Thinking Things Through

Thinking Things Through is always a good idea. Without sound research, consideration and analysis, we’d forever be making poor decisions, and it’s rare that any good comes of having made a poor decision.

We waste time, money, energy and attention by not Thinking Things Through… Our beliefs inform our actions – and if beliefs are used to support irrational choices, then our society is likely to be less free as a result.

To that end, the Free Society Institute (FSI) is holding a conference on 1st December 2013 called Thinking Things Through with an excellent line-up of speakers, addressing many of the obstacles to a free society, such as “oppressive or irrational legislation, moral confusions, bigotry and prejudice, and misconceptions about science and secularism”.

This is a great opportunity for (at least) two reasons: Firstly, that it’s a chance to hear and engage with some of the country’s great minds and social commentators in fields such as science, journalism and philosophy and secondly, to enlighten yourself as to how these issues and obstacles could affect (and are affecting) our society.

The line-up includes MC Chester Missing (what could possibly go wrong?), Eusebius McKaiser, Gareth Cliff (think beyond the Breakfast Show, really) and The Guru, Jacques Rousseau. It looks like it will be a really fascinating day and I would be there in the manner of an ursine if circumstances allowed. But just because I’m missing out doesn’t mean that you should. Tickets are R200 for students, R400 for the rest of us and there’s also an option to tag a half price annual membership of the FSI on to your ticket, should you so desire.

Click here for direct link to ticketing

Thinking Things Through, hosted by the Free Society Institute.
10:00am, Sunday 1st December 2013.
SciBono Discovery Centre, Johannesburg.

Some reading while I’m uploading

A bit of time, a window of opportunity, so I’m quickly (ha!) uploading the pics from the long weekend as promised. I started pruning my pics from my flight with Sea & Sky and then I thought no, sod that, I want to remember every moment of it, so I’ve just put them all up in a set yet to be uploaded (and therefore available). Expect whales, coastline, and skies forever and ever…

UPDATE: Now up – here

And I haven’t even looked at the rest of the photos from the rest of the weekend. Met eish, ja.

UPDATE: Also now up – here

But I’ll link to them in a separate post (UPDATE: Which I also did – here), because until those pics are available, you need to read this:

Some (obviously) excellent writing from Jacques Rousseau including a hilarious off-the-cuff dig at the French and this vitally important line:

The point is that there’s an arms-race of hyperbole going on…

And yes, he’s absolutely right and it’s making the internet an increasingly unpleasant place to be and additionally (and more importantly), it’s stifling and devaluing meaningful debate.

Required Reading

A few articles that I feel may be of interest to my readers and so I am sharing here. Because I could share them on Facebook, but first they’d be there and then they’d be gone and they deserve sharing for longer than that.

First up: @JacquesR with a hefty dose of rational support for the SANBS “ban” on homosexual men donating blood:

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS),  illustrates the problem well, introducing all sorts of moral complications at the same time. As reported in the Cape Argus, a gay couple recently had their blood donation deferred (or rejected), thanks to the SANBS policy of deferring donations from men who have had sex with other men in the last six months.

One narrative that fits this policy is that the SANBS is homophobic, and this narrative has enjoyed strong support on social media for the last few days. But as I wrote in a 2011 column, deferring blood from this category of donor isn’t atypical, and South Africa’s blood service is in fact fairly liberal in this regard. In the UK, the deferral period is one year, while in the US a lifetime restriction applies for men who have had any sexual encounter with another man at any time since 1977.

Then, you can move onto Signe Rousseau’s post on the Coca-Cola Company’s new “anti-obesity” ad; a column in which she unnecessarily begins a sentence with the word “So”, but we’ll overlook that just this once because the points it makes are wonderfully concise and cut through the agenda-laden BS:

I’m not here to protect nor to promote Coca Cola products. But these knee-jerk reactions to corporate/industry involvement in anything “healthy” as being fuelled by anything but sleazy ulterior motives strikes me as incredibly unproductive in any public health conversations.

