Sunday, October 24, 2010

Voting Cheat Sheet

Just as a helpful tool for all of you who haven’t voted yet, I made this handy crib sheet so you can cheat off my paper and get the correct answers…

  • Initiative 1053 – Yes
  • Initiative 1082 – Yes
  • Initiative 1098 – No
  • Initiative 1100 – Yes
  • Initiative 1105 – Yes
  • Initiative 1107 – Yes
  • Referendum 52 – Rejected
  • Resolution 8225 – Rejected
  • Resolution 4220 – Approved
  • King County Charter Amendment 1 – No
  • King County Charter Amendment 2 – Yes
  • King County Charter Amendment 3 – No
  • King County Proposition 1 – Rejected
  • US Senate – Rossi
  • US Rep Dist 8 – Reichert
  • State Rep 1 – Rodne
  • State Rep 2 – Anderson
  • State Supreme Court Justice Position 6 – Sanders
  • District Court Position 6 – O’Brien
  • District Court Position 7 – Mitchell

(ignoring the unopposed races)

Happy voting and make sure you get them in the mail ASAP. Don’t wait until November 2nd!!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chemicals, Iraq, and WikiLeaks

Interestingly, the largest ever unauthorized disclosure of military documents has yielded this:

And rebutting the last paragraph in that article about these chemicals not being used against US troops, we have this: and this:

And of course, going back to this report from 2006 about post-invasion chemical finds in Iraq:,2933,200499,00.html

And as a little red meat, here’s an interesting American Thinker piece that asks some thought provoking questions about why Saddam played this game of high stakes WMD poker:

Something nifty this way comes…

I knew something important was coming up soon…hmm…what was it?

Oh yeah, that’s right -- none of these!

Rock Band 3 releases on October 26th! I’ve had this on pre-order for a long time and I’m looking forward to getting some keytar goodness.

In addition to all the cool features of Rock Band 3 like the seven player support, harmonies, great support for party play, and improved set list management, it also has a new character creator and an awesome set list.

rb3charI know what you are really waiting for is my list of the first five songs I’ll be playing on Tuesday, so without further ado…

  1. New Order “Blue Monday” (Gamestop pre-order bonus)
  2. B-52s “Rock Lobster”
  3. Big Country “Big Country”
  4. INXS “Need You Tonight”
  5. Whitesnake “Here I Go Again”

…and a bonus #6 – Talking Heads “Burning Down The House”.

And I’m not forgetting our anniversary – we’re going to Daniel’s on Monday night (my better half is going to a conference out of town later in the week).

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Paging Mr. Masala, Mr. Garam Masala

wwmagMy lovely wife is a gangsta disciple of WeightWatchers, so she gets their little magazine thing at the meetings. It often has a really interesting recipe in the back.

In last week’s issue, they featured “Spice-Roasted Butternut Squash and Onions” which looked pretty tasty. So I thought we’d whip that up for dinner. I ran off to my local grocery to find the ingredients – especially this Indian spice called “garam masala”. Unfortunately, they never heard of ‘im.
Not to be denied my crazy food choices, I whipped out my trusty Windows Mobile phone and Bing Mobiled my way to the recipe for garam masala while standing right there in the spice aisle. As you might expect, this is a concoction like curry powder or chili powder – that is, not a single spice, but a mixture of various other spices. As I learned from that recipe page:

This is the most aromatic and fragrant of all Indian spice blends. Used throughout North India in all types of dishes — from appetizers and soups to yogurt salad and main courses — this blend is indispensable to Moghul and North Indian cooking.

The ingredients for this version are (full hat tip to my source):

2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon, broken up
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon saffron (optional) <<< I skipped this

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.
Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

making The smell of the toasting spices was amazingly good and this all went pretty well, except that we didn’t have a spice or coffee grinder and neither did the supermarket I went to. We have several nice kitchen stores in North Bend, but I didn’t want to bother with that. Instead I opted for a little mini-chopper/food processer thing that my mom got somewhere and gave to us. As it turned out, this thing was really not up to the task of dealing with the cinnamon stick pieces and the coriander seeds. To deal with this, finishedI just had to run it through in many batches and ultimately started using a sieve to separate out the fine, finished mix and leave the chunks to go back for another trip in the chopper.   Until I ended up with something that smelled very good indeed and looked like a real spice you’d buy in a store.

This stage took about an hour.
Now it was time to make the rest of the dish…

At great risk to myself of the WeightWatchers sending their ill-fitting brown shirt thugs after me, here’s the recipe that drove all this insanity.

2 1/4 lbs fresh butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garam masala   < yup, all that to get a single teaspoon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
3 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray.
Place squash and onion on prepared baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss to coat.
cooking Sprinkle with garam masala, salt and pepper; toss to coat.
Roast, tossing about halfway through cooking, until squash and onions are tender and slightly browned, about 25 minutes.



