Re: Will a return of rising temperatures validate the climate models?

Instability is the first thing that one will notice if presented with climate data, on almost any scale. That is why the flat-line in global surface air temperature that began in 1998 is so unexpected. The debate over climate change is largely partisan, unscientific, acrimonious, and unyielding to moderation. But both sides in this political trench warfare seem to quietly admit that this stability cannot last, and that they’d better be prepared with spin pre-packaged when it comes undone.

From the perspective of alarmists, the longer we go without managing even 0.01 °C of warming, the further off their “drop dead limit” of 2° C gets. So predictably, a comment recently appeared in Nature written by David Victor and Charles Kennel (PDF) urging everyone to just forget about that 2° C thing. Like hurricanes that fail to appear and sea levels that don’t rise, surface air temperature is losing favor as a motivational factor. Climate alarmists are now searching for a “thing” to keep fighting, even if their main thing, which is warming, drops out on them.

In the other camp, climate realists are also taken somewhat aback by the duration of this stability, and readily admit that surface air temperature can’t be predicted in advance and may go in any direction, up or down. The problem for them comes if it starts back up. Does that mean that all of the failed climate models that blundered so badly for the last 20 years will be rehabilitated? Again, to get in ahead of the data, a recent post on the blog Climate etc. throws a preemptive strike at the possibility that the next flip of the global climate coin comes up heads – for Hotter:

The coincidence of the current plateau in global surface temperatures with the continuing rise in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has raised many questions about the climate models and their forecasts of serious anthropogenic global warming.

Or as Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

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Run

Pleistocene horse race. The three coat colors depicted in this video all predate the domestication of the horse around 10,000 years ago.

 

 

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Saving Mallet’s Creek

Public institutions, many of them with specific missions to preserve nature, are the biggest impediment to conservation in suburban America. Together with other governmental agencies with no conservation mandate, they effectively prevent any meaningful remediation unless you are willing to wade through their red tape for dozens of years.

Mallet’s Creek is an urban waterway that originates in a marsh near the Ann Arbor airport, winds its way for a few miles through the southeastern part of the city, and then empties into the Huron River. Concrete walls and riprap dominate much of the stream bank, and the invasive, European strain of Phragmites australis chokes the rest of it. In heavy rainstorms, its flow increases more than one hundred fold as the runoff from many acres of adjacent parking lots and flat roofs suddenly pours in. In the winter, its salinity surpasses that of the Great Salt Lake as concentrated brine seeps into it from heavily salted roadways. This event sterilizes the creek of all living organisms below the waterline.

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Mallet’s Creek before reclamation efforts

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Mallet’s Creek after reclamation efforts

 The stream emerges from a concrete pipe and flows for 87 feet across the campus of Cayman Chemical in Pittsfield Township, exiting into another pipe under Ellsworth Road as it enters into the City of Ann Arbor. When my company bought the property in 1997, the creek was a sludge-filled dead zone of decaying plant material and roadside trash. Its fate was mediated by the conflicting authorities of the Pittsfield Township Zoning Authority, the Washtenaw Country Road Commission, the Washtenaw County Drain Commission, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the City of Ann Arbor, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. In 2001, we began the application process required in order to enter into this “wetland” to remediate its degradation. We started the work three weeks ago, and we finished it yesterday.

MalletsCreekBefore

MalletsCreekBeforeAndAfter2

Our reclamation project was sharply constrained by the unusual ecology of this waterway. We had to plan for flow conditions of essentially zero for several months at a time, increasing to more than two cubic meters per second in three to four annual flooding events. The mid-winter brine catastrophe had to be contained within the smallest possible volume at the bottom of the stream bed and refugia for plants and invertebrates created so that the lifeless bottom could be quickly re-colonized in the spring.

Our vision was to recreate, in this short section of creek, an ecosystem more reflective of the pre-human conditions about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last glaciation. The overall flat and anaerobic bottom profile was re-sculptured into a narrow V-shape. This was lined with a mixture of rocks and boulders taken from local glacial moraines now mined as gravel pits. The sand and gravel was layered over the underlying muck providing a well drained, but relatively nutrient poor substrate for native plants. Some of the larger boulders weighing between five to seven tons were placed by heavy equipment, in a random pattern typical of glacial erratics.

