Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oh noes we're all going 2200

I'm surprised that I'm the first to get to this, as I was trying to ignore it yesterday in the hope that someone else would blog it. Maybe no-one else reads the Independent, but the Times went behind a paywall recently so I've been shopping around.

Anyway, according to the Indescribablyoverhyped:

Almost all of the leading researchers who took part in a detailed analysis of their expert opinion believe that high levels of greenhouse gases will cause a fundamental shift in the global climate system – a tipping point – with potentially far-reaching consequences

"Almost all" means 9 out of 14, who put this probability at 90% or greater, assuming a high emissions trajectory getting to about 1000ppm CO2 over the next 200 years. On reading the paper (here), the definition of "tipping point" seems conveniently vague. Originally a precisely-defined concept relating to hysteresis and bifurcation, it was devalued beyond all useful meaning in the Lenton et al paper, which define it as any point at which a small forcing change results in a "qualitatively different state". Without any clear definition of what "qualitatively different" means this seems more of a political construct than a scientific one.

I thought that this quote in the Indy was quite remarkable:
“We are certainly capable of committing ourselves to an emissions trajectory that make 1,000 ppm in 2200 almost inevitable if we make the wrong decisions over the next 20 years,” Dr Allen said.
I can't help thinking how incredibly fortunate we are to have worked this out just in time. Just imagine if Dr Allen had calculated that it was actually the last 20 years that were critical, and we were already committed to this dire long-term future. I suppose we would just have to party like it's 2199. Less facetiously and more directly, it seems an astonishing level of hubris that anyone (and a mere climate scientist at that) could claim to know how the next 200 years of socioeconomic development will be irrevocably (and predictably) affected by decisions we take in the next couple of decades. It would make about as much sense to claim that if only Spencer Perseval had thought more carefully he could have diverted us from our path to 393ppm today.

Despite the newspaper headline, the paper isn't really about tipping points. It's a much more wide-ranging survey of a handful of "experts who represent a range of main-stream opinion" (in the words of the paper) which follows up on a similar survey back in 1995 (Morgan and Henrion). Given the small sample of 14, I was surprised to see that no fewer than 3 (ie more than 20% of the total) were co-authors on the Stainforth et al CPDN paper which was hyped beyond all reasonable bounds (eg see here and here). And several of the rest are responsible for the silly "observationally constrained pdfs" for climate sensitivity, which as we pointed out here and here are simply pathological by construction.

Anyway, here are their new climate sensitivity estimates, presented as box and whisker plots. There is no explanation of exactly what the bars and lines mean, but the box is 25-75% and the dot is the median:
The bracketed values under each plot are the probabilities for sensitivity greater than 4.5C, so we see that 4 people put this value at 30% or greater. This seems remarkable when not a single GCM from the AR4 had such a high value, and all the decent quantitative analyses point more or less strongly to a rather lower value. Number 4 seems sane, but how anyone can claim to be certain that the sensitivity is not as low as 2.3C (number 10) seems absurd to me. Number 2 obviously has a misprint somewhere as the 25% number is incompatible with the box plot. Numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 have extra grey plots which refer to their contributions to the previous work of Morgan and Henrion which they also participated in:

(Rotated for the sake of matching the shape.) The 4 repeat participants are Karl, Schneider, Stone and Wigley, though not necessarily in that order.

So even though as far as I can tell everyone accepts that the fundamental points we make in our two papers are valid, they still stick to these old discredited results with long tails to high values. - in fact the answers are more alarmist than 15 years ago. Makes us wonder why we bother...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Japanese told to go to bed an hour early to cut carbon emissions

I didn't actually see this news in Japan...

The Morning Challenge campaign, unveiled by the Environment Ministry, is based on the premise that swapping late night electricity for an extra hour of morning sunlight could significantly cut the nation's carbon footprint.

I have previously complained about the time zone here, which is very inconvenient and inefficient, especially in summer when the sun rises around 4am and sets at 7pm. Why can't they just adopt summer time like just every other country on the planet (or even change the time zone year round)? Iceland is another exception, but there isn't much they can do about their 24h sunlight in summer and 24h of night in winter.

[jules' pics] 6/28/2010 08:31:00 PM

flowers at work, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

The thing that really does brighten up our grey workplace, in the toxic waste part of town, is Kubota-san's fantastic Ikebana art.