Transfer vegetables to a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with cilantro; toss to coat.

And this is what you get in the end. We served it with a tasty rice pilaf (from a box) and some naan from the store, reheated in the oven. Very tasty – although a little peppery. The pepper kind of overwhelmed some of the more subtle flavors. So I’d cut back on the pepper in the recipe and if I every lose my mind and make the garam masala again, I’d use less pepper. The roasted red onions end up adding a very nice sweetness to the dish.

serving This recipe makes enough for a Moghul army, so our idea for the leftovers is to mix them with some chicken stock (and maybe a little skim or low-fat milk) and then grind up the chunks with “boat motor” and we should end up with a nicely seasoned squash bisque.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sleep peacefully…

Just read a story about a 24 year old Green Beret, Robert Miller, who is being posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 7 of his SF team and 15 Afghan soldiers in an ambush in 2008.


The article says that Miller was motivated to serve because of 9-11. I’ve often said that I think there is an older generation in our country that gravely underestimates the impact of 9-11 as a transformative event on those who saw it as children. I can’t think of a better illustration of that than stories like this. And while we are sad for the loss of men like this, we have to be thankful that we are still a country that can produce them.

One of the comments on this story used a quote that I haven't thought about for years. It is certainly appropriate.

"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night, only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."  -- George Orwell 

Miller's TeamRough men ready to do violence on your behalf

Thanks to all who serve!

(more pictures of Robert Miller)

Monday, October 4, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the...

Well, despite my previous post saying I would be going away for my Warrior Transition Course training on October 4, there has been another last minute change and now I'll be leaving on November 1st-ish.
The Army is good at destroying things, but they don't make a very good travel agency.
So, now I'm back to work for a couple weeks, then some vacation and then off to training.
I'll miss Thanksgiving at home with the family and my college student kids, which sucks, but I'll see them at Christmas. In fact, one will already be at home for her Christmas break before I get back. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The coming zombie apocalypse

When we were visiting family in Utah after dropping of child number 2 at college, one of my brothers-in-law introduced us to the game Zombies!!! by Twilight Creations.

It’s the kind of game that you see played in obscure game shops where people who live in their mom’s basement sell pewter figures of elves and knights. Except – wait for it – it is both playable and fun for normal people who don’t even own a 20 sided die.

It is easy to learn, doesn’t take forever to play, you don’t have to look up anything in obscure tables of hit damage and it has this clever mechanic of building the game board through random draws that makes it different each time you play. To top it off, as you can see by the examples below, the art style is kind of Atomic Ranch retro-chic. 



If you get the chance, and don’t mind spending/blowing/investing $30 on a board game, pick up Zombies!!! I think you’ll enjoy it. There are also many add-ons available, as well as packs of additional plastic zombies.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

P.F. Changs wishes you “good fortune”

Speaking of my trophy wife, I had not been out on any kind of a date with her in awhile. It is pretty sad to leave our youngest daughter home alone with the dog while we go out. But, alas, it must be done.

We tried to find a movie, but, holy cow, are we in some sort of major climate change induced movie drought? Are Hollywood leftists so busy enjoying the new socialism that they don’t have time for work?

So, anyway, we went to P. F. Chang’s in Bellevue Square. I believe I am the last person on earth who had not yet eaten there, so it was fun.
The food was delicious. We had the lemon chicken, cashew-almond chicken, and orange peel chicken. Yes, yes. Somehow we ended up with all chicken dishes. But it was fab nonetheless.

At the end of the meal, we got our fortune cookies and this was mine:fortune I’ll let you know how that goes…

My Kindle

Sometimes, you just need to buy a gadget of some sort.

Recently, I slaked my gadget-lust by buying a new Kindle.

Then, before it came, I decided I didn’t want it, but I was too late to cancel it. No worries, the helpful Amazonian said, just refuse delivery when it shows up. I steadfastly determined to return the Kindle unopened.
Then it came and I was bored and wanted to check it out. “I’ll just open it,” I thought, “I can still send it back. I’ll just have to pay the shipping.” 
Then, after a few hours of playing with it, my wife helped me decide we were keeping it.

So now I have a Kindle.


Here's why it is cool...
1. Battery life. It has been a long time since I’ve had an electronic anything that could go weeks without recharging. That is very cool indeed.
2. Connectivity. Mine is the 3G+WiFi Kindle. Honestly, if I were advising someone, I’d probably say the WiFi alone is enough. On the one hand, it is only a $50 difference, but on the other that is 1/4 of the price of the thing. The idea of sitting in some place that doesn’t have WiFi somewhere and buying a book instantly is very cool. But seriously, how far is anyone from a WiFi hotspot these days?  
3. Size. This thing is super thin and light. The screen is clearly the limiting factor it making it any smaller now.
4. Screen. About that screen…it is GORGEOUS. Monochrome, but incredibly sharp and readable. More clear than actual ink on paper in the same lighting. After looking at LCD screens for so many years, this is truly a delight for the eyes.
5. Overall gadget factor. The “experimental” web browser is actually pretty good these days. There are some amusing games. Being able to browse books anywhere and read samples of them is very very cool.

