Day 310 – Scientific Method

56 – 100 Greatest Discoveries

Science is hard.

And I don’t just mean as a discipline, but communicating about science is possibly even harder and a task scientists are sadly rarely well-equipped for. It is great having the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye available as standard-bearers, because we need all the clear communicators we can get.

What is particularly insidious is the way modern politics and the media interact with each other, and the resulting “fair-and-balanced” rhetoric that requires that for every argument on one side, someone has to be given an opportunity to speak for the other side.

Some things are just not balanced.
Sometimes when you put the sum-total of all the facts on the scales, one side tips further. Much further.
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Day 309 – Little Places

57 – 100 BEST TOWNS IN AUSTRALIA

I am kinda proud that I recognise at least some of the names on the full list. When I first arrived in Australia, when I’d mention coming from Europe, everyone’d comment how great it must be to live there.

The problem is, wherever you live becomes dull and mundane.

I have the same problem in Australia now; unless I make a specific effort, it’s easy to just get stuck in Sydney all the time. A few family visits have given me great excuses to travel about a bit, but I could probably do more.
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Day 308 – ID Please

58 – 100 Ways to Look Younger

I think I am at long last starting to age into my years somewhat. For the longest time the people I met had a very hard time guessing anywhere near my real age. It makes for great entertainment to watch people struggle not to insult me and still ending up well short after I tell them to have-at-it.

Back when I was about twenty-something I was on a trip to Finland for a summer holiday. Yes, I know that sounds the wrong direction to travel. I brought plenty of clothes for the cold I was expecting myself, only to find out that summer in Finland is a nice 30+ temperature, just like in the Netherlands. I was seriously over-dressed.

One cultural tradition I became closely acquainted with was “drinking-like-a-fish-before-going-out-on-the-town”. You see, alcohol was (is?) heavily taxed, and even more ridiculously over-priced at clubs. To work around this problem, the youth of Finland gathers at home before going out, and downs a few bottles of Finlandia before even leaving. Problem solved!
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Day 307 – How-To: Be Presentable

59 – 100 Presentation Tips

I added two items to my 100 Things that relate to presenting. Three if you count teaching a class as essentially a form of presentation. I think that means I better start planning out how to brush up on my presentation skills.

Not that I am going in cold.

I have watched many videos on presentation by masters of the art. I have read many blog posts and articles about presenting itself, designing good slides, and how to structure material. I have books on my shelf by Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.

The next step? Presenting. Regularly.
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Day 306 – Now We’re Cooking

60 – The 100 Best Cookbooks

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of cookbooks. I know how to make a thing or two; my ice cream is a well-established tradition, as are my potato salads. And by request I do pizza-from-scratch at times.

There is however one cookbook that I must own someday. The One Book To Rule Them All. At 24kg and 2438 pages it is the kind of book that needs a lectern when used. And it is a glorious piece of art in its own right, even if I have some fundamental problems with the author’s other Ventures, so to speak.
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Day 305 – What Are Your 100 Things?

61 – My 100 Things

Bucket lists are a little morbid by definition, but that doesn’t make them a bad idea. While looking around for a suitable list to link to today, I actually found a do-your-own-bucket-list site, and I created one. It was a lot harder than I expected to get a good list of a hundred.
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Day 303 – Running from Something

63 – 100 Beginner Running Tips

Cardio is terrible and I hate running.

I don’t even run from the back of the treadmill; I prefer to set it to 6km/h and just walk for 30 minutes while letting my mind drift. I never got the hang of running. I’ve heard say how great the runners high is, but it doesn’t sound quite enough to make it worth it. Marathon runners say the same things about the joy of having your toenails fall off, so I guess that puts the matter into some perspective.
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Day 302 – Distractions

64 – The 100 best games of all time

I feel bloated and ready to burst, which means it must be a Wednesday night.

It’s so hard to resist the cheese and cider before dinner. Then it’s so hard to resist the Crust Pizza for dinner. I ate so much that there isn’t even room to think of dessert right now.

I had a great game of Ticket To Ride tonight; the losing score was a healthy 120-something, I won with 3 points shy of 200. It’s definitely my personal best. And then I got over-confident for Carcassonne; I thought I had Ken trumped with my farming, but the significance of a few of his final moves had escaped me. I should have paid more attention, but I’m blaming his strategic “cooking” for my loss.

Wednesdays are definitely a great way to forget everything that is weighing on my mind in the middle of the week. Sadly I bet my mind will be mulling again by the time it hits the pillow. Soon now. Because I’m very tired, and I doubt I’ll get enough sleep yet.

Day 301 – Debatable

65 – TOP 100 DEBATES

So, apparently to achieve greatness I have to read things I do not agree with. Today I made a start with a “wonderful” article at Virginia Right. I forget how I came across it, but it was so delightfully hypocritical that I couldn’t resist.

It purports to analyse how liberals (in the US-sense; so we are talking left-wing here) hold their “non rational” arguments.

Just for fun I swapped around the terminology; liberal and conservative, left and right, names of channels and pundits. The argument made just as much sense the other way around as it did in its original form, which is to say, none at all. Baseless value-judgements from start to finish.

Apparently the way this blogger suggests you win an argument with a liberal is to make a single post refuting their statements with whatever facts/scrap metal/biases/neuroses you might have to hand, and if the liberal comes back with anything but agreement, you just finish the conversation there and declare victory. I wish I could laugh at it, if I hadn’t actually seen clips of pundits using exactly this strategy.

I was also fascinated to learn that although MSNBC is clearly a left-wing source, Fox is undeniably an unbiased source. I’m not going to argue that MSNBC doesn’t lean left, but to deny any lean at all in the case of Fox is more than a little ridiculous. And this is exactly why a debate should never be over in a single response; the process of debate is supposed to lead more often than not to a better shared understanding, and FSM-forbid, a compromise that both sides are somewhat equally unhappy with.

That’s how representative democracy works.

The majority doesn’t impose its will on the minority; we reach a compromise in the understanding that halfway between left-and-right lies a better representation of what a 50/50 split of the population might be able to come to an agreement on.

It is how decisions that endure are made.

As this author (Tom White) got closer to the end of his piece, he was getting ever more divorced from a sense of irony. After calling liberals not-rational at the start of the article, point 4 calls out liberals for using “The Personal Attack” as a debating strategy, closely followed by point 5, “Name Calling”.

And on the last point he was just not even trying any more. Point 6 calls out liberals for calling in posses of adherents to self-reinforce their victories with mutual congratulation… only to close the self-same point with a call to arms for conservatives to follow suit.

I doubt he can be convinced of the deep internal conflict he seems to be carrying with him; we all know after all that conservatives are just not rational… (note: tongue-in-cheek, in case mockery is also a foreign concept).

On the whole I might be a libertarian leaning left-winger, but I also believe that (regulated) capitalism on the whole does more good than harm. And I’d love to live in any country where it is possible to have a reasonable adult discussion with those we disagree with. I’m just not holding my breath on finding one of those in a hurry.