At Last, The Stew: Tasty Links in a Simmering Sauce

Observation StewAnd finally, some tasty news chum stew, which has been simmering in the bookmarks for a couple of weeks:



Portraying the Weather

A brief article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch got me thinking about the personification of weather. The article concerned the St. Louis Weather Bird, the oldest continually running daily cartoon. Specifically, it dealt with the claims of a pretender to the throne, the New Orleans Weather Frog, which was only a near-continuous fixture (whereas the weather bird has been around for 110 years, continuously). You probably didn’t know that the Los Angeles papers also had a weather cartoon, Mr. Smoggy (you can see him on this page).

My question to you: do you have a favorite personification of weather (or weathercaster)?


Thursday Miscellany

A few collected items from lunchtime reading. Departments include “@#*$$!% Television”, “Smurf Field”, and “That Time of Year”.

  • From the “@#*$$!% Television” Department: On television tonight we have an interesting train-wreck: “$#*! My Dad Says”. The reviews have been decidedly lukewarm, although more entertaining than the show itself. From the LA Times:

    One thing connects the protagonists of the comedies “$#*! My Dad Says” and “Outsourced,” premiering Thursday on CBS and NBC, respectively: They owe money on student loans, which limits their life choices to moving in with Dad, in the first instance, and moving to India, in the second. Otherwise, these series are as different as tomatoes and ketchup, with the distinction that both tomatoes and ketchup are good, but one of these shows is not.

    This review also has the line: “William Shatner, who has most always played comedy whether or not he was playing in a comedy…”. USA Today states “Not a single thing William Shatner’s Dad has said in those ubiquitous CBS ads has been even remotely funny, a trend that continues in tonight’s premiere.” As for the NY Times, it opines “…a wholly generic sitcom so divorced from its source material that you have to pinch yourself to remember it had anything to do with the Internet, or with the world after 1985. It might as well have been based on a greeting card.” However, the show has had one interesting side-effect: it has created a problem for DVR manufacturers, who can’t program the characters in the title into the search function. Perhaps this is yet another reason for the show to die. My prediction: Come mid-season, we’ll see “Rules of Engagement” gone, and “Big Bang Theory” returned to the 830p Monday slot. It is unclear yet whether “Survivor” will return to Thursday.

  • From the “Smurf Field” Department: The LA Times has an interesting story on Boise State, and its blue astroturf football field. Yes, I said “blue”. A one-time BSU athletic director thought that, for $750,000, the school was “going to take out a green field and put in another green field”. The school’s colors were orange and blue, and an orange field was out, so…. Competitors have gone so far buy 440 gallons of paint to color one of their practice fields blue.
  • From the “That Time of Year” Department: For all the discussions about the abnormally hot weather this summer in the East, it was the coldest summer in decades in Southern California. Personally, I think there were only two weeks all summer with 100+ days, and perhaps one additional week with 90+ days. This is unusual: we normally have entire months that are over 100° (but out here, it’s a dry heat… literally… we normally run 10%-15% humidity). Of course, now that it is Autumn, it looks like we’ll hit over 100° this weekend.

Struck, as if by Lightning

An all-day telecon (east coast time) means a late lunch break. So, bypassing the news of all the Southern California earthquakes, here’s some news about a different phenomenon: lightning:

I will leave any interpretations to you, my dear readers 🙂


The Historic and the Small

First, some unfinished business. Although I am walking every day for at least an hour, I am not going to run a marathon. I’ve never been the running type. And as for yesterday’s news, it was mostly true, except for the bit about “drips” and Bing changing its name. Oh, look, a squirrel.

Turning to today’s news, I do have a few items of note:

  • From the “Passings of Note” Department: Dr. Henry Edward Roberts has died. Most of you kids won’t know him, but Roberts is responsible for much of what we see on computers today. Roberts was the developer of the build-it-yourself computer kit called the MITS Altair 8800, which was the original inspiration for two kids called Billy Gates and Paul Allen. My memories of the Altair were from my days with the Southern California Computer Society back in the mid-to-late 1970s, when people were building their Altairs and Kim 1s.
  • From the “Milestones of Note” Department: Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of TIROS-1 from Vandenberg AFB. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, TIROS-1 was the first weather satellite, and so 50 years ago the science of weather forecasting changed forever. Can you imagine long-range weather predicting without the benefit of satellite?
  • From the “Ridin’ The Circuit” Department: USA Today had a nice piece yesterday on the Southern Rabbi Circuit, which is not an electrical mechanism but a project where a rabbi rides around the Southern US visiting small congregati0ns. I first learned about this about a year ago, when Rabbi Sheryl Nosan-Blank was leaving Sacramento. She’s now serving a congregation in Australia, but one of the places she was looking was the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life out of Jackson MS. ISLI is the place that provides the visiting rabbi for the small congregations. Interesting article.
  • From the “You Look Mahvelllous” Department: Speakings of the problems of the small and mighty: The LA Times has an interesting article on the troubles on niche menswear shops: in particular, the disappearing shops for short men. Yup. If you are under 5’3” (I’m safe at 5”6½”), there are only two places left in Southern California where you can buy a suit off the rack and only have minor alterations. For many others, it’s the boys department or cutting down a suit (which leaves many components, such as pockets, in the wrong places).

A Rant on Climate Change, Science, and Politics

The last two days at lunch I’ve written about some news articles related to climate change, emphasizing the fact that I prefer to let those trained in the science of the areas make the judgement on the findings, as opposed to untrained politicians. I’ve gotten some predictable responses, all from a particular side of the political spectrum that seems to want tear down the notion of climate change. You know this side: they’re the ones that make fun of Al Gore, they’re the side that points to a freezing week and say “How can global warming be happening”. Although I don’t believe it is true of the individuals that responded, often those sharing that political side of the table are the same ones who dispute other scientific findings (such as evolution). This connection of science and political thought bothers me quite a bit. But this post, in particular, is about the issue of Climate Change. So while I eat my lunch today I would like to address the two sides of the question: the science, and the politics.

The Science

First, and foremost, I’m not an expert in the science in this area. I also have never made it through more that 15 minutes of “An Inconvenient Truth”, so I’m not an Al Gore devotee. I am aware that an extremely large portion of the mainstream scientific community believe there is some form of climate change happening (I’m not calling it “global warming”, because that creates the impression that every particular point will be getting hotter every day, and that’s not how weather, as opposed to climate, works). I’m also aware of the “hacked email” controversy. I’d give the latter more signficance if the bulk of the community was responding to it by publically withdrawing their support for the notion of “climate change”. They aren’t. The mainstream scientific community still seems to believe that climate change is happening, even in light of the publicized incidents. I have yet to hear about significant flaws in the theory in the popular science programs that I respect, NPR’s Science Friday or the CBC’s Quirks and Quarks. In particular, if the latter two programs aren’t picking up on the email story and reporting that it has invalidate the science (and they appear to pick up on any science related studies in the news), I’m guessing that in the long-run it is not changing the overall opinion. Thus, I’m of the belief there are non-tainted studies that still support the notion.

I should note, however, that I don’t go with the FUD that is surrounding this issue. I don’t believe that climate change will result in “sure-thing predictions of death, famine and pestilence”. I believe that adaption to the climate change will occur: it has before, and will again.

The Politics

However, the science is independent of the politics. It could be that folks like Sarah Palin view the science as “snake oil” because they don’t like where the politics has gone. Here, I might agree in some ways. I find the whole notion of trading carbon credits to be silly. Yet there are other political aspects that should be embraced even if climate change is bunk. For example:

  • Reducing our dependence on foreign oil makes sense. Even if climate change isn’t happening, depending on other countries for energy needs hurts the balance of trade, and as has been seen, forces us into conflicts to defend that source of oil. So, investing in locally-based solar, wind, and safe nuclear technology makes sense: it keeps the jobs in our country, it provides manufacturing jobs and technology jobs in our country. It just seems to make long-term strategic sense.
  • Reducing our dependence on oil makes sense. Irrespective of whether you believe in climate change, everyone does seem to agree that oil (at least fossil fuel) is a finite resource. If it is not managed, we will run out sooner. We depend on this for more things that running our cars: the plastics and polymers that come from the oil are critical to our technology success (ask yourself how your computer and other small technology would work without any plastics). It makes far more sense to save the oil for those uses than to simply burn it to make our cars go or our homes warm.
  • Moving to energy efficiency makes sense. As there has been more demand for energy, the cost has gone up. Whether or not you believe in insulating a building to prevent leakage to the surrounding environment, you should believe in energy efficiency because it saves dollars, and that should reduce the costs of goods and services. I have yet to hear people arguing for wasting energy.
  • Planning for oceanic rise makes sense. The Boy Scouts have always advised us to “Be Prepared” (it’s their solumn creed). I have yet to hear anyone say that sea levels are dropping, that glaciers are reforming and ice sheets getting thicker. Therefore, it would seem to make sense to be prepared for some rise in sea levels and make contingency plans for the long term. I’m not talking immediate rises of 20 feet, but rises in the area of a foot or less.
  • Reducing carbon output makes sense. Irrespective of whether you believe carbon output promotes climate change, it does increase pollution. Byproducts of combusion provably lead to things like acid rain, and they create compounds that when inhaled are injurious. It would seem to make sense therefore to reduce that output.

My Conclusion
So what’s my conclusion on this? What I said before: leave the issue of global climate change to the scientists, and get the politicians out of it. Irrespective of the fear of catastrophies, many of the ideas that have come out of the discussion make sense on their own terms. Let’s stop using this as a wedge to divide.

P.S.: As I noted at the top, this goes to the general concern I have these days by certain elements of society of dismissing science. I don’t think it is just in the area of climate change — in general, there seems to be a growing distrust of things scientific. Perhaps it is science overload, created by too many warnings of dire effects from everyday items, or perhaps it is from people who don’t understand how to read results. Whatever it is, it is a troubling trend.


Two Biggies and a Few Smalls: Climate Change, Scientific Weddings, and Link Sausage

Some more news chum from today’s lunchtime reading:

  • From the “Leave Science to the Scientists, Part I” Department: After yesterday’s post, I got into a discussion with geah about whether the threat of climate change was real, with geah basing his position on the whole faked email fiasco. He suggested I look at the “12-Part Guardian Series On Global Warming Science”. I haven’t gotten to that yet, but I will note there is a nice piece in today’s LA Times about how the whole “snowmaggedeon” in DC has egged on the climate change doubters. I mention it here because that article had a pretty good summary of current positions.
  • From the “Leave Science to the Scientists, Part II” Department: Here’s a geeky wedding: the bride and the groom did blood testing at regular intervals to measure oyxtocin levels to verify a scientific hypothesis. Here’s a quote to tease you: “We’d booked the venue, chosen the bridesmaids’ dresses and even decided on the colours of the table decorations. But finding a refrigerated centrifuge and a ready supply of dry ice in rural south-west England was proving tricky. Then there were the worries about getting blood on my silk wedding dress, and what to do if someone fainted. Organising a wedding can be stressful enough, but we had a whole extra dimension to consider. We were turning it into a science experiment to probe what happens in our bodies when we say the words “I do”.”
  • From the “When Life Gives You News, Make Sausage” Department: Here are some short links:

    The history of Lambert St. Louis Airport. Interesting fact: The family that donated the land are the folks behind Listerine.

    Proof: John Edwards is a horndog. Even before the ink on his divorce from Elisabeth Edwards has hit the paper, he has supposedly proposed to his mistress.

    A nice opinion piece demonstrating the disconnect between Sarah Palin and the facts. This last link brings things full circle, because the post that started the discussion for the first item was Sarah Palin’s reference to climate change as “snake oil science”.



Now I know fall is here. I just spent 20 minute raking leaves out of the pool. That means the fall Santa Ana winds have started.

[Now, let’s just hope that the fire in Fillmore and Moorpark doesn’t go to the south (i.e., towards Thousand Oaks and the ocean… and camp….) or to the east (towards Simi and Chatsworth)]