Category Archives: General

A message to all the young folk out there.

I was chatting to a friend of mine recently who lamented the fact that I hadn’t posted a blog for a while…which was really surprising because I didn’t think that anyone actually read it. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I ย thought that I’d start again. And as it turns out, I’m reading a perfect book, chock full of blogging material. It’s called The Owners Manual for the Brain, and what it does is give you the latest neuroscience on a range of a topics and then gives you practical applications for it. For example there are sections on how sleep affects the brain, how our brain develops as we age, what we know about how the brain repairs itself, how we learn etc. etc. I think you get the picture.

The section on the teenage / early adult brain is fascinating. First of all, there is lots of evidence that suggests that the brain doesn’t stop developing until we are 25-ish, not around 18 as I think most of us would have thought. During the period from early teens to 25 we learn faster and easier than at any other time of our life. Our brain prepares itself for all the learning we are going to do (potentially) by being the biggest it is going to be at around age 13. Combined with all this neural capacity is a massive influx of hormones and dopamine, which all leads to a desire to learn by experimentation…the riskier the better. Sounds like fun hey!ย The bad news is that between 13 and 25 our brain sheds lots of this grey matter, in effect the excess is pruned, if we don’t use it by learning stuff. The good news is that, at the same time it is laying down more white matter, which increases the permanence and speed of access of what we have learned.

The problem is that nature is a contrary Miss. At the same time that you youngsters are all ready to go out and experiment, the part of your brain that gives you judgment, the pre-frontal cortex, is TINY! So you have all this capacity and desire to learn…and no idea about what and how to learn. You also have incredibly poor judgement and assessment of risk at this time as well. In short, you are a disaster waiting to happen.:-)

So this has all been a long, rambling way of saying two things. First of all, don’t waste this period of your life, learn as much as you possibly can. And secondly, listen to us old bastards…we know what we are talking about, and you don’t! Ta ta for now. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ginger Alert : A public warning. :-)

I don’t do this very often but I thought this was so scary that I really did need to put out a broadcast to you all, warning you of the very real danger that lurks among us. And to re-assure you that I’m not just spamming you all, I have checked Hoax Slayer, Snopes, and a couple of the other sites you can visit to check email and blog hoaxes. This one didn’t appear on any of them as a hoax. So, you have been warned, this can really happen! ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way, can I say sorry upfront to all of my beautiful red-headed friends for using an old stereotype just to get a few cheap laughs…forgive me, I am weak. ๐Ÿ™‚

Changing the subject totally, I was at a Medieval Carnivale a few weekends ago in a sleepy little town in the south west of W.A., called Balingup. In case you have never been to one of these things, they are great fun. At this one there were lots of little stalls selling a range of interesting hand-made products, lots of great food (the Bratwurst hotdogs were ‘ken amazing! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and lots of displays, like swordfighting, falconry and black-smithing. They even had a burning of the dragon. And the atmosphere was great; people were obviously there just to have a good time. The only downside was all the losers in medieval costume, like this sad git.

Oh, just to update my previous post, I’ve worked out the problem. It came to me last week when I paid attention to the facial expressions of the people who didn’t reply to my greetings; a mixture of surprise and contempt. It is apparent to me now that I have mis-judged these people completely, because the whole issue is simply one of mis-communication. We are obviously speaking different languages. I think I’m saying ‘hiya’ or ‘good morning’ but, because of language differences, they are hearing ‘f*&k off and die’, or words to that effect. I haven’t quite worked out what the exact translation is, but you get the giste. But, now that I think about it, it is actually much worse that I thought, because it’s more than just another langauge, the issue is obviously that I’m trying to communicate witth another species. Yes folks, I am talking alien invasion. I think I can safely say that there aren’t too many human cultures where a smile, a head nod and something uttered, be it in another language, wouldn’t be interpreted as ‘hello’, so to suggest that the people I pass are aliens, new to the Earth and not fully aware of our customs, is the only logical conclusion a sane person could come to; or have I taken that too far? ๐Ÿ™‚

Update : I rode today and every single ‘person’ I passed nodded, smiled or said hello. So either these aliens are catching on fast, or the rumours of the death of human decency are greatly exaggerated, mainly by me as it turns out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Just f*&king nod!

