29 May 2008

another kingdom bites the dust

From Associated Press

Nepal assembly abolishes monarchy
29 May 2008

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The main palace in Nepal's capital lowered the flag of the country's royal family Thursday, a day after lawmakers, led by former communist insurgents, abolished the monarchy that had reigned over the Himalayan land for 239 years.

Palace staff took down the small red standard with a flag-waving lion and replaced it with Nepal's national flag, a red banner of two triangles adorned with a sun and moon.

The changing of the flag was "a decision by the government to show that Nepal is now a republic," said a palace official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of palace rules.

An overwhelming majority of the assembly declared Nepal a republic Wednesday, sparking celebrations across the country. Thousands marched, danced and sang in the streets of Katmandu, setting off firecrackers, waving hammer-and-sickle flags and denouncing King Gyanendra as a thief.

By Thursday, the celebrations had largely tapered off with Nepalis relaxing at the start of the three-day national holiday declared to mark the country's rebirth as a republic. There were some scattered gatherings across Katmandu, and a few hundred people gathered outside the pink concrete palace, chanting "Gyanendra is a thief, leave the country!"

There was no immediate reaction to the abolition of the throne from the dour 61-year-old former monarch, who remained silent in recent months as it became apparent that his days as king were numbered.

Gyanendra now has 15 days to quit the 1970s-era palace and move to his large private residence in the city — or face the possibility of being removed by force.

Gyanendra assumed the throne after his brother, the late King Birendra, and much of the royal family was slain at a palace gathering allegedly by the crown prince, who then killed himself.

The killings helped pierce the mystique surrounding a line of kings who had once been revered as reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, and Gyanendra was dogged by rumors that he was somehow involved in the massacre.

His popularity only further plummeted after he seized power from a civilian government in 2005, saying he needed total authority to crush the Maoists.

Instead, he found himself beset by an intensifying insurgency and a faltering economy.

A year later, weeks of massive protests forced Gyanendra to restore democracy, after which the Maoists came out of the bush and began peace talks.

An interim government, meanwhile, slowly stripped away the trappings of a kingdom. Gyanendra lost command of the army, his portrait was replaced by Mount Everest on the currency and references to the king dropped from the national anthem.

Then came April's vote for the assembly in which the fiercely republican Maoists won the most seats, all but sealing the fate of the dynasty, which dates to 1769 when a regional ruler conquered Katmandu and united Nepal.

But now that the monarchy is finished no one is certain what comes next.

While the Maoists say they are committed capitalists and have no intention of nationalizing industries or setting up collective farms, they have promised to bring sweeping change to this largely impoverished country.

But they are struggling to form a government. Wednesday's opening assembly session was delayed for hours while they wrangled with other political parties over who should be president and what powers he should have. At the end of the day, they still had no deal.

It may also be difficult to fashion lasting peace in Nepal, where supporters of every major political party — the Maoists foremost among them — have been linked to killings since the start of the peace process.
This should mess with the heads in the US State Department. An authoritarian regime thrown out by democracy by communists who are also capitalist. Oh wait, Marcos in the Philippines was propped up by American governments because he was anti-communist yet unethically non-democratic. Hmmm...

I arrived in Brisbane last night and it is not much warmer here than Canberra. Today I had coffee in the city with Steve, an old friend from college (Australian National University), then walked from the city to Southbank then the Gabba, which took an hour.

I watched my football team train (skills) and then went to a player sponsors' function with some of the players. Fantastic evening - I have my favourites, not only because they are great on the field, but are also terrific people. It has also been raining.

27 May 2008

Palm Dog

An unofficial prize at the Cannes Film Festival is the Palm Dog award, in recognition of canine performance in film. It should be more prestigious than the Palme d'Or.

Woohoo! I am off work until 10 June.

26 May 2008

Brisbane zombie walk

There was another zombie walk in Brisbane yesterday from 3pm. The third year in a row. More than 1500 people participated... in 'costume'. Surely there may have been a few real ones.

See - 'Undead take over city' in Brisbane Times

I think these people are crazy. Strangely, I know if I was there that I would join in.

This week is a short week at work thankfully.

25 May 2008

good evening Belgrade

The final of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest is on TV tonight, hosted by Serbia in Belgrade, as last year's winner was Serbian.

I am not going to stay up to watch all the counting though... "good evening Belgrade, here are the results from the Finnish vote. United Kingdom, one point, Royaume-Uni, un point pwarnt... Greece, twelve points, La Grèce, douze points pwarnt" etc

Tonight's telecast isn't live so we already know who the winner is.

Dima Bilan from Russia with Believe.

Dima Bilan worked up such a sweat that he had to unbutton his shirt
Dima Bilan of Russia celebrates on stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade
Dima Bilan of Russia celebrates on stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade

The Latvian entry was dressed as pirates. No wonder they didn't win.

