maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
So I dreamed I was driving around Brunswick in my white Subaru Forester, looking for a marriage celebrant. For reasons unknown, the celebrant had changed their name to "Jar Jar Smith" or something like that.

I ended up driving down Royal Parade, but while I was at it apparently I was also controlling, remotely, another Subaru Forester in front of me. I kinda lost track of the other car and pulled over somewhere. Then I realised the remotely controlled car had wound up in someone's swimming pool!
maxcelcat: (Drawing of a trike)
So, it's been a while. Looks like my first entry on was on July 26th of 2005. (Which I can barely look at - it's entirely about my then-girlfriend, a very unsuitable lass some 11 years my junior...)

But... The time has come to leave.

Livejournal's gotten quiet of late. When I say "of late" I mean since about 2010. LJ pre-dates such notable sites as Facebook and Twitter, and they have largely usurped all the things that made livejournal interesting, and pretty much killed blogging.

LJ was the one of the first sites that encouraged connections between people and encouraged updates on what you were up to. Now I can do that ten times a minute with Twitter. And slowly all the people I knew on here either stopped blogging, or moved to different blogging sites, or simply disappeared from the online world entirely. I can't even remember their usernames now, let alone their real names.

And I'm to blame too. I used to blog here every few days, now it's maybe a few times a year. I tried starting several other blogs, but between working full time, having a four year old son and trying to get some exercise, I don't have a whole lot of spare time.

But I resisted moving from LJ for many years, as people migrated to wordpress and Dreamwidth. Mostly because I'm actually something of a software and platform Luddite (which is funny because I'm a software engineer), I still use Winamp for example. If I find a think I like, I tend to stick to it till well after it is no longer supported.

I stuck to Livejournal even when it was bought out by Russians - which made sense as a business deal since there was a lot of Russians on here. I stuck around even as Livejournal became something of a wasteland.

But then.... There were stories that the site's servers had been moved to Russia, which doesn't bode well if you don't want people going through all your data. And then... There was the TOS. Russia has imposed some draconian laws on it's bloggers and online sites, banning discussion of politics and all things LBGTI. I can't in good conscience support or use a site that does that....

So from here on, I'll be on Dreamwidth. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Goodbye Livejournal, it's been an interesting ride.
maxcelcat: (Drawing of a trike)

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

Of course.... I'm about to leave....
maxcelcat: (Dalek)
Once again I find myself blogging about events that happened nigh on a year ago. I know it was nigh on a year ago because it was the day after I got my EN logo tattoo, and that was... getting on for a year ago.

The loudest band in the world is Sunn O))). The O))) is of course silent, so their name is pronounced "Sun". The origin of their name is lost in the mists of time is because they're fond of a brand of amplifiers called Sunn, whose logo was placed next to the name and looked a bit like an O witht three brackets.

I digress.

Sunn O))) are the loudest band in the world. And not just in a the way The Who once had 50,000 watts of amplification. Or The Grateful Dead's Wall Of Sound.

Crikey that's a lot of speakers...

No, all the above bands are rock bands who happen to play very fucking loud. For Sunn O))), loud is their modus operandi, it's the reason they play, it's an essential part of the band. They're more like the band Disaster Area from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

They're so loud they don't need to turn on the PA at they venues they play at. They're so loud they hand out free ear plugs to audience members.

On top of which, they usually pump enormous quantities of smoke into the venue, and dress in druid outfits... Then play songs that go for upwards of twenty five minutes each.

An actual shot of the band playing.

I saw them in March of 2016, in a basement venue called Max Watts. I was unfamiliar with the venue until I realised it was the HiFi Bar, renamed. I spent a lot of time in that dive, mostly seeing TISM.

The building shook. Dust and old confetti worked loose from the ceiling and drifted down on the crowd.

They're the kind of band whose songs you can feel in your chest cavity. I swear a number of audience members had some kind of spiritual experience.

Lift me, Stephen O'Malley!

Sunn O))) are like music boiled down to its essence. No attempts at rhythm, no drums and few vocals. And those only screamed. Except for one notable, very strange song with Julian Cope. I enjoyed them from well at the back with industrial earplugs in my ears!

Anyway, here's a concert to give it a listen, turn it up loud:

This almost melted my laptop...
maxcelcat: (Einst├╝rzende Neubauten)
Seems I failed for just on a year to blog about the tattoo I got. That'll tell you how much spare time I have of late. Oh, it doesn't help that the last tattoo I blogged about was an April fool's joke.

Of course, no tatt I get is ever quite going to top the fame my last tattoo achieved. Here it is on on the Science Tattoo blog, which later became a book. My leg it on page 154 or so!

When I get a tattoo, I like to really be sure about what I'm getting inked on my skin, since it's going to be there forever. Which is probably why I've only gotten three tattoos over the space of twenty-three years. Which averages out at, what, one every seven years? I figure if the design still takes me after a year or so of thinking about it, then it's the correct design. Unlike some folks - while I was getting this done several folks walked into the tattoo studio, seemingly on a whim, and looked for designs from their design books. Folks, this is going to be forever remember!

