Friday, December 2, 2011

Catch up blog

Been a while so I am going to post a quick catch up blog...

Some people may have noticed that I have not being very active in the whole atheism/scepticism scene for the last few months. This I attribute to a few things such as working full time in a non-IT job, not having internet access at my home and organsisng future living arrangements, but the main reason is that my girlfriend is going through a high-risk prgnancy (which has already had some misfortune) and coping with that eats up a lot of time.

However, when all is finished I intend to start attending more 'drinking sceptically' and WS Freethinkers meetings. I also intend to pursue my new hobbies of learning more about computers and learning to rebuild internal combustion engines. With the first hobby I intend to become acquainted with LINUX based operating systems and open source software (I figure that as a fat guy in his mid 20s, I should know more about computers). With the second I wish to build a custom motorcycle for myself and one for my girlfriend.

My girlfriend and I are also delving into the rather interesting world of herpetology. No, not the science of making stupid faces, but the stiuy of reptiles. Our particular area of interest is snakes. We have a vivarium set up for our first snake (probably a Children's Python) and after seeing how that goes we will continue in collecting various snakes and lizards. Eventually I would like to set up a very awesome, very secure, indoor enclosure for an Inland Taipan or something similar. As my girlfriend has a degree in animal science (and I like animals) I am sure we can find a lot of pleasure in the study of these creatures.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Doctor with the best treatment

Ask any of the (3) people that know me – “What thoughts do you associate with Bob?” and you’ll get many things in reply.
“He is a pretentious annoying prick.”
“Ugly, fat bastard.”
“Long hair.”
“He has a cool hat.”
“He is the Reverend Doktor Bob.”
“He has an obsession with Dr Pepper.”

Now lets have a look at that last point. Dr Pepper. It does seem to many that I have an addiction to Dr Pepper. Hell, I got a costco’s supermarket membership just so I could buy it by the case. I drink it all the time. Approximately 60% of my tweets are regarding Dr Pepper. But why?
I love it. That’s why.

But there is more to it than that. As an atheist, I worship no gods, spirits, magical faeries or virgin mothers. But I sometimes feel the need to express an undying love for something. Something that will never let me down. That something is Dr Pepper. By making each time I drink it an almost religious experience I fulfil my desire to give control of myself to someone/something that will absolve me of all responsibility. I’m sure that’s what most fervent believers in religion desire when they go to church, to feel that they don’t have to take responsibility for their own lives because their god will do it for them. When I drink a Dr Pepper I have an incredibly personal experience that pushes out the rest of the world. I devote myself to it and it devotes itself to me. And it’s a hell of a lot more reliable than any Yahweh, Allah or Vishnu.

One upside of my obsession with Dr Pepper is that it is a healthy obsession. Well maybe not in the sense that it is good for my physical health, but it is good for my mind. Take a look around at what most people want in this world. Money, fancy cars, huge houses, expensive TVs. What I want is a can of Dr Pepper. I have a roof over my head, an old beat up car, a job that I enjoy and yet pays enough for my living expenses…add a Dr Pepper and I’m happy. I’m not worried about a massive debt I owe because I use credit cards and bank loans to finance a brand new BMW and a 75 inch plasma TV. I’m not worried about a huge mortgage so I can have a fancy apartment in a fashionable suburb of Sydney. Im not working 90 hours a week in a job I hate just so I can keep the bills at bay month to month. All I need is a Dr Pepper now and then. I think am a lot happier in my life than a lot of those fancy folk.

yes i drink it at work

Oh, and – DR PEPPER IS YUMMY!!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

New girl, new chilli and newborns- One of those 'life update' blog posts

Hello congregation!

I write this from the Reverend Doktor Bob's Centre for Clinical/Spiritual Healing as its a rather slow day, with the school holidays being responsible for a slump in surgery. All our surgeons/anaesthetists/sick people have decided to try to regain some contact with their children during this time. However we still need to have nursing staff around, just in case an emergency occurs. We will keep the patient alive while the important people are busy in Thredbo and Perisher.

