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January 5, 2013 - December 29, 2012

Friday, November 04, 2011


Global Plateauing

Where's that Hockey Stick when you need it?

LAKE SPEAKS.A little while ago, Robert reeled out a little line and hooked me with his "Your Turn" post, as he knew he would. I don't have much interest in Tebow, and while the debate over Herman Cain definitely grabs me, it was the new twist on the Global Warming issue that really got me. I've been following the debate for years at the citizen-scientist level: I've done a lot of reading to be able to understand the data and the issues, and I've learned who to trust (e.g., guys like Steve McIntyre at ClimateAudit) and who to hold in permanent suspicion (e.g., any climate scientist who was part of the ClimateGate emails).

Once the Instapunk post kickstarted me, I dove back into the data and recent research and found that big changes are afoot. Not with the climate, mind you (because that's always changing!), but with the attitudes and views of the scientists at the heart of it. Some of those that were so firmly entrenched in their alarmist AGW views have recently had to face an uncomfortable question.

Before this question was raised, they had their hopes pinned on a study out of Berkeley called BEST, proctored by one Rich Muller. When the results came out, the press went into action as they've been trained to do, drafting pieces like this in WAPO, originally linked here. The funny thing is, this time the scientists who collect this data didn't cheerlead. They issued remarks like, "As far as the basic science goes, the results could not have been less surprising if the press release had said “Man Finds Sun Rises At Dawn.”;  "This must have been something of a disappointment for anyone hoping for something else...."; and "World is Warming. Pope Catholic."

What gives? Wouldn't they be pleased that another study bore out their claims that global temperature is increasing right along with CO2 production, and therefore we're to blame? Why were they unimpressed? Well, it turns out that they were hoping that a certain part of the study wouldn't get much press -- the last little bit of the graph. Take a look:


No warming in the last 10 years... oh, the humanity.

If you zoom in on the last little bit of the graph, the results are clear: warming has stalled for the last 10 years. But CO2 production hasn't stalled a bit. So this is no longer a possible case of correlation without causation. There's simply no correlation. CO2 is a trace gas, and while humans sure do produce a lot of it, it's a small part (if any) of the real reason that a massively complex and global set of properties called climate might possibly change. A ten year study from a group at CERN found that our tenths-of-a-degree warming might actually be caused by particles from distant supernovae (exploded millions or billions of years ago, far from Al Gore's jurisdiction) causing an increase in water vapor.

That's it. This coffin has had several dozen nails pounded into it, but this recent result is a railroad spike. Some of the biggest alarmist scientists have been polled about this, including several that are found in those Climategate emails. They were asked this simple question point blank by science reporter Paul Voosen: "Why, despite steadily accumulating greenhouse gases, did the rise of the planet’s temperature stall for the past decade?" Their responses are mainly waffling, and many of them appeal to uncertainties about sensitivities and feedbacks, the very song that skeptics (we deniers) have been singing for years. Read about it here.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the green movement genie is out of the bottle at all levels of world governments. I'd give the US a fighting chance at undoing the damaging policies before billions more dollars are wasted. It might be too late, however, for the UK and Australia, where politicians and local government have started using mob tactics that destroy businesses and people's lives in the name of reducing CO2 production by an unmeasurably small amount. Much like the Earth's climate, the future is definitely uncertain.




Thursday, November 03, 2011


X-Factor

Modest. And GREAT.

GIVE IT A CHANCE. I've always hated American Idol. A bunch of Whitney Houston impersonators adding endless notes to pedestrian songs. But I decided to look in on X-Factor because I suspected Simon Cowell wasn't wholly a monster based on his discoveries of middle-aged diamonds in the rough like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle. I know it's been a slow starter in the ratings race, but there are several ways it's significantly better than Idol. There is no age limit, the format of the show is designed to provide maximum exposure for a handful of acts that are truly talented, whether they win the grand prize or not, and the judges are not there to scorn the pretenders but to mentor and promote talents they have invested their own time and production skills in. On this show the judges are advocates, not assassins. It makes you feel good.

I convinced my extremely reluctant wife to watch and she was blown away. The contestants aren't all superstars, but they're far superior to the drek of American Idol.


He's fourteen. Just a kid. And he dominated that audience.

Each judge has a category of performers. And they'll be responsible for sending somebody home on a regular basis. It doesn't please them because they like what they're seeing.


She's also fourteen. Like country or not, she's a force to be reckoned with.

That's all I have to say. I wouldn't have said this much except that my wife suggested it. That's the real miracle here.





What you can do
with Google.



EXPLORING SHRIVES GUILT. People don't understand the riches of web resources like YouTube and Google. The amount of available stuff is nearly infinite. I've tried in the past to show you what YouTube contains. Today it's Google's turn.

