Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bay Area Local: endorsing Teresa Alvardo in Santa Clara County, April Vargas and Dave Pine in San Mateo County

It's interesting to actually know some of the people running for office pretty well.  I've met Teresa Alvarado a number of times over the years in my day job of protecting open space from sprawl, and she's a committed environmentalist running for county supervisor in the biggest and most conservative supervisor district in Santa Clara County.  If she wins in this very tight race, her influence in representing the areas where developers are often pushing for sprawl could be a tremendous influence in protecting all 700,000 acres of Santa Clara County.    If you know anyone who knows anyone in South San Jose/Evergreen, Morgan Hill, San Martin, or Gilroy, please please please send them to her website at the link.  And they can also listen to a debate between Teresa and her fellow candidates.

I've known April Vargas and Dave Pine, both running for separate county supervisor seats in San Mateo County, for years as past and present members of my organization's board of directors.  You won't find a harder worker than April, in many ways the anti-politician due to her lack of egotism.  Dave is also smart and committed, and I think he's running without real opposition.

I'll use this opportunity to get back on my hobbyhorse against candidates loaning money to their campaigns.  I don't object to candidates donating to their campaigns, but loaning money creates a situation where a winning candidate receives a direct financial benefit from contributors whose donations to the campaign then gets paid to the candidate to retire the loans.  Candidates and contributors might not think of it in those terms (although I'm sure some do), but it's a messed up system that should be changed.  A legal prohibition might run into problems from the current Supreme Court that thinks unlimited money is fair because everyone is free to loan millions to their campaigns, but it's worth a shot.  Teresa and April haven't loaned money to their campaigns, but each have opponents who have.

Finally, I might as well disclose that I'm personally thinking about running for local office - haven't made any final decisions yet.  Could be interesting....

Friday, May 28, 2010

Carnival of Space #155: Short, Medium, and Haiku-long

Hi everyone, Backseat Driving is hosting this week's Carnival of Space, a round-up of space-related posts across the blogosphere.  Format is the host's choice, so I'll go with short (blog name and post name); followed by a combined medium length (same plus a sentence summary or excerpt) and haiku-long (a lousy haiku I'm adding at no extra charge for each post).  Check out the main Carnival of Space page for past Carnivals and for info on how to participate.


Backseat Driving: Not your typical SETI conspiracy
Weird Sciences:  Extreme Tech:  Genetic Engineering and Genetic Programmer [Part-I]
Weird Sciences:  Could There Be Life on Every Planets
Arts Nova:  The 2010 NASA Moon Art Contest
Cheap Astronomy: Cheap Astronomy in Transit podcast
Centauri Dreams:  Burying the Digital Genome
Alice's Astro Info: Ikaros - Japan's Solar Sail
Robot Guy:  administering space
Out of the Cradle:  2010 Metroplex Moonday Machinations
21st Century Waves:  Obama's New Space Policy: an Encore!
Spread Science:  Why Does One Bit Matter to Voyager?
Planetary Blog:  The Most Amazing Image of Enceladus Cassini Has Captured Yet
Astroblog:  Using the Gimp for Astrophotography (Part 2)
Chandra's Blog:  Innovative Exhibit Connects Art and Science Through X-Ray Light
Discovery News:  Can a Black Hole Have an 'Aurora'?
Urban Astronomer:  What is the Face on Mars?
The Spacewriter's Ramblings:  Soaring to the Stars
Next Big Future:  Combining MHD Airbreathing and IEC Fusion Rocket Propulsion for Earth-to-Orbit Flight
Next Big Future:  Mach Effect Propulsion Experiment May Generate 50 Milli-Newtons in 2010
Cosmic Log:  Two faces of a grand galaxy
Cosmic Log:  Spaceships get day in the sun
Cumbrian Sky:  Gazing across the Gulf of Time...

Medium and bad-haiku long, combined together:

Backseat DrivingNot your typical SETI conspiracy Argues that SETI pros Paul Davies and Seth Shostak are contradicting each other on how to handle an alien signal, and that Shostak is right.
No, Davies.  Shestak.
It's beyond what we should stop.
People must know.

