It appears that ACT has been infiltrated by a fifth-column of those god-less liberals make up Al Gore’s huge left-wing conspiracy to make us all insulate our houses. Or maybe Trotskyites.

Whoever it is, they’re intent on dragging ACT’s good and rationalist reputation into the mud. That’s the only possible explanation for this press release, claiming that:

“The Green’s and Labour can bleat all they like about carbon dioxide and global warming being the greatest threat to mankind, but that claim is pure fantasy and they know it, the truth is that carbon is not a pollutant and never has been. Nor has the planet displayed any attempts to warm up during the last decade, in spite of rising carbon dioxide levels. The game is up.

That’s so ludicrous that it can only have been a deliberate attempt to lose them votes. Kevin Campbell, ACT party associate spokesperson on Climate Change, well done. Your mission as a secret mole for the god-less left-wing conspiracy is proving fruitful and you will be rewarded for your efforts. Keep this up and your Prius will be hand-delivered by Al himself.

Ignoring the Budget completely here

Half of the biggest change in policy thinking this decade is the idea that people are rational, but that rationality is limited. I’ll explain.

Ministers tell civil servants to go and design a policy that achieves X, whatever X might be. You might think that X is a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s irrelevant here, we want a well-designed policy that delivers X. X could be:

Less people smoking
More insulated houses
Higher pension savings
More nurses
Less crime
More happy kittens

The problem is mostly a mis-match of timescales. From a government point of view, smoking kills lots of people; from a personal point of view, it feels good now. Fixing climate change is going to save us truly vast amounts of money in about fifty years time; people want cheap petrol now.

Policies need to reflect and understand peoples’ behaviour. Simply assuming that people will save for their pensions coz it is in their own interest to do so is an assumption that just fails in the real world, and it’s in the real world that policies live. So examples of policies that reflect that are opt-out pensions, not opt-in ones. In the imaginary perfectly rational world, opt-in and opt-out pensions have the same uptake. In reality, most people just aren’t fussed enough to bother opting-out. Same goes for presumed consent for organ donors.

(Actually, pretty much every political debate ever goes just like this:
Conversation with myself about obesity – from Dim Post, one of our national treasures)

(Oh, and Hot Topic on the Minister for Climate Change’s speech opening last week’s climate change conference. He’s much more polite than I’d have been…)

Random accumulated thots

On backups
Words of wisdom from : “Eventually modern environmental pressure will select for humans with the instinctive fight/flight/make backups response.”

Further to my bitching about the canon of modern* popular literature, here’s a negative number of Reasons for Liking Tolkien.

This terribly erudite essay comes from the London Review of Books and badly needs a long, hard editing. Most of us can think of better things to do than read 13,000 words, even if one of them is “anathematisation”, so in short:
“It’s an infantile comfort that is also a black pit.” – for both reader and author

* – You remember, the Modern Age, it ran from about 1911 to 1973, bringing us jet planes, fascism, and atom powered miniskirts. In response, Tolkein (and a few others) wrote very long books about how everything was better before we got all uppity and invented Progress. Luckily, since 1971 there’s been very little Progress, on account of the price of oil**.

** – This statement is only poetically true. But we’re talking about Literature here, so get used to it.

It’s a concept that looks pretty, has no idea how to pay for itself, and suffers from the same fake terra nullius delusion that infects US libertarians. Just imagine, you too could be trapped in a floating appartment block, populated by ruggedly libertarian individualists all trying to solve community problems while loudly proclaiming the inadequacy of all previous attempts at creating communities. I can’t imagine anything more fun.

But it does look pretty:

GM in NZ – will the debate be different this time around?
Or will there be a debate at all? My guess is that the current government will implement hands-off regulations that allow the use of GM plants and animals. Are they hoping that loosening the laws won’t create a big backlash? Or are they sufficiently confident that they have enough of a parliamentary majority that they can get away with putting in such a potentially unpopular set of laws? (See also the Auckland supercouncil, water meters, and several other unpopular policies that I think we’ll end up with, regardless.)

How long does it take to write only 4 kb of code anyway?

Netbook + bus ride => more coding! Woo! Especially as I’m rewriting all the Mitochondrion software…

Also, you can tell you’re a real geek when you’re finding complier bugs.

For the visual design of the Mitochondrion, v3.5, I’m feeling inspired by the epileptic 8-bit design of MIA. For a sample, this is the web page background:

By some weird post-modern, post-colonial alchemy, this makes its way from “the interweb – ur doin it rong” to “H!L!F! so awesome”.

Admittedly, I’m going for an 8 bit colour scheme, coz I’m actually only got 8 bits, but hey, you’ve got to love it (oh, and for her tunes and honesty).

OMFG did I just compliment someone? Can’t be feeling well.
*goes back to bed with netbook and draws more epileptic patterns*

Media response to the ocean acidification piece

Southland Times – Global warming may hurt oysters:
“Barnes Oysters manager Graeme Wright was not aware of the report when contacted by The Southland Times but said it would likely be raised at the next Bluff oyster fisheries planning group meeting later this year.”

Stuff & Otago Daily Times – NZ scientists sound warning on ocean acidification:
“Bluff’s oyster fisheries in Foveaux Strait may be at the top of a hit list of species vulnerable to increasing acidity levels in the oceans, scientists say.”

Dominion Post – Spectre of seas without shells
Was nothing to do with me, but the writer was one of the contributors to the Royal Society piece and yay for more coverage.

Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report today, 2’43” Scientists are warning the shellfish industry, including Bluff’s famous oysters, could be at risk (mp3)

And globally – Climate change threat to those living off sea:
“higher ocean temperatures could kill off vast marine ecosystems and half the fish in them, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which warned that 100 million people earning a living off the sea could be forced to leave inundated coastlines and find new jobs.”

But hey! What about our tasty oysters?!?

And the blogosphere is the first to respond to what RSNZ put out this morning:

What’s a few tears to the ocean – from Hot Topic

“New Zealand could amongst the first places in the world to feel the effects of ocean acidification, according to a new “emerging issues” paper released today by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Surrounded by cold oceans which absorb CO2 faster than warm waters, and with a $300 million shellfish industry based on mussels, oysters, scallops and paua, NZ is vulnerable to disruptions in the carbonate chemistry used by these animals to build their shells, but the risks cannot be quantified at present.”

And that’s a pretty good summary of what we said.

This morning, the Science Media Centre organised a briefing between the scientists and the journalists. That’s up now, here.

So we’ll see how much press it gets tomorrow…

Further holidays – I’m doing it wrong

Numerous pallets of concrete blocks arrived, so we shifted four hundred and fifty of them. The slight and generally imperceptable slope from the road down to the house is a good thing. It’s intended that you don’t really notice it, just that life gets a lot easier as you walk to the house. It works pretty well when wheeling your own weight of blocks down there.

So this arrived in the morning: cut for exciting pics of concrete blocks

All of my brain waves seem to occur in the shower. Obviously, correlation is causation, so my current plan for awesome productivity is to stay in the shower all day.

I’ll be needing a waterproof laptop and waterproof soldering iron. Also, suggestions for beverages greatly received, as cups of tea in the shower never turn out to be as good an idea as you’d hope for.