Whatever I'm Thinking

Archive for the month “October, 2011”

Climate Change Common Sense

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media writes a clean and sober review of what he calls another climate change food fight.

“The Berkeley Earth Project [BEST] reported that they were preparing four papers, one of which confirmed that there had been a general rise in global average earth-surface temperature over the last 200 years…The results weren’t really all that dramatic — the general response was ‘well, duh!’  It was the PR that was flawed.”

For some of that “flawed PR”, see the Yahoo! News story “Skeptic finds he now agrees global warming is real.”  As I see so often, a popular media outlet lazily distorts a story in order to reinforce their thought-template on the subject.  The debate is not about whether the Earth is warming; it’s about whether the cause has been human activity.  The Yahoo! article and most of the PR for the BEST studies misses this point.

Martin lists some examples of how the world was once warmer than it is today:

“In 200 CE there were wine grapes being grown in northern England, and about 1000 CE bread grains were being grown successfully in Greenland: is it really warmer than it was then?  Doesn’t look like it — but that makes trouble for the idea that we’re warming unusually.”

So it was a lot warmer back in 200 and 1000 than it is today — and warmth back then could not have been caused by SUVs.  Human-caused global warming seems like a passing hysteria that comes over us from time to time.  Anybody remember the saccharine scare?

This debate illustrates two human tendencies I’ve seen over the course of time:

First:  We emphasize our personal experiences over second-hand knowledge.  People remark that Hurricane Irene was exceptional even though hurricanes have hit New York many times before.  Same thing for the tornado outbreak in Alabama last Spring — we’ve seen similar tornado outbreaks before.  So we insist that today’s warming is an exceptional event because we never personally experienced the climates of the Middle Ages.

Second:  We tend to believe that we are the ultimate cause of events.  It’s an arrogant belief but it’s often true.  At one time there was a great plague and people believed their sinfulness was the cause of it.  Flagellants went from village to village whipping themselves as a form of penance.  When Muslim terrorists flew planes into buildings to knock them down and kill people, many asked “What did we do to make them hate us?”  Even if it casts us as EVIL, we like to believe that we are the ultimate cause of events because it gives us the ultimate hope of control over those same events.  It’s a similar impulse that propels the man-caused global warming belief:  since it is getting warmer it goes without saying that humans are the cause of it, not natural cycles or sunspots, etc.  Just ask Yahoo! News.

Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimarron, Kansas

October 24, 2011

I sat at the soda counter at Clark’s Pharmacy, on the corner of Main Street and US Highway 50 in Cimarron, admiring the antique signs on the wall above me.  One says, “Pop’s greasy spoon — It ain’t healthy but it sure tastes good!”  Surplus antique Coca-Cola signs lay tucked away on a
shelf above the front window.  The ceiling here is made of textured pressed metal; it’s often found adorning 19th century merchant buildings but is considered too fancy and expensive for today’s construction. The soda fountain at Clark’s offers a dozen varieties of milk shakes and malts.  All are too cold to enjoy at 9 am, so I look around for something better suited to the morning.  I’d been walking about town and wanted something to eat, hopefully something homemade.

Clark’s Pharmacy, Cimarron, Kansas

Main Street Cimarron is a bit like a 1950’s movie set.  (My mind started playing “Mr. Sandman” as I looked around.)  The storefronts are in use; people are at work.  The Vogel Accounting agency is open across from Daylight Donuts and next to the Farm Bureau office and the new Wind turbine company.

At the grain elevator down the street the foreman blows the horn as I take a photo of an American flag painted on the side of his office.  This particular rendering includes bolts of lightning coming from a dark turbulent sky, reminiscent of the violent storms that rage through these plains.  Tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe service the grain elevators.  These are working train tracks, not like the abandoned ones I am more used to seeing.

Grain elevators & office in Cimarron

The 1927 county courthouse occupies the lot across the tracks, atop a well-trimmed green lawn and enveloped by giant oak trees.  Old photographs suggest that the trees were planted at the same time the courthouse was built 84 years ago.

Gray County Courthouse. Cimarron, Kansas

Just inside the front entrance, next to an American flag, is an Autumn tree.  (I don’t really know what it’s called because I’d never seen anything like it before so I’m calling it an Autumn tree).  Like an artificial Christmas tree, it’s supported by a central pole surrounded by green spruce fronds and decorated with Fall leaves and Halloween ornaments.  The staff must have put this together.  I hope it becomes a national trend.

Autumn Tree, Gray County Courthouse lobby, Cimarron, Kansas
Gray County in the state of Kansas

Back at Clark’s Pharmacy I saw nothing to eat but candy bars and packaged cupcakes.  I asked the lady why she didn’t sell donuts like the Daylight Donuts a few doors down.  She told me she used to sell fresh, giant cinnamon rolls, baked by a local Mennonite woman, and had done so for twenty years.

“The best most delicious cinnamon rolls you’ve ever tasted!” she boasted.  I could believe it.

But one day, she explained, a state inspector decided to ask about the rolls and found out that they were not baked on-site and thus not baked in a state-inspected kitchen.  That was the end of the cinnamon rolls after twenty years of sales.  No more.  No ifs, ands or buts.  Forbidden.  The lady offered me a packaged pastry instead, its white icing smeared all over the plastic wrapper.  I said no thanks.

So home-cooked Mennonite pastries are banned for public sale.  Who knew?  I sat there, hungry, wondering why the government would choose the nuclear option and actually ban this activity.  Couldn’t they have just decreed some ridiculous warning labels be affixed such as “Danger!  Danger! Food not cooked in state inspected kitchen” instead of leaving me hungry?  Surely, I could decide for myself if risk exceeded reward.

Before leaving I overheard an excited conversation about the chance of rain rising to 70% later in the week.  Fall is winter wheat planting season, and the seeds need moisture to germinate.  Mother Nature is the greatest power out here on the Kansas plains, but the state is jealous to catch up.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.


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