The debate on global warming is over

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The title is a quote from a new article on Scientific American. It’s good to see reputable media outlets being upfront on the issue.

Here’s one of the best/scariest parts of the article:

The debate on global warming is over. Present levels of carbon dioxide–nearing 400 parts per million (ppm) in the earth’s atmosphere–are higher than they have been at any time in the past 650,000 years and could easily surpass 500 ppm by the year 2050 without radical intervention.

A Climate Repair Manual
Now it’s up to us to force the politicians to care, that’s the only thing that matters. They don’t yet, as the “real” problems are beyond the horizon of their terms of office.

What can we do? As suggested by my local member of parliament I sent an email to our Prime Minister asking that we maintain our Kyoto commitments. It got a semi-form-letter response and a CC to the environment Minister. Could that help? It can’t hurt, and if more people do the same it will. Every politician needs to believe they won’t get re-elected if they don’t start to take action.

Vinyl is here to stay, for now


Are records on their way out, finally?

Why vinyl can’t survive

Vinyl will survive

So, apparently we don’t know yet. I’ve always been a CD person, myself. Some of my friends are record junkies, but I’ve never fully understood why. I did recently finally start to believe that records can sound better than CDs.

It really boils down to a digital vs. analog format question, and the digital side typically restricts it’s range of frequencies to those that can be heard by the human ear. It does make sense to me now that analog can have a richer sound, mainly because the supposedly “inaudible” frequencies can still have an effect on what we hear. For example: when mixing and post-processing a recorded track those inaudible frequencies can still impact the audible range. An example might be when equalizing the track – some audio may now come into the audible range that wasn’t previously. I guess that’s partially an argument for analog recording but perhaps not an analog final product.

Will I start buying records now? Of course not. I’m definitely willing to accept very slightly lower sound quality for the convenience of CDs. I’m not going to install a record playing in my car or lug all that stuff around.

Contrary to most people these days I haven’t fully jumped on the mp3 bandwagon. Sure, I copy all my CDs to mp3s for convenient playing while on the computer and on my player, but I’ve never gotten into mass downloading or purchasing online. I like owning the CD, or I guess some physical manifestiation of the music. This is partly because I know how fleeting something digital is, but mostly because I think music should be purchased. I don’t care about the legalities of it but artists do need to be paid or else we’ll lose full-time musicians. Yes, perhaps there are better schemes we could invent to get more of the money to where it belongs – the artists – but in absense of that we can’t just stop paying the artists. One solution is to buy from smaller labels, which naturally pay the artists a higher percentage per CD.

Equality and Independence

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The Japanese have a proverb: happy women make a happy village.

The women’s movement of the last century deserves a lot of credit. Women are getting better education, more independence, more career opportunites and better wages. Today, there are many women in positions of power and influence, career women who worked hard and sacrificed much to achieve their dreams, and now serve as role models for the next generation. Where gender gaps remain, as in fields like engineering, active outreach programs aim to bring the participation of women up to par. The domestic servitude of generations past seems oppressive by today’s standards.

With that in mind, I suppose it’s hardly surprising that, “The richer a woman becomes, the more likely she is to divorce her husband, new research has found… For every £10,000 a wife’s earnings increase relative to the family’s overall income, the chances of marital break-up rise by 1%… Lawyers confirmed that greater financial independence for women was leading them to take the initiative in divorce in growing numbers.”

This study speculates that women with careers can afford independence. If a woman can support herself and her children, she is more likely to consider divorce than if she was dependent on her husband. Other theories say that careers leave women less time to do domestic chores, which forces the couple to negotiate and share the labour.

All of which may cause resentment in men, who have traditionally defined themselves by their breadwinning ability. The study also points to the “fragile male egos” of husbands threatened by their spouse’s success. Masculinity itself is at risk. Many men still refuse to share traditionally female roles. “Rather than there being an equal division of labour, mothers who work full time, for example, tend to do considerably more childcare and housework than their male partners.”

