juliet: The towers at Canary Wharf seen from Staves Hill in Bermondsey (london wharf)
I've been thinking about air pollution a lot lately. Tower Bridge is shut for Not Falling Down Works, and the resultant tailbacks across South London seem to be making the air significantly worse than usual. Anecdotally, as I walk down to the Jamaica Road*, the air starts tasting weird and my throat starts feeling weird.** The onset of this (I've lived in this area nearly 15 years and I don't usually have problems) precisely matched up to when the bridge shut. It would be hard to argue that there's not going to be more pollution: same number of journeys, give or take, all taking longer so generating more airborne crap. Other S Londoners of my acquaintance have noticed the same; an asthmatic friend is particularly struggling.

But are there figures? Not really: annoyingly, there's no roadside monitoring station anywhere near here, although in 2015 most of the nearby stations to me exceeded the Air Quality Strategy objectives, and it's looking the same already for 2016 even before Exciting Tailback Autumn really got going. This street-by-street map looks more useful but is a "now-cast" only (right now, at nearly 7pm on a Saturday, which shouldn't be super busy, it's at the high end of 'low' on Jamaica Rd; the notes state that 'low' levels of pollution may in fact be higher than is good for your health). I will come back to it on Monday morning. Without a very close monitoring station I do wonder how accurate this is, but looking at the nearish ones would still be informative.

Hopefully this particular batch of badness will improve in December when the bridge reopens. But London's air quality is pretty horrible at the best of times. Checking my postcode on the 'annual levels of exposure' map (data from 2013) they give rates for four pollutants:
  • NO2: my house high end of 'passes' range (37 microgrammes/m3); Jamaica Road well into 'fails' (~67 mcg/m3).

  • Ozone: my house 40 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road a bit lower as apparently ozone reacts with other pollutants so is lower close to busy roads.

  • PM10: my house passes at 25 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road not quite up to the 'fails' range at 31 mcg/m3.

  • PM2.5: my house passes at 15 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road higher but also passes at 19 mcg/m3.


This does not fill me with confidence for my respiratory health (and all the other consequences of breathing in lots of pollution).

Short of moving***, I'm now wondering if there's much I can do about this on my own behalf. (I have already commented on the current London Clean Air study, and have contributed to various similar campaigns over the years to try to fix the actual problem.) Some years ago I tried a facemask for cycling but as the Guardian discovered more recently, these are basically very uncomfortable. It's also worth knowing that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the pollution risks. So whilst a mask might make the air less icky to breathe, it makes walking or cycling around the place more unpleasant in other ways.

In terms of long-term health consequences, the main suggestion from the London Air people is "avoid busy roads" as levels drop rapidly away from them (as seen with my house vs the Jamaica Rd). That's mostly doable. There's some evidence that consuming more antioxidants (e.g. lots of vitamin C) can help protect against the long-term health consequences; I've also seen "more omega-3 fatty acids" suggested (flax oil, hemp oil****). Won't actually stop me coughing, but as "more vitamin C, more omega-3" is a pretty risk-free dietary change, probably worth doing.

The best solution though is probably for Sadiq Khan to get on with making the air actually less vile. I believe the current plan has various aims for 2020. Here's hoping.

* One of the major east-west arteries south of the river; in particular it leads to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which is dealing with a lot of the redirected Tower Bridge traffic. Three minutes walk from my house.
** I'm also getting headaches again and sleeping badly but these might be related to one another and not to the unpleasant air.
*** Though basically to get all that much better than here I would have to move right out of London, not just a bit further out.
**** Or fish oil for non-vegans.
juliet: My rats Ash & Rowan, at 6 wks, trying to climb the outside of the baby-rat-tank (ash & rowan)
I am returned (came alongside at Tilbury around 2250 on Friday night)! Have spent the weekend hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] marnameow, [livejournal.com profile] dogrando, and [livejournal.com profile] uon, which has featured pizza and allotment and beer and so on. And failing to sleep properly. And tidying up / clearing things out. (I have a big pile of clothes & books for Freecycle/whatever; although Pete suggested a plan for the books, of which more anon.)

Anyway. I am too frazzled to say more at this point, tbh (due to only getting 4 hrs sleep last night, or thereabouts).
juliet: (bike fixed)

Southwark Council subsidise a small quantity of free bike instruction for people who live/work in the borough. I checked, & they were happy to do an advanced observation-type lesson, so I thought I'd give it a go.

writeup )

For less experienced cyclists the lesson is usually a bit more structured - he said he'd spend more time on the basics and talking about road positioning. I'd definitely recommend it - even if you do roughly know what you're doing, it's good to have someone point out your bad habits and give you tips. I certainly benefitted from it.

juliet: (bike fixed)

Southwark Council subsidise a small quantity of free bike instruction for people who live/work in the borough. I checked, & they were happy to do an advanced observation-type lesson, so I thought I'd give it a go.

writeup )

For less experienced cyclists the lesson is usually a bit more structured - he said he'd spend more time on the basics and talking about road positioning. I'd definitely recommend it - even if you do roughly know what you're doing, it's good to have someone point out your bad habits and give you tips. I certainly benefitted from it.

juliet: green glowing disembodied brain (branes)
I read this New Yorker article about the Piraha tribe and language yesterday - long but fascinating.

