktats of a socialist dictator.

Should Gaddaffi truly be an ex dictator, one can also only hope that the Libyans don't get another government which is just as bad. Good luck guys, you're going to need all you can get.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Hellisheiði again

Two swarms in the past nine days near Hellisheiði. Todays activity is definitely shallower overall than nine days ago (See red underlined tremors in upper graphic.) First reported in this post.

Not sure what this means, but as there are webcams close by, if any activity does make it to the surface, we're in a very good position to see it happen on the Eastward facing camera of Highway 1 (See previous post on Hellisheiði.) As it is close to Icelands biggest geothermal power generating facility, I'm assuming that the guys at Hengill will be keeping a close eye on their seismographs too. Will check again first thing in the morning before I go to work.

Update: Tremor activity has slid back a little and the swarm seems at the time of writing to have diminished with most activity back down at the 2-5km level.

Seen in the narrows

Surfaced from working on my current MSS to hear a loud noise, like one of the usual aircraft buzzing overhead. Sounded rather like one of the twin engine turbojet aircraft that Jazz use for the Vancouver to Nanaimo run. The sound hung around and got louder.
"What's that?" I asked Mrs S, who was reading in the front room. "Are we being buzzed or something?"
"I don't know." She said, raising her head from the Peter Ackroyd she is currently absorbing.

So I took a look and my jaw just went south for the Winter. A hovercraft! A real live, no shit hovercraft! In Coastguard trim no less. I mean I'd heard they'd got one, but I never thought I'd ever see a hovercraft again outside of a science museum. A quick google later I've got the details; It's the CCGS Siyay, a fisheries and coastguard vessel based in Richmond, Vancouver.

I know my picture is crap, but by the time I'd gone and found my camera it was over a mile away, roaring down the side of Link Island. So I had to improvise using my spotter scope.

That has just made my day, possibly my week with an option on the whole of February.

One for the Neo-Malthusians out there

You know, I was quite happy when the Jehovah's Witnesses gave up predicting the end of the world. Now I'd be just as content if another group would all give us a rest from their annoying doomsaying. If you think the world could do with fewer people, as always the message is; "After you."

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The fine art of killing

There is a a lot of discussion on various hunting archery forums about the type of arrowhead best for despatching one's quarry quickly, and with the least amount of fuss and shortest bloodtrail. That's the whole point of hunting; to kill as quickly and cleanly as possible. To me the best kind of kill is the 'one shot drop', where the target is struck in such a way that it dies as close to instantly as possible.

Regarding 'instant' death. Aside from being hit by a blast so large that the shock is enough to shred every single atom in a body simultaneously, or the vaporisation and / or complete annihilation of brain tissue, there is no such thing as instant death. With humans for example; decapitation is not instant; the blood flow may be gone, but the brain tissue does not actually begin to die for two minutes. If it's very cold, even longer. There are plenty of anecdotal instances where the shock of the decapitating blow has not been sufficient to cause immediate unconsciousness, so the actual victim may be construed as still alive whilst their still conscious head is rolling around on the ground. Electrocution does not always cause immediate unconsciousness, nor does poison either inhaled or otherwise ingested. Judicial Hanging likewise. As an aside, a bullet in the back of the head is possibly the quickest and least painful, as when done properly it instantly destroys the pons medulla, which controls respiration and heartbeat. A jacketed fragmenting round may be preferable as after penetration of the skull, it should break up and instantly destroy brain tissue, causing as close to instant death as is practical.

As far as humans are concerned; without the brain, we are little more than a series of biological pumps encased in meat. This is because the brain is the seat of consciousness and awareness. In the case of hunting a prey species, in order to convert living protein into usable meat, the brain must therefore be shut down. In the case of a chest trauma, this means depriving the brain of blood by wrecking the pumping systems that keep it alive. Anyone who has trained in CPR will tell you that you must keep up those chest compressions to replace the action of the heart. The idea being get keep blood flowing within two minutes of a cardiac arrest or the brain tissue begins to die. When sufficient brain tissue dies, the person or creature it guided is no more.

Notwithstanding the above, killing Deer with a bow differs from using a firearm, because an arrow kills mainly by cutting vital blood vessels and causing massive blood loss. Not so much by impact shock and tissue damage as with a bullet. To kill effectively with an arrow means being able hit consistently within a twenty centimetre circle at twenty five to thirty five metres range, and have sufficient fieldcraft to be able to stalk to within that distance. Arrows, generally speaking, are not the best tool for penetrating thick bone such as that of a skull, and unless hitting square on, will tend to glance off.

