Friday, April 18, 2014

Climate Change

So, yesterday my grandfather asked me how I thought the 'pollution' issue would be dealt with (by which he meant the emissions causing climate change). Of course, being my grandfather he proceeded to tell me the answer, but that wasn't expected. Still, it's worth thinking about.

Firstly, I should note that I am almost but not absolutely convinced that man-made climate change is a reality and is a very serious issue. Though I'm not sure that that "man-made" bit is all that important - the climate is definitely changing, and it definitely does seem to be a bad thing. So, whether we're responsible or not, we probably want to think what we're going to do about it.

Where I differ from the consensus is in this, though: if your answer is any variation on "we all need to cut emissions", I think you can forget it - we've lost already.

The reality of the situation is that China and India will not meaningfully cut emissions until they've overtaken the US as the biggest economies. And the US will not do anything that risks them being overtaken. (And, if one or both do overtake the US, you can be sure the US will do whatever it takes to catch back up.)

I'm pretty much certain that that is the reality of it - people can propose whatever measures they want, they can paint as apocalyptic a scenario as they wish (and they may well be right), but there is no prospect of the US, India, or China meaningfully reducing emissions. Sorry.

Of course, if those three, the three biggest players in the field, won't meaningfully take action, then there's little point in the rest of us doing so - we could cut our emissions to zero and it still wouldn't be enough.

The consequence of this is that this topic is one of very few where I think George W. Bush actually got it right: the solution to this problem will lie in new technologies - either we find ways to adapt to the changed environment, or we develop some sort of atmospheric scrubber to eliminate our emissions, or we reseed the oceans with algae to do essentially the same thing, or, well, something.

Update on Goals

Somehow, I managed to badly mis-count the number of days, posting my "50 day" update on the fortieth day of the year. Oops. I therefore decided to compensate by posting my "100 day" update late. Because that's sensible. It's nothing to do with just not having time, oh no...

Anyway, time for an update. So:

  • Weight: Oh dear. My trip to Ireland (more on this later) followed by my trip down South has played havoc with this one. So, we're back where we started.
  • Work: This one has been very mixed. I don't want to say much more (what with my whole "no work talk" policy), but things went wrong a bit in Feb and March, but went very well in the first half of April. So, that's looking pretty good.
  • Books: I'm a bit behind, due to the "Wheel of Time". But it's not too bad - I hope to be at 18ish by the end of the month, and get caught up in May or June.
  • Games: This has gone horribly wrong. I'll be wrapping up "Imperial Fist" in the next few sessions, and may well cancel one of the two remaining one-shots. I'm just not enthused by the notion of running games at the moment. On the other hand, the player-side games have gone very well, so I'll easily make that part of the target.
  • Maintenance: This proved to be an ordeal, but is now mostly done. I want to have another (third) go at the bathroom ceiling, and the carpets still need done, but otherwise things are okay.
  • Computer: This is deferred until my annual bonus comes through, which should hopefully be either this month or next. So, with a bit of luck my next 'update' will be written on a new PC.
  • Money: This is basically done - everything that remains is now automated, so will complete by itself. Huzzah!

And that's where we are 100 days into 2014. My hope is that the next update will see the 'weight' and 'books' goals back on track, the 'maintenance' and 'computer' goals done, and everything else well in hand. I'm not sure how realistic that really is.

Scarves, Jelly Babies, and a Robot Dog!

So, April is the month of the Fourth Doctor, the longest-serving incarnation of the Time Lord, and consistently the one voted the best. Tom Baker is also the first Doctor I remember, although I'm a little confused by that - he regenerated out of the post in 1981, which was back when I was all of five. Which means either they are my oldest memories, or I saw some repeats later that has slipped into place into my memory, or perhaps my mind is just inventing things to fill in some gaps? It's a mystery.

This month's short story is "The Roots of Evil", by Philip Reeve, and it's very good - easily the best of the four to date. It features the Doctor arriving in a living space station, part of a terraforming device, where the inhabitants promptly capture him and prepare him for execution for his great misdeeds in the past. The only problem is that he can't remember any such misdeeds, for a reason that becomes obvious when it is mentioned that his face isn't as the ancients depicted...

Anyway, the story is pretty simple from there, with the revelation being largely expected (although there's one question I'm not going to answer... Who?). But it's quite amusing, especially the Doctor's line about gravel pits, and also his reaction to his future self's wardrobe choices. I'm very glad to be able to recommend this one, as the anthology had been a bit weak to date.

The novel is "Festival of Death" by Jonathan Norris. This one features Romana (II, I think), K-9, and the Doctor. And, again, the story nicely captures this Doctor's quirks - he notes that he's usually captured and put in a cell some time in the first 22 minutes after arriving in a new place, he runs out of Jelly Babies (horror!), and on and so forth.

