Monthly Archives: January 2014

There are two Sochis

The Winter Olympics are just around the corner. They will be held in “Sochi,” Russia. But as is the case with so many things in life, it is not that simple.

When we refer to the venue, we tend to mention Sochi in part because some of the events will be held there and in part because it is on most maps. But the Olympics will be held at more than one location, as is often the case.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, aka the XXII Olympic Winter Games will occur from the 7th to the 23rd of February in Sochi proper, on the Black Sea, and inland at Krasnaya Polyana.

Sochi is a resort city on the Black Sea coast with a subtropical climate, including rather mild winters. In February, the average low is 36.5 F, and the average high is 50.7 F. There will be no snow there. In fact, it may rain for part of the Olympics.

Krasnaya Polyana is inland, in the Caucasus Mountains. The base elevation there, where we find the Rosa Khutor ski resort, is 1,840 feet, with higher elevations along the ski slopes reaching over 7,600 feet.

Indoor events such as hockey will be held in Sochi, outdoor snow events will be held at the resort in Krasnaya Polyana.

This has caused some confusion in the on-line discussion of the games. First, it is true that early snows in the mountains failed to materialize this year, so there was concern there might be a snow-free Olympics. Second, if you look up the forecasts or research the climate of “Sochi” itself, you’ll find that it is expected to be mild there and that snow is just not something you see very often in Sochi. But the snow only has to fall in the mountains. It is perfectly OK if rain falls, mainly, on the plains along the Black Sea.

But, the discussion of snow at this or any other Olympic event, in light of Climate Change, is important. We have seen over the last five or ten years wild swings in snowfall amounts (or, for that matter, rain) in ski resorts all around the world. In reference to American ski resorts,

The roughly 300 small mom and pop ski resorts in the United States are emerging as the first victims of climate change. As snowpacks shrink, glaciers recede, and temperatures inch upward, these operations are merely trying to make payroll, which makes paying for more snowmaking, investing in renewable energy, or other strategies for addressing these problems, untenable. That’s according to three CEOs from the other end of the resort spectrum—Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Whistler Blackcomb—and it’s one of a litany of reality checks that punctuated two panel discussions at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Tuesday evening.

…research over several decades has shown 1.5- to 2-percent declines in snow in spring in North America, per decade. That might not sound like a precipitous change, but … this will translate into real losses for ski resorts at lower elevation and those in the warm ranges of the Pacific Northwest. “No one wants to come to the ski lodge when it’s drizzling out. Today, in the Pacific Northwest, where we have a lot of warm winters, maybe 30 to 50 percent of these ski areas have warm winters now,” [said Anne Nolin, professor of geosciences and hydroclimatology, Oregon State University], noting that a warm winter is one in which the average of one of the core winter months is 0 degrees Celsius or higher. “That will be pushed up to 70, 80 or even 100 percent of these areas having warm winters in 20 years.”

So, Krasnaya Polyana, the Sochi ski venue (and it is technically in the polity of Sochi) is subject to both warming from climate change and the kind of variation in precipitation and temperature that comes with the “new normal.” However, when discussing Sochi, or reading about it, please remember to keep in mind that there are “two Sochis” … a coastal subtropical resort area and a mountain venue with, normally, good snow.

The hosts have been making piles of snow, they stockpiled snow from last year (yeah, that’s a thing, apparently), and snow is in the forecast over the next several days at Krasnaya Polyana. Now, I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna about this, but the chances that there won’t be enough snow to have the games is low.

I’ll also quickly remind everyone that this uncertainty plagued Vancouver as well. Also, it was a problem at Lake Placid, but that is probably because in February Lake Placid tends to get, or so the local mythology says, a period of rain and ice storms.

And, generally, we may just have to live with the newly emerging but soon to be perennial problem that warm weather wrecks winter Olympics and hot weather menaces summer games. Perhaps we should build a Huge Dome and have all our sports in there.

Images and most of the facts courtesy of Wikipedia.

A rollicking adventure through the rift valley and rain forests of Central Africa in search of the elusive diminutive ape known locally as Sungudogo.
A rollicking adventure through the rift valley and rain forests of Central Africa in search of the elusive diminutive ape known locally as Sungudogo.
More on climate change HERE.

Also, check out my novella, Sungudogo, HERE. It is an adventure story set in Central Africa which ultimately turns out to be a parody of the skeptics movement. It seems to have struck a nerve with a few of the skeptics, while others seem to have enjoyed it. Who knew?

Today's Weather Disaster in the US Southeast

From Paul Douglas at WeatherNation:

Published on Jan 28, 2014
WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at the devastating winter storm impacting much of the Southeast. Multiple accidents have been caused by the treacherous conditions. Schools are closed through Wednesday across the affected areas. Multiple states have declared States of Emergency, including Georgia and Alabama. Stay safe!

An Argument Against Building the Keystone XL Pipeline

There are a number of arguments against building the Keystone XL Pipeline, but there is only one that counts. We have to keep the carbon in the ground. Building the pipeline is not that.

We’ve discussed this before.

There is now short video ad from Keystone Truth that makes a more specific argument. It isn’t really an argument against building it (see above for that) but rather, a more detailed look at what Keystone XL involves, putting a finer edge, perhaps, on why it should be opposed by Americans. The ad, titled “Sucker Punch – Keystone Truth,” is designed to inform Americans that they are probably getting suckered by the builders of Keystone. Keystone supporters claim that by linking the Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf Coast of the United States we would become “energy independent.” But there is good reason to believe that the whole point of Keystone is to provide an efficient way to move the tar sands gunk through, not to, the United States for sale overseas. Furthermore, the ad claims, probably correctly, that one of the major financial backers of this effort, perhaps even the major backer, is China. (China has invested 30 billion of the 100 billion invested so far. I believe this is the largest single investment.) It makes sense that a plan to move Canadian tar sands gunk out to the rest of the world would involve foreign investors, and it also makes sense that China would be one of these, if not the Big Panda in the room, because China has the cash to do this. And, probably, the thirst for the gunk itself.