[taken with Sony TX5 using flash and "hdr" mode - this camera improves its tiny sensor by being capable of 10fps and having several modes that combine exposures in various ways.)

Update: Oops, wups - the photo was posted at rather low resolution - fixed it now. This was an accident, caused by not changing settings after exporting lots of photos for James to use in his write ups of our recent mountain walks with Helen.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/28/2010 08:31:00 PM

Monday, June 28, 2010

[jules' pics] 6/27/2010 08:15:00 PM

Fuji-san, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Fuji-san before it disappeared for the summer...

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/27/2010 08:15:00 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When is the mean better than all models?

Well Belette is acting like a stoat with a bone (at least like a rat with a bone, I don't really know much about stoat behaviour) on the question that he considers most important: when is the multi-model mean better than all individual models?

Clearly, this is not amenable to a simple proof like the previous question. It is easy to generate situations where the mean is best, and also situations where it it not. Thus, I find it less interesting :-) We looked at it in probabilistic terms - what is the probability that a particular model is better than the mean?

Here's a plot of the results. Focus on the solid dark blue line for starters.

"Perfect" in the legend refers to the concept of models and observations being drawn from the same distribution. The solid blue line shows the probability of a sample from the standard multivariate d-dimensional Normal N(0,1)d being closer to the observations (which are also a sample from N(0,1)d) than the mean of the sampling distribution 0 = (0)d is. The main point is that this probability depends strongly on the value of d, which I think is intuitively quite obvious. For each dimension (= Gaussian deviate), the mean squared error of the ensemble mean is 1 and the mean squared error of a random model is 2. So the more variables you have, the larger the gap in the expected sum of these terms and the less chance that random variation will result in the former sum actually exceeding the latter for a given random sample.

The two other dark blue lines arise from different shapes of sampling distributions, where instead of being perfectly isotropic in the metric space, the variance is divided unequally across the dimensions. One case is geometric, N(0,pi) for some p less than 1 and another is a square root variation N(0,sqrt(i)) where i indexes the individual deviates. In this case we need the concept of "effective" dimension which we copied from another paper (Bretherton et al). The conclusion is that the shape of the distribution doesn't matter much compared to the effective dimension. Red and cyan results correspond to the cases that the truth is sampled from a distribution which is either narrower or broader than the models. Initially it may be counterintuitive that a "bad" ensemble (where the truth is miles away) has more relatively "good" models (better than the mean) but you can show this easily just by drawing a quick sketch - draw a rough oval for the ensemble, and consider the truth as being either close to the mean or miles away to one side. In each case, whether a model is better or worse than the mean is demarcated by a circle centred on the truth and passing through the ensemble mean. Any model inside the circle is better than the ensemble mean. In the case of the truth being miles away from the ensemble, this circle will contain a larger proportion of the ensemble volume - up to a limit of 50% in the case of very distant truth.

The remaining piece in the puzzle is to consider the effective dimension of the distribution in the actual case under consideration - the CMIP3 models and the climate system. Is it low, in which case we should have many models better than the mean, or high, in which case we shouldn't find (m)any at all? And can we say anything about whether the ensemble is relatively broad (meaning few models better than the ensemble mean) or too narrow (lots of them)? Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment...I'm so excited I can hardly sleep.

[jules' pics] 6/23/2010 10:15:00 PM

A flower outside work, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Number 4in the series "the toxic waste part of town where we work".
Numbers 1,2 and 3, here, here and here.

Thinking I'd been making rubbish pictures for long enough, and that my reader might takeaway all my cool toys if I didn't improve, when recently some blog posts about composition appeared I paid attention. This is the toxic result.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/23/2010 10:15:00 PM

Climate of the Past is 5 years old !!!!

To cheer up my disillusion over the IPCC authors list, (I am concerned about the possibilities for groupthink and woollythink**), and inspired by Stoat's post about citations, this is just to say that there is more to science than citations - and that the citations prove it!

Yes CP is 5 years old. How do I know? I got 4 emails telling me: one each because I've authored, reviewed and edited for CP and also one because I am chief-editor of another EGU journal. So, I think it is almost certainly true that it is indeed 5 years old. Their impact factor is 3.86. This means that, on average, each paper has had 3.86 citations (over a 3 year(?) period). This is a pretty darn good score for a journal. The screenshot below (click it to see it bigger) is taken from the ISI web of knowledge, and shows the citation report for CP. What's so brill about this? Well, 5 out of the top 10 cited papers are in a special issue that I got going and co-edited (I personally edited 3 of the top 5). This special issue resulted from an EGU session that I instigated. I suppose you might argue that it made no difference to science because people would have written their papers anyway, but it it delights me to suffer under the illusion that it could be that I helped science to progress a bit.