In this case, it took a lot longer to get needle applied to flesh. I first had the idea around 2011 or so, and vaguely planned to get it done around the time I got "married" in November 2012. I even did a design, which I eventually used. Then life took over - we had a kid, moved house, my partner broke her leg. I was broke. But the biggest impediment was actually finding a tattooist.

Something about the design will help you see why.

I wanted to get this:

But done as if it had been stencilled. That's the logo of the band Einstrende Neubauten, a pioneering German industrial band I happen to be a fan of. But more than that, it's a fantastical simple symbol that makes for a great tattoo. And indeed it been tattooed so many times it's not funny. Here are a few hundred examples, including on on the shoulder of a certain Henry Rollins. And indeed at least two people I know.

It also says something to me about being into music, the owners of said tattoos all being super enthused about music.

Now I like to get unique tattoos - not for me the heart with a dagger through it, with a scroll and someone's name. So I thought how can I join the community of EN tattooed folks, but in a way that's unique? That's where the stencil idea came in. Because I'm also from Melbourne, which is rather known for its stencilled art.

I took the design back to the place I got my previous tattoo, Robot Shogun in the now defunct Peril Underground record store, and they said it couldn't be done. So I left it be for a few years (see also aforementioned child, wedding, moving house, lack 'o cash and broken leg) until I found I had a small stash of cash that I'd forgotten about. The I went looking online for tattooists, starting with the websites for tattoo expos, because they're full of galleries of work by local tattooists. I narrowed it down to a couple, fired them off a scan of my design, and lo I got a positive response from a guy called Spud in a studio up the road from where I work! I went in in person and showed them my designs, they said "Sure we can do it Tuesday". So after some five years of planning it was happening in a few days.

Here is the design on my leg before inking:
Outline Standing

And here's the finished product:
Finished Tattoo

The whole album is on flickr, including some shots of Spud hard at work.

The whole thing took the better part of four hours, in one sitting. This is by a fair margin the biggest tattoo I've gotten, although the sample size is small! I was a bit spacey afterwards, a bit like I was in shock. For the record, tattoos hurt. I think Spud got the spray effect with a wide brush needle, which gives a faint layer of colour rather than solid one.

You know you're getting a good tattoo when other tattooist in the parlour come and admire it. You know you've got a good tattoo when random people come up and ask about it. Also, and this is odd, because I planned it for so long, now that I have it it feels right, like my leg was always meant to be that way. And also it goes against tattoo convention, it already looks old and a bit rough around the edges because it's meant to.

The very next evening, I celebrated my new music-related ink, by seeing the loudest band in the world, Sunn O)))

Finally, I can recommend the work of East Brunswick Tattooing.
maxcelcat: (Drawing of a trike)

Spent the day in the centre on Melbourne.

Read more... )
maxcelcat: (Bike)
So I'm not a huge fan of sports in general. At school I was more your nerdish booky type - which in retrospect is odd given I'm quite strongly built. The one exception is, oddly, American Football, also known as Gridiron or, less charitably, Hand Egg.

A game with rules so complex that one needs to watch for three or seasons just to figure out what is going on. A game where an important part of the action is the two teams lining up either side of a ball on the ground, and just staring at the each other. A game where each team brings something like forty three players to a game when at any one time there are only eleven on the field. A game where if the ball is in fact kicked, there are two different team members who specialise in certain kinds of kicking.

I digress.

Needless to say, the Olympics usually pass me by. I'm not filled with the Olympic spirit, I'm not interested in watching a sport as dull as rowing just because I share a home nation with some of the competitors.

But there was one athlete, or more specifically one athlete and her story, that caught my attention. Not least because she is a she, and women's sport is both poorly reported and poorly resourced.

I first heard about Claressa Shields in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics, I think from an article in the Guardian. Long story short, Claressa comes from the very tough town of Flint, Michigan, started boxing when she was eleven and insisted that her dad - who spent a lot of her childhood in jail - teach her. And at the 2012 games, at the age of just seventeen, while still in school, she fought her way to become the first women's Olympic gold medallist. Women's boxing was only added to the Olympics for the 2012 games because, hey, women you know, shouldn't be allowed to do certain things just because.

Oh, they also reported she'd had trouble getting sponsors because she wasn't ladylike(!) enough and said things like "I like hitting people".

One problem with my continued disinterest in sport is that when I do watch it I often have no idea what is going on, nor what differentiates a good athlete from a mediocre one. For example all I really know about boxing is from watching When We Were Kings. Highly recommended by the way. But I decided to watch Claressa fight at the Olympics anyway. In 2016, aged now only 21, she was defending her title.

And damn, she hadn't even stepped into the ring and I could tell she was good.

Most of the boxers would wander out behind someone holding a banner for their country, jump around and stretch a bit. Claressa come out with a look on her face like she wanted to kill someone.

