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I finalised my IPCC review comment, and am now soliciting signatures. See it at CCC.
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces reports which review and summarize the science of climate change. These reports are then used by inter-governmental treaties, bodies, conferences, and national governments, as the basis for international and national policies on climate change. In other words, it is vitally important. There has been a lot of controversy about the IPCC reports, some of it stirred up by vested interests such as the coal and oil industries. Any hole they can pick, they pick.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) represents the national science academies of many different countries, including the Royal Society of the UK and the National Academy of Science of the US. Responding to the various controversies, in March the UN asked the IAC to conduct a review of the IPCC processes and procedures. A committee has been established and the review is underway. The committee is now soliciting public comment. This is a rare and general opportunity to influence the way in which the science of climate change is conducted, reviewed, synthesized, and communicated. In other words, this is a chance to Save The World.

I have written the following draft comment. Please suggest changes. On Monday I will finalise it and then solicit signatures.

IPCC Review comment under here )
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There is a debate on alcohol pricing in the UK, based on the notion that high levels of drunkenness are fuelled by cheap alcohol.

NICE and other experts are proposing a minimum price per unit (10 ml) of alcohol (numbers such as 40p and 50p are bandied around). The government doesn't like that, possibly because the powerful supermarket lobby wants to keep selling cheap booze (starting at somewhere around 15p per unit at the moment). The supermarkets favour a rule of "not below cost price", which would allow them to keep selling cheap booze - the big supermarkets have tremendous purchasing power and generally dictate their cost prices to their suppliers - while preventing off-licenses and convenience stores from doing the same. It seems unlikely to me that "not below cost price" would have much effect on "happy hour" in pubs and bars - often connected, at least in the public mind, with alcohol problems - because the wholesale cost of drinks is only a small part of the cost burden in on-licensed premises.

At present, government controls on the price of alcohol are in the form of a duty - a tax paid by the importer or manufacturer. Current duty on spirits and beer is based on alcohol content (23.8 pence per unit of alcohol on spirits, 17.32 pence per unit in beer). Duty on cider, perry, and wine is calculated using a complex banding system. For instance, still wine between 5.5 and 15% alcohol is subject to duty of 225 pence per litre[*], which works out at 15p per unit for the strongest wines and about 18-19p for a typical wine. The lowest duty per unit of alcohol, by far, is on still cider at just under 7.5% alcohol, which incurs 4.8p per unit.

Alcoholic drinks also incur VAT at 17.5%.

Note that on a £3 bottle of wine, duty and VAT accounts for £2.03, leaving under a pound for retailer, wholesaler, bottler, importer, and producer. No wonder it tastes so lousy. On a £5 bottle of wine, the supply chain gets nearly 3 times as much money, which is why £5 wine tastes much better.

It seems completely obvious to me that the simplest way in which the government could increase the cost of alcohol would be to put a flat duty across all alcoholic beverages of, say, 25p per unit. This would simplify an existing system rather than add new and complex rules and monitoring to retailers. It would allow for loss-leaders, but no sector can survive on loss-leaders (there's an old gag with the punchline "we'll make it up in volume", which stopped being funny around the time of the dot-com implosion).

[*] This creates an upward pressure on alcohol content, to the top end of each band. I don't know whether this has caused wines to get stronger, but my impression is that they have and it might be connected.
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The answer which should be given to any question about the present circumstances of Jon Venables is surely:
That individual was given a new identity. I have no further comment.
And all the vile muck-raking parasites in the media should be banged up for contempt of court, or similar. Starting with the editor and proprietors of the Mail and the Express, and working up through the food chain to those responsible for the BBC news output. It's a complete disgrace. They will have blood on their hands.
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I pack my bags in haste, it's not too soon
to load the car again - another trip
down South, to Brighton in the afternoon
to you, your arms, your constant comradeship,
your patience with my dull timidity:
my failure to give in to kindly fate,
to own my feelings, the rapidity,
the rush of blood, the tongue-tied nervous state
which you provoke. Your presence fills my world
so no-one else is there, though in a crowd -
there is just you. I keep this secret curled
up in my mind: it cannot be allowed
or spoken. Let us do crosswords instead.
This clue must burn on, safe inside my head.
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To the Independent Climate Change Email Review Committee,

I am making this submission with regard to the discussions of software in the hacked CRU emails, and to the small amounts of software source code also published in the same incident. I am a software expert with long industrial experience. I also have some expertise in climate science software. I hope that my submission may clarify some of the issues raised.

... lots of stuff about software ... )


If you have any questions regarding this submission, or our work more broadly, I am of course available to give further evidence, in person if necessary.

Nicholas Barnes, Director, Ravenbrook Limited

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Roger Helmer MEP and Godfrey Bloom MEP made almost identical submissions to the science and technology select committee inquiry about the CRU emails. The submissions were full of the usual blogosphere borderline libelous nonsense about "hide the decline" and about the Hockey Stick: the kind of stuff which is common currency among the ignorant, the stupid, and the gullible.