I've always felt there is more of an art to killing with a bow rather than the simple mechanics of squeezing a trigger, as with a crossbow or firearm. The bow is more of an extension of your own body. Although Compound bows with all their gadgets and mechanical aids have always seemed to me a bit like cheating, but then I'm more a fan of 'traditional' hunting archery. For me, the skill is the thing, not the bag size. Whatever the tool, killing for food is a fine art, and one that merits a little judicious study to get it right.

Bearing the above in mind and not wishing any animal I wish to grace my dinner table in installments to die slowly, I decided to research the topic in detail before thinking about going on a hunt proper. Considered judgement is that a chest shot is best and least distressing to the animal to be shot. Various angles are favoured, but the most likely to result in a suitable killing target is judged to be slightly from a rearward angle (30-45 degrees) from full side on. However, there is a lot of disagreement about the type of broadhead that kills best. There are mechanical broadheads, with trochar heads and 2, 3, or 4 blades. There are traditional forged heads, stainless steel, alloy and all sorts on the market, which all look suitably deadly (See below). Some of them even look like they were designed by wannabe starship designers.

Having examined some of the better ones, a few weeks ago I got into a discussion about the best tool for the job of hunting with an experienced bowhunter. I'd seen a number of fancy mechanical broadheads and was keen to try them out. When I spoke of my interest, my friend was dismissive of 'mechanicals'. He was quite blunt on the matter and told me not to "Waste your damn money." According to him, the best hunting arrow head was a simple bevel edged two blade broadhead with a three to one length to width ratio. He also referred me to the work of Dr Ed Ashby which is published here, which is often taken as the seminal work on broadhead bowhunting.

Having read Dr Ashby's body of work, which is considerable. I have elected to purchase a 3 pack of the classic 'Ashby' design. Over a hundred bucks a throw, but well worth the investment I feel. If unavailable, there are a number of other forged two blade hunting tips which may not be as robust, but will do the job just as effectively. From what I can see, the two blade designs offer better killing and penetrating power than the three or four. With access to a simple metalworking shop, it wouldn't be too much of an effort to make my own to a similar design.

There's also the issue of fletching. An arrow is above all, a silent killing tool. In order not to 'spook' the prey so it starts or jumps just as the shot is taken, and thus is only wounded, the arrow must be as quiet as possible. One of my more experienced bowhunting acquaintances has done a little work on this topic, and worked out that a four inch 'banana' cut feather is the quietest fletching you can put on an arrow.

If fresh venison is going to end up on my dinner plate, I'd prefer that the Deer in question died quickly without knowing what hit it. Just because I hunt occasionally doesn't make me a completely bloodthirsty heartless bastard. Just someone who acknowledges humanity's genetic heritage as a tribal hunter gatherer. Even if I do have a slightly more than warped sense of humour. H/T to the Filthy Engineer for the 'Sainsburys Bambi' picture.

Katla status 19th February 2011

Low level grumbling with a semi regular burbling every few hours from 100 metres to a kilometre and a bit down.

As usual, caveat about tremors alone do not indicate an eruption is either pending or not.

Friday, 18 February 2011


A simple look can encapsulate everything you want to say. Although I'm still wondering what 'listenting' is.

That's odd

Having the view over water that I have, one of the things I've noticed recently is the small flotilla of bulk carriers anchored at the top of the Tricomalee channel between Valdes and Kuiper Islands. I saw the lights of four last night. Three the night before, and all of them riding high and empty. Two others are clearly visible up just outside Departure bay. Too far away to make out names and numbers, but it is odd to see so many of these big ships just sitting at anchor like that. They weren't parked up like this in the last three years to my certain knowledge.

These Handymax size bulk carriers (like this one) are expensive to run, and leaving them unused makes me wonder. For it to make money, shipping has to be on the move all the time. For that much money to be effectively sitting still for the best part of a week means that the pulp trade has slacked off considerably. This does not bode well for the local economy. Normally, these guys come and go without hanging around.

Considering that the passage to that point is fairly narrow and relatively shallow for such shipping. I'm amazed that anyone would want to park even one a hundred and fifty metre long ship down there. Let alone four.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fruit Warning

Saw this article about radiation and food over at Wattsupwiththat and fell about laughing. The article points out that the levels of background radiation in naturally grown foodstuffs, like bananas, are higher than we think. For example;

Relative food radiation levels;
Beer= 390 pCi/liter
Tap Water= 20 pCi/liter
Milk= 1,400 pCi/liter
Salad Oil= 4,900 pCi/liter
Whiskey= 1,200 pCi/liter
Brazil Nuts= 14,000 pCi/kg
Bananas= 3000 pCi/kg
Flour= 140 pCi/kg
Peanuts 8,000 pCi/kg
Peanut Butter= 120 pCi/kg
Tea= 400 pCi/kg

In fact most foods contain some form of radioactivity. This is perfectly natural. The world is filled with various kinds of radioactivity. It occurs regardless of human activity.