Mental health means leftist indoctrination?

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I ran into this article on the American Family Associations website: Colleges turn left, students think that’s right. The summary of the article is that Colleges and Universities are leftist indoctrination camps.

Several parts of the article are quite funny. Check out the quote below and think for a second about the implications. If this is what counts as indoctrination, what does that say about the values of the people writing it?

“Methods of indoctrination are likely to include not only required courses, but also freshman orientation, speech codes, mandatory diversity training, dormitory policies, guidelines for registered student organizations and mental health counseling,”

Ok, so apparently diversity training is not acceptable. “Politically correct” speech codes are not acceptable. And, scariest of all, reaching out to help keep your mental health is not acceptable. This is building a very scary picture of the typical AFA reader. Racial slurs, discrimination and mental instability build a very values-oriented person, apparently.

Further, they’re misrepresenting data to make things seem more extreme in an effort to get people excited about it. They imply that students are leaving Christianity but looking at their data the only thing they show is “% of students who no longer claim to be a born-again Christian.” Maybe they’re simply converting to a less fundamentalist and extremist sect? I guess that’s just as bad for these people.

The emotional stock market

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By about noon today, a few hours into the “cease-fire” in the middle-east, the major stock market indices are up about 1% on the news.

Why? Did the war have any tangible effects on the US economy? Oil futures increased, which would have an effect, but the oil market reacts to world events in very similar ways to the stock market.

To understand this reaction we need to see what decides the price of a stock. The price will change when future earnings change or when the amount (multiple) that people are willing to pay for those earnings change. Typically this is shown with the formula P = E x M.

To keep things simple, in this case, it looks like people had thought future earnings might be affected. I assume the reason would be that if the conflict spiraled into a larger war it could be disruptive to the US economy. I assume, again, that “disruptive” would mean a change in oil production in the region.

This is likely partly an emotional over-reaction because war has normally been considered “good” for the US economy. People influence their investing with their intangible bad feelings about the conflict. This makes sense but is good to understand to see what really goes on in the market.

Anti-Semitism or Willful Ignorance?

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As enlightened as I believe Warren Kinsella is on most issues his anti-semitism bent has always thoroughly confused me. He recently went on another rant, accusing an entire political party of being anti-semitic, and posted a link to this: The New Anti-Semitism.

Extreme anti-semitism-phobes (yes, I believe I may have just created that term) like himself are almost as bad as Scientologists when they see their name used and not immediately followed by (excellent|wonderful|best|the chosen ones). They claim people’s ideas are irrational yet they never take the time themselves to read the ideas. Again, it seems if it’s not a glowing review of Israel it must be hatred.

Let’s take a look at some of the arguments put forth in the article linked above:

Soviet Russia stepped up the propaganda and alliance with Arabs and over a period of 55 years literally indoctrinated/educated Arabs and Western intellectuals both on the Left, in the academy, and in the media to see despotic Arabs (and suicide bombers) as “victims,” Israelis as “victimizers.” What is “new” about anti-Semitism is that it is now “politically correct” on the presumably anti-racist and feminist Left to hate Jews and especially the Jewish state.

Wow. Where to start?

  • Where are the people who think suicide bombers are victims? The Palestinians are normally considered victims, to some extent, but the media has done a bang-up job classifying the bombers as terrorists. If anyone reading this equates all Palestinians with the terrorists then you may as well stop now, or else you must also equate all Jews with the one who walked into a crowded mosque with a gun and murdered tons of people.
  • Who hates the Jews? Aside from true anti-semites and Israels enemies in the region I don’t think anyone does. This is a purposeful misinterpretation of dislike for the actions of the state and the people. I sure don’t like a lot of what the American government is doing these days but that doesn’t mean I dislike the people. I think it’s harder for some people to separate the two since Israel is purposefully homogeneous, but that still doesn’t make it true.
  • It is correct that Israel has been labeled a victimizer. The Palestinians have been as well, although less so because of their inherently smaller capability to create victims. But, let’s give this a “fair” trial. Does a victimizer hold hundreds of thousands of people in internment camps? Shoot missiles into crowded squares of protestors? Bomb buildings full of civilians? Assassinate leaders? Walk into a mosque and start spraying gunfire? Yes on all counts.
  • To continue the fairness, on the side of the Palestinians, does a victimizer send suicide bombers onto buses full of school children? Assassinate leaders? Kidnap citizens and military personel? Yes on all counts again.
  • Based on the above there is no logical reason that either side shouldn’t be labeled victimizers, so let’s move past that.

