It’s not just us: Ocean heatwaves are changing the landscape beneath the waves.

For those who know what to look for, the world around us is on the move. Every ecosystem on the planet exists where it does because of the abiotic environmental factors that exist in any given location. Temperature, rainfall, prevailing winds, proximity to water sources – all of these things govern what lives where. The temperature is changing now. It’s changing more in some places than in others, but it is changing across the entire surface of this planet.

And so ecosystems are changing too. Range shift was one of the most predictable responses to a warming world. Plants die out at one edge of their range and expand at another, moving like giant, slow amoebas toward cooler temperatures, or more reliable water sources. Animals, not rooted in place, simply relocate. As the 21st century continues, we’ll see more reports of animals showing up where they never did before, and with them will come a variety of problems, not least being new diseases like the one behind the COVID-19 pandemic. For a while, my job involved keeping track of research into range shifts like this, particularly in the New England region of the United States. It’s been happening on both land and sea.

When it comes to the oceans, however, it’s a little harder to track what’s happening, and a lot of the news has focused on things like coral reefs, that see a lot of human activity, and make for dramatic pictures. High temperatures have been linked to coral bleaching and plankton decline, but I have to confess that I never really thought about “marine weather” as having things like heat waves. It makes perfect sense that such events would exist, of course, I just never thought about it in those terms.

Just as heat waves can cause a great deal of damage, and long-term change here on dry land, it seems they can also cause a great deal of change down where it’s wetter:

Changing Temperatures Highlight Management Questions

For example, a 2012 marine heatwave in the northwest Atlantic pushed commercial species such as squid and flounder hundreds of miles northward. At the same time it contributed to a lobster boom that led to record landings and a collapse in price.

“Given the complex political geography of the United States’ Eastern Seaboard, this event highlighted management questions introduced by marine heatwave-driven shifts across state and national lines,” the scientists wrote.

“While these management issues are often discussed in the context of climate change, they are upon us now,” the scientists wrote. “Modern day marine heatwaves can induce thermal displacements comparable to those from century-scale warming trends, and while these temperature shifts do not solely dictate species distributions, they do convey the scale of potential habitat disruption.”

A 2014-2015 Pacific marine heatwave known as “the Blob,” shifted surface temperatures more than 700 kilometers, or more than 400 miles, along the West Coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Alaska. That moved the prey of California sea lions farther from their rookeries in the Channel Islands off Southern California. This left hundreds of starving sea lion pups to strand on beaches.

Across the world’s oceans, the average long-term temperature shift associated with ocean warming has been estimated at just over 20 kilometers, about 13 miles, per decade. By comparison, marine heatwaves have displaced temperatures an average of approximately 200 kilometers, roughly 120 miles, in a matter of months. In effect, marine heatwaves are shifting ocean temperatures at similar scales to what is anticipated with climate change — but in much shorter time frames.

As the article states, this is going to have a lot of implications in the coming decades. According to the World Wildlife Fund, something like 3 billion people currently get a sizable portion of their protein from wild-caught seafood. As the ocean warms, traditional fisheries – already strained by over-fishing – are likely to collapse. This is something we should be preparing for. It may be that increasing the farming of fish will be a viable option, if we can work to reduce the environmental impact of doing so, and it’s probably a good idea to look into things like algae and insect farming to create new sources of protein to take pressure off both fisheries and to make it easier to scale back energy-intensive livestock farming.

As always, there’s a lot of work to do, and not much time in which to do it.

Hey, did you know that in this capitalist hell-world I need something called “money” to get shelter and food? It’s true! It’s also true that because of the global pandemic, there are literally hundreds of people applying for every job to which I or my wife apply, and nobody seems particularly eager to hire immigrants here. If you want to help out, you can do so for as little as $1.00 USD per month (about three pennies per day) at

My patrons are a collection of wonderful people who want to support the work I’m doing, and are contributing a little bit of their earnings to help me keep providing free content here! You could join them in that endeavor, and earn my sincere gratitude, as well as some extra content every month.

Criminalizing opposition: DHS targeting antifascist activists with weapons designed to combat international terrorism

In many ways, I think it shouldn’t be surprising that the government and the people backing the current capitalist order don’t like those who organize under the banner of “antifa”. Capitalism and conservatism have always been uncomfortably close to fascism, not just in who the United States has historically supported around the world, but also in terms of shared ideological tendencies at home. Add common misunderstandings about antifascist activism, the willingness of those activists to stand up to police as well as non-police violence, and the general dislike for authoritarian structures expressed by most involved in such action, and it makes a lot of sense that those with power would want to quash antifascist actors. I think the fact that antifa groups spring up more or less out of nowhere in response to fascist action, means that people who don’t get what’s going on could easily come away with the impression that there’s some sort of organization with nation-wide, or even international reach that’s behind these people, rather than local activists using common tactics and symbology to achieve common goals, without any real coordination. If you want to learn more about “Antifa”, I highly recommend The Philosophy of Antifa by Ollie Thorn at Philosophy Tube.