One of the figures quoted is our total exposure to radiation in a year is in the region of 360 millirems a year. Before you go running off to berate others about atom bomb tests, remember that a single transatlantic flight can expose you to about 4 extra millirems a year, whereas dosage from atmospheric pre ban treaty nuclear tests has been calculated overall at 1 millirem a year. Moving to a location 1000 feet above sea level exposes you to an extra 5 millirems a year. That's not including radiation from the soil and rock underneath your feet. Like granite? High natural background radiation just from that fancy counter top in your kitchen.

Figures culled from here. Please go and read.

Next time some anxiety prone goes off at me about the wickedness of nuclear power stations, food residues and sterilising with Gamma radiation, I think I'll just ask them about how many bananas they eat.

Mt St Helens

Reports of a small Earthquake swarm not far from Mt St Helens south of the border are coming in. Whether this develops further is on my list of things to watch. The swarm itself is reported at around approximately 2-5 kilometres depth. This sort of tremor activity is generally thought not to be indicative of eruption, just a little bit of subsurface rearranging of geological furniture.

Iceland is pretty quiet at the moment, seismically speaking. Considering where it sits on the mid Atlantic spreading zone, this is mildly surprising. However, I'm sure another swarm will be along in the next few days.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Did the Earth move?

A 2.9 magnitude Quake popped up in the Georgia Strait this afternoon about thirty five kilometres away, and no, the Earth did not move for me. I was busy at work and never felt a thing. Neither did anyone else in town for that matter. One of my cousins used to live not far from the epicentre, which was on the eastern side of Saltspring Island. Mind you, a 2.9 can easily be mistaken for a heavy truck passing close by.

There are experts predicting that we're overdue for a 'big one'. Which meant we had a big province wide Earthquake drill three weeks ago, which had people hunkering under desks instead of getting the hell outdoors and into the nearest wide open space before the building fell on them. A serious grumble would have me out through the nearest exit in very short order.

Nevertheless, my Emergency kit duly languishes in the car just in case. Canned and dried food. First aid kit. Multitool. 12 litres of emergency drinking water sits in a cupboard by the front door. Bow is always in 'ready grab' position on the stairs. Hunting knife in Quiver. Axe and shovel in toolshed. Good relations with neighbours. We'd all club together if need be, it's that kind of neighbourhood. But then I've found this about Canadians, no one has to tell them what to do, they just get on with it.

One of the reasons I like it here so much. Even if the Earth hasn't moved for me.

No veiling of issues

Regarding the latest row over veils and voting. There should be no 'ban'. However the rules on identification at voting should be tightly enforced. If the recording officer requires ID before a vote card is issued, then he or she should be allowed to verify the ID of the voter before doing so. The right to vote is important enough to transcend a purely personal preference, which is all this veil malarkey is. It's a tribal, not religious observance.

Re this desire to permanently hide the face. My youngest covers up whenever she's feeling upset, defensive or fragile. When the hoodie and the scarf go on, Mrs S and I try to cheer her up rather than berate her for hiding. Doesn't stop her doing it, but it does make her hide less frequently. We talk to her about what's making her feel sad, kid her that she's being a bit 'weird', then she brightens up and her inner sun comes up again. The hoodie comes off and all is smiles.

Maybe there's a lesson for everyone in there somewhere.

Volcano love

Power outage last night due to a bit of a storm, so no blogging. Picked up this little snippet about 'Love waves' from Mt St Helens. Named afte Geophysicist Augustus Edward Hough Love. No threat of eruption, just seismic grumbles like those of nearly 30 years ago which followed the famous 1980 eruption.

How appropriate for Valentines day.

Activity at Langjokull, Iceland has settled down to regular grumbles which probably mean nothing. Similar pattern under Katla. About as quiet on the Iceland front as it ever gets, tremor wise.

One of the things that has piqued my interest is a claimed correlation between solar flare geomagnetic activity and Volcanoes. Seeing as there was a big X flare yesterday on the Sun (The biggest since 2006), this postulation should soon be put to the test. Will be keeping a weather eye on various seismometers to see what truth may be found there.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentines day

This is for Mrs S. She won't like the song, but she'll get the message. Happy Valentines day, love.

Correction; she likes the song, the message, and by proxy, me. I going off to blush now.

This is interesting...

