Monthly Archives: December 2013

How to make pumpkin pie

How to make pumpkin pie

This makes one pie. You probably want two, so double everything.


PREHEAT oven to 425F. Set the rack to above the middle of the oven but not too high up.

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in a different bowl.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

Put a pie crust in a pie shell. Make the edges all fancy looking by using a fork.

Stir the ingredients up one more time and put it in the pie shell.

Place the pie in the center of the rack.

Bake for 15 minutes
Remove pie, shut oven.
Put strips of aluminum foil around the crust to slow cooking of exposed crust.
Return pie to oven

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes (usually about 47 minutes)
The pie is ready to remove from the oven when a stick or knife comes out of the center clean.
Don’t worry if there is a little bit of pumpkin pie stuff on the knife/stick. The pie is going to keep cooking for a while.

Place pie on top of stove/oven, which should be pretty warm, and let it cool slowly (on a rack or equivalent).

Eat or refrigerate, then eat.


Dry ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt plus a pinch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

pumpkin-canWet ingredients:
2 extra large eggs
1 regular can of pumpkin stuff (pictured)
12 ounces of 50:50 mix of whole evaporated milk and heavy cream.


There are two main features in this recipe. First, the spices are approximately double the usual recommended spices. Second, the usual evaporated milk is partially substituted with heavy cream. You can if fact use 100% heavy cream if you like but the 60:40 to 50:50 mix of heavy cream:evaporated milk works best.

DSC_4468If you live in certain regions of the world, such as Australia, you may not be able to find a can of pumpkin puree. If so, obtain a pumpkin and cook it. Get a small cooking pumpkin for this purpose. Much up the cooked pumpkin and measure out about 15 ounces. You may mix any form of winter squash in there if you like. Some of the best pumpkin pie is only half pumpkin, the rest butternut, acorn, or the squash formerly known as “turk’s head.” (The various winter squash may have diverse local names.)

Remember the extra stir just as you are putting the ingredients in the pie shell. The dry spices tend to settle.

To help movie the pie in and out of the oven in the early stages of baking, use a flat cookie sheet in the manner that a pizza paddle is used to manage a pizza. Or use your pizza paddle if you have one.

When putting the aluminum foil strips on the crust, pinch the foil right on there to get it to stay in place and have close contact to avoid hot air circulating around the crust.

Use your favorite crust. I don’t divulge my crust recipe because it tends to enrage people and I don’t need that. But it is very good and very simple.

Bird Science and Evolution: 2013 Year In Review

Many, many things happened in the area of bird science this year, so this review can not be comprehensive. But I’ve compiled a sampling of this year’s news and events for your edification. I’ve organized them by date (month/day) of the approximate reporting or blogging time of the item of interest, which does not necessarily reflect the actual date of occurrence.

click here to see my review at 10,000 Birds…

Have Dragons, Orcs and Wizards caused climate change?

A new study has been published demonstrating, among other things, that the climate of Middle Earth has strong analogies in certain areas of Modern Earth. In particular, climate modeling indicates that The Shire is most similar to either Lincolnshire or Leicestershire in the UK or the vicinity of Dunedin in New Zealand. Mordor is most analogous to Los Angeles and western Texas or Alice Springs in Australia.

Radagast the Brown
Radagast the Brown
But I think the most interesting conclusion of this research is about forest cover in Middle Earth. Based on advanced climate modeling, the paper’s author, Radagast the Brown (Rhosgobel, nr. Carrock, Mirkwood, Middle Earth) claims that the entire region would be covered in forests “had [they] not been altered by dragons, orcs, wizards etc.”

But this research is not without controversy. Climate science skeptic Ufthak, Orc of the Tower of Cirith Ungol, claims that this research is “… nothing more than the stinking drivel of some self aggrandizing wizard, like the rest of ’em, he thinks he can be so smart but I’ll show him smart when I get my hand on his spindly neck, arrrg. They thought I was dead but I’ll show them who be dead, yes I will.”

Ufthak claims to be writing a blog post critiquing Radagast’s model. “It’s a model, he says. I’ll show him a model. I’ll model my hands around his spindly neck, I will. Arrrg.”

Within the more mainstream scientific community, however, there is general acceptance of Radagast’s findings, though not perfect agreement. “This form of modeling is powerful, but nothing in this world is perfect,” Gandalf the Grey told me in a Skype interview. “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” On further questioning about what that even means, Gandalf became circumspect and I could get nothing more out of him.

