A Letter to the Editor of the Kitchener Post

I have written this letter to the editor in response to a letter in the Kitchener Post (a newspaper local to me), Climate Change Gurus Have No Evidence published on January 11, 2018 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I think you can tell the main points of the letter I am disagreeing with by my rebuttals.

Global Warming Gurus Have Plenty of Evidence

Last week’s global-warming-denial letter to the editor got to me because there were problems with the “facts” that Lloyd Fex used.

First of all he called Al Gore “the leading climate change advocate” which I don’t think is true. For instance, based on results, climate change advocates in Europe are much more effective since real policy changes have resulted in those countries. As well, Al Gore has been out of the spotlight of any debate for quite some time.

I almost laughed when I saw that Fex said the polar ice cap increased in size one year by 920 000 sq. ft. This is a laughably small amount compared to the size of the ice sheets. Large shopping malls can have 5 times this square footage and that is only contained by one building. 920 000 square feet is 0.03 of the size of a square mile which polar ice sheets are more properly measured in. I doubt the purported increase is even big enough to be larger than the error margins of the size change of polar ice sheets.

Fex chooses to measure the severity of hurricanes by the amount of deaths they cause. By this measure he says that 2017’s hurricane season was the 17th most severe. But this ignores advances in tracking and knowing which way a hurricane was going that have come about in the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st.

Of course more deaths happened in the past. In the early 1900s the hurricane prone areas didn’t have that many fast cars to flee with. The space race brought us satellites to spot hurricanes long before they made landfall. Demand for better predictions have brought better hurricane track forecasts. And finally we can board up buildings given warning. So of course fewer lives are lost in this day and age. Imagine Fex’s chagrin if I chose to measure severity of a hurricane in unadjusted dollar values of damage. Of course the most recent years would have the most severe hurricanes. That’s exactly what he is trying to do to us, just with the opposite result.

He says we can easily look up his facts at the NOAA, US Weather online and YouTube. When I tried to find his .07 degrees Celsius increase in temperatures since 1970, I found climate.gov which is an NOAA site and they said that the average surface temperature of earth had increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1970.

I didn’t bother checking his 0.4 m sea level rise in the last two centuries because that is worrying enough. It is especially worrying if Greenland or Antarctica with their miles of ice sheets start to go suddenly. And for low lying islands, even half a meter might spell doom.

I have used facts to correct Mr. Fex since that is all he claims to respect. Global warming is a real problem that the earth faces today.

I don’t care that some scientists deny global warming. More scientists believe in it than doubt it. There were doctors and biologists who denied the science of tobacco being bad for you. Just as there was big money to be made in tobacco, there is big money to be made in carbon releasing via big oil and gas.

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The New Mall Help Desk

A few months ago the mall that I frequent the most installed a new Starbucks. I sometimes go to this new establishment with my sister. We prefer to drink our teas in the island “patio” which is in the middle of the ample aisle way and it looks to be completely separate from the Starbucks.

Yesterday we were the only ones on the high chairs with drinks on the wall of the island. There were other people too but they were in the much lower tables and chairs. So from a certain direction all that could be seen were two people drinking coffees or teas in a kiosk like environment.

The first lady who approached us said she had a question for us. Then suddenly she said “Oh, I guess you’re not mall information,” I think at this point she saw the lower tables with people at them. “I’m sorry.”

I could have acted like mall information and pointed out where mall information was. But she went quickly away. My sister and I joked that we didn’t get to hear her question which we might have been able to answer.

A half hour later a man came up to us and asked us where the bank was. We pointed to the Starbucks and said that used to be the bank. We told him we could tell him where there were bank machines in the mall. He had to hurry to catch his friend to tell him the bank was no longer here.

About a half hour after this incident, a couple came up to us and asked where the washrooms were. My sister told him that they were in the basement of the Bay. I couldn’t understand how my sister managed to get this wrong so I corrected her and said they were in the top floor of the Bay. We eventually realized we were both right but had been using the washrooms that we knew were there. Turning back to the couple we told them the official public washroom was way on the other side of the mall by the food court. They headed in that general direction so perhaps there were no accidents yesterday.

After three incidents of people asking for information I can only think that the mall had deliberately set the island up to look like information. Then, relying on the good nature of Starbucks customers, they knew that they no longer needed their information kiosk and could save money by shutting it down. I would rather they paid me the amount that a worker at the mall should get.

