Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Kites - taking the plunge

Every now and then I have an urge to go off in a new direction. Today is one of those days so I seem to be talking myself into it!

I'm getting seriously tempted to go back to one of my previous hobbies: Kite Making.

Twenty five years ago I would go down to the local open space and fly my kites and have a great time.

I've been very determinely searching for my beautifully written kite making manual. Each time I fail to find it in amongst by crazy book shelves and motivation comes crashing down. So I've given up on this and am going to use the internet for guidance.

I've found this site : http://www.my-best-kite.com which on first glance looks great.

One of my favorites is  the Delta Kite - there's a video at the bottom of the page of one flying. It's a design that requires very little wind.

So anyone else interested?

I have fibre rods from the past and some 'new' ones given by Sue Redhead.
I have access to beautiful coloured materials - used for making our flags.
I have two sewing machines.
We even have a room that could be dedicated to just sewing and making them.

Here's the kind of thing I have in mind - kept beautifully simple :

It shouldn't be difficult to make a group of kites like these that are very simple.

We have the equipment and materials.
We have some knowhow.

So let's party!

So, anyone interested in joining me for a bit of fun?

This could well become another Ulverston activity for the 'summer' months.

e- gd at tygh.co.uk     t- 01229 490 347

Monday, 30 July 2012

Why do we have to campaign so hard ?

We have an excellent service to London run by Virgin and now this is under threat from a rival 'cheaper' bid from a rival company.

What can we do to protect a service we really enjoy with staff that enjoy running it and provide excellent service?

Media Hype

Have you noticed that you come away disappointed every time you watch the Olympics.

It's because the media build up our expectations that we're always going to do better than we do.

Greek philosophers learnt that we will always feel good if we expect the worse.

Switch off all the bloody talk and just watch and cheer. - Weren't the French swimming relay amazing last night ?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Not black and white but various shades of grey

I used to have people I loved (liked a lot) and people I hated.

Now I don't know anyone I totally love or dislike.

I have many whose behaviour  I vacillate between really liking - or admiring - and disliking intensely.

This can lead to sad losses in relationships as when you show that you don't like a certain behaviour and you appear to lose that 'friendship' for ever.

What we aspire to is having friends that like us as we are - with all our faults. This implies that they dislike our faults but still like us.

The relationships I'm enjoying most are those where we a continuously able to give each other new things that are wanted by the recipients. Ones where deep trust has been established and we can be very honest with each other. Ones where we can tell the other person that there's something we don't like and they can take it on the chin. "So you don't like it - so what?"

The litmus test to a good relationship for me is : Can you tease them about things that matter to them?
I have some other people I know that I wouldn't dare and am waiting for the relationship to repair - if it ever will - from previous indiscretions of my being too honest.

Potfest in the Park, north of Penrith

Todays the last day to visit this wonderful upbeat event.

We enjoyed every minute of our stay until well after closing time and came away with some wonderful ceramics that have already been installed into our house hold. George, our female little bird, shares our meals and inspects all the food that comes on our plates. The cats who aren't allowed anywhere near have their noses severely out of joint. The mug I bought is serving as an excellent substitute for sandpaper for my rough fingernails. Our new picture is so full of colour and vibrant design - Printfest eat your heart out - the picture we bought there has been surplanted.

Does it really matter ?

If we don't win a single Olympic medal.

I'm reminded of the depression that hit the country when Germany beat us in the final of the world cup. Success in football was the most important thing in a lot of people's lives.

Doesn't that say something about the kind of people we are if this kind of failure is that important?

The brash reporting of the cycle race suggested that the commentator believed implicitly in the abilities of 'team GB' as though they were all powerful, all knowing competitors. Lets be ready to applaud the other sportsmen - whoever they are.

Surely we have more important things in our lives than the results of the efforts of a few hard stretched sport's men and women?

It's sad to find that the people in charge of television don't agree - but then I barely watch the box never-the-less there are a few programmes that help me maintain my sanity - it seems I'll have to manage without them - shouldn't be difficult.

Now where's my saw, drill, screws and spade : I'm off to the park to put some more pottery up and shift some compost!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Olympics

The Olympics for me is a big distraction and could easily stop me spending time doing what I really want to do. I find it bewildering that we are willing to put all this energy into something that is so remote from our daily lives. It is sad that the sport that is being promoted is in fact very unhealthy. People push their bodies and mental abilities to extremes that I consider to be unhealthy and have little to do with leading a balanced and rewarding daily life.

There are many activities that we could get involved with if we wanted to but instead we become couch potatoes and watch others through the box.

The excuse is that it's going to inspire our young people. Surely there are lots of lesser things we could do here in Ulverston that with great satisfaction rather than this remote form of participation. Surely a dedicated adult can do far more to inspire youngsters to engage in say football, swimming, rock climbing than a remote David Beckham etc.

