Honeysuckle

Billy planted some Honeysuckle in the garden years ago, before he died.

They grew up and out through the tops of the Laurel (At least I think that’s what it is).

Anyway, since they’re above head-height, you can frame them directly against the sky.

I used the Fuji X100F with a fast shutter speed to make the sky darker. Flash is an old Metz hammerhead with bounce card. More in the same vein here.

Fuji X100F / 1/2000 @ F5.6 / ISO 200

Suzuki GT550 Crank Seals

My brother has an old Suzuki GT550.

He built it up from parts sourced on eBay.

So far, he has been through 2 crank rebuilds.

The problem is that the crank seals have to be seated absolutely correctly or they will rapidly be destroyed by the spinning crank. This is a £500 error.

This is also part of the reason I won’t have a bike any more — it’s just one more thing that needs to be maintained and I have enough things to maintain already. [Though that won’t stop me from looking at BMW R100/7s on eBay…]

Christo

I see Christo has died. He was famous mostly for wrapping up large things.

I wasn’t hugely taken with  his work. While the scale of it might have been impressive, it wasn’t particularly beautiful or appealing to my eye.

And this is largely how I judge art: do I get pleasure from looking at it?

 

Fuji X100F Quick Owner Review

Overview

I bought this camera from Amazon UK in February 2020.

I paid £899. This was just after the X100V was released, so the price was discounted by about £100.

The things that attracted me to the X100F were:

  • It’s a rangefinder
  • 35mm equivalent lens (My favourite focal length)
  • Good price compared to the interchangeable lens Fuji models
  • Lots of dials and buttons instead of having to use menus on a screen
  • Leaf shutter means flash sync up to 1/4000
  • Hybrid viewfinder

I’ve been pleased with this camera since I got it. It’s nice to use, it fits in my coat pocket and it gives reasonably good results. (I haven’t used it for video yet so I won’t be commenting on that.)

Image Quality

Skin tones are pretty good. Other colours are maybe a little over-saturated for my liking but I just dial them down in PhotoShop.

Other reviewers say the JPGs are nice straight out of the camera but I always work with RAW files so I can’t comment.

One thing I don’t like, and this is my main criticism of the camera, is that at 100% magnification the image has a weird look to it, almost as though a watercolour filter has been applied. It’s not a huge problem for me: I mainly just put pictures on my blog at a small size, or share them by email with family. If you wanted to print at full-size this weird look might become apparent but I’ll just live with it.

Lens

I have no complaints about the lens. Apparently it’s a bit soft wide-open but softness has never bothered me. The new version (X100V) has a second aspheric element which improves things but it’s not enough of a reason for me to buy it.

Controls

Rear controls.

It has lots of dials and buttons on the body for controlling various things including:

  • ISO
  • Shutter speed
  • Viewfinder option – Optical or Electronic
  • Focus option – Manual or auto
  • A quick select button 
  • Exposure compensation
  • Lot of others

I prefer analog controls like this to having to scroll through menus on screen.

Viewfinder

You can select either an optical or electronic viewfinder.

What the view through the optical viewfinder looks like. This is with the optional electronic chunk in the bottom right.

The optical one is fine: nice and clear. However, I mainly use the electronic finder since it gives a more accurate rendering of what the sensor is ‘Seeing’. If you use optical, you have to work with parallax lines which aren’t so reliable. 

The electronic finder is reasonably detailed (The new X100V has more pixels). I find it quite usable.

View through the electronic viewfinder.

If you use the optical finder, you can optionally have a little electronic image displayed in the bottom right corner. 

Information in the finder includes:

  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • Exposure compensation
  • Battery health

Sample File

Straight out of the camera / converted from RAW file

Summary

I think this is a great little camera. It gives nice results, it’s not too expensive and it’s pleasant  to use. Its successor, the X100V, has some detail improvements but not enough to make me want to spend the extra money on it.

Migration

As the internet becomes more widely available around the planet, people in poorer countries will be able to see what the First World is enjoying.

It strikes me that some of those people will be motivated to try and get to where the good life is.

There’s also the fact of global warming to take into account: some people will find their home land increasingly hard to live in, due to excessive heat, drought, war or famine.

Those people too will want to move somewhere better.

This migration is already happening to a certain extent but I think it’ll accelerate as time goes on.

The rise of populism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the West is in part fuelled by increasing migration from less well-off countries.

As time goes on, I suspect the EU (If it still exists) will close its borders. Perhaps First-World governments will funnel aid to the worst-hit countries in order to encourage their people to stay at home.

I’m probably not going to be around to see the worst of it. I don’t see any easy solutions.

Nuclear Energy Might be the Answer

Nuclear energy might be the only viable solution to global warming.

Having just watched Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’, it seems clear to me that ‘Green Energy’ solutions almost certainly aren’t going to be sufficient.

Nuclear reactor technology has advanced significantly since the reactors that caused Fukushima and Chernobyl were designed. They’re a lot safer.