Here's why it is lame...
1. Book price. Some books are actually more expensive on Kindle than on paper. Even the ones that aren’t are often quite expensive. For example, Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics is about $26 in hardback – and about $21 on Kindle. When you consider that the eBook doesn’t need costly transportation, warehousing, or actual printing. And that when you buy an eBook, you can never sell it to someone else or give it away or donate it to a library, that is just not cheap enough. And reading on a device, even one as great as a Kindle, is still a second-rate experience compared to the actual book. Amazon blames the publishers, and clearly Amazon can’t set the prices themselves, but I believe they could pressure the publishers to see the light on this in the same way that Apple did with music. Amazon is really the main player in consumer eBooks and I don’t see that changing much – even with Apple coming into it. (n.b. there are lots of free books available – classics and such, but you can only read so much of that.)
2. Screen. Yeah, about that screen…e-ink takes a moment to refresh so you get a brief flash when you turn the page. I think that is super annoying even though it is much improved from previous Kindle generations. It is also very slow and that makes any kind of reasonable gaming or truly good web browsing out of the question.
3. I keep trying to touch the screen. I’m not an idiot, it is just every device for the last decade has taught me to touch the screen. I am forever reaching up to touch the screen.
4. Community of Jerks. I went on to the Amazon discussion boards to talk about the Kindle with some owners. Turns out they are pretty much jerks. Very defensive about any questioning of the product’s superiority and of “Mr. Jeff Bezos” (who, I’m told, knows more about business than I possibly could so I shouldn’t be asking questions).

I considered an iPad, but they are a serious purchase, not a boredom purchase. Plus after seeing one in action, I'm not impressed. Big, slow, clunky would be my description. Like a phone that is too big and you can't talk on anyway.
I considered a netbook, but they are good small laptops, not good things to read on.

So a Kindle it is for now. It doesn’t suck. Just be prepared for the book prices … and that annoying screen refresh flash.


I'm not a Halo guy.
Halo-_Reach_box_art But this is the last Bungie Halo, so I thought I'd make an exception.
When Reach came out, I had to go to the Company Store to wait in line for 2 hours to get a Limited Edition for my nephews. Ironically, it was at the same time my free copy was being handed out at the office.
I decided to pick up the Limited Edition for myself. I'm not a Halo guy, but the production values of this Limited Edition - the journal really - piqued my interest.
I liked Halo Wars and that kind of introduced me to the universe. Then I downloaded the original Halo from Xbox Originals on Live and that was pretty enjoyable.
I'd briefly played Halo 2, Halo 3, and ODST, but the combination of in-game language and a story that didn't grab me failed to hook me.
I was blown away by Reach.
First of all, the graphics are much better - especially on the characters.
Second, it is very "open". You feel like you can wander anywhere and you can drive ANYTHING - Warthog? Of course. Mongoose? Sure. Forklift? Utility truck? YES! Hop on in. It may not be useful, but it is really fun.
Finally, the story was great. The ending and post credit ending were awesome. I actually felt some emotion for the story at the end.
It seemed a little brief for such a long awaited game, but the trend seems to be to focus on the quality of experience rather than the duration of it. I’ll now pause while you insert your own jokes here.

All in all, well played Bungie. Well played.

How I Spent My Mid-Life Crisis

When some men turn 40, they might buy a sports car, others change jobs in some dramatic way, and still others decide it is time for a trophy wife.
In my case, the Spyder is still OK (though not as OK as it used to be), I have a great job on Xbox, and I've had my trophy wife for 23 years what to do?

logo_imgHow about I join the Army?
It wasn't quite as spur of the moment as all that. I spent a year losing 80 pounds and getting into shape, then many more months of negotiation and being poked and prodded in various ways.toy_soldiers Now here I am, once again a sergeant, but this time in the Army Reserve. Specifically, Company A, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Lewis. Hoo-ah! <ahem>
My overall goal is a commission, but I was rejected (and yes, it was as painful as it sounds) in my first run through the Direct Commissioning process as a civilian, so I went back in at my prior rank and will try that again next year.
(As it turns out, there are a bunch of budgetary reasons about why it is bad to apply for a direct commission in the Spring phase rather than the Fall phase. Would have been good if someone had clued me into that.)
In the meantime, I'll be going to Warrior Transition Course (WTC) on October 4. This is where people from other services learn to be Army men. I was originally scheduled for December 28, then they canceled that class and were going to move me to November 3, finally settling on October 4 - with 2 week's notice!
So if you are looking for me in October, I’ll be somewhere around here…