Like the news, these remote activities just become entertainment by others who become celebrities, when we could gain far more by getting involved with what happens at the end of our road with John Smith and Mary Brown. Great if we all got involved with activities using our bodies and a very few went on to greater things but instead we have all this media hype that encourages us to do no more than watch from our sofa or perhaps for a few, make the big effort go to a happening to watch the Olympic flame go by - wow. This for me is such a low level of involvement that I prefer some hard physical work down at the allotment or as I did this morning play chess in the rain at Market Square or as I did yesterday go to Potfest in the Park at Penrith and after a lovely chat with the creative artists, some of whom had travelled all the way from Poland and France and the Netherlands and buy their work. At the same time chase down information on how I could also be creative in my pottery to the benefit to the rest of the town at some happening in the future. Or as I did the previous evening, play my clarinet with another musician on the piano in the Old Friends to the pleasure of others in the pub who could join in by singing. Or as I did on that same day, have a lively discussion with seven others about how we cope with being hypocrites. Or as I did a week ago tell stories and play the piano to complete strangers to Natterjacks. Or as I did a week ago helping others make wax candles for the Candlelit Walk or as I did a week ago put up pottery made by locals previously that I had fired, in Mill Dam Park  or as I did ten days ago have a lovely informative time as to the interests of a three year old as she explored the wide variety of the town's shops.

No the latter activities are far far more involving and demanding so that I'm glad to abandon the television set for the very rewarding experiences of : helping others make wax candles; growing vegetables; making pottery with others; playing chess with others and practising my clarinet and piano both for my own enjoyment and that of others.

So like Christmas, I'm looking forward to the world to return to 'normal' after the Olympics even though normal means coping with the very real problems of coping financially, coping with the effects of Global Warming, coping with the increasingly depressing news in the real newspapers. At least this is 'real' life which you can touch with your hands and hear directly with your ears, see directly with your own eyes and taste with your mouth, even though it can be a struggle that makes you test the limits of your capabilities. This then leads to real solid satisfaction of dealing with challenges where you can succeed with tremendous satisfaction - albeit at a mundane level.

Here's to 'normal' down the road activities. Lets get rid of most of our technology and return to the fields and enjoy life as much as the Nepalese appear to.

I'm aware that my remarks could be seen as negative. Let me put it this way:
Will we feel depressed/dispirited if we we don't win a single medal as long as we enjoyed joining in and enabling an excellent games to take place ? Will we become any less of a great nation? Any less great people and individuals. Surely a lot of hype of Olympic torch mania can only lead disappointment. Intuitively it all makes me feel most uncomfortable and ask "What has this to do with taking care of the less fortunate; with doing something about the thousands of people who are living a struggling life in sheds at the bottom of people's gardens"

Olympic torches and real life sheds don't match up as the same society. Something is askew somewhere. Roll on a bit of time for us all to come to our senses - a bit of time for real life situations to sink in and for us to engage with the struggles in the our real world.

Friday, 27 July 2012

AVAAZ - a new form of democracy

Last week, Ria, an Avaaz member in the UK, sent these words:
"I am 65 years old and have terminal cancer and not long to live. I can do very little practically because of this. The state of the world and the amount of violence and injustice breaks my heart. Through your organisation even I can make a difference and try to help make this world a better place for others before I leave it. This is a positive and peaceful action which gives me great comfort. I am no longer helpless and powerless, I can vote, I have power to change things even now.

Thank you for giving me this priceless opportunity at such a time as this. Peace and democracy in Syria would be such a fantastic 'going away present'. However, this was really just to say say thank you for giving so many people who care a voice which is now heard world wide. 15,000,000! What a voice to be reckoned with. Thanks to you all."
We read this note out loud on a call with the entire global staff. We were so moved, we started gathering photos of ourselves with messages of hope and love to send to Ria as a way of expressing our gratitude. And then we realised that Ria deserved a much bigger thank you than any one team of campaigners could give.

When Avaaz launched only five years ago we were told it would be impossible to build a global community based on shared values across borders because we are so different. But we've learned that the connections we share across age, nationality, race, and religion are immeasurably more powerful than anything that could divide us. And week after week we unite to change our world, and we win.

That's what Ria expressed so beautifully. Let's take a moment now to thank her for her inspiration and share our own messages of hope -- she's watching the page in real time from her home in England as our words and pictures flow in:


With huge appreciation for each and every person in this extraordinary community,

The Avaaz team

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Reading the papers

Is not good for one's mental health.

