Jul 2006

Social Media (short reprise)

YouTube has come up trumps again. I mean, fucking hell, how fast is culture evolving? (maybe we really are about to reach a McKenna-esque moment of infinite novelty). Perhaps I’m missing something here. Perhaps everyone else has been aware of this phenomenon for weeks. But it’s completely blown me away.

I rewatched a couple of rare Bowie vids on YouTube as a result of Justin‘s meme. The video for Strangers When We Meet was quite nice. The song is from the mid-90’s and it’s one of the best he’s ever recorded in my view… the lyrics containing little snapshots of an internet relationship.

But as I was watching that video, I noticed something strange in the “related videos” list… a whole bunch of X-Men related music videos, including one for Strangers When We Meet. “That’s odd”, I thought, “but maybe the song’s been re-released for the movie with one of those montage from the movie vids”.

But that’s not what’s going on. Apparently it’s one of a growing number of “fanvids”. People are cutting up footage from existing movies and editing them into new music videos for songs they like! How fricking cool is that!?

Or am I the only one who thinks so? Check this out.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

Jul 2006

Social Media? Bollocks more like

Justin imagines me to be knowledgeable and interesting on this kind of thing. Hey, he said it, don’t look at me. It’s another fricking blog meme though, so I don’t feel quite as chuffed as I would’ve done if by “this kind of thing” he’d meant “theoretical physics” or “lovemaking” or “energy policy” or “being a bloody great guy”.

So instead of requesting a treatise on any of those subjects, he instead expects me to list my “Top Five Social Media Websites”. Kind of a curious request really as I’m one of the least “social” people you’re likely to meet (assuming I deign to meet you). That’s not to say that I’m quiet, shy or introverted in person. Far from it. I merely find the vast majority of people exhausting to be around. It’s not, as JWL said, “You wanna save humanity, but it’s people that you just can’t stand”. I don’t dislike people. I just find them difficult.

And not all people either. Just most of them.

But despite that, I am a regular user of some social media websites (is it just me, or does the phrase “Social Media” sound like a highschool class taken by kids who couldn’t hack the hard sciences?) This blog, for instance. And the U-Know! messageboard (though I’m far far less active there than I once was). So yeah, I’ll take this meme out for a spin. And in return Justin can begin fretting about which piece of pointless web-flotsam I decide to bat his way in the near future.

In no particular order (and duplicating three from Chicken Yoghurt)…

  1. WordPress. Let’s face it, there’s no finer blogging tool. I wrote my own blogging software in ColdFusion for my first online journal and it was adequate for my purposes. Then I switched to blogger for my next one, and found it seriously inadequate. Little things I could do with my own software; like listing the most recent comments by date in the sidebar or managing categorised lists of links; couldn’t be done in blogger. So for my third blog, I decided to update my own CF application. And then I discovered WordPress. As I say; there’s no finer blogging tool.
  2. YouTube. I discovered this site when someone (Gyrus I think) emailed me the link to The Indian Beatles. I spent the better part of three hours at YouTube that day. It’s a wonderful site… like the internet in general it’s filled with dross and weirdness, but with a bit of perseverance you can unearth some real gems. It was when I typed “David Bowie” into the search that I realised the true depth of YouTube. I mean, the video for Hearts Filthy Lesson? Yes!
  3. Last.fm. This is a lovely little site. You download a plugin for your media player and it uploads information about what music you’re playing, building up various charts based upon your listening habits. The site also has customisable streaming radio stations and all manner of other interesting bits and bobs for music fans. If you’ve got a lot of music ripped to your hard-drive, then you should have a Last.fm account. Incidentally, something weird happened with my old Last.fm account. HERE is my new one.
  4. U-Know! This is my online political messageboard / forum of choice. It’s part of Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website though unrelated to his music. The site has four message boards covering the various aspects of Copey’s activities… Unsung (music), The Modern Antiquarian (sacred sites and the like), The Village Pump (general chat) and U-Know! (direct action and politics). I was once a regular on several of the boards, but these days I’m more of a lurker, occasionally compelled to add an opinion or two. As with all public forums, the occasional troll or asshole shows up and there’s quite a bit of politically naive idealism but – by and large – it’s frequented by groovy folk (i.e. people I broadly agree with). Also, Merrick edits the U-Know! section and Holy McGrail is the webmaster of the whole Head Heritage site… both excellent chaps.
  5. I’ll split my last choice between four sites; none of which I use very much but all of which I respect greatly for one reason or another. There’s Wikipedia of course. Though unreliable when it comes to any vaguely controversial subject, it’s still a useful resource and the idea is fantastic. Then there’s Flickr. Great site, but I don’t take anything like enough interesting photos to make much use of it. Urban75… again, not somewhere I visit very frequently, but it has a lot going for it. And finally, the daddy of them all… Indymedia. Great great site, let down by a tendency towards intolerance of dissenting opinions by many of the contributors (I recall insisting that the invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with oil pipelines, and getting roundly savaged for being off-message). Still, a fine idea that works well from time to time. Indymedia Ireland is here.

