Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious! 

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 8 April 2002

Usually I don't have too many problems with my computers. An annoying minor bug here and there, but generally easily worked around. Today however, I came across a very annoying bug in Outlook. I had composed an email with an included picture, then changed the picture, overwriting the old one. I deleted the picture in the email and inserted it again. A few moments later, Outlook replaced the new image with the older, overwritten one. So I repeated the delete and inset. Outlook responded by removing the new version again and replacing it with the old. So I copied and pasted everything except the picture into a new email, then reinserted the picture, fully expecting Outlook to fuck things up for me again, but it didn't.

-oOo-

Yesterday we spent a goodly part of the afternoon with Paul and Jackie visiting to look at the plans for the House of Steel they plan to build at Franklin in the next few months. It's a lot less ambitious than our House of Steel, but they are on a much tighter budget than we were. I will try to document it as it promises to be interesting from the point of view of being an attractive, simple, low-cost housing solution.

-oOo-

Prior to Paul and Jackie's arrival, I decided to cut the lawns, possibly for the last time before Spring. I managed to hit a small stone that shattered one of the large windows of the master bedroom. Fortunately, the plastic film that provides extra insulation is holding the glass together. It looks really quite fascinating and the glass continued to break up for nearly an hour following the initial impact. Hopefully, the insurance will pay for its replacement. The only alternative at the moment would be to pour some silica gel through the impact hole and put a patch over it.

Thought for the day:

Don't you know by now, luck don't lead to anything or why you keep on moving

Steve Winwood

Current Listening

Blind Faith -- Self Titled


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Tuesday 9 April 2002

The Pompous Git is 51 years old today. Dinner was roast pork and potatoes accompanied by a dish I had not eaten before -- sweet potato crumble. Scrumptious! I made the roast and SWMBO made the sweet potato dish from a recipe in Jill Dupleix's Old Food, which mysteriously doesn't appear on Amazon's list.

While I am given to reading recipe books for ideas, I rarely follow a particular recipe. It's likely that I will make an exception for Jill Dupleix's book, as I do for Theodora FitzGibbon and Elizabeth David. Some cooks inspire trust. Jill Dupleix writes: "Do not serve anything that involves celery and cream cheese," and "The perfect vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar. The perfect martini is ten parts gin to one part dry vermouth. This is probably all you need to know in life."

I think about her wisdom as I chuckle at today's accusation that we must live in awful squalor here at The House of Steel. Some people are so singularly lacking in imagination that anything other than The American Way must equate with awful deprivation.

Actually, today I did feel a little deprived. Just about the only television I watch these days is The Bill. The funeral of ER II's mother was broadcast instead. So we switched to the only other (relatively)  commercial-free broadcaster to find a program about a survivor of Josef Mengele's experiments on Jewish midgets and twins. I retired to my bed to read David Quammen's The Flight of the Iguana. I was delighted to find that at least one other person on the planet found Charles Darwin's The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms With Observations on Their Habits a wonderful read.

Thought for the day:

Born to be wild -- live to outgrow it.

Doug Horton

Current Listening

Carl Orff -- Carmina Burana


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Wednesday 10 April 2002

Posted with David Wojick's permission:

The Theory of Integrated Climate Variation -- an introduction

by David E. Wojick, Ph.D.

"As changeable as the weather" is a well known expression, because it is well known that the weather changes. Less well known is that climate, which is just long term weather, is also changeable. But a decade of intensive climate research has revealed that natural climate variation is the rule, not the exception.

Climate change occurs at all scales, from years to millions of years. Moreover, long term changes involve shorter term changes, and vice versa, through a myriad of physical processes tied together by complex, nonlinear feedback loops.

I call this vast, ever changing, dynamical process "Integrated Climate Variation". The Theory of Integrated Climate Variation views changing climate as natural -- something to be prepared for, not something that can be altered or prevented. On this view the slight surface warming observed over the last century or so is also natural, not the result of human interference.

