Life of a Salesman

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Requiem

Watched an interesting movie last night, Requiem for a Dream. One of those titles that have you reaching (or clicking, actually) for the thesaurus when you get back to your fast internet connection at work. It means thus; funeral song or hymn. I do recommend the movie, if for nothing but its soundtrack, I must find out if it won any awards.

But to make this less of a diary, I think the movie raises some interesting questions. In a fashion.

It is a movie that exposes an underworld of drugs, diet pills, paranoia and addiction (which seems to follow nicely with those topics). It brought to mind a 60 minutes' piece on compulsory sex ed in secondary schools in NZ. The gist of that exposé was whether exposure in a controlled environment is beneficial under several criteria; for example prolonging abstinence, increasing safety, increasing awareness of sexual issues etc. Of course being todays media it was very unmeasured and had no real informative value (ask the kiddies in front of a camera if the lessons are beneficial and call the results news...doesn't quite compute with me as un-biased and controlled).

But back on track.

Should we show movies that put forward a more "real" side of life? Take it for given that it has to have a bad ending, it wouldn't do to have the drug dealers ending up all successful and getting away scot free. There is a limit to how much reality we should show our youth.

So that's really my question. Should we expose youth to current mires in our society? If we put it forward in a bad, 'here comes the consequences' sort of way, will that improve the decisions they make?

My opinion is yes. Parents (and not just this generation, but the ones before and to come) underestimate their childrens knowledge. Through disconnection with 'current' issues for kids over time (just like at work where after a spell you forget exactly what it was like (and how it felt emotionally) when you started with your company), a sense of 'if I don't know, it can't be happening' (easier put as denial, I guess) and also forcing their limited (in terms of what youth will come across) personal views and beliefs.

So what do you think? I would find it hard to believe that not one of you would disagree, according to 60 Minutes it is controversial enough to put on the tellie.

I think in future I should cut down on the ( )'s. This post is riddled with them but it's home time so I won't be changing it. If you don't like it you can leave.

Heh heh.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My new favourite website...

Is The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. It is a NZ organisation of scientists, economists & who promote a balanced view of climate science. It explains it all there so go and have a look and tell all your friends

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Twice in two days......

Unbelievable! But I had to make reference to an article on Stuff.co.nz which I found today...

Here is the link to the story.

In summary there is a group of NZ scientists who feel that the information "fed to the public about climate change is often exaggerated and unchallenged", and have taken some action to form 'The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition' (I'm going to acronym it the NZCSC). Once they set up a web page I will link it from this site.

Apparently this is part of a larger global effort to have AGW (Athropogenic Global Warming) skeptics voice their concern about the findings of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and their 'consensus' science.

I am obviously applauding these initiatives and welcome the honest, open debate on the reality and effects of global warming. Existent or not.

The article is certianly worth a read. If only to point out how little of it is actually dedicated to the message from the NZCSC and how much to politicians who don't have much of a clue.

Onto the other parts of the article, there is one forgettable line by Jeanette Fitzsimons (our Green Party Leader) relating to the debate around AGW, stating;

"debate was good, but there had already been plenty of it ... I think science should always be challenged and there should be rigorous debate, but there has already been that within the IPCC."

Does anyone else see the problem with this? When do we decide to stop challenging our ideas? She seems to be suggesting that understanding the climate and predicting the weather for the next 100 years is done and dusted. A certainty.

Why should she be worried about further debate on this topic? I would suggest her reason would be the slowing down of action. But hang on, if I was going to spend three quarters of a billion dollars on AGW, wouldn't you want all voices to be heard? Seems like good common sense to me.

And her comment about the IPCC addressing all the arguments made from 'minority groups' of skeptics is complete and utter bull. I could bring up four points right now that the IPCC has never recognised or considered that may ultimately have an effect on their publishings.

There is one more point made by Jeanette which takes the cake - that there would be financial costs, but it would help the economy be more efficient. I have no idea how wasting 750 million can be side noted as a 'financial cost', or restricting our agriculture, export industry, power industry and public life can possibly make us more efficient.