I’m not going to tag anyone else with this meme. It’s pretty damn geeky and I don’t know too many geeks (Gyrus and perhaps L are the only two bloggers I read regularly that have geek / nerd credentials). But if there’s a great ‘social media’ site that I’m overlooking here, I’d be interested to hear about it in the comments. Though if anyone does want to keep the meme alive, then obviously knock yourself out.

Update (noon, 30-7-06)

Doh! What an idiot! Despite wasting half a day with it earlier in the week, I completely forgot one of the most amazing “Social Media” sites of recent years. Check out the Remix Area at Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts website. One of the seminal albums in recording history, the re-release is celebrated by allowing people to download all of the multitracks for two of the pieces on it (under the Creative Commons licence no less). These can then be imported into any multitracker software (an old version of Cool Edit Pro being my multitrack software of choice, but there’s lots to choose from) and remixed. I’m talking proper remixed.

The finished article can then be reuploaded to the site where others can listen to it. There’s already a huge number of genuinely amazing remixes up there, but why not try your own?

2 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

Jul 2006

Couldn't make it up

Under the new law, which takes effect on Saturday, anyone offering food or drink to a homeless person will risk a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

I was watching the TV news this evening. It was dominated by news from the Middle East. But most of it just passed through me like a deadening mist. I’ve been hearing and reading about conflict in that region for my entire life… tonight’s news reports could have been archive footage from a decade ago. Or two. Only the flashy graphics and the haircuts of the reporters gave an indication that this was today and not yesteryear.

I still find it remarkable that the Israeli military can murder four unarmed UN observers and receive naught but a statement of regret from the international community. Can you imagine if Saddam Hussein had killed four weapons inspectors back in the day? That would probably have justified a full US invasion on its own. Apparently though, the west is happy enough to allow its friends murder unarmed civilians and UN observers.

Woe betide anyone not singing from America’s hymn sheet though. They just have to be accused of thinking about building WMD and they get bombed to hell, invaded and plunged into a civil war. Or did we bomb Iraq to hell, invade it and plunge the nation into civil war because Saddam Hussein was a bad man? I honestly don’t know what absurd justification is currently being used to explain the disaster occurring over there.

As the news continued, I listened with a resigned bitterness as aid agencies called for a temporary ceasefire to evacuate the remaining civilians from Southern Lebanon (mostly the elderly and infirm who have been unable to leave under their own steam) and an Israeli minister calmly refused.

I watched with muted outrage as the bloodied corpse of a seven year old girl was pulled from a pile of rubble while her injured father wailed and beat his chest. “Muted” because the images were so similar to the images on the news almost every night now. Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon… US-made weapons of mass murder destroying Arab lives, homes and nations.

And we wonder why a bunch of them are so pissed off?

But it was only when I heard keyboard-player Condi Rice insist that the USA would only call for a ceasefire if it was “sustainable” that I was shaken out of my nostalgia (my Dad worked in Beirut for a while in the 80s, so I got some first-hand accounts and current events are one big déja vu… there’s a funny story involving my Dad and Yasser Arafat as it happens, but this probably isn’t the post for that). That “sustainable peace” line is the same one I heard from “Yo” Blair. A sustainable ceasefire.

I recall the words of Jesus Christ as he delivered his sermon on the mount… “Blessed are the Peacemakers”, He said, “but only if it’s a sustainable peace. Otherwise they can fuck right off”.

