Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ah Mandurah, you gotta love it! :-)

I just rang Reading Cinemas in Mandurah to find out why Hugo in 3D had disappeared off their schedule. It turns out that it has been bumped because they only have so many 3D projectors and Journey 2 : The Mysterious Island, the sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth, has just opened. Now I am not denigrating Journey 2 because I haven’t seen it. But only in Mandurah could a movie that has a critics rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, 11 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, a major feat for a childrens movie) and with reviews like ‘Hugo is an extravagant, elegant fantasy with an innocence lacking in many modern kids’ movies, and one that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema’ loses it’s slot to a movie that rates 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But to be fair to Journey 2, it does rate 72% among viewers. I’m really just having a rant because, after having been ripped off and under-whelmed by 3D movies, one finally comes along that has reviewers saying things like ‘Setting the benchmark for 21st century family films — 3D has never looked better and Hugo’s story is universally appealing’ and it lasts about 2 days in Mandurah! 😦

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The tyre changing hero! :-)

I have just read a book called Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. The central premise is that people who truly succeed generally do so not just on ability and hard work but also because they have been afforded some opportunity that others haven’t. Simple things like Bill Gates going to a school that was one of the first to have a powerful computer for students use. Now, Bill Gates still spent thousands of hours programming and is a very smart guy, but if the school hadn’t provided him the opportunity to spend those hours programming then things may have been different.

Gladwell also gives a sporting example which is really interesting. In most elite sporting league around the world there are clusters of months around which a disproportional number of athletes are born. In the AFL it is January and February and in the English soccer Premier League it is September and October (http://eprints.qut.edu.au/29661/). The reason this happens is that the cut-off dates for junior leagues and junior representative squads are Jan 1st and Sept 1st respectively. So by the time the selection of kids for elite squads come along after Jan 1st of any given year, the kids born January or February of the previous year are a year bigger and stronger than kids born in the later months of the year. Gladwell argues that this is an opportunity in itself but then it is compounded because the kids in elite squads get better coaching, more practice and higher levels of support, and so the initial opportunity is compounded. They still have to work very hard to succeed but they are in an environment that supports this ethos of hard work and they are given every opportunity to make the most of their hard work.

Now where was I going with this. 🙂 Oh yeah, it got me thinking about the opportunities we are affording this generation of kids. How can I put this? I think our unwillingness to place reasonable demands on them is not affording them the opportunities they deserve. Let me explain with a couple of examples.

I’ve recently had two of my brothers ask me to help my nephews (sixteen and eighteen) with study in subjects that I have expertise in. My response was to speak to my nephews and tell them I was available and that they should contact me when they wanted to sit down and do some work. Now, I did well in school, something that I have always put down to inherited intelligence. But, after reading this book, I realise that I was lucky enough (on reflection. I didn’t think so at the time. 🙂 ) to be raised in an environment where study was expected. I also had a brother in the year above me and my twin brother in the same year to provide an element of competition. In short, I had parents and a home environment that placed demands on me. Had I been required to place those demands on myself then who knows whether I would have been able to. I don’t remember ever being happy to do homework so probably not. But here I was expecting two teenage boys to self-manage their study, without any real knowledge as to whether they had been prepared to do so. What I needed to do was provide them with an opportunity by placing appropriate demands on them; ‘I’ll sit down with you at this time and I expect you to have done this reading in preparation’.

Another example. Yesterday my father, brother and I went around to a friend of my brother’s place to dig up two of the big poles that shade sails hang off. These poles were buried in, what we calculated as, a quarter of a cubic metre of concrete. If you aren’t familiar with how much concrete weighs, this is about half a tonne of concrete each pole. So we had to dig a big hole around them and then smash the concrete off before we could get the poles out. There were seven of us there in total. Five of us were past our mid-forties, including my seventy two year old father, and there was my nephew and his pal, the son of my brothers friend, who are both sixteen. So the five over-forties spent three and half hours digging hole and smashing concrete. What did the two strong, fit sixteen year olds do? They went to the beach. And they went because we let them…after-all they are on school holidays and should be out enjoying themselves. On reflection I think we let them down by not placing a reasonable demand on them that they stay and help.

But I guess the real impetus for me to write this entry was my eighteen year old nephew, who has become a hero of sorts among his friends because he changed a tyre on his mother’s car, albeit with phone support from his dad, when he got a flat in his way back from Perth. I mean, really? 🙂 I can understand that an eighteen year old might never have had to change a tyre but his whole cohort for friends? Or have they just never been expected to?

I guess what I am saying is that there are opportunities that will present themselves to this generation of children that we can’t really control. But what we can control, I think, is giving them the opportunity to develop the motivation and ethos to do the hard work that is going to be necessary when these other opportunities knock.

How our media sucks : Pt. Something

I read a really interesting article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday about how 54 children have nearly drowned in NSW (I think, it’s not totally clear from the article) since New Years. This is amazingly awful but I found it really interesting how the article was slanted. Have a read of it and see if you can spot the problem. Answers on the back of a postcard to …. 🙂

By the way, the New Years resolutions are going  swimmingly. This might normally have had me ranting and frothing at the mouth, but not so now. Makes for more boring reading for you maybe but a lot less stress for me! 🙂

Gay Panic? Oh for f&%k sake!

I’m regularly get emails from Change.org, which is a website that allows people to start petitions on social issues that they think need to be addressed. It’s actually a pretty good site because it works on a local, national and global level and, like Avaaz, provides a voice to people that might not otherwise have one.

