Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Einstein Quote of the Day

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

Izzie, the Bad Habit Rabbit

Since Christmas I've been shuttling back and forth between my daughter's home and my son's.  Izzie has to do stairs at my son's but they are carpeted and she seems to do just fine.  It's more than four weeks from her surgery and she's beginning to take to walks again.  She doesn't want to go out in the back yard unless my daughter, Buttercup and I go as well.  At my son's she will join Zephyr and Eva in the back yard, but she's known those two dogs for a long time.  Eva came to visit us in Wyoming when she was a pup and Izzie, although four years old, was new to me.

Izzie is teaching Buttercup very bad habits.  My daughter and I went out to look for a red dress (they're going to a wedding in Colombia at the end of the month and was told everyone was to wear red).  We found some possibilities, but she's very tiny and the one she liked the best didn't come small enough.  I wish I had that problem. Anyway her hubby stayed home and when he came into the house, both Izzie and Buttercup were snoozing on the couch.  He took a picture which I will post as soon as he gives me a copy.  Izzie also has Buttercup hovering around the table hoping for food.  My bad.  It will take them weeks to recover from our visit.

This morning she and hubby are going to the garment district to look there for the dress.  Buttercup is going to doggie day care (so Izzie doesn't teach her anything else new while they're away). I'm going over to REI since I have a small rebate from last year and need some socks.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health Care and Christmas Eve—A MoveOn Video

This video is from MoveOn.org.  It's worth passing on.  Health care reform may have passes the senate, but it has a long way to go, before even a minor change will happen.  The public option may not be dead, but it seems quite moribund.

A Christmas Sermon I Doubt I'll Ever Give

The hymn, A Stable Lamp is Lighted, from a poem by Richard Wilbur, as sung by The Miserable Offenders in their album "Keeping the Baby Awake" is one I never hear sung at Christmas.  First of all, few people know it, and the tune in the hymnal isn't nearly as good as the one used in the album.  The words too, must put a lot of people off.  At Christmas time we don't want to offend people by reminding them that the lovely little baby boy, born in a humble stable grows into the man who is crucified on a cross, and people like to sing what they know.

People who come to church only on Christmas and Easter don't want to be disturbed by the reality of a world where the stones cry out against violence, injustice and stony hearts, they want messages of peace and goodwill. Those are not bad things in and of themselves and I do believe in preaching the good news, only I don't think it should be sugar coated.  I can, however, imagine the words of this poem making a pretty good Advent sermon though and a really good one for Palm Sunday.  A barn harboring heaven and the stones on which the palm branches are strewn remind us of the kingdom that boy-child was to usher in. It hints at the Magnificat with "the low is lifted high" and that at the end, the worlds will be reconciled.

For those who aren't familiar with the words:
A stable lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky
The stars shall bend their voices
And every stone shall cry
And straw like gold will shine
A barn shall harbor heaven
A stall become a shrine

This child through David’s city
Will ride in triumph by
The palm shall strew its branches
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
Though heavy, dull and dumb
And lie within the roadway
To pave the Kingdom come.

Yet He shall be forsaken
And yielded up to die
The sky shall groan and darken
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men
God’s blood upon the spearhead
God’s love refused again.

But now as at the ending
The low is lifted high
The stars shall bend their voices
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

A very joyous Christmas to all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Visiting the Navaho Nation

I made an unplanned trip into the Navaho Nation today.  I-40 was completely blocked after Grants, NM.  I don't know what happened, but they routed us off the interstate and there was no detour marked for going west.  After following the big rigs, we were told to turn around.  I decided to see if there was any alternate route and since I couldn't look at my map, I called my daughter and her husband looked up a route for me.  It worked, but it took a while.  I went though Navaholand to the north of the interstate.  There was a police woman at one intersection who was there to direct those like me who were taking this route.  She told me how to get back on I-40 at Gallup.  She also told me where I could get gas, which I really needed.

This is a very sparsely populated area.  I did pass one mine, either coal or uranium, I don't know which and a number of empty ore-carriers.  The state road was really good and the speed limit was 65.  The Navaho road (N-9) was pretty good too. I'll have to do some research into the area later.  The last time I was near there was in the 1970s when I visited both the Hopis and Navahos to talk about coal gasification.

When we finally got back on I-40  there was very little traffic.  I decided to drive past Flagstaff to Williams.  Stayed in a Days Inn there a couple of years ago.  They are a very dog friendly chain.  In Amarillo the fourth floor seemed to be the doggie floor.  We met a Newfie and a Golden there.  Izzie wasn't interested.  Right now she's sound asleep.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not Blogging

I left the book I was going to read on the coffee table, so I really can't continue the last blog.  Also, I'm pretty tired when I get to a motel at night.  Driving across the country in the winter means being constantly vigilant and so the tiredness after about 8-9 hours on the road.  Today may be a bit longer since I'd love to get into New Mexico on I-40.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate Change V

The LA Times has a headline: Climate Talks Deadlocked as Clashes Erupt Outside 

I think we were very fortunate in the 1980s.  Of course the stakes weren't so high and the issue was hardly as global. When I was going to meetings in London to amend The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by the Dumping of Waste and other Matter based on the International Atomic Energy Agency's work to revise criteria for the disposal of radioactive waste into the oceans, Greenpeace organized active protests in front of the building where we met.  One morning I was greeted with 55-gallon drums with the words "dump the IAEA" on it.  I thought it pretty clever wording, but it had little effect, I still continued to serve as the IAEA representative.