Curiously, this one also has a complex, timey-wimey plot, featuring the Doctor crossing over his own time-stream (although, this time, only this same incarnation). It takes a bit of unpicking, which is no bad thing. There is one thing that I don't think quite works, but that's not bad for such a complex storyline.

And, in both cases, it definitely felt like a Fourth Doctor story - in the same way that the Third Doctor stories captured the distinctive 'voice' of their incarnation, so too did this one capture Baker's unique mannerisms. So, yay!

Next month is the month of 'my' Doctor. I definitely watched "The Five Doctors" live, and remember distinctly the excitement around the regeneration to the Sixth, so this is most definitely where I came in. But the big question is: does my Doctor still hold up?

Give you joy of your flag, Jack

Having finished the "Wheel of Time", my next book was "Blue at the Mizzen", the last complete Aubrey/Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian. (There is one more, incomplete, book which I shall read next month, but there's very little to that.) And so, twenty months after it began, my adventure on Jack's ocean comes to an end.

The series began at a nice, clean threshold - Lieutenant Jack Aubrey is promoted to "Master and Commander", and thus given his first command. In the first chapter he also makes the acquaintance of a fellow music-lover, an Irish doctor named Maturin. And so it begins.

The series then follows the ups and downs of these two fast friends across the years, as they serve in Britain's wars against Napoleon's France, against the US in the War of 1812, and, in the last volume, in the post-war period after Waterloo.

And they're great. It's hard to encapsulate just how great the series is - the movie is good enough in itself (and was the reason I read the series), but it pales before the novels - with both the extremely-human protagonists, their friendship, their fallings-out, their strengths, and their weaknesses; the depiction of the world that is at once very different from ours, and yet utterly relatable; and, of course, the simple adventure of it all.

And then, the series ends at a nice, clean threshold - Commodore Jack Aubrey is promoted to "Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron", the culmination of his career, and the fulfilment of the ambition he had expressed right in the first book. It's almost perfect in its symmetry.

I can't recommend the series enough.

There's just one problem: I'm done now. So, what now?

Experimental Cookery 2014: Stewed Venison with Juniper and Bay

A colleague of Lady Chocolat was good enough to give us some venison recently. This was much appreciated, but did leave a little quandary as I had no idea how to cook it. Fortunately, Hugh came to the rescue with a recipe from "River Cottage Every Day".

The preparation was all rather easy - brown the meat, chop the veg, bring to a low simmer, and wait. We paired the stew with some mashed potatoes.

The end result was... okay. The venison was nice enough, but the stew itself was very watery. We'd had an issue with the quantities, as there wasn't as much venison as the recipe really demanded, while the cooking time was unchanged and so required plenty of liquid. This was fine, but I suspect affected the flavour quite badly. So the whole thing just didn't quite work. A shame.

Would we have this again? I think the answer is a hesitant "yes" - but only if we could rebalance the quantities of ingredients, meaning more venison for the pot. Without that, I don't think the whole will really work.

#14: "Blue at the Mizzen", by Patrick O'Brian
#15: "Festival of Death", by Jonathan Morris
#16: "Skinwalkers", by Wendy N. Wagner

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

And so, it ends...

This afternoon I finally finished "A Memory of Light", the final book in "The Wheel of Time". It was a fitting end, I suppose, but I stick with my earlier recommendation: if you haven't yet started the series, don't - it's just not worth wading through volumes 8-11 to get back to the 'good' stuff.

The series is also really not helped by the fact that fantasy works have just moved on since it began. "Game of Thrones" has really mixed things up, and so the tolerance for a mega-happy ending is fairly limited. And yet, that's pretty much what we got.

Still... It's done now. Finally, it is done. Now, if only George R.R. Martin can be convinced to finish up "Game of Thrones" in a timely manner, and if J.V. Jones will ever publish the last volume of "Sword of Shadows", that would be just dandy.

And next time I consider embarking on another long-winded fantasy epic, could someone please remind me to check that the final volume is out before I start?

#13: "A Memory of Light", by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Exactly for This Sort of Thing

So, today I suffered another Great Yoghurt Crisis. It's been a while since I had one, so such a traumatic and significant event demanded a blog post.

As you know, I always have two yoghurts a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So, the time came to have this morning's yoghurt, I opened my lunch-box to rescue the requisite spoon and, to my horror, I found no spoon waiting! Of course, it goes without saying that this is the worst thing that has ever happened.

(And, obviously, this sort of thing would simply never happen in the independent state of Stevonia which, being a land flowing with milk and honey, would necessarily maintain an adequate supply of spoons at all times.)

Fortunately, my horror at this terrible oversight was short-lived, for I quickly realised that my desk drawer actually contains a pack of plastic spoons, a supply laid up for exactly this sort of emergency. So I had yoghurt after all.

Truly, today is a blessed day.