Or at least they could give me free coffee or teas at Starbucks. Information isn’t free you know.

If they think it can be, my only recourse will be to send my customers to the wrong parts of the mall.

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My Best Posts of the Year 2017

If you think my annual post about my favourites from the past year is a cop out, you are absolutely correct. I give myself one week a year when I don’t have to think of anything new and shiny. It used to be the easiest post of the year. Until this year.

My memory is slipping this year. In previous years all I had to do was scan the titles of my posts to pick a favourite for each two month period. The posts would then face off in my mind and most times I would pick a favourite easily. But sometimes it’s harder and I have to reread two or three posts to decide which one is truly best.

This year I am not reminded what the post is about from the title. So painstakingly I’ve had to read through almost every single post to remind me about all of them directly. Only the last month’s posts were remembered without reading.

So this year I put in more effort for this list. Thus I no longer see it as a cop out.

For my January and February pick I would have chosen from my sister site Nooz Spun Right my poll about who wore it better me or David Bowie. I captured a really neat photograph of myself with the setting sun’s light coming through the slats on my balcony. It looked like a lightning bolt due to the angles on my face. Unfortunately Poll Daddy wrenched the poll from the post and I really don’t want to sign up with them after that. So instead I will choose A Smoke Filled Bar for my first best post of the year.

The Canadian Duel lightened the month of April. My Plan to Counterfeit and Never Get Caught is a workable plan it’s just that I blew it by telling all of you. Don’t make the same mistake.

SETI: Dumb Isn’t Dumb is my real opinion on the topic, I just had to dress it up with humour to be a piece on my blog site.

The Secret Origin of Tail is a comic page departure from my usual post, but I think a good one. Just pardon me if there aren’t too many more of these in the future. I do want to finish at least one more but I may stop there as these are time intensive undertakings as I have to both draw and write. I can write three normal blog posts in the time I take for one of these.

I’ll leave the year suggesting that you read Water Roads, last week’s post. It is really flash fiction and is an example of my writing which I am very serious about even if this story isn’t quite serious.

Happy new year to anyone I’ve missed saying this to in the last week. I hope it brings good things to you and yours and to this site.

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Water Roads

“Well,” the tour guide explained to the aliens aboard the gondola, “We humans accidentally had the city of Venice sink beneath the waves. But before that happened, for a long time it sank slowly and we were treated to some fine centuries where the city had water roads and gondolas plied those city streets and it was oh so beautiful.

“So, not to be too saddened when Venice finally disappeared beneath the waves, humanity made a pact. We would build great cities on the seashores and then flood the streets with arctic and antarctic ice. We used global warming as our tool for this mega engineering effort.

“I’m sure that most of you have found that burning fossil fuels leads to global warming and the flooding of much of the coasts. We realized this and also realized because of the beauty of Venice, that we could continue the global warming making all our coastal cities Venices.

“Unfortunately architecture could only manage two thousand foot buildings when the flooding started. But still that flooding led to the beauty of Manhattan on gondolas. The tallest buildings rise over a thousand feet.”

“It is especially beautiful on July 13, today, also known as Manhattan henge. We ply the river roads in our gondola as the summer sun sets slowly. In only a few more moments the sun will be setting and lighting up our cross streets with a beautiful glow on this day. You can already see the colours in the sky as you gaze west. In a moment the setting sun itself will appear.

“So we humans were smart to burn most of our fossil fuels. And now we are a big tourist destination despite still being behind the United Worlds in technical prowess.

The aliens might not have been savvy enough to question these lies. Still one alien said, “I’m just questioning if you burned all your fossil fuels in city centres. I mean that could lead to premature death amongst air breathers. It certainly wasn’t viable for we Sorrhinnians. We had to halt our industrial ways for a while in order to save lives.”

The tour guide was quiet for many long seconds. Finally he began quietly, “Doesn’t everything beautiful have a -”

Beautiful light shone on the gathered aliens so the tour guide turned around and said much more loudly, “Behold the setting sun of the mighty Manhattan henge of the Earthlings!”

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Canada’s Cultural Prosaic

For those who don’t know, prosaic means boring.

