Noah’s Flood – Probably Real, Probably Caused By Climate Change, and Probably NOT Due To Anthropogenic Global Warming

Last month, I noticed several articles mocking Republican Congressman Joe Barton for citing the Biblical “Great Flood” as an example of climate change not caused by man:

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Notice especially some of the comments from “Top Commenters” who mock Congressman Barton:

Oh yeah and to hell with what all those stupid scientists have learned through their years and years of extensive research, those idiots don’t know nothin’. YAY JESUS! -Dave Fox


Thanks for sharing Tim….I feel much dumber now for having read that….LOL.  What a douche! -Patrick Salyard


RUBE. -Lawrence Edward Martin

What many of those commenters (and perhaps even Congressman Barton) don’t know is that the Great Flood story is not unique to the Bible.  The most similar flood story appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, with Utnapishtim taking the same role as Noah.  Encouraged by the ubiquity of the flood myth, geologists William Ryan and Walter Pittman hypothesized that such a flood actually occurred.  They concluded it was due to the bursting of a natural dam in the Bosporus around 5600 B.C. as sea level rose in the Mediterranean (sea levels were rising as global temperatures rose and continental ice sheets melted).   In 1997, they published the book Noah’s Flood, which not only looked at the similarities between the biblical story of Noah and the tale of Utnapishtim, but also looked at information like genetic data, geologic samples and the language diaspora away from the Black Sea to support their theory.

But does the fact that two geologists from Columbia University wrote a book supporting the idea that the flood actually happened mean Congressman Barton is not, in fact, a “douche” and a “rube” when it comes to anthropogenic global warming?  Perhaps William Ryan and Walter Pittman are also douches and rubes.  If that is the case, their douchiness and rubery is quite advanced; this past December, Robert Ballard (the same Robert Ballard who found the Titanic) started looking for evidence of the settlements which should have once existed around the fresh water lake at what is now the deepest part of the Black Sea (if Ryan and Pittman are correct).  His initial survey did not find anything, but he plans on returning this summer.  It would seem, at least for the moment, that science has come down in support of Congressman Barton.  Earth’s climate is capable of changing of its own accord, even catastrophically.  Sometimes those changes are so catastrophic they take on an epic (one might even be tempted to say “biblical”) quality in the retelling.


Safety and Rumors

By now I am used to receiving emails from my son’s school with spelling and grammar errors as well as factually incorrect information, but this one was just downright confounding for its utter lack of substance:

Subject:  Safety and Rumors

Good evening, this is a message from [school name redacted] High Administration.

We are contacting you about a number of rumors that have been circulating among our students about something bad happening on our campus. We can assure that these are all rumors. Our school police have followed up on all leads that have come to us and have found nothing credible. You and your children are safe here at [name redacted] High School and we will continue to follow up on any information that comes to us. We have a vacation just around the corner and we expect to see everyone here tomorrow. Thank you.

After reading it, I was more worried than if I had never gotten an email to begin with.  What rumors?  I hadn’t heard any rumors.  My son hadn’t heard any rumors.  What’s going on?  Then I remembered… Fleetwood Mac is playing in Anaheim tonight.  Given their track record, the school probably just forgot the “u” in Rumours.

Ferris Bueller Is Doctor Who

Versions of the Doctor

My kid “proved” this to me while we were stopped at a traffic light:

Ferris Bueller was portrayed in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Matthew Broderick.

Matthew Broderick voices Simba as an adult in Disney’s The Lion King.

The Lion King is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (with Simba as Hamlet).

Hamlet was portrayed both on stage and on screen by David Tennant.

David Tennant took on the role of the Tenth Doctor in 2005.


Doctor Who Singing Twist and Shout:

An Excess of Irony

About two weeks ago, an act that has been referred to as “excessive celebration” kept Columbus (Texas) High School’s 4 x 100 relay team from qualifying for the state championships.

Since that time, the media has made much of the fact that the disqualifying gesture was an “act of faith” and has used this to tease their stories and color their interviews.  The disqualification was not made because the student displayed his faith, but rather because he made a display at all.  The fact that raising his index finger next to his ear (or perhaps raising his hand over his head; think “we’re number one!”) is considered “excessive” is the issue, not “freedom of religion.”