Weird Sciences:   Extreme Tech:  Genetic Engineering and Genetic Programmer [Part-I] Other elements besides carbon and other solvents besides water can form the basis of alien life, with examples.
Hey why the long face?
Carbon life spurned you, but then
Fish a solvent sea

Weird Sciences:  Could There Be Life on Every Planets Runs through theories of biogenesis, argues that some experimentation shows it's not so unlikely, but that a discovery of life elsewhere in our solar system could help settle the issue.
Everyone's a winner!
Okay, chance's role's unclear
Mars may tell us soon.

Arts Nova:  The 2010 NASA Moon Art Contest  The experience of judging NASA's moon art contest, and how judging criteria was applied.
In space no one can
Hear you ooh and ahh over
Good art or bad poems.  (Host's note:  please don't judge my haiku!)

Cheap AstronomyCheap Astronomy in Transit podcast Snippets on lunar spacecraft explosions being different from scifi, and speculating on how to research problems on a strangely earthlike, planetary civilization. 
On the road again,
Thinking lunar boom's a bust.
Hey, sounds familiar....

Centauri Dreams:  Burying the Digital Genome  An article about the need to preserve not just digital documents and multimedia but the formatting used to display them, describing project in Switzerland is now creating a long-term database of these materials in hopes of preserving knowledge that might otherwise be lost.
Ah, the Rosetta Stone!
Copied it on floppy disk.
Oops.  Help, Genome!

Alice's Astro InfoIkaros - Japan's Solar Sail How the (now launched) Japanese solar sail works, with video.
Japan's Solar Sail.
Alice's Astro Info?
She wrote the haiku!

Robot Guy:  administering space Detailed ideas for NASA's management in "administering space," with specific comparisons to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Developing space:  fine.
Take it to the next level.
Commercial space, it's time.

Out of the Cradle:  2010 Metroplex Moonday Machinations Summarizing events happening at the very busy Moon Day celebration in Dallas this July 18th.
Zone 1:  glamor show
Zone 2:  time for real learnin'
Zone 3-8: wow.

21st Century Waves:  Obama's New Space Policy: an Encore!  A dialog about NASA's future, Maslow Windows, and potential near term opportunities
History doesn't 
Repeat itself.  But it does
Rhyme ever better.

Spread Science:  Why Does One Bit Matter to Voyager?  How a recent problem with the Voyager probe was traceable to single flipped memory bit.
Now where did I put
My memory? It was here.
Problems, getting old.

Planetary Blog:  The Most Amazing Image of Enceladus Cassini Has Captured Yet  Enceladus geysers, Enceladus, Titan, and Saturn's rings all imaged and composed together.
What Cassini sees
What's never before been seen
What's ours to dream of.

Astroblog:  Using the Gimp for Astrophotography (Part 2) Using software to put your astrophotography together and make animations.
GIMP layers it on
Not so hard after a bit
You're now Walt Disney.

Chandra's Blog:  Innovative Exhibit Connects Art and Science Through X-Ray Light  X-rays as the theme connecting an understanding of art and of science together
Art shows the inside
X rays get inside the art
Chandra shows it all.

Discovery News:  Can a Black Hole Have an 'Aurora'? An accretion disk in a black hole could generate a magnetosphere and aurora.
Spinning your way in
Shocking where you're going now
A flash, then goodbye.

Urban Astronomer:  What is the Face on Mars?  Synopsis of history of the famous "face" on Mars.
Beauty's in the eye
of the beholder.  It's now
a beautiful hill.

The Spacewriter's Ramblings:  Soaring to the Stars  How an interest in space can inspire kids and adults, with the example of space events in Los Angeles.
Captain Adama,
inspired by the stars when young.
Actor inspires us.

The post title says it all, and the post provides technical information that outlines how it could be done.
Got to be a way
A way that can really work
This might be the one.

Next Big Future:  Mach Effect Propulsion Experiment May Generate 50 Milli-Newtons in 2010 If mass fluctuations are real, then propellantless space drive may be possible.
They tell us, no way
You can't get to there from here.
Mach Effect?  Make it so.