Explain that one.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dammit

Well first and foremost thank you to the kind people (you know who you are) that posted! I'm absolutely amazed that after that long a time of not updating someone has had a look-see. Either you are extremely optimistic or very bored and have way too much time on your hands :)

I had a thought just before I fell asleep last night of an excellent question that I could ask people who viewed the blog. It was one of those ideas that stood out as a cool thing to do and would actually motivate people to post a comment. Of course now I can't remember what it was at all, despite my best Charlie Chaplin 'scratch your head in intense thought' impersonations.

So now that has got me onto another scientific question - how does our brain actually function at that point just before sleep and during? I have a little knowledge of brain patterns that indicate the various levels of unconsciousness, and a few short stories about how humans can manage on 15-minutes of deep sleep every 4 hours because sleep is cumulative. But apart from that very little.

It's also backed up in my curiosity bank because of an experience I had about 3 months ago. I took several party pills (BZP, not the illegal stuff) instead of drinking one night, because I wanted to stay up to see a rugby game at 4 the next morning. I had some serious trouble getting to sleep at 7am the next day, which is to be expected. But I did manage to get to some stage of quasi-unconsciousness. I say this because at one point (around about 1pm I believe) I woke up while still dreaming.

I'm not talking about sleep-walking (though I am a chronic re-offender in that department) or that feeling of being in a dream when you wake up. I actually had my eyes open and was looking around my bedroom while a totally different reality was still playing in my head. It felt like I was seeing this different scene (I can't quite remember anymore what exactly the scene was - I think it was me outside somewhere on a beach or tramping in the hills, along those lines anyway) underneath my eyes. That's the best way I can find to describe it in words anyhow.

It wasn't a particularly scary or unnerving experience, but it was fascinating and disorienting for a while. It wasn't like the 'scene beneath my eyes' only played for a split second, it was more like 10 - 20 seconds, thought it is hard to tell when you're not staring at a time-piece of some sort.

So I'm off to learn a bit more about the topic and see if anyone else has had any (non-hysteric) similar experiences. Any one out there (of my now confirmed at least two readers) have any interesting stories or thoughts?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Keeping it in the Family

Well more rambling, aren't all of you captivated millions in for a treat? The night out last Wednesday was a heap of fun. Finding a tutu is a more difficult task than you may imagine. I had to buy 3 tutus made for 7 year-olds and have them stitched together. The final product was pretty cool though. I visited a 'seamstress' in Victoria Street in town who had the most adorable dog ever, I should've taken a picture.

Hmmmm..... trying to think of things to move away from the diary-type blog and more onto the abstract concepts model. I think the best blogs mix this up well, and so I will attempt!

One thing that occurred to me over Easter weekend is the power struggle within families and siblings. In particular how siblings relate to each other once they have left the family home.

My partner insists that my family is quite weird, whereas I obviously think the same of hers.

In my family there is definitely a sibling hierarchy which goes pretty much from oldest to youngest. It means that I still tell my little brother off if he starts playing up when I go home, and my big sister still makes sure that I am doing the dishes and helping with tea (when she's around). The difference with Lisa's family is that they don't really engage in any of that and treat each other as equals. Sounds pretty and flowery, but I'm sure it's not normal.

I do envy the fact that they all can express their views without worry and other things that come along with the big brother/sister bond usually. The resulting question in my mind is what do I try to foster with my children (when they arrive, of course)?

There are a lot of lines that my thinking goes along on this topic, I.e. family structures mirroring society and if that is still applicable etc, but I think I'll wait until anyone comments and explores this topic a bit more.

So I welcome anything you mulititudes have to add, and look forward to some vigorous view-sharing.

Annonymously (because no-one is reading this!), Luke

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tutus', amongst other things.

