Friday, December 20, 2013

Tourist walks off pier while browsing on Facebook

If you read the article that was published in the Guardian under the heading Tourist walks off pier while browsing on Facebook, you'll know why I tend to stay clear of Facebook ;-)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Zerstörung des Heidelberger Schlossses / Destruction of Heidelberg Castle

Interesting article in today's RNZ (in German), with link to video animation of the destruction of Heidelberg Castle (with English commentary).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

HE Translations joins call on the Treasury to stop attempting to delay and undermine the 4th Carbon Budget

HE Translations joins call on the Treasury to stop attempting to delay and undermine the 4th Carbon Budget, in line with this morning's statement by the Committee on Climate Change that, if anything, the Budget should be strengthened, not relaxed. A full-page advert appeared in the Times today.

Hausboot auf dem Eilbekkanal

Das gibt was her!


Bin durch einen Artikel in der RNZ soeben erst darauf aufmerksam geworden dass heute ein besonders Datum ist!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Week in Germany

The German Information Center USA publishes a weekly newsletter, "The Week in Germany". According to the website, it provides a weekly round-up of German politics, business and culture every Friday. "TWIG" focuses on stories of value to American readers, from German-American business news to German heritage to the best innovations from German scientists. Although it says it is aimed at American readers, I find it quite interesting and relevant for non-American readers.

They also publish a weekly German-language newsletter, which is distributed every Monday. The website says: If you are a German living in America or an American who wants to keep up with Germany and practice your German, sign up for the “Deutschland-Nachrichten” to stay in touch. The content is somewhat different from the English version. I find it possibly even more interesting than the English version, and it is definitely not just relevant for Germans in America or American readers. The German website says: Unser Newsletter "Deutschland Nachrichten" bringt Ihnen jeden Montag Aktuelles zu deutscher Politik, Wirtschaft, Kultur und Sport. Bleiben Sie über das moderne Deutschland informiert und halten Sie Kontakt mit Ihrer alten "Heimat", which sums it up nicely.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

Poignant/moving/momentous/historic front pages in today's Guardian, Independent, Times and others – even the Sun.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

I have to admit that I had (probably) never heard of Black Friday until the other day, when it came up in the context of a special computer deal. According to Wikipedia, the UK has Amazon/Apple/ASDA propaganda to thank for the term.  See here. Closer inspection of the Wikipedia sources reveals that the term is not so new after all – see here – but seems to have trouble catching on in the UK. Perhaps this calls for thanksgiving?

Shortly after I had written the above, I was alerted to the fact that the situation is in fact worse than it initially seemed. Apparently Amazon Germany call it "Cyber Monday Woche". Victor Meldrew comes to mind!

There is another Wikipedia article here, which indicates that Currys, PC World, Comet and Harrods are also 'culprits'. In any case, I'm not sure one could go as far as saying it is 'observed' in the UK. Note also the reference to 'Shopping' as a "Celebrations" category. Sick-bags, anyone?

Especially in view of the fact that tomorrow is supposed to be Buy Nothing Day UK! On a related note, see interesting forthcoming RSA event under the heading Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff. Plus the Story of Stuff.

China's dispatch of jets ratchets up tension over air defence zone

Alarming article in today's Guardian. Let's hope common sense and restraint will prevail.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Let's not forget the moral case for climate action

Excellent article by Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth, at [Update 22 November 2014: I have taken the liberty of reproducing Craig's article below (scroll past the dinosaur image), in case you can no longer access it on the BusinesGreen website]

His comments that "surely it would make sense for humanity to move, sooner or later, from dirty centralised old and fossilised energy to clean, decentralised new renewable energy, delivered by the sun, wind, waves and tides direct to point-of-use? Why remain chained to the limiting infrastructure of the past, when new technology allows extraordinary opportunities for the future?" reminded me a recent article under the heading: An electricity generation system the Victorians would be proud of.

On a related note, see also paper by Prof John Twidell entitled The political and ethical case for renewable energy, available via

All in all, surely the conclusion has to be that the time-wasting and tedious ongoing debate about man-made climate change should be over? The sooner the media, including and in particular the BBC, stop wheeling out climate dinosaurs, the better!

