Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the category “Fun Articles”

Are liberals more tech-friendly than conservatives?

Tech and science acceptance isn’t really a political thing, it is more about your ideology. Ideology creates idiots out of everyone, no matter their political leanings. For example, if tech were solely the domain of, or even dominated by, liberals, then you wouldn’t have Donald Trump using his smart phone to tweet this on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 5.57.50 AM

It is quite interesting that whilst disagreeing with 97% of experts on climate change Trump has managed to propose a xenophobic conspiracy whilst preaching nationalism and conservative ideology on an iPhone.* He really is a master of manipulative language. Of course, that isn’t the only brain dropping of anti-science nonsense from the Republican Presidential nominee. It is probably easier to list the science Trump and his supporters do believe** than cover all of the topics he has tweeted denial of. I will now list the science Trump has endorsed:

NB: he probably doesn't support plant biology either.

NB: he probably doesn’t support plant biology either.

We’d be mistaken to assume that science and technology denial or rejection are the sole domain of conservatives. On the liberal side the Greens presidential nominee, Jill Stein, has taken several anti-science stances, such as supporting not-medicine, and opposing genetic engineering (e.g. GMOs) and pesticides in agriculture. Often people like to divide science denial into conservatives denying climate change and evolution, whilst liberals deny vaccines and GMOs. But, as with most things, it isn’t quite that cut-and-dried. Take for example the topic of GMOs:

This really highlights that anti-science numpties are across the political spectrum and deny the scientific consensus for very different reasons. Some deny it because they find corporations scary (Greenpeace), some deny it because they are selling something (Joseph Mercola), some deny it because they are arrogant bloviators (Nicholas Taleb).

On the topic of climate change this spectrum also exists. We keep hearing about how liberals are all climate change supporters and how conservatives are all climate change deniers… Except that isn’t true.

You can see that there isn’t 100% agreement or disagreement from either side of US politics. You don’t even got 100% agreement from climate scientists (97% consensus), despite the overwhelming body of evidence. The Pew Research Centre has similar figures for other countries. Politics isn’t the real predictor because it is too simple. At the hard end of conservatism, the above chart suggests you would be wrong half of the time if you were to call a conservative a climate denier. Even if you call fence sitters deniers as well you are still going to be wrong over a third of the time. And that’s with all the misinformation that the conservative media pumps out (USA, Australia).

If we were to look at a proper political compass that didn’t oversimplify into left vs right, or were to take into account some other factors, then politics could be a better predictor. For example, free market ideology can be a good predictor of climate change denial (67% confidence). The ideology of the free market isn’t going to allow people to admit the market’s failure to account for the externality of carbon emissions. Similarly the ideology of anti-corporatism isn’t going to allow people to admit that companies might make life saving vaccines or develop safe biotechnology food.

The only thing political affiliation can really do is give you a general idea of why or how someone will be biased toward/away from certain technologies. It is definitely not the whole story.

A version of this post originally appeared on Quora.
*interestingly Trump may actually be anti-technology despite having embraced social media. Although, his ego probably doesn’t allow him to not use social media, so of course he has a work-around.
**not that science is about belief.

Dirk Gently on US TV

Dirk Gently

Yeah, Harry Enfield as Dirk!

Whenever I hear about one of my favourite novels being adapted for the big screen, or the moderate screen that fits in my house, I’m wary. Not wary in a “I hope they don’t mess this up” kind or way, but wary in a “They had better not mess this up” kind of way.

I was very wary of clicking play on the video below for the new BBC America Dirk Gently series. I removed all sharp objects from my immediate vicinity before watching. If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams’ novels, you may want to do the same. Out of wariness.

Well, at least they won’t be butchering Dirk Gently, because I’m not sure that this is Dirk Gently.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a book adaptation with the lead character portrayed by someone who doesn’t physically match the role. I’m talking about Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher. Twice. Anyway, I’m not sure that Samuel Barnett really fits the Svlad Cjelli (aka Dirk Gently) middle-aged, overweight, poorly dressed, loser mould.

He is portrayed as a pudgy man who normally wears a heavy old light brown suit, red checked shirt with a green striped tie, long leather coat, red hat and thick metal-rimmed spectacles.#

Okay, so clearly Max Landis and team are going for more of a “youth” vibe. Maybe Barnett will gain weight and change to wearing drab clothes over the course of the series… But that doesn’t explain the car seen in the clip. Gently was famous for not having any money, since his clients never paid him, and subsequently owning a car that reflected that fact. Whilst I’m not really sure what brand/model of car that one was, it did look expensive. Does that mean Gently is now a successful conman? Did his psychic powers finally allow him to back a winning horse? Or are Americans more gullible of conmen if they have British accents?

Then we have not-MacDuff. Elijah Wood is portraying a character named Todd. He’s meant to be more of an everyman for us to relate to (see video below for discussion). So no symphony of nature, no Susan, and probably no hallway couch. I’ll let the hobbit pass. For now.

Even after watching this panel discussion I’m still wary. Landis professes to being a big fan of Douglas Adams’ writing, but this is also the same guy who talks up sequels to films nobody wanted to see. The panel discusses capturing the essence of Dirk Gently, but I’m not seeing the loser conman aspect from that trailer.

It often baffles me why screenwriters diverge so far from the source material – it feels as though I discussed this recently. Do they buy the rights but forget to buy a copy of the book for the screenwriters? In this instance that doesn’t appear to be the case. Is it just that they aren’t usually looking to do a direct adaptation but more of an “inspired by” screenplay? In which case, why buy the rights and use the character names? Landis did moan about the lack of original ideas in cinema. Are writers trying to avoid direct comparison between book and adaptation? Again, why buy the rights, since the screenwriters clearly have an idea for a movie/TV show and the source material is essentially made irrelevant?

In many instances a direct adaptation would make more sense. Beloved books would often be best served by being faithfully adapted to please fans and appeal to new fans. The source material has proved itself already: so use it! Some changes are necessary, either for run-time, or translation between mediums, but this can still be done faithfully. So why doesn’t it happen more often? I personally suspect that the screenwriters aren’t being asked to do faithful adaptations for a variety of reasons, including having bosses who don’t care about the source material.

