Sex toys, one night stands and pre-colonial horniness | On the Rag: Sex positivity (full episode) – YouTube

I have written about sex before. And I have expressed my frustration that the New Zealand media don’t discuss sex, or at least not often. I found this exception on Spinoff and I recommend it to you.

Personally I enjoy sex and think encouraging sex positivity is great.



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“If you work too hard, you will keep going in the same direction” Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate – YouTube

This is personal.

I find myself working so hard that nurturing myself, developing new directions and new projects becomes a formidable challenge.

Currently writing an escape plan is my most important and urgent task.

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Three Lessons from Eight years of Blogging.

The script for a speech I delivered last weekend.








Three Lessons from Eight years of Blogging.

In 2011 I began writing a blog. I didn’t know then but this has become a deeply personal and important part of my life. Today I will tell you why. And I will encourage you to begin blogging as well.

Before I being with my three reasons, I would like to introduce you to Professor Micheal Heartshorn, my postgraduate supervisor at Canterbury University Christchurch. He was  English, with a collared white shirt with tie. Everyday. And an incredible enthusiasm for physical organic chemistry and an amazing supervisor.

In 1986 when I wrote my Masters. I wrote with a blue Biro onto paper. I was one of the last to write a thesis longhand.  Every hand written page was perfect; at least that is what I thought. Prof. thought otherwise and he would return my drafts covered with red pen corrections. I remember trudging back to my flat. Falling onto my bed and lying there in despair. Writing is hard. After maybe half an hour I would swear to myself. “OK what’s the B.. done. Lets work it out”.

That’s how I began to learn to write, although I do admit. He insisted I write in the third person passive. Writing is not easy to me. And I don’t mark in red pen.

Lesson 1: Bats
In December 2012, my wife, son and daughter went bat hunting. My daughter was 10 and my son 15. I remember it clearly. We drove to Balance, through the Manawatu gorge and stopped at the entrance to a piece of low lying forest, where we were met by five other conservationist families and a Department of Conservation field worker. We met on night-fall as that is when bats are active. (Bats are New Zealand’s only native mammal). We were issued with palm sized bat monitors, so we could hear any bats and off we went into the forest as night fell. Unfortunately we did not find any bats.

This is what I wrote. “The forest is different at night. Closed in and somehow huge. Ancient fears fill hearts and heads. We were perfectly safe, there are no predators in New Zealand, we were on a well marked track with adults and torches; however, the response to the immenseness of the forest was strong, the children grew quiet. We felt small in the immensity of nature. That is a powerful experience. Profound and humbling.

I write to remember.
I also write to think.

Ladies and gentlemen. Writing a blog can help strengthen you thinking. It’s called “thinking on the page” and is a key critical thinking skill. That is lesson two.

The Tragedy of the Commons is where a shared resource, like a hostel kitchen or the atmosphere is trashed because no one is in charge. There are two solutions: privatization or cooperation. Many people say New Zealanders should not lead solving climate change because New Zealand is too small and because of the cost. Here is part of what I wrote.
The most important reason we need to begin acting on climate change is because it represents an opportunity for our innovators and entrepreneurs. My favorite business quotation is from Peter Drucker when he said, “Every social and environmental problem is an opportunity for business” (Or words to that effect). It seems to me that far too many people are stuck in the narratives that “New Zealand is too small or solving climate change is a cost”. We must challenge those narratives. Climate change is an opportunity. My problem with the size and cost stories is that they discourage innovation and entrepreneurship. For me, Homo sapiens cooperating is a core value of our species; we cooperate as scientists, business folk and artists… and engineers. That’s us at our most human, cooperative best. That is how we have prevailed and grown. That is where our best hope lies now, and that is how we will escape the “Tragedy of the Commons”“.

I write to think.
The third advantage of writing regularly, is that it gives me an excuse to keep learning. I am introducing Dave Armstrong. He was a Math’s teacher; for a year. Now he writes plays and television dramas and is a science communicator. He writes a column every week in the Dominion Post. And he was the leader in the Writing for Science Workshops organized by Victoria University for people like me. Mad science communication enthusiasts.

This is what I wrote on my blog.
It’s a strange day when I rise at 5 (That’s normal), on the road at 6.15 (That’s strange), on a train at 7.30 (before the estimate) and in Wellington at 8.30 for the 10 o’clock workshop (Bugger). But worth it
We were asked to tell one quirky fact about us. I play guitar, Dave makes a living telling science stories (He’s the one leading the workshop), Marina studied spider monkeys, Makita sailed tall ships, Lorraine came from Townsville, Ursula and Perry study earthquakes (Perry is a hobbit name) and Wendy’s a walking breathing yoga study. We all love science stories and want to write them. All unique and all passionate; it’s such a wonderful thing being in a room with sixteen other science enthusiasts.

I think it is important to get the words down. Silence is invisible.
So writing my blog keeps me learning and to be honest I love learning.
That is my third lesson from eight years of blogging. I love learning to write.

Ladies and Gentlemen
I’ve written regularly for eight years now.
I’ve many deep memories.
I’ve thought deeply about important questions.
I’ve learned much more about writing.
I invite you to begin writing too.
You will love it as much as I do.

Kia Toa, Kia Ngakauni
Have courage, desire greatly.
Tena kotu, Tena kotu, Tena kotu

This is a photograph of the Manawatu river with Wharite under cloud in the background.

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THE GRETA THUNBERG PROBLEM, so many men freaking out about the tiny Swedish climate demon | First Dog on the Moon | Opinion | The Guardian

For my view I think her got0 statement, “Follow the scientists” dodges many of the criticisms. And she is absolutely correct in her summary of the urgency of change.

Is she the brainwasher or brainwashee?

Source: THE GRETA THUNBERG PROBLEM, so many men freaking out about the tiny Swedish climate demon | First Dog on the Moon | Opinion | The Guardian

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‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier | Life and style | The Guardian

I have walked forever: when I was a child my spring task was to walk down and check on the calving cows. Dad wanted to know how many, the gender of the calves and any problems. After High School in my university years and in the period between my undergraduate degree and my post graduated degrees I was a member of a tramping club. Now I walk at lunch time and, Helena and I walk Bart our dog. Helena and I have been walking together since we met.

I hadn’t realized how much walking has been my life. Certainly when I want to clear my head and think; I go for a walk. I love walking. It’s a huge part of my life.

My experience is not unusual, it would seem.

Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara believes that plenty of regular walking unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else. He explains why you should exchange your gym kit for a pair of comfy shoes and get strolling

Source: ‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier | Life and style | The Guardian

Peter Blanchard on Flickr

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350 Beautiful Words (the ultimate list of words that sound lovely to the ear)

This morning, this captured my eye. As I read and write more, I appreciate the simple beauty of words more. This is beautiful.

Whether you’re a writer or a word lover, this list of 350 beautiful words will expand your vocabulary and make you a better writer and conversationalist.

Source: 350 Beautiful Words (the ultimate list of words that sound lovely to the ear)

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The Voyagers: A Short Film About How Carl Sagan Fell in Love – Brain Pickings

This is a lovely story and a wonderful example of remix culture.

Kia Toa, Kia Ngakaunui

“The Voyagers are not the most distant man-made objects in space and their journey will now go on, literally, forever. They’ll probably be the only evidence that we ever existed.”

“Engineers say the record will last a billion years”


A thousand billion years of love, or what the vastness of space has to do with mixtapes.

Source: The Voyagers: A Short Film About How Carl Sagan Fell in Love – Brain Pickings

Voyager: From: North Essex Astronomical Society

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RPS 2019 science photographer of the year – shortlist | Science | The Guardian

This week I saw this news article. I love these contests. Photography is one place where art and science come together.


The 70 images that make up the Royal Photographic Society’s science photographer of the year competition will be exhibited at the Science Museum in London from 7 October until 5 January.

Source: RPS 2019 science photographer of the year – shortlist | Science | The Guardian

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‘Do I risk it?’ Your photos of the world’s best and worst cycling infrastructure | Cities | The Guardian

Cycling infrastructure worldwide – the wonderful to  a horrible.

Palmy has it’s share of good and evil. Every roundabout is a death trap and with the rise of tinted windscreens cyclists can’t catch the eyes of drivers to reassure themselves.  Plenty of drivers just cut you off anyway. The cycle tracks are just lines of paint, parked on by cars and often covered in glass. Yes the bridle path is great and the council is trying but, you know, in New Zealand- cars rule.

From Hong Kong to Cape Town, Seoul to Selly Oak, here are some of the standout examples

Source: ‘Do I risk it?’ Your photos of the world’s best and worst cycling infrastructure | Cities | The Guardian

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A Matter of fact: Talking truth in a post-truth world. Jess Berentson-Shaw.

I’m reading, absorbing; reflecting on – Jess Berentson-Shaw’s, A Matter of Fact. The book is tiny…. part of the series put out by New Zealand publisher BWB. The series are fascinating monographs by expert’s on their subject. They are like key-points for interested citizens. In this case, the book is for those interested in effective science communication. That is definitely me.

I’m impressed to the extent that I’ve reread, taken notes and will blog here. In her conclusion Jess gives 20 action points; that’s too many for a blog but it is a reason to buy, study and use her book; especially  if you, like me, plan to communicate science well.

Of the twenty, I’m choosing those that the are critically important to my writing practice.

First (Jess’s point 14). Talk about, engage with helpful values, particularly intrinsic values. I take that to mean make a conversation about values such as health and family and fairness. An example, insulation of buildings, tell the stories of families with less colds and flu, children at school, playing sport; healthy, happy and well engaged with school and community. The aim is to join people with conversations centered on intrinsic values we are likely to share, like health.

Second (Jess’s point 14). When seeking to approach a group be prepared to lead with helpful pro-social values. These will change depending on the group and the values of the group. Appropriate values include: creativity, benevolence, love, commitment to younger generations, innovation and so forth. Lead with your audiences values using stories to connect between your audience and yourself. Stay away from extrinsic values, like money especially money. Studies have clearly shown that we become more selfish when primed with extrinsic values like money. Economics students become less altruistic as they study their subject. (And if you are too different from your audience, sometimes another speaker maybe a more appropriate person to speak to a particular audience).

These two are easy for me.

But all the points are not so easy for me. My third third key idea is (Jess’s point 20). “Know your own bias.” Be humble. I’m a PhD trained chemist. Scientists, like me, come across to many people as arrogant. I forget I’m intelligent. I enjoy theory. My audience is, most likely practical and untouched by the beauty I see in science and they don’t have anywhere near my back-story with science.  As a communicator, that is my problem. Jess’s point is scientists must be humble as we seek to inform. Not an easy ask for me. (Of course, I’m humble, that why I have more than 400 blogs here).


So. The take away messages for me were: Learn to find values we share with our audience and talk about those values.  And be humble.

I recommend this book to you.

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