CollectSpace:  STS 132 Atlantis Flight Day Journal  Summary of the shuttle Atlantis' return home.
The final time back.
The shuttle of the future,
Now a memory.

Cosmic Log:  Two faces of a grand galaxy  Very different light wavelengths give very different portraits of the beautiful Pinwheel Galaxy
Shall I compare thee
To a summer's day? Got it.
Warmer is diff'rent.

Cosmic Log:  Spaceships get day in the sun  Amazing photos of the Shuttle and space station, including ones where they transit in front of the sun.
The shuttle's huge
ISS even moreso
Then you see the sun.

Cumbrian Sky:  Gazing across the Gulf of Time... Rock-art images of people 7,000 years ago and images from Cassini today show how far we've come
Someday, a visit
To Enceladus geysers
Will carve memories.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cutting down protesters and forests in Madagascar

NY Times outlines how the situation in Madagascar has deteriorated:  a shaky government more interested in corrupt personal enrichment than in law enforcement is letting the country's forests be decimated and sent to China.  Meanwhile, my parents tell me that their church, which supports a tree planting-program in Madagascar, has learned that a Malagasy pastor associated with their program was killed when he attended a demonstration in the capital.

I don't have a well-defined opinion about the current government and president.  He unceremoniously deposed the prior president, but the prior president's democratic credentials were shaky at best, and many people joined the protests that drove him out.  So while that's unclear to me, it is clear that the government shouldn't be shooting protesters.  And obviously it should be preserving the last bits of Madagascar's irreplaceable nature instead of taking bribes to destroy it.  I can't forget the incredible lemurs we saw there, and how few Malagasy ever see them.  It would  be tragic to lose them. 

The church members are asking people to contact the State Department and Congress and asking them to pressure the Madagascar government.  I think that's a good idea, and I'll suggest one other:  modify the Kerry-Lieberman bill so that countries facing tariffs for their failure to act on climate will face additional tariffs if they're buying illegal wood and aiding climate-harming deforestation.  Those monies could then be used to help fix the problem 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In defense of argument from authority, and when it goes too far

I could probably just post a link to the wiki page on why the Argument from Authority can be a legitimately useful crutch for non-experts, but doing that wouldn't waste enough of your time. So let's look at a dustup based on what David Roberts had to say about my seconding Matt Yglesias' criticism of an incomprehensible post by Sean Casten opposing cap-and-dividend.  I guessed that Casten is confusing the effect of cap-and-dividend with the effect of a carbon tax, and that was too much for Roberts to take:

I’ve been trying to stay out of this, but this is just hilarious. Brian, Sean’s been working for years deploying capital to reduce CO2. He knows electricity markets better than 99% of people in the world, certainly better than you or Matt. Along with his father Tom, he’s written peer-reviewed papers on the subject.
So when he comes along and suggests that the Economics 101 cliches that substitute for energy policy knowledge among most bloggers might be off-base, their reaction is … to assume he’s making remedial errors about policy?

So let's unpack the appeals to authority.  Roberts is arguably an expert on policy, but while he's been cagey about it, I think he quietly disagrees with Casten but doesn't like the criticism that his fellow Grist blogger has received.  I'm just guessing that from the several comments he made that defended Casten as an authority but not Casten's particular arguments.

So leaving aside Roberts' expertise, we've got Casten.  Had Casten written only, "I don't have time to spell out the problems with cap-and-dividend, but I want people to realize that my renewable energy business that I've put years into will not benefit from cap-and-dividend," then I would've put that into my "this gets some weight" category and moved on.  Instead, however, Casten makes arguments that he apparently considers easily understood, but make no sense:
a tax on your competitor does not make you wealthier. This is so obvious it shouldn’t need repeating.
and in a comment:
The theory that all power prices will rise giving the CO2-free source a higher margin is predicated on an absolutely perfect transfer of cost through the system
At the margin, a tax on your competitor and not on you will help you out.  Yes, sometimes it won't, but if Casten's going to argue that it never helps in the renewables biz, then he needs to supply a missing argument.  And the theory that power prices will rise doesn't depend on 100% perfect pass-through, it just depends on more than 0% pass-through.

I feel competent to judge these arguments, especially the second one, and by making them Casten has decreased my willingness to defer to his authority.  

