30 June 2008

Albanian culture: when women become men

I really liked this article from the New York Times
Albanian Custom Fades: Woman as Family Man
Published: June 25, 2008

KRUJE, Albania — Pashe Keqi recalled the day nearly 60 years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father’s baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.

Pashe Keqi, 78, took an oath of virginity when she was 20 to become the family patriarch after her father’s death in a blood feud. Photo by Johan Spanner for The New York Times

For centuries, in the closed-off and conservative society of rural northern Albania, swapping genders was considered a practical solution for a family with a shortage of men. Her father was killed in a blood feud, and there was no male heir. By custom, Ms. Keqi, now 78, took a vow of lifetime virginity. She lived as a man, the new patriarch, with all the swagger and trappings of male authority — including the obligation to avenge her father’s death.

She says she would not do it today, now that sexual equality and modernity have come even to Albania, with Internet dating and MTV invading after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Girls here do not want to be boys anymore. With only Ms. Keqi and some 40 others remaining, the sworn virgin is dying off.

“Back then, it was better to be a man because before a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,” said Ms. Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of raki. “Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men, and are even more powerful. I think today it would be fun to be a woman.”

The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than 500 years. Under the Kanun, the role of a woman is severely circumscribed: take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same: 12 oxen.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dressed like men and spent their lives in the company of other men, even though most kept their female given names. They were not ridiculed, but accepted in public life, even adulated. For some the choice was a way for a woman to assert her autonomy or to avoid an arranged marriage.

“Stripping off their sexuality by pledging to remain virgins was a way for these women in a male-dominated, segregated society to engage in public life,” said Linda Gusia, a professor of gender studies at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo. “It was about surviving in a world where men rule.”

Taking an oath to become a sworn virgin should not, sociologists say, be equated with homosexuality, long taboo in rural Albania. Nor do the women have sex-change operations.

Known in her household as the “pasha,” Ms. Keqi said she decided to become the man of the house at age 20 when her father was murdered. Her four brothers opposed the Communist government of Enver Hoxha, the ruler for 40 years until his death in 1985, and they were either imprisoned or killed. Becoming a man, she said, was the only way to support her mother, her four sisters-in-law and their five children.

Ms. Keqi lorded over her large family in her modest house in Tirana, where her nieces served her brandy while she barked out orders. She said living as a man had allowed her freedom denied other women. She worked construction jobs and prayed at the mosque with men. Even today, her nephews and nieces said, they would not dare marry without their “uncle’s” permission.

When she stepped outside the village, she enjoyed being taken for a man. “I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman,” Ms. Keqi said. “I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don’t know how to do women’s talk. I am never scared.”

When she was recently hospitalized for surgery, the other woman in her room was horrified to be sharing close quarters with someone she assumed was male.

Being the man of the house also made her responsible for avenging her father’s death, she said. When her father’s killer, by then 80, was released from prison five years ago, Ms. Keqi said, her 15-year-old nephew shot him dead. Then the man’s family took revenge and killed her nephew. “I always dreamed of avenging my father’s death,” she said. “Of course, I have regrets; my nephew was killed. But if you kill me, I have to kill you.”

In Albania, a majority Muslim country in the western Balkans, the Kanun is adhered to by Muslims and Christians. Albanian cultural historians said the adherence to medieval customs long discarded elsewhere was a byproduct of the country’s previous isolation. But they stressed that the traditional role of the Albanian woman was changing.

“The Albanian woman today is a sort of minister of economics, a minister of affection and a minister of interior who controls who does what,” said Ilir Yzeiri, who writes about Albanian folklore. “Today, women in Albania are behind everything.”

Some sworn virgins bemoan the changes. Diana Rakipi, 54, a security guard in the seaside city of Durres, in west Albania, who became a sworn virgin to take care of her nine sisters, said she looked back with nostalgia on the Hoxha era. During Communist times, she was a senior army officer, training women as combat soldiers. Now, she lamented, women do not know their place.

“Today women go out half naked to the disco,” said Ms. Rakipi, who wears a military beret. “I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I can’t clean, I can’t iron, I can’t cook. That is a woman’s work.”

But even in the remote mountains of Kruje, about 30 miles north of Tirana, residents say the Kanun’s influence on gender roles is disappearing. They said erosion of the traditional family, in which everyone once lived under the same roof, had altered women’s position in society.

“Women and men are now almost the same,” said Caca Fiqiri, whose aunt Qamile Stema, 88, is his village’s last sworn virgin. “We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man of the house.”

Yet there is no doubt who wears the trousers in Ms. Stema’s one-room stone house in Barganesh, the family’s ancestral village. There, on a recent day, “Uncle” Qamile was surrounded by her clan, dressed in a qeleshe, the traditional white cap of an Albanian man. Pink flip-flops were her only concession to femininity.