Frankly, I'm both excited and nervous. Excited for the M16, M240, grenade and AT4 experience. Nervous because the key to doing well in these kinds of situations is to just do exactly what you're told without thinking about it - which is a lot harder when you are 42 than when you are 17. It's only 5 weeks - what could go wrong?
So I've been scrambling around making sure everything is arranged. I've put in my military leave of absence at work - so they will keep paying me (thanks Microsoft, couldn't do this without that) and that I've handed off important household affairs to my ever-patient and enduring spouse - like management of the Netflix queue.
No sooner did they spring the new date on me than I got these aches and pains - like you get in the first half mile of a run as your body tries to talk you out of running. Those have passed. I am afraid of getting sick before I go, so I'm pounding vitamins.

So off we go, again, into the wild blue yonder…(crap, I’ve messed up already)


Monday, May 17, 2010

My new favorite author

That’s right…it’s creepy…it’s scary…it’s suspensful…

cover Just got my copy of Alan Wake at work today. I honestly didn’t know if I’d like it much – although all the trailers were pure eye candy. When I eventually got home from my day in the Project Natal salt mines, and after Family Home Evening, I stuck in the the ol’ 360 for a spin.

Mind blowing. Just mind blowing. It was spooky to be sure, but I’ve never felt so drawn in by a game. To call this a game is selling it short I think. It really feels like interactive fiction – in the tradition of Portal (no, not the Valve game of the same name) or Myst. (OK, but with more shooting than those guys but still…) I think hard core gamers might be disappointed in that a lot of the game involves relatively minor participation while watching the story unfold. This is no Halo.

It doesn’t hurt that the game, set in the fictitious and creepy woods of Bright Falls, Washington, is so connected with the nearby (to me)town of Snoqualmie, Washington and inspired by Twin Peaks and The X-Files. I’m a big fan of Twin Peaks – but couldn’t care less about X-Files. Nothing like being thoroughly creeped out by your own neighborhood. So much of the game centers on light and shadow that it should come as no surprise that the lighting effects take center stage in the game. You can see that in many of these screenshots.


Alan Wake was first announced in 2005 (take a look at the original blurb about it and here’s the original trailer from E3 2005). And supposedly the concept was hatched in 2001. That is one long gestation. It’s not the Sistine Chapel, and I won’t claim it is 5 or 10 years worth of goodness here, but it is something really different and if you aren’t too easily creeped out, it is well worth a look.

You can check out the roundup of reviews on MetaCritic. Like all reviews, you have to kind of take them as just opinions. A small minority were pretty negative actually – hitting down around the 70% line – but most were quite good. Since those good ones agree with me, I would say pay attention to those and ignore the grumpy Czechoslovakian judge.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I think this call is for you

Proving that boredom is the mother of invention, here’s a great remake of Lady Gaga’s Telephone video by a group of soldiers in Afghanistan. Enjoy.

The Smoking Gun has some backstory on the video and the guys who made it that is also a fun read.

UPDATE: I had a couple other thoughts about this since posting it that are a little more serious. First of all, I’m struck by how much better videos like this are (and there have been quite a few funny vids posted from the war zone on the interwebs) as a means of blowing of steam and fighting the depression of being away from friends, family and civilization for long stretches of time and the combination of boredom punctuated by fear compared to the level of substance abuse that we saw in Vietnam. True, people are people and there are still guys who will fall into that. But I actually see this as one testament to the superiority of a volunteer military compared to a conscript military. The fact that these guys are, on average, older than Vietnam-era soldiers and more likely to be married says at least a little about the maturity level of the Army we have in the field – which I think is all great.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Earth Hour – Saturday, March 27, 2010


Tomorrow night at 8:30pm, in whatever time zone you are in, you have a chance to participate in Earth Hour. According to the site, China will lead the way in starting Earth Hour this year. That’s just great. Nee-How!

The traditional – that is, “traditional” in the same air-quote sense as “Kwanzaa” is a traditional African holiday that is, as traditional as an African holiday can be when it is created by an American socialist in 1966 – way to celebrate Earth Hour is to turn off all your lights and live like a non-tool-using animal for an hour. I encourage you all to celebrate a neo reformation Earth Hour by turning all your lights on.

All your lights – your closets, your garage, your mud room, great room, entry way, back porch, etc. This works even better when you have complete lefties nearby, like we do across the street.

When you participate, take some video or pictures. Tweet out loud in the midst of the brightness (using #earthhour). And make sure you upload it all to the sites listed at (video: photos:

Also, is it just me, or is it interesting to see what they chose to cover up in this map?


I mean, the planet is 70% covered by water and they had to put their little info box over the United States? I mean even just placing it by chance, they could have hit the ocean.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and incandescently bright Earth Hour!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I’m so done..

