Tuesday, February 28, 2012

His transgression cannot be condoned, regardless of his motives.

In the latest EOS (oh, and also here on the web):

The success of the scientific enterprise depends on intellectual rigor [sic], truthfulness, and integrity on the part of everyone involved. The vast majority of scientists uphold these values every day in their work. That’s why opinion polls show that public trust in scientists is among the highest of all professions. Public trust is essential because it provides the foundation for society’s willingness to invest in scientific exploration and discovery. It is the responsibility of every scientist to safeguard that trust.

And more besides, from the President, Michael McPhaden.

I encourage all those who are still trying to defend Gleick's actions, to read and consider the article before posting any more...especially those who are desperately clinging on to the faint hope that his "confession" was actually honest. Which seems pretty implausible from where I'm sitting. Don't forget the first rule of holes!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tokyo Marathon

The official 26.2 mile event is today, but we aren't stupid enough to run that far, so entered a rather low-key 10km race yesterday instead, twice round the Imperial Palace, which is an almost exact 5km route which is very popular with joggers. It was pouring with rain in the morning, so we nearly didn't bother going, but the rain stopped at lunchtime right on cue and although the pavement was slippery on one part of the course, conditions were otherwise pretty good.

February running at the Imperial Palace

[Milling about before the start]

After the last slightly disappointing effort in Chiba I wanted to test myself a bit harder so set off rather enthusiastically (just for the record, my half lap splits were about 9:30, 19:40 and 30:00 respectively) and finished in 40:28 which was 2 mins faster than my previous best. And I'm certainly feeling the worse for it today - the bike ride to Yokohama and back was a bit of a struggle.

February running at the Imperial Palace

[The start of the 5K]

Jules ran 51:49, taking exactly 3 mins off her previous Shonan time, and coming in 4th woman!

Considering the route follows beside the moat, it's surprisingly hilly - at least 30m of height gain (and loss) per lap, which according to this site suggests I could have scraped under 40 mins on a flat course. Oh, it's also 48m short (over two laps) according to these guys, but that's a minor detail :-)

Imperial Palace Tokyo

[The scenery round the route was quite pleasant, considering it was in Tokyo]

Friday, February 24, 2012

[jules' pics] Local Cooling

Ume buds
It's been a loong coold wiinter. At the end of last January I'd already been photographing ume for a couple of weeks. We are almost at the end of February and the ume near our house are not yet apparent. The photo above was taken in a warm part of Kamakura last weekend.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/24/2012 09:49:00 PM

Thursday, February 23, 2012

[jules' pics] Let's park

There is a strange tradition on the posh Motomachi street in Yokohama. Every Sunday morning, sports cars come and ... err ... park outside Starbucks. Are they fuelled by coffee beans? Well of course they are all tin boxes to me, but sometimes they are quite bright coloured - just normal Lamboginies and the like. But last Sunday was different. As I walked down the street several rather interesting olde fashioned cars overtook me. I thought to myself - "I bet they're off to park at bucks". Sure enough when I passed Starbucks there they were all - parked. I had my camera ready.
vintage cars on Motomachi

vintage cars on Motomachi

This one was actually later in the day on a different part of the street, after all the vintage ones had finished refuelling but how could I not photograph an MG in British Racing Green?
MG on Motomachi

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/23/2012 09:45:00 PM

A(nother) climate sensitivity estimate using Bayesian fusion of instrumental observations and an Earth System model

The mode of the climate sensitivity estimate is 2.8C, with the corresponding 95% credible interval ranging from 1.8 to 4.9C.

Note that this is a 95% interval, meaning that the upper bound is at the 97.5% level rather than the commonly-quoted 95th percentile (for a 90% "very likely" range).

As I said previously, it will be interesting to see what approach the IPCC takes to this increasing number of "moderate" estimates appearing in the literature (bear in mind that a sensitivity of 3C still means a fair bit of climate change, but not as much as a sensitivity of 6C or 11C would...).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is for-profit publishing dead?

I'm talking about academic journals, of course. People have been grumbling for ages about what a scam it is: academics not only provide the material for free but even pay the journal handsomely for the privilege of appearing in their hallowed pages, then other academics review and edit the material for free, and finally yet more academics pay to be allowed to read it. In these days of electronic transmission and powerful searching and indexing facilities, the added value provided by the publisher appears limited at best, and indeed strongly negative when you consider the sums of money involved. So I am following this initiative with some interest. I haven't signed up yet because I haven't checked how many relevant journals are run by Elsevier, nor whether they are a particularly egregious offender.

