The Book of Pete http://www.bookofpete.com Being is becoming Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:13:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I Remember [15 min. fiction]http://www.bookofpete.com/2015/04/i-remember-15-min-fiction/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2015/04/i-remember-15-min-fiction/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:13:41 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=513 I believe it is possible to pump up one’s writing muscles like a body builder preparing for a … whatever it is body builders are preparing for. For this reason I’m trying to write a 15 minute fiction everyday. Trying; not succeeding everyday but that’s okay. I’m writing more than I was prior to the [...]

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I believe it is possible to pump up one’s writing muscles like a body builder preparing for a … whatever it is body builders are preparing for. For this reason I’m trying to write a 15 minute fiction everyday. Trying; not succeeding everyday but that’s okay. I’m writing more than I was prior to the new exercise regime so that’s a good thing. (My current fiction teacher may be less forgiving and I appreciate her all the more for it.) Most of it will never see the light of day and, as I write, I’m imagining your gratitude for that. But I thought this piece might not be so bad. Hopefully there will be more that can be allowed out to bask in the glow of peoples’ screens. Rest assured, I will let you know if I think there are.

My latest rep. (that’s fitness geek for repetition), my latest rep. on the bench press is called I Remember and is published over at {A Further Space}. I hope you will let me know what you think of it in the comments section below this. Feel free to be critical. Constructive criticism is the most helpful you can be.

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I’m going with the Flowhttp://www.bookofpete.com/2015/02/im-going-with-the-flow/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2015/02/im-going-with-the-flow/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 02:13:53 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=495 I have never kept bees, though I have wanted to for some time now. So when a shiny new bandwagon came barrelling towards me, I hopped right on and pre-purchased a Flow Hive as part of the phenomenal Indiegogo campaign that broke records in a matter of days. In case you didn’t know, two guys [...]

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I have never kept bees, though I have wanted to for some time now. So when a shiny new bandwagon came barrelling towards me, I hopped right on and pre-purchased a Flow Hive as part of the phenomenal Indiegogo campaign that broke records in a matter of days. In case you didn’t know, two guys in Byron Bay came up with a new design for harvesting honey from a beehive by simply turning on a tap. They created an Indiegogo campaign to raise $70,000. Within 72 hours they’d raised over $2 million breaking previous Indiegogo records for both the one and the two million dollar marks in the shortest time. It caused quite a stir.

Beekeeping forums are buzzing with heated debates about this new design with the primary concern of objectors being the bees’ welfare. This is in spite of the designers promoting one of the features of their new hive as reducing disturbance to the bees. Granted, this could just be marketing hype on the part of the inventors, but anyone who knows just a little about traditional methods of harvesting honey from a beehive will be able to see the truth of this statement when they see how the Flow Hive works. So, what’s the problem?

As The Apiarian Lens puts it,

‘the Flow Hive will serve to reduce a complex and involved process that requires skill, knowledge and, above all, patience to a unthinking and even ignorant exercise focused on the honey and not the bees.’

The Natural Beekeeping Trust uses somewhat stronger language,

it is not simply the invention per se that is to be deplored, it is the mindset of casual exploitation that is behind it […] This is unthinking consumerism at its worst.  This mindset spells moral disaster, a total breakdown in our relationship with the Bee.’ [Their emphasis]

Important to the Natural Beekeeping Trust is the fact that the organism, the Bee (with a capital B), includes all the individual bees and the hive. From their perspective, traditional man-made beehives are a ‘perversion of the Bee life form’ and the Flow Hive is worse for ‘embed[ing] the equivalent of a food grinder’.

I would say that it is generally true that the further we move away from nature, the worse things get and the more we move back to nature, the better things become. I make this sweeping statement to show that I am at least philosophically aligned with the Natural Beekeeping Trust. On this basis I would agree that we need to watch closely to observe what impact this new design might have but I would suggest we need to watch the big picture as well as the small one of the individual organisms.

By the big picture, I’m talking about the holistic picture that is also important to the Natural Beekeeping Trust, but I see it differently. To them, the success of the Flow Hive represents a ‘frenzy of easy returns, of greed.’ That is probably true for some but it is definitely not the whole picture.

I am interested in being more connected to the natural world. This includes producing food on my own bit of land by the most natural methods I can manage. I believe that animals and plants should be allowed to live as naturally as possible for the best outcomes for the whole ecology. Because of this interest, I am well aware of the importance of bees in my garden and to life in general and of the global bee crisis. These are the reasons that I have wanted and planned to keep bees.