Smaug could not be reached for comment, but an emissary of the Elves is quoted as saying of the climate controversy, “It is not our fight.”

This paper is part of a growing body of writing on the Science of Middle Earth, including recent work on the geology of the Lonely Mountain.

About The Hobbit

Usually when I mention The Hobbit I’m talking about the hominid, or something related to the hominid, or a book about the hominid. But here I want to point you to something related to the book by Tolkien and, of more immediate importance, about the science of the Hobbit and things related. You’ve certainly already read this important book about the Science of Middle Earth. But you may not yet have seen this blog post by my friend Matt Kuchta on the geology of the Lonely Mountain.

Like many of you, I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last weekend. Like many of you, I’ve read “The Hobbit” several times (and had it read to me many times before that). But how many of you have wondered what kind of mountain the Lonely Mountain really was?

So, click here to find out.

Federal court rules that most NSA phone record collections likely violates constitution

A federal judge has ruled that the “wholesale collection of the phone record metadata” of all U.S. citizens — a program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — likely violates the 4th Amendment and is unconstitutional.

In the decision, Judge Leon rules that the plaintiff challenging the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, legal activist and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman, have “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of succession the merits of their Fourth Amendment claims, and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief.”


Norwegians trying to act like nothing’s wrong while Global Warming ruins their day!

Storms these days are universally enhanced by Global Warming, and right now we are having one of those Jet Stream Blocking thingies which is doing some amazing weather making. In Norway, Storm Ivar did a pretty good job of messing up these people’s shopping plans:

I assume they started out with arms full of gift wrapped packages …

Hat tip: Miss Cellania who always has funny stuff for you.

Faux Pause: climate contrarians lose favorite talking point

In an ongoing effort to discredit mainstream climate science, climate contrarians have incorrectly asserted that there is a “pause” in the rate of global warming. This was never true, but now, it is even less true.

(Originally Published Here)

To any objective observer, the Earth is now a world warmed. The decade 2001–2010 was the hottest decade on record, and every single month since March 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average. The present year promises to be the sixth warmest year on record. Already this year, our fellow Americans out West have been confronted by record breaking wildfire, extreme drought, and devastating floods. All this in addition to the ongoing pine beetle epidemic ravaging our forests. All of these “natural” disasters are exactly what climate scientists expect from a world warmed by human emissions.

Despite all these facts, the contrarians have been heavily (and somewhat successfully) asserting that the world isn’t warming, that global warming has paused.

While this has always been a blatantly misleading argument that deliberately confuses short-term variation with long-term trends, a new study makes it perfectly clear that the world has warmed.

Contrarians focused on the rate of warming since 1998, which was an exceptionally hot year due to climate change and El Nino. This makes later years appear to be relatively cool, and is a form of lying with statistics. They draw a line on a graph showing the rate of warming from that unnatural peak in 1998 to now, and make it look like warming has continued at a steady pace, and not accelerated as expected (an argument that would fail any Statistics 101 class, as it ignores “regression to the mean”).

With this cherry-picked and statistically laughable graph in hand they cry “Global warming has paused! The climate models have failed!” as though the rate of acceleration of temperatures is somehow going to make or break the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. This would be quite the achievement, considering CO2’s greenhouse characteristics have been known since the 1820’s!

Our current system for measuring temperatures has a relatively large area around the poles that is not well covered. This new research uses advanced techniques to fill in the gaps in our measurements. When these holes are filled, what looked like a slight stagnation in the rate at which temperatures were increasing rose to agree with model projections.

What Cowtan and Way found, to the dismay of contrarians, was that when the poles are included the rate of global temperatures has been on pretty much the same upward trajectory since at least the 1950s. Climate change has continued to get worse and worse, despite what contrarians claim.

This means that not only is the “pause” a statistically unsound argument, but now we know it never existed in the first place!

So for those keeping score, the contrarians have only a debunked and imaginary pause in the rate of acceleration of warming, while there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans cause warming, the UN’s climate change panel states 95–100% certainty that humans are causing warming, every major scientific institution endorses the consensus that humans cause warming, there have been almost 345 consecutively warm months in a row, and broken extreme weather records all over the world.

For those that may be wondering what motivates contrarians, since it clearly isn’t the science, other new research finds the answer is exactly what you would suspect. Fame and fortune seemingly outweigh the condemnation that comes with resolutely denying the realities of our warmed world.