Here is the ad:

It is possible to see the ad as “Red Bating.” This is where we prey on American anti-Asian racism, which often involves the tropes of the clever Oriental Entity and/or the Red Scare. It makes China a bad guy using themes that reach back into American cultural history to exploit long established and deep racialized hatred and mistrust.

This may be true. But it is also true that the ad does not really invoke any of the traditional symbols of this sort of thing. Yes, it shows a lot of red along with the China part of the story, and the red flag with the stars on it, and it even highlights, using a B&W vs. Color contrast, the red in the Chinese Flag and the red in the Canadian flag. But, it is also true that red is the color of China and is used abundantly by the Chinese in pro-China patriotic depiction and decoration, especially in places like … well, like Red Square. Also, that is the Chinese flag and that is the Canadian flag. And China really is investing a lot of money to get the tar sands gunk to a particular market where they will benefit.

One could say that the Chinese, the Canadians, the pro-Keystone Americans, and the Keystone corporate structure are all depicted as the capitalists they are. Running dog capitalists even, if I may borrow a phrase. But yes, the ad not so subtly allows for viewers to make the link to deep seated fear and distrust.

So here we go again. Progressive liberal left wingers (left wingers!) heavily analyzing our own message (because this is a message that works for our side) and possibly even fighting over how to make the argument to the extent that we weaken the argument ourselves. But we keep our integrity. The reason the right wing wins so many of these battles of rhetoric is because they almost never do that.

Suckers. We are. But perhaps we like it that way.

UPDATE: We may be hearing more about Keystone XL on Thursday.

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm Wants To Throw Reporter Off Balcony

This happened:

More here, including Grimm’s apology.

From Wikipedia:

Michael Gerard Grimm (born February 7, 1970) is the United States Representative for New York’s 11th congressional district, serving since 2011. The district, numbered as the 13th District during his first term, consists of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is a former FBI agent, businessman, an attorney, and U.S. Marine, having served in the Persian Gulf War.

So he’s a former cop and a former soldier, and from New York. Such folk talk like this sometimes, I guess. But it must have been scary for the reporter, being right next to the balcony and all.

There was apparently some concern about Grimm misusing his authority as an FBI agent.

…Grimm had been involved in an altercation at a popular West Indian-themed night club in Queens called Caribbean Tropics, during which he was accused of misusing his F.B.I. authority.

He is a Tea Party favorite, according to this Daily Caller interview:

TheDC: You have the support of the Staten Island Tea Party.

MG: Overwhelmingly, yes. A lot of my volunteers have come from the Staten Island Tea Party. It’s an honor to have them. Some of the media wants to demonize them as fringe right-wing maniacs, and I have not seen that on Staten Island or in Brooklyn. I have seen good hardworking people that are frustrated and angry with the direction of the country and they’re standing up to voice their opinion and get involved.

From Wikipedia on the fund-raising controversy that prompted the flight off the balcony suggestion:

Fundraising controversy
Based on confidential interviews with followers of Orthodox Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a January 2012 article in the New York Times reported that Candidate Grimm engaged in “questionable fundraising” practices during his 2010 campaign. These practices allegedly included repeatedly soliciting one follower who had already donated $10,000 to Grimm’s campaign for another $10,000, accepting cash donations exceeding $100, explaining a scheme to evade donation limits to another follower, and accepting a $25,000 donation for which the funds originated from a single person and passed through Rabbi Pinto’s former aide, Ofer Biton.[39]

In August 2012, the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York acknowledged that it was investigating Grimm’s 2010 campaign.[40] In November 2012, the House Ethics Committee decided to inquire into the campaign but agreed to “defer consideration” of it at the Department of Justice’s request.[41]

In January 2014, the FBI arrested Diana Durand, a Houston-based fundraiser for Grimm, on charges that she had illegally donated more than $10,000 to Grimm’s 2010 campaign. Durand allegedly gave the campaign $4,800, the legal limit, but then used straw donors to donate more than $10,000 illegally. The FBI also charged Durand with lying to Federal agents about the matter. Grimm denied any wrongdoing.[42]

On January 28, 2014, NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto tried to ask Grimm a question about the investigation while conducting an interview about the 2014 State of the Union Address. Grimm refused to answer and initially walked away. However, while Scotto was tossing back to the studio, Grimm abruptly collared Scotto and told him, “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.” When Scotto protested that it was a “valid question,” Grimm replied, “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.” Grimm later issued a statement defending his behavior, saying that he was annoyed by what he called a “disrespectful cheap shot” from Scotto. “I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect,” Grimm said, “especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor.”

This is the casefile on Grimm from the DCCC.


According to a bombshell report from the New York Times, Congressman Michael Grimm, together with a man under FBI investigation for embezzlement, raised more than $500,000 dollars in tainted campaign cash by taking contributions in excess of federal limits, taking contributions from foreign nationals, setting up “straw donors,” and personally receiving envelopes filled with cash.

Without Chemistry Hacks, Life Itself Would Be ….

I’ll admit right away at being cynical about the chemical industry, so I look suspiciously at information sent to me by the American Chemical Society. (Something comes from them every day.) But chemistry is science, and you need to know more about it and to see how it relates to your day to day existence. In this case, “Without Chemistry The Middle Class Lifestyle Would Possibly Be A Little Less Good …”

What am I talking about? Have a look at this interesting video, the first in a series of chemistry life hacks, from the American Chemical Association:

“Without chemicals, you are less likely to end up passed out on the couch so your cookies dry out…”