**I'm dissillusioned because I feel that I see too many familiar names. On the bright side there is quite a lot of new blood too. Hopefully it is enough, but I don't see why all the authors don't change each time. After all, as Stoaty has just pointed out it has there are as many as 1337 competent climate scientists all eager to do the job. Rather like politics and the "career politicians " who have done nothing but politics since they graduated, we are developing "career IPCC authors". Authoring the IPCC should be a one off public duty type thing, not a career builder. They didn't think very straight last time (this paper was our response to their 1st draft), and I hate that our science ends up being so often dragged into correcting their trivial errors, when instead we should be forging ahead with new stuff.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

IPCC Assessment Report 5 authors

Can be found here.

Not too many surprises from what I can see, apart from the author of the previous version who insisted shortly afterwards that it was such a nightmare that he wouldn't consider doing it again...and is now a coordinating lead (OK, I'm not really surprised by this).

On principle I'd always like to see more fresh faces and fewer of the same old same old, but I haven't actually looked carefully enough to know if that is actually a fair criticism of this selection. There is a small selection of the obvious Japanese candidates.

[jules' pics] 6/22/2010 05:38:00 PM

Yokohama JR Station, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

We'd heard stories of the lengths that phone companies go to in order to delay cancellation of a phone contact, so at the weekend James headed to Yokobashi Camera Softbank desk prepared for the worst. He needn't have worried. This is Japan. He was served in 3 minutes by a young woman who seemed so sad to be cancelling the contract, but did so immediately, and with no fee. It was such shockingly good service that we left feeling we would gladly sign up again, should they produce an attractive deal some time.

jules was too distracted with the second part of James' cunning plan to notice her sweet iphone 3G connectivity was being plundered....

I already blogged Widney, our new pet, and the first part of James' cunning plan. The second part was even more cunning. He was aware that a new iphone was about to come out with a new flashy camera that would no doubt seduce his wife, which would mess up all his cleverly laid plans. So when, after yet another very wet mountain walk, she expressed interest in an ipsy wipsy waterproof, cold proof, shockproof pink camera, he feigned fascination and gladly handed over the two and a bit 10,000¥ notes required to pay for it (despite being a new model it was on sale). It is a Sony TX5 - and it even takes photos underwater - and took several of the photos I blogged from our latest mountain trip as well as the photo above (see here for my flickr set from the camera.)

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/22/2010 05:38:00 PM

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

That multi-model mean result again

So, I'm left this result actually new for a much broader sphere of ensemble methods than the small niche of climate science that I currently reside in? (And perhaps I should also ask for confirmation, is it really true? It would be embarrassing to find some oversight that invalidates the whole thing.)

When I first wrote it down - in reply to a reviewer comment on a previous paper - I assumed it to be a well-known result, and I think I must have seen the basic idea somewhere before, because it popped into my head so easily. But so far no commenter has found prior evidence of this equation - more generic demonstrations that the mean is better than a typical ensemble member are known in some (not all!) fields, but not the exact formula that I presented.

So, the hunt is on for a direct reference...your prize is my eternal gratitude. Or a blog post on the topic of your choosing, so long as it's ENSO and annual temperatures :-)

[jules' pics] Geek photography

I'm still not bored of our last mountain trip, especially because now rainy season has started, I know things are now very different up there. The excuse for another post is that I got my film back from Yodobashi Camera.

Day 2: The moon at Karasawa Curl

At Karasawa Curl

Day 3: Since I don't have a tripod, here's evidence that we weren't the only ones up at stupid o'clock.