Canada has long been smug about its cultural mosaic. This differs from the American melting pot. Instead of people from different cultures changing to fit in, the official line in Canada is that they don’t have to. They can keep those parts of their culture that doesn’t restrict the rights of others to do the same. Or parts that do not go against the laws of the land.

A mosaic is of course different coloured pieces fit together to make something unique.

Although this sounds very fine and is possibly an improvement on the American system, in practice it ends up being not quite true. Because of bragging rights, most cultures promote their sanitized versions. You know, mention the good parts but just don’t mention the bad parts of your culture.

Of course other cultural differences abound. We just don’t dwell on the nasty parts. So each diaspora has different clothes, different dances and different holidays. This is the stuff we present. Like Oktoberfest (German) in my city of Kitchener, Caribbana in Toronto (Caribbean peoples festival), and St. Patrick’s day for the Irish, specific cultures are celebrated. There are many other celebrations at cultural clubs and theatres and anywhere different cultures can be found. But it is all the good stuff and thus can be bland.

Anyone who knows anything about writing knows that at least half of writing fiction is when things go wrong. Things have definitely gone wrong in many cultures. That can make things more interesting. I’ve heard it said that no one will be entertained by a perfect Utopia. Canada could light up its cultural prosaic if we talked more about the bad things.

Bad things like genocide (Germans, Turkish people, Rwandans, Serbs), the hundred years war (really Britain and France?), the nuclear powers all thinking they’re big shots (USA, Russia, Britain, France, India, China, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea), the Spanish Inquisition, etc. It sure is interesting but there is just one problem. There are so many bad things that if you looked at them all at the same time it’s so depressing that you seize up – but your mind continues to go to scary places.

So maybe a cultural prosaic is the way to go. Just so we don’t terrify ourselves. Fear motivates but I still believe that the things that motivate the most are positive. Fine, I can handle a little blandness. Just so we keep our positivity.

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The Golden Age of Alcohol

The evils of alcohol were delineated all across North America which eventually led to prohibition, or the dark ages for alcohol. Of course many people were addicts of alcohol so they maintained their supply no matter how severe the penalties. This of course led to the repeal of prohibition and to less overt crimes and criminals.

Then came a long period of time which were the normal days of alcohol. This lasted for a good fifty years. But eventually the other extreme began to be reached.

The mystery of the French began to be “solved”. How could a people eat such a high fat diet and not have the resultant shortening of lifespan that was expected from this? Scientists began to focus on red wine and especially resveratrol. The claim began in earnest that red wine in small daily doses was good for life expectancy.

The rest of the alcohol industry saw this and began to get a bit jealous. It started simply. White wine has resveratrol, only in smaller quantities than red wine.

Then more odd studies began to be done and the surprising conclusion was that all alcohol could be good for your health.

This was the golden age of alcohol. The earliest shots across the bow were that binge drinking alcohol is bad. Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than one or two servings in a day. This small amount is not how most North Americans consume alcohol. Most people would rather binge on the weekend and spend the rest of the week alcohol free.

Maybe North Americans could change their habits away from binge drinking and thus live longer lives. With alcohol of course.

But now, some studies have come out documenting the one or two glasses a day thing and are saying that alcohol is bad for you no matter how it is metered out. It looks like we have hit the end of the road for alcohol being good for us.

There are even rumblings that resveratrol is not that good for you. Maybe there’s another reason for the imperviousness of the French to their indulgent diets.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or a few of the alcohol giants had bankrolled the earlier studies that showed alcohol was a plus. Indeed their business might have reached a peak after all those pro alcohol studies.

Those of us who were more likely to binge than meter out alcohol can now laugh at the allegedly responsible alcohol metering types. Now we can laugh and say “At least I get a buzz.”

Regardless, I expect the future alcohol studies to say that alcohol, if anything, is a minus to your health. Especially when you drink at alcoholic levels. I think the golden age of alcohol is over.

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The Star Wars Crapfest

Star Wars is half decent entertainment for your buck. There are interesting visuals, a fast moving story and even some growth in the characters at times.

But it isn’t very good science fiction.

Why is this a problem for me? It is what it is. But I don’t see it that way. You see, Star Wars takes up about a quarter of the science fiction section at bookstores now. Another quarter is taken up by Star Trek and whatever happens to have been turned into a movie. Only half of the science fiction section is stuff I would actually call science fiction. The book section could be a good deal richer than it is. But it has been taken over by the toy behemoth that Star Wars really is.