It seems to me that getting people to stop murdering each other is pretty much objectively A Good Thing. Even if they only stop for a few days. That’s a few days when nobody gets murdered… where no 7-year old corpses are dragged from charred rubble as their fathers watch in horror. If the USA and the UK could ensure a few days respite from this awful conflict just by asking, then they are complicit in murder by remaining silent. I guess Dubya and Yo now have so much blood on their hands that a few 7-year-olds per day simply doesn’t register anymore.

And then, as I watched the news, a non-Middle East story came on. It was in the “and finally…” slot, but was hardly much relief. It turns out that Las Vegas is the first city in the United States to make it actively illegal to feed the poor. Yup, giving food to a hungry homeless Vietnam veteran (or even a hungry homeless conscientious objector) could now land you in prison.

It calls to mind another biblical quote. This one from St. Paul… “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Unless it involves feeding homeless people of course. God hates that shit.

Indeed, it’s a little known fact (the Lost Gospel of St. Bastid is the only place you’ll find it) that Jesus ordered his apostles – sometimes known as the 12 Bouncers – to make sure no homeless people got into the fishes and loaves shindig. “All are welcome at My Father’s table”, He insisted, “except the homeless obviously. They smell of pee sometimes and creep me out. Also, property values in heaven would plunge. We can’t be having that.”

6 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jul 2006

New mp3 player (actually, 'wma player')

A few weeks ago my trusty old mp3 player (in an era of inbuilt obsolescence, four years is considered “old” for electronic gadgetry) began making worrying clicking noises. The sort of noises that presage catastrophic hard-drive failure. Of course if I’m honest, the descent into decrepitude began some months ago when the screen started to fade. But despite the washed out screen and the inability to use the “next track” button without the machine locking up completely and requiring a hard-reset (involving poking a pin into a little hole on the back), I really liked my old player. It was one of the first of the hard-drive mp3 players… a shade bigger and a lot heavier than my old cd walkman, it was an unstylish brick. But it had 40GB of space and played non-DRM WMA files (my preferred portable audio format). Also, it wasn’t manufactured by Apple. A bonus.

I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a new hard-drive and replacing the knackered one (not really sure how easy a job that would be, but I’m sure there’s a tutorial online). But in truth, I’d be spending money to squeeze an extra few months of life out of the thing. If that. The screen would have given up the ghost before too long anyway, leaving me with a new hard-drive in a useless player.

So I bit the bullet as the saying goes, and spent 299 euro on an all-singing / all-dancing new piece of technology. And if you don’t mind, I’ll leave struggling with consumer guilt for another post.

I spent a long time reading reviews and comparing specifications before I made my decision. The criteria were as follows:

  • Must play non-DRM WMA audio files (no way in hell I’m redigitising my entire CD collection)
  • Must have a minimum of 30GB of space (I’ll be putting 22 or 23GB of music onto it right away, and obviously want to leave some room to grow)
  • Must not cost more than €300 (the maximum budget I decided upon)
  • Must have a battery life of at least 10 hours of music (to last the whole London-Holyhead coach journey)

Those were the minimum technical specs. Anything that met those would be considered. And surprisingly few did. In the end, the reviews all seemed to agree on one winner, and the fact that it’s made by the same people who made the last one I owned (and liked) is a bonus. So I’m now the proud owner of a spanking new Creative Zen Vision:M.

I went for the white model as the reviews said the black one, while initially the best looking, seems to scratch rather easily, while the other colours look a bit plasticky.

As several added bonuses, however, the new machine has a full colour screen, plays movies and displays photos, can synchronise with Outlook calendar and contacts, has a built in recorder and FM radio and can output audiovisual content through a stereo or onto a TV screen.

And it’s the same size as the video iPod. So no more wearing a jacket in warm weather just so I have a pocket big enough to put my walkman in!

There was a slightly cheaper and more svelte alternative that didn’t have the big colour screen. But in truth, while I can’t see myself watching much video on the thing (quite aside from anything else, the amount of music I have means there’s not much space left for video – even with 30GB), the idea of having a portable photo-album containing all my digital photos does appeal to me.

I’ll let you know how I get along with the thing after I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks.