Sunrise from Kita Hotakadake

Stupid o'clock - Yarigatake

Yarigatake at sunrise

Stupid o'clock, Hotakadake

Hodaka from Kita Hotaka

Now for extra super cool geek part. The picture with the moon in, and the one of Yari were both taken with an 100mm f2.8 lens. Such lenses are typically huge, heavy and expensive - they have to be big so they can catch all those photons - right? Not so great for taking up mountains! Turns out they don't have to be big at about about 2 inches long and about 200g, the 1980 Series E is the smallest 100mm lens Nikon have ever made. It is also very cheap. The catch - it neither focuses nor exposes on most modern cameras, my N80s film camera included! Needless to say it also doesn't have the other "features" that weigh down modern lenses, such as image stabilisation. The lack of exposure isn't a deal-breaker on a digital camera since you can take a picture, look at it, adjust settings and take another. Not so easy for film - unless you have a light meter, which I don't. What we did was use our point and shoot digital cameras to take exposures, then do some sums and work out the exposure for the film. What a lot of fun it was doing mental arithmetic at stupid o'clock. ...adjust aperture and speed from P&S exposure to something the camera can actually do (and with 1/100th second or faster shutter speed), adjust exposure for different ISO, and for the polariser if necessary... check by considering sunny 16 rule... press shutter. It worked! Perhaps I should more often try thinking before I shoot...

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/21/2010 08:32:00 PM

Friday, June 18, 2010

[jules' pics] 6/17/2010 09:12:00 PM

Hachimangu at night, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

As a friend for yesterday's photo, here's our other OKish night-time shot. Taken by James, with his Panasonic LX3 on his mini-tripod in early May.

Panasonic prefer to make the night sky fantastic purple, while Nikon (yesterday's photo) head towards an unfortunately more realistic neon effect.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/17/2010 09:12:00 PM

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why the multi-model mean is so good!

Well, some of my commenters went off in not quite the right direction, but a few (especially Nebuchadnezzar and ac) got very close. As I mentioned in the comments myself, I had deliberately left the problem statement a little vague. The reason I did this is partly because the challenge is not just to be able to solve mathematical puzzles, but also to first create a mathematical framework in which to interpret the sort of messy and imprecise data that tends to obtain in the real world. Life is not a Martin Gardner puzzle but bits of his puzzles (generally rather simpler) can often be found in life if you know where to look. And partly, I was coy because if I'd stated the problem in unambiguous mathematical terms, it more-or-less answers itself :-)

So, without further ado, on with the show.

Let's write mi for the models (i runs from 1 to n), M = 1/n Σ mi is the multi-model mean and O are the observations. All sums are over i. We start with the mean of the squared distances of models to observations

1/n Σ |mi - O|2

and write it equivalently as 1/n Σ |(mi -M) - (O-M)|2

where all I have done is added and subtracted M and placed some brackets for convenience.

Use of the dot product identity a.a = |a|2 allows us to multiply out this expression as

1/n Σ |mi -M|2 - 2/n Σ (mi - M).(O-M) +|O-M|2.

The final trick, such as it is, is to observe that the central sum of dot product terms is identically zero, because Σ (mi - M) = Σ mi - nM = n(1/n Σ mi - M) = 0 (zero, not O) by definition of M.

This leaves us with:

1/n Σ |mi - O|2 = 1/n Σ |mi -M|2 +|O-M|2

and thus the squared distance from obs to multi-model mean is less than the mean of the squared distances from the individual models to the multi-model mean obs, by an amount which equals the average of the squared distances from the models to their mean.

Note in the above, there is absolutely no dependence on the details of the distribution of the models, or the specific values that the observations take. This equation has nothing whatsoever to do with the model ensemble being centred on the truth. The multi-model mean also provides a better estimate of the climate of Mars than the individual models do! (M is the only such point that guarantees to be better than the models in this sense, whatever the obs are.)

A further point to note is that the result does not even depend on the oft-cited "cancellation of errors". Consider a 2-variable, 2-model system where the models take the values (1,3) and (3,1) and the obs are at (0,0). In this case, the models are both biased positive for both variables. Yet the mean (2,2) has a squared error of 4+4=8 and each model has a squared error of 1+9 = 10. The average squared model deviation from the mean is 1+1=2, balancing the equation. So all attempts to deduce properties of the ensemble based solely on the result presented here are utterly futile. There are more complex and subtle questions relating to when the multi-model mean is better than all of the models, but that's for another time.

If you want an intuitive way to think of the result, it's a sort of Pythagorus' Theorem on average. mi - O is the hypotenuse here, with the other vertex at M. Also, the full equation is just the Law of Cosines summed over each triangle with vertices mi, M and O, since the dot product a.b = |a||b|cos θ, and the sum of all those terms cancels to zero.