There’s the problem of waste but that doesn’t seem insurmountable to me.

Additionally, work is in progress to build reactors that can use nuclear waste (Depleted Uranium I think) as fuel. If I remember correctly there’s enough of this stuff lying around to power America for centuries.

Bill Gates is involved in one such project with a company called TerraPower. Their reactor is called a ‘Travelling Wave’ type and besides burning low-radioactivity waste, it apparently exinguishes itself in the event of an accident. (I don’t think they’ve actually built one yet — a prototype was under construction in China but that project was cancelled by the US Government.)

More on Gates’ involvement in TerraPower can be found in the Netflix series ‘Inside Bill’s Brain’.

TerraPower.

 

 

Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans / Quick Review

I just finished watching this film (it’s free on YouTube).

Firstly, Michael Moore doesn’t appear in the film — the voiceover and interviews are done by Jeff Gibbs. (A cursory search on Wikipedia reveals that he composed the music for several of Moore’s previous movies.)

The main theme of this documentary is that humans are destroying the environment and it’s a fallacy that “Green Energy” is going to help.

Gibbs suggests that the green energy movement in the USA — and this film is primarily about the USA — has been infiltrated by big money and the hydrocarbon industry. He also exposes the environmental costs of manufacturing wind and solar energy units.

Whilst the tone of this movie is generally gloomy, I think there’s a lot of truth in what it has to say. One point made by several of the interviewees is that there are too many people on the planet, consuming too much.

I watched it in chunks through the day, since: a) It was a little too heavy for me to consume in one sitting; and b) I had some chores to attend to.

My rating for this film is 6/10 — it makes the point well but it seemed to me to be a little rambly and unfocused in places, as well as maybe a little over-zealous on portraying people like Al Gore as shills.

Anyway, you can watch it (Free) here and make up your own mind:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE&t=95s

Pizza Recipe

I was looking for my old pizza recipe from a few years back, which I’d improved through quite a bit of trial and error. I found this one on my backup drive. I’ll test it and see how it works.

This isn’t the recipe I had at the end of my experimentation — I think it might have been noted down midway in the process of learning how to make a half-decent one:

Ingredients for the Dough
=====================

550 g flour
2 tsp yeast
1/2 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz water
mix by hand in bowl till sticky
mixer on low / dough hook
gradually increase speed
after 30 secs ball should form
dough should pull away from sides of bowl
mixer for 8 mins
split ball into 2
make balls
oil them
cover with damp towel for 45 mins
roll out thin

sauce
=====
250 ml passata
1/4 tsp salt
16 grinds pepper
pinch oregano

bake
====
try 10 mins at 200

LED Bulbs

The first time I saw an LED was when my Aunt Sheila brought a Texas Instruments LED watch from America in 1977.

More recently, Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2014 for their work on blue LEDs, which were essential in the development of the white LEDs now used in lighting.

LED lightbulbs currently have an efficiency of up to 223 lumens per watt. For comparison, incandescent lamps typically put out about 16 lumens per watt (LED bulbs also last about 20 times as long as incandescent, so more savings there).

Apparently, about 10% of global energy production is consumed by lighting, so the potential savings in CO2 emissions are huge.

On a smaller scale, this article in Which? magazine says the average household could save £232 by switching from halogen to LED bulbs.

I’m going to switch all our remaining CFL and incandescent bulbs (There are only a few left) to LED over the coming few months.

The Daily Stoic — Quick Book Review

I got this book because I’m interested in Stoicism.

It contains 366 snippets of stoic wisdom, organised into daily servings.

The quotes from the philosophers themselves are great. It’s just that the prosaic ramblings of the “Authors”, expounding on those quotes is a bit off-putting.

I would save yourself some money and find a good stoic account on Twitter instead — you’re likely to get more of the original content; less of the contemporary ramblings.

Here’s a sample entry for today’s date:

Dishwasher Versus Hand Washing

I was going to work out the annual costs of using a dishwasher versus washing dishes in the sink but someone has done a pretty comprehensive job already: here. (From 2012 but the prices shouldn’t be too different from today.)

In summary: she says there’s not a huge difference in energy costs if you hand-wash the dishes in running water versus using a dishwasher (~£40 / year).

However, I worked out that on our current tariff, 2.5 KWh to heat running water every day would cost ~£125 / year. (Using a basin would cut this hugely.)

There’s the cost of dishwasher tablets (About 20p each), which adds up to about £70 a year — more than the cost of the electricity the machine uses.

Then there’s the price of the washer in the first place. Importantly, a lot of emissions will have been created in manufacturing it.

I’ll have to look further into this and see if I can come up with more definitive information.

Microwave Versus Kettle

I did a quick experiment to find out which was more efficient for making a mug of tea: the kettle or the microwave.

Kettle: 3 KW
Microwave: 700 W

The kettle took almost exactly 1 minute to boil a mug of water.
The microwave took about 3 minutes.