I've never really bought the Chomsky universal grammar thing. More than anything else, it just seems to be unnecessarily complicated. Children are exposed to a lot of language from the moment they leave the womb; to me it would seem more surprising if they didn't pick it up so readily. (And, really, we're talking about 5-6 years to adult competence, which is quite a long time.)

There's also not been very much research done on the extent to which surrounding adults model and correct children's language; and although there has been some research on the sorts of error that children make (which Chomsky claims in support of his thesis, on the basis that certain sorts of grammatical error are very rare/never seen), again, given the extent to which they have models around them, I'm not sure that this means much either. If you never hear construction X, though you hear constructions Y, Z, and A through D, surely it would be more surprising if you experimented with construction X, rather than making mistakes in the correct usage of the other constructions? (The connectionist people are working on computer models of this, with some success.)

Anyway: the Piraha are I think interesting in the extent to which culture and language work together. One of the pro-Chomsky arguments is about the sorts of sign language which deaf children will self-develop; it would be interesting to know what sort of sign language deaf Piraha children would self-develop. My suspicion is that even without being able to hear, the cultural background would affect the grammar; and so Piraha sign language would not fit the Chomskyan universal grammar either.

In other news: I finished my summer dress, which has come out pretty well.

And yesterday I went along the south bank of the Serpentine to work, & encountered elephants! Anyone in the vicinity should go visit them.
juliet: green glowing disembodied brain (branes)
I read this New Yorker article about the Piraha tribe and language yesterday - long but fascinating.

I've never really bought the Chomsky universal grammar thing. More than anything else, it just seems to be unnecessarily complicated. Children are exposed to a lot of language from the moment they leave the womb; to me it would seem more surprising if they didn't pick it up so readily. (And, really, we're talking about 5-6 years to adult competence, which is quite a long time.)

There's also not been very much research done on the extent to which surrounding adults model and correct children's language; and although there has been some research on the sorts of error that children make (which Chomsky claims in support of his thesis, on the basis that certain sorts of grammatical error are very rare/never seen), again, given the extent to which they have models around them, I'm not sure that this means much either. If you never hear construction X, though you hear constructions Y, Z, and A through D, surely it would be more surprising if you experimented with construction X, rather than making mistakes in the correct usage of the other constructions? (The connectionist people are working on computer models of this, with some success.)

Anyway: the Piraha are I think interesting in the extent to which culture and language work together. One of the pro-Chomsky arguments is about the sorts of sign language which deaf children will self-develop; it would be interesting to know what sort of sign language deaf Piraha children would self-develop. My suspicion is that even without being able to hear, the cultural background would affect the grammar; and so Piraha sign language would not fit the Chomskyan universal grammar either.

In other news: I finished my summer dress, which has come out pretty well.

And yesterday I went along the south bank of the Serpentine to work, & encountered elephants! Anyone in the vicinity should go visit them.
juliet: The towers at Canary Wharf seen from Staves Hill in Bermondsey (london wharf)
Tories want to give council tenants money to buy in the private sector - how, exactly, do they get from "social housing as a transitory stage" to "transforming council estates so that people have a sense of local pride and ownership"? Surely the effect would be exactly the opposite - no impetus to care about the local surroundings because you wouldn't expect to be there long?

ION: date I received "please pay us money" letter from LSBU: Fri 31 Aug (after 5pm so could not phone immediately). Date money is due: Tue 4 Sep. Number of times I have so far phoned, got answerphone, and left my number, name, student number, etc (as per request on answerphone): 3. Number of times I have been called back: 0.

(If they refuse to give me my discount for paying on time because of this I will be Very Very Cross Indeed.)

Many more pedestrians than average in Hyde Park. It would be nice if some of them kept up the walking when the tubes return...
juliet: The towers at Canary Wharf seen from Staves Hill in Bermondsey (london wharf)
Tories want to give council tenants money to buy in the private sector - how, exactly, do they get from "social housing as a transitory stage" to "transforming council estates so that people have a sense of local pride and ownership"? Surely the effect would be exactly the opposite - no impetus to care about the local surroundings because you wouldn't expect to be there long?