I made up for yesterday's vegging by cleaning the bathroom while I had a shower this morning, followed by some tidying and house cleaning.

Declan, Nell and Olivia came over for lunch and I made a frittata with bacon, leek, brussels sprouts and zuchini, with melted cheese on top.

football - round 9

Brisbane Lions: 3.6 9.10 17.11 21.15 (141)
St Kilda: 2.4 3.7 6.8 14.11 (95)

Brisbane: Brown 6, Bradshaw 6, Hooper 2, Black, Power, Clark, Roe, Corrie, Sherman, Harding
St Kilda:
Koschitzke 4, Birss, Dal Santo, Milne 2, Montagna, Goddard, S.Fisher, Reiwoldt

Brisbane: Black, Adcock, Brown, Bradshaw, Power, Macdonald
St Kilda: Hayes, Ball, Birss, Harvey, Koschitzke, Dal Santo

Umpires: McLaren, Chamberlain, Head
Official crowd:
27,566 at Gabba

A great win although my team conceded too many easy goals by St Kilda towards the end.



Drum roll



24 May 2008

crocodiles... the new jaws

From the Northern Territory News
Battle of the Titans


THERE'S no need to be scared of sharks when you're in the Territory -- the crocs usually get to them first.

NEWSBREAKER Paul van Bruggen snapped these amazing pictures of a 2.5m saltie dining out on a shark on the banks of the Daly River.

"We went past one section of the river and we heard some splashing,'' he said.

"We looked across and saw a shark's tail coming up out of the water and then a crocodile's head came up and grabbed it.'' Mr van Bruggen said the crocodile knew exactly what it was doing, dragging the shark on to unfamiliar dry land before finishing off its prey.

"How smart is the crocodile? It if was you or me it would be dragging you in to drown you, but it takes the shark up on dry land,'' he said.

The fisherman, who was on the Daly River last Friday for the Barra Classic, said the crocodile definitely wanted shark for dinner.

"We were about 15 metres away and it didn't bat an eyelid,'' he said.

Now if the shark was as big as the crocodile, which would come out worse off? Maybe Hollywood will make a movie one day similar to Alien vs Predator.

I meant to clean the house today, but didn't. There is always the morning before visitors arrive.

23 May 2008

Hedgehog by Geoffrey Mance

Designed by the late Geoffrey Mance (Mance Design), the Hedgehog is an iconic design - a lamp made with timber (Hawthorn Hedge and Tea Tree).

Hedgehog 'chandeliers' exhibited in the Atrium at Federation Square, Melbourne 1-30 November 2005

Stunning. I want one!

Thank goodness the week is over. A nice weekend home, with a bit of house cleaning to do.

22 May 2008

Chelsea Flower Show - Jamie Durie upsets Prince Philip

Reported in The Telegraph (UK)

The Prince apparently took exception to being corrected when he complimented Australian Jamie Durie on the fine tree fern in his gold-medal winning display.

When Mr Durie informed him that the plant was actually a Macrozamia moorei, part of the cycad family, the 86-year-old Prince is said to have muttered: "I didn't come here to get a lesson".

Prince Philip is an idiot. Apparently, Jamie Durie was not aware of how to respond to royal 'small talk'. Regardless, Philip is still an idiot.

His off-the-cuff remarks have got him in trouble over the years.

In 1999, he said that an old fashioned fuse box in Edinburgh looked as though "it was put in by an Indian", while during a visit to China in 1986 he described Peking as "ghastly" and told British students: "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed."

Apparently he is racist too.

Thankfully tomorrow is Friday.

21 May 2008

rapper names

Why don't rappers use their real names instead of making up ludicrous monikers?

Are people who listen to rap music so stupid that they wouldn't remember a real name like Curtis Jackson instead of 50 cent?

What sort of a name is 50 cent anyway? Why 50 cent (which should be plural) and not one cent? Why not one dollar?

We have work colleagues located in our state and territory offices in Canberra today and tomorrow for a conference. I managed it last year, but not this year. Meh.

20 May 2008

good evening Belgrade

It's Eurovision song contest time again with the final on this weekend.

The Belgian entry by Flemish group Ishtar called O Julissi is sung in a made up language.

Eurovision Song Contest 2008 Semi-Final (1)

Performer: Ishtar
Song title: O Julissi
Song writer(s): Michel Vangheluwe
Song composer(s): Michel Vangheluwe

O julissi na jalyni,
O julissi na dytini
O bulo diti non slukati
Sestrone dina katsu.

O julissi na ti buku
O julissi na katinu
Dvoranu mojani bidna
Marusi naja otcha tu

Pokoli sestro moja kona
Pokoli meni dita boja
Jalina pitsu marusinja
Kolosali krokodili

O julissi na jalyni,
O julissi na dytini
O bulo diti non slukati
Sestrone dina katsu.

