Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rats and Flies

Monday 24th June

I’m feeling a bit like a murderer now. After rats chewed down my sweet corn I popped into a hardware shop in Sitia and bought four rat traps at €1 each. I baited these with chunks of tomato and put them in and around the composter in the back garden. On the first night I got one small rat then on the second night I got two big ugly ones. Looking at the corpses before tossing them into the olive grove behind (where they’ll probably be snapped up either by village cats or sand martins), I couldn’t help but note how similar they were to our chinchilla. But traps are the best way to deal with the problem. One local suggested I buy ‘pastilles’. These are a form of poison. I don’t like poison. The rat will crawl off and die somewhere in pain and then, if it gets eaten by something else, the poison can kill that creature too. It’s a coward’s way because you often don’t see what you’re killing. Better a swift snap resulting in a broken neck or crushed skull. Let’s just hope I don’t wonder round there one day and find myself having to duck crossbow bolts...

Tuesday 25th June
Yesterday I wrote that final additional section at the end of Penny Royal III, or Spear & Spine, and felt I could then safely say I had finished the first draft of that book. I enjoyed writing that section because it had in it one of those moments rather like the one in The Skinner, near the end, where Ambel, in a companionable manner, slaps Janer on the shoulder. The book stands now at over 168,000 words. Definitely no more word-counting from now on. I have a basic list I’ll use as I work back through the books: more about Mr Pace, machines feeding power into U-space, Amistad’s miscalculation of scale and the vague ‘more emotion from the characters’. This list will grow as I edit and as some neater or more-workable ideas occur. Right, to work, starting with the second on the list above.

Wednesday 26th June
That was all I needed when I walked in last night and turned on the TV: Obama on climate change. Apparently Americans are already paying the price with recent disasters. Okay, nothing to do with the fact that there are now hundreds of thousands of people, homes, businesses and infrastructure where there used to be a buffalo herd and the intrepid hunter Two-Dogs-Shagging. Oh, and did the Indians keep climate records? As far as I recollect America hasn’t been around very long. He then delivered the canard that those who doubted catastrophic global warming (let’s call it what it is before the goalposts were shifted) have now conceded that it is true. This is of course the complete opposite of the truth. After 16 years of global warming flat-lining while CO2 has been increasing – precisely what many in the upper echelons of ‘climate experts’ said couldn’t happen, according to their computer models – many believers have been going, ‘Ahem, maybe we over-egged that pudding’. The only people who ‘believe’ we are going to fry without action right now are government ministers who burnt their boats, those making money out of green energy, green anti-capitalists and others on the left who want to use it as a stick with which to beat their enemies, and those strange cloistered creatures at the BBC. Next we had Roger Harrabin, still desperate not to be made redundant from his job as Environmental Correspondent, confirming that everything that Obama said was true and, incidentally, that the man has complete control over the sun because it seems to be shining from his rectum.

Regarding Obama’s aptly timed visit to Africa ... I wonder why the words ‘sleezy political opportunism’ keep leaping to the forefront of my mind.

Sunday 30th June
The temperature here on Crete has hit the sizzle zone. Even up here in the mountains it’s been reaching 30C most days. I’m also finding that not a day goes by without me being bitten by something at least three or four times. There are the mosquitoes that hammer you if you stay late in Makrigialos – you only know they’ve had a go when you wake up in the night scratching a new series of bites. They are always here, however I suspect, along with the Sahara dust, we had a lot of unwelcome visitors blown over too. There are the flies that look like normal house flies until they land on you and start chewing, and then there are others whose bite stings just as much, but which are almost invisible – drifting away from you like a fleck of dust. These last are a bastard because mosquito screens don’t stop them. I’ve been up time and time again in the night spraying round the bed because something decided to snack on my protruding leg. Thinking about all these it occurs to me that I missed an opportunity for some added nastiness to the fauna of Spatterjay. Then again I might save it for another world, where people have to wear armoured suits to prevent themselves being drained dry by mosquitoes the size of bananas.


Leg-iron said...

I don't use poison in the garden in case local cats eat it.

Except slug pellets. It's warm and damp here and the slug population has exploded again. The only reliable alternative to slug pellets is to wander the garden at night with a torch and a lump hammer.

The cat's aren't interested in the little blue pellets so they're okay.

Graeme Finch said...