ION: date I received "please pay us money" letter from LSBU: Fri 31 Aug (after 5pm so could not phone immediately). Date money is due: Tue 4 Sep. Number of times I have so far phoned, got answerphone, and left my number, name, student number, etc (as per request on answerphone): 3. Number of times I have been called back: 0.

(If they refuse to give me my discount for paying on time because of this I will be Very Very Cross Indeed.)

Many more pedestrians than average in Hyde Park. It would be nice if some of them kept up the walking when the tubes return...
juliet: (bike fixed)

I told [livejournal.com profile] ewtikins I'd make some notes of the stuff I've been telling people (notably [livejournal.com profile] uon) about learning to ride a bike in London. And then it got too long to be a comment really so I put it here.

cycling in traffic )

Comments welcome.

juliet: (bike)

Observed on my way to work this morning:

  • An RV1 with a big notice on the back saying "FUELCELL NO EMISSIONS". It had an exhaust pipe on the top of its roof, occasionally spitting out what looked to be steam - it dissipated almost immediately. Hrm, looks like they've extended this project, & that is indeed just water vapour. Good stuff.
  • A motorbike at the junction of Southwark St with Blackfriars Bridge, waiting behind the regular white line instead of the cycle-advance white line. Hurrah. (this is sadly v rare; motorbikes all seem to be under the misapprehension that they are bicycles. Given the amount of engine-revving that goes on, you'd think this would be a difficult belief to sustain.)
  • The Thames looking really very pretty as I came along the Embankment. Lots of red buses crossing Waterloo Bridge with the Eye as a backdrop. I sometimes think I don't pay enough attention to the scenery when I'm cycling, but then keeping one's eyes & attention on the road is also a Good Thing.

In other news: does anyone (ideally someone coming to BMovie tonight, for ease of borrowing) have an ankh necklace I can borrow for the weekend? Required for dressing-up purposes for this pubcrawl whatsit that [livejournal.com profile] dogrando has been up till all hours writing.

juliet: (bike)

Observed on my way to work this morning:

  • An RV1 with a big notice on the back saying "FUELCELL NO EMISSIONS". It had an exhaust pipe on the top of its roof, occasionally spitting out what looked to be steam - it dissipated almost immediately. Hrm, looks like they've extended this project, & that is indeed just water vapour. Good stuff.
  • A motorbike at the junction of Southwark St with Blackfriars Bridge, waiting behind the regular white line instead of the cycle-advance white line. Hurrah. (this is sadly v rare; motorbikes all seem to be under the misapprehension that they are bicycles. Given the amount of engine-revving that goes on, you'd think this would be a difficult belief to sustain.)
  • The Thames looking really very pretty as I came along the Embankment. Lots of red buses crossing Waterloo Bridge with the Eye as a backdrop. I sometimes think I don't pay enough attention to the scenery when I'm cycling, but then keeping one's eyes & attention on the road is also a Good Thing.

In other news: does anyone (ideally someone coming to BMovie tonight, for ease of borrowing) have an ankh necklace I can borrow for the weekend? Required for dressing-up purposes for this pubcrawl whatsit that [livejournal.com profile] dogrando has been up till all hours writing.

juliet: (bike)
Lots of bike discussion lately. For the benefit, therefore, of cyclists & would-be cyclists amongst my London-based readership: cycle guide maps now available online (Java required). Also, Journeyplanner now handles bike-journey planning as well.
juliet: (bike)
Lots of bike discussion lately. For the benefit, therefore, of cyclists & would-be cyclists amongst my London-based readership: cycle guide maps now available online (Java required). Also, Journeyplanner now handles bike-journey planning as well.
juliet: My rat Holly grooming herself (holly rats)
Battersea Power Station to be turned into immensely posh hotel, theatre, more posh hotels, etc etc. (currently awaiting planning permission from the council).

Not sure entirely how I feel about this. On the one hand, it is clearly a good thing that *something*, *anything* be done to stop it from just falling apart altogether (or if no one wants to do anything with the shell as stands, then just knock the damn thing down & use the land - yes it's pretty & yes I would like it preserved, but not at the cost of all that wasted space). On the other hand - immensely posh hotels? Arts & exhibition venue - well, we'll see what exactly that means, I suppose. The last time they did that with an ex-power-station it worked out pretty well. I am politely sceptical about the chances of any of the flats in the surrounding area being remotely affordable (although isn't there some bylaw now that if building flats/houses in London one has to make a certain number of them be social-housing-type-affordable?). I don't know; the whole thing sounds hugely exclusive/rich, & I would have preferred something more inclusive on the site (this is, of course, because I am a big socialist hippy).

I think I come down on the side of 'something, anything', though, currently. And I do like the idea of the new pedestrian bridge, though I hope that it will allow bikes as well. But given that this is about the 3rd or 4th project for the site, it's probably not time to start holding one's breath about it.
juliet: My rat Holly grooming herself (holly rats)
Battersea Power Station to be turned into immensely posh hotel, theatre, more posh hotels, etc etc. (currently awaiting planning permission from the council).

Not sure entirely how I feel about this. On the one hand, it is clearly a good thing that *something*, *anything* be done to stop it from just falling apart altogether (or if no one wants to do anything with the shell as stands, then just knock the damn thing down & use the land - yes it's pretty & yes I would like it preserved, but not at the cost of all that wasted space). On the other hand - immensely posh hotels? Arts & exhibition venue - well, we'll see what exactly that means, I suppose. The last time they did that with an ex-power-station it worked out pretty well. I am politely sceptical about the chances of any of the flats in the surrounding area being remotely affordable (although isn't there some bylaw now that if building flats/houses in London one has to make a certain number of them be social-housing-type-affordable?). I don't know; the whole thing sounds hugely exclusive/rich, & I would have preferred something more inclusive on the site (this is, of course, because I am a big socialist hippy).

I think I come down on the side of 'something, anything', though, currently. And I do like the idea of the new pedestrian bridge, though I hope that it will allow bikes as well. But given that this is about the 3rd or 4th project for the site, it's probably not time to start holding one's breath about it.
juliet: (blue hair jeans)
Gorgeous morning - was rather irritated that for logistical reasons to do with parent-visiting tonight I had to take the tube in so didn't get to cycle. The view out of my window today is superb - the Eye in particular is catching the sun on all its little cars & sparkling rather in the manner of a *really big* diamond ring. Mornings like this I am particularly fond of London; though bizarrely I was also feeling pretty fond of it yesterday whilst cycling home in the rain. It was a good run, though, despite the rain - no wind, & just the right temperature for pleasant cycling.

'Particularly fond of' doesn't cut it, to be fair. I adore London, & always have. I grew up here (albeit out in the suburbs), & I always knew during my 5 years in Oxford that I'd be coming back. It's beautiful even when it's grey and rainy, and more so when the sun shines; it's covered in parks, and sudden glorious bits of architecture that you come across unexpectedly; and even the grotty bits have interest once you start paying attention. It's busy, and interesting, and even though I'd like to try living elsewhere (overseas for a bit), I can't imagine ever wanting my *home* to be anywhere else. Wonderful city.

In other news, I have acquired an SD card for my Treo so that it can be an MP3 player. Unfortunately, it seems that putting stuff onto a 512MB card via the hotsync takes *much longer* than putting stuff onto a 32MB card (either that or it's something to do with the card itself, I suppose). As in, 8 hrs for 22 songs. Halfway through last night I cracked & bought an SD reader for the Mac (only 16quid, mind) to enable me to do this faster. I am a Bad Juliet & must put the credit card away for the rest of the month now.

Which reminds me: does anyone have the Levellers' cover of 'Devil Went Down To Georgia' on MP3?
juliet: (Default)
Gorgeous morning - was rather irritated that for logistical reasons to do with parent-visiting tonight I had to take the tube in so didn't get to cycle. The view out of my window today is superb - the Eye in particular is catching the sun on all its little cars & sparkling rather in the manner of a *really big* diamond ring. Mornings like this I am particularly fond of London; though bizarrely I was also feeling pretty fond of it yesterday whilst cycling home in the rain. It was a good run, though, despite the rain - no wind, & just the right temperature for pleasant cycling.

'Particularly fond of' doesn't cut it, to be fair. I adore London, & always have. I grew up here (albeit out in the suburbs), & I always knew during my 5 years in Oxford that I'd be coming back. It's beautiful even when it's grey and rainy, and more so when the sun shines; it's covered in parks, and sudden glorious bits of architecture that you come across unexpectedly; and even the grotty bits have interest once you start paying attention. It's busy, and interesting, and even though I'd like to try living elsewhere (overseas for a bit), I can't imagine ever wanting my *home* to be anywhere else. Wonderful city.

In other news, I have acquired an SD card for my Treo so that it can be an MP3 player. Unfortunately, it seems that putting stuff onto a 512MB card via the hotsync takes *much longer* than putting stuff onto a 32MB card (either that or it's something to do with the card itself, I suppose). As in, 8 hrs for 22 songs. Halfway through last night I cracked & bought an SD reader for the Mac (only 16quid, mind) to enable me to do this faster. I am a Bad Juliet & must put the credit card away for the rest of the month now.

Which reminds me: does anyone have the Levellers' cover of 'Devil Went Down To Georgia' on MP3?

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