I've written this out in very long-winded fashion, but it's such an elementary point and so fundamental to the analysis of ensembles that I still find it rather mind-boggling that no-one else in climate science seems to know about it. I await with interest to see what the reviewers have to say.

[jules' pics] 6/16/2010 09:10:00 PM

Last Friday we went to see fireflies (hotaru, 螢) at Sankeien garden. They were really good, but don't photograph well, so here is a picture of the irises and pagoda and stuff instead.

The garden feels rather Victorian (opened in 1906), and was built by a guy who got rich in the silk trade, and transported buildings from various places in Japan...including some tea houses, some buildings taken from Kyoto temples, and even a gassho house. It feel quite fake compared even to "real Japan", but if you just think of it as a garden-museum type of thing then it is very pleasant.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/16/2010 09:10:00 PM

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

[jules' pics] 6/15/2010 12:49:00 PM

Daiyuzan Saijo-ji temple, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Another photo from the huge Daiyuzan temple.

James asked why I didn't blog a picktur yesterday. WIRES are to blame. They sent the proofs for the brilliant paper I wrote, all messed up into a dumb-ass American accent, so I had to go through every word to put the meaning back into my sentences. So a job that should have taken an hour at most took the best part of the day. It was really annoying. I thought we'd evolved beyond such rubbish. Another vote therefore for the EGU journals (like this one). There, if the editor and reviewers thinks the paper is comprehensible, it goes to press as-is. Accents of German, Chinese, Italian, American, English, French, Japanese, etc are all OK - we can all understand each other. Makes me think that some Americans need to get out more...


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why is the multi-model mean so good?

This came up again in the comments to this post, and I've been meaning to write about it for some time.

It has been repeatedly observed that the multi-model mean is considerably better than a typical model (and sometimes - not always - better than all models), in terms of RMS error when compared to data. The first explicit observation of this I'm aware of in IPCC-related climate science is from the analysis of the CMIP1 models by Lambert and Boer (2001) and it has been a feature of many subsequent analyses of more recent multi-model ensembles such as Gleckler et al (2008)'s analysis of CMIP3.

Several authors (including the IPCC AR4 page 608, as Lucia mentioned in the above comment thread) have talked about the errors of different models cancelling, and this seems to have motivated the concept of models being sampled from some distribution centred on the truth - a notion which unfortunately is quite clearly bogus, having no theoretical support and being comprehensively refuted by the data. So a sound understanding of this phenomenon still seems to be absent.

It was only recently that I really realised that this was considered an open question in the field - it was actually a reviewer's comment on the Reliability paper that put me on to it, following which I took a careful look at the literature to see exactly what had been said. My 3-line reply probably didn't get to the reviewer as that paper was accepted immediately after minor revision. I wasn't allowed to attend the IPCC Expert Meeting where I hear this puzzle was mentioned, and I was a bit worried that we might get take the secret to our graves if we got run over by a bus while tandeming to work, so quickly wrote a manuscript which contains the explanation (among other things - tempting though it was to try, I didn't think I could really get away with publishing a single page, and anyway, I had some related points to make). I don't think this has yet got as far as being sent out for review, and so, as far as I can tell, the question still remains a mystery to the entire climate science community. But at least if I get run over now, someone should get to see the answer :-)

I'll give you all a chance to think about it before posting the solution. Knowing that it has a simple solution, mathematically-minded readers should have a good chance of working it out - and will surely kick themselves when they see it. (If you do know the/an answer, feel free to say so in the comments without giving it away too quickly.)

So, why is the multi-model mean so good?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The big UC/Nature spat

This pdf has been doing the bloggy rounds recently: University of California librarians are horrified at the 400% increase in fees from Nature, and are calling for a boycott. They note that UC have provided a substantial amount of content, and unpaid reviewing effort. Nature retort by saying the UC were getting an unreasonable discount, and anyway everyone knows that you have to pay for the best. Reading between the lines, Nature seems a bit put out that the actual fee paid has been made public, which may make interesting reading for other subscribers. "Nobody pays list price" but I would not be surprised to find JAMSTEC does!