Leave a comment  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jul 2006

Plane Vs. Coach

In the comments to my last post, my old friend Philippe challenges the notion that carbon emissions / pollution from air travel is substantially worse than that generated by road travel (in this case, coach). Philippe used a website called Carbon Debt Calculator and came up with the following numbers…

Dublin – London 300miles
Driving emissions: 160kg CO2
Flying: 130kg
Train: 90kg

This flabbergasted me. It flew in the face of everything I’d been reading about the carbon emissions of air travel. Could it be true that flying 300 miles emits less CO2 than driving the same distance? This didn’t just fly in the face of everything I’d been reading, it flew in the face of common sense! How could it be, that the fuel consumed by picking up a 737 and hurling it into the air at 600kph to a height of 30,000 feet would be less than that consumed by rolling a far lighter vehicle the same distance along flat surfaces?

So I decided to do a little research. I couldn’t verify that Phil’s numbers are indeed the ones produced by the Carbon Debt Calculator (I can’t seem to get it to work… if I type 300 miles into the air travel box and hit ‘calculate’, it responds with “0 tons of CO2”). But based upon barely two hours of internet research and some excel spreadsheetery, I can confidently state that the Carbon Debt Calculator is a total bunch of arse should Philippe’s numbers be representative.

It’s just wrong.

First up: The Coach

The Dublin-London trip is complicated a little by a 70 mile stretch of water between the two. But in the interests of making this a more general (and therefore useful) comparison, let’s assume that both vehicles travel the same distance. In reality I suspect that the 70 mile “piggyback” that the coach receives from the predominantly freight-carrying ferry would reduce the total emissions generated by the journey.

OK… let’s work out the CO2 emitted by the coach on the 300 mile trip between Dublin and London. The vehicle was run by Bus Éireann who use Scania Irizar PB buses. According to the manufacturer, they get 8.15km per litre (let’s call it 7km to take account of potentially inflated claims by the manufacturer). Using a 1:0.62 conversion rate, that’s 4.3 miles / litre.

So the coach will consume approximately 70 litres of fuel during the trip. From here (PDF) we discover that the specific gravity of diesel is 0.88. That equates to a weight of 0.88 kg/litre. So the trip burns 61.6 kg of diesel oil. Remember…

When fuel oil is burned, it is converted to carbon dioxide and water vapour. Combustion of one kilogram of fuel oil yields 3.15 kilograms of carbon dioxide gas. Carbon dioxide emissions are therefore 3.15 times the mass of fuel burned.

Calculating the Environmental Impact of Aviation Emissions | An Oxford University Study (download PDF)

So the total CO2 generated by my 300 mile coach journey is roughly 194kg. Based on 85 passengers per coach, that’s 2.3 kg per traveller.

And now: The Plane

For this I’ll mostly be sourcing my data from the above-cited “Calculating the Environmental Impact of Aviation Emissions”. This is a fairly short report, but I recommend you download and read it. It’s interesting stuff.

With respect to our 300 mile journey, Table 1 of the report allows us to calculate the fuel consumed by a 737 between Dublin and London. Ryanair (they of the 99cent flights) have a fleet of Boeing 737s, so we’ll use them as our plane of choice. And according to that table, the 737 will consume approximately 2,200kg (2.2 tonnes) of fuel covering that distance.

Using the same factor of 1kg fuel = 3.15kg CO2, it appears that the 737 will emit 6,930kg of CO2 (almost 7 tonnes). Based on a capacity of 189 passengers, that results in 36 kg per traveller.

This is not a trivial difference… 2.3kg Vs. 36kg. It demonstrates that emissions generated by flying are a whole order of magnitude greater than covering the same distance by coach. What it doesn’t factor in, however, is the difference between emissions made at altitude and those made at ground level. The Oxford University report spends most of it’s time grappling with this issue and proposing a variety of metrics (multipliers) to take into account the altitude. For instance, it suggests that “the full climate impact of aviation is deemed to be between 2 and 4 times greater than CO2 alone”.

So best case scenario, you’re actually looking at 2.3kg Vs. 72kg per passenger.

Carbon offsetting: A bunch of arse

In the comments, it was also suggested that I could take the convenient and comfortable flight and then offset the carbon emitted either through a payment to a carbon-neutralising fund, or through “good works” of some kind.

Merrick‘s article Carbon offsets are a fraud is a good place to start on this subject. The simple reality is this: Carbon offsetting is a fraud. See? Just like the title to Merrick’s article. The planet has two carbon cycles. One takes place over geological periods of time and includes the carbon locked in fossil fuels. The other takes place over far shorter periods – the life-cycles of plants and animals.