When this new design for a beehive came along, that offered minimal interference with the bees and ease of harvesting honey, instead of buying a new flat-screen TV, I jumped right on board and purchased a beehive as have thousands of others around the world. Questions of the welfare of the Bees notwithstanding, myself and many like me have decided to join the beekeeping club. Thousands of people, many as ignorant of beekeeping as myself, have put their hands up to say I want to take care of bees.

I have no doubt that some of these bee newbies are only interested in exploiting the bees for their honey; it’s sad but true. Others have good intentions but will fail, for one reason or another, to take proper care of the bees. But some, hopefully I, will learn how to take good care of the bees. This will in turn require taking good care of the garden to ensure the bees are well fed; the knock on effects go on from there because that’s the way a healthy ecology works. Overall, there is likely to be an increase in beekeepers, including the good kind. This is the part of the big picture, the holistic view, that the Natural Beekeeping Trust and others like them seem to be missing.

The current situation looks a bit like this: thousands of potential beekeepers have been motivated to cross the line to become actual beekeepers. Some of the existing beekeeping society have met these people and told them, your technology is callous and cruel and should not be allowed. How do you think the bee newbies might feel about this? I ask this because the number of bee newbies who become exploiters, failures or beneficent beekeepers is not set.

I propose an alternative approach to this situation. Granted some beekeepers take exception to this new technology, (for all I know they may be completely correct in their concerns), but consider for a moment, just temporarily, putting those concerns to one side. Doing this would allow these keepers of the knowledge to accept newcomers with grace and good will. Then bee newbies like myself can be taught how to properly take care of the Bees and in time we can be taught about objections to the Flow Hive or other technologies. We could be converted. At the very least, more Bees will receive better care and attention. At best there will be thousands more people who support the natural beekeeping cause.

The problems raised about the Flow Hive are not actually to do with the technology itself but how it affects peoples’ relationship with the Bees. That relationship will be more deeply shaped by the people who teach beekeeping than any bits of wood and plastic can ever do.

If you’re an experienced beekeeper who objects to Flow Hives, I urge you to hang onto those objections and accept the foibles of our ignorance for now. Teach us to be good beekeepers and, in time, at least some of us will learn to think as you do too. It’s up to those that already hold the beekeeping knowledge to ensure more bee newbies become good beekeepers. Cast aspersions on peoples’ choice of technology or help them to make better choices in the future. You can see people as the problem, some of them are, but you can also see them as part of the solution. It’s up to you.

Experienced beekeeper or bee newbie like me, please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

UPDATE: I suggest you also read the comment by David below. I found it very helpful.

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Freedom of speech revisitedhttp://www.bookofpete.com/2015/02/freedom-of-speech-revisited/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2015/02/freedom-of-speech-revisited/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 08:42:07 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=484 I wrote in an earlier post about freedom of speech that it means ‘you can say whatever … you want without going to jail.’ I am an admin for a well trafficked Facebook group and recent experience in that role has resulted in a rethink about what freedom of speech really means to me. When [...]

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I wrote in an earlier post about freedom of speech that it means ‘you can say whatever … you want without going to jail.’ I am an admin for a well trafficked Facebook group and recent experience in that role has resulted in a rethink about what freedom of speech really means to me.

When people hear the word ‘freedom’ they tend to think of it in isolation, a complete liberalism without boundaries or limits. But this is an important, much loved concept with far reaching ramifications. If we want to preserve any freedoms we need to look more closely at the concept than a simple dictionary definition. When we do this, the result is almost always the same (and hence the cliché): with freedom comes great responsibility. So, what responsibilities arise from having freedom of speech?

Returning to my earlier statement that it means being able to say whatever you want, is a good place to start because it reflects the first impulse we have when we think about freedom: ‘without boundaries or limits.’ But, as has been observed in Australian politics in recent years, it’s just not as simple as that.

It’s not as simple as that because, sometimes, when people express their opinion others are hurt and offended. I’m not suggesting we should never hurt or offend anyone, that’s unrealistic but when people are hurt or offended things can escalate. Consider the Charlie Hebdo murders. The potential for violence that can arise from the things people say, or write, or draw is the reason why we have laws against incitement to violence at the same time that we have an ideal of freedom of expression. Though they may appear to conflict, the two are not mutually exclusive. But, how can we resolve these two ideas?