I’m still very wary of this Dirk Gently adaptation. They had better not mess it up!

Would moving to Australia be good? Any opinions?

I am a economics student after i graduate I want to move to Australia. I lived 5 years in Australia (I am a citizen). I just want to know if it would be a good decision to start my life. I know it’s expensive and tax is high I just want to hear suggestions from people that are experiencing it.

Moving to Australia is a tricky decision to make. With a land mass equivalent to the USA or large parts of Europe, you really have to decide which parts of Australia are for you. Here is a helpful map:

The cost of living in Australia is often overstated. Despite widespread rumours, it is surprisingly rare that you will pay for things with your life. The Actual 10 Most Deadly Animals in Australia should help identify what to avoid.

The people who complain about our taxes are usually the same people who don’t pay them, or think they are a special snowflake. The reality is that Australia has an enviable healthcare system, social security, infrastructure that isn’t falling to pieces, and fantastic beaches (okay, you don’t pay for the last one anyway). But our internet is shithouse.

Major regional centres are often after skilled people because Aussies tend to want to live on the coast. Something to do with our love of skin cancer and white sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. The major cities also tend to be spread out more than cities elsewhere, because we love an excuse to be stuck in traffic.

We also have excellent beer in Australia. We send the rejected crap overseas for other suckers to drink.

Did anyone mention that Hugh Jackman is from Australia? Don’t worry, Russell Crowe is actually from New Zealand (except when he wins something).

Also, have you seen our ad campaigns? They might get you interested in making the trip down under.

 And when all said and done, Australia is better than most other places in the world. Just look at this map!

Just make sure you can afford airconditioning.

 This post originally appeared on Quora.

Book to Movie: The Bourne Identity – What’s The Difference?

This month the Cinefix team are covering the differences between The Bourne Identity movie and book. So this will either be a super short episode or a super long one.

I read The Bourne Identity not long after seeing the movie. Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m frequently that guy. Anyway, I have always referred to the movie as being nothing like the book at all. Aside from a few names and the amnesia thing, there is virtually nothing similar about the two works. I have often wondered if the screenwriters got handed the book and only got as far as the blurb on the back cover before producing their screenplay. Let’s just hope Ludlum was able to cash his cheque* before he typed his last ‘The End’.**

Apparently Robert Ludlum was inspired to write a spy novel involving an amnesic because he briefly suffered from the condition himself. There’s a joke here somewhere about the screenwriters forgetting to read the novel, but I wouldn’t stoop that low. I mean, who is to say they even realised they were being asked to do an adaptation, this is Hollywood after all.

Most action fans love the Bourne movies. At a time when there was a move away from gritty and realistic action, Bourne came along and gave us a tense, gritty, and “realistic” action movie. The book is not heavy on the action and gives us a more traditional spy story about flushing out an assassin with counterintelligence and operations. Comparing the two is really quite unfair. But one area I think the book is superior is in the answer to “Who is Jason Bourne?” In the movie we see Matt Damon struggle to come to terms with not knowing and wondering what sort of man would have his skills. But we know. And he knows. The answers he finds don’t really give him any new information: yeah, you were an assassin dude. In the book the answers are more complicated and more satisfying for the hero: yay, I was bait to capture an assassin.

Without this film we would have not had Matt Damon bringing Mark Watney to the screen. Let’s celebrate by rewatching one of the best car chase scenes of all time:

*now there’s a saying that is appropriate to the time being referenced but is now as apposite and relevant as a broken record.

** Robert Ludlum died in 2001.

How can someone from Australia, get into an American University such as Harvard?

Widener Library, Harvard University

Widener Library, Harvard University

Australians have a proud history as the descendants of convicts. As such there is no place we can’t break into if we so desire.

The first thing is the loooonnngg plane ride from Australia to the US. Due to customs it is advisable not to bring your B&E equipment with you but rather acquire it from those new-world criminals in the USA.

The second thing is staking out the campus. Surveillance is the key to any decent break-in. You will need good notes from your observations to use in the next step.

The third thing is to have a plan for your break-in. Know your target, ingress point, egress point, contingencies, and make sure you have a cover identity setup just in case things go south.

The final point is to make sure your risk:reward ratio is balanced enough to make the operation worth it. There is nothing worse than putting the time and front money in place for low returns, especially if the penalties are high.

Of course you could just send in an application to Harvard like every other Aussie student who applies to US universities. Maybe the ex-Harvard Student Association in Australia could be of help.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

Will Australia become a Chinese state?

Xenophobia: just history repeating.

Xenophobia: just history repeating.

1, there’re many industries like dairy & realestate purchased by Chinese and their govt.

2, more CHN immigrated to Oz, but didn’t integrate into local society. They’re criticised coz of their “traditional” habits.

3, many Chinese prefer profits rather than quality. many ppl argue oz will be destroyed*

Little known fact: the entire world will be owned by the Chinese in the next two decades. Unfortunately, when Western governments stopped their wars against the “reds under the bed” they left the door open to the great peril. Since that time, China has been buying up everything it can get its hands upon. So it isn’t a matter of if Australia and the rest of the world become a Chinese state, but when.

Let’s look at some facts. So much of Australian land is being bought up by the Chinese. Of the 134,000 farm businesses in Australia, only 99% of them are family owned and operated.

Aussie farms – after providing 93% of the domestic food requirement – export a massive 14% of produce to China. Australian Social Trends, Dec 2012

You also have to look at the huge influx of non-Aussie farmers. It won’t be long before we’ll be overrun with non-Aussies. It may be 11% of farmers being born overseas, and most of those being from the UK or Europe, but won’t somebody think of the Aussie Children!!

More broadly the immigration of Chinese people to Australia threatens to displace all those good white Aussies. Including second, third, fourth and fifth generation Chinese-Australians, they make up a whopping 4% of the population. They don’t integrate at all, since only 3.4% are Catholic, with most of them (63.2%) practicing the heathenish No Religion. Clearly they can’t integrate if they don’t follow the traditional religions of this nation.

And it is just like those socialist commies to prefer profits above all else!!

We should live in deep fear of China. Definitely don’t worry about real issues, like climate change.

2014-510--threats-to-Australia-expressed-as-animals---TERRORISM-GLOBAL-WARMING-ENVIRONMENT

This post originally appeared on Quora.

