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Showing posts from 2008

Dealing with door knockers

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While I'm on the subject of direct marketing...

I remember back in 1987 I was studying for my law exams. My nerves were frayed and my patience was stretched to its limits. My house mates couldn't stand me nor would they accede to my requests for a bit of quiet so I could memorize those damn constitutional law cases.

When I finally had the place to myself I sat down with my books in the upstairs "study" (ie. the "box" room where we stored our junk). Then I heard a knock. I looked out of the window and saw 2 women standing at the front doorway bearing Bibles. It was about as much as I could stand.

I went downstairs determined to tell them to go to hell and didn't they have better things to do, etc.

Yet when I opened the door I was confronted with 2 sweet older ladies, both smiling gently like Dianne Wiest playing a doting aunt. Instantly my heart and resolve both melted.

"Hello young man. Have you considered creation versus evolution?" they as…

New year's resolution #1: be nice to telemarketers

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The day before Christmas eve I had a call from someone wanting me to participate in a survey. Now lately whenever I get some kind of unsolicited marketing call I've been doing the "right" thing: threatening to report them to the relevant authorities because I'm registered on the "do not call list". Since I've been on that list I have had surprisingly few calls, but some still get through - probably one every 2 months.

Anyway, it's about 7:30 pm. The kids are finally asleep in bed and I'm planning on putting my feet up and having a bit of R & R. Then the phone rings. I pick it up and I hear a click and a whirr. A pause. An echo. By this stage I'm pretty sure I know what's happening. I prepare myself to give the telemarketer an almightly blast.

Nowadays I've noticed that telemarketers give back as well as you can dish it out. They don't like us just as much as we don't like them. The last one opened with:
"Con…

Multi-level marketing: what's wrong with it

I am dismayed by the continuing existence (and proliferation) of multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes like ACN, Melaleuca, Omegatrend (New Image International) and, of course, Amway.

I am fundamentally opposed to such schemes for the principal reason that they are immoral. Here is why I think so:

In an MLM scheme the focus of your “business” is not to provide goods or services to people. The focus of your “business” is to rope other people into your “business”. The provision of goods or services is incidental.

Whenever a friend or acquaintance plucks up the courage to talk to me about their new “franchise” in an MLM scheme they usually say: “You haven’t heard of the company because they channel money that would have gone into advertising into making their product or service cheaper/better etc.” This is usually the first and last time any mention is made of the product or service. Instead the focus shifts to making you a part of the “business”.

Why is the above such a problem?

Imagine…

My thoughts on chiropractic...

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So what's the deal with chiropractors? Are they quacks or are they genuinely qualified health care professionals?

Let me say at the outset: there is an important role for chiropractors to play in the health profession. But I have some qualifying remarks, based on my own lengthy experience with back, neck and other joint problems:

In my view a good chiropractor will stick to good joint (specifically vertebral) manipulation. They will do so conservatively and after warming up the region with massage or ultrasound or both.

By contrast, I don't have a great deal of time for theories about chiropractic fixing "subluxation" or ensuring "realignment". Nor do I see how any purported "realignment" can fix the fact that one of your legs is shorter than the other as well as your anaemia, blood pressure, liver function and insecurities (as some might tell you).

By way of background, chiropractic comes from a long tradition dating back to a man named DD Palmer

Martin's "Cuban Missile Crisis"

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I remember in Beachwood High School there was this thug who used to terrorise the other kids. He was in the year ahead of me — an excellent athlete, tall, lithe and well muscled. But he was also streetwise and downright nasty. One day our freshman class had the misfortune of having to share a classroom with his (older) class due to some emergency. The teacher unwisely left us unattended for most of the period. The thug proceeded to press-gang some of my classmates into playing a sadistic game where they had to cane each other. Martin Middleton and I were playing our own “board game” (one we had invented) and watched the unfolding events with trepidation out of the corners of our eyes. Then the thug approached Martin and said: “Okay, you’re up next.”