That's the way I'd handle it - climate denialists seem to think "appeal from authority" is a sufficient response to the mountains of science academies screaming bloody murder about AGW, but I think there's more work to be done than simply that.  I think they have to rely on conspiracy arguments for why almost all experts could be so wrong, and that's a pretty slender reed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whether to join "Offend Every Religion and Non-Religion Day"

Today is "Offend Islam Day" or "Everybody Draw Mohammed" Day according to the intent of the people involved in either creating or viewing the blog posts. I'm sure most of the rightwingers involved will claim there's no intent on their part to offend most Muslims, but simply to protest the censorship and physical violence directed against people who have drawn Mohammed. I think it's pretty difficult to unpack the two, especially when the only religion these rightwingers are willing to offend, conveniently enough for them, is one they're hostile to.

Still, I wish I could do something to support free speech while not purposefully seeking offense, especially against any one religion. So here's my drawing:

/ \

Those who seek to take offense by seeing it as Mohammed can do so, but I hope the vast majority of Muslims who would never violently attack a cartoonist choose not to see it that way. The same for a Christian or Jew that would choose to view it as a Gay Jesus or Gay Moses. Replace the torso of the stick figure with ( ) and an oversensitive Buddhist could choose to view an insultingly corpulent Buddha.

As for offending the non-religious who choose to go out of their way to be offended, it's a little tougher. For atheists, simply claiming that 100% confirmed atheism is an expression of faith just like religion is generally enough to arouse great offense among such atheists.

My own group, agnostics, might be the hardest to offend, except that all the other groups, religious and atheist alike, are offended at our very existence. The religious tell us to make up our mind so we can be either drawn into their religious debates, or become an atheist so the religious can accuse us of having a faith in the non-existence of God. The atheists think we don't have the guts to go all the way proclaim atheism, and accuse us of being less-brave versions of themselves. Maybe its my own blind spot that keeps me from seeing the best way to be ambiguously offensive to oversensitive agnostics, but maybe someone else can figure that one out.

Well, so much for this exercise. Not sure I'll bother repeating it when the same day rolls around next year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Volokh Correction #27: open air carbon capture not easier than capture at power plants

Jonathan Adler cites a Robert Bryce article criticizing carbon capture from power plants as too expensive and then thinks it supports open-air carbon capture because open air capture reduces the need to "pipe carbon great distances." That's a poor argument on a bunch of levels, starting with the likelihood that Bryce himself would disagree.

Bryce talks mainly the cost of reducing power plant output to capture carbon and the large volume of carbon to be sequestered, with piping given a secondary billing. If we're going to sequester under the ocean (or misguidedly, into the ocean as Roger Pielke Jr appears to like), then piping would still be necessary for open-air capture. The volume problem for open air capture is the same as at the power plant, and the energy cost should be a lot higher to remove CO2 when is much less than 1% of the atmosphere compared to power plant exhaust which I think is in the range of 30-60%.

I don't have much in the way of numbers to critique Bryce and Adler, but they have even less.

In general, I was unimpressed with Bryce's article - coal is cheap, and adding substantially to its price might still be in the range of feasibility. Adler's thought that the argument supports open-air capture (an option I won't rule out, btw) is even less impressive.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Keep the homophobic climate weirdo on the oil spill team

A bozo physicist, Jonathan Katz, who apparently thinks creatively but has zero quality control, has been kicked off one of the oil spill teams because he is/was homophobic and believes some of the nonsense he reads on climate denialist websites like Greenland "formerly" being green in medieval times.

I don't care, as long as he's not involved in anything dealing with homosexuality (or being in charge of anybody, including students) or with climate change. Just let him come up with some ideas to control the oil spill and let other people be in charge of figuring out whether they're any good.

His nonsense on climate hardly needs to be dealt with, except for psychological analyses. I'm guessing he's one of those political conservatives who can't deny physics, so he just accepts what he maximally can accept without having to change his policy positions, and skates over the rest.

On homophobia, he says "The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts." The guy must be outraged by bonobos, but I don't see much difference between their design and ours that makes promiscuity and homosexuality okay for them and problematic for us. Generally he seems like a cranky old man who's used to saying whatever he wants to say.

