The Blog

You'll hear a lot of talk about calls for a UK General Election because Theresa May wasn't democratically elected. Quite apart from misunderstanding representative democracy there's a small problem that hardly gets mentioned. It took Nick Clegg last night to recognise it in public, but even he glossed over the problems. He was the architect of the Fixed term act of 2011. which was a sop to the LibDems to get them on board for the coalition. This act requires 5 year fixed terms but Clegg claimed on TV that there are methods built in whereby elections can be called early. Well, in order for a general election to be held before the term is up, one of three things has to happen.
1) The act is repealed
2) There is a vote of no confidence in the government, without a second vote of confidence in the government in 14 days. Both by a simple majority in the House of Commons.
3) There is a vote for an early election passed by 2/3 of the MPs

There is precedent in Europe for option 2) to be deliberately pushed by an incumbent coalition but it's very unusual. Try and imagine a Tory government with a majority calling for no confidence in itself with a 3 line whip to make it happen! Not going to happen. Try and imagine a coalition of SNP, Labour and Tory renegades getting a vote of no confidence passed against a Tory 3 line whip. Again, not going to happen.

So unless something really, really bad happens or for some reason Theresa May resigns, it looks like we're stuck with her and the Tories till 7-May-2020.

And she'll be watching you.


[from: Google+ Posts]

Jimmy Cauty's ADP tour of a "Riot in a container" is paying a visit to the Beanfield next weekend and then on to Stonehenge for the Solstice.

I thought I'd go and try and find the location both of the battle and exactly where the container is going to be sited. It turns out the Beanfield was cut in half by the building of the A303 dual carriageway and the small lane the convoy was forced down is now a dead end. But in the process I found a wonderful image of exactly where the container is going on google streetview. It looks like some squaddies in a tank have stopped for a full english in the middle of some J.G.Ballard-ian dystopian landscape that just needs a couple of hundred police in fluorescent jackets to be part of the show.

Streetview, container location
Aerial, Beanfield

It's 31 years since the Battle of the Beanfield

It gets better. Just round the corner is a red brick motel and a swish boutique hotel with golf course. Not quite pink, but still,

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone

Brexit Leave campaign
meets Right wing think tanks
meets Right wing tabloids and broadsheets
meets Climate change denial
meets Big Oil
meets GMO/Big Agriculture

And all tied together by lobbyists and lobbyist organisations out of a single address in Westminster

It's not about Boris's hair or Farage's latest craziness.
It's not about Turkey joining the EU or some mythical tide of immigrants stealing our jobs and our benefits.
It's not about EU bureaucracy
It's not about saving or killing the NHS

It's about a high-stakes, power grab by all the usual suspects.

Don't give it to them.

Vote remain.

ps. The link between climate change denial and GMO promotion is wierd. You'd think if you denied science in one place you'd mistrust it in others. But of course it's never about the science. It's about regulatory capture by big business.

And not so surprising that the Leave campaign doesn't want to talk about the environment.
 Mapped: The Cosy Climate-Euro Sceptic Bubble Pushing for Brexit and Less Climate Action »
There is a deep-rooted connection between UK climate science deniers and those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union, new mapping by DeSmogUK can reveal.

[from: Google+ Posts]

One more time, with feeling. Farr festival is a boutique electronic dance festival on July 14-15-16. Near Baldock on the A1, 30 miles N of London.

For just a little longer, the ticket link below is for weekend camping tickets at a heavy discount.

From tomorrow (May 24) for one week. Tickets @ £75 and 3 for £150. Get in there.

[from: Google+ Posts]

Let's talk about global population for a moment. There's a technotopian view that "Given current trends, it is very possible that the size of the human population will peak this century and then start to decline.". This is an idea that Stewart Brand promotes as does Kevin Kelly as evidenced by their bets on the Long Bets website among others. Typically this goes along with comments like "The growth rate of the human population has already peaked. Today’s population growth rate is one percent per year, down from its high point of 2.1 percent in the 1970s."

