Saturday, 30 October 2010
No, I wouldn't either. Harriet would, though.
Harriet, the former equalities minister. Harriet, who wanted to criminalise people who discriminated on any basis, such as, err, being ginger for example.
Hypocrites. Utter hypocrites.
Friday, 29 October 2010
Apparently, emotionally I'm Upbeat, Worried and Angry. Socially, I'm Plugged In, Personable, Arrogant/Distant and Spacy, and my thinking style is Analytic. That is somewhat uncanny...
Right, I'm off to look at the rest of you lot!
So how come he is unable to cope with concepts like "shutting the door after you" or "turning the lights off"?
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!
Friday, 22 October 2010
It is classic, and beautiful. It is the rendition of the Overture from Verdi's "La Forza del Destino" for harmonica, created for the film "Jean de Florette", and known to me because it was used in a beer advert.
Put like that, I feel like a philistine. Ah well. Enjoy.
(If beer adverts are a bit lowbrow for you - even if they are for reassuringly expensive beers), then try here or here instead)
Monday, 18 October 2010
Simpletons like, for example, Vince Cable.
Having had the reality of a graduate tax explained to him by the more intelligent* members of the Coalition, that idea has gone away. So now we just need to deal with his plans for CGT.
CGT is already silly enough. In the past, I have had to pay CGT on the "profit" from a sale whose terms provide that I will be paid at a variable rate in the future. To pay the correct amount, I have had to tell HMRC what the future price would be, under pain of a fine if I underestimate. What am I meant to do? Get a crystal ball??
But that is by the by. Cable would like to compound the silliness by raising the rate of CGT. So here are some excellent posters which put the message across in terms even Vince would understand.
*OK, less daft
(Hat tip to the Angry Teen)
Friday, 15 October 2010
I am truly shocked. Genuinely shocked, and stunned. Partly by the graphic content, but mainly that they allowed this to be published. What were they thinking of? Who could possibly think it acceptable?
I am not at all surprised by the message, though. That was old news. People support the climate change movement because they are told to, because they do not understand the technicalities of it, and because anyone who questions it is pilloried. Blowing them up is merely exaggeration for effect.
I started asking scientific questions years ago, initially because I was confused and wanted clarification. No-one has yet answered any of them. Generally, the reply is instead to ask some variant of "why do you want to kill babies?". This is not science; it is brainwashing and coercion.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
[The global warming scam] ... is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist
[The ClimateGate scandal] ... was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity.
Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.
From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara
To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society
6 October 2010
When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).
Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?
How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:
1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate
2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.
3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.
5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.
6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.
APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?
I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.
I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.
Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Sunday, 3 October 2010
I leave the hotel at 8:15 ish, a little later than I planned as the Ring has already been open for 15 minutes and my plan was to get there while everyone else was in bed. This would have worked, had I not been in bed as well.
I get back at just before 8:45, so I was distinctly slower than yesterday, but on the other hand there was no-one there to encourage me to speed up today. The track was very empty, and very lovely. Plenty of people passed, although I noticed that some cars appeared briefly in the mirrors but didn't catch up! Standing in the car park against the car, my legs are warmed by the abundant heat radiating from the brakes ... which might suggest that I took a cautious approach.
This time, I see 4 separate crashes on the way round. This is not surprising; the track is damp with morning dew, the tarmac and tyres are all cold, and the drivers have just got out of bed. All are being flagged & marshalled by the Ring staff, so I wave my thanks to them and carry on past. For what seems like ages, no-one overtakes me, which is an odd sensation and one that is new to me here. I assume that this is because the track has been closed due to the crashes, but then 2 cars catch up with me at Karussel. When I get back to the car park, the track is open.
I go for a quick walk to re-orient myself, and then come back and dry off the roof. I want the next lap to be with the roof down, so the dew will have to come off:
Lap 4 is just tremendous. I still don't know the track, obviously, but my guesses as to which way it will go are getting, well, less inaccurate. While going round, I realise that I am now spending most of the lap roughly one gear lower than I was at first, and that am getting more confident about putting the power down - both on the straights and on the way out of bends.
Putting the roof down was 100% right. The noise of the flat six is unmuffled... bliss. There were spectators at Brünnchen, so I made sure I powered out of the bend in second. Maybe that will make them laugh a little less loudly at my choice of line?
And, to my amazement, I overtake two others on this lap! An old British P-plate Jap coupe is hogging the line from Flugplatz onwards. Maybe it is so old that it has lost all its mirrors. I want to tell him that yes, the big white M5 that has just passed me and is now on your tail with its left indicator flashing is indeed the Ring Taxi, he probably knows the line quite well, and it seems on the evidence so far that he is distinctly quicker than you. Totally oblivious, he is quite happy to veer left in front of it and a line of M3s, just as they start to turn in for Adenauer Forst. Amazing, and it is to the credit of the Ring Taxi that he manages not to shunt him onto the grass. They all get past him on the exit, while I wait for a moment to make absolutely sure that he is staying on the right and then in one move overtake both him and the Volvo that he is now tailing. I don't see him again.
