Home » Ain't life great. » Blogging: the Thief of Time… Losing our marbles… GW: A mortal blow… GW Color Supplement: Skating on Thin Ice…The mystery of the missing CO2… Beating poisons into ploughshares… Yellowstone news.

Blogging: the Thief of Time… Losing our marbles… GW: A mortal blow… GW Color Supplement: Skating on Thin Ice…The mystery of the missing CO2… Beating poisons into ploughshares… Yellowstone news.

£117 million: the total amount to date that Open Democracy has traced to a spending spree by Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade just on CONSULTANTS, all of whom are on record otherwise as judging Brexit to be a complete disaster, while Fox continues to insist even No Deal will be a huge success for British trade.

“A spokesman for DIT said: ‘We really don’t care [if a company] is for Brexit or against Brexit …. It is very much about providing services that deliver value for money for the taxpayer..'”

http://www.opendemocracy.net

 

Blogging: the Thief of Time

“(The research) found that the amygdala – an almond-shaped structure in the temporal (side) lobe which processes our emotions and controls our motivation – was larger in procrastinators. In these individuals, there were also poorer connections between the amygdala and a part of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (DACC).

“The DACC uses information from the amygdala and decides what action the body will take. It helps keep the person on track by blocking out competing emotions and distractions.” – (BBC Science, 01 Sep)

No-one can accuse your Uncle Bogler of procrastination!

Why, his side-lobes are positively bulging with almond-shaped structures….

For, here is part the first of The BogPo, concerning NEXT THURSDAY, and it’s still only this Saturday!!!

There’s not much more one can really say on the topic of procrastination, except that I have still not opened last Monday’s mail, containing as it does a worrying-looking Brown Envelope – I suspect it may not be a cash bribe. It went straight into the bureau, third drawer down, a Valhalla from which I avert my eyes whenever I head for the kitchen where I am gazing with as-yet unengaged fascination at the glutinous evidence of the past three days’ worth of microwavable instant meals.

Nor have I done much about returning to the builder’s merchant to see where the fuck my bricks have got to, the lovely mellow bricks I paid for, the Best Bricks, but did not collect immediately and the halfwits SOLD THEM a second time to some other customer or customers unknown, and now we can’t seem to find any more of the same ones and I’m stuck with HALF A BEAUTIFUL WALL I’ve built in my garden, and £150 lighter.

In fact after putting it off since whenever, end of July when they said more might be coming in, I did go back last Monday, but for no accountable reason – kismet, karma – despite a sign saying “Opening Hours 08.00 to 17.00” the gates were still locked mid-afternoon and I haven’t been able to face going back again since.

I hate arguments, my assertiveness is off the scale (the bottom of the scale), so my amygdala concocted some story about the builder’s merchant having gone into administration and fed it to my DACC, which promptly decided to turn around and go home, telling me to come back Tuesday, or phone, or something. The almond-shaped structure is still making up its mind when would be best to construct a new narrative in which I think about it some more.

In any case, with my uncomfortably awkward catheter and messy leg-bag changeovers and painful contractions and always feeling tired and floppy and with the rats still gnawing at my stomach in the mornings and all, I’m no longer fit to work on a building-site, lugging 25kg bags of cement and stuff around the garden, which exists on several levels.

(Good news on that front, the tragic letter to the hospital I’d put off writing since July about my horrible catheter, that I finally got round to sending off last week, has paid dividends – the consultant appointment’s been brought forward by three months! Good old NHS, I say. (Local electrician regales me with the story of his father-in-law, diagnosed with cancer on Monday and operated on on Thursday… by the Spanish health service.)

Maybe a lesson there? I’ll go back Monday. Find a builder. Sort it out.

And probably tackle last week’s post. Or maybe the washing-up.

Honest.

“Prof Tim Pychyl, from Carleton University, Ottawa, who has been studying procrastination for the past few decades…” (BBC Science report)

You’d think he’d get on with it, wouldn’t you?

 

1,400: number of additional deaths (and 48 thousand extra asthma cases in children) annually the US Environment Protection Agency expects to be caused by their own new “set-them-yourself” state-by-state pollution rules, replacing the federal Clean Power Plan stalled in the Supreme Court.

 

Losing our marbles

The fire that destroyed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, eradicating in a single night the traces of two thousand years of proto-civilizations in South America and of the 200-year history of modern Brazil, is the best argument one can think of for not returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

Not because the frescoes would be in peril if they were reattached to the Parthenon, or carefully curated in a special climate-controlled building with mood lighting for tourists (it’s doubtful if Greece could afford one of those now) but because of what they represent: the diffusion of many cultures throughout the world.