Of course bypassing than the details of this case, the big elephant in the room is the whole ridiculous pay-to-read commercial journal system. Others have pointed out the irony:
It was beautiful. We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them.
The sooner the scientific world moves to open access the better. If that means commercial publishers charging a publication levy, so be it. I don't particularly wish for Nature to go out of business, but neither do I think they should be allowed to block progress towards a more open and up-to-date system. The EGU manages to run a large and growing stable of successful high-quality journals, by scientists, for scientists and the only thing that holds back the range of papers I send there is the lack of a suitable journal for most of my work. But it covers many of the bases in climate science and more broadly the geosciences. They cover costs - indeed turn a healthy profit for the EGU overall - by charging reasonable publication fees. Of course one might also ask why publication should have to turn a profit, which is a question entirely begged in Nature's reply.

As for Nature's claim "NPG adds huge amounts of value to the very best quality original research", this smells like pure unadulterated bullshit to me. I wonder what sort of value they think they add? Removing inconvenient question marks to turn interesting speculation into incorrect assertions? (Or perhaps I should say: removing inconvenient question marks to turn interesting speculation into incorrect assertions!) At best, one could perhaps argue they filter the most "exciting" research, providing a shortcut for busy scientists to keep up with what is most relevant. But actually, this seems to be a benefit primarily to journalists, who cannot possibly keep up with and filter a broad range of journals - active scientists certainly have to browse a much wider range of sources than the weekly Nature press releases. It's not even at all clear to me that Nature papers represent the best of what is new in science - the citation index may be higher than most journals, but it is hard to say how much of this is actually due to quality and how much is just due to publicity. What does seem to be widely accepted (including among people who publish there regularly) is that the only way to stand much of a chance of publishing your manuscript in Nature is to make sure that you include some co-authors who have published there before. If there is a clique in science, that is where it is to be most easily found.

Update: don't miss UC's response to Nature's press release.

[jules' pics] 6/13/2010 08:49:00 PM

Daiyuzan temple, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

It was only after I got a print made of this photo and stuck it to the side of my cubicle that I realised how much I like it. It seems that some pictures are better viewed from a distance, framed by wall. I wonder how long we will have to wait for electronic picture viewers that are about the same thickness as a photographic print.

The photo, taken on a walk with Helen the sister in law in April, is of an upper part of Daiyuzan temple, previously visited last May (see picture here).

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/13/2010 08:49:00 PM

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Pet!

We have a new pet. He is called "Widget". See my stitchin' blog for details.

It is all part of a cunning plan of James'... part 2 of which I'll reveal in a later post.

In the meantime...

Pros of Widget:
1. James can use 3G from his ipod, and we can both access 3G from our laptops. We can both access 3G simultaneously as long as we are within 10m o each other. This is pretty cool - it seems fast even with us both connected.
2. My iphone hangs less; it is really annoying the way it hates having the 3G switched on and off. Now it can just stay on wifi instead.
3. My iphone battery lasts much longer; battery life with 3G is rubbish. I believe that Widget's battery will also last longer than the iphone with 3G on.
4. Will be significantly cheaper - once I am made to end my iphone 3G contract.
5. Lighter and smaller than an ipad!

Cons of Widget:
1. Another widget to carry.
2. Wont be able to make my once every 2-3 months telephone call.
3. Slower and tricker (more buttons to press) to start up than 3G on the iphone
4. Coverage my be a bit worse than that for the iphone (which is not good anyway, comared to normal Japanese mobile phones).
5. Live navigating with Google maps doesn't work properly. Presumably because it isn't using the 3G to help with the location, it is about 100 yards off and doesn't refresh properly. ...just going to have to start reading maps again! Shouldn't be a deal breaker, as I do know how to read a map, but I used to have a lot of fun using the iphone to navigate the backstreets of Tokyo and Yokohama, both on foot and from the back of the tandem.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Inappropriate data filtering skewed a recent study"

Our recent comment on McLean has been selected as a Editor's Highlight:
"Inappropriate data filtering skewed a recent study"
It seems a bit odd when you consider the AGU's open hostility to comments. But I'm not complaining.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

[jules' pics] It's behind you!

Since yesterday's post was so popular... OK I lie - but I liked it. Here's another set - mostly same times and places, but looking the other way.

Day 2: Looking back down Karasawa valley, James enjoys arty B&W mode.

Karasawa valley and Yokoo-one ridge

Day 2: Panorama looking South rather than North


Day 3: Stupid o'clock - looking South

Morning light on Okuhotakadake from Kita Hodaka

Day 3: Stupid o'clock - looking West!