I notice that there are fewer people overtaking me, too, although from the state of the car park and the barrier it should be much busier. This time, there is just one every few minutes, rather than a steady stream. Ho hum.
The time for this lap? 12 minutes! (very approximately: I am not formally timing). But that does not reflect the (self-assessed) quality of the lap. Compared to my 12 minute lap yesterday, this is smoother, more flowing, more confident. I accelerate because I know I can, rather than because someone else is telling me I can despite my trepidation. This was my lap, not his.
After parking, I reflect that I absolutely must be in Munich tonight, that it is now 10am, that I only have one car, and that I know what comes after the first confident lap. My 4-lap ticket is exhausted, and I decide not to buy any more. I have done what I set out to achieve, and more. Yesterday, I feared this place. Today I do not; I respect it instead.
I will come back here, if at all possible. If I do not, then that will be sad, but the sadness will be tempered by the memories.
I drive away listening to this:
Don't be like everybody else. Don't. If there is something you want to do, make it happen.
Dear Diary. Today I had to get up at the crack of dawn. Now, this is not something I generally like, and especially not on Saturdays. Therefore, it was timed as the latest wake-up possible to let me get up and out, and drive round the M25 to the Channel Tunnel to catch the 9:50 train. That, in turn, was chosen to give me time to get to the Nurburgring by late-afternoon and still have the chance to catch a lap before it closes. Therefore, what I needed was decent driving conditions to make sure that I catch that train.
What I saw out of the window was fog. Thick fog. Oh good. Despite that, I managed to get to Folkestone just in time to refresh and catch the train.
And so, onto the train. The nice people at Eurotunnel waved me onto the lower deck, so no front splitter worries for me. Time at last for a rest while the train makes the effort. A chance to program the satnav for the new locations:
Oddly, Porsche navigation systems don’t seem to know where Nurburg is? They do know where Adenau is, though, and a search for nearby hotels hits the jackpot:
Then to set the car up for the new environment in which it will be driving:
And set up some tunes while we’re at it.
That turned out to be the least successful bit of the trip in fact. The iPhone seems to be programmed to recognise a shake as some form of command while playing a genius mix – shuffle, maybe? Anyway, the utterly atrocious state of Belgium’s motorways meant that it was shuffled quite often. Oddly, it seemed to find Dido very frequently. Maybe she’s big in Belgium?
Speaking of Belgium, I have long been intrigued by the hate campaign waged by Ben Lovejoy against this poor country. Last summer, we took a family holiday near the Franco-Belgium border, and enjoyed several trips into Belgium, Ypres particularly. It seems a pleasant place, albeit spoilt by being home to the most hateful and wasteful bureaucracy known to man. Yet Ben complains each time that he has to drive across it, and lauds any opportunity to bypass it (at 30,000 feet if he can).
Let’s just say that I understand, now. A small country it may be, but the route from the UK to the Nurburgring manages to stretch along its entire length so you are able to “enjoy” it to the full. And what a driving experience it is – long, straight, dull motorways with nothing to look at, filled with caravans and lorries. Obviously, the EU and the Belgian government are concerned that we may become bored and fall asleep at the wheel, so they have kindly surfaced their motorways with the noisiest, bumpiest, rumbliest material they could find, interspersed with the odd pothole, just to keep you on your toes. This evil material is of course that light-coloured concrete stuff that can only be cast in sections, with a join between each section, so every now and then there is a sudden thump and, oh, it’s Dido again. Sleep? I should wish.
The interruption to this torment is the Brussels ring road. Don’t ask me about the Brussels ring road. Let’s just say that it’s like the M25, but without the comforting familiarity. Or any sense of which lane I should be in or which way I should be heading.
Eventually, I am granted mercy in the sight of a sign proclaiming that I am entering the Bundesrepublic Deutschland, and that the speed limit is 130kph. That’s not what I’ve heard … nor is it what all the other drivers have heard. Clearly this is one of the speed-limited parts of the Autobahn network, but that doesn’t seem to affect anyone. Soon, there is a Renault Espace on my rear bumper, asking to come past. Now, as a 911 driver, you’ll understand that I’m not used to this. Nevertheless, politeness comes first and I move over. Self-interest comes immediately afterwards, of course, and I pull out behind him to follow. When in Rome,…
I suppose I’d better deal with the obligatory questions about the Autobahn. Yes, I went really quickly. Rather more quickly that I would dare to do on a British motorway. Yet I maintained the same level of perceived safety as I maintain in the UK; the much better network of autobahns reduces the traffic levels, and this combined with (crucially) proper lane discipline and observation by the other drivers means that ::[COUGH]:: mph on a German autobahn feels as safe as ::[cough]:: mph or so on a British motorway. We really do need to learn that speed is not a per se bad thing on our roads. Danger is, yes, but Germany proves that there is not a straight-line relationship between the two.