Well keeping with the regular update thing, tomorrow night we are having a birthday celebration for a friend from Ju Jitsu . I have just picked up some fairy wings and a fluffy halo. My next expedition will see me find a tutu (if I can find one for a buff 35 year old man) and some beads. What a night it will be.

Also I read a really interesting the other day, talking about 'temporary amnesia'. It's when you pick up the paper, read an article that pertains to your particular field of interest/study/profession, laugh at it because of the misinformation it contains, then turn the page and keep on reading about other fields. Surely you forget the inaccuracy of your article yet take others on faith. Interesting concept. The question it begs is whether the information we receive from popular media carries any weight at all in this day and age.

What do you think? Should we all go for a nap at 6 O'clock instead of filling our heads with fallacies? Or does the media present events in a fair, unbiased, factually sound way?

Friday, March 31, 2006

Talking to myself

Well, seeing as I haven't kept this updated on any sort of timescale (unless you count every 3 months as a time scale) I'm probably talking to myself, but I've heard that's therapeutic anyway.

I want to start getting into science. When I say that I'm not harboring notions of leaving my job and jumping into University, but I have renewed my interests into Anthrogenic Global Warming (AGW), which has lead me into another fascinating topic - that of scientific integrity and its far reaching consequences. I was actually introduced to this by Michael Crichtons' speech, 'Aliens Cause Global Warming'. I definitely recommend everyone reading the transcript of this at his website, google 'Michael Crichton'.

One question that it raises is how accurate and un-biased our science research is. People may turn off at this point and think 'why do I care?', but take a minute to think about the most controversial and important decisions that are happening around us, and the founding of all of these are based on science. No matter the situation, science is involved and relied heavily upon to push viewpoints and make decisions.

With this in mind, science is kind of important. So why is there so little interest in how science is conducted and the accuracy of this information? I'm regurgitating here, but I think it's important so I'm going to plagiarise anyway. Science needs to be at a point where the populace can trust the information and conclusions put forward. Things like "nuclear winter", "world hunger", "population explosion", "SETI", "Second Hand Smoke" have all been proved wrong, but still linger on in the bulk of the population. The reason why they were believed in the first place? They were put forward to have 'the consensus of important scientists' and great media campaigns.

Taking nuclear winter as an example (not to patronise but nuclear winter is where releasing a certain critical amount of muclear warheads, say 50,000 megatons, will cause dust clouds to block out the sun, raise global temperatures and drift radioactive particles everywhere in the globe, henceforth everybody dies), the science was put forward as 'undoubtably solid' by the media, where such comments as "The science is terrible but---perhaps the psychology is good" by prominent scientist Victor Weisskopf went unheard by the public.

Why did no one ever question the science? It was put forward to be the consensus of the body of scientists in the field. As soon as it is accepted by the public as being the majority view of scientists, debate on the validity of the claims passes and debate on the next step starts. That is why we still hold incorrect views that have been disproven - we still accept them as truths because of media campaigns and political angles.

And all of the above examples have been disproven. There is lots of science behind them. If anyone does want the references for this (if indeed anyone has continued reading to this point :), fell free to ask and I will send them to you.

Which brings me to consensus science. Science is not a field of consensus. Politics is. Scientists don't care whether people agree with them (good scientists anyway), all they care about is being right. Science is varified by being able to re-produce results using the same data and method. If one person gets it right and can be verified, they are right. It doesn't matter how many people think they are wrong, they are right. That is science. When we remember Galileo, who was right when everyone else was wrong, we act in shock that he could have been treated in the way he was. Yet we continue to do it now. When we hear views that are contrary to public opinion - say that second hand smoke is not responsible for the death of 4,000 kiwis per year - people will say 'yes it does! I've been told it does! The media says it, the government says it, anti-smoking and health organisations still say it! But they are all wrong. Science has proved that they are wrong. Even though they all agree, they are wrong. Science is not a consensus.

I've got so much to write on this, but this is getting really long and I want to have some time left for eating in my lunch. More to come (hopefully!)