By looking at what we really mean when we say we want, even expect, to have freedom of speech. With the understanding that there are many and diverse answers to this question, I’m going to say this: we want to be able to express any opinion on any subject. The point of having this right is that it allows for all voices to be heard. This is a necessary requirement of a democracy. Now we are at the crux of the problem.

How can we be free to express any opinion on any subject without someone eventually, for example, breaching the incitement to violence laws? The answer to this is imperfect because there is no silver bullet solution. Some people will be insulted sometimes as long as we have freedom of speech. But we can minimise damage. This is the responsibility that comes with this freedom.

Often, the offense caused by people exercising their right to freedom of speech is not a result of what they’re saying but of the way in which they are saying it. For example, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard’ is more likely to provoke a punch in the face than ‘What you’re saying is not making any sense to me.’ It boils down to the need to think twice before speaking, or posting, or publishing.

I said it was imperfect. I often forget to think before I speak. Many people like to exercise their right of freedom of speech without thinking or caring about the consequences. Sometimes it’s difficult or even impossible to anticipate what causes offence to some people. Some people are simply not all that good with words. The point of this post is not to solve the problems with freedom of speech but rather to point to what it might take to preserve the right of that freedom.

If we want to hang on to the right of freedom of speech, which we should, then we need to avoid causing damage with that freedom. People die everyday because we use cars to get around. So we have rules to govern driving in an attempt to save lives. It works. Imagine how many more people would die if no one followed the road rules. When drivers use their right to drive on the roads with responsibility fewer people are hurt and we can continue to use the roads. The same goes for freedom of speech. Some people will get hurt but we can avoid total carnage if we use the freedom with responsibility. I.e. say what you think but think about what you say. Be considerate.

I admit I find this a bit boring, a bit conservative, but there is a bonus. When we choose our words carefully, instead of simply being shut out as an offensive jerk, we are more likely to be heard. When people are heard, problems can be solved, things can be achieved. Life is happier, easier. Less people die for stupid reasons. And, we can carry on exercising our right to freedom of speech.

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I’m not a human beinghttp://www.bookofpete.com/2013/08/im-not-a-human-being/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2013/08/im-not-a-human-being/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 02:20:49 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=458 The question I try to get my kids to ask themselves is not ‘what do you want to be?’, but ‘what do you want to do?’ because life isn’t about being. Photographer, CEO, games developer are not things that we are, they’re things that we do. The problem with thinking about them as things we [...]

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The question I try to get my kids to ask themselves is not ‘what do you want to be?’, but ‘what do you want to do?’ because life isn’t about being. Photographer, CEO, games developer are not things that we are, they’re things that we do. The problem with thinking about them as things we are is that they become trophies. ‘If I’m a photographer, people will admire me.’ ‘If I’m a CEO I will have power and money.’ These are just side effects of doing the things that earn you one of these titles. They arise from doing and most of a working life is spent doing. So if you’re focused on the the side effects rather than the actual tasks, you’re at great risk of being disappointed, unhappy and possibly not actually becoming the thing you thought you wanted to be.

Having fame, fortune, power or whatever are fleeting experiences that do not provide lasting happiness. They’re like a good meal, once you’ve finished it, it’s gone and you have to wait until the next one. Happiness arises from doing what you love or loving what you do, because you spend most of your life doing. This is inescapable, unavoidable, life. If you are satisfied with what you are doing, that satisfaction is lasting.

But this way of thinking does not ignore nor preclude the glamorous side effects. The fact is that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do it more and better. You will, one day, be ‘successful’ at it. That’s when things like recognition and rewards are received. So if you can’t let go of those ideas of ‘success’, you should look even harder for the things that you love to do rather than the things you want to be because that is what will give you the greatest chance to achieve your goals.

And don’t stop looking. This is the addendum I tell my kids. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. If you’ve been doing something for a time and you realise you no longer like it, or perhaps you realise you never really did like it, then stop, look for something else. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by habit or routine. Never imagine that it’s too late to start something else. Don’t feel like you’ll be throwing away years of work and experience, because you can’t do that. It will always be with you and will inform whatever you decide to do next. Be flexible and don’t fear change, because change is inevitable. Embrace it and learn how to use it. If you ride the river’s currents, you can go a long way. If you try to stand still, you’ll always be fighting the flow.

I am not a human being – I am a human doing.

