Monday, June 20, 2005

Of tires, chicanery and the FIA...

For months now I have been looking forward to Sunday's United States Formula 1 Gran Prix. I am working night shifts so I had to adjust my sleep schedule so I could get up at noon with 4 hours of sleep, watch the race and then go back to bed for another few hours. I was almost too excited to get to sleep but finally dropped off and was awoken by my alarm at noon. I went down stairs and turned on the TV just in time to see the cars lining up on the starting grid. They took their warm-up lap and came back to the grid - - - What's this??!! Fourteen cars went right back into the pits, pulled into the garages, shut down and the drivers got out!! The race started with only 6 cars on the grid!! The TV announcers started doing interviews trying to tell everyone what had happened. Something about the Michelin tires being a problem. The only cars that were racing were on Bridgestone. I was disgusted and went back to bed.

So now I've read the accounts and see what has happened. I have to think the FIA is about the most ignorant organization on earth! I knew that Ralf Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta had both crashed in qualifying but never thought of the reason. Michelin informed the GPDA and the FIA that their tires were not safe due to track conditions near the 13th turn - the final banked corner. Ralf was actually badly injured in a crash at the exact same spot several years ago.

Now both Michelin and the GPDA looked for ways around the problem and offered the FIA two possible solutions to whit: 1) Let Michelin bring in more suitable tires for the 7 teams via air from their warehouse in France and allow Bridgestone to do the same to make things equitable (new rules this year specify only one set of tires per car for the entire weekend), or 2) place a temporary chicane on the track near turn 13 to significantly slow the cars so that the existing Michelin tires could safely be used.

Incredibly, the FIA refused both of these potential solutions! As a result, all the Michelin shod teams pulled their cars and drivers out of the race rather than take the chance of someone being hurt or killed.

You can't blame the drivers for wanting to be safe. Afterall, it's their lives that are at stake! You can't blame Michelin. They were forthright about the safety of their tires even though it made their manufacturing quality look bad. Better that than have someone killed was Michelin's attitude. You certainly can't fault the individual teams for putting their driver's lives above their own interests.

So where does the fault lay? I think the long finger points directly at the FIA. Why would it have hurt to allow a new set of tires for all the cars, just this once, for the sake of safety? Doesn't the FIA care about driver safety? Failing that, what was the big deal about throwing some traffic cones up at turn 13 to put in a temporary chicane as the drivers suggested? Either of these solutions seem perfectly reasonable. Why would the FIA not sign off on them in order to save the race?

What an incredibly stupid way for the FIA to act!!

There. I feel better now!!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ecoterrorism at work

Friday's Dodge City Daily Global editorial column ran an op-ed piece on "Global Warming" attributed to the Hays Daily News with no author's name given. After reading it, I saw why the author declined to be identified. It was fraught with error, misinformation, innuendo, and personal agenda.

The writer begins with the widely accepted fact that the earth's atmosphere is undergoing warming and provides a very short paragraph of actual "numbers" to "prove" that global warming is occurring when, in fact, no one with any knowledge about the earth-atmosphere ecosystem today contests that it is occurring.

The writer claims that Scientists (What scientists? Climatologists? Physicists? Medical researchers?) predict that global temperatures (What "global temperature"? Average daily? Average Annual? Average decadal?) will rise by 2 to 10 degrees (Degrees what? F or C?) by the end of this century.

This is pure environment terrorism meant only to scare you into swallowing the writers agenda which appears to be: Bush is bad. Big business is bad. Let's do some feel good environmental stuff even if we don't know what it will do to the earth's climate. Furthermore, no source for these "numbers" is given leaving us to assume they are correct based upon the fact that anyone able to write an op-ed on global warming must, per force, be an expert in the field.

At this point the writer obviously feels that no one needs to question exactly "why" global warming is occurring. Instead, this pundit immediately leaps to the conclusion that the whole problem is somehow the fault of corporate greed, bureaucratic incompetence, and the Bush administration.

As an atmospheric scientist of nearly 40 years, let me set the record straight. Is global warming occurring? Yes. Is it caused by greenhouse gasses like carbondioxide (only one of the greenhouse gasses involved, by the way)? Yes. Is there irrefutable evidence that humans are causing the problem. No.

Consider the following points from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

A Gallup poll found that only 17 percent of the members of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Society think that the warming of the 20th century has been a result of greenhouse gas emissions - principally CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

Only 13 percent of the scientists responding to a survey conducted by the environmental organization Greenpeace believe catastrophic climate change will result from continuing current patterns of energy use.

More than 100 noted scientists, including the former president of the National Academy of Sciences, signed a letter declaring that costly actions to reduce greenhouse gases are not justified by the best available evidence.

Here's the SOURCE for this information. I'll let you read it and decide for yourself.

There are two more things you should think about insofar as "global warming" is concerned.

Paleoclimatologists are quick to point out that the earth's climate is a long term affair while the alarm over global warming is based entirely on extremely short term data sets. That is to say, there have been other periods of both global warming and global cooling throughout the existence of the earth's climate. In short, there were periods of global warming in between each of the major ice ages. How do we know that we aren't just experiencing another of these? The answer is, we don't - so don't panic.

