Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the category “My Writing”

Things they don’t tell you about air travel

Flying is a modern luxury marvel we take for granted. There was a time when popping overseas for a weekend holiday was a ridiculous proposition. Around that same time I was trudging forty kilometres to school through two metres of snow.

Whenever I’m on a plane it is about the only time I’m sorry that I live remotely to the most isolated capital city in the world. People complain about the long haul flights to various destinations, well I had to catch a long haul just to get to the long haul connection. It gives you a lot of time to think about the realities of air travel.

1) If things get really bad, the pilots have ejector seats.
They may be called ‘captains’, but they have no intention of going down with the ship.

2) You are not Ralph Fiennes or Tiger Woods.
And let’s face it, flight attendants have standards even if you were.

3) First class is a myth. They wouldn’t be seen on the same plane as ordinary people.
Rich people are afraid they might catch poor.

4) If you see gremlins on the wing, you have been lucky and received the non-watered down alcohol.
Keep drinking, you might see Elvis and Hendrix.

5) Yes, the seats are deliberately designed for people smaller than you.
Airplane designers were assured that no-one over 175cm and 80 kilos would ever go anywhere.

6) The bookings system takes into account claustrophobia in the seating assignments.
They immediately assign the claustrophobics to seats between the largest people on the flight.

7) People with a fear of flying are catered for.
Their in flight movies are ‘Airplane’ and ‘Alive’, plus they are spared from all the turbulence warnings. Comes as a real surprise.

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News: Short Story Shortlisted

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I don’t often post news here. Nothing worse than being seen as someone blowing their own trumpet – and is that now officially called a Steve Bannon?

This morning I received an email congratulating me on being shortlisted for a short story award.

Dear Tyson

The KSP Foundation is delighted to advise that your story ‘Flicker’ has been short listed in the Open category of this year’s Ghost Story competition. 

The winners will be announced on Saturday 26th August 2017 at the KSP Writers’ Centre. We would also like to invite you to read your story on the night, to share with our audience. 

With our best wishes and warmest congratulations,

Kind regards,

NB: I’ve edited the email. Unless you wanted the details and directions to the event.

A little background, at the writers’ group I’ve joined we have a monthly challenge. We take a random excerpt from an award-winning novel in the KSP (Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre) library and use it as inspiration for a short story. Knowing that the Ghost Story Competition was coming up, several of us used the monthly challenge as the basis for entries.

I haven’t heard from my writers’ group friends as to whether they were shortlisted as well. But I do know that the judges had huge piles of entries to read, so it will be interesting to see how many there were in total. I’m betting the judges appreciated the word limit.

Job Descriptions

dayjob

Cruise ship activities director.

Nightclub owner
Drug money laundering, hiring models to chat up, and providing DJs with ecstasy.

Corporate CEO
Executive meetings on golf course, executive meetings at exclusive restaurants, executive meetings at strip clubs, and calling random staff members to remind them you’re the boss.

Cabinet Minister
Required to stand immediately to the Prime Minister’s right when major announcements are made. Responsible for nodding head in background of TV coverage of the PM making the announcement. Being responsible for any fuck-ups when the announcement goes badly (unless it can be blamed on someone in your department).

Director of Government Department
In charge of minister publicity stunts and press releases.

Plumber
Required to spend long hours as a semi-professional fisherman. Once or twice a week assign an apprentice to do some plumbing.

Electrician
Similar to plumber except with less water and shorter working hours.

Apprentice
Responsible for doing all the shit jobs to facilitate industry professionals. Good career advancement opportunities to become semi-professional fisherman.

Commercial Pilot
Bus driving with lower risk of crashing, better perks, longer hours, and shorter life expectancy due to high altitude radiation exposure.

Journalist
Press release copy and paste expert. Responsible for keeping drug dealers and coffee shops in business.

Columnist
Responsible for writing articles. Not responsible for researching articles. Cultivate sources for articles, such as fellow columnists, journalists, and bloggers with “truth” in their page title.

Police Officer
In charge of making sure others don’t do stupid and annoying shit that will hurt everyone around them. Not to be mistaken for parking meter attendants, nor strippers.

Strippers
Required to make sure not mistaken for police officers, firefighters, school girls, secretaries, nurses, or prostitutes.

Advertising Executive
Required to be a professional liar and manipulator for hire to inanimate objects and services.

Scientist
Required to have survived at least one explosion from experiments gone wrong during childhood. Leading scientists will have engulfed their high schools in flames and no longer be able to grow eyebrows. Required to find even more cool ways to blow shit up, and discover the nature of truth.

Top 5 Most Over-rated Drinks

Authors need a drink to help with the hours of writing, research, and dicking around on the internet. Some great novelists have preferred to have a scotch on hand. Some terrible writers have as well. Others can’t start writing without a pot of coffee. Others still have realised amphetamines are way better than coffee.

Which brings me to today’s topic: over-rated drinks.

For so long there have been a number of beverages that people wax lyrical about. You’d honestly think that some of these drinks were made from the waters of Pirene, or at least not made from the waters of Flint Michigan. Whether it be tradition, reputation or the cool factor, these drinks have earned a coveted place in our society that is not based upon merit – there’s a political joke to be made here, I’m sure.

