Daily archives: December 2, 2005


With a title like that how could I resist this book?

In the early 60s Roy Moxham, then aged 21, left Britain to manage a tea plantation in Nyasaland. He arrived just as British colonial power was waning and tea workers were organising against mistreatment. One of the most hated practises was the imperial claiming of African common land and the subsequnt charging of rent to those who lived on it, requiring a month’s work a year to pay for the privilege of staying in their ancestral homes.

Treatment of coolies elsewhere and earlier was far worse than this, a theme that comes up over and over in this history of the tea trade. Introduced to England, allegedly, by Charles II’s Portuguese wife, tea went from an addiction of the rich to a drink so vital to national morale that the government took control of its supply during wartime. Along the way tea became a highly smuggled commodity and affected global politics because of the methods used to procure ever larger supplies.

The early history of the tea trade into Britain is tied to the East India Company. Early chapters in teh book tie into the events in Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. Whilst the company was having a hard time in the spice trade it was doing very well out of tea.

At first, the only source of the precious leaf was China, which would only take payment in silver. the English treasury was worried about the drain of silver from the nation’s coffers and sought to restrict it. Directly or indirectly the East India Company took to buying opium in India, selling it for silver in China and using this silver to purchase tea. When the Chinese tried to crack down on the opium trade Britain sent a fleet to “negotiate” for its reinstatement. The ensuing conflict ended with the Chinese ceding of Hong Kong to British rule and continued opium trading.

Eventually, the British looked for other sources of tea, and found them in India and Ceylon. Here, with local and imported tea, whites had direct control of the beverage’s production and grossly mistreated their workers- treating them like slaves long after slavery had been officially abolished. These and other aspects of the trade’s history are covered by Moxham in this interesting book.

Now, I must find a history of the East India Company to tie all these tales together.
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Announcing Two Wheels Good and Render

Two new Spinneyhead blogs have launched this week.

Two Wheels Good is about bikes. It’s a home for the stuff that’s too specifically about cycling for How to Save the World for Free and too sedate for Gravity. When I get my new camera and video camera I hope to start doing vblogs on commuting, riders and their bikes and, if I can finally find that workshop, building your own bike.

Render is about 3d modelling. After Christmas I hope to be creating comics using Poser and other 3d packages and the blog will start filling up with examples and tutorials as well as news and reviews.

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Local Electricity, for Local People

Nedd valley is the last place in England and Wales to be wired up to the National Grid. Perhaps they should go the whole hog and get themselves wireless broadband and a satellite link. (However, from the description of the valley, I think they’d have been better off building some mini hydro and wind generators and setting up a micro grid.)

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Dinos Chapman can't get laid

Or there may be some other reason for his entertaining response to the “creative people have more sex” headlines from earlier this week.

For a start, they’ve only polled 425 people by placing adverts and randomly posting questionnaires in artists’ whingepapers, read only by those snivelling in the evolutionary foot bath of the artistic gene pool. You should never expect people to tell the truth about their sexual shenanigans. They lie. Always. They lie to themselves – why would they tell the truth to you?

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War Games

The military-industrial complex is rapidly becoming the military-industrial-gaming complex.

Computer games, like any hi-tech industry, have roots in military technology: there is a direct line from the first air force radar screen to today’s pixellated hyper-real images. The first videogames were made in the 50s and 60s, by scientists at Massachuset’s Institute of Technology funded by the Department of Defence. Until the mid-90s, the department was funding its own, clunky, game tools such as Simnet (for training tank drivers).

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Tower of Doom

Taipei 101 in Taiwan is the world’s biggest building. The stress it exerts on the ground beneath it is believed to have caused two recent earthquakes and reopened an old fault line.

Before the construction of Taipei 101, the Taipei basin was a very stable area with no active earthquake faults at the surface. Its earthquake activity was similar to parts of the UK, with micro-earthquakes (less than magnitude 2) happening about once a year.However, once Taipei 101 started to rise from the ground, things changed. “The number of earthquakes increased to around two micro-earthquakes per year during the construction period (1997 to 2003).”Since the construction finished there have been two larger earthquakes (magnitude 3.8 and 3.2) directly beneath Taipei 101, which were big enough to feel,” says Dr Lin.

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Street level carbon trading

Personal carbon quotas could be one of the ways to cut CO2 emmissions.

Domestic Tradable Quotas are in effect personal allowances to pollute.

In Europe, about 12,000 big companies and institutions already have such allowances, regulated by the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Pollution has become a commodity with a price determined by the market, which will ensure that emissions are cut in as cost-effective a manner as possible.

DTQs would simply extend this concept to the public.

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