Blog entries tagged with "skeptic"

Skepticon in Sydney

Monday, November 20th, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I have just arrived home from a weekend up in Sydney for the 33rd Australian Skeptics National Convention, branded as Skepticon Australia.

It was a great weekend, so what were my highlights?

We heard from Britt Hermes of Naturopathic Diaries about how she became a nauropathic doctor, how she came to understand why that was a mistake and finally what she is now doing about it. It was a shame she wasn’t able to be there in person due to illness, but the video conference was the next best thing.

A panel on journalism featuring Kathy Marks, Marcus Strom & Fauziah Ibrahim gave some interesting insights into how journalists are dealing with the news these days. Of particular interest to me was the information from Marcus about – in his time at the Sydney Morning Herald – the level of tracking that occurs on a news website. They monitor every click and how much you read, plus things like constantly running A/B testing on variations of headlines to determine which is more clickable.

The session about War On Waste with Craig Reucassel, Stephen Oliver & Jodi Boylan started off teasing what we could expect to see in the upcoming fourth episode, but then went deeper building on the previous day’s panel. When can you advocate for one side of an issue versus straight journalism and how to balance education with entertainment.

The most powerful talk of the weekend was from Ruth Ellison (who I knew from previous skeptic and tech conferences as a as a user experience person and maker of laser cut jewelery), speaking for the first time in public about what it was like to grow up in and then leave a religious cult. The entire room was stunned to hear about Ruth’s experience, so much support from people later in the day and via twitter.

The other big thing this year was a number of live podcasts recordings (mostly in “the other room” so I didn’t go to them as I went to talks in “the main room”), but there was only one that I was even slightly aware of, and had never listened to. This is not unusual as there a lot of podcasts out there, but the striking thing was that quite a few people I spoke to were at the convention they listened to one of the podcasts (mainly The Scathing Atheist). The two recording in the main room that I watched were Cognitive Dissonance and God Awful Movies (by the same hosts as The Scathing Atheist). They were enjoyable but not quite my taste so I don’t think I will subscribe. I have queued up a couple of their older episodes to listen to, I will see how they are…

I think my next skeptics event like this will be the Surf Coast Skepticamp in February, but much sooner than that I have a technology event, the third BuzzConf in two weeks time…

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Listening to podcasts

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 at 9:05 pm

For the past year and a bit I have been listening to podcasts, either while commuting to and from work on the train, or while out for walks. I have known about podcasts for a long time, but it was the combination of having suitable idle time and the suggestion of two comedy podcasts that finally made me give them a go.

The list of podcasts I listen to has grown (and occasionally shrunk) over time, and there are some that I prioritise over others. Right now this is the list of podcasts in the app on my phone: (in roughly priority order)

  • I Love Green Guide Letters
    One of the two comedy podcasts that were suggested to me, great to hear stories from comedians, and there is also commentary about the letters.
  • The Little Dum Dum Club
    The other of the comedy podcasts that was suggested, some of the conversations can be quite serious and thought provoking, while others are hilarious.
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
    A very popular podcast that covers a wide range of science/skeptic topics, recent news through to historical events/figures.
  • Geologic Podcast
    Usually a skeptical topic or two, but what I am really enjoying is the other topics such as music as that is something I wouldn’t normally be interested in
  • The Dollop
    Despite this being two comedians (one telling the other about something from American history), I was surprised by how much I was liking the historical aspect of this. The live shows in Australia where they covered some Australian history stories really showed how you don’t learn the horrible details at school.
  • Comedy Film Nerds
    This is now my preferred source of movie information, I find myself agreeing with their reviews. Plus the spoiler episodes either make a movie I have seen better or mean I don’t have to see it at all.
  • Probably Science
    Interesting discussion between the hosts and the guest, but also coverage of recent science news that is weird or interesting.
  • Don’t You Know Who I Am?
    This one is just fun, some unexepcted stories from the guest comedians.
  • Filthy Casuals
    I haven’t played games for a long time and only started listening because of The Little Dum Dum Club, but it also can be interesting (as well as funny)
  • Oh No Ross and Carrie
    Another skeptic podcast, Ross and Carrie go do the crazy woo things and report back on what they were like.
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage
    Funny and informative at the same time about some quite serious scientific topics.
  • Penn’s Sunday School
    Started listening because I am a fan of Penn and Teller, as well as Penn’s skeptical position. Interesting stories, sometimes science sometimes (US) politics.
  • Can you take this photo, please?
    Open discussion between Justin Hamilton and (usually) a guest, interesting hearing the background and experiences of these comedians.
  • TOFOP/FOFOP/Wilosphy
    I’m lumping together three Wil Anderson podcasts here, there are a lot I haven’t listened to, I pick out the ones that look interesting.
  • Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project
    I’ve been a fan of MythBusters for a long time, but it is only recently that a few of the topics caught my eye…
  • Steele Wars
    Another one I am selective about, while I like Star Wars, I’m not obsessed, so will check the description before listening. But the live reaction podcast after the midnight screening of Force Awakens (with Comedy Film Nerds) was worth it.
  • Stuff You Should Know
    I have a number of these in the backlog, for when I want to learn something but don’t need to be amused…

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The ability to change your mind

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 at 5:17 pm

I don’t know how I got to it, but a few weeks ago I read a blog post about some advice from Jeff Bezos. The advice? That people who were right a lot of the time were the ones that were able to change their mind.

A few days ago John Gruber was critical of an iPhone 6 review that misrepresented Steve Jobs and Apple, when the reality was that Jobs would change his mind very quickly.

So why am I mentioning this? Because in both cases it reminded me why I am a skeptic, you must be able to change your mind.

With these two examples I think that change was not just good, it was essential. If Jeff Bezos hadn’t tried something new then there would be no Amazon today, and think about the difference between Apple of the 90s compared to Apple of today…

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TAM2014 is over… it was great

Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

For the past four days I have been immersed in The Amaz!ing Meeting 2014. The closest I got to the outdoors was looking out of the window in my hotel room as I was in an organised session/workshop/event, was talking to people or I was asleep. Throughout the conference I made handwritten notes (instead of posting directly to G+ or Twitter) and I will eventually type them up, but meanwhile I recommend looking through the posts in Twitter tagged with #tam2014.

Tomorrow I will start stage two (before heading to Portland, Oregon for OSCON) which involves hiring a car and driving around Las Vegas and then heading into Arizona for a big loop around the Grand Canyon.

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I went to TAM Australia

Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 10:35 pm

For many years I have been a skeptic. That doesn’t mean I maintain a doubting attitude, it means that I don’t take things for granted, instead I will look for the evidence.

For some time I have been aware of local skeptic groups such as the Australian Skeptics and the Victorian Skeptics I had not become actively involved. Instead of was content to follow the science from a distance via blogs and the books that I read.

That changed when I found out that an Amazing Meeting! would be held in Australia for the first time. I had to go, but while waiting to see if it would conflict with OSDC2010 I missed out on a ticket. But when I heard that a lottery would be held for the final few tickets I entered and was lucky enough to be offered a ticket. I jumped at it, even though I would have to miss the final day of OSDC2010.

So how was it? It’s in the title: Amazing.

Although I struggled a bit, I did manage to make my 8AM Friday flight to Sydney which got me there in plenty of time for the 1PM start. From then on it was a rush. I am not attempt to detail everything that happened, but the obvious highlights included meeting and hearing speak: James Randi, Dr Karl, Dick Smith, Simon Singh and Rob Morrison.

I also met many other people, some of who I expect to see again as next year I intend to go along to some of the local skeptic events. Of course that may even include a Melbourne based TAM.

While most of the talks were great, they had the issue of repeating things I had already read. The discussion panels were more interesting as they depended on the questions people asked. But the largest surprise of the entire event was a talk on management pseudoscience.

It had never occurred to me that management was a psuedoscience, but now that I think about there are plenty of management theories, but very little evidence to back them up. Think about it, businesses are wasting money and time on unverified theories, often on theories that in practice fall down.

Seven years ago I did start to write about work processes and I have been meaning to get back into it. Realising that much of management training is pseudoscience if hopefully the trigger I need. (we are also undergoing major organisational change which was the first trigger)

Instead of writing more here about the event, I will simply link to my messages from during the event. When I do get around to sorting through the photos (mostly from the dinner cruise) I will try to provide some more detail.

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