March 30, 2007

ClimateChange Orthodoxy

Happy to see a thoughtful editorial in today's Burlington Free Press about climate change with recognition that the doomsdayers have invested in their scenario as a matter of faith rather than with a reasoned approach to the issue. The lack of knowledge of science and panic by many swept up in the hysteria sponsored by politicians and some of the media overwhelms clear thinking.

Using less energy from tradition sources is a good thing on many fronts, as the editorial suggests. The cost of alternatives and who pays is the key issue. People deserve the right to make decisions for themselves, not have taxes and restrictions placed on them by politicians (and some scientists) who often have other agendas, based not on climate science and evidence, but on faith, philosophies and world views. That's not freedom, nor good public policy.

(The full editorial is shown below because the Free Press does not make its content available for long periods.)

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Editorial: Examining orthodoxy serves science well

March 30, 2007
In the best debates, both sides learn something about not only the opposing view, but about their own position, too. But a healthy debate needs at least two sides and a willingness to listen to those who might have a different opinion.

S. Fred Singer brought his skepticism about what is rapidly becoming the common wisdom, that human activity is driving climate change, to the University of Vermont campus Wednesday in a talk sponsored by Lake Champlain International, a group best known for its fishing derbies.

Singer probably changed few minds, if any, but he did stir debate in public and in person. That in itself is a critical service. When an orthodoxy threatens to overwhelm any subject -- especially in the sciences -- there's nothing like an opposing view to spur the search for knowledge.

After all, why keep asking questions if we already know it all?

For the most part, the popular debate on climate change has left the realm of science -- if it ever was there in the first place -- and has become about faith. That's inevitable seeing as few of us have the scientific expertise to analyze, let alone collect, the data upon which global-warming theories are based. That leaves us to put our faith in one set of scientists over another.

Too often both sides, smug in their own world view, fail to examine their basic assumptions, instead waving "facts" and "research" that back their views. As anyone who has done even a little research on the Internet knows, you can Google your way to justify just about any position.

That there's room for doubt doesn't mean that we should sit back and wait for conclusive evidence, one way or another, before taking action. Even if the human impact on climate change turns out to be negligible, many of the measures that target global warming have other benefits -- decreased reliance on foreign oil, lower heating bills and reduced air pollution -- that warrant adoption, even on a "just in case" basis. Who should bear the cost is another matter.

But to argue that the debate has been settled is to say that there's no need for further inquiry, a position that should be anathema to any true scientist or anyone else truly interested in seeing science serve the common good.

The Greek playwright Euripides said, "Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing." That's because when you have the answers, you stop asking questions and stop learning. When it comes to the future of our planet, we can't afford to ever stop asking questions.

March 26, 2007

Vonage Ordered to Cease Verizon Patent Infringement

Not a good sign for Vonage who already has financial difficulties. Once more, in this Internet age IP is shown to be an important asset for building a business. There's no substitute for controlling, via ownership or licensing, the patents a business uses to create its infrastructure.

The trial moved swiftly to reach this result.

"The patents Vonage was found to have infringed deal with technologies
involving connection of VoIP calls to the regular phone network, some features
for implementing call-waiting and voice-mail services, and VoIP calls using
Wi-Fi handsets. Vonage has maintained that even if the injunction is upheld, its
some 2.2 million subscribers will not encounter disruptions because it is
developing a technological workaround."

Prague - A Gem of a City

We have friends in Prague, former refugees who came to America while the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union were still around, and we hope to visit them this year or next.

You may not expect a Slavic capital to be a font of Italian culture, but Prague has been the home to notable Italians ever since the 16th-century court of Rudolph II employed the painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the gem-cutter Ottavio Miseroni and the sculptor Alessandro Abondio. Today the
is culinary. Check out Vino di Vino (Vezenska 3, 420-222-312-999;, a wine bar in Old Town that recently added a small selection of recipes from the Piedmont region. Entrees cost 360 to 580 koruny, or about $16.50 to $27 at 21.8 koruny to the dollar. For truly outstanding Italian cooking in Prague — and many would say anywhere this side of the Alps — head to Allegro inside the Four Seasons Hotel (Veleslavinova 2a, 420-221-427-000, The chef Vito Mollica serves seasonal dishes like slow-roasted veal with Alba truffles and aged Modena balsamic vinegar, with entrees costing 640 to 1,700 koruny. You can see why some Italians think twice before leaving Prague for home."

