Kissing and maturity

Nearly all of us have been in love, or at least felt a sexual attraction for somebody, so we know what it’s like. A rrecent display of such affection caused a bit of a fuss and I’ve been watching, and participating in, the response.

Firstly although the people concerned were men I don’t think this is really restricted to attitudes to homosexuality. There seems to be a much broader discomfort, which puzzles and fascinates me.

The idea seems to have been got about that if some other people are minding their own business and, for whatever reason, I feel uncomfortable about it, I only have to complain and they have to drop whatever they were doing and stop it. Where did that come from and where is it going? Don’t like sitting next to a bloke who is reading the Daily Mail? Complain about it! Don’t like sitting next to a chap who is eating a packet of pub crisps? Complain! Don’t like the smell of cider? Complain and have the scrumpy-drinking perve moved to another part of the pub, or if necessary thrown out!

It’s hard enough to avoid tensions in London where we’re all on top of one another. If everybody who saw a couple kissing complained and had them moved on there would be more than just the odd pub kiss-in protest.

So I’d just like to put in my plea for sanity and commonsense. If somebody is doing something you don’t like looking at, look the other way. If you’re in Soho you can look out of the window at all the prostitutes and their customers. Oh hang on, perhaps that’s not to your taste. Oh well, perhaps you could try looking inwards and ask yourself: why does this display of genuine affection and love so upset me, in this district of London so notorious for its counterfeit?

A sign of maturity is to accept that we don’t have to throw our toys out of the pram just because somebody else is doing something that, inadvertently, makes us feel uncomfortable. Are these people a hazard to traffic, or to anybody’s personal safety, or are they making more noise than the droning of the passing traffic or the noise of the jukebox? If not, try looking at something else. Because making them personally responsible for your own equanimity is not on.


This is an open thread for the discussiion of problems with Wikipedia.

There’s a catch: you aren’t permitted to attack anybody. You have to explain what you think is wrong with Wikipedia, but you have to follow Wikipedia’s policy of not harming anybody.

But if Wikipedia is harming somebody, name the article and it will be zapped.


(Also you can say whatever you want about me. I won’t remove it)

The problem with the death penalty

I have probably been a bit complacent about capital punishment in recent decades, mainly because it’s not happening much except in a few countries that have an established history of barbarism…and the United States, which I don’t think is barbaric overall.

So, you spend a bit of time trying a suspect, the jury looks at the evidence and finds him guilty, and by subsidiary processes depending on the jurisdiction he’s sentenced to death. Eventually he’s killed–the methods are often rather nasty in themselves, but the point is that he doesn’t walk away, no matter how humane the process might be.

And then you find out that he was probably innocent. Now what?

Arctic sea ice III: it’s not through melting

NSIDC arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

NSIDC Arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

On September 15 the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced a provisional Arctic sea ice minimum extent of 4.76 million square kilometers, for September 10, based on the five-day-average calculation it uses for that purpose.   However it appears that while sea ice is beginning to grow in the East Siberian Sea, just about everywhere else the ice is still melting or consolidating.  This has led to a “double dip” in the past few days, which is currently visible in the NSIDC’s chart.

At this point we don’t know what will happen to the sea ice extent. Of course it’s bound to grow back rapidly pretty soon because so much of it melted during the summer season and there’s nothing much left that is likely to melt or consolidate. This is bringing the 2010 melt season to an interesting close.

Arctic sea ice I

I’m on a sea ice binge, and here’s what I’ve found.  I’ll probably follow this up at least once as the melt season closes and the figures are added up, so I’ve named it “Arctic sea ice I”.

Joe Romm is crowing over the collapse of yet more Watts/Goddard nonsense about the “rebound” of arctic sea ice and even says

My big $1000 bet with James Annan, William Connolley, and Brian Schmidt still looks pretty good, which is to say I would definitely not switch sides.

Bold, considering what he’s betting against:

“At no time between now and the end of the year 2020 will the minimum total Arctic Sea ice extent be less than 10% of the 1979-2000 average minimum annual Arctic Sea ice extent, as measured by NSIDC data or any other measurement mutually agreed-upon; provided, however, that if two or more volcanic eruptions with the energy level equal to or greater than the 1991 Mount Pinatubo shall occur between now and the end of 2020, then all bets are voided.”

As Joe Romm is quick to admit, William M. Connolley and James Annan are published climate scientists (Connolley was, I should say.  He now works in software engineering.)  Joe is betting against some pretty clever money.

Joe Romm in a December, 2007 posting makes it plain that he’s betting on accelerating sea ice summer melt rates. Intuitively I’d say that seems reasonable, though Joe’s timescale still seems implausibly ambitious. Of course, unlike William Connolley, I haven’t done any modeling, and I certainly don’t have a sophisticated understanding of arctic sea ice dynamics. At best my hunches (and that’s all they are) are simplistic extrapolations of what happens when I defrost my freezer. When the surface area to volume ratio increases the ice melts faster. This is true whether the overall volume decreases or the volume remains the same and I smash the ice up into smaller pieces. A lot more is going on in the arctic during the melt season, of course.

By way of data, NSIDC gives the following figures for September average sea ice extent in millions of square kilometres. Links are to the standard NSIDC sea ice minimum press release for each year.

Or you can see them all collected together in a table where they are also conveniently expressed as sea ice anomaly (baseline 1979-2000). The table also shows the quite noticeable apparent acceleration in the annual and decadal trend that has taken place in the past seven or eight years.  At  -7.3 million square kilometres per decade in 2002, it has risen year on year and after the 2009 season it stood at -11.2.  I’ll be interested to see if the trend drops back in the next few years; that’s to be expected if 2007 was simply an outlier on a linear trend.

Avast! Ahead be windbags!

This is lifted from the Guardian Talk website. It made me laugh,and I hope it amuses you too.  These are parody responses attributed to various right wing and conservative pundits to the dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips who was held hostage by pirates last week.  Arrr.

brooklyny – 03:40am Apr 13, 2009 GMT

shamelessly stolen from a poster at The New Republic: what Republican commentators have to say about the rescue of the captain —

Rush Limbaugh: Why did it take a Democrat days to accomplish what a Republican president would have accomplished in hours?

Sean Hannity: Piracy is a direct result of a liberal philosophy.

Ann Coulter: It’s obvious the whole thing was staged to bolster Obama’s abysmal poll numbers.

Michelle Malkin: At least 2 of the pirates were seen in the crowd at Obama’s inauguration.

Glenn Beck: Can pirates in Kansas be far behind!!!

Lou Dobbs: This never would have happened with a wall separating America from the rest of the world.

Bill O’Reilly: Secular progressive pirates are pinheads.

Tim LaHaye: This was all predicted in the Book of Revelations.

Sarah Palin: We can see pirates from Alaska.

Bobby Jindal:Pirate cells in America are all in the blue states.

Michael Steele: Rush and I both agree the Republican party platform should denounce pirates.