Given that sad fact, we begrudgingly await for the contrarians next excuse, now that they have been caught trumpeting this “faux pause.”

How to not look like an idiot

The best way to not look like an idiot is to shut up. Works every time. Why just a few minutes ago I said something really stupid because I confused UPS and USPS. Should have just kept my mouth shut, but I didn’t.

This time of year a lot of people start sounding like idiots, quite possibly because they are idiots (but see below for alternative explanations), when it comes to global warming. For example, someone who may or may not be a “global warming denier” (i.e. a person who does not believe in physics) sent me, out of the blue, this string of tweets:


First he tells me that the ice in the Northern Hemisphere in mid December is extensive. He says that I can see “the recovery” and points out how extensive the recovery is, and how much snow there is too.

This is the somewhat more elaborate version of, “It is cold out today therefore there is no global warming.”

This is December, which means we have data through last November for the last several year compiled on a monthly basis by NASA. Here’s the last several years of Novembers, showing that Novembers are getting warmer (for background click here):


Turns out it’s the hottest November in this extensive database of Novembers, globally. Still, though, November was very cold in the northern hemisphere compared to July! That, of course, is because July is pretty near the middle of the warm season, and November is getting close to the cold season, in that hemisphere. I predict that when the data come out, December will be even colder than November!

The “recovery” my twitteriffic friend points to is the idea that Arctic Sea ice has recovered after having a couple of bad years. Here’s the story on the sea ice (click here for background). First, let’s look at Arctic Sea ice as it melts and reforms every year, in surface extent, for something close to ten years in a row a bunch of years back. The thick like is for reference. All the thinner squiggly lines are each for one year, back in the day:


Then, a thing happened we call “Arctic Amplification” in which global warming caused the northern regions to get warm, just like the entire surface of the Earth is getting warm, but relatively more so. This includes reduced sea ice that forms and melts every year, like in the graph, as well as permanent melting of the thicker multi-year ice, decrease in overall snow cover, and increase in the temperature of the northern sea. The effects on sea ice is seen in the following graph, which shows through 2011. The thick line is still there for reference. Notice that the pattern from 2002 to 2011 is distinctly different from, with less ice all the time, than the pre-2002 pattern. This is because of global warming, and it is an excellent signature of “Arctic Amplification.”


Notice that the last chart only goes through 2011. One thing that happened last year, for the 2013 melt season, is that a lot of science denialists such as my tweety friend (see above) went on and on and on about how Arctic sea ice had “recovered” in 2013. They used this series of data to make their case. Look at this graph:


Notice that when we look at the march of melt and formation of Arctic sea ice for 2013, it looks like one of the worst years of the worst. Yet climate science denialists called this a recovery. They are still calling it a recovery, and now, apparently, they are even calling “Winter” a “recovery.” This, without a doubt, makes them look like idiots.

There is a reason that they do this. Not good enough of a reason to make them not look like idiots. Rather, if you look at this reason they look even more like idiots than you might have been thinking unless you want to give them the benefit of the doubt and call them dishonest instead. Either description seems to fit. Here’s the thing. If you add the year 2012 on to that last graph, it looks like this:


The year 2012 is the dotted line that is way way more intense in terms of melting than any other year ever seen. If we remove that year from consideration, we can see that Arctic sea ice has been melting more and more with every year being highly likely to be worse than any previous year at least for several months (but not always) right up to and including the present year. But if you add 2012 into the mix, we can easily say the same thing but then we also note that 2012 was an exceptional super-melty year.

Going back to all messed up and melty from an unbelievable extreme year is not a “recovery.” Not even a little.

Tweety Bird (the guy cited above) makes the mistake of thinking that if it gets cold or snowy during the Winter than global warming is over. But actually, the extreme snow cover we’ve seen in some areas, and some of the extreme cold, is probably due to global warming. Confused? It is, in fact, a little confusing but you can learn why this is and not look like an idiot! Let me show you.

We’re not completely sure of this, but here’s what climate scientists are currently thinking and all indications are that it is likely true. Normally the air around the Earth can be thought of as being in large rotating bands demarcated by jet streams, and weather patterns move along those bands bringing dry, wet, whatever, conditions as they do so. The bands and the jets form because the tropics are warm and the poles are cold and weather is all about the movement of tropical heat towards the poles. But if you change some of the key variables in this system, like the size of the planet or the amount of the atmosphere, for example, the system looks different; perhaps a different number of these big bands forms (Earth has several, Mars has two, for example) or some other attributes change.