1. Coffee
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Walk around most cities and you will not be able to travel more than 10 metres without passing a coffee shop. In America this coffee shop will most likely be a Starbucks and you’ll have no idea how far 10 metres is. In Australia the coffee shop will have lycra-clad cyclists sitting out the front of it. The ubiquity of these stores is indicative of the unhealthy caffeine addiction people have. Cue the “I don’t have an addiction, I can give up anytime I want” comments in the section below.

The worst thing about coffee’s popularity is that a barista will spend 5 minutes expertly crafting you a tall mocha frap with a pump of vanilla and an extra shot of espresso. Yet ask them to make you a cup of tea and they hand you a paper cup with some hot water with a tea bag floating in it. I’ve only murdered one person for daring to charge me $5 for that atrocity.

Honestly, why don’t people do cocaine or amphetamines if they need the energy boost?

2. Champagne
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Champagne – or as it was originally known, bubbly vinegar – is often associated with rich people and people dressing up like rich people for the night. True Fact: Nobody actually drinks champagne. It is brewed specifically to be sprayed around after winning a race, or to be smashed into boats. You don’t exactly need to brew something palatable if its sole purpose is for a jockey to hose down a scantily clad model holding a trophy. The model is being paid to smile and put up with that crap regardless.

The people who insist that you can drink champagne – who have an unsurprisingly high correlation with people who think cigars are cool – do have one stipulation. To make champagne “taste best”, that is to say smooth vinegar instead of “Oh my god, I’ve just drunk battery acid”, you have to drink it out of a champagne glass. They made them specifically to improve the taste. Not a joke. Someone actually thought that would help.

3. Dry Martini
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Would we even know what a martini was if Bond, James Bond didn’t drink them? The Dry Martini is really just paint stripper and methylated spirits served in a fancy glass with an olive. In some less reputable establishments they probably don’t bother hiding the fact and serve it in an old tin with a paint brush instead of the spiked olive.

Just because James Bond drinks it doesn’t make it good. When Ian Fleming wrote Bond he clearly needed a manly drink, and what is more manly than something that doubles as engine degreaser? Also, Bond was very self-destructive and was probably using the martinis to cure his VD.

4. Fruit Juice
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Fruit juice: now with 5% actual fruit!

Juice is the perfect combination of sugar, water, sugar, flavourings, sugar, fruit, and something else I’ve forgotten, possibly sugar. All the goodness of fruit… removed to fit more sugar in.

The best way to drink fruit juice is to grab a can of Coke and eat an actual piece of fruit. Unless you’re doing a juice cleanse. In which case it is best to replace the fruit with long-winded explanations about how much better you feel without all those nasty toxins in your body.

5. Bottled Water

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Oh look, they added fruit and sugar to water. What’s that called again?

Nothing says healthy like 100% pure profit. We capture, purify, fluoridate, and pipe beautiful clean water into homes around the world. And someone figured out you could bottle it and make people go to a shop to buy it for 2000 times more cost.

Somewhere right now is a Bond villain stroking a white cat, laughing as he watches a security feed of people buying his branded bottled water, filled from the tap in his kitchen. He has probably just closed a sale on a bridge and is planning a trip to the Arctic to sell some Inuits ice. Sorry, marketing executive, not Bond villain.

Collective nouns

A harem of guitars

An invisible of ninjas

A dude of potheads

A lie of politicians
yyetq
A scheme of crime writers

An awesome of TysonAdams.com readers

A crock of shit

Let’s not have a picture for this one…

A run dammit of bears

A swim faster of sharks

A tedium of golfers

A fiction of journalists

An ambivalence of decision makers

How to Write an FAQ

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Most companies and organisations have an FAQ page these days. What should be a chance to address Frequently Asked Questions often turns into a telling display of the values the company or organisation holds. A lot can be gleaned from the FAQ, and not just opening times and how many health code violations they have accumulated.

Recently I was looking for local martial arts facilities and came across an FAQ page that painted the organisation in a bad light. This isn’t the only poorly written FAQ I’ve come across, but I’ll use some quotes from it as an example.

What you don’t include says as much as what you do include.

FAQs are meant to be about sharing information. Hey, we’re a friendly organisation, just letting you know a bit more about us. So when you avoid sharing information you come across as deceptive as a used car salesman, or as useless as a Scottish underwear store.

How much does training cost?
We do not have contracts or direct debit arrangements; you simply pay the fees to your Branch Instructor at the beginning of each calendar month. You do not pay any fees for months in which you do not train. Our monthly training fees are probably the lowest on average for any mainstream martial art school in Australia.

So, those fees would be how much again?

By not actually including the pricing people can only assume that the fees are ridiculously high, or that they want you to sign over your soul as payment. At least they don’t straight up ask for your firstborn.

Obviously the answer was intended to convey that the fees were competitive to similar services, and that they have easy payment options. They probably didn’t include the pricing because it probably varies by dojo and class sizes. But by not putting these competitive prices in the FAQ it gives the impression that a guy with a curled up moustache will con you into signing up to a ski resort timeshare, while also pressuring you to join up and pay exorbitant fees.

