31 January 2007

Don't write angry

Too late.

This is what I get for stopping on Fox News while channel surfing.  Hannity & Colmes.  What was I thinking?  The topic: global warming, in advance of the report that is being released by the UN this week on climate change in relation to human activity.  Two "experts" were included in this debate, two science professors from schools that I have never heard of, and (surprise, surprise) they were adamant that the idea that man is in any way responsible for global warming is preposterous. The basis for their opinion was the "fact" that there is "no evidence" that shows man has had an affect on Earth's climate.

A "network" that claims to be "fair and balanced" would surely counter with the idea that there is no evidence that man hasn't contributed to warming as well, correct?

In his resplendent smugness, Sean Hannity mentioned Al Gore 57 times in about five minutes, how evil he is that he has politicized the issue of the environment.  One wonders what Hannity sees when he looks into a mirror.

This really isn't about Fox.  I saw a piece on Keith Olbermann's show as well, which was more from a pro-environment side, if you can imagine (too bad there is no sarcasm font available) and I found myself aggravated as well.

In the matter of ten minutes, I was reminded twice that global warming has become a hot-button political issue.  And that makes me insane.  Why is this right vs. left?  I understand how each side feels about sub-issues ie. the Democrats are pro-environment and the GOP are pro-business, but this is something that has the potential to affect everyone, so why is it reduced to red vs. blue?

I know that there have been plenty of Republicans who have said that they believe that global warming has to be addressed, and good for them, but it's just talk.  The Democrats have talked as well.  Nothing is getting done.

I shake my head when Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma gets on television and says that global warming is a "hoax", that God would never allow his creation to destroy this planet (did I miss when the ICBMs started growing on trees then?) and makes it plain that as long as he sits on the environmental committee (which he used to chair-another reason to thank God for the 2006 election results) that he will fight every single pro-environment measure (see his wikipedia page for a detailed synopsis of his environmental views.  The man is a national treasure.  Where's that font???).

And I'm not all that fond of Al Gore either.  He's a polarizing figure, and he knows it.  Yet he made sure that he is the one on stage for almost all of An Inconvenient Truth.  Gore could be on stage reading Sesame Street scenes and it would cause a political firestorm.  He can't escape the fact that so many people dislike him simply because of his politics, and therefore believe that everything he gets involved with is strictly for political gain.

Gore has stated again and again and again that global warming should not be considered a political issue.  If he was 100% serious about this, he would have had someone else giving the lectures in the documentary.  The man loves the sound of his own voice.  He may be noble to the cause, but there is plenty of ego there.

A few years ago I was spending a few days in Portland, Oregon and ventured over to Powell's (by far the most amazing bookstore I have ever seen).  In my hours of wandering I came across the science section and noticed a book called The Life and Death of Planet Earth.  I am somewhat of a fatalist.  The title of this book intrigued me, so I started to read. 

I wound up sitting there, on the floor, for two hours, reading the book in its entirety.  A lot of it I already knew-how the Earth was formed, how it goes through climate cycles, how there will be ice ages again, and eventually, many years from now, how it will die.  And the consensus of the two men who wrote the book is that man is probably incapable of doing much to alter this cycle, but it could certainly speed it up.

The closest planet to Earth is also the one that most resembles our planet with respect to size: Venus.  It's sometimes referred to as Earth's sister planet.  But upon closer scrutiny, the two planets probably could not be more different.

At least for now.

There's a reason that NASA talks about going to Mars one day but never mentions going to Venus.  No one has actually seen the surface of Venus-it's perpetually shrouded in heavy clouds; maps and images of the surface have all been done scientifically.  You just can't see what's going on on Venus.  NASA can't land a probe there either.  The air pressure on the surface of the planet is estimated to be ninety (that's 9-0) times that of Earth.  Probes that have studied Venus from above its atmosphere have been crushed once they descended through, well before reaching the surface.

