I Made A Cartoon On The Computer, And It Shows A Catastrophe Happening To The Earth (In The Future). So Gimme.
November 30, 2009, 11:02 am
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I made a cartoon on the computer, and it shows a catastrophe happening to the earth (in the future)**. Here, just look at the graphs yourself. (The ones I made.)

Heard enough? Good: give me a cushy lifetime position and autocratic power over how everyone else lives, please. Otherwise you are anti-Science.

No, I’m not going to describe to you how I made this cartoon or what sort of raw data it was based on. That is proprietary! I put a lot of work into it!***

So, again: position, and power, please. (And money, it goes without saying.) Otherwise you’re anti-Science.

That’s the basic scam argument.

**Don’t tell anyone, but the actual model/cartoon in question was a video game, I think maybe it was ‘Civilization III’ or maybe IV…

***37 hours of gameplay so far.

My Accidental Priesthood
November 30, 2009, 10:51 am
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One of the odder, random-seeming facts of my biography is that – unlike 99.999% of the internet people who like to spout off about climate change – I have actually performed climate research and worked on climate models. It’s something I often forget, but it does seem relevant and comes in handy to bring up to The Believers. After all, it’s just amazing to me the number of people who have strong, strong, STRONG opinions on ‘climate change’ yet don’t have the first freaking clue what they’re talking about. In fact, by my observation, the less a person actually knows about climate modelling, the more of a Believer they are. This applies to everyone from Judy Collegegirl Blogger on up to Al “Nobel” Gore. (Yes, I do think Al Gore knows some stuff that he has gleaned from reading and from conversations with his advisors/sciency friends and whatnot, but if he actually knows what are the Rossby Number or the Reynolds Number, the Lax-Wendroff Theorem or the Biot-Savart law, etc etc, I’d be shocked.)

So here’s my spiel on ‘climate change’ then (adapted from a private email to a friend). For the record:

I think most variability we observe and are going to observe in the climate is likely to be due to exogenous forcing from the sun’s natural variability, with other stuff (like CO2) as minor/residual effects not worth bothering about.

The basic physical argument is to say “CO2 is a greenhouse gas” and wave your hands a lot. Saying that because CO2 is a greenhouse gas we’re going to have global warming is like saying that because my bank account earns interest I’m going to be a trillionaire. You can’t just focus on one effect, tell a simplistic one-dimensional story, forget about feedback and other effects and time, and think you’re done.

So really AGW is just based on computer models. The computer models don’t impress me and never did. They are the exact same sorts of models that create ocean waves in Pixar cartoons – they look nice and plausible and often very pretty, but I wouldn’t base serious decisions on the result.

These guys are trying to model a giant chaotic system with hopelessly simplified dynamics (e.g. using 2 1/2 dimensions for the ocean and ‘shallow water’ equations..) and hopelessly large grid sizes (think approximating the ocean/air as giant Lego bricks 5km on a side). They all have to therefore include ‘effective’ coefficients (read: fudge factors) to try to take into account things they know they are missing (like turbulence) due to this pixellation. Sometimes they have only very sloppy explanations for this or that factor. I saw one talk where the guy was asked ‘why did you chose that factor = +1 instead of -1′ (or whatever) and he said “Because my choice leads to warming rather than cooling, and we know there’s warming”. In other words the models can be cooked, and are cooked, to produce any desired outcome. (Guess what the desired/’correct’ outcome always seems to be?)

Meanwhile, the physics/chemistry are still incomplete. They don’t know how to model the atmosphere-space interface. They don’t know how to model freaking clouds. Clouds seem pretty important right? Last I tuned in, there wasn’t even a consensus as to whether more clouds meant more heating or less. There was dispute about this. They couldn’t model cloud formation and they didn’t know what the effect would be if they could…

So these models end up being hopelessly complicated, often a Voltron-style splicing together of several different models created by different groups, and no observer (or peer reviewer) really audits or knows what goes on in all of them, probably no single person has the entire model in his head. And finally the models have to be driven by “data” which are sporadic (we just don’t have thermometers covering the globe and going back thousands of years – there’s really FAR LESS temperature data than people realize…in many parts/times of the oceans we only have data from ships going along shipping routes), inaccurate, have to be “corrected” for this or that, and may simply be fudged. All of these things are illustrated by the recent email scandal. Nothing in the emails has surprised me (i.e. the fudge factors) because I already knew stuff like that must be going on.

