"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Am Leaving I Am Leaving

willard: you are being haunted by your nightmares
the erynies
climate blogs are erinyes
yet unreal
in our minds
you could be seeking salvation from this haunting
it's a great myth
food for SF
read that

me: I am not a novelist

willard: yes, you are

me: gave up on that ages ago

willard: you like to write

me: it's always good for me to let go of ambitions
I have always had too many

willard: i'm not saying to become

me: maybe I should let go of all of them

willard: but to be
to write
for fun

me: it isn;t fun any more

willard: exactly

me: it is posturing

willard: hence my suggestion

me: it is ego tripping
everybody wants to be the important one

willard: you're quite right

me: nobody wants to pull together

willard: humans

me: bloody monkeys

willard: i'm at this crossroad, myself
this ego

me: computer people understand

willard: this posturing
is what i study

me: climate people don't

willard: yet i despise it

me: if people pull together, things get better
if people promote themselves, they get worse

willard: yes

me: that's all there is to it
it is not a very difficult concept

willard: i've circumscribed Mosher today

me: drawn a line around him?

willard: much
i have become a goon, mt
a loving troll
i wasted two days to reach that state

me: you remain opaque and I remain exhausted

willard: i'm referring to my interactions at JC's place

me: and I don;t care about Steig

willard: lots of them

me: at all

willard: me neither

me: which is Steig's point
Antarctica is warming. What does any of the rest of it matter?

willard: i got the meme

me: Curry is bizarre, but she is nevertheless paid for her troubles

willard: blogging?

me: Scientists exist and are paid for that.

willard: y

me: I am not a scientist in that sense.

willard: ok

me: My vast ambitions are stupid

willard: vanity
all is vanity

me: ok

willard: including criticizing it
you're here
do the best you can

me: I am leaving I am leaving

willard: keep your feet moving
don't do stupid moves
be well

me: In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains

willard: lol
your sensibility is touching

me: I probably will not give up, just out of habit

willard: no
but stop that passive aggro crap

me: but I think something is changing, and I don;t know exactly what

willard: and do what you feel like doing

me: well, I am not so sure what that is

willard: i'm telling us that
the point is
nobody needs us to be what we do not want to be
you can change
choose life
you'll be back
write less
write to fill you up
you need love
and you don't find it there
go find love
bring it back
spread it in your writing
the old way of seeing things work
love moves everything
including planets
well, kinda
good night, mt

me: good night


Anonymous said...

Before you speak, ask yourself if what you have to say will improve on silence.

Ron Broberg said...

Take an intellectual vacation, mt. Go read some broad history of mathematics, of science. Find something that sparks further interest. Read up on that.
Stay away from the Tribal Inquisitors. They are bad for the soul.

Ron Broberg said...


Anna Haynes said...

Just so you know, MT -
References for images & quotes in the climate poster I created (link)
I picked the best & most apropos quotes I have run across.

But - take a break. As you've said before, we're in it for the long haul.

p.s. I'd like to put the poster (adobe photoshop) online, but it's so honkin' big & I'm wary of bandwidth costs. Suggestions as to how I could make it available for download, w/o risking great personal cost?

Anna Haynes said...

Also - MT, where are your "puzzler" posts? (link)

Anna Haynes said...

> ...Tribal Inquisitors

Engaging in some quarters is like weedeating through dog poop; you won't emerge feeling clean.

Steve L said...

I was wondering if you were okay. Now I know that you were not. Do extra things because they are fun, not because they are important. Recognize that egos make important things more fun. And that's fair, but focus on fun rather than important.

Anonymous said...

Anna, you could download this small torrent program, sign on to this torrent site, follow the instructions for uploading, upload your file, put up a link to it wherever you like, and stop uploading as soon as someone else downloaded it and keeps uploading it afterwards.

I could also do it for you if you send me the file through this service (to my gmail account: arcticnev).

Jim Bouldin said...


What Ron said. Get your mind off of jackasses for a while. Go hang out in Big Bend and watch the river and the sky for a couple months. Then come out to Yosemite and I'll show you some trees, and I do mean *trees*.

p.s.: Robinson Jeffers

Adam said...

Don't let the bastards get you down, MT.