I think he very well may not be qualified to grade and mentor students, many of whom are gay, but he should be able to serve on the spill team.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Warmest Jan-April in NASA GISS temp records, this year

Data here. The Jan-March 2002 was neck and neck with this year, but not with April included. Quite likely to be a record year.

UAH is also warm, with 1998 still running slightly ahead, but temps cooled significantly at the end of 1998. Spencer (at link) blames El Nino for the current warming, without noting that the current El Nino isn't nearly as powerful as the one that drove the 1998 temperatures (see here for a chart showing 1998 with warmest El Nino on record and comparison to this year's). How can we be neck and neck according to his own calculation, when the natural factor is weaker this time?

The 12-month temperature record established a month ago (which is actually more statistically important than a calendar year record) is probably extended out for another month, but someone would have to check.

Per usual, the issue is how this all fits into long-running statistics: one more tiny piece in a mountain of evidence for human caused change.

UPDATE: more on the same topic from Joe Romm.

UPDATE 2: The KrugMan is also picking up the theme. I think the strategy is to keep this up, each month as the records continue, and hopefully it will start penetrating the national consciousness.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another good idea that will go nowhere - term limits for Supreme Court and appellate court judges

I support the idea that Matt Yglesias and others have talked about a lot: a Constitutional amendment that sets term limits for Supreme Court and appellate court judges. Among other things, this would reduce the practice of nominating people for positions five or ten years earlier in their career than they should be nominated, as a mechanism to block future appointments by the opposing party.

More broadly, it can reduce somewhat the politicization of judicial appointments by reducing the stakes. I don't believe the judiciary can be depoliticized as long as judicial philosophical splits have political implications, but we can move back to a less divisive process by making the individuals less important. The forty-year appointments made by Bush and Obama will influence American policy in the middle of the 21st Century. No wonder they're so contentious. It's too much power both for the appointing presidents, and for the judges themselves.

I like the proposal for Supreme Court justices to have 18 year terms, appointed in odd-numbered (non-election) years, which would mean two appointments per presidential terms. To handle surprise vacancies, appointments in even-numbered years could be for 19 years - you wouldn't guarantee two appointments per presidential term, but it would average out close to that. For appellate judges, pick a number - I say 25 years. Guaranteed retirement and no reappointment allowed, to increase judicial independence.

Two other thoughts: first, retired judges and justices can do a lot of good, so this a way to increase the supply. Second, life extension technology becomes a serious issue when we're talking about appointments that can last forty years into the future. Who can insure that by 2050, the capability won't exist to add another 30 years to Chief Justice Roberts' lifespan? Similar nightmares apply to Republicans thinking about Obama appointments.

Limits make total sense to me, but will go nowhere. I dislike the false equivalence often made between the Republican Party leadership and the sane world, but in this case it's not so false - Democrats are only slightly more open to term limits than Republicans, AFAICT.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm supporting Kerry-Lieberman

The good parts seem good. The bad parts (nuking state regulations and EPA regulations) are unfortunate, particularly EPA, but the EPA regs would be subject to litigation and budgetary defunding by a simple majority vote of either house. Take the bird in the hand.

Joe Romm's summary is here. Seems good to me.

Eric de Place has a good summary of the price collar:

A price collar consists of two parts: a price floor (or reserve price) and a price ceiling. In this bill, the price floor will be set at $12 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2013. (The price floor rises at the rate of inflation plus 3 percent annually until 2050.) That means that authorities will not sell any permits for less than $12. This implies that not all of the permits available for sale under the cap will necessarily be used—good news for the climate and clean-energy jobs.

On the other hand, the price ceiling will be set at $25 per ton of carbon-dioxide in 2013. (The price ceiling rises at the rate of inflation plus 5 percent annually until 2050.) That means that authorities will sell as many permits for $25 as anyone wants to buy. This means that permits may be sold in excess of the cap’s limits, which is bad for the atmosphere. Fortunately, any permits sold in excess of the cap in any one auction are not actually in excess of the cap in aggregate. That’s because the bill provides for a “strategic reserve” of carbon permits. This stockpile of permits is assembled with a percentage of permits shaved off the annual cap in each year; and then replenished by unsold permits (in the event that the auction hits the price floor), by international offsets (at a discount of 5 offsets per 4 carbon permits added to the reserve), and then by domestic offsets, in that order.

