In the Good Old Summertime

Summer is in full swing now in the southern hemisphere, which includes Antarctica. You have penguins on the beaches trying to catch some rays, and sea lions just off shore trying to catch some penguins.

Have you heard about the Australian research group aboard the Russian ship MK Akademik Shokalskiy? These are the people who went off to Antarctica trying to demonstrate the effects of global warming by replicating an exploration that was undertaken a century ago. The idea was to assess ice, ocean and ecological conditions at the same locations as the previous party. The expectation was that current ice measurements would be much lower than those taken by Australian Douglas Mawson on his expedition from 1911-1913.

So, did they get the results that they were expecting?

Not quite. They actually were not able to get any readings. You see, as they were in route to Antarctica, they ran into problems. There was a blizzard on Christmas Eve that caused their boat to be iced in. Where they were expecting to go floating merrily along, they were now set firmly in the middle of a skating rink. So, since Christmas Eve, there have been several attempts to rescue the scientists, crew, and tourists that had been trapped.

Wait...what? Did you read that right?

Tourists? On a scientific expedition? Really?

Of course. Don't all scientific expeditions bring tourists along to ensure adequate funding for the project?

In case you didn't notice, that last little bit was in courier font, which is henceforth to be known as the official Sulphur and Cordite sarcasm font.

Does that not tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this expedition? The scientists who dreamed up the excursion could not get adequate funding for it, probably because the legitimacy of the project was questionable, so instead of dropping the idea and looking for other projects, they thought, hey, let's see if we can find a bunch of gullible hippies with too much cash and overcharge them for the trip. Evidently, they found some.

So now, they have enough funding for their expedition, but they also have tourists in tow, and tourists, even gullible hippy tourists, expect at least a modicum of comfort when they shell out big bucks for travel. That meant that, instead of finding an ice breaker, which is the preferred mode of transport for most Antarctic expeditions, they got a cruise ship.

On Christmas eve, three days into summer in the Antarctic, is when they got hit by a blizzard, and they got trapped in the ice. At this point, I honestly don't know whether having an ice breaker would have really been helpful, since it seems the ice they were trapped on was pretty extensive. Ice breakers from three other (and better prepared) expeditions were sent in attempts to break their way to the Akademik Shokalskiy, but the closest any of them were able to get was still 12 miles, (19km) away. Still, they would have been much better off if they had brought the proper equipment in the first place.

Bear in mind the ice breakers that were sent on the rescue efforts were not just standing at the ready to respond in this type of situation like the Coast Guard. These were boats that were on resupply missions to other Antarctic expeditions. Now these other expeditions are being put behind schedule, and some members of those expeditions are being prevented from returning home, as a result of an ill-prepared group that set off on an ill-advised project.

Not disclosed if R. J. Macready was among
the rescue mission helicopter pilots.
Finally today, January 2, all the passengers on board the vessel were retrieved by helicopter. They are on an Australian ice-breaker that will return the to Tasmania, while the crew members will be staying with the ship.

I am a extremely skeptical about global warming being anthropogenic, and I do not really believe it is a concern in the future, near term or long term. I find it hilarious that a an expedition that sets off to gather evidence of global warming gets literally frozen out of its intended purpose.

The members of this expedition have not only become laughingstocks for those who have a reasonable skepticism about the whole anthropogenic climate change theory (justice cannot get any more poetic than a bunch of people trying to prove a warmer climate getting stuck in ice,) but also have raised the ire of other members of the global warming cult, just because they are a shining example that things are not quite as warm as they are trying to convince everybody they are.

Just remember, the only thing settled about science is that we do not know as much as we pretend to, and we only truly understand a fraction of what we know.


When Reality Shows Go Off Script

Happy New Year.

My resolution for 2014 is to write more, and I am starting with this little blog tucked away in a small, cold cavern in a forgotten part of the underworld. I will be posting about current (or current-ish) events, politics and whatever pop culture phenomenon catches my attention. Maybe even some about life for an American in Saudi Arabia, though not much, because, except for a daily commute through the hell that is Riyadh traffic, and a weekly trip to buy groceries, I generally stay on the compound living with all the other American contractors that my company has hired.

So, we will start with the biggest controversy of the past month.

This past week, A&E Network announced that Phil Robertson will be part of the show when they get back to taping Duck Dynasty in the spring. Does this surprise anybody? It shouldn't. I don't think that A&E ever had any intention of shooting any episodes of Duck Dynasty that did not include Phil.

Sure, they announced that Phil Robertson was being "indefinitely suspended" for remarks made while being interviewed by Drew Magary of GQ Magazine. Suffice it to say that certain people were not pleased with how Phil expressed some of his religious views, or his opinion of what constitutes sin. These people are the type of people who like to cause a ruckus when they get displeased, actually, it seems all people are the type of people who like to cause a ruckus when they get displeased, but these people are the type of people to whom the executives at A&E pay attention when they cause a ruckus.

So they announced that Phil Robertson would be "suspended indefinitely" from Duck Dynasty.

The following is speculation, which means I am making an absolute guess with no real evidence that any of this is true. Yep, I am acting like a "climate change" believer. Here is the timeline that I believe the executives at A&E had in mind.

1) They announce Phil's "suspension." Those who called for Phil to be thrown off the show all shout "Yay," and give each other high fives.

2) A&E announces Phil's apology for offending the easily offended by saying the not really offensive things he said. This apology is possibly announced in conjunction with other concessions to the easily offended group.

3) New episodes of Duck Dynasty begin to air in January. Phil is on the show, because these episodes were filmed before his suspension. The A&E executives expect even higher ratings for at least the first episode, because the show is now controversial and has gotten even more attention. Many curious people who had never seen the show tune in to take a gander at the family whose favorite pastime is taking ganders. (Yeah, I know, but they do hunt geese too.)

4) A&E announces that a contrite and humbled Phil Robertson will be part of the show again. Most likely announced with assurances that he has changed is outlook in some way.

5) Duck Dynasty begins filming new episodes of Duck Dynasty. Because of the shooting schedule, Phil's suspension has not actually resulted in him missing any episodes of the show.

6) Profit.

Obviously the execs missed out on their calculations. They did not realize that Phil would stand by his principles Why they thought a man who, when young and dirt poor, turned down the possibility of fame and fortune when given the chance to play professional football, would, now that he is much older, sure of himself and, by the way, extremely well off, dismiss his principles to continue on a television show, is actually a bit naïve of them. They did not think that the rest of the family would tell them that they could take a hike if Phil wasn't included.

They also didn't foresee the firestorm that would come from the number of people that supported Phil, not just because they like the show, but also in general support of the principle that people shouldn't be fired for stating their beliefs. So, now they had a new group of people who were not pleased and were causing a ruckus. More importantly, this group of ruckus causing people actually belonged to the core demographic that watched the show in question. While the previous group had to be appeased out of the general principle that the A&E executives must always be as politically correct as possible in thought, word and deed, this group could actually effect the show's ratings, which could effect the bottom line.

The bottom line trumps PC all the time, especially in Hollywood. (No, this statement cannot explain In the Valley of Elah, Green Zone, or Lions for Lambs.)

To avoid any effect on the bottom line, Phil had to be reinstated way ahead of the timeline, and without prostrating himself to the lords of the "righteously" offended. This is an example that we can still push back against the legions of modern political conformity and come out on top.