I executed a search for "the most beautiful." Here's the result.

And here's my favorite:

The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English

Ailurophile     A cat-lover.
Assemblage     A gathering.
Becoming     Attractive.
Beleaguer     To exhaust with attacks.
Brood     To think alone.
Bucolic     In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow     A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant     Like a cat's eye.
Comely     Attractive.
Conflate     To blend together.
Cynosure     A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance     A brief love affair.
Demesne     Dominion, territory.
Demure     Shy and reserved.
Denouement     The resolution of a mystery.
Desuetude     Disuse.
Desultory     Slow, sluggish.
Diaphanous     Filmy.
Dissemble     Deceive.
Dulcet     Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience     Bubbling enthusiasm.
Effervescent     Bubbly.
Efflorescence     Flowering, blooming.
Elision     Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir     A good potion.
Eloquence     Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation     Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient     A softener.
Ephemeral     Short-lived.
Epiphany     A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile     At one time, for a time.
Ethereal     Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent     Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Evocative     Suggestive.
Fetching     Pretty.
Felicity     Pleasantness.
Forbearance     Withholding response to provocation.
Fugacious     Fleeting.
Furtive     Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol     To skip or leap about joyfully.
Glamour     Beauty.
Gossamer     The finest piece of thread, a spider's silk
Halcyon     Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger     Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication     Overlapping and forming a regular pattern.
Imbroglio     An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue     To infuse, instill.
Incipient     Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable     Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue     A naïve young woman.
Inglenook     A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance     Blithe nonchalance.
Inure     To become jaded.
Labyrinthine     Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe     A special kind of gift.
Lagoon     A small gulf or inlet.
Languor     Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude     Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure     Free time.
Lilt     To move musically or lively.
Lissome     Slender and graceful.
Lithe     Slender and flexible.
Love     Deep affection.
Mellifluous     Sweet sounding.
Moiety     One of two equal parts.
Mondegreen     A slip of the ear.
Murmurous     Murmuring.
Nemesis     An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing     The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia     A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent     Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest     A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea     A solution for all problems
Panoply     A complete set.
Pastiche     An art work combining materials from various sources.
Penumbra     A half-shadow.
Petrichor     The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora     A large quantity.
Propinquity     An inclination.
Pyrrhic     Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential     Most essential.
Ratatouille     A spicy French stew.
Ravel     To knit or unknit.
Redolent     Fragrant.
Riparian     By the bank of a stream.
Ripple     A very small wave.
Scintilla     A spark or very small thing.
Sempiternal     Eternal.
Seraglio     Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity     Finding something nice while looking for something else.
Summery     Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous     Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious     Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna     A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous     Whispering, hissing.
Talisman     A good luck charm.
Tintinnabulation     Tinkling.
Umbrella     Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward     Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial     In trace amounts.
Wafture     Waving.
Wherewithal     The means.
Woebegone     Sorrowful, downcast.

Sure I can disagree. But truthfully, there are a lot of beautiful words on the list.

But there's also this, this, this, this, and this. And, absurdly, this.

So it's all supremely subjective. Why I'm inviting you all to nominate your own "most beautiful" places, music, architecture, women, words, poems, paintings, cars, whatever.

Let's have a huge fight about it. (Unless you'd rather stew about Cain and Obama.)




Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Let's Hope Not.


I SO WANTED TO LIKE HER. What it is to be old and soft. I had thought that maybe Michelle was the silver lining of this abominable administration, that her duties as First Lady were exposing her to a real America that refuted her Princeton fantasy of an evil slave state. I guess I was wrong about that. Read the whole thing.

The very angry first lady

Michelle’s back, and she’s madder than ever. She was already pretty angry, seemingly unhappy with just about everything. As her husband wrapped up the Democratic nomination in 2008, she let fly her real feelings: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.” A few months into her job as first lady, her French counterpart asked how she liked the gig: “Don’t ask!” she reportedly spat. “It’s hell. I can’t stand it!”

She even seems to be mad at her silver-tongued husband. When the two were to set off on a luxurious 10-day vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, she left early - four hours early - and flew up alone. And those private vacations. She’s traveled to some of the world’s most plush resorts, taking 42 days off in the past year - that’d be eight weeks of vacay time if she held down a normal job.

Now, she is ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the campaign trail. A dignified, transcendent first lady? No chance. Michelle is going to break with a hundred years of tradition and play the role of attack dog, heaping derision on her husband’s political opponents like no other first lady before her.