To understand the Theory of Integrated Climate Variation one must first understand some of the many natural climate variations. Many of these have only recently been discovered, while others are now better understood, as a result of our decade long climate change research program.

Most of the natural climate variations are what are called "oscillators". These are processes that vary in a roughly cyclic way, ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning, within some range or other. Many of these processes are termed "cycles", but that does not mean they are predictably periodic.

Take rain for example. There's a joke where a stranger asks an old farmer "Do you think it will rain?" The farmer replies: "It always has."

This joke illustrates that rain, while unpredictable, is cyclic in nature. Moreover, from climate change research we now know that rainfall is also cyclic across a wide range of climate scales. Not only are there wet years and dry years, there are also wet decades and dry ones, wet and dry centuries, millennia, and more.

Here is a brief catalog of twenty natural oscillators. I have indicated the relative scale of each oscillator, but every oscillator of a given scale also operates at many shorter scales. This is an important part of the concept of "Integrated Variation". Also it is important to note that many of these oscillators -- especially the newly discovered ones -- are not included in, or explainable by, the climate models. This is very important for the debate between the Theory of Human Interference and the Theory of Integrated Climate Variation. Natural variation is a new way of understanding climate. 

Twenty Natural Climate Oscillators

1. Temperature -- varies on all scales from minutes to millions of years. Daily, monthly and annual variations are well known. So are ice ages. The widespread occurrence of intermediate, sometimes rapid, variations is newly discovered. In particular, the Middle Ages were quite possibly as warm as today. This warm period was followed be several centuries of cold, called the Little Ice Age. The present warming may therefore be simply a recovery from the Little Ice Age, part of a multi century natural oscillation.

2. Direct solar input or "day" -- well known daily variation.

3. Cloudiness -- varies from minutes up to a week or so, much longer in some cases. Well known. There is also variation in type of cloud, much less well known. Newly discovered long term cloud variations (called Lindzen's iris) that may help control the earth's temperature are only scientifically well known.

4. Wind -- varies in from seconds to days, much longer in some cases. Well known. Climate scale cycles in jet streams and global vortices are only scientifically well known.

5. Rainfall -- varies in from seconds to days, much longer in some cases, such as monsoon cycles. Well known. Less well known are climate scale cycles, many of which are only recently discovered. Likewise for snowfall.

6. Pressure -- varies in from minutes to days -- moderately well known. Less well known are climate scale cycles, many of which are only recently discovered.

7. Humidity -- varies in from minutes to seasons -- well known.

8. Tides -- vary twice daily and with lunar cycle -- well known. What is not generally known is that the height and timing of each individual tide is unpredictable.

9 Lunar phase cycle -- varies about monthly. Well known.

10. Solar angle or "seasons" -- varies annually. Well known.

11. El Nino - Southern Oscillation -- varies over about a half decade cycle. Locally well known. Intensity and frequency are longer, climate scale oscillators.

12. Solar sunspot cycle -- varies over about a decade cycle -- not directly detectable in climate, so only scientifically well known.

13. Pacific Decadal Oscillation -- cycle time of half century to century or so. Recently discovered. Only scientifically well known.

14. North Atlantic Oscillation -- cycle time of half century to century or so. Recently discovered. Recent research claims effects extend to entire Northern Hemisphere.

15. Antarctic Oscillation -- cycle time less than a decade. Recently discovered.

16. Deep ocean circulation -- cycle time believed to be between 500 and 2000 years. Only scientifically well known.

17. Long lunar cycle -- roughly 1800 year cycle. Possible climate influence recently discovered. Only scientifically well known.

18. Glaciations -- 100,000 year or so cycles. Moderately well known. Probable relation to Milankovitch cycles only scientifically well known.

19. The three Milankovitch cycles -- earth orbit precession, obliquity, and eccentricity --especially the 100,000 eccentricity cycle and the 400,000 year combined cycle. Only scientifically well known, with much recent research.