After becoming a man at the age of 20, Ms. Stema said, she carried a gun. At wedding parties, she sat with the men. When she talked to women, she recalled, they recoiled in shyness.

She said becoming a sworn virgin was a necessity and a sacrifice. “I feel lonely sometime, all my sisters have died, and I live alone,” she said. “But I never wanted to marry. Some in my family tried to get me to change my clothes and wear dresses, but when they saw I had become a man, they left me alone.”

Ms. Stema said she would die a virgin. Had she married, she joked, it would have been to a traditional Albanian woman. “I guess you could say I was partly a woman and partly a man,” she said. “I liked my life as a man. I have no regrets.”
In such a patriarchal society (as it was then), I wonder whether the personal sacrifices were worth the advantages of living as a man. Still, despite such inequality, it was rather ironic that women could prove that they were equal to men by emulating them.

I could do with more time off work.

29 June 2008

Typo Eradication Advancement League

There is a Typo Eradication Advancement League, which aims to correct public signage. Perhaps they should trawl through the internet. Most of the time, people just don't care.

I woke up earlier today, so am recovering. I also managed to go out in the afternoon to a club to watch the football game, not shown on TV. What a waste of time (my team lost and played woefully).

football - round 14

MELBOURNE 5.4 6.6 9.8 14.9 (93)
BRISBANE LIONS 2.3 5.9 7.12 13.14 (92)

B Miller 4 C Sylvia 4 C Bruce 2 A Wonaeamirri 2 M Bate B Green. Brisbane: J Brown 5 D Bradshaw 4 R Hooper 2 J Patfull M Rischitelli.

B Green C Bruce B Miller C Johnson S Valenti C Sylvia.
L Power S Black M Rischitelli J Brown J Brennan.

Umpires: M Head J Armstrong S Jeffery
Official Crowd: 23,278 at the MCG.


Lethal (the coach will by angry)

28 June 2008

primate rights

Reuters (25 June 2008) has reported that the Spanish parliament will soon grant legal rights to the great apes (gorilla, chimpanzees and orang utans) in support of the Great Ape Project (GAP).

The rights sought by GAP include

1. The Right to Life
The lives of members of the community of equals are to be protected. Members of the community of equals may not be killed except in very strictly defined circumstances, for example, self-defense.

2. The Protection of Individual Liberty
Members of the community of equals are not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; if they should be imprisoned without due legal process, they have the right to immediate release. The detention of those who have not been convicted of any crime, or of those who are not criminally liable, should be allowed only where it can be shown to be for their own good, or necessary to protect the public from a member of the community who would clearly be a danger to others if at liberty. In such cases, members of the community of equals must have the right to appeal, either directly or, if they lack the relevant capacity, through an advocate, to a judicial tribunal.

3. The Prohibition of Torture
The deliberate infliction of severe pain on a member of the community of equals, either wantonly or for an alleged benefit to others, is regarded as torture, and is wrong.

Quite ironic, in a country that tortures bulls for sport. Reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm, which may be a little out of context, some animals are more equal than others.

I can understand the decision, after all, we share some 99 per cent of the same genetic material as the great apes.

No animal should be subject to deliberate pain and suffering, even if bred and raised for food.

There is bound to be a strong reaction from the Catholic Church about apes having more rights than unborn children.

My laziness (and recovery from some bug) continued.

27 June 2008

the Australian economy or wombats?

Everybody knows that bureaucrats run the country, not politicians who merely tell bureaucrats how to run the country.

Our most senior bureaucrat who runs the Australian economy, or rather ensures the economy runs itself smoothly, cares more about wombats.

From the Daily Telegraph
Treasury boss Ken Henry leaves post to look after wombats
By Steve Lewis, National Political Correspondent
June 27, 2008 12:00am

THE man at the helm of Australia's troubled economy will leave his post for nearly five weeks to look after a colony of endangered wombats.

Treasury boss goes wombatty
Rescue mission ... Treasury chief Dr Ken Henry nurses orphaned wombat Toby. Picture: Kym Smith

Ken Henry, the Treasury Secretary, will miss an important Reserve Bank board meeting and be without a mobile phone as he ventures into remote Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland.

The Coalition has questioned who will be running economic policy at a "crucial time", with key decisions pending on carbon trading, tax reform and foreign investment.

All his professional duties, including completing a first draft of the Government's "root and branch" tax review, will be delegated to other Treasury officials.

But Dr Henry is unapologetic for his wombat vacation, which comes as the nation's 226 Federal MPs and senators leave Canberra's chill for the winter recess.

He insists the economy is in "pretty good shape" despite the soaring price of fuel, rising interest rates and a slump in business confidence: "This place doesn't stop when I am not here."

Dr Henry, a passionate conservationist, and his wife Naomi will be "caretaking" a colony of 115 northern hairy-nosed wombats.