Now, the best source of data about global population is probably the UN. Their papers are pretty dry but there's a good summary of their data here. And also in the UN's executive summary here. What seems to have happened is that the growth in population was close to an exponential curve up to about 1950. But then it transitioned to a linear growth so that from about 1965 to 2015 the growth in absolute numbers has been pretty constant at 1b every 12-14 years, 80m every year. Now in a linear growth phase, of course the RATE in terms of the percentage of the total is going down. Simple maths. A constant addition is a smaller and smaller proportion of the growing total. However the linear rate is constant. If the growth in population is following a resource constrained logistics curve we would expect an S shape. So that after the linear region we would expect the growth to slow and the total to then plateau out. However looking at the UN forecasts, even the most optimistic has the peak at around 10b in 2080. The median predictions don't top out this century and hit 11.2 billion by 2100. The UN has recently revised (2015) their forecast of 10 billion persons in the year 2056 (six years earlier than previously estimated). If anything the recent historical data and near term (30-40 years) forecasts are for slightly higher than linear growth. This is the data that Hans Rosling uses as the basis of his presentations to the BBC and Davos, although he manages to a positive spin on it. We should be more sceptical.

All of this forces me to say "citation needed" when referring back to statements like "very possible that the size of the human population will peak this century" or "Human population of the world will peak at or below 8 billion in the 2040s and then drop dramatically.". It looks too much like hand waving. So where's the justification for a different outcome from the forecasts of the most well respected source? When should we expect a slow down in the linear growth, because it's still happening.

This seems critical to me because people who seek to find technological answers to our problems tend to argue that Malthus and Erlich were wrong and continued economic growth is possible indefinitely. Continued growth in global population makes this harder and harder to support. It may not be the relatively quick Malthusian disaster produced by exponential growth, but linear growth is ultimately just as bad, it just takes a bit longer before you hit the limits.

Projections and futurists usually take a predictable approach. Take what's happening right now, project the graphs out to 15 years with no real changes in approach. Then push the models to 30 and then to 60 years with some changes that make a certain amount of sense. Now go back to 1970 when Erlich and crew were predicting Malthusian apocalypse. They'd had 40 years or so of accelerating exponential growth in global population and it was currently peaking at 2% pa compound. If that had continued we'd be on 9b now (2016), 12b in 2030 and 18b in 2050. Understandably they couldn't see how the Earth could possibly support that. But given the current situation they were seeing around them at the time, it was reasonable to wonder what would happen.

As it turned out they were writing just as the first demographic transition happened from exponential growth to linear growth. Instead of 2% pa, the system switched to 80m pa. It's now kept that linear growth up for 50 years. So if you were projecting right now, it would be reasonable to expect that linear growth to continue for at least another 15 years, maybe to 30 years out. And you'd be stretching the point to justify it for 60 years. It is possible that we're on the threshold of the next transition from linear growth to zero growth or even falling growth. But right now in 2016 it's hard to see.

So what is underpinning these 3 regimes?

- Exponential growth: Agricultural revolution. Crop science. Industrialisation of agriculture. Cheap nitrogen fertiliser produced with cheap energy. Antibiotics.

- Linear growth: Urbanisation. Falling fertility rates among developed populations. Underdeveloped areas with exponential growth becoming a smaller proportion of the whole. What else?

- Zero and falling growth: Pollution and resource constraints. Food capacity constraints. Ageing menopausal populations. What else?

What have I missed as justifications? And why should the transition happen from linear growth to zero growth? What I don't feel I've got a handle on is why we've had constant linear growth for 50 years and why it should stop. Instead of arguing about the details of which futurist was right or how previous predictions turned out to be absurd, where's the analysis of what was happening then, now and in the 30 year future?

I don't really see how to avoid this. It suggests to me that it's a core, big and difficult problem that won't go away. And it's the one big problem that underpins all the other big problems. If we're not to have those catastrophic failures defined by "SFPD - Systems Fail, People Die", then we have to come up with solutions for supporting 11-12b people within the next 100 years. And we have to do it while in the middle of climate change and resource limitations (eg fossil fuels) becoming major factors. And of course it's worse than it appears because that rising population has increasing expectations of consumerism. Generating increasing amounts of pollution, both as CO2 and as more traditional forms. And using up our resources at an increasing rate.

Happy Vernal Equinox Day.

The equinox was actually at 04:30 UTC, with sunrise for the pagans at Stonehenge at 06:06 UTC. But I wasn't awake for either.

And next Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon (Wed 23rd, 12:01 UTC) after the Vernal Equinox. So thanks to the calculations for the date of the Jewish feast of Passover, that's Easter.

Trying to unpack the symbolism surrounding all this is beyond me. The blood of sacrificed spring lambs, eh. M'kay, err, say what?
[from: Google+ Posts]

"Pavlov's Dogwhistle"

Or is that redundant?
[from: Google+ Posts]

We are living in the aftermath of an alien invasion.

