Dear Christians: Please get a freakin’ grip!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:18 pm

I still, in many ways, count myself as Christian, or maybe post-Christian (that’s another post for another day). But increasingly I find myself utterly revolted by the beliefs and actions of Christians.

I know, I know, ‘don’t judge God by the church, people are just people’, all that jazz. But, again, the claim is that the church makes people better.

The most recent catalyst is Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s statement that she is not a believer. For the full horror, read the whole hundred-and-something comments after this story: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/julia-gillard-wont-bow-to-christian-vote/story-e6freon6-1225885797143

She gets called a Communist, and the most frequent comments are about how someone who ‘believes in nothing’ can lead the country, and that such a person would be driven only by self-interest.

This one might be a smidge more insane than most, but not by much:

Gillard won’t bow to the Christian vote, Gillard and Labor hasn’t abided, adhered and complied to and with the wishes, Laws, Act and Constitution of the Australian people, Queen Victoria and Almighty God. If Gillard doesn’t believe in God, then she is a infedel by Muslim and Islamic beliefs, a evil sinner by judism, Hebrew and Christian beliefs, a treacherous and treasonous racist criminal by the Laws, Act and Constitution of the Commonwealth. The mandatory punishment according to and with the Laws, Act and Constitution is forfieture, banishment or self-banishment.

Pastors, you’re falling down on the job of educating your parishioners in basic humanity.


School is in

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:32 am

(sorry – 4th climate post in a row – all loosely linked)

So, this guy says:

Global Warming? New Data Shows Ice Is Back
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 11:55 AM
By: Phil Brennan

Are the world’s ice caps melting because of climate change, or are the reports just a lot of scare mongering by the advocates of the global warming theory? Scare mongering appears to be the case, according to reports from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that reveal that almost all the allegedly ‘lost’ ice has come back. A NOAA report shows that ice levels which had shrunk from 5 million square miles in January 2007 to just 1.5 million square miles in October, are almost back to their original levels.

Moreover, a Feb. 18 report in the London Daily Express showed that there is nearly a third more ice in Antarctica than usual, challenging the global warming crusaders…

Go to the National Ice Center archives and punch in whatever year you are interested in. You can see that ice fluctuates dramatically and that this year is actually a pretty stable one.


So I took him at his word. Went to that site. Collected the data on maxima and minima for the last 20 years (1989-2009 – 2010 data not finished yet!)

Made this graph:


Serious Stuff (and a little silliness from me)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:09 am

A story from the Courier Mail newspaper: Dire climate change warning to Australia.

Co-chair of the three-day conference, and director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Jean Palutikof, said science tells us climate change is happening faster than we thought.

Professor Palutikof warned the window to adapt and prepare is smaller than anticipated and said it is too late to mitigate our way out of the problem.

So it’s probably very juvenile of me to be delighted that the scientist’s name is probably pronounced something like ‘pollute-e-cough’.


Publicola sums it up

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:33 pm

‘Publicola’, a commentator on the Salon web site, talking about some of the defiant climate skeptic responses to the story I posted below, sums up the evidence nicely:


  • The Earth has warmed significantly over recent decades, to what may be the highest level in 2,000 years or more.
  • Anthropogenic greenhouse gases including CO2 — which is generated mostly by fossil fuel burning — warm the Earth. Without greenhouse gases including CO2 the Earth would be covered in ice from pole to pole.
  • The atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by more than a third since the dawn of the fossil fuel era, to the highest level in at least 800,000 years.
  • There is a strong correlation between said CO2 increase and said recent warming.
  • Known natural forcing agents of past global warming – including changes in orbital cycles, increases in solar radiation, and natural increases in atmospheric CO2 – cannot explain said recent warming. Neither has any scientific theory to explain the bulk of said recent warming other than AGW survived scientific scrutiny.

Those are all scientific facts. Which is to say:

The scientific evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming is overwhelming.

Bravus readies himself for the flood of retractions and apologies from climate skeptics

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:26 am

Newspaper retracts “climategate” story, months too late

From Salon:

The Times of London published utterly untrue stories about the “climategate” emails; now they regret the error

So, I’ll be waiting…


Sleep Apnea 6: Resolution!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:06 am

I don’t have a headache today! I keep feeling for it, like checking a loose tooth with my tongue, but my scone remains resolutely painfree.