In the three bouts I watched she was amazing. Again, I don't know much about boxing, but it quickly became apparent that she was very very good at it. She had no wasted motion. She stand almost still till her opponent took a few swings at her. Then she'd dart out of the way so none of them connected. Then she'd take her time and land a whole lot of brutal punches, punches that would have sent me reeling, even if I was a lot fitter and stronger than I am. In one bout her poor opponent was left gasping on the ropes, wondering what had hit her!

This was the only vid I could find of a full boxing match, from the Olympic qualifications:

Needless to say, she won the gold medal, again. First American to win back-to-back Olympic boxing medals. She's only 21 so she might well be back for two more Olympic games. I might just have to follow her career now.
maxcelcat: (Dalek)
Cross-posted from

For political junkies like myself, election day is supposed to be something of a highlight. Actually living through a very long election campaign when you've made up your mind some years ago how you're going to vote is not that much of a spectator sport. I just wanted it to end and for there to be a result - hopefully one that I liked.

But the actual process on election day was depressing, not just because I missed out entirely on a Democracy Sausage. For the first time ever I was handing out how-to-vote cards for a party other than the ALP. Following my decision to leave the party after more than twenty years as a member, I threw my lot in with the Greens. Particularly in the seat of Batman because of a particular dislike of the sitting member, David Feeney, a waste of oxygen from the ALP who was gifted the seat after being dumped from the senate. And a particular liking for for Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.

I was also roped into helping in the seat of Scullin, where I now live. And which is a very safe Labor seat. So for three hours in the afternoon I was handing out how to vote cards at a high school in Lalor. On the plus side, it was a fantastically diverse group of people there voting - I handed fliers to Kooris, folks of African extraction, retired migrants of a Mediterranean background, women in Hijabs, including a large number of feisty young woman, and a few in Niqabs. Lots of folks coming from works in the paint-cover clothes.

But then there was a fair percentage of folks who were completely confused by the whole process. Some were first time voters, tall teens who had never done this before. But a fair number were just perplexed, and were asking us, the how-to-vote folks how to fill in the ballot papers. I've always thought the voting process here in Australia was relatively straightforward, consistent between elections and explained a fair bit. But apparently not... We found ourselves explaining the two ballot papers, about how you had to number all the boxes on the green ballot, and who all the parties were. People were saying they'd only ever heard of Labor and Liberal, and were perplexed by all the other parties. I'm not sure what the percentage of informal votes where at the booth, but I suspect it was quite high. Which makes me sad that some folks didn't get to express their preference.

The more depressing event was the two other how-to-vote folks there whom I ended up having a conversation with. The first was a chap from the ALP, who quite readily told me he was a member of the Labor right. The thing that impressed him the most while we were there was a Mercedes that pulled up. He was telling me how much it was worth. A lot, it would seem, the kind of money I would use if I had to have, say, half a dozen sponsor children.

Then I got into a heated discussion with a women from something called the Australian Christian Party. Her sole concern was her strenuous opposition to the Safe Schools Program. She told me an extraordinary stream of misunderstandings and lies about same-sex couples in general and the Safe Schools program. According to her one of the main creators of the program was a pedophile enabler. I asked her what on earth she was talking about, and she quoted me something from a paper this person had published. To me it sounded like the gist was "Teenagers who are same sex attracted, queer etc. need same-sex adult role models" - a perfectly obvious thing to say. But no, according to this mob that meant they were meant to sleep with adults. Other aspects of the program that made her angry: Role playing as Gay or Lesbians as a learning experience - this was teaching kids it was normal to be that way and no doubt converting them. That being LGBTI was being normalised, while claiming at the same time that there was nothing wrong with being gay so long as she could prevent anyone under twenty from ever hearing about it ever. Because of course no teen has ever been bullied for being out.

As you can imagine, she was vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage. Because, I kid you now, marriage is defined by god and science! She could not explain what that meant. I told that she was denigrating the relationships of some of my good friends, and that marriage was a social construct - which she didn't understand.

And then the guy from the ALP chipped in that he too opposed same-sex marriage. Apparently all the religions he was familiar with opposed it. Which I would have disputed but I run out of breath and time. It seems words in a two thousand year old book, and indeed a 1300 year old book hold more import than the diversity of the modern world. Here I was reminded again why I left that political party... Which was confirmed firmly when I discovered they'd preferenced Derryn Hinch in the senate!!

I thought of my friends who are in same-sex relationships, or who a cross-dressing or indeed just not gender-bound. And I felt sorry for them, if this is the kind of frankly irrational opposition they face. I don't have a problem with people being conservative, but I have a strong objection to people holding completely incoherent views that have no solid basis. I'm going to teach my kid how normal this stuff is in a fairly simple way - in fact I largely won't need to, since he'll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples.

I upped sticks from that booth and headed over to a primary school in the seat of Batman. Happily the mood was different there. I stayed after the polls closed to scrutineer. In this seat the contest was been the Green, my candidate, Alex, the ALP and in distant third at Liberal candidate. There as a total of eleven candidates, but in the booth I was at some of them attracted all of eight to twenty five votes each.