*NB: The question and quote are verbatim.

When bands become popular

I have no idea who this is a picture of...

I have no idea who this is a picture of…

What is term for when you like a band and then they become popular and more people like their music and you become jealous because it’s “your band”?

It’s called being a wanker.

Wankers only really think of themselves. They love everything about themselves and hate to think that someone else could intrude on them. So when a wanker becomes fixated on something, they hate the idea that someone else might intrude or interrupt their joyful moment alone.

The reality is that most wankers are so self-absorbed that they fail to realise just how precious they are being about sharing the love. Say a wanker goes to a gig and listens to a new band, and thinks to themselves, “This is mine.” Except they fail to remember that they were standing in a room full of people, some enjoying the show, some cringing, and some utterly disgusted. So when that band starts playing bigger and bigger gigs, the wanker is now surrounded by more and more people, many of whom aren’t the sort of people the wanker likes being around. They start getting performance anxiety because they will be surrounded by people that “don’t get it” like the wanker does. They are afraid of being judged, because they are so judgemental.

Music is meant to be a shared experience and wankers don’t generally like to share. Don’t be a wanker.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

See also: http://www.salon.com/2013/08/10/15_most_hated_bands_of_last_30_years/

Can you recommend some Aussie movies?

aussie_20films

Studying Aussie films to figure out our culture is tough to do. Most of the movies or TV shows that are spoken about tend to offer up stereotypes of Aussies to showcase a facet of our larrikin humour (e.g. The Castle). Our culture is wide and varied, as can be evidenced by our films, which are as good as any other film industry world wide. I’m going to give some examples.

Aussie cinema in general is noted for producing some absolute rubbish *cough* Australia *cough* whilst audiences ignore the fantastic films. I think some of the best Aussie films have been made in the last decade and didn’t get much, if any, attention. E.g. The first one on my list is bound to become a cult classic. Non-existent distribution deals, lack of interest in lower budget movies in favour of the latest loud noises and fireballs from Michael Bay, and the generally undeserved ignominy that Australian films suffer under, and you could be excused for never having heard of any of these films. This is by no mean an exhaustive list either.

Predestination: Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke in an adaptation of the Robert Heinlein story All You Zombies. The cast are amazing, the story is excellent, and the film just oozes intrigue. Snook is an actor to watch.

Sarah Snook is a chameleon in this film.

Sarah Snook is a chameleon in this film.

Daybreakers: From the same creative team behind Predestination comes this earlier vampire film. Ethan Hawke again stars along with Aussie icon Sam Neill – yeah, we’re going to claim him as an Aussie, screw you New Zealand!

Jack Irish: This series of crime films – and now a TV series – were released on the small screen and star Guy Pierce. Adapted from the excellent Aussie author Peter Temple’s book series, you’d be hard pressed to find a better cast and layered characters.

These Final Hours: With a pretty much unknown cast and made in Western Australia on a small budget, this fantastic film went completely under the radar. Set as the world is about to end, it follows Nathan Phillips as James as he tries to get to a party for the end of the world, but instead finds what he really needs to do in his final hours. Lot’s of unglamorous Perth scenery.

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The Babadook: Quite simply the best horror film made in years regardless of where it was made.

The Rover: Another Guy Pierce film and also starring some guy that sparkles. Post-apocalyptic tale about Australia becoming a wasteland after the global economic collapse. Pretty much what everyone assumes Australia is like anyway, especially if they are Mad Max fans.

Australia-Day-5-Aussie-films-The-Rover

The Tracker: This is a historical tale about an Aboriginal tracker tasked with helping a colonial policeman find the killer of a white woman. This is a bit older than some of the other films on this list, but worth a watch as it has been overshadowed by the film The Rabbit Proof Fence.

Son of a Gun: Ewan McGregor and Brenton Twaites star in this crime drama set in Western Australia. A young crook is recruited by the experienced armed robber McGregor to pull off a gold heist. Lot’s of true Aussie scenery.

Cargo: Short zombie film that will tear your heart to shreds. Seriously, watch it now.

Special mention for Let’s Get Skase as an Aussie comedy that covers some interesting parts of recent Aussie culture.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

See also:

https://taylorlappin.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/good-aussie-films-tell-em-theyre-dreamin/

Is sport king in Australia?

Sports Supporters: Alcohol Compulsory Accessory

Sports Supporters: Alcohol Compulsory Accessory

With pork-barrelling season in full swing, we will be seeing plenty of politicians hitching their wagons to prominent sports and sporting teams. The proclamations that sports are True-blue, dinky-di, Aussie will come to win over voters, with a little somethin’ somethin’ in the budget to sweeten the deal. Because sport is king in Australia, right?

Aussies are routinely described as sports mad, sports addicts, and that we love watching and playing sports in sporty sports ways. But how many of us actually play sports? How many of us actually watch sports? Given that you could describe weekly matches of football as repeats of the same teams doing the same thing for months on end annually, it is worth taking a look at a few of our assumptions about the claims.

Let’s start with a look at how many Aussies play “sports”. Inverted commas around sports? Yes, because when people say that 60% (11.1 million) of Aussies play sports – down 5% compared to 2 years previous – what they actually mean is that we’re classifying walking and generally not sitting on the couch watching TV as sport. Let’s make it fairer on sports and subtract the walkers from being classified as sport participants. And let’s not succumb to temptation and call golf just more walking with intermittent cursing. That means that our 11.7 million “sports” participants is suddenly 7.5 million, which is 41.4% of the population (and falling with the ageing population). That figure sounds impressive until you realise that figure is participation of at least once in the past year and doesn’t account for the regularity of participation. How regularly someone is involved in sports is a much better indicator of our interest and love of sports. As opposed to accounting for that time you went to the gym because of a New Year’s resolution or because the doctor ordered you too out of concern for being dragged into an orbit around you at your next visit. The reality is that less than half of the population engage in regular (3 times per week on average) physical activity, with roughly a third of those people being gym junkies (NB: young men are more likely to play a sport, that drops with age and isn’t replaced with other activities, whilst women are more likely to be involved in non-organised sports and remain doing so).