Also, even if the entire theory turns out to be true in its basics, I think there’s no way in hell trying to ‘stop’ global warming by consciously/forcefully limiting CO2 through top-down regulation would survive a cost-benefit analysis. It would almost certainly be cheaper to just adapt to the effects (if they are bad – and not all effects would be bad!) as/when they appear. A big problem in this debate is that climate scientists are not economists (they think that if they identify a Problem it automatically follows that the Problem should be Fixed, regardless of cost). The other problem is that Economists are not climate scientists (they take whatever the most alarmist climate scientists say at face value, and are attracted to alarmist pronouncements because that makes technocrats more important..)

That’s a larger problem I have with this issue, people speak about ‘the scientific consensus’ and don’t realize that different ‘scientists’ study different things, and they don’t necessarily know jack about other fields. ‘The scientific consensus’ is really a small # of climate scientists and a large # of other guys going ‘ok, sure, sounds good I guess’. As we now know, those other guys don’t and usually can’t actually check the work down to the raw data.

To be impressed by such a ‘consensus’ is to reveal that you don’t actually know very much about how actual science works. Oddly, almost accidentally, I do. I was once in that priesthood, for a brief shining moment. But just so we’re clear, the climatology priesthood does contain numerous actual, genuine, honorable scientists. I worked with them. And they behaved nothing like these CRU creeps, who in my opinion, by their behavior, have demonstrated that whatever they are, they are not scientists.

Movie Quiz
November 28, 2009, 3:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My answers to the latest movie quiz at Sergio Leone(&c):

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Favorite=Big Lebowski so this ends up being a referendum on Fargo (which is traditionally considered their best). But if I had to watch a non-Lebowski C.B. movie again it would probably be O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)

I do not like movie theaters anymore (all those other people – irritating). This question seems mostly about movies with great visual effects. Recent ones coming to mind are animations like Coraline, Wall-E and The Incredibles. Maybe Star Trek. You could also take this in a different direction and go for movies whose directors use the whole frame in a unique/stylized way (i.e. Wes Anderson). But I have seen Rushmore and Tenenbaums in theaters.

UPDATE: Okay here’s an obvious answer – Lawrence of Arabia.

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)


4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

Moment: the duel between Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda at the end of Once Upon A Time In The West. Line: Fonda, to the younger Bronson character in flashback as he shoves a harmonica in his mouth: “Keep your lovin’ brother happy.” Chills down my spine just thinking about it.

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

Maybe the music, actually. I can forgive lack of story and a lot of other stuff if the music works well.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).

Easy answer: Mulholland Drive (because nobody could possibly understand it). I’m going to take a different tack however and cite the Ocean’s movies (all three).

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

Filmmaker – M. Night Shyamalan (much as I hate to admit it, even though I don’t hate him as much as most, he has still fallen very very far in my esteem). Actor – I’m going to go with Vince Vaughn. Remember when he was cool? He’s just in all these dumb movies now.

8 ) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?


9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)

I pretty much hated Blue Velvet.

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)


11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

Escape From Alcatraz (#1 is Dirty Harry obviously)

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

DVD: Star Trek gets a second mention

Theaters: Inglorious Basterds

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

I don’t give a rat’s ass about Blu-ray whatever that is.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?


15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

Jeff Bridges.

16) Fight Club — yes or no?

Heck yes.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

Teresa Wright

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

Don’t remember

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

Face-melting Nazis in Indiana Jones.