We get two papers : The Guardian and the Independent 20p "i". I continue to encourage this high expense because:
1. Having a physical sheaf of paper enables me to read in a multitude of physical positions - In bed, in a comfortable arm chair, standing transfixed at the front door, having just picked them up or even sitting on the loo - which no time dates back to my happy times as a 18 month old when my crab like adventures under furniture and from room to room, were the highlight of the day.
2. Despite the doom and gloom that is commonplace to the media these days there occasionally comes a much needed breath of fresh air of someone being positive.
3. Lastly, one has access to people who may be echoing the things that are bouncing around one's embattled head that provide relief. They have a brilliant way of expressing one's own thoughts in a way that is convincing. They even have thought combinations that are truly "outside the box" experiences and take you into a new world of possible thinking.

I have just read such an article - brilliant.

May I commend to you Matthew Norman's thinking on Vince Cable - God willing our next government head of pragmatic "common sense"action.

". . . all you really needed to know about the absolute despair in Western democracies about the competence of elected politicians. "

Vince comes across as a person who has sussed out how to hold on to deep well thought out wisdom and use it fearlessly and persistently. He has a deep seated belief in himself - a quality that I am struggling to foster in my own thinking - for me,  a Herculean task.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Blog presentation solution !

We now have a new template which appears to make no difference.

Still works with Firefox but still the same Internet Explorer and with Safari there is still a problem - work in progress!

My next step has been to upgrade the version of Safari from 5.05 to 5.17 requiring another 25MB of space.

My blog now works properly.

However my attempt to upgrade my version of Internet Explorer from version 6 to 8 failed to upgrade and my blog continued to malfunction.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Blog problem continue

Another person reports that the background image now makes it impossible to read sowhile T try to get to the bottom of what is happening - and it doesn't appear to affect some Browsers like Firefox which is fine - I am reverting to a pale pink image to match what is under the first bit of text.

Work in progress when I have time!

Please let me know when things are back to normal with the right hand side panel working,

Alternatively try using Firefox.

Is there a browser war going on by any chance!


Making the pennies go further

With the constant rain UK Farmers will be having a bad time.

Not only have crops not grown well, they have rotted in the ground. Furthermore the fact that artificial fertilisers have been used for so long means the soil has little humus to bind it together and the heavy machinery used these days is not coping at all well with the mud that easily created. Even worse some local potatoe farmers are loosing all their crop when they come to store them through blight. I hear that some farmers have had this happen for the third year running and are considering giving up.

Thus old potatoes are going up in price and new crops will be expensive. What we can do is to discretely buy rice (brown keeps longest) and pasta to provide the carbohydrates that we all need.

Any other suggestions?

I suggest that we need the best advice possible and government strategies for planning for the future.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Blog problems

One person is finding, starting two days ago, that using Internet Explorer only part of this blog downloads. I have no problem with Firefox but then I seem to have the same thing erratically with Safari.

Any ideas how to sort this out? Dave, you're good at this kind of thing, what's happening?
Emails to me : gd at tygh.co.uk please or if you can manage it as a comment here.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Furness Tradition brings people into the town from all over

And a what great kind of people they are.

They are for the most part very people oriented with a great sense of fun and living life to the full. They are people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and seem to generally fit for their age. They love acquiring learning, sharing and developing skills of older generations. They are motivated to put in hours of practice  for the pure joy of doing things because they want to. They are for the most part fit mentally but also fit physically.

These are :

The type of person that worked together during the last world war to raise morale when the country was in imminent disaster from being invaded by the Germans.
The kind of people that set sail in their small boats to bring back the troops when they were being driven into the sea in Normandy.
The kind of people that, when faced with adversity instead of wingeing and complaining, get out their musical instruments, write a song about it or narrate a story of knights performing heroic deeds to raise our spirits and 'laugh disaster in the face'. Others use a craft or art to add something worthwhile to our lives.
The kind of people that go out of their way to help others when needed

They bring a breath of fresh air to the town in contrast to the sad commercialisation of the town by people hell bent in promoting 'festivals' that make money.
They encourage people like themselves in our community to take activities like the Lantern Procession out of the hands of power seeking individuals and return them back into the hands once again of a community group.
They see through the hype from government encouraged  Royal celebrations,
Olympic torch relay nonsense,
Football and Tennis mania and even the
'Cumbria in Bloom' farce
They encouraging very local 'bottom up' activities by little groups of nobodies who get together without 'official guidance' and do their own thing.
They are good at conveying a strong message in the subtle ways of song writing, poetry, fiction, art and craft - the things we all value.

These are the kind of people and activities that are going to be needed in the future years

when the bulk of the population who follow the Red Top Media continue to blame others for the mess we are heading for
because of Global Warming,
because of Economic Disaster,
because of the Population Explosion,
because of Ethnic Cleansing and turmoil taking place in countries like Northern Ireland, Syria, Lybia, Egypt, India, Afghanistan,  Iraq etc and
because of the "What we need is growth " Brigade at a time when the world's resources are stretched to the limit.