Like Earth, Venus has an atmosphere dominated in composition by a single gas.  Unlike Earth, which has an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen (78%, oxygen is 20%), Venus is 96.5 % carbon dioxide, which means most of the sunlight that makes it way to Venus never leaves; the ultraviolet waves (and its radiation) are trapped by the massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

The average temperature on Venus is over 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  No planet is hotter, not even Mercury (average 800), which sits closer to the sun.

Why the science lesson?  Well, every time I hear someone say that global warming is a myth, I want to ask them if they've been to Venus lately.  As more carbon dioxide finds its way into Earth's atmosphere, less sunlight escapes from the atmosphere, and it gets hotter.  We need carbon dioxide; humans exhale it and plants inhale it.  We'd be dead without it.  But like anything else essential for human life (water, iron, etc.) too much of it can kill you.

The single greatest invention in modern history (say the last 150 years) is probably the combustion engine.  Without it, we don't fly, we don't drive, we don't do a lot of things.  It has made the world smaller, more accessible.  But it has also made us more vulnerable, because when a combustion engine creates energy, it also creates carbon dioxide, which goes straight into the atmosphere.  In the last one hundred years, since the combustion engine was invented and utilized around the world, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tripled. 

It seems that it should be hotter, and it is.  Winter barley exists in Chicago anymore.  It's snowed more than an inch twice.  2006 was the hottest year on record ever, worldwide.  2007 is projected to be hotter.

Now it might be just the evolutionary cycle of the Earth.  But what if it isn't?  Or what if our advances in technology are accelerating this warming?  Wouldn't we want to do anything and everything possible to avoid it?

We don't know what we are doing to this planet.  It might be nothing.  It could be something.  It seems that the way to react to it is assume that we are doing nothing.

Why? Simple. Even if we are contributing to the demise of this planet, the real effects won't be felt for at least three or four generations to come.  Some forecasts say that if the arctic ice continues to melt that the ocean levels will rise enough to have Manhattan completely under water in 150 years.

But the dead don't care if New York City becomes the new Atlantis.

Hey, why should we?  Let's live for the now, baby!  Buy that new SUV, or even better, splurge on that 8 mile per gallon Hummer.  Crank up the air conditioning, build more coal plants!  This is our planet, let's enjoy it now.  Who cares about those who won't be born for another hundred years? (more font, please!)

I'm not advocating the elimination of fuel combustion, nor do I believe that this country could get anywhere near the point where we do not have smokestacks belching coal remnants into the atmosphere. I understand that economic factors have to be taken into consideration.  Everything has a cost.  I may not like it, but I understand it.

I'm trying to come up with an analogy here, and I think I found one that works.  Say you decide that you need to buy a gun so that you feel protected in your own house.  That's your 2nd Amendment right.  Let's also say that you have three small, extremely curious children living with you.  What are you going to do with the gun?  Will you leave it out in the open, loaded, with no safety precautions, or will you lock it up, keep it out of reach, so that none of the kids can get to it?

You know what you are going to do.  You're going to lock it up, because even if you told your kids not to touch the gun, even if they never, ever do anything that they are told not to do, even if you trust them to always do the right thing, there is always the possibility that somehow, someday, that gun could go off in one of your children's hand if you leave it out unprotected.

You're going to lock up that gun, because even though there's a 99.9 % chance that your kids will never touch it, 99.9 % is not 100%.  If you leave that gun out, someone might get killed.

We might be accelerating the demise of our coastal cities, our species, our planet.  The truth is that none of us will be around long enough to know just what the actuality is, if global warming will be as catastrophic as some claim it will.

But the potential is there, so why wouldn't we take action?  How long do we have to wait?  Do something.

People like Senator Inhofe, who believe that there is no possibility that global warming exists, need to do two things, in this order:

1. Take a little vacation. To Venus.  My treat.

2. Lock up their guns. 


21 January 2007

Let there be a feast of properly prepared meats and cheeses for all

So the Bears are going back to the Super Bowl.  It's been twenty-one years since they were there last.  And I am just all a-tingle.