The Top 20 most popular physical activities are dominated by fitness activities like the already mentioned walking, aerobics/fitness, swimming, cycling, and running. One of the big name sports, AFL, ranks 16th on the list behind yoga. When yoga beats football for popularity it must only be a matter of time before the PM declares it the most exciting sport. For those wondering where rugby is on the list, the rest of Australia says ‘hi’.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 12.56.43 PM

Of course, this is only looking at sports. How does sports participation compare to other activities? Well, ABS figures show that we spend roughly 23 minutes a day reading, versus 21 minutes on sports and outdoor activities (NB: this varies between genders and age groups). The US figures show similar results with more time reading than playing sports, but they also spend less of their day on both activities. So at least we are still better read and fitter than Americans in the low bar metrics.

Obviously sports aren’t all about participation and most would regard themselves as avid armchair sportspeople. It could be argued that the best way to stay injury free in sports is to participate from the comfort of the couch in front of the TV at home. The other option is to attend a sporting stadium dressed in clothes made from random assortments of gaudy colours to cheer on a team who are wearing similar clothes but are less inebriated. Or would the most appealing option be to go to a movie, concert or theme park? The correct answer is that people would prefer to attend a movie (59%), a concert (40%), or a theme park (34%). Live Comedy (31%) was more popular than Football (30%), Cricket (29%) and Rugby (25%).

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 12.42.50 PM

Of course, someone is bound to point to spectator numbers for AFL, A-League, and NRL that look very impressive. With average match attendances in the tens of thousands, and millions annually, sports are clearly important.

Competition Total spectatorship Average match attendance Year Ref
A-League 1,887,206 13,480 2013–14 [108]
Australian Football League 6,975,137 33,696 2014 [109]
Big Bash League 823,858 23,539 2014–15 [96]
National Basketball League 574,813 5,132 2013–14 [96]
National Rugby League 3,060,531 15,940 2013 [110]
Super Rugby 773,940 19,348 2012 [111]

At a glance the figures look mildly impressive, but much like enhancement pouch underwear, things aren’t nearly as impressive when you look at the attendance figures in the cold light of day.

Even if we disregard the doubling up and totalling of attendance occurring in the stats, it is easy to see that even the most popular sport in Australia would rank behind visiting Botanic gardens, zoos and aquariums, and libraries. They aren’t even in the same ballpark as cinema attendance. But we can go deeper on the reading, library and cinema figures, even getting frequency statistics so we can tell the difference between the people doing something “at least once” versus people doing something regularly in the past year. 47.7% of people are reading a book weekly, 70% of library attendees (mostly women) visited at least 5 times in the past year, 65% of Australians are (computer) gamers, and 65% of Aussies go to the cinema an average of 6-7 times a year. And yet sport has a segment in news broadcasts whilst reading, gaming, and parks and zoos battle to get media coverage. Technically if we wanted to be fair then the sport segment would be cut to make way for movie news and a live cross to the local library.

What about the economy? How much are households spending on sports? That’s a great question and a great segue into a discussion of how trickle-down economics doesn’t work in sports either. I mean, funding sports that way when it hasn’t worked in the economy must be a no-brainer, right? [Insert low IQ athlete joke here] Or we could stay on topic and discuss the $4.4 billion sports and physical recreation spend by households annually. Let’s not complicate things by talking about the buying of stuff like footwear, swimming pools, and camper vans. Seriously, camping is in the sport spending category? Either way, $4.4 billion sounds like a lot of money, until you realise that gaming is a $3 billion industry, and that households spend $4.1 billion on literature and $4.7 billion on TV and film.

We allow governments to spend a lot of money on big sports and big sporting events. Think that hosting the Olympics will encourage people to play sports? Nope. Actually, seriously, nope. One report described this idea as nothing more than a “deeply entrenched storyline”, sort of like a fairy tale handed down from one Minister for Sport to the next. Part of the problem is that we buy this narrative hook, line, and sinker, such that the sports themselves (and surrounding data agencies) never really bother to keep statistics to prove the claims. But they make for great announcements and ribbon cutting events on the election campaign trail, so the myth keeps on keeping on.

Ultimately the argument isn’t that sports are unpopular or bad but rather that we spend an inordinate amount of time pretending we like them far more than the reality. And that is impacting our elected officials more than a chance to wear a high-viz vest at a press conference. Maybe it is time to rethink what media and funding we throw at sports, and perhaps consider a gaming segment on the news.

So this pork-barrelling season look forward to the announcement of a new multi-million dollar yoga stadium in a marginal electorate near you.

Further reading:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19407963.2012.662619
http://apo.org.au/files/Resource/Crawford_Report.pdf
http://www98.griffith.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/handle/10072/57329/91705_1.pdf
https://theconversation.com/we-need-abs-arts-and-sports-data-to-understand-our-culture-30255
https://theconversation.com/olympics-success-leaves-a-mixed-legacy-for-australias-sporting-life-7531
https://theconversation.com/will-the-olympics-really-inspire-more-people-to-play-sport-8913

 

What are some great mind-blowing books for a fiction fantasy lover?

There are so many great fantasy fiction novels out there, I’m just going to list a few of my favourites.

Deepak Chopra: Quantum Healing

Let’s face it, Chopra has been a bestselling fantasy author for decades now, so I could have named any of his books. He never fails to churn out the most epic of fictional nonsense, but Quantum Healing has to be his most mind-boggling work.

Various: Climate Change: The Facts

Okay, I’m cheating a bit here, as this treads into science fiction territory, but as a work of fantasy, it also holds its own. This collection of short stories is by a who’s who of fantasy authors on the theme of an alternate reality where climate change isn’t real.

Jeffrey Smith: Seeds of Deception

From everyone’s favourite flying yogi comes his groundbreaking fantasy novel about conspiracies, genetics, food, and how to ignore several fields of science and scientists by shouting la-la-la-la. Also qualifies as a comedy due to being so laughable.

Stephanie Messenger: Melanie’s Marvelous (sic) Measles

An homage to Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, this piece of fantasy is notable for being written as though the author were a child who never learnt English. Such an amazing piece that is sure to have you queueing for the iron lung.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

Why are Aussies so well mannered, helpful, and nice?

Let me help you with that...