As an example of what it actually costs to run a professional outfit, the EGU journals generally charge a publication fee of €24 per "page". The "page" size for this calculation is unusually small (1900 characters), but a typical paper is still only around €600 in my experience, and a previous short comment was the princely sum of €170. This is the total price, after which the resulting paper is open access. Compare to AGU journals, where the basic fee is already often larger (GRL is $500 for 4 pages, and longer JGR papers $1000) even when the final article is paywalled, and the open access option is another $2500-$3500 on top - an obvious indication of the value of our work that we have simply been giving away. I suppose at least with the academic societies the profit might be going to reasonably good causes (such as funding the sterling work of their Ethics Task Force, I presume), but even with their low fees the EGU publication empire runs at a modest profit level, sufficient to fund gradual expansion.

Previously I have grumbled about the EGU stable of journals having a gaping hole in that papers on climate change and prediction - surely one of the largest constituencies of their community - do not have a suitable home (CP and ACP have taken a few climate change papers, but the fit seems tenuous). However, a couple of years ago, they started up "Earth System Dynamics". This looked initially according to its blurb like it might be a bit too Earth-systemy for my tastes, but it's also had a steady stream of more conventional (primarily physical) climate change research. One paper that looks like it could kick off a bit of a bunfight is this one here about diagnosing climate feedbacks from satellite measurements, (which refs previous Spencer+Braswell vs Dessler spats) for which Andrew Dessler was quick to get in a somewhat critical review. I haven't looked at the manuscript carefully enough to judge for myself. Anyway, I'll certainly bear the journal in mind for future manuscripts, and hopefully it will take some business away from the leeches.

Incidentally I think a commenter previously pointed to this paper some time ago, but I can't find where. It seems that enough reviewers noted the somewhat woolly logic behind the climate sensitivity calculations that it did not progress to the final peer-reviewed publication stage. There is also this manuscript which got somewhat similar comments.

AGU Task Force on Scientific Ethics

The Scientific Ethics Task Force is responsible for reviewing and guiding the Union’s standards, principles, and code of conduct on ethics and integrity in scientific activities.

Committee Charge

Work Plan

To be determined

Let me look into my crystal ball and predict its first action will be to elect a new Chair.

Update: well to those who didn't click fast enough and might have missed the point, it seems that a new Chair has already been appointed.

Well this is fun

I know I said it was boring. But not any more!

My instinctive response is:

Peter Gleick, you are a complete and utter twat of the highest order.

It still leaves open the question of the "forged" memo. It does seem more plausible that it was mailed to him, than that he actually wrote it, referring as it does to "high profile climate scientists (such as Gleick)". Rather, his mention on the doc might explain why he was selected as the recipient. OTOH an hour ago I'd not have thought it plausible that he would have actually been the one who obtained all the other files.

I'm laying in stores of popcorn.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I wasn't going to bother commenting on the "Heartland" leaked documents. I mean, what is the actual story here:

"Morally and intellectually bankrupt right-wing-nut so called `think tank' caught engaging in morally and intellectually bankrupt behaviour shock horror."

Or is it

"Washed up has-beens and never-wases well outside the fringe of science get paid to say things that are demonstrably false."

Hold the presses. On second thoughts, don't bother. I challenge anyone, skeptic or otherwise, to say with a straight face that they actually thought that Heartland has ever been engaged in a genuine good-faith effort to improve the quality of public understanding of climate science.

But on the other hand, since they are threatening to sue anyone who dares to mention the documents...

Go ahead, make my day.

[jules' pics] Climbing Myoujingatake

Starting at Daiyuzan

We climbed a lot of steps

tengu and Jamesu

sneaked passed the scary guardians of the mountain
at Daiyuzan

found fungi

and snow
pine cone

and more snow
snowy path

and Fuji-san! This is the 4th time we have done this route, but the only time we have had a really clear view of Fuji-san from the top.