20. Orbital cycles of sun through galaxy -- 33, 66 and 250 million years. Recently conjectured.

Many other natural oscillators that affect climate are not included above. Many of these are also newly discovered, either in their detailed behavior, or in total. Some major categories include the following.

A. Biological cycles, including terrestrial vegetation, ocean plankton, and bacteria that play a large role in climate variation.

B. Atmospheric chemical cycles, including carbon dioxide, which has varied greatly over millions of years, and water vapor content recently claimed to be highly variable over the last century.

C. Geologic cycles, including volcanoes, continental drift, mountain building and erosion, magnetic pole changes, deep ocean vents, and variable ocean chemical heat reactions.

D. Surface ocean cycles, such as the Gulf Stream.

E. Atmospheric and ocean circulation of heat content.

F. Extra terrestrial, including cyclical solar wind, the earth's magnetosphere, meteors, space ice, and dust clouds.

For more information contact <dwojick@climatechangedebate.org>.

This is an addendum to David's The UN IPCC's Artful Bias -- Glaring Omissions, False Confidence, and Misleading Statistics in the Summary for Policymakers.

I have also posted the complete paper in Rich Text Format here.

Thought for the day:

You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising budget is big enough.

Ed Rollins

Current Listening

John Cooper Clarke -- Me and My Big Mouth


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Thursday 11 April 2002

Yesterday morning, my friend Liz from across the valley phoned. As is usual with Liz, the purpose of the call only became apparent after thirty minutes of conversation. This isn't usually a problem -- she is fascinating to talk with. We share an interest in fine literature and history. On this occasion, though, I made the first move in directing the conversation. Liz hails from America and spends part of every year there with her and her husband's relatives.

I asked Liz a question that had been burning in my mind for some time. Why, compared to our homes, are American houses so huge? What do they do with all that space? Liz said that most houses built fifty to a hundred years ago are about the same size as the houses that were built here. From that point on, there was a frantic race between people to demonstrate that they were bigger/better/faster/wealthier than those around them. Houses were a sort of arms-race in prestige. Cars, too. Back in the sixties and seventies it was those huge things with fins. These days it's SUVs with huge tyres. 

As an addendum, Liz mentioned that most places in America, it's illegal to hang your washing on a clothes line outdoors. Apparently, drying clothes in public is considered displeasing to the eye. So the law de facto says you have to use a clothes drier and consume lots of energy doing what the sun and wind could do for free.

I thought about this as I hung our clothes out to dry in the sun on the Hills Hoist. I remembered meeting a landscape gardener from America a decade ago. She had been fined for parking her truck in the driveway of her house. Apparently that too is displeasing to the eye and a criminal offence. Trucks must be hidden away from public view when not in use. A bit like penises and vaginas. And female breasts. 

What had always seemed to me a tedious chore has become an exercise in lascivious fantasy. I imagine women whispering to each other about how once they had wantonly hung a damp pair of pantyhose on a backyard shrub to be caressed by the passing breeze and penetrated by ultraviolet rays from the sun. Men boasting about parking an erect Fifty-seven Chevvy in a moist driveway under the cover of darkness.

-oOo-

Dr David E. Wojick, who I quoted yesterday, hosts a fascinating debate on climate here and has a website where I found some delightful short pieces entitled Is Mathematics Part of Science? and Chaos Management and the Dynamics of Information.

Thought for the day:

Nevertheless, the consuming hunger of the uncritical mind for what it imagines to be certainty or finality impels it to feast upon shadows in the prevailing famine of substance.

E. T. Bell

Current Listening

Roxy Music -- For Your Pleasure


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Friday 12 April 2002

Regular reader, Roy Harvey writes:

Jonathan,

The bit about clothes lines and trucks parked in the driveway is essentially true, but not completely. Those things are not illegal, as was said. They are contracts, entered into by the owner when they purchase the house, and enforceable (as far as I know) by civil suit.

