22 Feb 2008

Another Friday Memebog

It's back! A superb example of web publishing at its best, Lost Railways of West Yorkshire disappeared from the net for a while, but now it's back, with quite a lot of new material. Even the links page is a delight: foremost amongst which are Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age and Bradford Villages. These are all sites that do what I would love to do, but do it better than I ever could.

Google have announced a new static Google Maps API. Similar in spirit to the Charts API that I've been using to graph my diabetes monitoring, it would have done nicely for the map of Bradford's SSSIs in my prior post. An equally interesting alternative is Ordnance Survey Openspace, announced earlier this year. Currently in 'alpha', it will be interesting to see how it develops. Currently it has 1:50000 and street-level mapping. However, the latter is bereft of any terrain or footpath features, and the 1:.25000 maps are apparently still considered too valuable. The ideal tool would combine layers for historic mapping, aerial/satellite photography, geotagged images and the OS 1:25000 data; interestingly, some of that exists already at ponies.me.uk.

15 Feb 2008

Friday Memebog

Years ago, before Reddit and Digg and their ilk, there was memepool. Alas, the pool has dried up like the Aral Sea. But in an act of tribute here is the first ever Friday Memebog - notable outwash from this week's Intertube effluent. This week: a 100% Copyfight Edition.

Patry casts out the folk devils

Here is the man who Wrote The Book (seven volumes) on copyright, laying into the cretinous meme we see so often in the UK, that knockoffs support organised crime and terrorism: "There are some notable omissions from this list, like Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Shining Path, and the Tamil Tigers. It is heartening to know that some terrorists draw the line at copying Western fashions. Perhaps there is hope that they, like Anakin Skywalker, can be turned from the Dark Side. It is less clear whether our legal system can be. [...] All I want, and I think most people want, is to be able to go to Target to get reasonably priced, safe clothes for our kids without having to worry about supporting child prostitution rings and terrorists. I don't think we are, and it is a sad day when a bill to benefit the tiniest fraction of an industry will be used to destroy the rest of it."

A lovely matching pair of stories about slatternly rightsholders having their bacon saved

First, the story of the restoration of the only live performance recording of Woodie Guthrie. It has just won a Grammy award. But only Techdirt had the guts to point out the multiple layers of hypocrisy and irony: (1) this originated as a bootleg recording; (2) Woody Guthrie's attitude was "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years [only 28!], and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do"; and (3) the Guthrie estate has 'previous' for copyright evilness in the 2004 JibJab controversy.

Second, the story of Pan Yan Pickle from a couple of weeks ago. The manufacturer lost the only copy of the secret recipe in a warehouse fire. No offsite backup! So they resort to reverse engineering. Of course, recipes are not copyrightable, so anyone could legally do that, but only Premier Foods has the shamanistic Power Of Brand Name. And then we learn: "There's no one in this company who has any idea what this pickle looks like or tastes like. I would ask for anyone who has a first-hand experience of Pan Yan Pickle to contact Premier Foods". A searing example of corporate amnesia: all the expertise that the trademark should connote has gone in just six short years. This is exactly what mergers and acquisitions, downsizing and outsourcing does to an organisation. But they don't teach reality on MBA courses.

Last but not least: SCO has found another seam of money

Out, sadly, will go Darl McBride, in whose downfall I am proud to have paid a tiny part by uncovering the pseudonymous postings of 'his wife' (yeah, whatever) on Yahoo Finance. And in will come our new chum Stephen Norris (no, not Shagger Norris - this one founded the notorious Carlyle Group) and possibly a deniable Saudi presence with a private A380 on order and a diamond studded Mercedes, or maybe it's just Microsoft as usual. But just look who these guys hang out with! Such an improvement on Darl and Ralphie!

14 Feb 2008

Bingley South Bog

The Bradford district has four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

View Larger Map

South Pennine Moors - several huge areas, "part of the Southern Pennines lying between Ilkley in the north and the Peak District National Park boundary in the south. The majority of the site is within West Yorkshire but it also covers areas of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire. The largest moorland blocks are Ilkley Moor, the Haworth Moors [both Bradford], Rishworth Moor and Moss Moor. [...] Extensive areas of blanket bog occur on the upland plateaux and are punctuated by species rich acidic flushes and mires. There are also wet and dry heaths and acid grasslands. Three habitat types which occur on the site are rare enough within Europe to be listed on Annex 1 of the EC habitats and Species Directive (92/43) EEC. [...] This mosaic of habitats supports a moorland breeding bird assemblage which, because of the range of species and number of breeding birds it contains, is of regional and national importance. The large numbers of breeding merlin , golden plover and twite are of international importance." Almost all of Bradford's share is assessed as 'Unfavourable', the causes being Air pollution, Inappropriate weed control, Overgrazing, Vehicles, Forestry and woodland management, Inappropriate stock-feeding, Drainage, Moor burning, and the disastrous Ilkley Moor fire of 2006. Besides all that, the ring ouzel is apparently dying out due to climate change. However, some areas are said to be recovering.

Trench Meadows at the bottom of Shipley Glen: "The meadows are of special interest for their neutral grassland, which occurs with smaller areas of acid grassland and rush pasture. [...] Unimproved speciesrich lowland grassland of this type is now a nationally rare habitat." But the site's state at the last assessment in 2003 was "Unfavourable declining": "The grazing tenants finished in November 2002 after 30 years therefore the site has not been grazed since then. New tenants will have to be found as soon as possible or the site will continue to deteriorate. "

Yeadon Brickworks And Railway Cutting - a geological site, shared with Leeds: "The rock exposures within this site provide a most important cross-section through shales and sandstones of the Namurian Series, originally formed about 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period of geological history. [...] This site has been proposed as the standard for one of the major subdivisions of the Carboniferous Period, named the Yeadonian Stage." Thankfully there's not much that can be done to wreck such a site, though the most recent assessment notes of the Leeds side: "An increasing amount of fly-tipping at base of slope including a burnt out car, ideally all of which should be removed." Lovely.

Which brings us to the star of tonight's exposition:

Bingley South Bog "This small mire occupies a peat-filled hollow in undulating ground between the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the River Aire, at Bingley, north of Bradford. Despite drainage and hydroseral succession, the surviving wetland provides a transition from fen to dam neutral grassland, maintained in a species-rich condition, probably by grazing." There are a profusion of relatively rare plants, including the marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris).

A new road, the A650 Bingley Relief Road, was built right across this site. There's no denying that a new road was desperately needed. It opened at the end of 2003, and won the 2004 Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Building. A special low level elevated section was built to cross the SSSI ("Particular features of the solution included: innovative jetty-style precast integral structure over Bingley South Bog SSSI", in Arup's PHB-speak. They also boast of "effective public relations and exhibitions dealing with sensitive ecology and environment in a busy, semi urban context".) A press release gloats: "South Bog Viaduct is an excellent example of what can be achieved in a design-and-build context, using innovative thinking throughout the team. The design, which had started life as a steel concept, was radically rethought, making extensive use of precast concrete to achieve an elegant, practical, and low-cost solution. Many aspects of the design were driven by environmental issues, which were difficult to reconcile. The triumph of this structure lay behind how these were overcome to result in a simple structural form that complements its surroundings and absolutely minimised any short- or long-term effects on the natural habitat."

So what happened next?

"04 Jan 2005 Destroyed The strip of land beneath the new road bridge is now devoid of vegetation therefore the habitats that were there previously have been destroyed."