Well, no I'm not actually.  I proclaimed my allegiance to the Saints a few days ago, if I recall.  And when they creeped within two points of the Bears early in the second half of today's game, I thought the choke was on.  It was on, it was just the wrong team that choked.  New Orleans started giving the ball away.  You're not going to win championships doing that. 

I was eighteen in January of '86 when the Bears beat the Rams by 24 to get to Super Bowl XX.  I watched the game at home, and it was never close.  Towards the end it started to snow, just like it did today.  Two weeks later they were champs.  It was the first Chicago title of my life-we were still five years away from the six titles in eight years stretch of the Bulls.  I am still waiting for the Blackhawks and the Cubs (we don't recall anyone else in the city winning anything, especially October 2005).

No one could have been happier than I was when they won.  I used to be a complete Bears fanatic and I admit that once I experienced the feeling of them winning a Super Bowl that it changed the way I felt about them, but it took a few years after that for it to be complete.  I remember being miserable when a team that should have won more than just one title was knocked out in the playoffs on their home field the next two years, so I was still as into them then as I was before they were champions.  But by the late 80's, my level of interest in the Bears was forever altered.

Blame the media first.  They started sucking up to the team after the Super Bowl win and spent the next decade with its nose inserted squarely up the proverbial backside of every person involved in the organization.  I swear if the Russians had nuked London in 1989 on the day that the Bears played a pre-season game, the game would have been the top story on the 10 o'clock news.

Your "average" fan in this town adds to my chagrin.  Within minutes of the game ending today, the "news" was reporting live from some bar, because, you know, it's essential that we know what Dave, a 26 year old bookstore worker from Rogers Park thinks.  And it's always something witty like "Yeah, I knew they were going to win.  Bears!!! WOO!!!  We're going to the Super (BURP!) Bowl baby!" 

Man, I've really gotten old.

As I write this, Indianapolis just beat New England, so it'll be the Colts and the Bears in two weeks.  Two weeks!  What torture!  Every top story on every local news show for the next fourteen days will be about the Super Bowl.  And then there will be the bet between the mayors.  Gee, what's Daley going to put up?  Millennium Park? The Sears Tower? Meigs Field (oops. wait a tic...)?  How about this: if Indy wins the Super Bowl, they get the White Sox.  If the Bears win, the Indy 500 is forever run in the Windy City.

In '85, the Bears only loss was to Miami.  When they Bears won the NFC championship, Miami was just kicking off the AFC championship against New England in South Florida.  Everyone wanted Miami to win, so that the Super Bowl would be a rematch.  New England won that game, and then lost the Super Bowl 46-10, and it was more lopsided than that score shows.  Everybody moaned about the missed opportunity, about how the Bears would have avenged their only loss of that season.

One of the Bears' three losses this year was to New England.  I bet by nine tomorrow morning I will hear someone moan about not being able to pay back New England.  Personally, I'm glad it's Indianapolis.  Now we don't have to hear all about the '85 Super Bowl.  Plus, Colts-Bears is a better match up.

It should be a good game, and yeah, I guess I want the Bears to win, but it certainly won't kill me if they lose.  It's a game where I will be happy with either team winning.  And for the sake of my sanity I will do my best to ignore the hype, lest I spoil the fun of everyone else who will live and die with this team.  I remember how it feels, and everyone should go through it at least once.

I just remembered that two days after the Bears won Super Bowl XX, the shuttle Challenger exploded.  That kind of put a damper on things.  And then my nephew was born one month later.  Time does fly.

Go ahead and call me Grumpy McGrumperson, and remember how superficial and hypocritical all this is when I go batshit whenever the Cubs get to a World Series.

17 January 2007

Hey look, it's working

I am entirely too dependent upon technology.  It's been almost three weeks since I've written anything here and, not coincidentally, that was the last day that my laptop decided to recognize the wireless signal in our home.  I've been trying to figure it out ever since with no success, despite the many, many, many, many attempts of myself and my brother, who thinks I am Typhoid Mary when it comes to electronics.