While Kevin Rudd has been accused of running the public service into the ground, Dr Henry said everyone "is entitled to have balanced lives".

The Coalition is questioning the timing of his animal odyssey, arguing it will leave Treasurer Wayne Swan badly exposed.

"Who will be looking after the muddle-headed Treasurer in Dr Henry's absence?" Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull asked.

"Everyone is entitled to take annual leave, but this is a crucial time for economic policy and the wombat's gain will be Wayne's loss."

So what happens if the dollar tanks over the next few weeks? "I reckon if there was a mini-economic crisis, people would find ways of getting to me," Dr Henry said, as he posed with orphaned wombat Toby in his Treasury office.

Mr Swan says he has no problems with the holiday.

"Treasury is a highly professional organisation with plenty of talented officials. It will be in good hands."

Dr Henry and his wife have rescued hundreds of native animals on their two properties 60km from Canberra. He is clearly looking forward to the isolation of Epping Forest.

"One of the beauties of this spot, there is no mobile phone coverage and it is 2½ hours to the nearest town, and it's a pretty rough track," he said.

While Dr Henry has devoted his working life to economics, he is just as passionate about rescuing injured native animals.

"These guys are on death row," he said of the northern hairy-nosed wombat. There are 10 times as many giant pandas in the world as there are these guys."
Even I would take the wombats over work.

Another stay at home today, most of the time on the couch, napping or watching Entourage.

26 June 2008

Bernard-Henri Lévy on Darfur

Usually, I don't bother with French pop philosophers and their ramblings, but occasionally they are worth reading, especially Bernard-Henri Lévy on Darfur (at PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, on 29 April 2008, at Flourence Gould Hall in New York City). See Guernica.

I stayed home today in order to shake off some bug (probably a mild dose of a virus going around). Kane was happy to have me home.

Emily came over for dinner, having returned a few days ago from a holiday to Nepal, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. I made roast pork, potato and pumpkin with blanched green beans. Things are returning to normal a little bit.

25 June 2008

how to be noticed

Calvin Klein's latest offering at Milan fashion week for 2009 spring/summer.

A way not to get lost in a crowd.

I should have stayed in bed today instead of going to work.

24 June 2008

defying the Pope

From the Sydney Morning Herald
World Youth Day condom protest against Pope

Joel Gibson
June 24, 2008 - 12:19PM

Condoms will be handed out to pilgrims en route to a papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse on World Youth Day as part of a protest against the Catholic Church's attitude to homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

A coalition of religious, atheist, gay and lesbian groups will stage the rally in Taylor Square from midday on Saturday July 19 before marching to the main event of the week-long World Youth Day celebrations.

Protest organisers are expecting thousands to gather on Oxford Street and Anzac Parade to rally against the church's attitude.

Rachel Evans, organiser of the NoToPope Coalition formed for the event, said she expected between 1000 and 5000 protesters to turn out and was confident there would be no violent confrontations with pilgrims.

"We will say to them, 'Take up the campaign within the Catholic Church to promote condoms.' We're not planning to get into any trouble. We don't want to condemn Catholic youth for being Catholics. We want to condemn the Pope for being homophobic and anti-condom."

Ms Evans, 33, who represents Community Action Against Homophobia and whose father was a Uniting Church minister, said the coalition would notify police of its route in the next couple of days but she feared the NSW Government "wants to be heavy-handed with protesters".

She said the Pope's teachings contributed to 67,000 women dying every year from backyard abortions and a suicide rate among gay youth that is seven times the average.

"He is clearly a bigot ... many in the Catholic Church are also raising these issues, condemning the Pope for his hateful ideas."

Karl Hand, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, "the home of inclusive Christianity", said he hoped there would be no confrontation between protesters, pilgrims and police, but he would not be surprised if it occurred.

He said the Catholic Church misrepresented Christianity and was "extremely uncompassionate towards people who need condoms, abortions, recognition of their relationship - and it's just not being provided by this massive worldwide church that is supposed to be a spiritual leader of people".

Other groups in the NoToPope Coalition are the Socialist Alliance, Resistance, Atheists Sydney and the Raelians, a religious sect that has claimed to have cloned the world's first human being.

Raelian members Eden Bates and Gerry Texeira said it was unfair that their leader, Claude Vorilhon, known as Rael, was denied a visa upon application while the Pope was being feted by Australian governments.

"In the Raelian movement we are very, very clear that all humanity has been designed and part of that design is to have diversity," Ms Bates said.
Okay, the Raelians might be the crack pot group amongst them.

Catholic authorities must have their heads buried in the sand if they expect that all of the expected 125 000 pilgrims are not going to engage in any 'pre-marital' sex. Those young people will either be defying church teachings and using contraception anyway or will face the reality and dilemma of abortion. If not, expect unwanted pregnancies.