In contrast to people here in Ulverston who seek to find fault with any attempt to be positive, they just get on quietly and make music, dance, make beautiful things and celebrate the good things in life.

Hopefully a bit of their positive outlook will rub off and encourage each one of us.

Long live the Traditions of the past as they are carried forward by the young people of the present here thankfully in Furness

A fantastic night out

When I arrived at the Lantern House, last night, for the first organised activity of the Furness Tradition week end events, I had no idea hope much I was going to enjoy myself.

I shall try to tell you why is I can find the time and energy.

Meanwhile if you read this and trust my judgement come into town and visit as many of the events that you can - they will I believe be of top quality and appeal to all those that value the important things in like - joining in with others that are enjoying life to the full. In the commercial world full of hype and disappointment, this is a rare experience.

Having experienced any of these activities you will come away an enriched person - if you are a person that likes people.

Further details from the Furness Tradition web site.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Furness Tradition Weekend starts gently

I lovely start to what will surely be a great weekend - whatever the weather!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Global warming

Sadly you have to be a recipient of the New Scientist to receive this article. - A friend of mine alerted me to the article below.

For those of you who are wondering if scientists have explanations of what is happening globally to our weather this year; the answer is yes they do:

In the meantime, there are some things we can do to prepare. - See the last three paragraphs

  How global warming is driving our weather wild

 09 July 2012 by Stephen Battersby

Magazine issue 2872.

Not only is global weather becoming much more extreme, it is becoming even more extreme than anyone expected

Editorial: "As freak weather becomes the norm, we need to adapt"

ITS NICKNAME is the icebox of the nation. The village of Pellston in Michigan often sees arctic winters, with a thermometer-shattering record low of -47 °C in 1933. Even by late March, it is usually a very chilly place. But not this year. On 22 March the Pellston weather station registered a temperature above 29 °C, vaporising the previous record for that date by more than 17 degrees.

This was just one of thousands of weather records smashed by the "summer in March", a 10-day event that affected much of North America. Many people enjoyed the unseasonal warmth, but most of the other extraordinary weather events of the past decade have been far less welcome. In 2003, the summer in Europe was so hot it killed tens of thousands. Russia in 2010 suffered even more staggering heat. Rainstorms brought unprecedented floods to Pakistan in 2010 and again in 2011. Tropical cyclone Gonu in 2007 was the most powerful ever recorded in the Arabian Sea.

Climate scientists have long warned that global warming will lead to more heatwaves, droughts and floods. Yet some of these recent extremes, such as the summer in March, are way beyond the predictions of our climate models. And there have been extremes of cold as well as heat. In Rome, ancient monuments are crumbling because of the big freeze that hit Europe this February. And on the northern edge of the Sahara desert, the streets of Libya's capital Tripoli were blanketed with snow.

It seems that our weather is getting wilder - more variable as well as steadily hotter. The big question is why. Is this just a blip, or are we in for even more freakish weather as global warming accelerates over the coming decades?

Even in an unchanging climate, our weather varies a lot. Each summer will be different. Take the average summer temperature each year, and you will get a series of numbers scattered about a long-term mean, distributed in a pattern more or less like a bell curve. Wait long enough, and you will sweat though a few very hot summers and grumble through a few very cool summers.

Over the past century, the surface temperature of the planet has increased by 0.8 °C on average, which has shifted the familiar range of weather into warmer territory. Cooler summers have become less likely and warmer summers more likely. Contrary to what you might think, this kind of shift increases the odds of extremely hot summers by more than it increases the odds of slightly warmer summers (see "Shifting weather").

The rising temperature is leading to other kinds of extreme weather, too. Warmer air can hold more moisture - in fact, its capacity increases exponentially as the temperatures rises. This means that when rain falls it can become a deluge, increasing the chance of catastrophic floods (New Scientist, 19 March 2011, p 44).

 Damper downpours

Floods are not the only result. When water vapour condenses to form clouds, it releases latent heat, and this heat is what powers most kinds of storms, from thunderstorms to hurricanes. With a wetter atmosphere there may not necessarily be more storms, but those that do occur will tend to be more powerful because there is more heat to power them. The damage done by storms rises rapidly as wind speeds increase.

So simple physics tells us that global warming should make extreme weather more extreme, from stronger storms to hotter heatwaves, drier droughts and damper downpours. This is indeed what has been happening around the world - except that in recent years, the magnitude of some of the record breakers has been jaw-dropping.

