Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Freezing warmth on the way

The Met Office is predicting again:

A return to low solar activity not seen for centuries could increase the chances of cold winters in Europe and eastern parts of the United States but wouldn't halt global warming, according to new research.

The Met Office-led study, published in Nature Communications, is among the first to look at the regional climate impacts of a possible 'grand solar minimum'...

...On a regional level, the study found a bigger cooling effect for northern Europe, the UK and eastern parts of North America - particularly during winter. For example, for northern Europe the cooling is in the range -0.4 to -0.8 °C.

Winters will be warmer overall, but this suggests a relative increase in the risk of colder winters for these areas during a possible grand solar minimum.


So global warming isn't necessarily global and isn't necessarily warming. If this ludicrous and shameful mess of guesswork and bet-hedging is science then I'm a banana.

Here's the Met Office's Dr Vicky Pope in 2007  - "by 2014 we're predicting that we'll be point three degrees warmer than 2004".





It's no great surprise but here's how the "prediction" turned out.




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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Things change

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Timepieces
I presume I shall be better understood if I day that the month was October and the day October thirteenth; the exact hour I cannot tell you — it’s easier to get philosophers to agree than timepieces — but it was between noon and one o’clock.
Seneca - Apocolocyntosis (divi) Claudii (around 55AD)

Tanning
A terrific day when the doctor, with face tanned like a chauffeur’s, returned to Clerkenwell and resumed his work, calm, prim, impassible as ever!
Arnold Bennett - Elsie and the Child (1924)

Childhood nutrition
He listens; ay, his lips moving perhaps, and a smile on his old face like a child asking for a slice of bread and sugar.
Walter de la Mare - Music (1955)

As a child I remember bread and butter with sugar sprinkled on it. Slightly crunchy and not particularly pleasant

Distance
“How long does it take to go to Westcombe across this way?” she asked of him while they were bringing up the carriage.
“About two hours,” he said.
“Two hours — so long as that, does it? How far is it away?”
“Eight miles.”
“Two hours to drive eight miles — who ever heard of such a thing!” “I thought you meant walking”
“Ah, yes; but one hardly means walking without expressly stating it.”
“Well, it seems just the other way to me — that walking is meant unless you say driving.”
Thomas Hardy - An Indiscretion in the Life of an Heiress (1935)

Monday mornings
Monday morning is a strenuous but somehow a glad morning in respectable households of regular habits. The clean linen is brought out in lovely white piles from the linen cupboard and distributed over the house, and the dirty linen is collected and shamefully hurried away and catalogued in a place without honour and thrown pell-mell in baskets and despatched, and then everybody has a sweet sense of relief.
Arnold Bennett - Elsie and the Child (1924)

Transport
I have just returned from a ride in my litter; and I am as weary as if I had walked the distance, instead of being seated. Even to be carried for any length of time is hard work, perhaps all the more so because it is an unnatural exercise; for Nature gave us legs with which to do our own walking, and eyes with which to do our own seeing. Our luxuries have condemned us to weakness; we have ceased to be able to do that which we have long declined to do.
Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lying – it’s what we do

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What Spinoza, for example, calls ‘blessedness’ is simply the state of non-attachment; his ‘human bondage,’ the condition of one who identifies himself with his desires, emotions and thought-processes, or with their objects in the external world.
Aldous Huxley – Ends and Means

We all know that lying in all its many forms is a common aspect of human life. From exaggeration to evasion, from the sins of omission to barefaced lying we all assent to at least a few dubious narratives because we must and because this is how societies work.

To survive daily life we cannot be wholly non-attached in Huxley’s sense, so we must endure human bondage in Spinoza’s. We must identify ourselves with our desires, emotions and thought-processes, or with their objects in the external world. Hence the lies, hence the bondage.

Not so long ago, visitors to Grandson’s school told the children that God made the harvest. Was that a lie? In my book it was at best misleading. However those visitors saw their words as advocating a genuine truth, and would no doubt be mightily offended at my implication.

Worthy advocacy of noble causes is a particular problem when so few causes are really noble and so much advocacy is unworthy. It all goes to create an unhealthy culture of false virtue, armour-plated against any criticism, securely located on a mountain of furtive dishonesty.

Yet how does anyone advocate anything without so much as a hint of bias in all its many tangled forms? It is possible perhaps, but neither easy nor common. Advocacy is inherently biased because it is incompatible with non-attachment.