They sort the lower house ballots into piles by first preference votes. There was three notably piles - ALP, Green and Liberal. And one other pile of note - the informal votes. This grew depressingly large. I watched the ballots that went into that pile. A number of them were people who clearly didn't give a stuff, they'd left the ballot blank or crossed the whole thing out. But a large number of them really had tried, but they'd messed it up. Putting a tick or a cross in one box. Numbering only six of the eleven boxes, probably confused by the new Senate voting rules. The informal pile grew till it numbered nearly 10% of the total votes cast. Which depressed the hell out of me. Batman is likely to be decided by a margin of less than 1%, and here was a huge number of people who wanted to vote a certain way and failed.

The next step of the process is to distribute preferences. The three piles were roughly 1000 votes for the ALP, 450 for the Greens and 415 for the Liberals. The Libs were distributed between Green and ALP, because across the whole seat the contest would be between the other two parties. And so I got to watch still more votes head towards the ALP... The Liberal how to vote card had preferenced the ALP tenth and the Greens eleventh. So some 70% of them went in the ALP pile. There I was watching a party I intensely dislike deliberately sabotaging the chances of a party they intensely dislike. I know it's not sabotage but it certainly felt that they hated the Greens more than they hated their traditional rivals the ALP.

I eventually headed home, despondent, and watched the results come in on ABC. And here I was bummed out yet again. I've spent that last three years watching in horror as the conservative government in Canberra has demonized minorities for their own gain, in the process enabling a number of racists to rear their ugly heads. And trying to destroy fabled institutions like Medicare and the ABC and the union movement, repealing working carbon reduction legislation, lying about their being a refugee crisis, nobbling the NBN and... Well, it felt to me like every day there was something new they were doing to get angry about. And here they were on election night in with a fighting chance. Rather than being dumped out office by an outraged nation, there they were sitting almost neck-and-neck with the opposition. Rather than having a prime minster having to make a humiliating speech of defeat, we had smug blue-tie wearing Liberals saying they were hoping to form government again in a few days. I'm not sure what the combination of rage and despair is called but that is what I felt. And to find that the senate is going to be worse than the last term. Pauline Hansen, the prototype racist nutjob is back. Derryn Hinch, a loud angry white man may be in there. Jackie Lambie will be back possibly with a friend. The next three years are going to be grotesque.

I had a fitful nights sleep. I'm going to be spending the next few days refreshing the AEC's website for results.

New Tattoo!

Apr. 1st, 2016 07:24 am
maxcelcat: (Drawing of a trike)
Well, it's taken me another eight years since my second tattoo, but I've finally got myself another tat!

Inspired largely by Mike Tyson, but all by that "Alien Doctor" from Dr Who, who it turns out is of the species Kahler, I decided the best way to make a statement with this tattoo was to get it on my face.
02 - face tat - Glad Wrap.JPG
It's still under wraps, obviously, because it's fresh. They cover them with glad wrap for the first few days to help them heal.

Deb was none too pleased:
It was a surprise to her. I mean, she knew I was getting a tat, but not one like this!

I can't tell you who did the work, since it's still (I believe) technically illegal in Victoria to get tattoos on your face. Tattooist will do it, but you have to be careful. It was a safe and clean place, and anyway, I've been immunised against Hep A and Hep B.

I took the covers off briefly to get a picture. Sorry about the shitty quality, I'll get a better one in a week or so when it's healed properly:

What do you think? Makes a statement doesn't it!
maxcelcat: (Cat Go Blah Blah Blah)
OK, so I'm late to the party on this one.


(Ha. Just found [ profile] xkcd's LJ. It's got one entry from 2006...)

I've been bloggin' on and off since about 2003, and I still dislike the neologism "blogging". Been on Livejournal for a significant amount of that time. And I've heard often times about how Livejournal is not what it was, thanks largely to the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes in a one-for-one fashion, for example [ profile] overheardinmelb became Overheard in Melbourne.

My friends feed on here has become fairly anaemic of late, aside from a few die hards.... And George RR Martin! [ profile] grrm. I'm guilty too of course. I posted four times in 2015.

The dumb thing is I have two other blogs. One of them I've posted to less often than I've renewed it's domain name.

But the demise of Blogging on here and in general, and amongst my friends, was brought home to my by my bookmarks. I've had the same set of Firefox bookmarks since, well, I suspect that some of them actually date from when I used Netscape. Of late out of morbid curiosity I've started looking up some of my old bookmarks to see how many of them are still there. Long story short - not many. Entire domains have disappeared, URLs are dead, there's basically a lot of link rot going on.

