rob's blog

Driving men out of schools

My son is twelve years old. This is the first year in his educational life - starting from age 4 - that he has had a male teacher, and it is only for about 1 hr a day. When I look back at my education and count the inspirational teachers, the great majority of them were men. Boys need male influence at school.

I think there are three factors at work here:
- teaching is treated and paid as a menial task, and women still predominate in such roles
- the radical feminism of education administration - at least in NZ. I'd go so far as to call them anti-male.

Falling child mortality

The Economist is one our the few papers to report genuinely good news, such as the fact that child mortality is falling rapidly.

Ban carbon-14 in food

Why doesn't the government ban foods containing radioactive carbon-14?

Fact: Carbon-14 (a.k.a. "radiocarbon") accumulates in the human body and releases damaging radiation.

Fact: Carbon-14 causes millions of cancers

Fact: Carbon-14 has a half-life of over 5700 years!!

Fact: Carbon-14 is more radio-active than Uranium

Why is nobody doing anything about it?

In fact their are signs of a government conspiracy about this. Why does the US Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms require a MINIMUM level of radiocarbon in alcoholic drinks?

Why we won't see solar-powered cars

It is a simple fact of physics: the sun drops about 1kW of energy on 1 sq m of Earth.

the most politically important 4 minutes of video ever made

This must be one of the most politically important 4 minutes of video ever made, surpassing anything Bronowski did

Orders of magnitude

Never in human history have we seen another time when a technology increased it's price-performance by six or eight orders of magnitude within a lifetime. For that technology to be a technology of the intellect is doubly marvelous. Forget the Gutenberg press. Forget parchment. Forget the invention of language. Nothing, but nothing, has ever ever changed within one lifetime how we think and experience the way that digital technology has. Ever. This is a first. And you are alive to see it.

Rainbow Warrior - this Kiwi will never forget

In 1985 the elected French government was exploding nuclear devices in the Pacific on the other side of the planet from France, despite concerted and strident objections from the surrounding nations that had to live with the fallout. They persisted in this practice from 1966 to 1996. This was not a major political issue for the government with their electorate in France.

(Note the Yanks did it too until 1966, and the Brits used the Australian desert)


I was asked how I define and achieve happiness.

Stability. I work harder on my family than anything else in my life: on my marriage and my relationship with my son.

The information barrage - blinded by the light

There is a quite amazing new statisitic: information increases by 66% per annum, faster than any other artifact of the human race. Here I was thinking I was just getting slower at coping with it all, but indeed I am drowning in an exponentially increasing flow. What about you? How do you deal with it? It is exponential: how much harder has it become in the last two years?

I saw it on a screen - it must be true

Telesales advertisers and other hustling snake-oilers no longer use images of “thousands of dedicated” white-coated scientists and bubbling test tubes. Science is out of favour with the general public due to the rise of post-modernism, new age, alternative this and that, and other bilge thinking. The only positive to this gradual erosion of the Western world’s intelligence is the demise of science as an image of credibility with marketers.

The same has not happened with computers.

Ode to a Holden Kingswood

I drove a 1974 (or was it 1975?) Holden HQ Kingswood from 1986 until 2002 when I stupidly left it behind in Australia. Last time I cried in public. Really.

Bombing Hiroshima may have been inhumane but it certainly wasn't stupid

Recently a letter-writer to a local paper chose to commemorate the anniversaary of the bombing of Hiroshima, an act that he described as inhumane and stupid. I replied:

I agree with Paul Hockey's ideals of peaceful co-operation between peoples. I also agree that the use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese was an act of inhumanity. What Paul conveniently overlooks is that all war is an act of inhumanity.

Get real

It may be an indication of our advancing age if we grumble about what has been lost. Personally I think the second half of the Twentieth Century abandoned the concept of Quality. Just one aspect of that huge concept is genuineness. We moved into a fast-paced disposable superficial age of insincerity.

A third of the population is incompetent

Talking to the electrician today about how hard it is to get good service, he said "I'm convinced a third of the public is incompetent". Well ... yes.

The International Date Line as evidence of God

Most examples of intelligent design don't do it for me. I understand evolution. I don't need to see an eyeball as a product of a cosmic watchmaker: I can grok how it evolved. But the International Date Line is another matter. How is it that the only longitudinal gap on the whole planet with almost nothing along it is precisely opposite Grenwich?

I think the conversation in Celestial Creations went something like this:

Pioneers and settlers scrabble for life like a lone bush colonising motorway concrete

In the middle of the motorway, between the lanes, nestled against a barrier post, a lone little bush hangs onto the concrete against the Wellington winds. The first people who came here were like that.

In the plant world, the toughest, woodiest plants get into a crack and cling on to marginal life, or not, depending on chance. In their shelter and around their roots, life builds up. Soil and humus hold moisture. The wind goes over the top. More delicate plants move in to lead a more complex and comfortable life, creating a complex interlock of dependency we call an ecosystem.

Psychiatry as quackery

There is no doubt in my mind that psychiatry is at about the same stage as medicine was when they believed in humours flowing in the body, i.e. ignorant quackery. Psychiatrists practice the fad du jour, messing with people's lives in blind ignorance of what they might actually be doing to them. I don't talk from personal experience - I'd never let a trick cyclist near me - but these musings are triggered by the most wonderful article sent to me.

Enjoy this insanity:

No more cleaning paintbrushes

I've given up cleaning paintbrushes. And rollers. I'm doing it to help Africa.

We have a teapot

In the kitchen cupboard is a teapot. A nice simple white china teapot. I drive the economy by not using it.

And the walls come tumbling down

Sometimes I miss Melbourne... I miss the cheap and cheerful Vietnamese restaurants, the big fat eastern-European women selling sausages in the market and the Greek guys with their oysters and fish, the Italian boys parading in their V8s on Lygon St past pasta-to-die-for, the big Tongan bouncers at the Espie hotel, fish and ships on the marina, Kenyan cabbies, and barbequed kangaroo in our backyard.

This is the future, and certain large nations better get used to it.

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