We are now living in a global state that has been structured for the benefit of non-human entities with non-human goals. They have enormous media reach, which they use to distract attention from threats to their own survival. They also have an enormous ability to support litigation against public participation, except in the very limited circumstances where such action is forbidden. Individual atomized humans are thus either co-opted by these entities (you can live very nicely as a CEO or a politician, as long as you don't bite the feeding hand) or steamrollered if they try to resist. 

I, for one, welcome our corporate overlords. 
 Invaders from Mars - Charlie's Diary »
"Voting doesn't change anything — the politicians always win." 'Twas not always so, but I'm hearing variations on that theme a lot these days, and not just in the UK. Why do we feel so politically powerless? Why is the world so obviously going to hell in a handbasket? Why can't anyone fix it?

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The Committee to Abolish Outer Space should meet up with the last remnants of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts[1]. Surprisingly, it looks like they have a lot in common.

[1] I need both an AAA and a C.A.O.S T-shirt.
[from: Google+ Posts]

When I'm in charge of motorcycle and motorcycle component design:-

- alarms won't drain the battery if you don't use the bike for 3 weeks and forget to put it on the trickle charger. Seriously guys, an alarm should run for pretty much forever on it's internal battery. Just taking a small charge when the engine's running.

- Honda and Suzuki will find a regulator supplier that can supply a regulator that actually works and doesn't lead to a small pile of mostly broken batteries that don't really hold a charge any more. How long has this been going on? Nearly as long as camchain adjusters that don't.

- And batteries will actually last more than 5 years and survive more than 4 winters.

- The sidelight switch won't be an infinitesimal click beyond the steering lock but will actually require a separate button press on a lockout. Gah! How hard is this?

- So it's virtually impossible to walk away from the bike in daylight with the steering lock and sidelights on, only to return to a bike 4 hours later that won't start the engine. Yeah, I know. Always check. Except every once in a while, you don't.

- And even if you could bump start it (CVT transmission and clutch, no kickstart, hey-ho) the EFI needs a certain minimum charge to boot the computer. This modern life, eh? Bring back carbs, air-cooling, kick starts, dynamos, and minimal electronics that will run with the battery replaced by a capacitor.

- And the battery terminals will be reasonably accessible with jump leads. Not buried behind a screwed down cover and surrounded by plastic so you can't get the crocodile clips to stay put.
[from: Google+ Posts]

I woke up this morning in the middle of a dream in which I was listening to Weather Report do a Dub version of one of their songs. It had been de-constructed and re-worked so much you could barely hear the remnants of the original. But just as I woke up it resolved into Cucumber Slumber and it was called something like Turnip Nap. Or possibly Consuetude as some kind of pun riff on Swedes. And with a nod to Zappa's reworking of "Black Napkins" into "Serviettes Noir".

So I go looking for a Cucumber Slumber Dub and I don't think anyone's ever done it, and somebody should. Although there are one or two jazz tribute bands that do something approaching it. It's really annoying that you can't record the music you hear in your dreams!
The original
Barbary Coast - Cucumber Slumber Medley
Black Napkins
Le Serviette Noir live in Paris
Titties and Beer tour. Yep, I was there.

Now, Simon Reynolds does a yearly thing where he encourages his blog followers to find music with examples of exceptional playing of one instrument. This year it was Bass. Most of it is from post-disco or post-punk so you get lots of references to The Stranglers or Bootsy and I was thinking that Cucumber Slumber is an example of amazing bass playing that might have been missed. Which led to Simon's post here that covers a huge amount of ground around Bass from Psychedelia. Mid-60s to Mid-80s.

As an aside, The Stranglers turned up on Dangerous Minds[1] in a short post about George Melly.
You owe it to yourself to listen at least once to Their collaboration "Old Codger". Rather uncomfortable listening, post Saville. 

Back to Reynolds. Right in the middle of his post about Psychedelic Bass is a live version of Jaco Pastorius doing a tribute to Noel Redding and Jimi Hendrix with a jazz-ed up version of Third Stone From The Sun. 
At which point I realised that I saw him do this at Hammersmith Odeon during the same tour. He was booed by an audience that was mostly there to see Birdland which had just become an international hit. They thought they were there to see some Lounge Jazz and what they got was a Sonic Attack from an abandoned Bass guitar feeding back through the floor of the stage and some wild eyed maniac space-hippy in harem pants bowing to them from the footlights.

