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I’m NOT sorry UKTV: I will “pirate”!

Right. It’s been exactly one year since my last deliberately provocative post on copyright. Then I was talking about Doctor Who and our inferior quality experience in Australia. Here we have Red Dwarf S11E01 which isn’t even yet scheduled for Australian broadcast. Now I am not a fan of online streaming, and I will never be a fan. In the video above I explain why, but also consider the fact that I can’t stream it to my TV which is where I want to watch the video – the service above exclusively allows me to stream it to my PC! Not only that, but it forces users to use flash – that wouldn’t be so bad if the website was secure, but it’s still god-damned obsolete technology!! The quality of the video is frankly, terrible. It should at least be made available in 720p.

Now to prove my point, my video above does not force you to use flash. It’s a plain HTML5 video element that you are free to save to your hard disk. As you can see, I could have easily recorded the flash video anyway, it’s not like anything would prevent me from doing so. The streaming version was very low quality (not unlike iView) and the episode wasn’t that great either. On the upside I can say that between mvp-hosts and ublock-o no ads were to be seen.

Freelee & Durianrider – health experts or hacks?

There is a section at the end of this blog post about their recent Tumblr drama, but the focus on this blog post is on the question health advice, as well as mental health. Okay, so let’s get right into this. They both have a superiority complex – and I have one as well. I don’t think that is a bad thing – in fact for me it’s been most helpful over the years. I’ll explain why in a moment, but let’s start with the premise that health is not just about physical health, but also psychological well-being, as well as spiritual well-being, and even community well-being. Earlier this week, new parliamentarian Julian Leeser devoted his maiden speech to talking about depression. Most people know what it is like to go through depression at some point, but it can affect people in disproportionate ways. And it can be very difficult to seek help for. When I went through a period of this myself as a young adult, I tackled it completely alone. And so one day I decided that I needed to help myself – if I’m not going to reach out for help, then I need to step up and provide a solution. And that’s what I did, and it was very successful for me. What I decided was that I didn’t give a fuck what anyone else thought about me, I would love myself unconditionally. So that’s why I have a superiority complex.

What I don’t allow it to do is guide my belief-set. It has taken a very long time to free myself from preconceived beliefs. And I believe the reason I have been successful with this is because I am quite receptive to receiving and considering information, even when it gets overwhelming. Health, unfortunately, is one of these areas where people have a lot of preconceived ideas, and everyone thinks they’re an expert. Not only that, but then they join the “evil” diet industry and are oblivious to the fact they’re a part of it. It wouldn’t bother me so much if when we showed people like this evidence they looked at it and said “that’s interesting, let me have a very good look at this and come to a fresh conclusion”. Diet is a very fast growing area of study, and things we used to believe about cholesterol and saturated fats have turned out to be wrong. If you don’t know exactly what I mean by this do not worry I will explain it in the future.

Much of the stuff that Leanne “Freelee” Ratcliffe and Harley “Durianrider” Johnstone have said regarding health is based on incorrect assumptions, and knowledge drawn from questionable sources. For example in 2014 Leanne said that Chemotherapy “killed” 13-year old cancer patient Talia Joy. Now it’s certainly true that chemotherapy is dangerous, and can result in patient death. This actually happened to someone I know recently. However, doctors do not prescribe the treatment unless the potential benefit outweighs the risk. That is to say, if you have a terminal illness like cancer then the prospect of dying a little sooner due to a negative reaction to treatment is outweighed by the potential to go on and live a long healthy life if the treatment is successful. So it’s not accurate to say that chemo killed the patient, when in fact it was cancer that was the main culprit.

In the video Leanne made, she claims that a raw vegan diet could have cured the girl’s cancer. As evidence she uses a testimonial from a man claiming that he overcame colon cancer by switching his diet. But Belle Gibson made the same claim and we now know it was a complete fraud. But even if the anecdotal case is true, it is still just evidence of a correlation and not causation. And that is a very important distinction to make. She also incorrectly claims that the health industry has a monopoly – the truth is that it is very difficult to research alternative cancer treatments because you cannot prevent patients from having surgery and/or chemotherapy as a part of the treatment for the purpose of research. What you can do is anything that will not prevent them from having those treatments, so if you wanted to do a large randomised controlled trial where people were given different diets – let’s say DASH, and Vegan, and Control – you could do that, you would get ethics approval. In her criticisms of chemo she does not cite anything peer-review or even from respected experts in the field.

My heart sank when I saw the video Leanne made about Eugenia Cooney. Eugenia suffers from some form of eating disorder, and is clearly quite underweight. I used to think that Freelee’s advice was based on a misunderstanding about nutrition, but I now can confirm it’s based on a lie. Eugenia suffers from a mental disease, not a diet-related-illness. Her poor diet is a symptom, not the cause, of her illness. Leanne’s video is completely misinformed about this, and in particular she makes comments about Eugenia’s body which are counter-productive. When a person is suffering from an eating disorder it means they also suffer from body dysmorphia. Criticising her body will only reinforce the beliefs that Eugenia has about her body. Asking Eugenia to go vegan is very inappropriate because it’s the exact opposite of what her therapist would be trying to do, which is to let her know that foods are safe, and that she can be less obsessive about her diet without it adversely affecting her. Also, therapists will want to introduce foods the patient enjoys, and not limit their choice by imposing restrictive constraints on their choices.

Was Harley abused by Leanne?

Right, so as promised I do have an opinion about this. I do not know the full story, of course. When I first saw the video I thought “he looks like a wreck”! But then I realised that was a manipulative attempt by Harley to convince people he was telling the “100% truth”. You could say that I took my preconceived ideas about Leanne into this and I had to keep them in check.

In this instance I see a few things that concern me. Harley consistently hurls insults/accusations at Leanne. This was true by the fact that he was sending her text messages, and in the video he posted where he began by saying “Freelee’s been using botox since 2013, but I don’t judge people who use it…” If you watch the video from start to finish you’ll see it’s a consistent attack on the other person, first botox, then claiming she “changed”, then calling her out for cheating. Notice that he talks about how she used to be carefree but started using makeup as well. What I see are clear actions of a perpetrator trying to exert control over their victim. I’m not saying that Leanne is innocent in this, on that point I do not know, but from what I’ve seen from Harley’s side is clear evidence of a manipulative abuser. He talks about her punching him in the head, but in a later video he says it only happened twice. Which is of course not evidence of systemic abuse against him, but perhaps a desperate attempt by her to fight back. As I said that much is speculation, but it does appear Harley was abusive nevertheless. A victim of abuse is not going to be the one who is sending abuse towards their former partner by texts, those actions alone incriminate Harley.

