Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Counting views

As the little photo bar to the left attests, I post some photos I've taken on Flickr. Mostly, they are random weirdness, but I get a kick out of seeing how many people view them. Pictures that have been up for a month or so and have a high "interestingness" rating from the site average about 20 views or so. The above photo was up for three days when it got its 100th view.
This woodcarving, by the way, is on display at the House on the Rock Museum in Wisconsin, a family-friendly destination filled with wooden breasts.
In any case, even in a thumbnail, it's quite evident that the breasts pictured above are not real. Or even silicone.
In any case, it has attracted a few people to my photos, and so I post it here in hopes that it may attract people to this blog.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


European pyramids?

According to an archeologist, an unknown civilization built a massive pyramid in Bosnia about 12,000 years ago. The pyramid remains today, but now looks like a four-sided hill (click the headline above for the complete details and a picture).
My view:
Mankind has been around in its "modern" form for about 250,000 years. We trace our civilization back, at most, about 7,000 years. Did modern humans not discover that they were modern for 240,000 years, spending all that time gathering nuts and berries? I posit no.
Could this new discovery lend creedence to my beliefs? Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


My favorite Republican

When George Ryan was governor of Illinois, one of the projects he provided funds for was a proposed observatory in Thornton overlooking the world's largest limestone quarry. The proposal was for a visitors center and museum of sorts to house some of the fascinating fossils that are removed regularly from that giant hole in the ground under I-80. It would have also given some insight into the limestone mining process, and become an attraction at least locally. At the very least, it would be a neet place to bring my son.
Local voters in Thornton, however, defeated the proposal in a local referendum. Turns out, they didn't want the attention or attraction. Seeing public sentiment, Material Service, operators of the quarry, fenced in and locked off an existing observation deck where children could go to look at the massive dump trucks and other mining equipment at work. It is now off-limist as well.
Ryan was found guilty yesterday in a criminal trial. I don't want to go into detail about the crimes he committed, as those facts are available elsewhere.
But I did want to register at least one vote of support for the man. I didn't vote for Ryan, and had I forseen his downfall when he was first elected, I would have rejoiced.
But Ryan's execution of his office got in the way. Quite simply, he got things done. He was a refreshing change from the previous few governors, and even better than the man who replaced him. Ryan put money into roads and infrastructure. He made funds available for municipalities for local projects. He made things happen.
Except in Thornton. That was a failure, though not Ryan's fault. He tried. I think that perhaps that sums up his stint as governor of Illinois. My guess is that the corruption under his watch was endemic in the state for decades. He took over, both as secretary of state and as governor, from Jim Edgar, a do-nothing politician whose total lack of action and conviction probably preserved him from legal consequenses.
Ryan, on the other hand, was a man of action, and men of action make enemies. That was his downfall.
But George Ryan remains as my favorite Republican. And that of course begs the statement:
My favorite Republican is an incarcerated Republican.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Preying babies

Wandering around the yard this spring, I've noticed a bunch of these cocoon-looking things scattered everywhere, attached to dead plants.
So I decided to disect one and find out what was inside. I saw a bunch of little larval guys arranged in circles. Notice the little guy poking out in the second pic. I imagine he was pissed off at me for destroying his home.
Mystified, I consulted the Internet, source of all information.
As it turns out, these are preying mantis egg cases. Pretty cool. If I didn't kill all the babies in this egg case, my yard should have a bunch of mantises in it in a few weeks. That's a good thing. Even if I did kill all the guys in this case, there are many more in my yard.
Seemed appropriate for Easter to post about preying babies.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Global Warming

I work as an engineer, and have a significant amount of science training, and a lot of the policy debate around Global Warming has been confusing. The data I have seen doesn't justify the alarmist position of some policy makers. I would like to preface my remarks by saying the world's and specifically American's demand for oil has caused many problems for us, both environmental and political, but we should not be controlled by fear or panic by those who would profit from it. The nature of science is to find truth, which no political agenda (even the most well-meaning) should supercede. I would like to post here remarks from Richard Lindzen, who is the Alfred. P. Sloan professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Climate of Fear Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence. BY RICHARD LINDZEN Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.
But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.
If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less--hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

So how is it that we don't have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It's my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested--a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences--as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union--formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.

All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.
Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Football news: God loves the Texans

This just in: God loves the Texans, according to quarterback David Carr, who led the team to a 2-14 season last year and has been sacked more than any other quarterback over the last four years.
Actual quote from Carr snipped from USA Today: "I know God didn't put me in this situation to just get beat up for four years," Carr says. "I know God had a plan for me to come here and help this franchise succeed."
Being a Bears fan, I would prefer that God wanted the Bears to succeed, but who tells the Big Guy Upstairs who to root for?
And I can't help thinking that Carr may be mistaken. I mean, the Texans suck, have always sucked, and will probably continue to suck. If a team that God wants to succeed can suck so much, that doesn't say much for the hopes for our country's war on infidels, I mean terrorists.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Today's Head-lines

More headlines from my Safari browser (courtesy of the BBC). Remember: The headlines are true, the stories are false.

Top US Republican stepping down
Washington (PE) President George Bush today announced plans to "step down" when his term is completed in 2008. Although forces within the Republican Party, including Karl "Carl" Rove, had been planning for Bush's continued presidency past 2008, citing the War on Terror and the stability Bush would give the country, Bush squashed those hopes with today's announcement.
"I hearby annunciate that I'll be stepping down in 2008 to let Jeb take a stab at this thing," Bush said.

S Africa's Zuma denies AIDS risk
Boer Chemical, makers of the popular South African alcoholic beveridge Zuma, declared today that there is no risk of contracting AIDS by consuming their product. A company spokesman told reporters that while sexually promiscuous people and gay men are welcome to enjoy as much Zuma as they would like, the main support for the drink comes from family-oriented consumers.
"We just want to distance ourselves from that other drink, the gay one," he said. "Zima."

Israeli missles hit PA compound
Israel issued a formal apology today after mistakenly firing missles into a Pennsylvania farm.
"We misread the map. It's understandable," said the acting prime minister of Israel.
Fatalities included two cows and a chicken.

Fears for Columbia Indian group
Finally settling accounts after two centuries, the United States offered a group of Native Americans in Columbia compensation for tribal lands taken by the federal government in the 1830s.
"In return for their lands, we have given these Native American groups a priceless commodity: Fears. We have given them fear of terrorists, fear of mismanagement of their retirment funds and many other fears to boot. Now they can enjoy the same fears as 'regular' Americans," said a US official. "Most importantly, we have put the fear of God into them, and that's what really counts."


Fly, be free!

In honor of spring, I post a pic of my favorite visitor from last summer.

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