Earlier today I turned in my last assignment of my last class for my bachelor degree. Still about a week before I know my final grades, but I’ve got a 4.0 GPA so far and expect to keep that. :-)

Let’s see… counting just my classes since I finished my associates degree, I think my favorite class has been my IT Project Management class, the finance aspects of that in particular. While my least favorite class has been my just completed Data Structures and Algorithms class. The textbook was terrible. The flow and approach of the class was really uneven – numbingly simple one week, stupifyingly difficult the next, and the instructor was only really clear about the specific areas he happened to be passionate about.

Anyway, I’m finally done and I’m pretty happy about it. It has been difficult these past nine months or so as I’ve basically been a full-time (or very close to it) class load each term. This involved a lot of homework, a lot of late nights, and a lot of missed family time. It has also been not a small investment in money, which I won’t actually get back. Even after the tuition reimbursement from my company I’ve spent quite a lot of my own money. Luckily I’m a veteran as that got me a cut rate on tuition and free books.

I won’t say I’m done with education for ever, but I’m done with it for now and I’m looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my Xbox 360 and my latest favorite game – Toy Soldiers


Friday, February 5, 2010

A quick update

OK, I’m not saying you generally care what I’ve been up to, but I wanted to make a quick post on my weight loss efforts.

Back on May 28, 2009, I started a weight loss plan based pretty simply on eating less and moving more. No magic supplements or other miracle cures.
As I recall, it started with me deciding one day when I got to work to park further away and to use the stairs. From there I considered using Alli (unfortunately, I didn’t get scared off until AFTER I’d bought it for like 50 bucks!), but was put off by the potential side effects. But I did start tracking my food in a little booklet. At first, my target was 1500 calories, then 1200, and even 900-1000 at some points.
When I started, I weighed 245 lbs. My progress went basically like this:

Date Weight
7/21/09 217
8/31/09 210
9/30/09 200
10/30/09 190
1/8/10 180
2/3/10 175

You will notice that late last year, I did slow down a bit, but I held my ground through the holidays and other events that made it difficult to stay on track – plus it is cold and rainy in the winter and a little harder to get out and run and stay active.

So here I am at 175 pounds. This is my lowest weight since about 1992, which is pretty cool, although I don’t like it when people come up to me and say stuff about it. Yes, I know that’s weird.
OK, enough about that.

Even more exciting, I’m now a mere 5 weeks from completing my Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology. I’m currently taking 3 classes: Data Structures and Algorithms, IT Project Management, and a BS/IT capstone course. This is quite a load, but it is down from the 4 classes (!!!) I took last term.
I was just contemplating what I will do with all my extra time after I graduate today. First thought in my head was - “Hey! I can finally play some video games!!!” So I’m looking forward to that!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

School Paper: Climate Change

Last term, I had to write a persuasive paper on a current topic. Given the current weather headlines…


…I thought it was worth posting here.

So without further ado, here’s “Fallacies of Anthropogenic Climate Change” for your enjoyment. (Jon Pulsipher, 12/12/2009)

Fallacies of Anthropogenic Climate Change

For the past decade at least, the conventional wisdom has been that the world is warming, that the warming represents a catastrophe in the offing, and, importantly, that this warming is directly caused by human activity – in particular, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a result of the industrial revolution. Scientists, politicians, and actors have warned that society has only a few years to save the planet and hold back the rising sea levels. But what if this conventional wisdom about climate change is all wrong? As American author and humorist Mark Twain is, ironically, quoted in Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” (2006, p20-21). While the reality of climate change is genuine, and, in fact, a continuous process, the presumption that human activity can be either the cause or the remedy is tenuous, premature, and perhaps even egotistical. The policy shifts now under consideration to control these changes would have significant, negative, and possibly irreversible impact on human progress, so they warrant careful analysis and informed decision making.

Is there climate change? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” While the current level of media interest around climate change focuses on temperature, particularly warming trends, “climate” represents a combination of many factors. These include temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, wind, humidity and other factors. Climate generally trends cooler with increasing latitudes from the equator, but there are also micro-climates related to valleys, increases in elevation, or proximity to ocean currents. Therefore, climate, in the sense of something humans perceive and measure both globally and locally, is the result of very complex systems and interactions. Many of these are only now beginning to be understood and efforts to model the climate in a full sense are elusive (Schmitt, 2007). Consider the apparent difficulty in accurately forecasting the local weather, which uses similar models, for next week. Most people have experienced cases where the weatherman got it wrong, mere days from now. Now extrapolate that weather forecasting experience decades into the future and consider the likelihood of a successful forecast. Earth’s climatic history has indicated a general pattern of long ice ages, marked by devastating glacial advance on a massive and global scale, interspersed with warmer interglacial periods. Within these interglacial periods, there are further patterns of cooling and warming that are shorter and with less pronounced effect than a true ice age. Climatologists, geologists, and other researchers generally agree that the earth is in the middle of an interglacial period and only now recovering from the effects of the last ice age, which ended approximately 12,000 years ago. Throughout recorded human history, and pre-history, using ice cores and other investigative approaches, evidence shows that the climate has changed in significant ways many times over, as illustrated in Figure 1.


