It's not enough to bash in heads, you have to bash in minds

Author Archives: Dan Moutal

The Paris Agreement withdrawal

John Oliver gives a great summary of why Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement makes absolutely no sense

Or as David Roberts puts it:

An agreement cannot be both nonbinding and draconian (Spoiler: Paris is the former)

Early on in the speech, Trump said: “Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

This made me laugh out loud when I first heard it. I still get a kick out of it.

The Paris climate agreement… is voluntary. Participating countries determine their own targets and their own policies. They can, at any time, revise those targets and policies. They can fail to meet the targets, without penalty. When Trump says “nonbinding” … that’s what nonbinding means. There are no legal bonds…

So how, then, if there are no threatened penalties, and the US is free, within the agreement, to implement whatever policies it wants … can the agreement also “impose … draconian financial and economic burdens”?

The answer: It cannot. That sentence makes no f’ing sense, even internally. The chances that the logical dissonance troubled Trump for even a microsecond seems, however, remote.

This is science; it is not something to toy with

It is not something to say I chose not to believe e-mc2; YOU DONT HAVE THAT OPTION!

When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you belive in it and the sooner you understand that the faster we can get on with the political conversation about how to solve the problems that face us.

Every minute one is in denial you are delaying the political solution that should have been established years ago.

The very definition of willful ignorance

Chair of House Science Committee Says the Journal ‘Science’ Is Not Objective

Chairman Lamar Smith dismissed commentary presented during testimony on climate change because it came from the journal Science — one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific publications in existence.

It rare to see such a wilful disregard of reality, it is absolutely devastating to see it from the Chair of the House Science Committee.

As was eloquently said by Richard Feynman, “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.”.

Lamar Smith clearly prefers comfortable but disastrous lies instead of reality.
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I am getting radiated

The hope is that the radiation will stop the growth of my tumour. It wont’t, however, remove it. The success rate is roughly equivalent of the success rate of surgery (90%), and there is a greater chance of not loosing function on the left side of my face and keeping whats left of my hearing in my left ear.

They also wont have to drill out the bone behind my ear and remove the bones of my middle ear.

Instead they will make a mask of my face, take another MRI and CT scan, then I’ll go get radiated 5 times a week for 5 weeks. I likely wont even lose my hair, but they made me shave my beard.

That’s the good news (well except for the bit requiring me to shave).

The bad news is that the radiation has a 1% chance of causing cancer in the next 10-15 years; the type of cancer that doesn’t lend itself to a good outcome. And when a radiation oncologist says that you know it is serious.

But it’s only 1%, so it probably wont happen…

Ya that doesn’t bring me very much comfort either.

Hans Rosling

Hans Rosling, one of the most enlightening science communicators, passed away last week.

It was his first Ted talk that thrust renowned Swedish academic Hans Rosling into the international spotlight in 2006, billed as the man in whose hands data sings. Since then, the statistician more likely to illustrate an idea with a few multi-coloured lego bricks than a PowerPoint has been described as everything from a data guru to a Jedi master of data visualisation.

He died on Tuesday, aged 68, after a year-long illness, surrounded by his family in Uppsala, Sweden.

I think Hans’ best talk was his magic washing machine talk, it perfectly sums up the difficulty (but necessity) of balancing development and environmentalism.

It really is worthwhile to watch the rest of his TED talks.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The greatest story ever told ended today:

Stuart McLean, the host of CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Café and an award-winning humorist, has died at age 68 after a battle with melanoma.

McLean’s trademark blend of storytelling — part nostalgia, part pithy observations about everyday life — and folksy, familiar delivery made him a hit with audiences for more than 20 years.

Stuart McLean’s stories were immediately captivating, comforting, funny, and different from anything else on the radio. His unique voice will be missed.

I Have a Tumour…

I have a tumour; the good news is that the doctors believe it is benign. The bad news is that while it may be non-malignant it definitely isn’t benign (at least not by any reasonable definition of benign).

I have a facial nerve schwannoma. It is a slow-growing, rarely malignant tumour growing around my left facial nerve in and around the middle ear and ear canal. It is already causing the left side of my face to become weak and have restricted movement, on top of that it is causing hearing loss, mild ear pain and non-stop tinnitus.

The treatment options aren’t very good (hence me not liking the term benign).

The most likely option is surgery, but the several doctors have repeatedly told me that the surgery is very tricky and that the tumour is very extensive; things you never want to hear from your doctor. The surgery is likely to leave the left side of my face paralyzed and recovery is not guaranteed. My ear canal will likely have to be closed up which will significantly reduce hearing in my left ear. There is also a moderate risk to my cochlea and vestibular system in my inner ear and a small risk to the nerves that control some of my tongue and throat movement.

Another option is radiation therapy, but that poses many similar risks, and doesn’t actually remove the tumour, it just slows/stops its growth. The negative effects of the radiation wouldn’t show up right away but over time could become very serious. For this reason it is usually not recommended for people my age who expect to be around for several decades. It is also possible that my tumour is too large and extensive to be effectively treated by radiation.

None of these options are particularly encouraging, but leaving the tumour alone would lead to an even worse fate. So something must be done. What? I don’t yet know. I have been meeting with several specialists to get an idea of what the best course of action would be.

Personally I am getting by with equal doses of anxiety, denial, and fear. The next year will be difficult but I will get through it. I am lucky to have a very supportive wife, family, friends, and employer to help me through this difficult time.

Republican ‘elder statesmen’ officially call for a carbon tax

This is exceedingly good news! Yes these elder statesmen Republicans aren’t elected members of the government, and yes it will be difficult to convince elected Republicans of the importance of climate change, but this is what a first step looks like.

In fact once you get past the knee jerk reactions, a revenue-neutral carbon tax is a very small government/free market solution, and could be a responsible way to dismantle the Obama-era climate regulations while at the same time making real progress on climate mitigation. In fact a proper carbon tax is in many ways superior to the regulatory approach taken by the Obama administration (though Republicans at the time ensured that this was the only option available to Obama).
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