Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Correct Thanking

I'm not sure my writing has improved since I started blogging. I hope so. I hope today that I can write eloquent enough and with the same zest and enthusiasm that I actually feel for the subject. Today I am writing about how amazing people are.

Some people are perhaps more simple than I am and only require a single target for what they are thankful for. Its so much easier to point your gratefulness at one thing than to spread it around effectively. Today I hope to spread it around effectively, even though none, save one, of these things have happened to me.

Some people may get into an airplane crash and survive...and thank god.
If I survived a plane crash, I would thank aeronautical engineers, mechanical engineers, members of the national transportation safety board, who have literally worked decades to make air safety as incredible as it is. But it isn't just these folks is it? They have people who are directly helping them, with leadership, with amenities like food and health, they have people writing software and building computer hardware to help them do their job better and more effectively. They have installed programs to produce better quality parts, test subcomponents and get a great understanding of failure modes and create maintenance schedules. There is another layer, people who educated these people, people who raised the engineers and leaders and food service people. Then there is even a further layer, people who opened up the fields they work in, the Wright Brothers, Newton, Moore. The reason those people survived that plane crash is because thousands of people have put in millions of man hours to make planes as good and safe as they are now.

Some people survive a car accident.... and thank god
If I got into a car accident and survived I would thank the engineers and safety experts that designed the car. I'd thank the quality control experts that check that all the part going into the car meet the correct specifications. I would thank the vendors to the car manufacturers for making sure that their parts meet specs before they ship them. I would thank the safety experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for testing that cars and challenging car companies to creating better and safer cars. I would thank various political administrations for creating these safety bodies and enforce their recommendations. But then I would also thank the software engineers that developed the FEA software that allows engineers to create thousands of hours of simulations to get the right design for parts that meet stringent safety standards while trimming costs and weight. But there are more people to thank. For example the scientists the derived the laws by which the simulations could be done and the calculations and rules by which the engineers follow. There are the parents and educators that brought these engineers, scientists, safety experts, technical support and health and liveliness to the people who make cars safer and more robust every year. The reason those people survive a car crash is because thousands of people have put in millions of man hours to make planes as good and safe as they are now.

Some people have medical issues, potentially life threatening ones, incapacitating ones....and thank god they survive.

If I required surgery and lived though it without major impairment (or even with major impairment) I would first thank the EMTs who were trained and got me to the hospital. I would thank the incredible surgeons who fixed me in my time of great peril. I would thank the hospital staff and donors for making a facility that allows this incredible work to go on, work that has had tremendous effects on our lifespan. I would thank the medical pioneers who and the people who agreed to be test subject to advance medicine to a point where we can stop and start a heart, and replace it. We can fix problems in the brain due to millenia of trial and error. I would thank the medical institutions that teach new doctors to not only learn the tried and true methods but teaches them to be creative and improve on them and notice when something is wrong. I would thank Doctors who propose hypothesis that are not well accepted and then back up their claims with so much evidence that concensus must change. I would thank the parents and educators of these doctors and technician and administrators. I would thank the politicians who require oversight of healthcare workers. The reason those people survive dramatic surgery and disease is because thousands of people have put in millions of man hours to make surgery as good and safe as they are now.

People thank God for all sorts of things. They thank God for not being in an earthquake or typhoon that thousands of other people died in or are suffering from. They thank god for their children, for their opportunities and even their suffering. But its all people who are involved on both ends of all of these instances. Our love for each other, our desire to help each other our quest for understanding of the things around us, our awe and respect for powerful forces. Its all people.

I even find myself using the term "Thank God". Clearly for me its just a useful phrase that is meant to thank all the things I have mentioned. So I want to propose a new term, something that encompasses the unbelievable contributions man has made to allow us to be as capable, as magnificent, and as awe inspiring we are.

It has to be short. It has to roll off the tongue. It has to imply the contributions to the amazing event that billions of people for thousands of years have contributed to. So here we go, tell me if you like it.

Thank Us.

Try to make it a habit.

Update: one reader sent me this similar piece from Daniel Dennet.


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This is the quality that Cato Employs?

Back in April (man I have a lot of posts backlogged!) I read this article in the Wall Street Journal Online. Its by Patrick Michaels, a member of the Cato Institute. I have not really paid much attention to what they put out. I am also not against libertarian ideology as long as it is data oriented and not faith based like so much of politics these days. However, Mr. Micheals opinion truly does not seem very valuable as he blunders through many red herrings, strawmen and causation/correlation fallacies.

Lets take this slowly.

President George W. Bush has just announced his goal to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025. To get there, he proposes new fuel-economy standards for autos, and lower emissions from power plants built in the next 10 to 15 years.
OK, so this is about Global Warming.