Last night I started going through all my bookmarks in my "blogs" folder. Oh, what a tale of woe... About 50% were missing entirely, either directing to a Blogger or Wordpress page saying "This ain't here sorry" or again the domain itself had vanished entirely. And of those that were there, all bar a couple of them hadn't been updated in years, some not since 2010. I think we can declare the age of blogging is over.... Yet I will post here more, and will revive my other blogs. This time I mean it!
maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
A dream I had this morning....

I was in the US, waiting for a bus to take me to the NFL Tryouts. I had some big bags with me, and I was wearing a fair bit of the body armour NFL players wear. It was early in the morning. Finally the bus showed up, and it was being driven by.... Malcolm Turnbull.

He was being a dick, and announced that because they weren't ready to run the try outs, he was going to take us to an alternative location, and leave us there to find our own way home. The "alternative location" turned out to be deep inside an almost finished underground parking garage. I started walking off, lugging all my stuff, quite annoyed.

Eventually I was wandering through the countryside of Kentucky (don't ask me how I knew this, it was a dream, I just knew. I've never been in Kentucky and would struggle to find it on a map). I pulled out my phone and was trying to compose an angry email to Crikey about how rude Turnbull had been. But my iPhone had been overtaken by some kind of Chinese virus, and it was full of brightly coloured icons and small birds flapping.

This latter part, about my iPhone not working, is now a common feature of my anxiety dreams. Rather than being anxious about being lost or not being able to walk or any of those traditional things that go wrong in a dream, I worry about my iPhone. So much so that in my dreams I'm aware that I've dreamed this has happened before, and I think to myself "Oh no, it's happened fro real this time". And it's never about my iPhone being broken, but me trying to use it and finding it having been taken over by a Chinese virus that instead of letting me make calls or look thinks up keeps presenting me with bright ads and games with virtual birds in them!
maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
Thursday night I was at the gym for one of my two regular weekly visits. I'm a diligent gym goer, but not a body builder. And I log everything I do on those gym program cards they give you, partly so I can keep track because otherwise I forget where I'm up to or what I've done, and partly because I must be a bit OCD! I log all my weights and reps and so forth.

(For the record my current program is a sort-of pyramid program. I do two sets of a medium weight, then one set of the heaviest weight I can budge. It's also the program I created after taking two months off after getting my appendix out (I really should blog about that) and is heavy on machines rather than free weights.)

I write my own programs these days, without consulting the staff. And I've been stapling my new cards to my old cards so now I have a wad of about six of them, going back probably a couple of years. Partly out of laziness - I really should take them home, or recycle them, I don't really need to know what exercises I was doing this time last year.

The process at my gym is to fill in the card, then leave it in a tray so the staff can sign off that you actually did the work - I think that's the point.

The other night I was one of the last to leave, and the gym guy was putting the programs away and said he'd file mine for me. Then he said "Oooo, you're Paul Johanson."

Turns out I'm slightly famous at the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre.

I'm one of very few people who actually diligently fills in my gym card, and then files them away and keeps them. I'm also one of few people who is there consistently for years at a time - most people join and work out for a few weeks or a few months, then disappear. And I thought about it, and he was right. In the years I've been going to that gym there are maybe two or three people at most whom I've seen consistently. The rest, for whatever reason, come and then go. Maybe they move house, maybe they lose interest. It's always busier at the start of the year, I assume because lots of people make new years resolutions.

For the record, I first joined a gym, the RMIT gym, in early June of 1998. Since some time in 2000, I've been working out twice a week, with a few gaps whilst traveling or because of the aforementioned surgery. I've been a member of the NAARC gym for two stints, from 2000 till 2003 and then again from 2005 till now (wow that's a decade, I should get a prize). I've only belonged to four gyms in 17 years - RMIT, Brunswick, Southport in Port Melbourne and NAARC, although I have worked out in others, notably Gold's Gym in New York. Once I found a form of exercise that suited me, I've stuck at it!

Hooray for dogged persistence.
maxcelcat: (Badtz Maru)
I've been getting a lot of extra sleep this week, because I had my appendix out on Monday. The general anesthetic takes a few days to get over, but also might be contributing to the weirdness going on in my brain. In fact I was hallucinating slightly when coming out of the anesthetic, things about giant flowers and feather dusters...

This morning's dream started on Venus. Three astronauts were there, trying to mine some rock, only to find that something had taken all the good stuff already and the rocks more more like Styrofoam. Through a series of bizarre events I now can't recall, their spaceship was hijacked and ended up in the middle of in intersection in Melbourne. Literally the middle, it was buried in the middle of the road like a very large man hole. From it emerged... A civil war era cannon with a mind of its own, an angry fridge, Dr Who, Chewbacca and Darth Vadar!

The cannon when on it's merry way, firing down Bourke Street and hitting a tram. A number of people in a cafe nearby cafe were disturbed whilst drinking their lattes. Darth and Chewbacca seemed to have teamed up on the side of good, and started hacking into the angry fridge with light sabres... Happily, that's all I can remember from that dream.

Ah... Just remembered the last thing I was doing last night before I went to sleep - watching outtakes from Blade Runner. That must have warped my brain.