Much like the Bush administration's funding of abstinence programs, which didn't make any difference.

Tuesday. Three more days of work before the weekend.

23 June 2008

politics and sports - backfiring of the Beijing Olympics

Foreign Affairs journal has a really interesting article called China's Olympic Nightmare: What the Games Mean for Beijing's Future by Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal. I found this rather ironic
Nothing has threatened to ruin China's Olympic moment as much as criticism of the country's repressive political system. China lost its bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics to Sydney, Australia, at least in part because of the memory of the violent Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 1989. When China made its bid for the 2008 Games, Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, argued, "By allowing Beijing to host the Games, you will help the development of human rights."
China may end up with more gold medals than any other country, but the rest of the world will measure its success by other means.

I stayed home today and slept for most of it. I need these from time to time to recharge and stay well. Kane was happy, even though we didn't venture out of the house on any adventures.

I watched a horror movie, as I do on such days, called 30 Days of Night. With all that screaming, even I was scared, and Kane was so worried that he barked.

22 June 2008

no one will believe what you think you saw

Unless a person has a photographic memory, how they see the world is still very much open to interpretation, and what they remember still open to suggestion.

See BBC News.

Eyewitness evidence is unreliable.

I had a lazy day today, but did go out out twice - to lunch with Devi and Fiona at the nearby Dumpling Inn for Dim Sum (Yum Cha), and later walking Kane.

21 June 2008

football - round 13

Brisbane Lions 3.3 4.7 7.14 11.17 (83)
Adelaide 2.5 6.7 8.10 10.10 (70)

Brisbane Lions:
Clark 3, Corrie 2, Brown 2, Copeland 2, Brennan, Notting
Adelaide: Porplyzia 2, Vince, Bock, Stevens, Burton, Maric, Gill, Jericho, Douglas

Brisbane Lions:
Power, Brennan, McGrath, Charman, Clark
Adelaide: Shirley, Edwards, Doughty, Rutten, Knights, Vince

Adelaide: Maric (knee)

Umpires: James, Meredith, Ryan
Official crowd: 29,964 at the Gabba

I missed this game totally (not broadcast on TV, and didn't go out). The games I miss always seem to be winners.

Browny and Charmo


Drum roll


Mitch (1) and Inspector Gadget celebrate a goal

some national anthems

It is about time I become familiar with the New Zealand national anthem, after all, they are our nearest neighbour.

and begins in the Maori language

Here is the correct German one

Nothing beats the French

Not surprisingly, Australians are not particularly attached to our own - meh


Expect to hear this one a lot in August at the Beijing Olympics

The Danish one is quite nice.

The best national anthems are the old European ones, written by classical musicians.

Today was nearly a lazy day. It was good to be home for the weekend, after being away for the last three. Kane certainly thought so.

I finally did some house cleaning and tidying up in the early afternoon, although most of the tidying involved relocating stuff out of the living area.

Kane's family came over for dinner tonight, as Liz and Bill are visiting from the US. I made coq au vin (Italian style - using Sangiovese wine, porchini and chestnuts) for dinner, served with polenta and brussels sprouts. Kane had cooked gemfish for dinner (I had the other half for dinner last night).

20 June 2008

uh oh

From Reuters
Swiss teletext red faced over Nazi era lyrics gaffe
Wed Jun 18, 2008 5:36pm BST

By Iain Rogers

BASEL (Reuters) - Switzerland's teletext service has had to issue an embarrassing apology after it mistakenly subtitled Germany's national anthem with obsolete lyrics no longer used because of their association with the Nazis.

SWISS TXT provided the subtitles for Germany's Euro 2008 Group B match against Austria on Monday evening broadcast on Swiss national channel SF2.

Viewers turning on the subtitle service would have seen the first stanza of lyrics written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben proclaiming "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles, ueber alles in der Welt" or "Germany, Germany above all, above everything in the world."

During the Nazi era, the first verse was the official anthem but was dropped after World War Two and the third stanza was adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany.

SWISS TXT published a full apology on its web site (www.swisstxt.ch) and on page 776 of its television information service and national coordinator Gion Linder said it had been "an embarrassing mistake".

"One of our junior subtitlers made the error due to a lack of knowledge," Linder said, adding that the woman in question was 25 years old.

Around half a million people had tuned in for the match, which Germany won 1-0, and probably about 2,500 of those had the subtitles switched on, he said.

However, Swiss tabloid Blick said on Wednesday many bars would have had the subtitles on and music playing instead of the match commentary.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)
Perhaps the tune should have been changed after World War II. One can't really blame the poor Swiss subtitler for her lack of knowledge. After all, hardly any Australians would even know the New Zealand national anthem. I don't.

I only worked four days this week, but it has seemed a long week.

