Here's the article that convinced me to try it after shaking off the Candy Crush demon.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Friday, March 07, 2014
Cosma Shalizi just got tenure at Carnegie Mellon. He writes
It's also hard for me to feel triumph because, by the time I get tenure, I will have been at CMU for nine years and change. Doing anything for that long marks you, or at least it marks me, and I'm not sure I like the marks. The point of tenure is security, and I hope to broaden my work, to follow some interests which are more speculative and risky and seem like they will take longer to pay off, if they ever do. But I have acquired habits and made commitments which will be very hard to shift. One of those habits is to think of my future in terms of what sort of scholarly work I'm going to be doing, and presuming that I will be working all the time, with only weak separation between work and the rest of life. I even have some fear that this has deformed my character, making some ordinary kinds of happiness insanely difficult. But maybe "deformed" is the wrong word; maybe I stuck with this job because I was already that kind of person. I can't bring myself to wish I wasn't so academic in my interests, or that I hadn't pursued the career I have, or that I had been less lucky in it. But I worry about what I have given up for it, and how those choices will look in another nine years, or twenty-nine.Of course, from Eli's POV on the other side, this is exactly the point of the tenure track, to identify those gerbils, who, after the treats are delivered will continue spinning the wheel. Papers to write, experiments to do, thoughts to be thought. The wheel spins and never stops. It is an intelligence test. We fail.
Posted by EliRabett at 7:20 PM
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Shameless self-promotion: on GoGreen America radio tomorrow 9 a.m. Pacific Time to talk climate divestment
Posted by Brian at 3:18 PM
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
My civil war predictions aren't so hot, but let's see how my war-war predictions turn out: I think Putin means to consolidate control in Crimea and not invade the other parts of eastern Ukraine. There are good political and strategic reasons for thinking he'd go after Crimea and not the rest, but I'm basing my guess on the assumption that the smart time to invade another country is when it's unprepared. With a shaky government and unsteady military, that was last week. Now Putin's given the government time to sort out who in the military it can trust, go on alert and start calling up the reserves.
All that would have been predictable in advance to Putin's top military leaders, who would've told him then that if you're going to take east Ukraine, take east Ukraine. I've seen some speculation that he's waiting for a provocation as an excuse to go in, but that doesn't make sense to me - he wouldn't need an authentic provocation when he could just make one up. Every day that goes by makes an invasion more difficult and therefore less likely to be in the original plan.
I could be wrong of course. An invasion will defeat Ukraine's military regardless how much warning time is given, so maybe Putin doesn't care about the cost to Russia, but I'd think he would care about how triumphant-looking and problem-free it seems. A war could also happen by accident, the way people used to think that World War I started.
And then there's the claim that Putin is in an information bubble and believes at least some of his own propaganda. If that's true then it's hard to understand what world he perceives. OTOH, I don't think the actions so far make as little sense from the viewpoint of an authoritarian populist semi-dictator as westerners claim, so I'm not sure this KGB officer is that far unmoored from reality.
So that's my guess of no invasion for the rest of Ukraine, but it shows my level of confidence that I'll just check the news one last time before posting.
UPDATE: we should also start the timer for news about significant Russian migration and settlement activity in Crimea - I give it six months. Will be interesting to see how our Likudnik congresscritters handle that one. And that btw may be the one good thing about all this for Crimean Tatars that hadn't yet moved back - they won't be stuck across a fortified border.