I used my (rented) machine at home for the first time last night. It did take some getting used to, but it’s definitely worthwhile, ‘cos I feel much better today, and imagine I’ll keep getting better.

Me in my mask

Went to the doctor yesterday morning, and found out why I still had a headache after the sleep study. In the course of the night they cranked the pressure up from 4 to 9 (cm of water is the pressure unit, so not a lot), but it didn’t stop the events: there were still about 30 in the final hour.

That meant that I went home with an APAP – Adaptive Positive Airway Pressure – machine, instead of the constant pressure CPAP machine. It’s the one that’s a bit smarter, and adjusts the pressure to the resistance it feels. It also records what it does, so I can go back to the doctor at the end of the month and he can see what pressure it was using most often.

The problem is, the APAP costs about twice as much as the CPAP… and twice as much as health funds will pay for. We’d be up for over a grand out of pocket if I needed that machine. So the hope is that the machine will tell us what pressure works, and I’ll try a CPAP for the second month and see if it gets the job done.

We’ll see – but today, I don’t have a headache!


Sleep Apnea 5: Titration

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:31 pm

That’s me, wired up for my second sleep study, which happened last night. I was also wearing a mask all night – pity it’s not in the photo, but you can see its red traces above and beside my nose.

This was the ‘titre’ study: basically, I was fitted for the… I was going to say ‘most comfortable’, but ‘least uncomfortable’ masks yesterday, then went and was connected up to a CPAP machine last night. The technician (Mary again) basically watched the monitors and slowly turned up the pressure, from its starting level of 4. When it reached 7 she noted that the apnea events had stopped, so she stopped increasing the pressure there, and that’s my prescribed setting.

Still woke up with a bit of a headache this morning, but that may have been a side effect of the early apneas, as well as the discomforts of using the mask for the first time.

Without being too indelicate, I usually have to visit the en suite bathroom 3-4 times in a typical night. I assumed that was just due to drinking a lot of water during the day, but apparently the body ramps down kidney function overnight… but with apnea you keep waking and it doesn’t get the cues to do so. With the machine on last night there were only two visits… so that’s an unexpected bonus.

Back to see the doctor tomorrow to, I think, actually pick up my mask and machine to take home. Then we’ll get started with it in earnest and see how I feel.


… and/or money and/or fun

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:25 am

Laurie Anderson has a new album out, entitled ‘Homeland’ (thanks Nev Smith for the heads-up on that). Here’s something she said in an interview with Salon that resonated for me:

If I’m trying to decide on a project, it has to have two of the three following things: It has to be fun, it has to be interesting, or it has to make money. The third one sounds crass, but when you’re an artist, you do actually have to make a living. And you only have to have two of those things. It could just be fun and make money, … It’s a really handy formula.

Makes sense to me.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:56 pm

Cassie and I went to see these guys last night:

Supported by these guys:

Add to the usual ringing in the ears and sore headbanging muscles from a metal show sore face muscles from grinning broadly and laughing out loud: a fantastic folky metal party!


Profoundly depressing, but important to know

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:49 am

Naomi Klein on the true costs and consequences of the oil spill: http://m.guardian.co.uk/?id=102202&story=http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/jun/19/naomi-klein-gulf-oil-spill

One more excellent reason to work harder at kicking the habit…


Kevin Costner, Saviour of the Gulf! – Um, not so much…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:03 pm

So, here’s the news story: http://jalopnik.com/5565816/bp-purchases-32-of-kevin-costners-oil+water-separation-machines

And here are my back-of-the-envelope calculations:

It can clean up 200 gallons of water per minute, per machine. Any back-of-the-envelope calculations of the total volume of water in the Gulf, or even just the affected areas? Even if it were only a billion gallons, which is nothing (about 4.5 million cubic metres, or about 0.0045 cubic km), it would *still* take the 32 machines… about 17 years.

And, a little later:

Current surface area of the spill, about 6,500 sq km. Even if the affected water is only a metre deep that’s still 6.5 cubic km… 1444 times my estimate above.

Call it 24 and a half thousand years.

Thanks Kev.

There may be a solution – but not one that will avert devestation – but this sure ain’t it.

C’mon, teachers!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:11 am

I mentioned a few days ago that I have been answering people’s questions on Yahoo Answers.