Festering midge bites (approx 2mm black and white checker pattern on wings), itch like an itchy thing with extra itchiness and over the course of three or four days leave a very shallow open wound like a graze or burst blister and then weep for a week, and itch around the edge.

I reckon if they were the size of bananas the affected area would melt, and the limb below the bite would simply drop off.

Neal Asher said...

Leg Iron, slug pellets here too, since snails swarm in the millions here if it's wet. Not sure how the Cretans feel about me poisoning their dinner, though.

Arm drops off, notes made for future reference, Graeme.

bascule said...

They miss Bush in Africa. here

daniel ware said...

There's nothing like the smell of the bush ... Oh, wait...

EMorton said...

Neal, we have those little, almost invisible flies here in Northwestern Ontario. They have been aptly named "no-see-ums". Sounds like the same thing you have there. Nasty little buggers.

Neal Asher said...

EMorton, yes, nasty little buggers, especially so when your eyesight isn't as good as it was. I tend to napalm the area all around me with fly spray when one has a go.

JimV said...

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere recently reached a modern record of 400 parts-per-million. (Prior to 1900 measurements ranged from 180 to 280 ppm; bubbles of air trapped in ice cores show that it has not been above 350 as far back as has been measured which is about 100,000 years.) So let's summarize:
1. IPCC was not the most likely scenario, merely the minimum scenario of which they could be scientifically certain. Better assessments have shown that 400 ppm corresponds to an increase of 1 degree F beyond what has happened now globally and 14 degrees in the Arctic, causing a cascade of effects which 3 million years ago resulted in a 100-foot rise in sea level. This would wipe out at least 1/2 the Earth's arable land (in deltas).
2. It will effectively not be possible to return to a 350 ppm (similar to 1990) climate within the next 1000 years.
3. The follow-on effects of Arctic melting (e.g., more albedo-related absorption of the sun's heat) will lead to an additional 1 degree F heating due to permafrost melt within the next 70 years, with an additional 1 degree possible from methane release.
4. Increased water vapor absorption in the atmosphere leads to an increase of perhaps 10 feet higher storm surge and double the wind power of storms per 1 degree Celsius, as already reflected in Hurricane Sandy and to some extent in recent tornadoes. Movement of the "temperate zone" north in the next 40 years leads to catastrophic drought over almost all of the area from Canada/Soviet Union south to about Argentina/South Africa. As in the Dust Bowl, periodic torrential rains merely bounce off the hard dirt. Loss of snow cover removes much of the runoff for agriculture, with aquifers now in danger from over-use. Present projections are that this will occur by between 2050 and 2070.
5. Following on to the September melting of the Arctic ice cap on or before 2016, accelerated Greenland and West Antarctic melting leads to a rise in sea level of 1 foot by 2050 and 15 feet by 2100. The 100-foot rise in sea level would therefore occur by about 2200.
6. Failure to cut carbon emissions in absolute terms compared to today (that includes the 4.2 reduction by the US -- pathetically inadequate -- over 2008-2011 and the more-than-offsetting increase by China) will lead to 1000 ppm by 2100. Reaching 550 ppm would lead to an additional 2 degrees C of warming and reaching 1000 ppm would add almost 2.8 degrees beyond that. We are thus talking about perhaps 13 degrees Fahrenheit rise by 2100, the way we are going. Sea level would therefore be on a track for a total 220-foot rise, while acidification of the oceans would kill off most sea species and foster iron blooms that might periodically release toxic sulfur fumes on sea-bordering land.

I am not any sort of expert on this, but have followed this issue on several science blogs, and from what I understand the above sounds reasonably accurate to me.

The "Fermi Paradox" is due to the scientist Enrico Fermi who asked something like, if there are all those stars and planets out there such that other intelligent life seems highly probable, where are they all? Why haven't we seen or heard anything from them? I think we are about to find the answer: intelligent life discovers high-energy fossil fuels to power its civilization, and destroys its planet's climate by burning millions of years of sequestered carbon in a few hundred years. (Those that don't destroy themselves in atomic wars or biochemical wars. There are a lot of ways for intelligent creatures to destroy themselves.)

On one side, we have all the scientists I read, from Hawking on, and the National Science organizations of the US, Britain, France, Germany, etc., etc.. On the other side, we have the Oil and Coal companies. My guess is that we are doomed. (Be happy to be proved wrong, of course, and will do my part of whatever it takes to turn things around - including annoying people with this information.)