Vortex wobble makes our winters colder
Re March 25 letter, “Winter proof that climate change is not settled” by Vito Spinelli: Mr. Spinelli seems to be convinced that because this winter has been especially cold where he lives, climate change is not settled.
If he had been looking at the weather throughout the country over the winter, he would have noticed that the entire west coast has been far above average temperature wise all winter. Locations that normally have incredible amounts of snowfall such as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the Cascades in Oregon and Washington have had basically no snow compared with past years, along with record-high temperatures.
Some ski areas that normally have plenty of snow have not been able to open. In addition, the Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska had to be moved far north of its regular starting location because of lack of snow.
The polar vortex which Mr. Spinelli mentions is a spinning mass of very cold air over the arctic regions. It is present all year, not just in the winter.
In the winter, it used to wobble down slightly into our area in roughly week-long periods. This would give us the occasional warm and cold periods throughout the winter. Over the last couple of years, the wobble has become much deeper, with the vortex dipping way down on one side of the country and going way up on the other side, bringing extremely cold weather on one side of the country (ours) and extremely hot weather on the other. The wobble also appears to be staying in place for weeks instead of days.
This behavior appears to be caused by the smaller temperature difference between the polar regions and our more temperate regions, as discussed in a Scientific American article last December, “The Jet Stream is Getting Weird.” This smaller difference is because the polar regions have been heating far faster than ours.
This warming is a proven fact. The sea ice in the polar regions has been on an accelerating decline, causing even more warming in the summer time in the polar regions. To judge the effects of climate change, you need to look in more than your own backyard.
Three things to do to make life fulfilling
I write this missive on the occasion of my 70th birthday, which is this month. I have spent a good portion of my life contemplating the human condition, as well as my own navel, and I thought that I would send you out my best advice while my brain was still composed of gray matter rather than oatmeal.
So, I’m an old geezer, but I don’t have a bucket list. I think that list of possible adventurous sojourns evinces, a dissatisfaction or, at least, an unease with day-to-day existence. I happen to like and appreciate my mundane life.
I do, however, have a list of things that I have done or accomplished that I believe every 21st century person ought to do or experience. The list has three entries. There may be others, but why these three? Because, if human beings have been around for 250,000 years or a million years (take your pick), it is only the last 100 years or so that these unique experiences have been available to the common man.
First, go hear a great symphony orchestra play a great symphony. It is the organization of music on a vast scale. Only the live performance lets you see the act of creation, understand the composer’s artistic and organizational accomplishment, and appreciate the combined sound of maybe 100 individual musicians. It may be plebeian, but I recommend Beethoven — he is still without peer.
Second, fly across the country. Fight for a window seat, from which you can experience one of the great technical accomplishments of mankind, a modern commercial jetliner and from which you can view this beautiful world from 35,000 feet. So few humans have ever been able to see the world this way. Why waste the opportunity staring at a computer screen?
Last and most importantly, figure out your place in the universe. The information to do this has only been around for the last 100 years or so. Do not take any advice from anyone who thought the Earth was flat. Once you do this and understand where you fit in, once you get used to it, you won’t be depressed, as you might have thought you would be.
Your outlook will change, your values will change, and, when you get to be a geezer like me, you won’t need a bucket list either.
One test inadequate as measurement tool
As a middle school social studies teacher, I strongly oppose Gov. Cuomo’s plan to have 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation tied to state test scores.
Would it make sense for me to have 50 percent of a student’s grade in my class based on a score on a final exam? Of course not.
I applaud efforts to measure student progress. Such data is valuable to teachers as they modify lessons and units of instruction. Evaluators must be cautious, however. They are trying to quantify something that is, by its nature, impossible to measure. There is no way anyone can determine what a student has learned from one particular teacher.
This becomes more complicated as students enter middle school and often see several different teachers each day. All teachers have a role in a student’s progress. If a student performs poorly on an English Language Arts (ELA) test, I feel just as responsible in my role as a social studies teacher. Reading and writing are integrated into my curriculum. Likewise, when a student does well, I feel justified in celebrating that success. All teachers work as a team.
Will a state test measure all the skills that we are working to develop in our students? In social studies, we focus on a number of skills: understanding course content, gathering and organizing information, analysis of evidence and communication of knowledge. To effectively evaluate my students, I use a variety of assessments. One test would not adequately measure all of these skills. Can student performance on one test realistically measure a teacher’s effectiveness?
What makes a good teacher? Knowing the content and sharing information well is part of it. However, just as important are the qualities of patience, flexibility, empathy, integrity and encouragement. How will test results measure such attributes of teachers?
The governor’s proposal is misguided. To think that student results on one test can measure the value of a teacher is unrealistic.
Raymond A. LeBel
The writer is a teacher for the Van Antwerp Middle School.
Obama performs like a terrible poker player
The political machinations of the Obama regime bear a striking resemblance to the style of a would-be poker player who frequently bets heavily on poor hands.
At his home table (the United States), the player plays with a marked deck. Knowing what cards his opponents hold, he wins a lot, until the smart players quit playing with him.
On the international scene, however, the tables are reversed. There, his opponents supply the marked cards, so that now they know what he is holding. But the player still insists on betting heavily on poor hands.
He (and his country) will be invited to play at their table time and time again.
MMA too violent to legalize in New York
May I rally those reading this to realize that which happens inside the ring of mixed martial arts (MMA). The word “arts” shouldn’t even be associated with this spectacle. I am not opposed to competition in sports, being a high school and collegiate wrestler as well as a referee in the Capital District for a number of years.
To watch two competitors go mano a mano (hand to hand) with one another in skill and technique is one of the oldest and truest sports still existing. But to train for months, if not years, on how to beat and/or hammer your opponent, if need be, into an unconscious state is no sport, but a senseless act.
The disagreement also comes at the moment an opponent has rendered his adversary unconscious that, before the referee can step in, they throw as many haymakers at the victim as possible to show their macho-ness, dominance, manliness, or womanliness as the case is now with women involved. It would be assault to beat the helpless outside that steel cage. The momentum of the chaos inside the ring is often uncontrollable by the opponents.
I would urge readers who agree to visit your state Assembly representatives and give your view on the situation. I spoke to one whose only comment was, “What about the money?” to which my retort was “With the money comes the blood.”
Get out the first-aid kits New York. You’re going to need them for the body — and the soul.
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