Dan Rattiner's Stories

The Sea, Iran and the Cloud

About a week ago, there was an alarming story in the media about the sea level rise in the northeast. Due to a variety of factors, including a change in the strength of the Gulf Stream, the northeast saw an unprecedented rise of nearly 4 inches in sea level between 2009 and 2010. Why they waited until now to tell us this I don’t know, but they said it was an increase never before seen in the northeast. That was all they had to say about it.

I looked into this because it seemed so alarming. Was it continuing? Tell us more? In fact, it turns out to have been just a one year spike, so it is true as the prophet with the beard and the billboard on the street says that the world is coming to an end, but it won’t be quite that soon. The sea level settled down to more moderate levels of increase after 2010. It turns out if you look at the trend, it is pretty much related to the ice beginning to melt in the polar regions 40 years ago. But it’s not 4 inches a year.

NOAA Mean Sea Level Chart, Montauk, NY

I bought my house on Three Mile Harbor Road overlooking the harbor in 1975. Between that date and this, the sea level has risen a startling 7.8 inches. But that is over 40 years. In the next 40, if it rises a similar amount, this sea level will be 15.6 inches above where it was in 1975.

I can absolutely see the 7.8-inch rise right out my living room window. I live on a cove off Three Mile Harbor, and when I bought this house a small wetland peninsula stuck way out, almost to the buoys you see to the left in the picture accompanying this story. It was a good place for clamming.

That peninsula is almost entirely gone now. It hardly sticks out at all as you can see.

In 2005, the Town of East Hampton bought a tiny five-acre treeless sand island in this harbor up near the jetties. There was a house on it. It was called Dayton Island. The Town paid the owners $3.8 million to “save” it back then, an amount many people criticized as way too much for it. Today the house is gone. The island’s just a hump of sand, about 3/4 the size of what it was. I expect it will be gone within the next generation.

One foot, 3.6 inches over 80 years is quite a rise. It will be pretty catastrophic then. Given the rise and fall of the tides, sometimes quite severe, we’ll have to have sea walls of dunes or we’ll have severe flooding. I’ll be okay a while. My house is 17 feet up on the side of a hill. It’s not going to get me until next century.

Getting to the house might not be so easy, however. But that’s another matter. I suppose we’ll use boats.

The US hopes to have a treaty with Iran by June
The US hopes to have a treaty with Iran by June, Photo: Niyazz/iStock/Thinkstock

NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAN

As I am sure you know, the U.S. is in deep discussions with Iran about their nuclear program and our resulting economic sanctions. They signed a protocol in April, which everyone seemed very happy about (except the Israelis, who don’t want us to have anything to do with Iran), and the diplomats are now moving forward to creating an actual treaty, which they hope to sign by the end of June.

These negotiations can fail, of course. But I can assure you that they will not. Trust me. As with many people, I have a house in the Hamptons and an apartment in New York City. My wife and I are five days in the Hamptons, two days in New York.

Our apartment, which we’ve been in for 15 years, is on the Upper East Side on one of the fancier streets, and, as it happens, our 14-story building is right next door to a four-story brownstone that is the residence of the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations. There’s no flags out front indicating this fact, and there is nothing that says “Iran” anywhere. But our doormen years ago informed us who lived there, and there is sometimes a black limousine out front with diplomatic plates in the no parking zone.

Anyway, I often walk our dog by this building when I am in New York. And since April, there has been all sorts of activity on the sidewalk in front of this residence. Police officers have guarded it day and night. On certain days there’s been lines of black SUVs and police cars parked the whole length of the block. Caravans of officials come and go, with police cars with their lights flashing in front and behind. Bodyguards in black suits, sunglasses and earpieces are at the front entrance with hands folded in front of them, eyeballing everybody who goes by, including me and my little dog. On occasion, I have seen snipers out front in full camouflage with machine guns, helmets and bulletproof vests. One night out there, we passed a big box van surrounded by soldiers with a sign on the side that read NYC POLICE, COURTESY, PROFESSIONALISM, RESPECT. BOMB SQUAD.

Another evening, turning the corner to head for home, I heard the unmistakable booming voice of John Kerry, and there he was, standing out front with several men and women. They were talking to one another, obviously not wanting anyone to hear, and so I slowed down to listen, then, looking at a nearby soldier, decided that was a mistake and speeded back up. “I think what they really mean by that…” Kerry was saying, and then I was too far away to hear anymore.

About a week ago, all this activity came to an end. I went out with my little dog at about 11 that night and there was simply nobody around. What I did see, however, was a big pile of garbage bags, the kind that are white and you can sort of see through. I stopped. Late at night twice a week all the buildings have plastic garbage bags out front for pickup. Out here were paper plates, plastic forks and spoons, a big cardboard box that once had a shredder inside, plastic champagne glasses and pizza boxes were set out in front of the building. Maybe I should take something as a souvenir, I thought. No, that would be wrong, and I walked on.

This is a done deal.

The Cloud Computing Internet
Graphic: Olha_Kostiuk/iStock/Thinkstock

THE CLOUD

A friend who doesn’t believe that carbon material sent up by us into the atmosphere is the cause of global warming, this week hypothesized that the real cause was the internet. The globe has been warming since about 1980. That’s when the internet started in earnest. His claim is that global warming is being caused by all the data we save in “the cloud.”

“It’s piling up and piling up,” he said. “You can’t feel it or see it, but it’s there.”

He’s heard that people break out in hives when they get too close to it. It’s like static electricity. But he’s very encouraged by the current bill in Congress that could result in the government not saving every text and every phone call from every person in the United States. A decision is expected next week.

“All the phone companies already have this data,” he said. “There’s no problem. Why duplicate it? If the Homeland Security people tell the phone company there’s this terrorist they need to see everything he says, I’m sure they’ll provide it. “We all have kids.”

He says we have to go back to before 1980.

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