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Freedom of speech?http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/09/freedom-of-speech/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/09/freedom-of-speech/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2012 10:49:47 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=450 People attempt to use this phrase to excuse all manner of sins. Some would like to argue that Alan Jones is being deprived of his freedom of speech because he has come under attack for his comments about women in positions of power. What a load of pathetic crap. Freedom of speech does not mean [...]

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People attempt to use this phrase to excuse all manner of sins. Some would like to argue that Alan Jones is being deprived of his freedom of speech because he has come under attack for his comments about women in positions of power. What a load of pathetic crap.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to say whatever the fuck you want without consequences. It means you can say whatever the fuck you want without going to jail. Is Alan Jones in jail for what he said? No; he has freedom of speech. Is he experiencing a tirade of objections? Yes; what he said was foolish and unjustified and he should face the consequences.

I can say that because to judge a person’s capacity to do any job on the basis of some group they belong to is foolish and unjustified. Gender, religion, sexuality, cultural background or other spurious grouping are demonstrably not criteria for an individual’s capacity in any respect-this is unjustified. To make a judgement about a person on any of these grounds is guaranteed to attract criticism and rebuke-this is foolish.

As trite as it may sound, freedom does come with a responsibility. When you are free to make a choice, you must be prepared to accept the consequences of that choice. Some very few people are in the privileged postion of being able to avoid the consequences of their choices. This is a problem and should not be allowed beause when those people avoid the consequences someone else pays for them.

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Anatomical correctnesshttp://www.bookofpete.com/2012/06/anatomical-correctness/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/06/anatomical-correctness/#comments Mon, 04 Jun 2012 09:35:22 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=448 One should not underestimate the importance of good digestion to the Norwegians. This cautionary sculpture is located outside of the Oslo central station as a reminder to all. The poor unfortunate, whose colon provided the inspiration for this educational piece, attracted much unwanted attention from physicians.    

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One should not underestimate the importance of good digestion to the Norwegians. This cautionary sculpture is located outside of the Oslo central station as a reminder to all. The poor unfortunate, whose colon provided the inspiration for this educational piece, attracted much unwanted attention from physicians.

 

Sculpture

 

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Viking Pledgehttp://www.bookofpete.com/2012/03/viking-pledge/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/03/viking-pledge/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2012 11:49:53 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=387 The count-down has begun. It’s less than three months until I leave for a study tour of Scandinavia with more than twenty other writing students. Now, contrary to appearances, this is not just a government funded jaunt. This is a full credit subject that counts towards my degree and as such it has assessment and [...]

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The count-down has begun. It’s less than three months until I leave for a study tour of Scandinavia with more than twenty other writing students. Now, contrary to appearances, this is not just a government funded jaunt. This is a full credit subject that counts towards my degree and as such it has assessment and expectations. It has to be taken seriously. With that in mind I’ve decided to grow my beard in honour of the Vikings. Stay with me, there is a logic to this.

An important part of nearly every story is it’s sense of place. How different would Lord Of The Rings be if it were set in New York? What if Winnie the Pooh lived in Sydney? You see, the place or setting of a story makes a big difference. So, as this is a study tour for writing students, we will be expected to write a creative piece set in Scandinavia and it needs to capture the ‘genius loci’. The wha’? Genius loci. See what fancy words we learn at uni?

According to the Oxford dictionary it means

the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place.

What makes your town distinctive from anywhere else? It’s the landscape, the architecture, the weather, the people and much more. If you were blindfolded and tele-ported elsewhere, barring asking someone where you were, how would you find out? You could use the clues of the genius loci. Is it hot or cold? Mountainous or flat? What language are people speaking? What food do they eat? Is it city or country? All these things tell you about the place. They add up to the genius loci.

So, when I’m in Scandinavia I will do as the Scandinavians do… and between now and then I will grow my beard in honour of the Vikings. Or at least our clichéd version of them. With any luck it might end up like this:

Prince Vultan - Brian Blessed

Figure 1: How I might end up looking. Cool!

 

But I’m genetically semi-Chinese so I’ll probably end up looking more like:

 

Emperor Ming the Merciless

Figure 2: Hey, still cool.

 

How long can I grow my beard in under three months? Probably not much. If you take a look at Figure 3 below, you’ll see my facial features in their default state.

 

Pete with default beard - March 2012

Figure 3: How I look now. (Mar. '12)

As you can see, I’ve got a long way to go to catchup with either of these models of manliness. Check back later and we’ll see how’s it’s going.

