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

Author Archives: Dan Moutal

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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Things not to do on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.

In an executive order that he said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” Mr. Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.

1 week down, 207 to go.

This is what the politicization of science looks like

For a while now, those who deny climate change (like the majority of elected Republican officials) have complained that climate science has been politicized and therefore cannot be trusted. The evidence for this has always fallen apart under the most superficial of scrutiny.

Yet less than a week into the Trump presidency we have a textbook example what the polarization of science actually looks like:

Trump administration: EPA studies, data must undergo political review before release

Review extended to content on agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence of climate change and that manmade carbon emissions are to blame

The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public.

The communications director for Donald Trump’s transition team at the EPA, Doug Ericksen, said on Wednesday the review also extends to content on the federal agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s climate is warming and manmade carbon emissions are to blame.

Former EPA staffers said on Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.

It doesn’t get any clearer than this. Data and scientific studies need to be approved by a political appointee before it can be released to the public. This is a textbook definition of political manipulation of science.

You cannot win a fight against reality.

The pipeline opponents have to keep on winning forever, while those trying to build them only have to win once

The opponents of the Keystone XL and other pipelines have to keep on winning, forever, while those trying to build pipelines, or similar projects, only have to win once

I said those words 4 years ago, and sadly it looks like I was right:

President Trump signed an executive action today to push forward the Dakota Access pipeline as well as the Keystone XL pipeline.

I wish being right felt better.

Fidel Castro

fidel_castro

Fidel Castro was the best Dictator the Cubans ever had, But Cubans deserve better than a dictatorship.

It’s never game over

carbon-countdown

This isn’t a 2ºC or bust fight. It’s a fight to limit consequences. It’s a fight for every 1/10 of a degree. If we fail to hold to 2ºC, we have to fight for 2.1º; failing that, we battle on for 2.2º. With millennia of impacts at stake, we never get to give up, even if we end up in 4ºC. For future generations, 4º is still better than 4.1º.

“Game over” is neither realistic nor responsible. Even the most catastrophic outcomes humanity aren’t the apocalypse — the end of the future itself — they’re just appalling failure and tragedy. We have a duty to people who will live after those failures.

The world won’t end, even if we lose completely. Life will go on, but people will suffer profoundly, human possibilities will be dwarfed, lives impoverished, beauty undone, achievements lost — for millennia, and sometimes forever. –Alex Steffen

Death of a Ladies’ Man

RIP Leonard Cohen

Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

Words that feel especially poignant right now.

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