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Where is Global Warming

You’ve all heard somebody say “Where is global warming when we need it?”, during cold weather. This sort of statement indicates that the person does not understand the difference between weather and climate, although probably they are only mocking global warming.

Of course, we will never notice global warming. With it, the climate may only warm by 2C over 100 years. Weather variations of temperature always exceed climate variations because climate is just smoothed weather. The daily weather variation often exceeds 10C. The yearly weather variation usually exceeds 40C, at least in a place like Manitoba.

Weather is the only meteorologic event experienced by humans. It consists of storms and spells, like wet spells or dry spells. Where I live, there are also hot spells or cold spells. Weather is what we remember.

Climate is just the long-term average of weather. It could be calculated over a period of 100 years, for example. The long term is used to eliminate daily and yearly variations of temperature. Humans never experience climate because they do not live long enough. Climate is a measure used by scientists for geological time. In this instance, the period could be even longer, like thousands of years.

Crisis In Health Care

If you read any news recently, you would know that the provinces are begging for money from the federal government, for health care. You would also know that hospitals are in crisis. Hospitals are overloaded with patients and do not have enough staff to handle the demand. Emergency rooms are full, with long waits to receive treatment. Every medical procedure had a long waiting list. Hospitals are bad places to be these days.

In this country, health care is a provincial responsibility. Still, all provinces have reduced their health care spending. Instead, all of them are asking for money from the federal government. Are we looking at a health care crisis that is partially contrived?

My own province of Manitoba has reduced taxes. Cutting taxes is conservative ideology but it is also popular with voters. Of course, with reduced tax revenue, the government must also reduce services. That’s also conservative ideology. Still, it’s important to improve health care. Still, somebody has to pay for it. The federal government may have to raise taxes to do so. Curiously enough, increasing taxes is one of the things that gets criticized by the provinces.

No Political Parties

We just had a municipal election. For that election, we had to select a mayor, a city councilor, and school trustees. No political affiliation was permitted; All candidates had to run as independents. That style of election may seem peculiar, but that was the way it was.

The consequences of that rule were interesting and illuminating. All candidates had to state their policies and their focus, in terms that were easily understood by voters. The candidates were not restricted by the ideology of their political party.

Voters undoubtedly found it more difficult to select a candidate. Any attempt to determine the candidate’s ideology from what they stated led only to doubts. Instead, the voters had to rely on the candidate’s experience and their likely loyalty. Voters may have omitted some contests, because the names of the candidates meant nothing to them. I recall seeing those names in exactly that way, in an earlier election. A little research solved that problem.

On balance, this is a good system. It does place more responsibility on the voters, but this is also a good thing.

Distorting Reality

Have you noticed a news article with one statistic, one that favours the theme of the story? With only one statistic, it’s not possible to judge the importance of the story.

My favourite example is one that appears at this time of year. It’s about the number of birds killed by collisions with buildings. The story comes complete with heart-wrenching pictures of dead birds, and a count of dead birds picked up from the sidewalk below buildings. Conspicuously absent is any comparison with birds killed by other causes. How many birds are there in the world, anyway? Are 1%, 10%, or 100% of birds killed by collisions. I have no idea. You have no idea.

Of course, some people react to the article in spite of the missing information. What should I do? Should I do my own research? That’s necessary, but may be difficult. Should I disregard the story? That’s easier. That’s what I’ll do.

Labour Then and Now

I just read a book about Joe Hill. Who is Joe Hill, you’re probably wondering? He was a labour leader, in the USA, and a song writer. One of his songs includes the famous phrase “pie in the sky”. He was executed by a firing squad in 1915.

I was struck by the different labour situation in the early 1900s. At that time, hordes of unemployed men roamed the country, looking for work. Most jobs required manual labour. Employers had the advantage in this situation. The result was terrible working conditions and low wages.

In stark contrast, the labour situation now is completely different. We have record low unemployment. Both men and women work. Automation is almost everywhere. Most employees are well educated. Now, workers have the advantage. The result is better working conditions and higher wages.

Politics in Canada

When I went to school, I learned from my teacher that this country had two national political parties, Liberal and Conservative. They were seen as alternatives, so that when the party in power became too corrupt or had too many scandals, people voted them out of office, allowing the other party to become the government.

