Putting this thing on ice

October 7th, 2011

This blog appeared in June 2007.  At the time it seemed blogging was something that most of the 6 billion-ish inhabitants of the planet would shortly be doing, so I might as well jump in earlier rather than later.

In these 4 1/2 years I have never really figured out why I was keeping at this blogging thing.  I’ve considered focusing on a specific area of interest – such as my Christian faith, or science, or the intersection of faith and science – but have rather chosen to blog about whatever was on my mind on any given day.  That worked for me the first couple of years, but lately I have gradually lost interest.  Or maybe its just laziness, or a general re-ordering of priorities, or the feeling that my face-to-face relationships matter more than my need to let the world know what I think of the latest news or online debate,

Whatever the reason(s), with my blog posts down to one every couple of months, I have decided to put Philgrim’s Blogress on ice.  Maybe it’s permanent.  Maybe someday I’ll feel inspired to resurrect it.  Meanwhile I’ll leave it online for the foreseeable future – just don’t expect fresh content.

Thanks to those of you who have dropped by from time to time over these years to read my musings, especially those who have provided feedback.

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

- Numbers 6:24-26

Team Glen 2011

May 24th, 2011

As we’ve done the last couple of years, some of us are again participating in the local Walk For ALS.  This is a fundraiser to help fight the disease ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, that took my brother Glen in 2004.

The walk is coming right up in only four days.  Any donations would be gladly accepted, and can be made online at either the Team Glen website or at my fundraising website, or if you see me in person I do have an old-fashioned pledge form and will accept cash or cheques made out to “ALS Society of Saskatchewan”.

More information about the 2011 Prince Albert Walk For ALS can be found here.

More about civility

March 30th, 2011

Several months ago I blogged about the first article in a series on civility being published in the Covenant Companion.

With house renovations, a trip to Europe, and the ongoing attempts to find a reasonable work/life balance, I hadn’t made a point of following the entire series.  However I finally dug through my stack of magazines and read all of the articles (some for the first time, some for the second time), and I think that all of them are worth the read.

The series includes:

1. May 2010. Civility and the Road Less Travelled, by Daniel de Roulet.  I previously posted about this article here.

2. June 2010. A Crisis of Civility, by Kurt Peterson.

3. July 2010. A Bad Day at the Office: Dealing with incivility in the workplace, by Sonia C. Solomonson.

4. August 2010. Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood: Practicing Civility in Our Daily Encounters, by Cathy Norman Peterson.

5. September 2010. Seeking Wisdom at the Public Café: Lessons on civility from the blogging community, by Scot McKnight.

6. October 2010. Rules of Engagement: Negotiating civility in the political process, by Carl Hawkinson.

7. November 2010. Rude Reality: Although we complain about the state of mass media, the truth is, incivility sells, by Quentin J. Schultze.

8. December 2010. By our Words: A critical look at the power of our speech, by C. John Weborg.

9. February 2011. With Respect to Nature: How do we apply a civic ethic to creation?, by Justin Topp.

10. March 2011. Holy Manners: Learning to be civil, compassionate, and Christ-honoring in the church, by Richard Lucco.

Unfortunately not all articles in the series seem to available for download on the Companion website.  I’m not sure if they will be posted in the coming months.  If you’re in Prince Albert I could loan you a hardcopy.

Here in Canada another federal election campaign is underway, and it’s all too easy to lose sight of civility, so this seemed like an especially good time to review these articles.

Nathan for Saskatchewanderer

March 21st, 2011

Ten candidates have been short-listed in the Saskatchewanderer competition, and I’m sure that any of them would do a fine job of travelling around our province and promoting it.  However my vote goes to Nathan Thoen, and it’s only partly because we know the family and that he’s the only candidate from Prince Albert.  No, it’s his ability to come up with lines like, “you see this province is a part of me – it literally runs through my blood like the North Saskatchewan River itself, nourishing and sustaining me in every way.”

Voting begins March 23 at the Saskatchewanderer website.  Drop by and give Nathan your vote.

UPDATE: Apparently Nathan has been disqualified because of inappropriate comments that he made in a YouTube video clip.

I realize that I am in the Saskatchewan DST minority but …

March 15th, 2011

A couple of days ago most of North America and Europe, and many countries on other continents, moved their clocks ahead one hour. Not Saskatchewan though.  And we won’t be doing so for the foreseeable future, since there won’t be a referendum on Saskatchewan adopting Daylight Saving Time.  I guess it was a pragmatic decision, since multiple polls showed that about two thirds of Saskatchewan residents are happy with the status quo while only one third – including me – would like to see DST adopted.  I’m all for pragmatism so I’m not going to tear into the current government for breaking its promise to hold a referendum on the issue. After all why waste hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on asking a question when the answer is a foregone conclusion?

However I do admit that I’m disappointed.  Why?  Not so much because I’d rather have sunshine at 10:00 p.m. when I might still be sitting on my back deck than at 4:00 a.m. when I’m trying to sleep.  After all it is a fact that Saskatchewan ought to be in the Mountain Standard Time zone, so being in the Central Standard Time zone essentially puts us on DST year-round.


My concern relates more to how Saskatchewan relates to the rest of North America and Europe.  While changing my clocks twice a year would be a minor annoyance, trying to remember how many hours we are ahead or behind other places that I communicate with is a major annoyance.  This is especially important to businesses with clients outside of the province.

And travel.  Like the trip to Ontario several years ago when I missed a connecting flight in Winnipeg because I overlooked the fact that Manitoba had sprung an hour ahead of Saskatchewan a few days earlier.  I understand that I shouldn’t have assumed that my watch showed the correct local time even though we are both in the same time zone, and I should have looked at one of the clocks in the airport, and I should have listened to the announcements on the PA system, but if Saskatchewan had sprung ahead in unison with Manitoba, I’d have been on that plane. Luckily Air Canada put me on the next flight and my meeting wasn’t until the next morning so it didn’t ruin my trip, but it did make the DST issue personal for me. And no, I can’t let it go.

Some rambling thoughts on creation care

January 13th, 2011

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.

Psalm 24:1 (New Living Translation)

I remember my dad telling me that although he spent most of his waking hours in the bush as a child, he never saw a deer in the Shell Lake area until he was an adult.  That’s because he was born in 1919.  That was before the introduction of game laws based on conservation biology.  The early settlers basically shot any animals they could, and as a consequence wildlife populations were reduced to dangerously low levels.

Fast forward 80-odd years, and every fall I go back out to the Shell Lake area and hunt in the area my dad spent his childhood in.  I typically see several deer in a day of hunting.

So why are there so many more deer in that area now than when Dad was a boy?  There are probably several factors at play, including warmer winters with less snowfall, but I believe the most significant to be the introduction of science-based wildlife management.  Game laws were introduced, setting limits and seasons, and subsequently the populations of most game animals are at much higher levels now than they were 80 years ago.

As in most other jurisdictions in the developed world, Saskatchewan has moved from an era of exploitation to one of conservation and active management of those species considered most desirable by humans.  More recently the trend has been to ecosystem-based management, which takes a more holistic view of the connections between wildlife and their environment, instead of trying to manage individual species in isolation.

Considering those advances in natural resource management, it always amazes me when I encounter people who think that deer are endangered, or that all most of our forests should be preserved in parks without ever seeing axe or saw, instead of being sustainably managed for products that people require.

I guess my thinking on the topic is largely influenced by my Christian faith.  My belief in God as creator (albeit over millions of years rather than a literal 7 days)* of this beautiful earth doesn’t leave room for selfish exploitation.  I suppose that makes me an environmentalist.  I also believe that humans have a special role in God’s creation, and it’s OK to use the rich resources for our needs (and yes, for our wants).  I suppose that makes me pro-development.  A word that ties together those two concepts is stewardship.  I believe that this beautiful world isn’t ours to rape and pillage,  but it is God’s creation, and we ought to be good stewards of it.

* NOTE: Terminology of intelligent design, theistic evolution etc. aside, yes I believe that the God of the Bible is behind it all, and sustains it all.  However I don’t see Genesis as science.

Climate B.S. Award – with a Canadian honourable mention

January 6th, 2011

The Skeptical Science website has announced the 2010 Climate B.S. (Bad Science) Award.  Their four runners-up were:

Fifth Place. Climate B.S. and misrepresentations presented by Fox “News.”
Fourth Place. Misleading or false testimony to Congress and policymakers about climate change.
Third Place. The false claim that a single weather event, such as a huge snowstorm in Washington, D.C., proves there is no global warming.
Second Place. The claim that the “Climategate” emails meant that global warming was a hoax, or was criminal, as Senator Inhofe tried to argue. In fact, it was none of these things (though the British police are still investigating the illegal hacking of a British university’s computer system and the theft of the emails).

And their top choice was

the following set of B.S.: “There has been no warming since 1998” [or 2000, or…], “the earth is cooling,” “global warming is natural,” and “humans are too insignificant to affect the climate.” Such statements are all nonsense and important for the general public to understand properly.

Click here for the full post.

I think the list is well thought out, but with the inclusion of Fox News and Congress, it is obviously U.S.-centred.

Therefore I would like to suggest a Canadian honourable mention: Coverage of Climate Change by the National Post in 2010 was B.S. (Bad Science).

The National Post’s opinion section mounted a full frontal attack on climate science in 2010.  Leading the charge was Lawrence Solomon.  A typical example was his December 30 column “75 climate scientists think humans contribute to global warming”, where he grossly mis-represents an online survey of Earth scientists.  Solomon’s National Post article can be found here and the original survey report can be found here.

The poll showed that as researchers’ expertise increases, so does their agreement with the question, “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”.  Solomon seizes on the fact that the category of “Climatologists who are active publishers on climate change” only resulted in 77 respondents to that question, with 75 (about 97%) answering in the affirmative, to come up with the headline of his article.  Personally I think it is significant that although, according to a 2008 Gallup poll, only slightly over half of the general public would answer the question in the affirmative, 82% of the 3,146 earth scientists who responded to the survey answered in the affirmative, and that the percentage keeps rising as respondents’ knowledge and expertise in the field increases, right up to the highly specialized category that annoys Solomon so much.

However being an online survey, this study did have flaws. And this is where Solomon’s real duplicity is shown.  The study that is actually used more often to back up the claim that 97% of climatologists support the AGW theory was reported in a peer-reviewed article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) titled “Expert credibility in climate change” (Anderegg et al. 2010).  Solomon makes no mention of it in his column.

In addition to more articles by Solomon, other B.S. opinion columns in the National Post were written by Lorne Gunter and Rex Murphy (a writer with whom I have agreed on other science-related subjects such as Canada’s sustainable seal harvest).

The reader comments following each of these stories are heavily dominated by AGW skeptics repeating the same tired arguments (they changed the name from global warming to climate change, it’s cooling, the “Climategate” email hack proves that it’s a conspiracy, etc.).

However, in fairness, I must also point to an excellent article by Jonathan Kay in the National Post, where he argues that global warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause.  So despite the Bad Science they served up in 2010, there may still be hope for that newspaper in 2011.

2010 weather in Saskatchewan and Canada – and some thoughts on global climate

January 1st, 2011

Late in 2010 Environment Canada issued its annual Canada’s Top Ten Weather Stories, and Saskatchewan is featured in two of the stories. Garnering 1/5 of the country’s weather stories is not bad for a province with about 1/35th of the country’s population.

The Saskatchewan stories are:

#3. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies; and

# 6. Saskatchewan’s Summer of Storms.

I live in Saskatchewan, and I can verify that where I live had a cool and wet summer.  In fact I have had discussions with a couple of people this year who used that fact to argue that global warming is a hoax.  So why do I continue to agree with the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) view?  I guess it’s because I recognize the fact that although Saskatchewan is relatively big,  it’s a small fraction of the planet’s surface.  In fact I have no problem believing Environment Canada when they state in the article that, “In 63 years of weather reporting, 2010 was the nation’s warmest ever with milder weather throughout the year. It featured the warmest winter and spring ever, the third warmest summer and the second warmest fall.”

Environment Canada has some really neat graphics if one digs around their website for them.  Like this one showing Winter 2009/2010 (warmest on record):

Winter temperature anomalies - Saskatchewan was the cool spot

And then there’s this graphic of Spring 2010 (warmest on record):

And this graphic of Summer 2010 (3rd warmest on record):

And this graphic showing Autumn 2010 (2nd warmest on record):

All four of those temperature anomaly maps show that although most of Canada, and especially the far north, was much warmer than normal, the southern half of Saskatchewan tended to be slightly below average.  This kind of information helps me to understand the difference between annual temperatures at a provincial vs. national scale.

And of course Canada comprises a relatively small proportion of the globe, so it isn’t safe to infer that just because Environment Canada informs us that our nation had the warmest year on record means that 2010 was the warmest year on record globally.  It will probably take the climatologists awhile to analyze the global data, but I am interested in seeing the results.  Who knows, perhaps the analysis might provide support to the theory that the globe is cooling – it must be, after all New York City had a big snowfall.

Oh right, I have a blog

November 11th, 2010

Not that I’m feeling particularly motivated to get back to semi-regular blogging, but after almost four months, I’m kind of embarrassed at the thought that visitors to philloseth.ca are seeing that same lame blurb about the giant hogweed.  So at the very least, this post will push that one down a bit.

And who knows, I might post again before another four months have passed.

Invasion of the Giant Hogweed (not Cow Parsnip)

July 14th, 2010

Yesterday I came across a news story about an invasive plant called the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).  Then this evening CTV News had a story about the Giant Hogweed.  It sounds like a nasty weed, partly because of its effect on the native ecosystems but also for health reasons, and it is spreading across Canada.

This species has been beneath my radar all these years, but I thought the pictures looked familiar.

Sure enough, it’s in the same genus as Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum).  That’s the species that grew in the bush down the hill from our house near Shell Lake when I was a kid.  Having a hollow stem, it made great pea-shooters.  Or chokecherry shooters.  I remember some chokecherry wars involving my brothers Marv and Dan together with our cousins Dennis, Dave and Ken.  They were brutal, but fun.  I also remember how angry Mom was the day I filled the pocket of my good shirt full of ripe chokecherries and stained it beyond the power of any detergent.

But getting back to the Giant Hogweed … it too has a hollow stem, but the sap is toxic.  I don’t know if its range has expanded to Shell Lake, but obviously using it for chokecherry wars would not be a good idea.

Another thing I discovered in the news article linked above is that the band Genesis had a 1971 song about the Giant Hogweed.

These have been a couple of days of botanical discoveries.