Friday, April 23, 2010

Hurrah for anosmia!

Naturally, we have become accustomed to using 5 basic sensory devices, these of course, being touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing. I as it happens, fall into the category of people who only enjoy the full functionality of 4. I am not deaf, and I am certainly not blind, those being the two most prevalent cases of sensory disability. I suffer from what is “commonly” known as anosmia. I therefore, cannot smell.

Each sense demands use of a specialised set of nerves that deliver the various types of sensation to our brain, being the optic nerve (sight), tastebuds (taste), cochlear nerve (hearing), olfactory nerves (smell), and the various different nerves used for touch.

I, as it happens, have no olfactory nerves, yes, none. This is a rather uncommon occurrence, which I only discovered when I was about 12. The situation I discovered it in is equally telling. Dad farted, and consequently, the room cleared and I was left sitting there wondering what had happened. We realised there was something wrong, and I had an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, which found that my olfactory nerves had not developed at all. The MRI scan also picked up a bunch of extra brain tissue, which surely must account for something…

I have no apparent sensitivity to this issue, and find it increasingly interesting the questions that I am asked almost every day by those who happen find out. Here’s the 5 most common, along with the answers I usually provide:

1. So you can’t smell? Does that mean you can’t smell dog shit?

Umm. Well actually my condition provides me with the olfactory faculties that allow ONLY the smell of dog shit. No, I cannot smell dog shit.

2. Can you taste?

Yes, I think my taste is slightly inhibited though, but it’s mostly fine.

3. So I could put a dog shit in your room and you would not notice?

Apparently not dipshit.

4. So what do you get when you sniff?

Nothing. I can’t smell. My nose is permanently set on “default” as such.

5. So we could just chop your nose off and it wouldn’t make a difference?

Well you could, but that would look a bit stupid then wouldn’t it.

When I first arrived at the school I am at, and I told maybe one person, then within a week or two I had had in excess of probably 120 people ask me these very questions, over, and over, and over again. Now that was fun…

Anyway, If there’s anyone that knows of people with this condition, or suffers from it themselves, or is generally interested In the subject of sensory disability, leave a comment and let us know. Thanks guys

Monday, April 19, 2010

So about that?

I’m rather bored, so I thought it was about time I hit you with something to read. I’m gonna steer away from the usual today, and maybe focus on something slightly different.

Just give me a few minutes while writers block subsides.

Right, I’m back, and thought I might tell everyone a bit about me, since many of you don’t know me from a bar of soap. (Not that if a bar of soap said hi you would mistake it for me…I hope).

Ok, so I’m still a student, and I’m busy student-ing in Sydney, Australia. I go to an all boys boarding school, which has its ups and downs, but all in all it’s a good place. It is here I am learning all the things that will grant me the ability to find my place in society when I am spat out the other side. For the time being, I want to study architecture at uni next year, if not, then probably something else (for those of you who haven’t already made that connection).

I have a number of things which I use my spare time to achieve, most notably sports. I’ve played them most of my life, and I cannot see that changing anytime soon (that is, until my knees and back and whatever else have had it). I play tennis and football (soccer), but I have in the past also been involved in a bit of cricket, rugby, golf and what have you.

Other than that my time is fairly well divided between mates, video games, and eating, as well as a few other mindless pursuits.

I’ve travelled a bit (well a lot actually). The complete list of places I have been includes New Zealand, England, Scotland, America, Canada, Austria, Japan, Japan, Japan (yes that’s right, x3), then back to England, Wales and Spain for a football trip last year. I owe a great deal of thanks to my parents for allowing me these experiences, all of which have been incredible in their own right.

The only other thing I need to say is, I am actually kind of struggling for subjects to write about, so If anyone has any suggestions, like literally anything, don’t hesitate to share them just here, and I will do my level best to churn out something half decipherable for you to read =].

I think that’s probably it for the time being…To be completely honest I don’t really know what else I should tell you…so I’ll leave it there hey? As always, thanks for reading, thanks for following, thanks for commenting. Have a great week and I shall see you soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Portrayal of teens in the media

You know the one. You see these kids on TV, engaging in a range of generally unacceptable acts of social rebellion and disobedience. Is this the truth? My question today, is how has the widely accepted portrayal of the teenage demographic in the media affected the commonly held view of us (I am a teenager, for those who are not aware)?

