Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's that time of year again.

What can I say? I just adore new, unsharpened pencils. (why is this? Is it the romanticism of untapped potential?) I love clean new composition notebooks. I love buying new backpacks and lunch boxes. We now have in our house tons of glue sticks and colored pencils (the twistable kind, which I didn't know existed until they were required this year. Very cool, this twistable colored pencil thing.). Every sense of me feels these collections of school supplies with the same anticipation I felt when my mom went with me to buy all the necessary items for my elementary school days. These sensory memories are forever bored into my psyche.

The beginning of school here is eminent. (as in, this coming Tuesday, 6 days from today). We still have a lot of school shopping to do. I can't find the black and white speckled composition notebooks ANYWHERE (and E needs 7 of them and they must be black and white). E still needs a lunchbox, and Q needs - well - just about everything since we only got his supply list tonight. I've had a weird work week because I needed time to prepare for my first PTA board meeting (as president) and had to speak to all the elementary school teachers today at their luncheon (and convince them that becoming a PTA member was the best thing since sliced bread). OK. Pause for a
When did I (meaning me, myself) become a freakin' PTA president? Seriously. Me? Does anyone who really knows me feel comfortable with this?


Then my son had his open house tonight. At his new school. Which is a Middle School. Which is not an Elementary School. Which makes me hyperventilate.

My daughter has her open house tomorrow. Which thank the universe is still at elementary school, which keeps me sane. And she has the same teacher my son had in 3rd grade, whom he absolutely loved and became a vegetarian for (only briefly - he loved hot dogs more) , and whom my daughter has been CERTAIN she would have when she reached 3rd grade. And as always, she was right.

I bought Q a calculator tonight. (The specific and exact correct brand required by this state). I am beginning to sense the smell of campfires and the burning of leaves burning and pumpkin pie. E has joined Girl Scouts and participates in her first GS activity on Saturday. School is starting, which means a "new year" is starting, which means fall is peeking around the corner at me, which means the seasons continue to turn and turn. And it also means that time continues to march onward. Children whom you put on the bus for Kindergarten just a split second ago are suddenly in the hormonal throes of Middle School. And this is something that makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Smell the change of seasons. Life it good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

images from madison

I'm thinking E fit right into the whole Madison scene. She found her comfort zone, and everyone else was as "out there" as she was. I loved the blue tu-tu and green golf hat combination, personally.

A street act we came across on State Street. We were all impressed. Especially when he did a little flip move to right himself.

While drinking a beer at the Union with B, I looked over to see my daughter had decided to meditate. She sat like that for a good 15 minutes. She told me she was "clearing her mind."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Newsweek article - a must read

Here's the Newsweek article on the story of the Global Warming Deniers machine and who is funding them (take a wild guess).

Also, please take a look at the Skeptical Science link I added. He's got a nice summary of current arguments used by denialists with very clear responses, based on science, that show the total and complete fallacy of these arguments. It's very scary to me how this "machine" of denial has gained such momentum when scientific fact is so very clear in support of the presence of human-induced global warming. It's admitedly not easy to do your own thinking and research, but the fact that people are happy to jump on board whatever ship seems appealing is frightening to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Hello all....I am reporting from chilly, thunderstormy Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, here. (This is an explanation for my latest brief period of not updating my blog. E and I are visiting our friends out here in the midwest and are having a great time. Squeaky cheese curds are AWESOME.)

Because I'm the only one up this morning, I've been doing some web surfing and thinking about global warming and found a few interesting reads I thought I'd share with any of you who are interested. The first is a somewhat recent article by Freeman Dyson essentially pooh-poohing the concern about (not the presence of) global warming. He's a well respected physicist so I was interested to read his thoughts. There seems to be a lot of presumption on his part about what he thinks climate scientists are like, and what climate scientists (as opposed to environmentalists and public figures) are saying about global warming (e.g. "hype" in his words), however. His carbon sequestration in soil solution, while interesting, seems fairly flippant and very very difficult, if not impossible to fully pull off. In any case, I enjoyed reading his thoughts. He's not of the knee-jerk naysayers camp so he is somewhat informed on the issues. I also found a response to his article from a climate scientist that I thought was very well-informed. So if you're bored, take a look at those articles for more of the back-and-forth banter in the world of climate science. The moral of the story is that no matter how intelligent someone is or how well-respected, and no matter how thoughtful an article sounds at first read, nothing beats further thinking and, ultimately, self-evaluation of a problem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

imposter police

I have an announcement to make. Today, the imposter police have been temporarily pushed out of my realm. Temporarily, for sure. But still.