What happens is that when a builder sets up a new housing development they are free to write into the deeds whatever restrictions they think will make the properties more valuable. If you want to build and sell really huge, expensive houses - the kind that return the most profit - you attract buyers who don't want the property value to go down because the neighbor's place - by definition, the neighbor's, not YOURS - resembles anything less than the genteel prosperity to which the buyer aspires. But everybody knows when the buy what the restrictions are, and they can always try to buy where the restrictions are acceptable to them.

In the north-east where I live this sort of thing does exist, but it isn't as popular as in some other parts of the country. My brother lives in the mid-west, in such a development. I don't know all the restrictions, but I recall some of them. All the houses have to have brick on them. You must have a landscaping plan - which means paying a "landscape architect" - and the plan has to be approved. No fences, sheds, clothes lines - I'm sure the list is quite long. And of course the lawn must be kept looking like a golf course - but then lawns are a competitive sport in the mid-west. (I know one person who said he moved from the mid-west to Connecticut just so he could let the lawn go and have his weekends free.)

You can still find a single lot somewhere and build a house, and people do. Besides not knowing what the neighborhood ends up looking like, for the same house you will pay more; building ten houses at once in the same place lets the builder save money by working more efficiently, as well as getting better deals on materials.

You might appreciate that there is a popular term for the huge trophy houses that proliferate in such communities. They are called MacMansions.

Roy Harvey

And from J-- who wishes to remain anonymous on this occasion:

http://www.cityofsavage.org/images/docs/selected_ordinances.pdf

The above is a link to my new city's "FAQ" ordinances. These are nuthin' compared to where I used to live. A select list -

1) No outdoor clothes drying 
2) No trees with descending seeds (Maples, cottonwoods, etc) that cause problems with litter and choke the storm drains 
3) No parking of recreational vehicles in view of the street 
4) Limitations on the size of storage outbuildings (more severe than mine) 
5) Limitation on when you can set your trash cans out for pickup...

Also note that in nearly all cases, ordinances are passed to "benefit the general community" - while no one will admit that there was one real pain in the ass that caused them to write the ordinance in just that way. For example, if my friends (who still live where I used to) want to, they can complain about the lawn of their neighbors getting too long (they wouldn't, but let's just say). Then the city can come out, mow your lawn, and charge you for it.

However, they cannot complain about the house, 3 blocks away, which has an over-grown yard with "noxious weeds" and garbage in it. Well, they can, but the city can't come over and mow THAT lawn unless either A) the proximate neighbors complain, or B) the city gets enough complaints about "concerned citizens" who pass by the property daily. Sheesh.

With that said, it's pretty clear that unless you're an out-and-out ass, most neighbors will not call on your property. My fence is a bit lacking in ... well, general appearance, truth be told. I'll probably be replacing it next year, but in the mean time, so long as no one complains, I'll be OK.

The bad news is I'm backing on one of the busier streets in Savage... ;-(

Please paraphrase, if you'd like to quote this, though - I'd rather not have my neighbors find out and get my ... you-know-what in a ringer. ;-)

Hopefully, I have concealed your identity well enough J--. 

Well, I am now somewhat better informed and still glad to live where I live. Not that life here in Australia is anywhere near perfect. I decided to watch some early evening television for a change yesterday evening. It turns out that Australia' building industry is in something of a crisis, surprisingly enough partially due to the destruction of the WTC last September.

The story has its beginning in the federal government privatising Housing Indemnity Insurance. This insurance is compulsory for any professional builder undertaking any building project above a rather small dollar value. One of the three insurers, HIH collapsed recently, and another has pulled out of Housing Indemnity Insurance as a result of the WTC collapse. They see it as too risky. The remaining insurer is ignoring builder requests for insurance. Maybe this bodes well for owner-building since owner-builders are not required to insure.