I have mentioned it in a previous post, and I think it is time to blow the dust off it and show it to you again. It is through the worst of something that we tend to judge things placed in a particular grouping. The example I used before, was the stigmatization of Islam, while the only real trouble comes from isolated strands of fundamentalist, extremist believers, we see Muslims as a whole, as the ones to blame for religious unrest.

In a similar fashion, (while not everyone believes this, and I am fully aware of that) society is often too quick to look at the young people, AS A WHOLE, rather than those isolated groups, (who only need a bit of support from those who are blaming them), as a scapegoat for many societal issues. The fact of the matter is it is simply not true.

As a teenager myself, I am with, and around people of this very age bracket most of the time, and I, as much as anyone, know that many of us, (the vast majority in fact), have an intelligent, mature engagement of society. It is all a matter or misinterpretation. My own perspective of the issue, however, is likely to have been affected by my contextual environment. I understand that possibly if my own upbringing was different, and I was not associated with the people I am, then naturally, the story may be very different.

My general theory is, that upon realizing that blaming minority ethnic or religious groups was unacceptable, the media then moved to shift their focus onto the next best thing – teenagers. While I believe this problem is currently looking to be dealt with, there is still a lot of work to be done.

If anyone feels naturally compelled to share their thoughts on the matter, please leave a comment. Thanks guys, and enjoy what remains of your day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Citizenry and troop deployment

Over the past 40 or so years, there has been an increasing amount of citizen-based objection towards the deployment of combat troops around the world. America’s involvement in Vietnam served to highlight this problem, and was largely the initiating force behind it. My own personal theory, a view held by I’m sure many, is that the increasing awareness caused by the media forms has served to demonstrate the nature of war to those at home, creating a sense of disparity and disillusionment.

The Second Indochina War, more commonly known as the Vietnam War, was granted the name “The Television War”, because it observed the introduction of live broadcasted footage from the front. This allowed those not actively participating, to catch a glimpse of the nature, and the precise, not always likeable details of the progression of the conflict. While providing a way of closely tracking the progress of the war, this combination of war and media creates a number of immediate problems.

Firstly, the anti-war movements that occurred in not only America, but across a number of participating factions engaged in the Vietnam War, are a violent demonstration of the effect of media warfare coverage. The coverage granted the public a viewing over the war, and allowed many to take a justified standpoint opposing the way the US forces were engaging in the conflict. Public opinion was at an all time low.

This, in turn created trouble within the troops that were fighting, as it is understandable that they became increasingly disillusioned as to why they were fighting for people who opposed their actions. Many Vietnam War veterans still feel this disillusionment to the day.

Similarly, the US engagement of forces in Iraq seems to be having a similar effect on today’s America, as well as the international coverage of other global conflicts around the world.

My opinion is that whether or not we support the government’s decisions, we should offer support to those troops that are fighting for their nation.

Anyone bearing an opinion on the matter feel free to step forward and let it be known below. Thanks everyone

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Latin - a dead language?

Here is another question that has raised significant and ongoing debate. Can the ancient language of Latin be considered to be a “dead” language? In essence, yes, Latin is no longer used as a method of communication anywhere in the world, and so in this respect, can be considered “dead”. However, is its use for professional and educational purposes keeping it alive?

As we are aware, many contemporary languages base many aspects of structure and vocabulary on the forms used within the language of Latin. It is in many professional worlds within which Latin is very much still a part of the specialized lexis. Professions such as medicine, horticulture, religious engagements and many others, base much of their work on the basic Latin designations. There has also been, of late, a resurgence of the number of secondary and tertiary students desiring to choose Latin as an elective subject.

My father being a very professionally engaged Anaesthetist, I am naturally immersed in aspects of his work. He is the editor of a medical journal and a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney. It is through many of the things HE does, that naturally leads me to believe that Latin can still be used in an effective way. In his personal and professional opinion, Latin is still very much alive.

