Tick Tales of Misery and Occasional Ecstasy

April 4, 2009

It’s Official

Filed under: personal, ranting, Social — thetick @ 8:01 am

Last night, extreme boredom and a healthy desire for any kind of company drove me once more into the fray of forced socialization.  I decided to go have a beer or two, and to try out the last of the bars in town that had been recommended as place to hang out and meet people. The sports bar attached to the bowling alley.

Yup. The bowling alley. That should give some indication regarding this damn town, the bowling alley is one out of three recommended places. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bowl. I started bowling when I was six years old, and at one time I was pretty good. But bowling alleys are places you go with people you already know, not to try to meet people. The bar was nice enough, very spacious and big screens all over the place, a typical sports bar. They even have a Wii hooked up to one of them so you can drink and play video games. Guess what game they had up? That’s right… BOWLING. In the bar attached to the bowling alley you can virtually bowl. From what I could tell, the place does not get a lot of business because I watched the bartender get seven strikes in a row on the Wii. Obviously he has had a lot of practice. The first problem I had with the bar was the bar stools. The seat was almost four feet high. I felt like I was four years old again. I had to step up onto the brass boot rail near the floor, then onto the lowest rung of the stool before I could swing my ass onto the seat. I expected my beer to come in a sippy cup.

The second problem was the customers. There were about a dozen people in the place, four of which were female. Three of those were with a group that was playing darts, two guys for every girl. The last was sitting with her husband playing the trivia game. The crowd in the corner playing darts seemed to be having fun, the kind of fun you get when you are getting away with something. Like being underage in a bar. I sat and watched the video juke box playing rap videos while I nursed my beer, thinking things might improve as it got a bit later. The crowd grew, more and more people came in and started talking to each other and laughing. They were all guys. Now there was about five guys for every girl. I finished my beer and used the thoughtfully provided rappelling gear to get off my stool and went home. That was when I decided that it was official: I hate this town.

The next morning, I went to the coffee shop for breakfast, and talked to the one male waiter there, who actually has the appearance of someone who likes to go out and have a good time. He confirmed every observation I had made regarding the town. First and foremost, if you didn’t grow up there, you were an outsider and the only way you will have a conversation with someone is at gunpoint. He also confirmed that 99% of the women that he either worked with or knew because of his job were married or dating. And he also confirmed that this town sucks.

Being a glutton for punishment, and still bored out of my mind with no idea what to do with myself all weekend, I decided to waste some time. Normally, for me, this would have meant going to the various pawn shops and trying to find a hell of a deal on something I never knew existed, but could no longer live without. But there are only two pawn shops in the area, and their merchandise hasn’t changed since I got here. So, I decided to take a look at the Swap Meet.

Wow.

There were the usual people that you expect to see at a swap meet, the ones that don’t have enough for a full garage sale so they spend twenty bucks for a stall and try to get rid of all the baby furniture left over after the tubes got tied. But the thing I used to enjoy about swap meets were the regulars. The ones who are there week after week, who have a permanent stall and try to make a living out of selling shit nobody wants. VHS Tapes, old DVD’s, LP’s, knick knacks, candles with the Virgin Mary on them, rusty tools, knock-off designer clothes, bins full of dollar store items half off. There was one guy there who actually had some German WWII stuff, Nazi pins and medals, army helmets, and even a mold for making your own .50 caliber black powder ammo. That was the only tempting booth. The one that made decide to leave was one of the knick knack stalls. I wanted to take a picture of this, but the lady behind the table scared the shit out of me.

You know all those pairs of shoes you see hanging from power lines? You ever wonder what happens to them? They hang there in the breeze for months, then they just disappear. I always thought that the power company removed them if they happened to be doing work there, or the shoe laces would eventually rot through and they would fall to the ground, possibly hitting a car in the windshield. But now, I know the truth. This lady takes them. She somehow gets those shoes down from the line and takes them home. Then she fills them up with dirt. Then she plants something in the dirt, and when it sprouts, she takes it to the swap meet and sells it for twenty dollars. Twenty. Frickin. Dollars. For an old shoe with dirt in it. Normally, I would have just laughed at the idiocy of this. But there was a lady there trying to haggle a discount price for a matched set.

I weep for the species. And I hate this town.

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April 1, 2009

Discussions on Climate Change

Filed under: Political — Tags: , , — thetick @ 10:12 am

A good friend and I have had an ongoing discussion regarding the Climate Change issue. In the beginning, we appeared to have differing views. He supported, I was skeptical. We spent hours discussing the issue, and he had a distinct advantage over me in that he was in a position to get education regarding the issue, and I was only reading an occasional article linked on Fark.com or Digg.com.

Recently, I read an article from the NY Times, discussing the views of Freeman Dyson, a 85 year old physicist who opposes the prevailing views regarding climate change. The eight page article delves into his history, explaining how he used to have lunch with Einstein, was Oppenheimers neighbor, etc. In short, this is a brilliant man. He is also a very liberal man, one who doesn’t buy into the hype. The thing that struck me the most about the article is how this eminent scientist is now being accused of being senile for not accepting the scientific consensus regarding climate change. This was very telling to me: A well respected scientist is derided for not agreeing with everyone else. This is not science, this is politics and herd mentality.