O julissi na ti buku
O julissi na katinu
Dvoranu mojani bidna
Marusi naja otcha tu


Pokoli sestro moja kona
Pokoli meni dita boja
Jalina pitsu marusinja
Kolosali krokodili

O julissi na jalyni,
O julissi na dytini
O bulo diti non slukati
Sestrone dina katsu.

O julissi na slukati
O julissi na kotchali
Od nu je dvorian ne si bili
Precko sti budo najali

O julissi na ja

O julissi na jalyni,
O julissi na dytini
O bulo diti non slukati
Sestrone dina katsu.

O julissi na jalyni,
O julissi na dytini
O bulo diti non slukati
Sestrone dina katsu.

I don't think much of their chances, singing in Euro-babble.

I returned to work today. Three more days to go before the weekend.

19 May 2008

wasting food

Brits and Americans waste a staggering amount of food. I dread to think how much food is wasted in Australia.

Personally, I don't throw out much food at all. That would be wasteful.

I had a great weekend in Melbourne staying with Michelle.

football - round 8

CARLTON: 2.2 4.8 9.14 12.20 (92)
BRISBANE LIONS: 8.3 11.8 16.13 18.17 (125)

Fevola 5, Wiggins 2, Murphy 2, Betts, Russell, Judd
Brisbane Lions: Brown 6, Johnstone 3, Black 2, Hooper 2, Adcock, Rischitelli, Drummond, Corrie, Bradshaw

Scotland, Murphy, Waite, Jamieson, Judd
Brisbane Lions: Johnstone, Brown, Power, Black, McGrath, Sherman, Charman

Jamieson (shoulder)

Umpires: Farmer, Chamberlain, Ryan
Official crowd: 38,675 at Telstra Dome

What a game. Not only did I attend and sit with the cheer squad behind the goal posts, I also held up the banner (the metal post, not the ropes).

Charmo rides on Hads


Shermo shakes Fev

Joel shakes Kreuzer


And my photos

Charmo wins the ruck contest

it will be a ball up

behind the goal post

15 May 2008

regal respect

Queen Elizabeth II is on a state visit to Turkey. I like how she respects the customs and traditions of the countries she visits.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wearing a head scarf, listens as an Imam reads verses from the quran during her visit to the Ottoman era Green mosque in Bursa, western Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2008. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II began her first visit to Turkey in 37 years on Tuesday, praising the predominantly Muslim country's role as a bridge between West and the Islamic world. (AP Photo/Riza Ozel, Pool)

(AP Photo/Riza Ozel, Pool)

She even removed her shoes. Her speech at a state banquet spoke of the importance of Turkey as "a bridge between East and West at a crucial time for the European Union and the world in general".

Woohoo! I have an extended weekend from tomorrow in Melbourne.

14 May 2008

Zarny Shibuya and foreigners in Japan

This is an interesting article from AFP which doesn't seem to have been picked up by any media outlets.
Asian Lives: Myanmar designer weaves hope for Japan's immigrants
By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura
Agence France Presse, May 12, 2008

Tokyo (AFP) -- More than a decade after fleeing Myanmar for Japan, Zarny Shibuya, 23, has become a rising fashion star whose face has graced Tokyo's most-seen billboards, testing the country's notorious reluctance to accept immigrants.

With cropped hair, pierced ears and a level but at times defiant gaze, the former model has become a fashion designer, turning out everything from sportswear to women's clothing for several well-known brands and acting as style consultant for a popular TV serial.

A finalist in a singing contest held by one of Japan's largest record labels, he has appeared on the giant billboards in Tokyo's hip Shibuya district, which feeds the latest fashion crazes to thousands of young Japanese.

His second name -- Burmese generally only have one -- is a tribute to that area where the dizzying nightlife blurred his identity as he danced to 1980s pop.

It was there that he caught the eye of scouting agents, who propelled him to fame.

Nothing in his soft speech and gentle manner reveal he is a foreigner, let alone one blacklisted by the military junta in Yangon as the son of prominent activists involved in the pro-democracy uprising crushed two decades ago.

'I immersed myself in Japanese culture. I cut off ties from the Myanmar community here. I came prepared with the thought that I may never return home,' Zarny said in fluent Japanese.

His is a rare success story in Japan, where many people proudly consider the country to be ethnically homogeneous.

Despite one of the world's most rapidly ageing populations, Japan has ruled out large-scale immigration and accepts only a small number of refugees.

When Zarny arrived in Japan with his mother at the age of eight, she told him to 'swallow everything' -- and that meant racial slurs, too.

He was rejected when he applied for part-time jobs -- including at several fast-food chains -- because of his name.

'I finally had to use my Japanese friend's identity. My interviewers would comment, 'Your skin is so dark,' but I would laugh it off and say, 'No, no, I'm really Japanese',' he said.