Down in Hakone, an onsen and then a beer. No photo of the former, unfortunately so you will have to imagine the beautiful naked ladies relaxing together in a steamy pond surrounded by trees.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/20/2012 01:02:00 PM

Saturday, February 18, 2012


It's good to see a few more familiar names dipping their toes into the blogosphere. Tamsin Edwards looks like she is going to write here about "how to quantify uncertainties in modelling climate change..." and Michel Crucifix has a few comments here too. Given our own interests in using paleoclimate modelling to help understand model performance, I particularly look forward to hearing more about the PaleoQUMP project whose web pages don't seem to have been updated in the last couple of years. (I assume the project itself has ended, and I know the lead scientist moved to Sydney some time ago, but based on the interesting conf presentations, there must be more papers than Tamsin's nice review in progress somewhere).

[Oh, ok, it is palaeoQUMP really, but this is one occasion where for some arbitrary and hypocritical reason that I cannot fathom, I can't be bothered adhering to what is (I presume) the original correct English spelling. Perhaps it's because I first became familiar with the term via PMIP who seem to have always used the alternative spelling.]

To be honest, I have my doubts whether Tamsin's apparent effort to engage with skeptics is likely to be productive - my position is that anyone who is genuinely open-minded and interested should have no problem finding enough reliable info already - but an increasing diversity of voices presenting similar info from a range of perspectives can only be good thing (as Dan Kahan argued convincingly in this workshop). And with other eminent voices such as Isaac Held entering the fray (some time ago in his case) we must surely be approaching the time when "blogger" will no longer be used as a sneer to denigrate someone whose research you happen to disagree with.

[jules' pics] You and I cycle

I may have gained the Power of Eternal Life, but James has not been idle. He can now unicycle into the sunset. It is a testament to the power of perseverance.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/18/2012 06:35:00 PM

Friday, February 17, 2012

Much ado about nothing: Chris Johnson admits his "denial of entry" story was all based on lies

Japanese immigration is not reputed to be the most welcoming and friendly of departments, though we have never had any problems (indeed travelling though Narita airport in either direction is a positive pleasure compared to the typical experience we have had in other international airports around the world). But it was a little concerning when journalist Chris Johnson popped up with a sob story about how he was arbitrarily denied re-entry after a brief trip abroad. However, he was a bit vague about his visa status, and many people smelt a bit of a rat.

He has now come clean about it - contrary to what he had originally claimed, he didn't have any visa at all, and had been coming and going for some time on a tourist "visa" (actually visa waiver) while he was applying for a new work visa as a freelance - he was keen to emphasise that he had previously held a work visa, but that is hardly relevant since he had let it lapse without attempting a renewal. You won't be surprised to learn that tourists aren't really supposed to work while in Japan. In fact there is a certain amount of quasi-official blind-eye-turning to this, especially while someone with a genuine application is waiting for another visa to come through (as it happens I know of someone in this situation right now, not at my workplace though) but some people seem to survive more-or-less indefinitely with this status. The tourist visa is only valid for 90 days, so you have to leave the country for a few days every quarter, which in practice typically means a weekend in South Korea before returning for a new 90 day tour of duty. After a few trips, though, it must start to look suspicious, and there are many cautionary tales around the internet of people whose luck has run out.

I'm guessing immigration was particularly suspicious this time round because his last trip actually was a quick jaunt to South Korea - even though I have no reason not to believe that in his case it was actually a genuine work-related trip. He still had no visa and no fundamental right to come and work in Japan.

Of course one could legitimately question why Japan makes it so hard for a freelancer to get a visa. The bureaucracy has somewhat arbitrary rules - including typically the need for a single employer who promises an adequate salary - and someone who picks up bits and pieces from a number of sources might find it hard to satisfy this requirement. But the bottom line is, he had no visa, and no right to come and work here just because he had done so at some time in the past. As a claimed long-term resident fluent in the local language and culture, he should have realised the importance of keeping his paperwork up to date. And those of us who do make sure to keep our papers up to date certainly don't need to start worrying that some random functionary is suddenly going to stop us at the border and tell us we can't come home.