Posted by Brian at 11:12 PM
Monday, March 03, 2014
While copy-editing a paper, Eli was looking for the APS (American Physical Society) style manual, but fortunately Google knew better and delivered him to the APS style manual, but a different APS, and not for authors, but instructions to the copy editors, including this gem
The Angry AuthorSometimes you will encounter an author who, despite best efforts, intractably insists on something outrageous or is just a nasty, hostile person. It happens. The first thing that you should do is keep yourself calm and keep from escalating the situation. State that you understand that the other person is upset and that you will handle the situation to the best of your ability. Let them know how feasible it will be to change the article: if the paper is still in its editing stage or in revisions, this is an easy matter; if the issue has been postscripted, a Corrigendum may be necessary depending on the problem. You may have to tell the author that you will contact them with more information at a later time after you do some detective work to find out why something was changed from the original. When discussing the problem, do not focus on (or even really discuss) whose "fault" it was. Instead, after acknowledging the author's feelings on the matter, give a general apology because you recognize that they are unhappy, and shift the author's attention to the fact that the matter can be resolved.
Whenever possible, remember that e-mail is your friend! You will always have an easily pastable, dated record of the matter and the exact words of you and your correspondent. It can be printed and put in the folder as a warning to others or given to your Journal Supervisor or Editorial Manager. If your initial conversation with the author was by phone, tell them that your next communication will by via e-mail, and keep all subsequent contacts that way (even if they respond by phone again). Make certain that the author understand that it is to keep things more clear for everyone concerned.
After any mentally trying contact, be sure to talk to your Journal Supervisor and/or Editorial Manager. They should be informed of such matters because 1) they don't want you to be upset, 2) may want to contact the author themselves or have a prior understanding with the author, and 3) have concerns regarding the production of the article. Why keep dealing with a jerk to yourself? You don't have to go it alone. Share the joy and let everyone know! After all, many times the same author will write papers for us again, and your experience allows things to be easier for everyone in the future.
Posted by EliRabett at 8:06 PM
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Delving into others' motives is tricky, especially when you're annoyed with them, but sometimes it's worth doing. For example, Keith Kloor pretty clearly is motivated to punch hippies, metaphorically. He used to do it over climate change. IRRC, he was a somewhat-late convert to mainstream climate science, and still took a lot of shots at climate activists. In the last year or two he's switched his hippie-punching mostly to GMO issues, and that's an improvement, because this time it can be occasionally accurate and it's a less important issue, anyway.
So what's up with Indre Viskontas, Chris Mooney, Steven Novella, and Ed Yong? The link between them and Kloor is glossing over the real environmental concerns about GMOs, particularly genetic contamination of wild and escaped relatives of GM plants, most recently for Indre, Chris and Steven here. They appropriately describe the lack of health impacts from GMOs but then jump to conclusions that GMOs aren't a problem.
I'm simplifying and being somewhat unfair. Ed's more of a straightforward journalist than the others, conveying news moreso than his opinion, and occasionally links to contrary views (including once to this blog). Steven acknowledges the complexity of some environmental issues (while making simplistic arguments himself regarding biodiversity impacts).
Still, the motivational link I see between all of them is a kind of progressive hipster science nerd vibe that I think wants to push away from the earlier environmental generation in some ways, the Earth Mother hippie types. They demonstrate their independent "skepticism" by showing their willingness to take potshots at something often described as a liberal myth. While it's nowhere nearly as bad as Kloor, it's still behavior that looks for a chance to take potshots at those ignorant hippies. For three of them it might also fit into a generational thing (Steven's around my age).
I assume all four of them would be unimpressed with my thoughts about their motivations, so I'd rather focus on Steven's muddying the waters in describing the naturalistic fallacy. I think it's better to think of the appeal to nature as a fallacious ethical argument, but moving from ethics to policy makes it not so innately fallacious. The big advantage that organic farming and conventional breeding techniques have is that they've been done for a long time, so we're more likely to know the consequences.
What the four of them might consider wrestling with is a non-insane application of the precautionary principle. Doing something that's a little more natural in the sense that its been done for a while is less likely to have unforeseen consequences.
The vast majority of what the four do is great, and I'm doing my usual thing of highlighting only the part I don't like, but they could all do better.
