Sunday, August 31, 2008

A very useful piece on the IPCC and Global Warming

Never mind that it is in the "right wing" Daily Telegraph, this article should be fundamental reading for all who are "concerned" about global warming, from whichever side of the debating chamber they currently belong. The IPCC is and has always been a political body, set up by politicians to serve politicians. For some reason the media (or most of them) want to perpetuate the idea that the IPCC is made up of the world's most eminent climate change scientists.

Do read the article and scan the comments if you have the time. As one comment says, the "wheels are beginning to fall off the bandwagon". I like that analogy a lot.

The irony will be, however, that global warming as promoted today will probably die a natural death due to the public's observation that the climate is, if anything, getting cooler (UK summer 2008 for starters!) Some scientists have proof that we are entering a potential cooling cycle (decrease in sun spot activity when we were not expecting it) which may further accelerate public opinion against the politicians and the IPCC. The sooner it all happens the better.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kayak to the North Pole

Global warming, the bandwagon, knows no end and the BBC is determined it will stay that way. This morning they report one Lewis Pugh and his plans to kayak to the North Pole. I wish him "good luck" in his search for fame and fortune but feel it necessary to add a comment about the BBC's article.

I quote:

"This year, for the first time, scientists predict that the North Pole could briefly be ice free and that has inspired Mr Pugh to try to find a way through."

For the first time? The BBC presumably should add "in living memory" or "since records have been kept" because for most of geological time there probably hasn't been a polar ice cap at all. We are living in strange times, a post- or inter-glacial period (probably the latter) that dictates a very different geography, climate and/or environment than the planet is used to, with far greater swings in climate change than 'normal' (except there is no 'normal' in an evolving world).

With the changes in public awareness on climate change it may be that Mr. Pugh's search for fame will be of little use - the recent fall off in sun spot activity implies we are entering a significant cooling period. And after this year's summer in the UK most Britons will find global warming a concept that is hard to accept!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Update on MobileMe and iWeb

Still no iWeb upload available from Apple's new MobileMe service. The daily attempt to upload continues to fail. Apple users are said to be very forgiving, perhaps because we don't have a lot of problems with Apple to forgive. But this is getting to tax even the faithful. The worst part is that there seems to be no acceptance by Apple that there is a particular problem with iWeb, other than by an Apple employee at Exeter Apple Store.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apple Store Exeter

I have to say that the people at the Apple Store in Exeter are great! April has been enjoying her One-to-One once a week one hour sessions with various experts and genii and I was so impressed with several of them that I too have decided that I need to do the same. In particular I am going to focus on Aperture.

Still no iWeb upload!

And the guys at Apple's Store in Exeter say that it is MobileMe that is the problem, please be patient! And true to their word, Apple have given me a total of 90 days extension to the MobileMe contract.

Monday, August 18, 2008

iWeb deleted (temporarily?)

I am still having problems uploading to iWeb. One suggestion from the iWeb help pages is to delete the entire site and reload. Well, the delete worked but the reload didn't. So the links are now giving an Apple 404 message. Not very impressive so far, this experiment!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Government challenges Charlie Boy on GM "global disaster"

Back up or shut up says Government Minister (well not quite in those words!)

BBC and the Olympics

As the commentator followed the Man's Coxless Fours (a great win for GB!) he added "the whole country is standing on their feet, watching and cheering!"

Really?

I guess these guys do get things a little out of proportion. . .

iWeb not accepting new posts


I thought it was a problem with slow connections but it seems I simply cannot log on to MobileMe for the iWeb blog. Everything else works fine, no assistance from the Apple website (as someone said recently, why is it that FAQs never include your question!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Contrasts in Food Production

My previous post lambasted HRH Prince Charles for his comments against Genetically Modified foods. For most people on this planet Earth, this is how they survive:

Kinshasa

I took this photo from the car on the way to Kinshasa Airport. It is a typical sight - people subsisting on vegetables grown in makeshift gardens on top of rubbish dumps. Just how toxic the gardens are is hard to tell but there is pollution in the ground and in the air. This is why we need to be able to grow more food - people who barely survive cannot work, cannot think, cannot receive a good education, cannot defend themselves from illness. GM food can help to alleviate the suffering and allow people to reach higher and make something of their lives for future generations.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Charles on GM

Today's Telegraph carries a feature interview with Charles the prince of Wales, a well known expert on all things to do with the environment, grower of expensive organic products and profiteer.

GM (genetically modified) food is a hot potato these days, pardon the pun. It deserves better than to have ill-educated royalty making generalized criticisms based upon certain visual experiences (see the article).

I do not claim to be a GM expert so I cannot enter the debate. Which is the same position Charles should take. His emotional rantings are doing no-one a favor as the debate sinks to a lower, non-scientific level.