I didn't know about the Italian connection, but our friend escaped tp Italy before coming to the U.S. as a political refugee.

March 22, 2007

Politicizing Science

This blogger, Rick Moran, takes to task the politicizing of science and is well worth the read. This tactic has bothered me from the beginning of the debate about global warming. Politicizing science for their own purposes is probably unavoidable for politicians, but reputable scientists who engage in it should be chastised. Unfortunately, people are likely to be misled in these matters by their political leaders because the agenda is so far reaching. Most people have no understanding of science, so they look to those they believe in for for what they should believe.

"I doubt very much whether the collision of science and politics can be
avoided when it comes to global warming – not when the solutions called for by
advocates involve hundreds of billions of dollars in tax money and threaten the
existence of some industries. But surely efforts can be made by both sides to
lessen the impact of politics in formulating policy based on science. If not, I
fear we face a future where the credibility of all science is called into
question by the people footing the bill much to the detriment of both science
and society at large."

March 20, 2007

What's the Average Global Temperature?

The following excerpt from Science Daily seems a rational view that questions the alarmist claims about global warming and the use of 'average global temperature' to warn that earth is in for big trouble. The researchers are from Denmark and Canada.

"Many averages
A further problem with the extensive use of 'the global temperature' is that there are many ways of calculating average temperatures.

Example 1: Take two equally large glasses of water. The water in one glass is 0 degrees, in the other it is 100 degrees. Adding these two numbers and dividing by two yields an average temperature of 50 degrees. That is called the arithmetic average.

Example 2: Take the same two glasses of water at 0 degrees and 100 degrees, respectively. Now multiply those two numbers and take the square root, and you will arrive at an average temperature of 46 degrees. This is called the geometric average. (The calculation is done in degrees Kelvin which are then converted back to degrees Celsius.)

The difference of 4 degrees is the energy which drives all the thermodynamic processes which create storms, thunder, sea currents, etc.

Claims of disaster?
These are but two examples of ways to calculate averages. They are all equally correct, but one needs a solid physical reason to choose one above another. Depending on the averaging method used, the same set of measured data can simultaneously show an upward trend and a downward trend in average temperature. Thus claims of disaster may be a consequence of which averaging method has been used, the researchers point out.

What Bjarne Andresen and his coworkers emphasize is that physical arguments are needed to decide whether one averaging method or another is needed to calculate an average which is relevant to describe the state of Earth."

March 17, 2007

GrandCentral One Number Service - D. Pogue

An intriguing new service described by David Pogue at the NY Times really is 'brain-slamming.' The notion radically changes how you think about voice telephone services. With an intriguing set of features, this company proposes do disintermediate the various companies that you now use.
Two questions surface: 1./How much is one willing to invest in managing the myriad features of GrandCentral compared to managing the status quo? 2./What's the long term viability of a startup company and would you be willing to invest all your voice telephony "assets" in a startup?

"Still, you may be forgiven for feeling that GrandCentral’s central idea — a virtual phone number that’s not associated with a particular telephone — is too much of a radical brain-slamming change. You may also feel that the last thing your life needs is more phone calls reaching you successfully.

But anyone who spends some time contemplating GrandCentral’s possibilities will soon see the bigger picture: this service removes your location as a consideration in phone calling, much the same way that the TiVo makes a TV show’s broadcast time unimportant. In other words, GrandCentral has rewritten the rules in the game of telephone."

March 15, 2007

The Politics of Global Warming

Why does the global warming debate seem to carve itself along liberal and conservative lines? In general, it seems to me that the hysteria mongers are on the left and the serious doubters are on the right. Why is this?

