Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lili's next thought for the day

It doesn't matter whether you are talking about wearing a wide-brimmed hat in the sun, condoms, beach shark barriers, jail cells or fruit-fly netting for fruit trees, the principle is the same; there's nothing quite like a physical barrier for protection. 

Lili's thought for the day

You know what I'd do if I won lotto? I'd call my aunt and ask whether she'd like me to try to buy back her soul. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Lili's reading list of the day

Worthwhile reading about the research refuting the idea of male and female brains:





Lili's question for the day

If "girls just want to have fun" then why are there usually no girls or females of any age using any given skate park? 


Lili's experience of the day

I recently attended a women-only birthday party at one of those tea-rooms that do high teas, with the OTT flowery decorations. It was a pleasant experience, and I'm grateful for the invitation, but I thought it was quite sad that males had been excluded from this landmark celebration, expecially in light of the fact that the "birthday girl" had a husband and only sons.


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Lili's question for the day

If Australia is a socially progressive country in which women have equal rights and educated white males are victims and political correctness runs riot, why did Michelle Payne feel the need to tell misogynists in her industry to "get stuffed" during her victory speech as the first female jockey to ride a winning horse in the Melbourne Cup? 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wowee, Catalyst was really worth watching tonight

Dr Maryanne Demasi continues to cement her reputation as a thorn in the side of the medical profession in Australia, After tonight's broadcast she must be about as popular as a turd in a punchbowl. Unlike an earlier report by Demasi, I was more impressed than shocked by tonight's story, but I'm eager to see what shape the reaction might take. I loved seeing oncologist Dr Ranjana Srivastava, who was a steady beacon of reason on the current affairs debate TV show Q & A a while ago, a much better representative of science than the loud and annoying Neil deGrasse Tyson. If Dr Srivastava was a politician I'd be campaigning for her night and day. I'd even take the time to learn how to pronounce her name. I was delighted to see Dr Melissa Raven making an appearance on tonight's Catalyst, with her calm and carefully-chosen words. I was interested to note how many women were among the professionals bold enough to criticise the way medicine is practiced in Australia, and noted that Dr Peter Gotzsche was thanked at the story's web page for his assistance. Congrats, Dr Demasi. You are one to watch, for sure. 

Lili's opinion of the day

For many Australians, doctors, psychiatrists and assorted helping professionals have replaced priests, gurus, spiritual leaders, pastors and ministers of religion as the people to turn to for guidance in how to live in dignity and decency. Working things out for one's self is a difficult job. It has always been easier to go ask an authority figure. 

Lili's second-thought of the day

Maybe I should apologise for my last blog post. It was rather personal and insulting. Hmm. Nah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lili's apology for the day

Sorry, I didn't realise that last night was a Val Lewton double-bill, with Bedlam followed by Mademoiselle Fifi. I hadn't spotted the second as another Lewton classic because I'm not familiar with his non-horror films, but it was highly memorable for the scathing depiction of wealthy people, with a political subtext that has a rosy-red glow. My eye missed the Lewton link with the second movie, so I guess I'm not nearly the expert that I thought I was! 

The good news is that there's another movie coming up very soon on ABC1 that was produced by the synaesthete genius Val Lewton.The Seventh Victim is on tonight, or to be correct, scheduled for broadcast very early tomorrow morning: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/seventh-victim/#/episode/ZY6511A001S00 

Three Lewton films in two days! Who needs sleep? 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Friday, October 02, 2015

Lili's fun fact for the day

The Barry J Marshall Library at the University of Western Australia, which specializes in materials for science students, offers a total of 16 copies of a psychology textbook that explains on page 559 how "In peptic ulcers, for example, stress-produced out-pouring of peptic acid into the stomach produces an actual lesion in the stomach wall." Very scientific!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Lili's colourful procrastination for the day

Hot to Go
Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: Espresso
Band: Punk pink
Lid: Acid plum
Plug: Espresso
Qty: 1

Going Coastal
Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Green  jade
Band: Kingfisher
Lid: Mint
Plug: Turquiose green
Qty: 2