So:
Energy used / Kettle = 3,000 Watts  x 1/60H= 50 WH

Energy used / Microwave =  700 Watts  x 3/60H = 35 WH

A saving of 15 watt-hours per mug.  I probably have about 8 mugs of tea or coffee per day, so a saving of 43.8 KWH / £6.25 per year on my current tariff.

Food Emissions Calculator

I was trying to work out my (Approximate) total CO2 emissions per year.

The WWF calculator said food accounted for about 25% of it but I was looking for a number.

This calculator provides that (It’s aimed at a UK audience). You get a breakdown of which foods you’re consuming versus how much CO2 they generate.

Some of my results were surprising:

  • Carbon from beans: 567 kg per year
  • Carbon from carrots: 236 kg per year
  • Carbon from cheese: 108.5 kg per year

Beans alone account for almost a third of the emissions I would generate in a year of driving.

Answering the questions for the calculator drew my attention to the fact that it’s not just food miles that account for emissions, there’s also refrigeration.

Possibly I’ll look at home-growing some veg this year, even if it’s just beans.

Green Energy — Costs For This House

Out of curiosity, I decided to look at the cost of using 100% renewable electricity to run this house. It’s an old sandstone 3-bedroom semi-detached.

Currently, we use Sainsbury’s Energy.

Ovo are a ‘Green’ energy provider serving the UK. Their 100% renewable electricity tariff is currently 17.26p / KWH.

Heating the house with gas, we used about 34,000 KWH last year.
Electricity usage was about 4,000 KWH.

Sainsbury’s current gas tariff is 2.71p / KWH. Electricity is 14.28p / KWH.

So: assuming electric heating would be about as efficient as the gas boiler we have, running the house on 100% renewable electricity would cost 38,000 x 17.26p = £6558.80

Continuing with Sainsbury’s, costs would be a total of £1492.60

Difference: £5066.20 (An increase of 339%).

Maybe with a better-insulated modern house it would be less painful but for now, Sainsbury’s it is.

Embodied Energy / Cars

Something that people don’t often think about is the energy it takes to produce a car.

Quick manufacturing emissions summary*:

6 tonnes CO2e: Citroen C1, basic spec
17 tonnes CO2e: Ford Mondeo, medium spec
35 tonnes CO2e: Land Rover Discovery, top of the range

If I drive 10,000 miles a year in my Volkswagen Up!, it’ll produce about 1800 kg of CO2**. This means my car can probably be manufactured and driven for 10 years for less CO2 than just producing the Land Rover.

(For comparison, manufacturing a bicycle produces about 250Kg of CO2 emissions.)

* From this article / Guardian
** Using this calculator

 

Not Flaming

The nice yoga people emailed me. (I signed up for online yoga classes.)

They’re doing a retreat in Greece.

I emailed them back and said, approximately, that the less flying people did, the better.

Their reply:

“Hi Stephen,
Thank you for your valuable feedback.
We absolutely agree taking the train is a better option, whenever possible.
Please let us know if you need any suggestions for retreats closer to you, that would avoid flying.”

What they’re not saying here is that the majority of their yoga-ers will be flying to the retreat. (One round-trip long-haul flight produces the same amount of CO2 as a year’s driving, on average.)*

Making the trip to Greece for a relaxing break in the sun sounds appealing but I won’t be doing it. The people who travel to this retreat probably won’t give their pollution a second thought.

I won’t push the issue any further with the yoga company (I don’t want to be a troll) but I think their cynicism doesn’t quite fit with their right-on image.

*Update: You can calculate the emissions for any trip here: https://www.atmosfair.de/en/offset/flight/

According to that calculator, my flight to Greece and back would produce 1,193 kg of CO2. (Driving my car for a year produces 1352kg of CO2.)

Monbiot Strikes Again

George Monbiot is a journalist writing about the environment in The Guardian. I usually read his Wednesday column.

Sometimes I can’t decide whether he’s a realist or a doom-monger. It depends on how positive I’m feeling I suppose.

Last Wednesday his column was about the UK exporting used car tyres to India for burning. Some of these tyres used to be used in Britain to make roads, which seems like a good way to recycle them.  India doesn’t have the same environmental standards we do here however, meaning it’s okay to use them for fuel.

In his piece about this new and dirty trade, Monbiot says the UK Government are looking the other way. It doesn’t surprise me:

Britain’s dirty secret: the burning tyres choking India | George Monbiot

Britain’s dirty secret: the burning tyres choking India | George Monbiot

The British government is allowing scrap tyres to be send abroad for burning, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot

Source: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/30/worse-than-plastic-burning-tyres-india-george-monbiot

Winter

Eight weeks and three days to go.

It’s not so much the cold, the gloom and the rain that gets to me, it’s the long nights.

If I had the spare cash I would buy a place on the Med somewhere and go there from December till the beginning of March. That would involve a fair bit of travel though and I’m not sure I could be bothered with it. (Also: Huge CO2 emissions to get there and back).