Could it be that global warming is really an argument about more government vs. less because the enormity of the task to remediate GW can only be handled by government? Or, perhaps, folks believe that more taxes and elaborate energy credit schemes, carbon offsets and the like can only be done by governments. Is this the agenda of the left?

Or is this great debate more about capitalism vs. socialism? America is a capitalist society on a slow road to socialism as citizens and immigrants expect more from their government, rather than less. People look to their government to fix things (Translation: government can provide me with resources I am unable or unwilling to obtain on my own.). Meanwhile politicians push the global warming bandwagon arguing that man must fix this because man caused it. (Translation: If you keep me in power, I will wisely allocate your tax dollars to fix this problem.) The cynic would say that politicians are always prone to insert themselves into perceived problems for their own benefit, not necessarily ours.

The media, avowedly liberal, support the message of those fanatics like Gore, McKibben in Vermont, and 'scientists' who insist that we are in crisis and must take drastic action to reduce greenhouse gases or we are all doomed. Do we, the people, like sheep, believe this mongering because it's the 'in' thing?

Do the preachers of doom really think that man can adjust the climate of our planet? If so, to what level, if "average global temperature" is the measure. Perhaps the earth is warming, but it's done so many times before. The difference this time is there are six billion humans, some of whom will be negatively affected, while some will benefit greatly. Warming is not wholly a gloom and doom scenario.

If the panic-mongers are serious about ameliorating the negative effects of warming, they should support moving people away from low-lying areas threatened by rising sea levels. For example, why rebuild New Orleans if their GW future is inundation? Perhaps the alarmists should promote moving "Big Easy" people inland and northward if they believe that Mississippi delta areas will be under water.

Meanwhile, big companies like General Electric and others see a tremendous opportunity to cash in on this hysteria as they position themselves to remediate the negative consequences of warming.

Please, people, think! The science and forecasting of climate change is not yet settled. We measure temperature and compute averages, observe a slight rise, albeit in the range of recent normalcy, and conclude that disaster is ahead. Not necessarily so.

For many on our globe, warming and climate change may be a good thing as dry areas become wetter and agriculture is benefited in more northern and southern latitudes. Why is it that we don't hear or read about the benefits of warming in addition to the downsides? Surely the news cannot be all bad everywhere on the planet. Keep in mind that the media thrives on bad news, not good news. We should be skeptical of what the (liberal) media reports and should demand the full story, as best as it's known.

What I don't read or hear reported is the quantitative relationship of greenhouse gasses and temperature. For instance, how much carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gas equivalents are required to raise the global temperature one degree Centigrade? What is the quantity that man adds? What is the net quantity produce by Nature? Where is the data about that? What is the 'right' temperature for the earth?

Suerly, if the earth warms we will experience change, but it cannot be all bad for humankind. Why don't we hear/read/see the trade-offs reported in the media? Could it be there's an 'agenda' to change our perception, our economy and our politics? Think hard before you buy into the present hysteria. I'm waiting for facts rather than loud political chatter. Why is warming on balance 'bad' for mankind?

Cell Phones Overseas - The Basics

A good reference for using cell phones while traveling overseas. Worth a read.

David Brooks on the Democrat Iraq Dilemma

"The Democratic leaders don’t want to be for immediate withdrawal because it might alienate the centrists, and they don’t want to see out the surge because that would alienate the base. What they want to do is be against Bush without accepting responsibility for any real policy, so they have concocted a vaporous policy of distant withdrawal that is divorced from realities on the ground.

Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the surge, he supports it, even if it’s going to be unpopular. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such guts."

This excerpt from David Brooks' column today reveals the Democrat dilemma on Iraq. Without a viable policy alternative, they cannot be taken seriously. Their posturing is seen as pure politics. They have put that ahead of the national interest. Sad, but not unexpected. They will wish they had not put themselves in this position.

March 14, 2007

Gore Criticism

For the Times to even write an article that contains criticism of Mr. Gore's climate sideshow suggests that he has made a serious mistake in over-hyping the anthropogenic nature of the earth's warming. Too many reputable scientists are objecting to his portrayal creating hysteria that has taken hold among people who accept inconclusive assumptions and theories as facts.