I call it a crapfest not only because of the toys but because of the little thought (beyond cuteness) that has been given to the creatures and things that populate the Star Wars Universe.

If a science fiction writer had come up with the furred huge alien that is Chewbacca, I bet pages would be devoted to this creature suiting up in a giant hairnet. Because if hair is bad for food, it is much worse to the electronics that keep the characters of Star Wars alive. The Millennium Falcon should be one giant clean room. Instead it is an unreliable ship with electronics that don’t always work perfectly. My cat is much smaller than Chewbacca and would have the Millennium Falcon disabled within a month by how much she sheds.

R2D2 needs a translator for English or Lingua Franca or whatever language is spoken on worlds a few galaxies over. Really, wouldn’t a translator feature cost about 50 cents judging by the level of technology in the empire? And a vocalization chip and speaker ought to cost about two dollars. We essentially do this now with the Siris and Alexas of the world.

R2D2 and BB8 both can’t manage stairs or rough terrain well. I suppose this is good for the empire. Because the engineers of the empire didn’t want to make things too difficult for their robots, they managed to make almost every building and important setting easily accessed by wheels. This is good thinking for the warlike inhabitants – some of whom will have to survive with wheelchairs after the battle. Better planning through engineering laziness.

So this is my demand. Give me back the science fiction section of the bookstore and I won’t harp on the flaws of Star Wars. Otherwise…

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The Moon is Not an All Night Nightlight

Poets, songwriters and prose makers beware that if you don’t observe carefully enough, you might be taken to task for sloppy writing. In this case I’d like to call out songwriter Jason Mraz for his song “Shine”. There was a team of writers on this, so it might be Becky Gebhardt, Chaska Potter, Mona Tavakoli or Mai Bloomfield that could be responsible for the offending lyric. I will continue to mention only Jason Mraz when I mean the team.

Most of the song is fine enough but the overstretch is made in the line: “together they [the Sun and the Moon] would blanket the world with light”. This is simply not true.

Has Jason Mraz spent so little time outside at night that he thinks the Moon is always up at night? I on the other hand have spent time outside at night as an amateur astronomer and for deep sky viewing near the zodiac. I am glad when the moon isn’t out and blinding me to parts of the sky.

Just as the Sun is bad for viewing dim objects like the stars, the Moon is bad for viewing dimmer objects at night.

The only time the Moon is up all night is during the full Moon. Here it rises roughly when the sun sets and sets when the sun rises. This is why the Harvest Moon (a full Moon at the right time) in the early fall is such a blessing – farmers can spend all night harvesting their crops and they will still have the light of the Moon.

At the first quarter or 3rd quarter, the Moon is only up for about half the night. And at the new Moon it is only present on the day side of the sky. You might like those crescent shaped Moons. They are more likely to be up in the daylight sky.

Now had Jason Mraz said “together they [the Sun and stars] would blanket the world with light” he would be entirely correct. Unfortunately he could not rescue the rest of the song where the Sun does the shining and the Moon only reflects. That is because the stars also shine on their own as they are far away suns of their own. Sorry, Jason Mraz. You’re on your own. I can’t save this song.

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A Couple Thoughts

Sonnet insurance stormed onto the airwaves in the last couple years, trying to appeal to optimists. A couple of their slogans were: “Protect your optimism, not just your things”, and “Don’t let anything get in the way of your optimism. Switch to Sonnet.”

I think they thought they had struck advertising gold. Insurance is something that has many, many providers. Sure they might be missing the people that were pessimists but that still left roughly half of the population that this insurance company could appeal to.

Unfortunately for this company they forgot what insurance actually means. Real optimists don’t want insurance. True optimists don’t need insurance. They simply don’t think that anything bad will actually happen to them.

Did you ever notice that employ is a direct synonym for use? That of course means that employers are users, employees are usees, and to employ someone it means to use someone.

This is one aspect of the almost holy jobs that governments announce with much fanfare. Perhaps there should be less fanfare for users. Then every city, of more than a million in North America, might not be slobbering after Amazon’s second hub. This is where Amazon will use 50 000 usees in what I have heard are actually quite crummy jobs.

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The Secret Origin of Tail Continued

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