'I don't think I could have become what I am now if my superiors had known from the start that I was a refugee and a foreigner,' he said, as he showed his latest creation, high-heeled, lace-up sneakers that make athletes seem better suited for the catwalk than the track.

Although many foreigners express frustration at being eternally treated as outsiders even if they speak fluent Japanese, Zarny insisted that it is possible to enter Japanese society -- at the cost of keeping his true identity under wraps, which is 'the hardest feeling I've ever had'.

'Japan is not as restricted as Westerners think. In any society there are stereotypes and so it just depends on how well we turn them on their head.'

And that is just what he did.

'I listened to popular rock music, wore clothes that were in style, I bought things like everyone else. I lived a life typical for my age. I didn't think of myself as a poor, helpless victim,' the designer said.

He served as his high school class president and went on to graduate with a degree in international relations from a Japanese university.

All the while, the memories of his former home faded into nothing more than a still image of his grandfather's study lined with books on Burmese mythology.

But for others in Japan who wished to hold on to their culture, 'swallowing everything' was a bitter lesson in Japan's reluctance to welcome foreigners despite being one of the world's major democracies.

Easter Seng, 42, a leading activist from Myanmar's Christian Kachin ethnic group, said it has been an uphill struggle trying to instill her tradition and language in her four daughters who were born in Japan.

Her husband, who holds a doctorate but now runs a Korean-style barbecue restaurant, has had little time to contribute.

'My daughters begged crying to have their names changed to Japanese after being bullied in school. They refused at first to learn Kachin, but I forced them to. Now they're proud to be Kachin,' she said with a triumphant smile.

'I'm thankful to Japan for allowing me to live here but I can't be satisfied. The government needs to take better care of foreigners because we can work for the good of Japan,' she said.

A signatory nation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Japan is the third largest donor to the world's refugees but often faces criticism that it accepts very few of the world's 33 million displaced people.

Out of a total of 5,698 people who have sought asylum since 1982, Japan has granted refugee status to just 451. And of those, only about 70 have been granted permission to stay permanently, according to official figures.

Japan has favoured migrants from other Asian countries, with 85 percent of accepted refugees coming from Myanmar.

Once refugees are granted permission to stay, they have access to jobs, health insurance and are allowed to send their children to school.

But refugees say they have little social mobility. While refugees in other countries can rise through the ranks, most of those even with doctoral degrees in Japan end up in menial jobs.

The restrictive immigration policy reflects prevailing attitudes, lawmakers and lawyers say.

The ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party 'is a stickler for a family system that centres on the imperial household and on preserving pure Japanese blood,' said Azuma Konno, an opposition lawmaker who heads a study group on refugees.

Japan's decision to cut itself off from the rest of the world for more than 200 years under the Tokugawa shogunate, until the 1850s, 'moulded our mentality that it is unnecessary to learn about or understand our neighbours,' he added.

But with a declining birth rate and increasing labour shortages, 'unless we change, Japan will become an unattractive place for foreigners whom we might need in the future,' he said.

Immigration rules are so tight that one third of asylum-seekers last year were pursuing court cases to obtain refugee status.

Japan is also looking at starting Japanese language proficiency tests for long-term foreign residents.

'The hurdles are too high. There is a problem with the system in that the same officials who expel immigrants are also the ones who review and accept refugees. Officials are very distrustful,' said Shogo Watanabe, a leading lawyer for refugees.

Another hurdle that discourages refugees is the unlimited detention that they face after Japanese authorities issue a deportation order, he said.

The average detention period is one year although some have been held as long as three years without being told when they would leave.

Japan is working, albeit slowly, towards opening up to foreigners as the workforce dwindles in the face of a falling birthrate.

'If there are immigrants who love Japan and embrace Japanese culture, then I think they can become the new Japanese,' Hidenao Nakagawa, a heavyweight lawmaker in the ruling party, said in a recent television discussion.

For Zarny, learning the fine print -- namely, Japanese etiquette, which foreigners often find overly fastidious -- has been essential to his success.

'Refugees don't have manners. I might sound harsh, but they really need to straighten themselves out if they want to be accepted. They need to show Japan that they are valuable human resources,' he said.

In turn, with globalisation exposing young people to different cultures, more Japanese are stepping out of their insular mentality, he said.

'I think Japan changes greatly every decade in terms of culture and how people think. People my age are more open to the world, more cosmopolitan than people in their 30s,' he said.

'And when that happens and I'm an established designer, then I could begin to take inspiration from Burma.'

With declining birth rates, migrants will be the major source of population growth. Perhaps Japan should start taking in refugees from Sudan. It would make the Japanese confront their own prejudices.

I could do with more time off work.

13 May 2008

after the news

I watch about four separate television news programs most nights, first at 6pm (30 minutes), then 6.30pm (one hour) and later on at 9.30pm (30 minutes) and 10.30pm (30 minutes).