We’ve reached a point at which global capitalism is not only working against democracy in the current and former colonies of the various imperial societies, but also against efforts to create or maintain democracy at home, particularly in the United States right now. This is situation is fertile soil for fascism, which tends not to threaten established systems of power, but also for various ideologies and movements that question established systems of power, and established ways of distributing resources.

The laws of the United States are mostly designed to make it difficult for any political faction in power to use their control of the government to increase their power and oppose political opposition. The conservative movement in America has never valued these principles, whether it has been the efforts by Democrats in the late 19th century and early 20th century to obstruct the black vote, to the bipartisan eradication of leftist political power during the Cold War, to the modern Republican Party’s decades-long effort to consolidate power through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and a takeover of the judiciary. Even so, one of the better things about the U.S. is the ways in which has become more difficult – though not impossible – to attack political minorities, or to crush movements.

There are various legal frameworks in place that prevent domestic terrorist groups like the KKK from being treated as terrorists, at least in the ways we have come to expect. While protecting the Klan is not good, the same laws that protect them also protect left-wing groups from being targeted by the Department of Homeland Security. Rather than risk someone going after right-wing extremists in the United States, the Republican administration is, instead, trying to tie their left-wing opposition to foreign actors, to get around the law, and allow them to treat anyone labeled “antifa” in the U.S., in the words of a DHS source, “Like Al Qaeda”. 

“They targeted Americans like they’re Al Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in the DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the ’60s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”

While the law generally prohibits intelligence agencies from spying on US residents, many of those protections do not apply if the individual is believed to be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

“Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s a crucial distinction. Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person. The whole apparatus of US intelligence can be brought to bear on someone who is considered an agent of a foreign power.”

Perversely, the way they are trying to do this is by focusing on those Americans who went as volunteers to fight alongside groups like the Kurds in Syria – and the US army – against ISIS.

The intelligence report describes over half a dozen people who traveled to Syria in order to fight alongside Kurdish factions—usually the YPG, but also other Kurdish groups like the PKK and the Peshmerga. Some of the individuals described have denied membership in antifa but variously identified with far-left causes. The DHS appears to define antifa broadly, to encompass various left-wing tendencies: “[A]ntifa is driven by a mixed range of far-left political ideologies, including anti-capitalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism.” In two cases, evidence of antifa affiliation was limited to photos taken in front of an antifa flag. As the intelligence report itself notes, “ANTIFA claims no official leadership,” raising questions about whether antifa even exists in any sort of operational capacity.

The first individual mentioned in the intelligence report, Brace Belden, cohosts the popular left-wing podcast TrueAnon, and fought with the YPG in 2016. The information appears to be partly drawn from a 2017 article on Belden in Rolling Stone. Belden is described as “a minor criminal and drug addict who started reading Marx and Lenin in drug rehabilitation treatment and became involved in a number of political causes before deciding to fight alongside the YPG.”

I’ll repeat, just to be very clear – these people chose to go fight alongside US allies, against an enemy of the US, and that is now being used to justify using international counter-terrorism resources to attack left-wing activists in the United States. The US government is in the process of classifying American citizens as “enemy combatants” in a way that would, based on how administrations of both parties have behaved in the last two decades, cancel out most if not all of the rights that are supposedly guaranteed to all citizens of that country.

More than ever, this underscores the importance not just of opposing the Trump administration, but also the general trend of consolidating and militarizing law enforcement, and of using America’s various armed forces, mercenaries and intelligence services to kill people and destabilize nations around the world.

This is doubly worrying to me given the increasing reliance on so-called “signature strikes”, which kill people – almost entirely using drones – not based on who they are, or what they have done, but based on things like demographics and movement patterns.

So what’s a signature behavior? “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” former ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told the Daily Beast’s Tara McKelvey. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s — well, a chump who went to a meeting.” The New York Times quoted a senior State Department official as saying that when the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.

That day in Datta Khel, the signature behavior was a meeting, or “jirga,” which is an assembly of tribal elders who convene to settle a local dispute. In this case, a conflict over a chromite mine was being resolved. And, in fact, the elders had informed the Pakistani army about the meeting 10 days in advance. “So this was an open, public event that pretty much everyone in the community and surrounding area knew about,” says Stanford law professor James Cavallaro in the video.

It’s also not new for the US government to show unreasonable hostility towards left-wing groups, including things like surveillance of Quakers opposed to the invasion of Iraq, student groups, and other anti-war activists. Because they were anti-war activists. Tying left-wing American activists to foreign actors, for the purpose of declaring them to be affiliates of international terrorist groups provides the pretext to move beyond surveillance to any number of other measures. It means that anyone on the record opposing fascism becomes a target, along with anyone with whom they interact. It means that everyone at the protests this year could “fit the profile” in a way very similar to the justification used to launch missiles at people in other countries, simply for existing in a community. Will drones be used against Americans? It’s hard to tell. It seems unlikely, but we are in unprecedented times, and police have already used a robot to deliver an explosive and kill an active shooter, “based on where the suspect was”. I don’t think we’ll know how close we are to the unthinkable until it has already happened.

