Saturday, October 31, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/30/2009 09:03:00 PM

bicycle cleaning day, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Beautiful day, 18C and sunny.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/30/2009 09:03:00 PM

"The Cove" now on TV/internet

I mentioned this film about Japanese dolphin-hunting before, but now it's made it to the small screen. You can get it on the web here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Stern talking-to

That name really is a bit of a gift to unimaginative headline-writers.

As jules mentioned, we attended another set of Asahi Blue Planet award talks recently, which you can find out about here. This time both of the award-winners were economists, albeit of a rather different flavour. The first, Uzawa-sensei, gave a rather rambling (but interesting) account of the birth and growth of the concept of Social Common Capital, his idea of how to account for the natural environment and social infrastructure that supports society but was basically ignored in standard economic theory. His talk started with the Papal encyclical of 1891 (!) and got about as far as the Papal Encyclical of 1991 before he sort of ran out of steam (and time) and sat down to rapturous applause. There hasn't been a Japanese winner for some time, and the lecture hall was packed, though this may be due to the fact that climate change is high on the agenda these days. I couldn't help but think that mt would have enjoyed the talk (and blogged more usefully about it), it seemed to be right up his street. There are more details about his work on the web page I linked to above, but it seems that the lectures have not yet been published (they will be eventually, judging from previous years).

Lord Stern was rather more down-to-earth, focussing on facts (ish) and figures relating to the economics of climate change, which will be fairly familiar to people who have read (about) his Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. It seemed to me that he was rather too quick to rattle off lists of numbers, probably losing the (general and non-scientific) audience in the process. However, he did provide some pretty clear statements (eg calling for an 80% reduction in emissions from developed countries by 2050, and also pointing out that we'd better start acting rather sooner than that) that probably challenged the (usually docile) audience's complacency and resulted in an unusually lively question and answer session. I'm not talking about riots here, anyone who has been to Japan will realise that the standard experience is a stony silence and at best a couple of anodyne "can't we all get along" suggestions.

I've already complained about the excessively pessimistic approach to climate change that Stern took, and again he included numbers like a probability of 69% that a CO2 level of 550ppm would result in a warming of more than 3C relative to pre-industrial. He also quite clearly talked at one point about the future world being poorer than at present after 2050, despite the fact that all of his analysis is explicitly predicated on compound growth of about 5% per annum for the foreseeable future (specifically, 2.5% in developed, 7% in developing countries). That leaves the world about 4x richer in only 40 years, and none of the climate science credibly suggests mass destruction of the global economy over that sort of time scale and likely ~1C warming. There was also a fair amount of (IMO) magic wand-waving, ie the expectation that all we have to do is impose some tax or cap on carbon (he didn't promote one over the other) and the new technology would come along and save the day. Well, it might do...but it might not! There was also lots of praise for Japan's bold and courageous promises on carbon emissions. I use the terms bold and courageous in the Yes Minister sense, but I think Stern was being encouraging :-) Of course the Japanese are now rowing back as hard as they can (or at least laying the groundwork for a hasty retreat), which should be no surprise to anyone...

In the questions, Lomborg came up, which Stern quite clearly and deliberately dismissed as based on "undergraduate errors" (he used the phrase twice) - specifically, the false dichotomy of Lomborg's either/or approach to addressing the world's problems. On this, I agree with Stern of course. People who suggested that it was unfair for developed countries to take the lead were also given short shrift, though Stern pointed the finger pretty firmly at the USA as the worst offender, and didn't put so much emphasis on the large cuts that Japan (and the rest) would need. However he did not shirk the India/China issue, and dealt with it quite fairly, I think.

[jules' pics] 10/29/2009 08:32:00 PM

Akamon, Tokyo University, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

While Todai (Tokyo University) does include a half-hearted attempt at the cloistery thing, it does Japanese style much better. This is the lovely Akamon (Red Gate).

We were at Todai yesterday to hear Manabe-sensei (he's Suki Manabe to you) tell us all about the Younger Dryas.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/29/2009 08:32:00 PM

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/27/2009 08:57:00 PM

I hope, like all Japanese mountaineers, you can name all the peaks and troughs on this famous ridge. hint.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/27/2009 08:57:00 PM

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/26/2009 08:50:00 PM

leaves, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Starting later this week and for a whole week we are hosting a Let's Internationally workshop, so we seized the weekend and climbed some mountains and also watched some leaves.

The trick now is to not get diagnosed with 'flu before the visitors leave, since if one of us gets it then we both have to stay off work for 8 days.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/26/2009 08:50:00 PM

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't panic!