Because their return to Athens would be perhaps the greatest of all possible symbolic acts at a time when rising small nations the world over are demanding their stuff back; and we mustn’t give in to them! (Except of course for the desecrated remains of slaughtered “native” humans, their retention is a shameful obscenity. Stuffed primates are bad enough.)

The fire is being likened by the woe-cryers to the loss of the Library at Alexandria, or rather Libraries – there were two, parts of the, also lost, great Museum – in which vast collections of works from classical antiquity lovingly preserved by the Ptolemies from Alexander’s time perished: the first in 48 BC after Julius Caesar set fire to the city during his romantic intervention in the Egyptian civil war, the second in 391 AD in a fire started by a zealous mob rioting in support of the Christian emperor Theodosius, who had decreed that all symbols of paganism should be destroyed.

So it is to carnal desire and religion that we owe our habit of insouciance as regards our common culture, what else? (I recommend the account on the website of Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Library-of-Alexandria)

“Carnal desire and religion…” tribal totems presumed lost. (Riotimesonline.com)

It seems to be a moral imperative, especially among tyrants, to concentrate the symbols of the culture they rule over in “The Greatest” this-or-that ever seen. The Alexandrian libraries may have contained over a quarter of a million texts: only copies and some few original fragments remain of works by the great Greek philosophers and playwrights; and those, only because they were probably compulsorily “borrowed” by Strabo and other Roman colonialists and taken back to the Imperial City, where many would subsequently have been lost in Nero’s fire, or the Sack of Rome.

Just think what the Testaments might reveal to scholars nowadays, had more original Biblical texts as well as those in the Greek survived. The histories of the Persian, Greek and Roman empires, too, might look somewhat different in more detail. And we should have more great comedies to revive at the National.

But there is an equal desire among the rulers to erase the past.

Numerous more recent acts of cultural iconoclasm have accompanied the reigns of, for instance (my spelling corrector just interpreted that as”insane”!), Henry V111, in his “dissolution of the monasteries”, the pillaging of the vastly wealthy old religious establishment of England; Oliver Cromwell, the revolutionary Puritan “Protector” who disapproved of all forms of religious iconography and symbolism; Robespierre and the Paris mob; Joseph Stalin, ditto, and the rapacious C19th looters of Egyptian grave goods.

Flashing forward to the present, we have had to stand by and witness the brutal iconoclasm of modern barbarians: the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Shabaab at Timbuktoo, the Cultural Revolutionaries of Chairman Mao – the US Army, that turned the ruins of Babylon into a lorry park – whose political credos embraced the absolute eradication of evidence of all previous dynasties in a fanatical desire to rebuild societies in their own image.

That, and to make a bit of cash selling stuff on the global black market for antiquities, with which to buy arms – and to line the pockets of the intellectual hypocrites proclaiming themselves the new leaders.

If Truth is indeed the first casualty of war, in that overused metaphor, then Culture is possibly the second. “When I hear the word culture”, grumbled Goering, “I reach for my Luger”. (In fact he was quite a cultured man. He just knew, like Mr Steve Bannon, that the fundamentals of Nazism required a return to a more heroic age.)

The safest way to preserve the physical history of world nature and human development, the collections and the expert curators’ poorly paid jobs, is surely thus not to concentrate them in one place, to hoard them in the name of protecting and projecting some vain sense of superior nationhood, but to spread them around the country and the planet for the edification of all.

By all accounts, the government of Brazil is guilty of failing catastrophically to maintain the cultural heritage of the nation. The fire precautions in that sprawling colonial palace were “about to be updated”, but consisted for the time being of some smoke detectors and hand-extinguishers. The building was not even insured. Staff rushed to save what they could, as the collections were their livelihood, but were beaten back. A few items may have survived: the 12-thousand year-old skull of a native girl; some curious pieces of dinosaur, an interesting meteorite…. The collection sounds provincial, but it also contained hundreds of recordings of the unique languages of tribespeople now gone extinct, and other invaluable cultural DNA; including many works from the European classical period, presumably lost forever.

Unless, that is, we can find a trove of South Americana, collections of pre-Columbian art and artifacts, precious photographs, contemporary paintings, explorers’ accounts and recordings of vanishing tribes, squirrelled away in the bowels of the British Museum and other major centres throughout Europe and the USA; especially in Portugal, the colonial power in Brazil, from where vast quantities of treasure were extracted; from which something might be rebuilt?

