Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pay others to take your job away

Imagine a policy where politicians willingly, in the name of "controlling" "climate change" use your money to:
1) Subsidize a foreign takeover of a viable business in your country

2) Close that business down
3) Transfer the 1700 jobs associated with that business to a foreign country

4) Remove not one ounce of CO2 from the atmosphere in the process.

As a taxpayer, or better still, a now-unemployed taxpayer of that country, would you feel you were doing your part to save the planet? Based on what?

This is reality for the workers at Corus Steel's Redcar plant in Teesside, England. While the Redcar plant was efficient, the lure of up to £1.2 billion in carbon credits (paid for by you and me, dear taxpayer and consumer) was just too much for the Tata group and so Redcar is to be closed.

Presumably all levels of once-great Britain's government smiled in pride at the sacrifices made by the smoggies of Teesside. Well done, lads!

One can only shake one's head and wonder how the madness ends.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Carbon Market Musings

Supply and demand. Fear and greed.

These two pairs of terms are all you need to know about what drives markets.
Market fundamentals are based on supply and demand. Market emotion is based on fear and greed.

The market fundamentals of global warming (when it was still credible) were in the area of renewable / sustainable energy, and in carbon trading. Renewables have their own intrinsic economics, which can be distorted by government subsidies but which sooner or later have to pass a reality test. Carbon trading has no intrinsic economics, it is simply based on some fiat declaration of the price of carbon.

This fiat was one driver of the Kyoto Accord, embodied in its Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, which allow a developed country to buy indulgences from other countries.

As the sham science of global warming is gradually revealed, the political power to declare carbon prices diminishes, and emissions trading schemes lose their emotional support amongst the general public. Australia is the bellwether of this trend, and is now going through a phase of confusion and fingerpointing. More to come elsewhere, I promise.

The World Bank publishes an annual report on the state of Carbon Markets. The 2009 version makes for interesting reading. It notes that one purpose of the Copenhagen conference was to "scale up climate mitigation" in developing countries. In other words, buying more indulgences.

Who buys these indulgences? How much are they worth? Just as there is only one taxpayer (you), there is only one consumer (also you). How do you feel about $150 Billion per year? What would you like in return?

You pay, as part of a global shakedown, so that you can continue to have what you currently have. No CO2 emissions are cut, but money goes to some third world regime so that they can cut down an old forest and replant with something that grows faster.
You pay. No value is added anywhere.

When the global warming panic really hit a few years ago, I watched as industry and governments wrestled with the science and the politics. I was surprised when the people that I thought would fight just hunkered down and went along. Now I realize how naive I really am, since I totally missed the opportunity to be part of a 9 figure per year carbon market. And look at the
business opportunities to support it!

But we are about to find the supply of carbon offsets outracing the demand for them. And the fear mongering that created the market in the first place will be replaced by the fear of being the last fool left standing in the market when the music stops.

Blogger extraordinaire JR notes that the
carbon market reacted poorly to Copenhagen. I am going to figure out a way to short GRN, the ETN that tracks carbon trading. Looking at the charts, we can see support being pulled out from under it, with lower highs, lower lows, a reverse head and shoulders and a P&F target of $17, well below its Dec 24 close of $23.50.

Supply and demand. Fear and greed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Facts & Predictions re Copengeld

As the Copenhagen summit (mercifully) stumbles to its conclusion we should be grateful that so far, little real money has been spent. Symbolic gestures should be made only with symbolic resources, not real ones. Nonetheless, there seems to be some political will to ship large amounts of money around the world for no real benefit. Here are some facts and predictions regarding how much of this political will translates into action:

Fact 1: Governments of developed countries around the world are increasingly strapped for cash. Prediction 1: The realities of demographics and the relentless growth of bureaucracy combine to grind government finances into finer powder. No extra money will be available.

Fact 2: A cold hungry populace is not as cooperative as a warm well-fed populace. Prediction 2: Look for some counter-vailing force to emerge fuelled by growing reaction to Climategate, UN malfeasance and greenie extremism. A mainstream media channel will both aid and profit immensely by this.

Fact 3: We are in the midst of ongoing debasement of currencies and a continuing developed-country currency crisis. Prediction 3: These will provide justifications for amending commitments to the Copenhagen wealth transfers, and if large sums do indeed get committed as a result of Copenhagen, eventually all foreign aid, even existing programs, will be re-labeled as Copengeld.

The statistics are warming!

We are discovering evidence of man-made global warming in statistics everywhere lately. Not warming in the actual atmosphere, just man-made warming of the statistics.

Here is a plot of Siberian temperatures from The Migrant Mind. Just goes to show what happens when you cherrypick the starting dates for your warming trends.

Damn, the 1800s must have had a lot of CO2...


Time to re-introduce an old word into our modern vocabulary and then propose a modern variant.

a tax raised to pay tribute to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged

Since the raiders today are not Viking [they were just visiting Copenhagen at the time] I propose the word Copengeld. All the tribute money is dressed up with the pretense of being for Copin' with the effects of climate change.

Either way, it's just another shakedown.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why do denialists and skeptics believe as they do?

Why do AGW denialists and skeptics (and agnostics like me) believe as they do?