The Internet as a way of funding independent media?

That is interesting.

Guys, I have a couple of MSS I'd like some help converting to visual media. Hmm. Who needs publishers, eh?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Video hinc domum tuam

Which means; "I can see your house from here."

Adding to the volcano links sidebar the Mt Baker Volcano observatory. This is an active volcano which is on my front doorstep. Well not quite. Ninety four miles away, but perfectly visible on any clear day. Active Volcanoes I can't see from my deck on a clear day are; Glacier Peak, Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier. That's Washington State in the USA. There are a couple of active Volcanoes in BC, but being British Columbian Volcanoes they're far too laid back to do much erupting. Mt Garibaldi for example, just up the road from Squamish, hasn't belched for around ten thousand years.

Not that any eruptions are thought to be immanent, but it's nice to know I would have a relatively safe ringside seat should Mt Baker decide to blow.

Update: Additional thoughts on predicting volcanic activity on 'Bubbling under' page.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Buerkish comment?

Talk about being behind the curve. Widely reported amongst the blogs, but picked up from, this quotation from BBC's Radio Four programme, 'The Moral Maze'.
“not long ago, to question multiculturalism…risked being branded racist and pushed into the loathesome corner with paedophiles and climate change deniers“
Now that is so downright offensive to anyone who has quite reasonable doubts about the veracity of 'Climate Change Science' I don't even know where to begin. It was bad enough being lumped by ignorant media pundits into the same corner as historical revisionists who denied that the WW2 slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, Disabled and homosexuals happened, but with paedophiles? I can forgive blinkered ignorance, and even stupidity. However, that sort of insult borders on unforgivable. It's the kind of ill considered remark that richly deserves a punch in the mouth. On the other hand, perhaps that is the reaction craved. "OO look at the bad man mummy, he hit me!" If it wasn't so politically correct and infantile it might be funny.

There is a better way which will be more effective recompense for the offence and provocation offered. Taken from one of the penultimate songs from the Who's Rock opera 'Tommy' the line goes; "Let's forget you, better still."

Mister Buerk, you owe a lot of people an apology for that ill considered and unpleasant remark. Not that any mealy mouthed insincere public offerings without your immediate dismissal will be enough to atone. Now get out of that Moral Maze.

Update: Cranmer thinks that Buerk was lampooning colleagues who routinely make the same type of assertion. Having listened to the linked clip twice, I'm not inclined to agree. Although having written that I don't listen to Radio 4 or watch the propaganda mill that BBC TV has become, and have not done so for several years before leaving the UK. I leave that for stronger stomachs.

Addendum: Lets face it, if someone can get booted out of their job for saying 'jungle drums' when casually referring to a rumour mill, then why should someone else not be sacked for comparing those who do not agree with them to paedophiles or similar? Lampoon or not.

Sauce for the goose. Let's see some parity here.

Prestahnukur tremor swarm, Iceland

Some quite intense earthquake swarm activity today under the south west corner of the Langjökull glacier. Three tremors of over 3 magnitude, and 39 smaller quakes observed within the last six or seven hours. Depths are mostly between 1-6km, which is fairly shallow, although Langjökull itself is off the main mid Atlantic spreading zone, unlike yesterdays little grumblings just off Highway 1.

Usual caveats about tremors and eruptions apply, but the Peak of the Priests, or Prestahnúkur last erupted in 3350 BC, it is thought. There are no records of an eruption since that time. Lot of hot springs in the area, so I'm assuming this is another one of those 'rearranging of the volcanic plumbing' events that occur in active vent systems from time to time.

Update: Swarm activity continues, with activity tracking North and East through the vent system which is known to extend quite a way under Langjökull.

News update: For those looking for Volcano webcams, an extensive list with links (Now on sidebar) can be found here. If you don't like waiting for your eruptions, archive and recent footage of eruptions can be found here (Also added to sidebar). Many tips of the hat to Erik Klemetti, Geophysicist.

Friday, 11 February 2011

World Bank Joins Rush Away from the Green White Elephant

Picked up from the Filthy Engineer. Well spotted that man.
"With economists plainly joining an increasing number of scientists in global warming skepticism its little wonder there’s now a mass flight away from ‘renewables;’ such that both investors and governments are compelled to follow suit in the clearest indication yet that green energy won’t live up to its promises.

The key to long-term economic success now appears to be safely premised once again on solid market innovation, not ideologically driven government subsidies; such subsidized ventures have a long and notorious history as lame duck enterprises. It seems ‘green renewables’ has become the latest of these white elephants."
Well, well. The markets have got the message, and maybe we can have our 'Green' taxes reduced then. Or am I being over optimistic here?