-oOo-

The Pompous Git has been feeling a little off-colour lately -- broken sleep, tired, aches and pains -- and was putting it down to his age and recent 18 months of unaccustomed physical effort. Turns out there's another possible explanation, Ross River Virus, so he will have to make an appointment to see his medical practitioner. Knowing Chow, he's just as likely to say: "Go home, take two aspirin and let nature take its course".

Thought for the day:

This is an age of intellectual sauces, of essence, of distillation. We have "conclusions" without deductions, "abridgments of history" and "abridgments of science" without leading facts. We have "animals" for literature, "Cabinet" Encyclopaedias, "Family" Libraries, "Diffusion" Societies, and heaven knows what else! What is all this for? Not to add knowledge to the learned, but to tell points to the ignorant, without giving them the trouble to acquire the links. Oh! it is sad work. And the result will be injurious to all classes.

Benjamin Haydon

Current Listening

Nico -- Desert Shore


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Saturday 13 April 2002

Funny thing. Whenever I watch TV news, or read a newspaper these days (an infrequent event) I am struck by the many references to paedophilia. Sex with children. How traumatised they are by it. Being a bit of a historian, The Pompous Git find this... bemusing. While children become physically mature much younger these days, back in the 19th Century, the age of consent was much younger. Britain changed from 12 to 16 years of age around 1830. According to this story, in the late 19th Century, most places in America it was age 10 or 12. In Delaware it was age 7.

One wonders whether children were traumatised by sex back then. Perhaps they weren't told they were expected to be traumatised. It just seems passing strange to the Pompous Git that as adolescence arrives at an ever earlier age, we have moved the age of consent to a later age. Presumably, this has led to a much longer period of frustration for adolescent urges. Could this have anything to do with what we perceive as more and more paedophilia?

-oOo-

News is what happens near a journalist. Some photographs and thoughts on photojournalism by Bruce Miller.

Thought for the day:

But childhood prolonged, cannot remain a fairyland. It becomes a hell.

Louise Bogan

Current Listening

Little Stevie Wonder -- The Twelve Year Old Wonder


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Sunday 14 April 2002

On occasion, The Pompous Git is taken to task for being anti-science, leading him to suspect the reading ability of some of his readers. Put as simply as possible, the Git is one of the world's greatest admirers of science and its accomplishments. BUT that does not mean he can't criticise what scientists do and how they do it. If scientists want to claim credit for the accomplishments of others, make media releases claiming they are saving the world (again) and for the umpteenth time claim: "This is the first real evidence of a black hole," reminding us of advertisements making similar claims, they should not expect to remain above criticism.

Particularly is this so when some scientists claim to be speaking on behalf of a supposed consensus of all scientists. In every area of science the Git has investigated, he has found controversy and contradiction. Even where results of experiment are agreed, the interpretation of those results is fuel for often very vigorous debate. And this is the strength of science. If scientists all sat down and agreed that this is it, this is the Ultimate Truth, we may very well be stuck with ideas like the phlogiston theory, or epicycles, or treatment of illnesses with toxic mercury compounds. Disagreement fuels progress toward better ideas.

Nowhere is the disparity between what science is and what it claims to be more apparent than in the debate on climate. Part of the problem is that climatology is built on so many sub-disciplines -- glaciologists, chemists, oceanographers, palaeontologists, physicists... all have something to say and to declare the evidence is contradictory is an understatement. To announce a consensus where none exists is a political statement, not a scientific statement. History teaches me that when a politician makes such a statement, it's generally because there's a great disparity between the players and heads are shortly to roll.

Is that really the message that scientists want to convey?

For a story about a real attack on science, there's an interesting story here.

And here is a really interesting story about the knotty problems that arise from practising real science. Be warned, this is not an easy read for most.

Thought for the day:

Research serves to make building stones out of stumbling blocks.

Arthur D. Little

Current Listening

Kevin Ayers -- Shooting at the Moon


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2002

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Jonathan Sturm 2002