Anyhow I thought i would write a little 'life update' post, nothing to do with scepticism  or religion.Its just a couple of things have happened in my life and I feel that by writing this down it will help me to reflect/decide on life choices.

No. 1 - New girl.

Through a friend I met a very nice girl who has decided I am worthy of affection-based attention. She is a very smart person who will probably leave me when she realises that my so called intelligence revolves around a series of hit or miss statements that luck has helped keep in the hit pile. Her occupation is in the field of animals and animal supplies (animals are awesome), lives outside of the major city areas (always a plus) and can discuss the finer points of religion and philosophy (huzzah!). I am keen to see where this will go. I hope I don't stuff things up like i have done with....every girl I have ever dated.

No. 2 - Newborns.

I recently got a message from a friend i attended university with. She was asking me how life was going, how my training in peri-operative nursing was going and what my plans were for the future. Now my plans have been basically about gathering experience and knowledge in nursing and then eventually using this consolidated knowledge/experience to help me work overseas in a volunteer capacity, hopefully with
Médecins Sans Frontières

After a few pleasantry style back and forth messages she let me know about a training course her father (top doctor of a major Western Sydney Neonatal Intesive Care Unit [NICU]) is setting up with the help of nurse unit managers and clinical nurse educators. The training course is to fast track nurses into neonate intensive care units.

Neonatal intensive care, for those not in the know, is the care of critically ill new borns. It is a field of nursing which requires steady hands, a quick mind and a great knowledge of drugs and physiology. New borns, when critically ill, can go from a stable condition to very, very ill/dead a lot quicker than adults usually do. A NICU nurse needs to be able to recognise signs of worsening conditions and act on them very fast.

Anyway, this training program is designed to get nurses with no previous neonatal or intensive care experience (or even no real nursing experience - they even want newly graduated nurses) and link them in with clinical educators/specialists for a 1-on-1 mentored training program for several months, so these fresh nurses can be shown how to deal with critically ill neonates. This doctor has specifically asked for me to join the program as he wants a certain number of smart, male nurses (2 out of 3 ain't bad). He wants me to join next February, which is just after the end of my new grad training year in operating theatre nursing. 

While NICU nursing is not a field i ever saw myself working in, the opportunity is too good to pass up. It will be hard work, require a lot of study outside of working hours and I will probably have to confront my emotions as I experience some horrific things (Ive dealt with people dying, but holding a baby as it dies will be a test of my stiff upper lipness), but the experience gained will be something I will use for the rest of my career. As the doctor told me, if I can perform resuscitation on an infant, I can do any sort of nursing.

So I've decided that I shall undertake this course next year when my new grad year of training is up (which will give me a good head start) and be ready to absorb as much knowledge and learn as many new skills as i can.

No. 3 - New Chili

I have recently bought a new jar of extra mega spicy super hot chili sauce, named 'Devil's Delirium', made from the Jolokia Chili - a chili often recognised as the hottest in the world. When I tasted it at the chili stand I bought it from, I instantly went bright red, started sweating, could hear the pounding of my heart in my ears, went dizzy and started crying. I remember paying for the chili sauce, getting into my new lady friends car....and then i remember waking up on her couch. I'm pretty sure i experienced synesthesia at some point.

I've already started using it in my chili stews that I live off during the week. Mixed in with a bit of sour cream it provides a nice kick to my usual relatively hot stew. However I would not recommend this for anyone with heart problems or stomach ulcers.

Anyway, time for me to go. Sorry to bore you all with this Bob based post, but I felt the urge to yak on a bit.

Try to have something a bit more scepticism/religion based for you all next time.

The Reverend Doktor Bob

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Reverend Doktor's Fitness Freakout part 1

Last weigh in: 139.4kg
So after committing to a change in lifestyle, I had a double burden of work issues and health issues that delayed the kick-off of my health challenge. I’ve taken stock of what I need to do to start exercising more and come up with a list of things I need to get/do.
·         Shoes. I need to get a pair of shoes that are appropriate for exercise, as I only have a pair of pull-on work boots that I wear everywhere. I do have a pair of joggers at work, but they are kept at work so they won’t be contaminated by the outside world, which would increase the risk of infection in the patients. I need those for work as I am on my feet all day and couldn’t wear my work boots there for the same reason I shouldn’t exercise in work boots.
·         A calorie counter website/book. I need reference material for calories in food so I know how much I am eating each day.
·         A diary. I need to maintain a diary so I know how what/how much I’ve eaten and exercised.