A few decades ago, Secretary of State for War John Profumo resigned from the government and from Parliament when he had to admit he had lied to Parliament over the Christine Keeler affair. Only a few years later, Prime Minister Edward Heath lied to voters about the nature of the Common Market as the EU then was.

“There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.”

Prime Minister Edward Heath, television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the Common Market, January 1973. 

Perhaps Heath saw this lie as worthy advocacy but he must have known he was lying and unlike Profumo he never resigned. Far from it – he appears to have seen his lying as an act of statesmanship.

The perennial problem is that we must advocate to live, to form stable societies and economies, to hold political debates, invest in the future, build civilisations and even cultures. So who doesn’t lie through advocacy, whether worthy or not?

As usual, the ethical folk are those who remain non-attached, people without causes, the non-campaigners who prefer not to campaign and the non-advocates who prefer to advocate as little as possible because advocacy is so intimately linked with lying.

The question of whether or not anything can be achieved without advocacy is yet another problem. Possibly not.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

HSBC - the shakeup continues...


"Right, that's the building transferred under a PFI arrangement to a trust registered in the Dutch Antilles, the headteacher will in future be paid via a personal services company in Jersey with "salary" deemed as staged loans, and petty cash stored overnight in a Swiss call account..."


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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Their despotic instincts


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In his book The Modern Regime, Hippolyte Taine spends a considerable time analysing the regime imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte and how he engineered it, his deep understanding of human weakness and how it could be used. Even two centuries later the parallels with our own time are striking.

At his first nod the French prostrate themselves obediently, and there remain, as in a natural position; the lower class, the peasants and the soldiers, with animal fidelity, and the upper class, the dignitaries and the functionaries, with Byzantine servility.

The republicans, on their side, make no resistance; on the contrary, among these he has found his best governing instruments—senators, deputies, state councillors, judges, and administrators of every grade. He has at once detected behind their sermonizing on liberty and equality, their despotic instincts, their craving for command, for leadership, even as subordinates; and, in addition to this, with most of them, the appetite for money or for sensual pleasures.
Hippolyte Taine - The Modern Regime (1893)

In particular, the last sentence stands out. He has at once detected behind their sermonizing on liberty and equality, their despotic instincts... How accurate it all is, and how very modern. Nothing really changes does it?

When our low-information voters make their mark in the forthcoming EU referendum and opt for staying in, then maybe we should keep an eye on Corsica. Metaphorically speaking of course.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

As the culture ages

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A problematic quote for anyone old enough to observe and also inclined to deplore cultural change.

As the culture ages and begins to lose its objectives, conflict arises within it between those who wish to cast it off and set up a new culture-pattern, and those who wish to retain the old with as little change as possible.
Philip K. Dick - The Defenders (1953)

There must always be a suspicion that deplored cultural changes are merely changes to which younger generations have adapted and will continue to adapt because this is the way of the world. So any perceived decline is merely adjustment as the culture ages and begins to lose its objectives.

Certainly modern times are markedly different from the past, technology, prosperity, communications and general know-how have made it so. In which case there could be genuine problems we can’t see because we haven’t encountered them before. Not that we are much good at learning from the past, but maybe we can’t anyway because the past is too far removed from the present.

Almost two thousand years ago Seneca attributed perceived cultural decline to the vices of mankind and not of the times.

You are mistaken, my dear Lucilius, if you think that luxury, neglect of good manners, and other vices of which each man accuses the age in which he lives, are especially characteristic of our own epoch; no, they are the vices of mankind and not of the times. No era in history has ever been free from blame.
Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

It is as if our faults are always with us but from age to age they vary in their significance, in their contribution to the present. Things could be better but that is always the case and always will be until we evolve into something else, something better. Or possibly worse?

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The great sock issue



Every now and then it is worth rising above geopolitical tensions and turmoil to consider more fundamental issues such as socks. 

As many chaps and no doubt lady chaps do, I buy identical socks in bulk to avoid the odd sock debacle when they emerge from the wash. If all socks are the same then odd socks don't matter as I'm sure you have observed.

The only real downside to this winning strategy lies in the purchase, specifically the problem of multi-packs bonded together with what seems like dozens of those little plastic tags. Somehow the end of every single tag buries itself into the sock so deeply and firmly that great dexterity is required to snip tag rather than sock. 

