Margaret’s petard (or, we’re their them)

The Globe‘s Margaret Wente is an effective opinion writer, in that she can get you riled about something without actually adding any valuable comment. Take yesterday’s piece “Yes, Virginia, there is a polar bear” (paywalled, but helpfully parroted by her friends) as a shining example.

In it she makes the following points:

  1. Experts predict (nameless, faceless, experts, of course. She might as well have written Them for true shock effect) that climate change will harm polar bears
  2. Her expert on prediction (J. Scott Armstrong, Professor of Marketing [?!] at Wharton – no doubt to her cuddlier than Knut and also firmly one of Us) says that experts are really bad at predicting things where models are complex and inputs have uncertainty.
  3. That Prof Armstrong has come up with the sew wittily-named Seer-Sucker Theory: “No matter how much evidence there is that seers do not exist, seers will find suckers.”

So, Margaret: advocating medieval ignorance, superstition and misery because your “[a]bundant research [uncited, of course; can’t have the taint of intellectual rigour here] shows that experts … are no better than non-experts at making accurate predictions”? More likely, you’ve elevated Prof Armstrong to be your seer. By his argument, then, you are your own sucker.

Instead, consider Advices & Queries 17: “… Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

my hero

Machete-wielding grinch caught on tape deflating Christmas display

… But their Christmas card to Calgary, as they call it, was ruined early Thursday when a man came up the hill at about 3:30 a.m. and began slashing the inflatable Santa, polar bear and Christmas train with a machete.He also dismantled a sound system playing Christmas music.

Dude, if anyone was playing Christmas music in my neighbourhood at 3:30am, it’s probably just as well I don’t own a machete.

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid – 2008 Green Car of the Year … in parsley!

I don’t believe this … Green Car .com has named the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2008 Green Car of the Year [archive link]. This gargantuan obesemobile has a 6 litre engine which gets a dismal 21 mpg (about 11 l/100 km in real money). But it’s okay, because it’s a hybrid! Well, bravo Chevrolet! Your greed and stupidity is killing us all.

Koolu: low-energy computers

Dave sent me this. It’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do with Mini-ITX for a while, but at a sensible price. I suspect the fanless Geode processor is slightly low in grunt, but it’ll do the job: Koolu.

everything is (sorta) connected

Jim Prall, aka Green Herring, gets a shout on Climate Progress. Jim & I are both ex Gandalf Graphics (my first job in Canada was the one he had just left), and he introduced me to Joseph Romm’s book The Hype about Hydrogen.

oh no, wait, this is even more moronic

I was mildly incensed to see an ad truck tootling about downtown. What was even worse was that it advertised cleanourair.com, a site purporting to help individuals reduce their carbon footprint.

Get this: the founding sponsor of the site is VisionAdz, a company whose sole purpose is to have ad trucks tootling about downtown, polluting our air and my eyes.

Bill Hicks was right about advertising types.

économisez les baleines! <beep>

Greenpeace Canada decided I’m francophone, and so sent me their French welcome package. I don’t particularly mind, but I don’t remember being given a language option.

I’m not proud of being monolingual (in fact, round these parts I’m sometimes considered nihilingual). At school, if you wanted to take science, you dropped the arts by about age 15. It didn’t help that our school used minging old readers like Aux Pays des Flamantes Roses and used genuine 1960s reel-to-reels with écoutez et répétez <beep>!

the reluctant rockstar of climate change

I was at Nicholas Stern‘s presentation to the Economic Club of Toronto today (as was Bob, David, Deb, Glenn, Paul, and about 490 others). He was very low-key; not sure if his dry sense of humour got the response he expected. The CBC covered it.

an eco-meme you can use

Don’t remember where I read it, but apparently the war in Iraq has cost more than Kyoto-compliance would have done for the whole USA. Waytah go, Geordie!

close, but …

I walked past a store that had replaced its hot table lights with compact fluorescents. It’d certainly save energy, but I have my doubts about its effectiveness.

yeah, I get this too

Every few weeks someone contacts me with a proposal for what is, in effect, a perpetual motion machine. He (for it is always a he) can demonstrate to my satisfaction that, unlike all the quacks and cranks and mountebanks I have heard about, he really has solved the problem. He has a special catalyst, or a new equation, or a hotline to God, which demonstrates what all other physicists consider impossible: that energy can be created. … My only defence against these people is to ask them for an article in a peer-reviewed journal, whereupon I never hear from them again.

 — from Heat, by George Monbiot.

Energy Saving Tips for Canadians, #1: a name thing

Canadians are remarkably profligate in their energy use, and I think I know why. It’s not to do with the oft-cited scale of the country, the size of our houses, our cold winters or our hot summers, it’s something simpler than that; it’s what we call our electricity.

Power here is generally known as hydro, and with it comes images of tree-lined rivers with bears happily fishing for salmon. Local electricity companies tend to have that watery thing in their name: Toronto Hydro, Hamilton Hydro, London Hydro (Crieff Hydro is something quite different, though). Some happy green images, eh?

I propose that we stop using the term hydro, and replace it with the snappier smog belching, nuke leaking, only fractionally hydro. It’d certainly make yer average Kathy or Doug drop their double-double (or donut, or dumaurier) when they got their smog belching, nuke leaking, only fractionally hydro bill in. Energy use would plummet, and at no cost to anyone!

Happy Nuke Day!

Yup, Chernobyl was 20 years ago. Let’s just have a wee pause for a technology that’s still messing us up, yet we’re told it’s the green technology of the future. Yeah, and I bet it’ll be too cheap to meter, too.
There are still farms in Scotland affected by the fallout from Chernobyl. Though, what with all the nuke plants in Scotland, it could be any one of them that’s the real culprit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a wind farm to survey …