You cannot compensate for the burning of fossil fuels by planting trees. It’s as simple as that.

But even more fundamentally. And this is the kicker. I have a very serious moral problem with the attitude that carbon-offsetting engenders. The suggestion that flying to London is OK so long as I pay someone to plant the trees to capture 72kg of carbon per flight. It’s the whole notion of paying to pollute. Of placing a cash value on environmental damage. Quite aside from it being profoundly undemocratic, it’s just plain wrong.

We don’t own the environment, and we have an obligation – to those that follow us – to minimise the damage we do. One option is to do just that… take the obligation seriously… actively minimise the damage you do (2.3kg Vs. 72kg). The other option is to ignore how much damage you’re doing and hope that by giving someone some cash (based on absurd estimates generated by rose-tinted websites) that they’ll be able to fix the problem at a later date sometime maybe.

Sorry, but that option’s just not good enough.

13 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jul 2006

Graduation singles

Way back in the days before blogs, people would sometimes receive an email from a friend which contained a questionnaire. Most often in the form of “end of year round-ups” (there was a big spate just before the millennium) they’d usually be a mixture of pop culture stuff; favourite song of the year, top 10 movies of the 90s, top 10 Buffy villains… interspersed with more personal and/or vaguely psychoanalytical questions; favourite food, what’s under your bed, your happiest moment of the year, the one thing you wished you’d said this year and to who…

Fast-forward to the present day however, and enough of the people who sent and received those emails are now bloggers to have pretty much killed off the phenomenon of the questionnaire email. It evolved into blog-memes.

Once in a blue moon, however, I’ll still receive one of those old-school emails. Usually from A. Today her email came with a Word document attached…

List the Top 50 singles from the year you graduated highschool. This website can be used:
[URL here]

Highlight the list as follows…

Italicise all those you like. Bold all those songs you own. Strike-out all those you hate. Mark in red all those you liked then, but cringe at now.

There then followed the list of Top 50 UK singles from 1990 (the year A graduated 6th form). Plus instructions to do the same, return it to the sender and mail it to your friends. The thing is; it turns out that 1990 happened to have several quality singles that sold well. So A could write a short paragraph about the first time she heard Groove Is In The Heart or Nothing Compares 2 U.

Step back two years to when I graduated highschool though. To the cultural desert that was 1988…

  • 6 of the most popular songs of the year feature Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, or both.
  • 4 were by Bros.
  • 1988 was the year Prince’s Alphabet Street was released. It doesn’t feature in the Top 50 though. It was outsold (by the shedload) by singles from Tiffany, Glenn Medeiros, Robin Beck, Brother Beyond, Taylor Dayne, Billy Ocean, Sabrina, Milli Vanilli, Climie Fisher, Rick Astley. And Krush.
  • Also let’s not forget Phil Collins and Chris de Burgh.
  • Alphabet Street isn’t the only conspicuous absence. Also missing from the top selling singles of the year are Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat, Morrissey’s Everyday Is Like Sunday and People Have The Power by Patti Smith.
  • But it’s the year Enya got really famous.
  • To top it off though, the best-selling record of the year was… wait for it… Mistletoe and Bastid Wine by Lord Cliff Fucking Richard.

There’s just no excuse for it. So yeah, I decided against continuing that particular meme. But if any of my fellow bloggers discover their graduation year contained some singles worth writing about, then please feel free to take this meme and run with it.

16 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

Jul 2006

Travelling Dublin-London

I recently popped over to the UK for a few days. I spent a day in London, then a couple of days in West Sussex and then returned to Dublin. It’s possible that I may make that trip — to see gigs or visit friends — several times a year, so I wanted to find a cheap way of doing it that didn’t involve the airline industry.

We’ve all got an obligation to avail of less energy-extravagant, and less polluting, forms of transport where possible. Having taken far more than my fair share of flights, that’s an obligation I’ve begun to feel quite keenly. Which is not to say that I’ll never fly again… I still plan on visiting the United States at least once more, and who knows where else life will take me… but where there’s a practical alternative – even if it’s more expensive – then I’ll avoid planes.

And having visited the Ryanair website and seen the advertisements for the 99 cent Dublin-London flights, it’s inevitable that the alternatives will indeed be more expensive.