Summer Blossoms
Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Tomato red
Band: Geranium
Lid: Pink sun
Plug: Yellow bird
Qty: 1

Cheer Me
Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: New blue
Band: Geranium
Lid: Pink sun
Plug: Yellow bird
Qty: 1

Summer Holiday
Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: Rosy pink
Band: Yellow bird
Lid: Fresh green
Plug: Persimmon
Qty: One for everyone

Secret Garden
Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: New blue
Band: Jade green
Lid: Royal purple
Plug: New blue
Qty: 1

Azure Skies
Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: New blue
Band: Royal blue
Lid: Mint
Plug: Aqua blue
Qty: 1

Type: Original
Size: M
Cup: Rosy pink
Band: Punk pink
Lid: Acid plum
Plug: Pink musk
Qty: 2

Good Morning
Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Latte
Band: New blue
Lid: New blue
Plug: Latte
Qty: 1

Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Black
Band: Yellow bird
Lid: Persimmon
Plug: Black
Qty: 1

Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Warm grey
Band: Peach
Lid: Pink sun
Plug: Espresso
Qty: 1

Big Blue
Type: Original
Size: L
Cup: Royal blue
Band: Cobalt blue
Lid: New blue
Plug: Navy
Qty: 1


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lili's weary sigh of the day

God save us all. It's another case of acquired savantism and acquired synaesthesia studied by Professor Berit Brogaard, a female one this time. And the prof has a new book out, choc-full of this kind of stuff. And it just wouldn't be a book about savants without a foreword from the go-to boffin for all things "Rain Man", Dr Darold Treffert. And of course, Brogaard's favourite "sudden savants" Daniel Tammet, Jason Padgett and Derek Amato rate at least a mention, probably a lot more, in the book, in addition to the new lady savant, and a collectioin of names I haven't even heard of yet. Oh joy. What a great day for neuroscience. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Cheerfulness is now compulsory. F*** you, f*** you very much.

My first impulse upon reading this short but shocking comment piece in New Scientist about the way that unemployment has been self-servingly re-branded by governments in the UK, Australia and the US as some kind of psychological disorder, while interventions that have no basis in science are unethically forced upon the hapless jobless, was to accuse at least some members of the profession of psychology of cashing in their ethics and prostituting their profession to governments. But on reflection I know that the academic hurdles that one must jump through to become a registered psychologist in Australia are high, and I have doubts that anyone who has the ability and has made the investment of years of study to earn such a title would throw away all of their professional credibility by taking a job in the welfare-to-work sector. But then again, I guess, if jobs are scarce... It has often been written that the people working in job centres are only a step away from the dole themselves. I'm guessing that the folks with jobs at these job centres and employment services providers would be more in the league of amateur shrinks, psychotherapists, "mental health" practitioners, "psychological therapists" and counsellors, titles that just about anyone possessing a warm smile who graduated high school a fair while ago can legally lay claim to and get away with it. I'm sure if there are any actual degrees at all connected to the staff of these jobless-processing agencies, they will be from bottom-rung universities. 

I can't imagine that a real psychologist with a career at stake would have anything to do with a bogus psychometric test, and anyone with a pass in first-year psychology from a real university should be able to spot a major flaw in the basic aim of the described government interventions for the unemployed; which is to correct supposed flaws in the personalities of those who lack jobs or lack sufficient paid work. Sure enough, psychiatric disorders should be identified and many can be treated, and the only people qualified to address such issues are psychologists or psychiatrists, but true, educated mind professionals know that the realm of personality is one of normal variations along a group of five or so personality dimensions (personality disorders don't belong here, they come under the category of psychiatric disorders). Genuine, educated professionals also know that personality is generally stable in adults and is substantially influenced by genetics. Personality is not open to being tampered with by government agencies, or by anyone for that matter, and attempts to modify personality can only be expected to fail or harm. Where are the ethics in compelling vulnerable people such as the jobless to participate in interventions that are expected to fail or harm? 