I'm still getting a handle on offsets, but it appears from the above description that control and access to offsets are tightly restricted. More about offsets here. I'm increasingly accepting offsets as being viable. Enviros need to adjust. I'd also guess that something might go wrong with the offsets and need correcting legislation later. So much for perfection, but we weren't going to get perfection anyway.

As for actually adding something to the discussion, I have two original comments: first, there's no abrogation of EPA authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Water Act, as opposed to the Clean Air Act. Don't tell the bad guys about this, but there's AFAIK ongoing consideration of ocean acidification under the CWA.

Second, I have an idea that would "weaken" the legislation: include a provision that sets a floor for US emissions so they don't fall under Indian or Chinese emissions per capita. That should handle the complaints that we're letting those countries get away with murder. Yes, I'm serious.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Science news, my large skull, prominent eyebrows, and hairy arms

We non-Africans seem to be between 1 and 4 percent Neandertal, sez the news (folks with my physical characteristics might have a bit more). Cliff Notes version at the link, but more interesting commentary by John Hawks especially, and by Razib Khan.

Usual cautions apply about a brand new study possibly being completely wrong.

Razib notes the study somewhat weakens the Out-of-Africa thesis, that a new strain of humanity evolved in Africa 50-100k years ago and swept away every hominid in its path with almost no interbreeding. We now have some interbreeding. What the study doesn't eliminate is that the Out-of-Africa theory could still be mostly correct, and especially that a genetic change could've driven it. My opinion, which doesn't amount to much, is that the multiple, independent emergences of civilization (agriculture and pastoralism) only in the last 12k years doesn't make statistical sense if hominids had all the mental tools to pull it off for hundreds of thousands of years. Some genetic change must have happened recently, and likely drove the Out-of-Africa movement.

Hawks notes that if we continue to insist that Neandertals were separate species from humans, then that makes non-Africans a hybrid group, and not pure human either. I expect we'll see broader classifications, pronto.

Hawks also notes that we can't yet exclude Neandertal genes in Africans, but just that the amount may be smaller.

I expect it will only take idiot racists a few years to reverse the characterization of Neandertals as dummies we mostly outcompeted, and instead claim them as having giving a frisson of superior genetic value exclusively to non-Africans. Gag me.

And speaking of gagging me, there's the whole reaction of people claiming to demonstrate an open mind as to whether African genetic factors makes Africans intellectually equal or less-than-equal to whites. I find it potentially revealing that the two possibilities they're open to are that Africans are intellectually equal to non-Africans, or that they're somewhat less intelligent, but they never discuss the possibility that Africans could be intellectually superior. I expect that if confronted, these open-minded types would protest muchly, "yes, yes I am ready to consider Africans as having potentially superior intellectual genes on average." What their hearts say in the matter is likely different.

Especially relevant is if we're talking about high achievers at one end of distribution curve of talents, then the greater genetic diversity among Africans might actually give them an edge. As I said in an earlier post, the fact that academia is not being dominated by malnourished African villagers suggests that genes take second fiddle to socioeconomic factors.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Garlic ice cream and Sean Casten's anti-cap-and-dividend rant

I experienced both yesterday. They're both pretty confusing, but I'd have to give the preferential nod to the garlic ice cream - the cream really takes the edge off of the garlic. I'm not saying I'd get it again, but it wasn't that bad.

By contrast, here's Casten's post at Grist, and I have no idea how to make sense of it. He appears to believe that the dividend part of cap-and-dividend would somehow allow people to purchase their way above the cap, and that the price penalty given to high carbon sources wouldn't help renewable energy producers. And in the comments, he "clarifies" that the same arguments don't apply to cap-and-trade.

I don't get it. Even more confusingly, he's apparently worked in renewable energy, so he's not some random guy spouting nonsense.