Let's not forget the moral case for climate action
Friends of the Earth argues that while the economic case for climate action is compelling, business leaders need to remember there is also a moral argument to be made
By Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth
20 Nov 2013, published at
Those of us in the business of advocating urgent action on climate change are well practised at using a wide set of evidence based, rational arguments in support of our cause. And, my goodness, there's a lot of them, as demonstrated in the news stories and comment pieces appearing on a daily basis through media channels such as BusinessGreen.
There's the whole Nick Stern type argument which, if boiled down to a tweet goes something like; "There's nothing cheap about runaway climate change. Tackling it will cost our economy far less than ignoring it and is the pro-growth option".
In his original seminal review on The Economics of Climate Change published in October 2006, Stern estimated that climate change threatened to knock 20 per cent off global GDP, equivalent to the two World Wars and the Great Depression combined, while a proactive strategy to mitigate climate change would cost just one per cent of global GDP. There was a bit of a debate among economists about discount rates and other stuff shortly after the publication of his report, but the vast majority of academics, companies and governments broadly accepted Stern's analysis. By this measure alone, the procrastination on climate action by politicians like George Osborne is nothing short of shameful, and hypocritical. Simply put; the longer we dither, the greater the climate deficit we build up for the next generation.
It is worth noting that Stern now estimates that he dramatically undervalued the economic costs of climate change in 2006, and believes that delays in action since have also considerably increased the "costs" of mitigation strategies. Yeah, thanks George.
Then there are the set of arguments that tackling climate change will lead to a better world. Surely it would make sense to stop shivering and properly insulate our heat-leaking homes, for example, even if scientists weren't worried about climate chaos? And surely it would make sense for humanity to move, sooner or later, from dirty centralised old and fossilised energy to clean, decentralised new renewable energy, delivered by the sun, wind, waves and tides direct to point-of-use? Why remain chained to the limiting infrastructure of the past, when new technology allows extraordinary opportunities for the future?
There are many other sets of arguments, of course, and underpinning most of them is the clear message from an ever increasing chunk of the business community that they want governments to put the long term policy frameworks in place to provide them with the confidence they need to scale up their investments in environmental technologies and infrastructure, and speed the transition from a high to low carbon economy.
Regular readers of BusinessGreen will be very familiar with this common narrative, even if some of our political elites and the well-paid minority of mad frothy-mouthed media commentators still don't get it.
But as shocking images from the Philippines continue to appear on our television screens every night, it's time to remind ourselves of the other set of arguments that should drive much faster political action on climate change; the moral arguments.
Since Typhoon Haiyan wreaked its destruction 10 days ago, there has been a good deal of controversy about whether climate change was to blame or not.
Let's be clear; we cannot attribute the occurrence of a specific weather event to climate change. That would be nonsense, particularly just a few days after the disaster. It may or may not be the case that, in time, scientists might feel able to point to evidence suggesting climate change played some sort of role in causing Typhoon Haiyan to be more devastating than it might otherwise have been. This week's New Scientist, for example, has pointed to sea level rise in recent decades having played a possible role in reinforcing the storm surge associated with the storm. And earlier this year, a report by the American Meteorological Society demonstrated that the severity of half of 12 extreme weather events recorded in 2012 could be linked to climate change in some way, with examples including US heat-waves, Superstorm Sandy, shrinking Arctic sea ice, drought in Europe's Iberian Peninsula and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.
It's an interesting scientific debate but, to be honest, a distraction for the politicians and policy makers. That comment might surprise you, but the point is that even if scientists concluded 100 per cent that this particular extreme weather event was caused by Lord Voldermort throwing a hissy fit over Harry Potter winning a game of Quidditch, Typhoon Haiyan would still serve as an stark illustration of the appalling human suffering that extreme weather events pose as a threat to hundreds of millions of people around the world in the decades ahead.
There is a clear moral responsibility on all of us to work together to lessen human suffering as a result of these weather events in the future - in the same way that previous generations took steps to reduce the human suffering associated with slavery, or cholera outbreaks in London because of poor sanitation, or children working in mines.
In the case of the Philippines, lessening the human suffering associated with extreme weather events means protecting coral reefs and mangroves (both of which represent natural buffers from storm surges); avoiding deforestation and the flash flooding associated with it; improving housing and sanitation; strengthening storm shelters; improving rescue logistics; and much more besides.
But, in the 21st century, it also means there is a moral responsibility on all of us to try and tackle climate change because scientists are increasingly confident of the link between a warmer world and extreme weather events in the future (even if the current impact is still a matter of interesting debate). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent Fifth Assessment Report, for example, gave a clear indication that climate change is likely to increase the severity (note; not frequency) of extreme weather events. It cited "enhanced summer monsoon precipitation; increased rainfall extremes of landfall typhoons on the coast" and "reduction in the midwinter suppression of extratropical cyclones" (p26 of the technical summary) amongst many other possible phenomena.
It has become unfashionable to emphasise the moral imperative for action on climate change. In my experience, the business community never discusses it, and even NGOs are guilty of mentioning it very rarely these days. And yet, surely it is the moral dimension of the debate that should and - let's be optimistic - will trump all else?
I'm not as up with my history as I should be. But I'm confident that the debates that took place over the last couple of centuries about the abolition of slavery and votes for women would have included ephemeral arguments, for and against, relating to what we would now call the "business case", the "economic imperative", and questions over "competitiveness".
But as we look back on these debates from our vantage point in the 21st century, it is only the moral case that seems relevant now. The abolition of slavery, and the adoption of universal women's suffrage, now represent seminal chapters in the story of human progress, following on from the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel and the development of agriculture.
And so it will be for the ability of the human species to live within environmental limits too, with tackling climate change a key part of this chapter.
In centuries, hopefully decades, to come future generations will look back and mock the likes of Nigel Lawson, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and the other naysayers that held up human progress by attempting to keep us stuck in the fossil-fuelled twentieth century.
And they will study the lives of the brave pioneers that helped humanity to move forward; the academics like Nick Stern; the campaigners who tirelessly fought for climate legislation and international climate agreements; the activists who were locked up in a Russian jail while defending the Arctic; the business leaders that broke rank; the entrepreneurs that set up the first clean tech companies; the first communities that took control of their local energy infrastructure; and many more besides.
There will be some that laugh at this suggestion, but they are a dwindling minority. More and more people believe that living within our environmental means is the right way to go, even if getting there might not be entirely straightforward. Most people now believe achieving it will be one of the next chapters in the history of humanity.
And for people in business, that should give you more confidence to scale up your investments in environmental technologies, than anything that a here today gone tomorrow politician might say, or do.
Craig Bennett is director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth

Asterix and the Picts - review by Ian Rankin

Good review of "Asterix and the Picts" by Ian Rankin in the Guardian at

Some 'classic' names, such as Unhygienix and Getafix :-)
Even proportional representation gets a mention. I can feel a purchase coming on.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An electricity generation system the Victorians would be proud of

Quote of the month, or perhaps even the year/decade!

It is time that we started thinking of renewable energy technologies as our primary source, with fossil fuels and nuclear as curiosities to be put in a museum along with the other exhibits from our industrial past.


See full article by Rob Such at

Friday, November 15, 2013

Low Carbon City Lecture 2013

Very interesting event (5th November).
See follow-up message from Leicester's Deputy Mayor below, including pertinent links.

Thank you to everyone who attended Leicester’s inaugural  Low Carbon City Lecture last Tuesday evening.

Dame Julia King’s lecture was insightful and interesting and led to a lively question and answer session and discussion. We have already received lots of suggestions for speakers at future events. We are keen to continue this work to encourage a wider debate on climate change and related policy in Leicester and plans for future events will be announced soon.

The evening also enabled us to launch a revised Low Carbon City Action Plan, a copy of which can be found here (

There is also a short report of the evening and Dame Julia’s slides here (

Please continue to tweet your thoughts on Leicester’s Low Carbon plan and Dame Julia’s lecture using #lowcarbonleic

Best wishes

Rory Palmer

Deputy City Mayor

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blast from the past, Part 1 (Planning, roads, transport)

Extracts from Leicester Friends of the Earth scrapbook from the early/mid 1990s.
See also photos of significant Evesham Road demo on 30 October 1993 below.

Update 15 December 2014:
There is a rumour that the Evesham Road Link road proposal could be back on the agenda. This would clearly be just as unacceptable as last time round and would make a mockery of the Environment City title, which Leicester used to be proud of.