(Oh dear. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which caused 30 thousand casualties, a huge tsunami and subsequent fires might have done for much of the colonial spoils collected in the latter. But the policy of the British government preparing for the Blitz was to disperse the great collections around the country, in mines and caves, and thus they largely survived WW2.)

You see, you cannot discount natural disasters as well as the sweep of history, when you want to preserve your heritage and the curiosities of the bygone world around you. You imagine these great buildings housing the heavily edited detritus of your civilization and the records of human progress to be invulnerable, inviolate, durable; a focus for heartfelt patriotism, their demise is unthinkable and so too often unthought of, when funds are scarce. (It appears the curators of the Rio museum were having to crowdfund the wages of the cleaners.)

No, the safest and, incidentally, the most useful way to secure your local cultural heritage is to ensure it is as widely dispersed as possible. We’ve done it with human DNA, a pocess that ought to be a lesson to the hoarders of artifacts. Put it about a bit!

Modern technologies can be useful; recordings, photographs, “virtual reality” tours, digital transcriptions posted on the worldwide web can give the flavor – remembering these too are vulnerable to fire and flood, tectonic political upheavals, technological superannuation and “Carrington” events – and are indeed being more widely used in archaeology, especially in the attempt to restore what the IS baboons have left of Palmyra from extensive survey records.

Images and transcripts are, of course, no substitutes for the real thing; but it depends on WHY you want to cling on to the past: you can argue that any evidence is equally valuable. Would it matter, would anyone notice, if the British Museum hung on to the marbles only as faithful reproductions made of powdered resin with the latest technologies, from 3D images scanned by lasers, and dumped the vexing originals in the river Thames?

They’re just chunks of carved stone. Future generations (if any. Ed.) will still know precisely what they looked like, as far as the fleeting impressions gained by circulating museum visitors and internet browsers with limited attention spans go. They will know the history, if they care to find it. Experts have studied the things until they were practically worn out with peering and pondering, learned texts and theses have been written and peer-reviewed, thousands of photographs exist – what else can anyone say about them? Do old stones really speak?

Of course, the Greeks would take a dim view: it’s the symbolic act of returning the stolen marbles that’s the important part. And it’s the symbolism of losing the great museum in Rio that seems to be the harshest wound for Brazilians (most of whom probably never even went inside). At a time of social uncertainty, corruption and gnawing austerity the people have nothing left to rally round, but a burned-out shell, open to the sky.

It’s just a pity they didn’t rally round sooner.

x

GW: A mortal blow

Japan: The strongest to hit in 25 years, 135 mph Typhoon Jebi slammed into the port of Kobe, western Japan yesterday, 4 Sep., killing “at least” 10 people and injuring many others. The toll is expected to rise. Several people were injured at Kyoto station when part of a glass ceiling collapsed. Kansai airport, a major transport hub serving Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, was cut off and pasengers stranded when an ocean tanker was blown into its bridge to the mainland. (BBC and others)

Pile o’ chrome… cars thrown in a heap by Typhoon Jebi, Kobe, Japan 04 Sept. (BBC)

Tuesday 4 Sep: “Evacuation advisories were issued for 1.19 million people, along with a stronger but non-mandatory  evacuation order for a further 16,000, as the wind and rain began to intensify on Tuesday afternoon.” More than 700 domestic and international flights were cancelled, along with scores of ferry and train services. Rainfall totals reported 500mm or more. (Guardian and others)

USA: 70 mph Tropical Storm Gordon is pouring rain on the Gulf Coast region Wednesday after it made landfall Tuesday night west of the Alabama-Mississippi border, killing a child in the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said.

“The child died when a tree fell on top of a mobile home in Pensacola as Gordon whipped the region with tropical storm-force winds and heavy downpours, a spokeswoman with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said.” 4 to 6 inches of rain are expected as Gordon dissipates and moves up into the already rainsoaked midwest and as far east as Pennsylvania, with more risk of flooding. (CNN)
India: Flooding and landslides have been reported in the remote mountain state of Nagaland, on the border with Myanmar, since late July. “At least 11 people have died”. (Floodlist)

Atlantic: Tropical Storm Florence is still evolving along a very uncertain track that could possibly bring it close to Bermuda by Monday 10 Sep. with a US East Coast landfall later in the week. Forming out of Africa and now near the Cape Verde islands, “Invest 92L” has better possibilities for development as a Caribbean hurricane, to be called Helene. “Invest 93L” (“Isaac”?) is just now crossing the West African coast.