Here’s the official press release from the governing body of the track meet:

At the Region IV Conference 3A Track & Field regional meet held on Saturday, April 27 at Texas A&M Kingsville, a relay team from Columbus High School was disqualified by local meet officials for an unsporting act at the conclusion of the boys 4 x 100 meter relay. 

The meet official indicated the athlete crossed the finish line and gestured upward with his arm and finger and behaved disrespectfully toward meet officials, in their opinion. In the judgment of the official, this was a violation of NFHS track & field rule 4-6-1.  The regional meet referee concurred with this decision and the student was subsequently disqualified. There is no indication that the decision was made because of any religious expression. This was a judgment call, as are many decisions of meet officials in all activities.

According to NFHS rules, once the meet is concluded, the results become final. Neither the UIL nor NFHS have rules that prohibit religious expression.

The UIL takes situations such as these very seriously, and is continuing to investigate the matter fully.

It makes sense to call out the meet official on his or her seemingly ironic use of the word “excessive.”  What does not make sense is to turn this into an issue of religious freedom.  The only person who knows why he raised his hand and index finger toward the sky is the student who got disqualified, Derrick Hayes, and he has wisely chosen to remain silent on the issue.

WARNING: Your Child May Be Required To Undress You

I’m used to getting emails with spelling errors, grammatical errors, factual errors, and various combinations thereof from my son’s high school.  Despite my low expectations, it was still a bit of a shock when I received the following warning by email yesterday afternoon (emphasis added):

With the warm weather coming our way, please remember that the school dress code will be consistently enforced. If you are wearing an item that is not permitted, students will be required to change the item.

You are probably wondering what items I might possibly wear that would require my son (much to his chagrin, I’m sure) to change me.  Here is the first item from the list of “[i]tems of particular concern that will not be permitted”:

Extremely brief or revealing garments; no tube tops, bare midriffs or exposed cleavage

So “no tube tops” will not be permitted?  Interesting.

Here is another example from the “not permitted” list:

Underwear not covered by outer garments (including bras straps)

I literally did a double take on that one.  I thought maybe “brass straps” were something the kids were wearing these days that I just hadn’t heard about yet.  I mean I just found out about twerking yesterday.

Everyone makes a typo now and then.  I probably made one or two in this blog post.  But I am not getting paid to educate children.  I expect official correspondence being sent from schools to be practically perfect with respect to spelling, grammar and facts.  It only takes a moment to proofread one’s own work, and a moment or two more to have someone else read through it a second time.  It is hypocritical to expect high school students to turn in error-free work with respect to spelling and grammar when schools don’t even hold their own employees to the same standard.

And I don’t care what the policy is, I will not be wearing a tube top.

Bob (Not His/Her Real Name) the Netflix Intern Has the Worst Day Ever

Earlier this week, Bob’s supervisor, let’s call her Joan, brought him a list of streaming movies to promote on the official Netflix Twitter account.  Joan suggested that Bob look for trending phrases and hashtags that might be relevant to the movies on the list.  After reviewing the list, Bob noted that one of them, Iron Sky, might be particularly difficult to promote, especially since it only had a 6.0/10 rating on IMDb and a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  He was “thorough” in his research, however, and “read” (looked at keywords in) every reference he could find about the movie, hoping something relevant would come up.  Here is an excerpt from the Iron Sky entry on Wikipedia:

The film opens in 2018 with an American manned landing mission returning to the Moon. The lander carries two astronauts, one of them a black male model, James Washington, specifically chosen to aid the President of the United States [a parody of Sarah Palin] in her reelection (various “Black to the Moon” word-play posters are seen in the film, extolling the new Moon landing).

When Bob saw that the hashtag #SarahPalinFilms was trending on Twitter, he thought he had found the perfect opportunity.  Unfortunately, he had not taken the time to read all of the tweets in the hashtag game.  If he had, he would have seen that they were overwhelmingly negative (rather than what Bob may have very naively thought – an innocent game about movies with Sarah Palin characters):



 Not all of the comments were negative: 

While still others, like Bob’s, were completely clueless about what was going on:

Did Bob intend to insult Sarah Palin?  Probably not.  Was Bob implying Sarah Palin is a Nazi (as many outraged commenters – who had never seen the film – assumed based on the image Bob included with his tweet)?  Also probably not.