19 June 2008

some renowned scientists

Max Planck (1858-1947), physicist

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), chemist

Marie Curie (1867-1934), physicist

More from Smithsonian Institution's Flickr

I've lost a torch, and a heart (see Kane's blog)... I might be losing my mind.

18 June 2008

what sport and culture have in common

Art (culture) and sport are mutually exclusive to a lot of people. I liked the Guardian's little 'experiment'
Sport and culture are often thought to have nothing in common. But is this really true? What would happen if the Guardian's arts critics and sports writers swapped roles for a day?
See art critics reporting on sport. From Jonathan Jones, visual art critic, on football
Hull City v Bristol City at Wembley, May 24
Watching football is, in theory, a bit like looking at art. The view from my seat (which has its own little TV monitor) might be compared to looking down on a vast green abstract canvas laid flat, with dots oscillating about like some 1960s piece of kinetic art. But while I can find deep meaning in, say, an abstract by Jackson Pollock, the game of football has always been as indecipherable to me as some people profess to find modern art. I am a football philistine.

And sports writers reporting on the arts. From Thomas Castaignède, Guardian rugby union columnist who won 54 caps for France between 1995 and 2007, on opera
Tosca at Royal Opera House, London, June 2

There is an element of theatre in sport - certainly in France, and in French rugby. You are there to bring a smile to the crowds. You want them to have a good afternoon. There is no acceptance of mediocrity. You are putting yourself up to be judged every time you enter the arena.

Opera singers learn new roles with a new company. As a rugby player, I used to have to get to grips with new trainers, tactics and team-mates when moving from one club to another, or whenever I switched mid-season to playing for the French national team or an ad-hoc squad like the Barbarians.

But most of all, what I saw in Tosca was exactly what drew me to sport: the feeling of total passion in the performers. I just love to watch people giving it everything - in any walk of life - which is why, since coming to England, I have even come to appreciate cricket.

All rather silly of course and very light-hearted.

I love my football, but I also love the arts. One of these days, I will try to go to the football and the opera in the same weekend, even on the same day if possible.

I left work early today. Lots of people are away sick.

17 June 2008

Lèse majesté

Is lèse majesté still a reasonable charge in the twenty-first century? In Thailand, it seems to be - from AFP
Thai woman arrested for refusing to stand for royal anthem
17 June 2008

BANGKOK (AFP) — A Thai woman arrested for refusing to stand as the royal anthem played in a Bangkok cinema faces up to 15 years in prison, police said Tuesday.

Ratchapin Chancharoen, 28, was arrested Sunday evening and charged with insulting Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej by not standing during the anthem, which plays to a montage of royal portraits before the screening of every film.

Ratchapin had gone to the theatre to watch "The Other Boleyn Girl," a story about England's King Henry VIII.

Other theatre-goers became angry when she refused to stand, and Ratchapin began shouting "impolite words" as a group confronted her, police said.

Ratchapin was allowed to watch the movie before police took her away.

Major Charoen Srisalak, deputy chief investigator of the Bangkok police, said the suspect refused to answer any questions during interrogation.

"She said only that she did what she wanted to do. Police charged her with insulting the monarchy," he said.

If convicted, Ratchapin faces from three to 15 years in prison.

In April, a Thai man was also charged with lese majeste, or offending the monarchy, for refusing to stand for the anthem in a cinema. Thailand plays the anthem before any public performance.

King Bhumibol, 80, is the world's longest-reigning monarch and commands an almost religious devotion from his subjects.

Thailand's strict enforcement of its lese majeste law prevents any public discussion about the palace.

A cabinet minister was forced to resign last month after he was accused of offending the king in a speech about the 2006 coup by royalist generals who ousted then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

In April 2007, a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison -- but later pardoned by the monarch -- for defacing the king's portrait.

The same month, the army-backed government temporarily blocked the popular video-sharing website YouTube after clips mocking the king appeared.
Is respect enforced or earned? The British royal family must sometimes look on in envy.

Ho hum, back at work today.

16 June 2008

mince sculptures

I took this photo at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne on Saturday. A vegetarian's nightmare, but there is something strikingly beautiful about symmetry, even if it is made up of dead cows.

Speaking of food, I also met Maggie Beer today at Melbourne Airport. She seemed happy that I called her a Living Legend.

It was a good weekend in Melbourne, catching up with a couple of friends as well as going to two football games.

football - round 12

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.6 7.12 12.15 19.17 (131)
BRISBANE LIONS 3.2 5.4 8.4 10.8 (68)

Western Bulldogs:
Welsh 5, Johnson 3, Akermanis 3, Murphy 2, Cooney 2, Ray, Hahn, Ward, Addison.
Brisbane Lions: Brown 3, Hooper 2, Adcock, Brennan, Corrie, Black, Drummond.