SquanderTwo has some highly relevant thoughts. Here are some excerpts: a computer programmer, I agree with Feynman's philosophical position that you shouldn't use computer models as a source of new information and I also take the practical position that even the world's best software is buggy. I've not seen any evidence that climatologists' software is orders of magnitude less buggy than, say, Excel. Two weeks ago, I saw evidence that it's buggy as hell...
I object to the way that the science has been inseparably attached to authoritarian politics. Herman Van Rompuy said the other day that "2009 is also the first year of global governance," giving Copenhagen as an example of this. That's an unelected president of an unelected body asserting that he is going to exercise more power over me via policies that I will never be allowed to vote on. And I'm told that the only reason to object to this is because I hate the planet and want all our grandchildren to die...

The consensus thing. My objection to the constant use of the word "consensus" is not that the consensus itself is meaningless; obviously, it's relevant. My objection is the way that the consensus's existence is routinely presented as a scientific argument in its own right. It amounts to "You shouldn't be sceptical because none of us are, and that proves it." Yeah, go science.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"The only warming I see is from Thermometer Change"

Do I ever admire those who have the quantitative chops, and the persistence, to dig through the data and draw conclusions from the results.

Blogger "Chiefio" has dug into the GHCN thermometer records to see just how credible the aggregated data could be.

His conclusion forms the title of this post.

When you average temperatures from available thermometers, and then plot them year to year, it is reasonable for a reader to assume that the population of thermometers is more or less the same year to year.

But clearly the chart shows that the gross numbers of measures are changing. What Chiefio demonstrates is that the location of thermometers is changing too, as is the nature of the thermometers themselves. In his words "For Canada, the thermometers have been leaving the Rockies and running to the shore where it is much warmer"

All the warming that we read about comes from GHCN thermometers, and the trends in temperature are easy to pick up when we use GHCN data. But who at GHCN stands up and says "use only the data from long-term stations with continuous records, well-managed surroundings and unmodified thermometers." Who in the professional climate science community stands up and says that the averages are misleading, and cools the rhetoric?

Not the guys who have been garnering all the headlines. Climatologists are about to join journalists, celebrities, politicians and used car salesmen in the list of least trusted professions.

It turns out that there is no warming at the long term stable sites. Not in Antarctica, not in Australia, not in Africa, not in Asia, not in Europe, not in South America and not in North America. Nor the Caribbean, and not in the South Pacific. Not many sites qualify, but their data should have weight far beyond their numbers. Climate change is basically thermometer change. When someone tells you that this is the warmest decade on record, they aren't lying, but they most definitely are wrong.

Anybody feel grumpy yet?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Edmonton breaks record cold temp 2 years running

If it's cold, it's just weather. Only record high temperatures signify climate change, we all know that. But today the weather at Edmonton International Airport was -46 C, fully 10 Celsius degrees colder than the record low for Dec 13. And that record low was set last year. Clearly the warming is "worse than we thought".

Any sign of Urban Heat Island effect? Well yes, now that you mention it. The temperature downtown was -36.5 C, breaking a record going back to 1882. Is the weather office taking 9 degrees off urban temperatures to correct for UHI? Somehow I doubt it.

Cold enough to freeze the nuts off the High Level Bridge.

Oedilf and Limericks

The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form attempts to define the English Language using, naturally, limericks. Why wouldn't they? Wouldn't you, if you'd thought of it?

A few years ago I submitted something lame to OEDILF (which they astutely have chosen to not publish) and thereby got onto their mailing list. Today I received a note from OEDILF asking whether I was still alive, and that act of kindness moved me to generate something on our favourite new topic, Climategate.
Climategate emails have peeved
Both the sceptics and those who believed.
Much ink has been spilt
About CO2 guilt.
Some are asking now, "Were we deceived?"

Your limericks and comments are, as always, most welcome. Even yours, PKD.

Friday, December 04, 2009

"In short, you are the definition of moral hazard"

US Senator Jim Bunning tells Ben Bernanke what is on his mind. The full broadside can be found here at the West Kentucky Star. Here are some excerpts:
Chairman Greenspan's attitude toward regulating banks was much like his attitude toward consumer protection. Instead of close supervision of the biggest and most dangerous banks, he ignored the growing balance sheets and increasing risk. You did no better. In fact, under your watch every one of the major banks failed or would have failed if you did not bail them out.
You bowed to the political pressures of the Bush and Obama administrations and turned the Fed into an arm of the Treasury. Under your watch, the Bernanke Put became a bailout for all large financial institutions, including many foreign banks.

You have decided that just about every large bank, investment bank, insurance company, and even some industrial companies are too big to fail. Rather than making management, shareholders, and ebt holders feel the consequences of their risk-taking, you bailed them out. In short, you are the definition of moral hazard.
From monetary policy to regulation, consumer protection, transparency, and independence, your time as Fed Chairman has been a failure. You stated time and again during the housing bubble that there was no bubble. After the bubble burst, you repeatedly claimed the fallout would be small. And you clearly did not spot the systemic risks that you claim the Fed was supposed to be looking out for.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tiger Woods, Crowd Pleaser

The front page of our local paper features photos of Tiger Woods, his beautiful wife, and several other attractive women with whom he has been rumoured to be, um, pelvically affiliated.