Not far from Hveragerði, Iceland

Keeping up my observations on matters seismic and volcanic in Iceland, this little swarm jumped off the screen at me this morning. The depth of the tremors is mostly around the 2-9Km mark and behaving a bit like a coffee percolator on the boil. Personally, I think the Gods of the Icelandic underworld have gotten a bit bored with the decor and are moving the furniture around down there.

For those who want to take a visual of the area, most of the activity seems to be almost directly and to the East under two Highway webcams (East and West Facing, not that there's much to see apart from ice and traffic) situated on the Reykjavik to Hveragerði road. Perhaps slightly to the north between the Hellisheiði geothermal facility and the big waterfall at Gullfoss.

Mubarak gone

President Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of president

From Al-Jazeera Live blog.

I thought he was going to hold out until September. How much of a difference will his going make to the ordinary Egyptian on the street?

Yes, 'Climate Change' is to blame

This may sound a little odd coming from a supposed 'denier' like myself. However, I'm increasingly of the opinion that 'Climate Change' is a major problem that should, and can be addressed fairly readily.

For examples, I'm going to cite the massive Australian bush fires, the Queensland floods, and the resultant environmental damage and a number of other events and strategies which are all caused by 'Climate Change'. I am persuaded that it is a real problem. With real solutions. Here are my arguments;

Firstly; The issue of Man made climate change. Changing land use such as deforestation is known to cause real changes in precipitation patterns. The most well documented example is Mount Kilamanjaro, where deforestation has reduced the amount of transpiration in the local atmosphere, so there is less moisture to crystallise in the freezing air at high altitudes and fall as snow on the mountain, hence the shrunken snowcap. Likewise the regular floods in Bangladesh. Deforestation upstream removed one of the natural buffers to flood prevention. The deforestation is man made, therefore the change in the local climate is likewise. These are no-brainers.

The Australian bush fires of 2009/10 have also been cited as being caused by Man made 'Climate Change'. This is also true, well sort of. Environmental regulations driven by the supposed need to prevent man made climate change were responsible for preventing landowners clearing brush, which in the dry season became ready tinder, and exacerbated the regular forest fires which resulted in the deaths of 230 people. Angry townspeople berated their Mayor afterwards for these 'Green' policies. The impact of the Queensland floods were likewise increased by 'Man Made Climate Change' for the self same reason; Environmental regulations and policies interfered with river management and flood prevention measures. Massive pollution from rare earth production in China for elements used in the building of Wind Turbines, Solar panels and 'Green' cars. Bats with their lungs turned inside out and birds splattered by not so eco-friendly Wind Turbines. Generating capacity reduced. The UK grinding to a halt because the authorities thought it was only going to get 'warmer'. Eco-unfriendly light bulbs containing heavy metals which require special disposal lest they leave a toxic legacy. The threat of economic stagnation and decline. All because of 'Man made Climate Change' and the mistaken supposition that Carbon Dioxide is a major climate driver that will cause massive destruction.

Yes, 'Man Made Climate Change' is to blame. As are all its advocates. We need to wind these policies back and invest in better energy generation technology. We need to dispose of wind and solar subsidies before they bankrupt us. These are doable right now. Not to change them is unsustainable.

Ironic really, because 'sustainability' is one of the buzzwords used to push the unsustainable 'Green' agenda.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Bárðarbunga and general Iceland tremor activity

There's been a lot of media interest in Bárðarbunga recently, and I've posted the two screengrabs from the Icelandic Met Office Earthquake web site. The top picture was a record of recent tremor activity from 6th January 2011. The lower was snapped today. I've annotated it with rough approximations of where various volcanoes are, and what was happening today. Not a lot is the answer. Which of course doesn't make very good copy, but it is accurate.

What does this portend? We don't know.

Update: The man whose quotation began the scare, Dr Pall Einarsson, is also quite rightly annoyed about how his interview has been twisted in the lamestream media. A classic demonstration of how the search for dramatic 'stories' can make black look white and conjure non-existent bogeymen out of the slightest shadow.


I do around nine to twelve hours voluntary work every week and one of the things I've noticed over the past two years has been a significant decline in the number of volunteers. I wasn't sure why until recently.

Put simply, a volunteer is someone who gives up their time, often with expenses completely unpaid and often using their own tools. Yet I'm seeing a sea change in voluntary work locally that has led to a shrinkage in the numbers of people giving up their time for good causes. It's got to the point where even the local branch of the Red Cross has been struggling to keep volunteers.