Pending legislation in the Senate from Joe Lieberman and John Warner would cut emissions even further – by 66% by 2050. No one has a clue how to do this. Because there is no substitute technology to achieve these massive reductions, we'll just have to get by with less energy.
Three problems here. First off, we know many ways to achieve these new standards, we have for years, and we haven't really bothered to try to push ourselves. Second, taking on a challenge rarely means that you know how to accomplish it. When we decided to go to the moon, was the answer obvious? Does this mean that if you were in charge we wouldn't take on challenges that we do not yet know the answer for? Shall we not try to cure AIDS or Cancer? Should we try not to extend lifespans? decrease poverty?

But what is really wrong with that paragraph (and we just started) is that developing (as Gore promoted back in 2000 when we voted for the Oil Candidate) new and renewable energy sources will make is so that we don't have to use less energy. If we do it right, and are successful,we could use more!

Compared to a year ago, gasoline consumption has dropped only 0.5% at current prices. So imagine how expensive it would be to reduce overall emissions by 66%.
Ahhh. An argument from incredulity. Wonderful tactics. You are really on your game there Mr. Micheals. He then goes into a short diatribe about how 0.31 degrees per decade rise isn't really anything to worry about, its "paltry". Then:
For years, records from surface thermometers showed a global warming trend beginning in the late 1970s. But temperatures sensed by satellites and weather balloons displayed no concurrent warming.
As I have mentioned before, why arent you aware of corrections made in satellite imaging or that there is a difference between expected stratosphere and troposphere temperature changes? (stratosphere is and is supposed to actually cool).

These records have been revised a number of times, and I examined the two major revisions of these three records....The two revisions of the IPCC surface record each successively lowered temperatures in the 1950s and the 1960s. The result? Obviously more warming – from largely the same data.
Does someone not understand how science works? Folks, if everything stays the same, its dogma. You get dogma in astrology, homeopathy and religion. Science on the other hand, accepts change with new data. Recently I found this article. Scientists accept observation and try very hard to explain inconsistencies. So when satellite data doesn't match expectations you have to check both the model used and the data acquisition devices. Same goes for each and every blip.

He then goes into other places where sensing systems were filtered out of the data due to high variance or poor performance (where he divuldges that he does in fact know about the warming satellite errors) and ends with this exclaimation

There have been six major revisions in the warming figures in recent years, all in the same direction.
Want to hear something worse Mr. Michaels? Even with all of this upward revisions, we are still too conservative in our predictions of temperature rise. Now I realize he is trying to suggest conspiracy, that the data is being massaged to match the prediction. But there are no reports of the satellites being uncalibrated. Plus he is simply dead wrong about the data always being massaged upwards. Here is another like minded conspiracy theorist. This data was combined and the average temperature data was adjusted lower, by the .01 degrees that it imposed (0.15C for the US alone).

The fact is its great that these folks are finding errors and inconsistencies. All in all this makes the global warming data stronger and stronger. In fact Mr. Michaels seems to fall for every mistaken assumption listed here. Many of his complaints have been addressed ad nauseum, like here.

He then goes into talking about the poor data from africa and the temperature monitoring stations there. He rightly points out that these stations may experience heightened decay. Then he jumps to this:
After adjusting for such effects, as much as half of the warming in the U.N.'s land-based record vanishes. Because about 70% of earth's surface is water, this could mean a reduction of as much as 15% in the global warming trend.
What? Adjusting how? where did you mention how many stations the UN had relative to all the station being used? What calculation was done to get the 15%?

The frequency of very warm months is lowered, to the point at which it matches the satellite data, which show fewer very hot months.
Wait didnt you just imply that the satellite data was massaged to meet the AGW theory? And your data matches the satellite data? Great! So your data also matches up with the AGW theory.

and then the whine...
At any rate, our findings have not been incorporated into the IPCC's history, and they probably never will be.
but alas, he must have already knew that his points were addressed 5 months earlier. Instead of actually modifying his discourse to include these criticisms he just repeated them to an audience that probably has not read the rebuttal. Sneaky.

He then goes into discussing Greenland. As most people know, the idea of losing both the land based ice in the antarctic along with greenland ice loss is alarming. I don't think that is disputed, what is disputed is whether or not that will happen. No one is predicting Noah's Flood like the 'skeptic's' like to imply. But any sea level rise is bound to cause suffering because much of the worlds population is based near the ocean.

He then talks about "warming island" and mentions that Greenland has seen its coldest period since the 19th century during the time from 1970 to 1995. I can't understand the point he is trying to make. Fine if we accept this, then it is warmer now in the last decade then during that period, so ice is now receding. Further, no one says that rising average temperatures doesn't allow for colder localities. so, I have no idea what his point is there. The worry is that as global temperatures rise, then this ice may get lost. He does nothing to dispute this claim.