In Tiger's defense, he has been encouraged roughly 280 times per week, by crowds around the world:
  1. You da Man!
  2. Go in the hole!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Walk through this excellent summary

The world of climate science is a complex one. So when someone writes a lucid and insightful guide to thinking your way through the whole Anthropogenic Global Warming debate, and summarizes the key decision points and hold-for-further-investigation points, it is worth devoting 10 minutes of your life to.

I have found such a guide, on The Devil's Kitchen. Whatever your views on AGW and the environment, the science or the policy responses, I ask you to suspend your prejudices and read through. Read CRUdGate: Why this can't be swept under the carpet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

How to Forge a Consensus

I admit it, I love the way English words and phrases can be used to imply two opposite meanings.

The word "forge" means to fabricate, which itself also has two meanings, either to create something real or to fake something. A bit like Japanese where the word "to believe" (shinjiru) also means "to imagine".

Well a good part of the climate science community is wondering which kind of forging has happened around its vaunted "consensus", as the leaked emails and programs from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia reveal a nice little Catch-22. As you have read by now, (unless you rely on regular newspapers for your news) the debate about global warming often came down to "skeptical climate research that has not been published in peer reviewed journals is meaningless".

Now the evidence is clear that publication in peer reviewed journals was controlled by one side of the debate, not coincidentally the side that kept saying "the consensus of scientists is that AGW is real and getting worse."

Not so fast, Carbon Dioxide Breath!

If the science can't be replicated independently, it's not science. Fraud, maybe. Belief and imagining, for sure.

The consensus was forged. And not the good meaning of forged.

Acknowledgements to the Wall Street Journal blog for the theme

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Groupthink and Climate Change

HUNTSVILLE, AL - Science doesn't support current global warming alarms and, even if it did, current proposals to fix things won't work and might make life worse.

That's the well-known view of Dr. John Christy, a University of Alabama in Huntsville climate scientist, and Christy spelled out the "whys" and "why nots" of his perspective Tuesday to the Huntsville Rotary Club.

"Consensus is not science," Christy began, quoting the late author Michael Crichton.

Christy, the state climatologist, is well-known in the global warming debate. He has testified before Congress many times and was an unpaid expert witness for the automobile industry in a federal lawsuit against fleet mileage requirements.

Here's Christy's basic argument:

* The data being used to predict catastrophic warming is suspect.

* Models generated from that data "overstate the warming" actually taking place. The earth is warming, but not that much, and it has warmed and cooled for eons.

* The Earth's atmosphere is nowhere near as sensitive to carbon dioxide as some environmentalists believe.

* Any "solution" to perceived global warming must balance the growing worldwide demand for energy against cutting carbon dioxide output.

Fleet mileage requirements now proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency "would reduce global temperatures by about 1/100th of a degree," Christy said.

You would need to replace 1,000 coal-fired power plants with 1,000 nuclear plants to change global climate even .15 of a degree, he said.

"This is the scale (of global climate) we are talking about," Christy said.

* One cost of mandating harsh energy controls is the migration of industry to areas where requirements are less, Christy said.

In his talk, Christy also took aim at several other widely discussed pronouncements.

* Temperatures in the Arctic have increased over the last 100 years, he agreed, but that's only because 100 years ago "was the coldest it's been in a long time."

* Arctic ice has melted, but ice has grown in Antarctica. Between the two, there's about as much ice as always.

* There are more polar bears now, not fewer. Canada issues 800 bear-hunting permits each year, he pointed out.

* Temperatures may be warmer in Greenland, but scientific experiments with ice fields show "that 4,000 years ago, it was warmer in Greenland than it is today.

"Greenland did not melt," Christy said.

Why is the apocalyptic view of climate change so widespread?

"Funding comes if you have an alarming story," Christy said.

He also cited "group think" and said scientists revel in the attention their views about climate brings.

"It's almost a drug," Christy said.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The atmosphere is bigger than you think

Reduce your carbon footprint and save the planet!

Q: How much carbon should I remove from my footprint?
A: 1,767,250,000,000 metric tonnes per Centigrade degree of global average temperature change, attributing all temperature increase over the past 150 years to CO2 emissions. (Your mileage may vary, depending on whether you think the sun may somehow affect Earth's temperature, you outrageous radical). One point seven six seven quadrillion tonnes.

Put that into perspective:
  • A North American household contributes 24 tonnes per year of CO2
  • US emissions are 6,000,000,000 tonnes per year, total. Eliminate those emissions and the effect on temperature is about 3 thousandths of a Centigrade degree.
Here in Canada, we could divide that number by ten. Shut down every CO2 source for a year, save 3 ten thousandths of a degree. Wow.

So let's keep asking people who want to save us all from whatever terrifies them "what effect will it have on temperatures?" If the answer is a number that is detectable in real life, it is wrong.

Read the analysis here on World Climate Report. The various info sources are either US government stats or associated with Al Gore, in case you were wondering about "denier" "bias".

I use compact fluorescent bulbs to save money. Saving the planet? The planet will take care of itself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If an enterprise is too big to fail...

...and the government should therefore have to prop it up, then why not go the AT&T route of forced break-up? It worked for the telecommunications sector, and cost taxpayers nothing besides the cost of some bureaucrats' salaries.