I was disappointed that this article in The Conversation with one co-author in common with the New Scientist piece about much the same issues seems to be solely about the UK experience, with comments also from the UK, and one could say the same about this open-access journal paper by the same two authors of the New Scientist piece, Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn, published in Medical Humanities, a peer-reviewed journal co-owned by the Institute of Medical Ethics and the prestigious British Medical Journal, but one must remember that one of the four giant corporations contracted to process the jobless in the UK that are mentioned or discussed in the paper is Ingeus, a multi-national company that grew out of a rehabilitation company in Queensland, Australia named Work Directions with a principal Therese Rein, who would years and millions of dollars later find international fame as the wife of a Prime Minister of Australia. I couldn't help but be struck by the hypocrisy of a company that foists upon job seekers a course that teaches "Healthy Attitudes for Living" which has a founder who has lost the battle of the bulge. Do greed and self-interest count as healthy attitudes? I guess the rich and powerful have the luxury of making up their own definitions. 

I very much want to soundly kick arses after reading through this library of accounts of malpractice and institutional abuse of vulnerable unemployed and poverty-stricken people in the US, the UK and Australia. Which arses are the most deserving? Clearly all three governments and all of the companies and multi-nationals large and small who make a living enforcing these shameful policies. I'd like to stab the points of my shoes deep into the shins of every single slug who chooses to work in these places of disrepute, including any who could rightly be regarded as psychologists, who should also have their professional registration revoked. The British Psychological Society issued a brief statement in response to Friedli and Stearn's paper but it avoided the main issue of the prostitution of the profession of psychology to unethical governments; an abdication of duty for sure. At the very least the BPS should be leaping to disassociate their own members, presumably with hard-earned credentials, from the army of pretendie-shrinks and wannabe-psychologists processing the jobless from one bad situation to another. In Australia there are a number of organisations that regulate the profession of psychology. I have found a fairly recent submission paper from the Australian Psychological Society on the subject of unemployment which contains much wisdom and sound advice, but it says nothing about issues of coercion and quasi-psychological practices by employment service providers and it does not mention or reference the work of Friedli and Stearn. Australia does not seem to have the protest groups that can be found in the UK who are concerned with these issues and there is generally little recognition that this stuff is happening in Australia, even though I've seen ample evidence that it is. 

Clearly the Australian federal government thinks psychiatric disorders are a major issue among the unemployed, as a quick search of the "Find Your Local Provider" database of employment service providers contracted by the federal government retrieves 382 provider offices that offer specialist "mental health" services. Certainly there will be many unemployed in Australia who also genuinely have some psychiatric disorder and also many falsely claiming to have one, but one should ask why are employment services taking it upon themselves to try to treat or manage the mental illness of clients when this is the job of qualified doctors? There are clear dangers in such a situation. Employment service providers in Australia have been the subject of a barrage of withering online criticism over many years (a perpetual theme at the Whirlpool forum) and also this year from investigative journalism at the ABC, and a federal government inquiry that found over $41 million dollars worth of rorting in the sector. These are clearly people who can't be trusted to provide an adequate service to vulnerable people which would require professional qualifications that are probably beyond their education to start with. 

Heaven help Australian job-seekers hoping for a service that does not identify him or her as the problem, and heaven help Australian registered psychologists and qualified Australian psychiatrists (who have been through many years of medical education and professional supervision) hoping to maintain the reputation of their respective professions, because it appears that no one in Australia has even noticed that there is a problem with the misuse of psychology and the practice of amateur psychiatry in federal government services for the unemployed. 