And the other morning I dreamed I was hanging around with Amanda Palmer. She decided that she liked the bunch of fans I was with so much that we should move into her back garden. Unfortunately the only space left in her back garden was in a large pond. So we set up home on a series of Pacific Islander style trimarans in said pond. After a while the water all vanished, and we decided to go our separate ways. But first we had a big garage sale or swap meet, and I picked up a neat monk's robe that was very Goth. I left the place, only to find the whole time we'd been in an obscure part of North Balwyn....

How's everyone else's brain?
maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
I got stuck in an epic wikihole yesterday. For those not familiar, a wikihole is when you go to look something up and five hours later you find yourself reading an article on something completely random.

As usual, XKCD illustrates it nicely:

Lets see if I can retrace my steps. It started on slashdot which linked to a story about galaxies colliding. That site has a story about other flights like HM370. This lead me to look up Varig airlines on the wikipedia, and this is were I really fell into the hole!

I was actually looking for info about a flight that went missing in 1979, with a cargo of paintings. This then lead to a long long list of aerial disappearances - which seemed to feature a lot of DC-3's going missing in the 1980's. Also made me realise I'd never heard the story that Charles Kingsford Smith when missing on a flight across the pacific.

This of course led me to a list of List of people who disappeared mysteriously. A lot of which were not mysterious, and from the early days of aviation when planes went missing all the time. Or inexperienced pilots who crashed into the ocean, like Frederick Valentich, who likely flew upside down into Bass Strait!

Then I came across a story from Australian politics I'd never heard. In 1926 the federal Labor politician Frederick McDonald vanished mysteriously while on his way to a meeting with Jack Lang. Much later, the chap whose seat he'd almost won in the 1925 election Thomas Ley, was arrested and convicted in the UK for a murder, and was implicated in a number of other deaths and disappearances - including McDonald's! Think of it - one federal politician murdering another! Ley himself died in an insane asylum in the UK.

This of course led me to reading about the long-defunct Nationalist Party of Australia, which it turned out was one of the predecessor parties of the Liberal party. I followed that link, but couldn't bring myself to read about the history of the Liberal party.

That list also led me to read about First Lieutenant Alejandro Bello who is now remembered in the Chilean phrase "Clumsier than Lieutenant Bello". He got lost on a training flight in 1914 and was never heard from again. So he's famous now, for the wrong reasons.

Speaking of military mishaps, then there was the case of the French ships Inkerman and Cerisoles both of which disappeared in a snow storm on Lake Superior in 1918 with all hands. Disappearing on a lake seems like a very weird way to vanish.

Indirectly, which lets face it is the essence of a wikihole, I ended up reading about the Lost Battalion of WWI (there have been more than one lost battalion it seems). They were of course rescued because of the heroic work of a pigeon(!) called Cher Ami who was propelled to fame by her actions, and it preserved, stuffed, in a museum in the US!

Here she is, minus a leg that she lost in the battle.

Said pigeon is apparently displayed next to Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated dog of WWI....

Then things started to get weird... Also on the list of mysteriously disappearance was a chap called Szilveszter Matuska, a serial killer known for derailing trains. Turns out I'd know about this guy for years, I just didn't realise it. He's the subject of the Lard song Sylvestre Matuschka. I've been listening to that song for at least twenty years, and never thought to wonder who or what it was about... Now I know.

And finally, just before I dragged myself to bed and 11.30PM, I stumbled across a page called List of unidentified murder victims in the United States. I don't recommend reading that just before bed. The page is full of pictures of murder victims who have need been identified, which means no one missed them, and their faces gaze at you out of the page... I was haunted as I tried to sleep by faces of these lost lost people...
maxcelcat: (Dalek)
One of my prize possessions is a Kobo Ebook Reader, which was a gift from Deb on my 41st birthday. I was very anti the ebook for a long time, I love books and have thousands of them, and I like being able to hold that solid lump of paper and read it. I also figured that ebooks would suffer the same fate as all the released video tapes. When DVDs became the norm, a lot of films were re-released on the new format, but to this day some 40% have not. I figured the same thing would happen to some of the more obscure books I wanted to read. The example I used was Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book published during the second world war. Then someone sent me a link to the Kindle version of it on Amazon...

My tendency towards reading large dense Science Fiction novels and more recently the 4000-odd pages of Game of Thrones also endears the ebook reader to me. The whole GoT series must weight in at three kilos, but on my ebook reader they weight nothing. I've also got a lot of books my Neal Stephenson. One of his latest offerings, Anathem clocks in at 937 pages!

I also read a lot of (big fat) history books. History doesn't lend itself to brevity. And this is where I discovered a flaw in the joy of ebook reader ownership.

I bought a (big fat) history book on the Kobo site, and read it with great interest. It was the first volume of a two volume work, like I said, history is verbose. So I coughed up some more money for the second volume... Only to find that the digital version of the second volume had the same contents as the first - it was the same file, effectively, with a different file name.