Instead the US government spent taxpayer's money on propping up banks, keeping their shareholders whole. Private profit, public loss. And the so-called stimulus money is an equal misallocation of scarce resources.

Read this outstanding essay by David Einhorn, via John Mauldin's Outside the Box site.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

8 Symptoms of Groupthink

We have all heard the term. Let's remind ourselves of what it looks like in real life:

  1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
  3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
  8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

The term "Groupthink" was coined by Irving Janis in 1972.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Desiderata and Snopes

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste..."

How many of us recall Desiderata from the 1970s? It seems that every college dorm had a poster of it somewhere, along with the requisite Lord of the Rings and Farrah Fawcett materials. It even made it onto vinyl as a Les Crane recording, although for copyright reasons YouTube does not carry the audio portion.

I spotted the poster in an office the other day, and like most of the others I remember it said "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore, 1692" on the bottom. The sight was both familiar and a bit unsettling, because it caused me to momentarily question the emotional stability of the guy who had it on his wall. explains the source of the 1692 reference and tells us that the text was actually written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann, an Indiana lawyer. Thanks Max, and thanks Snopes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

When you have just done something stupid...

(as I did, putting a scratch in my hardwood floor due to my own pig-headedness) should use "Remorse Code".

It sounds like this:

Duh duh
Shit shit shit

Thursday, October 08, 2009

British town names

If you find yourself in Penistone, be sure to experience the mighty organ.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just back from the US

I was in Chicago and Pittsburgh this week, and managed to eavesdrop a bit on the G-20 window-dressing and to take the pulse a bit of the east and central US.

Impressions? Pittsburgh is an old-money city which has done very well. I think the airport design is thoughtful, the freeways are well designed and maintained, and property is an incredible bargain. I checked out house prices in a very upscale enclave about 20 minutes from downtown, with a golf course and architectural controls, littered with Benzes and Escalades. What was being offered at $550k would have sold for $800k - 900k four years ago. And the bottom has not yet been reached. Local companies are still cutting staff and looking for ways to save their way to prosperity. Can't be done, although the opposite (spending your way into bankruptcy) can be easily achieved.

I also think Pittsburgh's media has lost its mind. Here's why: Greenpeace managed to fool all the police and security on Wednesday morning and string a banner on a major bridge downtown. The radio reporter who covered this was eagerly WAITING FOR GREENPEACE TO COME AND TALK TO THE MEDIA to crow about how they had pulled off this act of publicity-grabbing vandalism.

Chicago people like to say "The best thing about Chicago is you can fly direct to anywhere in the world. The worst thing is you have to do it from O'Hare Airport." And it used to be true; few airports could match O'Hare for pure congestion and crowds. But no more. There are parking spaces in the lots, seats in the airport restaurants, even room to walk from gate to gate. Traffic is probably 70% or so of its pre-crash levels, by my guess. A sign of the times. And worse is yet to come.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Check out BC Highway 99

I have found a highway that is worth driving just for the sake of driving it. Best of all, it connects spectacular scenery with more spectacular scenery without ever repeating itself, and a one-day round trip begins and ends in a great city.

Highway 99 runs north from Washington into BC near Vancouver, slices through Vancouver and then heads north towards Whistler, site of the winter Olympics in a few months. The portion of the road between West Vancouver and Whistler is called the Sea to Sky Highway, and it is true to its name. It winds along the cliffs that look west onto the Pacific Ocean, and the myriad islands and inlets are a feast for the eyes.

On Saturday morning we were treated to a collection of British cars wending their way north, including an old Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, an MG TC, a TR3, some sort of old Jag two-seater, a stunning Bentley Continental convertible, a somewhat lecherous looking Jensen Interceptor and a variety of MGBs and MGBGTs. We had the roof down in the 320ce and were pretty comfy compared to all except perhaps the couple in the Bentley.

The road turns inland and continues to climb (Sea to Sky, remember) and we stopped for a bite in Whistler, a mountain resort with big-league skiing and golf. We then left most of the crowd behind as we pressed north towards Pemberton. The mountains along the west coast scrape the moisture from the Pacific winds and the road winds past lakes and rivers and mossy mixed forests. Pemberton sits in a fairly wide valley, and then beyond Pemberton the road follows the Birkenhead river for a while and starts to climb. Expect 20 mph switchbacks and hiking trails and occasional places to pull over to park for a picnic. The last 20 miles or so have a few 13% downhill grades, several single lane bridges and to-die-for views, small and large, from exuberant little creeks to a finishing vista near Lillooet that is like driving in a piece of the Grand Canyon.

Once you reach Lillooet the countryside opens up, and it looks as if it is covered in suede; dry, open, deeply carved by the Fraser River and its tributaries. If you are pressed for time, turn south from Lillooet on Highway 12 and make your way back towards Vancouver, or take a longer way around and head up to Cache Creek first.

Either way, the return trip is completely different from the outbound route. You will be in rugged, dry upland terrain, with sage brush, gullies and spectacular views. For my wife and me, our destination this trip was in the opposite direction from Vancouver, and we pressed north and east to Highway 5 then onwards into the dusk, heading to Alberta.