In 2003, temperatures in Europe were much higher than any summer for at least 500 years. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany points out that in Switzerland the average summer temperature broke the previous record by 2.4 °C. It is not unusual for the records for particular days to be broken by fairly wide margins but for the average of an entire season to be so much warmer is extraordinary. Then there was the Russian heatwave of 2010. Even averaged over Europe as a whole, this heatwave was more extreme than the one in 2003.

Most recently, there was the summer in March. Because it was so early in the year, it was a disaster only for fruit growers - trees blossomed too early and then got hit by frost, wiping out over 90 per cent of crops in some places - but it could have been much worse. "If such unusual conditions had occurred during July or August, the impact would have been enormous," says Dim Coumou, a colleague of Rahmstorf.

More and more people are being affected by all this extreme weather. In a recent poll in the US, 82 per cent of people reported that they had personally experienced extreme weather or a natural disaster in the past year, and 35 per cent said they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these events.

There is little doubt that things are going to get even worse. What is especially worrying, though, is that the rise in extremes can't be accounted for solely by the 0.8 °C warming so far. Events like the 2003 and 2010 heatwaves were projected to occur only after much greater warming, towards the end of this century. And while one or two freak events might be dismissed as simple bad luck, there have been suspiciously many of them in the past decade.

James Hansen at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York has analysed records of local temperatures across the globe, in each case totting up June, July and August to get an overall temperature for this period. The results show that an increasing area of the planet's surface is experiencing highly anomalous heat extremes each year, relative to the period 1951 to 1980 (see charts).

To a large extent, this is just what is expected in a warming world. However, Hansen's analyses show there is more to it than that. The weather is not only getting warmer, but more variable. Between 1951 and 1980, the average range in local summer temperatures across the entire globe was 0.55 °C; from 1981 to 2010, it had gone up to 0.58 °C. Over land the variability is greater, and its increase is faster. Some locations, especially those far from the stabilising influence of the ocean, see much more variability and more increase. Project that into the future, and we already have more cause for concern than we had with the mere rise in mean temperature.

Implausibly hellish

But even in the context of this somewhat more jittery climate, the mega-heatwaves of the last decade stand out as implausibly hellish. Is something else happening to make temperatures soar like this?

Quite possibly, says climate modeller Pier Luigi Vidale at the University of Reading, UK. He thinks plants and soils might explain some of the unprecedented heatwaves. Where land is covered by vegetation, much of the sun's heat is absorbed by plants. They stay cool - and keep the land cool - by sucking up water and letting it evaporate from their leaves. But when the soil dries out, plants close their pores and stop transpiring. "It is the same as if you don't drink any water and stop sweating," says Vidale. When the sun's heat is no longer channelled into evaporating water, it all goes into the land and the air above it. The result is a jump in temperature.

This has been happening for as long as there have been plants on land, but it is becoming more common and affecting greater areas because winter precipitation has become more erratic, sometimes failing to soak the soil thoroughly. At the same time, the growing season has lengthened and become warmer, so plants are sucking up more water.

In 2004, while he was part of a team led by Christoph Schär at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Vidale studied this process in a regional climate model. Although previous models had included drying soils, the representation was too simple, Vidale says, as plants shut down transpiration too suddenly. With the improved model, some of the simulations looked like the summer of 2003, and other models have since produced similar results. They all suggest that over land where soils can dry out, summer temperatures do not follow an exact bell curve. Instead, there are more mega-heatwaves.

However, a lot of uncertainty remains. Part of the problem is accurately modelling the role of plants and soil. Even details such as the species of plant are important, because plants with deep roots will keep transpiring long after those with shallower roots. "The biophysical models are not yet accurate enough," says Robert Vautard at the University of Versailles in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

Measuring the actual moisture content of soils could improve things, but it is not easy. "You can make a measurement here, but a few metres away it's not valid any more," says Vidale. "In Europe we only have a few monitoring stations for soil moisture. Many of us have been arguing for more." Satellites can give an indication of surface soil moisture over a wide area, but not how much is available to deep roots.

While drying soils could be partly to blame for some recent off-the-chart heat extremes, they are not the whole answer. Vidale's model may have reproduced the scorcher of 2003 - but it also predicted that such hot summers would be unlikely before the end of this century. And of course this phenomenon cannot account for all the weird weather we are experiencing. You don't need to be a climate expert to conclude that a heatwave did not cause snow in Tripoli. But some researchers think they know what might be to blame for that - a lazy jet stream.

Jet streams are high-speed winds that carve a snaking path through the upper atmosphere. The two polar jet streams, one in each hemisphere, are driven by the difference in temperature between warm tropics and cold poles. In the tropics, the atmosphere is puffed up by higher temperatures: "It's like there is a hill from the tropics tilted down towards the poles," says Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Gravity pulls some of this air down towards the poles. Because of Earth's spin, the air gets deflected off to one side, which is what drives the polar jet streams from west to the east.

