August 28, 2018

“The massive transformation required in diets and production”

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:08 pm by Chris

This is more than just cutting back on beef: if I read this correctly, the 60% of human calories that come from just three cereal crops are in the firing line too:

Rod Oram: Time to transform our global food systems


August 23, 2018

“Optimism is a political act”

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:45 pm by Chris

Interview with Alex Steffen, he of the late lamented Worldchanging. It’s old (Worldchanging era) but still extremely fresh and relevant. I’m particularly fond of the quote that I’ve excerpted for the post title…

November 21, 2017

A video worth watching about Transhumanism and the modern world

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:42 pm by Chris

I’ve never come across this guy before, but he’s an interesting speaker. It’s a shame he does that humanities thing of reading off a prepared script. I knew that the Transhumanists were wankers, but not that they were also arseholes. He makes a thoughtful analysis of nature and the natural (or rather, the idea of the natural) which is also relevant to my own field of environmental science.


September 22, 2017

The day before the day after

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:58 pm by Chris

I’ve just read this, and I’m reminded about how angry I am at the incompetents currently playing at running our country. Please get out and vote tomorrow, New Zealand, and lets get rid of these no-hopers. Normally I’d say “vote, no matter how you vote for”, but on this occasion if you want to support the incumbents I think you should stay in bed. They’re a bunch of self-serving incompetents who aren’t even good at the things they claim to stand for, and are actively hostile to attempts to do well in other areas. And to top it all off, their election campaign in recent weeks has consisted of telling a series of blatant bare-faced lies, and then refusing to retract them when publicly confronted with the fact they are lies. Enough. Be off with them. My cat could do a better job of governing the country, and he sleeps for 18 hours of the day.

September 15, 2017

New Zealand’s one-child policy

Posted in Cancer at 10:03 pm by Chris

I had cause this week to be reminded of New Zealand’s one-child policy. What’s that you say, we don’t have a one-child policy? Oh, but we do. Here’s how it works. If you’re a cancer patient, hypothetically speaking about to have such intensive chemo that your ability to produce gametes will be permanently destroyed (or your existing gametes rendered inviable), you can opt to have sperm or eggs frozen in the event that you wish to pursue IVF or some such reproductive technology in the future. The public health system will pay the costs of all this — and for the uninitiated, those costs include not just initial consultations, but the ongoing costs of keeping things in cryogenic storage — but only if you don’t already have children. If you already have one child, you’re paying the bills yourself. In other words, in New Zealand, the government has chosen to pay the medical costs of you having just one child.

Note that we’re not talking about whether or not the public system should bear the cost of assisted reproductive technology for couples in some circumstances. I think that’s a reasonable discussion to have, actually, given the expense that can be involved. No, that decision has already been made, and the answer is yes, it will. But not if you already have children, even one. In a country with an average birthrate over 2, the government will only sanction you having one, unless you pay for it yourself.

Practically, this was just an inconvenience for me, and cost me money at a time two years ago when I didn’t have any money to spare. Ethically, it’s extremely bothersome: ethically, I see no difference between deciding not to pay for a second child before birth, and a second child after birth. No, we won’t cover the expenses of your second child because you’re already receiving a benefit for the first. No, your baby can’t have any expensive medical procedures because you’ve already got a child. The difference is that those types of decisions are made at high levels by ministers, or senior staff in government departments who are accountable to same. The decision not to fund reproductive technologies for cancer patients who already have one child was presumably made by a bureaucrat in an anonymous office somewhere. But that bureaucrat was no doubt looking at the bottom line in a budget they’d been told to balance. They’d been given directions from on high that their budget mattered more than people’s lives, and been given a mandate to make arbitrary decisions based on someone’s personal circumstances. The effect is that same. The moral process is the same.

I’m not aware that “existing reproductive status” is covered in the Bill of Rights Act. It really should be, and it’s consistent with the moral stance behind not discriminating on the basis of age or gender. I’m pretty sure (not a lawyer, but I know some) that it is explicitly covered in employment legislation: employers aren’t allowed to ask you if you plan to have another child, no matter how many you already have. Nor does the number of children you already have affect your entitlement to paid parental leave, or your eligibility for any number of mechanisms of state support, up to and including education and healthcare for those children. Nor should it. The fact that it’s allowed to affect this one small corner of an entitlement to state support (and again: the government has already decided that it will fund this service) suggests that these other inclusions might just be conventions, rather than something we can rely on. I don’t think that’s good enough.

March 30, 2017

Britain triggers article 50

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:33 am by Chris

Why did it seem like such a big deal when Greece wanted the drachma back?

February 16, 2017

Combustion engines continue to suck

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:46 pm by Chris

‘Filthy glamour’: could polluted Marylebone Road help fix London’s air?

More on this later, I think…

October 26, 2016

The rules according to a toddler, part 2

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:03 pm by Chris

“No” is not the answer to your question, “no” is just the first word that came into my head when you asked the question.

Even if “no” was the answer to your question, it was really just a suggestion. Think of it as a starting point for negotiation. Are we not reasonable people? What might you offer me, if perhaps “no” were not in fact the answer to your question?