Since then, the political landscape has changed. We now have three parties, each with their unique ideology. Each party develops policies and measures to take, in accord with their ideology. They are no longer alternatives. Instead, we must vote according to their ideology.

We now have the situation of three major national political parties. The Conservatives are conservative or libertarian. The Liberals believe in a mixed economy. The NDP are the socialist party. It’s more like parts of Europe than like the US.

Of course, some people are loyal to the party; they will continue to vote for it regardless of what it has done. Some people still believe in alternatives; they just have more of them now.

Have the political parties really changed? Maybe it’s I who have changed? We’ll see.

Why I Cancelled Netflix

I know that I’m part of a minority. I certainly do not represent the typical Netflix viewer. First of all, I don’t watch TV. Most people do watch TV. Secondly, I hate commercials. Most people tolerate them. Some people even choose to watch commercials. Thirdly, I prefer dramas to comedies. Most people watch only comedies, and enjoy them. Perhaps I represent a minority of Netflix viewers.

Initially, Netflix appealed to me because it did not have commercials, and because it gave me the ability to choose what I wanted to watch. I didn’t have to be tied to a specific time to watch what I wanted. I know that whenever the word Netflix is mentioned, the word binge is not far away. I’ve never done that. I started out watching certain movies, mostly as a way to catch up on dramatic movies that I’d missed. After I’d watched all the movies that appealed to me, I moved on to TV series that I liked. Breaking Bad is an example. For the 1/2 hour episodes, which were reduced to 20 minutes without commercials, I’d watch two at a time.

Eventually, I’d watched everything I wanted. There was nothing left to watch. I found that I was no longer watching Netflix, so I cancelled it. I certainly did not want to watch Netflix the way most people watch TV: life is too short for that.

Doctrine of Discovery

No doubt you have heard about the Pope’s visit to Canada. As part of this event, there were calls to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery. Relevant to this document, I saw this article on the CBC web site.

Note that this article discusses something called a papal bull. A simpler term would be an announcement or a policy statement. Likewise, it uses the term rescind. The word withdrawal or retraction would be more normal. Recall that the church never uses the technique of rescindment. Instead, it uses the principle of supercession, which means replacement. In fact, many of the papal bulls have been replaced.

A good compromise between what people want and what the church provides, would be for the church to publish a list of policy announcements that have been replaced, either in whole or in part. They could accompany it with a list of policy announcements that are still in effect.

The Fundamental Problem

The government of Canada recently announced a ban on single-use plastic products. The ban covered grocery bags, straws, foam take-out containers, cutlery, and can rings. All of these products have been the subject of negative publicity. All of them have non-plastic alternatives.

The fundamental problem is the attempt to recycle low-value products. After all, they were intended to be disposable, and designed for lowest cost. Indeed, one shopping bag is not a problem, but millions of bags are a problem. A ban is a reasonable solution.

These products are not accepted by most city recycling programs, although the policy varies somewhat from city to city.

The products are difficult to recycle, for a variety of reasons. They typically contain only a small amount of plastic. The material may be multi-layer. The product may be contaminated with food, meaning that it must be cleaned as part of the recycling process.

Good Things Happen in Threes

An old saying is: good things happen in threes. Or is it: bad things happen in threes? The exact expression doesn’t matter. A better statement is: random events happen in clusters. The result might be a one-dimensional random distribution, like you get by flipping a coin. Notice the runs of one side. The result might also be a two-dimensional random distribution, like you get by throwing darts at a sheet of paper. Notice the groups of holes. Patterns are normal in random distributions.

So, what does random mean? It’s a mathematical concept, meaning that past events do not affect the next event. In essence, the results are unpredictable. It’s not a natural phenomenon. The cause of each random event is unknown.

There’s the curious example of luminous insects on a cave ceiling: they glow like stars in the sky. Visitors call them random. In fact, the distribution is not random and is highly predictable. The insects space themselves out so as to be as far as possible from their insect neighbors. There are no patterns visible in this sky.

Of course, people do not like unpredictable events. Your mind seeks a cause for everything, even when there is no cause. People even invent a cause, just to have one.