Finally, one to file under Told?, Can you believe that they need to be:

A girls’ primary school in Bloemfontein has adopted a code of ethics for parents to be applied at all sport events, the Beeld reported on Tuesday. The Laer Meisieskool Oranje’s sport field behaviour code of ethics for parents stipulates that parents should behave respectfully during sporting events and matches.

According to the code, parents may not get involved in physical violence, libel or abusive language or use indecent signs during sport matches.

What? Really? The parents must refrain from physical violence while watch their primary school girls play sport? There’s not even any excuse for that when watching adults playing sport. But primary school girls? What is wrong with these parents that they need to be told this?

Things you should read

AGAIN… not much time tonight (cue groans of happiness from the 6000 miles… reader collective).

But, rather than a quota photo, some reading material for you, since there’s not ever so much here:

Firstly, this, from the Independent, via my Dad:

Meet the Geordie who led Benfica to three league titles

When the great Eusebio flies to Sheffield to attend a statue dedication, and describes the subject as “still in my heart”, it is quite a tribute.

But so it was for Jimmy Hagan, the legendary former Sheffield United player who managed Benfica to three consecutive Portuguese titles in the early 1970s. He was only manager there for three seasons, but demonstrably left a strong and personal mark on one of Europe’s great clubs. He can be considered among England’s finest managerial exports.

It was not for Hagan’s managerial achievements, though – important as they were – that the statue was dedicated. Hagan, who was born in Washington, County Durham, on the outskirts of Newcastle, is broadly thought to be Sheffield United’s greatest ever player, having played there for 20 years, from 1938 to 1958.

Eusebio, who is to Benfica what Hagan is to Sheffield United, was speaking at the dedication of a statue of Hagan at Bramall Lane 11 years ago, near what would have been Hagan’s 83rd birthday. He died in 1998.

And then, continuing the sporting theme (sort of), this from Jacques Rousseau on Tim Noakes dietary advice flip and the lack of scientific evidence behind it:

Tim Noakes on carbohydrates – fad or fact?

It, therefore, seems premature – even unjustified – to speak of this diet in such unequivocally positive terms, not to mention introducing the language of moral panics in the form of our hypothetical “addiction” to carbohydrates. As Ben Goldacre has pointed out, anecdotes are not data, and the bulk of the data available right now suggest that the main problem is simply that we eat too darn much.

Seriously, they are both worth several minutes of your time. If I hadn’t read them, I’d be able to blog properly today.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to tell you about the tortoise in Nigeria.

But tomorrow is another day.

Blog Stuff

“Blog Stuff”

That was the subject of the email awaiting when I returned from a weekend “getting away from it all” – including cellphone signal – in the Southern Cape. After the trials and tribulations of the last week – only 1% of which concerned the blog crashing and burning and the other 99% of which was carefully tucked away, hidden from the prying eyes of the readers of this esteemed site – it was manna from heaven.

The email was from the character who I have, in the past, labelled The Guru. As most of you who can read will already know, that man is Jacques Rousseau. While I was still blogging at by writing html by hand in notepad, he introduced me to the joys of WordPress. I can still remember what he said:

…you should give it a try, I think you’ll like it.

But that was then and this is now. While I have been throwing words at your screens, Guru Jacques has been honing the interface for your viewing pleasure. And once I had torn out the spine of 6000 miles… and begun crying on Friday, he set to work rehoning what was left. Basically from scratch.

Thanks be to Jacques, because what he has created is the “Slimmer6000” theme:

  • The functions.php file is 14.4% smaller
  • The style.css file is 59.3% smaller – decreasing load time
  • The menu spacing is “improved”
  • The coding is more efficient and smells better
  • There is an extra 10px width for posts – useful for quota photos
  • Robots are unblocked, boosting my ranking potential

Basically, it’s all good. Aside, it seems, from my sidebar text:

I reckon your sidebar text is too small (always has been) – if you want to play with that, go to lines 82 and 83 of style.css

Later, in another email, Jacques described himself as “a genius”, which I was about to agree with until I realised that he had given me free rein to play around with his work.


He obviously enjoys repairing things.