Recent Climate News

I’m hesitant to write about Climate-gate, because I don’t want anyone to think that my beliefs align in any way with the beliefs of the myopic conservative mob.  Still, there have been three recent incidents regarding climate change that further my own skepticism about what we were told was the “scientific consensus.”

“Climate-gate”

A recent headline from SWAC Girl read: “Climate-gate … global warming is a hoax and now there’s proof.”  That is partisan hyperbole at its finest and her conclusions are silly, but this snippet of news should at least cause one to think a little before embracing the carbon derivative market.

Apparently some politically-motivated hackers broke into the Climate Research Unit (CRU) mail server and stole a bunch of emails.  Then they posted a “random selection” on the Internet.  Conservatives, eager for any opportunity to discredit Democrat Al Gore, immediately pointed out some emails that hinted CRU was manipulating climate data.

I myself am a skeptic of anthropomorphic climate forces, but I find it highly suspicious that the hackers only posted a “random selection” and not the entire set of emails.  One must immediately assume that there was something in the emails that didn’t fit their agenda, so they had to suppress it.

But at the same time, nothing has yet surfaced in the emails to indicate that “global warming is a hoax,” as SWAC Girl so naively put it.  There are only some indications that statistical data was presented in a way that highlighted the global warming theory.  It’s disingenuous, but far from uncommon.  I would estimate that somewhere around 100% of statistical data presentations are “spun” to support the presenter’s viewpoint.  Just ask anyone in politics.

In reality, Climate-gate has nothing to do with the scientific subject of climate change.  It only underscores how politicized the subject is, and that there are people on both sides that will use dubious methods to advance their cause.

CRU searchable email index: http://www.eastangliaemails.com/index.php

Deleted Climate Data

Another story that should cast doubt on CRU’s credibility occurred earlier in the year.  CRU actually deleted raw climate data because they didn’t have enough room to store it.  Yes, you read that right.  In the age where you can walk into Best Buy and pick up a terabyte drive for under $100, these bozos couldn’t figure out how to store critical data on which the entire future world energy economy may be based.

It is suspicious, but again, it doesn’t mean global warming is a hoax.  Even if CRU did delete some inconvenient data on purpose, it only suggests that CRU is biased, which is not at all surprising considering the entire focus of their department is global warming.  If global warming went away, so would their department.

The deleted data only proves that CRU has a very bad IT department.  If I were in charge of a group that deleted critical data *and* allowed hackers to get into the mail servers, I’d be handing out some pink slips.

Flat Temperatures

A recent article in Der Spiegel contained perhaps the most interesting climate change news for me.  The article almost apologetically revealed that global temperatures actually haven’t risen as the IPCC predicted for the last 10 years.  In fact, they report temperatures have not risen at all since 1999.

“According to the Hadley figures, the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 and not by the 0.2 degrees Celsius assumed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius.”

You probably won’t be hearing about that on Nightly News – there is far too much going on with Tiger Woods and Swine Flu.  (Not to mention that green technology giant GE is the parent company of NBC.)  Scientists have no explanation for the flat temperatures, but for some reason they remain convinced that human-induced climate change is still raging out of control.

But arguing over the science of global warming is a moot point now.  It’s been taken over as a political and economic issue.  The green industry is building itself up to try to dislodge the oil industry as the dominant resource provider in the world economy, and liberals vociferously championing it are probably its biggest investors.  We might hate the oil industry, but the green industry isn’t going to be any better.  It isn’t going to do anything for the planet except create another cabal of untouchable billionaires.

New Puppy Adventures

After Tristan’s passing, Cynthia and I both decided we wanted to get another dog.  Cynthia wanted another collie and I was interested in a short-haired hound.  We thought it would be fun if we each had a dog and did some kind of activity like agility training together.

Millknock's October 4 litterCynthia initially went to Millknock Collies, the breeder where she got Tristan.  We saw on their web site that they had just had a litter of puppies, but unfortunately they were all spoken for, so Cynthia was put on a waiting list for the next batch.  In the meantime she considered adopting some older collies from a place called Collie Rescue, but for some strange reason they judged that we weren’t “suitable.”

As a side note, one thing I learned in this process is that animal rescues and foster homes are *very* picky about who they will give their animals to.  The animal adoption process is very similar to baby adoption in that they evaluate your life history before you’re even considered.  If you think you’re doing them a favor by taking an animal off their hands and giving it a good home, think again.  They seem more interested in keeping the animals for themselves.

Meanwhile I was searching PetFinder.com for hounds.  I found one I liked in a large litter of beagle puppies at Hickory Hill K-9 Rescue.  We went out to a PetSmart to meet one of the puppies named Lucy, but once there I actually liked her docile brother Charlie Brown more.  Unfortunately the foster mom didn’t like us because we didn’t have a backyard fence.  (She didn’t seem to understand the concepts of an “inside dog” or a “leash.”)  It was a yucky experience and I wouldn’t recommend going there.  Something about them seemed a little sleazy.  Almost like they wanted us to pay extra for them to “overlook” the fence thing.  (That’s a totally unfounded speculation.)

(Both Lucy and Charlie Brown are now listed as adopted – I hope they found good homes.)

L to R: Marsha, Cindy, JanAs it turned out, it was fortunate that we didn’t get Charlie Brown, because we came across another batch of 3 beagle sisters (Marsha, Jan and Cindy) at the recently-opened King William Animal Shelter.  We went out to see them and I was struck by the littlest one (Cindy), who sat quietly while the other two sisters vied for our attention.  We brought her home three days later and I named her Bella.  (King William Shelter was a joy to work with.  They actually *are* interested in helping animals.)