Western Bulldogs:
Cooney, Boyd, Akermanis, Hahn, Griffen, Hudson, Eagleton.
Brisbane Lions:
Power, Drummond, Stiller, Adcock, Brown.

Western Bulldogs:
Griffen (corked thigh).
Brisbane Lions:
Johnstone (hamstring tightness). Rischitelli (hip) replaced in selected side by Polkinghorne.

UMPIRES Donlon, Stevic, McInerney.
CROWD 39,320 at MCG.

My team was simply outclassed on Saturday afternoon. Thankfully, my other team won on Friday night. I had good seats at both games, close to the front.

Inspector Gadget




And here is one that I took

12 June 2008

junk food is bad for you

Manual Uribe can attest. Reported in Reuters in an article about his birthday.

Uribe spent the 1990s eating pizzas and burgers in the United States where he worked as a computer repairman. Addicted to junk food, he eventually tipped the scales at 1235 pounds (560 kg) back in Mexico, bingeing on greasy tacos.

His bulk made him the world's heaviest man and won him a place in the 2008 edition of the Guinness World Records.

Manuel "Meme" Uribe, 42, looks at a photo of himself in the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records during an interview with the Associated Press in Monterrey, Mexico, Monday, June 9, 2008. Manuel, who is the world's heaviest living man according to Guinness, has one wish for his upcoming 43th birthday; to be able to walk his fiancee Claudia Solis down the aisle. (Monica Rueda, Associated Press / June 10, 2008)

I don't understand how junk food such as pizzas and burgers can be addictive. They are disgusting.

Work is so dull, even if busy. I could do with another week off work!

I'm off to Melbourne tomorrow for an extended weekend of football, returning on Monday. Three games in a row on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. I might get sick of football by then!

11 June 2008

best cities for quality of life

The Mercer survey ranks cities around the world with the best quality of living.
Cities are compared to New York as the base city, with an index score of 100. The quality of living survey covers 215 cities and is conducted to help governments and major companies place employees on international assignments.
The determinants are quite comprehensive.

Mercer’s study is based on detailed assessments and evaluations of 39 key quality-of-living determinants, grouped in the following categories:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc)
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc)
  • Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc)
  • Health and sanitation (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
  • Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools, etc)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
  • Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc)
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)
Given the purpose of the survey, affordability and cost of living doesn't seem to be a factor.

The highest ranked city, Zurich, is a lovely place. Sydney in 10th place is surprising. Melbourne would be a nicer place to live.


10 June 2008

Korea's national dog

I was surprised to learn that Korea has a native national dog called the Jindo. From Reuters
Koreans keen to export national dog: the Jindo
Mon Jun 9, 2008 11:44pm EDT

By Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's Jindo dog has stood tall against tigers, guarded the heavily armed border with the North and marched in the Olympics. Yet the Jindo is having a tough time battling poodles for trophies at dog shows abroad.

The Jindo dog, largely unknown overseas, is South Korea's most popular indigenous breed. It has won legions of fans at home for its big heart and undying loyalty to its master.

South Korea wants to make the Jindo an international breed but the country that has devised successful strategies for sending its microchips, mobile phones and automobiles abroad has been largely ineffective in exporting its native dog.

Its mission has been hampered by its own laws designating the Jindo as a cultural treasure, which make it difficult, and in many cases illegal, to export purebred dogs.

To add insult to injury, South Korea has been left behind in the dog race in Asia with neighbors China and Japan having their breeds registered and appearing at the highest pedigree dog shows in the world such as the British Kennel Club's Crufts.

"Our indigenous breed was not recognized anywhere in the world except Korea. We felt that it was time that something was done about it," said Julie Soojung Lee, an official with Samsung who helped in the international marketing of the Jindo dog.

Samsung worked with the government in a campaign that resulted in the Jindo being recognized by the Kennel Club, but it is not yet in competition at Crufts. The American Kennel Club has started the process to recognize the Jindo.

"The breed is absolutely beautiful. I don't see why they wouldn't be popular overseas," Lee said.


The Jindo is a medium sized, spitz-type dog with pointy upright ears and a raised, curly tail. The dog comes in a variety of colors with white and orange-tan being the most common.

Once used for hunting and guard duties, the dog hails from the southwest island called Jindo. Owners say it is loyal to a fault, highly intelligent and brave.

One leading breeder described the Jindo as "clean and dignified".

Over the years, the Jindo's bloodlines became tainted as it mixed with mutts on the island. To remedy this, South Korea recognized it as a national treasure in 1962 and set up breeding facilities to develop dogs that would set standards.

The protection helped spark a Jindo revival but it also made it almost impossible to send purebred dogs overseas unless a breeder can navigate through a maze of bureaucracy.

"In order to promote the Jindo as an international breed, we need active campaigning from the government and also for them to lift the ban on exports," said Jung Tae-kyun, an official from the Korean Kennel Federation.