Let me help you with that…

The main reason Aussies are so helpful and nice is that it is really hard to pick someone’s pocket if they are suspicious of you. By distracting the mark with a greeting, smile, an offer to hold your bag while you fumble with your car keys, it gives the crook more time to smoothly lift your wallet and other valuables.

Generations of breeding among convict settlers has perfected the balance required to be the perfect thief. A large part of being the perfect thief is charm.

Thanks for reading this answer, and ignore the strange purchases on your credit card.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

Some more “kids these days”

I’m not a fan of the “kids these days” arguments and memes that make their way through social media via the express head shaking admonishment brigade. I’ve written previously how the arguments are recycled garbage, as old people have been complaining about young people since the invention of youths.

You may have seen this image:

kids on their phones

That’s right: self involved kids looking at their phones instead of the amazing work of art behind them. How dare they! Shake your fist at the sky.

Of course, they aren’t self involved narcissists, at least not any more so than other people in society. That is actually a group of students that have just finished admiring the artwork and receiving a lecture on the Rembrandt and are now using the museum guided tour app to learn more. To quote:

Late last year this photograph of children looking at their smartphones by Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam started doing the rounds on the web. It quickly became viral. It was often accompanied by outraged, dispirited comments such as “a perfect metaphor for our age”, “the end of civilisation” or “a sad picture of our society”.

Only they weren’t. It turns out that the Rijksmuseum has an app that, among other things, contains guided tours and further information about the works on display. As part of their visit to the museum, the children, who minutes earlier had admired the art and listened attentively to explanations by expert adults, had been instructed to complete an assignment by their school teachers, using, among other things, the museum’s excellent smartphone app.

I would like to think that all those who liked, posted, shared and tweeted the picture of children on smartphones by Rembrandt’s masterpiece in the erroneous belief that it illustrated everything that is wrong with society feel a tiny bit silly and a little more humble as a consequence. But it won’t happen. The tragic thing is that this — the truth — will never go viral. So, I wonder, what is more likely to bring about the death of civilisation, children using smartphones to learn about art or the wilful ignorance of adults who are too quick to make assumptions?

Whether it be art, technology, manners, or just plain old fashioned respect for elders, people seem far too quick to complain about kids these days. It always seems to have been better in the good old days, as long as you ignore the wars, child death rate, education levels, work and social rights, equality, food…. actually I’ll stop that list now before I run the point into the ground. So take any of these arguments, images, and claims with huge pinches of salt, as there is probably a parallel version from a previous generation.

tech making us antisocial

Why did Australia abolish the White Australia Policy?

The White Australia Policy was a fantastic piece of legislation that was brought in just after Australia’s federation in 1901. Back then it was popular to think that Aboriginals didn’t exist, or weren’t worthy of acknowledgement, and women were still a year away from full voting rights nationwide. Great time to be alive.

After the second world war – commonly referred to as WW2 and the go-to source of movie badguys (Nazis: hate those guys) for the next 50 years – the Menzies and Holt governments started rolling back pieces of the legislation. In 1975 Gough signed in the Racial Discrimination Act to stop any further problems. Totally worked.

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After the war there was a lot of people wanting to immigrate, preferably to countries that hadn’t been turned into massive craters by years of bombing. There were also a lot of ex-servicemen who were stationed overseas and had discovered the local non-white women. They’d also made friends with non-white people in general. Suddenly there were Aussies who wanted their non-white wives, friends, and associated families to come to Australia. In 1949 Harold Holt allowed Japanese war brides into the country. Ten years later legislation was passed so that they were able to be sponsored for citizenship. Holt later introduced the Migration Act in 1966, effectively dismantling the White Australia Policy. Holt was so pleased he went swimming a year later, he’s due back any day now.

So what ended the White Australia Policy was the military in action.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

Book to Movie: Winter Solider – What’s the Difference?

This month’s CineFix edition of What’s the Difference cover the Ed Brubaker comic that inspired the Captain America: Winter Soldier movie.

Unlike Civil War, I managed to read the Ed Brubaker series of comics before watching the Winter Solider movie. Obviously there are a lot of differences, especially in terms of the expanded universe and “realism” of the movie world. The comics have decades of plots, sideplots, overlapping arcs from other parts of the Marvel Universe, characters, and general junk that is impossible to pack into a 2 hour movie. I actually find the way Marvel and DC have their stables of comics overlap and exist in the same universe to be annoying. The movies are starting to head that way as well, what with Age of Ultron essentially spending a third of its run time building the associated Thor, Ironman, Captain America, etc, movies.

One of the differences not really covered in the CineFix video is the other Captain Americas. That’s right, several other Caps wore the…. cap. Anyway, while Steve Rogers was chilling (Bucky too, but in a separate location) America didn’t want to lose its figurehead so they had some other people fill the role. From memory, at least one of them was integral to the plot, despite being no longer all there. This part of the plot also fed into the series that came immediately after Winter Soldier, with Bucky donning the costume and hefting the shield. For anyone about to complain about spoilers with that last sentence, try not to think about what could have happened to Steve Rogers to require Bucky to become Captain America.

In my original review for the Winter Soldier movie I commented that the writers had managed to capture Brubaker’s cold war spy story feel. They did this with very little similarities between the comic and movie. In some ways I think the movie is better, certainly I like the Steve Rogers of the film more, and they hadn’t quite gone overboard with the expanded universe stuff at that time, but in others the usual restrictions of the shorter format lessens the possible storytelling (Crossbones, the other Captain Americas, the relationships). Two very different stories were told but I still think this was a good adaptation.

If a charismatic Aboriginal Australian with an attractive political agenda ran for office, would he ever get elected as Prime Minister?

Sure why not. We’ve elected people who can’t swim, people whose claim to fame was drinking beer fast, and people who think it is appropriate to wear these in public:

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So it isn’t unreasonable to think that there are better qualified people who could rise to the top despite our casual racism. We still can’t get sexism right, but we managed to have a female Prime Minister.

It should be pointed out that while Australia has a proud history of treating Aboriginals like fauna, Indigenous Australians have been elected to state and federal seats. The big problem would be getting the support of one of the major parties to be leader, and that major party holding the balance of power.