With all that said I think he made one valid point, which is that Leanne has been using botox since 2013. I don’t think that’s a lie, and I don’t think that Leanne realises how much she has been lying over the years about her health. Yes she might be a raw-to-four vegan, however she also does an excessive amount of exercise and has made use of cosmetic surgeries including her breast reassignment surgery. One thing I’ve learned in nutrition is that the more active a person, the more so-called “crap” they can eat in their diet. She preaches the opposite which is that you need to be excessively active and eat only raw foods. Athletes actually do eat a lot of “junk food” purely for the extra energy they need, and the reason why they can do that is because of their lifestyles. Leanne seems to be completely oblivious to this, and that is why I would caution anyone from taking advice from people like these.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, just please remember to be sceptical and to look at what the evidence says, and not what so-called “health gurus” say.


How bad are multivitamins?

First thing’s first. Most people do not need to take multivitamins. Sadly though people are stupid and tend to self-medicate with them anyway. So let’s start by considering who would need to take a multivitamin: the main groups of people who would need multivitamins are: People on restrictive diets (including people with eating disorders, people on low-kilojoule weight-loss diets, or people fasting), alcoholics, and perhaps the elderly. Do not take this as an invitation to self-medicate, if one of these three categories describes you then you should see a nutritionist or a dietician for dietary advice.

So what would happen if you need to take a multivitamin? Well as a starting point you’d need to know how much of the nutrients you need to get from a supplement, and how much you can get from your diet. In an ideal world a multivitamin+mineral supplement would contain 100% of all nutrients, and would be delivered across 5 or more tablets so that a person who needs say 20% of their nutrients from a multivitamin could take 1/5th the dosage easily.

Sadly though this is not the case. Almost all multivitamins contain way too much of the cheap water soluble B-group vitamins, way too much vitamin C, and low amounts of poor quality nutrients (cheap ingredients with low bioavailability) for everything else. Below I have made a table showing the Australian NRVs (Nutrient Reference Values) for men and women. I based it on the 31-50 age group, but most values are correct 19 through to 70 years. It shows these popular brands available at Woolies and Coles: Cenovis, Berocca Performance, Centrum Advance, and Swisse. I have also included the Life Extension Mix tables, which despite being much more expensive than supermarket brands is far worse.

Abbreviations: RDI – Recommended Daily Intake, AI – Adequate Intake (/day), UL – Upper Level of Intake, NP – Not possible to set, mg – milligram, µg – microgram.

Multivitamin - NRV Comparison


Well there are quite a few areas for concern here, and this is simply going by the state nutrient levels – some lab analyses have shown that nutrient levels are often misreported on the product labels. You will notice the Upper Level of Intake for Magnesium is actually lower than the RDI for men (which is why I’ve highlighted it). The Upper Level is actually specifically in reference to supplement use, as opposed to Magnesium found in food. Life Extension Mix is actually the worst multivitamin in my table here, for the fact that three nutrients contain well above the Upper Level of Intake (Niacin, B6, and Magnesium), as well as containing excessive amounts of Beta-carotene, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, B6, Botin, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc. This is particularly concerning, much more than the nutrients with low amounts. It contains one hundred times the recommended daily amount of Pantothenic acid, and also one hundred times the recommended daily amount of Biotin. The level of Vitamin C was also of particular concern.

Berocca Performance was the worst of the four supermarket brands I looked at. I chose it because it’s heavily advertised on TV. The first thing to note is that it misses a lot of key nutrients. Like most multivitamins, it is packed with the cheap and readily available shit that the company can pack into their tablet without spending money on balancing it out with the more expensive nutrients. Just about everything it contains it contains in excess of, with the exceptions of Magnesium and Folate. On the plus side, it doesn’t contain any Iron or Copper which are two metals worth leaving out of a multivitamin. Most concerning of all is that it contains above the upper level of intake for Niacin.

Swisse is only slightly better, but their nutrient compositions all over the place. Despite women needing less micro-nutrients than men (except for Iron, obviously), their Women’s formula contains more micro-nutrients for most nutrients. Like Berocca, it contains Niacin in amounts either close to the UL or in excess of it. In addition to containing excessive amounts of B-group vitamins, it contains low levels of Vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and anything else people might actually need, as well as an excessively high level of beta-carotene. At least it’s not Retinol.

Cenovis has just 1% of RDI of Calcium. I’m not sold on whether this multivitamin is better or worse than Swisse, but they’re both bad. Cenovis at least did not contain above the upper level of intake for any nutrients, but like Berocca and Swisse it is missing quite a few key nutrients. On the plus side, it contains decent amounts of Vitamin D and iodine.

Centrim Advance was by far the best of the four brands I looked at. Do keep in mind though that it’s still badly formulated. On the positives: it contains both Retinol and beta-carotene, it contains good levels of Vitamin D3 and Iodine, the b-group vitamins are all above the RDI but not to the excesses of the other brands, and at least it includes Vitamin K. On the negatives, it contains both Iron and Copper, and only half the minerals are at decent levels with the rest at worryingly low or absent levels. This is especially so for calcium with Centrum choosing to use (no surprise) a dirt-cheap form of calcium with poor bioavailability. Look it appears to be somewhat more workable than the others I have looked at, but it still would not be an ideal choice for someone that needs the use of a multivitamin.

Further considerations

Just because a vitamin or mineral doesn’t have a UL does not mean it is safe to over-consume in supplement form. There is no UL for Vitamin C, but NHMRC notes that 1,000mg is a “prudent limit”. They all contain high levels of Folic Acid, which could also be a concern noting that all non-organic wheat-flour used for bread making is fortified with Folic Acid to reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects at childbirth. Too much Folate in the diet can mask B12 deficiency, as well as make it worse. I did mention earlier that in an ideal world multivitamins would contain everything and be able to be taken in an easily measured dose – that is simply not the case for these products. Yes you could take half a tablet every two days to reduce the dosage by 1/4, however a well formulated option should come pre-packed to be taken at the required dose, and not require consumers to make extra effort to control their dosage.