Monday, October 28, 2013

‘Why don’t you borrow my cell, Angela, it’s secure…’

Funny picture & caption, some sobering statements:

All governments collect information on nearly all governments. ... However, spying among friends is an ethical grey area and a taboo topic. It can cause great embarrassment, if revealed;

and altogether interesting article at

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Despite the tough talk, this government is far too soft on tax evasion

Good to see Chris Huhne back in action, e.g. with a Guardian article under the heading: Despite the tough talk, this government is far too soft on tax evasion.

Quote: Tory ministers say prison deters crime. Perhaps they should try harder on tax evaders.

Kanalfahrt in Nordengland: Hausboot für Anfänger

Nice Spiegel article (in German) under the title Kanalfahrt in Nordengland: Hausboot für Anfänger. As usual, you can use Google Translate to get the gist (sort of).

Not sure whether we should tell them about our Happy Cranker? Perhaps better not :-)

Britischer Streit um Superzug HS2: Aufstand der Nimbys

I see the HS2 debate has made it into Der Spiegel under the heading "Britischer Streit um Superzug HS2: Aufstand der Nimbys". As usual, you can use Google Translate to get the gist (sort of).

The author of the article incorrectly refers to the project as "die erste Hochgeschwindigkeitsstrecke in Großbritannien" (the first high-speed train line in Britain), obviously not realising that there is already an HS1 (which presumably shares much of its track with the high-speed Eurostar?), hence the name HS2.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Open letter to Tony Hall, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Director General of the BBC, on the platform given to Prof Bob Carter on the World at One programme (Fri 27th Sept 2013)

I recently co-signed an open letter to Tony Hall, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Director General of the BBC, on the platform given to Prof Bob Carter on the World at One programme (Fri 27th Sept 2013)


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Newcastle Central Station has "a dynamic and powerful soundscape"

Quote from the BBC Radio 4 website:

A dynamic and powerful soundscape of Newcastle upon Tyne Central Station using location recordings to tell a story of twenty-four hours in the life of this station - from the spring solo of a robin at dawn on the street outside to the pounding roar of the heavy goods trains which thunder along the rails past deserted platforms in the darkness of the night.
The sound recordist Chris Watson, regularly travels to and from this station and became fascinated by the sounds and acoustics of the building, so when he was granted permission to record inside, he leapt at the chance, visiting at various times during both day and night over several months, to capture the sounds within; from the quiet crackle of the overhead wires on a misty dawn morning to the terrifying roar and clamour of footballs fans and police dogs when Newcastle were playing at home to Sunderland, and the chanting voices and shouts of the fans overwhelmed even the sounds of the trains.
Newcastle upon Tyne Central Station was designed by John Dobson and opened by Queen Victoria in 1850. Entering through a grand sandstone portico " that would give dignity and certainly put Newcastle on the map" says building historian, Grace McCombie, one is immediately struck by the acoustics of this grand Victorian building. The great sweeping curve of the platforms and the vaulted roof above add to the visual grandeur and scale of the Station, "you stand at one end.. and your eye sweeps along the curves and it's just beautiful... brilliant, brilliant design" says Grace "It's like a huge concert hall" says Chris "and it stamps that acoustic on any sound that is generated within the station; the ebb and flow of people, the tide of trains, ... everything that happens in there".

 You can listen to the interesting programme via BBC website.

Guardian comments

I'm not a prolific newspaper article commenter, but occasionally I can't resist, such as in response to the article on Google Translate in today's Guardian.

On closer inspection of my commenting history, I note that over the years I have actually posted more comments than I had remembered.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Elephant March

Today, Sue and I went on the Elephant March in London, and we are glad we did, because the ongoing elephant massacre is a scandal that deserves maximum publicity.

Had a long chat with Zac Goldsmith, mainly about the ivory trade, but I couldn't resist slipping in comments about our so-called Environment Secretary.

