Sunday, 28 June 2009

If Any Of You Think The Countryside Is Quiet...

... think again.

The bloody woodpigeons, the blackbirds, tits, rooks, jackdaws... My head is hurting.

And as for the visual noise... mist with dawn light... summer trees looming like weird gods.

Olafactory? Our rosebushes keep telling me to go out and sniff them.

I'm tired. Or I mean, my body is tired. The brain has a way to go yet.

Keep safe everyone. I hope you're all ok. Dx


Interesting article.

This is a drug company's dream come true. They would undoubtedly find ways of penetrating the huge new markets with medications having largely unproven benefit and very substantial side effects.

This is the first time I have felt the need to make any comments on DSM‐V. Even when the early steps in the DSMV process seemed excessively ambitious, secretive, and disorganized, I hoped that I could avoid involvement and believed that my successors deserved a clear field. My unduly optimistic assumption was that the initial problems of secrecy and lack of explicitness would self‐correct and that excessive ambitions would be moderated by experience. I have decided to write this commentary now only because time is beginning to run out and I fear that DSM‐V is continuing to veer badly off course?and with no prospect of spontaneous internal correction. It is my responsibility to make my worries known before it is too late to act on them. What is needed now is a profound mid‐term correction toward greater openness, conservatism, and methodological rigor. I would thus suggest that the trustees of the American Psychiatric Association establish an external review committee to study the progress of the current work on DSM‐V and make recommendations for its future direction.

Wrote by the laddy wot wrote DSM IV that in one form or another we are currently struggling under. Drug companies must be laughing their balls off at the future prospect.

Lay bets. Will my kids be being treated forcibly in 10 years time for being my kids?

This world is making me feel violent.

Friday, 26 June 2009


I have been editing loads of photos, trying to pick my 100 favourites. I could only manage 75. I'm picky. Anyway, here for your mindless entertainment:

You can make it bigger by clicking on the little four-arrowed button on the bottom right of the box above if you hover the mouse over it. Enjoy.

Edit: click this for some background music:

My Last Word On All Of This Shite

I'm an urban guerilla
I make bombs in my cellar
I'm a derelict dweller
I'm a potential killer
I'm a street fighting dancer
I'm a revolutionary romancer
I'm society's cancer
I'm a two-tone panther
So let's not talk of love and flowers
And things that don't explode
We've used up all of our magic powers
Trying to do it in the road

I'm a political bandit
And you don't understand it
You took my dream and canned it
It is not the way I planned it
I'm society's destructor
I'm a petrol bomb constructor
I'm a cosmic light conductor
I'm the people's debt collector
So watch out Mr. Business Man
Your empire's about to blow
I think you'd better listen, man
In case you did not know

Good old Bob Calvert.

What Can You Do / What Can You Not Do?

On the right day, anything
On the wrong day, nothing.
On the right day, I can fly
On the wrong day, I may well die.

Personal anecdote, not necessarily related:

The other day I met a chap who I suppose is only fat cat I know of a sort. He used to be an oil advisor to Blair. Four years ago at a party I argued with him for hours and a bottle of whisky (drunk by me, I'm afraid) about the likely price of oil over the next decade and the implosion of the credit-driven economy. He spouted his lines, his regurgitated shite, his cribsheet until he was blue in the face, and then he burst into tears and apologised for the shit that he was peddling.

After consoling him I walked six miles home in the dawn, then we zoomed off to London for about another day and night of carousing and playing music in three different places. When I finally got to bed I had to read a book for a couple of hours to get some sleep.

I saw him again last week. He cut me dead.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Appeal - Welfare Reform Bill

Just go to the article and leave your views. And then write to your Monkey of Powerabuse. I'm too angry to explain, but the policy behind the new bill is revolting.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Temporarily Closed for Repairs.

Happiness is dangerous; strong contrasts are married to greater risk; the pretence of non-sadness bites more fiercely as soon as it is tossed a bone. Get out the glue-pot and mend the broken pieces for the hundredth time.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Oh Dear, Missed Again

I note I've been keeping this blog for a whole year. That's probably too long, eh?

The one thing that gives me hope is I still haven't passed the 10,000 hits mark - thank god! A hundred to go...

Strange. I've always felt perversely pleased that by one method or another, I've kept this blog quiet. Slipping stones into the pond without a ripple, etc. I have been delighted at the interesting people I've met through here, and may you all raise a glass for me in keeping it quiet for another year.

Take care all. Dx

Monday, 15 June 2009

Too Many Subjects

Feeling 'normal' when patently high. You don't accord it importance when in the experience. Insight left on the top shelf. But the devil of self-preservation is in the background.

This made me laugh last night but one:

Aphorisms are my favourite form. They leave you room to guess - they flatter - they are modest. I hate spitting rage at the forms that spell it out til doomsday. (He said, doing it himself).