Figure 1 - Global temperature shifts 2500 BCE to 2040 AD (Harris & Mann 2008, ¶14)

This chart indicates that even fairly recently, the earth has been both much cooler (witness the so-called “Little Ice Age” in the late 14th to early 19th centuries) and much warmer (witness the “Medieval Warm Period,” immediately preceding the Little Ice Age) than it is today. As recently as 1991, one sees a brief but dramatic downward plunge in temperature, and, as the chart illustrates, the current warming trend does not exceed the warming seen in either the Pharaonic period in Egypt or the Medieval Warm period, and it only just exceeds the warming seen in Roman times. Interestingly, these warming periods are referred to as “climate optimums” reflecting the socio-economic benefits of a warmer climate (Horner, 2007, p. 124). Particularly for Euro-centric civilization, warming trends may seem anomalous because so much of the familiar European history and cultural events took place during the Little Ice Age period. This time of Oliver Twist, Hans Brinker, and the French Revolution – carries the positive and negative connotations of a cold climate. Want and despair, frozen canals, and desperation. The Little Ice Age was also the time when the Vikings were sent reeling back from their settlements on the previously “green” Greenland and perhaps in the Americas, due to encroaching sea ice and glaciation. In this period, it was common for the Thames River to freeze solid, and for people to travel across the Baltic Sea by sleigh, stopping overnight at taverns built on the ice (Jaworowski, 2003-2004). With this history of cold firmly ensconced in collective memory due to the explosion of literacy in this same time period, is it any wonder that a return to a warming trend can generate alarm?

In the 1970s, some climatologists, including George J. Kukla and Kenneth Hare, warned that earth was heading for an ice age, with the purported cause being that air pollution would limit the sun’s rays hitting the earth.


Figure 2 - The cold and ominous future imagined on the cover of Science News in the March 1, 1974 issue (Anderson & Gainor, 2006, p. 4)

In fact, as Horner recounts, media attention has alternated between the risks of catastrophic cooling and warming, generally in a cycle that trails the actual conditions at the time, as shown in table 1 (2007, p185). A notable example includes Time magazine cited experts such as Professor Nathaniel Schmidt, making the case for an ice age in 1923 only to state in 1939 that a warming trend was clearly underway (Horner, 2007, p183-184).









Table 1 - Cycles of media focus on climate (2007, p185)

When viewed in the context of the continuous change, the notion of any kind of global “normal” temperature is tenuous. Indeed, “normal” tends to be internalized by each reader of such a statistic as relating to the bounds of their own experience – which is necessarily limited to their own lifespan. The result of this is that it seems that each summer, polls and segments on the evening news warn that this year is the hottest ever, and since it is the middle of July, one may think, “Yes, it definitely was a scorcher today,” and so the message resonates and becomes internalized. However, temperature shifts must be viewed in the context of long time spans to be understood. This is further complicated by the fact that the data reflects a long time span of activity with low resolution data points (such as ice core, fossil record and rock strata analysis, contemporary weather anecdote) for older periods spliced with high resolution information (actual temperature measurements from land and space) without clear delineation. Some climate scientists, notably Roy W. Spencer of the University of Alabama and NASA science team leader for the AQUAS temperature measuring satellite system, cast aspersions on the notion of using ice core and tree ring information as an indicator of climates long past – known as paleo-climatology – calling its practitioners “frustrated historians” rather than scientists (2008, p. 14). For many people, understanding what exactly is going on is difficult; after all, most people aren’t scientists, and even most scientists are not climate specialists.

However, just as most don’t understand the science of science, they also don’t understand the business of science. Petr Chylek, Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dahousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia said, “Scientists who want to attract attention to themselves, who want to attract great funding to themselves, have to (find a) way to scare the public…and this you can achieve only by making things bigger and more dangerous than they really are” (Horner, 2007, p38). Dr. Chylek is by no means alone in this thinking. Climatologist Stephen Schneider, of Stanford University, said in an interview with Discover magazine in October 1989, “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest” (Horner, 2007, p40)

Careful analysis of the data seems to indicate that the climate is currently at, or approaching, the peak of a warming cycle. There is some debate among scientists as to whether earth has, in fact, already started toward a cooling trend relative to that peak. This despite the conventional wisdom (as reflected by media reports, pop-culture, and significant numbers of political leaders around the globe) is that climate change is not only genuine, but completely, or at least significantly, the fault of human activity. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has aggressively forwarded the notion that climate change is largely man-caused, specifically in relation to carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant and a so-called “greenhouse gas.” They back their conclusions with the message that there is consensus around their conclusions, meaning the science is settled; the canon is closed.