There’s no answer to it in my current situation so I just sleep as much as possible till we get through it.

 

CPR

Coming off the M74 today, I rounded a bend to see a man at the side of the road gesturing at me to slow down.

A little further on, we came across a group of people standing round a man who was being resuscitated. “Fighting for his life” as they say in the media. As is the case with such people, he wasn’t doing much fighting, more lying there unresponsive with someone kneeling beside him in the rain compressing his chest.

It was quite shocking for some reason. I’ve seen CPR being given many times in a hospital setting but here, it was a tubby middle-aged man spreadeagled on the hard shoulder in the pale winter light, his clothing in disarray.

CPR isn’t very successful usually. According to this page, about ten percent of recipients survive to be discharged from hospital. Some of those people will have neurological damage.

Resuscitation isn’t always appropriate and not always wanted. I think if I survive into my dotage and land in hospital, I wouldn’t want to be resuscitated unless I’m in great shape.

 

Cars

My brother put his old Audi in for an M.O.T.

The mechanic came back to him saying £700 of work needed to be done. The car’s only worth half that so my brother is considering his options.

M.O.T.s are only part of the costs of running a car. There’s also fuel, depreciation,  insurance, road tax and general maintenance to consider.

In my case this adds up to about £2000 a year. I use the car mainly to ferry my mum around and for the occasional trip to the Doctor / to get chocolate / to get milk etcetera.

Since we get our grocery shopping delivered now, a careful appraisal of what’s needed before ordering should eliminate the need for any trips through the week for stuff we’ve run out of.

The rest of what’s needed to run the house comes from Amazon or eBay nowadays.

So I could get by, I think, with buses, trains and the bike for the most part. It may come to that eventually. We’ll see.

Doing without the car would save money, I would get some exercise and I wouldn’t be polluting as much. What’s not to like?

Bacon by Avedon

Can’t stop looking at this diptych. He seems to be looking at the camera (with Avedon probably standing beside it) and saying “What’s going on here”?

Bacon had a great face. Lived to a fair age despite what seems to have been a chaotic life.

Bacon by Avedon

Alzheimer’s and P. Gingivalis

In the news today: a possible link between gingivitis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is something that interests me, because I hope not to get it and would like to know how to avoid it.

This latest piece of research suggests that one of the bacteria responsible for gum disease causes Alzheimer’s. Specifically, Porphyromonas Gingivalis.

Since it’s only the one research study at this point, it’s too early to say if P. Gingivalis is the sole causative agent.

At my dentist for a checkup recently, he reeled off various numbers to the dental nurse as he prodded my gums with a sharp implement — my assumption is that I have gingivitis to some extent. I’ll be asking him on  my next visit.

A home test kit will probably appear if there’s sufficient interest in this organism. More importantly, an effective antibiotic should come along too, (Though I wonder how the antibiotic gets through the blood-brain barrier).

In any event, this lead looks promising. I’ll be watching developments with interest.

Link:

We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it

We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it

Evidence is growing that a bacteria involved in gum disease causes Alzheimer’s, raising hopes over new kinds of treatments that are currently undergoing testing

Source: www.newscientist.com/article/2191814-we-may-finally-know-what-causes-alzheimers-and-how-to-stop-it/

Paul Dolan – Happiness By Design

This book has been my reading material over the past couple of weeks.

It probably falls into the “Self-help” category, which I swore off a few years back, but then Oliver Burkeman recommended it and I thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m about three-quarters of the way through. So far is his advice is based on a lot of behavioural research, which makes it a bit more credible than the usual offering. Most of it sounds like it would help if you were able to put it into practice.

Predictably though, much of the content has just washed over me. I suppose I could have highlighted the salient bits as I went along (I have it on Kindle) but I didn’t think of that till it was too late.

As it is, my life isn’t particularly unhappy, so I don’t feel a big need for this book. Maybe if things were grim I would have paid more attention. (He says what you pay attention to is important for your happiness).

He divides happiness into pleasure and purpose, which was a new concept for me. My own view is that happiness is largely innate, unless your circumstances are particularly unfortunate.

Anyway, if you enjoy self-help books I’d say this is one of the better ones. Available here on Amazon UK.

Photo Books

We are, apparently, living in The Golden Age of Photo Books. New books are published almost every day by photographers known and unknown. Websites exist solely to showcase them (Josef Chladek for example).

I have my own fair share of photo books: currently about eighty of them. (It used to be more but I was running out of shelf space so I donated about 40 of my least-favoured ones to the charity shop.)

The average cost of a photo book these days is about thirty quid. Value-for-money varies: a few are excellent; many are mediocre. It’s hard to know what you’re getting if you buy on Amazon since you can’t leaf through the pages like you can in a “Real” book shop — a lot of the time you’re taking a punt.