And it’s already begun. Mad Michelle this week popped down to Davis Island, Fla., to hobnob with the very people her husband despises - the 1 percent. At a massive mansion on the bay, filled with the wealthiest of the wealthy, America’s first lady launched into a tirade about “them” - the Republicans.

“Let’s not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters - and our sons - watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. But more importantly, let’s not forget the impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come - on our privacy and our security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly and love whomever we choose. That is what’s at stake here,” she said to applause.

Yes, Republicans hope to regain the White House so they can install Supreme Court justices who will trample Americans’ privacy, ignore the nation’s security, crush free speech and persecute the religious...

This is the person Barack Obama goes home to. It makes me more worried than ever.

P.S. There's also this:


I just thought she was getting better. My bad.




Monday, October 31, 2011



Adventures in Real Life:

Senior Road Trip!

Andy

WE HAVE FUN. I've been away from the site for more than a few days, which doesn't normally occur, and I feel obliged to offer an explanation to assure you it's not going to be a trend.

Lady Laird and I have been to Pittsburgh for a long weekend. We were on a mission. Our granddaughter Pippa attends college there and it became necessary for us to say "Hi, Andy"  to a portrait of Andrew Mellon so his ghost wouldn't trip her when she passed through the lobby of the administration building on her way to class. All the underclassmen swear this is a constant threat.

We were happy to assist. My helpmeet made the hotel reservations, arranged for the rental vehicle, scoped out the route via the GPS function on her iPhone, and conducted the intense negotiations required to get a veterinary clinic to house all three of our dogs for nigh on 72 hours. (People think Hillary is a tough bargainer. At the end they weren't even surly when they agreed to the king's ransom times two she had kept as her diplomatic ace in the hole.)

I did my part as well. I fell ill with a severe respiratory complaint that should have made it impossible to leave my computer for any reason whatsoever, barring the noble altruism of a man who also prefers not to live in total spousal silence for the next three months, and when tears, tantrums, special pleadings, and brilliantly ingenious excuses by the dozen availed nought, I went out to the TrueValue and purchased two timers to fool the burglars prepared to pounce on our house when the sighthounds and I were no longer sleeping on our sentinel couches. Then I somehow managed to extract the high tech timer devices from their senior-proof packaging and, with the aid of my immense intellect and a magnifying glass, deciphered the instructions on their installation and activation. Several false starts later, they actually worked. You know. Man stuff.

It's easy for you youngsters to say, "So what? You got in a car, drove there and back, and now you want a medal?" Of course I want a medal. This one will do:


With an "Escape" cluster
and a "Hi, Andy" chevron.

You have no idea what it's like for a civilized homebody to burst suddenly out of his small world into the wild west that exists slightly left of the Main Line.  There be horses and buggies out yonder, starting as early as the Lancaster exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Amishers. At every mile marker afterward you wonder, will the roads be paved? Will we fall headfirst into a godawful Kevin Costner movie involving deerskins and subliminal native symbols?

Thus, Friday morning found me piloting a bright red Ford Escape stuffed with dogs and luggage to the first checkpoint, where Lady Laird began the intricate process of canine-ransom exchange by leading a 13-pound pug into the office of the commissar, who like all communist apparatchiks everywhere, had no record of the intended transaction and needed all new paperwork. When she returned, hours later, to give me the okay to bring the other two, I was filled with admiration -- until I beheld the face of the functionary in charge when she saw a greyhound and a deerhound.

"I thought you meant three pugs," she said. "This changes everything."

To this day, people -- generally younger, dumber people -- ask me why I hang onto my grandfather's WWI .45 sidearm and why I added the 16-bullet clip. What can you say to such people? The dogs got their due digs.

Then the great odyssey got truly underway. I drove all 12,000 miles of it, because the alternative would have been to surrender the steering wheel to women who were fighting over which channel of eighties music was going to prevail on the radio until we fell off the western edge of the earth. No thank you. And, yes, there was more than one woman on board. Do you begin to understand my medal claim?

I know I've tested your narrative patience past its limit. Permit me to share the observations of a couch potato dynamited out of his happy zone into the realities of life on the 21st century road. The following are non sequiturs, but I'm convinced that epigrammatists like Pascal and La Rochefoucauld would approve, perhaps even with some envy:

Why do they call it the Ford "Escape"? You can't get away from a bleak and barren landscape. Somebody said, during the 6,000 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, "I love it. This looks just like Canada." All I could think was, "Exactly. Why I never go there. Eighty billion square miles of barren nothingness. And no way out."

I'd like to (want to) buy a Ford. But I don't. I grew up in the days when we fell in love with cars. Nobody falls in love with a thing that aims for passing grades and achieves exactly that. The kindest thing I can say is that I didn't get a back-ache. Probably not what Romeo said about Juliet.