It is imperative to get Trump out of office, but that is not nearly enough to stop the trajectory on which we find ourselves. Biden himself has endorsed criminalizing people simply for holding political beliefs that he doesn’t like, and probably doesn’t understand. Democratic Senator Christ Murphy has openly stated that his problem with the botched attempt at a coup in Venezuela was not that it was attempted, but that it failed. Fascism has been described as colonialist or imperialist oppression brought home, and while it can be argued that some version of that has always been in place for minority groups in the United States, it seems like it will increasingly be applied to everyone. That we have not truly addressed racial injustice in this country has always been a colossal moral failing, and lethal to the people who were failed. That will get worse if this trend continues, and expand out to ever-larger portions of the population, as fascism has always done.

First they came…

Hey, did you know that in this capitalist hell-world I need something called “money” to get shelter and food? It’s true! It’s also true that because of the global pandemic, there are literally hundreds of people applying for every job to which I or my wife apply, and nobody seems particularly eager to hire immigrants here. If you want to help out, you can do so for as little as $1.00 USD per month (about three pennies per day) at

My patrons are a collection of wonderful people who want to support the work I’m doing, and are contributing a little bit of their earnings to help me keep providing free content here! You could join them in that endeavor, and earn my sincere gratitude, as well as some extra content every month.

A slight improvement to bad odds: Satellites spot previously undiscovered emperor penguin colonies

The diversity of life on Earth has always been a source of fascination and joy for me. It’s common, in our current society, to focus on things like ecosystem services, and the ways in which biodiversity is essential to human life, and human wellbeing. All of these arguments are valid and true, and in my opinion are important to remember in considering our relationship with the rest of life on this planet.

But there is also an aesthetic value to it. Maybe this is just me categorizing the ways in which biodiversity benefits human mental health, but even so, it’s an angle that’s often neglected, outside of research into how time spent around plants is beneficial.

It makes me happy to know about the strange and wonderful organisms that inhabit this world. I like that the reality of life on Earth is consistently more bizarre and more interesting than any aliens inhabiting science fiction. At the same time, I always feel an intense sense of loss when I remember that we are the only surviving human species on this planet. I can’t help but think that our world and our lives would be richer had our relatives survived, and lived along side us.

Still, we have our more distant relatives, at least for now, and while I’ve come to understand the effort to save endangered species and ecosystems from the effects of human civilization as central to our ability to survive in the long term, it started as something of a gut reaction. My life is better when there’s a lot of other life out there, even if I never get to see most of it in person.

Learning that humans had caused other species to go extinct was hard. Learning that we were still doing it was harder. Many species exist on borrowed time. Others may still make it, but it’s hard to tell. Either way, the chances that any given species will survive tend to be influenced by how large and widespread their global population is. If they only exist in one location, or they’re spread out but there are too few of them, it takes very little to move from a small population to one that faces certain extinction.

That’s why it’s nice to learn that, while they are still in danger, there are more emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica than we had previously thought.

Satellite images have revealed 11 previously unknown emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, boosting the number of known colonies of the imperilled birds by 20%.

The discoveries were made by spotting the distinctive red-brown guano patches the birds leave on the ice. The finds were made possible by higher-resolution images from a new satellite, as previous scans were unable to pick up smaller colonies.

Two of the colonies were a particular surprise. They were found far from the coast, living on sea ice that is anchored to grounded icebergs, a location never seen before.

The new colonies are thought to number a few hundred penguins each, which is smaller than average, so the discoveries increase the total population of emperor penguins by a smaller proportion of about 5-10%.

Emperor penguins are the only penguins that breed on sea ice, rather than land, making them especially vulnerable to the climate crisis. All the new colonies are in areas that are at risk and researchers say these will be the “canaries in the coal mine” as global heating increasingly affects Antarctica.

“The [new colonies] are an exciting discovery,” said Peter Fretwell, at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who led the research. “Whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up to just over half a million penguins.”

I don’t know whether the species will survive. I want them to, and the world will be poorer for their loss if they do die out. It pleases me that we’ve got even a fractionally better shot at helping them make it through the changes we’re forcing them to live through.

Hey, did you know that in this capitalist hell-world I need something called “money” to get shelter and food? It’s true! It’s also true that because of the global pandemic, there are literally hundreds of people applying for every job to which I or my wife apply, and nobody seems particularly eager to hire immigrants here. If you want to help out, you can do so for as little as $1.00 USD per month (about three pennies per day) at

My patrons are a collection of wonderful people who want to support the work I’m doing, and are contributing a little bit of their earnings to help me keep providing free content here! You could join them in that endeavor, and earn my sincere gratitude, as well as some extra content every month.

Canada has lost its last fully intact ice shelf

The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed, losing more than 40 per cent of its area in just two days at the end of July, researchers said on Thursday.

