Archive for March 2007

I Tried to Give This Up For Lent But

March 31, 2007

Yeah – I rant too much about the nonsense that is global warming. I do it because 1) as someone trained in the sciences, I don’t see much good science being done in the area, 2) the good science that I see being done in the area shows that much of what is touted in the media on this topic is ignorant and bogus, 3) a PhD climatologist/former roommate of mine from my college days informs me climate models used are clearly simplistic, and insists that the interpretations of these models are sensationalistic, 4) a Harvard astrophysicist/former classmate of mine, Sallie Baliunas, is one of the leading GW skeptics and 5) global warming has become a religion.

But you knew all that.

This article, however, makes me angry (and H/T to Hoystory for the link).

The snowpack in the Cascades, it was said, shrank by 50 percent in the last half-century. It’s been presented as glaring evidence of the cost exacted by global warming — the drying up of a vital water source.

That statistic has been repeated in a government report, on environmental-advocacy Web sites and in media coverage. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently mentioned it in a guest column in The Seattle Times.

Here’s the problem: The number is dead wrong.

The debunking of this statistic, and the question of just how much the state’s snowpack shrank, is stirring up a heated debate among the region’s climate scientists.

On Monday, it escalated further when University of Washington researcher and State Climatologist Philip Mote stripped a colleague of his title as associate state climatologist, triggering concerns that scientific dissent is being quashed.

I’ve made a list of what I consider the most important issues facing the nation for the 2008 election, and I’m tracking down each major candidate’s position on these items, if only for my own use and enlightenment. On that list are the War on Terror, of course, but also illegal immigration, and the Right to Life. I start to believe that global warming belongs on that list, and we need to know each candidates stance.

Those propagating the falsehoods and half-truths that make up the global-warming religion (not GW itself) are quickly becoming as great a danger to the US and our economy (not to mention way of life) as Islamic terrorist, and it’s no longer clear to me that all of them have the best of intentions in their hearts. It’s becoming clear to me that their leaders do not.


March 24, 2007

In my continuing saga with Linux, I recently upgraded my motherboard and CPU. They’re not state of the art, by any means, but an athlon-64 (2.4 gHz) and 1 gig of memory at least gets me into the second half of this decade, architecture-wise.

The only really antiquated part remaining in my rig was the old ATI graphics card. So I went to ebay and replaced it (inexpensively) with something that had Linux drivers available and would let me see what 3-D graphics were all about. Nvidia is very good at supplying Linux drivers (ATI is not, but the default, bare-bones Linux driver provided by most distributions allows the basics to be done painlessly).

The replacement operation wasn’t completely pain-free. Installing drivers on Linux is really no more difficult than in Windows, but sometimes seems that way. It feels like every device needs drivers that are installed differently. Worse, each new version (of either the driver or of the distribution) seems to require yet another, new installation method. Sigh. RTFM becomes not just a mantra, but a requirement which is not always met, unfortunately, because the creators of the Ms are often idiots not knowledgeable in the ways of writing helpful documents.
But installing the Nvidia driver wasn’t too bad, all in all. The next step was to turn on 3-D capabilities. Once I did this, I installed a neat little package called Beryl which provides some great 3-D effects.

Beryl is not 100% complete, and is not a polished product just yet (the current version is 0.2, which is way early). But many of its capabilities are in place, and pretty cool. I like the cube idea, which is sort of like making your flat screen into a cube, with different desk-top views available on each. The theme manager has some great looking themes, more than I will be able to investigate in months of looking, and some cute effects that I like, like shading and controllable transparency.

The down sides (so far) is that Beryl does not work and play well together with KDE if you use more than one desktop, and the controls are not obvious. Beryl doesn’t seem to be using excessive resources, but it feels ‘sluggish’, if only because the fades take time, intentionally. I haven’t found how to control all the effects yet (like the time-to-fade out), but they’re buried there somewhere.

Oh, and starting Beryl is not obvious. And it appears that there’s no clean way to bring it down, except by rebooting (and if you bring down the beryl-manager then you can’t reboot either except by brute force. Quite a bug!). I expect those problems to be gone by the time version 1.0 is released.

All in all, it’s not a bad little package for such an early release.

How Science Is Done Today

March 24, 2007

Well, maybe not. This is not how science is really done today, usually. But it’s a great example of how science could be done.

Rover enthusiast Daniel Crotty naturally pointed HRSCview to the Columbia Hills to see what Spirit’s landing site looked like from space, and he got this view, which looks pretty familiar…
One nifty thing about HRSCview is that when you look at a particular spot, you can easily wander through multiple HRSC images, if they exist, by using a handy dropdown menu at the upper corner of the screen. Daniel noticed that there were a total of three HRSC images covering the Columbia Hills. When he selected one of the alternate views, he was shocked at the change.

In other words, using his home computer and publicly available data, Daniel Crotty used the imaging software provided (HRSCView) to see something that had been missed by the project investigators since October 2005 (and you may want to go to the link to see how obvious it was).