Prominent in the 2001 “IPCC Third Assessment Report” was a graph, now known as the “hockey stick,” that indicated a remarkable increase in average temperatures over the last few decades after hundreds of years of relative stability (Horner, 2007).


Figure 3 - 2001 IPCC "Hockey Stick" Temperature Graph

The use of this chart by the IPCC is a master-class in statistical manipulation. The grey areas of the chart indicate the margin of error for those temperatures. The method of “smoothing” the data takes advantage of the margin of error to produce a stable set of temperature readings followed by a steep climb. Note that the peak at the right side of the graph is still within the margin of error in the historic data. Also note, when comparing this graph to the generally accepted view of climate presented in figure 1, above, that the IPCC version effectively “smoothes away” both the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Little Ice Age (Horner, 2007).

It is also noteworthy that the increase in temperature indicated on the hockey stick graph appears to be related to the closing down of a large number of weather reporting stations in the Siberian area of the former Soviet Union in the late 20th century. It stands to reason that if one stops measuring the temperature in one of the coldest regions of the earth, the overall average of the remaining measurements will increase, as indicated in figure 3 (Horner, 2007, p112). In fact, this view seems to have been validated by recent NASA satellite temperature observations, which are much more accurate and broader in coverage than earth-bound measurements (Cool it on warming, 2009). Interestingly, the same set of data also provides insight into a glaring flaw in the current climate models, clarifying the role of cloud cover as a natural response to increased temperatures (Marohasy, 2008).


Figure 4 - Average temperature overlaid with number of reporting stations

Whatever the specifics of the current climate change, whether the earth is experiencing abrupt and unprecedented warming, as the Climate Change lobby would suggest, or simply a continuation of normal cycles, it is reasonable to believe that most people want to be positive stewards of the earth and its resources. Recycling, carpooling, and turning off lights when leaving the room are relatively common behaviors. Clearly, these are smart and sensible measures to reduce pollution, conserve resources, and to save money. If people want to participate in such measures of their own choice, that is admirable, but they should not be under the impression that they are preventing devastating climate change. The science currently available simply does not support that. However, it is a natural to ask, “What is the harm in proceeding as if human activity was responsible for climate change?”

It has been said that “truth is the first casualty of war.” At its purest, science should be the pursuit of truth and the cornerstone of modern scientific endeavor has been peer review. In that light, consider the reply of British Climatologist Dr. Phillip Jones, the co-creator of the IPCC hockey stick graph, to Dr. Warwick Hughes when Hughes requested the opportunity to review the data behind the chart. “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” (Horner, 2007, p133)

The current debate preys on the general lack of scientific literacy among the lay population to push the notion of consensus as relates to science. Consider that “consensus” is generally used in a sense relating to relationships and politics, not science. For perhaps 1500 years, the consensus was that the earth was flat. For thousands more, the consensus was that the earth was the center of the universe. As relates to climate change, the supposed consensus is not nearly as strong as the consensus was for those incorrect “facts”. As of July 2008, over 31,000 American scientists across a variety of scientific fields and including scores of members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, have added their names to a public petition rejecting anthropogenic climate change (31K scientists sign petition disputing global warming, 2008). In fact, Dr. Richard Lindzen, Atmospheric Physicist and MIT Professor of Meteorology, and a former member of the IPCC, states, “…I cannot stress this enough – we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future” (Lindzen, 2001, p. 32). Scientists and political figures who do not adhere to the standard “action line” on climate change call down upon their heads the ferocity of the believers, who wield epithets like “deniers” (an allusion to someone who denies that the Holocaust occurred) and even demands for lawsuits, like modern witch trials (Legates, 2003; Horner, 2007). Roy Spencer quotes a 60 Minutes reporter, when asked why opposing viewpoints were excluded from a report on global warming as saying, “If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?” (Spencer, 2008, p. 94). Dr. Spencer further noted that an Australian commentator had suggested outlawing climate change denial (ibid). Perhaps even more direct and inflammatory is the comment from David Roberts of Grist magazine:

“When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg” (Roberts, 2006, ¶3).

Other than the occasional commentator musing on the sanity of Al Gore or considering the general veracity and motivations of the climate change enthusiasts, the name calling and threats appear to be strongly one-sided.

Also representative of the highly charged nature of the debate and the appearance that there is, perhaps, a different agenda at work than saving the earth from warming, consider the words of Canadian Minister for the Environment in a meeting with the editorial board of The Calgary Herald, “No matter if the science is all phony, there are still collateral environmental benefits [to global warming policies]. Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world” (Horner, 2009, p35). If the “collateral benefits” and the chance to bring about “justice and equality” are both worthwhile and correct, then scientific and political leaders in representative countries owe it to their fellow citizens to debate those matters on their merits rather than relying on inflammatory rhetoric and overblown threats of crisis.