Lesson: be transparent.

What you do say says a lot about you.

If you are a relaxed organisation or business you might include some joke Q&As. If you are friendly you might include some oversharing information to appear personable – or possibly unhinged if you go too far. If you are a jerk then you won’t be able to help yourself.

Can I compete in tournaments?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, not a martial sport. We train to perfect technique for real self-defence applications, not for point-scoring or competitions. We believe that, as opposed to the sports approach, the traditional art approach builds physically stronger and more mentally confident practitioners.

So, other martial arts suck?

Nothing makes you sound like a prat more than belittling others…

I’m doing this to help. Not to be a prat. Honest.

Obviously you want to promote your organisation or business, and obviously you think your organisation or business is better than others. But there are ways to do that without walking over to the competitor’s place and taking a dump in the middle of the floor.

This answer could have been phrased in many ways. They could have suggested that their martial art is a good base for moving onto sports applications, perhaps name drop some members who have done that. They could have just left the answer at stating the two are quite different styles of the same martial art, and they focus on the self-defence style. Instead they couldn’t help but stick the boot in and suggest the other styles are crap.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

How you say something says a lot about you.

There are several ways to say the same thing. There are several ways to skin a cat. If you decide to skin that cat by starting from the tail down, it says one thing, whilst starting once the cat is dead says something else. What the hell did that cat ever do to you anyway?

Can I cross-train in other martial arts?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, so all members are expected to show the traditional loyalty to a single master instructor… Bear in mind that our general philosophy is that it is better to learn one art, and learn it extremely well, than to learn several arts to a lower level.

So, I should phone you before I make any decisions? Do I pledge my fealty in writing or by polishing your shoes with my tongue?

What was obviously meant to be a diplomatic answer about the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) and people learning multiple skills, comes off as a decree about slavishly devoting your soul to this martial art and the master. How dare you be unfaithful!

The mindset of telling someone what they can and can’t do in the hours they don’t spend at this dojo is that of a manipulative bully. You will obey. You will conform. And we’re doing it for your benefit, so you will take our abuse and love us for it. You kinda expect them to have a lesson listed on how to be abusive to your spouse or partner somewhere else on the website.

They could have stated that most students don’t cross train. They could have paraphrased some Liam Neeson, ‘You will learn a particular set of skills. Skills you will acquire over years of dedicated training. Skills that will make you awesome at breaking boards.’ Instead they showed themselves to be exactly the sort of people you don’t want to learn martial arts from.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

Hope that helps.

Credibility or Clicks: Bret Stephens and The New York Times

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When The New York Times hired Bret Stephens many supporters of sound science were concerned. Bret has a history as a climate science denier and disinformer, using his clout as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist to undermine climate science. With the publication of his inaugural column at The New York Times the concerns were confirmed.

Bret’s piece attacks climate science by attempting to argue that nothing can be 100 percent certain, so it is only rational to doubt claims of that sort. Except that is nonsense.

Climate science has never claimed 100 percent certainty. The evidence for human influences on climate is overwhelming, but scientists don’t claim to know anything with 100 percent certainty. That isn’t how science works. Climate science is routinely reported with error margins and uncertainties.

This isn’t the only problem with Bret’s article. He makes many other factual errors, as covered by Dana Nuccitelli and others. So Bret’s article is either deliberately deceptive, or naively uninformed.

It is hardly the first time Bret has been a climate disinformer. In his previous role at the Wall Street Journal he wrote similar articles that sought to undermine climate science and disinform his readers. During a January 23rd 2015 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, Bret utilized a splurge of cherry picked historical events and reports to discredit climate science. He included the much-debunked 1970s cooling argument, and an irrelevant reference to a fisheries management conference, in his argument that the experts are probably wrong. Just ignore all the evidence. And don’t check Bret’s claims too closely. So being deceptive or uninformed is nothing new for Bret.

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Charts of misinformation in opinion pieces during Bret’s time at the Wall Street Journal (source: MediaMatters.org)

Writing an opinion column at The New York Times that is either deceptive or uninformed does not speak well of the credibility of Stephens nor his new employer. Why would a respected news outlet like The New York Times publish a column that is deceptive or uninformed?

James Bennett, an editor at The New York Times defended their original hiring decision in the face of criticism. Bennett said,“The crux of the question is whether his work belongs inside our boundaries for intelligent debate, and I have no doubt that it does. I have no doubt he crosses our bar for intellectual honesty and fairness.”

Yet with his very first column, Bret has shown a lack of intellectual honesty and fairness. So exactly how low is the bar being set?

No credible news outlet could allow one of their opinion columnists to continue to write nonsense for them. Has The New York Times sold their credibility on climate science for conservative clicks? Are they doing this to create sensationalism? In either case, it speaks to the standing of The New York Times that they would use such an important issue in climate change to hurt public understanding of the issue for attention.