What I want to know is: did one of them write this and share it with the other, or did they both receive it from a third party?
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Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in his will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.
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Since certain sceptics don't like my attempts to correct some of the misapprehensions in their blog postings and comment threads, and refuse to allow my comments, I have tried to clarify some issues relating to computer arithmetic in a post on the project blog instead. I'd appreciate any numerate friends having a quick look, and commenting here.


Feb. 14th, 2010 09:19 am
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Begin, believe me, take this tangled ten, vainly.
A busy worker grabs a broken vent, mainly.
Twisted in a way, with my first, your first, dip.
Near - takes me back - a climber holds a fast in its grip.
Is digging with yaks begun? Farewell the second part.
Bug-eyed monsters shorten young Shirley's saintly heart.
These dismal clues all solve to (2,2,9).
Forgive me! Will you __/__/_________?
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Today we published Clear Climate Code GISTEMP release 0.2.0. This is a major milestone in a pro-bono project I've been engaged on, intermittently, for more than a year. I believe it is a significant step, albeit on a long journey, towards improving public confidence in climate science results.

I am feeling very proud about this. We can all make some sort of difference. This is a difference I can make.
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Aargh, aargh, aargh.

A seemingly intelligent software guy just doesn't get it about averages and the Central Limit Theorem.

He has a germ of a point, in there somewhere, together with a little kernel of misunderstanding, from which he has constructed a towering monster of semiotics, a boggling distinction between Real Things (e.g. temperature (!), muon half-life, light curves of variable stars), and Other Things (e.g. mean temperature (!!)). This distinction allows him to treat observations of Real Things (e.g. a million measurements of the decay times of a million different muons, or a thousand estimates of the apparent magnitude of a particular variable star at different times) differently from observations of Other Things (e.g. sixty temperature measurements at a particular weather station in September 2009).

The frustrating part, as so often with Someone Wrong on the Internet, is that he clearly has the wit to grasp the explanation, but he's not going to accept it. Even if he consulted an expert statistician, and was patiently led through his error, he would write her off as an idiot and go find another expert statistician instead.

I suspect he even thinks there must be something wrong with his argument, because if it was sound then *all* climatology (not just GISTEMP) would be entirely without any foundation (as, for that matter, would be weather forecasting). And yet he works very hard (see other posts on his blog), trying to find more and more things wrong with GISTEMP. If that post held water, he could refine it down to a precious one-page gem, publish that, and rest on his laurels (with his Nobel Prize).

Anyway, he's got me pegged as a conspirator now, and tells me I'm interested in something called "strategic inside baseball" (I have no idea what that is). Hey ho, there'll be another one along in a minute. In related but better news, see the next post.
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Here. Pictures here. Merry Christmas, one and all.
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Kevin and I just drew at chess, in our fourth online game. We both made silly mistakes early, but it's the end which is particularly comical.
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It's taken us about a year to pull our collective fingers out, but here is the Clear Climate Code website. The code is in GoogleCode, and there's also a mailing list.
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My brother Kevin defeated me in a close-fought chess game last night, to secure the Haines Chess Medal (a chess award that our father Roger Haines won at school - the Blue School in Wells - in 1950/51). Well done, Kevin. For the record, here is the game:

game )

Pictures on Kevin's blog.
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Global sea-level is forecast to rise a metre or so over the next century. In the spirit of dumb-ass geo-engineering proposals to combat global warming, we should consider the most obvious geo-engineering approach to sea-level: pump sea-water into endorheic basins (that is, areas which don't drain into the global ocean), such as the basins of the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, Lake Chad, Lake Eyre, and the Tarim basin. These five alone have a combined surface area of about ten million square kilometres, and could easily contain the 4e14 cubic metres of water of a one-metre global sea-level rise.

Exercise for the reader: list five insurmountable obstacles to this cunning scheme.
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The "conservative base" in the US is disintegrating. They are going off the deep end, and the "movement" is certain to tear itself apart. How can I be so sure? How can I tell, absolutely and for certain, that these are the End Times for the Know-Nothings?
This is how. Conservapedia, a site mocked since its start by sensible people everywhere, but taken very seriously by the right-wingers who created and edit it, has launched a project to "create a conservative Bible translation". Yes, really. To remove the liberal bias in existing translations (fostered by famous revolutionary communists like the Catholic Church, or James I). Based solely on this, I predict the schism of the Republican party within a decade, into one party including the people who thought up this crazy idea, and another party who think the bible is God's Word and that people who mess with it need to be taken out and shot. And possibly a third party of people who can think for themselves.
While we're waiting for that happy apocalpyse, I recommend you read about their little project. That page is laugh-out-loud, coffee-down-the-nose funny on its own. A particular highlight for me was this line:
The committee in charge of updating the bestselling version, the NIV, is dominated by professors and higher-educated participants who can be expected to be liberal and feminist in outlook.
You see, you can't trust anyone with a university education to translate all that ancient Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek. Their minds have been twisted by Exposure to Education.

More detailed sniping... )
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A stylistic return to form, but plot holes you could drive a multiverse through.
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What ever happened to Free Speech Zones?
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