iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Pixie in the Snow)
Once again we curse the day we bought a house this close to the sea. Everyone else1 gets several feet2 of snow. We get blizzards that melt on impact leaving nothing but a slight scum of slush in their wake. Hmmph.

Also of course the entire country grinds to a halt, infrastructure collapses, and businesses close for the day because it's a bit cold and wet. But we expect that.

Still, there were a lot of extremely happy kids with snowmen and sledges on the news, so at least someone is having fun!

--
1 For values of 'everyone else' that includes enough other people to make me jealous.

2 For values of 'several feet' that includes any snow at all.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Yesterday and today.



We went for another walk in our local park this morning, timed cunningly to fall between our early morning snow shower and the inevitable thaw. Although it's fair to say we wuz robbed in the snow department, it still felt marvellously wintery and that's good enough for me. The crows seemed to agree.

By 'eck

Nov. 22nd, 2008 10:23 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
By 'eck, it's bloody freezing outside. We just went for a walk in our local park to kick through the Autumn leaves, and my ears are now cold enough to conduct high energy physics experiments. It was very pretty though. It would have been even prettier with a dusting of snow, but despite some nasty sleet yesterday the Met Office have otherwise failed to deliver on their promise of heavy snow this weekend. I try not to meddle in the affairs of the Met Office, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Pixie was found at the bottom of the bed this morning in a bemused state with her cat collar hooked under one armpit. Quite how she got onto the bed while hobbled is anyone's guess. I dutifully rescued her, and she seems none the worse for wear. Our other cat Charcoal has one of those break-away collars, but Pixie still has the elasticated kind which was barely long enough at full stretch to cope with this latest escapade. We may have to remedy that. Also at some point I'd like to see documentary footage of a cat inserting its leg under its collar as it appears to both violate the known laws of physics and constitute an impressive stage act.

I haven't been posting or commenting much this week as lots of busy Things are going on, but I'm still here, honest. Now that we're back in the warm my main plan for the weekend is to do some Christmas shopping. I know it's a few weeks yet, but this time last year we'd nearly finished. This year we've barely begun. We've opted not to take the week before Christmas off as holiday this year, but take the week after New Year off instead. Working in HE we're fortunate to get the Christmas and New Year period off anyway, so with an extra week that'll add up to a good long break. Our first in quite a while.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
We've been intermittently pummelled by hailstones this afternoon. What the weather forecasters euphemistically refer to as "wintry showers", but in practice are more like the immediate aftermath of making a prank phone call to Odin. I've been known to enjoy some proper snow and ice in my time, but driving sheets of hailstones that quickly melt into icy puddles can't be on anyone's list of favourite weather. I was thinking this even before our cat Charcoal entered through the cat flap at Mach 3, drenched from head to toe, freezing cold and squeaking indignantly. She's much happier (and warmer) now.

Meanwhile the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross1 story climbs to new depths with "emergency crisis talks" at the BBC, and journalists charging after BBC executives in the street shouting "Do we know who's to blame yet?" (Those were the exact words). News 24 have belatedly starting asking whether this mob-mentality is all a bit much, but as far as I can tell this has only recently occurred to them and they're mainly using it as a bonus talking point in interviews. In any case I'm going to have to join the mob now, because otherwise I'll find myself calling Noel Gallagher rightheaded, and then the world will end.

I also caught a bit of Obama speechifying on the campaign trail on News 24. That man may or may not be from Krypton, but he certainly knows how to make speeches. Sometimes I do wonder whether (assuming he wins the election) the weight of expectations on his shoulders is so impossibly huge that we're in for a New Labour-style backlash when he doesn't fix EVERYthing. I also hope there's some real substance behind the fervour. Mainly I hope we get to find out.

Lastly, and on behalf of my wife, I would just like to say ZOMGSharpe!!!111.

--
1 In the "you can't make it up" category, Jonathan Ross currently has a book out entitled Why Do I Say These Things?.

EDIT: Now the controller of Radio 2 has resigned.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
It's really windy outside, with autumn leaves whipping past the window and collecting in rustling heaps that creep around our drive like sand dunes. Very cool. Our three-legged cat Pixie has been driven into a state of nervous hyperactivity all day, dashing from window to window and trying to bat leaves with her paw through the glass. She was less keen on actually being outdoors, since it's quite chilly.

All the more surprising, then, that we couldn't find her in the house this evening. Being outdoors in the dark, windy drizzle seemed a bit intrepid. An exhaustive search finally located her, nestled in the cocoon of warm air between the sofa and the radiator. Snoozing. That sounds about right.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
1,800-year-old Roman stone sarcophagi found in Newcastle. That's not far from us! I learn from this story that they're apparently building a Great North Museum in Newcastle including antiquities, a planetarium, an interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton, and special exhibitions from London. This could be very nice for us as it's not always convenient for us to get down to the British Museum. I'm only amazed that my wife's normally excellent Archaeology Radar hasn't tipped us off to this sooner. The website banner appears to feature Egyptians on chariots hunting Dinosaurs, but I'll assume there's some artistic licence involved...

