Saturday, January 25, 2014

Where Has All the Heat Gone?

   For many of us this has been the coldest, snowiest, nastiest winter in recent memory. It begs the too simple question: What happened to global warming?
   The global warming debate started spinning following the El Nino of 1997-98 when winter in many winter places was shockingly warm and wet. The world was getting warmer, the Arctic would melt, oceans would rise and there would be catastrophic environmental changes.
   Since that great El Nino, however, large parts of North America have been cooler. In my part of the world I can’t remember so many mornings when the thermometer occupied the minus 30 Celsius range.
Snow at Shaman's Rock
   Scientific reports show that there has been little overall increase in global warming in the past 15 years. This of course has led to much controversy about whether global warming is over hyped. The January 2014 issue of Nature magazine has a fairly good article of the global warming ‘hiatus.” It explores the theory that the missing heat has much to do with the Pacific Ocean and the likelihood that the warming trend will be back soon.
   More current information on global warming will be available when the global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a new report January 30. This is a report by committee so expect the information to be hidden in a brain-twisting maze of bureaucratic gobbledygook. However, enterprising journalists will sort out what it all means and pass it along to the rest of us.
   Hopefully the report will explain where the missing heat has gone and when we can expect it to return. Any time now would be much welcomed.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Who Are the Savages Now?

      There’s so much human hurt to follow in August: Osage County that some viewers might miss the thread of delicious irony that runs through it. 
   The extended Weston family has gathered at the Oklahoma plains family home to deal with a sad consequence of the patriarch’s (Sam Shepard) alcoholism and the matriarch’s (Meryl Streep) drug addiction. It’s a pathetically dysfunctional family tearing at each other like a snarling pack of plains coyotes.  Past hurts, intrigues, secrets and grudges have created a mean-spirited atmosphere.
Roberts and Streep

   At the edge of the family chaos is a young woman named Johnna (Misty Upham), a Cheyenne who has been hired as a house servant. She says little but sees all as she cooks and cleans up the messes left by the family’s tantrums. Johnna is the calm, grounded, spiritual person among a group that is a psychologically crumbling mess. The only time she jumps out in front is to break up the near rape of the Weston’s fourteen-year-old granddaughter.i
   Osage County, until roughly one hundred years ago, was part of the flat desolation called Indian County. It is part of the territory where thousands of Indians, forced from their traditional homes in other parts of the United States, were moved because white society considered them savages impeding settlement progress.
  This movie leaves you wondering, once again, which society really had its head on straight.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box"

   For those of us who fly tourist class, the days of comfort are but a vapour trail. Airline travel is going through a revolution that dictates less passenger comfort and promises more discomfort to come.
Sardines in a Tin
   News channels have been bursting with horror stories about cancellations and delays brought by this winter’s freakish weather. Those are just sporadic, temporary horrors, however. What’s going on inside commercial airplanes is producing agonies that are becoming the norm.
   The space between airline seats is shrinking and will shrink more. The New York Times reported recently that the space between seats has fallen roughly 10 per cent in the last 20 years from 34 inches (which was not huge), to an average 30 to 32 inches. Budget operation Spirit Airlines has reduced it’s between-seats space to 28 inches.
   Besides reducing seating space some airlines also are putting in thinner seats with less padding, eliminating reclining seats and moving magazine pouches to above the tray tables.
  Airline seat space is getting smaller as many of us get bigger and bigger, an average 20 pounds bigger in the past few decades.
   There is a bright side to all this – lower ticket prices. Travellers have demanded lower fares and cutting seating space is one way airlines can provide that. Tighter seat space equals more seats per plane, equals more revenue on the bottom line.
   Being an airline passenger these days requires the stamina of Roman gladiators and the patience of angels.
   Here's a link to a chart on airline seating: 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Those 'Mysterious' Booms in the Night

   More evidence today of how our society sadly continues to lose touch with nature. The Internet was alive today with questions about ‘mysterious’ booms heard during the last couple of nights. Police departments received calls. News outlets sprang into action, Googling for answers.
Earth Booming at Minus 33C
   There was no mystery for anyone who has spent any time in winter country outside the cities. The booming is water freezing and expanding deep in the soil and rock during extreme cold. The ground cracks, sometimes explosively enough to cause the ground to move.
   The booms most often are heard in the middle of the night because that’s usually when temperatures reach their coldest. The scientific name for the phenomenon is cryoseism. You can learn more about cryoseisms @
   The booms in the night are an alarm clock at Shaman’s Rock. They wake you, reminding you to reload the wood stove to help push back the brutal cold pressing hard against the cottage walls and windows.