“No” is most definitely the answer to your question, how dare you even think of suggesting otherwise? Aren’t you the one who keeps saying that no means no? Does that not apply to me as well as you? I have said “no”, I meant “no”, and the wold may very well come to an end right now if you question my assessment of the situation at all.


“Yes” is not the answer to your question either.

February 3, 2016

The rules according to a toddler

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:56 pm by Chris

Even if I’ve never shown any sign of caring at about it at all, at any time in the past up and including five minutes ago, the issue that I’m currently upset about IS the most important thing in my entire life, ever, and I will die of grief right here on the floor if it is not resolved immediately.

No matter how much care and patience I displayed in putting these objects together, or maneuvering them into their current position, I will display almost none in taking them apart or returning them to where they were originally. Breakages incurred are not my problem.

I cannot possibly pass through that portal without pushing it all the way open first. Even if it’s already open wide enough for two of me and it takes all my strength to move it.

That small person in the mirror is possibly the most beautiful and interesting thing in the whole world, and you cannot expect me to pay attention to anything else while they are visible. Nor should you attempt to move me along.

A toddler is never late, nor is he early. He gets out of bed exactly when he means to.


May 20, 2015

The trick is to keep breathing

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:59 pm by Chris

“What the fuck?” seems to be most people’s reaction when I tell them I have cancer. Fair enough: that continues to be my over-riding response, too. To add injury to insult, I’ve got myeloma, typically the preserve of people in their seventh decade of life, and with no convincing environmental risk factors. Myeloma is considered treatable, but not curable. It’s a blood cancer, or more accurately an immune system cancer, affecting cells that by their very nature proliferate and then lie dormant, so it doesn’t respond well to the cell-division-smashing sledgehammer of typical cancer treatment.

That’s the bad news. The good news (in the circumstances) is that people don’t typically die of the myeloma itself, but rather from its complications. It causes anaemia, calcium mobilisation from bones, immune dysfunction, renal failure. I’ve got none of those; in short, I’m not the median patient, and thanks to an eagle-eyed GP I’ve been caught very early (albeit, as it turns out, still with around 75% of my bone marrow affected).

Treatment for myeloma is no walk in the park. I’m currently in the fourth week of low-dose chemotherapy that will continue for for a couple more months. Then I get the big guns of modern medicine. My bone-marrow stem cells harvested to keep them safe, then intensive chemotherapy that will make my hair fall out and my immune system disappear. The stem cells go back in after that, and everyone treats me with kid gloves while they grow back and reboot my immune system and a number of other physiological processed that I’ve grown to be fond of. Hopefully, along the way, most of the cancer cells go pop. Statistically, the chance that ALL of them will vanish is practically nil. Clinical data for myeloma is heavily biased towards people in the aforementioned seventh decade of life. Less than ten percent of patients are even close to my age (indeed, I’m apparently the youngest person ever treated for it at Waikato hospital), so judging exactly what all this means for me personally is quite difficult. I incline towards accepting the balance of risk and benefit for various treatments, but taking survival rates and specific prognostications with a pinch of salt.

I’ll probably never know what antigen first made this particular line of cells proliferate, or what combination of environmental factors, bad luck and thermodynamics caused them to lose the instruction sheet on when they should stop, nor will I ever know why my immune system didn’t head them off at the pass. I’ve crawled under houses in the dirty old Dickensian part of Sydney, breathed plenty of filthy unregulated traffic fumes in Auckland, and been variously up to my elbows in epoxy resin, filthy combinations of oil and grease, and a wide variety of solvents, over the years. None of which makes me at all unusual for a Kiwi male. I don’t think I’ve had any blood tests that would have picked this up since I was about 19, so maybe it’s been bubbling away for years. Or maybe my exhaustion during several bits of 2013 was a symptom of this roaring into life, rather than long hours of work and a young baby as I put it down to at the time. I’ll probably never know, there’s nothing I can do about it, and it wouldn’t make any difference if I had known at the time.

I’m determined to give this the awesome respect due to a cancer that’s considered incurable, but I refuse to be scared of it. I’ve alway been a pragmatic existentialist: one day I’m going to die. Given my family history, I might have quietly expected to live into my eighties or even beyond, but I couldn’t rely on that. Nobody can. I feel like I’m on the right side of enough clinical factors to push me out beyond the median ten-year median survival that the most recent reviews are quoting for this disease, and that puts me into the realm where treatments that aren’t even in clinical trials at the moment will be becoming mainstream. I’m playing a numbers game, and while I may not get to collect my Kiwisaver money, I do hope to see my son grow up.

I’m profoundly grateful to be living in a country where nobody is going to ask if I can pay for this, where nobody’s ego or quarterly return is reliant on me getting a particular treatment, rather than the most appropriate one. I’m also profoundly grateful for the support and love that’s come my way from friends and family all over the world, as they’ve gotten hear the news. Some of you may feel like you’re a long way away, but hearing that you’re concerned for me and thinking of me really does make a difference. Thank-you.

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