The trauma continues

Salma went in for a week’s worth of intensive therapy last night. I suffered from a little separation anxiety, but nothing that a nice piece of cake (of which more later) couldn’t fix. I should be composed enough tomorrow to tell Martyn why he’s right. And yet wrong.

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Can’t Post…

…Too traumatized. My iMac is a victim of the leaking capacitor problem (now that’s what I call a memory leak) that is vexing Apple and Dell, among others, at the moment. She’s gamely hanging in there, but sleep or power downs cause her no end of trouble. Poor, dear Salma.

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Technical hitch

The simplest of posts today. My RSS feed isn’t working properly, giving out incomplete URLs. I can see what the problem is, but have no idea what the solution is. Don’t wait up.

Time for a rest

Two substantive posts in a row: it’s time for a day off. It started raining just as our boat pulled away from the dock this morning, and continued throughout the row and the ride to work. It struck me as a very British rain; typically here it seems that if it’s raining at all then it’s raining hard, whereas this was just a heavy drizzle that got everything wet but didn’t cause any real problems.

This reminded me of a little burst of homesickness I got yesterday while reading about the Shipping Forecast. Radio 4, one of the main radio stations in the UK, broadcasts a forecast specifically for shipping four times a day. It’s always done in a very concise, measured format that seems somehow very reassuring. Here’s a short made-up sample that sets the scene, though you can get the real thing here:

Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties Southeast backing Northeast 4 or 5. Rain later. Good

Translated, that means in the sea areas North Utsire, South Utsire, Viking and Forties (roughly between the east coast of Scotland and Norway) there’s a 4 or 5 mile an hour wind blowing from the southeast, but moving counterclockwise to eventually blow from the northeast. It will rain later, but currently the weather is good (not, as you might guess, showing typical British pleasure in the fact that it will rain later).

Listen to the audio stream to get the full experience (and to relish a full-on British accent). You can also check Wikipedia for more details.

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under the previous post there was some talk about the bigger picture of our current energy consumption habits, i.e. whether we can continue to live as we do in any number of ways, not just SUV-based. A little more on that…

Civilizations tend not to just run out. Sometimes they fail through stupidity, as when the Easter Islanders didn’t spot the flaw in their plan to chop down all the trees on their remote island. Sometimes they fail through natural disaster, combined in some cases by an understandable inability to adapt to the new conditions sufficiently quickly. And sometimes they fail through competition.

In the past competition has often been very direct; the various peoples of Central and South America certainly had internal problems, for example, but the Spanish and other invaders were very clear in their disregard for the existing culture, and were quite happy to kill their way across the continent. At best a particular culture could hope to become largely irrelevant, blending in to the new norm and perhaps influencing its future direction. This is what happened in Britain under the Romans and Normans, though in both cases the local cultur actually survived quite well (particularly under the Normans).

Today it seems unlikely for a particular culture to disappear completely, though we have numerous examples. The native peoples of America and Australia still exist, but the culture they represent is continuing to evaporate in the face of efforts to retain it. The same is true for dozens of smaller tribal groups across the world. On a much larger scale the former colonial powers of Britain, France, etc. have settled for now at a modest level of influence, perhaps greater than they inherently deserve, but still wildly diminished from their peaks.

In each of these instances competition was the undoing of the prevalent culture. Sometimes it was aided by internal strife, other times by a gross mismatch of technology, and in Britain’s case much of it rested simply on trying to do too much. But one of the common threads through most if not all of these declines is complacency; the assumption that there is something inherently ‘right’ about the current order.

That’s how I look at Nick’s comment about our current non-sustainable situation. The idea of sustainability is common in environmental circles, but really it’s an idea that applies everywhere. Whether it’s your bank account, your daily run or the well in your backyard, there’s only a certain amount you can do with a finite resource before it is exhausted. At the moment we’re getting a hint of that with energy, but that’s a trivial problem in the sense that we know what to do, and have the technology in place or in our grasp to achieve it. What we lack is the will to do anything, because our natural complacency overwhelms our capacity to see a bigger picture.

What is it that we’re being complacent about? That seems like another post…

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