Matt Yglesias critiques him here. As I wrote in the comments, the uncertainty over the extent of reductions applies to a carbon tax, but not to any cap proposal. David Roberts appears in several places to defend Casten, but never tries to explain what Casten is actually saying.

And in case it needs clarifying, I still think the 100% cap-and-dividend proposals are politically unrealistic, that the Waxman-Markey bill is very good, and that I'm waiting to see what's in Kerry-Lieberman.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Weekend climbing in Yosemite

I can't let William have all the climbing fun, although he did beat me by taking climbing pictures with actual climbers in it. Anyway, centered here against the skyline is the big, old-time climb we did last weekend in Yosemite, called Arrowhead Arete. It begins in the shadows above the green band of trees and more or less rises on what looks like near-white rock from this distance, going all the way up to where the white rock disappears into a shady pinnacle. Six rope-length pitches no harder than 5.8, according to one guide book, but what the old-timers thought was only 5.8 and what I consider 5.8 are very different things.

I don't know how the heck they did it in 1956 with hemp ropes and thick hiking boots that wouldn't fit into the thin cracks that ran the route. OTOH, the guys that first did it were incredibly strong and incredibly good, and there we diverge.

My partner is a much better climber and led the hardest parts, but I did lead two 5.6 pitches on the route, including the seventh pitch of 5.6 traversing that our book neglected to mention. It was easy stuff, but on a knife edge ridge less than two feet wide in a few places. We also exceeded expectations by taking longer to hike there and to climb than the book anticipated, which meant descending mostly in the dark, including four rappels in darkness and two of them under a waterfall from a small stream (not as nice as it sounds).

Great climb though! Other climbers I don't know took good pics. Here's one of the knife edge, and another of the downward looking view (including Arrowhead Spire that we didn't climb).

We did some other, easier climbs as well. Nutcracker, which I climbed once before and took my only significant lead fall three years ago. No lead fall this time, although I did have to rest on my protection gear and also had to whine about a few parts that were wet. (Pics by various peoples here.) And another called Doggie Deviations that was very nice.

Nicest of all - no climbing crowds! That's a weird thing for Yosemite.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Even skeptics see the VA Atty General as another McCarthy

(I was going to write about rock-climbing in Yosemite, but I guess that'll have to wait.)

Today a few people who might otherwise get the term denialists have earned the skeptic moniker for a day, for opposing the Virginia Attorney General fishing expedition that seeks virtually all records held by the University of Virginia regarding a former researcher Michael Mann who believes in climate change, while AG Cuccinelli doesn't.

More info at Deltoid, including a list of some skeptics who've done the right thing. I'd add, with reservations, the climate action diversionist Roger Pielke Jr. Reservations stem from the fact that Roger can't resist stabbing Mann in the face a few times during the blog post condemning Cuccinelli and offering his "support" for Mann.

The fishing expedition request is here. Timpanogos has a good link roundup. Regarding his thought that the statute of limitations has been exceeded, I don't think so - the section he quotes only applies to actions by private parties, not the AG. There's this section of the law, though:

§ 8.01-216.12. Civil investigative demands; protected material or information.

A civil investigative demand issued under this article shall not require the production of any documentary material, the submission of any answers to written interrogatories, or the giving of any oral testimony if such material, answers, or testimony would be protected from disclosure under (i) the standards applicable to subpoenas or subpoenas duces tecum issued by a court of this Commonwealth to aid in a grand jury investigation or (ii) the standards applicable to discovery requests under the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, to the extent that the application of such standards to any such demand is appropriate and consistent with the provisions and purposes of this article.

I'm thinking this could provide a reason for UVa to stand up to the AG, if they wanted to, just like they could fight any unreasonable subpoena. The AG isn't going after anyone else though, not Mann directly (Roger missed this part) so only the university has a choice. I think.

Would be useful to have lawyers who practice in these fields to weigh in on this stuff.

UPDATE: Ed Darrell of Timpanogos found a better link showing the statute of lims section does apply to the Attorney General. OTOH, my not-super-informed opinion is that the reference for those "responsible to act" means the Attorney General, not the officials supervising Mann, so either that provision applies, or the end of Mann's work in 2004-2005 comes under the six-year limit.