I’m not sure a “good” multivitamin even exists. As I mentioned above, it would seem that a nutritionist would have to work with the “best available” options rather than an ideal option. Even then they have no guarantees that the tablets can be properly absorb anyway, or that the stated dosage is indeed correct. My advice would be to strongly distrust anything that is actively advertised anyway, and of what’s remaining to be very sceptical and to ask the advice of a professional before selecting a product.

Census privacy woes

Updated 8-8-1026

Well. I have been swearing a lot in the last two days at my television. Mostly that’s because the ABS’s chief statistician David W. Kalisch seems to have no fucking clue when it comes to the privacy problems with the 2016 Census.

Now I want to say something very clearly. I fully support the census, I believe in it, it provides wonderful and valuable data, and I believe all Australians should fill out all census data honestly and fully. Census data is used to track trends that include the aging population and the distribution in non-communicable diseases, among other things.

By saying that I should also note that there are three things the ABS does not need to know for comprehensive census data: they don’t need to know your name, they don’t need your exact address (but they do need your location), and they don’t need your DOB (your age alone should suffice).

I will be filling out a paper census form which will include all the information the ABS needs, and none of the information they don’t need. That is: it won’t have my name address and DOB. I would fully encourage everyone else to do so, but please be aware that legally you may face a fine if you do not provide all information, or if you provide misleading information. I am willing to risk that, and I believe Section 12 of the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) protects me and other Canberrans from being forced to hand over personally identifiable information in the census.

Why is there a problem?

I have identified three very serious problems with the 2016 census. There could be more issues that privacy experts are aware of, but these are the issues that I have identified as a layperson who has a track record for strongly supporting privacy. The ABS says the name and address information is stored separately from the census forms, but there are two big problems with this. Number one: they are still connectible. To give an example, Lance Armstrong’s doping was revealed because the ‘anonymity process’ was not comprehensive, and the ‘de-identified’ samples were still connectible to their owners – thus they weren’t fully de-identified. Now in his case he deserved to get exposed, but we’re talking about 23 million Australians, most of which are innocent of any serious crimes.

So for security reasons alone, names and addresses should not be stored at all. They are a target for hackers, or unscrupulous ABS workers who want to steal the information and sell it – which is something that has already happened with two ABS workers persecuted for it just last year! Furthermore, we don’t have electronic voting in Australia because it was shown that doing so could compromise the integrity of the electoral system. And I would further note that with the Australian-invented “secret ballot”, ballot papers must not be in any way identifiable to their owners.

Second is that it’s not ethical. What I mean by this is that in research it is not ethical to ask questions to which you don’t need to know the answer to. A person’s name has no benefit whatsoever to the census data. Yes it can be used in a database of its own to find out how many people have what name and what the most common newborn names are, however it absolutely does not need to be identifiable with the census, and I am shocked to know that it doesn’t go straight into a completely separated database from the rest of the census data. It can of course also be checked against the electoral roll to check that everyone filled in a census, however, that should be a completely separate database just as it is in elections (there is no way for your ballot paper to be identified to you, unless you write your name on it in which case it’s an informal ballot and not counted).

Third of course is privacy. And for this I’ll just give an example. Let’s say you are a victim of domestic violence. When you enrol to vote you are allowed to enrol without an address so that your safety is upheld (no one in the AEC can leak your address to your violent ex-partner). Same principle with census – if the data is there it can conceivably be accessed from someone in the ABS who is a perpetrator of domestic violence, and by statistics alone (the stats that are published by the ABS themselves) you would in fact have to assume there are people in the ABS in high positions of power who are perpetrators of domestic violence. For this reason alone, names and addresses should not be even on the same form as the census, let alone be identifiable to the forms they belong to.

I am very dissatisfied with the process for obtaining my census form. As of today (8th of August) I still have not received my census form, despite ordering it at the earliest opportunity! What kind of monkeys are running a census that doesn’t even get the forms to people in time for the census itself? I have never in my life filled in the form early or late, and I don’t want to – I want to fill it in tomorrow on the 9th of August! And I would further note the ABS has completely stuffed this shit up, even if you call the number provided to order the paper form they never ask you how many forms you need, even though on their own website it says people can request additional forms for privacy, in case you don’t want your house-mates or family reading your answers. And that’s not trivial either, some people become an atheist, but are afraid to tell their spouse or parents; and others join religions they would feel stigmatised if their family or house mates knew about. So here’s a tip: if you want two forms say you have 8 people in the house when using the automated ordering process, and that will force them to send two without you needing to call again (and if it doesn’t have a privacy envelope then just use your own if necessary).

So in conclusion, I will be filling out the census completely, and I encourage everyone to do so. Please think carefully about your privacy, these issues are not trivial. Do not think that I’m advocating for civil disobedience, or that you should not fill in the census – the census data is very valuable, please please fill it in.  I would very strongly recommend leaving your name and full address off the census form. By “full address” I do mean you should include your State and Postcode on the census form, probably your suburb as well, but not your full street address. I do not recommend using the online form. I believe (but I’m not a lawyer) that if you are in the ACT or Victoria that the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) s12 or Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act (Vic) 2006 s13 protects you from being forced to hand over your full name and full address on your census form. It would be a good idea to cite the relevant Act if applicable to you.

More changes are coming…

I want to let YOU know about upcoming changes here.

I’m developing my own ‘wordpress theme’, which in other word means my own code. It will look substantially similar to the current ‘wood is good’ theme, but will be pure XML (as opposed to pseud-SGML) and optimised for different resolutions (responsive). In addition I’ve been updating some of the graphics, such as the banner links I have in the footer. Those links are all based on this Maxthon graphic:


Well it’s actually two graphics that I found on and saved as a single graphic. Ah that takes me back. Good quality banner-link graphics are hard to come by these days, so I am hoping to bring everything to a consistent quality level. I have also been working on a brand new tiling brick background that looks like this:

Tiling Bricks Preview

It’s not a photo, but it is based on this photo I took:

Bricks Photo

I found it quite challenging to make the mortar look realistic, however I’m very pleased with the result. Here’s a full size comparison…


Bricks Photo Full Size

Tiled image:

Tiled Image Full Size

You might wonder why I don’t just go grab a readily available free stock image off the internet.  I could do that, however this is my chance to make everything the way I want it, not just use things other people have created for other purposes. It also allows me to express my own creativity and personalise the website to be the way I want it to be.

My congratulations – Shawn Farquhar!

Shawn Farquhar has become the first magician on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us to win twice. Now I want to preface my praise for him by going over what I (and a lot of others) have seen throughout the second season of the show – and in fact in the other tricks in the first episode of the third season. And that is that magicians are designing “traps” for Penn and Teller into their tricks. And I don’t really like that aspect of the show, because it makes the tricks much less impressive when you can think of a whole handful of different ways it could be performed.

Now with that said I can’t offer greater praise than I will for Shawn, because not only did he not do this: he’s a true “fooler”! Before going further you may like to view his performance yourselves:

Here is his previous performance on Penn and Teller:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes book
Shawn holds the book.

So first let’s break the trick down a bit. I was way ahead of Shawn, and as it appears Penn and Teller as well, and in fact I have a theory as to how the illusion could be performed (but I don’t know the method Shawn has used for sure). Now the first thing I noticed when he brought out the book is that it looks like a prop and not a book he’s plucked off his shelf at home.

There’s a couple reasons why, and they are subtle. Firstly this is an old out of copyright book, meaning anyone can download it from the internet and have it custom printed. Secondly, the cover is “cheap”: the words are not embossed, and the cover’s picture is not professional. For example, notice the magnifying glass magnifies the words of the book’s title, but not the pages of the book behind it, and there’s no “glass” depicted in it either. You can notice further on the book does not have a barcode on the back as well, but just from seeing the cover of the book it appeared to be a prop.

Once I had worked this out, from the moment he brought out the second book I expected it to be blank. I also expected, like Penn and Teller, that he was using just two books throughout (the one he gives to Alyson and the blank one he “reads” from). I also did not believe this was a memory trick (which Shawn confirms a bit later on). So it did surprise me a bit that Penn and Teller’s guess was that it was a simple memory trick. One must realise that magicians are master liars, and when they say “this is a memory trick” you can bet that it’s not, unless they’re doing a double-bluff!

His earlier trick from Season 1 (Signed & Sealed) could have been achieved in at least three different ways. I don’t want to spoil the method so I will be as tactful as possible: I originally thought that he used a duplicate signed card – and you could do the trick that way, at least in theory. There’s at least two more ways to do it, either with a “pre-sealed” pack, or perhaps without one as well. With all these three or maybe more different possible methods however, you are still using two different packs of cards – I think most people would know that. With all this said, the one thing that surprised me is we see Penn and Teller “examining” in the wrong place at one point not realising they’ve been duped by a complicated illusion.

Now what do I mean by a “complicated illusion”? Well I’m not a magician, so I don’t know if I’m using the term correctly, but in essence what I mean is that you build the illusion up. Here’s an illusion performed on Penn and Teller by Jay Sankey (torn & restored playing cards starts at 3:40 in the clip), and the instructional video he put on Youtube explaining how to perform it:

Now we can discuss the method for this trick in all the detail we wish because the trick’s author has made the “secret” public knowledge. I wasn’t fooled by his torn-and-restored card trick, for the record, I had assumed he had simply folded the cards and created the illusion they were torn. But I want you to notice this is a complicated illusion: it’s not enough to simply create the visual illusion of tearing the two cards in half; you must also create the sound of them tearing, and be able to show you have a number of individual “pieces”, before preceding to restore the cards. A bad magician, takes a complicated illusion like this one, and does not perform all the illusionary steps involved in progressing the illusion, and consequently it becomes less convincing.

So let’s get back to Shawn’s book illusion. I think if a magician is going to use a magic prop – no matter what the prop is – you need to make it look as convincing as possible. As I mentioned, the look of the book was “wrong” for me and I correctly guessed that it was a prop. Not all books have embossed wording, a glossy cover, a barcode, a less ‘amateur’ picture on the cover, a less ordinary typeface, and the title and author not in all-caps. But most of them do, or at least have a few or most of those features. I therefore think the illusion would have been more entertaining with a more authentic looking book. At the end we’re still going to know it was a specially printed prop because the duplicate book is blank, but if that was the case I would have been less likely to immediately suspect the book was a prop and not a real product sold in book-stores everywhere.

But, with that said, and here’s where the praise comes in, I think Shawn’s performance was wonderful – and much improved upon “Signed & Sealed” which is a good trick, but not my favourite performance of the series. And I must also say, while the books are props because he needs one to be blank, besides that they are what they appear to be – two identical books, one printed from start to finish as if it were a real book, and the other completely blank. I don’t think there’s any trickery involved in the book he gives Alyson, and she could take it home and read it and it would be a normal book.

And to give another direct comparison, here, the very next act after Shawn’s is Michael Kent presenting Multiplying Bottles. Now I don’t want to get into the mechanics of the trick, but I do want to show you this version performed by Matt Franco on America’s Got Talent:

Now the thing that I like about this presentation is that Matt has used ordinary packing tubes, and shows them empty throughout. I think that’s much more convincing to an audience than brightly-coloured magician’s props that are never shown empty! However that said, I do believe the Multiplying Bottles trick is fairly easy for an audience to work out, therefore the real value in it is not so much mystifying the audience as it is entertaining them. Look up the way that Tommy Cooper and Hugues Protat perform the trick – clearly interested squarely in entertaining the audience. So again, Michael Kent’s performance is – at least for me – underwhelming. He does a number of things I would consider “wrong” for a complicated illusion: he skips steps and presents things wrong (duplicating bottles in the wrong sequence, never showing the tubes empty, etc).

In conclusion, my warmest congratulations to Shawn! I am a stickler for fine detail, and I would assume that magicians want props to look like ordinary household items. I mean no offence by my comments, and I don’t think discussing it reveals the trick’s method in any way. The title of the show is “Fool Us” which invites us the lay-audience to view the acts critically. I do have a couple of theories as to how the trick could be done, so I don’t feel fooled – but what a great trick and performance!

Enjoy your all new secure experience!

Welcome to my blog. Let me make this clear from the outset: I don’t share visitor information (in fact I barely even look at it myself). My blog does not set any cookies unless you interact with it (i.e. submit a comment or attempt to log into the administration panel), and is used purely for WordPress functions. Even if you do this you are well within your rights to delete cookies or block them altogether, I don’t care.

If this is your first visit then please check out what I have had to say about internet privacy in the past. To sum it up, my stance is that advertisers and others that store unnecessary information is an invasion of your privacy, and I highly suggest taking measures to ensure you can browse the web privately, and securely.

From today on my website is now secure. For you, that means that no one else can see what you browse on the domain. For me, it means more secure access to the administration panel. You will notice a green coloured padlock to the left of the website address in your address bar, which will also display “https://” showing it is a secure SSL connection. You can also view the SSL report for my domain at any time on Qualys (now” A+”):


Many thanks to Let’s Encrypt, SSL For Free, and hell IX too for allowing creation of the CSR in the control panel.

I have also tweaked the now well out of date theme from XHTML1.0 to HTML5. This means I can now host my own videos without needing to rely on external services such as Youtube. I have also converted the old flash video that links to Operation Clambake to .mp4 (yes it is 4x the file size, but, it’s still only 158kb!) Here is the new video:

If you didn’t know any better you’d think it is an animated GIF, and it’s about time we freed ourselves from these old outdated formats! The original flash video (41.0kb) is here, and a larger video render is here.

Please continue reading and enjoy your secure and private experience!


PS I have identified the first other website so far to use LE’s SSL: Thimbleweed Park! That’s quite appropriate considering the fact I need to redevelop and relaunch ScummGames!

PPS: I have now identified many more and it’s so great to see the web using such a great free resource!

Magician stabs TV presenter’s hand!

Marcin Poloniewicz
Marcin prepares to stab TV presenter with magic prop.

Well, there’s a wonderful video of this incident, as it happened live on Polish television. I have embedded the video at the end of the blog post if you wish to view it. The Magician is Marcin Poloniewicz, reportedly a semi-finalist of “Poland’s Got Talent”. Ironically this is exactly the same magic trick that was performed in 2014 on America’s Got Talent in the semi-finals by magician duo David & Leeman. The trick itself was created by magician Jon Allen, it is a commercial trick called “The Pain Game”, he himself performed the trick on the first season of Penn & Teller Fool Us, and to quote the description of his trick verbatim: “once set there is categorically no chance of you impaling your hand on the nail”.

I will give a basic description of this trick. It is a Russian-Roulette style trick where a dangerous six inch nail is placed through a piece of wood, and then put inside a paper bag. There are three other identical paper bags, each with their own palm-sized block of wood inside, and they get mixed up, and crushed one-by-one by the magician until there is only one left, which is revealed to contain the block of wood with the nail in it. It is a variation of an older trick involving paper cups and spikes (personally I think it’s a much better trick because the props are quite a bit larger).

This is how the trick is supposed to look, performed by Allen himself on Fool Us (I have edited the video to remove some of Penn’s comments at the end). If the video does not play smoothly for you in your browser then feel free to right-click and save the video and then play it in Media Player Classic or your player of choice. I have actually tweaked my blog theme and converted it from XHTML to HTML5 in order that I can embed this directly for you. Video copyright ITV (2011):

As you can see it’s a pretty good trick, and I think a very good performance. Notice he says this: “There are videos online of people doing this type of effect and getting it wrong and badly injuring themselves. And because of that I have to say a couple of things. First of all check out the videos because some of them are quite funny, but also please do not try this at home.” Well. Until now that was true. There are videos online of magicians doing a similar effect with paper or Styrofoam cups and injuring themselves, and injuring themselves, and they are indeed funny. But until now there was no one that had performed his trick that went wrong, and the video is not funny because the magician’s incompetence injures an innocent aide.

Here it is performed by David & Leeman on America’s Got Talent. You’ll notice they have presented it in their own way, and have used their own props (in particular they have used a fat stumpy spike instead of a six inch nail), but they are presenting Allen’s Pain Game. I think their presentation is very good, I think Jon Allen’s presentation above was also very good.

So what went wrong and how did it go wrong? Well here’s the video for those of you who wish to view it, but otherwise I’ll explain what happens in the video in a moment (video copyright Fairfax, 2016):

Firstly let me say that this is Allen’s trick (Pain Game), and you will notice the props are identical (in particular the blocks of wood and the nail, Połoniewicz might be using different bags). Now to describe what happens for those of you who are squeamish: Połoniewicz begins the trick as usual and places the block & nail in one bag, then mixes them up, then plunges his hand down on the first one. Then, and this is where it goes wrong, he takes the female presenter’s hand and plunges it down on a bag and straight onto the nail. She screams in pain (and shock), Połoniewicz realises the trick has gone wrong and he pulls the nail out of her hand. She was not seriously injured, and just required having her hand bandaged.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll note that Allen himself in the description of his trick guarantees the safety of his trick. So what’s going on? Well, Allen clearly designed the danger in the trick to be a cleverly crafted illusion. What Połoniewicz has done has taken Pain Game, and made an otherwise safe trick dangerous. Now I actually found a video of yet another magician (which I won’t name or share here) performing Pain Game in a dangerous way (but without it going wrong). So Połoniewicz is not the only moron to “tweak” the effect to make a safe trick dangerous.

Why would they do this you might wonder? Well in a nutshell it’s because Połoniewicz is an asshole, and a complete moron. Not only does he have no regard for the safety of others, but as if that wasn’t bad enough, he also disrespects the trick’s creator Jon by using his props and his trick in a way that is not intended! It would be life if I loaned a friend my car and he drove it drunk – that would be disrespectful, regardless of whether anything “went wrong”. Połoniewicz would rather face a real risk then perform a risk-free illusion. Now of course, when it comes down to it he has decided he didn’t want to be burdened by safety procedures that impact on the way they he wants to present the illusion. Other magicians are going to see this failure and may think that Jon’s safety guarantee is worthless, and that may give them doubts about the quality of his other illusions as well. At the very least it does make his illusion look less appealing to prospective buyers. The other video also does this – if I can spot an unnecessary risk introduced into the act, then I’m sure professional magicians would see a red flag for safety if they saw that particular performance, and they might then believe the illusion is “designed to be dangerous”. I guess I shouldn’t speak for Jon since I don’t know him, and I’m not a magician: but what I can say firmly is there are certainly other magicians that design illusions who would be outraged and furious if they saw their illusions being used improperly by others.

I just wanted to go a little bit beyond the “news story” here, and look at how and why this happened, and how people in the magic community might feel about this. And of course, I love calling out assholes, and I think Połoniewicz deserves every bit of ridicule I’ve thrown his way. The media thinks he “made a mistake”, I think what he did was far worse than that. A mistake is where a magician accidentally reveals an illusion or otherwise “stuffs up”. But this is much worse than that because he chose to perform Pain Game wrong: Jon guarantees the trick is safe to perform if you follow the instructions. So that can only mean that either he lied and has been selling a trick for many years that is dangerous, or that Połoniewicz intentionally made the trick dangerous because he didn’t want to perform it the way that the instructions tell him to. That’s not a “mistake”, that’s malevolence, that’s incompetence, that’s disrespectful, it’s negligent, it’s unnecessarily stupid, and it’s just plain wrong.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the videos.

My scathing review of Star Wars the Force Awakens

This post contains SPOILERS, however I keep specific plot details out of it until the “plot” section, so that’s the most spoiler-heavy part of the post. Proceed at your discretion…

Star Wars VII Crawl

Charm and Enthusiasm

None, whatsoever.

Atmosphere and Cinematography

Terrible. Hands down the worst cinematography in a Star Wars film, and there’s a complete lack of atmosphere throughout the movie (with little exception).

I’ll break down the problems. By far the biggest problem is the constant use of the moving camera, and close-ups/zoom-ins. It just doesn’t allow the audience to absorb the atmosphere of the galactic worlds. In fact the final scene in the film is just about the only time we actually get to see a reasonable depiction of an interesting looking planet before we meet its inhabitant, much like how we’re introduced to Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back, however none of the other planets got this treatment in this film.

The cinematography is like comparing “Man of Steel” to Donner & Lester’s Superman films. And that’s no exaggeration, it just doesn’t look at all like a Star Wars film. Say what you want about Lucas, but he knew how to balance different scenes and different filming and camera techniques: he simply has a better sense of cinematography. With JJ’s film there’s just no elegance or subtlety to the camera work, allowing the audience to absorb the atmosphere. To compare it directly to another SW film, consider the “speeder chase” sequence in Attack of the Clones, except now imagine that the camera hardly ever pulls back to show you what’s going on properly, and never sits still (which it does quite a few times in the speeder chase scene), and there’s constant zooming and close-ups throughout the scene, and that kind of cinematography lasts not just for that one sequence, but the entire film even when there isn’t an “action” scene.

The close-ups are the biggest sin in terms of the cinematography. This film is not in Academy ratio, it’s not even 1.85:1 which still allows for close-ups – it’s in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio like all other Star Wars films, and that widescreen format is not suited for close-ups. If you don’t believe me, watch any Disney animation older than Lady and the Tramp, like Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, or Alice in Wonderland. Then watch Lady and the Tramp. You will see two distinctly different styles, especially when it comes to the use of close-ups. Lady and the Tramp was exhibited in the 2.55:1 widescreen format, and so the animators didn’t make the same use of close-ups that they would have if it was to be exhibited in academy-ratio.

There is one part in the film where a General is making a speech to the troops of the First Order and the camera – starts close on his face, and then zooms right in (not even subtly or anything, just a fast extreme close-up zoom), it then cuts away to show the troops being addressed, then cuts back to the General and repeats the exact same zoom from the same starting position again. Utter shit, that’s no way to use the “zoom” function, and it’s completely overused throughout the entire film, and even if the film was in academy ratio it would still be oversaturated with close-ups and zoom-ins.

Sound & the Laws of Physics

By far the worst musical score in a Star Wars film. Hands down. There’s just no elegance or subtlety to the score at all.

Furthermore the sound effects are atrocious. Sound cannot travel through space, and yes in the other films they do sometimes break this basic law of physics (for example when Alderaan is destroyed). But JJ just makes it appear as if space is full of different sounds travelling together, despite the impossibility of this.

And by the way, that’s not all JJ does to defy physics – oh no – now whenever a character is hit by a blaster they get blown-away. Yes that’s right, they fly backwards 12 feet or so, again defying the laws of physics – and it just looks goddamned awful. We’ve already established that blasters don’t cause people to be thrown back 12 feet in the previous 6 films, so why start now?

In another part of the film, the characters who are travelling at light-speed decide the only way to penetrate the shield that the First Order has surrounding a planet is to penetrate the planet atmosphere at light-speed and then slow to a nice safe landing. Yes really. It breaks two different laws of physics really, the first is g-force that a human could survive when the breaks are applied , and the second is that objects can only travel at the full speed of light in a vacuum – not through air! Never in the original trilogy does anyone try to travel at light-speed through air!!

This is of course science fiction, so I’m not going to criticise the use of “lightsabres” etc, that’s part of what makes Star Wars special, but at least get some of the basic physics right – especially when previous films have either got them right or have done much better at not bending them as far. The simple fact is that this movie breaks the suspension of disbelief with such appalling use of physics-defying manoeuvres.

Special Effects

Really there is no regard at all for trying to marry practical effects with special effects in a seamless way, the special effects are obvious and overused just as Lucas himself would have done. And as if that’s not bad enough, Kylo Ren’s lightsabre has a new a unique look to it – instead of its edges being smooth and straight like every other lightsabre we’ve ever seen, it looks like it’s jetting out flames.


Bland and two-dimensional. There’s no real character development from the leads. Oh and Kylo Ren, who I guess is like the Darth Vader of this movie, communicates with his “overlord” similar to how Vader communicates to the Emperor (except of course that he doesn’t in the original SW, they save that for ESB just like they probably should have saved this one for later), and unlike the subtle depiction of the Emperor that we get in ESB, we instead get an extreme close-up of the commander that Kylo Ren serves. And probably one of the things I hated most was seeing Kylo Ren take off his mask, and he then looks like Anakin in Revenge of the Sith and reminded me of the relentless whining that Anakin does in Attack of the Clones: “Waa Waa, I couldn’t save my mamma, Waa, so I slaughtered all the Tuskans, Waa, they’re ANIMALS and it’s all Obi Wan’s fault, Waa, Waa, Waa”, you get the picture. Why oh why unmask him? Vader never got unmasked until he was 2-minutes from death, had killed the Emperor, had denounced the dark-side, and wanted to see his beloved long-lost son face-to-face. Not only that, but many of the greatest villains had their faces hidden throughout movies, like Michael Myers, or Leatherface, or Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The lead character is strong, and stronger than Luke in the original film, and certainly better than Hayden Christensen’s Anakin. So credit where credit’s due. But every single supporting character is inferior to a comparable supporting character from any of the other 6 films, without exception. The supporting characters in the original 1977 Star Wars film included Ben, Tarkin, Han, Leia, and of course Vader. All had great performances from their respective actors. If we think back to The Phantom Menace the supporting characters included Padme, Obi Wan, Qui Gon, Palpatine, and Darth Maul. And again all great performances from those characters. Even Daniels delivers a bland performance for 3PO in this film, it just felt off.

And, yes there was a blatant overuse of CGI characters as well in this movie. For comparison I think of the scene where Anakin and Obi Wan chase down the assassin working for Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones. From the moment she leaves her crashed speeder and enters the bar we don’t see any CGI characters all the way through Obi Wan and Anakin going into the bar, exploring, finding her, lobbing off her arm with a lightsabre, and then exiting the bar. Much like the cantina scene in the original film (well of course there wasn’t CGI in 1977, but you get the idea). In this film, however, there’s a scene where the characters enter a bar of some sorts and pretty much 1/3rd or even half the characters in it are CGI.


Some SW traditions, for example only using Subtitles for dialogue and never for place names, were respected. Others were thrown out the window, for example the iconic SW depictions of holograms.


This is the one thing I have nothing but positive things to say about for this film. The film’s humour was pretty much spot-on.

The Plot

Warning this section contains explicit story-related spoilers, scroll down to continue.

Movie Ticket

What can I say? The most unoriginal Star Wars film sine Return of the Jedi. Strike that, it’s even more unoriginal than that. The plot is basically a complete remake of the original Star Wars. There’s a droid carrying information important to the Rebels/Resistance, that finds its way onto a desert-like planet, only to be unwittingly put into the hands of one of the planet’s inhabitants who just happens to be an excellent pilot, who then escapes from an attack by the Galactic Empire/First Order by fleeing from the planet in the Millennium Falcon, and then makes their way to the Rebel Base on the Millennium Falcon accompanied by Han Solo and Chewbacca, and meanwhile learns to use a lightsabre and the force. Also, Darth Vader/Kylo Ren kills a senile old man with his lightsabre.

Then there’s a Death Star for them to destroy, or in this case a Death Planet which is several times larger than a Death Star, but as it turns out just as easy to destroy with a few tie-fighters flying down a long straight trench to mount their attack – coordinated of course by Leia Organa. Again, of course, goodbye suspension of disbelief as a few tie-fighters destroy an entire planet (and I thought that only the Death Star/Death Planet had enough fire-power to achieve that!) In the original film the Death Star only destroys one planet, but in this film the Death Planet destroys a handful of planets all at once, from a far further distance away. Basically it’s the same, except that the Planet is “more powerful” and the corridors are painted a darker shade of battle-ship grey.


If you’re expecting a “better” movie than the prequels than don’t. I don’t think the prequels are awful movies, but I do think that the original trilogy are the better films. I like the diversity in the prequels: they do build great atmosphere and show us different places, and their stories go in quite different directions. On of the problems with the Original Trilogy is that Return of the Jedi duplicates much of the story from the original Star Wars. My favourites location introduced by the prequels has always been Naboo. It’s just such a beautifully designed planet, and it really draws you to it. Those iconic looking buildings, and the beauty of the landscape make it a beautiful addition to the Star Wars universe. In this film, the planets we see are pretty bland quite frankly. We don’t get to explore them in the way we do in other Star Wars movies, and consequently they don’t rally have any character or atmosphere to speak of.

The Force Awakens just does not feel like a Star Wars movie. The whole design of the movie just feels off, for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. And the fact is that Force Awakens just blatantly duplicates the story of Star Wars instead of building its own plot line, and that’s just awful lazy writing. In my opinion the Force Awakens is by far the worst Start Wars movie yet.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

1.5 Stars

Is Mental Illness a Sham?

Well this post will cement my return to tackling the far more controversial and “difficult” topics on my blog. I want to acknowledge that this post does not provide all the answers you may be seeking, but after doing 2 low-level psychology units at university I feel it is imperative to share with you some of the contradictory information that set off alarm bells in my head, by highlighting some of the large unanswered questions the discipline leaves us. But firstly consider this: I’m asking the question “is mental illness a sham”. A sham does not mean that it doesn’t exist, what it does mean is that at some level there is a misalignment of priorities, a miscommunication of fact versus theory, and at least some level of deception.

I want you to consider a peer-reviewed journal article titled Spirituality, religion and health: Evidence and research directions, by Williams & Sternthal (2007), you can read the text online here. It talks about the evidence that exists for the connection between religion and health. Overall the effect is positive, but there are some negative effects also. This is not controversial, this is something very well known. For all the bashing I did to Christianity in recent posts, note that I’ve never denied the evidence that does show conclusively that religion generally brings participants better health. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

There are two main responses that critically thinking people have to the above. The first (the point of view I subscribe to) is that community involvement in solving health problems and promoting positive health should be valued and nurtured. The World Health Organisation also shares this view, as does the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Some benefits include that it is cheap and can break through barriers that prevent people from accessing other health services. I would further argue that strictly from an evolutionary point of view as it applies to human culture (game theory etc.) it predicts that behaviours and structures that benefit the whole should ultimately rise and prevail above those that don’t. To put it in a nutshell, religion and culture exists because the people who practised them outperformed the people who didn’t. Religion does create barriers as well, and that’s one of the negatives.

The other main point of view is that although religious beliefs have a positive correlation with health they do not benefit society overall. This point of view could suggest that religion has been a powerful force for good in the past, but that now its benefits do not have the merit that they once had. And it’s certainly true that people slip through the cracks when religion gets involved. At one time Christians believed that all illnesses were caused by daemons as per Acts 5:15-16. Later this belief was changed to daemons causing some illnesses but miasmas causing others. In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes pretty clearly that homosexual desires are caused when people turn away from God and his truth. This type of primitive mythology for explaining so-called ‘deviant’ human behaviour is the seed from which discrimination and oppression are grown and has caused a great deal of suffering for different people. It creates barriers between people. But I would argue that although that is true, in every society there are marginalised and disadvantaged people. You can’t judge a society just because it has disadvantaged people, but you can judge it on their attitudes and whether they minimised the number of people who would be disadvantaged.

So how do we apply this information to modern medical thinking then? Well an effective medical treatment will either alleviate symptoms or cure an ailment. It should improve the quality of life, and reduce the burden of disease. But it does come with a similar expense to that of religious participation – medical treatments also have negative health effects. And as you will see, Psychology cannot always offer any improvement to existing techniques for treating certain mental illnesses.

If a person has been diagnosed with a mental illness, there are an array of theories behind how or why that illness has developed. Behavioural, Cognitive, Biological, Evolutionary, Genetic, Physiological, Psychodynamic, Naturalist. The only two theories that have absolute conclusive proof for causing a mental illness is physiology and genetics. We know for instances that brain damage can cause an irreversible impaired mental state. We know that roundworms in the small intestine can cause clinically significant depression. Impaired foetal development can also cause lasting mental illness. Autism and Alzheimer’s have strong genetic predispositions, but both are thought to be due to an autoimmune disease (i.e. triggered by an environmental factor such as an infection).

Now that’s all fine and well, but we also know that life events can contribute to or cause mental illnesses. There’s really not a debate that this happens – even the social gradient effect on the cognitive ability of children has been established – the question however is why it happens. So let’s take something like Gambling Disorder. How should it be treated do we think? With medication perhaps. What about interventional therapy? Okay, well the most researched forms of therapy are cognitive therapy (CT) and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). But there’s also behavioural therapy (BT), motivational therapy (MT), and “minimal intervention” (MI), a striped down intervention that simply has a therapist deliver targeted advice to the patient just once for as little as 10-15 minutes or as long as an hour. There’s also the 12-step program that’s refused to change or update the 75 year-old method – Gambler’s Anonymous (GA). Surely CBT and CT based treatments did best, right? WRONG! CBT, CT, BT, MT and MI all performed essentially equally well according to Toneatto and Gunaratne (2009). Well there’d at least have to do much better than Gambler’s Anonymous anyway. WRONG AGAIN! Marceaux and Melville (2010) found that GA was just as effective as CBT after 6-months (their results are from a controlled study). Petry et al. (2009) conducted a study with one cohort receiving CBT in addition to MI, one receiving just the MI session, and a control group, and found that both of their groups that received the intervention showed improvement with no significant difference between the group that received the CBT and the one that didn’t!

How can this be? If you don’t know what a mental illness is to begin with, then how could you possibly know how to treat it? The disciple of Natural Psychology argues that mental illnesses are non-existent:

The question is not, “What is the best definition of a mental disorder?” The question is not, “Is the DSM-5 definition of a mental disorder better than the DSM-IV definition of a mental disorder?” Those are absolutely not the right questions! The first and only question is, “Do mental disorders exist?” The phenomena certainly exist. The birds and bees exist; pain and suffering exist. But birds do not prove the existence of gods and pain does not prove the existence of mental disorders. Let us not play the game of debating the definitions of non-existent things. Let us move right on. (Eric R. Maisel Ph.D. on Psychology Today).

So if we don’t understand how mental illnesses occur, and we can’t clearly define it, and all of our wildly different treatment options performed equally well as each other, wouldn’t that tell you that something is seriously amiss? Now I want to acknowledge that I’m not saying I know either – but I do know that the risk can be reduced environmentally. That is through policies that provide better safeguards for people who are at risk of developing an addition, and ensuring early proactive intervention rather than reactive intervention.

Pharmaceutical companies are some of the most immoral in the world.

Certainly more immoral than tobacco companies – at least tobacco companies can’t advertise their products on TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. And yes, the risks are stated on the label, supposedly, the label that you see AFTER you buy the medication. Many of the patients who are currently dependant on pharmaceuticals were never told that in the first place, because the development of dependency wasn’t known at the time. Over-medication, dependence, and people accessing the wrong medications for their health issues, as it is, creates a huge amount of pharma-waste. Pharmaceutical advertising encourages people to self-diagnose, and self-select the medications they think they need. This is a massive problem with non-mental medical disorders; so you can just imagine how big a problem it is with mental-health related diagnosed “disorders”.

If you see a psychiatrist here, in Australia, they will diagnose you according to the DSM-V. If you go to China, and see a psychologist they will diagnose you according to the CCMD-3. That’s right – there are two completely different diagnostic manuals, that define mental illness differently to each other, and designate a number of different illnesses. Each has illnesses that are unique to their manual as well – in other words there are illnesses that exist in CCMD and not in DSM (and vice versa)! Mental health illnesses are also defined in the ICD-10 (maintained by WHO) with some difference to DSM.

So then, is mental illness a sham?

Yes I believe so. Hypothesises are presented to clients as medical fact and that means it’s falsely presenting mental health issues as sure and certain factual illnesses. Now I just said before that there are some mental health issues that we know are illnesses like Autism and Dementia. But those are believed to be autoimmune diseases; they’re a physiological disorder that causes mental health problems. But the mental health problems that are purely mental health related with no known link to physiology or bacteria or viruses are not proven to be illnesses per se. They may masquerade themselves into a diagnosable condition; but that’s not an illness. Think about this: we still call gender dysphoria an illness because all conditions in the DSM are mental illnesses by definition (DSM-5 = Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5); yet this is offensive to many people who suffer from the condition, and the French government actually declared that it is not to be considered a mental health condition whilst guaranteeing that people who suffered from the condition would still be able to receive subsidised healthcare.

So I personally welcome a clear delineation between illnesses and other states of mental health, and I look forward to the day that we stop using the word “disorder” to refer to people’s health problems that we don’t understand.


Check back they will be edited in. :)