Certainly many scientists have decided that The New York Times no longer deserves their subscription (e.g. 1, 2). The response from The New York Times is hardly complimentary to their new slogan “Truth is more important now than ever”. When you respond to scientists who have cancelled their subscriptions over Bret Stephens’ climate disinformation by arguing there are two sides to the debate, or that the scientists can’t stand differing opinions, you wonder if The New York Times understands what Truth actually means.

If The New York Times values truth then they shouldn’t have hired Bret Stephens to write about climate change. If they care about their credibility now they will sack him. But it seems clear that they have sold their credibility for clicks.

Now, about Michael Pollan and how he’s wrong on GMOs and farming.

NB: This post has previously appeared elsewhere.

Readicide

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I have long-held a disdain for the way reading and books are presented in schools. At a time when kids are trying to be cool by gaming, watching the right TV shows, seeing cool movies, Snap-chatting themselves half-naked, and sleeping until noon, schools try to suck all the fun out of reading.

Up until high school kids are more likely to read regularly for pleasure. At high school this rate declines markedly, and doesn’t really recover until retirement (if at all, as I’d argue that the older people making up those Pew survey numbers grew up in an age before internet, decent TV, and gaming). Not only are teens exposed to more other potential entertainment sources, they also find less enjoyment in reading. Something happens in high school. Something terrible. We assign them standardised texts to read!

In his book, ReadicideKelly Gallagher explains why the American system has been failing kids and how to fix it. I think many of the points apply to any nation that utilises an emphasis on standardised testing for schools. Below is a summary presentation that you can navigate to by clicking on the image. Worth a look for any fellow book nerds and/or parents.

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I don’t actually agree with everything in the overview, namely the idea that classics are classics for a reason. You have to remember that the reason a book becomes a classic is often chance, or because some person reckons it should be, not because it is always good. Plenty of good books have undoubtably been lost in obscurity and thus to history. An example of a book now regarded as a classic that was almost lost to history is Moby Dick. It faded into obscurity after its release and was pretty much forgotten until one literary critic – Carl Van Doren – revived the novel 70 years after its publication. So one guy reckoned it was good, others nodded and agreed with him, and so that means it’s a classic.*

The idea that kids should be reading classics or literary “masterpieces” is part of the problem, in my opinion. This is very much a top down decree of what is important by people who have made a career out of lecturing others on what is important…. to them. Just because they like it doesn’t mean that it will inspire kids to be lifelong readers.

Now, that isn’t to say that those “important” books aren’t worth reading. But it is to say that there is a stark difference between what a literary critic or scholar deems good, and what a kid who just read Harry Potter for the first time deems good. School curriculums would be better off without trying to bash kids over the heads with books they are unlikely to enjoy.

book-graphic

*Yes, I’m being overly simplistic.

Top Posts of 2016

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Since everyone else is blogging about their most popular posts of the year, I thought I’d jump on that bandwagon. I love bandwagons. Especially if they have drinks.

I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and the views, readers, and regulars has been gradually increasing. So a big thank you to everyone for joining me here.

1) The Actual 10 Most Deadly Animals in Australia

Who’d have thought a listicle would be the most popular thing I’ve written? Originally written for one of those comedy list sites, I’m glad so many have enjoyed this one.

2) Why Being Smart Sucks

I didn’t write this one, just added some colour commentary. Wish I could claim more credit on this piece.

3) Beware The Meme

Before people were aware of what a dangerous kook David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe was, I wrote this piece dissecting his memes. I did try to get this published in a science magazine, but apparently Wolfe doesn’t like people reproducing his content… a lot of which is stolen from other creators. I like that I was ahead of the curve on calling this guy out for his dangerous nonsense.

4) Kids These Days

This article needs to be rewritten and published somewhere with a huge platform. It could then be used as a regular rebuttal to every whiny piece complaining about the younger generation.

5) Cool Book Art

This one clearly ranks high on Google Image searches.

6) Do People In Australia Ride Kangaroos?

One of my trademark snarky Quora answers. Its popularity here shows that I need to write more articles about Australian animals.

7) Pen vs. Keyboard: Fight!

One of a few posts I wrote in response to anti-technology pieces that were being circulated through writing groups. It annoys me when bad studies or preliminary studies are cited as the final answer on a subject. It annoys me more when those same studies are misrepresented because someone is pushing an agenda. I’m glad people actually read this response.

8) How to Spot Anti-Science Nonsense

This article is a response to a question from a reader. It is another article addressing an anti-technology piece that was being circulated, this time on GMOs. A version of it appeared in Skeptic Magazine without the yeti cocaine addict joke.

9) Is Sport King In Australia

When I pitched this article the response was deafening silence. It was also my most down-voted item on Reddit. Apparently we don’t talk about sports negatively. Especially not if you back it up with facts. I’m glad people here have enjoyed it.

10) Mythtaken: Shark Attack Deaths

Another animals article, another poke at how we overstate the dangers of loveable creatures who just want a hug.

Here’s to 12,017: I hope everyone has a good year!