Come back when you are refreshed. I hope it's soon.

Anonymous said...

MT - a great piece. Moving.

I wrote a similar kind of piece a few weeks back about the situation in Australia.

No doubt you are aware, but we have been wrecked end-to-end my cyclones, floods and fires.


Perhaps ove rth ecoming decades we will need poetry as much as science?

Michael Tobis said...

Huh. Not a piece at all, really. Just a transcript.

manuel moe g said...

I have a question, and I hope I can get the opinions of the commenters here.

I find MT's blog to be practically the only place that consistently talks about the intersection of morality, policy, science, and communication, with regards to climate disruption.

When I compare myself to MT, I am struck by Michael's maturity, and my own immaturity. I am quick to assign the labels of good and evil, and Michael is slow to use those labels, even though Michael is keenly aware of the moral component of the situation. I am quick to judge someone as evil because of an unfortunate action, and Michael is slow to promote a judgement about behavior into a judgement about identity.

I think I am a kindred spirit to frequent hot-headed commenter "dhogaza". (I don't know if "dhogaza" would describe himself as hot-headed - apologies to him if he would not.)

I admire MT's maturity because if you are quick to use the label "evil", especially when it comes to identity of the other, you lose the ability to communicate to the other.

The other difference I have with MT is that I am pessimistic about the chance of avoiding collapse, and Michael seems to strain to remain optimistic.

Where I am critical of Michael's approach is that, much like:

[1] the Moncktons deny the scientific reality

[2] the Revkins put their hopes in a technological fix the equivalent of a time machine so we can snatch the solution from the future to use in the past

much like those delusionists and obscurantists, the hopeful scientists like MT deny the economic/political/social impossibility of self-imposed contraction after the paradise of sustained economic expansion, and put their hopes is some nonesuch communication technique that makes large human groups stop being childish, nearsighted, and fearful.

There is no way my analysis is correct, because it would be the first time I was correct in my entire life. So, what is the sensible middle way, as you all see it?

King of the Road said...

I've participated in Michael's blog in a different way than most here. I have much less education in: Physics; Meteorology; Ecology; Climate Science; History of Science; Computer Science; Philosophy; Economics; Literature; Political History; climate blog cultural attributes, etc.


I first came here quite a while back asking Michael to look at some calculations I'd run into at, as I recall, the Junk Science site called "What watt is watt" or something close to that. It seemed to indicate "no problem, couldn't be a problem."

Michael gave me a bunch of links at which to look, offered to "walk me through" some of the basics if I gave him some of my background with respect to what science and math I knew or thought I knew (we went to Northwestern together in the early '70's, and had seen each other, briefly, once since).

Michael's most compelling points revolved around consistency. His summary of what it would take to make him think that he'd been wrong about climate change was what "clicked" for me.

Why does this matter and, by implication, why does Michael matter (it's good to stop referring to him in the past tense - this is hardly his eulogy)?

Because I'm exactly emblematic of at least one group who need to be convinced and possibly can be. I have the following characteristics:

I came here leaning toward skepticism but willing to think and learn. I'm reasonably well educated but a complete non-specialist. I'm a partner in a business and deal constantly with other people with the previously listed characteristics. I'm capable of making an argument and being listened to. I vote and explain to others why I vote as I do. I know politicians up to the state government level.

If I can't be brought on board, then what?

So, having known Michael for almost 40 years (Jesus!) I appreciate the understanding of the sociopolitcoeconomic environment I've gained from reading his posts, the comments, and his replies here and at the links to which I've been led.

I don't know if reaching people like me is enough, but not reaching them is a disaster.

Michael, your mood reminds me of the time, out on the landfill along the shores of the Great Lake Michigan, at the end of our freshman year, you was expressing your complete disdain for every aspect of the University and our first year there. To make your point, you literally stuck your finger down your throat to induce vomiting. The induction was unsuccessful, whereupon you looked up and said "s _ _ t, I couldn't even wretch."

Anyway Michael, thanks and come back soon. And sorry if the story was too personal - you can delete the comment if you like. I won't be hurt!

Michael Tobis said...

Rob, indeed I agree with you. But this site is more or less self-indulgent and doesn't really do that sort of outreach effectively.