I notice that the question implies Aussies elect the Prime Minister directly. We’re not silly here in Australia. The last thing you want in a democracy is the people getting to decide important decisions like who is preselected to run for a political seat, how their elected representative should represent them, or who is Prime Minister. Best to keep these decisions out of the hands of the people they impact and make sure only the political insiders get to make those calls.

Our Prime Minister is the leader of the political party that holds the balance of power. Thus, the party decides who is Prime Minister, and is not directly elected. For an Indigenous Aussie to become leader of the party would be no small feat, and they’d have to watch out for knives to the back.

Hopefully we will see an Indigenous Australian Prime Minister. Hell, they might even be non-male just to shake things up a bit. Just hard to tell how many old white guys we’ll see before that happens.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

If there was only one piece of equipment you could have in your gym, what would it be and why?

It’s great to see that when asked what one piece of equipment people would have that they would equip a full gym. I’d love to do that too, but I’ll answer the question by naming one piece of equipment.

Of course, the one piece of equipment for me is not the same one piece that someone else would want, nor would it be what a younger or older version of me would want. A younger version of me would have vastly different needs than me now, and we’d both have much different requirements than the older version, whose idea of a workout would be shuffling from the lounge to the dinner queue at the retirement home.

Gymnastic rings

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Right now my ideal piece of gym equipment would be a set of gymnastic rings. Not only can you train most of your body with them, but you get to look really cool doing exercises on them.

Alternative: Chinup bar

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This is an alternative to the gymnastic rings if for some reason I couldn’t afford the rings at the current exorbitant prices. Again, you can train most of your body with a chinup bar (dips, chins, levers, muscleups, hammy curls, etc), plus all the cool kids on Youtube are doing bar training these days.

Younger me

Barbell set

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Yeah, I know, a set is not a single piece of equipment. A barbell on its own isn’t much use without a bunch of weight plates, but at least I’m not listing barbell, plates, rack, and bench. A decent olympic barbell with a set of weights would cover just about everything you could think of. Ideally you’d have a solid floor (or lifting platform) to lift on with quality bumper plates so that clean & jerk and snatches are in the lifting program. But even a standard barbell – which is what I had when I first started training – can be decent.

Alternative: Sandbag or Keg

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Before barbells were a thing, people lifted anything that was around: rocks, trees, bulls. The problem with those sorts of objects is that they are set weights, so progressive training is hard to accomplish, unless you start with a bull calf. So a rock might be a challenge now, but not after a few months or years of training. Sandbags and Kegs can be adjusted in weight and can be utilised for most exercises you would use a barbell for. Plus it sounds really hardcore.

Older me

Pilates sled machine thingy

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Let’s face it, older me will probably be happy to not have arthritis in every joint, so the idea of doing muscle-ups, deadlifts, and that thing with the kettle-bell that looks like you’re trying to hump someone whilst throwing something in the air, is not particularly plausible at 70. As lame as this sort of workout would be for a fit and healthy younger person, it would cover all the muscles for the older more decrepit version of me.

Alternative: Comfy bed

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Let’s be realistic, older me is probably going to be popping viagra and taking full advantage of all the facilities the nursing home has to offer. The bed will probably keep me in great shape to my dying days.

This post original appeared on Quora.

Totally Cereal

It only feels like three weeks ago when I last posted about Quora being Super Cereal about answers on its site. Now they are Totally Cereal!

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Less than 9 hours after I posted an answer on why not everyone buys into the Crossfit cult, my answer was flagged as breaching policy. In that short window of time the post managed to become the second most viewed and third most upvoted despite being the newest answer. I mean, how dare someone criticise Crossfit, like every other answer given. How dare they use images to enhance the points being made, a common practice on the site. And once again, how dare anyone not answer the question without being completely cereal.

My working hypothesis is that my two banned answers were flagged as a result of being a trending answer. That meant the answers raised the ire of the Totally Cereal members. Quick, hit the complaint button and troll through to find something to make sure no-one else is ever offended. This will remain only a hypothesis, as I think it wouldn’t be appropriate to find other answers to flag that use images in their answers as I have done, as a means to test the system. I’d need to find other answers that were a mix of Super Cereal and Non-Cereal answers, as well as highlighted (trending) and random answers, to round out the testing.

Either way, check out my Totally Cereal answer on why not everyone wants to compete in the Washed Up Loser Olympics until they herniate their spines.

Why do people choose to NOT do Crossfit?

Crossfit is terrific, as long as you hate good technique, want a massive injury, and feel the need to strut around without a shirt on (guys) or in booty shorts (girls and guys).
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I’ve been lifting long enough to remember when WODs were called circuit classes, so when a new fad comes along it is a little easier to maintain some perspective. Others have already highlighted some issues that I agree with, I’ll cover some of my own reasons.

Form

The idea that high intensity and high skill exercises are done for high reps is stupid. Nothing says broken back like skill breakdown.

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So much for those gainz.

The video below is of the head of Crossfit programming, Dave Castro, doing a deadlift. It is laughably bad, but in the community this video is seen as hardcore rather than stupid.

I’m all for intensity and pushing yourself to new highs, but Crossfit all too often encourages people to utilise bad form or techniques like kipping to complete a workout. That is not smart.

It’s a bit of a cult

How can you tell if someone does Crossfit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

If someone is a Vegan Crossfitter, what do they tell you about first?

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Regular exercisers are bad enough, but Crossfitters take it to the next level. It’s great that people are enthused about getting fit, strong, and healthy, but there is a difference between encouragement and community and drinking Kool-aid.

Lack of progression/Too much variety

If you want to get good at something you need to practice it regularly. Crossfit throws that rule out the window and encourages a randomness to the programming that guarantees you get good at exercising but not at any of the exercises. Even the top level Crossfit athletes train specificity into their programs and then practice events (WODs).

main-qimg-fd267f787804e167a217137ddc66b93eBad exercises or good exercises done badly

Let me just ask what this is meant to be and whether they have a surgeon on standby:

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There is video of this event at the Crossfit games. I was cringing the entire way through. There were some athletes that managed to keep a relatively neutral spine throughout, but that sacrificed them speed and reps. Events are done for speed and reps….