After the last news bulletin and the sports one, on one particular network, we are subjected to David Letterman's Late Show. Time to switch off the television. Hasn't that show reached its use by date yet?

After last week, I'm glad for the quiet week.

12 May 2008


New York photographer Spencer Tunick's latest work involved 1840 people nuding it on Sunday at Austria's Happel Stadium, the venue of the final of the Euro 2008 soccer championships.

There were a lot of balls on show!

I like this one.

Mondayitis, is there a cure?

11 May 2008

our furry families

Ruth Ostrow writes a very good column in The Australian's Weekend Australian Magazine. I really like this article she wrote about pets.
Give pets a chance

Ruth Ostrow | May 03, 2008

I WAS feeling worried the other evening. Someone close to me was having an operation and I couldn't eat. About 6 o'clock my two cats came in for dinner, as they always do.

But instead of going to their bowls they came over to where I was sitting by the TV and refused to move. I carried them over to their food. One sniffed and walked away; the other had a few mouthfuls and left the rest. They both returned to the couch and sat by me.

Later the call that I was waiting for came through. All was well. I went and made myself a sandwich. The cats followed and hungrily finished their food.

A vet confirmed this was not magic. It’s the intuition shared between master and pet. A wonderful, unconscious connection whereby the animal senses pain, sadness or anxiety and reacts accordingly. I once witnessed the loyalty of a dog who sensed his master was soon to die, and sat at the foot of the bed whimpering before an operation that did, indeed, lead to the man’s death.

Pets can vibe into us, but also seem to exert a wonderful, unseen power over us. American Heart Association research has found that a 12-minute visit with man’s best friend helps heart and lung function by lowering blood pressure, diminishing the release of harmful hormones and decreasing anxiety among hospitalised heart-failure patients. Animal-assisted therapy is now being used by a wide range of health professionals and correctional facilities.

However, despite the powerful cross-pollination between pet and owner, I was shocked to hear that my friend was not able to pet-sit in his own home due to the body corporate’s rules. And I was surprised to find myself discriminated against recently when trying to rent, due to an archaic no-pets policy. For many families there’s a brutal choice to be made in this rental crisis: a home or the family dog.

I get particularly angry at the constant letters I receive from people who question animal rights, such as a recent Modern Dilemma from someone who didn’t think the hospital MRI machine should be used after-hours on animals.

In stark contrast, Japanese companies have begun giving employees a monthly “family allowance” for their pets. With the trend to living alone on the increase, pets are the new children in some countries. Let’s adjust our thinking to acknowledge their value in this lonely modern world.

I don't like to use the word pet, but prefer four-legged companions, indeed furry family members. Even though they are dependent upon people, especially for food, we also depend on them.

Fatty and Keiser were the best cats. Fatty was particularly attached to me and followed me around like a dog, which was very unfeline behaviour. Keiser loved people and was very much a lap cat. Everybody who met them thought they were the best cats. I could never replace them.

Kane is the best dog and great company. Check out his blog.

I meant to clean the house but spent most of the day resting on the couch, catching up on the latest episodes of Smallville, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica, as well as an afternoon nap. Ah, there's nothing like a good veg.

10 May 2008

hunting for Oreo cookies

Further to yesterday's post about Oreo cookies, I looked for them when I was shopping at the supermarket.

Eventually, I found them. A lower shelf, not at eye level and not many packets.

Competing with hundreds of varieties.

I thought about buying a packet, but then changed my mind. The packets says 'chocolate' but I have never tasted any decent chocolate in that biscuit.

What a day! Kane and I had a very exciting day. See his blog.

This evening, Devi came over. I made a roast pork belly which had been marinated in teriyaki sauce, with roasted potatoes, beetroot and brussels sprouts.

After dinner we went to the uni bar to see The Panics in concert. Their supporting acts were Oh Mercy and Little Red. Little Red was quite good. Unfortunately, the sound system wasn't set up well so it was hard to hear the vocals over speaker vibrations.

It has been awhile since either Devi or I went to a music gig where we had to stand.

09 May 2008

biscuit imperialism

Just because Oreo cookies are the best selling in the United States, it doesn't mean that the rest of the world will like it.

In Australia, we have our favourite biscuits with entire supermarket aisles stocking a huge variety. There was an attempt to mass market the Oreo in Australia with that awful cutesy commercial with the child dunking his Oreo in milk. Didn't work. Why would we switch from our Tim Tam?

Now the Oreo is being launched in the UK. Fat chance. The British also have their favourite biscuits.

After work, I went to the southside for a birthday dinner for Kim's 40th at a bistro and returned home at 10pm.

08 May 2008

the platypus is an odd creature

The platypus genome has been mapped with further proof that it is an odd creature indeed. See Nature.

I still think they are cute.