Despite this, many will maintain the argument that because it is not used as a “language” so to speak (no pun intended, and it’s not used by a body of people to communicate as a primary means), and is not used as a native language by anyone, then surely Latin as a “language” has to be considered dead.

In my own opinion, and holding a rather conservative view on the matter, I believe that it depends on your level of engagement with the language. People like my dad, who use Latin on a regular basis, are going to think of it as an active part of our contemporary language, while those less engaged with it will be more inclined to believe otherwise.

In summation, as a means of understanding our modern interpretations of language, Latin can serve to enrich our sense of communication, and in doing so, is very much alive. However, as a widely used form of communication, it is no longer in use and therefore can be considered to be a “dead” language. It is all in your understanding of a “dead language”.

Any thoughts? (settle down Joe I know this is probably a strong point of yours, but try and keep it below essay-length if you can =P)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Human Evolution - no more?

Human evolution has been the subject of debate for just about the entirety of its existence. It has been discussed, argued, and criticized for centuries. But where to now? Has the human race reached the point in its development at which it no longer reacts to its environment, changing according to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but changes its environment to suit itself? Think about it. At one stage, if something stopped humans from achieving something, then it would direct human development according to how successful we were at achieving it. Now, we simply create something that will achieve it for us. The reason we are considered the most intelligent race on earth we must remember, is our ability to create machines.

The theory of natural selection still applies to everything else, but not humans (well not anymore anyway). If we don’t like something, then we change it so that we do. Similarly, we have reached a point in medicinal progression at which we can now cure just about every disease that would otherwise affect the course of human development. This obviously has a similar effect. However, this has a less noticeable effect on developing countries, for obvious reasons.

But, is this necessarily a good thing? It is through our ability to alter our environment in order to stop it from affecting us that we are potentially growing into a weaker race. Diseases that at one stage would have run the course of natural selection (sorting the men from the boys so to speak), are now simply killed off, because we can. Obviously this is a good thing in terms of our general development, and it allows us to continually increase things such as life expectancy and the like.

However, this lack of effective natural selection (particularly in developed countries), is likely to be countered in a number of ways, including the continual immigration of developing peoples into industrial communities, and future use of genetic manipulation and intentional breeding. So there’s not a lot to be worried about. Apparently.

As always, it’s been a pleasure to empty the contents of my mind onto the floor, sort them out and provide you with the interesting bits. If you have any thoughts on the matter, or any discussions that you would like to be raised in the future, please leave a comment. Thanks

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stem cell research

The other night I watched a show called catalyst, an Australian science program that discusses a number of current scientific issues and the latest research etc. One of the segments involved the ongoing ethical debate surrounding the use of stem cells for scientific purposes. This sparked my mind into thinking, where do I stand on all of this?

To flesh the argument out, the basic dispute lies in the stage at which something can be considered to be a human life. Is for example, a group of cells, such as the ones being considered for scientific purposes, a human life? If not, at what stage in the early development of humans can we consider there to be human life?

If we transfer this onto a religious stage, the program pointed out that Islam considers human life to only be fully formed 40 days following conception, and Jewish people believe a similar thing. This is very different to views held by other religious faiths, and considering my own upbringing as a Catholic adherent, I disagree with this, naturally.

In a Christian sense, the main problem arises when those ethically opposed to the use of cells for research clash with those that believe that to help people with a number of disabilities; it is ethical TO use them. Is either side wrong? Those with a number of disabilities, of which we currently have little understanding, often rely on the use of stem cells to uncover the basis of their disease, and in doing so, hopefully uncover a form of cure for it. This dispute creates major religious tension, and pushes the faith of those involved.

In my own opinion, I have to say, while I have relatively little understanding of the concept, that I am understandably lost on the notion of when it is that “life” as such, begins. I feel however, that there are enough people to benefit from the use of stem cells that it is acceptable to undergo research, but these cells must be treated with respect, and used in a way which minimizes the need to simply throw away such potentially valuable resources.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Liverpool - Benfica

This morning, I rose at 4.45 to watch Liverpool play Benfica in the Europa Cup, and despite feeling like an absolute zombie for the rest of the morning, I was reminded why I chose this team in the first place. The opening exchanges didn’t really present much, and Benfica held most of the chances. But when Dirk Kuyt tapped in a header to open the scoring, which was disallowed and reallowed again, I asked myself the question: Surely, to even be considered to line judge a professional European match, you have to have a grasp on the basic rules of the game, i.e. no offsides from a corner. Nice work buddy, keep up the good work…*dick-for-brains*

Anyway, the next opportunity presented itself when Stevie Gerrard split the hapless Benfica defense and sent Lucas running onto his ball to score from a one-on-one situation.
Hold on. What was that? Lets just take a step backwards here…

…Yes, it did happen. Lucas and the words “one-on-one” in the same sentence….beats me.

Halftime and rather content with the 2-0 score line, I got up and made myself some breakfast, just in case you are wondering, it was coco-pops.

Coco-pops in hand, the second half resumed to a flurry of chances. Yay – excitement. A Benfica free kick countered and turned into the opposite net by a decent build up and a simple Torres finish – for a change. Anyone else, and yeah, it would have been great, but the fact it was Torres really drove the on looking kop into raptures.

As the game entered its final exchanges, we all knew – the best was yet to come. When Cordozo drove a free kick straight through the Liverpool wall and into the back of Pepe Reina’s net, the tie was suddenly open again. Or was it?

Somewhere at the back of the room, some guy named Torres puts his hands up and says, “I have something to say”

I’m all ears.

Running onto a sweet through ball, and chipping whoever the hell replaced Benfica’s first choice Cesar, reminiscent of his goal against Fulham in his opening season, or his winner in the Euro 2008 final for Spain, parity was restored once again. 4-1 the scoreline, 5-3 the tie aggregate.

Thanks Liverpool. You made my day. Just about time I think. YNWA

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

History, science and religion

We often view these three disciplines of study as separate endeavors, each bounded by their own methods, aims and theory’s. History being an enquiry into the past, religion being a call to faith, and a provider of a set of beliefs and underlying values, and science being an ongoing investigation into how our world, and that beyond it works. What is also evident is that these three areas are all inextricably linked in more than one way. A pair of questions that demonstrate this suggestion would be:

  • How has our understanding of history and/or science affected our understanding of religion over time?
  • Conversely, how has our sense of religious boundary affected our study of history and/or science?

In regards to the first question, we must not fail to identify one important fact. Attitudes to religious practice have changed significantly over time. What caused this…our developing understanding of history and science of course. As we realize that divine/supernatural causation (in a historical or scientific mindset) can be discounted as a legitimate means of explaining creation, then our attitude towards our faith changes. This development is demonstrated through the ages, and is evident in the changing methods of historians over time, from Herodotus to Thucydides to more modern historical enquirers, with an increasing emphasis being placed on scientific truth rather than religious truth. In this sense, context is the key. Ancient historians legitimately felt that supernatural causation was in fact a true method of creation, as their contextual society tells them this. As we progressed, and science became a more prominent endeavor, this continued, until the present day, where we discount religious truth in historical/scientific investigations, and vice versa.

As we know also, our sense of religious boundary has also affected our study of the histories and sciences. I’m sure people like Galileo, persecuted for developing (as we are aware now) perfectly justifiable scientific theories, but upsetting the ruling church could tell you. I guess it is fair enough that the church becomes uneasy that people are using new historical and scientific knowledge, which directly questions what the church teaches.

All in all, while they are all linked in some way or another, I think it comes down to one thing. Faith vs. Scrutiny. Religion is there to provide us with a method of approaching life in a way that maximizes our positivity towards each other and ourselves, and is there for faith, rather than scrutiny. On the other hand, the practices of history and science are very much areas of scrutiny, and continually trying to achieve a higher sense of historical/scientific truth, without the need for faith.

A rather opinionated discussion really... But if you think I’ve missed anything of note, feel free to leave a comment, and I will do my best to treat your opinion with what it deserves =P.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Violence in video games

Another widespread, contemporary social issue is the presence of violence in video games. In Australia for example, there is currently no “R” rating for video games; that is, when a game is deemed to be under the “R” classification, then it cannot be legally sold or distributed. This is a unique situation, which is at the current time bringing a lot of the argument I have raised into very prominent political debate. Should Australia have an “R” rating? Is the amount of violence currently seen in many games too much?

The main argument against allowing the “R” rating, and subsequently the amount of highly mature themes (being mainly violence, drug use, sex etc), is the high level of interactivity that video gaming grants to the user. Sure, movies and television programs incorporate a large deal of these themes as well, but gaming allows the gamer to actively engage in acts of extreme violence, and outlandish acts of generally unacceptable social behaviour. The extreme of this was reached when Infinity Ward released their latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, the highly popular Modern Warfare 2. In one of the opening sequences, the plot guides the user into engaging in a direct act of terrorism, running rampage through an airport, killing anyone and anything in their way. Not a particularly pleasant message to be sending out to our young people really.

On the other hand, there are also a number of reasons FOR allowing “R” ratings and violence in the game industry. Firstly, Australia is the only place without this classification, and so we have been slightly left in the dark with regards to these games. Secondly, many fail to realize that the average age of the active gamer is now low-mid thirties, a far cry from the stereotyped gamer; a slightly chubby young teenager yelling at his X-box out of rage. Many of this grouping are therefore above the age of 18, and so should come to expect access to the same range of games available anywhere else in the world. Another potential point to raise is the required informed decision to be made by the parents should a young person wish to purchase one of these games in question. If the person is socially/mentally unstable, then surely it’s the parent’s responsibility to identify that, and realize that allowing them to engage in acts of digitalized violence is perhaps not the best idea.

Once again, this is no simple matter to resolve. People come from differing backgrounds, differing levels of religious engagement and differing social perspectives. It is therefore understandable that not everyone agrees on this issue. In offering my own opinion, I feel that if someone is over the required age to purchase such games, then it is their decision. If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it. If they are below this age, then it is up to the parents/guardians of the child to make an informed decision as to whether they wish this content to be granted use by their children. Any thoughts?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Modern stigmatization

Why is it that in a troubled modern world, do we often so swiftly engage in peace destroying and often detrimental stigmatization? A major example of course is the common view of Islamic culture held by many civilized, culturally engaged westernized people. We are often so quick to dismiss those of a differing religious belief as at fault for all the wrong in the world. This is by no means a new issue, and precedent has largely been at fault for leading us into such beliefs, one only has to enquire into the European situation prior to and during the Second world war, in which the most determined totalitarian dictator of modern times had no doubt in his mind as to the cause of his national problems, Namely people of a differing socio-cultural distinction – The Jewish community.

This concept has certainly made its way into the fabric of a globalised modern society. The Islamic-Western clash is understandably seen as the most prominent of these, and it is through deciphering this legitimate quandary that many other stigmas’ can be dealt with effectively.

In offering my own personal opinion, in saying that if I wasn’t a through and through catholic, brought up with catholic ideals, attending a strict catholic school, Islam would be a more than legitimate belief system to replace it. Despite this, what we have on our hands is a situation in which if a Christian figure commits a crime, then we dismiss it as an act of political or social inflammation, however when an Islamic figure does the same thing, then we jump to the misinformed conclusion that it was an act of religious impetus, rather than a detached action of isolated motivation. The simple question is, why?

It is only through literal interpretation of Qur’an scriptures that fundamental belief systems, which occupy the minds of the very small extremist communities, that aggressive behaviour towards differing beliefs become accepted. This fundamental interpretation very much misrepresents the very culturally accepting nature of other interpretations of Muslim sacred texts.

It is through the worst of something that we tend to judge it. Football fans through the violent mobs, spiders and snakes through their venomous tendencies, and in the same way, Muslims through extremely isolated communities of fundamentalist belief. This method of thought largely drives our view of just about everything that is placed in a grouping, such as those listed above, and is the driving force behind the western view of Islam as a religion breeding culturally aggressive, counterproductive communities.

Naturally, herein lies the major cause of our little problem, Distinction between the largely peace-loving Islamic people, and the isolated strands of fundamental beliefs. The only problem with this is, how do we fix it…