Posts

Message in a bottle: is the Fermi Paradox just a matter of time?

Image
The Fermi Paradox is the conflict between the lack of clear, obvious evidence for extraterrestrial life and various high estimates for their existence. Numerous hypotheses have been offered to explain this paradox. I’m left wondering whether we aren’t just missing the obvious. What if we and other sentient, sufficiently advanced, life forms simply exist in time spans that never overlap? Consider: how long has humanity had the capacity to generate any significant radio signals? 100 years? And how long have we been capable of finding radio signals of a similar kind in the cosmos? Half of that? Our species has existed 1-3 million years and civilisation has only formed in the last 6-10 thousand. How long does a species last once it develops technology of the spacefaring kind?  Every indication suggests that our civilisation does not have all that much longer to run in relative terms. It could well end in the next 50-100 years - be it from nuclear war, uncontrollable pandemics or (more cert

The need to dispel propaganda rather than dismiss it

Image
 Q+A host Stan Grant asked a young pro-Russian audience member to leave the studio after he made claims regarding the Azov Battalion. It’s a shame he did this without giving the young man and the rest of the audience a few myth-busting facts. Yes, the far-right “Azov Battalion” in Ukraine does exist. However it comprises only 900-2500 individuals - i.e. less than 1% of forces fighting the Russian invasion .  The Azov Battalion is a far-right paramilitary organisation. It has its parallel in various Russian and Belarusian fascist, anti-Semitic organisations (e.g. the “ Russian National Unity ” paramilitary movement). These far-right terrorist groups are all reprehensible - but hardly representative of any country in the so-called “ Russkiy Mir ” (the Azov movement’s political wing gained only   2.3% of the vote in the 2019 Ukrainian elections - not enough for a single seat).  So while Putin’s reference to “Nazis” has some basis in fact (in Eastern Ukraine, Russian separatists have f

Analogies and Covid-19

Image
Lately I’ve seen this video by JP Sears popping up on my Facebook feed (it was preceded by this video ). Some people seem to think it’s awesome. I can explain exactly why it isn’t .*  The problem is with the analogy. Life jackets are intended to save one person alone - and only when that person is immersed in deep water. By contrast, vaccines are intended to stop the spread of disease in society (in which we all live most all of the time,  barring wilderness isolation, quarantine, etc.).   All analogies are faulty. But if you absolutely need one, you’re better off comparing apples to pears than apples to, I don’t know, refrigerators .  Accordingly, a more apt comparison to the Covid-19 vaccines would be the smallpox vaccine.  Okay, it concerns a very different disease - but at least it is a vaccine  (against a virus too). Yes, smallpox is the more deadly/dangerous disease - by far. However, Covid-19 does kill (at around 10x the rate of influenza, according to the John Hopkins Medica

Miss you again

Image
A short story B: Hey Sam. S: Hey yourself. B: I'm not stalking you - I promise. S: I know that, dumbhead. B: Geez. Now there's something I haven't heard in thirty years. S: What? B: "Dumbhead." You used to call me that back in the day. When you were mad at me. S: Or teasing you. B: Ha, ha. Indeed. So - everything good on your side? S: Yes. Mostly. And no... That's life eh? B: What's up? S: Ah - it'd take too long to explain. B: Give it a try. S: You might not be a stalker Brandon Durie but you're still a pest, you know that? Okay, in short: Graeme annoyed the crap out of me today (again). Just the usual domestic stuff: not doing his fair share of the chores. Then there's our two boys, who won't listen to a thing I say... They take after their dad, surprise, surprise. So I've locked myself in my study and told them I've got an op-ed piece to finish by tomorrow. They'll have to arrange dinner themselves. B: Will

'Receiving' intent: the art of flipping the script

Image
Here is an excerpt of part of my interview (from around the 59:33 min mark) with Ken Gullette on his podcast. This excerpt deals specifically with the use of "uke" - ie. "receiving", not only in the sense of receiving techniques, but also in the sense of a wider meaning of "receiving intent" in order to diffuse conflict. Enjoy! *   *   * On receiving generally - "I win if I don't get hit" KG: I encourage everyone to read your blog. Just Google The Way of Least Resistance and you have excellent articles on there. And one of your blog posts recently about the  Ronda Rousey fight  actually triggered some practices of my own with my students where we were practicing basic slipping of a punch. Bobbing and weaving leaning and things like that for just basic boxing technique. One of my goals as a fighter, if I have been in a fight (and I haven't since I was eighteen), is I don't want to get hurt. I want to avoid getting head.

My podcast interview with Ken Gullette

Image
I was very honoured to be a guest on veteran US television and radio journalist Ken Gullette's Chicago-based podcast show a few weeks back. The interview ranged over a wide variety of topics and ran for 90 min. I didn't expect Ken to include all of it in the podcast, but he did! And I'm even more amazed that people are still downloading it and giving me positive feedback a week later! Most seem to have listened to it on a long drive or, in at least one case, on a flight, but I had a call from Melbourne from an old friend who stayed up to 2 a.m. listening to the entire thing - which is all deeply flattering! Anyway, here it is - I hope you find at least parts of it interesting. From around the 1:00 hour mark I talk about a young man who turned up to my front door late at night armed with a knife - and how I dealt with the situation.

Writers: learn your craft!

Image
In the arts, writing - particularly fiction - seems to stand alone as something for which (apparently) no particular training is required. As far as the many members of the public seem to believe, it's something you can either do, or can't do. After all, most of us can "write" stuff - can't we? We all write emails, reports, notes, CVs, requests and applications... Well I hate to break it to you: that isn't the same as writing  - at least not professionally. Like any art, writing (both fiction and non-fiction) is a skill acquired over many years of dedicated study and practise. Why should it be otherwise? Writers need to learn their craft, otherwise they remain nothing but beginners. In other words, writing well does not arise solely from some "innate talent", triggered by the mere fact that you have read some (or many) novels. Nor does it matter that you have been known to pen the odd humorous missive or even short story (perhaps one that has l