Swine flu has reached us, actually it reached us a couple of weeks ago now but has been sufficiently boring it didn't merit blogging about. There was a spot of panic with internal meetings and seminars cancelled due to the "risk" of spreading the disease, but the annual BBQ was way too important to be postponed, so we all stood around poking at communal plates of food with our used chopsticks :-)

The concept of sick leave hasn't caught on in Japan, either in law or in practice(*). So people generally struggle into work when they are ill, and infect all their cell-mates, rather than daring to leave their desks empty for a day. However, the current policy is that people who are confirmed infected with swine flu get an enforced 8 days off work, and the same 8 days applies even if you merely have a family member confirmed with the disease. If jules and I play our cards right we could both get 16 days in a row, and probably only feel ill for about 2 of them. Of course this means you have to go and see a doctor when you are probably better off staying in bed...merely being ill with flu doesn't suffice, it has to be the right strain.

(*) I amused myself by asking about the sick leave policy a few weeks back when there was an an-hoc health and safety meeting - the only time such a meeting has been held in the 8 years I've been here, I think it was motivated by preparations for the flu panic. The boss insisted that of course they had a sick leave policy like any reputable employer would, but it was written in Japanese and he couldn't explain it to me (there were some kanji up on the screen at the time). I asked the other people in the room if any of them could explain it to me, and was met with a row of blank faces. I have asked the bureaucracy, and the question has disappeared into a black hole, just as it did when I asked several years ago.

Reply to comment

Our reply to the comment I mentioned recently is now up on CPD, so go and have a look if you're bored enough.

I suppose I ought to point out the discussion to a few relevant researchers who might have some interesting points to make.

Friday, October 23, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/23/2009 03:39:00 AM

On Monday we weren't only making our decadal visit to yasukuni shrine, but were in town to hear Uzawa-sensei and Lord Nicholas tell us all about the economic impacts of climate change. Usually the Blue Planet Prize is a bit ethereal; everyone applauds, goes away and then carries on as usual. This time, however, with economists talking money people seemed much more interested, with fun questions such as Why Can't the Third World Just Pay for It All Themselves?

No photography was allowed, so instead here's a montage of my doodles. Uzawa-sensei is at the top, to his left Lord Nicholas, in the middle is most important person - the simultaneous translator, and the rest are the audience, some of whom were of course asleep. The woman at the bottom had red hair and a white suit with 80s shoulder extensions and she asked how we can make the forests as profitable as the parking lots which they are knocked down to make way for.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/23/2009 03:39:00 AM

Thursday, October 22, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/21/2009 10:47:00 PM

I did promise a few more favourites from Yellowstone...

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/21/2009 10:47:00 PM

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sauce for the gander

Given the amount of time I have spent (wasted?) commenting on the work of others, I am delighted that someone has decided to have a go at one of ours:

Comment on "Using multiple observationally-based constraints to estimate climate sensitivity" by J. D. Annan and J. C. Hargreaves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L06704, doi:10.1029/2005GL025259, 2006

This is now on-line at CPD, which means it has the status of a manuscript awaiting review. I think that GRL refused to consider it due to the length of time that had elapsed since our paper was published. I am in principle highly supportive of CPD in their willingness to host such debates, and think that the open review process should be generally helpful in airing the issues.

Our own comment on the manuscript will be submitted in the near future, so I'll keep my powder dry for now as far as scientific content goes. But feel free to read the manuscript and add your own reviews, positive or negative!

[jules' pics] 10/20/2009 09:38:00 PM

spidey, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Right. Back to the bugs. We've had a massive gejigeji in the house for 2 nights running but I've been too terrified to go and get my camera. Instead here is another nephila clavata. At this time of year they hang everywhere, but mostly above Japanese head height (=my head height), thus it was tall James of the steady hands (my bipod) who borrowed my camera for this one, who is currently camping over our house entrance.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/20/2009 09:38:00 PM

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The other side of Yasukuni

Went to Yasukuni Jinja yesterday to worship the Class A war criminals. No, really, they were incidental to our visit. We were in Tokyo for another purpose, which I'll blog shortly. But I noticed that Yasukuni was having it's Autumn festival, so thought it might be fun to fit in a visit and maybe grab some lunch from the food stalls. When I visited previously in the middle of cherry blossom, the place was heaving (it's one of the best cherry spots in Tokyo) so we were disappointed to find only a sparsely-attended stage with random musical performances (some traditional singing followed by a university brass band), and no avenue of food stalls. Some festival!