That should do for the short term, but long term I would like to get an exercise machine so I can exercise at home. I will also incorporate weight lifting back into my exercise regime at some point, I enjoy it when I do it and can use it as a reward for my cardio workouts.
On the food front of the health kick, I’ve started cooking up bean/vegetable based stews using stir through Italian/Asian sauces or Cajun/Chilli spice mixes. No rice/pasta as that is unneeded carbs. I also try to have a proper breakfast of cereal and milk each morning.
After a weekend on the grog (again) I have decided to not cut down my drinking (though I probably should) but instead change what I drink. Instead of beer or spirit with coke, I may just stick to straight spirits – a huge reduction in sugars because I’m not mixing…and I’ll hopefully drink less.
I’ve also decided to stop watching TV/movies on my computer and only allowing myself to watch them as I exercise. Another reward system to help force myself into exercise.
That’s it for this update.
The Reverend Doktor Bob

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mind Body Wallet

As I sit in the grand study of the Riverside Manor, relaxing in an armchair in front of a roaring fire and sipping on a glass of brandy, my mind wanders back to a visit this humble sceptic paid to the Mind Body Spirit festival at the Sydney exhibition centre on the 21st of May, 2011.
More commonly known in the sceptical community as “Mind, Body, Wallet”, it is a festival where various alternative health practitioners, psychics, spiritual (cult) leaders, aura readers, astral projectors and purveyors of general nonsense gather to promote their wares and be among likeminded kooks. It is a generally relaxed atmosphere populated by hippies, young and old, who feel that there is more to reality than…reality. They generally feel that there is wisdom in beliefs that are not mainstream, that they are so much more ‘in touch’ with the world than everybody else. What I saw was a bunch of hipsters, all agreeing about how cool they were to be going against the mainstream ideology. They also happen to be wrong, but let me elaborate as to why.
I had spent the previous few days ruminating as to what the exhibition would be like. While I was fairly sure it would just be a bunch of stands filled with people trying to sell their hippy style wares, in the back of my mind I had this image of crowds of the craziest types – anti-vaxxers, hippy conspiracy theorists and the like – that would be very loud and very pushy about getting people to listen to them. Of course when I arrived, I was glad to find out it was the more realistic scenario that came to pass.
The day started off with the Non God Chick, the Skeptical Westie, Bea & I catching a train from our commune/holiday house/podcast headquarters into the city of Sydney. Upon arrival in the city, we travelled by foot to the exhibition centre where we met up with Bastard Sheep, a fellow sceptic/atheist in the Sydney scene. After paying the $18 for entry, we set our demeanours to ‘open & inviting’ and headed through the front doors.
The first thing I noticed as I walked in was that the set up for this expo was exactly the same as any motorcycle, tattoo or employment expo I had ever been to. Rows of stalls with printed signs above each declaring the theme of the quackery being sold, a stage in one corner to present lectures or performances, a canteen in another corner selling wildly overpriced/under nutritious food. It even had the bored looking exhibition centre staff that run the logistics of the building through each and every expo that goes through there.
Before I describe a few highlights of the day, I will quickly run through a list of kookiness that was on offer throughout the day:
·         The Rosicurian Order
·         Geopathic Stress Relief
·         Tachyon revitalisers
·         Fluoride filters
·         Acupuncture/pressure
·         Eternal Consciousness
·         Compassion increasing exercises
·         Name decoding
·         Sound therapy
·         Reiki
·         Qi alignment
·         Astrology charting
·         Kinesiology mastering
·         And many more
Honestly, if I listed all the things on offer and went into detail about how each one is described and how each is supposed to fulfil some empty part of your life, I would be at this computer for days on end and unfortunately I have a job that prevents me from doing that. All I need to say is that a large range of crap was on sale, a lot of which was contradicting other stuff around it (which didn’t seem to upset any of the hippy people, they were happy to trust it all to work).
One highlight from the day was the chiropractors. Both Bastard Sheep and myself decided to get a spinal alignment exam performed. This exam consisted of us standing on a small platform in front a wire frame that had string running across the front of it. Now, I don’t know what happened to Bastard Sheep, but I stood there for a grand total of 25 seconds before the woman examining my spine gave me my diagnosis – Apparently I have a curve above my hip on the left hand side and my left shoulder slouches down, which is the reason for all the headaches (which I don’t get, but she assumed I did) and sore arms (I lift patients and weights on a daily basis, could that maybe explain the feeling of exercised muscles?). I was then offered a $45 consultation, which was a one day offer compared to the normal $300 consultation. I ummed and ahhhed and finally said “No thanks.” My spine will keep for now, I think.