Regardless of the appalling ethics of governments subjecting vulnerable people to unproven and demeaning interventions while sticking them with inappropriate and stigmatizing labels, there is also the simple problem of taxpayers' money funding interventions that couldn't be effective or appropriate. Shouldn't the citizens of the UK and Australia be up in arms over footing the bill for psychobabble pseudo-psychology courses provided through government-funded services to the unemployed? Neuro-linguistic programming is clearly popular in the UK with service providers to the unemployed, even though it has long ago been debunked as unscientific. This NLP practitioner in the UK touts services to employment service providers in lacklustre style, while this NLP guru in the UK offers a range of nonsense, citing credentials in a number of therapies that don't sound sensible. The "Personal Empowerment Institute" based in NSW, Australia has a collection a mile long of testimonials from their "Long Term Unemployed Workshops", none of them traceable. If these are genuine testimonials, I wonder how many are from participants who felt that they had any real choice in participating, and how many felt coerced or pressured into giving positive feedback at the end of the course? This claptrap from Perth has reportedly been foisted onto the jobless, from a bloke who loves to mention one particular prestigious WA university in videos and testimonials, but shows no signs of having ever studied there, let alone graduated with anything. Notice how it is all testimonials and no evidence with this crowd? That's a clear sign that this is the realm of pseudoscience. The above examples are probably only the tip of the iceberg, as I would expect that if agencies that are supposed to be providing professional services to the unemployed are actually funneling them into new agey nonsense courses from external contractors they wont be advertising that fact openly. 

Shouldn't the countless skeptics clubs and groups in the UK and Australia be white and tremulous with rage over national governments throwing money at and dignifying pseudoscience? It appears that these clubs of critical thinkers are too busy poking fun at parents who question vaccination, people who believe in homeopathy and other such important matters. I guess I should resign myself to the fact that no one in this wide brown land cares but me. Again. 

Lili's insult for the day

If you were a TV show, your timeslot would be between 3.25am and 4.10am. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lili's LOL for the day

Some quotes from a placard photographed at one of the Reclaim Australia rallies that happened around Australia today: 


I'm ignorant?


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lili's overloaded question for the day

Are men and women really that different ?

and this too

Science vs The Female Brain

Lili's outburst for the day

I am so sick to death of seeing public sentimental/melodramatic displays of grief in the news, over formerly over-priviledged dead male Australian sporting figures, from people who never even met the deceased. So many Australians don't have two cares to rub together for refugees kept in offshore concentration camps or grossly exploited and abused workers in Australian poultry processing plants producing the chicken to make the KFC that feeds their stupid fat bogan obesity problems, but when some famous old bloke in sport wraps his rally car around a tree or meets a nasty fate at the hand of a neglected son or gets killed on the sporting field in a freak accident, it's tears and corny tributes all the freakin' way to Christmas. Choose life, not sport, you feckin' morons!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lili's trainsmashwatching of the day

The online services of the Australian Taxation Office have been a big ugly trainsmash since the end of the last financial year, it appears that Centrelink's online services have been on the blink or closed for repairs since last Friday, I've been told that the federal government's employment services online system has been belly-up and bloating since the start of the new Jobactive regime, and to top it all off, it looks like the MyGov system as a whole is out to lunch. Could the Australian federal government's computer infrastructure be any more useless if it tried? 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Lili's wish for the day

I hope that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal enjoys the greatest satisfaction from seeing the many good things that will happen as a consequence of his act of generosity. Amazing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lili's ideas for the upcoming month

During Plastic Free July

maybe resolve to buy only machine-washable shower curtains, and wash'em rather than chuck'em, 

or buy dunny paper in a form that does not have plastic packaging, such as a bulk-buy box from Who Gives a Crap,

or refuse to get sucked into buying single-use plastic glow-in-the-dark toys for the brats, such as glow sticks at outdoor night events and school discos, bringing your own torches and multi-use fun glowing things instead,

or generally get wise and spend your hard-earned dough on wonderful experiences rather than plastic junk that you don't need, or things that you don't need that come in lots of plastic packaging?

Lili's proverb of the day

The empty cans make the most noise, and that contribution will be considered by local elected officials in formulating policy. 

Lili's quest for the day

I'm now searching for poultry retailers and fast-food operators who do not stock Steggles or Lilydale chicken: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4259918.htm

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lili's annoyance of the day

On the morning of Thursday June 18th 2015 Dr Karl (Kruszelnicki) in his regular science Q and A spot on Triple J public radio station aimed at young people, opened the session by making a debatable identification of an experience described by a female listener as synaesthesia and then went on to describe Daniel Tammet as his first example of a famous synaesthete, citing Tammet’s supposed mental feats such as learning a language in a short time, in an entirely unskeptical manner, and mentioning the title of Tammet’s first autobiographical book. Shut up, Dr Karl. Just shut up.

