Climate change and the backyard hockey rink (5×8 – 1/24/13)

Tracking science with hockey, in praise of the curmudgeon, the day in guns, why engineers rock, and when Ricky Rubio isn’t happy.


Want to track climate change? Just keep an eye on the backyard hockey rinks.

Climate scientists at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., have created RinkWatch to draft hockey rink builders. CBCNews says it’s a citizen science-driven project.

Average people building their own rinks or using neighbourhood ones are asked to keep a log about the conditions on their favourite ice surface.

“We can start to track what’s going on with skating conditions across the continent and then by default track what’s going on with winter climate trends,” explains McLeman.

Rink project modelled on birdwatchers’ efforts

McLeman helped conceive the rink-tracking concept with his colleague, Colin Robertson, and Haydn Lawrence, one of his graduate students.

“Everyone understands what’s going on in their backyard,” said McLeman about what drove the idea for the project.

“The winters are different now than they were 20, 40, 60 years ago, and these [rinks] are things that they make a connection with personally.”

McLeman says the project was modelled on the efforts of birdwatchers, who have been conducting backyard bird counts for decades. A forum on allows “rinkwatchers” to swap advice and discuss their ice pads with each other.

At least three Minnesota backyard rinks are included in the project, according to the Rinkwatch website.

More ice: The Crashed Ice course construction in Saint Paul.


People who bray on about curmudgeons, rarely know what they’re talking about. Bill Bunker, apparently one of the town curmudgeons of Superior, WI., provides an example, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

“Bill had a gruff side, but when you got to know him, got past that shell of gruffness, there was a big heart there,” a longtime friend said.

He died last July and left his money to Humane Society.


In Fargo, the police chief isn’t happy about a bill that prevents him from enforcing federal firearms laws.

Lawmakers filed the state bill because, in the words of one-co-sponsosor, they didn’t want Congress “imposing their laws and not paying attention to the Constitution.”

The police chief, Keith Ternes, is frustrated because the politicians didn’t talk to groups — like cops — who might be affected by such legislation. He tells the Fargo Forum it puts law enforcement in a difficult situation: Assist fellow agents with whom the police department has a long history of cooperation or obey state law and sit on their hands, the paper says.

“I struggle with the idea we would be prohibited by law from assisting federal law enforcement authorities in an investigation where someone was engaged in unlawful conduct,” Ternes said.

This is, as usual, a debate in which facts don’t matter. Take the issue of background checks, for example. “Not only do the two sides disagree on the proper regulation of guns, they also disagree on what they are disagreeing over,” says today.

In short, the NRA is making a slippery slope argument: If you allow the existing background check system to be expanded to private gun sales, then you are nearing a point where all gun owners could be registered, and all guns could be confiscated. Indeed some members of the Senate, most notably California’s Dianne Feinstein, have sought to create registration systems for gun owners, though these plans have not been endorsed by Obama. The only problem is that LaPierre didn’t make a slippery slope argument on Tuesday. Instead he said the President, “wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry,” a sentence that has nothing to do with the President’s proposals, but drives at the heart of fears among gun owners.

This sort of deception is common in national politics. Obama won reelection in part by falsely claiming that Mitt Romney wanted to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, even though Romney repeatedly said he supported allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest. But frequency does not make deception any less abhorrent.

In Minnesota, meanwhile, some law enforcement people want better background checks.


A county in Oregon is moving an old bridge instead of tearing it down. How hard is it to move a bridge without it falling apart? It’s easier if you use dishwashing liquid.

Says The Atlantic: “The structure is so ridden with deficiencies that it’s received a federal bridge-safety rating of 2 out of 100. ”

(h/t: Matt Wells)


Ruh roh. Ricky Rubio has gone from the cute “just happy to be here” budding superstar from Spain to the guy upset about playing time. And he’s got a point. Let the he’s-out-of-here-when-his-contract-is-up talk begin!

More Wolves: A familiar voice at Target Center is now head of the state’s auctioneers. (Red Wing Republican Eagle)

Bonus I: What happens to projectors from planetariums when they’re done revealing the universe? They go to a museum.

Cool Hunting Video Presents: The Planetarium Projector Museum from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Bonus II: The mystery of the Southwest Airlines boarding process revealed. (Cranky Flier)

Bonus III: Neat photographs of cold war missile sites and why history matters. (


Managers of the Minnesota State Fair have decided to restrict smoking to designated areas of the fairgrounds beginning this year. Under the rules, it will no longer be permissible to smoke while strolling around the fairgrounds or waiting in lines. Today’s Question: Will a smoking ban enhance your enjoyment of the State Fair?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The new Southern politics.

Second hour: In the wake of school tragedies or bullying stories, one can wonder if children are born good or whether they develop pro-social behaviors such as empathy over time. How early can pro-social behaviors be detected in children, and why does this research matter or what does it mean to us as adults?

Third hour: Pooling our medical data.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Lt. John Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – As John Kerry’s confirmation hearings get underway, do different times call for different kinds of diplomacy?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Sen. John Kerry begins answering questions today as part of his confirmation as the new secretary of state. NPR covers.