Things I learned playing Need For Speed: Undercover

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:49 am

… a game which is simple and fun, and which I have spent an utterly embarrassing number of hours playing. After I bought it on Steam for about $2. So yeah, value for money, I guess, if not time.

  1. I dunno, though, in terms of value for time: I’m a motorcyclist, and being able to make quick decisions is kind of crucial. Given what we now know about neural plasticity, it’d be interesting to know whether it’s actually, really making my brain better at spatial decision-making in short time frames.
  2. One of the things I’ve consciously learned is ‘you must make a decision!’ Making no decision is itself a decision, and usually – in this context – the worst possible one. What do I mean? Coming toward an intersection at speed, you need to say instantly ‘I’m going left’, or vice versa. If you dither at all, you’ll go neither left nor right, you’ll crash into the barrier between at speed. I won’t over-apply this to life in general, but certainly in terms of driving/riding, making decisions early and committing is crucial.
  3. In a different vein, there’s a lesson about material things. There is a reasonably large number of possible vehicles in the game – 30 or so, I guess. For the purposes of the game, the European ones are superior to the Japanese, and far superior to the American ones (because the game involves going around corners). There are two available Lamborghinis, the Gallardo and the Murcielago. Both amazing, both miles beyond anything anyone would ever be able to use on the road, but the Murcielago is the better (and far more expensive) of the two. What I learned is, if you owned a Gallardo, you should be ecstatic! It’s an astonishing machine. But the mere existence of the Murcielago would make me, at least, feel as though I was settling for second best. It would make me dissatisfied with my Lamborghini! I am quite happy to generalise that to material possessions in general: if you seek happiness and satisfaction in them, you are forever doomed to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:51 am


Questions for Atheists

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:15 am

My good friend Mike Adams asked the following questions. I’m not an atheist, but I think I can offer some answers that might be useful. All my friends, however they identify themselves, and Mike of course, are free to add to, challenge or ignore them!

…why are atheists so dogmatic in their belief of no God but yet highly critical of those who say there is?

Wouldn’t that be the logical thing: if someone was dogmatic that something was not the case, would they not be critical of those who claimed it was the case? I’m pretty dogmatic that the CIA did not destroy the World Trade Centre towers on September 11, 2001, and would be highly critical of those who claim that it did. So that’s one level of answering the question: a strong belief that something is false predisposes someone to be critical of claims that it is true.

I can think of at least two three other responses, which are not necessarily all logically consistent with each other:

  1. Why are Christian believers so highly critical of atheists? Turn about is fair play, and ‘live and let live’ tends not to be especially high on the Christian agenda. That is also unsurprising, given their strong (‘dogmatic’ is fair, I think) belief that they have The Truth to share, and that those who do not share their beliefs are doomed to eternal death (or worse). It’s a kind of tit-for-tat response, and not very mature, perhaps, but I don’t mean it that way – it’s a simple inversion of the question, that turns it back on the questioner.
  2. Philosophically, I think many atheists are not as dogmatic as all that: they tend to be ‘agnostic atheists’ – they have not seen evidence for the existence of a god, but would be open to changing their view if such evidence was presented. This many not always come through in what they say and post, just because it’s awkward to qualify and disclaimer everything, but I think there are actually few truly, deeply dogmatic atheists – even if those few may have some of the loudest voices.
  3. I guess the underlying assumption in Mike’s question (and I’m happy to be corrected on this) is about tolerance and ‘live and let live’ – the notion that atheists ought to be tolerant of other belief systems. Point 1 above is part of the response to this, but it’s the immature part. The more mature part is that perhaps we could all stand to be a bit more tolerant of each other’s beliefs. It is possible to disagree agreeably, or to disagree disagreeably, and I have good friends who embrace the latter, but I choose the former. Whatever our beliefs, respect and courtesy are valuable, and ‘respect the person but disrespect the belief’ seems no more realistically possible for real human beings than ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’.