The cabrio was a treat; we motored roof-down through a couple of rain showers with the front side windows up, and the wind deflector, and kept dry except for some drips from the top of the windows. This is a touring car not a sports car, and it plugged along through the canyons of Highway 99 east of Lillooet, but was happier at speed, whether the roof was down or up.

Highway 99 is worth driving just for the fun of it. Take a day, ideally in May, June or September (avoiding tourists in July/Aug and the likelihood of snow the rest of the year!), start in Vancouver and head north along the coast. Return via the Fraser Valley. We would go a day out of our way, just for the drive. There are no other roads that I would say that about.

(Note for visitors from Benzworld. We started in Edmonton, went to Calgary, Richmond BC, then home. 4 days on the road, 1650 miles/2600 km). 1992 320ce cabrio.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Internet car-selling scam

You find an ad somewhere on line for a car that is just a couple of years old, low miles, good condition, facts backed up by photos and best of all, the price is really, really low.

Why so cheap? Well, the seller is just about to leave the country, or has just left the country but the car is at a port and the seller has found out that he can't ship it after all, or the seller just started working on a cruise ship and doesn't really need a car, or the seller is in the armed forces and could get sent away at any time but can't tell you when, perhaps for reasons of national security.

To pay for this car, the seller wants everything to be above board, so the idea will be to make the deal then arrange the payments through eBay. What could be more secure?

I now know three people who have been attracted by a deal like this. It is a scam. There is no car, and the buyer loses whatever deposit the seller can talk him into sending.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Brickbreaker one more time

The old Blackberry 8800 died and I have been equipped with a new Blackberry Bold 9000.
Naturally I needed to check out whether Brickbreaker still looked and worked the same. It doesn't, so those who relied on the following links on this site to improve their games probably have something to complain about:

Brickbreaker Level 16
Brickbreaker Levels 1 - 17
Brickbreaker Levels 18 - 34
More Brickbreaker Tips
Brickbreaker Addicts

Here is what I observe to be different in this version:

1. The ball is much smaller
2. There is more space on the right side for the ball to sneak through between a silver brick and the right side wall. Aim for this and it will help you, but allow for the ball to sneak through coming back down, too.
3. There is a bit more randomness in where the ball goes when you launch it at each level

4. My tips for Level 8 do not work reliably. Actually they don't work at all.

5. Level 13 really benefits from aiming at the bottom right of the silver bricks and letting the ball slip up and through.
6. Level 26 is a killer, but if you happen to get a GUN from one of the upper level bricks, take out the two silver bricks at the left edge of the upper coursel.

I would be most grateful for your thoughts and observations about how Brickbreaker varies from one generation of Blackberry to another. Comments are always welcome!

Unhealthy US Commercial Real Estate

Wow, those green shoots are really sprouting.

The US National Association of Realtors has the following forecast:

“We now expect office vacancy rates to rise very sharply, surpassing 20 percent in 2010. Office rents will fall 7 percent in 2009 and further fall an additional 1 percent in 2010. Industrial and retail sectors will face deteriorating conditions as well. Only the multifamily sector looks to squeeze out positive rent growth, though at a slower rate of increase than in the past.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bulletin: Solar Radiation is not Constant; May Affect Climate

An article from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, via Watts Up With That, indicates that cycles in solar radiation that were not accounted for in the CO2-driven climate models may have an influence on climate. The sun? Who knew?

The news got Halfwise here thinking about our thinking, so I posted the following comment in the comments thread at WUWT:

Chaos-rich systems, for example climate or stock markets, invite mortals like us to proclaim that we finally understand the system based on a new model that explains its behavior over some limited time period, at some selected scale.

Then when some other mortal adds to our model or (worse for our ego) debunks it with a different and better model, we are usually tempted to defend our model and diminish the importance of others' findings rather than thank them for their insights. Our natural human tendency is to focus on our feeble explanations rather than on the marvelous complexity and uncertainty that we are attempting to model, denying that we are inevitably doomed to be passed by a better model.

The whole AGW debate has, in my view, been sidetracked into a debate about what to do as a result of the predictions of a generation of models. We forget that all models intrinsically have fatal limits as to scale and time period. This memory lapse is convenient if it supports the agendas of some and touches on the psyche of others, which can certainly be said about the Green movement in general these days.

The latest research on solar radiation feels to me like a step towards greater understanding of reality. But I am sure that CO2 felt to many others like a step towards greater understanding of reality too, so it is not time to proclaim that the tide has turned and the latest model is finally comprehensive enough to be believed by all. As noted, typically what happens now is intense defense of previous models, not gratitude for new insights.

Just as with the stock market, climate will assert its own complexity and uncertainty, and honest people will come to regret their allegiance to a wrong model.