Lots of people are speculating that his dishonesty will harm his career prospects: my view of the press is sufficiently jaundiced that I suspect that the attention he has garnered will outweigh that. (More links via JP)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

[jules' pics] The Power of Eternal Life

At last it has come to pass that I can just go and sit down forever under a tree in Kenchoji (pictured above), and not get thrown out of the country for doing so. Yes I have been granted permanent residency, or as the kanji (永住権)may be literally translated, the Power of Eternal Life. I had thought it was going to be merely permission to stay in Japan, but now I realise it is so much more, I don't feel half so bad about the fact it has taken an extraordinary decade and 6 months to obtain. Not a moment too soon either - our job interviews are tomorrow, so when they decide to make an example of one or both of us, we won't be immediately excommunicated.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/16/2012 08:51:00 PM

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh Kei

There's a nice puff piece here for the "京" (kei, meaning 10^16) computer which is currently fastest in the world. This is really Japan's follow-up to the Earth Simulator in the world-beating supercomputer arena, though there have been several new computers installed around the country which are faster than the old ES (not least the ES2 which we currently use, which occupies about 1/4 of the space of the old ES but has about 4 times the processing power). But similarly to the ES back in 2002, the K computer is a big step up and fastest in the world by a big margin.

In fact the K Computer has been the fastest for some time even while still being set up, but has only just recently achieved it's design target of 10 petaflops (10^16 flops, hence the name). Not that it's all rosy - these things cost a lot, and the value may be somewhat questionable: "one great question still hanging over such ambitions is whether Japan will be able to nurture enough scientists capable of exploiting these computers' untapped potential". Well, it's lucky that JAMSTEC isn't in charge of the new computer, as nurturing scientists is hardly their priority...

[jules' pics] wise restaurant selection.

Wakamiyaooji and jinrikisha
To eat at the most tasteless lunchtime restaurants in Kamakura one must be prepared to queue, but the guy at the front of the queue looks pretty grumpy about it. He should have walked 2 minutes to the best Indian restaurant in Japan (perhaps), T-side. There is never a queue there, as the food is really tasty. In fact it is a general rule in Japan, once again opposite from the rest of the world - busy restaurants are best avoided as the food is usually tasteless. Once the flavour gets up to 6/10, the clientele start to diminish. Up to 8/10 the restaurants struggle to survive and often close down.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/15/2012 03:56:00 PM

Monday, February 13, 2012

[jules' pics] CP+

Occasionally it is nice to feel the benefit of living in the world's largest (according to BBC's More or Less) megalopolis, so on Sunday we went to the CP+ photo show in Yokohama to diddle with all the new gizmos. As it happens, this year almost every company has new stuff out - I think they are all just getting back on schedule after the various apocalypsies of last year (tsunamis and floods). While this meant I got to see lots of new stuff, I didn't actually get to diddle with much as there were typically 40 minute queues for the hot stuff (X-Pro1, OM-D, K-01, D800... and if you don't know what those codes are, you probably don't want to know). Not being such a hopeless gizmo geek, James was bored stupid, although we both enjoyed the small area at the back of the hall where there were some actual photographs on display.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/13/2012 08:52:00 PM

Yes, that's really going to happen

Some quango is aiming to triple the number of foreign tourists to 18 million by 2016. The previous target of 10 million by 2010 was missed by miles, and followed by a large decline last year for obvious reasons. It is vaguely reminiscent of the way that the UK realised its feeble short-term GHG emissions target were going to be missed by a mile, so it made up a ridiculous long-term one instead. The recipe to achieve this is to "disseminate accurate information on natural and other disasters" and invest in tourist attractions outside of the main honeypot areas.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn't subscribe to the "build it and they will come" mentality quite as slavishly as seems to be the case here. I'm sure the construction kickbacks will make it all worthwhile though.

Maybe they are planning to engineer a crash in the value of the yen, but otherwise, Japan is extremely expensive at the moment. Of course it's not a problem for us being paid in yen (quite the reverse) but a bit shocking when you compare prices to what they would be in $ or £ right now. A ¥1000 glass of beer (admittedly, that's for good beer) is not unusual, that's $13 or £8 these days. And our stay in the top-notch Westin on Union Square in San Francisco was massively cheaper than the mediocre business hotel that visitors to Tsukuba have to suffer (as if simply coming to Tsukuba itself wasn't bad enough).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