Finally, if we are going to blame global warming on carbondioxide emissions, we had better have another think. Mark Bahner has posted an excellent website that covers the global warming topic quite nicely. Go and look at THIS if you are concerned about global warming. Especially look at his "What will happen to us?" page and his Figure #1 in particular. You will see that for the decadal increase in Carbondioxide emissions will likely drop to near zero in the next decade or two meaning that we don't really need the Kyoto Protocol agreement, the problem is already solving itself.

This AUTHOR is happy to provide additional supporting data and research to anyone who is seriously interested in the topic. As always, name callers and crack-pots will be ignored.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Dr. Feel Good and the P.C. beltway boys...

I have a hard time blaming the degradation of our educational system and the dumbing down of society in general in America entirely on politicians. I place a great deal of this travesty squarely in the lap of people like Dr. Spock, who led several generations of parents in the country to believe that it was somehow wrong to have expectations of your kids. As a result, the attitude of parents toward the educational system eventually became, "Don't make Johnny do things he doesn't like, or things that are really hard to do. Also, don't make Johnny feel bad when he cannot excel for the reasons above. Let him know that it is perfectly acceptable to be *below average*". That and a whole lot more tripe of the same ilk. The quality of our educational system is driven more by the oversight of parents than it is by politicians. Since parents pay their salaries through taxes, and since they see the parents much more often, educators respond to parents wishes far quicker than those of politicians.

I'm not arguing that there isn't runaway political correctness and enforced mediocrity in government. Quite the contrary! As a public servant of nearly 35 years, I have first hand experience with the ugly truth of bureaucracy. If the general public only knew the BS that goes on within their government bureaucracy, they'd nuke everything inside the beltway and start over again from scratch! In my experience, nothing is happening between Fredericksburg, MD and the Delaware Bay that is even worth the powder to blow it kingdom come! Any federal agency that show relative efficiency does so mainly because the federal employee minions have enough pride in their work to ignore the stupidity of the upper levels of the bureaucracy and instead do what they know to be right. Somehow, in spite of bureaucratic management's best efforts to screw things up beyond belief, the hard working and dedicated paeans manage to make things work.

Think about these things the next time you want to tee off about how dumb kids are today or about how lazy government employees are........

Monday, June 13, 2005

Remembering Dad

Friday night, May 27, 2005 my father passed quietly from this world. His long battle with various ailments (cancer, heart disease, diabites, stroke) finally came to an end. My sister was there with him and Mom when he slipped away. They told me he had gone to the bathroom and had colapsed there while alone - probably a heart attack. They called 911 and the paramedics did get a heart beat again and took him to the hospital ER though he was not awake. Mom sat with him for about an hour when his heart finally stopped. He never came to, she said.

Now I am thinking back over my life and my relationship with my Dad. I'm thinking about the things I remember about him. To be honest, it's not a lot. I was the oldest of eight kids and for most of my growing up years, Dad was working hard to feed all of us. As a result, he and I never had time to do much together. I don't remember him ever attending any of the sporting events I was in or any of the school functions either. It's not that I resent that, it was just the "normal" thing to do for me. I knew why he wasn't there and I knew that I shouldn't complain because it was best for the family. As the oldest of eight, almost everything you do is overshadowed by "what is good for the family". I still operate in that mode today. I don't regret it. It's just the "right" thing to do. The way things are. There were only a couple of times I can remember doing something with Dad, just him and I. And I don't remember a whole lot about them either.

I know, for instance that he took me hunting a few times once I was old enough. I had already learned about camping and shooting a gun from the Boy Scouts, so he didn't teach me much of anything. Mainly we just walked through the woods together, didn't shoot anything, and then came home.

When I got interested in rock collecting way back in grade school, he took me to a couple of meetings of the Conneticut Valley Rock and Mineral Society (my God! I remembered that name and I haven't thought about it in decades!). Anyway, that group did an annual "rockhound" trip and Dad took time away from his work and the other kids to spend a few days taking me on the trip all the way up into Paris, Maine from our home in Ludlow, Massechusetts. I remember climbing around in a couple of rock quaries with him while we admired specimens that others had found, and I remember digging through the mine tailings with him where we found some small tourmaline (sp?) crystals. I think I still have them somewhere.

I never complained about Dad not doing things with me because I could see how all the rest of the family needed him too and that he had to spread what little time he had at home and away from work over a whole lot of people.

After I left home in the early 1960s, I saw him very seldom since I always lived so far away from them and was always wrapped up in the things I was doing. Starting in about 1984, when I was living in Kansas and he, retired, in New Mexico, Carolyn and I began taking fairly frequent trips to see Mom and Dad. For us, that meant about once a year for a few days. We helped them move to Colorado Springs when Dad's health began the downward spiral. There he would be close to my sister and her family.

Now he is gone. I will still miss him, though perhaps not as much as if I had been around him a lot more. I admired him for his intellect and his knowledge. I still admire his dedication to his wife and children, and to his work. He didn't have much time for hobbies.

I, on the other hand, seem to indulge in hobbies all the time. Perhaps it is because I saw how little time for enjoyment Dad had when we were growing up. I don't know.

I'll see you again some day, Dad. I hope we can have a chance to sit down then and just talk a lot. I'd like that. We never had the chance to before.