Only a handful of purebred Jindo are exported a year and those dogs are typically sent with the help of the government-run Jindo Dog Research and Testing Centre on the island of Jindo.

"Adult Jindo dogs branded as national treasures must stay inside of Jindo Island," said Park Byung-jin, manager, of the centre that breeds the dog and serves as a gateway for government approval to send certified purebreds abroad.

That leaves breeders on the South Korean mainland in a bind.

If they try to send purebreds overseas to establish Jindo lines, they can be charged with violating export control laws.

If they send purebreds abroad but without the proper pedigree, then it becomes difficult to establish the Jindo as a breed worthy of consideration by international kennel clubs.

Park Jong-hwa runs the Mosan Jindo Dog Research Centre just south of Seoul and said the dog may not yet be ready for the international stage.

"The main problem with the Jindo is it's a one-man dog and lacks good social skills," said Park, who has been breeding Jindo dogs for about 45 years and who has nearly 170 of them living in a kennel attached to his home.

Park has been trying to breed out some of the Jindo's anti-social characteristics and establish what he feels should be standards, which has put him at loggerheads with the government's facility on the island of Jindo.

"In order for the Jindo to compete in the international market, it needs to be able to get along with other people, just like a family member," Park said from his home over the sound of scores of dogs barking in the background.

Parks said the Jindo adapts well to its surroundings and can find its niche in a cramped Manhattan apartment or suburban home with a yard.

"I have absolute confidence that the Jindo one day will enter the international show ring and compete against other leading canines in the world."

(Additional by Lee Jiyeon and Park Ju-min; editing by Megan Goldin)

Eunae, a 2-and-a-half-year-old female dog poses for a photograph with her breeder Park Jong-hwa in a field at Park's breeding farm for the Korean Jindo dog in Gwacheon, south of Seoul May 29, 2008.

Igang, a 3-and-a-half-year-old male dog stands in a field at the breeding farm for the Korean Jindo dog in Gwacheon, south of Seoul in this picture taken May 29, 2008.

Almost definitely not to be found on the menu in Korea. I couldn't resist that quip.

Back to work today after a week and a half out of the office, and away on a break. I could do with another week, but at home.

This evening, I met up with Jon who is visiting from Brisbane. We had dinner in the city.

09 June 2008

the truth about the 'butterfly effect'

Plenty of scientific concepts are misused. One of the worse is 'butterfly effect'. From Boston Globe
The meaning of the butterfly
Why pop culture loves the 'butterfly effect,' and gets it totally wrong
June 8, 2008

SOME SCIENTISTS SEE their work make headlines. But MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz watched his work become a catch phrase. Lorenz, who died in April, created one of the most beguiling and evocative notions ever to leap from the lab into popular culture: the "butterfly effect," the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences. The name stems from Lorenz's suggestion that a massive storm might have its roots in the faraway flapping of a tiny butterfly's wings.
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Translated into mass culture, the butterfly effect has become a metaphor for the existence of seemingly insignificant moments that alter history and shape destinies. Typically unrecognized at first, they create threads of cause and effect that appear obvious in retrospect, changing the course of a human life or rippling through the global economy.

In the 2004 movie "The Butterfly Effect" - we watched it so you don't have to - Ashton Kutcher travels back in time, altering his troubled childhood in order to influence the present, though with dismal results. In 1990's "Havana," Robert Redford, a math-wise gambler, tells Lena Olin, "A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean. They can even calculate the odds."

Such borrowings of Lorenz's idea might seem authoritative to unsuspecting viewers, but they share one major problem: They get his insight precisely backwards. The larger meaning of the butterfly effect is not that we can readily track such connections, but that we can't. To claim a butterfly's wings can cause a storm, after all, is to raise the question: How can we definitively say what caused any storm, if it could be something as slight as a butterfly? Lorenz's work gives us a fresh way to think about cause and effect, but does not offer easy answers.

Pop culture references to the butterfly effect may be bad physics, but they're a good barometer of how the public thinks about science. They expose the growing chasm between what the public expects from scientific research - that is, a series of ever more precise answers about the world we live in - and the realms of uncertainty into which modern science is taking us.

. . .

The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?"

In the paper, Lorenz claimed the large effects of tiny atmospheric events pose both a practical problem, by limiting long-term weather forecasts, and a philosophical one, by preventing us from isolating specific causes of later conditions. The "innumerable" interconnections of nature, Lorenz noted, mean a butterfly's flap could cause a tornado - or, for all we know, could prevent one. Similarly, should we make even a tiny alteration to nature, "we shall never know what would have happened if we had not disturbed it," since subsequent changes are too complex and entangled to restore a previous state.