Lots of students ask questions they’ve been asked, in tests or homework assignments. Quite a lot of these are in multiple choice format – and quite a lot of them are terrible. There are no correct options, or two or more, or they reinforce common student misconceptions, or…

Teachers are good and competent, generally, and trying to do the right thing. I blame the trend toward more multiple-choice questions for part of the problem – they don’t seem that hard to make, but it’s actually quite difficult to make really good quality ones.

Whatever it is, it’s a real worry when the assessment tasks don’t fairly assess the knowledge, and in fact may be ‘antieducational’ in confirming misconceptions.


Nuclear Power

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:43 am

I saw some tweets about nuclear power, and tweeted:

I know all right-thinking lefties and greenies used to oppose nuclear energy, but in the light of climate change and peak oil, think again

I then scrolled down further and saw that my friend @LillyLyle had tweeted a dozen or 20 antinuclear power tweets in the preceding couple of hours, and thought ‘uh oh’!

Sure enough, when I checked twitter this morning, she had tweeted (and been retweeted):

You have heard of all the different sustainable energy types. There is no solution to the nuclear waste storage problem.

My friend @Marshdrifter had also tweeted:

Really, we need to give serious thought towards changing need, rather than finding new sources.

So, there are a number of things going on here, and while Twitter does some things well, disentangling is not one of them. Lilly’s earlier tweets had been about proposals for privately owned and run nuclear power stations in the UK, and she had drawn parallels with privatised public transport and electricity grids, which have tended to be uniformly disastrous internationally. In the context of the BP oil spill, the notion of private corporations building nuclear power plants on the cheap is a pretty horrifying one.

So we’re definitely on the same page on the undesirability of that! If I advocated nuclear power plants at all, they would be owned, built and run by governments: and yes, I’m enough of an old leftie to think that governments can do that halfway competently.

On the nuclear waste issue, I do think there’s a reasonably decent solution. Forming it into synthetic rock (SynRok) so that it can’t leak is an Australian technology, and placing it deep in abandoned salt mines out in the Australian desert in one of the least populated and most geologically stable zones on earth is not perfect – nothing is – but it’s pretty good. And, just quietly, there is also not a good solution for the fossil fuels ‘waste’ problem of CO2 emissions.

I do agree with @Marshdrifter that we need to ‘reduce our use’ of energy, particularly in the developed West and global North: but I’m also a realist. I do what I can, but I do like my computers, and I do like to be at a comfortable temperature, and to have refrigerated foods, and so on. And I don’t think other people are much different… unless it’s that they’re less keen to do their bit. Sweeping lifestyle changes may come, but only in terms of cost and incentive structures, not through appeals to our better nature. So, in the mean time, we need energy solutions.

@LillyLyle’s main point, about multiple renewable energy sources, is exactly right. We need all the wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydro, geo etc power we can get, and we need it decades ago. I’m 100% in agreement with that, and 1000% frustrated with governments that pissfart about with emissions trading schemes instead of getting firmly behind R&D and infrastructure development in those areas.

But all those areas take time, and they all depend on things like weather conditions, and they all struggle to match base and peak loads and the proper timing of delivery. That means we’re always going to have to seek multiple complementary technologies, not a single solution (fossil fuels were just too damn convenient and they’ve made us extremely lazy). There is no magic bullet technology – and I’ve been arguing with morons who say that, because solar won’t solve all our problems, we should keep on slurping up the oil.

But it’s going to take a suite of approaches, and in my opinion it’s crucial to be willing to at least consider nuclear as part of that suite, as a substitute for its main competitor, fossil fuels.

Fusion is the magic bullet, energy-wise, but it’s a couple of generations away. In the meantime, realistically, we are going to need energy… and if some of it doesn’t come from nuclear, it’s unavoidable that it will come from fossil fuels.

Random Health Stuff

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:26 am

Got some blood tests done a couple of weeks ago, and in all the sleep lab stuff forgot to ring for the results. Did that earlier this week and they said “Yeah, a couple of things were high, the doctor wants to see you”, and made an appointment for a couple of days later (which was this morning). Given that one of the tests was the prostate cancer one and Sue’s boss passed away from prostate cancer in the past couple of months it should have been an anxious couple of days, but I’m oddly fatalistic about this stuff: worrying won’t change it.