The imposter police (tm) frequently visit many women scientists I know. Actually, they seem to have permanently set up house with many of them. They are a busy lot. I have ceased to be amazed and now only laugh when women colleagues of mine confide in me of the feeling that they are not as accomplished or as smart as people seem to think, and that they live in fear that the day is coming that their incompetence will be revealed for the world to see. We all seem to be living on borrowed time. I thought it was only me for so many years.
As an aside, I do know a few men scientists that have admitted to me that they are familiar with the imposter police. I wonder if they haunt men less frequently, or if men are just more loathe to admit to knowing them.
So yes, the imposter police continue to haunt me weekly, if not daily, for impersonating a scientist. Usually.

But this morning I got word that one of my published papers won the award for outstanding paper from my division this year, and then went on to be awarded 3rd place out of my entire research center. (!!! Which is especially pleasing to me since my field of work - atmospheric sciences - is a small fraction of my primarily aeronautical research center. We don't get many of these awards out of my division).

To make it better, I was actually quite proud of that paper. It was one of those that felt "finished" when it made it out the door. How fun that it won some awards!!

So stay out the door for a while, ye imposter police. I'm sure you'll be back, and in reality, part of me is so used to having you around as part of my life that you've become a little bit comfortable and very expected. In fact, you've become a part of my work persona. But I'm learning to use you as ammunition for pushing myself to do better work now (sometimes) instead of always letting you make me cower in the corner. I don't miss you all that much now, but I won't be surprised or even sad when you return. I've got an award to bash in you in the head with if you get too suffocatingly close now.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Woowheee!! Yee-haw! Have you read? It's all over the blogosphere. The right wing blogosphere is just giddy! Words like "Climate Porn" and "debunked" and "drastic changes to the data" and "rotten, filthy, scientists" (I added that last one) are just flying all over the place.
All this because 'bloggers have totally debunked global warming'!!! It's OK! We can go back to our SUVS and air conditioned houses and continue to buy food from the opposite coast without a shred of guilt anymore. Whatever am I going to do with my cloth shopping bags now?

See, some guy found an error in the surface temperature data compiled by NASA GISS (partly overseen by none other than Dr. James Hansen - he's that scientist that caused an uproar when he outed NASA's public affairs office when they tried to keep him from talking about his global warming research, the cad). Worse, when this horrible error was pointed out to the scientists, they not only agreed the data was in error, but they corrected it and republished it on their public archive. Can you imagine? Oops, I meant to say that they "quietly" revised the data under the cover of darkness, those slimy so-and-so's. But boy did they underestimate that extra astute right wing, conspiracy-revealing, "global warming myth" crowd. Such an intelligent bunch!! Nothing gets past *them*.

For your enjoyment, here are a few snippets of soundbites you might find about this "controversy."
"Does [such an] an agenda excuse such excess of professional scientists?"
:...government agency is actually participating in a fraud against the American people by withholding information crucial to a major policy issue now facing the nation."
"I would welcome letters to GISS urging them to fully disclose their source code."
(bleah. There is not much that is more tiresome than digging through someone else's code. Do these people really know what they are asking for?)
Even better - this whole "cover-up" is being blamed on a "Y2K" bug. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for something to finally come of that switchover. It took a while, but voila!
According to the DailyTech blog, the NASA temperature data used to estimate the advance of global warming has been shown to be way off the mark, due to a Y2K bug in the graphing software—and the corrected charts tell a very different story:
The Y2K coding bug twist that appeared somewhere in the growth of this story is hilarious. It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that the year 2000 was involved in a change in the way of reporting some things. (By the way - in more seriousness, I'm not linking to the original sources of some of these pseudo-quotes because the authors are totally and completely deluded and basically intellectually challenged and misguided and not very scientifically enlightened I'm not about to help them spread their disease of idiocy. If you want to read them, google pulls up plenty of sites.)

Yes. Steve McIntyre found an error when examining trends in temperature data compiled on the GISS website (more on the "error" in a second). He was puzzled by a "jump" in data at several stations at the same year, and wrote an email to GISS scientists working on this, who looked into it, discovered the error, corrected the data, promptly corrected their public archive, and credited McIntyre with a personal email and public acknowledgment. (all this cover-up makes me shudder...ewww). Just look at this cover-up statement put right up on the GISS data site when the error was corrected by these sneaky scientists.
Input data for the analysis, collected by many national meteorological services around the world, is the unadjusted data of the Global Historical Climatology Network (Peterson and Vose, 1997 and 1998) except that the USHCN station records up to 1999 were replaced by a version of USHCN data with further corrections after an adjustment computed by comparing the common 1990-1999 period of the two data sets. (We wish to thank Stephen McIntyre for bringing to our attention that such an adjustment is necessary to prevent creating an artificial jump in year 2000.)
Ya think I'm being a little sarcastic?

