Global warming may not be caused by increased greenhouse gases
There were two interesting media articles recently; one was a TV programme a week or two ago about the scientists who reject the notion that humans are causing an increase in the earth's average temperature; the other was a Sunday Times article on 11/03/07 showing the current and possible future effects of the global warming.
The sceptical scientists produced lots of data to support their case whilst saying that the current suggestion that the extra carbon dioxide currently being added to the atmosphere by human activities is causing the increase in global average temperature is just guesswork not supported by research data.
The scientists have produced data from several sources showing that over several hundred million years the earth's average temperature has risen several times by anything up to 6 degrees Celsius but the increase in carbon dioxide followed about eight hundred years later. In other words, the increase in temperature warmed the oceans which then released huge quantities of trapped carbon dioxide and methane and the increased areas of desert could not support vegetation so the greenhouse gases were not taken out of the atmosphere.
The principle cause of previous global warming has usually been the sun's increased activity and/or the earth's temporary position closer to the sun.
It is admitted that humans are now adding extra quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but nothing like as much as volcanoes added millions of years ago and probably nothing like enough to cause the warming that appears to have started.
We have had higher global average temperatures just a few thousand years ago and a warm period two thousand years ago without adverse effects and the earth returned to a mini ice age in mediaeval times.
It still hasn't been clearly supported by fact or research that the current addition of greenhouse gases is adding to a natural warming effect or that the warming will get out of control, creating a runaway greenhouse effect.
However, my view is that human activities such as clearing forests and adding greenhouse gases are dangerous because they may be making a natural global warming effect much quicker than it would otherwise be. It's not a risk that I consider we should take.
Yesterday's paper reported that photographs of Mars have shown less ice at the poles and a darkening of the surface generally compared with comparable photographs taken in the 1970s.
Although the ice does expand and retreat, the difference was still noticeable at similar times of the Martian year. This implies a warming of the Martian climate which could not be caused by human activity so it must be due to solar activity.
The darker surface is probably caused by increased dust storms which would have the effect of trapping more of the sun's heat, compounding the effect.
British sailors and marines held hostage in Iran
On 23rd March ago fifteen British marines and sailors had just finished searching an Indian ship close to the boundary of Iranian territorial waters when two Iranian gunboats seized them. Our servicemen were there under the UN procedures for stopping illegal goods and arms getting into Iraq. Our escorting helicopter, assuming that the search was over and running out of fuel, had returned to HMS Cornwall twelve miles away. No help was possible and so our servicemen gave up without a fight as the Iranian vessels had heavy machine guns and our fourteen men and one woman were on two small RIBs (inflatable boats) with only small arms.
The Iranians claimed that the GPS equipment found on the RIBs showed that our people were inside Iranian waters. The boundary is disputed in that area and also varies because the boundary is supposed to be down the centre of the channel of the Shat Al Arab waterway and extended in the same line out into the open water, but the centre of the waterway shifts due to movement of the seabed, so the boundary theoretically moves.
Our Ministry of Defence spokesman said that he was sure our servicemen were inside the boundary by about 1.7 nautical miles. TV news showed a map with our position and the first position reported by the Iranians which was also outside their waters! The Iranians later gave a second position inside their waters.
The Iranian TV showed the captives in a carpeted room eating off plates on their laps. The woman looked extremely nervous and about to burst into tears but some of the others looked relaxed. The woman had a head scarf on.
After a week and a half of diplomatic statements from both sides, first stern then slightly softer in tone it appeared to be stalemate. The UN had been asked to help but our government had apparently abandoned the UN route and decided to send a special representative to Tehran. Perhaps the UN were deemed slow and ineffective as is often the case.
The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is notoriously hard-line but in practice has little power which is in the hands of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who never appears on TV so we didn't know what his attitude was to our request for the servicemen to be released. The president was obviously told that nothing further could be gained by holding the hostages so he pinned medals on the revolutionary guards who took the hostages then told everyone that the hostages were free.
They were bought out of a nearby room dressed in shiny blue or grey suits, shaken by the hand by the president and given gift bags.
So the Iranians got some brownie points by appearing to be magnanimous. Iran had had the upper hand throughout and the British government was helpless. Military action was unthinkable. We didn't know where the hostages were and anyway a rescue attempt might have gone badly wrong as did the American rescue attempt when their planes crashed on a desert airstrip and they had to abandon the rescue of 52 of their embassy staff who were eventually released after 444 days in 1981.
At first I thought that the hostages had been well treated. It now appears that the sailors and marines were blindfolded, handcuffed at times, stripped, dressed in pyjamas and held in solitary confinement so I take back part of that. However, I still think they can count themselves relatively lucky compared with the usual standards of prisoner treatment in that part of the world.