This news comes as the Arctic Ocean is poised to possibly make a new record low in sea ice extent. With the way time passes for humans, it can be hard to wrap our heads around the relentlessness of the way our planet is warming right now. We’ve just hit 75 years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and while we’ve managed to avoid any further use of nuclear weaponry in that time, it may be that what we have done will end up being as devastating as global nuclear war. It was calculated some years ago that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, caused by human emissions, has brought us to a point at which out planet is absorbing and retaining an amount of energy equivalent to four times that created by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, every second. It’s spread out around the world, and it doesn’t come with radioactive fallout, but the heat is still here. 240 atomic bombs per minute. 14,400 every hour. 345,600 every day.

Earth is huge. It takes a lot of heat to make a difference, but that’s the thing about insulation – its effect is constant, and unrelenting. As long as there’s an imbalance, it will just keep trapping more heat than it allows to release. And it accumulates, second by second.

It doesn’t all stay in the atmosphere. Some gets absorbed by land masses, and gets moved around in the atmosphere as water evaporates and precipitates. A vast majority of it has been going into the oceans:

“If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the paper. “Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought.”

Ocean heating is critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions.

And a chunk of it has been going into ice. Some of that has been sea ice, and probably counts as ocean warming, but some has been going into the massive ice deposits around the world. There, again, it’s a matter of accumulation. Glaciers, ice shelves, and ice sheets all exist in a degree of balance. They all lose mass every year, and they all gain mass back every year as the seasons change. The rise in temperature has shifted that balance. Because warmer air holds more water, there are some areas here glaciers are getting more snow than historically, because there’s more water in the air to snow down upon them, but on a global scale, they’re losing mass far faster than they’re regaining it each year.

This means a few things for us. The first is that this rend will accelerate as the temperature rises, and it will also make the temperature rise faster. As the ice recedes, more land and water are exposed, which can absorb more heat than ice, causing faster melting, causing faster warming, and so on.

This also means that melting land ice is going to become an increasingly big part of global sea level rise. A big chunk of what we’ve seen so far has been from thermal expansion of water as the oceans have warmed, and that will continue, but the faster land ice melts, the more of it will pour into the oceans.

It’s difficult to predict exactly how fast the seas will rise. The early damage is already occurring, with storm surges reaching farther inland and regular high tide flooding in cities that didn’t have that problem before. Action taken to slow the warming could slow sea level rise. Sudden collapses of ice shelves could speed it up. What’s not difficult to predict is that they will rise, and keep rising for the rest of our lives. There’s too much heat already in the system for anything else to happen, based on our current understanding of physics. As with so many of the other dangers of climate change, we know what’s coming, and we know a myriad of ways to prepare for it, so that we can ride out the storm, rather than being swamped by it.

Hey, did you know that in this capitalist hell-world I need something called “money” to get shelter and food? It’s true! It’s also true that because of the global pandemic, there are literally hundreds of people applying for every job to which I or my wife apply, and nobody seems particularly eager to hire immigrants here. If you want to help out, you can do so for as little as $1.00 USD per month (about three pennies per day) at

My patrons are a collection of wonderful people who want to support the work I’m doing, and are contributing a little bit of their earnings to help me keep providing free content here! You could join them in that endeavor, and earn my sincere gratitude, as well as some extra content every month.

Think like a Sponge: Global warming intensifying rainstorms in North America

One of the effects of a warming world that has long been predicted, and has caused some confusion, is the way in which higher temperatures will mean more droughts and  more floods. The basic mechanics of it are pretty straightforward, if you learn to think like a sponge.

Image shows a bright orange and yellow sponge growing on the sea floor in a coral reef. It is made of several thick vertical tubes with a rumpled texture on the outside. There's a blue-gray fan sponge or fan coral between a couple of the tubes, and the reef in the background is tinted blue from the light filtering through the water. The color of the sponge is probably so bright from a camera flash.

”                                                                                                                                                         ” -From Thoughts of a Sponge, Volume 7, by A Sponge

Wrong kind of sponge, sorry.

Basically, hot air is like a dry sponge that’s being expanded. It sucks up any water with which it comes in contact. When it cools, it’s like squeezing out that sponge. So in a hotter world water in soil, rivers, lakes, and oceans will be absorbed rapidly by the air, and dumped out in other parts of the world when that air cools down. Because of how air moves around, that can mean that one location will both get bigger rainstorms, and be in a near-permanent state of drought compared to what we’re used to. That means all the harmful effects of heavy rainstorms, but also the harmful effects of water shortages. As with so much else in this field, this is entirely predictable based on things we’ve known for a very long time, despite what the Doubt Industry might do to confuse things, so it’s no surprise that, with the planet warming fast, the likelihood of intense rainstorms is increasing:

“The longer you have the warming, the stronger the signal gets, and the more you can separate it from random natural variability,” said co-author Megan Kirchmeier-Young, a climate scientist with Environment Canada.
Previous research showed that global warming increases the frequency of extreme rainstorms across the Northern Hemisphere, and the new study was able to find that fingerprint for extreme rain in North America.

“We’re finding that extreme precipitation has increased over North America, and we’re finding that’s consistent with what the models are showing about the influence of human-caused warming,” she said. “We have very high confidence of extreme precipitation in the future.”
At the current level of warming caused by greenhouse gases—about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the pre-industrial average—extreme rainstorms that in the past happened once every 20 years will occur every five years, according to the study. If the current rate of warming continues, Earth will heat up 5.4 degrees by 2100. Then, 20, 50 and 100-year extreme rainstorms could happen every 1.5 to 2.5 years, the researchers concluded.
“The changes in the return periods really stood out,” she said. “That is a key contributor to flash flooding events and it will mean that flash flooding is going to be an increasing concern as well.”
The image shows a graph of extreme one-day precipitation events in the contiguous 48 states from 1900 to 2015. The image shows individual years as vertical gray bars, with a nine-year weighted average as an orange line. The X axis of the graph is time in decades, starting in 1910 and ending in 2020 (the vertical bars don't go that far). The Y-axis is

More often than not, when there’s a so-called “natural disaster”, the actual disaster is the result of human malfeasance or error. An event, like a storm, or an earthquake, or a drought, may be natural in origin, but the scale of disaster it causes is often a matter of how well the affected human population is prepared to deal with an event of that nature. Areas accustomed to dry weather aren’t bothered by what amounts to a catastrophic drought in other parts of the world. One of the bigger threats we face from climate change is that we are, increasingly, going to be seeing “the wrong weather” for what we’re used to in any given part of the world. This is something for which we can prepare, because we have enough understanding of how the temperature change is going to affect things.

The droughts could be significantly mitigated by a coordinated effort to capture, clean, and safely store rain water during the big rainfall events. Likewise, infrastructure could be designed to be able to handle a more monsoon-like annual rainfall pattern, while capturing the water needed. Doing all of this is not likely to be profitable, but it would dramatically decrease the need for drought-stricken areas to import water to deal with fairly predictable problems.

Hey, did you know that in this capitalist hell-world I need something called “money” to get shelter and food? It’s true! It’s also true that because of the global pandemic, there are literally hundreds of people applying for every job to which I or my wife apply, and nobody seems particularly eager to hire immigrants here. If you want to help out, you can do so for as little as $1.00 USD per month (about three pennies per day) at

My patrons are a collection of wonderful people who want to support the work I’m doing, and are contributing a little bit of their earnings to help me keep providing free content here! You could join them in that endeavor, and earn my sincere gratitude, as well as some extra content every month.

In Which We Go on an Expedition

Raksha, alas, has arthritis. When I first got her, waaay back in 2007, she was very high-energy, and could run circles around most other dogs we would encounter. As she got older, she started straining muscles when she went all-out, and we had to start being careful how much we let her run. A couple years ago, it took a very rapid turn for the worse. She couldn’t make it up stairs without us lifting her by a cloth under her belly, she wouldn’t eat, she started losing muscle mass in her hind legs – it was all very depressing, and it seemed like she wouldn’t survive another year. We got arthritis meds for her from the vet, and it completely turned things around. Within a month or so she could go up the stairs again.

After we got to Scotland, she seemed to improve even more. We had been worried the move would be too much for her, but she’s been more active, more energetic, and generally happier since we’ve been here. We had to switch her to a different arthritis medication, because that’s what the vet here was able to provide, but it has worked well. It’s clear that her hips still bother her, and they are slowly getting worse, but the meds make an incredible difference.

As a side note – this is one reason why it’s so important to have universal healthcare. For Raksha, having access to this medication has extended her life by two or three years at least, and allowed her so much more happiness than I thought was left to her. For a human suffering from arthritis, or any other debilitating condition, that can mean decades of fulfilling life, simply by having reliable access to the right medication. It should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t, so I’ll say it again – that should be worth more than profit.

Anyway, we’ve been getting her meds refilled by mail since the pandemic started, but when we went to get a refill this time, they told us we had to bring her in. We don’t have a car, a significant portion of Uber drivers refuse to let dogs in their cars, and cabs are expensive, so we walked.

This summer has been delightful for me, and a bit too chilly for Tegan. We’ve had, I believe, one or maybe two days where the temperature might have reached 80°F(26.7°C). Today was in the 60s or 70s, and partly cloudy. It was pleasantly sunny when we set out, with a nice breeze. The walk was something like five miles(8km) round trip, with a couple stops for business/banking, and a couple big hills.

There was a time when neither I nor Raksha would consider that a particularly long walk, but we’re both older than we used to be, and I’ve gained weight (though I’m working on changing that). More importantly, none of us have done much walking since the pandemic started, because there hasn’t really been anywhere to go. We make sure Raksha gets her exercise pretty close to home, but where tiring her out used to take a couple hours of running around, now it takes a quarter of the time. It’s sad to see, but she still seems to enjoy it. Such is life.

The image shows a wrought steel sign between two lamp posts, forming what used to be where one could approach the river to board the water bus. The metal is painted blue. There's a bridge in the background, making it a little hard to read the sign, with reddish and white-ish structural elements. The cement river walk path is visible running behind the Water Bus sign, and under the bridge.

Broomielaw Water Bus sign. The bus is no longer in service, and honestly the river doesn’t see much use these days, except by seagulls. The old sign’s still there, though.

So we walked. Very slowly. Gone are the days where I have to remind her not to pull on the leash.

I’m honestly very fond of Glasgow. It has an interesting mix architecture, a few tall hills that give a bit of a view, and the slightly melancholy feel of a city that used to be a major industrial hub, and isn’t quite as central to global commerce as it once was. There’s a lot of construction going on year-round, and the city seems to be fairly busy most times of day. While Scotland’s re-opening has been going pretty well, there are still fewer people out than there were last August, many stores and restaurants are closed, and where Tegan and I were in the distinct minority with our mask-wearing back in March, they’re now required in most businesses, and about half the people walking around outside are wearing masks of one sort or another. We’re still relying on bandannas, but most people seem to have bought either surgical masks or some of the various re-usable ones that are now so common. I feel like a lot of people’s ears must be a little sore from being used as mask anchors, but maybe not. At some point I plan on whittling myself a wooden mask frame with slots for quilted filters I can run through the wash, but I need to track down some good wood for that. It’s a longer-term project, as I expect that novel viruses and masks are going to be much more present in the second half of my life than they have been in the first.

Anyway, we got to the vet, after stopping to let the dog rest in a couple parks along the way, and experienced our first big change in procedure since the pandemic started. We had to go around the back, call them to let them know we were there, and then wait outside until they came to get Raksha. I think we ended up waiting somewhere over half an hour.

Which brings us back to the weather. No matter what city I’ve lived in, someone would, at some point, tell me that if I didn’t like the weather, I could just wait five minutes. This has always had a touch of hyperbole to it. Not so in Glasgow. I don’t know if this is normal in the rest of the UK, though I expect it’s not far off, but the only time there’s weather that’s constant, particularly from one day to the next, is when there’s rain.

The reason the UK is so warm, despite being farther north than much of Canada, is that the Gulf Stream is constantly bringing heat up from the tropical Atlantic, and blasting the island with warm, humid air. The change of conditions as it leaves the ocean and rises up over this island results in a great deal of water condensing out and falling down. Sometimes there will be rain that lasts a few days, and farther south there seems to be a lot of flooding.

But in Glasgow, the default seems to be that if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and the odds are good that it’ll change. We sat in chairs kindly provided by the vet, in gentle sunlight, and a few minutes later, were the beneficiaries of a gentle, soaking rain. The veterinarian came out, realized it was raining, and gave us an umbrella. I had considered bringing one of our own, but decided against it. About five minutes after we got the umbrella, the rain stopped.

The image shows a stone arch, that appears to be the entrance to a grand, old building that no longer exists. The stone is mostly reddish-brown, with a more gray-colored decorative arch over the doorway, peaked with a cross. Through the door, and around the outside of the arch, other Glaswegian buildings can be seen, making it clear that the lonely doorway stands at the top of a steep hill. The Rottenrow Gardens are a tiered garden with benches and walkways climbing down the hill below, out of view of the camera.

Rottenrow Gardens. A few rows, not much in the way of rot. Naming conventions on this island continue to intrigue me. This is the former site of the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

Raksha got her checkup, and some vaccines. She’s got a lump on her throat that seems to be benign, but it’s also likely the reason she’s been making the occasional horrible hacking noise. Apparently when she lies a certain way, it probably puts a little weight on her windpipe, and irritates it.

We got her meds, and headed back. It was lovely to be out among humanity for a while, and I still enjoy seeing people’s reaction to Raksha. Generally, most people seem to find her charming, and children seem to find her both fascinating and a little scary. A surprising number of them seem to think she might be a wolf of some sort, and I suppose they have a bit of a point. We were dry by the time we got home, and really my only regret was that I didn’t have any money to give to the folks who asked for some. Hopefully I’ll be able to start doing that again soon.

I don’t know how much longer that trip will be doable for Raksha, but she seemed to enjoy most of it, even if it was a bit longer than she’d like. She’s currently sleeping the sleep of one who has done about all she can do for the day, and Tegan and I are feeling just a little bit more connected to humanity. Glasgow is, on balance, a beautiful city. It seems unlikely we’ll be able to stay here as long as I’d like, but it’s a good place to be while we can.

As mentioned earlier, I’m more than a little short on money these days. There are far fewer jobs than there are people looking for them, so the patrons of this blog are our only stable form of income. It’s wonderful to have people willing to pay me for work they can access for free, so I try to show my appreciation with periodic patrons-only articles, and science fiction. If you’d like to support the work I do here, access a little extra content, or just pay for my dog’s food and meds, you can sign up at The beauty of crowdfunding is that no single person needs to spend very much for the cumulative effect to make a big difference. Either way, thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing my work with others, should you choose to do so.

Positive Leftist News Roundup from @mexieYT , plus a couple additions of my own.

We live in terrifying times, my friends. There’s a lot of bad going on right now, both in the world, and in many of our personal lives. There’s real reason to be worried about the future, but as ever, it’s not all bad. Mexie is here with her much-needed positive news roundup for those who want a better future for humans around the globe, and the rest of the life with which we share our planet (sources on Youtube):

Honestly a lot of this stuff is encouraging or downright inspiring. It’s especially nice to see the Dakota Access pipeline being ordered to shut down. The fight against that has been long, and bloody, with Democratic and Republican “leaders” united in their willingness to brutalize Native Americans and their allies in service of the oil industry. I often say that many of the advances humanity has made in the last couple centuries have come from fighting against capitalism, rather than because of capitalism (as many in the U.S. like to pretend), and it’s nice to see people who put their bodies on the line win a victory for all of humanity. We owe the Water Protectors a great deal.

I’d like to add a couple other positive news stories relating to climate change and energy in particular:

First up, offshore wind energy continues to get cheaper. While more needs to be done to limit the environmental damage done by wind farms and the manufacturing of wind turbines, they’re certainly an upgrade from fossil fuels, and it’s good to see wind power increasing, even in a world where capitalist profit is valued over the habitability of the planet.

One reason the price of offshore wind has fallen so rapidly is technology development, in particular the ability to build larger wind turbines further out at sea. Larger turbines can harness more wind energy and have access to more consistent wind speeds at higher altitudes.

The biggest wind turbines under construction have rotor diameters of 220 metres — twice the diameter of the London Eye. At the same time, wind farms are getting larger; the newest wind farm at Dogger Bank has the same installed capacity as Hinkley Point C and is expected to produce about two-thirds of its annual electricity.

The success of UK offshore windfarms, which are now primarily built in the Dogger Bank region of the North Sea, also means the UK has considerable skills and expertise than can be exported around the world.

The researchers also say this success means even more ambitious projects may now be attempted at offshore wind farms, such as producing hydrogen fuels using the wind power on site, out at sea. Hydrogen fuels could be another key technology in helping decarbonise the UK, by replacing petrol used in transportation and natural gas used for heating homes.

On my move out here last summer, it was a delight to see so many wind turbines in Germany, The Netherlands, England, and Scotland. I’m glad to hear that trend is continuing.

Next up, a new study indicates that as we continue researching and implementing photovoltaic solar panels, we’re able to make them last longer.

After correcting for variations in weather and curtailment, the group found, on average, the first-year performance of these systems was largely as expected, and that newer projects have degraded at a slower rate than older ones. This suggests photovoltaics technology has improved over time. Interestingly, they also confirmed that projects in hotter climates tend to degrade faster than those in cooler climates.

Longer-lasting solar panels, and a better understanding of what we can expect from each panel over its lifetime, both contribute to photovoltaics as a reliable source of power. A longer lifespan also reduces the amount of silicon extraction and processing needed for a given amount of energy over time.

I want to express my gratitude to my patrons, whose support continues to encourage me to write, and to help make ends meet in these turbulent times. None of us expected the current pandemic to upend everything like it has, and my patrons are the only reason I’ve been able to make ends meet in recent months. That said, I’m still not breaking even. If you would like to support my work, earn my undying gratitude, and feel able to contribute a dollar or two per month, you can do so at Every bit helps!

Exploring the Wilds of Scotland

While our building’s courtyard is very nice, it’s a little boring sometimes. Other times, it’s a bit too exciting. The seagulls apparently object to Raksha hanging out there during their breeding season, and so a couple months ago, particularly at night, they started making a lot of noise and swooping at us whenever we went out. They never got close enough to be a threat, but Raksha now has a somewhat reasonable fear of flying dinosaurs, and gets nervous every time she hears them.

Ah, the joys of island living.

So we periodically go to a nearby park. Well, I say park. What I actually mean is one of those areas under and around a highway on-ramp where there’s a lot of grass and some trees. It’s surprisingly pretty there, with surprisingly little litter, and the seagulls apparently don’t object to our use of the place.

This image shows Raksha in a field near a highway overpass. The bottom half of the image is green and tan grass, with a few golden flowers, and Raksha. She is a mid-sized mix of German Shepard and Husky. You can see her black fur and tail, her pointy black ears, her white cheeks and eyebrows, and her black eyes and nose. She is waiting for me to throw a pebble for her to chase. Above and behind her is the highway overpass, with a few very tall street lights near it. Some trees are visible in the background.

The Beast lurks in the grass. She would like me to throw something for her.