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I said what? Kangaroo edition

Recently a video of a man punching a kangaroo that was trying to…. Actually, have you seen the video? Do you reckon it was? I mean, you know. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Anyway, the kangaroo is all over the man’s dog and the man valiantly defends the dog’s honour with a nice right cross.

roo-punch-gif

As a result of this internet sensation, my article on dangerous Aussie animals has become quite popular. In that article I discuss the National Coroner’s data report from 2000 to 2010 and give flippant explanations for the death tolls. Some people liked my article so much that I’m being quoted:

KANGAROO ARE SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS
Kangaroos can seriously injure or even kill a man with their powerful hind legs. As per Tyson Adams*, Kangaroos are one of the ten most deadly animals in Australia. The site ranked buck on fifth place claiming that the species has 18 deaths to its name. It further mentioned that though Kangaroos look loveable and cuddly, underneath that skin lays a nasty, vicious bully.

There are a few things to unpack here:

  1. They don’t mention how ruggedly handsome I am.
  2. Kangaroos do rank in the top ten deadly animals…. but;
  3. Worth noting my explanations of how kangaroos managed to kill people, which was from traffic accidents;
  4. Worth noting that 18 deaths in a decade is officially classed as SFA by the Coroner;
  5. Worth noting that I also referred to kangaroos as modern-day, sleepy, vegetarian, T-Rexes.

While I’m flattered that people are reading and referencing my article it would be nice if they had understood the point I was making. Yes, that would have required the TechPlz people to read the entire piece rather than just the bit about kangaroos, and it would also have meant comprehending how cows could make Rambo look like a cub scout. I feel that they should have been referencing that the 18 deaths were over a decade. Or referencing that they ranked 5th based upon a coroner’s report (with a little artistic license in the rankings from me). Or that citing a coroner’s report doesn’t make the deaths something I’m claiming so much as the official statistics on the matter. Or that Aussie animals aren’t anywhere near as dangerous as we Aussies like to make out. Or that linking to my article would have been nice….. Yeah, it’s mainly the last point: I want the traffic.

I suppose the main thing is they spelled my name correctly.

* That’s me!! Is I famus nowz?

I live in Australia and want to study Creative writing?

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I am 48 years old and want to write this novel I KNOW I have in me …..has anyone any suggestion? Thanks

There are plenty of ways to learn to write, the primary way being to write.

Most writers’ festivals have short half-day courses on aspects of writing that are worth attending. Writer’s festivals | australia.gov.au

Most states also have writers’ centres that run events and courses. Writers’ Centres

Several universities run creative writing courses. My friend and author, David Whish-Wilson (read his books, they are great), teaches creative writing at Curtin University in Western Australia. There are plenty of courses available via Open Universities online.

Another option are centres like the Australia Writers’ Centre who run various courses year round. I’ve done a course with them myself. My friend and author, LA Larkin, also teaches a course at the AWC.

But when all said and done, the primary way to learn to write is by doing it. But before you do remember the above sage piece of advice from the late, great, Christopher Hitchens.

More advice from some of the most prolific authors in this article from The Atlantic.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

The header image quote is discussed in more detail here.

Rise of the Sophists

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Surprisingly this is not a post about a new Terminator movie. It isn’t even a post about the rise of Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson; but let’s mention them for the bonus clicks. This post is actually a short essay I wrote last year as part of a philosophy course I did on Soren Kierkegaard. As you will see there is quite a bit of relevance to the current political and media climate, although looking back as far as Socrates reveals that not much has changed: sophists have undue influence on our society.

What did Kierkegaard learn from his study of Socrates?

Kierkegaard saw parallels between his time and Socrates’ time. Once again there was a rise of Sophists in society, people who knew very little but pretended they did. While it could be argued that the Socratic Method is always relevant in society, Kierkegaard came to see certain aspects of Socrates differently to his peers. He was interested in using the negative as well as drawing people into argument by asking questions from feigned ignorance. These tactics could be used to expose those who were lacking knowledge or understanding.

Kierkegaard expanded upon his interpretation of the Socratic Method and has subsequently influenced many, both in the field of philosophy and thought, as well as wider society. Notably his ideas have influenced things like existentialism and post-modernism, which have influence into such diverse areas as the arts and science. But Kierkegaard was a precursor to modern philosophical movements, as he wasn’t trying to educate or enlighten, but rather stimulate and encourage people to look for the truth.

There is a downside to Kierkegaard’s influence on society. In our modern age we have seen the rise of those who would use Kierkegaard’s negative and questioning as a tool, rather than for helping others find the truth, but for harassment. While the idea behind aporia and maeuetics is to question what we and others know, there is a point at which this stops being about questioning knowledge for understanding and starts being about someone just trying to annoy others.

Obviously this comes down to the intent of the person: are they trying to help others understand, or understand themselves; or are they more interested in having an argument, or annoying someone. But is it subtler? Is it a progression whereby someone has engaged in discussion only to run up against something they disagree with – due to whatever personal bias – and thus use the questioning as an attack or avenue to annoy others? Regardless, those who are trying to annoy are not following the intent of Kierkegaard, nor Socrates, and will miss the essence and benefits of aporia and maeuetics.

Why is this connection between Socrates and Kierkegaard still relevant in the world today?

