Thursday, September 25, 2008



For those not in the know.

I like big cliffs

I really really want to go to Mount Thor on Baffin Island, the earth's greatest purely vertical drop (an impressve 1.25 km):


However, I really really really want to go to the solar systems biggest cliff, on Miranda, a moon of Uranus. Verona Rupes is a mere 20 km high:

Methane - it's time to panic!

The Independent, not known for being, er, a good newspaper in any respect, has another article designed to scare the shit out of the organic falafel eating contingent in Primrose Hill:


In reality, methane is an issue because it is a greenhouse gas and actually a more powerful one than CO2. It therefore clearly needs to be monitored. According to the IPCC, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen due to human activities but have actually been falling over the past couple of decades. This is a trend that needs to continue and we need to keep an eye on global concentrations. One particular property of methane that helps alleviate concern to some extent is the fact that it has a relatively short residence time in the atmosphere. CO2 sticks around for a long time (this is one of the main reasons why it is such a problem), but this is less of an issue with methane.

Sarah Palin is a fucking nutcase part 1342557

So, if McCain gets the nod and then pops his clogs, the president of the United States could be a person who goes to church and gets protected against witchcraft:

Er........seriously, Sarah Palin has to be a joke. Surely.

There's a longer version, with various scary shit here.

Book review - Brasyl


This is my first book review, so hopefully it's not too clunky as I want to do justice to a really good read.

Last night I finished one of the most enjoyable and thought provoking books that I've read in ages; Brasyl, by Ian Macdonald. This novel is set in three different time periods, all of them in Brazil. The first storyline we are introduced to is that of Marcelina Hoffman, a TV producer in modern day Sao Paulo. Marcelina lives a high octane lifestyle, endeavouring to create ever more outrageous reality TV shows, whilst rushing from meeting to capoeira class, to visit her mother and party with her friends, with whom she generally has fairly superficial relationships. It's Marcelina's attempt to meet a disgraced futbol player and film him that propels her life out of control.

The middle storyline takes us into the future, to Sao Paulo in 2032 where we meet Edson Jesus Oliveira de Freitas, a young entrepreneur, attempting to make his way out of the favelas. This future city is ruled by surveillance, contains a vast trash mountain in addition to the huge skyscrapers and is making it's way into the brave new world of quantum computing. Edson gets involved with a "quantumeiro" and his carefully worked plans begin to come apart.

Finally, it is 1732 and a Jesuit preist, Father Luis Quinn has arrived in Brazil. Quinn is sent on a mission up the River Amazon to confront a missionary turned rogue. He is accompanied by Robert Falcon, a French geographer, a rationalist and intellectual sparring partner for Quinn. This proto-Brazil is a brutal place, in which the native "indios" are enslaved and the country is stripped of its natural resources.

All the principal characters are well sketched, believeable and engaging. However, the real strength of this book is Macdonald's evocation of Brazil. He throws you in at the deep end, with liberal usage of Portugese and coloquial Brazilian language. Helpfully there is a glossary included at the back (which I didn't notice till around halfway through). This lingustic approach has the effect of immersing you in his vivid descriptions of Brazilian culture and way of life. It's really one of the most evocative descriptions of place that I've ever read. We go from beach, to favela, to improvised community chruch. From the obsession with futbol, to the old lady who keeps a book of weeping to commemorate her lost sons. I can't praise it highly enough.

Around all this we have the main plot. Which I don't really want to give too much away about. However, the three main storylines are all linked by a narrative that touches on quantum theory and the nature of reality. If this sounds heavy it isn't; there is a real lightness of touch. Plus some really cool knife fights.

If you are in any way interested in SciFi, big ideas, Brazil or simply highly imaginative, beautifully writen books, then this one's for you.