The positions of the jet streams aren't fixed. They move around, shifting south or north and also developing big meanders, or waves. "You can get such a big wave, it breaks off as an eddy that gets left behind, just sitting and stewing in its own juice," says Francis. "When this happens, the weather near the eddy stays the same for days or even weeks."

Humanity is now messing with this vital component of the atmosphere. The Arctic is warming far faster than the rest of the planet, in part because its sunlight-reflecting snow and ice is melting to expose dark, sunlight-absorbing land and sea. This is reducing the temperature difference between the tropics and the Arctic. In work published in 2009, Francis showed that in summers with less sea ice in the Arctic - meaning more heat being absorbed by the ocean - the atmospheric hill had a more gentle slope (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 36, p L07503). The upshot is that the engine driving the northern polar jet stream is weakening.

As the jet stream slows down, it takes a more mazy path, with meanders that move around more slowly. That is crucial, because the jet stream pushes weather systems around. So when the stream's position changes more slowly or stays in one place for weeks - what meteorologists call a blocking pattern - the weather is more likely to become extreme. If the jet stream shepherds one low pressure system after another towards you, then you will soak - as happened to the UK this April, producing record rainfall. If the sluggish stream holds a high pressure system in place, you will roast.

"It's not news when you have one or two hot or cold days. If it goes on for a week or two, then people are freaking out because their harbour is freezing over," say Francis. Blocking patterns have played a part in much of the extreme weather around the northern hemisphere in recent years, including some of the freezing winter weather and record snowfalls, and the summer in March.

Other researchers have confirmed that the jet stream has been weakening, and shown that this leads to more blocking events. Now Francis has found another effect of the warming Arctic. "I got thinking - if you are warming the north more than the south, that will stretch the northern peaks of high-pressure ridges farther northward." Working with Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she used highly detailed weather models to recreate past events and trace the contours of atmospheric pressure. And indeed the high-pressure ridges have tended to stretch further north in recent years. That makes the meanders of the jet stream more extreme, bringing warm air further north, and cold air further south - to places such as Rome and Tripoli.

So it appears the northern hemisphere is in for more weather chaos as the planet warms. In some years, the jet stream mechanism could cancel out the drying-soils mechanism but in others it could amplify it, because a lazy jet stream will occasionally produce exceptionally dry winters and springs as well as hot spells in the summer. The polar jet stream in the southern hemisphere is unlikely to be affected in the foreseeable future, though, because Antarctica is warming more slowly than other parts of the world.
Provoking the elements

There could well be other, as-yet-unidentified mechanisms contributing to the wildness of our weather now, or which might kick in as the world warms further. For example, having roused the air and the earth against us, we may also be provoking another element. The ocean joins with the atmosphere in a roughly periodic pattern called the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, in which warm water sloshes back and forth across the surface of the Pacific Ocean partly in response to changes in the trade winds.

ENSO's changing moods already cause all sorts of mayhem and as the water sloshing around gets even warmer the mayhem is likely to increase. The Australia and Pakistan floods of 2010 and 2011 were due to unusually warm surface waters loading the air with moisture, probably caused by a combination of ENSO and climate change.

A big question is whether things could get even worse. What if ENSO and other climatic oscillations don't just continue as before in an ever hotter world, but become even greater in magnitude? Are we pushing these pendulums in a way that makes them swing more wildly? "So far there is no clear evidence either way," says Rahmstorf, "but we are changing the whole energy balance of the climate system, so in a way it would be surprising if these patterns of variation did not change."

Part of the problem with studying these phenomena is that our climate models are still relatively coarse, although they are improving. A new international collaboration called RESOLVE, which includes Vidale's group in Reading, will run global climate models with a spatial resolution of 2 kilometres, compared with a more typical resolution of tens of kilometres. Vidale hopes this will be able to show how processes are connected across the globe, and allow researchers to tease apart the influence of soils and atmospheric circulation on weather extremes.

Such models might give a better idea of just how extreme future extremes could become, although there is of course no way to predict one-off weather events years in advance. Then again, as earlier models missed the changes in the jet stream, these new ones could still be blind to some unanticipated mechanisms.

In the meantime, there are some things we can do to prepare. European health services now have better contingency plans for a mega-heatwave than they had in 2003. We can design buildings to cope with extreme heat, and planners might consider avoiding putting vital infrastructure in areas at risk of flooding.

But adaptation can be very costly, and the very nature of more variable weather poses problems. Farmers could learn to cope if it was consistently drier or hotter, for instance, but if the weather continues to become more variable and there is no way to know whether to expect frost or floods, hail or heatwaves, then each season will become an ever greater gamble. "It is difficult to adapt to unprecedented extremes, as they always involve some element of surprise," says Rahmstorf.