Others have already mentioned the high rep clean and jerks, snatches, kipping pullups and muscleups, but that only scratches the surface. Even handstand pushups are done with kipping. Overhead presses are often turned into push-presses. Instead of doing a solid set of 10 reps on a pullup they insist that people do 30… and do several rounds of that with other exercises in between. It’s like someone looked up what the most reps ever done in one clean set for an exercise was and that became the WOD number. Take the kipping like a fish flapping around on a boat deck out and they wouldn’t get half the reps, let alone rounds.

Paleo

If the WOD is Crossfit’s cult program, then paleo is their cult diet. If you thought that kipping pullups were dumb, then you want to look away from the paleo diet. Not only is paleo largely ignorant of what our Palaeolithic ancestors ate, it also likes to pretend agriculture is bad. Without agriculture there would be no society, no gyms, no Crossfit, no people bragging about Crossfit…. Wait, I take it back, agriculture might be the root of all evil.

Actual dietary experts have nothing but disdain for the cult diet of paleo.

That all said, Crossfit isn’t all bad. Since they came along the fitness industry has had to try for the same level of appeal to appease the former cult members and those who can’t afford Box fees. I can walk into most gyms and find a lifting platform, something that was a rarity just a decade ago. I can actually buy weightlifting shoes without mail-order. And no one looks at me funny when I do muscleups anymore. Let’s just hope people don’t assume I’m a Crossfitter and are avoiding talking to me.

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I’m no longer going to bother with Quora and will gradually migrate my answers there to this site. Click this tag to see them.

Why do Australians have some of the longest lifespans despite their level of obesity according to recent statistics?

Aussies have discovered the fountain of youth in the heart of the outback. From a very rare location in the heart of the Gibson Desert flows a natural spring that wells up from deep within the Earth’s mantle. This spring has regenerative properties that helps with many common diseases and ailments. main-qimg-2b7f1abebe8e2dee09a80d82c3d879f4

This spring water is used to brew beverages that are part of the Aussie staple diet. As a result, the increases in food abundance and greater sedentary lifestyles of the populous have not resulted in the normal health impacts due to obesity. So if you see any of these three beverages in your country, it is worth buying them in bulk in order to ward off disease.

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Of course, it could just be that life expectancy has been growing in first world nations due to improved health care (child mortality, vaccinations, disease treatment, etc) and that steady increase hasn’t been impacted by the relatively recent surge in obesity rates. I.e. too soon to have obesity impacting life expectancy.

Originally published on Quora.

Super Cereal!

Regular readers here will have noticed I’ve not been blogging as much lately as I’ve taken to answering the occasional question on Quora. I feel it is important to help others understand topics. We all start by asking questions, and someone needs to answer them.

Today I received a disheartening email.

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I’m shocked, SHOCKED I say. It is hard to believe that my answer would be found to be unhelpful. Read for yourself and see if you don’t find my answer helpful.

Is the New Zealand accent the same as Australia’s?

The New Zealand accent is almost exactly the same as an Aussie accent. This is mainly because, like Tasmania, New Zealand is actually a state within Australia. So any differences are essentially regional dialects of the same accent, much like the difference between a Texan drawl and whatever the hell that New Jersey thing is called.

This little fact isn’t really understood outside of the ANZAC nation; the ANZACs being our military arm. So here is a little list of evidence:

  • Russell Crowe – renowned Aussie actor from New Zealand.
  • Sam Neil – renowned Aussie actor from New Zealand.
  • Tim and Neil Finn – renowned Aussie musicians (Crowded House) from New Zealand.
  • Pavlova – renowned Aussie dessert from New Zealand.
  • Sheep shagging – renowned Aussie practice from New Zealand.

The easiest way to explain the slight regional dialects between the mainland Aussie accent and the island versions is to imagine a less evil version of the Aussie accent. That’s what the state of New Zealand inhabitants sound like. And before you ask, yes, Maoris and Aborigines are exactly the same peoples.

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Clearly I was being helpful and giving the question the answer it deserved. When my answer was removed it had the second most views and had been upvoted several times. So it boggles my mind that anyone would flag the answer as unhelpful.

It is with outrage at the ignominy that I share this with you all here. My answer addressed all the points that were required. The explanation could not be any more clear as to the similarities of Aussie and New Zealander accents. Unless of course the person asking the question (and Quora) expected not to be mocked and to be treated super cereal.

Pen vs Keyboard: FIGHT!!

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For some reason the world of writers is filled with technophobic troglodytes intent on proving that their old-fashioned way of doing things is better. I’ve written previously about how older people’s favourite hobby since the dawn of time has been complaining about kids these days. This is also true of changes in technology, with people intent on justifying not learning to use a computer or e-reader. Because cutting down trees is the future of communication!

Once again I’ve stumbled across another article that misrepresents scientific studies to try and convince people that we need to clear forests, pulp them, flatten them into paper, cover them in ink, and act as snooty as possible. This time they – the nebulous they: my nemesis!! – are trying to pretend that taking notes with a pen is better than using a keyboard.

Ugh.

When will people learn that paper isn’t the medium we should be promoting? We need to be going back to scratching on rocks and cave walls. When was the last time a paper book lasted more than a hundred years out in the rain, snow, and blazing sun? That doesn’t even begin to compete with the longevity of the 50,000 year old cave paintings. Data retention for rock far surpasses the much inferior paper.

This isn’t the first article I’ve seen on The Literacy Site misrepresenting science. Hopefully they will acquire come scientific literacy soon and overcome their biases. If I turn blue and pass-out, try to act concerned. Let’s dive in.

New Research Explains How The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard

It’s great when articles improve on the titles of science papers. I mean, who wants to read the science paper The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking? Pity that both titles misrepresent the actual findings. Also, is 2014 still regarded as new?

In her graduate assistant days, psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University used to take notes just like everyone else in the modern age: with a computer. One day, Mueller forgot her laptop and had to take notes the old-fashioned way. Rather than being held back by pen and paper, Mueller left class feeling as if she’d retained far more information than usual on that day. She decided to create a case study that could prove her hunch that writing longhand was actually better for comprehension than typing.