I read another article, which I sent to my friend. This one was related to sea levels, and how the premier scientist in the field was doing numerous studies disproving the claims that sea levels are rising, and major cities of the world were going to be under water soon, as described in the hit movie, wait for it… An Inconvenient Truth. My problem was that the scientific and political communities were doing their best to decry and denounce his findings, not because of faulty science, but because he dares to disagree. His findings are dismissed, no matter how well documented and accurate, because they contrast with the party line.

I am going to copy the email exchange here, since I felt that it was the best I had written regarding my views on the subject. My friend responded to my email with the link as follows:

That’s not at all surprising.  I never really jumped on the sea level
bandwagon as there’s no way to get an accurate and sufficiently large
data set to make conclusions.  The ice core data can’t really be
debated though.  It goes back hundreds of thousands of years and our
ability to measure C02 in it is quite accurate.  I don’t know what
that means as far as prediction abilities go, however.

Hell, I went to a talk by one of the foremost experts in sea ice and
its relation to climate change (Ken Golden from Univ. of Utah) and one
of the first things he mentioned was that predictive models aren’t
totally accurate because they can’t take everything into account.
Trust me, the experts aren’t the ones saying the world is going to end
tomorrow.  It’s the politicians and news media looking to
sensationalize the issue.

In response to this, I wrote the following:

I believe this more than anything gets to the root of my issues with the Climate Change crowd. On one hand, we have Ken Golden who prefaces his lecture with the disclaimer that it is impossible to know with certainty what will happen. I would be more inclined to respect the views of Ken Golden, based solely on this simple fact. Real science is being used, and the conclusions point to a trend, rather than a Psychic Friends type scenario of imminent catastrophe.
 
On the other hand, the only persons who are being listened to are those with an agenda. Typically, these are NOT scientists, and do not base much of their preaching on science. They take the pieces of science that support their view, and accept them as an axiom. This, more than anything, causes me to rebel against the idea, in spite of my intellect telling that I am responding emotionally.
 
As far as the ice core data is concerned, I agree that it is very difficult to debate the data. That can be measured and proven without doubt. What I believe to still be in question is the relationship between CO2 levels and global climate. I will admit to not having done extensive research on the issue, but I have to assume that the CO2 trapped in the arctic or antarctic ice can be accurately correlated to a specific time period. That data can be cross referenced to geological data for the same period to see what kind of environment was prevalent. For instance, it seems likely that if we have elevated levels of CO2 in ice core samples in the same time period that the geological record shows an abundance of rain forest type plants, it is not unreasonable to assume that during that time, there were elevated CO2 levels and tropical temperatures in a much larger area of the globe. To me, again, with the disclaimer of lack of research, this does not prove causation. Are the temperatures due to the elevated CO2 levels, or are the CO2 levels due to the increased volume of life present in tropical jungle growth?
 
In either case, the arguments are merely theories that cannot be proven without duplication. Computer models can only go so far, and without sustained, epoch spanning measurements, the absolute truth cannot be known.
 
Do I believe that we should do nothing until it can be proven? Of course not. I truly believe that there needs to be steps taken to reduce the level of pollutants being dumped into the air, water and earth. This comes mostly from an aesthetic point of view, I want to always be able to see the Tetons without squinting though smog. This point was driven home in my mind in the Shenandoah National Park, where I had difficulty seeing mountains five miles away due the haze in the air. The other reason I believe it to be necessary is from a health point of view. It is pretty much impossible to keep pollutants out of the food chain. Water pollutants get into the fish, which is food not only for humans, but other life as well. The same goes for ground pollutants. Plants take their nutrients from the soil, and if contaminants are in those nutrients, they become a part of the food we eat.
 
So, in conclusion, I believe that we agree fundamentally. Our differing view point comes from the fact that I tend to discredit the “popular” stance regarding climate change, since it seems more and more to follow the zealotry associated with a religion, and not science. But this does not mean that I disbelieve the science, provided the scientist is not a part of an agenda. For this reason, I turn a skeptical eye on any claims made by James Hansen, as he appears to have an agenda of keeping himself highly visible not only in the media, but to government officials as well. I see his warnings and a voice in the back of my head tells me that he is looking for a new political appointment as the “Head of the Presidential Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Studies.”

 For reasons stated above, I have a tendency to discredit the mainstream views regarding climate change. When a group resorts to personal attacks on a scientist because he wont toe the line, we are no longer dealing with science, we are dealing with politics. Lets face facts here: Saving the planet is a big money industry. All those earth-friendly shopping bags, all the clever t-shirts, all the galas thrown by Hollywood types all cost money.  Follow the dollars, and you will see the truth. I wonder how much Al Gore gets for a speaking engagement to discuss global warming? Enough to afford big houses and production costs of award winning documentaries. Why are so many sheeple willing to believe the words of a politician on scientific studies? Doesn’t anyone think that it may be possible that Big Green Al has an alternate agenda? I honestly cant think of any other Vice President or failed Presidential candidate that is in the news more than Al. Am I the only person that thinks he is planning another bid for the big chair, and is doing everything he can to stay relevant? The man is in the public consciousness, and I think we will see him “working closely with President Obama” on environmental issues.

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