Dawn on Kasa-ga-take from Kita-Ho

Shortly after stupid o'clock - looking South-East-ish can you see Fuji-san in the distance?

Morning glow and distant Fuji-san

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/09/2010 07:49:00 PM

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Now they tell us...

"There is no need to be able to write by hand all the kanji"

That's fortunate really, since the junior high school level Kanji tests that I showed to a few highly educated university graduates were entirely beyond them. Nevertheless, the list of "daily use" kanji that everyone is supposed to learn is set to grow, to include such gems as "momme" (匁) which my iMac doesn't even know - I had to cut and paste that from a web page. Apparently it's a unit of mass equivalent to 3 3/4 grams and used in the pearl industry. "Daily use" indeed.

Update: OK, I'm wrong, momme is being removed, but utsu (鬱) is being added. I can't even see the different strokes in that!


Compare and contrast.

It seems that the father is a serial fantasist and Walter Mitty character who has made up all sorts of stuff in the past. Perhaps he was trying to get his own back at the school for not placing the girl's project in the top 4 in the local competition. Anyway, regardless of the motivation, it's case closed, I think - remember balloon boy?

[jules' pics] Pre-rainy-season raid on Kita Ho

Day 1: Flat trudge

Walking up the Azusa river

Day 2: Steep and scary

Climbing up to Kita Hodaka

From the top: A panoramic view. See the hut perched near the summit.

Panorama from summit of Kita Hodaka

Day 3: Stupid o'clock

Morning light on Yarigatake from Kita Hodaka

Shortly after stupid o'clock

Mountain ranges in the morning

Then we re-traced our steps home. Easily the most frightening bit of the trip was the early morning of the last day, heading off the ridge down the vertical slope, before the sun had softened the snow. No photos of this. Too scared. As soon as we got a few hundred metres lower it got easier, and we even had some fun sliding down the last bit on our arses, using our ice axes as rudders.

Probably just look like normal mountain pictures to you... but I still can't believe we made it to the top (and back) in the snow, and that this famous Kita-Alps ridge was clear all day.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/08/2010 06:13:00 PM

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

[jules' pics] 6/08/2010 12:36:00 AM

Gendarmes, Kita Alps, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Two weeks ago, we said to ourselves that if rainy season hadn't arrived, we'd go and climb the ginormous and snowy Kita Hotakadake (I'd just read Tsubakuro's blog on the subject). The weather called our bluff to such an extent that, amazingly, we couldn't think of a single reason to be lazy, and James is now a pretty patchwork of red and white, due to slapdash application of the factor 40.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/08/2010 12:36:00 AM

Friday, June 04, 2010

[jules' pics] 6/03/2010 07:19:00 PM

Takami-ishi, Yatsugatake, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Another snap from the PAYG camera. It is funny that while James is clearly taller than Fuji-san here he appears dwarfed by some not very big rocks. It must be some sort of optical illusion.

[One again, an amazing mind-reading exposure from the N80s.]

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/03/2010 07:19:00 PM

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Another one bites the dust

5 years, 5 PMs. Ooops, apparently it is 6 in 4 years. It's not as though they are forgettable or anything...

Hatoyama announces decision to step down as premier

I suppose that must mean Shinjiro Koizumi is now 31st in line (there's been another one in the mean time since I wrote that post).

The really good news is that in falling on his sword he's taken out Ozawa too, who by all accounts was the hated corrupt power behind the throne. Whether it makes any difference remains to be seen.

The resignation was all over some unrealistic pre-election pledge to move a US military base off Okinawa. Since there were already binding agreements regarding it, which the USA showed no inclination to renegotiate, there was little chance of this coming to pass. Of course it serves the US well to weaken the DPJ, as they have long supported the (current opposition) LDP who are more clearly inclined to be poodles.

[jules' pics] 6/02/2010 06:12:00 PM

shorts and winter boots, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Having been quite upset that the scans from the first 3 films were cropped compared to the transparencies, chopping off things that I considered important details in my pictures, for the 4th film from my new PAYG camera I took the bold move of opting for the pricier scanning company: 2100¥ to develop and scan one 36 slide roll. Result: No crops! Yay! Furthermore, the scans completely trounce both our Nikon D40 and Panasonic LX3 digicams in terms of both colour depth and resolution. The exposure of the N80s is also amazing. I really didn't expect this shot to come out, with the dark shadows and James' legs being harshly lit by the sunshine.