The protesters in Copenhagen want to dump the official delegates and do the work themselves.  It's an interesting concept and has some things of merit, but not likely to work very well.  The reason international agreements are so difficult is that so many interests are at stake.  Our Bishop has a book discussion going on-line with the book Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope by Brian D. McLaren.  I rather like McLaren's somewhat simplistic Three Subsystems in Society that help to form a "suicide machine": the prosperity system, the security system and the equity system.  When these systems are not functioning in an interactive way with each system checking the others, bad things happen.  He goes on to point out that there are of course other factors, our environment, for example. We take in heat from the sun and we generate heat from other sources. The heat needs to go somewhere.  We pollute in lots of other ways, too.  I do wish I had more time to write about this, but it will have to wait at least until I get going on my trip west.

In the article quoted at the start of this post i was taken with the following statement: "Much of the uncertainty in the Copenhagen talks stems from how slowly the first U.S. legislation to cap carbon dioxide emissions is moving through Congress. Passage of a U.S. climate change bill is expected no earlier than next spring -- and many other nations are unwilling to make their final commitments until the U.S. does."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Climate Change IV

Huffington Post has this fascinating article on Copenhagen and global warming called COP 15: Accepting Responsibility.  It starts:

Imagine you're a well-to-do person attending a dinner of your peers. The food is top-rate and there's plenty of it. Course after course is laid upon the table.
A group of less-advantaged people has been watching from the sidelines. When the dinner is done, you invite them to join you at the table. After the restaurant staff has served coffee, the bill comes. You and your rich peers insist that everyone now at the table must share in paying the entire bill.
The author, William S. Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, uses this story to make the position of delegates from emerging economies clearer.  They want reparations to help them deal with anticipated changes.  The US negotiator is using a "blissful ignorance" defense.  Later in the article it says
Every U.S. president since  [1965 when President Johnson's science advisors told him] (words in brackets mine) has known of the risks of climate change. Every president and Congress since has failed to adequately mitigate or manage that risk. Although then Vice President Al Gore signed the Kyoto Protocol on behalf of the United States in 1998, the U.S. Senate made clear it would not vote in favor of ratification. As a result, President Clinton didn't bother to try.

The climate change negotiations are about money, but they're also about responsibility.  The US and other nations need to step up to the plate.  I personally don't care if the money used is called a reparation payment or not.

Einstein Quote of the Day

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It doesn't make much sense, but I fear we all do this; ergo we all have insanity in us.  I wonder if the real problem is that we are unaware that we are repeating our old ways.  We see it in people who tend to marry the same kind of person over and over and get divorced over and over.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Marriage Equality in Maine— Question 1 Redux

Question 1 passed and overturned the legislature's vote on marriage equality.  This morning's Bangor Daily News has an article on how the same people who poured tons of money into the state to make this happen are going to target legislators in next year's election.  The National Organization for Marriage has indicated in court filings that it plans to make gay marriage an issue in the coming races for governor and legislative seats. The organization would apparently target legislators who voted in support of a same-sex marriage bill that was ultimately repealed by voters.

And in another paragraph it says:
The intentions of the National Organization for Marriage to stay involved in Maine politics came to light as part of a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland focusing on the substantial financial role that the organization played in defeating same-sex marriage at the polls on Nov. 3.

They still refuse to say where the money came from to support Question 1.  In the most recent court filing that included the sample campaign materials, the National Organization for Marriage argues that requiring disclosure of all donors to a political action committee “will deter donations to NOM from those who otherwise would donate.”

Dr Johnson may have said that Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but I think secrecy might be just apt in our day.  After all Sydney can appoint bishops that way and they can enable the Jensens to stay in office that way.  Just see Nobel Wolf's post today.

Climate Change III

From the Bangor Daily News

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Einstein Quote of the Day

If I give you a pfennig, you will be one pfennig richer and I'll be one pfennig poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.

The Most Terrifying Video

If you have about ten minutes to spend, look at this. It helps if you're a nerd like me, or if you want more information on the various positions on climate change.  It's a few years old (2007), but is right on. It's about decision making and climate change. Greg Craven, the author has written a book, "What's the Worst that Could Happen," based on this.