Yesterday it all came back.  I did nothing.  It just decided to work again.  So here I am.  There's been a lot in the last seventeen days that I would have written about if I weren't fighting the urge to chuck an Inspiron out the window.  I give an abbreviated version here:

1. I have a brand new niece, born a week ago Monday, and dammit, she's just about the cutest thing on the Earth right now.  She was breaking hearts already in the nursery I bet.  Get used to it boys.

2. Where the hell is winter?  We finished a Seattle-like run recently, forty degrees an dreary every single day for ten days, which is what winter in Chicago is becoming.  But global warming is a myth!  It's cold now, but we've become such wuss-bags here that everyone freaks out when it gets down to 20, which is what it is now.  I'm actually a little jealous of the folks in Denver with all the snow they've had this year.  It's snowed twice here this winter.  Twice.  And the last one was a dusting of an inch or so after a steady rain that would have been ten inches had it been five degrees colder.  Rain in January is torture.  Spring better be here by Valentine's Day.

3. On a related note, we were in Kansas City this past weekend, where it was colder, snowier and icier than it was here, and you would have thought that the world was coming to an end with the way the people there were reacting.  Did I just see a snowflake?  RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!  Look, sleet!  Where's my "The World Is Coming to an End" sandwich board?  We were in the main shopping district Saturday night (The Plaza), the busiest part of town, and the streets were empty.  We tried to go into a Barnes and Noble but it was closed.  According to the sign, they had closer early "for the safety of our booksellers."  It was 20 degress with an inch of snow on the ground.

4. I have little to say about our Worst. President. Ever. and his new idea to send more troops to get killed in Iraq.  I did not watch the Worst. President. Ever. give his speech last week.  I can't watch him anymore, so I wait until transcripts are posted and read them instead.  He's doing the wrong thing again, surprise, and I love those who scream that at least it's a plan, like you have to do something instead of nothing.  And then there are those who blame it all on the Democrats (big surprise here) and conveniently forgot about the ever-increasing numbers of those in the GOP who think our Worst. President. Ever. is crazy.  Remember folks, no matter what anyone else says, nobody puts American troops in more harm than our Worst. President. Ever.  Enjoy the ride down, W.

5. Am I supposed to be happy that Saddam Hussein is dead?  WOO HOO!  There's some vengeance for ya!  YEEHAW!  I don' get how people can be so hell bent on capital punishment.  Which do you think Hussein preferred-the gallows, or a six-by-six hole in the ground where people were welcome to come toss anything at him that they wanted?  I remember thinking that when I visitied the memorial in Oklahoma City that instead of executing Timothy McVeigh that they should have imprisoned him at one end, in a small plexiglass cell with nothing, no bed, plumbing, light etc. and just let him suffer the humiliation of people taunting him for the rest of his days.  Faced with the choice of death or perpetual imprisonent in a small cement cell with no privileges I'd be cheering on the lethal injection machine big time.  And I didn't even touch on the Saddm-as-martyr issue...

6. Bears vs. Saints this Sunday, winner goes to the Super Bowl.  Lived in Chicago all my life.  No one was happier to see the Bears win Super Bowl XX than me, and this Sunday I root for...the Saints.  They've suffered more, and I'm not talking about anything related to Katrina.  The Saints are about the worst franchise in the history of the NFL, yet they have had a rabid, loyal fanbase forever.  Plus, I have to admit that I completely enjoy the devastation of the morons who paint their faces and show up to Soldier Filed with their shirts off on a thirty degree day.  Watch a ten o'clock newscast on a game day here and you will know exactly what I am talking about.  Saints 24 Bears 20.  And if I'm wrong I get to watch my hometown team in the Super Bowl.  It's a win-win.

7. Barack Obama is making a huge mistake.  He should wait at least four years to run for president.  His term as a senator expires in 2010, which is also the next gubernatorial election in Illinois.  We'll all be hankering for a new governor by then, and he should run.  Governors win presidential elections these days.  He could run in 2012 if the GOP keeps the presidency or wait until 2016 if the Democrats get the White House back in 2008.  For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would want to follow our Worst. President. Ever. into the White House.  That will be the equivalent of cleaning ten million port-a-johns at a metamucil festival.