Tom holding Bella

We had decided that Bella would be our only puppy, because even if a Millknock puppy were available, they were much more expensive than we thought.  But about a week after Bella arrived, we got a call from Millknock saying that one of their puppies had become available.  Avedon had a detached retina and was blind in his right eye, so they couldn’t show him.  They offered him to us for half price (a scratch and dent sale, you might say).  Cynthia was smitten and two days later we were driving to Charlottesville in the first snow of winter to pick him up.  Cynthia named him Saint because he was born on St. Francis Day.  He’s a blue merle collie and looks almost exactly like Tristan (they actually share an ancestor).

Cynthia holding Saint

So Cynthia and I are now raising two puppies:  A scrappy 6-month-old hound from a shelter and a 9-week-old, one-eyed collie from a rich ancestry of champions.  Sort of an odd pairing of dogs.

It’s definitely an adventure.  Raising one puppy is challenging enough, but raising two puppies of radically different ages (for dogs) and breeds is ten times harder!  We’re enrolled in a puppy training class that starts in January, but until then we’re on our own.

Bella in her crate Bella is adjusting well to her new environment (after all, a few weeks ago she was wandering the streets (or woods) of King William fighting for what scraps of food her sisters left for her).  She took to her crate right away and understands the basics of housebreaking, though we still have to keep a sharp eye on her because she occasionally sneaks off to poop somewhere, especially if it’s cold or raining outside (which has been basically every day for the last month).  She looks and acts very much like dear old Abby.

Saint taking a nap Saint is a totally cute and confident little furball who’s convinced we should do everything he says, whenever he says it (after all, he is from champion stock!).  And he is not shy about voicing his displeasure when he’s confined.  The little guy has a powerful set of lungs which can produce a wide variety of unpleasant noises, from simple whimpering to banshee howls to crazy ululations.  (I fully expect animal control to show up at our doorstep one day.)  Thankfully he is starting to calm down as he adjusts to his new home.

The two puppies are getting along, although Bella isn’t very good at sharing and gets pretty defensive when Saint wanders too close while she’s chewing a bone.  Saint is mainly interested in following Cynthia and biting everything he sees, from hands to feet to power cords to blankets to table legs.  Everything except his toys, of course.

As for our cat Fiona, she is not speaking to us anymore.

Fiona looking annoyed

Modern Warfare 2 on the PS3

Modern Warfare 2 is one of those rare sequels that is actually an improvement over the original.  The single-player campaign took me about 7 hours to finish on regular, so don’t buy this game for single-player.  The lasting value is in the multi-player experience, which is similar to, but subtly improved from, Call of Duty 4.

The single-player campaign was fun, but it’s basically the same as every other CoD:  Follow the script, shoot what you’re told to shoot, and you’re done.  It doesn’t take very long and leaves you thinking, “I paid $70 for that?”

To be fair, there are some “special ops” missions which are essentially random, story-less missions you can play solo or coop, but the multiplayer is really the only reason to play this game.

Pros

Multi-player improvements come in the form of bazillions of new perks and weapon unlocks.  Ranks go up to 70 instead of 50.  Even if you really suck and get killed all the time (like me), it’s still fun to rank up and collect all the weapon unlocks.  It’s sort of like playing an MMO.  All the maps are new and interesting and bewildering in their complexity, and unlike CoD4, sized properly.

One massive improvement from CoD4 is that you only get one frag grenade instead of three, which cuts down considerably on the grenade spam.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but there doesn’t seem to be very many snipers on the Playstation Network.  In CoD4 on the PC, you could usually count on roughly half the players to be snipers hiding in the bushes somewhere, but in MW2 I typically only see one or two on a team.

Cons

One thing that’s not an improvement in multi-player is the addition of the AC-130 killstreak reward.  There is nowhere to hide from it – it shoots through buildings and walls and kills you instantly.  I think it’s theoretically possible to shoot down the AC-130 with a rocket launcher, but staying alive long enough to do so is rather difficult.

I don’t know if this is specific to the PS3 and PSN or not, but the multiplayer “matchmaking” leaves a little bit to be desired.  Sometimes it bombs out because it can’t find players for a match and sometimes it bombs out with mysterious “server timed out” errors.  Every now and then (presumably when it detects that lag is really bad for everyone) the game stops to change hosts, which pauses the action while it “migrates” to a new host.  Sometimes it doesn’t work and everyone gets booted out.

Pet Peeves

One of my favorite features from CoD4 remains in MW2:  The feature where you empty a clip of bullets into your enemy and yet somehow he still survives and kills you.  Then when you review the KillCam to see how he did it, you see that from the server’s perspective you didn’t fire at all.  Getting shot to death even after running behind an impenetrable wall is fun, too.  Hurray for client-side prediction code.  So yeah, there are still quite a few jaw-dropping “WTF” moments.

And of course my other favorite feature from CoD4 is still there:  Insta-kills.  If someone gets the drop on you (or not, see first pet peeve), you can pretty much count on dying.  It’s very rare that you can survive getting hit and live to fight another day, especially since most everyone uses the Stopping Power perk.

Also, I have to mention that the emphasis on getting kills is very annoying.  My playing style has always been more about surviving for long periods of time than running around killing everyone in sight.  So the result is that I get a lot of “longest time alive” and “fewest deaths” accolades at the end of games, but of course that doesn’t help with standings one bit.

Despite the flaws I still enjoy playing MW2 multiplayer a lot, even in public games.  However I will probably discover, as I did with CoD4, that after I reach rank 70, there won’t be any more reason to play.