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Very good moon, right exactly now. This is the "Supermoon"; very close and very full.
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This is a follow-up to last year's commercial and retail vacancies post, which was here:

http://aldabra.livejournal.com/845862.html

I took the pics in January, and then the laptop ate the post before I'd finished it, hence the delay. This time I've included closing shops as well as closed shops.

Lots of pics )

Executive summary: I had the impression writing the post that there were fewer vacancies than last year, almost everywhere, but looking at the page source the number of pictures is almost exactly unchanged. There is an enormous influx of coffee shops under way right now. I think there has also been an enormous influx of hairdressers, although I don't interact with hairdressers much and couldn't swear that they haven't always been there. We now have two fish pedicure salons.
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I don't usually forward these things, but this one needs more signatures than it's getting. Europe is consulting on restricting financial speculation on foodstuffs. Consultation ends on Wednesday. The people currently profiting from speculation are lobbying to be allowed to continue, and the people who can't afford to eat properly don't have the time or organisation to counter-lobby and mostly aren't in Europe anyway, so there's a real danger of it going the wrong way.

http://www.wdm.org.uk/food-speculation/consultation
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Do I want to get up at 7am, when the forecast suggests it will be -5 but observation of the correlation between recent forecasts and fact suggests nearer -10, to go and stand on the roof of a multi-storey on the offchance of seeing a totally eclipsed moon on the Western horizon? Introspection suggests that I don't, particularly. I worry whether this means that I have no soul.
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Minus eight is a daft temperature.
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Ice on the Cam this morning.
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My M26 rootstock apple (it's all M26 rootstock; the plan is to wait until it's bigger and then grow my own M26 roots from cuttings) is growing patches of delicate white cotton-wool all over.  None of my other fruit trees is doing this, including the other apple.  Do I need to worry, or will it go away by itself?
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Pleasingly serendipitous; I didn't spot it until I got back from taking her to school.
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Via [livejournal.com profile] nja, an excellent article on scurvy, and why lime juice didn't protect the Polar explorers.

http://idlewords.com/2010/03/scott_and_scurvy.htm
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I made myself a mug of tea and the mug is singing. For a couple of minutes now. I'm sure it doesn't usually do that.
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Oh good, my Internet has come back. I wanted to talk about the demographics of cattle herds in Neolithic European villages (yesterday's lecture).

If you want a self-sustaining cattle herd you need about fifty animals. No individual in the Neolithic can control fifty cattle; it's too big a job. Your village has maybe fifty inhabitants, half of them children. So what you do is distribute the cattle amongst the households, two or three each. And to keep the sustainability and genetic variability going you have to move cattle around between households a lot, through a system of social exchange.

They've done skeletal analysis of Neolithic cattle, and they tend to be much older than cattle manage now. They're not fattening them until they're big enough to eat and then eating them, they're keeping them around for years. Hypothesis: they're too valuable, as a store of social capital, to kill.

Also, you're a household with a cow, in a Neolithic village, without refrigeration. How are you going to eat the cow? The cow contains enough meat to feed a village, and it only keeps a few days before going inedible. If you're going to kill a cow it's going to be a village-scale feast (which takes planning and social organisation: cooking a whole cow at a time isn't a household operation either).

They've done skeletal analysis of Neolithic cattle-keeping villagers too, and they mostly ate grain rather than meat.

Today's lecture was about East Asia, and in particular millet, which was the first crop to spread between China and Europe, because it works on very marginal land and has a very short growing season (45 days, some varieties, compared with five months for wheat).
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The oldest extant piece of string is from 23,000 years ago.
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I appear to have caught the sun, by weeding (part of) the allotment, in the middle of November. Where do I go for a skin upgrade?
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My narcissi, which have been sitting completely dead in a pot on the table all year, have suddenly and spontaneously sprung back into life. They're about 20cm tall, and a few weeks ago the Grauniad colour mag said when your narcissi get to 20cm tall feed them a shot of gin, and they stop growing and toughen up and then don't fall over when they flower. But inexplicably I have no gin. Will cooking brandy do? Or cheap pink wine?

Sadly my Callistemon, which has also been sitting dead on the table all year, is showing no sign of a similar resurrection.
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Yawn. Not a good day. I've been doing things like forgetting to put yeast in the bread, and the world has been doing things like sending next door's surveyor round a week later than he was meant to come and without warning. I was barely coherent this morning. But we got some of our fireworks in before the rain started, and we saw the municipal fireworks, which is a very different experience when you're not trying to take photographs of them; I was much less aware of where individual fireworks were going, and much more attuned to the sounds, than usual. There were patches of low white loud starry fizz that I don't remember from previous years, and coloured lights which I think possibly I do but only from much further back. We were nearer the front, and so more impinged upon by idiots, like the chap taking flash photos, and the woman on her mobile trying to describe her position to a friend: "I'm, like, in a crowd of people."

I do wish the BBC would go on strike on days when I'm at work. I've been listening to yesterday's political commentary. But there's something oddly comforting and 1970s about them going on strike at all.
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So apparently my bank card is about to go contactless, and this is OK because "Using a contactless card gives you the same protection against fraud and misuse as a normal Chip & PIN card", despite you only having to wave it somewhere near a scanner and not use any kind of PIN. Do I infer correctly that Chip & PIN gives me virtually no protection against fraud and misuse?

[Oh, *credit* card only. That's OK, I don't use that anyway.]
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If you're in Cambridge and reading this now, stop immediately and go to the Prehistory Day at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit on Storeys Way instead. Open until 4. Includes breadmaking, tanning, copper smelting, spear-throwing. With demos and hands-on bits. I went last year and it is thoroughly excellent.
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I really don't understand what's going on. They've blown an enormous amount of political capital on withdrawing child benefit from higher earners, in direct contradiction of the manifesto and hitting exactly the constituency that expects this government to be on their side. Savings £1B, justification that the country is broke and this is an essential part of £84B of cuts that they're officially announcing on Wednesday.

Then they spend £7B on expanding nursery provision for deprived two-year-olds and additional learning support in schools, which came entirely out of left field.

Why would they not maintain child benefit as a universal benefit and increase nursery provision by £6B? None of the political cost and all of the kudos, since nobody saw the £7B coming anyway.

(You can't pay for nursery education by saddling two-year-olds with loans, can you? You're not even going to be able to say aha, and now the mothers can go out to work, if you do it at the same time as you're taking £84B out of the economy, because that's going to decrease demand and increase unemployment.)

The Today programme *interviewers* have started interviewing from the position that this is a permanent contraction of the economy (not just of government) and that we're not going to get back to 2007 levels of prosperity. Before the election they were starting from the position that we might be endangering the recovery to Business As Usual and risking a double-dip recession.

(Footnote: I approve of the expansion of nursery education and of child benefit as a universal benefit; I'd ramp up nursery provision slowly, and out of higher-rate tax increases and spending less on third-world wars.)
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