The mechanism for the Greenland disaster is that summer warming creates rivers, called moulins, that descend into the ice cap, lubricating a rapid collapse and raising sea levels by 20 feet in the next 90 years. In Al Gore's book, "An Inconvenient Truth," there's a wonderful picture of a moulin on page 193, with the text stating "These photographs from Greenland illustrate some of the dramatic changes now happening on the ice there."

Really? There's a photograph in the journal "Arctic," published in 1953 by R.H. Katz, captioned "River disappearing in 40-foot deep gorge," on Greenland's Adolf Hoels Glacier. It's all there in the open literature, but apparently that's too inconvenient to bring up. Greenland didn't shed its ice then. There was no acceleration of the rise in sea level.

First off, I can't find that picture anywhere on the internet. You'd think the Cato institute would post it for reference. Second, no one said that a single river will drain greenland of all its ice, its a multitude of the rivers, and increasing number or size of them that we are expecting. They were showing the mechanism by which the ice could leave. Explaining that there was a single river on Greenland when it was warm 50 years ago hardly qualifies as contradictory evidence.

Finally, no one seems to want to discuss that for millennia after the end of the last ice age, the Eurasian arctic was several degrees warmer in summer (when ice melts) than it is now. We know this because trees are buried in areas that are now too cold to support them. Back then, the forest extended all the way to the Arctic Ocean, which is now completely surrounded by tundra. If it was warmer for such a long period, why didn't Greenland shed its ice?
Really? no one (2002)? Why does he mention two separate localities (greenland and eurasia) as if the must be related, I'm not saying they aren't, I am not a climatologist. But is it abundantly clear that the Eurasian ice did in fact melt. So what is he trying to say?

This prompts the ultimate question: Why is the news on global warming always bad?
First off: It isn't (hey, I haven't seen ozone hole good news in a while either!), this is a strawman.
Second: Global warming is a bad thing. You know this. If the measured effect of the bad thing gets worse (as it does) you expect to see more of the effects of the bad thing itself. What he is asking is like asking: Why the death rate is rising when violent crime is rising?...its an expected result!

But as we face the threat of massive energy taxes – raised by perceptions of increasing rates of warming and the sudden loss of Greenland's ice – we should be talking about reality.
And the AGW skeptics call us alarmists! Mr. Micheals pretty much compiles every GW denier fallacy into one article. Here they are:

  • Confuse long term data with short term data
  • Confuse Global measurements with local measurements
  • Raise the scary spectre of lowered economy (despite the fact that leading in renewables would make our economy stronger)
  • Ignore recent data (or focus only on short term extremely recent data)
  • Ignore scientific mechanism of error correction (which he is perhaps unknowingly participating in)
  • Rely on anecdotal evidence (like I have a picture of a river from 1953!, its very similar to "Wow its freezing this year in Pensacola FL, GW must be wrong!)
ooh, Im sure there is more, but I am getting tired!


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That is not evolution

As I have mentioned before, I really like video games (I just recently turned 40 if you are interested). I don't play sports games, I hate Mario Bros. type games, I dont even like first person shooters (even though the graphics in those games tend to be spectacular). I enjoy Real Time Strategy games (currently I am playing Warhammer Mark of Chaos), RPG (like the Witcher), and MMORPG games (World of Warcraft). Our baby helped wean me off of a serious World of Warcraft addiction to the point where I only have some slight yearnings to return.

You see, these games create alternate worlds that you can explore, run around in, and meet with real live people (in the case of MMOs) and create stories in. Its like the feeling I got when I read Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Reading those books took me there, to a magical land. These games to the same thing, but they really take me there!



Anyway, I mention this because I am eagerly awaiting a game called Spore. It just looks like it will be a great game to play. It looks like it combines many of the elements of all these genres that I loke (except the social aspect of MMOs). But the hype for it is driving me nutz! Look at the description:

An epic journey that takes you from the origin and evolution of life through the development of civilization and technology and eventually all the way into the deepest reaches of outer space.
Wait a second. There is a character editor that you can even buy separately! This is not evolution in anyway. This is Intelligent Design. Go ahead, google spore and the media following it, you will see the word evolution everywhere.

I'm not sure who to score one for, science or The pathetic Discovery Institute. It would seem that the DI wins this because the movie at the site starts out with a title screen that says "The science behind spore" and its an intelligent design game. At the same time, there ARE other dynamics in the game that are interesting and certainly there are a lot of sociological, physical, chemical and even biological models employed in the programming to help bring realism to the game.

That said, I still think that the DI can claim a small victory here. Weep.


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no longer need

I'm sorry folks. I have been away from writing because my computer has been down and a whole bunch of other events have prevented me from getting back in my blogging shoes.

Just saw this little list and had to make a snarky comment:

Five things humans no longer need

Can we please add religion to this list?


More soon!


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