The Cold Within

fire and warmthSix humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back,
For on the faces ‘round the fire,
She noticed that one was Black.

The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group,
Did naught except for gain,
Giving to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.

James Patrick Kinney

I hate to say I told you so

But I told you soPoliticians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reason. Mark Twain

After the latest financial meltdown the cries were heard around the globe,

“Why didn’t anybody see this coming?”
“Why weren’t we told?”
“What are these economists smoking?”

We were told.

If you were one of those crying out, you were told. You just weren’t listening to the right people. You were told by Nobel Laureate economist Dr Paul Krugman; by Dr Doom, Nouriel Roubini; by people of integrity right here in New Zealand: Gareth Morgan, Colin James and Rod Oram.

Way back, before the New Zealand 2005 general election, the Wanganui Chronicle published a letter from me. I wasn’t prescient. I was just listening to the people who knew what they were talking about:

It was a relief to find that through your editorial column that our biggest problem has been addressed: the balance of payments. Neither the political parties nor the rest of the media are addressing the matters of most concern: what should we do to grow the cake so that we’re all better off 5, 10 or 20 years down the track.

Everyone’s excited by huge government budget surpluses. They’re blind to the fact that the balance of payments is massively in the red. It’s as if Mum has an extra thousand bucks in the housekeeping jar, but Dad’s putting the mortgage payments on VISA and spending the income at the pub and the TAB.

The major parties with their vote buying strategies are hell-bent on creating a big spend-up. They will exacerbate our already frightening deficit. If we’re to gain anything from having some of our money returned to us we must be bludgeoned into increasing savings, retiring debt and reducing spending.

The crunch will come. Don Brash knows it, Michael Cullen knows it. For short term political gain, or maybe because neither of them wants to win this election, they’re prostituting themselves.

A plague on all their houses.

Give me a checkbox on my ballot paper marked: None of the Above.

Those who cared to pay attention could see what was happening very clearly. And now we’re stumbling along at the mercy of the unprincipled and the incompetent. Politicians whose definition of integrity is whatever it takes to win the next election and our enlightened Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Alan Bollard, who declared the current recession over in 2008.

It’s a bit of a worry.

Favicons for Firefox 3 in Mac OS X

I’ve made the big switch to Apple Macs. For me, Mac OS X leaves Windows dead in the water, but there are a few annoyances. Here’s how to fix one of them.

Firefox favicons

The browser bookmarks toolbar is very useful to me, but on the Mac it doesn’t show favicons by default in Firefox or Safari. One picture is worth a thousand words, so it’s not easy to distinguish quickly between bookmarks without them. To get them to display in Firefox as shown above is easy, I found out how here. You need to paste the following code into the userChrome.css file. Continue reading

These people don’t get it

If the views expressed by these leading lights are correct we may as well all bugger off to Australia on the next waka.

I belatedly watched the last episode of TVNZ’s Q&A. Interesting, not for enlightenment, but for the astonishing amount of waffle, cliches and platitudes crammed into one half hour programme.

And the total rubbish being talked.

Mike Williams, despite being a dyed in the wool lefty, spoke more sense than all the rest of them put together, although his fulsome praise of slippery slope Phil Goff put a dent in his verisimilitude. Watch the program yourself, then visit the websites of the Treasury, the OECD, the CIA’s World Factbook; review the facts and figures and make up your own mind whether these “experts” have got it together or not.

The panel comprised Dr Claire Robinson, very highly qualified and experienced in communications; Katherine Rich, front-runner for the National Party leadership not long ago; and Mike Williams, ex-Labour Party president. The views they expressed made me wonder whether we’re all in the same universe, never mind on the same planet.

Just to set the mood we had a clip of Dr Doom aka Allan Bollard saying: Continue reading

The tiny tool of the year

If you’re even slightly addicted to news and information on the web you need Readability. It’s a javascript “bookmarklet” which takes a page like this:

New York Times web page

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and with one click turns it into this supremely readable text:

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Same page made readable

Pages on the New York Times’ outstanding website, like the one I’ve demonstrated above, are among the most user-friendly and least cluttered news pages so you don’t really need Readability, but you get the idea.

It takes about 10 seconds to set up Readability, it works on most pages containing articles and on any operating system. It’s compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. All you need to do is select your text preferences on this page at arc90 Laboratory then drag the Readability link button from their page into your Favorites or Bookmarks, preferably onto the toolbar.

If you wish to return to the original cluttered version of the page, just refresh your browser page » Ctrl or Cmd+R in Firefox, F5 in Internet Explorer. Get Readability here See the 1-minute tutorial here: Shhh, I’m Trying To Read!

The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard’s been thinking …

Click on the play button to watch Annie’s enlightening, entertaining and disturbing movie.

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The video which resulted from Annie’s deliberations is a must see for everyone who’d like to keep our planet viable. It’s a must-see even if you don’t give a stuff about the planet but you still need an excuse to get off the madcap consumer roller coaster.

How did big business create a system that puts consumer products on the shelf for a fraction of their actual cost? We’ve all wondered about it. Annie went to find out and it changed her life.