Lili's question of the day

Am I the only person who cares whether Abbott is an illegal (politician, prime minister)? 

Lili's thought for the day

I wish I could be in Sydney on July 7th 2015!

2015 Alan Saunders Memorial Lecture

The gender galaxy beyond Mars and Venus: Insights for science and society

Dr Cordelia Fine


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Val Lewton movie on tonight on Australian free-to-air TV

The Seventh Victim is not a fun feel-good movie, but please don't take that to mean it is gritty realism or anything like that. It isn't. Like most of the films produced by Lewton, it operates within the realm of psychology and the emotions and the imagination, and is rightly regarded as a horror movie, but a step or four above the average B-grade shocker. But please don't take that to mean that the movie has supernatural things happening in it. I don't recall that it does. Just watch it, but be warned; the sadness and alienation that blows through all Lewton movies has a wind chill factor in this one at the extreme end of the scale. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lili's critical thought of the day

The ABC has continued with another season of the Redesign My Brain series, even though I've written previously about why I was unimpressed by the first series. Now might be a good time to take a critical look at claims made for the benefits of one working memory training program: http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=85992

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lili's quote for the day

The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.
- Will Rogers

Lili's free and uncensored thought of the day (courtesy of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution)

Two news articles that say so much about the parlous state of free speech in Australia:


"But the outcome makes it clear: only one version of the Anzac legend can be proclaimed in this brave, pluralistic nation of ours. Dissidents will simply not be tolerated."


"He said senior politicians in Canberra had told him they now regret how quickly the program has been expanded but they said headspace could not be challenged because it was like "questioning the Pope"."

Lili's suggestion of the day

Tonight SBS broadcast a documentary show from the UK that asked questions about supposed differences in the brains of men and women, boys and girls, questions like "Are women better than men at reading emotions?". I suggest reading this blog article of mine to get an idea of some of the evidence pertinent to that question, or even better, read Dr Cordelia Fine's book Delusions of Gender. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

John Mendoza slams Headspace

Stark, Jill and Vedelago, Chris (2015) Headspace: 'McDonaldisation' of youth mental healthcare a ticking time bomb. Brisbane Times. April 26, 2015 - 9:27am.


"John Mendoza, former chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia and a previous chair of a headspace centre in Queensland, said the original intent of the service had been "perverted" and the national head office had become "obsessed with brand and marketing"."

Nice work Jill Stark and Chris Vedelago!

See/hear also this radio story:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lili's list of "red flags" to look out for in the process of submitting a job application

Vacancies with that employer permanently open

Employer often advertising vacancies out of proportion with size of workforce and appears to have trouble keeping staff

Advertising a clutch of different jobs in the one application process

Employer still handling recruitment process through hardcopy formats while similar organizations have gone online

Online recruitment system or documents do not work properly

Basic recruitment documents such as position descriptions, application forms, questionnaires, selection criteria, resumes, covering letters and copies of certificates and qualifications apparently lost

Eccentric handling of basic recruitment documents such as position descriptions, application forms, questionnaires and selection criteria in a way that suggests a strategy to deal with loss of data in a faulty computer system

Spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors or eccentric use of capitalization in job advertisement

"Previous applicants need not apply" 

Long, detailed, pretentious or unrealistically demanding lists of selection criteria peppered with management mumbo-jumbo

A list of duties a mile long attached to the position

Failure to ask applicants questions with simple and verifiable answers as a pre-screening process at the very beginning of recruitment process

Unclear, contradictory or deficient information in the job advertisement and associated documents about the basic details of the job such as employer, location, hours or permanency

During contact with employer or HR person they get you mixed-up with another applicant

Recommended reading:

How To Spot A Bad Boss -- Before You Accept The Job Offer by Lisa Quast


Lili's realistic thought for the day

What the hell do you think you look like attending an Anzac Day ceremony with a burst of grey-outlined stars all over the nape of your neck, or sporting an orange, yellow and greyish-black rooster's tail trailing up your arm? I don't care if your squiggles are permanent. I don't care if they are difficult to hide. If you aren't capable of turning up to an event looking appropriately dignified, don't turn up at all. 