Cooked a dish a dear Russian friend who came over last night told us about: Butt-Fucked-Chicken, or something more gentle in the translation. A chicken, with a standard american sized beer bottle up the bum, filled with water, or whatever you like. Stood upright in the oven. The funny thing is when served it looks like the effigy of some weird little god.

Earlier, picked a brimful bowlful plateful large bowl big many of wild strawberries.

Smultronstallet or whatever it is in Swedish. The perfect pudding. (Edit, Marian says the Bergman film translation in English is my downfall! - should be whatever the plural of Smultron is, if it isn't already).

I hate posting positive things like that. I don't want to crow. And I'm not crowing, because a perfect day turned black at the end.

I could post on any of these topics. If anyone wants to hear more, then kick me.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Oral Tradition, Bob Dylan, Friday Night...

The music I've played on and off most of my life, and pretty much constantly the last sixteen years, Irish traditional music, is, or used to be, and still mostly is at its core, learned orally, or aurally (I can never work out which is which).

You hear a tune enough times, played by enough people, and then lo and behold, the Magnificent Brain Recording Apparatus has done the business, and you take the fiddle out, and realise you can play it.

That's the first stage. Then you try playing it with the people you've been listening to, or perhaps you had it from other people, and different people play it and you join in, and realise there is a note here, a note there, where you've got it 'wrong'.

So you correct it. Then, you play with some other people again, and they play it how you had it in the first place.

That's why it's good to be adaptable, to know a dozen versions, to be able to be able to play a different version to the ones you know as you come across them.

Onto to dear old Bob. I find it disturbing that he has this website with all his lyrics up. I was humming Isis in my head earlier, and stupidly looked at the lyrics, and realised for more than twenty years I've been hearing him wrong! The bastard!

Four instances:

He has:

I came to a high place of darkness and light.
The dividing line ran through the center of town.
I hitched up my pony to a post on the right,
Went in to a laundry to wash my clothes down.

I have:

I came to a high place of darkness and light.
The body line ran through the center of town.
I hitched up my pony to a post on the right,
Went in to a laundry to wash my clothes down.

He has:

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise.
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed,
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes.
I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead.

I have:

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise.
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bath,
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes.
I cursed the one time that I rode on ahead.

Full text here.

Well, I prefer my version. I prefer the weird ambiguity of body line, and I love the dirtiness of "in need of a bath", and I really and utterly prefer "I cursed the one time that I rode on ahead" over "I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead."

That said, maybe a gumby was employed to transcribe. Maybe he sings it differently everytime.

But that is the thing about learning by ear. We get it wrong. Songs, tunes, evolve. We do our damnedest to avoid changing them, but they still change, and we hate people who have shite versions because they are too lazy to listen. Change creeps in no matter how good you are. But change from idleness is unforgivable.

See, Friday night. I'm being self-indulgent and blathering on some of the things that I find important.

My apologies.

Other questions I find important?... Too many. Another day.

Keep safe all. Dx

Friday, 12 June 2009

Dreams, Dreams...

"I have a recurring dream": that I can't get to sleep.

But here are some strange awake dreams while trying to get to sleep for the nth night running - dreaming while staring at the dawn coming through the cream blanket hung as curtain...

Bette Davis (me) threatened by Cary Grant (me) with gun in a lift. Through Cary's (my) eyes see Bette (me) somehow lay Cary (me) out with a vicious wee uppercut and Bette (me) watches Cary (me) crumple to the lift floor. Think split mirror view as crumple happens. One folds conically into the other.

Building: an arcade, or shopping centre, or hospital, every turn and corner blizzarding and blitzing with violently smashing glass and crockery - bang-flung than manorwoman-flung. Dodge and dodge and duck and run - still end up with a complete dinner service in my scalp. It hurt, physically in the dream, like lumpy burning. Blinded by blood, even flowing from my ears. Someone on a helpdesk, who appears to be Madonna?!? pulls a large piece of broken bottle from my head, and waves me on through.


Apart from that, I'm ok. And I don't like madonna.

Take care all

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Peak Oil, Growth, Digging Out My Compost Heap

For Aethelread - keeping the circle-jerk going! :-D

At the bottom of my compost heap, while intending to fertilise my runner beans to stave off hunger for the next winter, I found an old sheaf of paper containing notes for a rather poor essay I dashed off while flying in 2002 or 2003. Much stained, and bescrawled with bloodied slogans such as "We're All Going to Die!!!!", "Glass Half Full or Half Empty! Who Cares! Pass the Whisky!!!", etc, further inspection revealed a few facts and figures that might be amusing, if not accurate or interesting.

Note: I do not describe myself as a pessimist. Is it possible to see bad things in the crystal ball and feel optimistic that they might not be as bad as they could be?


Does a sustainable future depend on devising better ways of meeting current energy demands, or on reducing those demands for energy?

Basic Principles

The world is a place of finite bounds. Worth is measured in energy, not money: put differently, a £50 note and a £5 note have rather similar calorific values if burned or eaten.

First, it must be accepted the idea that "sustainable" has to mean "for an unspecified long period of time." (Bartlett.)