She will tell you how this obscene system started, how it functions, and why—one way or another—it cannot last. She’ll tell you the real cost of our addiction to stuff and why your grandchildren will pay for it tomorrow just as the world’s poor are paying for it right now.

Please visit Annie and The Story of Stuff

Click right here to go to the Story of Stuff website.

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Deep disaster

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean

Jeremy Jackson is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He knows what he’s talking about. His recent talk on is disturbing. I knew that we’ve been busily killing the ocean for a century or so. I didn’t know how successfully and catastrophically. Please watch this vitally important talk:

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We need to listen to Dr jackson and we need to take action.

Now would be good.

TED is the thinking person’s Youtube:

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

Climate change scepticism

Lies, damned lies, and statistics – scepticism and denial

Whichever way you look at it, it's getting hot in here.

There’s a world of difference between climate change scepticism and denial. The first is healthy, the second is often one-eyed, fanatical, or both. There are a number of things I don’t understand about the climate change denial industry:

Why do denialists have to be so obnoxious? They invariably use the same sarcastic, sneering tone that Richard Dawkins uses when reviling creationists in his best-selling books. Although I agree with Dawkins’ views on evolution, I suspect that his methods only serve to entrench the beliefs of those whom he belittles—he ends up preaching to the converted and loses an audience of potential converts. The same argument applies with the denial industry. If they have faith in their beliefs, why not state their truth calmly and lucidly and let the facts sway the skeptical?

Ian Wishhart’s recent book Air Con is a case in point. Sneering is the most apt adjective for the tone of the whole book. I tried to read the book in the hope of finding some insight into the denialist case. I was disappointed. After the first 3 or 4 chapters I’d had it with the half-truths, the interminable ramblings and the lies of omission; I gave up on it.

Where’s the problem?

As a denialist, is it not possible to accept that, even if you’re right, the actions promoted by anthropogenic climate change supporters would be good for the planet no matter what the global temperature graph looks like 20, 50 or 100 years on? Why not just get over it?

  • What’s wrong with replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources?
  • What’s wrong with denying the oil producers the wherewithal to continue to fund extremist Islam, anti-Western jihadist, and fanatical terrorist groups?
  • What’s wrong with reducing atmospheric pollution?
  • What’s to like about the coal industry?
  • What’s wrong with creating new hi-tech technologies, new green industries, and new clean jobs?
  • Who doesn’t want much more energy efficient cars. Which transfer the (reduced) pollution they generate from exhaust pipes to power plants far from choked city streets?

Most of all, how can you be so certain? Scratch the most prominent denialists and you’ll find that they’re doing very nicely out of it – like Bjørn Lomborg (a political scientist) with his money-making books and lecture circuit, or they’re like David Evans (a mathematician) who pads his résumé, or they’re working for big oil, or they’re just plain out-there, like the physicist at Auckland University who seemed to claim that the sun must be driving the change because it’s very big! Bjørn Lomborg on the BBC recently:

For me there’s no choice

Most of all I ask the denialists, “What if you’re wrong?” What will you tell your grand-children? If you’re right, it won’t matter too much, we’ll have made some overdue changes to the way things are done and my grandchildren will benefit.

If you’re wrong, and you succeed in sowing enough doubt, you could doom millions, maybe billions, to a far more apocalyptic outcome than would otherwise have been the case.

  • accepts that global warming is real,
  • that it’s man-made,
  • and it’s an important problem.

So he’s gone from denial to saying that we have more important things to worry about.

I’m not a climate scientist, I’m a retired engineer. My past income has depended upon my success in monitoring processes in thermodynamic systems and I can spot a trend as well as anybody.

When the denial industry tell me that the planet’s been cooling since 1998 I know that they’re either mistaken, can’t read a graph, they’re ignorant, or they’re lying. One El Niño induced anomalous year notwithstanding. That tired argument is particularly mystifying when one considers that the last decade is the warmest on record even though we’ve been in a low period of solar forcing for the latter part of it.

When they tell me that Arctic ice cover is increasing while they confuse extent with volume my eyes glaze over.

When the realities of Milankovitch Cycles are ignored and they equate cooling of Pluto with Earth’s climate I smell a very dead and decomposing rat.

No pressure

Getting the climate change message out there

In an “out there” kind of way.
Explosive, you might say. 🙂
Content may disturb some people. Especially children. No kidding.

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Government bans sober drivers

Statistics point the finger at teetotallers

OK, I lied. They haven’t been banned.  The second point is true however. Almost three-quarters of road death crashes are caused by sober drivers.

This sobering (sorry, couldn’t resist it) fact highlights the difficulty facing those who use statistics to justify lowering the driver alcohol limits.

There are those who maintain that even at 50 ppm drivers are impaired and that 15 deaths per year are attributable to New Zealand drivers at 50–80 ppm blood alcohol. On the other hand, there have been studies going back decades which have shown that those who’ve had 2 or 3 drinks are better drivers than when they’re stone cold sober. Mainly because they’re less nervous than when they’re alcohol free. It’s not a black and white issue and we need to make sure we get it right.

I’m all for dropping the permissible level to zero if that would save lives. But I’m not convinced that it would. I’m not in denial, but I’m sceptical. Continue reading