For further photos from the march see our online album. See also Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) video about the event and related Facebook entry.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Taking the mobile office concept to new heights

Literally took the mobile office concept to new heights last Friday in view of an allegedly time-critical translation job (receipt of which was only acknowledged today, sigh).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letters in Keswick Reminder: "Nuclear Re-launch Shameless"

See below for letters re. Cumbria 'Geological Disposal Facility' in current edition of local newspaper, the Keswick Reminder. (Sorry about the inferior quality of the second file. In the absence of a scanner I took photos of the letters with my camera. If anyone is interested I can do a proper scan in due course).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Submerged Bicycle Bridge in Haarlem

Thanks to Chris for pointing out an interesting article on an ingenious piece of cycling infrastructure:

The city of Haarlem wanted to create a barrier free passage where a main arterial route for motor traffic and a main cycle route along a river bank crossed each other’s paths. But there was no space for an overpass, and a tunnel right next to a river was not such a great idea either. So designers came up with the plan to lead the cycle route through the river under the approach span of the two existing drawbridges for the arterial road. A perfect idea, but there was just one small problem: there was not enough clearance, the bridges were almost 30 centimetres or a little under a foot too low. So what do you do? 

Read on at

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leading green groups judge the parties’ environmental leadership

The Green Standard 2013, published on 13th September, assesses the environmental leadership provided by senior ministers and shadow ministers from the UK’s three main parties since the last election in May 2010.

The report is pretty condemning.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Backwards Reasoning - or: Could fracking prevent climate change denial?

Good article by George Monbiot at
Shame he still hasn't learned the nuclear lesson though.

The Myth of “Saudi America”

I only just read the excellent article at, which an American colleague who works in the oil industry sent me some time ago.

It will be hard to muster the resources to develop replacements for fossil fuel energy if we wait until both the economy and climate are in ruins. We are in for a hard landing if we don't use our current prosperity to pave the way for a secure energy and climate future.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Julian Huppert: Trident – getting off the nuclear ladder

I have to admit that I hadn't come across Julian Huppert before, but his position on Trident and nuclear deterrence in general seems eminently sensible. You can read his blog post on the subject at

Soap opera [White Queen] offers strong link to county [Leicestershire]

Interesting First Person article by historian Malcolm Elliott in the Leicester Mercury on 16th August 2013. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be available online, so I scanned it.

German Word of the Week: Sonntagsfrage

Wenn am nächsten Sonntag tatsächlich Bundestagswahl wäre, welche der folgenden Parteien würden Sie dann wählen?” (“If the Bundestag election were next Sunday, for which party would you vote?”) asks a typical Sonntagsfrage poll question, asking citizens to envision how they would cast their ballots if the election crept up on them unexpectedly.

Read more in the current German Word of the Week article, published by the German Information Center USA, at

Friday, September 06, 2013

"Translators Are a Waste of Space"


Make sure you watch the whole video at
before you make up your mind!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Germany in Transition

Interesting article at


"Will Germany be able to solve all problems and meet challenges that energiewende has thrown up? Can it meet all its targets?

I believe, it can and it will. The exciting thing about energiewende is not how much renewable energy Germany has installed so far, but how the German government, businesses and civil society are thinking about the energy transition. I believe the German society has crossed the hump.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Boris Johnson: "Forget about trying to contain Germany – we should copy it"

Good article by Boris Johnson at

Shame he doesn't mention energy policy, which is definitely something Britain should copy from Germany!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Minister wrong over windfarms

Sorry to go on about this, but I can't stop thinking about the windfarm unhappiness of our so-called Environment Secretary. See my letter (below) published in the Leicester Mercury today.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Windfarm happiness, part 2

Sent a follow up letter to Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay today.

If you missed Question Time on 6th June, you might want to watch the last few minutes at The relevant 'bit' starts at 51:20.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Windfarm happiness

Letter sent today to Environment Secretary at

Dear Mr Paterson

Rather than embracing wind power as part of a portfolio of clean, renewable energy solutions, which is what one would normally expect from an Environment Secretary, you appear to have reservations, to put it mildly, as evidenced by the article at, for example.

It is a shame you were not present at the recent Swinford Windfarm Community Fund launch event, which was an interesting and happy occasion where a good time was had by all.

The eleven impressive turbines at Swinford Windfarm have been generating pollution-free electricity since November, apparently without causing any problems whatsoever, just like the four turbines at nearby Low Spinney Windfarm. Many observers regard these elegant structures as symbols of a new age of enlightenment that are perfectly compatible with the landscape in Leicestershire and elsewhere.

For your edification I attach a photo of Swinford Windfarm showing all eleven turbines (taken in the evening after the Community Fund launch event), and I am taking the liberty of copying this message as an open letter to various contacts.

Yours sincerely

Herbert Eppel, Pro Wind Alliance founder member

Monday, June 03, 2013