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siltdam

The Black Curtain of Death (BCD) that we erected for a few days to mollify one of the local authorities. See additional post.

To address the winter die off and spring re-population, we created a refuge wetland running to the east along Varsity Drive. A dam of boulders about 18” high creates a lip that prevents the road brine from backing up into this side channel, which is spanned by a pre-stressed monolith concrete bridge to accommodate the sidewalk.

MalletsCreekBeforeAndAfter3

This refuge wetland extends more than 200 yards along the road, where it reaches a deep, permanent fresh water pond. The entire watershed for this pond consists of the lawn and sidewalks of Cayman’s main 1180 research building. That is important, because by instituting a minimal salting policy on our own property, we can insure that this body of water retains a normal pH and conductivity throughout the winter. Each spring, we can flood both the refuge wetland and our newly reclaimed creek with fresh water, arthropods, and all of the normal inhabitants that have not survived the harsh roadside conditions.

Over the course of the next 12 months, we will steadily re-introduce native plants, while we monitor for the inevitable return of Phragmites. A big bottle of Roundup is an essential when the creek in both directions is a monoculture of this invasive reed. Active management is the keyword when working to maintain a diverse ecology in these difficult circumstances.

Conservation boils down to an issue of trust. When we entrust conservation to a single public entity, like the National Park Service, it works in many cases because there is only one executive agent at the table. The Park Service has numerous failings, as I outlined here in my book, but in general they have kept large tracts of public land in a relatively clean and unspoiled condition. When multiple public entities claim jurisdiction of increasingly small tracts of land, as was true in this case, the result is complete paralysis and degeneration of the resource to its worst possible condition. A monoculture of invasives is tolerated as the status quo. Road salting, which has never had and would never pass an environmental impact study, is allowed to kill off entire ecosystems wholesale. Completely failed and ineffective practices (please see “Rant”) continue for years because they give a theatre effect of seeming to do something.

Private citizens and corporations like Cayman should be likewise entrusted to be the single entity empowered to improve their own “sensitive” environmental properties. When only remediation without concurrent development is proposed, all of the red tape and regulations we waded through should simply be waived, and each public body claiming jurisdiction reduced to the equivalent of cc status on an email. They should be copied on the work plans as they progress, but should be rendered powerless to obstruct them until the work is complete. At that time, they can either sign off and approve the remediation as completed, ask to have further improvements made, or file a lawsuit if they feel there has been gross misconduct and unlawful activity.

costbreakdown

What did all this cost? 

I will close with a photo of  Mallett’s Creek where it emerges from our project and courses into Ann Arbor. There’s still a lot left to be done. L3 Communications is the next good steward of the land in line. This photo speaks for itself.

FinalMalletsCreekImage

As Mallet’s Creek Continues…

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Rant: The Black Curtain of Death – Theatre in lieu of Substance

In December of 1999, the US Environmental Protection Agency promulgated a series of regulations addressing storm water discharges (CFR 64 FR 68721 (PDF)). These regulations require that “suitable barriers” be erected around all construction sites and places of disturbed soils with the laudable goal of preventing storm runoff during the construction phase from filling nearby streams with silt and mud. They did not specify if “suitable” meant effective for the stated purpose, or convenient for the PUBEs*

With no guidance as to what “suitable” means, all responsible state and local enforcement agencies went wholesale for Theatre. Unable to  grasp the complexities of low profile, porous sand and gravel berms and dikes that would be unique to every single site, they decided instead to define compliance as the act of surrounding the entire site with a 16” tall black plastic ribbon.  The Black Curtain of Death (BCD) was born. No construction project anywhere in America is allowed to break ground without first spooling hundreds of yards of PVC plastic around itself like a banner to proclaim, “Ain’t no erosion goin’ on here.” Flimsy, awkward, and utterly incapable of retaining even a fraction of the water that could impound behind them in a small rainstorm, the BCD was an overnight sensation for the PUBEs of local environmental enforcement. Easy to see – easy to fine any contractor without one – more time to check up on the activity in your 401K.