The problem as I see it is the increasing 'professionalisation' of the voluntary sector. The increase in paperwork necessary for prospective volunteers has gone from a single sheet waiver and CRB check, to a number of quite heavyweight legal documents, reference checks, and more in depth Criminal Record Bureau checks. In short, it's becoming more of an effort to volunteer. This puts a proportion of people off.

The skill levels required of volunteers are also increasing. Where once professional qualifications were not required, now they are being increasingly demanded by non-profits because their public liability insurance demands it. A transformation is occurring where volunteers are becoming more like unpaid part time workers. Again, this is another demotivating factor.

No one has yet suggested that volunteers clock in and out, but I think with the current crop of new management moving into relatively well paid Executive posts at National level, it's only a matter of time. These guys are coming in with brand new shiny university degrees in their hot little hands, and don't really understand what makes a volunteer tick. I've met a few, and while their enthusiasm can be infectious, the whole pep rally thing kind of palls after a while. Especially when there's another form to sign. It's more intense, and makes for a slightly less friendly environment, which is one of the reasons people volunteer.

This transformation in voluntary work may prove the last straw for many people who volunteer, as while respective charities need them more and more, there will be fewer people willing to jump through the extra hoops to provide the help said charities provide.

If this is the model for Cameron's 'big society', they need to stop and very carefully think it through again.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Bárðarbunga observations

According to this story in the Tellytubbygraph, Dr Pall Einarsson, a professor of geophysics since 1999 at the University of Iceland has said that Bárðarbunga is next on the list of big eruptions.

Having gone through my catalogue of screengrabs for Vatnajokull, I've noted a lot of swarm like activity reported in the Bárðarbunga area around the 5-14km depth range on the following dates since April 2010. 28th May 2010, 26th September 2010, 1st January 2011 and 7th February 2011. Screengrabs reposted below.

There have been a number of similar 'deep swarm' type activity events observed in the same time period along the mid Atlantic spreading zone as it passes through Iceland. Approximate locations from North to South;
1) Tjörnes fracture zone 10-13km NE of Grimsey
2) Loki area, Vatnajokull
3) Krisuvik area, Rekjanes peninsula
All are on the mid Atlantic fault and have been displaying similar swarm activity periodically since I started my observations back in April 2010.

As I am fond of saying; the usual caveats about tremors alone apply. Like Dr Einarsson, I wish there was more data available re ground deformation etc which might give better warning of an eruption and so reduce the guesswork, and therefore the possible damage and disruption.

Volcanoes erupt. It is what they do. It would be helpful if we knew more about when and how big.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Ditching Firefox

Well that's it; Firefox is no longer my browser of choice. For the past couple of months the only way to close the bloody thing was via task manager, where it often showed up as using over 90% of processor time and over half my system memory. Searches of various tech forums only gave me the option of rolling back to an earlier version. I've already tried this, and it only provides me with limited browser function. Not acceptable.

I really liked the 'Noscript' utility which blocked annoying pop-ups and interminable advertisements, I liked the layout, functionality and ease of use. Regrettably Firefox has been getting slower and slower despite regular cache clearances and even in desperation, one complete re-install. So it had to go. Now, like Internet Explorer, it resides unloved and unused, gently drifting down the list of favourite programmes like a leaky old wooden dinghy until it is forever lost from sight.

Solar Subsidy farming

Browsing the UK news this morning and came across this piece;
The Government has announced a comprehensive review of a scheme encouraging households to generate green electricity, amid fears funding could be soaked up by large-scale solar "farms".
This is the problem with all this 'Green' energy. Requiring large subsidies for the base installation, it delivers very poor 'bang for buck' throughout the installation lifecycle (Lifetime of the installation). This can be demonstrated by the poor energy returns / efficiency of Wind Farms. Now companies are setting up 'Solar Farms' in Cornwall? They must be sucking up subsidies as fast as the printing presses can spin.

I know Cornwall and its climate quite well. I have friends down there, and walked it's hills and coast paths since boyhood. From May to October there is a reasonable average of around 7 hours a day sunlight. if of course it's not raining or the skies are that awful unremitting grey for days on end. Even in midsummer. 1989 I think was a case in point. I was walking the coast path carrying a fifty pound backpack and it rained so much over four days I reckon I was packing an extra thirty pounds of water at one point. What the hell, I was a lot younger and fitter then, but that's a story for another day.

My point is that weather is not consistent. There are sunny years, and not so sunny years, so building 'Solar Farms' will probably deliver less power than claimed and thus require bigger subsidies, driving the price of electricity per kilowatt/hour upwards. Rather like Wind Power has.