Such things may not be so important for most photography, but it really seems to make a difference in the mountains and I now have some inkling of why people make the effort to heft those medium/large format cameras and tripods all the way up the mountains.

Of course, I am no where near skillful enough to photograph insects or birds or candid shots of people, or even close-ups of flowers with a film camera, so I still need my digi training wheels. Additionally, the 1-2 week delay of film processing doesn't exactly fit in with the daily blog concept too well! Nevertheless, even with the more expensive scan it is an awful lot cheaper and, importantly for mountains, lighter, than a D700 (221,000¥, 1kg!) which I guess may be closer to it (or better?) in terms of image quality.

[Taken on our last mountain trip to Yatsugatake with N80s]

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 6/02/2010 06:12:00 PM

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Wedding cosplay

I suppose I'd better add the 1000 words to go with jules' recent picture. Don't worry, it won't really be that long.

The wedding situation in Japan seems rather bizarre to us. Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair, as I don't know what people in other countries do, but the process in the UK is roughly like this: two people arrange to meet at a suitable place with a qualified official (who can be either a religious minister or a civil registrar) and a couple of witnesses. There are various set procedures that have to be adhered to, including advance notification of the event and the content of the ceremony which includes a public statement of intent. The process differs a bit across the UK - in particular, outdoor religious weddings are allowed in Scotland (but not England), which is fortunate because that's what we did. Anyway, these two people start out unmarried, and by the end of the ceremony (actually part-way though for the religious case) they are legally, technically, irrevocably, married. Given the life-endingchanging nature of the event, it seems appropriate that it's a reasonably major procedure, and you have to stand up in front of at least a few people and say that yes, you really do wish to get married, to that person, right now, and are legally permitted to do so. Up to the last moment you can turn tail and run.

The situation seems to be much the same in the USA, as far as I can tell. And by induction, that means everywhere else in the world.

But not in Japan.

It took us quite a long time to cotton on to this. I had heard of English teachers (which here general means 20-30y-olds having a holiday from real life) moonlighting as celebrants for "Western-style" weddings, complete with dog-collar, and I'd wondered how that worked. Were they really legally qualified?

Well, it turns out that the Japanese wedding ceremony is a cos-play.


What happens is that the happy couple get dressed up as bride and groom (well, they can wear whatever they want), and arrange a big ceremony and party. But this ceremony and party has absolutely zero legal significance whatsoever. If they were single before, they are still single afterwards. More commonly I believe, they get married some time before-hand (eg).

This of course gives them the freedom to do whatever they want, wherever they want. And call it a "wedding".

A happy couple dressed up as characters from Gundam, getting "married" at the Gundam model in Tokyo last year. More pics here.

In law, Japanese marriage is a purely civil affair. It basically requires a bit of form-filling and bureaucracy in order to change one's (two's) official registered status from single to married. Interestingly, this can all be done by post - there is no requirement for the couple to attend the office, in fact as far as I can tell they don't even have to meet at any time. In the case of the one Japanese wedding ceremony I have attended, the couple were in different continents on their true wedding day, and at least one of them has never visited the prefecture where they "got married". (I do wonder if UK immigration ever noticed this detail, since the Japanese half of the couple has now moved to the UK to be with her husband who is British. Of course it is a "real" marriage in this case, but it certainly brings new meaning to the phrase "mail-order bride".)

This form-filling and bureaucracy does open the door to forgery, eg in this case where a man married his step-daughter without her even knowing. It seems that the victim of this has to actually apply through some bureaucratic process to get the marriage officially nullified, which seems incredible since she never applied or agreed to it in the first place (nor would it be legal to do so).

The Japanese approach also allows for such nonsensical stories as the couple who got "married" by a robot. No they didn't, they just dressed up and acted out parts while a robot bleeped away irrelevantly in the background. They didn't get married by a robot any more than Jules and I got married by a pet rat in the middle of me writing this post. Hey, I wonder if we could get our names in the paper for that.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

[jules' pics] 5/31/2010 05:42:00 PM

Wedding Cosplay, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

While I am sure I haven't yet achieved my aim of my photos being worth 1000 words, this one is, I hope, worth at least a few dozen.

According to Wikipedia: Cosplay (コスプレ), short for "costume play", is type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.

[photo taken at Hachimangu, Kamakura.]

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 5/31/2010 05:42:00 PM