Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for October 2010

First published The Chronicle, Canberra ,Tuesday 26 October 

The only connection between SETI and Seti is that both deal with the extra terrestrial. SETI is the acronym for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence while Seti, the son of Pharaoh Rameses II, is already extra terrestrial having gone there many centuries ago. And though I don’t know where he went to, I doubt SETI will encounter him. 

Now you might be inclined to think it would make more sense if SETI, rather than try to find extra terrestrial intelligence – a search similar to that of finding a needle in a haystack – mounted a search to find earthly intelligence. Indeed considering the state of Australian politics, readers might think they should concentrate their search in Australia.

Although the idea of life on other planets has many sceptics, I am a believer. To show my belief, and though not able to see any of the millions of planets in the universe, I have decided to adopt one which in tribute to my ancestry I have called Planet “Gael.”

Planet Gael, a thousand light years from earth, is inhabited by a super intelligent race called Picts and has a Capital called Caledonia. And though I cannot imagine Gael’s topographical features one thing I can imagine is Picts staring out into space wondering if other planets are home to species of intelligent beings.

For the purpose of this column I have decided to call the Picts “beings’ if only to distinguish them from earthly humans. Clearly if SETI finds Gael and makes contact with the PICTS this will create a problem for those humans who believe earth is the only inhabited planet

And if it turns out the Picts are super intelligent beings those humans who think a mysterious God made humans the only intelligent species, will find it difficult to accept the idea of Picts living on Gael. But perhaps even more frightening for them, even if not frightening to many other people on earth, will be the thought of the Picts being more intelligent than humans.

While not dismayed at the thought of SETI not being able to make contact with Gael, what dismays me and makes me jealous is that it is unlikely that I will be living when this great event occurs. I am sure too, that when found, and due to the Picts’ superior intelligence, it will be discovered that, unlike Australia, the Picts have developed a society that is not in thrall to politicians and developers.

That apart when contact is made we humans will want to know what the Picts look like. I confess I have no idea answer although I cannot imagine them looking like us. And by way of consolation to those for whom earth is the only planet in the Universe, I offer the following. With Gael more than a thousand light years from earth, unless a means of keeping humans alive for light years is discovered, a meeting between humans and Picts seems highly unlikely because a light year equals 10 trillion kilometers (9.5 x 1012 km).

On the other hand there could be another reason. If beings from other planets are of superior intelligence, perhaps the Picts have visited earth already and decided not to make their presence known because they do not want to make contact with planets where the intelligence of the residents is so woeful that conversation with them would be impossible. 

Nevertheless, and despite my belief that it would be a great disaster if Picts never made contact with humans beings or vice versa, I am aware that in the quest to make contact with extra terrestrial intelligences, the challenges are enormous.

And though the scientists running the SETI programme are aware that the capacity of their equipment is limited, and despite the fact that great strides are being made in the development of sophisticated communications technology, they remain ever optimistic.

I suspect also, that not a day passes without them hoping to make a breakthrough in establishing contact with other civilisations. If that happens, I feel certain their shouts of success will be so loud they will be heard around the world without having to resort to facebook, twitter, you tube or any other communication device.   

dca@netspeed.com.au

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  First Published The Chronicle Canberra,Tuesday, 19 October

True or not, it seems to me the published starting times of TV programmes can only be taken as guides because, apart from the first programme starting on time, many of the programmes that follow never seem start when they’re supposed to. And according to Boadicea, the published times don’t guarantee that the programme will be broadcast.

This causes Boadicea great frustration because, at times, she can’t makeup her mind if she should carry on watching a programme or switch to the start of a programme on another channel. If she decides to change her frustration increases if the programme hasn’t started.

To some extent radio is following the same pattern. No longer can one rely on the start of radio programmes to put their watches and clocks right. This is particularly true with talk back radio many of whose presenters now seem to think listeners prefer them to babble on rather than have the news or next programme start on time. But credit where it’s due: the ABC is better than its commercial rivals. 

Unfortunately, however, even presenters on the national broadcaster seem to have caught the talk over bug to the extent that some presenters now sound like their commercial cousins. Indeed the weight of advertising the national broadcaster now carries for its programmes and products is so heavy that people might think they were listening to commercial radio.