Iraq dipped prisoners in acid baths; the Taliban in Afghanistan has recently gouged out eyes; Vietnam broke the bones of John McCain and let them set without treatment; Vietnam or Laos hooks people together with wire looped under their collar bones after they attempt to escape and are then returned by the Chinese.
Solitary confinement is stressful but the Iranians probably didn't want the detainees concocting a similar story; they would have wanted each to tell his/her own version. We now know that they were told that if they admitted straying into Iranian waters they would be returned in a few days but otherwise they could be locked up for up to seven years.
The woman was under the impression for about four days that the others had been sent home and that she had been kept alone in Iran. She was asked to write letters home expressing regret, etc. The two officers were shown on Iranian TV explaining what happened and pointing out their position on a map which showed the boundary on the water. Both used phrases like "apparently strayed" and said that the episode was a "mistake" without saying whose mistake in an effort to avoid giving an outright apology.
So what do people think about the near-apologies given on Iranian TV by the hostages? Most are sympathetic. We know that they were being encouraged or threatened to admit that they had strayed into Iranian waters and no one here has believed that their statements under duress were true.
Discussion boards have had a whole variety of opinions, one person said that his father and two uncles were prisoners of the Germans in the Second World War and if they had been asked to apologise on Nazi radio for their actions they would never have considered it; not only would their mates have considered them cowards but they would probably have been court-martialled later.
I believe that during the second world war all a prisoner had to state was his name, rank and number. I wonder what the current British rules are for those taken prisoner?
All in all, they were treated better than the Americans and British troops treat their prisoners. The Americans have made blindfolded men run into solid walls just for fun and the British have hoisted a trussed-up man on the prongs of a forklift truck, amongst other things.
Has Britain been humiliated by Iran? Undoubtedly. They called all the shots from Day One. Iran wants to be the most powerful state in the region - nothing wrong in that - but also wants to have nuclear weapons and destroy Israel and is currently funding terrorism in Iraq, sending arms including ammunition and detonators for roadside bombs for Shiite insurgents to use against our forces.
An informative account of the background to the arrests is this one by the Assyrian International News Agency.
I was out cycling over the farm tracks south east of my home in glorious sunny weather and stopped in a remote valley to listen to the birds. I noticed that although the valley should have shielded me from outside noises of human activity, I could hear the motorbike racing at an event some miles to the north like the buzzing of a swarm of hornets.
Then I heard and saw a light aeroplane flying low overhead; obviously a weekend leisure flight. There is nowhere now in England that you can get entirely away from noise pollution. The noise of traffic from the A354 over the hill to the south could also be heard.
When I got home I heard a microlight with its noisy motor mower engine and some weekends there is a hill climb up farm tracks about one mile to the west of me for small racing cars. It's not too noisy for me but some people living closer have complained in the local magazine about the increasing frequency of these hill climbs. There are also go-cart races on or somewhere near Wilton racecourse about four miles away and I can hear them when I go outside my house.
Website construction problems
For several years I have been giving help whenever I see a post on a forum for website problems when I know I can help. For the past year it has almost become a full-time job. I always start at 7am and try to finish at 9.30pm but often find myself continuing to 10.30 or 11 pm. Sundays are the same although on Saturdays I go to the supermarket and read the paper when I get home before I start on the computer.
I take time off during the day which may be quite a lot and if it's sunny and warm I go for a bike ride but if I have a difficult problem I may only take fifteen minutes for lunch and work most of the day. So on average I may be doing six or seven hours a day and I don't charge for it.
I have been asked several times to work freelance but I don't fancy the hassle of dealing with unpaid bills for someone in a third-world country. There's also the problem that when you set yourself up as a freelance person and get a client, he may ask you to do something you don't know how to do and then you have to have a stressful time trying to sort out the problem or resign the commission.
Someone recently suggested that I set up a PayPal donor account. It's quite common for people who design some online code to say that it can be used without charge provided a reference is made to the name, website or email of the designer is incorporated in the code file. They also set up a PayPal account for donations. I suppose anything they get is a bonus but I can't be bothered. I regularly get emails that look like PayPal emails which are requesting me to log in to check something. Of course even though I don't have an account they are phishing for my username and password so I'm not keen to set up a PayPal account at the moment. If I had an account I would find it difficult to tell the real PayPal emails from the false ones.
I don't do any website design work anyway, I only deal with code construction problems so I wouldn't be able to design a whole site, I would just be taking someone's ideas and making them work.
As I only answer some questions, I can pick and choose which I answer. I try to download the person's code and set it up on my computer so that I can test code corrections. I have learnt that if you give a wrong answer and it doesn't work, the questioner soon says so and it destroys your credibility. Other viewers come up with the correct answer and I look stupid.