There is a rich history of Theatre in lieu of Substance in government, but probably none so special as the Transportation Safety Administration, which has been lampooned by others, as in here…

TSA

TSA staff seem to be selected solely as display mannequins for the fake “policeman” shirts that cost taxpayers $50 million, or $350 each. This emphasis on surface area also makes them dim witted, slow moving human shields with enough BMI to shield any skinny terrorist who might want to use them with a huge margin of safety. But I digress…

The life history of a BCD is simple. They are mauled by heavy equipment around the site and are soon partially buried. They collapse and are overrun with sediment in those small sections where they actually stand in the way of storm runoff. They become an afterthought buried in weeds. Some are eventually pulled back up and hauled to a landfill, but most are simply buried in place, a twisted plastic corpse lying a few inches under the topsoil of the project’s final landscaping.

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A BCD in failure mode at the intersection of Maple and Liberty in Ann Arbor—actually obstructing the sidewalk

Since 1999, the US annual production of this disposable plastic item has gone from essentially zero to more than 800 million pounds. Petroleum products that might otherwise have served a useful purpose like power generation or transportation are converted instead into theatrical black plastic, and then buried. No sediment is retained by them, no pollution is prevented. Instead, the BCD spends a short period of time as a stage prop, maturing into 100% solid, un-recycled waste.

There is, of course, a simple solution to this. The EPA could affect it with a simple addition to the CFR. Congress could do it by dropping a single sentence into an appropriate bill, like the Clean Water Act, or any omnibus piece of legislation that pleases their fancy. It would state, “It shall be unlawful to use plastic, metal, or any artificial or synthetic material of any kind in the construction of temporary sedimentation barriers for the purpose of compliance with CFR 64 FR 68721.” Boom. Now you’re left with sod, straw, gravel, sand, rocks, and sticks. Any 8-year-old could have told you in the first place that those are the best things for making dams.

*PUBE is an acronym for Public Employee, a malingering subpopulation within all those who are compensated indirectly by taxpayers via any of the myriad local, county, state, and federal bureaucracies. Their health and pension benefits are excessive, their income unearned. They neglect their public responsibilities mainly for personal gain, but also to advance the agenda of the political party owning their fealty. Dr. Nicole Lurie is a PUBE. Had she been doing her job as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS which is, “…to lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from adverse health effects of public health emergencies” there would be no Ebola crisis. There would not have been a need to appoint a second, new “Ebola Czar” (see also ‘Theatre in lieu of substance’). But Ms. Lurie was actually spending her time trying to route federal research dollars Ron Perelman, a large Democratic donor, so she was unaware that there was such a disease.

House Panel Holds Hearing on Flu Response

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Elk Reduction

In the winter of 1964, some time after Christmas, an old bull elk stumbled down through the steaming terraces of Mammoth Hot Spring. It was a bitter cold and windless night in the far northwest corner of Wyoming. Snow was smeared in streaks and patches on the frozen ground, except for the hot zones where the geothermal water oozed. In the silence, you could hear the tiny hissing and burping of the boiling water striking the cold January air. The elk passed in and out of ragged wisps of steam. His ribs and shoulder blades pressed out through his scruffy hide. He was starving. Like a ghost, he drifted across the road with the steam, and took up a position behind a dark clump of juniper. His head drooped towards the ground. I know, because I saw him there the next morning. The juniper he picked was about 50 feet from the path that I took with my brother each day to school. Together with a gang of 4 or 5 other kids in brown work boots, blue jeans and quilted down parkas, we climbed up the broken travertine terrace and spotted the elk.

