Well, at least confusion was professed

And, now i’m even more confused as to what rationale that article was professing to have predicting this rise in the dollar. Sign me up for ‘lucky guess’.


Rebels without Revolution?

Hold on to your hats: i’m going to say something nice about a segment of american society!

The backlash against the TSA backscatter scanners (also known as ‘pornscanner’, etc) is really most lovely to see. Despite the dubious rallying calls (‘touch my junk and i’ll have you arrested!’) there are some pretty serious reasons for taking a stand against the imposition of these machines in the current security theatre.

In my mind the biggest of these is the legitimate concerns over the effects of ionising radiation. As highlighted by UCSF research staff, there are classes of people who should do what they can to avoid additional source of radiation, but perhaps more importantly, the long term effects of these machines is unknown. This is obvious, because they haven’t been studied over a long period of time.

If the process was being proposed in a truly civil usage (the TSA acts like it is conducting a counter-insurgency  operation against the flying public) it’s unlikely that it would be approved for widespread use with such limited information. It probably helps that the suppliers of the machines are well connected.

However, and perhaps more worrying than any of the above, is the idea that unless these machines are extremely well maintained – to medical standards, they run the risk of delivering arbitrary doses of radiation. Imagine the lawsuits… actually, i think this line of reasoning is one of the problems with american society – if an individual sues a government agency it really doesn’t matter if they lose. The fine is paid out of government revenue (taxes), and in the event that an entity like Rapiscan is successfully sued, the profits will already have been disbursed to individuals, who can hide behind the corporate identity, never having to admit wrong-doing. In short, suing the government, or corporations, provides little incentive for individuals to behave well!

Despite the furor, the american public is still generally cowed and more afraid of taking a stand than they are of terror. Polling data says that some 80% are favour the use of the machines and think they make them safer. It seems unlikely that as the message about the safety of the machines, and the ineffectuality of all this ‘security theatre’ spreads the TSA will be forced to backdown. But at least there will have been some protest.

The UK is a much sadder case: an equivalent poll showed 90% support for scanning of all passengers. There is no opt out to request a pat down, and there was, apart for a few muslim women opting not to fly, no protest. Guilty, as i am, for lambasting american society for silently accepting the prosecuting of wars, removal of rights, imposition of pointless and degrading laws, we british really don’t have a right to preach!

Powerdeath and buy your soul
With pennies in the god machine
Rebels without revolution
Fake messiah scheme
On the back of dead religion looking at me
Falsify the words of wisdom
There’s no wild tribe

Back to the crow back to the stoneage
See crowbaby
Back to the crow back to the stoneage
See crowbaby fly

— The March Violets, Crow Baby

The End of Summer

Have been trying to get in one last wetsuit dive for the year, and therefore put off facing up to the fact that my regular trips to Izu are coming to an end. Normally by this time of year i’d be back in a drysuit, all closed off from the water and sweating profusely.

However, this year, in mid-November, the water temperature is still above 20ºC. That’s just about my cut-off my point for comfort. While i’m pretty sure things would be survivable down to something like 16ºC, 20ºC is a nice round number. It turns out that the only problem with colder water (in a wetsuit) is the feeling that you’ve been put through a mangle – i’m covered in bruises, but despite a degree of scrabbling around under rocks (for on that in a moment) it wasn’t a particularly rough day. Body temperature wise i’d go as far as to say it is pretty close to the perfect for a 5mm suit.

Two dives, first one in blue, second in orange. Target for the first was an unusual seahorse (オオウミウマ) living on a outcrop of soft-corals in the sands, down at 35m. Not exactly the easiest thing in the world to find in ~5m visibility, and i’m pretty sure we over swam it by quite a way. Anyway, we found it… which is actually fairly unusual in itself! Normally all our adventures to deep places for tiny creatures are more about the journey than the destination – if you see what i mean.

Second dive was backwards route out to ichi-no-ne, on to kue-ana, and round kame-iwa (found Pikachu – first one of the season!). On the way back we swam through the channel on top of ichi-no-ne, which i don’t think i’ve done for years.

IOP is crawling with frogfish at the moment. A count at the end of the day said we’d found eight, three different species (ベニ、イロ、オオモン).  The  missing one (クマドリ) was supposed to be around, but 20 minutes of searching, over two dives, didn’t find it. It was fun – for the first time in ages i’d dragged my light along for the ride, and was in full on search mode.

The little statues at the top of this post have recently turned up in a little cave on ichi-no-ne. Nobody seems to know who put them there… or they’re not saying.

Last night, on the shinkansen home,  i was reflecting that i’m really going to miss my regular opportunities to dive. All of which led to me building lists of things that i will and won’t miss about Tokyo. The lists will make good posts at some point.Did nothing to change my impression that shinkansen are a most melancholic form of transportation.

As Huxley said “Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure”, but the shinkansen robs you of that pleasure by extracting ever ounce of excitement and sensation from the experience!

What Happens Next?!

Back in 1987:

The mystery of who paid a record $39.9 million for Vincent van Gogh’s ”Sunflowers” was solved last week when the owner of the world’s most expensive painting was revealed to be the Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Japan.

last week:

The auctioneer said the piece was one of the most important Chinese vases to go on sale this century. It is understood it was sold to a private buyer from China.