Iron Sky promotional image from Netflix

Should Bob have reviewed the tweets being used in the hashtag game to see how his participation might impact his company?  In hindsight, it seems like a good idea.  Should Bob (and by extension Netflix) be blamed for the fact that a European film used a character resembling Sarah Palin to portray the President of the United States in a movie about Nazis from the moon invading Earth?  I’m going to stick with no on that one.

Budgeting For Murder

For the record, I have never served on a jury.  The one time I was called, I was exempted by 10 U.S.C. § 982 and Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5822.2.  I am always interested, however, in who gets selected to serve on juries, especially as it seems like a disproportionate number of my coworkers (who are primarily civilian employees of the federal government) are chosen.

A few days ago, I learned that a coworker had been selected as a juror for a murder trial.  This person is at the top of the General Schedule Pay Scale, and therefore likely earns around $120,000 per year.  This interested me because, as a supervisor for personnel who work on my program, part of this person’s salary normally comes out of my budget.  My immediate concerns for my program’s budget were allayed, however, since apparently jurors are paid “court leave,” but it still appears that the federal government is picking up a substantial portion of the tab for this particular jury.

Of the twelve primary and three alternate jurors selected, my coworker reported that four (including him) are from our office.  Two are employees of the state of California.  One is a retired military officer.  Three are, in his words, “little old ladies,” self-described retirees, likely receiving Social Security and perhaps additional retirement income.  He did not have any information on the other five jurors.  He reported that during the selection process many small business owners and hourly workers were dismissed because of the impact a long trial would have on their ability to earn a living.  In other words, without the willingness of the federal (and to a lesser extent state) government to pay their employees for court leave, the state of California would not be able to seat juries for trials expected to last more than a few days.

California currently compensates jurors just fifteen dollars per day, and only after the first day:

California pays jurors $15 every day starting on the second day of service, except employees of governmental entities who receive full pay and benefits from their employers while on jury service. All jurors receive at least 34 cents for each mile they travel to court. The mileage payment, only for one-way travel, also starts on the second day. Jurors also have the option to waive the mileage and instead receive transit passes for each day they serve.

In order for California to approximate the meager $30,000 mean per capita income, they would have to compensate jurors $120 per day (eight times the current rate) starting on the first day of jury duty (this assumes a 50-week work year and a 5-day work week:  50 x 5 x $120 = $30,000).  The only way California (and other states) would ever consider doing this is if the federal government were to stop subsidizing juries by paying for court leave.

This problem is neither new nor unique to California.  In 1997, the Seattle Times reported a similar problem:

When a handful of her employees received jury-duty notices, Edie Hilliard was happy to let them serve and collect their full salary at the same time.


Jury duty is a civic responsibility, and every citizen should respond to the call of the court, Hilliard reasoned. Telling her employees to survive on the $10-a-day jury stipend seemed mean-spirited.


But about three years ago, Hilliard said, things started to get out of hand.


Since then, half of the 43 employees at her company, Broadcast Programming, have been summoned, nine of them more than once. In mid-June, one employee was serving on a jury when two others received summons.


Broadcast Programming workers have spent 49 days sitting in the jury box during the past three years.


“It just seems extraordinary that we’ve received so many,” said Hilliard, president of Broadcast Programming, a Seattle-based company that sells programs to radio stations.


Hilliard isn’t the only employer questioning how jurors are selected. Plenty of others protest the number of summonses issued to their workers and wonder if they are being unfairly burdened by the district, municipal and federal courts.

Unfortunately, their proposed “solution” was to mandate that all businesses pay employees for jury duty, which ignores the fact that many people (including domestic workers) are self-employed.

Until states actually start budgeting for jurors as if they were employees, lengthy trials, especially murder trials, will continue to have juries made up primarily of federal and state employees and little old ladies.