Yeah, I'm pissed (again), especially after reading about how we nasty scientists need to be more transparent and publish our code and "scripts." Oh such a secretive bunch we are... other than the scads of publicly available scientific literature that is peer reviewed and published in journals available at many libraries and online, with the universal requirement of "reproducibility" - i.e., every paper I publish is required to contain enough information that the results can be reproduced by other scientists. Maybe these bloggers don't realize that. Or maybe the problem is that a baseline of some intelligence and scientific knowledge is required in order to understand what was done in the analysis. Or that the raw data is available at the GISS website. I could go on, but I digress.

We were talking about this tremendous "error" that has drastically changed the data! and completely debunked global warming! and shows how we Gore-loving liberal scientists have been horribly sloppy and depended on junk science to come up with and perpetrated this myth.
You wanna see? Huh? Huh?

I got this plot from the following blog:
The plot shows global average temperature from 1880 to today, red diamonds are the original GISS data and the open diamonds are corrected with this earth-shattering, global warming debunking, incredible "error" discovered by bloggers. Can you see the difference? Me either.
That's because it is insignificant. It's slightly more significant when you look only at the US data (meaning, you can actually kind of make out any difference at all). This link is to Dr. Hansen's email reply to this supposed controversy, and includes plots for temperature trends before and after the "correction" for the globe and for the US. If you take a look at this link, the little bit of green you see at the end of the US plot shows the "difference". And if you look at the large peaks in annual temperatures for 1934 and 1998, those two "jumps" that look identical with no noticeable change in the uncorrected and corrected data? Those are the two points that the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing blogospere are using to shout (loudly) about how this "error" has drastically changed the conclusions on global warming because the 1934 peak is something like .02 degrees higher than 1998 rather than the other way around now. So from this it's absolutely CLEAR that "global warming" was limited to the dust bowl days of the Great Depression and any warming trend is clearly a hoax now, right? Excuse me while I bang my forehead on the desk a few more times.

This is such a stupid, even-less-than-minor thing that in a saner world would be totally unnoticed because it is SO ESOTERIC AND BORING, but in the naive, brainwashed world of the global warming naysayers, it has been twisted into a completely false, completely misleading pile of propaganda crap that in no way resembles reality.

Good. Lord.

Someone please reassure me that the collective wisdom and intelligence of this country is higher than this. I feel a little dirty after I read the arguments on these blogs. Makes my head hurt to think of the twisted logic that is attempting to pass for reason. Maybe I should stop visiting them, but quite honestly, I really do like to try to keep an open mind and think about arguments that I've not heard before to discover if there is truth in them that I've overlooked. Call ME naive, but I figure I don't know something well until I've looked at it from all sides and from all directions. Somewhere, I have the (perhaps deluded) hope that there are intelligent arguments against global warming. Because in reality, I would really love for that to be true. (and if I published something reasonable to that effect, I would be a superstar). But so far, I've not come across anything that passes muster.

What really upsets me is that I know at least a modicum of these bloggers really are smart. So the fact that they buy into these arguments and perpetrate them means they are either lazy (too lazy to do their research), naive (don't think they need to do research in the first place), or brainwashed (propagandaists). I'm more than happy to listen to dissenting views. That's my job and I do enjoy it. But let's limit it to intelligent arguments, shall we? These ridiculous ones are tiresome.

For an intelligent and reasoned look at this issue by people that know this kind of science, check out what the Real Climate guys say.

Monday, August 06, 2007

in honor of "dumb jen" fame (Mare knows of what I speak)

You know, here I sit, Dr. Jen, Ph.D.; senior level scientist. I can occasionally be very bright in my job. I can also occasionally be quite bright in my life as a mom and PTA president. However, there are times where my lack of common sense is so lacking - no... so ABSENT - that I marvel that I get from day to day without serious injury to myself or my children.

As an example, take the period just after I moved out here to work as a contractor doing chemical modeling, fresh with my Master's degree. I'd been on my own in undergrad and grad school, but this was my first time on my own with a job and fully responsible for my entire wellbeing. In a fit of overzealous wishing to be a happy, healthy single, vital young woman, I embarked on a totally impulsive and completely unthought-out health kick and decided to start taking vitamins. Lots of vitamins. I went to the store and stocked up on what sounded important and good and faithfully began popping pills each morning. No research on what vitamins I might actually NEED. No research on quantities and what was optimal and what was bordering on dangerous. I assumed that vitamins were "good" so more vitamins were better.


After a week of not knowing whether I was horribly ill or pregnant, I finally figured out my throwing up every morning was my body's way of purging the toxic quantities of vitamins I was stupidly taking.

Well look. I was really young then. We all get a bye or two for doing stupid things, right? Again, I was really young.