Posted by Brian at 8:10 PM
In the ensemble average, mean annual runoff decreases in a 2°C world by around 30, 20, 40, and 20 percent in the Danube, Mississippi, Amazon, and Murray Darling river basins, respectively, while it increases by around 20 percent in both the Nile and the Ganges basins, compared to the 1961–190 baseline period. Thus, according to Fung et al. (2011), all these changes are approximately doubled in magnitude in a 4°C world.Yikes. Now I see a reason for the lack of snark-hiding.
Posted by Brian at 4:46 PM
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Let Eli and Ms. Rabett go on a little weekend trip and the world blows up. Ethon flew over to the secret spa and told Eli that Roger Darling was in prime hissy-fit form. Seems that John Holdren had taken a bit of exception to some things. Now Eli expects that there will be no problem in finding comments on that document. This basically starts, well, let Eli get to that later, but it continued with testimony that Dr. Holdren gave to the Senate Environmental Policy and Public Works Committee on February 25. Below is part of the dialog between Dr. Holdren and Senator Sessions (AL). This was posted by Senator Sessions. It is not complete, and bunnies can see the whole on the EPW website. Be that as it may Eli has transcribed it all.
The omitted parts are in italic, Eli has no idea why they were omitted
Sen Sessions: Dr. Holdren, you're the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, called the President's top science advisor commonly, that's an important office for sure and I assume you feel a responsibility to accurately tell the American people the challenges and facts dealing with science and technology in America
Dr. Holdren: That is one of my responsibilities, but my first responsibility is giving the President accurate information about science and technology bearing on his decisions
Sen Sessions: All right, I understand that. On Feb 14 during a press conference at the White House about the President's trip to California where he was promoting or talking about a new one billion dollar drought, climate change fund you stated a) weather practically everywhere is being caused by climate change. I kind of agree with that.
Dr. Holdren: That's not quite what I said Senator, but we will come back to that
Sen Sessions: You said more than that. Then you said quote " we really understand the a number of reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency and life of drought in drought prone regions". Then you talked about quote the connection between increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and climate change
And you also asserted that severe droughts are quote "getting more frequent they're getting longer, they're getting drier" and that quote "we are seeing droughts in drought prone regions becoming more frequent, more severe and getting longer". Do you stand by that
Dr. Holdren: The one part I don't stand by is the initial quotation because I said weather practically everywhere is being influenced by climate change not caused by climate change and I explained that as well in my opening statement here. What we have done we've warm the surface of the earth, we've warmed the surface of the oceans, that is influencing climate
Sen Sessions: The weather changes constantly, we all know that and we've known that since time immemorial. Do you stand by your statement that drought is getting more frequent, getting longer and getting drier and the other comments I make and if so cite for us a scientific report of data that supports that
Dr. Holdren: I would be happy to do that my statement was that droughts are getting more severe in some regions that is supported by the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2013 its science basis, the National Climate Assessment (cross talk)
Sen Sessions: No no no You said and I you quoted here, that the first quote I mentioned did mention drought in the following regions, but you talked about the connection between the increasing quote frequency and intensity of drought and climate change" and you asserted that severe drought are quote getting more frequents, getting longer and getting drier
Dr. Holdren: In some regions and I would be happy to provide you with the scientific references there is a long list of them.
Sen. Sessions: Well what about the United States of America?
Dr. Holdren: In the United States of America droughts are getting more severe in the American West and in the Colorado River Basin. We are experiencing in the Colorado River Basin what looks like probably the most severe drought in 1000 years. California is heading for what looks like one of the most severe drought in 500 years. And the data show that we are experiencing in the western United States (cross talk)
Sen. Sessions: Well let me tell you what Dr. Pileke said who sat in that chair you are sitting in today, just a few months ago, he is a climate impact expert, and he agrees that warming is partly caused by human emissions but he testified quote " it is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or drought have increased on climate change time scales either in the United States or globally" .
Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama testified quote "there is little or no observational evidence that severe weather of any type has worsened over the last 30, 50 or 100 years. The AEI evaluated the data in the NOAA Palmer Drought Severity Index. Are you familiar with that?