I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday. I had an appointment in the city in the afternoon and afterwards bumped into Tim PG and then met Emily very briefly so she could give me her postbox key to check her mail while she is away visiting Nepal and the Middle East.

07 May 2008

IOC gags athletes

Ahead of the Beijing games, the International Olympic Committee has decided to gag athletes from expressing any political views. Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald

The IOC has detailed its expectations of athletes, noting "such conduct must also, of course, comply with the laws of the host state".

The IOC's rule says "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

It says its interpretation is to include: "The conduct of participants at all sites, areas and venues [including] all actions, reactions, attitudes or manifestations of any kind by a person or group of persons, including but not limited to their look, external appearance, clothing, gestures, and written or oral statements."

This has thrown into doubt the freedom of athletes penning their thoughts as blog entries. IOC president Jacques Rogge has said athletes have freedom of expression, as long as those expressions comply with the Olympic charter. The letter confirmed that athletes could answer media questions on any topic but called on the common sense of all athletes and other participants in showing respect for the dignity of fellow athletes, including those of China.

The letter said the Olympics was not the stage for political statements "about issues such as armed conflicts, regional differences, religious disputes and many others".

Athletes breaking the rules will be stripped of their Games accreditation, which doubles as the entry and exit visas for China. In addition, athletes, officials or visitors who are detained by security officials can be held for 72 hours without the relevant embassy being notified.

I wonder what it was like in Berlin at the 1936 games under the Nazi regime?

The Black Power salute of the 1968 games in Mexico City is an enduring image of the fight for equality. And the fight has still not been won.

Last night after I posted to Kane's blog and my music blog, the internet went down.

This evening, Stella and Ian came over for a quick dinner before we went to the theatre for the opening night performance of the Sydney Dance Company's production of INUK2.

The final act involved a lot of water and much fun by the dancers. I have seen a number of productions from the SDC over the years, and this one diverges from their primarily classical base. I guess the Graeme Murphy era is well and truly over.

05 May 2008

why not to keep your front yard neat and tidy

When friends like Margaret or Sue B drop around, they always nag me to tidy up the front of the house, which needs a lot of weeding. I now have an excuse to give them - an untidy yard is a deterrent to burglars.

From Canberra Times (our local newspaper):
03 May 2008 - 9:44AM
A thief confesses: 'You're looking for a house that's nice and tidy, looks like it's got money'
By Noel Towell Police Reporter

He won't show his face or allow his real name to be published, but if you are among the legion of ACT burglary victims, it's just possible that he robbed your house.

The image “http://static.yourguide.com.au/images/viewimages/?image=440764&size=3&prev=http%3A%2F%2Fcanberra%2Eyourguide%2Ecom%2Eau%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fgeneral%2Fa%2Dthief%2Dconfesses%2Dyoure%2Dlooking%2Dfor%2Da%2Dhouse%2Dthats%2Dnice%2Dand%2Dtidy%2Dlooks%2Dlike%2Dits%2Dgot%2Dmoney%2F1236560%2Ehtml” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

If not him, then someone very like him, because all that distinguishes Plucker, as he is known in family circles, from your average Canberra housebreaker is that he started a little younger than most and was probably more prolific.

Plucker is only his late 20s, but he already has a 12-year burglary career behind him with his offending between 1992 and 2004 interrupted only by the stretches in juvenile detention and jail his crimes earned him.

Research by The Canberra Times shows homes in the capital are more likely to be targeted by burglars than in any other east coast capital city.

Despite a steady decrease in the rate of residential break-and-enters during the past five years, in line with a national trend, there were nearly 2800 burglaries in the ACT last year. That's eight homes being robbed every day of the year. Last year, there were 2122 burglaries for every 100,000 households in the ACT, more than in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin.

Our homes are robbed mostly by young men like Plucker.

"I was 13 when I did my first job, my last lag [jail sentence] was 2004 and I finished it in 2006," he said.

Despite being responsible for "hundreds" of burglaries, Plucker's first break-and-enter is still fresh in his mind.

"It was 1992 or 1993, and the house was in Narrabundah. I was with my brother, he was heavily into a lot of shit, so I just, sort of, tagged along," he said.

"I still remember the feeling. I felt nervous but excited, hate to say it now, but it's a mad rush you get and yet you still had butterflies.

"But when it was all over and done with and I had money in my pocket, that was the end of it for me and ever since then I never looked back."

For an indigenous teenager from a family riven by drugs and alcohol, having cash in his pocket for the first time was intoxicating and he was hooked.

"Yeah, hooked badly, although I wish now that it never happened."

After a few months, he didn't need to tag along with anyone, he knew what to do.

Narrabundah, scene of that first job, is not far from the south Canberra suburb where he grew up, but his thieving would soon take him far and wide through the capital's suburbs throughout his teens and young adulthood.