Much like the parallels Kierkegaard saw between his time and Socrates’ time, there exists a similar parallel today. Once again in the modern age we see the rise of the Sophists. They are our elected officials, they are our media, and through technology they have the ability to reach more people and influence the world.

With more information available more easily than ever, people have come to receive that information in bite sized pieces. Often a headline – which may have been designed more for attracting attention than providing information – will be as much as a person will read about a topic. Our leaders and elected officials are reducing their policy statements to sound bites that can be easily remembered. And while we have this overly simplistic form or information presented to us, we are seeing less critical assessment of the information.

Kierkegaard was correct to look at the rise of Sophists in his time and act to apply Socratic methods to their arguments. By taking the approach of “knowing nothing” and questioning the person presenting information, it can be revealed how little the person actually knows. This is something that our media, and we, are failing to do. By taking the negative position it is possible to force the Sophist to explain themselves.

The most interesting aspect of Kierkegaard’s connection with Socrates is how comedians are applying it today. Irony was something Kierkegaard regarded as an invaluable tool. Today we see comedians such as John Oliver using irony – and other comedic devices – to dissect topics and arguments in the public space. It could be said that the modern Socrates or Kierkegaard comes in the form of the satirist news programs. Their viewers are noted to be better informed about news topics, and this comes from the use of Socratic tools.

A little more on Kierkegaard from The School of Life:

What are some great books that will teach me to be a creative writer?

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I love creative writing and I’m good at university dissertations, but when I try to write a story, I struggle and the writing is often awkward. Yet I love doing it. What pratical guides or reading list would you recommend for people who wish to masted the art of writing and creative writing?

Creative writing is as much about practice as it is about any advice you can read in a book. Part of that practice is writing, part of it is editing your own work, and part of it is reading to see how others construct their prose.

Essentially, if you already know the mechanics of how to write, then the part that is missing is the hours and hours of practice and analysis of that practice.

That said, there are plenty of manuals on style and grammar that would be helpful. E.g. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is regarded as a classic of writing.

I personally think Stephen King’s On Writing is a must read for any author.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

What is a genre of music invented in Australia?

There are three genres that were invented in Australia:

  1. Pub Rock
  2. Bush Ballads
  3. Indiginous music

People around the world may be familiar with Pub Rock thanks to a little known band called AC/DC. They and many other rock bands were touring at a time when the live music scene revolved around the Aussie Pub. As a result, the music, and particularly the lyrics, reflected this.

Bush Ballads are the lesser known and more antiquated Aussie music style. Think of it as folk music written by people who loved sheep a bit too much. As a mix between love of rural Australia, folk music, country music, and oldy time-y nostalgia, the genre is less popular now than when gramophones were a thing. That isn’t to say that Bush Ballads had no influence, as Waltzing Matilda is regarded as the unofficial national anthem, and some songs have gained international audiences from cover versions (see Dr Hook example below).

Indiginous music as it stands today would generally be better referred to as fusion. This is because it combines traditional Indiginous musical styles and instruments and fuses them with other genres (rock, hip-hop, rap, country, etc). What makes it such an Australian genre is the cultural themes and lyrical content, which is very unique.

 This post originally appeared on Quora.

Let’s Get It On… I mean, fight!

Bloody-UFC

I’ve been a fan of martial arts for as long as I can remember. While I’m not a fighter (I’m a pussy) I have great respect for the athletes that beat the crap out of each other for our entertainment. I also love a bit of choreographed hijinx in films as well.

But for some reason there are people who don’t share my love and respect for people punching each other in the face until someone carts them off on stretchers. They decry boxing and MMA as bloody and violent sports that should be banned – won’t somebody please think of the children! At the same time they blithely ignore the injury and deaths from good old harmless football et al.

So I thought that I would run through a few of the statistics and studies on those violent sports to see if the claims stack up. Yeah, you know what’s going to happen: don’t you!

Let’s start by looking at boxers and MMA fighters: just how likely are injuries and knockouts? Well, a study of 1181 MMA competitors and 550 boxers found that boxers were less likely to suffer the cuts and bruises of MMA fighters, but they were more likely to be knocked out.

Boxers were significantly more likely not to experience injury (49.8% vs 59.4%, P < 0.001), whereas MMA fighters were significantly more likely to experience 1 injury (typically contusion/bruising, P < 0.001). Boxers were more likely to experience loss of consciousness (7.1% vs 4.2%, P = 0.01) and serious eye injury (1.1% vs 0.3%, P = 0.02).

This makes sense given that there are more ways to win an MMA bout than by points, KO, or bookmaker arranged dive. Also the overall injury rate in MMA fights of 8.5% is surprisingly low for two people beating the crap out of one another.

The overall injury rate was 8.5% of fight participations (121 injuries/1422 fight participations) or 5.6% of rounds (121/2178 rounds). Injury rates were similar between men and women, but a greater percentage of the injuries caused an altered mental state in men. Fighters also were more likely to be referred to the ER if they participated in longer bouts ending in a KO/TKO.

Other studies have found higher rates of injury, 28.6%, but have similar conclusions regarding the types of injuries – facial cuts and bruises – being higher than boxing, but knockouts being lower.