What I’ve found recently is that many of the books getting coverage on the internet are by photographers who are currently en vogue with “Curators” and the cognoscenti (They’re out there), not necessarily the best ones. This has led me to buying some dross which ended up in the aforementioned charity shop, though you can sometimes find great books by little-known photographers.

When it comes to selling your used photo books, most of them will be all but worthless. The only ones with any resale value are those by big-name photographers, preferably from a limited edition. Some people buy multiple copies of their new books and store them in the hopes of making a profit down the road. Personally I buy books purely for enjoyment.

My book-buying habit has dwindled to a near-stop though: I have enough to keep me entertained for the foreseeable. I’m also trying to spend less and accumulate less in general.

To this end, I would be happy with electronic photo books: the technology is there already. I suppose it might be too easy to pirate images though — I suspect that’s why they don’t exist*, so for now it’s dead trees and diesel to get them to you.**

*Update — yesterday I bought two Kindle cartoon books by Roz Chast. The reproduction was adequate and I could view the illustrations in full colour on my computer monitor. I don’t see why you can’t buy photo books this way.

** I made my own Kindle photobook. It was quite easy.

Hair

My Mum went to get her hair “Done” this afternoon. I’m not sure whether that means her hair gets cut, or if it just gets styled.

She used to pay about a hundred quid for a haircut at Rita Rusk’s posh emporium but after a couple of questionable hairdos there she decided to look elsewhere.

Now she goes to a place nearby. Nothing fancy — just a little shop on an unimposing street, run by the woman who owns it plus one helper. The whole thing somehow takes a couple of hours, for reasons that are unclear to me. It costs her about £30 a pop now, a big improvement and more money left over for fags and whisky.

My own hair requirements are much simpler. I used to go to one of the dozen or so Barbers in town but I hated having to chat to the barber and then there was the idea of the residue of other guys’ hair and germs getting applied to your own scalp.

So now I cut my own with the handy dandy Wahl clippers. The end result may not be as tidy as the professional haircut but it’s adequate, which is all I need. There’s also a saving of about £100 a year, which isn’t much but it all adds up.

Insects

Someone somewhere (Twitter?) said insects were declining — specifically, your car windscreen didn’t get splattered with them in summer any more. I realised this was true for me too.

A little light Googling turned up quite a lot of articles on the “Insect Apocalypse”: it seems that insect populations are in decline around the planet.

It’s as yet unclear what the cause is: there’s speculation that it might be a combination of global warming and pesticide use.

What can we do? Buying organic food would be a start — my own shopping is as much organic as I can make it.  Global warming is a bigger issue but I’m going to take steps this year to reduce my contribution to it.

Article here in the NYT (Very long — I just skimmed it):

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?

Source: www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/magazine/insect-apocalypse.html

 

Piece in The Guardian here:

Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say

Source: www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers

Outsourcing Healthcare

I worry about my health. (I worry about things generally but health is one of my favourite subjects.)

Yesterday I Googled “Online physio UK” and turned up a link to an Indian web site offering free advice from qualified Doctors, although it transpired that if you wanted quick answers you had to pay £15.99. I paid up.

Fifteen minutes later my phone pinged — question answered. The response was quite detailed, listing eight different exercises which would help.

Since I was quite impressed with the level of service (And being, as I’ve said, a bit of a hypochondriac), I asked two further questions about other issues.

Once more, the response was quick and reassuring.

I’m taking it on trust that the people responding to my queries are in fact trained Doctors, but what they presented to me looked convincing enough.

This might be the way medicine is heading, at least in part. Skype consultations are apparently going to be introduced by the NHS soon. I think it’s a good thing.

Video consultations with GPs are already available privately — Pushdoctor for example. I’m not sure what they cost but my guess is it’ll be more than the Indian service. (Update: a ten-minute consultation is £30.)

Whilst I have some reservations about private medicine, being able to ask a Doctor without having to bother my GP was good. I also didn’t have to wait three weeks, as would have been the case at my local surgery, so I’ll probably be using them again.

 

 

Seamus Heaney – From “The Cure At Troy”

“Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.”
― Seamus Heaney

The Summer Day / Mary Oliver

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Stuff

Epson P800 Printer

Today I waved goodbye to my Epson P800 printer and £450.

Tomorrow a bloke is coming to take away my dumbbells. I think I used them about 5 times in total.

I’m also looking at flogging most of my photography books. These only get thumbed through periodically.

eBay and Amazon are my main dealers for “Stuff”. Anything you want, it’s on there somewhere. Just click the mouse and it’s yours.

I think it’s fair to say I had a problem with buying stuff on the internet for a while. It’s sort of addictive.

All this has to come to an end though. I have too many things. Things I never or rarely use.

Camera gear is my main weakness — I have more cameras and lenses than a rational person needs. I’ve been toying with offloading some of it and “Going minimal” but in the back of my mind I’m always thinking I’ll maybe need camera X for this or that scenario.