Another highlight was the stress test I was given by the Scientologists.  Now out of fear of legal reprisal, I wish to say that the Church of Scientology is nothing less than the greatest thing to grace mental health and indeed mankind as whole since the beginning of time, or at least since Xenu sent us here on rocket ships and we crashed into the volcano and were released into the atmosphere as spirit things which then inhabited the bodies we now possess. At the same I would like to point out that while writing this I happen to be wearing a Guy Fawkes mask (just on a whim, no special reason why I am). So, anyway, I sat down with a kindly young man who asked me some questions about my personal life while I held two metal cylinders in my hands. As I responded to the questions posed, the cylinders would read my stress and transmit the stress as a current to a box which had a meter on it. The stress could then be measured so the Scientologist could tell what part of my life was making me stressful. I decided to see how much stress I had, so I answered all his questions truthfully and didn’t try to trick the machine. Questions about my love life, work life, friends and family were asked, I answered truthfully and the Scientology man was not happy. Despite admitting to some stressors in life (we all have them) I still came across as an incredibly relaxed, cool customer. The Scientology guy was not happy because he couldn’t convince me I needed help, as I didn’t need any (which is not something most mental health professionals would agree with). After brushing off his not-very determined sales pitch, I donned my sunglasses and strutted off into the distance.
A hilarious moment of anecdotal proof that a lot of this stuff doesn’t work was when we visited the herbal weed stand. This stand offered fake weed, herbal ecstasy and herbal acid. It also offered lollypops that were guaranteed to give a man some pep in his step. To awaken the sleeping serpent. To power up his magic wand. To light his fuse. To prime the purple headed yogurt slinger. To extend his IV pole. To re-vitalise his bottle brush….I’m sure you get my drift. Bastard Sheep stood up tall (using his spine and back muscles, not the dirty kind of ‘stood up tall’, you sickos) and declared “Challenge accepted!” For the next ½ an hour he sucked down on a treat (you people disgust me) and relayed information as to his…umm…erection status (I’m tired and can’t be bothered thinking of any humorous slang any more). Either Bastard Sheep is a liar, he suffers from impotency problems (sorry for outing that if it’s true dude) or the lollypops –shock horror! - didn’t work as they were advertised. Of course, as this is anecdotal proof and not true clinical data, I wouldn’t want to denigrate the name of ‘Happy High Herbs’ or whatever they are called. Scientifically based, clinical trials are a must if we are to conclusively disprove their claims.
I will just talk a little about my pet peeves when it comes to this hippy, alternative health, quackery scene. One argument that you get from nearly all the proponents of alternative health is that western, or ‘orthodox’ medicine is just a conspiracy by ‘Big Pharma’ (the pharmaceutical companies) and the government to take all your money, get votes and even control your thoughts/actions. Now while I agree that, yes, some medications are very expensive (manufacturing costs for uncommon medications are high, as are costs for clinical research), Medicare and/or private health insurance can subsidise a lot of the costs. If you are a sufferer of chronic health problems that require long term medication therapy, there is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which brings the price of medicines down to make them more affordable. If you have a background which includes risk factors such as disability, mental illness or certain ethnicities you qualify for subsidies as well (for example, my great grandmother was a Wiradjuri tribe Aboriginal and as such I am genetically pre-disposed to certain health conditions such as heart disease and cancer, so I get cheap medications if I need them). My point is – you can be sick in this country and it won’t bankrupt you for treatments. Yet all these purveyors of crazy quack cures, who claim western medicine is about taking your wallets, aren’t exactly civic minded themselves. They charge up to and including a small fortune for untested, unproven miracle cures that don’t work. And you won’t be getting any subsidies from Medicare for that. If they truly held the cure to cancer, why not give it to all seekers of the cure? That would be more in keeping with the manner of brotherly love and spiritualism they all wank on about than the $300 information nights, followed up by $700 appointments weekly for 3 years.
Another thing that annoys me is the practices by outsiders that lend legitimacy (in the eyes of the public) to these quack treatments. For example, a particular private health insurance company had a stand at mind body wallet and were trying to flog health plans to believers in quackery. Now some people may think that if a health fund is there, there must be something to these treatments. While I can’t be certain, I am pretty sure the only quackery that health funds will rebate on is chiropractic. Speaking of which, another thing that makes Joe bloggs believe this stuff is real and scientific is the fact that chiropractic is now an occupation that you have to have AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) registration for, allowing it to join the likes of medicine, psychology, physiotherapy and, of course, my own particular specialty, nursing.
There is plenty more I can rage on about when it comes to Mind Body Spirit festival, but this post is already 2 weeks and too many words in the making. I will recommend that if you are in the mood for a laugh, a cry, an argument and some trolling – go check out mind body spirit. It’s on twice a year in Sydney.
The Reverend Doktor Bob.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Time for a change