Not only that, but when snipped they fly around like toenail clippings, which I suppose is ironic in a way. I'm sure the above photo is merely an incomplete sample from my latest purchase. I'll find one or two more when I wear the socks and the rest will end up in the vacuum cleaner.

Ah well - back to the geopolitical tensions.

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Sunday, June 07, 2015

Centennial irony competition



This century is still young, but the American legal-political-business establishment going after FIFA for corruption has to be in the top 10 ironies of the last 15 and next 85 years.

Any other contenders?


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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Like I said (Greece and Russia)

Greece refuses to pay up - then flirts with Putin: PM begs Russia for support after attacking 'absurd' austerity conditions on his crippled nation

- Daily Mail, today
_________________________________________

You can see more than you can stop...

Those who set a fire cannot be certain of controlling its spread. Burning round the eastern Mediterranean, the flames could tickle other countries too, as Russia becomes involved in the new Great Game. The same tactics that have destabilised the Arab Street could be used against nations on the northern coast of the Middle Sea, which have been suffering as a result of the overbearing rule of the EU and the predations of international banking. Greece for example, with its high youth unemployment, history of internecine strife and 8,500 miles of coastline, might be a tempting target for subversion and infiltration.

You can lose power through overreaching. I used to have a postwar edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and one of its articles traced the roots of the Reformation to the attempt by mediaeval Popes to maintain and strengthen their control while Western countries settled down and their kings grew stronger. Is the US risking upsetting the balance of power by trying to secure the Levant?

Conversely, the collapse of the Soviet Union has allowed Russia to get a better grip on its affairs and its developing energy resources are giving it something to bargain with rather than invade. (She also has a
very promising agricultural position: 117 people per km2 of arable land, versus 179 for the US and - dangerous, this - 1,077 for the UK.) The potential economic power is seen in control of gas supplies to Northern Europe, but also perhaps in the events that led to the fall of Greek Premier Kostas Karamanlis in 2008 - he was negotiating with Russia for their South Stream gas pipeline, a rival to the EU/US Nabucco line. There are even allegations of an assassination plot against Karamanlis and foreign threats against the Greek government.

It doesn't take much to drop a country into chaos. It's said that a satphone and $20,000 can get you an African armed revolutionary movement. A organized minority can overthrow and seize a nation. For example, in the Soviet Union of 1986 only 10% were in the
Communist Party, of which more than half were industrial workers and farmers; in pre-Purge 1933, maybe 2.5%; in 1918 just after the Revolution, a mere 200,000 members or one-fifth of one per cent.In Greece, the average electoral turnout for the Communist KKE has been over 6% since 2000, and back in 1958 it was 24%. The average of c. 470,00 votes (not that voting means much to Communists, and some of the most dangerous will stay in cover) represents around 5% of the population aged over 15. The KKE vote halved between May and June last year (from 536,072 to 277,122) and one has to wonder whether there may be some foreign support for some of the alternative parties; but Greeks are quite capable of quarrelling without the help of outsiders. The point is that the politics there are volatile, and there are lots of hormonal youngsters to recruit for one cause or another.

Not that Greece is the only southern European country ripe for trouble. Think of Italy and Spain; and the Balkans. A direct confrontation between major global players seems unlikely, at this stage; but goodness knows what is going on in the world of
Spy vs. Spy. And it's not only the US Sixth Fleet aiming to "keep the peace" in the Eastern Med: Russia is reported to be sending a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship.

Russia still has only
one port that is ice-free all year round, and that is on the Baltic and separated from the Mother Country by the land of three other nations. But she controls land joining the Caspian and Black Sea, and has ethnic Slavic connections with Bulgaria, Macedonia and even currently Turkified Slavs in Anatolia. Oh, for free naval passage through the Hellespont and a base in Alexandroupoli, or even Thessaloniki.

- 3 September 2013: http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-war-for-mediterranean.html
________________________________________________

Poor, dumb President Putin! He simply can't see how he has wasted all that money developing Russian assets on the Black Sea.

Nor, to be frank, can I.

Watch for (a) destabilising tendencies in Greece and (b) a gradual rise in the commercial fortunes of Thessaloniki. And - who knows? - a revival of nostalgic sentiment among the descendants of
Pontic Greeks (many of whom now speak Russian) in northern Turkey, Georgia and the Ukraine.