Sometimes I only need to give a quick descriptive answer or a link, sometimes I just type two words into Google, open up the first link, find that it gives a complete answer, type the link into an answer and it's all done in thirty seconds. On other occasions I think the code has a simple error but I wrestle with it for two days because it causes some bug in a browser that I wasn't aware of or there is some other code conflicting with it.
Questioners fall into several categories:-
Absolute beginners who haven't started coding but say they want a site that looks like the one they give a link to. It's often a highly complicated site which they have absolutely no chance of constructing themselves.
Absolute beginners who have plunged in without doing any research and haven't got the faintest idea of what they are doing. The whole of their simple site has completely the wrong structure as well as many errors.
Older people who have volunteered to set up a website for their football club, golf club or church but haven't quite got enough knowledge to do something like drop down menus, hover popups or whatever.
Young lads who want to impress their friends with a whizzy site full of Flash videos and music, but they haven't got enough knowledge to put it all together.
Freelance web designers who may have a very good design but they have run into a particular problem; very often that their page displays well on some browsers but not on others.
People who have put together quite a good site but want to add on an ecommerce code for linking to PayPal with a shopping cart. It's too complicated for me and I can't help them. Quite often the best thing to do is to lift all the code from a site that offers all of it free.
Multi-Video from WigiWigi
I tested this successfully with seven other simultaneous connections today (only five other people as Ben and eezi_me seem to have got two connections!). Generally my download varied between 40 and 90KBps and upload between 10 and 18KBps.
You can use the Multi-Video here.
Willem is centre left, Ben is centre middle and I am centre right. Later Ashod (the developer of this software) joined us.
MeBeam video box from WigiWigi
A new beta program for my blog only; see this page.
Strange statistics for my website
It's interesting to look at my website statistics and see what viewers have done. In the list of key search phrases I noticed the following:-
mensa mensa mensam
january 1978 chinese snake
broken ladder pictures
The "broken ladder pictures" search would have shown one of me in Jakarta after I had cleared a roof outlet blockage and the old bamboo ladder collapsed under me, but what a strange thing to search for! I tried the same search phrase in Google but my website did not show on the first twenty pages of listings so someone must have searched many more pages to get to my site.
The Brigitte Nielsen search could be someone looking for pornographic pictures. I showed a photo of her in a shower at the Big Brother House with one of the male contestants, not a pornographic photo.
Mensa mensa mensam - another strange search phrase. I was describing my early schooldays.
In the listing files with at least 20 requests I noticed that some pages had been looked at only the day before but related to forum answers I had given months before and should have been long forgotten. Perhaps Google or some other robot was checking all my pages. Similarly there were many pages viewed the previous day including many of my early musings pages relating to 2003 and 2004, I can't believe that a person could be systematically reading all my pages the same day, so it must be some computer program. This gives a distorted view. I know that one of my stats programs excludes robots and spiders but the one I have just referred to obviously does not.
It's also interesting that between 1am and 6am the views are about 20% of the average for the rest of the day and I can't believe that robots account for all of them, but I suppose it would be possible if robots looked at every page.
The Analog stats show about 100 pages visited for each hour between midnight and 6am but 300 to 500 for each hour during the day. These are Analyzed requests from Tue, Jan 23 2007 at 7:02 AM to Fri, Jul 13 2007 at 8:11 AM (171.05 days).
Awstats shows 4, 0, 1, 7, 9, 6 and 1 pages for the hours midnight to 7am and varying numbers between 1 and 53 for the other hours, namely 13, 20, 8, 9, 53, 51, 2, 3, 1, 4, 5, 3, 16, 12, 7, 15 and 3 from 7am to midnight. This shows high viewing between 11am and 1pm. These are for the month (two weeks so far). They are very different on average from the Analog stats. During May and June the pages viewed were about six times as much, or three times as much on a full month basis.
Floods in UK Midlands, West and South
A few weeks ago there were extensive floods in Sheffield, Hull and other areas in the north Midlands. Last Friday there was heavy rain over most of the south of England and it moved slowly over Hampshire into Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and then Wales. The rain over Wales has now come down the Rivers Avon and Severn and completely flooded Evesham and Tewkesbury several feet deep and cut off roads into the Towns.
Oxford and Pangbourne had flash floods from rainfall last Friday which have gone down but now the River Thames is rising due to the volume of water coming from Gloucestershire and more flooding is expected. The Severn and Avon are expected to reach their peak early tomorrow morning and it is still raining.
Reports often say that the flooding is "unprecedented" but other reports say that the River Severn and Avon, which meet at Tewkesbury, had floods about as bad in 1947. Since then there has been increased building on flood plains and we now have climate change. This has made the jet stream move south from Iceland over the last few months and we have inclement weather due to low pressure volatile storms which have moved over the land very slowly while southern Europe has a heat wave and drought.