I’ve been meaning to write this particular entry for ages but I always seem to get distracted; or have something happen that renews my faith in human nature. But now I’ve finally had enough! You see, as you may or may not know, I spend a lot of time either walking or riding around Mandurah. Whenever I have something to do in town I just stroll in. And I ride at least three times a week on the bike paths that run along the beach south of my house. And in the course of this walking and riding, I pass a lot of people. People out walking their dogs, riding their bike or just getting to somewhere else like I am. And, me being the friendly, cheerful chap that I am, I acknowledge them all in some small way. Runners I’ll just nod my head to cos I know they don’t want to have to reply to me. People walking I’ll say hi to, or thank them for moving over on the path so I can get past. But, as much as possible, I’ll recognise them in same way or other.

So this morning’s ride was going to plan. Lots of people out walking, riding etc., so lots of head nodding and ‘morning’ or ‘thank you’ going on. And then I hit a patch, which sadly is not that unusual, where about 5 people in a row just rubbered me. Didn’t even look my way as I rode toward them. Or even worse, looked me in the eye without a hint that I even existed. The thing is that this is not an usual situation. On my walks into town I can be walking toward someone and the two of us can be the only people in view for a kilometre either way and they’ll walk past like I was a ghost. Some will avert their gaze so that we don’t make eye contact but others will just pretend that I don’t exist. Iย  mean, I know I’m no oil painting but surely I deserve some indication that they have recognised the presence of another human being! I can understand that walking down Hay Street in the middle of Perth you don’t want to acknowledge every person you pass but seriously, have we got to the point where we are so absorbed in ourselves that we can’t even acknowledge another human being when we are the only two people within cooee?

I’m not asking for a lengthy conversation, in fact I’d be the first to say no to this, but surely a f*&king nod of your head isn’t too much to ask! ๐Ÿ™‚

The good, the bad and Mandurah! :-)

First up, an apology. Over two months without a post is borderline cruelty, knowing as I do how you all hang on my every word! ๐Ÿ™‚ Aaahhh, I crack myself up, which is probably just as well, seeing as I don’t often see much evidence that I crack anyone else up. Aaaaaaawwwww, I hear none of you say. ๐Ÿ™‚ But enough of this self-something-ing, my profuse apologies and I will endeavour to make sure that it never happens again. Now, on to the post.

I saw something in a localย  newspaper today that I just had to write about. Apparently a guy was found with a tomahawk, a knife and an iron bar in his car. He was charged with intent to cause fear and his defense was, get this, that he lived in Mandurah and needed protection. ๐Ÿ™‚ I bet the local tourist board can’t wait to get hold of that. I can just imagine the tag line for the ads. “Are you carrying deadly weapons? Then why not take the chance to come to Mandurah?” ๐Ÿ™‚

But to be fair, I probably should give a little bit of balance. This is a picture, taken by a good friend of mine, of me out riding on a winters day in Mandurah. I’m the dot on the far hill you can see if you look very closely. Not bad really, when you think that it was taken 7 seconds after I passed her. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  A pretty idyllic scene hey? Of course, I was suitably tooled up. ๐Ÿ™‚

Busting myths for non-Mythbusters. :-)

Life is a funny thing hey. Since I took my New Years Eve vow of sanguinity I find that I have less of an urge to jump on here and vent my spleen. Good for me but not much good for blog output unfortunately. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I saw this the other day and thought it would make a great little entry. I really like the idea of the forum he is going to and the way it is being run. It seems like a good model for lots of other events. The mining resources rent tax , putting a price on carbon etc etc.

It’s a bit of a ‘no shit, Sherlock’ kind of article really isn’t it (especially the ‘The first myth that needs busting is the conceit that the human mind is organised, logical and rational’ statement. ๐Ÿ™‚ ). If you want to change someone’s mind orย  convince them of your point of view don’t overwhelm them with information, don’t threaten their world view and don’t perpetuate the myth. Actually it is something that the Liberals do very well in Australia and Labor does very poorly. Remember back to the Mining Super Profits Tax. The Liberals; a great, big new tax. The mining industry; this will destroy the economy and your job with it. Labor; a guy standing in a lecture theatre intellectualising the tax. Who won that argument I wonder! And right now with the ‘faceless men’ obsession the Liberals and the media have. Total nonsense but very effective. I mean how dumb is a statement likeย  ‘Bill Shorten and the other faceless men’? ๐Ÿ™‚ But it is short, simple and gets traction.

I might need to send this to a few select politicians, me thinks. Hell, the whole of the Labor caucus! ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh btw, the guy who wrote this article’s blog is interesting as well for anyone confused about the nature of the climate change denialist argument.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) 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? ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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 โ€œgay panicโ€ — that is, if someone who they think is gay โ€œcomes ontoโ€ 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 homosexualย  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.