[1]Dangerous Minds is a wonderful blog. Where else could you find a mix of the 200 cover versions of "These Boots" mixed in with a discussion of Paul Klee's influences.

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Pokemism : A tendency to collect and try out cognitive biases to see how they feel. Can you collect them all?

[from: Google+ Posts]

Quality travel excursions for Oxbridge alumni, led by a world class academic. eg 19 days through China and the 'stans following parts of the silk road. For only £3910 all in. 

A pipe-dream for the bucket list?
 Crossing the Ancient Silk Road »
The term Silk Road was coined in the 19th-century by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen. It was not a single route but a vast network of roads stretching from Xi’an to the eastern Mediterranean. Linking India, Europe and the Far East, routes passed through spectacular cities and tiny hamlets, through forbidding mountains, gentle steppe lands and hot deserts. Along its length, intrepid merchants traded in a number of items such as Balt...

[from: Google+ Posts]

I wonder how much easier travelling by bicycle makes border crossings compared with  motorcycle or car. And if the same applies to low power electric bicycles. So for instance, do you still need an escort in western tibetan China or the Waziristan and tribal parts of Pakistan? 
 Crossing Asia on my bike, I met countless others out to see the world on a bicycle | Emily Chappell »
Emily Chappell: Exploring the world on a bicycle is an adventure like no other – it is the best way of meeting the world on its own terms

[from: Google+ Posts]

Yesterday's nature excitement was seeing a pair of Goldcrests in Hertford's Pinetum. They were feeding on midges and insects on a pile of Douglas Fir branches I was clearing. That came from the top of an old but weird shaped tree that had broken off in the high winds of a few days ago.

The Pinetum is looking good and the display of snow drops is looking perfect. They have an open day this Sunday with guided walks and cream teas.

[from: Google+ Posts]

None of those "Shine-on; Let’s do an SF anthology about positive futures!" people have ever approached Peter Watts, for some reason. I wonder why. Here's his typically scary take on Zika and other emerging infectious diseases (EID).
 No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Viva Zika! »
There's this guy I knew, Dan Brooks. Retired now, an eminent parasitologist and evolutionary biologist back in the day. He did a lot of work on emerging infectious diseases (EIDs, for you acronym fetishists) down in Latin America. A few years back I wrote some introductory text for an online ...

[from: Google+ Posts]

Reading James Bridle's SciFi short about a post mass-data world[1]. Recommended by Bruce Sterling[2]. Leading to re-visiting Bridle's blog and a piece about 5-eyes surveillance[3]. And his short film of a CGI walk-through of UK immigrant detention centres[4]. And another piece about the Space Blanket as a A Flag For No Nations (or perhaps a Flag Of No Nation)[5]. All while listening to Fatima Al Qadiri - Brute, a soundtrack for 21st century protest[6]. 

[6] [7]
[7] Coincidentally, the image for Brute is a TellyTubby wearing riot police gear. And while it's obviously the purple TinkyWinky famously outed by Jerry Falwell for being a closet gay, It's got Po's circular aerial and not TinkyWinky's triangle. Except that actually it's Joe Kline's Po-Po [8]
 The End of Big Data | Motherboard »
It's the world after personal data: all identifying information is illegal. No servers, no search records, no social, no surveillance. A pair of satellites, circling the planet, make sure the data cen…

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The only possible response is "Oh dear". And that's what they want you to say.

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I'd like to propose an extension to Betteridge's Law. "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." 

"Any headline that contains 'could' can be answered by the words, Probably not."

eg "This $500 bamboo bicycle could be a key to reliable, affordable, and sustainable transportation". Hmmm!?! Probably not.
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Why is David Cameron's "Greenest Government Ever" turning away from investment in renewable infrastructure? Especially after Paris last year. We were doing quite well there for a while.

Did they make too many promises to their fossil fuel friends in the fracking industry?

There's something strange going on here.

There's a broad mix of opposition politicians, energy companies and green groups asking the same questions.

Last July, the UK government started to roll back support for renewable energy, citing forecasts of cost overruns and the need to keep down household bills.

New projections showed the Levy Control Framework (LCF) cap for low-carbon support would be breached, the government said. Yet it has never published the details of its updated calculations, despite the multi-billion pound implications for the direction of UK energy investment.

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