Or so you’d think. But in reality those 99 cent flights are only available to a select few individuals… people, who by virtue of their peculiar diplomatic status, don’t have to pay the fuel surcharge and airport taxes. Because, you see, those 99 cent flights (or €1.98 return) cannot actually be purchased without also spending over 50 euro on surcharges and taxes. It’s the same for every other low cost airline. The same for Aerlingus.

In fact, it’s not possible to get a return flight from Dublin to London for less than the €51.40 charged by the taxmen at both airports. This is still a scandalously low price, don’t get me wrong, but do bear it in mind when you see a poster advertising flights for 99 cent.

Especially as you can get a coach for €35. And no hidden extras. In fact, it’s possible you may be able to do it even cheaper than that, but I’m a sucker for publicly owned public transport, so even if they don’t offer the best deal I’m going to go with Bus Éireann. I doubt – after all – that you’ll do much better than 35 euro.

12 Hours

Anyways, that’s the problem. It’s a 12 hour journey. And I’m 6’1″… which is too tall to spend 7 hours sitting in the narrow seat directly in front of the hyperactive six year old who throws up near Birmingham.

You see, it’s bearable to have a 7 hour coach trip followed by a 4 hour ferry crossing. The return journey is — relatively speaking — a breeze. Because although the ferry is too bright, too loud, and you can never get properly comfortable; it’s nonetheless a glorious relief after 7 hours cooped up in a coach between London and Holyhead.

But having disembarked from the vaguely hostile environment of the ferry, 7 hours in a coach is a terrifying prospect. Especially when idiotic parents feed their already-wired child with cola and chocolate.

Which is why, next time I make the journey, I’ve decided to get the train from Holyhead to London. It adds an extra €15 to the total cost of the trip (still cheaper than the airport taxes though), and it doesn’t save a huge amount of time (thanks to the faff of changing at Crewe), but trains are far more comfortable than coaches.

So yeah, 50 euro round trip from Dublin to London… coach-ferry-train / coach-ferry-coach. Cheaper than flying, better for the planet, and you get to do some reading. Yay!

NOTE: The environmental benefits of taking the coach are established, and discussed, in this entry.

Some links (update February 2012)

This post is the second most popular one on my blog. So I’ve added a couple of recent links for people looking for information on travelling from Dublin to London without using a plane. I don’t want to give the impression that these links constitute a commercial endorsement of these companies, but they do provide a very useful service for those of us seeking to avoid air travel for environmental (or other) reasons.

  • Stena Line Sail and Rail: Offering an integrated ferry and train ticket between most mainline destinations in Ireland and the UK. Approximately €50 for a ticket on the day of travel between Dublin and London (with a slight discount for advance booking).
  • Bus Éireann Eurolines: Offering a combined ferry and coach service between destinations in Ireland and the UK.
  • Bus Éireann: Bus Éireann website. For coach travel within Ireland.
  • Irish Rail: Irishrail.ie. For train travel within Ireland.
  • Dublin Bus: For bus routes and timetables in Dublin.
  • Luas.ie: For the Dublin Luas (light rail) system.

Hope this helps!

42 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jul 2006

Back again

That was a slightly longer holiday than anticipated. Well. No, that’s not true. The actual “holiday” bit was precisely as long as anticipated. And lovely it was too. The three weeks since then, however, haven’t exactly been a holiday.

I’ve had precious little opportunity to spend very long at the computer though. So I suppose from your perspective, dear reader, they may as well have been.

Sorry about that.

As Paul so rightly berates me, “A few days my arse. Does this mean that when you say ‘Peak oil will happen by 2008’ it will actually occur in 2947?” It’s a fair cop. You can all relax really. Claims of an imminent crisis are merely the global equivalent of setting my alarm-clock 10 minutes fast to give me that extra jolt and get me out of bed in the morning.

Sadly though, I read a line from Richard Heinberg recently that probably better sums up the truth… “Peak oil isn’t a hypothesis. It’s an observation. We’re writing history, not predictions. And policies that don’t recognize that are creating a tragedy that our children and grandchildren will pay for.” (cit. “The Day After Peak Oil”).