Buying new stuff means something is getting dug up and burnt somewhere to make it. I could say something about resources being finite but you get the point.

So I’m resolving to buy less. Only essentials. Minimal product transport miles. As good quality as I can afford, so it lasts longer.

Some of this is easier said than done of course but I’m going to try. An additional benefit is that besides saving the planet I should be able to save some money.

I’ll be keeping a spreadsheet of my outgoings this year. It’s a good way to keep a check on unnecessary spending. I’ll post the summary at the end of the year if I’m still here and blogging.

Flying Less

Like most people in developed countries, I’ve done a fair bit of flying.

Most of my air miles were accumulated in flying to visit my brother in Italy, where he lived for about ten years. It’s about a 3,000 mile round-trip from Scotland.

However, he came back here in 2011.

I haven’t flown since and I can’t say I miss it: the hassle of parking; airport security; the cramped seats; the early starts…

Besides the inconvenience though, there’s another, bigger problem: climate change. Aviation currently generates about 2.5% of global carbon emissions.

This figure is rising as we fly more — by 2050 it could be over 20%. (Statistics from this page.)

Flying for leisure and pleasure is a luxury we take for granted. Looking at the implications of climate change though, I think the government would be justified in taxing it more heavily (In the UK, jet fuel isn’t currently taxed).

Whilst this would make travelling abroad more expensive, would it really be so bad to take your holidays in the UK?

Links

There are some anti-flying (Or reduced flying) groups on Twitter that might be worth a look. For example:
https://twitter.com/lessflying
https://twitter.com/FlightFree2019

Flight carbon emissions calculator here:
https://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=3

 

Remuneration

I trained as a Registered General Nurse once upon a time. It was a three-year course – I started in 1987 and finished in 1990.

After qualifying, I spent a year on a medical ward followed by three years on a surgical floor in Florida. The pay was never great and the work was hard – you had a lot of responsibility and staffing levels were generally below what was required.

In the UK my annual salary was about £13,000 in 1990. It wasn’t a lot – I couldn’t afford a decent flat.

I forget what I was making during my stay in the USA but it wasn’t great. With Sarasota being a moderately upscale town, I could only afford an apartment in a bad area (My first two years there), followed by one in a better area but nine miles from the hospital.

The cheap old car (A ’71 LTD) I bought when I first arrived in America leaked coolant fumes, which made me ill. I sold it and got a bicycle instead, which was my transport for the remainder of my time there.

Coming back to Scotland, I quit nursing and went into IT. At first I worked for my brother’s startup but he got sued after a few years so I had to bail out and do contract work for a spell.

I was amazed at what they were paying me for work that was not all that taxing and where no-one was going to die if you made a mistake.

The only downside was that the nature of contract work didn’t suit me. Too many desperate men (It was almost all men) scrambling to keep their well-paid job. Cooped up in airless offices with a small group of people all day. I was glad to get out of it.

It opened my eyes to the fact that remuneration is not always commensurate with effort. Nursing is still not as well-paid as it should be. Perhaps you could raise a family on a nurse’s salary (Average £23,000 in the UK today) but it wouldn’t be easy.

I think the increasing number of foreign nurses in UK hospitals suggests that Brits are less and less willing to do such hard work for so little money.

The benefits of my experience as an RGN and RN were that I learned to be more organised, more self-disciplined and a bit more confident, all of which which I badly needed.

My last day as a nurse – September 1994, 9 Waldemere Tower, Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

 

Mamiya TLR Notes

Mamiya 330 Professional With 65mm Lens.
Mamiya 330 Professional With 65mm Lens.

The Mamiya TLR system is a great way into medium-format film photography. Inexpensive, robust and plentiful on eBay, you can get yourself a working camera and lens for less than two hundred pounds if you look hard enough.

The camera I bought is a 330 Professional. I paid £225 for mine, complete with 65mm lens. It’s in mint condition — I think I was lucky to get it at that price.

There’s not much to go wrong with the camera bodies — they’re all-mechanical. Things to watch out for with the body might include light-leaks in the bellows but I haven’t seen many reports of even that.

The lenses are another story. As with all older lenses, you have to be very careful when buying:

Shutters
The TLR lenses are prone to sticky shutters. The shutters are the leaf type and the slow speeds in particular can slow down or stop working altogether. If your lens has this problem, you can sometimes free it off by firing it at several times at the problem speed. If this doesn’t work, repair shops like Newton Ellis can service the shutter for reasonable amounts of money.

Glass
Older lenses (Some of these Mamiya ones might be 40 years old or more) are prone to various problems. Most of these problems are pretty obvious but there’s one that’s not: Haze.

Haze can be hard to spot. I purchased a 55mm lens a few months ago. The description said it was free of all problems. I inspected it when it got here and saw nothing untoward. However, the first set of negatives I got back from it (Yesterday) were foggy.