No doubt there’s more to be said, but I think the answers below also reflect back onto this question. Why are people passionate? Because the stakes are high.

Also, why are atheists [more] highly critical of the judeo/christian belief system than any other? I never hear atheists mocking the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Garanth Saab, or other religious texts. It seems mainly the judeo /christian system gets to be so lucky.

Part of this is just a matter of what and where you read and who you speak to. There is a significant ex-Muslim atheist population that does indeed challenge the Koran/Quran. I suspect that ex-Hindu and ex-Sikh atheists tend to be more pragmatic and just get on with life rather than struggle and post on the internet, although that might be part of my own set of biases and who I listen to. I think there are at least two reasons why we see more challenges to Christianity (and, with all respect, it’s not usually Judaism that’s in the sights…):

  1. We live in countries with Christian heritage, where some brand of Christianity is the default religion. Given that, when people leave religion, it’s usually Christianity they leave. That means that, like teenagers leaving home, they tend to define themselves at least to some extent in opposition to what they’ve left behind. At least in the early stages, they see atheism as being the same thing as ‘not Christian any more’, and tend to share their reasons for leaving Christianity. Those will, kind of inevitably, include their frustrations with some of the abuses committed in the name of Christianity, as well as issues with the doctrines themselves. I don’t find it so surprising in our culture that this is what people are interested in.
  2. Because we live in countries where Christianity is the default religion, Christianity has political power, and has influence on our lives. We might think that, for example, our gay friends should be able to enjoy the benefits we enjoy from being married: and Christianity is actively opposing that. Given that, challenging Christianity’s beliefs and assumptions that have real implications for issues that atheists (and other people like me) care passionately about is not all that surprising – and doesn’t constitute discrimination against Christianity.

May as well finish with some comedy. Here’s the excellent Irish comedian Dara O’Briain on why he doesn’t do jokes about Islam (some swearing):


(Still) Not Perfect

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:02 am

About 4 years ago, I shared a link to Tim Minchin’s lovely song, ‘Not Perfect‘, here on this blog: http://www.bravus.com/blog/?p=895

If you haven’t heard it, you should click on the title above and watch and listen before reading on.

So, apart from being a beautiful, poignant and sometimes funny song, it just seems like a healthy approach to living: ‘This is my … and it’s fine. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine.”

I might have also shared before Sting’s line: “The search for perfection is all very well, but to look for heaven is to live here in hell.”

It seems to me as though perhaps perfection is a goal of which we might let go,and that doing so might make life better.

Nothing very deep, and of course there are caveats about still having ideals and all that. But for 2013, I’m going to aim for great, but not perfect.

Told You…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:51 am

…that the blogging pace would not remain as frenetic as it was for a while there.

The posts are there when they’re there, and not when they’re not.


Excessive Optimism

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:16 pm

I’m ridiculously, annoyingly optimistic and positive.

Playing a round of golf this morning with my new clubs, and an initially promising tee shot on a par 3 bounced into the bunker.

“That’s OK,” I chirruped, “I wanted to try out my sand wedge!”


Apocalypse Free Zone

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:48 pm

It was always going to be a fizzer of a story. And it is.

Notionally, there’s a bit over 5 hours to go in the 21st, but I’m pretty confident I’ll be golfing in the morning.

Been a fun, mellow, family day – may we have many more!

It’s interesting to me why we find apocalypse so very attractive.

I think a big part of it is that it’s an easy way out – even if we’re dead, at least we have no further problems.

Link with that the fact that lots of apocalypse narratives involve a final and ultimate proof that the believers were right and everyone else was wrong, with the possibility of eternal life part of the story as well… and it’s almost tempting.

But, instead, how about just embracing life, love, living – and yep, its problems and challenges too?

I’ve got plans for 2013… and many years to come. So I’m pretty happy it was a fizzer.


God, Intervention and Responsibility

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:20 am

Someone asked on a forum ‘Was God responsible for the deaths in the Newtown shootings?’

My response:

Thread is about God’s role. On which, if God could have prevented it and didn’t, why not?

Certainly Huckabee’s ‘pushing God out of the schools’ makes no sense – if God is omnipresent, he’s in the school.

An omnipotent, omnipresent God is responsible for what happened, in my view.

The question is what you do with that.

One of the forum denizens responded:

Being Omnipotent, God could prevent all evil deeds and every evil thought from taking place. He could obliterate all evil actions the moment such thought enter the mind of human beings.

We would be robots, and the Devil would have strong arguments proving that God is arbitrary and that he is a despot who will not grant human beings the freedom to exercise their right to choose between good and evil.

We would be simply puppets in the hands of a mighty being. All our choices and decisions would be made by such a God. Is this the kind of God you would like to have?

My response:

The alternative, though, is a God who does nothing. What’s the point of that God? May as well not be there at all, if he never does anything anyway for fear of taking away freedom of choice.

It’s not a coherent perspective.

Either God intervenes, or he does not. If he does, why would he intervene to find a parking space or effect the outcome of a sportsball game, but not to stop a mass murderer of children? If he does not, how is he relevant to what goes on in this world? If, in order to protect free will, only natural causes are allowed, then only natural causes matter.


How NOT To Respond To Domestic Violence

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:20 am


When I split to the front at the lights, then accelerate away hard…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:00 am

… I’m not doing it to be a boy-racer. I’m doing it so that my having split to the front will have as close as I can manage to zero effect on your drive.

So if I accelerate away a fair bit faster than you intended to (or, heh, can), it’s so that you can accelerate away at your normal pace, exactly as though I’d never been there at all.

OK, this is half the truth: it’s true, but it’s also true that accelerating away hard feels goooood!


Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:57 am

The thought occurred to me almost 7 years ago: http://www.bravus.com/blog/?p=469

Few more scars since then – in fact I have stitches right now from having something cut out of my skin last week.

Suzie has some doozies – a couple of caesarians, a hysterectomy and a seriously large one where one lobe of her lung was removed.

Thing is, we’re still here: battered but unbowed.


Twelvity Twelve and its Discontents

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:50 am

From my friend Glenn Scott:

4.5 billion years of evolution culminated in a moment of clarity at 12:12, 12/12/12 where, for the very first time, a human (me) fully understood the depth, scope and implications of reality. This enlightenment represented the paradigm shift humanity have been striving towards for millennia suddenly illuminating the cosmos from a single being’s mind.

As I was about to put into words this priceless enlightenment, the esoteric knowledge to facilitate the next evolutionary bound of the universe, the ultimate truth and essential meaning of life . . .

. . . a friend of mine posted a very amusing photo of a kitten hanging upside down from a clothesline on Facebook and once I’d “liked” it and come up with a very droll response, I’d forgotten what I was going to write. Damn.

Oh well. Better luck next time humans . . .


Anything girls can do, boys can do… more disturbingly

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:26 pm

Seems like laughter often works better than censure in dealing with sexism… in this particular instance the sexism in the cover art of fantasy and science fiction books.

Jim Hines and John Scalzi have found a way to make it funny… and raise money for a good cause at the same time: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/661046.html

More here: http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/

Congratulations, Cassie G!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:09 pm

Cassie holds her Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degrees

Those who ‘do Facebook’ will already have seen this news, but not everyone does – and this blog is a lot less ephemeral.

Huge congrats to Cassie, who graduated on Monday from her dual degree program at UQ. She can now justifiably be named as Cassie Geelan BEd(Sec) BSc(Psych).

So very proud of her: we’ve been very blessed with both our daughters and the way they’ve taken responsibility for their own success. We’ve never hassled them to study or do their homework, so they’ve made all their own choices… and Cassie’s graduation demonstrates that the choices have been good ones.


Too Much…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:31 am

Heh, work-life balance… 😉 It’s the weekend and I have too many papers and such on the go!

A chapter I started last week and need to finish, an edited book to pull together and send back to the publisher, a paper I started on Thursday and another paper I started on Friday! Few other bits and pieces as well, but that’s the headline story…

Also stuck without my car keys due to having loaned the car, and I forgot to take my office keys off the ring, so can’t get into the office where the book draft is…

Guess all it means is I need to work on what I can work on, then move on to the next thing… and also take some rest time at some point on the weekend to gear up for the week.


Posted Without Comment

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:07 pm

Because none is necessary. Or, in a way, possible.


Minnie the MOOCher

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:40 pm

I’ve been hearing about MOOCs – Massive Online Open Courses – on Twitter and around the traps a bit, without really having a good sense of what they are all about.

This blog post by Clay Shirky does a very nice job on not only the ‘what’ but the ‘why’: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/

If I have one criticism it’s that he sticks to looking at the US situation – to me, much of the excitement around MOOCs is their international potential. Still, well worth a read.

Termiting Through

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:14 pm

It’s an image William Gibson has used. He’s written a couple of trilogies, that he never intended to be trilogies. He wrote a novel, then saw that the world had enough in it to explore further, and – in his words – tunnelled like a termite back through the worlds he created.

To some extent in academia there’s a tendency to be shamefaced about it… about revisiting the old stuff, rather than forging on and doing new stuff.

Well, maybe… although there’s also something about ‘building a research program’ where you do nothing but termite… and I’ve had trouble with being too eclectic, too interested in a wide variety of things.

But, for good or ill, I’m in the process of diving back into two of the things I’ve done in the past.

One is the web-based discussion forum space. Here’s a paper, from a decade or more ago, in that field:

Geelan, D.R. & Taylor, P.C. (2001). Embodying our values in our teaching practices: building open and critical discourse through computer mediated communication. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12(4): 375-401. (Email me if you want a copy of this paper.)

The other is narrative methodologies in educational research. My two books work in that space, but this article is one of the most-cited ones I have, and I think sketched some really interesting ideas that ended up not getting followed up because I moved on to some other things:

Geelan, D.R. & Taylor, P.C. (2001). Writing our lived experience: Beyond the (pale) hermeneutic? Electronic Journal of Science Education, 5(4).

So, yeah: finding out what I was thinking, working and talking about in the past, and figuring out ways to do new work in those spaces that is interesting, not just to me, but to others, is one of the current challenges.

My Meditation

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:30 pm

Heard something on the radio the other day about meditation, and was thinking about whether it would benefit me. It might – I both think too much and consuume too many media. There’s always a train of thought, plus a song, plus a heap of allusions, going on in my head, and usually a computer and/or a smartphone and some music playing or a movie running in the background.

Sitting in the lotus position, trying to empty my mind or repeating a mantra doesn’t really appeal to me, so I kind of let the idea slide. But as I rode up to Mt Tamborine for a research retreat this morning, I realised that riding is my meditation.

Meditation is about presence, not absence, about being in the moment, not fretting about the past or the present. And believe me, when there are sudden corrugations in the middle of a tight mountain corner and you’re recalculating the line and leaning off the bike a bit more, and your heart speeds up – you’re there! Can’t afford to be anywhere else!

It’s also about being in your whole body, rather than in your head, and riding is a whole-body activity, much more than driving. It’s about weight distribution and control really does involve every part.

So that’s it – and I just need to find more opportunities to hit the twisties… because while commuting also involves a lot of attention to do safely, the concerns are much more about the other drivers all around than about me, the machine and physics… and it’s the latter that is soothing and mind-cleaning.

I’m Fine

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:21 pm

One person asked, and others may have thought it… but the ‘In Case of Death’ post was just spurred by a conversation between Cassie and me, not by any sort of … diagnosis or anything. I’m riding my bike carefully, and going for my checkup next week, and as far as I know I’m as healthy as can be expected for someone this lazy.