Disclaimer: The author reserves the right to cut his beard back to normal in the event that he or his wife dislike it. Or in the case of any other event deemed by the author to require back pedalling.

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Escape Pod [Review]http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/03/escape-pod-review/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/03/escape-pod-review/#comments Sat, 03 Mar 2012 03:03:10 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=342 As a city dweller ex-pat, now living in a remote coastal town, I spend a lot of time utilising automotive transportation to travel to the big city. Being as I am, I tend to fill every square inch of my life with activities. What was needed was a way to make these high speed, yet [...]

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As a city dweller ex-pat, now living in a remote coastal town, I spend a lot of time utilising automotive transportation to travel to the big city. Being as I am, I tend to fill every square inch of my life with activities. What was needed was a way to make these high speed, yet relatively idle hours, more productive. Enter podcasts. More specifically, sci-fi podcasts. Even more specifically, one sci-fi podcast – Escape Pod.

Escape PodAmongst the earliest podcasts I came across, it’s still the one I listen to most. Escape Pod publishes sci-fi short stories every week – for free. It’s great. Such a frequent cycle ensures diversity. While it means some episodes are more entertaining than others, it also means there’s no shortage of stories to listen to. Over 300 of them for your off-planet pleasure. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve heard but only a small few have left me flat and there’s none that I would describe as clangers.

Of course there are other sci-fi podcasts. Some include news and reviews, which is great, but what’s good about Escape Pod is that each episode is simply a story. Preceded by a short intro and followed by a bit of reader feedback of previous episodes, they are typically from thirty minutes to an hour in length.

The audio quality is very good, which is important when listening to them in transit. Road and engine noise can make comprehending speech on a cheap car stereo somewhat challenging. Narrators change regularly between episodes which is a nice touch but is also the fly in my interstellar ointment. Sometimes I struggle with the reader’s accent . This is not a criticism, it’s just a fact of life with globalised media. Escape Pod is a North American production and science has yet to find a babel fish that fits the Aussie ear canal.

I listen to and read so many stories that I confess to struggling to remember which were my favourites but here’s a few from Escape Pod that I loved enough to be able to recall: EP280: Endosymbiont; EP294: The Night Train; EP304: Union Dues – Sidekicks in Stockholm

These days, hearing the theme music by Daikaiju, gives that same feeling of anticipation and excitement as the theme from Doctor Who, or True Blood, or the HBO studio promo.

Edited by Mur Lafferty, who also happens to be my favourite narrator, Escape Pod is a remarkable achievement and a credit to the whole team. Give it a try and if you enjoy it, then make a donation to help keep it going. Escape Pod pays their writers a humble fee for their work.

Enjoy the Escape.

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Modern Crusaders – Intellectual Fascistshttp://www.bookofpete.com/2012/01/modern-crusaders-intellectual-fascists/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2012/01/modern-crusaders-intellectual-fascists/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 14:13:51 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=326 A group calling themselves Friends of Science in Medicine have taken it upon themselves to tell us what we can study, what therapies we can and can’t use and what our health insurance should be spent on. Apparently we are not to be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves. No doubt they believe they’re [...]

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A group calling themselves Friends of Science in Medicine have taken it upon themselves to tell us what we can study, what therapies we can and can’t use and what our health insurance should be spent on. Apparently we are not to be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves. No doubt they believe they’re our knights in shining armour saving us from ourselves but I seriously question their motives and their understanding of their own science.

This group has written to universities warning them against offering courses in complementary or alternative therapies including traditional Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractics, homeopathy, naturopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy. http://www.smh.com.au/national/tertiary-education/scientists-urge-unis-to-axe-alternative-medicine-courses-20120125-1qhtm.html They also want to stop private health insurance funds from providing rebates for these types of therapies.

When scientists disagree with something, the scientific approach is to do some research and publish papers providing evidence for their point of view. However in this case, their actions are tactics in a political strategy designed to rock the foundations of these therapies. Like the crusaders of the middle ages, they want to suppress independent and alternative thought. Make no mistake, these guys are at war.

They present themselves as defenders of evidence based science but I wonder if one of the group’s co-founders, Emeritus Professor John Dwyer, of the University of NSW, understands what this means. He describes these therapies as “quackery” and “nonsense”. Really Professor? Where’s your evidence? There is a phrase that goes, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Scientifically speaking there is no evidence that these therapies do not work. The bottom line is that western science doesn’t know if they work or not.