Secondly, the mathematical fact should be acknowledged that steady growth (at a fixed percent per year) can give very large numbers in surprisingly brief periods of time. For example: if the current world population increases at the current growth-rate of 1.7%, then it will cross the 1 trillion mark in about 300 years time.

It should be obvious and clear from this that any unchecked population growth is eventually going to meet its Malthusian nemesis.

There is a tendency to disprove a theory if its predictions have not yet been fulfilled: tomorrow never comes. Malthus’ basic idea: that at a certain point, population will outstrip food supply, and starvation will force a reduction of population; this is not in essence contestable unless the premise of a finite world and finite resource availability is disproved.

Is it possible to disprove this premise? Let it be assumed that the miracle of nuclear fusion happens, and mankind has superabundant and to all intents and purposes free energy. Let it be assumed that science finds a way of creating unlimited food from energy. In this wildly optimistic scenario, let a population growth of 1% be extrapolated over the next 20,000 years. The size of the population at the end of this period would be 1.58966E+96. Let’s round it down to 1.5E+96. That population would be fifteen quadrillion times the number of atoms in the universe (approx 1E+78). Is this possible? Could humanity grow the universe with its own masses? It would be wise to assume not. It follows that growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. Therefore, we have to work within a world-view that accepts finity.

‘Where the state of our planet is at stake, the risks can be so high, and the costs of corrective action so great, that prevention is better and cheaper than cure.’ (Costing the Earth, p.55-56)

At some point, then, an ever increasing population will reach a natural check to its growth. Since a check on population will be reached at some point, it would seem sensible to choose to check population at a level that is advantageous to everyone.

An economist called Kenneth Boulding developed the theorems that bear his name:

“First theorem: ‘The Dismal Theorem’
“If the only ultimate check on a population is misery, then the population will grow until it is miserable enough to stop its growth.

“Second Theorem: ‘The Utterly Dismal Theorem’
“Any technical improvement can only relieve misery for a while, for so long as misery is the only check on population, the technical improvement will enable population to grow, and will enable more people to live in misery than before. The final result of technical improvements, therefore, is to increase the equilibrium population which is to increase the total sum of human misery.

“Third Theorem: ‘The Moderately Cheerful Form of the Dismal Theorem.’
“If something else, other than misery and starvation, can be found which will keep a prosperous population in check, the population does not have to grow until it is miserable and starves, and it may be stably prosperous.” (Boulding 1971.)


Current energy demands, being the result of an economic system that depends on growth to be stable can never be sustainable. Even if we were to suddenly enforce energy use at today’s level, the effect on world economics would be the same as a cut or reduction in use, as the potential growth will have been cut.

How does the concept of growth work? Well, very crudely, when a bank lends money, with interest payable on the repayment, then it takes the view that it has created wealth (i.e., the interest portion. This is self-evidently erroneous: the interest is merely a monetary equivalent of part of the existing world energy budget to be paid at a future time). However, the economist’s view of the matter is that wealth is created by the act of lending. It is possible to see how the mirage of never-ending growth is glimpsed through the proverbial rose-tinted spectacles.

The other reason why economists believe growth to be necessary and good is that if supply of goods and services outstrips demand (or the growth in demand is less than the growth in supply) recession results. When a recession occurs, the wealth ‘created’ by the lending of money to an expanding economy is ‘destroyed’ as the borrowers of money default on their loans, or are made bankrupt, etc. (Marx and Engels).

It may be seen from this very brief and crude overview of modern capitalism that growth is fundamentally necessary to banks and other such rich lenders of money. As the political class’s raison d’etre is invariably the representation of the interests of ‘big-business’, growth is non-negotiable.

If standing still, as has been shown, is tantamount to a cut, then it is immaterial whether we consider any option apart from a theoretical reduction in demand, and the economic restructuring of society that would entail. Increased efficiency, however, should be striven for, as it gives the best value in terms of work output per energy input, and as we shall now see, net-energy input is too precious to use carelessly.

Embodied Energy and Emergy.

Embodied energy is a measure of the amount of energy embodied within different forms of energy. For example, solar energy makes plants grow, plants die and become coal, coal is burnt to produce electricity. One unit of coal-fired generated electricity embodies 160,000 units of solar energy.

Embodied energy is inversely proportional to efficiency. Therefore, if a process of energy transformation is only 10% efficient, the amount of embodied energy in the output will be ten times the input.

Generally, in the natural world, the higher the embodied energy, the higher the quality of the energy. Coal, for instance, is a higher-quality form of energy than peat: more heat can be produced from the same weight of material. However, in man-made systems, low-efficiency leads to more embodied energy. This makes a nonsense of the principle of energy-quality.

Therefore, to measure embodied energies in an absolute way, we use emergy; this word is a contraction of embodied energy. It refers to the measure of embodied energy when all processes are working at their maximum thermodynamic efficiency. Thus, the smallest possible value of embodied energy for a process is emergy (after Odum.)