[jules' pics] Piece of Cake

And here is the piece of cake that one must consume after running to work:
SaHa Tortay
It is not as easy as it looks, however since, in order to enjoy this piece of cake one must ask the Starbucks staff for a "SaHa TorTay" while pointing desperately at the cake visible behind the glass. However, it is worth the linguistic gymnastics, as it is considerably better than the cake you get at that Hotel Sacher in Vienna. The "WaHip" (the white stuff) costs 30yen extra and they weigh the plate while they put it on to make sure you don't overdose. Consequently we are wondering if we really need to go to the EGU in Vienna this year.
Erratum: James says that the run to work is only 10.4km rather than 11.5km. Oh well.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/11/2012 09:34:00 PM

Friday, February 10, 2012

[jules' pics] Another dose of Pink

Bet you thought I'd run out of pink, didn't you? James keeps making me run to work in the morning. It is only 11.5km and starts with a 200m vertical climb. Piece of cake ...and each time I am a minute faster. However, these are not my running shoes. No, indeed - but they are normal winter wear for the Tokyoite day tripping to Kamakura, an event which in itself typically requires a few miles of walking.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/10/2012 09:22:00 PM

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

[jules' pics] IPCC First-Order-Draft

Last night I had a nightmare that Susan Solomon and Thomas Stocker (aggh! Now that's a scary photo - click the link) were trying to steal my cubicle. I am very fond of my cubicle as, being by the window, it is warm and bright and sunny every cold winter morning. It can be no coincidence that the reviews for the IPCC FOD are due. Here is a calming Zen temple (Myohonji again) to make it all better.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/08/2012 03:51:00 PM

Monday, February 06, 2012

Our bodies are merging

So says Nature. Actually, this is one occasion where we actually found out first through internal channels, a couple of weeks ago.

It seems a bit random to me. I would say that anything that has the potential to replace JAMSTEC's bureaucracy could only be a good thing, but given the scale of this proposed merger, it may be more likely to just add another layer at the top of the pyramid.

The quote about "slashing wasteful spending" is either hamming it up for the public, or shows a minister rather out of touch with reality. After working here for a decade, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that our primary purpose is simply to disburse Govt spending into the wider economy. They half-heartedly dress it up with the pretence of accountable and competitive bidding for research funds, but that is mostly for the sake of appearances.

It is notable in the above table that the cost per person is markedly higher at JAMSTEC than anywhere else - presumably, this is the effect of having a fleet of hugely expensive boats to maintain. There is another one on its way, in fact - the "austerity" budget having limited this investment to a single ship (and it certainly won't be a dingy or sailboard), when they were hoping for 2.

At this point, it seems like nothing more than a vague plan, and a few of them have come and gone in the past few years anyway (like cutting back on the new "K" supercomputer). So this one might also come to naught. Well, it all makes work for the working bureaucrat to do. How would we cope without them?

[jules' pics] Temple Cat

Myohonji temple cat
Myohonji, Kamakura. I prefer this photo small. Of course you may click on it if you want to see it bigger. It is a very friendly cat, and will come and purr on your knee given half a chance. It will also climb on people's tombstones, and drink the cups of water left at the graves for the spirits.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/06/2012 04:04:00 PM

Friday, February 03, 2012

[jules' pics] More pink

In case you were getting withdrawal symptoms, here is some more pink from Japan. Once again the magic botan (peony) at Hachimangu are flowering. I still have no idea how it is done - such large flowers blooming in midwinter.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/03/2012 09:17:00 PM

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

[jules' pics] not so yum yum

Bowls is popular so should you fail to get in before noon you may have to settle for one of the stalls in the grounds at Hachimangu. You can usually find a toffee grape (I must photograph one of these wonderous delicacies for you some time), but on major festivals there are many alternatives, none of which are at all appetising.

Roll over Scotland, these are battered deep fried whole potatoes:
Stall food at Hachimangu

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki:
Stall food at Hachimangu
Okonomiyaki is batter with various tasteless stuff on. The Hiroshima style being because of the particular stuff. Usually served with a mildly unpleasant tasting sauce.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/01/2012 02:03:00 PM

RSS feed for comments

One limitation of blogger as a host is that it does not seem to provide an RSS feed for comments. Some other blog hosts do this, and sometimes the comments are more interesting than the posts. The closest thing a reader can usually do on blogger is get emailed new comments for a particular post, but only after commenting themselves.

I suddenly realised that it must be straightforward to set up an RSS feed for all comments, simply by arranging for them to be forwarded to a free email-to-rss service. So here it is.