Last week I was at a friend’s place, partying for my 26th birthday. The next morning, after an ice cold shower to wake myself up from the bottle of American Honey, several Canadian Clubs and several Bundys of the night before, I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. What I saw was a massively overweight, pudgy faced, dour looking guy with man boobs. Apart from some awesome tatts and a beautiful head of hair, I was unimpressed. I am 26 years old, and I have the physique of a 50 year old man who has let himself go. The time has come to make some serious changes to my life.
Inspired by a blog my friend Gabe has started; it’s time for me to get on the health kick. No more excuses, it’s time to change. I weighed in at 140kg last week, with higher than desired blood pressure, a slightly higher than desired pulse rate and breathlessness after climbing stairs. I don’t want that – I want to be healthy.
But I know it won’t be easy. I’m not going to be running marathons in 2 weeks; I probably won’t be running them in a year. If I try to do too much too soon I’ll burn out and give up, or might even do serious damage to my body. I need to take things slowly. The idea is to allow my body to cope with the changes.
So from now on I’ll be
-          Eating healthier - No more chocolate,  lollies, soft drinks, fatty foods (except the odd Dr Pepper – if I couldn’t have that, I would kill people)
-          Exercising more – When I get home from work, I’ll go out for a walk. Maybe even buy a cross trainer exercise machine, the only exercise machine I’ve ever liked.
-          Keeping a diary of my exercise and diet – weekly check-ins to track my progress.
The only good thing about my physique is that I’m quite strong. That’s not bragging, it is just a fact. Years of on again/off again weight lifting plus carrying around a large body frame has left me with more strength than the average guy. All that means now is that I don’t need to incorporate weight lifting into my exercise scheme. I can concentrate solely on cardiovascular fitness.
My limited experience in psychology studies tells me that healthier people tend to be happier people – they perform better in their work, they’re able to participate in more activities, even their sleep is more restful than the rest of us.
Hopefully in a year I’ll be a fitter, happier, more active person.
Hopefully not dropping dead from a heart attack as you read this,
The Reverend Doktor Bob
P.S. I don’t intend to let my new lifestyle get in the way of my sceptical activities – The good Reverend Doktor will still be seeking the truth and fighting the good fight whenever possible.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A message on Rev. Dr. Bob's birthday

The following was transcribed from a Ministry of Harry Kenwell  meeting. To be imagined in a Southern US preacher style voice, or James Brown in the Blues Brothers.

On a crisp and clear morning, in a big white tent in the middle of a green field. Dozens of people are seated in pews facing a stage. On the stage there is an organist playing softly, Deacon Geoff and The Reverend Doktor Bob.
Deacon Geoff, from side of stage: “....and now a sermon from our very own Reverend Doktor Bob!”
*Enter Rev.Dr. Bob from left side of stage, walks to centre of stage*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Now people…now people.”
*crowd murmurs with excitement*
Rev. Dr. Bob: “When I woke up this morning, I saw a bright light!”
*crowd excitement grows a little*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “When I woke up this morning, I heard an unusual sound!”
*Organ music rises in volume*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “And what was that light and sound? Do you want me to tell you?”
*Organ music rises in volume even more. Cries of “Tell it, preacher!” and “Show us, Reverend” come from the audience*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “The light and sound belonged to Him. To Harry! Can I get a Harrylujah?”
*Crowd calls out “Harrylujah!”*
 Rev.Dr. Bob: “I said ‘Can I get a Harrylujah?’”
*Crowd calls louder “HARRYLUJAH!”*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Alright, RAmen. Now people, I wanna tell you – Harry spoke to me!”
*Crowd cheers*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “And do you wanna know what He said to me? Do you want to hear His words?”
*Organ music rises to match a rising volume of cries from the audience. Calls of “Tell us, Reverend!” and “Testify!” come from the crowd. In the front row, a man collapses, fainting from the love of Harry*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Harry spoke to me. He said ‘Bob – you’re 26 today. It’s time for you to give back to the community after you have been given so much.’ Now, let me tell you people, I couldn’t gaze upon that far shore, that wonder, without being struck dumb. I wanted to ask him how, but couldn’t find a way to make the words come out.”
*Organ music tempo increases as The Reverend Doktor’s speech gets faster. The excitement of the crowd builds with each passing second. Cries of desire for Harry come from the audience. People are on their feet, reaching out to their fellow Kenwellians as they feel His love*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Harry kept speaking to me. I felt as if my head would explode with the power of his words. He said
‘Bob. On this day, the 26th anniversary of your birth, I charge you with the task of spreading my words. You will not be alone. Others will join you in celebrating my existence.’
While I could not speak, Harry knew what I wanted to ask. I wanted to know what His message, what His command, what His Words would be.
 ‘Bob,’ He said ‘There have been others that were thought to be divine. Others who claimed a ruling over mankind. These false gods may have had some good messages, but they were usually combined with rules that were pointless and restrictive, as well as, more often than not, baseless prejudices against fellow creatures.’
His words struck home for me. The history of the world is full of such tales. He went on.
‘The world is a busy place. Everybody is too swept up in life to follow the ideals that have been laid down by so many. So I have provided a philosophy that is easy to follow, that is fair and equitable for all mankind.’
Do you people want to hear that philosophy? Do you want to hear his words?”
*The crowd cries out in unison “Yes!”*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Ok people. Here is his message to us all.”
*The music stops abruptly. The crowd hushes, all leaning forward in expectation of The Message. The tent goes silent, in stark contrast to the frenzy that was in progress just seconds before*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Be Generally Awesome.”
*The crowd lets out a collective sigh of pleasure upon hearing his words. Many fall back into their seats exhausted, as if having run a marathon*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “How much better a philosophy can you get? I know of none greater. When you wake up in the morning – Be Awesome. When you go to work – Be Awesome. When deciding anything in life, from what drink you should have to what can be done to make the world a better place – Be Awesome. If we all Be Awesome to one another, there will be no ill in this world!”
*Crowd cheers. Cries of “Harrylujah!” and “Praise be to Awesome!” are heard*
Rev.Dr. Bob: “Now people. He wants you to go out there and spread his message of Awesome! Go! Now! Smile at a stranger, hug a friend, love a lover and be Awesome to one another! Go!”
*The crowd rushes out of the tent, chanting “Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.”*