Towards a Growth-Free World.

If it is accepted that there are limits to growth, then the only conclusion to be reached that presupposes continued existence is that mankind must develop sustainable energy technologies. What potential do the various technologies have to either be sustainable or to be bridges to a sustainable future?

Overview of Energy Technologies.


The greatest and overriding problem with nuclear fission is that the waste it creates is dangerous for such a long time, guarantees about its indefinite safe storage can not be given. On the other hand, the risk of global warming from carbon emissions may prove to pose a greater risk, and the nuclear route be re-opened. Last year, Finland led the way by deciding to build a new nuclear power station, the first in the European Union for twelve years. Finland’s justification was that it had to go nuclear to meet its 1997 Kyoto obligations.

It may be that the next generation of nuclear power stations are much safer and better designed than their predecessors, and that strategies for dealing with the waste-products are better. But, as we have seen, the risk is hugely magnified by the time-scales involved.

There would likely be strong local and national opposition to a new phase of nuclear building. It is also likely that opposition will increase over the short term as older stations are decommissioned: the attendant difficulties of that and the safe disposal of the waste beg the question: why start again if it is so dangerous and difficult?

The argument goes that nuclear takes very little in the way of resources from the environment. However, uranium is also a finite substance, although it may be prolonged considerably by the use of fast-breeder reactors.

There is, however, a strong case for using nuclear power in the sense of a bridging loan while sustainable systems are put in place: that is to say, build the sustainable revolution on nuclear foundations. The critical factor that decides whether we have to, will be the length of time in which the transition has to be made: we may not be able to afford to grow sustainable technologies from their own energies: a one-off input may be required to kick-start the process. If a great deal of power is definitely needed, and fossil fuels are ruled out on grounds of pollution or worth in other applications, then nuclear power can almost seem an attractive proposition. It is hoped that this is a last-resort endorsement of the lesser of two great evils.


All existing nuclear energy reactors today are based on nuclear fission, where atoms are split. Uranium or other fissile materials are split apart, which results in the release of enormous quantities of energy and production of large amounts of dangerous radioactive waste.

Fusion works by combining atoms together. The result is still the release of great quantities of energy, but only negligible amounts of radioactive waste is generated.

In comparison to fission, theoretically nuclear fusion is inherently safer in the long term. However, up to now, fusion experiments have not made more energy than was required by the apparatus of the experiment. The energy is controlled in a type of charged gas or plasma, held in place by electro-magnetic fields. Fusion is and has been the holy grail of energy production for two generations. However, it is unlikely that it will move out of the laboratory and into the real world in the foreseeable future.

Fossil fuels.

Aside from the all-important use of oil for powering transport and agriculture, and as the raw material for plastics, drugs, and a whole host of applications, fossil fuels have also been the mainstay of electricity generation; however, they are flawed in two fundamentally dangerous ways. Firstly, the emissions from power stations and vehicles are major factors that contribute to global warming, and acid rain, and other environmental problems, such as particulates. Secondly, they are non-renewable - the fact that they will eventually run out may have catastrophic effects on society if we do nothing to ameliorate our dependence upon them.

Oil depletion is already a fact of life. World conventional oil reserves are approximately half used up: the peak of production is variously expected between 2005 and 2012. (Campbell, Laherrere, IEA). That fact has a large implication: the ever rising demand soon will not be able to be met by an ever diminishing resource.

“An energy crisis is descending over the world. The situation is grave. The world has not run out of oil and North America has not run out of natural gas. What we are short of is any way to grow our energy supply. North America has no excess natural gas capacity. What we do have is extremely aggressive decline rates, making it harder each year to keep current production from falling. A massive number of gas-fired power plants have been ordered. But the gas to run them is simply not there.” (Simmons).

Conventional oil differs from all ultimately recoverable oil in one major respect: it gushes out of holes in the ground. This is very different from digging up tarry sand (in, say, Canada) and extracting the oil from it. The energy cost of extraction of conventional oil is very low. Oil has a high energy content per unit weight: it burns hotter, and can be carried more easily than its competitors. ‘A diesel locomotive wastes only one-fifth the energy of a coal powered steam engine to pull the same train.’ (Hanson, 2001).

This very usefulness of oil is the cause of our dependence on it. Oil has been the “fundamental driver of the 20th Century’s economic prosperity.” (Campbell, 2001.) When the myth of endless reserves is finally dispelled by the facts in front of us, the world economy will take a severe knock.

“The reality is that there is no real reprieve. Gradually the market – and not just the oil market – will come to realize that OPEC can no longer single-handedly manage depletion. It will be a dreadful realization, because it means that there is no ceiling to oil price other than falling demand. That in turn spells economic recession and a crumbling stock market, the first signs of which are already being felt.” (Ibid.)

It is to be hoped that in the aftershock of this realization, that serious thought be given at an international level to the importance of developing sustainability. Current U.S., European, and Russian stick-shaking may be attributed to gaining the most favourable deals with the Middle East. War, with all its attendant wastefulness, is not the answer to an unsustainable situation.

