Sources of Knowledge

How do we know what the weather was like “back then?” We don’t.

We can get some good ideas about climate, however, so long as we acknowledge that our data and ideas may be flawed and subject to change as we learn more. The sources we use to track long term weather patterns (aka climate) fall into two very broad categories, and there is some overlap. Those categories are direct data, and proxy data.

Direct data are what we can and have measured using modern instrumentation (for the then-present definition of modern). Numeric temperature, barometric pressure, snowfall and rainfall totals, sunspot counts, those are direct data. Continue reading


Winter Sunrises

The combination of sheets of high clouds from storm systems that miss the Panhandle, plus the southerly track of the sun, have combined to give us amazing sunrises this past week. They incline towards crimson and gold, with splashes of pink in the opposite sky.

The storm tracks have been south of this area, or north. As a result, the moisture and lower clouds remained far away. However, the ice clouds that trail along the sides of the storm track have been a near-constant presence, some days thickening until they form a sheer, milky cover that mutes the afternoon sun and swallows any sunset. Continue reading

Hottest day Ever!!!! (No, Not Really)

The wildfire season in Australia has been especially bad, in part thanks to arsonists and idiots (but I repeat myself.) The US and other media have been screaming that it is due to anthropogenic climate change, and that everyone’s going to diiiiiieeeeeeeee!!! It is the hottest day/year ever in Australia, and this proves that only reverting to a Third-World standard of living and covering hectares of Australia with solar panels will save the koalas and wombats. And some people too, maybe.

History called. They want their panic back.

The climate scientist Jo Nova wrote an excellent article about the actual hottest day ever recorded in Australian history. It wasn’t even in the 20th century. Continue reading

G. K. Chesterton and Orson Welles

A re-post from 2017. I’ll be back on the Feast of Stephen.

On a December 1941 Christmas broadcast of his popular radio program, Orson Welles presented part of the Gospel of Luke, the short story “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde, a few other Christmas things, and closed with a most unusual Christmas poem.

It was by G. K. Chesterton, and Welles’s reading came as the US was still reeling mentally from Pearl Harbor.

Fast-forward to 23:00. The text is below.

The Truce of Christmas

Passionate peace is in the sky—
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly—
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men;
For we are for all men under the sun;
And they are against us every one;
And misers haggle and madmen clutch,
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world.)

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed upon the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good—
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone.)

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings;
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all;
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky.)

Persian/Russian Walnut Chicken

The basis of this recipe comes from the wonderful cookbook Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman. It includes recipes and stories from the Baltic coast as far east as Central Asia. It also has stories about the Russian Empire, and Soviet Russia.

The original recipe is for wild game, duck or quail. I make it with either chicken (dark meat is better) or turkey (dark meat is better). As a result, I’ve made a few modifications to the original dish, mostly reducing some quantities and skipping one of the cooking steps (roasting it in the oven to crisp the skin of the birds). It works very well, and looks and tastes fancier than it seems. Continue reading

A Very Great Thing Happened Here

The Feast of Lights begins at sundown tonight. A rather humorous modern take on the miracle of Hanukkah says, “OK, your phone is down to ten percent and it lasts eight days, until you can find a plug. That’s Hanukkah.”

[Waits for sighing and head-shakes to finish.]

In a way, Hanukkah goes back to Alexander the Great, and the generals who divided his empire after his death. The Greeks recognized that the Children of Israel had an ancient religion (as the Romans would also do, later.) However, they didn’t appreciate certain Jews insisting that their way was the only way and the that Greek administrators could just stay out of the way. Continue reading

Solstice Day and Night

The shortest day of the year, in the Northern Hemisphere, has come. It will not be the coldest. There’s truth in the saying “The days begin to lengthen and the cold begins to strengthen.” But it is the day with the least sunlight. And most of that sunlight comes at a pronounced angle, weakening the effects. We’re in the week when I can go out without sunscreen for almost 45 minutes at mid-day before starting to burn.

It was also a day to be feared, especially in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Sunrise comes late, sunset arrives early. There’s little time to work if you lack artificial light. And more time for trouble, for things that stalk the night, to do their work. Would the sun return? Or would this be the Fimbulwinter, or some other beginning of the end? Continue reading

Cajun Christmas Humor

No, not a copy of Gaston the Green-nosed Alligator or The Cajun Night Before Christmas. This is worse. 🙂

You can blame sib-in-law’s brother for this one. Anyone who works as a pirate for a living is going to be a little off kilter. (Yes, he captains a pirate ship. For tourists. He’s having the most fun he’s had since he left the Navy.)