Ok, I’m glossing over a number of things, here. First, is this really “science” (scare-quotes intended)? Science is, after all, a process that consists of three unique steps: observe, predict, hypothesize (rinse and repeat). What Crotty has done is the observation part of the process. However, the unique thing is that the data (openly available) and the tools to deal with it (also openly available) were available to uncounted millions of eyes. This goes a long way to reducing the most serious problem in science, simple human bias.

Don’t Know What to Make of This

March 20, 2007

First, please watch this CNN report (safe for work).

Are Matthew Campisi and Ellen Frankel victims? If their bios are presented half correctly, it appears not. But are they touting a kind of victim mentality? I’m not so sure they aren’t.

There’s much more at their link at NOSSA, including statements like “The bias towards tallness and against shortness is one of society’s most blatant and forgivable prejudices.” (attributed to economist and W.F. Buckley sparing partner John Kenneth Galbraith) and “[NOSSA w]orks toward demanding equal opportunity for short statured adults wherever obstacles and discrimination exist.”

They say

NOSSA does not promote a ‘victim mentality’. We encourage all of our members to take responsiblity for their own lives and remind them that although we can not always control our circumstances in life, we can always control our response.

Nice words, but I’m not convinced they believe this.

And although I’m having trouble putting this down clearly, my train of thought starts with a quote from Rand Simberg.

Suppose we find that there is something different about the brains of gay men and women (a proposition for which there’s already abundant and growing evidence). If we can come up with an affordable, painless therapy that “fixes” this and converts them from “gay” to “straight,” should we a) allow them to take advantage of it, or b) forbid them from doing so, or c) require them to? And should “straight” (i.e., exclusively heterosexual) people be allowed to become gay, or bi?

This is precisely the situation parents who are short find themselves in when they have a short-statured child.

The National Organization of Short Statured Adults is opposed to the use of human growth hormone for short but otherwise healthy children. “The growth hormone deficient child suffers from an underlying medical problem that affects the body’s health in different ways. The non-growth-hormone-deficient child has no underlying medical problem. They simply present as a variation on the norm with regard to height. The decision to medically intervene on the healthy child’s stature is socially based due to height discrimination and prejudice.” – Ellen Frankel

It is also the dilemma presented to deaf parents, some of whom have taken steps to have only deaf children.

Not to make too much of it, but my story is that I’m 5 inches shorter than Matthew Campisi. I also earned a black belt (2’nd Dan, actually) a couple of decades ago, have two masters degrees, married twice (both times to very lovely ladies), and even dated a couple of beauty queens in my college days (Miss Trenton, and runner-up to Miss N.J.). I played guitar in a rock-‘n-roll band, and am (still) a “rocket scientist” of sorts, even if I do spend way too much time on proposal work these days.

So, um, I’ve done alright with my life, even if I am only 5’0″. Not that I was always above complaining about my lack of dates when I was 20, mind you…

But I didn’t get drafted in the NBA. So for that, I should have a grudge? I don’t think so. I don’t think I’d try either to “save” a short child from his shortness, or forbid him to get tall, either. I think it’s strange that people would do either.

Vote, or Don’t Vote?

March 8, 2007

Not at all like “Deal, or No Deal”.

I did pretty well – I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t remember whether John Boehner was a member of the House or the Senate, and there was one other I mistook for a different politico (but I contend that there really is a resemblance anyway). All in all, I should definitely vote.

Should you?

I looked through the stats given at the end, and something doesn’t jive here. Either the sample of test takers that they call “people” are much more astute than those taking the test (which doesn’t seem likely), or the numbers shown on the poster are just made up numbers, made to show that lots of those who take the test shouldn’t be voting.

Pardon My Silence

March 4, 2007

…but I’m not not writing for want of things to blog about. Indeed, there’s been way too much to blog about this past week. Can’t keep up. And I have a real life, don’t ya know.

Firstly, there was New Horizons rounding Jupiter. The data are far from in (NH was design to take alot of data quickly and send them back slowly, which is optimal for Pluto), and already the photos are stunning.

And then there was The Jesus Tomb, about which, the less said, the better.

Anyone who bothers to read me already knows that I’m not impressed with either the science behind “global warming” or the people who have been noisiest about it. But I am impressed with their lack of imagination, their disrespect for the law of unintended consequences, and the opacity of their blinders.
I once heard an economist say, in the early ’80s, that if you love inflation, you’ll be positively thrilled with the effects of deflation. The same idea applies to GW. If you think GW is something, you’ll really like global cooling.

There was an interesting challenge from Instapunk, to quantify the amount of (what’s generally accepted as) foul language on the left side of the blogosphere vs. the right side. The results were not unexpected.

Lastly, pundit Ann Coulter was videoed at the CPAC conference in Wash D.C. insulting presidential candidate John Edwards in a derogatory manner. The fallout directed at her has not been pretty. Most of it, unsurprisingly, is coming from the right.