Daily Archives: May 30, 2009

Would you like some tea with your climate change?

One of the authors of Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery (John) himself, Shackleton himself, and Emiliani himself were ushered into the building past the graduate students, the guards, and the members of the public who wandered the halls of the museum blissfully unaware that the powerhouses of paleoclimate research were brushing past them. They were Glynn Isaac’s guests (and friends and colleagues) and were meeting with Glynn in preparation for an impromptu public conference that would be held the next day in the Geology Lecture Hall downstairs. These were the people who had put the climatic theory of Milutin Milankovic together with the sea core data and nailed down, once and for all, the cause of the basic mode and tempo of Earth climate for the last two or three million years, and at some level, certainly, for all time.

It turns out that the orbital geometry of the Earth in relation the Sun is the most consistent single factor in determining whether or not we experience an ice age. You can find more details here.

So there they were, now sequestered, in Glynn Isaac’s office. The dons of climate change research. I was Glynn’s student, but I had only been his student for a few hours. Suddenly, Glynn, a decidedly energetic person of modest stature and elven appearance, appeared in the lab, caught my eye, and said in his thick Undifferentiated British Colonial Accent (always delivered with a big smile) “Greg! Make us tea, would you?” and turned on his heel and headed back to the private meeting.

Tea. … Tea?

How does that work?

This was the mid 1980s. I was to spend the next several years more often than not in Africa, and when in the US, more often than not in the company of an Australian, a Canadian, a Brit, an Israeli or a South African. In other words, tea would become part of my life, by and by. I would become expert at making it, and drinking it was to become a habit that I would relish. But in the mid 1980s …

Tea? That stuff in bags? What?

As I stood there, starting to sweat, a woman whom I barely knew but who was to become a good friend, and in fact, in about five seconds was to earn my unending love and devotion for an act she was about to commit, an Australian woman named Nikki, came barreling out of her nearby office, and took my arm as she passed to drag me across the room to the Lab kitchen, muttering “You Americans. Follow me and pay close attention. I’m only going to show you this once, but you’ll probably get it.”

So Nikki Stern taught me how to make tea using … a tea pot and tea and stuff (no bags). In less than 10 minutes we had a tray with tea cups, tea, sugar, milk, hot water, the whole nine yards. We threw on a box of bisquits (cookies to you ignorant Americans) and I carried it down the hall to Glynn’s office, knocked him up, and delivered the goods.

“You know how to make tea?” Glynn noted, quizzically.

“I do now, thanks to Nikki,” I replied.

“Lucky you!” said Glynn, as I backed clumsily out of the room, returning to the hallway.

There are two reasons I bring this up. First, today is Milutin Milankovic’s birthday, as I am reminded by Coturnix (see this blog post for very interesting details). Second …. well, actually, I was just thinking of having a spot of tea. Care to join me?

(Oh, for those of you who know Nikki, you WILL enjoy listening to this podcast!!!!)and here’s Nikki’s faculty page.

DVDs suck. All the time. In all ways.

I swear, you are all a bunch of pod people, you consumers. You take whatever crap is dished out, and pay extra for it. When the DVD was produced to replace the tape (VHS) there was a significant down grade in performance in every single way but one. These downgrades were entirely unnecessary. The downgrades were implemented for two closely related purposes: Marketing and marketing.

You know what I’m talking about. You can’t pop a DVD into a player and fast forward to a spot and watch the movie. You can’t even watch the movie, in many cases, until you’ve watched ads. You can’t que a DVD for later watching so that you can avoid the ads.

As an educator, this has meant that I’ve been unable to use DVDs in the classroom AT ALL!!! Well, if I were to pirate sections of a DVD and put them on my own DVD without ads and complex titles and menus, then maybe but of course, that would be illegal!!!

What brings up this rant? Well, I just bumped into a story about how the Astronauts on Atlantis were unable to watch some movies they had brought with them because they couldn’t get the DVD’s to work. They did not have the right codex or something. What is a codes you ask? A piece of software that someone is paying for that is designed to disable DVD functionality and make it hard to use the technology.

The falcon eats tonight …

My car was parked a block away owing to the plethora of construction equipment and dumpsters around the house. On my way over, I was looking at the storm clouds coming in and wondering what kind of weather we would have tonight, when I noticed the crows going nuts across the street. It sounded to me like they were mobbing something, and my first thought in these situations is “Great Horned Owl.” So I stood in the gathering breeze and watched in the direction of the crows to figure out what was going on.