20) What’s the least you’ve spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)

Whatever Blockbuster was charging in the mid-90s. I think I rented Hollow Man then never watched it.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

Van Halen.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.


23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

Waco: The Rules Of Engagement

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

Cast Away (underrated)

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.

Probably happened (both) when I was younger, but can’t remember now. Nowadays I’d never be embarrassed to know about a movie (even a cheesy or ‘shameful’ one in some way), nor to be ignorant of one I didn’t see (even one that ‘everyone’ sees)

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)

Teresa Wright dammit!

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

Someone once told my dad he talks like Sean Connery (which isn’t true).

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

Bruno, because I just feel like I’d be too grossed out.

An Inconvenient Truth, for obvious reasons.

Anything further, ever, by Lars von Trier, because I already tortured myself sitting through Dogville.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

I was going to give Fargo a mention but I think I’ll raise that with A Simple Plan.

A more classical answer would probably be Doctor Zhivago.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s principal).

Looking up these two guys, this question kinda makes sense.

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

I don’t understand the question.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

Hard to choose #1 between The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Thus, hard to choose #2 as well.

33) Favorite movie car chase.

Blues Brothers

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)

This question bores me. Next

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Agent 99, duh

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.


37) If you could take one filmmaker’s entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

I knew it would pay off to bring up Lars von Trier earlier

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

Not sure this has ever happened unless you soften up that ‘actively hated’ and ‘fall in love’ stuff.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

Not worth the Google time

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?


In personality, Dennis Christopher’s main character (generally, though not in the specifics of loving opera/Italy/etc). Maybe physically too.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

The bad guy says to the good guy: “You and I, we are not so different, you know.” Happens again and again, makes me smile every time. (h/t to story fanatic (I think) for helping make me aware of this cliche…)

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

Donen, if for this alone

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

Not my cup of tea

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

Something about the Dustin Hoffman character’s rescue scene at the beginning of Hero (crappy movie) always stuck with me.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

Comic-book movies/similar and their fanboys. (Not saying I hate them all, but there are certainly way too many. And ‘decimate’ only means one in ten, which would be a start…)

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Gonna go with Munro

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)

Too much trouble

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission—“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”– by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)

The Graduate

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

‘Thankful’ is kind of overkill (generally it was not a great year for movies), but I guess it’s nice that Star Trek lived up to, even surpassed my expectations. Wow, 3 mentions. I am a dork.

50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

George Kennedy.

No real reason, I guess.

Misanthrope: Dissing Children And Other People On Thanksgiving
November 26, 2009, 8:27 pm
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  • Here’s a giveaway that someone is about to make a dumb political argument: the invokation of hypothetical ‘children’ and how much they ‘know’ and ‘understand’ to support one’s point. e.g., “We adults forget what it’s like to see the world through the eyes of a child. Children know that nuclear bombs are BAD.” Use of the phrase ‘it’s elementary’ here is a dead giveaway that you’re about to see this particularly lame form of argumentation.
  • More climate-data fraud surfacing, and I suspect not the last. This scandal has helped me realize one reason I became disenchanted with large-scale-numerical-model-driven scientific research: you can put all the elbow-grease you want into the fancy math but at the end of the day, any ‘model’ has to be fed with input data. Different input data can and does lead to drastically different results. And so you have to get that data from somewhere. But unless it’s going to be you going out and measuring the data by hand, from scratch, the place you’re going to have to get that data from is: other people. And in a very deep sense, I fundamentally do not trust other people, whether they are “scientists” or not. And you see? I am being proven right not to!

Believe In Me
November 22, 2009, 11:54 pm
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by Sloan

Don’t Pick On Me
November 22, 2009, 11:48 pm
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The Muffs do, come to think of it, make a lot more sense as a cartoon.

Waltz #2
November 22, 2009, 7:56 pm
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First the mike, then a half-cigarette, singing “Cathy’s Clown”. That’s the man she’s married to now


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