Dr. Holdren: I am
Sen. Sessions: and they concluded quote that the PDSI shows no trend over the record period beginning in 1895 in terms of drought. More areas in the United States have experienced an increase in soil moisture than a decline
In the IPCC in April of last year admitted their previous reports had been in error stating quote "based on updated studies conclusions global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated."
And the Congressional Resource Service, our own group here likewise finds that droughts haven't been increasing
Dr. Holdren: On your last point about global drought of course we know that in a warming world with evaporation increasing precipitation also increases. More places are getting wetter than getting drier
Sen. Sessions: (Interupts) Also we are not having any drought.
Dr. Holdren: When you say global drought, if I may finish. When you say global drought you are averaging out the places that are getting drier and the places that are getting wetter. What I have been talking about is what is happening in drought prone regions. The first few people you quoted are not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion on this point and again I will be happy to submit for the record recent articles from Nature, Nature Geoscience, Nature Climate Change, Science and others showing that in drought prone regions. . .[cross talk about submitting these documents]
Chair The record will remain open for two weeks after this hearing
Sen. Sessions: And I thank the witness.
Chair: Welcome to the world of ignoring an EPW witness.
Sen. Sessions: But we expect that a taxpayer paid government should be very accurate and not advance a political agenda and tell us the absolute facts
Dr. Holdren: That's what I have been doingOK, Senator Sessions asked for the information and he got it.
Sen. Sessions: And I look forward to getting that additional information
You can read more about it at HotWhopper, Climate Crocks, Greg Laden, and Skeptical Science. Eli may take another bite tomorrow, but Sou at HW seems to have the whole thing.
More: Joe Romm is also unpleased with Roger
Roger claims that a minor footnote on page 9 of his summer testimony (where Sessions pulled the quotes) gives him a get out of jail card. Eli will "borrow" Sou's excellent figure. Hint, it's not the bold chapter heading, but down at the bottom.
Posted by EliRabett at 8:58 PM
The news from Crimea is unsettling, partly because it's not entirely clear to me whether it's bad to have Crimea reattached to Russia in some form.
From a utilitarian perspective, removing the most eastern-oriented portion of Ukraine from its electoral politics would pretty much guarantee a western-oriented political outcome. My less-certain idea is that Russians living closest to the rest of Europe may have more European attitudes, so moving this population into Russia might also somewhat liberalize Russian political attitudes.
From other ethical perspectives, this area was Russian and is populated primarily by Russian speakers, and was only transferred to the Ukraine recently (1954) by a Soviet dictator for reasons that have little to do with the historical or ethical way to govern the region. There are the Crimean Tatars, but AFAICT that's a relatively small minority. I think as a general rule the majority in a region does not have the ethical right to secede their region from the country, but that rule should have exceptions.
The key downside, which may be what motivates Putin as an upside, is that having a Russian-occupied region would make it very difficult for Ukraine to join NATO. This reason partly motivated the Georgia war. Still, I don't see what's to be done about it. The history of eastern Europe in the last generation has been a tremendous victory for liberalism. Consolidating these gains is more important and valuable than restarting a cold war.
Saber-rattling with Russia might have some limited value but not a whole lot, going beyond saber-rattling is definitely a bad idea, and Russia's status as semi-democratic/semi-dictatorial is still fluid, so there are opportunities for liberalization that shouldn't be discouraged. The end game here isn't Ukraine, it's the political liberalization and stabilization of Russia, and successful democracies on its borders take us in that direction.
The game changes if Russian invades other parts of Ukraine, let alone the entire country. That's a real war with assistance needed, although it also needs a limited scope.
One other point I saw somewhere - as in other parts of Slavic Europe, the division here may be more religious than linguistic, with Ukrainian Catholics oriented to the west and Orthodox to the east.
Posted by Brian at 10:38 AM