There's nothing like an old, small, women-only college. Too bad the [redacted] academics have to [redacted] it up with [redacted] [redacted] like [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], and especially [redacted], which actually makes me [redacted]. But the campus, the buildings, and the trees and gardens were astonishingly beautiful. These alone make me hopeful. The warm light of the past may yet outshine the politically correct haz-mat lightbulbs of the present.

If you're a couple who loves the Olive Garden, like Lady Laird and me, you don't have to wait in line for a great meal. You can wait for two seats to open up at the bar and eat there. The menu is the same, the service is swift, and you feel like you've won the lottery. Kewl.

In the hands of a master (er, missus), the iPhone can do anything. Find the way to the hotel, find the weather back home, remind you not to call the pet gulag to check on Eloise, and tell you where the nearest restaurant is that's serving food in a snowstorm when your own hotel keeps boutique hours for continental breakfast and early supper.

Granddaughters are lovely, touching beings. You want to protect them from all the things that would enable them to have adult human conversations with you. And when they've finally suffered enough to have adult human conversations with, you wish -- like a maiden aunt fixated on Tinkerbelle -- that they might remember all the way back to who they were then and unravel some of its mystery for you.

McDonald's does a pretty good job with its Bacon, Egg & Cheese Bagel. I'm old enough to have some authority on this point. But it's pernicious the way they put the loose change on top of the bills and the slippery receipt. And evil the way they say "Sorry" when it cascades to the pavement after your one-handed balancing act fails.

Starbucks has entirely ruined the coffee industry. Even on the Turnpike you can't get a plain cup of coffee that isn't overpriced, overcooked, syrupy with yuppie pretension, and not (no way) drinkable to the end of a good cigarette.

Pittsburgh is a fine fine city. Like so many American cities are. Unique in history, architecture, cultural riches (Pippa has already studied Faberge treaures at the Frick), neighborhoods, and ethnic identity. I love this country. Wherever you go, there is beauty, stores of knowledge and art, and the people make you welcome and proud to be American. Even in the appalling moral cesspool that is the headquarters of Stiller (Steeler) fans.

The ghost of Andy can be placated with a certain firmness. I did so, protecting Pippa in her hour of need and narrowly averting a tripping incident with my lefthanded wife as she was taking his photograph, she who sometimes trips even in the absence of a starchy autocrat wraith. The secret? I didn't say, "Hi, Andy." I said, "How do you do, Andrew. You look exactly like my own holier-than-thou great-grandfather. Be a gentlemen to the women of of my family or I'll horsewhip you on the steps of your club." He didn't say a word. The carpet edge reaching for my wife's shoe summarily retreated. Breeding will tell.

If you ever do suddenly leave home, you won't get away with it scot-free. For example, you could take a nice fall trip to see the pretty leaves and learn on the news channels that your home has been instantaneously inundated with a monstrous snowstorm that has plunged your friends and neighbors into darkness. When this happens to you, remember not to panic while you're panicking and putting cold cloths on your head and texting all the people who don't have electricity anyway. It's pretty much the way life is. Get used to it.

Even seniors can survive road trips. We're home. The house is fine, thanks to my timers. The cats survived their three day Cat Party. The dogs are home. (Molly has stopped shaking.) The Ford has escaped back to Hertz. And all is right with the world.

No way I'm not feeling proud of myself. This morning, just one day after the 18,000 mile round-trip, I superintended the return of electrical power to our manse (well, I woke up when the lights came back on), then I organized and managed the return of the Escape, the rescue of the dogs, and the replacement of a flat tire on Lady Laird's chariot of fire.

I confidently await the awarding of my medal. Because I'm an old-fashioned hero, nothing if not a legend in his own mind. And after a weekend of higher learning, I'm sold on the self-esteem thing. Bring it on. Back on my couch, I'm entirely comfortable with the idea of being celebrated just for showing up. Maybe it's the progessive in me.



Or maybe I already have my medal. Pippa hugged me when we left and Lady Laird laughed when I read her this post. She's already planning a repeat trip next year. I'm not afraid. I'll drive the whole 24,000 miles. Man stuff.






Step up your game, Cain.




DON'T CLOSE YOUR EYES. Deja deja vue. Haven't we been here before? Now it's the Democrats who are concerned about politicians who hit on women. Excuse me, the media. Excuse me again, same thing.

Wouldn't bother with this at all, except to point out that we dealt with it nearly a decade ago at Shuteye Nation. Point? The question is old as the hills and interesting only in its salacious details. Even women are bored by the so-called news that prominent men are inclined to hit on attractive younger women. Does the name Bill Clinton ring a bell? Aren't we past the whole "lying about sex" wheeze?