Nor, I think, does anybody else.

The reasons for that are interesting, but it's time to stop ruminating about it and start doing something about it.

King of the Road said...

I would argue that much, if not most, writing has a self-indulgent aspect. So what? The question is, if your beliefs are heartfelt and important, is the blog the best way to animate them? And, if so, is the price too high? If not, what is and does doing whatever that may be preclude your writing, given that there is no question that the blog is of value.

I will state this with conviction: your blog is more valuable and less self-indulgent (and more widely read) than mine. But that could be interpreted, I suppose, as damning with faint praise.

So, to the extent you don't write it, I'll miss it.

Steve Mennie said...

For the record..

I came across your comments on some other blog perhaps 6 months ago and almost immediately began to look forward to them. I then discovered your blog and have it on my 'climate change favorites'. I have no background in science or math. I am an artist (painter, printmaker, videographer) But am a human being and I think that is what I find most compelling about your writing - it's humanity.

Don't blame you for taking a break...but come back.

Paul said...


I have found your emphasis on the moral aspects of human induced climate disruption compelling. You suffer the slings and arrows of the denalati--not always gracefully but you aren't afraid to lead with your chin.

Fuller is the most transparent and reprehensible because he passes himself off as believing the science but rejecting any responsibility for the consequences of what the science is telling us.

Mosher, his even more insidious coauthor, is in full flower now over at Curry's blog whipping the crowd into a frenzy. He says:

"Did Steig in his capacity as a reviewer distort the scientific process by recommending and insisting on methods that he thought ( and later wrote) were inferior?

That’s something that the university of Washington might also be asked to consider as their misconduct policies seem to have an interesting clause about interfering with another researcher. lets see.. their exact wording..
“. Intentional and malicious interference with the scientific, scholarly, and academic activities of others.”"

These guys and their codependents, Curry, McIntyre, Watts are the blogosphereic face of deny and delay. One wonders if they have any real influence beyond the hot house climate blogging.

I left the following comment at Curry's chum pit. I quote in full so some may not be tempted to go to her blog and inflate her stats any more than necessary:

Dr. Curry.

You promote the intemperate ramblings of your blog participants by your choice of topics, your periodic cheerleading interpositions and mostly by your passive acceptance of essentially any stream of consciousness blither your followers send.

The technical topics are of value insofar as they generate the patient response of people like A. Lacis, Pekka the Finn, Fred Moolten and the delightful Vaughn Pratt. The lead ins to these posts are cut and paste bits with essentially no value added by you. Otherwise your blog, despite the thousands of words you are so proud of and the hundreds of comments and great blog stats, is a sounding brass and tinkling symbol.

Above the fold we find posts inspired by Girma, kim and manaker. The first guest post is by the Great Hydrologer or something.
Where are the published climate scientists? Don’t they fit into the “extended peer” community.

Is this really more satisfying than doing science and publishing meaningful stuff reviewed by your peers?

I have followed this blog since its inception–not with any great expectations, based on your drive through comments on other blogs. I did hope that a blog of your own might give you the platform and incentive to pull your thoughts together in a coherent form. Alas, this does not seem to be happening.

I am now embarking on a 12 step program to wean myself away from climate porn. The first step is to delete this blog from my Google reader. I will rely on Willard for pointers to choice bits in the future.

This post on the Steig and O’Donnell kerfluffle is about as low as you have gone. But I am sure you will excel yourself in the near future. Since this is a thread to let off steam–consider it let."

Michael, do take a break. Some of the rest of us are reaching the ends of our ropes too. Don't stop writing. Broberg put me on to Neal Stephenson. He is a great read but you probably already know that.

Unknown said...

Hike a long-distance trail or something equivalent - changes perspective. Steer clear of the witch hunters for awhile. Your comments have always improved on silence and the angry and/or nonsensical noise that is the blogosphere.

Oale said...

I've admired your take on this issue, you've talked with compassion and morals to people who don't want any it seems. Take a break, sounds like you need it, but please come back.

notjonathon said...

Probably won't help, but I say, "Don't leave us." Your work has entertained and educated many of us who don't often comment (as per your admonition).

EliRabett said...