We eyed each other. Time was running short for all of us. The elk was dying. We were late for school. We continued up the mountain with a few fitful backward glances, our destiny well within our own means. The elk swung his head slowly, waiting for his. On our way home from school, we raced down the mountain, feet skidding and arms flailing, to see if the elk was dead. Not yet. He stood still, trembling slightly, staring at us with eyes that seemed to have gone milky with cataracts. We shuffled our feet, disappointed – then continued on down to our houses in their neat set of double rows in the valley below.

elk

In the evening, my Dad reloaded his cartridges. They were shiny yellow brass, long and sensuous like a lipstick, with dark scars where the burning gunpowder left its residues. They stood in line on a small round tray, while the new black powder poured down into each of them in turn, a carefully measured little pile of black sand. Then Dad would press down on a small metal handle, and a bright copper bullet was pressed snugly into the end of the shell. Now instead of standing there with its gaping mouth hanging open, each cartridge was capped with this glittering, lethal, aerodynamic crown. Bullets were cool.

Every morning on my way to school, I could look up and see a helicopter thumping overhead. It was Dad, flying away up the Lamar valley on his way to work. During the course of the day, he would fire most of those reloaded cartridges into the elk that he spotted from the helicopter. That killed them quicker than starvation, which was their other choice. The rangers called this activity elk reduction. There were no wolves in the park then, and few other predators. The coyotes were so stuffed on dead elk that they couldn’t be bothered to attack them while they were still standing. So the elk stood and waited. For the ones who were still far from the roads, where no one would see them, the helicopters might come. Those who drifted in close to the roads and houses, like the one next to our school path, were on their own. The news media of that time were nothing like the snarling hoard that scavenges for sensationalism everywhere today. But the rangers knew better than to create an incident in full view of the road.

It was against the policies of Yellowstone Park and the Department of the Interior to feed animals in the park. So no one brought the starving bull anything to eat. It was not against park policy to shoot the animals, however. That hadn’t been against the rules for a long time. That’s what had happened to the wolves. By the time I lived there, they were all gone. When bears misbehaved, by coming right into the campgrounds and begging for food, that’s what happened to them too. First they would make a big public show of darting the bear with a hypodermic full of succinyl choline. It made the bear get soggy and fall asleep. Then the rangers would hustle the limp body into a pickup, arguable to be taken to a safer place. The tourists loved it. Often, the bear never woke up. If it was one who was coming back into the campgrounds over and over, they made sure it didn’t wake up. It was my Dad’s job to drag the bear carcasses away into the woods where tourists wouldn’t see them. Most of the horses wouldn’t do it. They bucked, shied, looked crazy in the eyes and ran off. Rex the wonder horse, an old palomino gelding who lived at the south entrance to the park, would pull bears. Rex would stand patiently if a small boy approached him, drawn by the salty, sweet smell of his warm yellow hide. My eyes came just to the level of his powerful chest. I would bury my face in his mane, and he would look around calmly, making a small, wet sound with his nose. He was telling me not to worry. I gave Rex his name, which was the same as the one written on my own plastic riding horse. It was mounted on springs to a metal frame, and I would rock back and forth on it for hours, pulling imaginary bears out into the back woods.

The bears were dumped about a half mile behind the barn, near on old pioneer grave. The girl buried there was named Betsy Roebottom. The bears were left not far from Betsy’s simple headstone. I knew where they were, because sometimes Dad let me ride on the back of the saddle, holding on to the taut pull rope as if it was an important job that needed done. The bears were strung out in a ragged line under the dense lodgepole pines. Some were just bones. Ravens stood on top of them and yelled at us.

Without their key predators, the elk population exploded. The park was being stripped of forage. Elk were starving. It hadn’t occurred to the employees of the Park Service back in the 1920’s. They thought of predators as bad park citizens who caused unnecessary pain and suffering. They also thought of themselves as the masters of the Park, who could easily manage this unruly system and make it better. When a wolf attacked and throttled a week-old elk calf, they interpreted that as a bad thing. And it was, if you were the elk calf. It seems odd, looking back, that the rangers seemed to identify personally with a large grazing animal, and not with a small, highly social predator that hunted cooperatively in packs. Because really, that’s exactly what the rangers were themselves. Perhaps they looked on the wolves as competitors trying to invade their territory.