Of course if that recent bonkers think tank report was listened to there'd be no point in doing any of this because everyone in the North should just give up on their cities, which are beyond all hope of revival, and move south. This is so patently absurd that it probably isn't worth getting upset about, but Exhibit A would surely be the fact that any number of Northern cities have already succeeded in transforming themselves and their fortunes into thriving centres of business and culture. Like Newcastle & Gateshead, for example. Sunderland is one of those named by the think tank as "beyond revival" yet -- although it's hardly the largest or most cosmopolitan of cities -- in the relatively short time I've known it Sunderland has transformed itself from a shipbuilding town to one with a beautiful riverside and coastal area and a strong service industry base (including the University), not to mention the famous Nissan plant. The fact that anyone could seriously suggest otherwise reflects blinkered attitudes to the 'North' of England (i.e. anywhere north of the M25) that are quite surreal. It's the equivalent of saying that the London Dockland area was beyond revival prior to Canary Wharf being built.

And finally...

A sensible, evidence-based story about the British Summer. Will wonders never cease.
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Yes it's snowing here too in big chaotic swirls of snowflakes. Sadly the flakes vanish into the tarmac as if continuing to fall unimpeded towards the centre of the globe. Even on the garden the snow is only able to cling on grimly for about half an hour before melting away into airy nothing. We're still seeing the odd flurry, in between bouts of brilliant sunshine when the damp grass looks startlingly green.

Since I went out to, ahem, party hearty immediately after last night's Doctor Who season premiere I haven't really had a chance to comment very much, but it's been thoroughly dissected here, here, here and here amongst other places.

Belated spoilers for Doctor Who - Episode 1: Partners in Crime )

Next week's episode does look much better, but then I'm pre-disposed to like anything set in Pompeii.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Pixie in the Snow)
Yay! Snow!



Fairly shabby snow it has to be said, but living right near the coast as we do that's actually as much snow as we've seen all winter. I do pine for a nice bit of snow. I've been looking at everyone else's snow pictures and feeling a bit short-changed. At least this stuff is lying.

We had a lovely visit from my parents on Easter Sunday in which I daringly cooked Sunday lunch. Not only did it all get mostly cooked, mostly at the same time, but it was ready exactly as they arrived. I couldn't do that again if I tried. We then tried to convert my parents to the wonders of Wii bowling and Wii boxing, the latter of which is amazingly knackering.

Other than that we've had a strange weekend of occasional fine and sunny weather, occasional snow flurries that have melted as they touch the ground, and some amazing gales on Friday that actually blew one of our recycle bins off the patio and right down to the foot of the garden under the bench. I don't know what's been going on with the weather since December but we've had some really fierce gales on a regular basis.

We also managed to get a swift nest box and a sparrow nest box attached to the house (courtesy of yours truly, a very tall ladder and a hammer-action drill, a combination not recommended to settle your nerves), which feels very satisfying. Now if I only knew how to get birds to nest in them. Maybe a "Rooms To Let" sign near the bird table. We already have swifts nesting in the eaves above our bedroom window so I'm cautiously optimistic.

And lastly we've been watching the unexpectedly not-crap adaptation of The Colour of Magic. Okay, it wasn't fine art, but it did at least make me laugh and the actors were better cast than I'd originally feared, particularly David Jason. From what I saw of Hogfather this one felt a lot less stilted.

EDIT: Oh and I, er, may have eaten some chocolate. A bit.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Had a fantastic trip back home to Yorkshire on Saturday and Sunday. We had a fine pub meal, chatted lots, and then went for a country walk on the Sunday. Said walk turned out to be considerably longer and colder than anticipated, especially when the low sun didn't reach our little valley and a freezing fog descended, but we did survive long enough to reach the cars. It did afford an opportunity to see some beautiful frosty scenery, take endless photos, and feel Christmassy. Some pictures via my facebook here.

This was nothing compared to my brother-in-law John's canoeing trip down the River Tweed on Saturday, however, which looks more or less like he was ice-breaking through the Northwest Passage. He's posted some spectacular icy photos here.

All of which does make me feel slightly better about the lack of snow for the festive season.

Last night we boozed and played the not-at-all-festive Unreal Tournament 3 with John and another friend of ours, and today we cooked our finest Christmas meal to date, i.e. nothing went disastrously wrong and it was all more or less ready and warm at the same time. I was given plenty of cool presents including a big trilobyte fossil, Absolute Sandman Vol 2, and a Wii light sabre. More importantly I got to watch everyone else open cool presents too.