"Going out on an earn." That's what he and his co-ees (co-offenders) called it and very little would get between them and a household's consumer goods easy to dispose of, hard to trace the burglar's perennial favourite target.

The target houses were chosen for their neat and tidy appearance and before lunch, seven days a week, was when they were most vulnerable. "Usually the mornings are best, less people around, but we'd go all week, any day, you name it.

"You're looking for a house that's nice and tidy, it looks like it's got money.

"Walk down the street, casually, and spot one out and say, there's one, that's the go.

"Knock on the door and see if anyone is home and if no one's home it's 'yeah'."

In those days, Canberra home-owners didn't make it hard for these low-tech criminals many still don't and most times Plucker and his co-ees didn't even have to break a window, jemmy a door or force a lock.

"Usually, you'd go through a window, but if everything was locked we'd have to smash a window or go through the back door, usually use a screwdriver on the back door."

The traditional household deterrents have mixed results, Plucker says, against a determined group of burglars, especially when they needed to get high.

Alarms? "Nah, alarms bothered us because they attract attention, so you'd try to stay away."

Dogs? "Sometimes. If they're too big, you walk away. But a lot of the time if you're friendly to 'em, you can get around a dog."

A matter of minutes was all it usually took to turn a victim's life upside down.

"The longest you'd spend in a house is five minutes, you've got to be quick," he said.

"You get in and usually one person goes to the bedroom, another goes to the other bedroom, you suss what's in the lounge room, pick up what you got and grab it on the way out the door."

The gear was then removed in a stolen car and disposed of quickly, always sold to stolen goods middlemen fences who would deal with a number of different groups of thieves, or exchanged directly for weed, and later on in Plucker's career, heroin.

"It was always fences or dealers," he said

"My dealer would usually buy everything from me, either exchange it for pot or for money.

"You'd usually see a few different people running in and out of their places too, because Canberra is a small place and everyone knows everyone."

Then it was time to get rid of the vehicle. "We didn't burn 'em, we'd just dump them and leave them there, the coppers would find it in a couple of days."

Plucker says he doesn't know what would become of the goods after he sold them. "As soon as it goes out of my hands, I don't care, as long as I've got my fix, it doesn't matter to me."

And the price? "About one-third of the proper cost."

At first the money went on weed, and not just for himself.

"I got to the stage where I was smoking a lot of weed and hanging with the wrong crowd, me mum and dad were pretty bad weed-heads too, and alcoholics," he said.

"They never disciplined me, only put a smile on their faces and asked for money, money, money."

That's a lot of money, a lot of weed and a lot of houses burgled.

"Probably hundreds, all up I've lost count" he said. "But I'd probably do about four houses a day, I was out of control and I just didn't care."

Getting caught was always a possibility, but never one that influenced Plucker's behaviour much. Although he never believed he was untouchable, the cash and the drugs were real, jail was a remote possibility.

"It was in the back of my mind all the time but at that time, I just didn't care. I was always wondering if this was going to come back at me, but it was the cash, always the cash.

"Sometimes you'd bump into another crew when you were out, but it was never a tense moment.

"Nah, it was always bragging about what they'd got, what houses they'd broken into and how much money they had."

A kid breaking into four houses in one day was always going to attract police attention and Plucker soon found himself charged with nearly 160 burglaries after being linked to the houses with fingerprint evidence it was before he took to wearing gloves.

Although most of those charges were eventually dropped, of course he did time over that one. He was 14 years old.

"My first taste was at 14 when I got got three months in NSW, then they extradited me back here and put me in Quamby.

"It's not a holiday camp, it's pretty harsh, but the worse thing about it is they took my freedom away from me." But even behind bars, there wasn't a thought for the victims of his stealing.

"I never thought about that, ever," Plucker said. "The first time I got locked up, the only one I felt sorry for was myself."

Two more stretches in juvenile detention failed to get Plucker thinking about the pain he had inflicted on the householders he robbed.

He says he never even considered his crimes to have victims, just that there was stuff there to take, to convert into ready cash.

He only started to think about the damage he had done when he was in the adult justice system.

"I think it was when I first went to Goulburn, to the big boy place, when I walked through those gates, that's when I started thinking," he said.

There were several factors in his decision to change his life, not least being shot while caught in the act.

"I was just about to boot the back door open, next thing the door flew open, this fella came out with a gun and I turned and ran. He shouted after me, 'You better run, you black bastard,' and shot me."

A .22 slug still embedded in his back, not far from his spine, made Plucker consider that he might have ridden his luck too far.

But in the end, break-and-enter in this town is a young man's game and maybe, like most of our burglars, he just grew out of it.

So there!

Where did the weekend go?

04 May 2008

renaming my mouse

I use the Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse both at work and at home. It is a more ergonomic shape which I find easier to handle.