Closer inspection of the lens revealed quite bad haze on one of the internal elements. To spot it, you have to hold the lens at an angle to a bright light shining through it. It’s quite easy to miss. For this reason, it’s a good idea to put some film through the camera with your new lens as soon as possible.

Haze
Haze – the hidden enemy.

I emailed the seller to request a return but he declined, saying that I was outside the eBay returns window.

I’ll see how much Newton Ellis want to fix it — if it’s economical I’ll do it, as the lens is otherwise good. If not, it goes back on eBay with an honest description and I’ll just eat the loss. Caveat emptor.

Update:

The cost of cleaning it was going to be £90 + VAT (And not guaranteed to be successful), so I put it back on eBay.

NICE Propose Cycle-Friendly Streets

I thought NICE were solely involved in medicine but it turns out they make other heath-related recommendations.

A piece in today’s Guardian details their proposals for cyclist and pedestrian-friendly street design. A most welcome thing in my view and I hope the Government listens carefully.

UK health body calls for Copenhagen-style bike-friendly streets

UK health body calls for Copenhagen-style bike-friendly streets

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says cyclists and pedestrians should get priority

Source: www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/04/uk-health-body-calls-for-copenhagen-style-bike-friendly-streets

Polymer Photogravure Experiment Ends

Terry came and picked up my press today. I’d sold it to him through eBay. I think I lost about 1400 quid on it. (Not great but I’ve lost more on digital camera gear, which depreciates like a stone dropped down a well.)

I’d started off this project with high hopes: the prints I’d seen (And purchased) looked good. I intended to make some from my own negatives that would have a nice “Feel” to them. They would also have lasted for centuries.

In the end though, polymer photogravure turned out to be a very technical process. Also an expensive one: a single A4 plate is about £12 ( And they’re prone to manufacturing and handling flaws).

Tuition was hard to come by. I found someone in Australia offering Skype advice but they didn’t respond to my emails asking for a session or two.

It’s also an inherently high-contrast process: it’s very difficult to get a good tonal range, although something close to it can be achieved if you really know what you’re doing.

Another reason I packed it in was I discovered that I’m just not that into printing. I like taking the photographs, scanning them and correcting the scans in Photoshop. I like to post the results on Twitter and Instagram and make the occasional inkjet print. But that’s as far as it goes for now and probably for the future too.

It’s been an expensive lesson but it seems “Live and learn” is a truism that applies at all ages, not just when you’re young and stupid.

Elena Ferrante On Climate Change

The author Elena Ferrante has a piece on climate change in today’s Guardian.

She evokes her childhood love of the change of seasons and goes on to say how new weather patterns worry her. (Terrify her I think she said.)

Here it is.

Elena Ferrante on climate change: I’ve become obsessive. Black skies terrify me’

Elena Ferrante on climate change: ‘I’ve become obsessive. Black skies terrify me’

I never worried about the weather – until now

Source: www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/dec/29/elena-ferrante-rain-darkening-skies-global-warming

Carbon Footprint Calculator

The WWF have a carbon footprint calculator on their website.

I ran through it yesterday to see where I am on that score.

Result:

Looks like the house is where most of my carbon comes from. It’s kept fairly warm, so maybe I can cut back on the heating. Other than that I don’t see much scope for improvement.

Food energy is surprisingly high. A fair proportion of what I eat is stuff that comes from abroad: pasta; passata; peppers; pulses… My diet would be pretty boring without these items. Maybe I can try to reduce the quantity.

Anyway, the calculator is here if you want to give it a go:
https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/

CO2 Emissions By Country

Wikipedia has a page listing CO2 emissions by country (Here).

The most recent data they have seems to be from 2015, though I doubt things have changed significantly since then.

China is by far the largest emitter in the world with a total for that year of 10,641,789 Kt. The USA was second at 5,172,336 Kt.

What’s interesting is that you can sort the list of countries by emissions per capita. Looking at the data this way, Australians emit more CO2 than Americans, at 18.6 tonnes per annum versus 16.1. The UK ranks 25th with 6.1 tonnes.

This coming year I’ll be looking at ways of reducing the amount of CO2 I’m responsible for: cutting car use; reducing the gas and electricity used in this house and trying to reduce purchases of stuff destined for landfill. Food miles are something to consider too.

 

December

I recently binned my blog (It was the home page) and put Indexhibit in its place.

However, I’m bored again and thought I’d reinstate a WordPress site to  post stuff on when I feel like it.

What’s capturing my interest at the moment is climate change, so that’ll probably feature for a bit.

Yes, bacon really is killing us

Processed meat – it’s not good for you.

“The WHO advised that consuming 50g of processed meat a day – equivalent to just a couple of rashers of bacon or one hotdog – would raise the risk of getting bowel cancer by 18% over a lifetime. (Eating larger amounts raises your risk more.)”

Yes, bacon really is killing us

Yes, bacon really is killing us

The long read: Decades’ worth of research proves that chemicals used to make bacon do cause cancer. So how did the meat industry convince us it was safe?