Pacific: Two named hurricanes in the western Pacific, Norman and Olivia are both expected to give Hawaii a reprieve, passing “well to the northeast”.

Arctic: Two major cyclones are affecting the region at present. Bigger waves and warm air/rain will breakup more of the ice.

 

(Image: Telegraph.com)

GW Color Supplement: Skating on Thin Ice…

This year’s extended heatwave around the planet has at least led to the news media finally beginning to “join the dots” of global warming and its destabilizing effect on the world’s weather and agriculture; albeit in the usual sensationalist and short-lived way.

Journalists and politicians and scientists reporting from their own limited silos of study, or vaguely promising “action on climate change”, are continuing to hold out warnings of disasters to come “by 2100”, or “by 2050”, seemingly without there being any realization that such dates far in the future are of purely academic interest.

There is unlikely to be any residual human civilization by 2050 capable of thinking much about “electric cars” or “renewables” or “carbon transfer taxes” or “Paris targets”, as our children struggle against the odds to keep the race alive.

To give you a flavor of what real climate scientists are saying, the following (with full acknowledgment) is a heavily edited summary of a report posted 24 Aug on the website of Arctic News.

This is a reliable source compiling from field research and satellite data a (roughly) monthly update by a group of polar experts and distinguished external contributors, calling themselves “Sam Carana”.

(It is still not safe for climate scientists to risk their grants and tenure by making the direst predictions public, whatever the known facts may be.)

The full report should be accessed on http://www.arctic-news.blogspot.com/

“North of Greenland and around Ellesmere Island is where for thousands of years (Arctic) sea ice has been the thickest, in many places remaining thicker than 5 meters (16.4 ft) throughout the year. The loss of this sea ice indicates that the buffer is gone. (NASA images are adduced in evidence: the area is all blue water.)

“As long as there is sea ice in the water, it will keep absorbing heat, so the temperature doesn’t rise above 0C at the sea surface. Once the buffer is gone, further energy that enters the Arctic Ocean will go into heating up the water. Numerous feedbacks are associated with sea ice loss.

“As warming continues, heat will reach methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, causing them to release methane. (And) for the first time in human history, mean global methane levels as high as 1900 ppb have been recorded*. Adding up all warming elements associated with disappearance of the sea ice could result in additional global warming many times as much as the current global warming, in a few years time.”

And from an earlier post:

“The sea surface near Svalbard (most northerly habitation) was 22°C or 69.2°F on August 13, 2018, 16.4°C or 29.5°F warmer than 1981-2011. On August 6, 2018, mean global methane levels were as high as 1896 ppb. On August 8, 2018, they were as high as 1898 ppb. Importantly, peak levels on the afternoon of August 6, 2018, were as high as 3046 ppb.”

As can be seen, atmospheric methane increased globally from 1896 to 1901 parts-per-billion in under three weeks this August, with further potential for almost doubling. Depending on its duration in the atmosphere, methane is 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, to which it decays.

Methane produces more heat, but heat (in various ways) produces more methane…. that’s the feedback loop they’re most worried about. The increase in range, intensity and frequency of forest fires is another case in point; as is the increasing intensity of rainfall, where it occurs, and the energy of storms.

In addition, “Sam Carana” has been arguing for a couple of years that the Paris target of 1.5C degrees of warming is not only unrealistic – it is also long out of date. The International Panel on Climate Change has never used a fixed start date for the 0.89C of warming they keep claiming is the maximum so far. Even that, says “Sam”, is more warming than the planet has experienced at any time during the 200 thousand years of modern Man’s existence.

Applying a 1750 start date (as the decade when Britain began burning ever-greater quantities of coal to produce steam for industry and transportation), they argue, cumulative warming is already up to 1.85C. Plus, by taking measurements at 2 meters above land rather than at the sea surface, as the IPCC does, we arrive at something in excess of 2.3C, already 0.3C above the “maximum” ever-allowable change set in Paris.

And, “Sam” points out, that’s the day/night, summer/winter, equatorial/polar “average” over the whole globe – the mean temperature of the planet. But it’s not the modest-seeming increase of a degree in mean temperature that’s the immediate threat: it’s the extremes of heat and cold that kill people, animals and plants.

Looking at the average rise in summer temperatures taken only at the hottest times of the day, we’re up to something more like 4 degrees in many parts of the world, which, other scientists concur, with the amount of future warming already built-in, threatens a runaway effect within a matter of years rather than decades, leading to a civilizational and ecological collapse that will not realistically be survivable.