Any renewable energy programme must, if we are to sustain present populations, equal the energy demands of agriculture in particular: electric tractors at present could not cope with the work. A renewable programme must allow extra on top of the normal electrical appliances for perhaps hydrogen production. Alternatively, it would be wise to set aside the high-work-potential of oil and lpg for essential tasks such as growing food, while coaxing the world down from its pinnacle of unsustainability.

In conclusion to the above, arriving at a state of sustainability morally demands the sustenance of the world in the process. The importance of replacing the work done by oil cannot be underestimated.

In the short term, the use and production of fossil energy can be improved in many ways. Vehicle efficiency, caring and repairing vehicles for longer as the initial build costs are so energy-expensive, using combined heat and power in our power stations (although the costing of the energy saving must be set against the cost of the installation of the hot water pipes), the U.S. repealing their latest tax breaks for SUVs, the greater encouragement for insulating homes and workplaces, and the list goes on and on. Always, the energy cost of the improvement must be set against the expected saving of the improvement. The point cannot be overstressed: energy at the present time is so valuable, the best use has to be found at every turn. The true efficiency and environmental impact of an energy source is the sum total of a lengthy chain of events, from creation to disposal. Focusing on only one part of the chain may give a misleading picture of what is really going on. Feelgood practices such as cosmetic recycling are worse than useless: firstly they enable people to ignore the more important issues, and secondly they waste energy in their execution: Range Rovers driving five miles to recycle that week’s quota of champagne bottles.

It is likely that every last extractable drop of oil will be burned – the attraction is too great – and the potential threat of famine too compelling. It would be eminently sensible if every last drop was burned usefully.


An energy source to be truly sustainable and renewable, must be capable of producing enough energy to build itself, as well as enough net energy to justify its existence. Also, its implementation must not demand other energy inputs that would make it unsustainable. However, some energy systems, such as hydrogen extraction fuelled by electricity, while inefficient, may demand inclusion by their usefulness and transportability.


Although the first criticism of wind power is ‘what happens when it’s calm?’ by connecting enough remote wind turbines together, the various areas of calm and blow average out, and can generate useful quantities of reliable electricity.

The aesthetic aspect is also cited as a problem. However, aesthetic principles are soon done away with when hunger or cold is an issue. There may be issues with sea-bird populations. Also, the British Navy has objected due to RADAR coverage concerns. However, all these objections are relatively trivial compared to the environmental damage and impact of coal and oil fired power stations, oil tanker spills, oil refineries, et cetera.

Solar Power.

The sun's heat can be used directly in passive solar panels to provide household hot water and heating; south-facing conservatories utilising greenhouse glass; or in photo voltaics to convert solar radiation into electricity.

Solar panels have the advantage that once the energy payback period is complete, they produce electricity cheaply, with ever increasing efficiency, with very low levels of polluting emissions. However, they require sizeable quantities of space for industrial applications or to generate electricity for general distribution.

There is some argument about whether photovoltaics are a net energy sink. The general prognosis seems to be that they are not, and that they are improving all the time. The payback period is hoped to be about two years by 2010.

Ground-Source Heat.

The heat of the Earth's mantle contains virtually unlimited quantities of geothermal energy. However, using it effectively and efficiently is a complex, and expensive process. Nevertheless, ground source heat pumps (GSHP) can use refrigerator technology to heat and cool homes. They do not rely on volcanic activity, just the ubiquitous temperature of the ground, to warm household water and heating services. They are electrically powered and use the natural heat storage capability of the earth to lose or gain heat. Concrete structures such as foundations are used to absorb this energy from the ground. They can save up to 65% of electricity heating and cooling costs; this figure should be interpreted in the light of the inefficiencies of electricity for these purposes.


Biomass, or plant matter, can be directly burned or converted into liquid fuels such as ethanol. It is debatable whether the latter is an energy sink or not, i.e. makes a net energy loss having used more in its production than it can deliver. Once again, this may make sense depending on the suitability of the delivery to the application.

Electricity can be generated by using the tides flowing in and out to power underwater turbines. However, the flora and fauna of the estuarine environments which are suited to tidal barrages would be adversely affected. Also, eventually, they will silt up, and be rendered defunct unless they can also provide the surplus energy to dredge their own sedimentation.

Fuel cell technology dates back well over 150 years. Yet with the take-off of steam power interest in fuel-cells was non-existent. It generates electricity by splitting hydrogen molecules to release electrons, which are captured as a current in an electric circuit. The by-products pass through the cell and combine with oxygen and electrons returning from the other side of the circuit, producing water vapour as the only waste product. Of course, there may be issues concerning water-vapour based greenhouse gas emissions, as H2O is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Hydrogen can be obtained from a range of substances including natural gas, gasoline, methanol, ammonia, and water, so there is virtually an inexhaustible supply. However, it always takes energy to produce it.