But remember, he has a strong vested interest in being anti-GM. He is making good profits from his organic farms. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, and the whole point about food production is that ultimately people buy what they want and many in the wealthier countries can afford to choose the organic alternative.

Like Charles I travel a lot but I obviously go to different places. Because I see starving people in urban slums eking out a living on refuse dumps (a basic form of re-cycling that should make people like Charles ashamed to belong to the same species).

My point is that there are two sides to every worthwhile debate but my emotional feelings about slums in Kinshasa are no more useful than Charles' emotional feelings about salt-destroyed soil. Both are essentially superficial and are not worthy of being broadcast to a nation in a major newspaper. Of course, mine isn't!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Aged Beef

Vegetarians need read no further. Having lived in America for years I was uncertain how to come to terms with British beef. A good Texas or Idaho steak takes some beating - taste, texture, color, etc. Expensive? Yes, but not when compared to the British offerings in the local supermarket.

A chance conversation with a local farmer who raises fatstock (now called primestock as fat is "out") explained to me that most British supermarket beef is aged a maximum of four days but usually gets to the cutting room after only two days. Time is money to the big supermarkets.

Just how long should a good cut of beef be aged? Well, the experts at the University of Minnesota suggest seven days but explain that 21 days aging will provide a superior steak or joint as the connective tissue will be broken down. But there can be significant shrinkage, particularly using the dry aging process. So aged beef will inevitably cost more. Aging also has to be done at near freezing temperatures, so there is a cooling cost as well.

The result is, of course, a simply better steak. And while it is more expensive, I would suggest that smaller portions (four to five ounces) are quite enough for the average steak aficionado.

We obtain excellent beef (and most everything else we eat!) from our local farm shop at Rumwell, near Taunton. Their policy is to hang meat for 21 days. It is so good I have stopped thinking about American beef!

Trivial Information: The local farmer also mentioned that the abattoir gives him a £5 bonus for each carcass that ends up with MacDonalds! I am not not sure what that says about the supermarket chains. . . . .

Friday, August 08, 2008

DEFRA on climate change

On Radio 4 yesterday the chief scientist at DEFRA, the UK Department of Agriculture and "Rural Affairs", claimed that the country must prepare for a 4ºC rise in temperatures, not necessarily as a worst case scenario but one that is double the EU's "target" of 2ºC. What he also stated was that we can expect hotter drier summers and warmer wetter winters. Well, so far this year (remember these people tend to judge everything by the year and not by geological time scales) the summer has been cooler and very wet with flooding in some areas (just like 2007, is there a pattern emerging?)

It is easy to see why the lay person is beginning to understand that climate change is a lot more difficult to assess than the politicians would have us believe. Although I do not advocate short term annual observations as denoting a long term trend I do see the logic of fighting the good fight over global warming using the same tactics as the opposition.

So, two cold wet summers in a row imply no need to tax Europe into economic oblivion. There, I've said it!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

iWeb

What fun! I now have two websites and two blogs. The new site on me.com forms my alternative world, a try-out using iWeb and dedicated to Aperture 2.1.1. You could find the site here but it's now been deleted!

Profits are Good!

Exxon Mobil recently announced, along with other oil companies, record profits and, naturally, the politicians immediately clamored for windfall taxes, etc., etc. Nothing like the bad oil man to deflect adverse criticism away from poorly performing politicians!

This article in the Houston Chronicle points out that while Exxon is making large profits it is also paying $10.5 billion a quarter in taxes. So, in reality, the politicians ought to be pleased!

Aperture - First Thoughts

The most traumatic part of installing new software that replaces an existing package is setting it up the way you want it, which is not necessarily the default designed by the software gurus.

In this respect Apple's Aperture proved to be no different. I had two false starts before settling on the system that suits me. In case others would like to know my approach I have defined it below.

The Aperture Library

Basically Aperture lets you store the library with or without the image files. With the images the library gets to be very large, too large for a portable computer's hard drive (mine is 80GB). So you can keep the library on the hard drive and reference the image files which are stored on a separate drive (or drives). Or, as I discovered, you can use the first option but store the expanded and ever-growing library file on an external hard drive.

Only the Aperture application, plug-ins and preference files remain on the PowerBook.

So my third attempt has one huge Aperture Library.aplibrary file, currently with 62GB of information, sitting on a LaCie Rugged 250GB hard drive which has Firewire 800.

This seems to be a good compromise. I am used to carrying about portable hard drives so one more will not be a hassle (and one of those drives used to have all the Lightroom files on it).