Climate Change II

Photo: Campbell Shelf Ice (NOAA) from Wikimedia
Andrew Revkin and James Kanter have an article in today's NY Times "Climate Conference Begins to Feel Pressure of the Clock."  Having been a "sherpa"/ observer on international agreements on marine pollution, I feel a great deal of sympathy for those people who are working so hard to come up with an agreement that the politicians can sign.  National interests, both economic and political are always there and especially in the case of climate change the question of who pays is always there.  The authors say:

The main points of contention remain as they have been for years, with a gulf to be bridged particularly on four points:
  • How much and how fast rich countries should cut their emissions or pledge to limit the rise in planetary temperature.
  • How much emerging economic powers like China and India should rein in the growth of their emissions, and how they should prove they have diverted from “business as usual.”
  • How much rich countries should compensate poor ones to limit vulnerability to climate extremes that are expected to worsen in many regions near the Equator as greenhouse gases build in the atmosphere and seas continue rising.
  • How those money flows can be guaranteed, given that past commitments under earlier climate pacts have largely gone unpaid, and which bloc gets to manage and administer the money.
And, as expected, the Republican right is leading the charge denying that there is such a thing as global warming citing some questions on data from a British center. It's just a red herring. The article goes on to say:
Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, has led that charge, proclaiming over the weekend that the climate proposals of China and other large industrialized countries were a smokescreen for what was really an economic battle. Over the weekend, his official blog quoted him as saying, “China, India, Mexico, they’re all champing at the bit for America to ration our energy, because they know they’ll get our manufacturing jobs.”
Of course this battle has an economic component.  However, study after study seems to show that saving energy saves money in the long run.  Both the World Meteorological Organization and our NOAA say that the decade we are now in is warmer than the 1990s.  But it looks like economics will triumph.  I only hope that whatever the proposals are they do take scientific data seriously.  Trying to redress all the ills of the world by tying it to this one issue will not work.

Controlling marine pollution is a piece of cake compared to climate change.  But even then, we worked till the wee hours to get a final draft done. It took four years and five-10 day meetings to come up with a regional agreement, so I can just imagine the background work it has taken on this issue which is global.

Rich countries, like the U.S., really will have to belly up to the bar.  Denying that we've not contributed to a problem that is far more likely to affect the poorer countries of the world so flies in the face of the message that Jesus brought.  Pray for all who are working to bring about an international agreement and pray that this time the U.S. will sign on in spite of Inhofe and his ilk.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Einstein Quote of the Day

"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."

Anybody think I should send this one to Mad Priest?

Climate Change, Gordon MacDonald and Some Thoughts on Science

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Some years ago, in the mid 1980s, while I was working for the International Atomic Energy Agency, I was asked to attend the first meeting on global warming held in Geneva as an observer from the IAEA. It was the only meeting on that particular subject that I attended, but it really opened my eyes to the particularly myopic view of the United States on global warming. Finally that vision seems to be sharpening and I do hope that the meetings in Copenhagen are fruitful.

Some years before that I worked for Gordon J. F. MacDonald, then at the MITRE Corporation, and he was so concerned about global warming that he posed for a picture on the cover of People Magazine where he stood on the steps of the US Capital building showing where water could rise to if global warming did become a reality. Even though Gordon was first and foremost a scientist and believed that scientific literature was the place to publish data, he thought the issue serious enough to use a popular magazine to try to promote his point of view. He was somewhat embarrassed by this. [People Magazine only goes back to 1990 on line, so I can’t find a copy of the photo]

After my years in Vienna he became the head of IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis). Global warming was still a concern of his. If he were still alive, I’m sure he would still be pushing for people to pay attention. The National Academy of Sciences published a review of his scientific work which may be found at: http://ulmo.ucmerced.edu/~westerling/pdffiles/gmacdonald.pdf

Gordon was a holdout against the theory of plate techtonics for many years, but the evidence eventually convinced him, albeit grudgingly. If only those who do not accept that we humans are responsible for global warming would keep open minds to the data. So few people take the time to look at the data for themselves and the number of people who have taken sufficient science and math courses seems to have dwindled.

While I worked at the IAEA on the control of deep sea disposal of radioactive waste, one particular issue bugged me (and some other scientists as well). That was whether the long-held assumption that if humans are protected against the negative effects of ionizing radiation, so would other [read lesser] organisms in the environment. Some of us asked if this really was true for radioactive materials placed into the deep sea (deep meaning 4000+ meters). We know so little about the interchange of deep sea organisms with those we harvest for food, and most of the calculations and criteria involve protecting our food supply. So we made some simple assumptions and used a fairly simple model and concentrated on what might be the impacts on organisms that might live at such depths. What the modeling showed was that the assumption was likely false. If we want to protect future generations the same way we protect our own, we need to pay attention to the potential of negative effects.

Global warming has gone beyond the realm of potentiality for me. I believe it is a real threat and that future generations will suffer or benefit from what we are doing now. Do I think that Copenhagen will come up with a workable plan. I hope so. I pray so. I am also realistic. It is very complicated and countries don’t act against their perceived economic self-interest. So I am both optimistic and pessimistic. God created a wonderful world for us and gave us stewardship over it. God also gave us brains to figure out and create solutions. I sometimes wonder if God wonders if we are worth it, and then remember that God’s son came to show us we are.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Einstein Quote of the Day

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Calendar-Day 1

Gracious and loving God, bless us, your children, as we begin our Advent journey.  Give us eyes to see the world as you see it and ears to hear your Word afresh that on our journey toward Bethlehem we may see and serve you in every person we meet.