This is actually a good little story and illustrates how a lot of hypotheses are formed in science. This is the anecdote or observation that scientists want to turn into a hypothesis to create actual knowledge. But remember, this is an anecdote, which has as much value as used Easter egg wrappers that have been stuffed between the couch cushions. Putting anecdotal stories at the start of an article can set the audience up to not think too hard about the rest of the article, as you have given them the conclusion in a nice little story.

The study she created, published in Psychological Science, indicated that taking notes by hand is a more effective method than typing them on a laptop when it comes to processing information conceptually.

And here we jump straight off the rails, over the side of the bridge, and careen into the waiting river below. Sure, The Literacy Site is just quoting the press release, but that is lazy. The study itself has this line in the abstract that show how this claim is a misrepresentation of the findings:

We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

In other words, the findings were that people spend all their time typing and no time actually listening and comprehending the lectures. Because the pen is an archaic device that is unwieldy and slow compared to the keyboard, students using a pen only write down notes after they have listened, picked out the key points, and conceptualised that information into a note. But don’t take my word for it, the press release on the University of Michigan website has a few recommendations including:

  • To interrupt verbatim note-taking on laptops, break up your lectures with short activities that encourage deeper processing of information.
  • Have students use laptops or other technologies to process–not just record–information.

Now it is time to discuss the study details a little bit, because someone might be interested in the methods section. I’m sure those people exist. Somewhere. Interested is probably the wrong word.

In the first of a series of studies led by Mueller, 65 college students watched various TED Talks in small groups, and were provided with either pens and paper or laptops for taking notes. When the students were tested afterward, the results were overwhelming. While the groups performed equally on questions that involved recalling facts, those who had taken longhand notes did significantly better when it came to answering conceptual questions.

Sorry, I need to catch my breath. I’m so shocked at the massive sample size. This is definitely enough people to represent the rest of society. Conclude away I say!

Anyway, these overwhelming results are just a tad whelming.

Whelming error bars.

Whelming error bars.

As you can see the performance on retaining facts was the same, with error bars that suggest 65 people is probably not enough to draw conclusions from. Not that anyone would be trying to claim this study is proof of anything, right? The next thing you see is the benefits of using a pen…. as long as you ignore those error bars and just accept the p-value tells us something of value. Given that those error bars overlap for the two groups, I wouldn’t be drawing conclusions from a p-value. Also, I’m not exactly sure why an ANOVA was used when there were only two groups to compare. KISS principle applies to statistics as well.

Now the study realised that 65 people wasn’t enough, so they repeated the study with a few variations twice more. In the second and third tests they had 151 and 109 people take notes. Each test had the typists writing between 250 and 550 words, whilst the pen wielders wrote roughly 150 to 400 words. Interestingly the note takers were writing verbatim 12-14% with their laptop but the pen users only managed 4-9% verbatim. This shows why the conclusions I’ve quoted above were drawn.

Out of interest, here are the results from the other two tests that were more convincing for that conceptual finding.

Okay, this is more like it.

Okay, this is more like it.

The second test with 151 people were tested with pen, laptop, and laptop with a lecture from the tester about how they really should pay attention. With 50 people per group you’d hardly jump up and down about the significance of this test, but clearly telling people to pay attention doesn’t… hey look a squirrel.

squirrel

Methinks possibly the greater number of treatments has lessened this test's results.

Methinks that possibly the greater number of treatments has lessened this test’s significance.

The third test with 109 people again tested for pen vs keyboard, but this time they allowed revision of notes before being questioned. This makes the groups even smaller, and again I’d question the significance of such a small sample. But the researchers summed up the results with this erudite paragraph:

However, a more nuanced story can be told; the indirect effects differ for conceptual and factual questions. For conceptual questions, there were significant indirect effects on performance via both word count and verbatim overlap. The indirect effect of word count for factual questions was similar, but there was no significant indirect effect of verbatim overlap. Indeed, for factual questions, there was no significant direct effect of overlap on performance. As in Studies 1 and 2, the detriments caused by verbatim overlap occurred primarily for conceptual rather than for factual information, which aligns with previous literature showing that verbatim note taking is more problematic for conceptual items.

In other words, doing lots of writing, particularly just copying what was said verbatim, makes you suck at understanding what the hell is going on. Oh, and study before the test. Apparently it helps too. Made that mistake at university.

So back at The Literacy Site they are skipping the other tests and just heading to the conclusions:

Mueller found that this was the result of laptop users trying too hard to transcribe the lecture rather than listening for the most important information and writing it down by hand. It may be an era where computers have made handwriting seem useless, but Mueller isn’t the only believer in the importance of longhand.

Notice the nuanced difference that seeing all three tests provides? We could be led to believe that there was overwhelming evidence for the pen, but what we see is that note takers need to readdress their methods of taking notes. Or they could just wing it.

An article in TIME discusses Karin James, an Indiana University psychologist, who published a 2012 study indicating writing is particularly important in the cognitive development of pre-literate children five and under. While using a computer for note-taking in some situations makes sense, it’s important not to overlook the longhand method.

It’s great that the article tries to incorporate some extra research. Citing one study with a small sample size is hardly compelling, certainly not worth writing an article about. But again the research is being misrepresented:

…the benefits of writing: increased creativity, better critical thinking, boosted self confidence, and a correlated improvement in reading capability with writing prowess.

But are these benefits real? The short answer: Mostly not. “There’s lot of caveats in handwriting research,” says Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University

Curse those damn caveats! Why can’t we have a control group of kids we don’t teach to read and write?!

Which brings me to a final point about these old technologies vs new technologies articles: stop jumping the gun! We’re in a transition phase. This isn’t 1970s velvet suits with platforms versus 2010s hipster atrocities. This is typewriter hipster texting on his phone. Technology is changing and we’re still learning how to use it properly. The studies that are cited in many of these articles have very limited scope, test very few people, and are comparing new and established things. Has anyone taught laptop users to take notes effectively for the new medium? Do you actually need to take written notes at all in this modern age? We need to see more science done on the changes taking place, and we need the articles discussing the science to do more than discuss (one study from) one paper, and highlight the limitations. Well, unless you have already made up your mind about a topic and just want some links to throw at people in an argument. Screw being right!

This blog post is being shared online, in print, and carved into a cave wall. Comment below which format you preferred receiving it in.

 

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