the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

las malvinas son britanicas

bald men still fighting over comb

in politics , Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, and the Falkland Islanders have voted to remain British. There’s a surprise. It’s difficult to form an opinion on this. I’ve been both to the Falklands and Argentina, and it seems that positions are fairly entrenched on both sides, although in Argentina the average person doesn’t seem to be all that bothered about it, despite constant wild-eyed hectoring by Margaret Thatcher

Cristina Kirchner.

Drm dp2 20130112 0514

They haven’t quite got over that little incident yet…


Bennies Malvinistas

Falkland Islanders never struck me as a particularly pleasant bunch of people, and the place itself is as miserable as a wet weekend in, well, Stanley. But it has to be said there is no tenable position for the the Argentinian Republic to claim them.  I really like Argentina, and Argentinians, but collectively as a nation they don’t have a terribly good record of peaceful neighbourly relations. They seem just a little insecure, why heaven’s knows, they have no reason to be.

Everywhere you go in Argentina, you can’t get away from being reminded that Las Malvinas son (no they’re not and never were) y seran (unlikely, the way they’re going about it) Argentinas. It gets real, really tiresome and quite frankly detracts from the fantastic natural and cultural riches the country actually does possess.

I guess I could, maybe, be convinced of the geographical argument, but even then Chile might also have a valid claim. But when the looney element of the Argentine body politic also lays claim to South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands (not to mention Antarctica) they go way off the red end of the credibility scale. Why not grab Tristan da Cunha while they’re at it? After all that’s Imperialist Colonist British too! Or why not South Africa, it’s on the same latitude as Argentina!!

I can’t see how this is ever going to get resolved. It would require adult behaviour on both sides, and of course a British government willing to restrain itself from stirring the pot. Fat chance of any of that.


Seymour Laxon

A memorial

in General , Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I thought I might write a few blog posts during our travels in Argentina and Antarctica. But what follows is the last thing I expected to write.

On the evening of January 2nd, in a bar in Buenos Aires of all places, I heard the shocking news of Seymour Laxon’s fatal accident on New Year’s Day. It was difficult to know how to react, but a few hours later I sat down to write some thoughts. Unfortunately they were swallowed by the internet. I’ve been struggling to find a internet connection for the last few days, and I just hope I can remember my initial instinctive thoughts.

Apart from the thin veneer of Facebook, I have not really been in touch which Seymour since around 2001, so my perspective is on “Seymour before he got famous”, sort of. But I doubt that he changed much over the last decade, as he moved from being a drifting, gifted postdoc researcher to a highly respected senior scientist, partner to Fiona and father to Imogen.

I first met Seymour in, I think, October 1988, when I joined Chris Rapley’s team at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, after 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey. Chris had assembled a great team of wonderful people at MSSL, but Seymour immediately stood out as a unique individual. He was welcoming, gregarious, enthusiastic, and although I don’t remember the exact details of our first meeting, I expect they involved a local pub and a beer, or two. Or three. Followed, I should add, by serious, dedicated science.

Seymour very quickly become a good and close friend, and it wasn’t too long before I first heard about, and then met, the object of his desire, Fiona. Over the following years, Fiona also became a good friend, and in turn on occasion a shoulder for me to cry on as well. The evolution of Seymour and Fiona’s relationship was epic and convoluted, major chick-flick grade stuff, but although there were ups and downs, sometimes quite serious downs, Seymour never gave up, and eventually we got the happy ending that perhaps nobody really expected. But they were made for each other, and as two exceptional people they also deserved the happy relationship they settled into.

On the professional front, we didn’t have much direct interaction, as Seymour’s area was sea ice, and mine was mainly shelf and land ice. However on the nascent remote sensing technology front there was plenty to share, and Seymour was always ready to provide help, advice, and solid criticism of the interpretation of satellite radar altimeter data. He was also very open to ideas and approaches which differed from his own, not a particularly common quality in scientific circles. He was a dedicated a gifted empirical scientist, with plenty of respect for the value of field work, but at the same time a solid grounding in physics, mathematics and computation.

But as I slowly drifted away from pure science, then applied science, and the science altogether, Seymour remained a firm and dependable friend. But memories of him will really always be fixed around the time when he wore a series of beloved sweaters up to the point of disintegration, when he pretty much lived out of the back of his battered Ford Sierra, the infamous “Desert Ship”, and when he was always on hand to point out that the pubs were still open. Or indeed to remind me I had a bottle of whisky at home.

I guess this memory I have of Seymour is out of date and fixed in the 90s, but as I wrote before, I cannot imagine he changed that much.

I always meant that we should get together again. I was just too selfish with my time, to preoccupied with my own life, too much self-imposed exiled in Switzerland, and just too antisocial. Actually I was beginning to emerge from this decade-long disappearance, even starting to engage with old friends on Facebook. So it’s ironic that it was through Facebook that I first heard the news.

Obviously there is nothing that can compare to the awful loss for Fiona and Imogen, but the news has hit me harder than I might have imagined as well. Probably the number of close friends I’ve had the good fortune to have through my life so far numbers less than 10, Seymour and Fiona are two of those.

I’ve got very little access to the internet over these weeks, so I haven’t been able to catch up much. But I have seen a few tributes which highlight Seymour’s professional achievements. As much as I respect those, for me the overriding memory is just that of truly wonderful, warm and unique person, a great friend who I sadly neglected (my loss, not his), and who can never be forgotten.

Many people have written their moving and eloquent recollections and tributes to Seymour on this site. Clearly he was a very special person.


People are tricky

Endless repeat

in Music , Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some songs just stick around in my head. Some I could put on endless repeat. Aimee Mann’s “It’s Not” is one I know every single hemi-demi-semi-quaver of, even the 50s Futurama stuff in the background. The lyrics are an absolute masterpiece of sucker punch allegory. And the lines:

so baby kiss me like a drug, like a respirator
and let me fall into the dream of the astronaut
where I’ll get lost in space that goes on forever
and you may call the rest just an afterthought
and I’ll believe it’s you could make it better
though it’s not

still give me goose pimples every single time.

Here’s a live version some kind soul posted on YouTube.  But I think I prefer the original.



Dear customer, we’ve changed your flight

Oh. No, actually we haven’t

in Hall of Shame , Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I don’t why it is, but for some reason airlines, collectively, have managed to produce some of the most god-awful web design and email communication on the Internet.  I’ve sent more than one rant to an airlines’ customer services department asking if I should take the state of the web site as an indication of their general maintenance standards. I should have started a collection of these years ago, but it’s never too late to start.

So, please step up Aerolineas Argentinas, who helpfully wanted to let me know about a change in a booked flight:

Mail aa

My Spanish is rudimentary, but I would say that the gist is that my flight number AR1874 has been changed to AR1874. Ohhh-kay.

Just to confirm, with a snappy graphic:

Mail aa 2

Seems to be consistent. Well, my confidence in their booking system is slightly shaken :-)


Site update

New commenting and other exciting stuff!

in Site Admin , Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I have just made a whole series of behind-the-scenes changes to, which I hope will make it more interesting and more attractive to use.

First of all, commenting. I get quite a lot of comments here. Almost all are spam or borderline spam. Since I moderate everything, they don’t get through. But they do get through the ghastly CAPTCHA. And it means an unfortunate delay for legitimate comments. I could allow comments from members only, but however much I try even my few regulars refuse to sign up, although several hundred did when I ran the site on Movable Type. Possibly I’ve screwed up the template, or possibly nobody can be bothered. But well over a 1000 spammers did manage to register themselves… Unfortunately Expression Engine insists on its member-based approach, and I can’t even seem to “whitelist” regulars allowing them to bypass moderation. In my opinion it’s a real weak area in EE. So I’m going to go with the flow, and try out Disqus comments. From now on all commenting passes through Disqus. Old comments will still be visible, but the Expression Engine commenting interface is turned off. We’ll see how it goes. Of course, this makes “logging on” here pretty pointless for now. But maybe I’ll add some members-only stuff in the future. Who knows.

Next, and starting with this entry, I’m going to try to ressucitate the “Other Stuff” part of this site by restarting the dormant “The evenings out here” blog. It has been raised to full peer status with “photoblogography”, and gets its own seperate tag cloud.  T.E.O.H, to use the short name, has in the past been a repository for general writing, sometimes about music, sometimes general geekery, sometimes about work related stuff. Well, there won’t be much work stuff, as anything writing about anything vaguely interesting I’m doing would be a criminal offence. So it’s going to be more general. I’ve left all the old articles up, but a lot of them are extremly outdated these days. But I still find some of the more unbalanced ranting vaguely musing.

I decided to go with this revival after considering what some of my favourite blogs are doing - such as Patrick LaRoque, Rob Boyer - and also others who seem to go from total zero to fully accomplished guru in two years! I decided finally that my split personality “photography & other stuff” theme was basically my unique “selling” point, so the best thing I can do is to emphasise it. On the photography side, I’m also not so good at the more “photoblog” kind of very regular publishing. I’m more into (self)-curated galleries these days.

Obviously running this site has to fit somewhere in my leisure time, and there’s little of that to go around. I’m also pretty slow at writing articles, although I’ve usually got a least a handful floating around in my head.

Anyway, I hope all the new stuff works, and I apologise for the inevitable bugs. I’d be delighted if you left a comment (unless it involves an incredible business opportunity buying Viagra from Nigeria).

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