Compared to conventional engines run on petrol or diesel, fuel cells are considerably more efficient. Petrol and diesel generators convert only 30 - 35% at best of the fuel they burn, expelling the majority fuel as exhaust. The cutting edge of fuel cell technology can allegedly achieve up to 80% efficiency. This figure, it should be remembered, almost definitely refers to the energy loss from the potential energy in the hydrogen – not the energy that originally went into producing the electricity that produced the hydrogen. Fuel cells have been successfully used for transport. It would be interesting to know the limits of the portable power that can be had from this technology, e.g. bulldozers, for instance.

Overview of the Above.

While fossil fuels will eventually run out, or be phased out due to climate change concerns; and while nuclear power is undesirable in the short (and long!) term, it is probable that some interim strategy will need to be devised to bridge the gap between the profligate present and the future while the whole of the sustainably-bankrupt global capitalist economy is remodelled.

However, economies are one sense like large ships: they take a while to turn around. Yet it may be that the turnaround of an economy may be more easily accomplished, with individuals making the change at the personal level: as a flock of starlings changes direction.

The process of switching from unsustainable to sustainable energy cannot happen in a flash. A ‘supply-all’ technology with a ten year energy payback would require ten years of world energy demand levels to build. There is not, at present, the excess production capacity to spare.

Therefore, the transition must be staggered so that the first sustainable plants help fund the energy required for the next, and so forth. This presupposes, as has already been shown, a net energy increase. This is where the payback time becomes critical.

The payback time for a technology is the time that technology takes to replicate itself. If the payback took as long as the expected lifetime of the technology, then no energy-growth would be possible. Similarly, a long payback time, or a payback that represented a large proportion of the expected lifetime of the product, implies a slow energy-growth of that technology.

Theoretic Photo-Voltaic Based Supply of Energy for the UK.

Is it possible to meet current energy demands sustainably? To answer this question, an examination of a source the renewability of which is in doubt may be profitable. To that end, the possibility and economic considerations of providing energy purely through photo-voltaic panels is examined. (Data following based on Blakers 2000 et al. and UK government.)

The UK used 232.6 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) in 2000. This is about 2705 TWh. In this country, a 1m­2 photo-voltaic panel in the north of England or Scotland could conceivably deliver 100kWh over the course of a year. That equals 2,705,138,000m2 of panelling, or an area approximately 164km by 164km. This represents about half a football pitch per person. While it is not inconceivable that photo-voltaic production of this scale could be attempted, the transition period would either be long, or extremely difficult. Basing the above figures on an embodied energy cost of 1060kWh/m2 implies an energy investment of 28,674TWh to create the aforementioned plant. From where could the UK suddenly find eleven years of surplus energy (the equivalent of 18 gigabarrels of oil, or about 2% of estimated reserves) to build such a plant?

If it is assumed that a panel delivers half as much energy on top of the amount that is needed to produce it, then we can assume an annual growth rate of 2.74%: if one invests the energy required to build two panels, then those panels can produce enough energy to build three by the end of their lifetime (assumed 15 years). That rate of increase means that one panel could become 57 panels 150 years down the line.

If the target was set to supply the whole of the UK from these photovoltaics by 2053, then we would have to invest 7500 TWh today, or about three year’s worth of energy. At today’s prices, that would cost approximately £84 billion, or a per capita investment of approximately £1400 in monetary terms, or 125,000 kWh.

However, with a two year payback as is forecast for the end of the decade, then energy growth could take place a lot more quickly.

However, the later plans like this are left before implementation the more costly they get.

The hypothetical solution briefly adumbrated above shows that if the will is there, a plausible strategy may be devised. It may be outrageous in its ambition, but it is essentially achievable. All it takes is a per head forgoing of 125,000 hours of an single electric bar fire heating a house. That could be assimilated over one year. All it would take is a little more willingness to wear one’s jumper an hour longer each winter evening.

That, and a little bit of organisation.

In the UK, a combination of wind and solar power could easily conceivably power the kingdom. Sadly, the will is lacking, because no-one quite believes the necessity for change yet. It is devoutly to be wished that any blunt hint from Mother Nature does not prove completely destructive.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Is Manic Depression Natural?

(in answer to Seaneen)

Yes, of course it is.

(That said, I've made the case for nuclear bombs being natural too, but am restricting myself to the common usage of the word 'natural'.)

It is an extremity, and maybe could be termed an abnormality, as only one in a hundred of humanity have it in a florid form... but to me looking at people it is obvious that it is one end of a spectrum, or one corner of a dodecahedron of spectra.

Are under-ten-second sprinters natural?

Is it a desirable condition?

That is impossible to answer on a personal basis. Before diagnosis I liked being me, I was happy with who I was, eccentricities and all. After being labelled, why should I revise my own personal self-estimation of my happiness?

I'm who I am. I'm happy being me. I don't give a toss what I am called.

I'm trying to write a post that is connected to this topic following reading a piece of research comparing schizotypal symptoms with different creative professions. Something that keeps coming up is a concept called (horridly) "ego-strength". I would prefer "self-centredness", "selfishness", "self" "self" "self", to disinfect it from the vaguely perjorative "strength" word.

It's not how bad you have it, it's how well you can cope with it.

Has anyone been in a really deadly mountain blizzard?

Some people panic, others can cope and look out for themselves and others, and some people run off leaving people for dead. I know which category I'm in, and it's the second.

I think there is something very positive for me in that I got to my late thirties before being fingered by the goons. I could have been nabbed at any time from my later teens. I've developed my 'selfishness'. I know I'm damn right, and the doctors are spanners in the works 95% of the time. My doctors and nurse have come round to my thinking. They laugh with me because I'm a problem case, but are pleased I think because they know there is no way I would ever bother them during a bad time.

I'm not recommending my personal choice btw. But I think a maybe inflated or at least healthy sense of self is the equivalent of having a gallon pot to pour the pint of poison in rather than a teacup. Maybe it is selfishness that explains the way this condition can lessen as we get older? We are more "ourselves" - and can bear the vagaries and extremities of the condition with a jaundiced and humorous eye? We bloggers obviously have enough self to spill on the page for others. I think the fact we can write self-selects us as capable in some form or fashion, on some level of Dante, whatever the particular circle of heaven or hell we find ourselves in month to month.

I've gabbled enough. Don't listen to me. What would I know? My brain is on the blink, allegedly. And tonight I'm knackered, half-cut, and flying. Blame the weather. I love thunderstorms. Dx

Random photo for fun:

Frosty day from R------ton Long Barrow. View big. MF. Sorry about the fluff and dust.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Like Number Nine Buses

I don't know where these popped from, but scribbled them down before supper:

Seasonal Clockwork, Relative to None

Colliding worlds together just for hell -
Humane experimental particle -
Bombardment a la grand scale.

Our Complicata, taut with cracking buds
Now brusquely trained against the apple tree
Adorning that original misdeed

With smooth potential of a hundred blooms
I sit and spy your creeping detonation
While serpents crawl the corners of my eyes

And Eve slips silently from bush to bush -
This foolish universe, a childish keepsake,
Unseemly as the years slice off the loaf:

So many buttered toasts consumed;
There is no holding principle to share.
Gravity has reversed its pull again.


Upon a russet blanket in the sun,
Performing thought dialysis for kicks,
Expunging conscience's thousand pricks,
And letting gentle new thoughts run;
Remembering sagely life is ever fun
So long as all those varied, mindful tricks
Are kept in shape most suited to my mix,
And all my aims sustained so bold begun.

But this is only good for little times.
The longer course bewilders at the thought;
My career's arc so dismally now wrought -
Always a nadir up ahead: one climbs
Again that well-accustomed slope,
Refuse to quit; refuse to sit and mope.


edit: just found this one from a few months ago.


Extinction happens when the zone of comfort
moves faster than the beech-mast sprouts
to maturity, lets drop
the next generation at the farthest twig
or blob of birdshit falls
at the farthest range of the wood pigeon
or these days, with the clever
monkey fingers of men
planted where we like
if the red tape of 'native' to 'south' or 'north'
can be cut

grave of vanished neolithic men
who still walk among us all

lobster in the pot, dreaming
of cheap warm seas
package deals
dozing in the balmy water

those stones, field-plucked, pit-dug,
a corner lopped here and there to fit
laid down in shallow lagoons
paddled by forgotten feet
of long-lost fabulous animals
diplodicii, extinct,

yet again, we are their 5th cousins
several times removed, and so
family in a sense of the word

rudely dug-out chambers
by men during that time
of discovery, sacreligious
unearthing of the dead
by roots of an invasive weed

barrow three times older than beech.

Calling Techheads

I've had a complaint from a reader, and it beats me. You can read about the nature of the problem here. Scroll to Last Order of Business.

Any suggestions, passing on of knowledge welcome.

Right. I suppose since the blackbirds are singing, it must be time for me to pretend to go to bed. Night/Morning all. Dx

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


Found a few great youtube clips of Sean Keane - I used to love his playing ten years ago - grew out of it to an extent - can't help but love it though.

You can hear what I sounded like back then if you promise not to laugh: Roscommon Reel / Bonnie Ann. And some stuff a bit later: Drake's Neck & Queen of the West, and Stirling Castle / Spey in Spate. Sorry about the sound quality!

One of the things about this music is that it can have a great calming effect. If my psychiatrist knew I played it, he'd probably confiscate my fiddle.

Beautiful World

I wish I had the skill to share the beauty I see.

I don't.

That's all.

("That's all", he said, where he meant the dawn is just starting to infiltrate roses through the sudden fecund branches of the ashes. Etc. But that isn't what I mean. I want to show how the world looks to me so it impacts instantly. And painting doesn't cut the horseradish either. Not this century. There is no audience. Same for writing really. I'm a fucking has-been-that-never-was-and-never-will-be. Ah well. So be it.)

"The Workman's Friend"

When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,
A pint of plain is your only man.

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -
A pint of plain is your only man.

In time of trouble and lousey strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -
A pint of plain is your only man.

by Flann O'Brien (Brian O'Nolan)

(the post below is far more important than this one.)

Peak Oil, Thanks Dee Dee, I'm So Happy Now! :-)

Here follows an attempt at me communicating clearly and coherently. Yes, a tall order, perhaps. You see I am cursed with an agile brain and five fathoms of generosity and ten gallons of modesty - I skip from every third stepping stone to stepping stone, and couldn't bear to assume anyone else can't - which is why often my aberrant concision maketh me the object of the aficionado of obscurantism... well that's my excuse. I have just thrown a dinner party (YES! ON A TUESDAY! HORROR) which hasn't helped either.

But to the point. Peak oil. And related extinction events.

btw, credit where credit is due, this was prompted by Dee Dee here.

(switches the clear and plain speaking switch)


Whenever one reads an argument about peak oil on the internet, one runs up against two sides: economists and geologists. If you wanted someone to find some oil, would you go and ask an economist? (Caveat - I studied geology).

The economist's argument is based on the perennial old saw: (shit sorry, doing it again) - is based on this general premise: something is running out - as its price due to scarcity rises, it will become more valuable, more effort will be put into finding more, no matter the price, and it will continue to be available as a resource.

The geologist's argument is: there is x of this, and we've used this much so far, therefore there is this much left.

The problem with economics as a system is that it is not based in the real world. It's based in a world where if you lend a man a tenner, he'll always find an extra quid to pay you back the interest.

That's fine, if the world is limitless. But I think we have exploited all the far corners of this globe, all the people that we've enslaved, all the people we still use as our working class (speaking as a westerner). We've just 'out-sourced' the class struggle to Africa, India, etc. Put a couple of oceans in the way.

It's like different materials coagulating to themselves. Mix oil and water. Capitalism will end up with two blobs in the same bowl.

I digress.

There is argument among geologists etc about whether we have enough oil to last ten, twenty or forty years before catastrophic contraction. Who cares who's right? The people who argue that point are doing it to distract themselves from the implications.

To go to the extreme other end of the scale - it is unlikely that our planet and its life was lucky enough to have a stock of resources to become technologically proficient enough to escape our bounds. We will in all probability die with the earth (and bloody likely long before). This is a serious point. If it takes a certain quota, call it p, to crack the fusion mirage, then all being well, if p exists, then there is a chance. It might well be our planet is somewhere well short of being endowed with p. (There are good scientific articles estimating these things, I promise - I've read them - don't ask for references tonight).

So peak oil. Some idiots say it will be good, because it will ameliorate global warming. No. We'll just burn coal, and trees. And really fuck the planet up. That's what people do. That's what I would do too to keep my kids warm. We're idiot monkeys. What do you expect?

I like to think there could be a gentle slowdown - but all the evidence of history is against it.

I'm going to stop now, because I'll start to depress people.

The subject doesn't depress me anymore. It did about 7 years ago. Humanity will survive. Most of US won't.

As for the flowers of humanity, those fripperies... forget them. There will be new Michaelangelos for a time.

Last word - the geeks (bless them) seem sure the internet will survive. Bless them.

(I'm afraid I've left you some stepping stones to skip. But I have every confidence in each and every one of you. Dx)


edit - out of inconsistency, here are some stepping stones:

If we are tied to our planet, and if we somehow survive until the end... another couple of billion years or so, then it still doesn't matter.

People who argue about this sort of subject with their foremost eye on their own survival are always missing the point.

We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here


We're here until we're here until we're here until we're here until we're here until we're here until we're here.

(good WWI song, the original)

Enjoy the beauty. Enjoy the love. Enjoy the sun. Enjoy the anything, the coffee, the smile, the tear at the latest ghastly piece of news that tells you you've still got a heart.

Damn it - I sound drunk. I wish I bloody was. It would be an excuse for this incurable desperate hope and love for this ridiculous species I happen to be a member of.

My one dictum: graffiti my tombstone with it: "Live in the Now." Hardly original, but rarely achieved.

Love to all, Dx

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I Had A Dream

Well, last night. It was so transparent. I went round to my mother's flat, with the children. It wasn't her flat - her flat is full of light and white and clean linen - this one was dirty and foul. I had to use the toilet. The toilet was broken. It was detached from its pedestal in such a way that one had to hold the basin up above the sump.

Needless to say, while merrily crapping, the toilet shifted, and my crap fell on the floor, and my youngest child smeared it all over the place (and his face).

I wonder what this dream was telling me? :-O

Don't get me wrong, I still love my mother. Maybe not in the innocent way that everyone loves their mother, but I love her nonetheless, abidingly, and truly.

I feel bad for having that dream, but it was an honest one, I think.

It's unfair to judge her by my dream. I'm the only worm under the magnifying glass of judgement here.

Take care all, Dx