Lili's thought for the day

Enjoying your climate change, Sydney?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another quote from the book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime by Prof. Peter C. Gotzsche

From page 197

"In 2000, an antidepressant trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine where the authors had so many conflicts of interest that there wasn't room for them in the journal; instead, they were listed on a website.40" 

Monday, April 13, 2015

An unhelpful synergy between trashy neuroscience and mediocre science journalism

This is a pop science magazine article about acquired savant syndrome and Jason Padgett, a case who appears to be very much modelled on the story of Daniel Tammet:

Treffert, Darold (2014) Accidental genius. Scientific American. August 2014. P.42-47.

and this is a pop science magazine article about acquired savant syndrome and Derek Amato, a case who appears to be very much modelled on the story of Daniel Tammet:

Piore, Adam (2013) When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within. Popular Science (website) February 19th 2013.
Piore, Adam (2013) The genius within. Popular Science. March 2013. Vol 282 Issue 3 p.46-53.

Both articles appear to describe this 2012 study by Alan Snyder and Richard Chi:

but it is disappointing that neither article gave a proper citation to the paper, so I can only guess.

It is worth noting that Snyder and Chi did a similar study that was published in 2011: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016655 

That study and associated excitable press commentary inspired an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper criticising the media hype and the study itself: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2011/feb/16/thinking-caps-pseudoscience-neuroscience

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A quote from the book Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime by Dr Peter C. Gotzsche

From page 229

"Antipsychotics are dangerous drugs that should only be used if there is a compelling reason, and preferably as short-term therapy at a low dose because the drugs produce severe and permanent brain damage. As explained above, even most patients with schizophrenia can avoid the drugs and it results in much better long-term outcomes than if they were treated and substantial savings as well.21"

There's a bombshell on every page of this book by Professor Gotzsche, a physician and co-founder of the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration and Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. The Cochrane Collaboration is an international organization of doctors who create systematic reviews of all of the scientific evidence pertinent to questions about drugs and medical practices and other types of interventions. I highly recommend Prof. Gotzsche's book.  

Friday, April 03, 2015

Lili's question of the day

I've got to wonder whether the three gutless dorks shown in this video shouting and waving flags with their faces concealed under a covering of flags, in a style that makes one think of the KKK in the USA, advocate for the banning of the burqa. 


Friday, March 27, 2015

Lili's thought for the day

I was watching one of those amusing characters played by the talented Australian Aboriginal comedy actor Steven Oliver in the Black Comedy Australian TV series, and a sense of deja-vu grew a grew. A campy fellow in the habit of bursting into scenes to make brief uninvited over-familiar comments about people, and then he's gone in a flash? I feel I've seen this behaviour before, but in a white presentation. Of course! He was my favourite character in the classic American comedy movie Flying High! (US title Airplane!). It seems a little bit strange that these roles that are so alike have been played by actors with such similar names. Rest in peace Stephen Stucker, you will never be forgotten by those who love a laugh, and Steven Oliver, you are the funniest man in Australia today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lili's alarmed thought of the day

I have read reports that West Papua leader Benny Wenda is being detained by PNG immigration authorities and faces an immediate threat of deportation from PNG. 

PNG Immigration: +675 323 1500


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lili's sad thought of the day

Goodbye and thank you Malcolm Fraser. Even as a child I felt that I was looking at an essentially decent person when I saw the former Prime Minister of Australia on TV, even though at the time I was witnessing one of the most controversial events in Australian political history, The Dismissal, and Fraser was cast in the role of the villain, and one of the adults in my family was incandescent with rage. We probably watched the political coup in black and white, as we weren't wealthy enough to be early-adopters of the exciting new colour television technology. 