I brought this to the attention of Kobo. They have one of those fun email support things, where you fire off an email to them, they respond with an email saying we have received your email and will respond forthwith. Then another email with a response, asking for more information, to which you reply, which prompts another email saying thank you for getting in touch we'll get back to you shortly, then a response from someone else asking for the same information again, and more than likely contradicting the earlier... And thrown into the mix are other emails asking how helpful the first set of emails were and could you fill in a short survey.

Out of this the gist of what they were saying was "contact the publisher, we just publish what we're given". This I did. The publisher turned out to be a tiny specialist imprint from the US called Potomac Books. Emails to the various email addresses listed on their site yielded no response whatsoever.

So one night I stayed up late and called them at 9AM their time, 11PM Melbourne time. In fact I called a couple of times, once I remembered how to dial internationally. I left detailed messages with email addresses and phone numbers. Again there was no response.

One night after another unanswered call, I decided rather than calling their editorial line, I'd try sales. I finally got onto an actual human, who was perplexed by my inquiry, but did provide the useful information that Potomac has recently been bought by the University of Nebraska Press, who handled all their ebooks. Finally!

In the mean time, I thought I'd try and get a copy from elsewhere. It turns out that JBHiFi, of all retailers, now has an ebook site. So I bought another copy of this book from there... And wouldn't you know it, it had the same contents! At least this meant the problem was definitively with the publisher and not Kobo

So I dropped some emails to the folks at Nebraska Press. This process had been going on for about six months by this stage, although I lost interest for months at a time. Finally I got a reply. Yes, the contents were wrong, yes they'd update it. And yes they did... Then Kobo did nothing with it for at least a few weeks till I prompted them again. And finally I got the book onto my reader. Volume II was finally mine to read! And... it wasn't half as interesting as volume one...

It occurred to me afterwards that part of the reason Potomac books might have ignored me was because I must have been the first and so far only person to actually buy the ebook version of this tome. It was a lot of trouble for them to get my $37 for this one book!

And what after all this, was the book in question? Why it was A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events in two volumes by Norman Polmar of course!

Now if this had been a paper book, I'd have been able to look at it in the book shot as an actual physical object and go "wait a second, this is the wrong book!". When everything is digital, there are no words on a page to read before you buy.
maxcelcat: (Dalek)
Recently I re-watched the BBC TV movie Tumbledown from 1988.

Tumbledown is an evocatively named craggy mountain in the Falklands, scene of one of the largest and bloodiest, and nearly the last, battle of the brief Falklands War back in 1982.

That little war is almost forgotten. My partner, who was three at the time it happened, knows barely its name. I'm old enough to remember it happening, but to not really understand it at the time. There seemed to be headlines every few days about ships being sunk - The General Belgrano, the SS Atlantic Conveyor.

The "television play" Tumbledown concerns the plight of one Lieutenant Robert Lawrence, who leads his troops through the crucial parts of the battle on that mountain. And just as they're victorious, Lawrence was shot through the head. Miraculously he survives, eventually loosing 43% of his brain and being partly paralysed.

The film is remarkable for its brutally honest depiction of the war and its casualties, and the remarkable story of Lawrence's recovery. And indeed the indifference with which he was treated after the war was over.

I remember being quite struck by the it when it was shown on the ABC back in the late 80's. Several scenes from it have stayed with me, for example almost the last scene where we finally witness the shooting itself.

What's remarkable about re-watching more than twenty years later is how well made and acted the film was, and how there was a whole lot of subtlety to it that I entirely missed when watching it as a teenager. Several scenes I recalled feeling like the lead character was being mocked or bullied were nothing of the sort - he was a tough cookie, not about be pushed around. The scene's with his girlfriend were also had a dimension I didn't catch back in the day.

It's well worth looking up. It's brutal and unvarnished, and remarkably honest. Most docos or movies about war have a heroic or reverential tone to them, whereas war is both dull, brutal and finally very damaging to the people who survive it. Even "little" wars like the Falklands leave the combatants physically and emotionally mangled for life.

Here's the first part:

Robert Lawrence recovered enough to lead a relatively normal life. He lived in Sydney for a few years in the 90's, but is now back in the UK. He's still remarkably candid about his experiences and his opinions of the war and its aftermath.

And here is a strange little historical oddity. This piece was composed by the Scots Guards bagpipe player to commemorate the battle of Tumbeldown while the battle was happening. He jotted it down on the "back of a fag packet" is how he put it. This musician composed music on top of a miserable cold mountain at night during a pitched battle, then performed it at dawn on the mountain!

maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
Deb called me up on the way home from work. I'd been having a pretty shit public transport experience, with lots of waiting in the cold. But I was finally on a train.

My mobile rang. I had my headphones in, and always feel like I should hold up the microphone to my mouth so it doesn't look like I was talking to myself.