I saw one other 911 on the autobahn. I didn’t see it for long, though.
Eventually, I arrive at Mecca.
I can hardly believe it. This place actually exists. It is real. It is not a huge con trick played on unsuspecting British petrolheads. It really is here. And it’s tiny.
That is the first impression – this place is incredibly cramped! I park next to a Ferrari, open the door (carefully!) and step out for a wander around. The noise is just fantastic – chatter, overlaid with V8s, V6s, straight sixes, flat sixes, the lot. And the smell – my notoriously insensitive nose can pick up an undertone of Mobil 1 with top note of Shell V-Power, plus distinct hints of hot rubber. Girls, you really have to lobby for that to be made into a perfume; boys will fall into your lap in an instant.
Anyway, there seems to be a crowd about 50 yards away, so that must be the place to head for. I'm right; it’s the head office:
Next to it is the hallowed entrance:
There is a steady stream of noisy, smelly, revving high performance cars driving up to the barrier and setting off. This is just incredible – some are driving in, off the main road, heading for the barrier, and off they go! No petty rules, no health & safety briefing, no clipboards in sight. There is no need – they know the risks, and have made their own decision how and to what extent they wish to mitigate them. So some have helmets, some have harnesses, some have roll cages. Others do not, arriving in plain road cars and T-shirts.
This is, truly, a different world. I have been whinging for two years on my blog about the relentless intrusion of socialist prodnoses into our lives, and all this time the Ring has been here, sticking two fingers up to them and blowing a raspberry. I decide that I love it. And I haven’t even left the car park.
Now, next you all want to hear about how I jumped back into my 911 and roared off to do an 8 minute lap. Of course I didn’t. Don’t be silly, I haven’t bought a ticket yet.
Seriously, I had given this a little thought. I’ve watched the videos, I’ve played with a few video games. All that I’ve learnt from that it that the Ring is very long and that after the 8th bend (or so) I’ve completely lost track of which way it goes. So I had no intention of just plunging in. I had made contact with a few others who planned to be there, and started looking for them. All had promised to give me a passenger ride first, so I just needed to spot one of them before he went out.
Needless to say, I only spotted one. Just as he was going through the barriers. Ah well, I thought, I’ll give it 10 minutes and wait for him to get out. Rather more than 10 minutes later, he emerged so I went over to chat. He was not pleased; his brake discs had given up the ghost (cracks were visible) and he needed to get them fixed (in Germany, at 4pm on a Saturday…). So no rides available there, then. Very kindly, however, he introduced me to a group of other drivers, one of whom volunteered to ride as a passenger with me to guide me round.
I say that I’ll go and get a ticket, and he says he’ll wait there for me (it does strike me - I could just run for it, he doesn’t know me…). But I buy a four-lap ticket and come back. He jumps into my car, and off we go.
He doesn’t speak a lot of English, so apart from “left” and “right” (which he gets confused frighteningly often) his instructions are generally one of three phrases that he does know:
“Faster car coming behind!”
“You can go flat out here”, and
So how was my first lap? Let’s just say that I have put his phrases in decreasing order of use. There are a lot of people who are a lot faster than me. But we reach the gantry 12 minutes later – he seems impressed with that as a first lap time (though perhaps he is being kind), and I am frankly amazed. I was expecting 15 or 20 minutes (no, seriously), but it felt like 6 or 8 such was the level of excitement.
So much happens so quickly that I can hardly pick out many of the famous sections that I have read about so often. Some parts do stand out, though. Fuchsrore and Karusell (in particular) are just incredible. I expected Karusell to be special, but Fuchsrore took me by surprise with its simply joyful combination of dips, bends, and climbs. A challenge, but one that is within reach. No, I didn’t take it flat, though. One day, maybe.
I drop him off back at the car park, and go for a walk to relax and calm down. By the time I am done, the Ring has closed. Fog is the likely culprit; I hope it was nothing worse. So I go for a drive, and after spotting some of the spectating positions I pull in at one just to take a look. These photos give a hint, I hope, of the nature of the circuit.
There is an opening through the fence here:
Can you imagine this in the UK? First, anyone can just drive up and park by the track, without a ticket or a pass. Try that at Silverstone, and see what happens. Then, they can walk out onto the track itself. The only thing that is there to stop them is a sign pointing out that to do so would be quite incredibly stupid and that the consequences will be their problem, not the circuit’s.
I really love this place.
Eventually, the rain gets worse, so it’s time to go. I need some petrol, so call in at the Ed Tankstelle and collect my prize:
Then back to the guesthouse for some food and some of this: