Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How

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I'm completely exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma, and I spent all afternoon taking it out.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Transcend the Toxically Emotional and the Reflexively Ideological

Climate change is in the air. The climate of planetary goddess Gaia, and the climate of human minds and emotions, too, as it relates to tensions over the fact of our changing weather trends. For those of us in mid-to-northern climes, Winter came generally late this year, but when it came it was vicious and it lingered on for a good month into what should have been Spring. Summer was hot, but punctuated by days and nights of lower, cooler temperatures. The only constant in life and weather is change; but the more that these change, the more they remain the same.

It's interesting to learn that scientists are turning to those unicorns of the sea--narwhals--to help with studies that can determine what's going on with the important winding ribbon or belt of the ocean that helps to regulate climate and weather for areas north of the equator, especially places like northwestern Europe. This is the current that flows through Baffin Bay, between Canada and Greenland. Researchers tell us that a global warming trend would slow down the waters flowing through this area, and by their slowdown would come about a colder Europe and north (more cold water would be in the way of the warm waters brought up through the Gulf Stream from the Equatorial regions). The narwhals dive down deep to go bottom fishing--as deep as a mile. Three of them have been fitted by researchers with temperature sensing and satellite equipment, and already have returned over 400 temperature measurements and positions of measurement. The narwhal project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

There aren't any conclusions yet from the narwhal data, but I expect it to talk of impending climatological doom and gloom. We're either going to burn or we're going to freeze. The destruction of our world comes by fire or by ice, you know. That's what we keep hearing.

But, if we really listen, we don't hear it from everyone. Not even close. The media messiahs make it seem like there is an overwhelming consensus on "global warming"--the inaccurate, intellectually lesser term for climate change--and the consensus is that mankind's wicked ways are destroying the very atmosphere that gives us life. Sounds apocalyptic to me. Are people so weary of the world that they desire the End Times, and try to make such times' image writ large in the skies above?

We don't even understand clouds well enough to make these assertions.

I write these words this way because there is no scientific consensus that mankind has much, or anything, to do with the changing climate. What's more, the scientific approach to interpreting the observations and the data about the matter reveals that the "global warming" theory is problematic at best.

To return to Canada--studies have been carried out by Canadian researchers in southern Quebec on Canadian Summer temperature data over the last 60 years*. During this time, according to global warming advocates, there should have been a steady increase in heat waves, especially over the decade of the 1990s and on into the 21st Century. Canada is predicted to experience enhanced warming as compared to much of the rest of the scorched world, as it is in those mid-to-northern climes where extremes in weather are being generated (so we hear) by global warming. As the researchers start off saying, “Transient climate change simulations performed with both Global Climate Models (GCMs) and Regional Climate Models (RCMs) suggest increased frequencies of extreme high temperature events and decreases in extreme low temperature events for the 21st century.”

These are not to be found. In contrast, the researchers did find that heat waves and temperature extremes in southern Quebec have “shown no significant trend over the course of the 20th century (1900–1998) for the higher percentiles of daily summer maxima" and they have “concluded that the number of extreme hot days showed little change, in spite of the increase in mean annual temperature by 0.9°C between 1900 and 1998.”

God, but facts are so damnably pernicious!

Another fact is interesting with regards to climate change, too. Methane is far, far more potentially harmful than the CO2 that we always hear about. Given an atmospheric concentration of methane as compared to an equal atmospheric concentration of carbond dioxide, the methane would heat our world 23 times more than the carbon dioxide. With the polar ice caps melting like they allegedly are, we should tremble in fear as the time for the rapid, rampant release of a flood of bound methane in the ice is released and spurs runaway, rapid global warming. Crops shall die, the seas shall rise, mankind shall burn. Except in places like northwest Europe, where mankind shall freeze under a suffocating whiteness of unmitigated snowfall, Gotterdammerung come upon us at last.

But a team of researchers from Oregon, publishing in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, have found that “methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled over the last century, raising concerns that it is contributing to global warming and will continue to do so in the future. Although these past increases were alarmingly rapid, subsequent measurements showed a persistent slowdown in the trends to nearly zero at present.” I.E., methane is not increasing in concentration in the atmosphere. It increased to a certain point and then stopped increasing.

Did we stop it somehow? The global warming theorists, those harbingers of storm and stress, say there's no way we have done enough to stop the concentration rise of methane. They are right--we haven't stopped the methane trend, because we did not set off the methane trend.

Scientists who are advocates, for whatever reason emotional, professional, or religious, of global warming theory engage in a lot of manipulation of statistics; this has been demonstrated. Statistics is a fascinating aspect of mathematics; but, as they say, there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are stastistics. Statistical results can be painfully twisted in their application to practical reality, while data can be utterly manipulated by statistical procedures to be shoe-horned into the preconceived mold of a researcher. So, you have to think for yourself when you're considering statistical results. Just ask the Swiss scientists who thought, and who had others thinking, that they had made a major breakthrough with research into how plants know when to blossom.

An outstanding site on the Net to go to gather statistics to think about, and to see discussions of statistical analyses, is Rapid Intelligence. "Rapint" has had a hot discussion going on in their forum about climage change, or "global warming" theory.

Join the fray!


* Khaliq, M.N., P. Gachon, A. St-Hilaire, T.B.M.J. Ouarda, and B. BobeĆ©, 2007. Southern Quebec (Canada) summer-season heat spells over the 1941–2000 period: an assessment of observed changes. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 88, 83–101.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Available Space?

It used to be the terrifying, glorious, too-beautiful unknown; the final frontier; the end and the beginning of all things. It is now the proposed next step in merchandizing. It is outer space. Can capitalism, born on the pale blue dot tucked away in a corner of the Milky Way Galaxy, conquer the final, infinite frontier?

Perhaps a more relevant question is, do we want capitalism to be such a conquistador of the stars?

Well, when you really think about it—why not? Capitalism and its accompanying free market are driven by advertising and marketing, and while these can include the good, the bad, and the horrifyingly mediocre it is the way that all of the wondrous and exciting products that we are sometimes overwhelmed by but generally enhance our lives beyond telling are first delivered into our cognizance. No marketing, no advertising, no awareness of your offering and hence no money for you. We desire, overall, for our space-related endeavors to become more and more privatized, and that inevitably means more and more commercialized (it goes without saying that there are many who do not actually desire that latter thing, but based on everything that we know about economics it is an unavoidable outcome of the former thing). The people and institutions that would operate the privatized and more accessible space-faring endeavors would need to eat and be able to have their families taken care of and they might enjoy dressing nice from time to time, too, and they aren’t going to get government stipends as their salaries. They would have to advertise their products and services. The government might not “besmirch” its endeavors to establish a Moon base or a Mars base with shameless self-promotion—it does not need to, it just raises your taxes and sells government bonds to get its money—but then again the government is notorious for being financially wasteful and practically inefficient as compared to the ruthless, shamelessly selfish efficiency of the private sector. And in the end, what we really like, what really sets us free, is efficiency of delivery of goods and services that we the people decide that we need or desire.

But perhaps the question that truly cuts close to the bone is, how should this advertising with regards to the exploration of space get carried out? Clever advertising is appreciated, albeit often subconsciously, as something of an art form. The Chicago White Sox have a particularly clever marketing campaign going on now whereby they start all of their home games at precisely 7:11PM (day games clearly excepted) in order to promote 7-11 Market stores. 7-11 Markets is paying the Chisox half a million dollars in exchange for the subtle reminder of their existence. But we know that we despise advertising that is in your face.

The question is raised because of a recent article written by Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal. In the article, he tells us of the proposed program by Republican Representative Ken Calvert of California, a member of the House Science subcommittee that oversees NASA programs that would be aimed at providing money to space-exploring entrepreneurs. Pasztor writes that Calvert proposes a bill that would make “NASA space assets available for commercial advertising and marketing opportunities.” If that ever becomes law, companies and universities might be able to market themselves by plastering logos on equipment or sponsoring equipment such as cameras on the International Space Station.

Calvert likens his proposed program to those used by public radio and The Smithsonian Institute, whose advertising he calls “dedicated and tasteful”. He also says that he thought up his idea to make the public more aware of manned programs for exploring space while not having to tax people more in order to make them so aware. His objective is to get the fund up to $100 million and then, it seems, give it out piecemeal in the form of prizes for ideas about exploring space.

While this is a noble cause, does it really further the end of bringing space exploration under the aegis of the private sector? A question that is raised is whether this law would really promote space-related entrepreneurship or whether it would glorify government involvement in space programs even more—while promoting big corporations that are conceived of as sleeping with big government or the universities where the curricula are more about politics than thinking. There are plenty of people in the public who would be turned off by this starry marriage, seeing it as just one more way that influential companies get the federal government to help make them mind-boggling profits at the expense of the diminishing middle class. This concept would just be thrown into stark relief to many Americans by an initiative that calls for $100 million sponsored by an agency that commands many billions of dollars annually for its own programs.

Moreover, it has to be asked whether this would have the opposite effect from that intended, as so many federal government programs and promotions do. Instead of making the American public more interested and excited about exploring space than it has been since the 1970s, might it not leave a bad taste in a significant portion of the public’s mouths? NASA, despite its flaws and its frequent short-sightedness, is a heroic symbol to many Americans, one of the shining and noble spots in a federal government that is generally seen as ominously inimical to individual rights and a bungler on important action. NASA’s spacecraft and astronauts are seen by many as advertisements in their own right—advertisements to other nations of the might and grandeur that still can come out of the United States. Americans are turning to satellite radio subscriptions to remove commercials from their airwaves while a government representative is proposing a way of putting it right back in a different place. I think it’s a very telling dichotomy.

Again, while motivated by a noble notion, I don’t think the proposed program would go over well—because the public is fed up with the blatant mixing of politics and business.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing

Here's another open Rush commentary by moi. Some guy who loves Rush and lives in France had some harsh criticisms to pay as tribute to "les hommes trois". He mentioned drinking beer in his post...

We have been assured that Alex Lifeson does two things on this album: make extensive use of acoustic guitar,and play a substantial amount of solos. There IS a solo in "Far Cry", as even Neil describes and 'splains in his "A Prize Every Time" essay, but aswe all know by now (even Kyle, if he's been reading) it's another "minimalist" solo and not the stuff of guitar solo dreams that Alex rips out with on "Turn the Page" or "Red Barchetta" or "Marathon" or even, to loop back to Frenchie's mention of a possible acoustic solo, the mandola solo on "Half the World".

I have not listened to "Malignant Narcissism" yet, but it's apparently lacking in a Lifeson guitar solo. This one does not worry me, as I read Neil's essay and I did not expect that piece (by the way, just so we all get on the same page before turning it, a "piece", in music, consists of music that be a song except there are no words...I have been shocked at Neil's cavalier use of "song", as it is impossible for an instrumental to be a "song", but perhaps that's his personal nod to pop music culture) to contain an Alex solo.The album will be released in just a couple of weeks(Stateside), and after I give a thorough listen if there are few guitar solos then I will have my first harsh criticism of said album. I did not appreciate King Lerxt's lack of guitar solos on VT and I will be outraged at such a lack if it extends to a second consecutive album (of original studio material).

There is absolute zero doubt in my mind that one of the cream of the crop guitarists of rock still has an unlimited amount of brilliant guitar solos in his fingers. If this album turns out to deceive us and lacks guitar solos in the end, then I will indeed be pissed off about that fact. However, thus far the album sounds brilliant. Again, I do my best to listen scientifically to a Rush album at first, rather than gratuitously. I always give them the benefit of the doubt about what they are attempting and go from there in my reflections.

That does not mean that I always end up agreeing with what they do. Indeed, I agree with Neil's assessment in 'Roadshow' that Rush have recorded "hits and misses".I find they have far, far more hits than misses, but they aren't perfect.Remember, only the mediocre are always at their best.Rush leave nothing on the cutting room floor. They give us EVERYTHING they got on every album. Who can ask for anything more?

And by the way, it's SHREDDING solos! Damn drunk Frenchman!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

When the Inkwell Runs Dry

There are times when the inkwell runs dry for the writer. The ink from the artesian springs just isn't welling up to the surface. There seems nothing you can do about it. I've been having this happen to me of late. Well, when you're a writer, shit happens. But even worse, sometimes it does not happen.

What will you do when you're just not seeing well? The lesson that was so hard for me to learn, and a concept that I still have to wrestle with like Jacob wrestling that angel, is to just do it. I don't mean force it; forced creativity bears no fruit. I mean, just begin it. Just start writing something. This just-do-it technique is usually the needed magic wand. That does not mean that it brings about instant results; for that is not how writing works, at least not more than one percent of the time. Even in those few and far between moments, the "instant" result is really an illusion, like a musician's improvisational solos; in other words, there's no spontaneaity of substance without very careful preparation and technical study before the moment of release, when you juggle everything you know into a great swirling mass of manifest creative energy.

There are times for me when I simply have too many thoughts, feelings, or ideas "stuck in the neck of the bottle". Just starting to put something down with pen, or with keyboard, works wonders. In fact, that was the method that I used to write this blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Words, Words, Words Dept.

Well, to my vast readership, I do apologize. I've been spending the last couple of days churning out articles the way a widget factory turns out widgets. Haven't been able to blog. But I'll be back. I always am.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Worship of the Green Gods

I've made an open commentary to Judge Roy Bean (as he styles himself) with regards to his all- too predictable commentary (I had foreseen it) on a board attached to a well-written essay about that loonie fundamentaleftist in Manhattan who believes that mankind can live without making an impact--a net impact, anyway--on the Earth. Why would you want to do that? People truly are dis-eased, and so many have a death-wish, desiring to disappear. Or, they think they can walk on water (I'm using that phrase and image here as a metaphor for making no net impact on the Earth).

But back to Judge Roy. He preceded his silly Man-Made Global Warming polemic (albeit it was a brief one) by comparing the government figures and outspoken climate scientists who rant about how mankind is responsible for global warming to Incan high priests who were believed to be able to make the sun come back with their rituals and incantations. Beanie was using the "sun coming back" as a metaphor for steadily increasing global temperatures.

I despise superficiality even more than I despise stupidity. But I guess they walk hand in hand, most of the time.

"That said... you do realize you have just admitted that the warming is real, and is man-made?"

Ah, I knew that the religioso, Reverend Beanie, would not be able to resist posting!

Mark admitted no such thing, you twit. The evidence against man-made climate change (and yes, please, let's be accurate: it is climate change, not "global warming"; kind of like how Indians live in India and Native Americans live on the American continents) is overwhelming in fact. With every passing day and every newscast, the fanaticism of people like yourself becomes more and more rarefied and more and more set in relief against the clear-headed rationality of those who realize that "it's the sun, stupid" (just ask the Martians, who have no factories and make no CO2 emissions). You talk out of both sides of your mouth, like all religious fundamentalists.

The "High Priests of Global Warming" are ineffectual, but you have true religion, while they have mere "magic" (used in the disparaging sense of the word). And the green gods forbid that we faithless unbelievers discourage the faithful from attending to your message of fire and brimstone and sin and doomsday.

It's disgusting. I mean really.