The more interesting question, in my mind, is why these people think it’s so one-sided? The cynic in me thinks it’s because they see there’s no other way to justify a lot of what Isreal is doing to the Palestinians, so they devolve to attempts at invoking guilt. I’m not a cynic, so don’t think that is representative, but it’s probably mostly caused by the sheer emotion of the issue. Emotion often makes people blind to reason and logic.

The Israel/Panestine issue is super complicated and needs to be treated as such, not simply by trying to change the argument. Both sides are very much in the “wrong.” Both sides have multiple ways they could end it, but don’t, and are still too mad at each other to give on up the killing.

Caledonia land claim issue


The problems in Caledonia, Ontario have flared up again recently. As a brief summary: a group of Six Nations (aboriginal) protestors are blocking construction on a new subdivision on claims the land is rightfully theirs.

This issue is very confusing. Yesterday I thought it was cut-and-dry against the protestors but today I’m not so sure. Check this out: INDEPTH: CALEDONIA LAND CLAIM: Historical timeline. Part of this history seems very bad for the protestors:

The land where the current development, Douglas Creek Estates, now sits is sold to George Marlot Ryckman for 57 pounds and 10 shillings and a Crown deed is issued to him.

Other parts, however, make it much more confusing. Apparently the original agreement, back in 1784, was for the Six Nations to take 385k hectares. 8 years later the Lt. Gov. apparently “reduces the land grant” to 111k hectares. It looks like there have been a lot of other adjustments to the “land grant” over the years by both parties.

Who is correct in this case? My (un-legally-educated) guess, based on the timeline above, is the protestors have no legal claim to that land. However, that isn’t to say they don’t have a political claim to make. They were obviously screwed in this, and most other, land-related issues throughout history.

Global Warming – Shocked by the data

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I just recently saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth and thought it was great. The evidence is amazingly strong now, which surprised me. I agreed it was an issue many years ago so stopped looking for more data. I guess I thought it was still kind of questionable, but we’re past that point now.

The most obvious piece of evidence is related to CO2 levels. Critcs have been claiming for years that CO2 and temperature fluctuate cyclicly and that we’re currently on an up-tick right now due to this. Humans haven’t been able to impact CO2 levels on a planetary scale yet, they say. Wrong.

The most moving, and scary, data point I got out of the movie is the current CO2 levels. I’m not talking projections or trends here. Take a look at this graph of current data: CO2 levels. In summary, CO2 levels have naturally fluctuated cyclicly between about 200 and 275ppm over the last few hundred thousand years. It’s never been above 300ppm. We’re currently at about 375ppm.

What’s the implication of this? No one (that I know of) disputes the fact that temperature and CO2 levels are correlated. A chart of CO2 levels and temperature plotted over 400,000 years shows this. This doesn’t say anything about cause and effect, but the fact is that they almost always move together, irrespective of the reason.

Given that, and the fact that we already have 25% more CO2 than the previous high over the past 400,000 years, how can anyone conclude we’re not in for some tough times ahead?
So, my next task is to find out how to have more impact on the subject. My family has done quite a few things to reduce our personal environmental impact like replacing lightbulbs with effecient ones, not running the A/C constantly, only owning one car, biking and walking when possible, etc. I’m going to start writing to my government representatives too. I’d love to hear other ideas for improvements as well…