Suddenly I spied rapid alate movement among the mid size trees and shrubbery of the vacant suburban lot across the way, but I could see that this was neither raptor nor crow. Then, a few more movements, and I discerned that I was observing a small flock of pigeons moving in perfect unison back and forth among the vegetation in two or three residential yards and the vacant lot. A strong burst of wind slapped me on the back and made me look up, and that is when I saw it.

Continue reading The falcon eats tonight …

The Asus/Windows Maneno: Was it a hoax?

The dust-up regarding Asus corp and Windows, recently discussed here, is definitely a (well-enough executed) hoax, acording to JH at Linux in Exile:

I got burned this week; I actually believed the hoax that ASUS and Microsoft teamed up, and that an Asus.co.uk page was linking to a It’s Better With Windows site.

But looking at it again, I’m convinced it’s a hoax. And you should be, too. Here are a few obvious telltales:

See JH’s full explanation here.

Bart Ehrman: God’s Problem. Athests Talk #0072, Sunday May 31, 2009

Bart Ehrman is a scholar of The Bible and has published popular works at a rapid clip on the subjects of theodicy and the literary history of the books some refer to as “Scripture.” He was an evangelical who believed that The Episcopalian Church in which he was raised was too tame on the teachings of Jesus’ Word of Salvation. Dedicating himself to the study of the original Greek versions of the Gospels and New Testaments in order to better understand the word of God, he made the discovery that (Whoops!) the Bible couldn’t be an inerrant instruaction manual. There were too many inconsistencies, too many obvious copying errors in the translastions and too many differences in the theologies contained within the books we call the New Testament for it to be a coherent work of God. He has since become agnostic, strongly convinced that even if there be a Creator it is certainly not the one painted by our Christian religions.

Scott Lohman and Grant Steves bring their intellectual prowess to bear in discussing the books of Bart Ehrman for this program. Grant and Scott are both impressed by Ehrman’s writing, and they are entertaining thinkers and speakers on the subjecs of literature and theology. This is sure to be a fun show as they discuss Ehrman’s books.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday at 9AM Central to hear Atheists Talk produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call the studio at 952-946-6205 or email us at radio@mnatheists.org

Where did God go?

The Source is a novel by James A. Michener. It is actually a fun novel to read if you have any interest in the history of the middle east.

One of the themes in the novel is the relationship between god and humans. In the earlier part of the history described in this book, god has an intimate relationship with humans, and often manifests as a burning bush in order to speak with specific humans that god might be interested in. But over time the humans get less interesting and god gets into other things, and the whole burning bush thing becomes less and less frequent and eventually, there are no more burning bushes and there is no other contact with god. What is left behind is a belief in god but god is pretty much out of the picture.

Now, we have a new documentary on line that re-explains this model for the god-human interaction thing in modern philosophical terms. Grrrrrrrl Scccccienist has it posted on her blog, here. Please go have a look. You will love it.

Go look at that, then come back and watch this other very insightful video:
Continue reading Where did God go?

Don’t be such a scientist

Randy Olson is a film maker and marine biologist who has focused in recent years on the critique of science communication. You may know him from his documentary work on the sexual practices of barnacles, the evolution-creation debate, or global warming.

Randy is coming out with a new book, Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. It will be available sometimes in August.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

“Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” has been 30 years in the making. It draws on Randy Olson’s 15 years as a scientist (Ph.D. Harvard University, tenured professor at University of New Hampshire), followed by 15 years of making films (In 1994 he resigned from his marine biology professorship in, moved to Hollywood, entered film school, and took acting classes). The book opens with the pivotal moment in his journey — his first night of acting class when his psychotic acting teacher screamed her lungs out at him for being, “too cerebral.” Thus began his journey of realization that came full circle when he returned to working with scientists and science communicators, and began to concede his acting teacher wasn’t as crazy as he originally thought.

In this short book he draws together what he’s learned about communicating science to the general public, and offers up his observations in the form of four main chapters which he calls, “The Admonitions.” They are:

  1. Don’t Be So Cerebral
  2. Don’t Be So Literal Minded
  3. Don’t Be Such a Poor Storyteller
  4. Don’t Be So Unlikeable

In an effort to practice what he preaches, Olson infuses the book with plenty of humor, storytelling, and even a little bit of emotion.

My review copy is on the way, and I’m looking forward to reading it and letting you know more!