This leads to the obvious question: is this a sign of things to come and are there hidden plans in place for commercialising the ABC? Not that commercialising the ABC would worry me. My worry is, that as the quest for political power becomes more intense and if one political party becomes entrenched in power, the possibility exists that the national broadcaster could be at risk of being used as the Government’s propaganda station. Can’t happen you say! Well if you believe that, take a look at recent world history. Not only did this happen in the last century, more ominously, it is still happening today.        

Other things that annoy me about TV are the promotional messages that intrude on programmes and the information that, increasingly, can be found crawling along the bottom of the TV screen. I don’t know about you but not only do these intrusive promotional messages disturb my entertainment, I find the information crawls along the bottom of the screen on news programmes distracting. Surely if the information on the crawl is vital it should be part of the broadcast? 

In fact these crawls annoy me so much I’m thinking of suggesting to scientists that they develop systems that will give humans two extra eyes, ears and an extra brain so that they can watch, listen and absorb two levels of information at the same time. Naturally, people should be able to close down the extra eyes, ears and brain independently.

But to write in more serious vein: other messages in composite that offer the following warnings: this programme contains violence, sex scenes, drug references, strong language and not suitable viewing for people under fifteen screened that are screened before programmes, also annoy me.  As most programmes these days (children’s excepted) seem to contain one or all of the foregoing I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to create a simple message that said: this programme is suitable for viewers of every age. 

When I put this to the test with some young people some said I should get ‘with it’ not knowing that I’ve been ‘with it’ for a long time, even before my time forty years ago in Sydney when I managed a Kings Cross nightclub ‘The Other Place‘ which had both topless Go Go Girls and a clientele that included many people well known to the police.

That said, I think much adult only TV entertainment pornographic. However, I suspect it is probably too late to try and do anything about it for the simple reason that many people under fifteen today know more about pornography and get less excited about it than their elders.

Sadly and unfortunately I suspect these warnings tempt some vulnerable young people under fifteen to indulge in behaviour that could destroy their lives.

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First posted The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 12 October  

The subject of euthanasia is again a subject of major debate between two groups, a pro euthanasia and an anti euthanasia group which, although they disagree about euthanasia, share the same degree of righteousness as they pursue their disagreement.

Among the pro-euthanasia group, are people of strong religious belief who, and regardless of the views of their leaders, believe, nevertheless, that people suffering from a terminal disease, have the right to choose the time and mode of death.

The anti euthanasia group also has members with strong religious beliefs who, while having the deepest sympathy for people suffering a terminal disease, are equally adamant that acceptance of euthanasia, is giving legitimacy to suicide or, and this is a fine distinction, being accessories to murder.

 (Let me also put to rest a pro euthanasia group idea that all atheists and agnostics share their belief. I am not a member of an anti euthanasia group but as a non-believer and an agnostic, let me assure them they are not.) It must be said also, that because both groups continually assert that only their view is right, not even a Solomon could give a judgement to satisfy either of them.

The pro group recently attempted to give substance to their assertion by citing a newspaper report that said 73% of Australians supported euthanasia. Perhaps there is such a report but the anti group argued that the result was open to question on a number of points: no details were given about the questions asked; the report did not say how many people were polled; and no information was given about who conducted the poll. Some also suggested that pro euthanasia journalists were often the source of such reports.  

No matter the source, such reports are less than useful: they muddy the water rather than clear it. Indeed, as the question of legalising euthanasia is a matter for Federal, State and Territory Governments, it seems to me it seems to me it would make greater sense if both groups co-operate in the development of an a education programme for the electorate that laid out both views.   

Once the education programme has been completed It would make sense if the legalising euthanasia or otherwise should be the subject of a referendum. Considering that Australia does not have a death penalty, a referendum asking the people to say yea or nay to giving the Federal Government the authority to create legislation that would approve the death of a fellow human being.   

At present, end-of-life laws are a hotch-poch and different in every State and Territory. They comprise Advance Medical Directive and Power of Attorney laws, none of which allow a person to ask for active assistance to die. Access to these laws depends on where you live which means that, although you think you might have covered this eventuality, if you move to a different state before the situation arises, it might not be covered.

 Let me give you brief explanations of an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) and a Medical Power of Attorney. An AMD is a legal document that people sign in advance to extend their absolute right to refuse medical treatment in circumstances where the ability to communicate is lost. Thus even if they become unconscious or demented, the AMD ensures their wish to refuse treatment is respected.

A Medical Power of Attorney, Agent or Proxy, is also an important strategy that will ensure your voice is heard if you are unable to communicate about the appointment of a person to make medical decisions for you. This legislation also varies depending on the state in which you live.  In practice a Medical Power of Attorney carries out the same function as an AMD document.

However, people considering euthanasia should also consider that new medicines and medical procedures that will affect both longevity and quality of life, are emerging daily.

They might also like to think about matters such as: Is euthanasia simply legalised murder? Do they want Government involved? Do they think euthanasia has implications for doctors? Do they think special social groups will be at risk? Do they think palliative care a better option?

Euthanasia is not a simple matter but one deserving of the deepest consideration.

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First published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 5 October 

On a few days more than forty a year, A Grump of Gurus known as Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly – if known at all – gather at their Ashram in the South Building on London Circuit where they deliberate seriously about what they think will be good for Canberra’s future. At the end of each day, and sometimes before, they announce the results of their deliberations.

Shy people, and because they dress like other Canberrans, it is hard to recognise them as gurus and so I’d like to suggest that, as an aid to recognition, they should dress using colours to indicate their political philosophy. Male dress: Blue, Green or Red dhotis: Female dress: Saris of the same colours.    

As an alternative in case my suggestion does not meet with their approval, let me suggest the following. Why not dress in the national costume worn by one of Canberra’s diverse communities, using their own heritage as a starting point?

Let me use the leading Gurus as examples. Because I cannot think of a costume that would make him make him look more like a Chief and because he has Yorkshire ancestry and Yorkshire was once a Danish Kingdom, Chief Minister Jon Stanhope could dress as a Viking. If he hasn’t any Viking dress, I feel sure that if he phoned The Raiders asking for a loan of the Viking costume worn by their mascot, they would help out.

On the other hand he might prefer the tribal costume of a Chief of one of America’s First People, because it would be more colourful. However such a choice would be to draw a very long bow even though history says a few Vikings managed to make it to North America.

And what dress could leading Opposition Guru Zed Seselja wear? Of Croatian ancestry, Zed could dress in short pantaloon style trousers with long gaiters, a shirt embroidered in many colours, an equally colourful waistcoat, a broad cummerbund, red leather shoes and a fez style hat; he might even have a dagger in the sash. Mind you, with security being what it is these days he might need to discard the dagger before entering the Ashram to avoid any temptation to use it.

While suggesting a style of dress for the leading male Gurus was relatively easy, it proved less easy picking a suitable dress for leading Greens Guru, Meredith Hunter. Her Welsh first name and Scottish family put me in a bit of a quandary despite my Scottish born daughter being married to a man of Welsh descent. 

Unfortunately, there is no national dress for Scots or Welsh women; they are better known for their temper, a quality I can attest to. Little wonder then that Meredith joined The Greens (also known as the Angry Party) although, as far as I know, she has not yet lost her temper to a degree considered serious enough to get her tossed out of the Ashram. 

But more important, what would the various Gurus been deliberating? No doubt the Chief Minister’s Gurus were deliberating on public art, seeking solutions to health and transport systems or, with lots of affordable homes now said to be available, deliberating on how families who previously couldn’t afford one could now get one? Alternatively they could have been deliberating on how to take the homeless off the street.

At the end of the day the solutions they thought perfect were attacked almost immediately by Opposition Gurus who pointed out what they said were flaws and, in return, offered solutions of their own, which the Chief Guru in turn, said were rubbish.

 As to the Greens, on what had they been deliberating? Had they been deliberating on issues that they say the ACT’s 240,000 voters think most important: euthanasia, preventing Government from investing in arms and fossil fuel companies (a prelude to disbanding the armed forces and closing coal mines perhaps?) and, in the interests of clean air, stopping oil drilling and uranium mining

Perhaps they had also been deliberating on same sex marriages? If they were, because people say that getting married spells trouble, could I suggest they add marriage to the list of things they want banned?

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