Now we're Wii bowling the afternoon way before Doctor Who, and feeling slightly too full of food, chocolate, wine and coffee.

Burp.

Beauty

Nov. 3rd, 2007 12:22 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
There are eleven stunning images of the Earth from space collected on deputy-dog.com. My favourite is this photo of the aurora borealis taken from space shuttle Atlantis, which now graces my desktop.



(Found via the meticulously rightheaded badscience.net.)

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
Today I've watched a couple of programmes about the 50th Anniversary of The Sky at Night. It reminds you just how long the show's been around (since before Sputnik) and how much of an institution Sir Patrick Moore is--and also how much of a twinkle he's always had. He's not one of those august celebrities who take themselves too seriously. We were even treated to a clip of him on an old episode of Wogan in which he jammed on the Xylophone with Hugh Laurie on the piano. Quite surreal. Patrick once played the piano for Albert Einstein, apparently, which is the kind of story you just can't make up.

Despite the persistent promise of gloomy wet weather, we've actually had a lovely couple of days here. We had a very civilised Barbeque last night on the patio and despite the evening chill in the air it felt very summery. I think the rain's now due tomorrow (and we certainly hope so or Janet's Carnivorous Plants may be getting a bit thirsty soon.) And of course there's no work tomorrow. Praise be for bank holidays.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
It's a blizzard outside! Sadly none of it is settling on the ground. As far as I'm concerned this defeats the whole purpose of snow, which is to make the world look pretty and fresh and strange. Not just soggy.

While I'm here: Steve Jobs meets US Foreign Policy in this surprisingly amusing skit about Iraq. I say "surprisingly" because it's about as subtle as a brick, but that's part of the charm.

Lastly, I don't know why this is cool but it is: an image of Jupiter taken from the Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn (1.1 billion miles away). Now that's a zoom lens.

EDIT: Some actual snow on the ground this morning! Plenty of signs of it melting rapidly as it lands, but for the moment it's actually quite white in places.
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
Courtesy of www.badscience.net: I knew C4's recent "polemic" The Great Global Warming Swindle had been roundly criticised for scientific inaccuracies, but I'm still flabbergasted by the extent to which the film-maker distorted the evidence - take a look at these graphs.

Of course, some scientists are now warning that some claims about the impact of Global Warming exceed what can be purely justified by the evidence. This is perfectly reasonable and indeed the basis on which the scientific community ought to operate, and the online story is fine. However it's a bit of a shame that BBC News 24's soundbite approach to the story left the impression that they were casting doubt on global warming itself, not merely the extent of it. (In fact one of the scientists explicitly says in the online version: "I've no doubt that global warming is occurring".) So a story in which scientists warn against confusing the public ends up being itself a cause of confusion. Typical.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
BBC News points me to pretty pictures and video of Saturn, which has a vast hurricane 5,000 miles across and 45 miles high smack dab on its south pole. Which at the very least must make it painful to sit down.

Volcano!

Jun. 7th, 2006 07:04 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
From Astronomy Picture of the Day, this is a mightily impressive image of an Alaskan volcano erupting. Like Google Earth with added drama....



(Click for a bigger version)

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
The coolest thunder storm just passed right overhead. Probably the best I've seen since I was a child.

The light got dimmer and dimmer until it seemed as if we were in the middle of an unscheduled solar eclipse. The clouds turned a deep brown-yellow colour which I don't ever remember seeing in the sky before; I've heard people say that something was the colour of a bruise, and that's the closest I could come to describing it. Then there was a rolling rumble of thunder which lasted for minutes at a time, with near-continuous sheet lightning a few streets over, but everything remained dry and without a breath of wind. I was standing in the middle of the garden wondering if a Norse God was about to stride over the rooftops.

This continued for ten minutes or more, with a few incongruous bird feathers drifting lazily down into the garden from absolutely nowhere. Then in a matter of seconds the wind picked up, it began to spot with rain, and the heavens opened. Shortly after that two cats arrived in the house as if the hounds of hell were at their heels.

I think I've seen more lightning in the last fifteen minutes than in the rest of my adult life. Truly awesome, in the best sense of the word.

(I realise it may be tasteless to marvel at a storm given the events around New Orleans, but I can't help but be wowed by nature sometimes.)

Meteor!

Aug. 11th, 2004 10:56 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Saturn and rings)
It's the Perseid Meteor Shower tonight. If you didn't already know, you could certainly have guessed from the thick fog and drizzle outside our house. :-( Typical!

Ah well, the fog horn booming mournfully in the distance has a certain atmosphere. I quite like fog, as long as there are no vengeful pirates in it...

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