Of course we are. Unless he's a Republican. Or one of those negroes who can't keep his thing in his pants. Or he says something exciting and then keeps his thing in his pants. Which upsets liberal women in particular, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court. Unless he's pro-choice. In which case, you know. Regardless, with the copletely singular exception of Bill Clinton, no man who aspires to be president can be a sexual rogue. Explanation? We'll get back to you on that by and by.

In the interim, a flashback to Shuteye Nation, Year 2000:

Smithtonian Magazine:
An OOPS* Gallery Sampler
 
 
    Presdent Woody Willson never removed his pince-nez, but he relished the company of a young lady named Ebony Flame, who started her Wishington career as a stenographer but soon graduated to taxi dancing. When the Presdent caught sight of her ankle as she was trying to hail a bus near the Capitol Building, he was instantly smitten. The Society arranged many 'propinquities' between Woody and Ebony during his two terms, until the Presdent's illness and general decline at the end of his second term called a halt to pleasure. As required under Society by-laws, Ebony recorded details of their meetings in the OOPS journal, which may be published by Smithtonian at a later date, provided that necessary funding can be procured (preferably through the National Archives, but if need be, via executive order). One racy tidbit may serve to tantalize: Willson's pet name for Ebony was "my stark naked strumpet."
     
     
     

    FDR liked them young, according to Society archivist Destiny LaTour. He also liked them short-haired, boyish in figure, and "dressed to the nines in a birthday suit." There are four portraits of Ameria's longest serving Presdent in the OOPS Gallery, one for each of his terms, although Ms. LaTour makes it plain there were many more than four women involved in Franklin Rosevelt's "propinquities." Even at the end of his life, when he could barely utter a coherent sentence, he was still calling on the Society twice a week or more for company. The young lady shown above is Amber Borgia, an Ittalian by birth, who visited the Oval Office on many occasions during the first term, but returned to her native land for political reasons when relations became strained between the U.S. and Benito Mussoloni, Ittaly's fascist dictator. Her entries in the Society Journal are in Ittalian, but according to Ms. LaTour, that's not all that's exotic about them.
     
     

     
    James K. Poke was Presdent of the United States during the drive to fulfill Manifest Destiny, a time of unprecedented western migration and national enthusiasm. Poke was an appropriate choice for the country's highest office. He was energetic, flamboyant, and a bit uncouth. When he first delivered his propinquity specifications to the Society, he minced no words in telling them he was "fond of flank steakthe bigger the rump the better." The young lady shown in the Poke portrait was his favorite of dozens who made visits to him in the Oval Office. Her name was Fanny deBoeuf  (a nom de guerre obviously, literally translated as hind end of the beef), but not much else is known of her. Ms. LaTour asserts that she used to sneak into the White House dressed in the merest scrap of a shift: Presdent Poke didn't like to waste time on preliminaries.
     
     
     
    Presdent William Howard Tafft was a big man, almost 330 pounds, and it should be no surprise that he also liked his women big. During the interregnum between Theodore Rosevelt and Tafft, the Society had to replace virtually all of its "propinquitors," since Teddy always preferred women to be slim and athletic. The sheer amplitude of the Society's women during the Tafft term is extraordinary. Some of them weighed nearly as much as the Presdent and had to be smuggled into the Oval Office in huge wardrobes, which gave Tafft the reputation of being a spendthrift on suits. One might suppose that the propinquities were therefore sedate and sedentary occasions, but Ms. LaTour claims that Society annals record the replacement of four broken desks in the Oval Office during the Tafft term. The details, alas, must await the publication of the Society's closely guarded journal.
     
     
     
    As the successor to Thomas Jeffersen, whose preferences are well known, James Madison Munroe set many of the precedents that became Society traditions. As a Vagina gentleman, he was punctilious about conducting all his Society business with politesse and grace. Indeed, on many occasions he spoke French, believing it the language of courtly love, and reverted to his native tongue only when it became clear he was not being understood. Always adaptable, the Society began acquiring its propinquitors from Franch, including the young lady shown in this official portrait, who resigned the Parish ballet to dance for Presdent Munroeand sometimes on Presdent Munroein the Oval Office. Her name was Ophelie de Pieds, and her entries in the Society Journal will make fascinating reading for the general public some day. Apparently, Ameria's fourth Presdent liked feet.
     
     
    *The Oval Office Propinquity Society
As anyone can see, Herman Cain needs to get a great deal naughtier. More importantly, it seems unlikely Mitt Romney can even get to the starting gate. Maybe Newt knows what he's doing after all.




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