Which I can't use as an excuse anymore for my latest fitness-crazed debacle.

I previously mentioned that I decided a month ago that I was going to become fit and strong and healthy. I've been eating well and exercising well. I've been doing 30 minutes of cardio a day, plus 30 minutes of weights and calesthenics. I have dreams of wearing a tank top with my biceps showing and the curve of my upper arms a cross between sexy and scary. I'm ready to be awesome. So I've been faithfully working out with my little bitty 3 pound weights. And they weren't doing it any more. I was never even sore after weight training. So I went to the store and upgraded. To ten pound weights. Weights are good, so more weights are even better.


I've been walking around today with my arm bent at a 45 degree angle because to straighten it all the way out requires a combination of biting my tongue, hyperventilating, and cursing. Even with all that, there are those last few degrees before truly "straight" that I doubt I will ever achieve again. 3 sets of 12 reps of bicep curls. 3 sets of 12 reps of hammer curls. 3 sets of 12 reps of tricep kickbacks. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

But slightly amusing, all in all. For all my degrees and pompous wannabe airs, I'm still awfully naive. But I mean well. Doesn't that count for anything?

On the good side of things, I lowered my cholesterol from 230 (two years ago) and 213 (last year) to 173 this year. Woooooo!!!!

Bring on the 25 pounders!!!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

the samaritan is really only a coward

This past Sunday, it was a nice, relaxed afternoon and I was feeling good and happy with myself. I sat down and planned a few meals for the coming week and wrote up a grocery shopping list. I threw some kielbasa, onions, peppers and tomatoes into the crock pot with some spices before setting out for a leisurely shopping trip, knowing I had supper under control. (I even remembered to bring my cloth bags with me so I could feel all green and happy and gloat over what a good world-citizen I am.) Basically, I was in my element. I was in control, on schedule, and organized. I was feeling very pleased about myself. Me, the supermom, superscientist, basically good, model citizen and upstanding person.

When I was finished shopping, I was loading up the back of the van in the parking lot. A young girl walked up to me - she must have been about 20 years old. She spoke halting English and was of eastern European descent. She asked me if I lived in this town, and when I said I did, she told me she needed someone to pick her up from where she was staying at the Howard Johnson's. I told her that I didn't live in that area of town so she backed away, thanking me over and over in her halting English. I finished packing up the van, I kept puzzling through the conversation. "She needs someone to pick her up? She's looking for a carpool?" I finally decided she must have used the wrong words and was looking for a ride back home, not a "pick up". I casually looked for her while I put the grocery cart up. I saw her sitting on the curb crying.

Feeling all of about 2 inches tall, I went up to her and knelt down and asked her if she could call a cab and I offered her some money for one. She immediately shook her head. She was not about to take any money from me. I asked her if she worked at the store (yes) and how she got to work that day. She had walked. For an hour. And through her tears she told me she'd worked two jobs that day and was very tired. I insisted she let me give her a ride home and she finally came with me. She is a student from Romania, here for the summer to experience America and earn some money. A few miles down the road, she starting to cry again and was obviously humiliated and very embarrassed that she not only needed my help but that she was crying in front of me. She suddenly insisted that I drop her off at the Wendy's we were passing because she knew there were "nice people" working there that would help her. I tried to convince her to let me drive her to her hotel, especially since there was an imminent thunderstorm brewing. She wouldn't hear of it. She could barely look at me by this point and jumped out of the van very quickly when I dropped her off. As I drove off, I saw her sit down on the curb in front of Wendy's and put her head down.

I figured she was OK. Wendy's was actually very close to her hotel, and I think she was staying there with a group of other foreign students.

But I am left feeling just horrible. Horrible, because my first instinct was to turn her away. Somewhere along the way, the lessons we learn growing up about being kind and helping others become overshadowed by distrust. We hear about con artists, about scam artists, about kidnappers and robbers and a world full of "bad guys" who are chomping to take advantage of well-meaning folks. My first instinct upon being approached for help is to be wary, almost to the point of totally shutting myself off.

And while some of this is "necessary", many people will argue, including my intellectual self, I hate it.

We (I) have become so afraid to be truly open to our fellow humans that I am afraid I am building myself into an ivory tower. I can give clothes to the Salvation Army, I can donate to a million causes (over the internet, noless!), I can write letters and be a real "do-gooder". While never coming into direct contact with another human being. Isn't there something wrong with that? When did charity become a theoretical event? When did "lending a helping hand" become virtual?

There are so many ways to build bridges between each other and form a real community. Helping out our neighbors, our fellow humans should be a way of life, not something that deserves praise or accolades, in my opinion. It should just .be.

No answers here - just stewing, and feeling more than a little sad about how fear leads us away from community.