Monthly Archives: July 2007

Weather prediction is a guessing game

Today’s column is about global warming. Sitting down to write it made a nice break from all the hard physical chores we’re tackling thanks to the unseasonably cool weather.

Yes, unseasonably cool. As the July 16 Citizen reported, “Ottawa’s summer was supposed to be sticky and dry, and June passed the test with flying colours. But now the hot weather has taken a summer holiday of its own, with clouds and rain seemingly stuck in a holding pattern over the city.” In addition to almost constant rain, the paper added “Vacationers and cottage-goers might disagree, but July temperatures have only been slightly below normal. The average high has been 24 C; the average low, 13.4 C. Both are just two degrees cooler than usual. June was scorching by comparison. Eight days of 30plus temperatures were recorded, topping out at 34.2 on the 26th.”

I’m trying to be level in head and tone here. June was hot, July was cold, the predictions were wrong and as a result we know … not much. Other than that weather, like climate, fluctuates in weird ways because it is complex. A cool summer no more proves the Earth is not heating up or that humans are not causing it than a warm decade in the 1990s proved it is and they are. So I consider it unfair that when temperatures are “just” two degrees above average Al Gore starts holding rock concerts, David Suzuki is all over the billboards and arcane computer models acquire a degree of infallibility at which the Pope can only gaze in envy. But when they’re down by that much, an Environment Canada meteorologist dismisses the variation as “not extreme” and says, what the heck, computer models aren’t that reliable. Continue reading

Not bad for a boring crack slum

Apparently Ottawa is not just drab, it’s also a crack den. I trust I will not be accused of mindless civic boosterism if I say things aren’t that bad in the Ottawa I inhabit, which is mostly pleasant, with excellent stores and ready access to the outdoors. Maybe it’s because I sometimes leave Parliament Hill and City Hall behind.

By that very method I witnessed a singular success story last weekend, the Canadian Open Chess Championship, which followed the equally successful Canadian Youth Chess Championship held here the week before. Though not the largest Canadian Open ever, the 2007 event attracted a record 22 grandmasters including British former World Championship contender Nigel Short, who shared second place with four other players, including Canadian Thomas Krnan, the highest-finishing non-grandmaster. That’s cool. And there’s more. The Citizen’s own Peter Hum helped organize the open. Like a fool, he also decided to play in it then, quite unlike a fool, did so well he was in the elite top-40 game room on the last day. And thanks to a Canadian company’s wireless chess technology (see I could come home for lunch yet follow every twist and turn of Peter’s final game online. He seemed to be winning until, I’m sorry to say, time trouble caused his attempt to infiltrate on the h-file to go horribly wrong.

Now it may not be your habit personally to infiltrate on the h-file and perhaps you wouldn’t enjoy watching someone else attempt it. But isn’t the definition of a diverse, even vibrant city one where all sorts of people enjoy all sorts of different activities without pestering others? Plus the event was highly cosmopolitan, ending with Chinese grandmaster Bu Xiangzhi taking first prize with a top-board victory over a Russian-born Swiss grandmaster from Israel. Drab? Hardly. And the only crack I saw was in a pawn wall. Continue reading

We win peace by winning the war

The British doctors’ plot certainly helps clarify things. I am glad the operation was a failure and the patients did not die for the obvious reasons. But also because it helps me discuss the merits of this botched atrocity.

First, its sheer incompetence. One of our advantages in the war on terror, albeit unearned, is that we are fighting people who have difficulty setting themselves on fire in a car full of propane. The Globe and Mail claimed Saturday that British police were “hunting for at least three other suspects and a mastermind,” but I doubt they’ll find the latter in this affair. Despite the defeatist tone of much western news coverage, our enemies are often as clueless as they are vicious.

Second, that this comically inept villainy was apparently the work of educated people with lucrative, prestigious jobs underlines that our problem here is not poverty, social exclusion or racism but an idea. Specifically, the belief that we should be blown up as promiscuous intoxicated unbelievers. “Death to infidels” is the root cause of Islamist terrorism, as more and more people realize. Continue reading