Source: www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/01/bacon-cancer-processed-meats-nitrates-nitrites-sausages

Mediterranean diet as good as vegetarian for a healthy heart

This piece in the Times suggests that a Mediterranean diet is as good for vascular health as going vegetarian:

Mediterranean diet as good as vegetarian for a healthy heart

Mediterranean diet as good as vegetarian for a healthy heart

There is no need to fill your freezer with chickpea burgers and quorn sausages to protect your heart against disease, a trial suggests. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet, which includes a modest…

Source: www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/mediterranean-diet-good-as-vegetarian-for-a-healthy-heart-5x2f9hzjd

Low Carb / High Fat Diet

I recently read a book by Dr. Aseem Maholtra – “The Pioppi Diet“. In it he explains the science behind his recommended diet: low carb / high fat.

He cites various studies which point to our high intake of refined carbs and sugar being the cause of vascular disease and the diabetes epidemic. He reckons this type of diet will improve your glucose and lipid numbers. Insulin resistance is also reduced.

One reputed adherent of the low refined carb diet is Queen Elizabeth II.  She seems to be in good shape for her age so there might be something in it. (She does like cake though, apparently.)

Simple Bread Recipe

This recipe works with spelt, rye and wholemeal flour. You can hand-knead for 10 minutes or use a stand mixer like I do.

Ingredients
=========
Strong white flour 100g
Rye, wholemeal or spelt flour 500g
Olive oil 50ml
Salt 10g
Instant yeast 10g
Water, lukewarm 300ml

Method
======
Mix all the ingredients in a stand mixer for 2 minutes at number 2 power setting or hand-knead for about 10 minutes
Cover and leave to prove for an hour at room temperature
Roll the dough into a ball then press down lightly to form a slightly flatter shape (Flour the work surface and your hands first)
Put the dough ball onto a baking tray with some greaseproof paper underneath it
Heat oven to 50°C and put the dough in for an hour
Remove the dough from the oven
Heat oven to 210°C and bake the loaf for 30 minutes
Remove and leave to cool

Antibiotic Resistance / Farming

George Monbiot has a good piece in today’s Guardian about antibiotic resistance and farming in the USA and elsewhere. According to this article, antibiotic use is more prevalent and less strictly regulated in America, which is a bad thing for all of us:

Resist a US trade deal. Your life may depend on it | George Monbiot

Resist a US trade deal. Your life may depend on it | George Monbiot

We cannot trust our government to fight America’s disgusting farming practices. Unless we mobilise, US livestock pumped full of antibiotics will harm us all, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

Source: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/14/us-trade-deal-government-farming-practices-livestock-antibiotics

 

Quorn

This article in yesterday’s Guardian is largely negative about Quorn and other meat substitutes. The main thrust of their argument seems to be that Quorn is an ultra-processed food and therefore not good. I tend to agree which is why I don’t eat it any more but it’s still better than killing animals:

The Quorn revolution: the rise of ultra-processed fake meat

The Quorn revolution: the rise of ultra-processed fake meat

It was reported last week that Quorn is on course to become a billion-dollar business. It is part of a booming industry of meat alternatives – but many of these products are a far cry from the idea of a natural, plant-based diet

Source: www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/12/quorn-revolution-rise-ultra-processed-fake-meat

Easy Sauce for Dal or Chickpea Curry

Ingredients

*Per person*:
Olive oil – quite a bit
1/2 onion
1/2 a pepper
2 cloves garlic
Half-thumb-sized piece of ginger
Salt  to taste
Turmeric – ½ teaspoon
Ground coriander – teaspoon
Cumin powder – ½ teaspoon
Chilli flakes – to taste or omit if you prefer
Passata – about half a mugful
Water to thin sauce
½ a lemon or lime, juiced

=====================================

Method
Finely chop (Or you can use a MagiMix) the onion, garlic, pepper and grate the ginger, then sautee gently in the oil for 5-10 mins
Stir in all the spices & salt
Add the passatta
Add the water
Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add the chickpeas or pre-cooked lentils  & allow to heat if cold
Add the lemon or lime juice
Serve

Livestock Farming and Antibiotic Resistance

Some interesting facts in this article on livestock and antibiotic resistance:

  • Pneumonia, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis are already showing increasing resistance to antibiotic treatment
  • It’s estimated that up to 90 percent of antibiotics consumed by animals are excreted
  • Use of antibiotics for livestock greatly exceeds that of uses for humans
  • Antibiotic use in livestock farming is lowest in Norway, and also low in Finland, Sweden and Denmark — high-income nations with effective regulation

Read it yourself here:

How do we reduce antibiotic resistance from livestock? – Our World in Data

How do we reduce antibiotic resistance from livestock? – Our World in Data

This blog post draws on data and research discussed in our entry on Meat and Seafood Production & Consumption.

Source: ourworldindata.org/antibiotic-resistance-from-livestock