- 17 March 2014: http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/from-sochi-to-sevastopol.html
______________________________________

Greece has also had a history of struggle with Communism and the EU's crippling economic interference has recently re-raised tensions between (and support for) Left and Right. In this context it's worth noting that last May there was a Greek Communist Party rally in Thessaloniki. This is Greece's second largest city and a major hub for the eastern Mediterranean. Colour northeast Greece the same as Yugoslavia in the above map and the West's only ally on the shores of the Black Sea would be Turkey - which also (currently) controls the Bosphorus, the Black Sea's door into the Med.

- 29 March 2014: http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/battle-for-black-sea.html


- Out of geography comes history.


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Thursday, June 04, 2015

The net is already woven

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The most contagious feelings, the clearest thoughts, of others are clear or contagious only because I can readily make them my own.
George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

A typically spooky observation by old George. Clarity is not merely useful for comprehension but contagious too. Clear ideas are often clear because they are in some sense familiar. They slip so easily past our dozing right of veto. When it comes to language, clarity and familiarity are intimately linked, often to our ultimate disadvantage.

Quine likened our ideas to a network which cannot easily be modified without risk of unravelling the whole shebang. So we make sure it stays intact because we must. One idea links to the next in chains of what we think of as reasoning even if the first link in the chain was forgotten long ago or never even noticed as it stitched itself into the network of our predilections and allegiances.

Which links to the forthcoming UK EU referendum because the EU is familiar and life outside isn't. In one form or another we’ve been members for decades so the net is already woven.

Was that always the plan? I don’t know, but any passably competent bureaucrat could easily have foreseen the political advantages.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Munchausen (1781) - part 11

Bear and Wolf

I have always had the strangest experiences while hunting. One time in Poland, when I had used up all my shot, a bear came at me with its jaws wide open. I quickly felt around in my pocket and found nothing but a couple of large flints. I hurled one of them with all my strength into the beast’s gaping mouth and it spun round in pain. The unusual shape of the second flint gave me an idea, and I flung it at the other opening that the bear now presented to me. My shot was successful: the tapered stone flew in, penetrated further, and - wonder of wonders! – collided with the first flint in the stomach, sparking off a fire so that the bear burned alive most miserably.
Another time – it’s as though the wildest beasts always knew when I had no firearm - a fearsome wolf leapt at me. When he was right up by me, I automatically shoved my hand into his gaping jaws, pushed it deeper down for safety’s sake, and so there I was with my arm in his body. In this position I was quite secure, but how was I going to get away? I had no desire to stand there like that forever, and if I pulled out my arm the enraged animal would go for me. I acted decisively: I took a firm hold of some part of his innards, pulled the wolf inside out like a glove, and let him drop.
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Original:
Auf der Jagd hab’ ich immer die mehrsten sonderbaren Geschichten gehabt. Einst in Polen kam, wie ich mich schon ganz verschossen hatt, ein Bär mit aufgesperrtem Rachen auf mich zu; ich greife [99] schnell in die Tasche, und finde nichts als ein paar große Feuersteine. Einen davon schleudere ich mit aller Kraft dem Thier in den offenen Schlund hinab; es empfindet Schmerz davon, wendet sich schnell um. Durch die sonderbare Gestalt des andern Feuersteines komm’ ich auf die Idee, diesen in die andre mir itzt zugewandte Oefnung des Bären zu schleudern; es gelingt mir; der keilförmige Stein geht herein und dringt weiter, und o Wunder! trift jenen ersten Stein im Magen, schlägt mit ihm Feuer, und macht den Bären jämmerlich bey lebendigem Leibe verbrennen.
Ein andermal – immer als wenn die wildesten Thiere wüßten, wenn ich kein Schießgewehr hätte – springt ein schrecklicher Wolf auf mich zu. Er ist mir schon ganz nahe, und maschinenmäßig stoß ich meine Hand in seinen aufgesperrten Rachen, drucke nun meiner Sicherheit wegen immer tiefer hinein, und behalte so meinen Arm in seinem Leibe. In dieser Stellung war ich freylich sicher; aber wie nun loszukommen? Immer so zu stehn hatt ich nicht Lust; und zog ich den Arm heraus, so fiel das wütend gemachte Thier mich an. Kurz und gut entschloß ich mich; ich grif inwendig fest an ein Stück des Leibes, zog den Wolf um, wie einen Handschuh, und ließ ihn so liegen.
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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Munchausen (1781) - part 10