While no one can say exactly what's going to happen to our weather, all the signs are that we're in for a bumpy ride. "We are seeing these extremes after only 0.8 degrees of global warming," says Rahmstorf. "If we do nothing, and let the climate warm by 5 or 6 degrees, then we will see a very different planet."

Stephen Battersby is a freelance writer based in London

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Explanations and being positive

We all like to understand the present and the future, yet some explanations are difficult to accept.

The continuous rain that we are experiencing in the UK is due to the shifting of the jet stream to the south leading to the cntre of low pressure and hence rain being centred on the UK.

Main people will resent the explanation that this is most likely due to the effects of Global Warming so is there any point in mentioning it?

We are faced with a series of difficulties in our lives today and this will continue for ever until we, the human race become reduced to a very small number. With the nature of we humans being what it is, there is no point getting depressed about it, this leads in misery and inaction.

What we can do is make the most of a bad situation that won't improve. It's a time when some of us are developing very enjoyable relationships will others we trust. There are small groups of people forming that delight in being supportive to one another and it's a great feeling being part of them. They are based on trusting the others of the group to have the best interests of the group rather than that of the individual.

There are plenty of opportunities to offer and accept friendship with totally reliable people. The more difficulties that individuals experience , the more important the group becomes in keeping the rest in the group bouyant and enjoying the challenge of living in difficult times.

If you aren't part of such a group, you could set about finding one and joining in with the very satisfying work of being totally reliable and offering as much support to the others as you are capable of.

Times are hard - it is possible to enjoy them!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Coop elections

Ballots went out last week to Coop members for them to elect four members of the local group of 16 people who run the coops in this area which stretches from Lancaster to Barrow  to Kendal, thus including Ulverston. One is elected for a period of four years with elections every year at this time.

As you will see I am one of the six candidates.

I mentioned this to an acquaintance as I saw her coming out of our local Coop on Market Street and she said "Yes, and I voted for you"

I added "Well it will be hard work" to which she gave what I thought was a strange reply : "Why are you doing it then?"

"Why does one do anything?" was my reply.

The implication for me was that people didn't do or enjoy doing things that were hard work.

Surely we all find that the harder the work the more the satisfaction in achieving a goal, unless it's something we do against our better judgement.

I heard on television last night that someone started to run for fun at the age of 82 and has being running Marathons ever since- he's now over 100. How hard is that! In fact having a goal in life seems to be very important to those over 100 that were featured in the program.

Having 25 years ahead of me is a great way of looking forward to the rest of my life.

Hard work, here I come. - Now for a cup of tea in an armchair as I reflect on this thought!

If anybody who is a coop member would like to vote and has not received a voting pack they can get it from Lorna  Andrews by giving their membership card number and address and it will be sent to them.

They will have until the end of July to vote.

Lorna Andrews
PA to Regional Secretary
5th Floor
New Century House
Corporation Street
M60 4ES
Telephone: 0161 246 2345
Email: membership@co-operative.co.uk

You can read the eleven postings  I have already made supporting the coop on this blog by following this link

Monday, 9 July 2012

What does it feel like when you look forward to every day of the week?

At present I have Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I have something happening that I really look forward to.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are creeping up the 'league ' tables with activities that have the 'wow' potential.

So every day of the week could soon become a reality.

I already find it hard to do all the things I want to and if anything suffer from too much I want to do.

Reaching a well balanced way of living would be special.

What I am finding is that I am reaping the benefit of all the good relationships I have developed over all the years I've been in Ulverston. It's got to the stage that when I meet someone new we inevitable find that we have some link with a person we both know. This somehow brings us closer.

Maintaining strong links with the rest ofthe NorthWest

Direct trains to Manchester are a vital link with our closest major city. 

From my experience there must be a very weak case of stopping this service as there is a nearly full train every time we travel.
Visiting places like the Lowry Centre, Salford and the Bridgwater Hall, Manchester  will become far less accessable as well as all the major business offices like the Cooperative Societies offices and Pannone legal services that are so important to our area.

Traveling up to Carlisle, the main city for Cumbria is already difficult. Now communication with a much used alternative will be made more difficult resulting more difficult travelling for commuters and loss of business for the services provided in Manchester.

Furthermore travel to the Manchester airport with heavy luggage will become difficult.

It is extremely important to the Furness area that this service is maintained.

The petition

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Some wonderful news !

Just occasionally I come across an article that gives me great encouragement :

When the former Conservative cabinet minister Sir George Young famously said: "The homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera," a debate was sparked at the shelter where a young opera critic, Matthew Peacock, worked as a volunteer. "A discussion began about what homeless people needed and wanted. It wasn't blankets and housing: they wanted to show the public what homeless people can do. It was about restoring pride," he says.