It is ethically wrong for politicians and activists to take advantage of a lack of scientific understanding to cloak their goals in the pseudo-science of climate change rather than debating them on their own merits and winning people to their cause in an honest way. One cannot take seriously an agenda constructed on what increasingly appears to be a foundation of error, half-truth, and outright deception. Indeed the debate has moved seemingly miles away from the thinking expressed in this 1992 Democrat National Committee memo by Jonathan Sallet regarding Al Gore, “Al is a radical environmentalist who wants to change the very fabric of America. He has no sense of proportion: He equates the failure to recycle aluminum cans with the Holocaust. He believes that our civilization, itself, is evil” (Horner, 2007, p240).

Finally, many of the policies being proposed will have the direct or indirect effect of limiting human progress by placing new restrictions on agriculture and energy. Some suggest that the financial and employment benefits to be reaped by additional development in the so called “green job” economy will more than offset the lost opportunity. It would be wise to look to ongoing experiments in other countries to see this is not the case. A study of the effects of Spain’s foray into the green economy shows that every “green job” came at the cost of 2.2 traditional jobs (Alvarez, Jara, Julian & Bielsa, 2009, p. 33-36). Historically, agriculture and energy are two key tools of progress – as true in past cultures as in our own. To retreat from this means increased infant mortality, reduced life expectancy, increased hunger.

While the pesticide DDT is not related to climate change, its banning is instructive as an examination of the results of past environmental alarmism and reckless disregard for the poor. DDT was instrumental in eliminating malaria from the US and other developed nations. Based in large part on the attention garnered by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, DDT was eventually banned based on what now appear to be overblown fears of threat to wildlife when used in responsible ways. While DDT has not been shown to have profound and direct impacts on human health, all chemicals carry risks and there are potential linkages between DDT exposure and hormonal issues which could result in lower sperm counts, reduced fertility, increased potential for miscarriage, etc. In contrast, the risks of malaria in terms of economic loss, death and disabling illness are profound and well-documented. When asked about the millions that have died from malaria and other diseases as a result of banning DDT, Charles Wursta, of the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “This is as good a way to get rid of them as any” (Horner, 2007, p17). Is society willing to take a step backward rather than forward? Or to willingly and cavalierly abandon the hard-fought societal gains of even a few decades? It is a safe assertion, as noted in the question to Charles Wursta, that millions of the poor in developing nations continue to die as a result of the ban of DDT.

Measures like carbon dioxide cap-and-trade and a focus on more expensive and less efficient “green” energy sources mean inevitably increased energy costs and taxes. This is not mere theory. In 2004, New Zealand was forced, by their adherence to the Kyoto accord, to purchase NZ$656 million worth of “carbon offset credits” due to increased CO2 emissions (Horner, 2007, p248). Of course the logical question would be, to whom? Clearly there are large profits to be made from these credits. Costs such as taxes and energy tend to take a proportionally larger chunk of the earnings of low income families than those of average or high income families. Like a cigarette tax, these costs disproportionately impact those least able to absorb the cost. Speaking at the 2008 International Climate Change Conference, noted economist and current Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus said, “The dream to reduce emissions in the EU by 70 per cent in the next 30 years could only be achieved if there was a dramatic de-industrialization of Europe – likely associated with a dramatic drop in GDP, or a significant drop in population” (Marohasy, 2008).

Returning to Twain’s quote, “it’s the things we know for sure that just ain’t so” - like the pop-culture acceptance of anthropogenic climate change - that can lead to trouble. Much is said in the climate change debate concerning “scientific consensus” and “settled science.” Truly, consensus is a tool of the political realm, not the scientific one, and in true science, nothing is ever settled and beyond debate and discovery. The goals of the anthropogenic climate change movement demand dramatic steps with long term, possibly irreversible consequences. These steps will have the most profound impacts on the poor and the developing nations of the world, depriving them of the energy to more fully join the community of nations. And for all these demands, the “proof” offered appears tenuous and exposes truly the worst the aspects of the bureaucratic side of the academic science culture rather than the pursuit of truth, which most common people believe predominates. The evidence climate change based on human behaviors rather than natural cycles and, as yet, poorly understood forces, is thin. Indeed, too thin to abandon progress and economic and scientific facts in the pursuit of a utopian ideal. If utopia is the object, then utopia should be the subject of the debate. Responsible adults should be beyond the threat of pseudo-scientific boogeymen to encourage what someone might consider to be good and correct behavior. The continued progress of mankind is at stake and the decisions should not be taken lightly.


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