ADDENDUM: As Karen has pointed out in the comments below, there is actually a growing body of research “confirming that herbal medicine and nutritional therapies (amongst other things) do Work.” In which case, the Friends of Science in Medicine must be either speaking in ignorance or out of a desire to hide the truth.

One wonders if these might be the same people that claimed that acupuncture doesn’t work when there was no scientific evidence for that. Now that there is scientific evidence and The World Health Organisation lists diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture, they’re using the same arguments to make the same unjustified claims. They’ve just changed the target, slightly.

Let’s for a moment run with their notion that there is no evidence for these therapies while not forgetting that they’re speaking about a specific type of evidence. There’s actually thousands of years of evidence but they dismiss that as irrelevant. So we’re a bunch of scientists saying, “hey there’s no evidence for this and it’s growing in popularity, what do we do?” Why of course that answer is to dismiss it, discredit it and insult the intelligence of the people that have used it for generations. That guy down the back of the room suggesting we should apply our scientific method to it should shut-up or leave now.

The fact is that these alternative and/or complimentary therapies are growing in popularity. Universities didn’t just decide for no reason to offer these courses. Health insurance companies didn’t include these therapies in their cover just for a giggle. People want this. People are using it and have come to their own conclusion that it works for them. So how do the Friends of Science in Medicine respond to that? “Well you shouldn’t have it and we’re going to try to stop you because we know best.”

So why do they want to stop this? For our own good, no doubt. Well thank-you very much. However I prefer to decide for myself what’s good for me but please do continue to tell me what you think that is. I happen to believe that evidence based science is one of the greatest and most valuable intellectual tools we have in our toolbox and thank goodness that we have it. But, as a tool it is there to serve us, not to dictate to us. These scientists have set themselves up as the new orthodoxy and now they’re raining down their wrath on those who would dissent.

We all know that the knights of the crusades were pious defenders of the faith. Their wars had nothing to do with wealth or power whatsoever. Honestly.

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Photo Finishhttp://www.bookofpete.com/2011/11/photo-finish/ http://www.bookofpete.com/2011/11/photo-finish/#comments Sat, 05 Nov 2011 10:23:02 +0000 http://www.bookofpete.com/?p=287 It was meant to be a typical lunch-break errand. You go out. You get it done. You go back. Getting a passport photo should be as easy as that. Do you remember those little shops where you used to get your film developed and photos printed? Most of them would take passport photos as well. [...]

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It was meant to be a typical lunch-break errand. You go out. You get it done. You go back. Getting a passport photo should be as easy as that.

Do you remember those little shops where you used to get your film developed and photos printed? Most of them would take passport photos as well. There was one around the corner from where I worked so dropped in to get mine done.

Using a tone of voice that forewarned customers of his care factor, or lack thereof, the young guy behind the counter instructed me to stand against the wall while he got the camera. With my back to the wall, I watched him – his head bowed – as he watched the camera in his hands. He shifted his weight. There was an air of expectancy as we waited for the flash to charge up. Keen to cut off any tension before it arose, I broke the silence by suggesting he try new batteries. But, determined to play the game his way, he didn’t move until he had made that decision for himself. This shop, the size of a walk in robe, was his home ground after all. Finally he determined that the batteries needed changing. I guess he won that round.

He cracked open the flash and tipped out the spent cells. Then he produced a small basket brimming with batteries and dropped the old ones in with the lot. Perhaps they recycle them, I thought with a mixture of surprise and respect. However, the warm fuzzy feeling was short lived because the next thing he did was to fish around in the basket until the batteries were well stirred and draw out four similar batteries. I say similar because I couldn’t tell if they were the original batteries or not.

To be honest, I wasn’t terribly surprised when then flash failed again, even with the batteries replaced. By the third set of batteries, the imminent demise of my patience triggered another advance on his territory. I suggested he breakout a fresh set of batteries from one of the packets on display on the wall. But once more he resisted my approach and decided in his own time how he should handle this matter.

I felt quietly victorious when he reached for a fresh packet of batteries. A rush of adrenaline slowed time as I watched the four brand new batteries drop from his hand like an Olympic diver into the aforementioned battery pool. Again he started to fish around in it before pulling out four randomly selected batteries as if he was determined to ensure fairness in a competition draw. Why should these new batteries receive an unfair advantage? Everyone had to do their time in the basket, like it was some sort of apprenticeship or rite of passage. A couple more draws later he did find some winners and the photo was taken.

 Pete Passport Photo

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