It turns out that if you decrease the amount of difference from tropical and temperate regions vs. the poles, in terms of temperature, the jet streams get all wiggly and cause northerly air to reach far to the south in some places and southerly air to reach farther north in other places. This causes unexpected weather like snow in Egypt. It also may facilitate the formation of nasty storms. More importantly, perhaps, is that the wiggles in the jet stream stay in place for long periods of time, or move very slowly, and this causes storms to stall in place and we get weather events like the flooding we saw in Colorado, Calgary, Central Europe and other places over the last year. Or Sandy’s being steered int NY/NJ/Conn last year. That sort of thing.

So if it was Summer and it is now Winter, that does not mean that global warming isn’t real. If there is a strange weather event that causes snow in Cairo or a “500 year flood” in Boulder, that is an effect of global warming, not evidence that global warming is not real. For global warming to not be real some very basic physics need to not be real. The basic physics are real. Your idea that global warming is a fiction is not real. You might have good intentions (this is doubtful, more likely you are a jerk for wanting our children to suffer the consequences of your actions) or you might be misinformed (this is doubtful — if you know enough to use dog whistles such as “recovery” you can’t claim this honestly) or you might be economically motivated (there are those who are paid to deny global warming, millions have gone into this form of science denialism). Or maybe you really are an idiot. In any event, remember that there are consequences. Short term, you’re not going to be taken seriously. Long term you are helping to ruin the planet. Either way, please consider the advice given at the beginning of this post.

Here are a few related items from here and elsewhere on the internet:

  • Why you sound so stupid when you say “global warming has stopped”
  • Weather Whiplash Is Like My Old Broken Sprinkler
  • Linking Weather Extremes to Global Warming
  • <li><a href="">Global Warming and Extreme Weather – #climate #agw</a></li>
    <li><a href="">Arctic Warming Drives More Extreme Summer Heat Waves, Droughts And Deluges, Study Finds</a></li>

    This is the warmest November yet, in terms of “surface temperatures.”

    Surface temperatures are only one way to measure global warming, but it is a sort of standard and it is meaningful because surface temperatures have a lot to so with weather and such. Data for NASA’s GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature Index in 0.01 degrees Celsius using a base period of 1951-1980 can be found HERE. Climate Communicator ThingsBreak put a graph on the internet based on those data for November. Here’s a copy of it:


    Earth’s surface temperature in °C for each November since 1880 (compared to base period, 1951-1980). Stefan Rahmstorf, creator of the graphic, used the SSAtrend smoother described in Moore, J. C., et al., 2005. New Tools for Analyzing Time Series Relationships and Trends. Eos. 86, 226,232. The filter half-width is 15 years. The results are similar to using LOESS or LOWESS. The raw data are, of course, in blue.

    My comments on “On Writing and Sanity” by Kelly McCullough

    The parts in quotes are the bits from Kelly’s original post of excellent advice for writers (HERE), which I herein Fisk (The original is posted in a no-comment zone.):

    You are home writing a book but you have not proven yourself.

    “First, the way you should feel about whatever book or story you are writing this very minute, is that it is absolutely your best work ever and will be irresistable to readers.” Call to adventure!

    “Second, whatever book or story you are revising or getting critiqued at this very moment, is a solid piece of work that can and will be improved if you work at it and learn from comments.” Initiation and trial!

    “Third, whatever work you have just finished, is ready to go out to agents or editors and you’re excited to get it in the mail.” Return home!

    “Fourth, whatever work has been bought or is being shopped around, no longer exists until and unless a decision is called for on your part.” The Magic Fight!

    “Fifth, whatever work has been published or set aside is complete and an example of your work at the time, not something that reflects the writer you are now.” Rescue!

    “Sixth, whatever work you are going to embark on next will be made better by what you will learn from the completion of what you are working on now. So much so that once you have finished the current work, this new project will be the best thing you have ever written, bar non.” The return threshold, you are the master of two worlds, you have the freedom to live!

    Funny how these things work.

    Be Natural: The untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché.

    This is a movie, narrated by Jodie Foster, produced by Robert Redford, directed by Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs, about the first woman director ever. She made the first narrative film ever. She also invented movie stars. Oh, and the thing where you have sound? She was the first to use synchronized sound. She did a lot of things first, and no one has ever heard of her. Many of her films were destroyed, others misattributed to others. This is one of the most amazing stories of modern culture I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait ’till the actual film comes out.

    More information is here and here.