So far, all we've seen from 'Green' sources of power and 'Green' jobs (Most of which are on the taxpayer dollar) is increased cost and poor delivery. Wind Turbine manufacture has all but disappeared from the UK, so those 'Green' jobs are no longer there. The turbines themselves demonstrably deliver single percentage efficiency. Add to that the global climate, which appears to be in a cooling phase, which some have predicted will last another 20-30 years. So an even lower overall deliverable from Solar / Wind and greater need for subsidy will result.

Spain has already hit the buffers on this one, and the UK looks like following suit. How long will it be until scales finally fall from eyes and certain over hyped technologies are ditched? My pessimistic gut feeling tells me it may come under the heading of 'too late', and all too soon.

Update: Some of the suppliers are upset at the prospects of public subsidy costs their gravy train being derailed and are threatening to sue. Looks like UK 'Green' policy has been caught with its trousers round its ankles. As usual.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Vatnajökull activity

Dropped by the Icelandic Met office earthquake site for my daily dose of Earth tremors and noted that there's been some fairly shallow activity underneath Grimsvotn, which may mean another minor eruption due, but as usual my caveat about tremor activity alone applies. Lot of fairly deep rumblings under Bárðarbunga, which generally speaking don't mean a lot since they're right in the Mid Atlantic spreading zone. Which is where you'd expect a lot of tremor activity as continual upwellings of magma fill the gap between diverging tectonic plates.

Nothing much happening around Katla, apart from one very small tremor, and nothing else appears to be sizing up for a blow. Although I'm only a dilettante vulcanologist, so what do I know? As always I'm simply an interested observer.

Just as a matter of interest

Looked at my 'Climate Widget' which integrates a number of sources of data to give a snapshot of what the Earth's climate is doing. From being 0.51 Degrees Celsius last year, the global temperature anomaly just went negative at minus 0.1. For the second month running the CO2 index is also down. Actual widget here;

Click to get your own widget

Tsk. Just as a matter of interest, that means all the 'Warming' of the past 30 years just disappeared. Gone.

A worthy tome

Seen at, this book especially the first paragraph found, I am told, on page 9;
“Because of the critical importance of methods, scientific papers must include a description of the procedures used to produce the data, sufficient to permit reviewers and readers of a scientific paper to evaluate not only the validity of the data but also the reliability of the methods used to derive those data. If this information is not available, other researchers may be less likely to accept the data and the conclusions drawn from them. They also may be unable to reproduce accurately the conditions under which the data were derived.

The best methods will count for little if data are recorded incorrectly or haphazardly. The requirements for data collection differ among disciplines and research groups, but researchers have a fundamental obligation to create and maintain an accurate, accessible, and permanent record of what they have done in sufficient detail for others to check and replicate their work. …”

From the book description;
On Being a Scientist is aimed primarily at graduate students and beginning researchers, but its lessons apply to all scientists at all stages of their scientific careers.
Something which certain 'climate scientists' should take to heart I think. Although there have always been researchers prepared to cheat or ignore significant anomalies to get the results they want, rather than the real data. Not that a single book on the subject of scientific clarity will ever stop them.

Available from Amazon.

The thought does occur that a whole heap of trouble and wasted taxpayer dollar might have been avoided had these principles been more closely adhered to.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Baiting the 'righteous'

They don't like people who smoke, who drink a little more than a single glass of wine every other day, or who like the odd bit of red meat now and again. Light heartedness is an alien concept, as is imagination. They don't think you have the right (or ability) manage your own affairs or bring up your own children. They want to dictate what information others have available, how much exercise they take, and look upon themselves as the arbiter of all that is 'moral'. They have no 'live and let live' about them and judge others only by their own narrow standards. You must do as they do, believe as they do. All else is anathema. These are people who serve vegetarian cuisine at dinner parties and never provide for those who prefer a little meat or fish with their meals. Many believe in the evil of Eugenics and that 'Global Warming' is real. They exert a disproportionate influence upon our daily lives.

These are the new puritans. UK local and central government is plagued both by and with them.

I believe Longrider was first to dub them the 'Righteous'. I may be wrong, but his blog is where I first recall seeing the term. Although Longrider in the comments says it was Leg Iron of 'Underdogs bite upwards'. Thanks for the correction.

Synonyms and adjectives include bigot, chauvinist, diehard, doctrinaire, dogmatist, enthusiast, extremist, fanatic, fiend, maniac, Malvolio, monomaniac, nimby, puritan , racist, sectarian, segregationist, sexist, stickler, zealot. Other worthy descriptions are; grinch, misery, wet blanket, scourge, shrew, self righteous, misery guts.