Fortunately that test was fine. There were three things highish. One was eosinophils (spelled phonetically from memory), which is associated with allergies, so no surprises there. One was one liver enzyme, which is not too worrying, but the prescription was “lose more weight, do more exercise”. The other was LDLs, the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. There were a few things to be done, including avoiding animals fats, increasing fibre and taking fish oil1, but the bottom line was “lose more weight, do more exercise”. The sleep apnea folks also said losing weight would help, so…

Watch for buffer, svelter me!

  1. Matt swears by it for focus and concentration as well as its effects on cholesterol. Couple that with the effects of the apnea treatment, I should be laser focused and sharp. I may kinda miss ‘vague, mellow me’. 😉


{Shakes head, sighs} (not really but sorta sleep apnea)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:38 pm

So, booked in for the next sleep study. Got another massive sheaf of forms to fill out. Wrote:

I can fill in all the hospital admission forms and questionnaires again, and send them to the hospital by fax, but since I just did the sleep study health questionnaire and sent it to you guys a couple of weeks ago, and nothing has changed, it is possible for you to dig the old one out of the files and use it again? Save me 20 min or so?

Recieved back:

Thank you very much for your prompt reply, unfortunately you will have to fill out the hospital admission forms again as the hospital need this on every admission.However, the health questionnaire will be fine for this admission for you.

Hmm, reading comprehension much? Still, I got exactly what I asked for…

Post 1300

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:46 pm

Looks like we’re back to the ‘100 posts every 6 months’ pace.

My benign new addiction

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:07 am

So, I went to Yahoo Answers (I refuse to add the exclamation mark!) a few days ago to ask for help with a technical difficulty I was having playing Far Cry. They weren’t able to help much at all, but while I was there I figured out that I could answer people’s maths and science questions – and I’m hooked!

On Level 1, where you start, you can only answer 20 questions a day. I burned through that pretty quick, and then was jonesing for the next 22 hours while I waited for it to be the next day so I could answer 20 more. Only took a couple of days to get to Level 2, where I can answer 40, and work has slowed me down a bit so that I mostly have spare capacity now: I can pop in and answer a question whenever the shakes get too bad.

I really enjoy it, and just quietly and modestly, I think I’m pretty good at it. An awful lot of the questions that come up look like people’s homework, but (unlike lots of other answerers) I refuse to just give the questioners the answer and let them copy it down. I always try to explain the concept as clearly as possible, teach them so they really understand what’s going on and why, and often leave part of the work for them to do themselves, having given them a large nudge in the right direction.

It’s very satisfying work, and partly quenches my need to teach science – I’m always being tempted to go back to high school science teaching, but for the moment they just pay me too well to do what I do now. Often several people will answer the same question, and it’s interesting to compare different approaches, and I learn something in the process. Of course, often people will also give answers that are plain wrong: risks of going to the web for answers.

I’ve cut down on some other forums (and abandoned the game of Far Cry!), so the total time on the web is probably not increased. I suspect the infatuation phase will cool as well… but in the meantime, I’m having fun, and people are getting (arguably) better answers than they would otherwise.


TED Talk by Michael Shermer on How and Why We Deceive Ourselves

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:42 am

Well worth a listen/watch:


My new favourite book

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:55 am

I think I may have a new all time favourite book. Yes, even over Only Forward and Use of Weapons.

And it’s a Young Adult title as well. Highly, highly recommended. Terry Pratchett forgoes Discworld for this world (or something very much like it), though in the 19th century, and pours all he knows and loves – sometimes ruefully – about humanity into a novel that’s just mind-blowing.

Highly, highly recommended.


Sleep Apnea 4: Diagnosis

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:00 pm

Visited the doctor this afternoon, who kinda told me what I already knew: yep, I have sleep apnea. Severe sleep apnea. The scale starts at zero events per hour, the ‘severe’ part starts at 30 and I’m averaging about 46. (And yes, there’s a bizarre sort of bragging going on here: If I’m gonna have a condition, I’m gonna have it hardcore!)

So, it’s back to the sleep clinic some time soon. Same study, same wires and such, but with a mask and a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine on. Basically, someone sits outside the room, watching the monitors, and keeps turning up the pressure a notch at a time until I stop stopping breathing… And then I’ll know what pressure I need to keep my own little (no doubt expensive) bedside machine on…

It’s all a hassle, but it’s a relief to have a diagnosis – and given that untreated sleep apnea can lead to heart attack, stroke and all manner of other nasties, and that treating it will get rid of my daily headaches and make me feel more awake and alive… good to be on the path to a solution.