I have one prediction: three years from now, we will all be less confident in our beliefs about our abilities to understand complex systems. It will be a kind of "scientific agnoticism" and will be part of a societal movement away from being swept up in the expensive collective, moving instead towards individual rights and obligations. We can thank the Green movement for reminding us of our obligation to sustainability; we need not thank them for Cap & Trade.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prediction: Huge Hit

(or maybe it has already happened)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This must be an interesting place to work

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.12am
To: Staff
Subject: Coffee cups


There was twelve coffee cups left in the sink this morning. Could everyone please wash their coffee cups after using them.
Thanks, Shan

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.19am
To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Coffee cups

Morning Shannon,

My apologies. Those coffee cups were mine. I am rather busy today so decided to have all of my coffee breaks at the one time this morning rather than taking twelve separate breaks throughout the day. I am currently experiencing severe heart palpitations but also typing at four hundred and seventy words per minute so should be able to knock off early.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.31am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Coffee cups

I was not saying they were all your coffee cups I was just saying that I should not have to wash twelve coffee cups when I don't even drink coffee. People should wash their own coffee cups or at least take it in turns to wash them.


From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 10.42am
To: Shannon
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Coffee cups


You raise a valid and not at all uninteresting point. Perhaps you could construct some kind of chart. A roster system would enable us to work in an environment free of dirty coffee cups and put an end to any confusion regarding who the dirty coffee cup responsibility lies with.


From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 1.08pm
To: Staff
Subject: Kitchen Roster

Hi everyone. I have discussed a kitchen roster with David and feel it would be fair if we took it in turns to do the dishes. I have put the roster in the kitchen so everyone can remember. I am Monday morning and Wednesday and Friday afternoon. David is Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning, Lillian is Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon and Thomas is Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning.

Thanks, Shan

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 1.22pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Colour coded coffee cup cleaning chart

Shannon, I notice that you have colour coded the coffee cup cleaning chart. While I appreciate the creative effort that has gone into this roster, the light salmon colour you have chosen for my name is very effeminate. While I am sure you have not done this on purpose and are not inferring anything, I would appreciate you rectifying this immediately. Would it be possible to swap colours with Thomas as he has quite a nice dusty blue.

Thankyou, David

From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.17pm
To: Staff
Subject: Updated kitchen roster

Hi. I have changed David's colour to blue on the kitchen roster. Thomas is now green.


From: Thomas
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.24pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: What the fuck?

What the fuck is this email from Shannon? I am not doing a fucking kitchen roster. Was this your idea?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.38pm
To: Thomas
Cc: Shannon
Subject: Re: What the fuck?

Thomas, do you feel it is fair that Shannon should have to wash everyone's coffee cups? Apparently this morning there were twelve coffee cups in the sink. I was going to schedule a staff board meeting this afternoon to discuss the issue but luckily Shannon has prepared a colour coded coffee cup cleaning chart for us rendering a staff meeting unnecessary. We should all thank Shannon for taking the initiative and creating a system that will empower us to efficiently schedule client meetings and work commitments around our designated coffee cup cleaning duties. If at any stage our rostered coffee cup cleaning commitments coincide with work requirements, we can simply hold the client meeting in the kitchen. We can wash while the clients dry. Today it may only be twelve coffee cups but tomorrow it could be several plates and a spoon and then where would we be?


From: Thomas
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 2.56pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Kitchen stuff

Shannon, I do not need a chart telling me when to wash dishes. I am not going to stop in the middle of writing proposals to wash coffee cups. David is being a fuckwit. I only use one coffee cup and I always rinse it out after I use it. If we have clients here and they use coffee cups then it is appreciated that you wash them as part of your job.

From: Lillian
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.06pm
To: Thomas
Subject: Re: Kitchen stuff

What's this kitchen roster thing? Did you agree to this?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.09pm
To: Shannon
Subject: Rescheduling coffee cup duties

Shannon, can I swap my rostered coffee cup cleaning duty this afternoon for Thursday? I have been busy all day working, not looking at pictures of Johnny Depp on the internet, and not had time to familiarise myself with correct coffee cup cleaning requirements. I am happy to reschedule my meetings tomorrow to undertake a training session on dish washing detergent location and washcloth procedures with you if you have the time. I feel it would be quite helpful if prior to the training session you prepared some kind of Powerpoint presentation. Possibly with graphs. Will I need to bring my own rubber gloves or will these be provided?


From: Shannon
Date: Monday 17 August 2009 3.20pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Rescheduling coffee cup duties


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Does Funding for Global Warming Research Promote Biased Results?

I posted recently on the amount of money that has been spent on Global Warming research, and wondered aloud whether the availability of money could encourage researchers to bias their results.

If this were a scientific study (it is not) the investigation would need a hypothesis and we would then look for evidence for and against that hypothesis. The objective would be to reach a conclusion about the likelihood the hypothesis was correct.