(The use of a “wet-bulb” index to measure more precisely, the effects of heat on the individual, indicates that prolonged exposure to temperatures in excess of 35C and high humidity, normally survivable for short periods and where shade and water are available, greatly increase the risk of death from heatstroke.)

Already in many cities around the world, peak summer temperatures are approaching 50C, with little relief at night.

Don’t say we weren’t warned.

 

*Postscriptum: the European Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) satellite images are showing massive quantities of methane pouring out of the Arctic circle, especially over Scandinavia up into Siberia – but also down into China and the Himalayas. Hotspots are appearing in the Arctic ocean too, including off Novaya Zemlya in the shallow Eastern Siberian Sea. Total air-column concentrations locally are up in the mid-2000s ppb. Conspiracy theorists are pointing to days on which data appear to be missing from both CAMS and NOAA websites and a curious switch between two entirely different color-coded scales charting the levels of concentration.

Unfortunately I’ve been warned off commenting on Margo’s Healing Corner website where this story is credibly available as she goes off on a religious rant threatening unbelievers with being blocked if we dare to write anything bad about her friend Jesus.

I wasn’t going to, but we have the same problem with the Blessed Mary Greeley, that her basic knowledge of geology provides a credible enough narrative for the Yellowstone story but all else is ill-informed New Age gibberish…. It’s a shame more informed, secular sources don’t appear to exist for those of us who wish to follow the global warming story in this sort of detail but don’t have the scientific chops for learned papers and can’t stand Prof. Paul Beckwith’s increasingly deranged videos in which he slowly reads out other people’s research papers at tedious length.

My personal view is magical thinking is not going to save us, either in this life or the next. But I suppose people need to grab on to something.

 

The mystery of the missing CO2

Global CO2 is measured officially by the NOAA at the Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island, at an altitude of 4,900 meters.

On 11 March, 2018 the concentration was approaching 413 parts-per-million, as against an estimate of 285 ppm in the pre-industrial era. 120 years ago, the Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius calculated very accurately that a doubling of the pre-industrial level would result in 4C to 5C degrees of global warming. We are rapidly getting there.

Or are we?

It seems the concentration of CO2 on 02 September was only 405 ppm, a drop of 7 ppm. We assume there is some seasonal fluctuation to account for it, but it still seems a weird result, given the somewhat trying conditions under which the measurements must have been taken.

Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano. Racked by earth tremors this year, it looms just a few miles to the north of Mt Kilueia, that has been erupting violently for months as its magma chamber has emptied out via old lava tubes into people’s back gardens 25 miles away, its collapsing caldera belching out a combination of gases including CO2 and sulphur dioxide. Would that not affect readings a few miles to the north?

Meanwhile, thousands of barely controllable CO2-emitting wildfires have been blazing since April across vast areas of the world: in the SW Australian winter and the Siberian spring; across Central Africa and South America; in Mongolia; all across the west of the USA – a record season on the coast – and up into British Columbia, where more than 500 fires are still burning; all through Scandinavia and up beyond the Arctic circle; in Germany and Greece, Portugal and Israel; even outside rainy Manchester, England, afflicted for three months by a pan-European heatwave – the second in two years, remember Lucifer? – and crop-killing drought.

Where has all that extra CO2 gone to?

We should be told.

 

Beating poisons into ploughshares

A report in the current issue of Private Eye magazine by “Muckspreader” looks at the recent decision by a US court to fine Monsanto heavily for not publicizing research linking their ubiquitous Roundup weedkiller product with cancer.

Without glyphosate, were it to be banned, UK farmers will have to radically alter their methods, says the author – him/her anonymous self a farmer. Farmers are heavily reliant on the chemical to kill off the rhizomes of couch grass and other perennial weeds, clearing the land for planting – and to “harden” cereal crops by, effectively, stopping their growth all at the same time so as to make harvesting more efficient (that’s all going into you and me, by the way. Yummy.)

A ban on glyphosate would mean going back to ploughing the land, which sounds somehow comforting and Green.

What the story doesn’t mention is that ploughing releases massive quantities of carbon stored in the soil back to the atmosphere, in the form of CO2 and methane; and is thus better avoided.

Oh dear. Months of horrible chemotherapy, or join up with a roving band looting supermarkets for scraps of food in 60 degrees of summer heat?

Our choice.

Yellowstone news: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports that the Steamboat, the park’s largest geyser, has just erupted for the 16th time so far this year. The previous most active season ever recorded was 2003, when it went off just 3 times in the whole year. Park scientific director, Michael Poland reassures her, it’s perfectly normal for geysers to erupt.

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