The image shows Raksha coming closer. She is a mid-sized mix of German Shepard and Husky, with black fur, white cheeks and eyebrows, and some white on her chest and legs. her ears are visible as white triangles with black outlines. She is in a field of green and tan grass with some golden flowers and two concrete highway overpasses and some trees in the background.

The Beast feels that I am not throwing the pebble in my hand fast enough. She approaches, jaws open, to scare me into doing her bidding.


The image shows Raksha approaching. She appears to be having fun. She is panting a little, has one paw lifted up, mid-stride. Her cheeks and eyebrows are white, her eyes and most of the rest of her is black. Her ears are two white triangles with black outlines. The field is green and tan with golden flowers. An overpass and some trees loom in the background.

The Beast approaches. I must now throw something, or face certain doom.


The same scene - tan and green field with yellow flowers and looming overpass. The dog is now mid-leap, facing away from the camera as she bounces after a thrown pebble. Her fur is black, and her ears are two black triangles as she bounds through the tall grass.

The Beast Sproingeth. Now that I have, finally, thrown a pebble for her, she will bounce around in the field looking for it until she gives up, and comes back to demand I do it again. I use pebbles because she never brings back the things I throw.

In her youth, Raksha’s favorite pastime was chasing stones thrown into tall grass. She can’t dolphin around looking for them as much as she used to, but she still enjoys it, and it’s nice to live in a place where I can provide that for her again, now that she’s an old lady.

The image shows a Scottish thistle. The leaves are very spiky. The floweriug is a ball of spikes maybe an inch or two in diameter, with a bright purple tuft at the top. It is a more imposing flower than any of the thistles I encountered in the United States

Feuch an cluaran, suaicheantas nan Albannach


The image shows a thistle plant, with spiky leaves and flowers, topped by purple tufts. Behind it is another plant with light yellow flowers.

Dh ’fhaodadh tu seo a chleachdadh mar chluba.

Urban living really is more pleasant when one has access to even a little pocket of “wilderness”. I’ve even seen a fox in this spot!

If you enjoy these pictures, or find this blog to be a useful resource, please consider supporting me through You can sign up for as little as one U.S. dollar per month, and every new patron really does help a great deal. Aside from helping me make ends meet, you also get access to some patrons-only articles and short stories that aren’t available anywhere else.

On avoiding war: Another must-watch video from @BeauTFC

The Republican party, led by the Trump administration, is pushing the United States ever closer to something like a civil war. In many ways, the protesters and those supporting them are involved in something very like an insurgency, and our goal should be to avoid that crossing the line into warfare. If riot gear is replaced with bullets, that’s bad news for everybody. As Beau has been saying, there are a few layers of bad. The first is the simple fact that there’s no guarantee of victory for those of us who want justice and equality. The second is that even in the event of victory, political change achieved through force of arms generally doesn’t result in a peaceful, just, equitable society. It’s not a path likely to get the results we want.

The third, and most important, is that this movement has the politics of race at its core. If it comes to bloodshed, the people most vulnerable are those who LOOK like they’re part of the insurgency. Right now, Trump’s “Brute Squad” are targeting people who’re wearing black, or carrying shields, or wearing helmets – protesters who stand out.

If we enter some form of warfare, the rules change. People involved in combat can and will work to not stand out, because going toe-to-toe with the armed forces of a nation – particularly the United States – is a great way to get killed, even without fascist terrorists looking to “help out”.

The difference between dark skin and clothing has always been at the core of this. Black people don’t have the option to blend in. They stand out by default, and that makes them the most obvious targets if things get out of control. They already have targets on them, and further escalation will make those targets glow. The same goes for other groups with darker skin, and for people like Muslims who dress in a particular way.

We want change, but we do not want war. We have little control over what Trump and the Republicans do, while they are in power, which means that, as always, the American people have to show more discipline and self-control than the authorities. We need to win the messaging battle. We need to be sure that at every turn it is as clear as possible that the “authorities” are the aggressors. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t defend themselves. Shields, helmets, gas masks – all are good and appropriate things.

But we do need to be clear about what we do and don’t want. We need to be clear about what war would mean both for the country as a whole, and for the people in whose name this movement began.

As always, Beau of The Fifth Column has made a video that everyone should hear. He talks about the numbers of what war would actually mean for the United States.

Just as importantly, he talks about the steps people can be taking right now, both to avoid war, and to start creating the change we DO want without the need for bloodshed. Please watch the video. If you’re unable to, and the captions provided by Youtube don’t work for you, let me know and I’ll either find or make a transcript.

Obviously I still need financial support, and if you’re able to contribute at That said, I think the work showcased in this video is more important than what I’m doing. If you can, please consider supporting it at And take the advice in this video.

Musical interlude

Well, shockingly my involved post on insurgencies, American political unrest, and avoiding civil war is taking longer than planned. Doesn’t help that I spent several hours working from the wrong edition of the Army manual. Sigh.

Time for a break and some sleep.

In the meantime, here’s a lovely song about strike-breakers: