My experience with the criminal justice system.

From ages 20-25 I was doing graffiti and getting caught and going through the New Zealand criminal justice system.

One person involved in one of my arrests said I was ‘incorrigible’ . It was the first time I’d heard that term, and the term fits.

(of a person or their behaviour) not able to be changed or reformed.

You get a few free passes in the criminal – being educated and white probably helps.

My diversion was used in in my first week since leaving home – when I was caught shoplifting a coffee grinder. I spent three days sweeping graves and vacuuming the crematorium lobby.

I got caught shoplifting gumboots that I impulsively walked out of the The Warehouse wearing. The staff were tipped off by old ladies fundraising outside who noticed that I wasn’t wearing the gumboots when I walked in. I was arrested and when I went to court I told the duty solicitor that I’d just forgotten to pay for them, as  evidenced by that I’d bought $80 worth of other stuff – and he convinced the police to drop the charges.

My third free pass was being caught doing graffiti in either Timaru or Oamaru. I was hitchhiking, and couldn’t pass up putting my tag on a big blank wall in the middle of day.

This lead to several members of the public making a concerted effort to chase me down, and I was arrested, and made to scrub the tag off. I was given a discharge without conviction.

But after that – my arrests started having teeth – first fines, then the fines were commuted to community service. I did two stints of community service (the second being 200 hours) and received a jail warning. My final conviction was a second jail warning and a sentence to a year’s intensive supervision – which involved regularly checking in with my probation officer.

It was at this point, and prior to the actual conviction, that I was committed to rehabilitation – the prospect of a jail sentence scared me – and I was aware that a jail sentence would mean I wouldn’t be eligible for a conviction clean slate, under Nandor Tanczos’ clean slate legislation. So I enrolled in a university course, and arranged to lived with my mum in the case that I the judge decided to impose a sentence of home detention. No doubt this also served to show some efforts at reform in the eyes of the sentencing judge (although the sentencing hearing was all of five minutes).

One of the first meetings I had with the probation officer I think is a profound reflection of the resourcing the the criminal justice system has. The PO when through a questionnaire assessing various social needs – did I use drugs, how often did I drink, did I have debt etc. One of the questions was – did I gamble?. I didn’t use the pokies – but at the time I did play online poker. So the probation officer referred me to gambling counselling. This was – probably the single most effective thing the justice system did for my rehabilitation (aside from perhaps the clean slate legislation) – I didn’t talk about gambling with the gambling counsellor, but was able to talk about anything else.

Experience of community service

I did I believe two stints of community service. I think one was for 80 hours, and the other for 200 hours.

The experience of community service changes, depending on the location. In my experience, Paeroa had a more professional feel about it, whereas Motueka the probies and the offenders seemed chummy – I even witnessed a probie smoking weed openly with some of the offenders.

Community service is usually just wasting time. Sometimes we did things that were clearly of value – mowing lawns for a bowls club, or weeding and laying down weed matting for a marae. But in Motueka for example – the fallback task was going to hill and removing gorse – never at a rate that would completely eradicate it. Maybe I’m being cynical. I’d be curious to see what the state of that hill is now.

The work was never particularly hard or urgent. There was a lot of shovel leaning.

A lot of the people I was on community service with were there for car offences. They’d rack up tens of thousands of dollars of fines for driving warrantless cars or not having a license – and then get those fines converted to community service. The conversion rate was around $50/hr.

Drunk driving was another common offence.

One guy I talked to – said he was on for evading police. He said he was transporting a large amount of meth in his car and police tried to pull him over. Rather than risk a ten-year prison sentence, he boosted it, driving dangerously to escape the police. The police still caught up with him later – but of course the dangerous driving is a far lesser charge than being caught with meth. It’s always possible that he was lying, but the story makes sense to me.

In many respects, I was quite different to the offenders – educated, well spoken, not a smoker. I would suggest, quite a pleasant kind of offender to deal with. But on the other hand – I was very much the same – a young male making short-sighted and irrationally costly decisions.

Experience of the police and the courts.

For the overwhelming most part – my experience of the police has been that they’ve been respectful and professional. Of the 10-15 times I was arrested, I can only recall being handcuffed twice. Once a standard hands-behind-my-back when being arrested during daylight in Dunedin – and another time hands-in-front when they were doing a prisoner transfer to a town an hour away where the court was, after deciding they were opposing bail.

This was to my advantage – on two separate occasions I was able to get rid of drugs I had on my person, once by hiding them beneath the seat – and the other time,  I ate the cannabis with a cop right next to me – as she had turned away. Thirty minutes later, while being booked at the police station, it started coming on.

I have two negative experiences I can speak of. One is – after being arrested by a detective in Christchurch, after he happened to be driving past as I was peeing on a tree – in the police cells, he’d give me these little shoves. It sounds minor – but it felt disrespectful and as if he was egging me on to react to it. 

The other was, having about to start spray painting a wall, a women in a nearby building yelled at me and I took off running. The police caught me – searched my bag, and arrested me. The wall was already covered in graffiti – and they just took a photo of any old tag (not mine – I hadn’t actually started painting the wall yet) and told the court that’s what I’d painted.

This was actually my first conviction. I represented myself at trial – I didn’t win – the judge putting value on the witness’s testimony – who’d said that she’d seen me painting the wall. I imagine I might have gotten off if I did have a lawyer – part of the evidence they’d confiscated was a sketchbook of my tags that clearly didn’t match the photo they took.

Though, the duty solicitors aren’t always good. Their job is just as much to help funnel people through the grinder that is the court system, as it is to help the defendants. I had one experience where due to some kind of paperwork error – I’d turned up to court to find that there was a warrant for my arrest for failing to turn up to court in another town – something I’d arranged to have changed. I’d told the duty solicitor this – and he neglected to mention it to the judge – and entered a guilty plea for it. So I have a conviction for failing to appear in court on my record, which is unwarranted – and is probably far too late to fix now.

How I would suggest improving the criminal justice system.

I have no doubt that in my case, an intervention could have been done at my very first arrest that might have prevented a continuing life of crime. A conversation around ‘what actually are you doing here? – Are you aware of the consequences for your life in ten and twenty years?’. Though – chances are I would have given some spiel about the system and not being beholden to the man or something.

It wouldn’t be the police’s responsibility to do this intervention – instead – what I would suggest is that early diversion and sentencing involves a compulsory visit to some kind of trained therapist or psychologist. Of course – the problem is – I imagine the justice system simply doesn’t have that kind of money.

The alternative I suppose – would to put my community hooks in. This already exists – often community service is done working at an op shop etc, under the direct supervision of the op shop and not probation officers. Presumably if community counselling exists – then offenders could be referred to community counselling at that be taken in consideration at sentencing.

At least in my experience – this didn’t happen, but perhaps it’s getting more common as the case of when my bike was stolen would suggest.

 

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I submitted a Privacy Act Request to the New Zealand police. Here’s what I got: (my mugshots).

In New Zealand, The Privacy Act entitles any individual to request any personal information an organisation (private or otherwise) has about that person, and to then make corrections to that information. You can see more information about the privacy act here. 

I made a request to the New Zealand Police for my personal information. For context I have a somewhat extensive history with the police, from a period in my life when I did graffiti and was caught several times doing it.

They did call me back to inform me that they were having trouble retrieving some of the information – I think it’s because some of my arrests/information were prior to an improved digitalisation of police records. I told them that was fine, and to send what they could get.

They sent me a PDF containing:

  • A history of pretty much every address I’ve lived at. I counted 28 – but several of those are duplicates.
  • A bunch of mugshots.
  • A very messily hand written police notebook, from when my bike got stolen.

So without further adieu: four years of mugshots from my graffiti days:

Screenshot from 2018-05-05 18-03-57

Screenshot from 2018-05-05 18-04-14
I’m not sure what’s going on with this last photo. I can’t even think what the 2005 arrest is from. From what I can remember – I didn’t start getting arrested until 2006.

😅 😓

 

The boy who cried identity politics – my take on the Sam Harris / Ezra Klein race and IQ feud.

A recently online slap fight has emerged between progressive but critical, atheist and philosophy Sam Harris and Ezra Klein a progressive media figure, and former head editor of Vox.

Both of these are men who express nuanced and thoughtful opinions, and I admire and respect both.

The slap fight started as a result of Sam Harris interviewing Charles Murray, a controversial author who co-authored The Bell Curve, a book about intelligence, that controversially expresses the view that it is likely that there is some innate, gene based difference in intelligence between ethnic groups.

Vox then published a piece written by three scientists who criticised Murray’s views, and Harris’s facilitation of the interview; there was more back and forth, and the ordeal culminated in Harris publishing the email exchange between himself and Klein – one where Harris gets progressively more agitated, something he acknowledges himself.

The essence of the dispute, in my view, boils down to two main disagreements:

  • Whether the science that Charles Murray espouses is correct.
  • Whether the criticisms of Charles Murray are based on dogmatic identity politics and liberal taboos.

Having listened to the original podcast, and mostly read several of the blogs posts and the emails, I don’t actually feel qualified to comment on the science one way or another, and I think this demonstrates the difficulty in discussing topics such as this.

I can however weigh in on how information has been presented, or at least express how it all looks to me – a fairly intelligent non-expert, with no dog in the race.

Ultimately I’m of the opinion that Harris is guilty of what he is accusing his critics of – he dismisses criticisms as a conspiracy against him, rather than on their merits and he makes disingenuous arguments or neglects context.

At this point, I think it’s worth taking some time to talk about what I’m doing here. I was reluctant to start writing this piece – I think a big part of what’s wrong with the world is a culture of outrage addiction, and the feeling of needing to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.
It’s ironic then, that my previous paragraph includes ‘Harris is guilty of…’.

But instead, lets instead use this case as an exercise in ‘How do we decide the truth of some complex claim? Who do we decide to trust?’.

The way I’ll present this – is looking at the sources as they’re presented in Harris’s blogpost/email.

The Waking Up Podcast #73 – ‘Forbidden Knowledge’ with Charles Murray.

You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is two hours long.

On my first listen certainly Harris and Murray sound like reasonable people. This isn’t a conversation where someone is out and out suggesting that there is a biological justification for race based class strata.

Here’s a few notable points made that I can remember:

  • IQ is considered a good predictor of success, and the notion that is culturally biased is fallacious.
  • Intelligence, like other traits like height, is a product of both environment and genetics.
    • For example: being tall is highly heritable, but if you are malnourished you won’t grow to be tall.
    • If you can observe differences between corn grown in the same area, the cause is probably genetics. If you take genetically identical corn and grow it in different areas, they will grow differently.
  • Success (eg academic success in high level physics) requires a high baseline of innate intelligence, but then the right circumstances and character on top of that. (ie. Innate intelligence is necessary, but not sufficient for success).
  • Affirmative action can backfire, where transplanting some black students in to an elite school may cause them to have less success than they might have had a lower level school, because they simply don’t have the higher enough level of innate intelligence.
  • Murray makes the point that in criticising his book, some of the critics he knew personally must have been lying, and knew they were lying.

Essentially – Harris and Murray acknowledge that a lot of intelligence is likely the result of environment, but make the argument that ‘but some of it is still innate’.

They make a point of offering the caveats that on an individual level – one shouldn’t discriminate, and assume that someone is less intelligent because they’re black for example, because that would be making error – at an individual level there would likely be more variance in intelligence determined by factors other than race.

There’s a couple of observations I’d like to make here:

  • The tone of the interview I thought was deceptive in that he’s presented as a biologist/sociologist, but the conversation moves to more discussions of policy, (eg, the note on affirmative action). Perhaps this criticism is unfair – after all Murray’s point may more be ‘given that there are these innate differences between races, public policy should reflect that’.
    • Sam could have done his audience a favour in talking about some of Murray’s credentials – the work he has done has been for conservative think tanks. Though, again, perhaps this is an unfair criticism – criticise the merits of the argument, not who’s saying it. But I would argue that who is saying it, is paramount in determining whether you trust what that person is saying.
  • When I first heard the point about his critics lying, I thought ‘Oh, that’s awful!’. But on reflection – perhaps it’s Murray that is lying here?

The first blog response – ‘Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ’ by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett.
You can read the post here.

In the Sam Harris post, he characterises this post as ‘a disingenuous hit piece’. This is a bunk characterisation. This post is mostly addressing Charles Murray on the science, but also making observations on how Harris agrees with him.

It also highlights the Flynn effect, which shows that IQ across the board has been increasing, and uses this to make the case that environmental factors are largely what determine intelligence. They criticise Harris for not strongly enough challenging Murray on this point.

Finally, they conclude with why they see Murray’s views as dangerous – because endorsing those views mean to say ‘therefore we shouldn’t do anything about racial inequality’. (And in fact, Murray’s criticism of affirmative action does seem to lend itself to that policy position).

Another post – ‘There’s still no good reason to believe black-white IQ differences are due to genes’ by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett.

You can read the post here.

Harris characterises this post as Ezra Klein ‘keeping at it’. It’s curious that Harris’s beef is with Klein here. He’s not the author of these posts – he’s the former editor of Vox.

Again, this post is challenging Murray on the science, and criticising Harris for not challenging Murray.

In this post they address some criticisms of their earlier post.

What frustrates me about Harris’s views here – is he that he argues that these posts dogmatic identity politics, when it’s clear that they’re not. They’re comprehensively talking science.

A post by Ezra Klein ‘ Sam Harris, Charles Murrary, and the allure of race science’.

You can read the post here.

Finally a post by Ezra Klein. Harris characterises this as ‘another volley’.
In this post we’re getting into the mud.

It starts by quoting a tweet by Harris: (note that the tweet quotes a tweet by Charles Murray, who is quoting another person, who is quoting another person. For full context it’s best to click through.).

At the risk of sounding like one of the very people Harris is accusing the Vox writers of being – Harris sounds like an alt-right troll here – using hyperbole to suggest that criticisms of Harris and Murray are akin to accusations of thought-crime.

This post doesn’t get into the science, but instead talks about how the conversation of race and genetics has been used in history.

Some thoughts about Harris’s tone so far.

I think it’s clear that Harris had an agenda from the start. He feels that Murray had been unfairly treated in the reception of his book, and then in recent events at Middlebury College where Murray’s host had been assaulted.

I think then, Harris felt the need to give a safe platform the even the scales as it were.
I should be clear – I agree with Harris and others, that there is a toxic element amongst progressives, that favours narrative over the truth and has a dogmatic or authoritarian element. The assault is an example of this.

However, I think Harris makes the mistake of conflating these toxic elements with the criticisms by the Vox writers.
In a way, Harris is doing the same thing he is criticising toxic identity politics of. Where identity politics might take a genuine legitimate grievance, for example, racism, and then use that label to shut down any narrative they’re uncomfortable with, Harris does the same with accusations of identity politics. He now faces of positions of being the boy who cried wolf. Or in this case, the boy who cried identity politics.

The Emails

The emails are really where this turns to shit.
The first email is a long email from Klein, where Ezra, to my professional admiration, goes to lengths to create a conciliatory tone. Now that I think about it, the whole thing feels a little bit like tip toeing around the eggshells of an abusive partner.

Klein reiterates the argument, as he sees it, as presented by Murray, and then reiterates what it is that the Vox writers disagreed on. He acknowledges one mistake they made, in saying that the Flynn effect wasn’t discussed at all.

Harris’s response is curt.

He describes the writers’ work as shoddy, and says that it’s part of a moral panic. He acknowledges that his interest in talking to Murray isn’t so much about the genetic basis of intelligence, but addressing this moral panic:

Again, my desire to speak with Murray was not based on a prior interest in the genetic basis of intelligence—much less a fascination for racial differences in intelligence. Rather, it was out of my growing concern over how fraught our conversations on politically charged topics have become.

He accuses on of the writers of manipulating the data to fit a narrative:

but most of what I’ve seen from Nisbett on the topic of IQ betrays his prior ideological commitments. He knows what he wants the data to say, and he will twist them until he gets the answer he finds consoling.

(To his credit: the book review he mentions is worth at least reading the abstract of. )

He uses more sarcasm:

Yes, it is very hard to wish it away.

He constructs a strawman:

This is not an “anodyne” claim meant to conceal our white supremacy (as the authors suggest)

(I saw no claim that Harris and Murray were attempting to conceal their white supremacy).
Sam clearly feels like he’s a victim:

There are two points here: how the authors treated me, and how they treated Murray. I used that quote from Flynn in precisely the way they said I neglected to use it, so their attack on me is totally unfair.

This is where I’m perplexed. I didn’t feel like Harris was particularly harshly criticised. The worst he gets is the suggestion that he’s naïve or that he’s intellectually lazy, or unable to hold Murray to account. They’re hardly vicious attacks.
He makes a point on my first read stood out as a gross underappreciation of systemic racism:

If Flynn is right, then the mean IQs of African American children who are second- and third-generation upper middle class should have converged with those of the children of upper-middle-class whites, but (as far as I understand) they haven’t.

This would assume that being upper middle class is the only variable that affects intelligence, and not, you know unconscious racism on the parts of their teachers, etc.
Harris does make a point that I think is reasonable:

The thrust of the Vox piece is to distort Murray’s clearly stated thesis: He doesn’t know how much of interracial IQ difference is genetic and how much is environmental, and he suspects that both are involved.

This is what how I heard the interview too. My understanding is that this view can be criticised in two ways:

  • That even this is overstating how much biology plays
  • That the general tone of the discussion is a dog whistle for tolerating racism. More on this later.

Ezra responds:
He frames the disagreement the same way I do:

1. A dispute over the quality of and consensus about the science Murray discusses and the conclusions drawn from that science
2. Whether the article we published was part of some “machinery of defamation,” or in Heier’s terms, whether it framed the conversation “as inherently racist and malevolent.”

He acknowledges Harris’s claim that the criticism are the result of a moral panic, but criticises the way he selectively chooses his sources.

This is a moral panic, an effort to silence, a refusal to follow where the evidence goes, an issue where people lose their critical faculties and fall into a braindead feel-goodism, etc. In some ways, which side of the debate you fall on seems to be taken here as a test of legitimacy: The academics who agree with you are taken seriously, whereas you dismiss someone like Nisbett, who has done a lot of research in this space, very quickly.

And Ezra suggests regarding the interaction between themselves, that Ezra isn’t the best person to talk to regarding race and IQ, but that talking about the problem identity politics might be something they could discuss.

After this the exchange gets to a ‘we can’t seem to agree here’ stage.

Harris says that Klein is seeming less reasonable.

I think we get into the nuts of why Harris seems offended:

 You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my intellectual integrity. At a minimum, you claimed that I was taken in by Murray, because I didn’t know enough of the relevant science
You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my moral integrity. Murray is “dangerous,” and my treating him as a free speech case is “disastrous.” We are “racialists” (this is scarcely a euphemism for “racist”). There is no way to read that article (or your tweets) without concluding that Murray and I are unconscionably reckless (if not actually bad) people.

And he also suggests that Klein in the emails is putting on a polite show, but is remaining deceitful, an obseravation he repeats in his notes about the emails.

In your email, you seem to deny both these points—but they are not deniable.

There’s some back and forth about whether Harris was called a ‘racialist’. Ezra quotes the text:

We hope we have made it clear that a realistic acceptance of the facts about intelligence and genetics, tempered with an appreciation of the complexities and gaps in evidence and interpretation, does not commit the thoughtful scholar to Murrayism in either its right-leaning mainstream version or its more toxically racialist forms. We are absolute supporters of free speech in general and an open marketplace of ideas on campus in particular, but poorly informed scientific speculation should nevertheless be called out for what it is.

Some final thoughts

I have to wonder whether Harris was having a bad day(s) when he exchanged these emails, and then decided to publish them.

It’s something that I’m self-conscious of myself – that sometimes I’ll blurt something out and be less diplomatic than would be helpful to my cause. And I’m not an already successful podcaster or author.

But it does I think point to something I suspect about the identity-politics-critical movement – the iconic example being Jordan Peterson, where a legitimate criticism of identity politics can morph into giving a pass to equally disingenuous alt-right politics. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it on Sam Harris’s podcast – there was another episode that gave me pause too, but I’m not sure which one it is.
An irony is, at the time this feud was going down Harris published podcast #121 – White Power – an interview with former white supremacist Christian Picciolini.

In it, they discuss the changing rhetoric of white supremacists, moving from ‘white supremacist’ to ‘white nationalist’ or ‘alt-right’, from ‘global Jewish conspiracy’ to ‘globalism’ – all in an attempt to make their politics sound more innocuous.

It’s ironic then, that Harris wittingly or not, fails to appreciate that context that discussions of race and IQ occurs in, and doesn’t seem to seriously consider that he’s taking part in this toning down of racist rhetoric.

This isn’t to suggest that Murray is infact a secret white supremacist. But certainly it’s reasonable to ask if he is.

Overall – I hope that this was just Sam Harris having a bad week. The alternative to consider that he’s becoming more cynical.

It’s something I wonder about myself – I imagine, that but for that I have older sisters with strong personalities and that I live in a fairly safe and forgiving society, I could easily be alt-right kind of person. Yet, for all my own criticisms of identity politics, I remain optimistic, and not cynical asshole. What is it that causes some intelligent men to go the path of alt-right, and others to remain progressive, like Ezra Klein has? I’d argue the difference is cynicism – but what causes one to become cynical?

A letter I wrote to the Minister of Education re: sexual consent education, and its response.

In response to a rape jokes scandal in a New Zealand school, the then Minister of Education Hekia Parata ruled out compulsory consent education – saying that it was best addressed in the family.

I sent an email to here, and here’s the response I got.

I wrote:

Hi Hekia.

I write to regarding the comments you made as reported in this RNZ article: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/326678/wellington-college-students-suspended-for-rape-comments

“Today, Education Minister Hekia Parata ruled out introducing compulsory education around sexual consent in high schools, saying the subject was best addressed in a family setting.

Ms Parata said the issue was a conversation for parents to have with their children, and schools had the freedom to supplement the pupils’ education if they wanted to.”

For context, I’m 31 year old pakeha male.

I think this is a disappointingly regressive attitude.

I got my sex education in 1997-2000. It covered use of condoms, STIs and pregnancy. I wish it had covered sexual consent, because there are certain regrettable situations I’ve been involved in which consent education might have prevented.

I think compulsory consent education is a no brainer, if not a bit of minefield to navigate.

All the best,

David Johnston

The response: (PDF)

Dear David

The Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, has asked me to reply to your email of 15 March 2017 about the introduction of compulsory education around sexual consent.

Teaching children and young people respect for others is a responsibility for all of us; something they learn at home and school, both in what they are told, and what they observe around them.

As part of this shared responsibility, The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that schools work with children and young people on the skills they need to navigate personal relationships and sexual identity.

Sexuality education is a compulsory part of our health and physical education curriculum, which schools must deliver in Years 1 to 10. The Ministry of Education expects schools to follow the guidance we issued in 2015, this can be found at http://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-HPE/Policy-guidelines/Sexuality-education-a-guide-for-principals-boards-of-trustees-and-teachers This guidance spells out what should be covered by sexuality education. For secondary schools, that detail sets out a clear pathway through topics including consent, coercion and sexual violence.

Our guidance puts identity and sexuality firmly in the context of relationships with others. It covers the skills of self-knowledge, assertiveness and caring that are central to healthy relationships. Students learn about personal boundaries in sexuality education. From the beginning, we expect schools to teach children to identify safe and unsafe touching and the importance of respect. By Years 6 to 7, students are identifying pressures from others and developing assertiveness strategies.

Schools are required to consult with their communities every two years, or more often, about how they teach sexuality education. It is one of the reasons there is variation from school to school in teaching this subject. Any teaching programme discussing consent requires an understanding of empathy and respect for others’ feelings. So at the heart of sexuality education, again from a young age, is material on affirming the feelings and beliefs of others.

Many secondary schools and communities include consent in their sexuality education. Many schools also hold forums outside scheduled classes where important issues such as consent, coercion and safety in intimate relationships can be debated and discussed.

We encourage all schools to look at what they are doing on sexuality education with their school community.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Glen Johnson
Acting Group Manager Pathways and Progress Early Learning and Student Achievement

It’s an interesting response – pretty comprehensive and pro-consent education – and completely at odds with Hekia’s comment.

Book Review: Girls Who Code

GWC_finalcover-530x633.jpg

Girls Who Code is an organisation aimed at helping women get into tech.

The founder Reshma Saujani wrote a book by the same name. The book’s recommended age is 8-12. It’s a comprehensive guide for learning to code.

While well-intentioned as it is, I don’t think this is a very book as means for learning to code. For a book that is intended for children – it is too long and overwritten.

From a feminist perspective, isn’t a STEM book targeted at women a little ironic?

One of the main points in discourse around women in tech is that tech is gender neutral – tech isn’t an inherently boyish activity.

I find it a little amusing then, that this book fundamentally uses gender roles to sell itself.

I don’t think it’s wrong to do it. If there really is a cultural norm of ‘girls don’t do tech’ and this book gives permission for a girl to be interested in tech, then that’s a good thing.

Also, the book is filled with profiles of important women in tech – and that’s great. Probably my favourite part of the book.

A disclaimer

I haven’t read the whole book. I got a good few pages in before I gave up, and just quickly skimmed the rest. The book is too wordy.

My review

This book is way too large and cumbersome.

It’s 160 pages long, and each page is filled with with text.

If the goal is to encourage young girls into tech – this isn’t the right way to do it. It’s not the right way to encourage any young person into tech.

It might impress parents, and other adults – with its comprehensiveness – but a child is going to find it overwhelming, and unfun.

I think being comprehensive is good. But this book uses too many words to do it.

An introduction to computer science book for children should be first and foremost interesting and fun, and easy.

One hundred and sixty pages of fairly dense reading, doesn’t really sound like fun.

Another thing this book suffers from, is bad design. The book uses a lot of cute handwriting style comments and arrows – I guess in an attempt to make it seem more friendly.

IMG_20171023_215623.jpg

I think it’s just bad design.

A coding book should just aim to communicate as effectively as possible. Using recognisable and tidy layouts is the best way do to this.

This isn’t to say that a coding book shouldn’t be fun. Infact – I tend to prefer reading tutorials that have a more informal tone – but I’m going to find if it said ‘Righto lads, here’s how to create a for loop’ off putting.

The taco creation algorithm they used to demonstrate for loops was interesting, as was the bead creation algorithm. The profiles and timelines throughout the book are good.

What does make a good coding book for children?

It’s easy enough for me to criticise – but what would a good coding book for children look like?

It would be far shorter, for one. I think the way I would go about it – is I would create a first introductory book intended to be as fun and easy as possible, and then if the child showed continued interested in it – then they could purchase a second more indepth book.

I would aim to use as few words as possible. Each page, basically containing one simple concept.

I would intersperse simple quizzes through the book, testing the child’s knowledge. Quizzes are effective tool for maintaining engagement, as the child is given a sense achievement and progress when they answer the question correctly.

I’d intersperse cartoon pictures throughout the book to keep it interesting.

So that’s it. Seeing this book, makes me think I should I considering writing my own one.

Compatibility and the spectrum of cynicism.

I would argue that the main thing the prevents people from getting into relationships isn’t a lack of basic compatibility with others – but a mismatching of their level emotional cynicism and bad timing.

Let me explain.

Basic compatibility

There are some core things are basic deal breakers about whether someone is a romantic match for us or not, things like:

  • Whether they’re a smoker or not
  • Their level of exercise
  • Whether they do drugs or not
  • Their age
  • Their employment and/or social standing
  • Their political views
  • Their religious views

Different people are going to have different deal breakers. Many of us would never consider dating a smoker – but some people are ok with it. Some people couldn’t stand the thought of dating someone with an opposing political ideology, others are political apathetic and don’t care.

The point is – of the entire dating pool, there’s a subsection of people of people who you’re actually going to have some semblance of realistic compatibility with.

Now, if you’re an intelligent progressive-minded person living in a small shittown – then it’s likely that your eligible dating pool will be unworkably small – and working with that is not what I wish to deal with here.

For somebody in a decent sized progressive city – your compatible dating pool is still going to contain hundreds or thousands of prospects.

Chemistry

After basic compatibility is met – there’s still whether the two of you get along or not.

It’s possible that you both have similar lifestyles and share similar world views – but you go on a date, and you just don’t get along. You don’t find their jokes funny, or you finding their flirting wooden. Maybe they have a certain physical appearance that you just don’t find attractive.

But even if after we eliminate all of these – I would still say that people in decent sized progressive cities still have a healthy sized dating pool of people they’re compatible with, and are attracted to – so what prevents people from getting into relationships?

Perhaps people are too picky

Let’s get this point out of the way first. It’s plausible that many people are being too picky. They want someone who earns $100k a year, and has rock hard abs, and is super intelligent, and likes dogs, and shares their taste in movies, and always knows the right thing to make them laugh. If they’re not considering dating anyone who doesn’t meet all of these criteria – then perhaps they narrow their dating pool too small to be workable.

I’ll concede that this may be the case for some people – but I don’t think it’s the primary factor that prevents most people from forming relationships.

Enter the emotional cynicism spectrum

People, in a given moment, have an emotional state that fits on a spectrum of distrusting and cynical on one end, and joyous and willing to love on the other.

Being more cynical will mean when a guy says hello in the supermarket line, the person is more likely to dismiss them as a creep or give a curt response. Whereas existing on the more open to love side of the spectrum will more likely result in a friendly conversation that leads to a date.

The point here is – whether this date happens or not – isn’t due to their inherent compatibility, but their respective emotional states at the time.

People’s day to day life experiences affect their emotional state. For example, being sent some abusive messages or being ghosted will likely make someone more cynical – while having a stranger pay for your bus when you were out of cash will make you more willing to love.

Our emotional state is likely to fluctuate. You go on one friendly date – it goes well – you become more willing to love. That allows a date with a different person to occur. You get ghosted. You become more cynical.

It’s this dynamic that ultimately makes finding a mate seem difficult, despite the apparent abundance of potential romantic partners – we may be just meeting each other at the wrong times; had you met that person a week later – the date might have gone entirely differently.

There’s a couple more points I’d make:

  • Both partner’s being open to love isn’t what’s necessary for a pairing to occur. I would argue that both partners being cynical can also allow a pairing to occur – as both go in with a more standoffish stance – and both feeling like that’s what they deserve. I would say though – that this kind of relationship is ultimately going to be less satisfying – or, at least not what this writer is looking for.
  • I think there’s also a similar timing problem in terms of social maturity. For example we might be meeting people who we’re fundamentally compatible with, but who still find upfront communication awkward. This kind of timing problem doesn’t have the same fluctuation that the emotional cynicism does; it tends to be something that develops in a linear fashion.

The cute optimist in me says that in considering this – maintaining an optimistic emotional state in response to events that might make you cynical is the important takeaway here – as it’s the being optimistic that is going to be opening the doors.

That said – it’s good to go in optimistic, but with an attitude of detachment – anticipating that there’s a decent chance that something won’t pan out. That atleast lets that eventuality not affect your emotional state as much as it might have.

It’s hard to say what this means in practice. Say you’re arranging a date for a Friday night. A common likelyhood is that they’ll flake on the date. I guess a healthy technique to manage that outcome – is to have also made plans for what you’ll do if that happens, one that doesn’t involve acting cynically yourself. For example you might make plans of ‘If this date doesn’t happen, I’ll go for a run instead’. I don’t think this would necessarily negate all negative emotional experience – but it’s the best you can do.

It’s funny – I feel like the tail end of this post might spread a little cynicism. But I think it does objectively demonstrate a healthy and emotionally mature thinking. I would hope this has an uplifting effect in knowing that there are others out there with with this kind of emotional consideration.

The four kinds of National voter.

  1. The will-always-vote-National voter

    This voter supports National the same way a sports fan supports a particular team. It’s likely that they vote the same way their parents did. It’s not a kind of support that comes from consideration of policy, rather it’s just backing a team.

  2. The house-owning voter

    Although not explicitly – National pretty much ran on a policy of not doing anything about the housing crisis. Their single housing specific policy was to increase the first home buyer grant, which is great if you’re the one selling your house. There’s $10,000 more you can sell your house for.

    I think a lot of kiwis who have already bought houses, don’t want to see an end to the housing crisis. They want to see houses continue to rise – so they can double their money like they’ve seen others do.

  3. The I-don’t-like-beneficiaries voter

    I think a lot of New Zealanders are sick of what they see as a perverse incentive to welfare dependency in New Zealand – and they’re not without merit.

    The single thing I’m most critical of Labour and Green about is their head-in-the-sand ‘everybody should have kids if they want them’ attitude. For educated middle class New Zealanders who put off having kids till they’re in their 30s, seeing a system that seems to enable people who care about their kids far less they do, they can’t abide by.

  4. The I-believed-Nationals-lies voter

    National conducted a campaign of fear mongering about inheritance taxes, and lies about Labour increasing income tax or not budgeting properly.

    This has always been National’s strategy – portray Labour as idealistic but incompetent, and that somehow ‘greedy = good business sense’- ignoring that during the last Labour government – they managed to quite successfully produce a budget surplus.