My personal choice is the term used by the Aussies and Kiwis; 'Wowser'. Far more appropriate, and carries just the right balance of pejorative disdain without treading the unimaginative trail of Anglo-Saxon four letter invective. Even if that is where temptation leads.

You can even use the word in polite society without legitimate censure; as in.
"You're a bit of a Wowser aren't you?"
"He's a complete and utter Wowser."
"Wouldn't date her. She's a complete Wowser."
"Don't be such a Wowser."
....and so on.

Although our friends south of the 49th parallel apparently think 'wowser' is an adolescent term of approval.

I prefer the Anzac version.

Obama betrays the UK

Spotted in one of those articles about Wikileaks in the Tellytubbygraph:
US agrees to tell Russia Britain's nuclear secrets
I mentioned this to Mrs S, who pointed out: "Didn't they send the Rosenbergs to the Electric Chair for something like that?"

Erm, aren't the UK and the USA supposed to be allies or something? This doesn't sound like the act of an ally. What the hell does the boy president think he's playing at?

Friday, 4 February 2011

They know you're coming...

Details of passengers on every flight within the European Union will be passed to destination countries under European Commission proposals published today.
From my subscription to the Out-Law site run by UK Law firm Pinsent Masons. The USA, Canada and Australia already do it, now the EU will be passing on their passenger lists.

It's not the list of names I mind so much, but my suspicion is that 'mission creep' will insinuate it's way into the process, requiring ever more passenger data like ID details, height, weight, personal habits, all garnered ostensibly for 'marketing' or 'elfnsafetee'. Should criminals get access to the data, which is all too likely given various countries security records; they'll know where you are, when to burgle your house / abuse your identity etc.

His day in court

Picked up from Bishop Hill. The experienced climatologist Dr Tim Ball, one of the first Canadians to hold a Ph.D. in climatology, is being sued for libel for apparently saying that one Andrew Weaver knows 'nothing' about Climatology.

For Weaver to prove his case against Ball, he has to 'prove' his research in a court of law. Beer and popcorn are on standby. This could get interesting.


The inimitable, the amusing, Fenbeagle!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Food sufficiency

Watching the pattern of global food riots evolving on the back of relatively poor harvests in Russia, Australia, and Canada, I'm reminded that Vancouver Island only has officially only five days food reserve if imports should fail. Events closer to home have also tweaked my thought processes in this direction.

Having grown up in places where the family always grew their own vegetables and fruit and traded the various surpluses with neighbours, I take a purely practical view of the matter. Grow your own, and keep a decent supply of dry and canned goods in stock. Some of my neighbours keep whole garages full of such items, mainly because of the threat of the 'big one' which we are supposedly overdue. Public policy is for each household to keep 72 hours of emergency supplies (Including water) available at all times.

The main problem with growing your own over here is that the soil locally isn't what I'd call wonderful. Compared with my rural English roots, it's comparatively thin and acidic. Lots of exposed rock. Great for stuff like Alpines and Lavenders, but not so wonderful if you're partial to spuds, peas and the like which grow best on deep alluvial soils.

Of course this is a sweeping generalisation, as there are pockets of decent soil not far away, but if the Island were ever to become half way self supporting, there would need to be significant investment in draining marshland and clearing forest. Not that the local Eco lobby would allow that. No, no my dears, never mind the humans, what about the Deer and Bears?

No, my partial solution is based on a 'grow your own' philosophy that would fit in with the mobile Canadian ethos. Planters. Those big decorative pots used for a dusty old Aspidestra, Yucca or Jade plant but used for growing Vegetables and fruit instead.

Suitably modified by drilling a few drainage holes, an old trash can can do good service for growing potatoes or stonking great root crops should you be that way inclined. Even the basest handyman amongst us could design and build small wooden troughs to plant whatever vegetables you prefer. It's not like there's a shortage of growing expertise around, judging from the wealth of Grow-ops locally. Not to mention BC's six (ten?) billion dollar export industry.

Stick a few planters out on the deck or balcony, possibly caged or netted to keep out the birds, Raccoons and Deer. Maybe make some cloche type arrangement out of empty plastic 2 litre fizzy pop bottles to protect delicate early (or late) crop against unwelcome grazers and inclement weather. The rest would require mere moments attention a day, for routine inspection and a little judicious watering. The result would be fresh 'organic' produce which is not only 'healthy' if you're worried about pesticide residues, but a useful hobby.

Short of natural disaster or outright neglect and the usual privations of gardening, there's not much to go wrong. I'm not saying that this is the solution, simply an adjunct to limited on-Island food supplies which could take the edge off privations should the worst come to the worst.
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