But what hypothesis would properly describe the issue? I have given this question considerable thought, and confess that I have come up empty. Here is my thinking:
  1. Research is funded by a variety of government agencies and non-government foundations and interest groups. The foundations and interest groups can be broadly categorized as having an agenda that matches their vision statements. One would expect an industry foundation to pursue an agenda that is different from, say, GreenPeace or the Sierra Club.
  2. A hypothesis that the source of funding would bias the results of the research would require an auditor to review the research, find evidence of errors in data gathering, data processing and/or data analysis, identify a pattern in those errors that favors the agenda of the funding agency, and attribute that pattern to a decision on the part of the researcher to shade his results to match the funding agency. This is beyond my capability.
  3. Instead of looking for bias at the level of individual research projects, one could look simply at the availability of funding for various types of global warming research. Again, though, what question would you ask? What is the control group for a null hypothesis that you would use for comparison? I hear anecdotes, for example that failing to slip the words "climate change" into requests for funding in biology research dooms the application to rejection. But grant applications get rejected for lots of reasons, and one would have to crawl into the head of each board that reviews grants.
  4. Then there is the "dutiful soldier" defence. If an institution decides that global warming is probable, who would criticize someone for approving funds to either clarify its possible extent, or to research how to cope with the likely impacts? This is bias in the strictest sense of the word, but at the same time no sane administrator would approve funds for a study based on "nothing will change, and we will need to prepare for unprecedented levels of sameness." The availability of funds tells us nothing useful.
  5. So what about tabulating research results and trying to draw a conclusion based on how many studies support one view or another? Well, this turns into science by consensus, and we should speak with Copernicus and Galileo about the validity of THAT approach.
  6. If one can not come up with a good clear-cut hypothesis, what other methods exist? I can think of only one: invert the problem and reverse the onus of proof. Premise - people operate in their self-interest. Whether consciously or not, human nature leads us to conform our actions to the prevailing wisdom of the times.
  7. This, not surprisingly, reminds us that we are ALL biased, and that our actions are colored by our beliefs about the world. This is demonstrably true in religion, politics, investment markets and entertainment, and the list will go on and on.
  8. So now the burden of proof shifts to the opposing position. Prove to the world that research into global warming is NOT biased by the source of funding. (Such a situation, I believe, would make it unique among human endeavors). Anyone want to give it a shot?
Humans are just humans, regardless of our political opinions. We do what we think is right based on how we see the world. Then we criticize others who see things differently. Bias is part of our essential being.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The glass is half full, AND...

Optimist: The glass is half full

Pessimist: The glass is half empty

Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

Halfwise: Isn't it good to have a glass, water and choices?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Encouraged by recent US Job Reports?

Maxed Out Mama shows the truth about employment in the US. In terms of people in the workforce as a percent of the total population, this is ugly, and getting uglier.
Remember that about 70% of the US economy is consumer driven. Consumers have been increasing their savings rates lately, rather than digging deeper debt holes, and that is healthy.

But if there are fewer jobs to be had, then there are fewer income taxes being paid, fewer goods and services being bought, and fewer dollars to chase the new bargains in housing.
Far from being out of the woods yet, methinks, and the talk of green shoots is fiction.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Global warming blamed for advancing glacier

The Daily Mail reports that global warming is changing the face of the northern hemisphere, and presents these photos of Iceland's Breidamerkurjokull glacier as evidence.

Trouble is, glacial retreat would be more indicative of global warming than a glacial advance, and in reality neither would be a conclusive indicator of global warming or cooling because glaciers grow when they get lots of snow in the winter and not much melting in the summer, a situation which could be attributable simply to changes in cloud and precipitation patterns rather than temperature.

But that doesn't much matter. The point of this post is to observe an example of the knee-jerk tendency of the media and the public to lay every natural change at the feet of "global" "warming". It does get tiresome.

There are only three things this guy is afraid of...

h/t Simon

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Torrington Gopher Museum

Off Highway 2, about an hour north of Calgary, is the village of Torrington. Torrington is a prairie town, the kind of place where you don't use your turn signal because everyone knows where you are going, and where 3rd Street is the edge of town. Torrington features a museum with a few dozen dioramas featuring stuffed gophers, depicting life in Torrington.

The photo shows two gophers enjoying a meal at Bernie's Diner.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was not amused.

I was.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Street Ball Dunk Star Gets Olympic High Jump Chance

Justin Darlington, aka 'Jus Fly' has a 50 inch vertical leap. High jump coach Daniel St.-Hilaire says "his legs are like a mutation" and is molding Justin's raw talent towards the Olympic trials. He has already jumped 2.01 meters after just 6 technical workouts. That would have placed him 6th at last year's Olympic trials in Windsor Ontario.

More here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Can we trust scientists if there is money involved?

...or so asks the typical AGW alarmist when dismissing a skeptic's opinion with a casual reference to "he gets money from Big Oil".

If it is possible that chasing grants and funding affects someone's outlook on the world, then what mischief could the following chart suggest? If this was the chart of Big Oil funding of the climate debate, what rhetoric would we hear?

As Watts up with That suggests, Follow the Money.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

But is it Art? Carrot "Bomb" bombs

During the inauguration of the new art museum in Kalmar a suspicious individual sneaked around the premises mounting sculptures made of carrots, alarm clocks, red and blue cables, metal wire and tape. On direct orders from the Swedish secret police the performance was stopped since the Culture Minister refused to give her inaugural speech if it were to continue.

The speech , as it later turned out, was about how art must be allowed to be free and provocative.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ten Reasons why the US Economy is Worse Than You Think

Mort Zuckerman writes in the Wall Street Journal:
1. 185,000 fictitious new jobs help prop up official employment totals
2. People asked to take unpaid leave not counted as unemployed, not paid either
3. 1.4 Million people gave up looking for work, not counted as unemployed
4. 9 Million people settled for part time work, double the pre-recession total
5. Average private sector work week down 48 minutes to 33 hours
6. Average length of official unemployment now record high 24.5 weeks
7. No wage increases in June
8. Highest job loss is in goods-producing sector, 223,000 jobs in June
9. Employers will work current workers more hours rather than hire more, if more output is needed
10. Savings rate has reached 7% of income, up from 0% in 2007, diverting money from consumption.