The device was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1964 whose group at SRI nicknamed it the mouse.
Nobody among his colleagues seems to remember who first nicknamed the device, but all agree that the name was given because the cord ('tail') initially came out the 'back' of the device.

'Very soon we realised that the connecting wire should be brought out the "front" instead of the back,' Engelbart notes, but by then the name had stuck."
I have decided to rename my remote tool computer device from mouse to turtle. This is less to do with the shape and more to do with the characteristics such as centre of gravity of the device.

Today was a Kane Day. I meant to do some tidying and house cleaning, but didn't. Okay, I didn't mean to do any of that. There is always next weekend.

03 May 2008

If only all residents on Lesbos are Lesbian

Reuters has reported that residents from the Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos) claim to be the real Lesbians and gay women are not.
Greek islanders say gay women are no Lesbians
Fri May 2, 2008 5:04pm EDT

ATHENS (Reuters) - Some residents on the Greek island of Lesvos say they are the only true Lesbians and they want gay groups to stop using the word.

Several residents have begun legal proceedings and pending a ruling have asked a court to ban the Gay and Lesbian Community of Greece from using the word lesbian in their title.

Plaintiff Dimitris Lambrou says the dispute is over identity and not sexuality.

"We must protect our identity, the name that defines our origin from being stolen," he told Reuters TV on Friday. "Our legal actions have nothing to do with the sexual orientation of our adversaries."

Lesvos, in the Aegean Sea just off the Turkish coast, is the birthplace of the 7th-century B.C. poet Sappho, whose love poems inspired the term lesbian for gay women.

The island has become a gathering spot for gay women from around the world, especially at Sappho's village of Eressos.

Evangelia Vlami, who is representing the Gay and Lesbian Community of Greece, said: "We will be laughing in court."

"This is ridiculous. The term has been accepted by society, by scientists, historically, and by the United Nations," she told Reuters by telephone. The first hearing is set for June.

(Reporting by Deborah Kyvrikosaios, writing by Renee Maltezou, editing by Stephen Weeks)
I very much doubt that the dictionary definition based on common usage over more than a century will be changed. You can't stop people from self-identifying themselves. Besides, the Greek government still isn't able to stop those non-Greeks from calling themselves Macedonian.

Today was a quiet day. Margie came over to take Kane to the vet in the morning.

Early in the afternoon, Brendan and Lavinia who work on the other side of the floor came over, bearing Indian food for lunch. They came to check the space in the garage as I offered to let them use it for their belongings when they go overseas for 12 months.

During the afternoon, I went out for a few hours to watch the football game at a club.

football - round 7

Geelong 4.1 7.6 11.8 15.15 (105)
Brisbane Lions 5.6 6.8 10.9 11.12 (78)

Bartel 2 Gamble 2 Stokes 2 Johnson 2 Corey Rooke Hawkins Mooney Mackie Chapman Milburn
Brisbane Lions: Clark 3 Power 2 Corrie Bradshaw Rischitelli Harding Patfull Hooper

Geelong: Kelly, Corey, Scarlett, Mackie, Wojcinski, Bartel
Brisbane Lions: Macdonald, Notting, Patfull, Brennan, Adcock, Clark

Geelong: Bartel, (cut head), Ablett (calf) replaced in selected side by Rooke.
Brisbane Lions: Brown (quad) replaced in selected side by Henderson. Black (groin) replaced in selected side by Harding.

Reports: Stokes (Geel) reported by umpire Vozzo for striking Rischitelli (Bris) in the first quarter
Umpires: Vozzo, Kamolins, Meredith
Official crowd: 23,388 at Skilled Stadium

Despite the loss, it was a fantastic effort by my team against the reigning premiers, considering that a number of our best players were out.

The blue and red is our new 'away' guernsey.

JBiz - how he uses one hand is incredible








02 May 2008

more about Doctor Who theme music

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Doctor Who theme music.

Delia Derbyshire created the first Doctor Who theme music composed by Ron Grainer. Here, Daniel Walmsley from Planet Nerd (broadcast on a community television station in Melbourne, Australia) talks to David Shea about the origin of electronic music and the history of the Doctor Who theme music.

How Delia Derbyshire recorded the original was using a series of tape players similar to this

There is also an interesting article in the BBC News magazine about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. A green lampshade has gained legendary status.

A remake of the theme music was composed by Peter Howell and demonstrated here

After having a blech week at work, I stayed home today instead of being unproductive in the office.

01 May 2008

pedestrian distractions

Motorists, are forbidden by law (in Australia) from using their mobile (cell) phones while driving, as they could distract them into taking their eyes off the road.

So too, pedestrians can be distracted when crossing busy roads and not notice cars approaching.

New South Wales Police has launched a campaign to advise pedestrians to "never cross a road while using headphones or mobile phones".

I have to admit that I am one of these pedestrians.

Thursday and I'm tired from the week already.