I still remember Martin calmly ignoring him. The thug became quite exasperated and aggressive at this “insubordination”. But no matter how dire Martin’s personal “Cuban Missile Crisis” became he continued to ignore the thug — as if oblivio…

The trouble with "racial research"

The tremendous victory of Barak Obama in the American presidential election (I'll confess to shedding a tear or 2 during his speech) has reminded me of something:

A couple of years ago a professor by the name of Richard Flynn at Ulster University published some studies on comparative IQs of various races/countries. The results, not surprisingly, favoured the Western industrialised view of what is "intelligence". His study found that north western Europeans are the "smartest" and disparaged, among others, southern/eastern Europeans including my fellow Serbs. The results absolutely trashed Africans and Australian Aborigines.

He previously came to the attention of the media by publishing studies that suggest that men are, on average, 5 IQ points "smarter" than women...

What I find objectionable about his research is that it is essentially completely worthless and quite possibly dangerous. What application can such a study have, especially as regards a…

The belief mechanism

I'm not entirely sure whether people actually "believe" in things when they say they do. I think often enough people WANT something to be true and then block from their mind any critical analysis of it.

So it's not so much a "belief mechanism" so much as it is a "suspension of critical analysis" mechanism. Such a mechanism is, I believe, very much rooted in our biological make-up; if we were to keep confronting certain uncomfortable truths on an hourly basis we would not be able to function as a species. Blocking them out is useful from a evolutionary perspective.

I've been confronted many times with: "why don't you believe in X - don't you like the idea of...?". My answer is: "wishing don't make it so".

Hence I don't "believe" in the theory of evolution, for example. It is merely a theory that makes inductive sense to me. I incline towards it on a strong balance of probabilities - like the theory of …

What do you REALLY want to be?

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When I was a little tacker I was often given the encouraging advice that "you can be whatever you want to be - if you REALLY want it."

Over the years I have often thought about the apparent absurdity of this advice. Cold hard logic tells us that we can't all be astronauts, world class orchestra conductors, pop stars, actors, champion weightlifters, NBA basketball players etc..

So why do those words of wisdom/encouragement still hang around in my head like a loiterer at a train station?

Is it because I see that, after a fashion, we all become who want to be? An example would be a mate of mine who saw himself as a hard-boiled journalist. You know - the kind you see in noir movies wearing a hat with the peak tilted back, puffing on a rolled up cigarette and hammering away at an old typewriter. Well my friend became that very person before my eyes. Even I live my dream after a fashion - I am a writer in my day job (okay, it's not glamorous writing, but it is writing nonethe…

Lamenting change

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Ever notice how technology is speeding up? I went to get my minidisc recorder fixed at the Sony shop and the technician told me (incorrectly it seems, for now) that Sony will no longer be making them. "The minidisc is dead." The CD and DVD will be next. Then the hard drive. Who needs them when you can get tiny flash cards that can store 4 or even 8 GB. It's not a long shot to think that they will soon store 60, 100, or 800 GB in a piece of plastic shorter than a matchbox one tenth the width. Nen told me that someone nailed an SD card to a tree and was still able to get most of the data off it.

So familiar data storage devices will go the way of the typewriter. I remember in the mid '80s lamenting the fact that typewriters were destined for the scrapheap with the rise of computers. Surely we would still use typewriters occasionally? It seems we don't.

It's funny how things we have taken for granted as constants in this modern age are rapidly falling …

A year goes by

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I've spent a year completely absent from my usual activities. Poor health can do this to you. Here's hoping 2008 will bring me more energy. For those who are interested, I have posted new pictures taken in September on my pictures page.


Otherwise 2007 was a year of catching up with long-lost friends. In March I finally met up with Tim Benson of BBC fame whom I haven't seen since early 1976 (he's the guy on the left of me and that's his younger brother James on the right). I had a wonderful time with the Bensons on the last day of a rushed visit to Canberra for Antionette's wedding.


On the same mad day I met up with James Lavett (also of BBC fame, now a doctor) after not seeing him since 1989. The madman drove to Canberra from the northern NSW coast just to see me for a couple of hours. Hey, I sure appreciate it man. May our extraordinary friendship continue for another 35 years.

I'll post some more pictures up soon. I had plans to do a webpage dedi…