Today I got one from them that I was sure had to be spam, or an urban myth at best. This one was a petition to get the Queensland government to amend the law that allows what is called the Gay Panic, or Homosexual Advance, defence. To quote the petition ‘A loophole in Queensland law allows people accused of murder to defend themselves in court by claiming “gay panic” — that is, if someone who they think is gay “comes onto” them, the sheer panic they feel is partial justification for murder.’ Now, you can see how I might have thought this was a piss-take. I mean seriously, you beat a guy to death because he came on to you? Or you shoot a classmate the day after he flirted with you. And you expect to get away with it?

So I did a bit of research; and sadly it exists and they do get away with it; and not just in Queensland! If you read this article you’ll find that one of the reasons that gay panic defences are used is, and I quote, ‘because they often work’. I can see how the defence might be used to explain an extreme reaction in the some circumstance, like someone who had suffered years of homosexual  abuse as a child for instance. But a quick internet search will show you that it is used in some pretty spurious cases, like just about any time someone chooses to murder or beat up a gay person. Take, for example the Mixed Martial Arts fighter who used it as a defence for beating the crap out of a guy he supposedly woke up in bed with!

Thankfully, the defence has been written out of the law in a lot of places, in both Australia and around the world. For instance in the UK lawyers are apparently told by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales that “The fact that the victim made a sexual advance on the defendant does not, of itself, automatically provide the defendant with a defence of self-defence for the actions that they then take.” But that still doesn’t stop people trying.

Anyway, this is kind of a long winded way of saying this needs to be stopped. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about homosexuality, it shouldn’t be an excuse for murder. Or assault. Or anything really.

Happy New Year!

First of all, before I get off on this latest ramble, I hope that you all had a fantastic New Years eve and that 2012 is an amazing year for you!

I have to say that I love the ‘cleanliness’ of a New Year. It just seems like a bright, clear, new page stretching out ahead of you. Poetic huh! 😉 New Years is probably one of the only two times in a year that most of us indulge in a bit of self-reflection. The other is on our birthday. Self-reflection on New Years is kind of foisted upon us by social convention whereas self-reflection on our birthday is largely a result of us being one year closer to our graves. 🙂 Luckily for me my birthday is the day before New Years eve so I can wrap the two days into one self-reflection package. Which is probably a good thing because the last thing I need is to spend more time navel gazing. I already spend more time inside my own head than is probably healthy; hmmmm nice random mixing of  anatomical metaphors there! 🙂

Moving right along, this years self-reflection has lead me to decide on having three resolutions, one for something I will continue to do, one for something I will do more of and one for something I will do less of. I just like the symetry for some reason. 🙂

The thing that I am going to continue to do is a no-brainer really. Exercise. I probably wouldn’t have included it normally because it is such a part of my life that it really didn’t need a special mention. But I have because of this article. I have always had my own ideas about how much exercise benefits me, in all sorts of ways. But I never realised how much it was actually helping me. I was especially interested to read that exercise ‘has now stepped into the realm of “treatment”‘. So on the basis of this I thought it warranted a mention as my thing to continue.

My thing to do more of is to accept as many invitations as possible,  and within reason, that are extended to me to get out and do things. There are a number of good reasons for me to do this, including that I mostly work from home, which removes the social interactions that a work environment provides and the fact that I can be a lazy bastard at times. But the main reason for this one is that I am a compartmentaliser, a term that I have just recently coined myself. 🙂 I have this habit of seeing the world as a series of discrete events, each of which needs to be completed before I can move onto the next one. Which is kind of fine probably, except that I am an extreme compartmentaliser. By this I mean it is a real battle for me to do anything until each event is dealt with in order. Let me give you an example. I have a lecture to give on the 9th of January. In my mind that somehow limits what I can do in the meantime because I have to prepare for the lecture between now and then, or something like that; I’m not totally sure what is going on in my head because the lecture is already written and all I need to do is remind myself of what I am going to say. And said lecture is at 4.30pm on the 9th but if you asked me if I was free at any time on that day my immediate reaction would be no. After I thought about it I would realise that I had plenty of time but my first reaction would be that I couldn’t do anything because of my lecture.

I think the problem is that I have too much spare time so that the things I do have to do take on a sort of un-real importance. A busier person, like my twin brother, doesn’t have this  problem. He is actually exactly the opposite, he would arrange something at 3.30pm for half an hour, on the assumption that he can get up to the university in 30 minutes; which he can’t by the way! 🙂 The answer to my compartmentalising lies in a couple of things and one of them is keeping myself busier. Hence the plan to do as many of the things I am invited to do as is feasible.

And the thing I am going to do less of is sweating the small stuff. My desk calendar for 2011 was titled ‘Stop sweating the small stuff; and most of it is small stuff’. It’s taken me a year to get the message, I’m a fast learner aren’t I, but I think it has finally sunk in. I used to think of myself as a pretty sanguine person but I seem to have lost it over the years; and I want it back! 🙂 I have a poster on my wall that says ‘Is there anything today I really can’t handle’ and my personal experience, in 49 years and 2 days, is that there hasn’t been. Which kinda suggests that a bit of performance anxiety is a good thing but all-out worry is a bit useless.

But it goes beyond worrying really. Too many little things bug me, something I would really like to change. The old saying ‘give me the courage to change the things I can, the patience to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference’ comes to mind. I’m not totally sure how you actually go about worrying less and being more sanguine, and please no-one say anything as trite as ‘just stop worrying, life is too short’. No shit, Sherlock! 🙂 My strategy for this year is to make use of the psychological theory that we can act our way into a new ways of thinking. So a lot less ‘fuck!’ and a lot more ‘meh!’ 🙂

I’ll let you know how I get on. But until I have some progress to report, take care and may 2012 bring you everything you wish from it.