By the time I was living there, the park rangers knew that they weren’t the masters of anything. They couldn’t even get the government to pay for the bullets that they used to kill off the elk. But I think Dad liked to reload his cartridges – he probably would have done it anyway. The rangers also knew by then that the animals that had no guns were better ecosystem managers than the animals who did. It was a joke. All of the rangers understood that in 1964, in Montana, no one was going to get permission to bring back a predator like the wolf. At night, other rangers would come to the house and talk about it while they drank beer and Mom baked them cookies. They sounded bitter and angry and defeated, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just go get some wolves. As I got older, I would begin to know the NPS, the IRS, the DEA, the FDA, FEMA, INS, HSA – all of them. I am often stopped from getting on airplanes for improperly exposing my liquids. Now I see what was stopping the rangers. Forty years would go by before they would finally get enough momentum to do what was right. Many of the ones drinking beer in my father’s house would not live long enough to see it happen.

The next day, the elk had moved. Maybe he went off in the night for a drink of water. We found him out in the open, lying down, still looking at us with those glazed eyes. For one last day, he lay there like a statue. The next morning it was snowing lightly, and coyotes and ravens were milling around him in the frosty morning air. His stomach was torn open, and his head was finally down on the ground. Dark, round, empty sockets stared blankly off into space. Magpies bickered about who got to perch in his antlers. We threw rocks at the coyotes, and then milled around his body ourselves, poking at it with sticks. Satisfied, we raced off to tell our parents.

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Why Obama Should Not be King

Kirk_Obama_Cartoon

Shortly before his policies in the Middle East imploded on themselves, dragging Obama into his latest, twitchy, defensive, mouse-in-a-corner foreign policy debacle, he was trying to focus our attention on climate policy. In keeping with his other recent regal edicts, he ordered the EPA to order the states to order their power companies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% over the next 15 years. To emphasize the obviousness of this move, he snarked that anyone who opposed his policy must think the moon was made of green cheese.

Curious to know what effect this policy might really have on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, I turned to the well known Keeling Curve. (See Figure 1.) Each day, the concentration of carbon dioxide at the summit of Mauna Loa is determined, with an accuracy of 10 parts per billion, and reported to the general public via the NOAA website.

Atmospheric CO2 Concentration vs. US Energy-Related CO2 Emissions

 

 Figure 1

On June 2, the day of Obama’s proclamation, the concentration was 402.15 ppm. Just now, the concentration is 397.76 ppm, or 0.039776%. In the last two months, the value has plummeted as photosynthesis in the northern hemisphere summer dominated the carbon cycle in what can only be described as the planet Earth inhaling. For as long as man has made these measurements, starting in the 1960s, there has been a pulsatile, seasonal rise and fall in the measured concentration of atmospheric CO2. This got me thinking… who is really in charge of atmospheric CO2 anyway? And how much CO2 are we talking about?

The EPA reports the total US energy-related CO2 emissions in the latest full year were 5.290 x 109 kg. If you plot the amount of US energy-related emissions for the last 15 years against the Mauna Loa data, you can see right away that there is no correlation. The r-value is -0.45, which means that as US emissions gradually declined by about 12% since 2007, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere marched steadily upward. There are at least two plausible reasons for this. Unlike the Mauna Loa data, which is a precise number measured by calibrated scientific instruments, the EPA number is, basically, a guess. No one sits atop the chimneys of power plants metering out the emitted gasses, and no one really keeps track of the fuel burned by locomotives pulling mostly coal cars but also some cement cars… you get the point. But if one concedes the point that the EPA estimate is at least in the ballpark, it is plausible that this amount of CO2 simply isn’t significant, in the grand scale of things. So let’s think about that…

In order to find the mass of the entire atmosphere, one must multiply the surface area of the Earth (5.1 x 1014 m2) by the pressure exerted by the atmosphere at the surface (101,325 Pa (or N/m2)) and divided by the force of gravity (9.81 N/kg), giving 5.2 x 1018 kg.

In order to find out how much of that is CO2, you simply multiply that number by the Mauna Loa percentage for the date you have in mind. On June 2, the day Obama declared atmospheric marshal law, there was 2.091 x 1015 kg of CO2 in the air. Eight weeks later, there is 2.068 x 1015 kg, for a net reduction of 2.3 x 1013 kg. Meanwhile, US power plants were emitting 8.1 x 108 kg. That’s five orders of magnitude smaller. Houston, I think we have an answer to the problem.

There is 400,000 times more CO2 in the atmosphere than is generated by the US power industry in one year. Over the last 8 weeks, the net negative flux of the natural carbon cycle was nearly 30,000 times larger than the tiny positive contribution from US power plants. Visually explained, because the US power industry generated CO2, the large black rectangle representing all of the carbon pulled out of the air by natural forces in June and July has this little white hole in it, as illustrated below. Obama is proposing, at some cost, to make that hole 30% smaller in 15 years. I hope that any persons looking to this president for decisive actions (the Yazidis and Ukrainians come to mind) will have a look at this graphic.

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In June and July 2014, the white square represents the US power industry carbon output relative to the magnitude of the natural carbon cycle.

Since global atmospheric CO2 concentration and US energy-related CO2 emissions have had no correlation with each other for 15 years, it can be expected that they will remain without any correlation for the next 15 years as well. Since the annual flux through the carbon cycle is so much larger than US power emissions, stating that reducing US power plant emissions 30% will reduce global warming is like stating that a boy peeing in the Mississippi river will flood New Orleans. Any true scientist can state, with conviction, that there will be no detectable impact of this EPA policy on the amount of CO2 measured in the atmosphere. Any reasonable observer could likewise state that impacts on the economy and power industry, whatever their magnitude (which may be considerable) cannot be justified by any balancing environmental benefit.

Some years ago, Mark Twain noted, “In politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue, and whose opinions about them are not worth a damn.”

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Exterminating the Parasitic CEO

Don’t be like these guys…

It is June and time for that twisted corporate introspective agony called the Annual Employee Performance Review. There is something slightly Maoist in the idea that, once every year, each employee-supervisor pair should turn on each other and start rank ordering their superlatives and deficiencies like some poor couple in marital therapy. It’s been my experience that more harm than good comes of this. Since I also do my own scathing self-review (Organization: Abysmal. It is demotivating to many of those who work around me to see to what degree my own work is in a shambles.), I had a chance to comment on my own compensation.

I make $300,000 per year running a company of about 300 people with global annual revenues of about $40 million. Fortunately, the New York Times recently reviewed CEO compensation in a piece that I picked up on Twitter, allowing me to make some comparisons and develop two simple guidelines for setting appropriate CEO pay.

  1. The CEO should never be paid more than 1% of gross revenue. At an astonishing 47% of gross revenue, the leader of the NYT survey is consuming his parent company feet first and his lips are slurping at his own ass.
  2. The CEO should never be paid more than 10 times the compensation of the lowest paid entry-level college graduate in that company. I don’t care how stuffed your Rolodex, how merrily you multitask, how bluetoothed your smartphone and laptop, how energized you emerge in the office at 5:00 am after leaving a mere 4 hours earlier—you don’t do the work of more than 10 people. No, you don’t.

Virtually all of the corporate CEOs compensating themselves at rates shooting past $100 million each year are doing so not because they have earned it or because they deserve it—they do it because they can. That is the same reason Viktor Yanukovych built himself a mansion containing a white Steinway piano modeled after the one presented to Yoko Ono by John Lennon. That is also why Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein [fill in any excess you find most grotesque].

The role model of the CEO should be that of a statesman, not a tyrant. His personal ambitions should be modest, while his ambitions for his staff and their enterprise should be unlimited. So if you want a raise, masters of the universe, add $5 million to your corporate sales, add $5,000 to the pay of your newest and brightest—and I’m sure you can do the math from there.

Yanukovych_piano

The piano of Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014.

Note added in proof: Application of these CEO rules to my own pay caps compensation at $340,000/yr. However, it was determined that my pay change will be 0.0%. The time being wasted writing and researching irrelevant topics for my personal blog as well as the time spent idly chatting on social media such as Twitter were duly noted. That is, performance issues have delayed the full actualization of my reward potential. Only HR could make it sound so positive.

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