Sunflowers (still on display in the Sompo Japan Museum of Art and a miserable bit of art. It’s funny how expensive art seems to be, well, artless!) was bought in early 1987. At most two years later the bubble era was coming to it’s hissing end.

Can’t be bothered to to convert $39.9 million and £53 million into today dollars, but it seems likely that the chinese just upped the ante. You’ve got to ask yourself after years and years of 10% plus growth rates, how much life is there left in that bubble?

[As an (horrifying) aside: a few months ago i read a paper that argued that if the environmental impact of china’s 10% growth rate was actually taken into account, the economy was actually shrinking at 3% a year. All those horrendously polluted mines, rivers, farms, skies, industrial cancer clusters, the destroyed habitats, and encroaching deserts are all going to be paid for by future generations… not that i want to give the impression that we didn’t make exactly the same mistakes during the industrial revolution, it’s just that the current players are capable of far more technologically advanced fuck ups.]

Upper Class Twit of the Year?

This picture, and the associated piece in the Grauniad, just about made my week.

The ‘wearing poppies in China’ angle is just classic… say what you like about the chinese, but they certainly have long memories when it’s convenient!

It’s pretty hard to pick a winner, as much as i’d like to pick Gideon, he, along with Vince (the Cable) does at least appear to have managed to grasp the concept of drinking the champagne. Cameron is giving it his best shot, but perhaps managed to look like a disdainful simpleton. Gove, however, looks the most likely to either attempt to snort the stuff, or throw it over his head.

Ah, they must have had a gloriously post-colonial time! Half way around the world while the plebs sacked the party head-quarters. I’m sure no questions were asked…

Maybe it was a one off, but the idea that English youth is going to take to the streets fills me with some kind of middle-aged joy. This certainly wasn’t a generations poll tax riots, but the mere fact that they were out there (almost) ‘chuckin bricks at pigs’ is a positively joyous. The collective suspension of disbelief (that the people were also going to get screwed by the left) has given way to reversion to the comfortable old class warfare.

It still doesn’t seem possible that a more palatable alternative will emerge anytime soon, but it has been enough to have me humming White Riot and Anarchy in the UK for a few days.

Antimicrobial Cod Fisheries

Two things that went past my eyes today, that ended up being oddly entangled. The first is about EU calls for a 50 percent cut in the catch of cod in the North Sea:

Maria Damanaki, the European fishing commissioner, a Greek, said the announcement was based on evidence that stocks of cod, valued for its white, flaky meat, are not recovering after being overfished.

Of course it’s ‘amusing’ that the Telegraph feels the need to point out that Damanaki is ‘a Greek’ – no doubt that reflects badly on her ability to have an informed opinion on… well, anything i suppose. Can’t even run a country into the ground. Moving on:

Bertie Armstrong, of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that the European Commission had broken previous promises to negotiate quotas with communities dependent on the industry for their livelihoods.

“There is deep anger is that we heard about this via a press release,” he said. “The commission’s whole approach is defined by arrogance.”

Poor Bertie! He seems to forgotten that without quota there won’t be any fishermen left for him to federate. It’d be safe to bet that nature isn’t interested in negotiating with Bertie, or his federation.

[There is a chapter in Rahmstorf & Richardson’s Our Threaten Oceans on the complexity of the ecosystem supporting the cod population… i’d guess that if cod (maybe all of the north sea continental shelf) is ever going to recover, it will take an almost complete cessation of human activity over a large percentage of the water, probably for decades. But, i’m getting ahead of myself…]

The second article is a bonafide piece of pure doomer porn. This chap from the WHO, quite frankly, should scare the living daylights out of you. If he doesn’t, i’d suggest you go nail yourself to a gatepost with a rusty nail, wait for infection to set in, and then lie down to die:

Q: Is this the doomsday scenario of a world without antibiotics?

A: Unfortunately yes, with these new multiresistant NDM1-containing strains and their potential for worldwide spread. Doctors will face a terrible dilemma when a pregnant woman develops a kidney infection that spills over into the bloodstream with a pan-resistant strain containing NDM1 and there are no treatment options. We are essentially back to an era with no antibiotics.

Oh, that’s good! I’m surprised he bothered to invoke the spectre of a pregnant woman, what with people nailing themselves to gate posts across the land! The nice connection between these two stunning examples of humanities collective ability to be mindfuckingly stupid:

Q: How can governments reconcile the economic interests of farmers and the health interests of the population?

A: To stop overfishing of cod in the Atlantic Ocean on the east coasts of Canada and the USA, governments imposed an indefinite moratorium on cod fishing in the Grand Banks. There were complaints from the fishermen, but it was a necessary decision. Unfortunately, cod stocks have yet to recover and some scientists fear that the effects of cod overfishing may be permanent. Antimicrobial resistance may be likened to this overfishing scenario, to cattle overgrazing the grass in the commons or to deforestation on Easter Island, which led to the population dying out. Antimicrobial resistance is a consequence of continued overuse of antibiotics combined with the constant growth of resistance over time. The solution is to achieve the appropriate ecological balance.

Suspect he saw no need to parenthetically add, “not that we’re likely to do anything about, seeing as there is so much money to be made by carrying on as we are now!”

The WHO piece is well worth reading in full. It’s short and horrifying… as is, i suppose, the Telegraph article, but for rather different reasons.