Weak consumer sector, weak employment outlook, growing awareness of the severity of this downturn.

Canada is much better positioned than the US, methinks, at least those parts of Canada with resource-related economies. Ontario and Quebec's manufacturing sectors are in for a rough ride as their US export market withers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Formula 1 Topiary

Hah! Bet you have never seen F1 and Topiary in the same sentence before. Attago, People's Daily Online. The other 9 examples they show are cool too.

By the way this has nothing to do with our previous reference to topiary.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Temperatures in context

Plenty of reason to ask "why the rush" to cripple the global economy with carbon taxes...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Trippy Optical Illusion

So this is a picture with a blue spiral and a green spiral, right? Not so fast, Eagle-eye. Get in close and you will see that the blue and the green are actually the same color.

The reason they look like different colors, explains Bad Astronomy, is because our brain judges the color of an object by comparing it to surrounding colors. In this case, the stripes are not continuous as they appear at first glance. The orange stripes don’t go through the "blue" spiral, and the magenta ones don’t go through the "green" one. Here’s a zoom to make this more clear:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2300 miles in an AMG 320ce Cabriolet

I am feeling like a six-year old on Christmas Eve. It is early Wednesday evening, and I am heading to Montreal, so that Thursday morning I can pick up one gorgeous Almandine Red 1992 320ce and point it northwest, towards home.

This is a car that I know only from pictures, from an independent inspection report, and from talking to the guys that are selling it. You could say this is a foolish risk (and you could be right) but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The car has been bought and paid for, the insurance arranged, the in-transit permit obtained, and the route has been mapped. All I need to do is get to the car, have them show me how the top goes up and down, stick the transit permit inside the windshield, and off I go. Grinning.

Forty years ago a skinny, clean-cut 16 year old kid thanked his dad for dropping him off at the edge of town, stuck out a cardboard sign that said simply "PLEASE" and thumbed his way from Ontario to British Columbia. One of his first rides in that journey was with a family from Michigan exploring the edge of the Canadian Shield in a new 1969 Mercedes Benz sedan, a huge step up from dad's old red Valiant. My first ride in a Benz, ever. 40 years later, that kid has turned into a no-longer-skinny guy who still likes a long-distance drive but would like to take the choice of ride into his own hands.

The trouble with buying older Benzes is that some day a Benz that is nicer comes along at a reasonable price. My '81 280ce was great until I found the '84 AMG, and within a year I had gone from no old Benzes to two solid w123s. And that was more than enough until I stumbled onto the Red Cabrio on the internet. Wow what a good looking car. And I showed the website photos to my wonderful wife who immediately exclaimed "that's gorgeous", and I was helplessly sliding into owning three cars besides my trusty Avalon.

So here we go. Day one should take me 500 miles / 800 kilometers from Montreal to New Liskeard in Northern Ontario. It will be two hours from Montreal to Ottawa, where I may take a brief detour and explore my childhood downtown neighborhood, a place of petty crime and few pretensions. Ottawa is a government town so this may have changed... Then out beyond the city limits where my dad dropped me in the hazy summer of '69 and on up the Ottawa Valley, past the end of the 4-lane and on to North Bay. A choice awaits there: keep going straight west on King's Highway 17 to retrace that kid's hitchhiking route, or turn right and go north along Highway 11, saving about 300 miles and covering some road that I have never been on. Simple choice - take the road with the stretches I have never seen.

Past New Liskeard the towns get farther apart, and a tired guy in an unfamiliar car might want to pace himself because there are still days of driving ahead. I might press on for another hour; I might call it a day. I might be exhausted from the unfamiliar rush of driving a convertible at highway speeds with the top down for 9 hours; I might be miserable from having pushed through the rain all day with the roof up, to the unfamiliar rhythm of a w124 windshield wiper. In either case I might have a grin on my face like a hound in a headwind. Doesn't matter, a guy should get some sleep. Rest those grin muscles because I will need them again on day two.

But you know, something else could happen. I might have had to deal with some unexpected reality and decide by the time I get to Ottawa that what I really need to do is ship this car by rail or truck back to Edmonton. No problem, find the service, make the arrangements then jump onto an airplane. In life it doesn't much matter what happens to you as long as you survive it and get a good story to tell. Or so says a wise old family friend.

I know, I know, Benz fans want to hear about the CAR, the gleaming w124 320ce with the Wald front air dam, the Lorinser wheels, the AMG trim parts and the remote possibility of an actual AMG e36 motor. Sorry, I have yet to see it. It's Christmas Eve, remember?

More tomorrow, I promise, as long as I can get an internet connection at whatever place I end up staying.

UPDATE June 18:

Made it to New Liskeard, with a few adventures along the way. The car is good but not perfect, and its imperfections included the need for wheel balancing, which has been taken care of, and the sin of not wanting to start if the engine is hot, which may go away on its own after a bit more driving. Who knows? Nothing fatal, and it is a blast to drive this car. What is German for Eye-Catching?

Follow the updates on the Benzworld forum at this link.

Further updates to June 28 same link.