Part of this is down to the small, fingerless gloves used in MMA. Less padding, that is mainly there to protect the hands from breaking with every punch, leads to a different force being applied to the opponent’s face.

All padding conditions reduced linear impact dosage. Other parameters significantly decreased, significantly increased, or were unaffected depending on padding condition. Of real-world conditions (MMA glove–bare head, boxing glove–bare head, and boxing glove–headgear), the boxing glove–headgear condition showed the most meaningful reduction in most of the parameters. In equivalent impacts, the MMA glove–bare head condition induced higher rotational dosage than the boxing glove–bare head condition. Finite element analysis indicated a risk of brain strain injury in spite of significant reduction of linear impact dosage.

Okay, so how do these nasty violent sport stats compare to less violent sports? What is the chance of dying in MMA or boxing compared to, I don’t know, horse riding? Well, a 2012 study from Victoria found motor sports, fishing, equestrian activities, and swimming all led to more deaths in a year than boxing. That’s right, riding a horse or going fishing is deadlier than standing in a ring getting punched in the face. That brutal and nasty boxing didn’t even make it into the top ten. Hell, even real life is more dangerous, as another study found motor vehicle accidents and falls were far more likely to kill people than boxing or any other sport. It’s almost as though the controlled forum of a boxing ring or MMA octagon are somehow stopping things getting out of hand.

The Victorian study is only looking at one state in Australia, so hardly representative of the entire world, and only looked at 2001-2007, which isn’t a huge time span, but the results are still very interesting:

There were 1019 non-fatal major trauma cases and 218 deaths. The rate of major trauma or death from sport and active recreation injuries was 6.3 per 100,000 participants per year. There was an average annual increase of 10% per year in the major trauma rate (including deaths) across the study period, for the group as a whole (IRR 1.10, 95% CI, 1.06-1.14). There was no increase in the death rate (IRR=0.94, 95% CI, 0.87-1.02; p=0.12). Significant increases were also found for cycling (IRR 1.16, 95% CI, 1.09-1.24) off-road motor sports (IRR 1.10, 95% CI, 1.03-1.19), Australian football (IRR 1.21, 95% CI, 1.03-1.42) and swimming (IRR 1.16, 95% CI, 1.004-1.33).

Did you take that in? I’ll let the authors summarise:

The rate of major trauma inclusive of deaths, due to participation in sport and active recreation has increased over recent years, in Victoria, Australia. Much of this increase can be attributed to cycling, off-road motor sports, Australian football and to a lesser extent swimming, highlighting the need for coordinated injury prevention in these areas.

But is this representative? UFC boss Dana White likes to compare his sport to NFL, as MMA fighters are kept sidelined after concussions for longer than their football (should be hand-egg, but let’s not quibble) counterparts. According to a report made by One Sure Insurance, the fact remains that under all that protective gear used to play rugby, NFL players are hitting each other with the (padded) equivalent force of a car crash. Studies of brains show that all contact sports are bad for the brain. Even Soccer (or is that Football?) players are at risk of brain injury. MMA like to keep their fighters healthy, whilst most sports want their players back next week to go again.

I keep seeing these claims about MMA or boxing being dangerous to health. Meanwhile, football, rugby, gridiron, that skating sport that Canadians jizz over, all seem to have just as much chance of injury or death. Essentially, we can easily list a dozen sports more dangerous than fight sports (seriously, cheerleading: WTF!). But that doesn’t really matter. The main thing is to know the actual risks so that athletes (and spectators) are making a well informed decision. Because as much as horse riding is bad for your health, it is also boring to watch (NB: personal opinion and quite a snobby one at that) so people won’t really care about another death in that sport. Whereas a death in an exciting sport like MMA is much more visceral and likely to have spectators on hand. Hard to compare horse riding to MMA, unless we had Kentucky Thunder step into the octagon.

The main problem I see with the “MMA is violent and dangerous” or “Boxing is a brutal sport” and “They should be banned” (please, think of the children!) is that it assumes fighters are unaware that being punched in the head is bad for their health. Do people really think that fighters love being knocked out or injured, instead of just spar that vast variety of dummies (e.g. these mmalife.com/the-6-best-grappling-mma-dummies/)? Even UFC and Boxing acknowledge that they need to understand the risks of a career of head-butting people’s fists.

It could be argued that young athletes are unaware of the risks of being an athlete, what with the naivety of believing they are bulletproof and will be young forever – don’t worry kids: you’ll be cool your entire life. People do have a fascinating ability to ignore long term risks in favour of short term gains. UFC champion George St Pierre reportedly retired from MMA due to persistent headaches (maybe). So it is important that athletes are made aware of the risks of injury and long term debilitation, with further research in this area being essential – yes, there is an echo in here. But it also has to be acknowledged that athletes aren’t exactly unaware of the issue. George Foreman was aware of the risks of eponymous naming of kitchen appliances, but the money was good. He was also aware of the risks of being a boxer, and named his kids George so he wouldn’t forget them – “You have to plan for memory loss in boxing.”