Mr. Gore is not so much into saving the planet as he is remaining in the limelight and making money. Unfortunately, too many people accept his rantings as truth rather than considering that while the earth's temperature may be rising, this is nothing new and has happened before without man's help.

YouTube & Google Meet Their Match?

YouTube’s end game nears by ZDNet's Larry Dignan -- Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit against Google's YouTube kicks off what could be the end game for the video sharing site. Viacom filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York that alleges a "massive intentional copyright infringement of Viacom's entertainment properties." Viacom seeks $1 billion in damages and an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube [...]

Information (and entertainment) may 'want to be free,' as so many people seem to believe, but today's copyright laws allow compensation beyond 'fair use.' Argue with the laws, if you want, but they exist to protect the opportunity for a creator/owner to profit from their work and not be ripped off, even in the Internet age.

My guess is that Viacom has a good case here and the outcome will most likely be a settlement with YouTube becoming a pay as you go service for media companies that decide to use them as a distribution channel. I think Viacom and other media companies would prefer to be paid for sharing their content rather than be paid in a lawsuit. The issue is one of price, terms and conditions. Isn't it always?

Charles Cooper over at CNET expresses essentially the same view in much stronger language.

March 7, 2007

Yum Yum Spaghetti Sauce!

I made this sauce without the meatballs a couple of weeks ago and it was excellent. Of course, the real flavor comes from the pork and beef meat that is simmered in the tomato sauce. But the secret ingredient must be the pepperoncini. I've never before seen a sauce recipe calling for that ingredient, but it's good. Of course, like most sauces, it's better the second time.

For a superb spaghetti sauce, try this recipe provided by my son, Mark. We had a Harrington's ham last week and the leftovers were wonderful in this sauce (gravy, if you prefer). Noteworthy is that both the NY Times recipe and Amatriciana recipe originate in Abruzzo, Italy. The family Zappa recipe was from a town within 10 miles (as the crow flies) from my wife's ancestral village in Abruzzo. Is that why I like it so much?

March 4, 2007

What Do You Believe?

by Steve Turner
This is the creed I have written on behalf of all us.

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything is getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in
horoscopes, UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher
although we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same--
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.

"Chance" a post-script

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.

March 3, 2007

Social Networking’s Next Phase - New York Times

Social Networking’s Next Phase - New York Times

This phenomenon may have legs. Many people of repute and money are in the game and the popular social networking sites have millions of users.

However, something's got to give. We can't spend all our time in front of screens. Success will be limited by the time captured from users by these sites. How much time would you spend at a screen, including traditional television, for work, recreation and entertainment? There is a practical limit, which means some of these initiatives and new businesses will fail.

Friedman On Target

Thomas Friedman's column today opines about the silence of people who should be speaking out against the suicide bombers. The lack of opposition voices and any moral counterbalance favors the radical Islamists. This Arabic poem translated into English at an Arabic website is from his column.

Because suicide bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have become so commonplace, people around the world have become accustomed to this outrage. Only the Israelis seem to be effective in preventing the bombers in recent months.

"When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there is a mosque on every corner — you know that you are in an Arab country.

When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity — do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

When religion has control over science — you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

When clerics are referred to as “scholars” — don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.

When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and nobody is permitted to criticize — do not be too upset, you are in an Arab country.

When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery — do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.

When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab high positions — do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country. ...

When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth, or less — do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country. ...

When land is more important than human beings — you are in an Arab country. ...

When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people — you can be certain you are in an Arab country.”

March 2, 2007

Travellers and Tourists

"The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist comes to see what he has come to see."
-G.K. Chesterton

I thought this elaboration on Chesterton's observation found in the introduction to the 2007 Traveller's Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador was well stated:

"You see, tourists know what they're looking for long before they know what is
really here. An experience that is knowable and containable and packageable. But
these are mere parts of the puzzle.

A traveller, on the other hand, seeks the truth of a place, the essence that can only be appreciated by seeing the puzzle as a whole."

I believe I'm a traveller.