Even in grayscale, at a glance I understood what type of person Mr Fraser was; a serious, thinking man in the business of ruling, not entertaining or charming, but who has demonstrated throughout his life a willingness to stand beside those who were locked out of a place in society: the refugee and the victim of racism and racist govermnent policies. Fraser was the only Liberal Prime Minister of Australia in living memory to welcome refugees to this country, was a champion of multiculturalism (we can thank the Fraser Government for SBS), he opposed apartheid as a PM and in his later career, and right up the the end of his life he has been a unequivocal and outspoken critic of the cruel and racist refugee policies of Liberal and Labour governments in the 21st century. As a PM Fraser modified but retained the system of universal health insurance created by the previous Labour government, which has served Australia well for many years and is accepted as a normal part of Australian life. 

Now that I have learned something of Fraser's formative years from media coverage of his passing, it all makes sense to me. Many sources describe Fraser's rural childhood in a wealthy family as one spent alone among nature without peers but apparently his best friend was an Aboriginal girl. My faith in individuals of character in Australian politics, (not parties or policies), is always reaffirmed when I think of Malcolm Fraser, but I am constantly saddened that there are so few of these individuals in positions of leadership these days, in politics or elsewhere. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

One big fail - a major corporate recruitment assessment company sponsored the event that built the reputation of a man with a hidden past

SHL Group is a company that offers tests and questionnaires relevant to personality, abilities and aptitudes for use in recruitment selection by companies and government bodies all around the world. Their list of clients includes ANZ, Coca Cola, Oxfam, Qantas, Vodafone, Nissan, KPMGColes and NASA. SHL Group were also the sponsors of Daniel Tammet's now-controversial 2004 "Pi in the Sky" memory record event to raise funds for the National Society for Epilepsy in the UK. One source is currently claiming that the memory record was not really broken by Tammet in 2004 even though press and official sources from the time claimed that the European/British record for memorizing Pi had been broken. 

Money raised by the event was to go toward a new leaflet from the NSE about epilepsy and memory, which is quite an irony considering that this event was a feat of memory that was publicized as being the result of extraordinary mental powers mysteriously created by an early childhood seizure suffered by Tammet, while the currently-available leaflet about epilepsy and memory from the NSE (now the Epilepsy Society) only discusses memory problems and strategies to help deal with memory difficulties

Expressions of skepticism about claims that Tammet has mysterious savant memory and calculation abilities date back many years, with figures from the memory sport community asserting that Tammet, who competed in memory championships in 1999 and 2000 under his original name of Daniel Corney, used much the same memory techniques as other competitors. Daniel Tammet is clever with numbers but his story never did add up, but that didn't stop a major company, whose business it is today to decide whether countless job applicants get an interview, from sponsoring the event that created Tammet's international reputation as a "genius" and a "savant". I'd say that was one gigantic failure of SHL to identify an issue with the talent.

My book about Daniel Tammet:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ten reasons to think twice about attending that block-buster arts or culture event

1.  Transport?

2.  Parking?

3.  Toilets?

4.  Affordable food and drink?

5.  The crowds could push you to the brink of insanity. 

6.  You or your kids might not get to see or do anything much because of the crowds.

7.  The interests of individual members of the public will not be a priority to the event organizers. They might get you to wait in a long queue for hours outdoors among bored children, or they might change the event without notice leaving you with nothing to see, or they might plan an event that they know most of the audience will not have good access to, due to numbers of attendees compared to space available. If you have a disability, good luck in competing with thousands of able-bodied people attending the event, I'm sure you will need it. 

8.  There's a good chance that many of the workers at the event will be paid nothing for their work, because they are volunteers, work experience people, interns or work-for-the-dole people. Free workers can be placed in such roles by government-funded job service agencies and these workers can be motivated by dubious claims that their unpaid efforts will give them an edge over others if vacancies open for real, paid jobs. Believe it or not, freebie workers these days often have to prepare lengthy "job" applications, pass police checks, sit interviews and undergo time-consuming training just like applicants for real jobs, and they wont even get free parking.

9.  It is hardly an original way to spend your spare time.

10. The show could well be a pretentious load of old bollocks.