Backing Up

The next thing I am fairly religious about is backing up. This is due to having lost a computer once. (If you don't back up, you should, end of sermon). Apple is good about making back up provisions and Aperture has an excellent concept called the Vault. Basically the library file (with images) is simply backed up to another hard drive. Once backed up, the vault can be refreshed quickly and easily.

(One additional observation is that the Vault only copies the library file so if you choose to have the library work with referenced master files, the latter do not automatically get backed up)

There is the chance of losing recently taken images between backups, so a new rule enters into play - keep all recently taken but downloaded images backed up in the camera, adding extra memory is this proves to be necessary. There is a clever side effect to this. Seeing a rapidly filling camera storage card will prompt a Vault refresh! Once the Vault is refreshed, erase the camera card images.

Note that Apple also suggests using a second Vault, this one to be stored off-site. Good insurance.


Projects and Work Flow

For now I have uploaded all my images into year by year projects. So "1999 Images" contains just the ones taken that year. Subsequently I will refine the project system which is very fluid and easily managed. It can be as complicated or as simple as necessary.

Which reminds me that the longest part of the set up was the creation of thumbnails and previews for the 9,000 images within that library file. An overnight exercise!

I have two digital cameras and here a simple decision was made - the Nikon D200 delivers raw images which deserve Aperture's sophisticated image processing. The Canon IXUS 70 relies on jpegs. So I made the decision to keep the two separate and have loaded the jpegs into iPhoto '08. The two packages can see each other so mixing the two camera outputs is always possible for creating a book or web site. iPhoto '08, by the way, is a very nice low end version of Aperture, a sort of "Aperture Light".


Any niggles?

None so far except that it would appear I can only order prints and books from Apple US. So much for the global economy!


Update!

I've started a separate blog here. It uses Apple's iWeb and will focus on my ongoing experience with Aperture.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lord Nelson and Captain Cook to the rescue?

Interesting report on the use of ship's records that will provide far more information about recent temperature changes than had been dreamed of previously. The article has only one drawback:

The discoveries "cast new light on climate change by suggesting that global warming may not be an entirely man-made phenomenon"

The problem here is that the writer obviously thinks that global warming is an entirely man-made phenomenon. Which, if this was the case, would imply that for all of geological history minus the last million years or less there has been no climate change!

But some progress was made today!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Claimers and Deniers

I see a trend developing in the war on words about climate change. First we see an article that starts "Scientists reveal study that claims....." followed by a second story that accuses other scientists of refuting the first claim as being "deniers".

Those who deny are merely putting forward a different, perhaps opposite, point of view. As such they have entered into the spirit of scientific debate. However the connotation of a denier is one who is likened to those who deny the holocaust ever existed, such is the politics of global warming. Decent thinking people really should see through all the smoke and mirrors and recognize that something sinister is going on!

The second part of the claimers' pitch is typified by this article in today's Daily Telegraph. Nowhere is mention made of man-make global warming, but such words now appear synonymous with climate change so the inference probably sticks with many people.

As a geologist I don't immediately see the hidden link because I understand climate change as a perfectly normal pattern. For the past 10,000 years the UK has been warming from a deep freeze state to the present pleasant climate (perhaps too wet but pleasant most of the time). 10,000 years ago the only trees that even thought about germinating were tundra species, dwarf pines, etc. Gradually trees from further south "moved" north and the tundra species disappeared further north still. All without the hand of man being involved. It should be no surprise that the species we consider indigenous are struggling as the globe warms up due to this long term trend (which is not man made). Mediterranean species may find their way north in a few decades and challenge the oak and ash that "soak and splash".

And I claim that such an event would be perfectly normal. At least until we go into another ice age cooling cycle.

Leaders don't "waver"

David Cameron needs to "step up to the plate" and hit a few home runs if he is to assume heir apparent to 10 Downing Street. Reports that he is "wavering" on green policy changes should worry the electorate. Leaders lead, they don't waver. He should be reconsidering his ideas on green taxes so the suggestion in this article that incentives will form the backbone of a new policy is a start. We will see where it ends.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Aperture vs Lightroom: Decision Time

The Aperture Trial has gone remarkably well. Aperture 2.1.1 appears to be a stable product with only one drawback that I have found so far.

Lack of speed.

Yes, what the pundits say is true, Aperture doesn't react as fast as Lightroom, particularly on my aging PPC PowerBook, right at the lower end of computers for which Aperture will work. But sooner or later I will have to upgrade the computer, that is inevitable, so this point will eventually become irrelevant!

But for all that I simply prefer the Aperture workflow and also I find the output options are much more flexible.

So I have purchased Aperture and am now moving over from Lightroom without even testing their latest offering (2.0).

I did make one mistake while purchasing Aperture; I tried it out on a fast new iMac. Wow!