A few things came to my attention over the past couple of weeks that I consider worthy of remark though. So what better return-from-a-break post than the old-faithful “round-up of interesting links with a paragraph of comment on each”? It’s cheap, easy to deploy and allows for expansion and follow-up posts at a later date (containing a sentence that begins, “As I mentioned earlier this month…”)

The first thing you should probably check out is Merrick’s recent piece on Greenpeace over at Head Heritage. There’s a line in Nietzsche’s Twilight of The Idols that always gets called to my mind when I think about Greenpeace… “Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions.” That line encapsulates a major strand of my political thinking, and the truth I believe it expresses explains my tendency towards anarchism.

The things people find in Nietzsche, eh?

Anyways I’ve long mistrusted Greenpeace, and Merrick’s piece explains why my blind prejudice is arguably justified. Not only do members of the Greenpeace Executive Board live on an exclusive diet of whale meat and baby seal eyes, but Greenpeace as an organisation is – bizarrely – directly responsible for 96.4% of all global pollution and deforestation.

Carbon Neutral flights to be won

OK. That’s not true. But seriously people… we live in a world where flights from London to Dubai cost a tenner but a train from London to West Sussex costs 25 quid… there’s definitely some alternative reality weirdness going on… so who knows what the hell is true anymore? Actually though, ten pound flights to Dubai are entirely predictable. In fact, if ever we need a masthead for our criminal wastefulness then The Independent have provided one. “Mum? When you were flying to Dubai for a tenner, did you know at the time that you were building a world where my daughter wouldn’t have enough to eat? What about you Dad? Did you know?”

Tattoo it on our foreheads kids… I flew to Dubai for a tenner! It’s my fault!

As for why I’ve highlighted the carbon neutrality of the flights, check out Carbon offsets are a fraud over at Bristling Badger.

Fresh off the blog servers this week came some tangentially related Dreamflesh musings on the subject of “reclaimed” land. Muddy water’s taking back the land is a reminder of the absurd egoism of the human race as we talk of “creating bird habitats” as though The Environment is something we can parcel up and allocate. And on that subject, this “flood map” application would really worry me if I were Dutch.

That the sea appears poised to swallow vast tracts of land is perhaps some kind of weirdly appropriate cthuthulesque redressing of balance. Reading a recent George Monbiot article (Mass medication with Omega 3 would wipe out global fish stocks) it struck me that our treatment of life beneath the waves has been unspeakably violent and barbarous. Of course, our treatment of much of life above the waves has been pretty damn unspeakable too. But in the oceans, because the destruction has been hidden from us beneath the surface, we’ve not even had the ineffectual prickings of conscience to hold us back.

Imagine hunting deer by drag-netting forests. Talk about your collateral damage. The fishing industry has visited absolute devastation to 7 tenths of the surface of the planet. True, it’s been done to meet a consumer demand. But if you’re looking to use that as a justification then you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Actually I can’t be quite so blithe about this issue. I was a strict vegetarian for many years, but a couple of years ago – for health reasons – I began eating fish again. It’s a constant battle with my conscience. I do my best to buy organic when I buy farmed, and I try to stick only to packaged fish that bears the MSC seal of approval. Though it annoys the hell out of me that New Zealand hoki gets the “sustainable” thumbs-up when sold in Irish supermarkets. It comes from a sustainable fishery, you see? The fact that it’s then transported to the other side of the planet in a giant fridge is ignored.

Arguably not the most energy-efficient way of feeding the Irish population. As always though, it’s important to give a shout out to Fishonline whenever the fishing industry is mentioned.

So yeah. I’m back. I’ve got a lot of emails to catch up on, and then I’m planning on installing a new hard-drive and reinstalling Windows… but later in the week should see some kind of return to normal blogging, whatever ‘normal’ might mean in that context.

Normal is the watchword, as Ms. Mars would say.

Missing Comments?

Incidentally, during the couple of weeks I was AWOL I received an awful lot of comment spam. It seems some casino spambot has discovered The Quiet Road and made a little nest for itself. Over nine hundred attempted advertisements for online gambling! This didn’t, sadly, discourage my regular visits from the purveyors of cialis and cheap mobile phones. All in all I had almost two thousand pieces of comment spam to delete. It’s vaguely possible that some first-time commenter got deleted in the purge. So if you posted something recently and it’s still awaiting approval, I’m afraid it probably got thrown in the trash by mistake.

Sorry about that. But if you try again, I’m sure you’ll get through.

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