Me: Hey baby.
Deb: Hey are you still in your...
(Cut to some weird hold music)
Deb: Hey I think the phone battery is flat.
Me: Weird, I keep getting hold music
Deb: No don't push that button Pip!
(Cut to weird hold music again.)
Deb: I don't know what button to...
(Hold music continues)

At this point I hung up and called her back.

Deb: Hey you're on a conference call!
Me: Don't you mean on the speaker phone?
Deb: Yeah, yeah!
(Sound of phone buttons being mashed, followed by the heavy breathing)
Pip: *giggles*
(More hold music)
Deb: Are you there?
Me: Take the phone off Pip!
(Somehow there are now two phones on the call. Pip brings his close to the speaker phone which causes bizarre whistling feedback.)
Deb: Give me the phone Pip. Oh, no, not like that!
(Sound of things being dropped, then a child falling over against a wall.)
Pip: Waaah! Waaaah!
Deb: You're OK pip, you're OK. So, are you far away?
Me: Um, I don't know
Train announcement: Now arriving at Croxton
Me: I'm at Croxton!
Deb: Cool. No, Pip! Not the buttons!
(More hold music)
Deb: Are you there?
Me: Hang up! Hang up! I'll see you soon!
(I hang up.)

Pip likes telephones, but not to talk on. He likes them because of all the buttons!
maxcelcat: (Badtz Maru)

I am now forty two years old. Those of you who are as huge nerds as me will know that this is in fact the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything!

Oh man, speaking of epic nerds - the chaps at Google clearly are, this is what popped up when I did a google search for the above:

I was half planning a Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy themed birthday party, but between wrangling our eight month old son and working full time, it got to be too much like work. Might still do it later in the year.

I'm not working Friday's at the moment, since Deb went back to work. So I went out to breakfast with my sister, brother-in-law and niece, who remarkably are in the country - this is a rare, maybe twice a year, event. Then we all went off to the zoo! Didn't take many pictures - too much going on with two kids under four. And lets face it, how many pictures of the tigers in the zoo are there out there? My niece is hilarious - she had to ask her mother what her favourite animal was. For the record, my favourite mammal is the wombat. I have other favourite animals from other categories, but just at the moment I can't think what they are...

I'm not sure how much Pip understood of the Zoo. It was his first trip, the first part of which he spent asleep. He did stare intently at wallaby, watched a seal swimming and stared more at some Merecats. BTW I believe the Merecat evolved specificity to entertain small children at the zoo. They're tiny and always busy, and can be seen at low level. The best critter for a kid to look at.

Deb got me the best present, she located a copy of What-a-Mess, a kids book I used to read as a kid.

And now I need to sleep. My thighs are tired from carrying our nine kilo son for three hours!
maxcelcat: (Badtz Maru 2)
can I claim a deduction for toys?
"Can I claim a deduction for toys?"

My kid is a little charmer. We were running about doing errands Monday. First stop was Deb's dentist, conveniently located in East St Kilda. And weirdly across the street from an apartment I shared with my then girlfriend back in 2003!

There were two little old ladies also in the waiting room. They were most charmed by Henry. I was telling one of them how his teeth were bothering him. She said "They'll do that for your whole life". The other little old lady said "They grow up so quickly. I still remember when my son was that age. Now he's 57..."

Then we ended up at a tax accountant to do our taxes, oddly enough. It was only afterwards that I realised that said accountant sat at a desk without a computer on it. The last time I saw anyone working at a desk without a PC on it was in about 1995...

Henry amused himself by flailing about on the office floor. As we waited, Deb invented a new version of a popular old kids song as we played with Henry's toes:

"This little piggy went to the tax accountant
This little piggy stayed at home
This little piggy was claimed as a dependant for tax purposes..."

Turns out the accountant had ten(!) grand children, and was quite pleased to meet Henry.
maxcelcat: (Dancing Kitty)
Rosella Shoulder
I was down at Wilsons Prom today - we're staying nearby. There was a gap in the rain so we popped over to Tidal River. Almost as soon as we'd parked a flock of nosy Rosellas flew over and landed on the car. Someone's been feeding this lot, as well as the Magpie who had attached himself to the group.

I attempted to have a banana as a snack, whereupon the boldest of the birds leaped onto my arm! First he pecked at the banana peel I had in my hand, then hopped onto my other hand hand started helping himself to my banana! Cheeky bird.

I had Pip on my back in his sling, while then trying to eat come rice crackers. One of the Rosella landed on my head and then tried to eat a cracker right from my hand. Bad birdie! You freaked out my son!

Rosella on car

We poked around the prom a bit, and without really trying saw two wombats, two kangaroos, a wallaby and two emus (or possibly the same emu twice). And two rabbits and a fox as well, unfortunately. I yelled at them to begone, vermin, but they didn't listen.

Australian wildlife is weird. I've never seen an emu in the wild before, they're an awkward looking bird.

We also bumped into three lovely French tourists. Henry being the charmer that he is, instantly befriended them. They said to him "Bonjour Henri!", although I really can't rendered how lovely the French pronunciation of Henry is :-D

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