It's so encouraging that there are people in the world like Matthew Peacock.

If your feeling at all depressed by the way the people at the top are treating those of us at the bottom then this will cheer you up - well it did me!

Published in The Guardian last Monday

Thursday, 5 July 2012

One of the founders of Furness Tradition

Furness tradion starts this next week see their web site for more details.

Gordon Jones talks about the coming festival which starts with an informal gathering in the back of the Hope and Anchor, Ulverston at 7:30 pm  this Thursday 12th July and continues over the weekend till Sunday afternoon.

Worth watching: http://youtu.be/CMwQbo7ntSA

Sorting out the banks

An important decision is about to be made in parliament later today.

You can influence this decision by campaigning on-line.

Yesterday afternoon we had the opportunity to watch Bob Diamond being cross examined by a parliamentary select committee.

If you saw this you may agree with me that Bob Diamond came across as a sickeningly smooth operator. His opening gush of how much he looved Barclays. This was followed by a subservient "Sir" when addressing the chairman.

This was followed by his ability to dodge questions of all kinds put by a dysfunctional set of uncoordinated politicians.

Bob Diamond has got the benefit of being coached by experts on how to avoid telling us the truth. To me he comes across as a very devious character and can run circles around amateur cross questioning.

People like the usually sound Susan Kramer, the Lib. Dem. argued just now on tele that it was MPs responsibility to do this themselves and that they can do this quickly

I would argue that what is true is that we want this inquiry to be an effective one. The Levinson inquiry is demonstrating how effective a judge led enquiry with expert questions does a very impressive job.

Secondly what the point of an inquiry being quick if it is ineffective.

What can you do :

 For a quick way of getting your opinion registered  -

Campaign here on-line and register your opinion:

For further information read this:

David Cameron thinks has just announced an inquiry into our banking system. It could be a chance to hold the banks to account and push for real change. Or, it could turn into a giant whitewash and a missed opportunity. 

Cameron’s thinks he’s dodged public anger by announcing this enquiry. But this latest scandal is the tip of the iceberg. We need is a real banking cleanup. But we’ll only get that if we give the inquiry the power to get to the bottom of what’s been going wrong.

Can you help fix the banking industry by calling for an independent inquiry with teeth? Get started here:


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The secret of a contented life

Sounds twee, doesn't it!

Well I reckon I've discovered it.

The thing that is bouying me up time and time again in recent months is to:

Like yourself

Not only is it true on a personal level, it's true I believe on a national level.

We as British citizens need to like ourselves for being British.

This will not mean that are a soft option or that we overextend ourselves in what we attempt.

It means that all the time we take care of ourselves with the right balance of hard work and relaxation, of campaigning and celebration for what we have been able to achieve.

If you're intrigued by the above then take the time to read this section of The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Here is a description of a community that liked itself in a very meaningful way with the result that their health is amazingly good.

This encourages me to continue to work to build a caring community here in Ulverston.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Wise advice on Bullying

Kate Winsett is quoted  in the Independent today as saying:

"I'm not the kind of parent who jumps down the next parent's neck and says " My kids are perfect andyours is an arsole" "

"I believe in kids working out for themselves."

This I believe needs to be the role of every parent and teacher. Support and encouragement to stand up for themselves.

As a kid and later as a teacher I found this really worked.

Support and help the victim to stand up for themselves.

Trying to "stamp out bullying" doesn't work. This is what a bully thrives on - they are used to dealing with negative criticism. This is after all why they are bullies.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A chance to play a beautiful Steinway in a large hall

Thanks to Anthony Hewitt and his team.

Many other learners were enabled to show us all what what they could do.

Now I'll start practicing for next year!

Is it still wise to read the paper ?

 Every time I pick up the paper and look at my emails these days I steel myself to cope with a blast of emotions that have the potential of dragging my positive spirits down.

Northumbria police constable Stephen Mitchell, who was jailed for life after admitting charges of rape, indecent assault and misconduct in public office. Photograph: North News & Pictures

I went through a brief spate of depression yesterday when I read about the fifty known cases of sexual abuse in our police force with one being here in Cumbria.

The real problem is that I have no confidence whatsoever that this isn't just the tip of an iceberg with the real problem being at least ten times this size.

The police force needs to be held in our minds as totally reliable as so often we take them into our confidence. Because I know personally a number of officers at our Ulverston force I feel reasonably confident that we have a good lot of people here. However one immediately sees that we have good reason to be suspicious of the behaviour of the police as a whole particularly in more populated areas where there isn't the local contact we have here.

With government cutbacks this for me is even more worrying as I don't believe there is the slack in the system to maintain standards.

Lets be on the look out ourselves by talking to police officers and demonstrating our concerns. We should  not just rely on 'the system' to  work correctly.