(Pic source)

One afternoon I was on my Lord ***’s estate, sitting with a company of ladies at the tea-table in the salon. The men were in the yard to watch a new horse being broken in. Suddenly I heard a commotion outside; I ran out and found the horse so out of control that everyone was mortally afraid to go near him, let alone mount him. While everyone else hesitated, I leapt onto the horse’s back with a single bound, and withstood its bucking for so long that I made it very tired and submissive. To demonstrate this fully and to save the ladies the trouble of rising from the table, I jumped the horse through the open window into the salon, and when the horse was sufficiently calm and I trusted its agility enough, I got it to climb onto the tea-table via my empty chair, and so rode around in front of all the ladies, the horse placing its hooves so daintily that not a cup was cracked.
_________________________________
Original:

Ich saß eines Nachmittags auf dem Gute des Herrn von ***, mit lauter Damen am Theetisch im Sale. Die Herren waren auf dem Hofe, um ein neues Pferd reiten zu sehen. Bald entstand draußen ein Lerm; ich lief hin, und fand das Pferd so unbändig, daß jeder den Hals zu brechen fürchtete, der sich ihm nur näherte, geschweige der drauf säße. Wie alle verzagten, war ich mit einem Satze dem Pferde auf den Rücken, und nun tummelte ichs so lange, bis ichs ganz müde und geschmeidig kriegte. Um dieß völlig zu zeigen und um die Damen nicht herunter zu bemühen, setzte ich damit durchs offne Fenster in den Saal hinein, und wie es zahm genug war, und ich ihm Geschicklichkeit genug zutraute, ließ ichs an meinem leergelassenen Stuhl auf den Theetisch steigen, und ritt so vor allen Damen herum, wobey das Pferd so zierlich die Füße setzte, daß es auch nicht eine Tasse zerbrach.


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Monday, June 01, 2015

Munchausen (1781) - part 9


Greyhound

The best greyhound I ever had lived to be very old. She was quite small but she was a wonderful runner, and because I used her so much, she gradually wore her legs away so that they ended up a good deal shorter. After that I used her as a dachshund for badger-hunting, and kept her for a long time further.
Hare
The same greyhound bitch once took off by herself and chased a hare that looked very big. My poor animal whimpered because she was carrying pups, but she didn’t drop her pace at all. I followed slowly on horseback. Suddenly I heard a pack of dogs yapping, but so faintly and weakly that I didn’t know what to make of it. When I caught up I discovered that the hare had been pregnant too, and the chase had triggered off the birthing process for her, and for my dog also. Instinct had taught both hunter and hunted, exactly equal numbers of leverets and puppies were born, and when I got there I found I had six hares and six dogs.
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Original:

Nie hatt ich einen besern Windhund, als einen, der sehr alt bey mir ward, und eben nicht groß war. Er lief ganz bewundernswürdig, und zuletzt, weil ich ihn so sehr viel brauchte, lief er sich ordentlich die Beine weg, daß sie um ein gut Theil kürzer wurden. Seit der Zeit gebraucht’ ich ihn, wie Teckel (Dachshund), und hatt’ ihn so noch eine ganze Zeit.

Derselbe als er noch Windhund war, – es war eine Hündinn – lief einst ganz allein hinter einen Hasen, der mir sehr groß vorkam. Mein armes Thier jammerte mich, weil es schwanger war; doch ließ sie nichts im Laufen nach. Ich folgte zu Pferde nur langsam. Plötzlich hör’ ich ein Geklaff, wie von mehrern Hunden, aber so fein und schwach, daß ich nicht weiß, was ich draus machen soll. [98] Beym Näherreiten entdeck ich, daß der Hase auch ein schwangeres Weibchen gewesen ist, und im Laufen gesetzet hat; dasselbe ist meiner Hündin begegnet; es waren gerade gleich viel junge Hasen und junge Hunde geworfen. Der Instinkt lehrte jene laufen, und diese verfolgen; und wie ich herankam, hatt ich sechs Hasen von sechs Hunden gehalten.


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