In contrast to the imposing approach from the front (pic in earlier post), there is a nice peaceful pond out the back:

Today at lunch when we said where we had been, someone told us that the new leader of the LDP (now opposition party) had visited on the same day (we had seen extra security and some shiny cars but didn't know what it was). They couldn't remember his name so it was perhaps a bit optimistic of me to ask what his political pedigree was. However Wikipedia tells me that he was training to be a lawyer before he inherited his father's seat, so my supposition proved correct. The old guard is dead, long live the old guard.

It also says that he stood for leadership of the LDP three years ago, promising to end the habit of visiting Yasukuni if he was elected. So now the same page says: "On October 19th he visited Yasukuni shrine, despite his earlier promise to the contrary." I wonder how long that will last...

[jules' pics] 10/19/2009 09:32:00 PM

cosmos, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

ahhh... a rest from big bugs and 2-dimensional bankers...

This flower could be an ornamental kind of cosmos. I found it in one of the row of 12 small, square gardens in the east side of Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura. These gardens seem to appear each year. I think that they are mostly put together by local garden companies, and will be there for about a month.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/19/2009 09:32:00 PM

Monday, October 19, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/19/2009 05:01:00 AM

shittybank, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

New citibank tower in Tokyo. The financial crisis must have hit them hard since it seems they ran out of money after building just the front wall.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/19/2009 05:01:00 AM

Sunday, October 18, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/17/2009 11:52:00 PM

caterpillar, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Disconcertingly, this was moving from left to right. So, it seems there is an evolutionary advantage to dressing strangely and giving the impression that you keep your brains in your bum. That must be the explanation for modern celebrity culture ....and I suppose it makes me the bug paparazzi.

[taken outside our house. Maybe some sort of swallowtail caterpillar - it was huge - around 8cm long]

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/17/2009 11:52:00 PM

Saturday, October 17, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/16/2009 11:23:00 PM

Giant Asian Mantis, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Despite her name, at about 6cm, this is not the largest species of kamakiri in Japan. She is, however, a different (and bigger) species from Trevorina. She was unwisely hunting a 5 legged katydid on the path from the bicycle to the house, so I hope she doesn't mind being blogged, as she could so easily have been trodden upon instead.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/16/2009 11:23:00 PM

Friday, October 16, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/16/2009 04:59:00 AM

Nephila Clavata, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Watch out for inchy tinchy spyders on your MTB ride home tonight.

...actually she's not so tinchy...body length 2-3cm.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/16/2009 04:59:00 AM

Thursday, October 15, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/14/2009 09:05:00 PM

Pop!, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

I first visited Yellowstone in 1976 and again in 1978, when it was very large and I was very small, and I particularly remember visiting the Fountain Paint Pot of lovely bubbling mud both times, so I was particularly happy to return and photograph an exploding bubble.

I may blog a couple of other views of Yellowstone, but I made a collection of what I think are the best at this flickr set. If you have a few minutes to enjoy them, and are not on dial-up, I recommend viewing in slideshow mode (click "slideshow" near top right of this page).

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/14/2009 09:05:00 PM

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sea Ice forecasts and outcome

I've not really paid that much attention to the sea ice area myself, but I did take a punt on Lab Lemming's betting pool, mainly because (at the time of my bet) there seemed to be a pretty big hole in the bets close to where the sea ice graph seemed to be heading (based on nothing more than eyeballing the graph). So without any detailed calculations, I chose a value in the middle of the hole, to maximise my chances of winning. I didn't quite win, but was one of the closest few.

More interesting than that, is the performance of the "pros". I use the inverted commas because as far as I know, there is no real history of producing annual forecasts - and neither is there any customer - so these people aren't really experienced forecasters, rather they are sea ice modellers and experts of some sort or another. Note that weather forecasting certainly makes heavy use of both numerical models and experts in atmospheric science, but on top of that it involves experts in prediction. Anyway, here is the final sea ice prediction of the experts, issued in August and based on July data:

Clicking on the pic should get a bigger version, or you can go here for more details.

SEARCH have now published the final outcome, including a comparison with the July forecasts. That earlier set of forecasts happens to be the only month that contains a prediction which exceeds 5, which I'm sure is entirely unrelated to their decision to cherry pick that month. Note also that SEARCH are using a different observational analysis which gives a slightly higher observed value (5.36 versus the 5.25 of Lab Lemming). Also they are using monthly mean rather than daily min. None of this, however, obscures the fact that the forecasts are all wrong, and most of them are very very badly wrong.

Looking at the IARC-JAXA graph, it seemed very obvious through July that the sea ice extent was towards the low end of the pack, but well above the 2007 track and not clearly lower than the other years (the ticks mark the start of the month):

So I don't know what basis the researchers had for expecting such low values. SEARCH helpfully adds that many of the forecasts had their own uncertainty estimates of about 0.4, which means that almost all of them failed dismally to even include the observed value in their predicted range, and one might have been as far as 6 sigma out (interpreting the 0.4 value as 2 sigma). Back to the drawing board for them!

Turning briefly to the "semi-pros", Stoat has a bit of a gloat, although he still managed to lose a bet with Bob Grumbine. However, both of them were a lot further off than me...(but to be fair, they made their bets much earlier too).

[jules' pics] 10/13/2009 08:57:00 PM

Grand Geyser, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

While in Yellowstone, we discovered James' "special ability" is geysir prediction/mastery. How fitting for a reckless gambler Bayesian climate scientist such as he. So, we pretty much saw them all, no matter whether they were due to go off or not. This one is the tallest predictable geysir (James says they are to be called by their proper Icelandic name, and at least it spared us the whole US/UK guyza/geezer quandary.), shooting to around 200ft. Hard to convey in 800 pixels but notice how ipsy wipsy the huge pines are by comparison.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/13/2009 08:57:00 PM

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/12/2009 08:36:00 PM

murodo, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

In contrast to the wastefulness of the Americans, we Japanese know exactly what do with our hot water, and we don't waste a drop.

Unlike in Iceland, no turbines are being driven. No, this is used as bath water, which while perhaps not considered a necessity by all, I guess it might be an efficient use of the energy.

Ironic tone off for just a moment: I wonder how long it will be before the likes of Greenpeace realise there might just be a direct conflict between "clean energy" and ecology.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/12/2009 08:36:00 PM

Monday, October 12, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/12/2009 04:11:00 AM

whoosh, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

hmmm... more than one person now seems to be anthropomorphising the poor bison. I 'm worried now that some may be a little too obsessed... perhaps a psychometric test is in order.

Q: Whose face can you see in this evidence of America's wanton waste of natural hydrothermal power?

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/12/2009 04:11:00 AM

Sunday, October 11, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/10/2009 11:22:00 PM

cloudboy, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Funny how clouds make shapes that look a like real things. I thought this one looked a bit like a cowboy, but perhaps I was hallucinating after too long in the wild west. I comfort myself that I may not be not quite as bonkers as Steve Bloom, who commented that he thinks this looks like this!

Photo taken in the land of no wi-fi.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/10/2009 11:22:00 PM

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I'm not the only one to be surprised by Barack Obama's peace prize. Several previous prize winners have weighed in with their opinions, but for some reason no-one has yet asked for mine - so here they are anyway :-)

I'm an Obama fan, mostly due to him not being Bush (or even whatshisname who lost the last election). However, I do feel that the award that I so righteously earned two years ago has been somewhat devalued by being shared with someone who has achieved so little in comparison with me. Obama's only real achievement seems to be that he has not yet invaded a third-world country (though he still occupies several, of course, and just yesterday announced that he would not even negotiate over plans concerning the continued occupation of Japan). Perhaps that is good enough for a prize these days...

[jules' pics] 10/10/2009 02:51:00 AM

clouds, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Hank Roberts requested clouds so here they are. What is clear is that the sky is much, much bigger over in America than here in tiny Japan (we're back home now). So it really is unsurprising that the different climate models do a better job in some parts of the globe than others.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/10/2009 02:51:00 AM

Friday, October 09, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/08/2009 05:24:00 PM

bison, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Louis: What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?

Thelma: [is too busy taking this photo to answer Louis' one joke-of-the-holiday yet again]

Her Dad: They're just big cows you know, nothing special, and Highland Cattle are much more interesting.

...but they all enjoyed spare rib of bison for supper.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/08/2009 05:24:00 PM

Thursday, October 08, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/07/2009 05:00:00 PM

horsey, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Snapped in the wild west, from the window of our truck.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/07/2009 05:00:00 PM

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/06/2009 07:46:00 PM

raven, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

More exotic wildlife! Japan has jungle crows, which are rather big, but the well fed ravens of the USA are even bigger, and as we all know, bigger is better. Furthermore, the ravens seem to not only be more friendly but also more vocally gifted, saying a number of things other than "CAW".

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/06/2009 07:46:00 PM

Sunday, October 04, 2009

[jules' pics] 10/03/2009 08:22:00 PM

Elk, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

In Europe a moose is an elk, and, we didn't see any on our road trip (Louis, Thelma and her Dad) apart from ones nailed to restaurant walls. This photo is of what the Americans call an elk which is just a quite large deer. Photo was taken in the land of no-wifi.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 10/03/2009 08:22:00 PM