Then there are those that see fighting as entertainment for lowlifes and thugs. That somehow only the uneducated or the uncivilised enjoy seeing two people belt each other around the head. This is, of course, just more of the “I don’t like it, therefore it is bad and only poo-poo heads like it” argument that snobs like to make. Nothing like playing the moral and intellectual superiority card to denigrate something. Ignorance is always funnier when someone thinks they are superior.

Some argue, as the AMA does, that the intent of boxing and MMA is to belt each other senseless. If all you see in fighting is two people trying to kill one another, then you aren’t watching. You’re distracted by the superficial aspects of the events. Insights that shallow just show an ignorance of what is happening in the ring. In MMA and boxing there are many ways to win a fight, as already alluded to above. Take for example this famous clip (more here from my friend Stick):

Now the superficial view of the video has us watching Ali wailing on a guy against the ropes. Obvious, but not the reason this is classic boxing footage. Boxing fans would point out Ali’s footwork, the athleticism and skill involved, the amazing speed, and the fact that his opponent is seriously outclassed. Boxing isn’t just about punching your opponent. Watch what happens when someone tries to reverse the tables with a flurry of punches thrown at Ali:

This is athleticism defined. This is why Ali is still regarded as such a great fighter, as it takes far more than turning your opponent’s brain to mush to win a fight. And that is what non-fight fans don’t understand. They can’t get past the superficial to see the sport. They are so caught up in being snobbish and outraged that they missed the amazing athletes doing amazing things.

That and the beating the crap out of each other.

Other articles:
Australian Sport Injury Hospitalisations 2011-12
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/uoa-mma110515.php
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/boxing-mma/more-brain-injuries-caused-by-sparring-than-real-fights/news-story/258aa1bd5e7d7823d3ddb102310f1dba
https://theconversation.com/should-boxing-be-banned-38907
http://www.thejournal.ie/the-journal-factcheck-mma-boxing-safety-injury-2713577-Apr2016/
http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i389 and http://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i389/rr-0

Does MMA Make You Stupid? Impact, Concussions and Brain Damage in Mixed Martial Arts

Can you recommend more authors like Dan Brown?

money-and-hand-of-god

I adore reading. I read very often, my bare minimum being 4 books a week. But ever since I read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown, I do not feel satisfied with any book I read. I am hungry for more yet no book seems to satisfy me. What books could satisfy me?

Can I recommend more authors like Dan Brown? Hopefully not. In the Pantheon of thrillers authors, Dan Brown sits proudly atop a pile of money that is only rivalled by James Paterson. They are both great at getting people to read their books, for a reason that is unclear to me.

I have a love hate relationship with Dan Brown. Dan writes very entertaining novels that are well paced with interesting plots. But he also manages to bash readers over the head with plot points and squeeze in a lot of useless exposition. At times you honestly think he is just bashing at the keyboard like a drunk monkey taking dictation. Personally I think that Steve Berry and James Rollins, who write a similar genre of thriller, are far better authors. If you haven’t read them already, I’d recommend anything they have written to sate your Brown problem.

There are other authors who dabble in that same genre of thriller who are worth mentioning. I’m a huge fan of Matthew Reilly, who writes insanely fast paced novels that are great fun. His Jack West Jr series have similar “find the artefact to save the world” McGuffin adventures and has a new instalment in the series coming out in September (2016). Andy McDermott also writes fast paced Artefact McGuffin Adventures* which are also humorous in parts.

A tool that might help is the Literature Map. While it doesn’t have every author, it does link them together and give you some good ideas. Or they might lead you astray.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

*I think that should be the official classification for this sub-genre of thriller.

See also:
http://bookwag.com/2013/05/like-dan-brown-then-you-will-love-these-seven-authors/

What does the Australian term “sheila” mean?

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The term sheila means you have strayed far from the path of modern Australian society and have found yourself in the backwaters of the outback. In these dark hollows near stringy-bark trees and billabongs you will find yourself at risk of flamin’ Alf Stewart.

It is generally recommended that you quickly reverse the ute back up that dusty track winding back, turn at Gundagai, and head straight for the nearest inner city cafe, preferably one in Melbourne. The main thing is to pay lots of money for coffee and sit near people wearing corduroy pants or cyclists clad in lycra bodysuits. If the cafe does regular poetry readings, more the better.

Remember, once you have escaped the outback of Australia do not use any of the language you heard on your travels. Referring to a woman as a sheila, or an old person as codger, is likely to see you arrested for stoning the crows.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

What one Aussie expression says the most about who Australians are and how they live their lives and why?

No_Problem_Mate

Mate.

Everyone is referred to as a mate. We may have never met, we may be worst enemies, we may be firing them for sleeping with our partner at the Xmas party, but we will refer to each other as mate.

This achieves many things:

  1. We don’t have to remember everyone’s names (or nicknames),
  2. We can say something incredibly insulting and have it taken as a joke,
  3. We can use it to be more passive aggressive, which really riles people up,
  4. We can pretend there is a level of egalitarianism about our society,
  5. And the egalitarianism displayed allows us to utilise Tall Poppy Syndrome.

These points are underlying cultural values that Australia holds dear. We love being able to get along with people and insult our friends.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

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.

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.

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