Much better said in the 30s

Steve L said...

You know what? I take back what I said about fun. It's possible you don't know what's good for you.

Here's a suggestion (think of it as an experiment): every second time you get the urge to go to crappy blogs to join the fray, blog here on health -- your health. Every other time you get the urge to visit those blogs, do something healthy for yourself (buy some healthy food, do some exercise, ... something). Your blog's title doesn't even have to change, as now it's sarcastic about you going to the Olympics.

Sure, it's a crappy experiment, but it's one worth trying. Keep it up for a couple of months. Then reflect on how you're feeling. Healthy mind/healthy body? Etc. You might inspire someone. And it's important.

Anna Haynes said...

My recommendation: do a little side project. It cleanses the palate.

Hank Roberts said...

I am reminded of what it was like in the 1960s when biologists were raising concerns about persistent organic chemicals -- and the Agent Orange folks (Dow and the military) reacted with a very sophisticated multilevel response, sending speakers to colleges to 'debate' biologists who had no idea they were stepping into a meatgrinder. I sat through one of those, with an older clever witty engaging charming guy from Dow speaking against a young ecology prof from another college. The Dow guy got a lot of applause from the college students. Talking to the ecologist afterward he was close to angry frustrated tears, saying over and over 'he was lying, he was _lying_'

And the politically smart freshmen and sophomores at the table said, well, yeah. You've got to learn to deal with that.

This was three years before
the shootings at Kent State/Jackson State. It got worse before it got better. The chemicals are still out there and it's still a mess.

This is how it works.

We're here on our lonely little planet in a universe that's as best we can tell so far silent, with no sign of intelligence.

Our task is to get good at being smart.

Don't let the bastards wear you down, whether they're "our" or "their" bastards, there are people on all sides of these issues who glory in smoke and mirrors and insult and taking offense and pearl-clutching and he-did-it-first stuff.

Back off to conserve your energy and caring. Ask for what you need, eh? Maybe some of us can help too.

Anna Haynes said...

> These guys and their codependents, Curry, McIntyre, Watts are the blogosphereic face of deny and delay. One wonders if they have any real influence beyond the hot house climate blogging.

Actually, they do; or at least, the causal path appears to run that way. Members of the public can't tell who to trust, so they "localize" (i.e., listen to someone they know who presents himself as an expert) and/or go with "team spirit" ("I'm a [political party identification] therefore I [do/don't] believe in science") - both realms of which need something that looks like intellectual backing.

Hank Roberts said...

MT: remember, in the long run, all of us are contributing to the same record:


We made one big change this past year that has had astonishingly good results. I recommend it; we saved significant money and our life improved. This is it:

Michael Tobis said...

Hank, nice links on both counts.

Paul Daniel Ash said...

Please take care. I've enjoyed reading your thoughts as a blogger and commenter, but do trust what your intuition tells you as to the right balance to take in this situation.

"Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well..."
- the Bard of Duluth

captcha: devilit

Anna Haynes said...

> "...both realms of which need something that looks like intellectual backing."

s/looks like/serves as/
(by its inactivism-friendly framing)

Anna Haynes said...

Yo, Dr. Moderator, could you please delete my "localize" comment & the "s/looks like/serves as/" one below?

(since it may be hitting a little too close to home)

Michael Tobis said...

Anna, I don't see why. I thought the comment was balanced and perceptive.

Marion Delgado said...

Outreach is important, but your actual science work should come first, IMO.

(and i imagine it's a great deal more enjoyable?)

Michael Tobis said...

Marion, not necessarily.

Deech56 said...

Michael, from what I have read, you have been commenting for quite a number of years, and in the few years I have been reading your blog and your writings around the internet, I have come to appreciate the qualities many here have listed. Your voice and your own unique way of looking at things have been important to me, and I think to many others.

Seasons, cycles, ebb and flow are all a part of life. There is a time for going full bore, and there is a time to pull back and reflect. Each of us has his or her own way of taking a physical and/or mental sabbatical.

We all want you to do what's best for you - maybe just keeping conversations going about life outside certain sciences. Music? The arts? There are many wise posters here whose views are also valuable and good conversationalists.

Best regards,


IA said...

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson