Archive for December, 2009


Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I stumbled across a website called Jesus Rock Legends, and browsing through the entries, came across the entry for The Talbot Brothers “Reborn” album.  I have ethical problems with downloading copyrighted music for free, but apparently it isn’t available on CD, and I do have it on an old LP that I haven’t listened to in years, so I went ahead and downloaded the zipped MP3s from the link above, and am enjoying my blast from the past.

The Talbot brothers had previously been with the band Mason Proffit, which is said to have influenced country rock bands of the 1970s including the Eagles.   Both John Michael Talbot and Terry Talbot put out what I consider some decent solo albums, but I still prefer this album.

The song Easy to Slip is on YouTube (only visual is the album cover).

Scientists and statisticians and their tricks

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

In the weeks since the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK was hacked into, a lot of pundits  have been declaring the stolen emails to be the final nail in the coffin of climate change science.

One of the most damning emails was sent in November 1999 by Dr. Phil Jones, where he discusses using a “trick”,

“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

As shocking as that revelation is, Oxford University Press actually published a textbook in 2002 with the title, “Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks” (click on image at left for more information or to order).

There must be a word ending in -gate to describe this statistical skulduggery.

It’s cold outside – must be global cooling

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

With the bone-chilling cold snap that we’ve been having here in the Canadian Prairies for most of December, it is obvious that the earth is cooling.  Here is a graph that I produced using NASA data, that provides all the proof needed:


But on second thought, I’m remembering that November was an unusually warm month.  So the earth was obviously warming back then.

But on third thought, maybe both of the above statements are confusing weather with climate, if we accept the following definition:

Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the “average weather,” or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. The classical period is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization. These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.

If climate requires averaging over decades, perhaps graphing four years isn’t enough.  I’ve decided to add on another 124 years:

Global temperatures 1880 to 2008.

Maybe I’ll stop worrying about that global cooling trend.

I may be able to see a prairie chicken after all

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

A former classmate from the year I spent in Minnesota (at a small Lutheran bible college) has pointed out in response to my last blog post that if I want to see a greater prairie chicken, all I need to do is drive the Interstate 94 past the outskirts of Rothsay, Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.

One more reason to make a long-overdue trip back to Minnesota.

The prairie chicken is gone

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

The Greater Prairie-Chicken, a bird that once numbered in the millions on the grasslands, is now considered wiped out in Canada, scientists from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada reported Monday.

The medium-sized grouse, Tympanuchus cupido, has not been seen in Canada in more than 20 years, according to the latest update on the species.

It is on a worrisome list of 23 wildlife species in Canada that are considered extirpated, or no longer found in the wild. It does have populations in the United States and some states, including Missouri, have initiated conservation programs to bolster its numbers.

During the committee’s recent meetings in Ottawa, it was determined that the bird has not been seen in Canada since 1987. In 1900, by contrast, it was estimated that there were at least a million prairie-chickens breeding in Canada.

(full news story here)

Browsing through some on the public comments on this news story, I was struck by a number of things:

  • Firstly, the number of people stating that the article is wrong – that there are a lot of prairie chickens still around.  This is an unfortunate result of the fact that the term “prairie chicken” is commonly used in the prairie provinces to refer to another species, the sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus).
  • Secondly, several commenters state that hunting is to blame for the prairie chicken’s extirpation.  However according to the federal “species at risk registry, the real reason is habitat loss.  Very little natural grassland remains in Canada.
  • Thirdly, the range of views on whether it even matters.  Some people feel that the loss makes no difference – it’s just a bird that was too stupid to adapt.

For the record, I think it does matter that the prairie chicken is extirpated from Canada.  I have never seen a prairie chicken, but I would love to see one some day.  Life goes on, but I believe that we are poorer  without the prairie chicken, whether we realize it or not.