So a principal lesson of the butterfly effect is the opposite of Redford's line: It is extremely hard to calculate such things with certainty. There are many butterflies out there. A tornado in Texas could be caused by a butterfly in Brazil, Bali, or Budapest. Realistically, we can't know. "It's impossible for humans to measure everything infinitely accurately," says Robert Devaney, a mathematics professor at Boston University. "And if you're off at all, the behavior of the solution could be completely off." When small imprecisions matter greatly, the world is radically unpredictable.

Moreover, Lorenz also discovered stricter limits on our knowledge, proving that even models of physical systems with a few precisely known variables, like a heated gas swirling in a box, can produce endlessly unpredictable and nonrepeating effects. This is a founding idea of chaos theory, whose advocates sometimes say Lorenz helped dispel the Newtonian idea of a wholly predictable universe.

"Lorenz went beyond the butterfly," says Kerry Emanuel, a professor in the department of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at MIT. "To say that certain systems are not predictable, no matter how precise you make the initial conditions, is a profound statement." Instead of a vision of science in which any prediction is possible, as long as we have enough information, Lorenz's work suggested that our ability to analyze and predict the workings of the world is inherently limited.

But in the popular imagination, that one picturesque little butterfly became a metaphor for the surprising way that long chains of events unfold. A SmartMoney.com market analysis from 2007 cites Lorenz, then suggests that hypothetical problems at Sony could affect a string of shippers, retailers, and investors: "One butterfly, in this case a Japanese butterfly, sets off the entire chain." Even applied to society, rather than nature, such claims merit skepticism.

That we imagine the butterfly effect would explain things in everyday life, however, reveals more than an overeager impulse to validate ideas through science. It speaks to our larger expectation that the world should be comprehensible - that everything happens for a reason, and that we can pinpoint all those reasons, however small they may be. But nature itself defies this expectation. It is probability, not certain cause and effect, that now dictates how scientists understand many systems, from subatomic particles to storms. "People grasp that small things can make a big difference," Emanuel says. "But they make errors about the physical world. People want to attach a specific cause to events, and can't accept the randomness of the world."

Thus global warming may make big storms more likely - "loading the die," Emanuel says - but we cannot say it definitively caused Hurricane Katrina. Science helps us understand the universe, but as Lorenz showed, it sometimes does so by revealing the limits of our understanding.

Peter Dizikes is a science journalist living in Arlington.
Even supposedly intelligent people such as philosophers, particularly those French intellectuals, misuse scientific concepts without understanding them.

12 nights away. It is good to be home. I have almost overdosed on the football. I attended another training session on Friday afternoon, as well as some of the reserves game on Sunday morning before our big game that afternoon.

I have also overdosed on takeout; my brother under the impression that eating out is cheaper than cooking - somewhat true in a single household. I'm not sure I would put that theory to the test.

football - round 11

BRISBANE LIONS 2.1 8.5 11.10 14.12 (96)
FREMANTLE 2.3 3.7 7.9 10.14 (74)

Brisbane Lions:
Brown 3, Johnstone 3, Notting, Black, Rischitelli, Harding, Leuenberger, Sherman, Charman, Corrie.
Pavlich 3, Farmer 2, Carr, Tarrant, Palmer, Sandilands, Mayne.

Brisbane Lions:
Black, Johnstone, Macdonald, Adcock, Power, Brown. Fremantle: Palmer, McPharlin, Michael Johnson, Pavlich, Sandilands, Tarrant.

Bris Lions:
Drummond (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Leuenberger, Harding (knee), Bradshaw (hamstring).
Drum replaced in selected side by Thornton.

REPORTS: Selwood (BL) by emerg umpire Armstrong for wrestling Black (Frem) in second quarter, Black (Frem) by Armstrong for wrestling Selwood (BL) in second quarter. Black (Frem) by field umpire Jeffery for striking Selwood (BL) in second quarter.

Umpires: S Stewart M Ellis S Jeffery.
Official crowd: 24,506 at the Gabba.

I didn't really enjoy the game yesterday afternoon. It was really dull, even though my team won.



JBiz but I call him Gadget


Shermo against the Pav

05 June 2008

when people confuse art with porn

There has been a debate in Australia about whether world renown photographer Bill Henson's photographs of naked youth are art or child pornography.

Bill Henson's recent exhibition, which included naked youth, at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington, Sydney, was cancelled following complaints by Hetty Johnston, a child protection campaigner.

Police seized some of the exhibits in order to work out what charges could be laid. In the end, no federal charges were laid. In the meantime, every gallery in Australia examined their collections in a climate of vigorous public debate, joined in (somewhat unnecessarily) by the Australian Prime Minister.

- The Age 'The controversial career of Bill Henson'(25 May 2008)
- Eureka Street (2 June 2008)

Fellow artist Victoria Larielle is exhibiting her photographs in support of Bill Henson and to protest against censorship (Herald Sun, 3 June 2008)

What is really wrong with this picture (excuse the pun) is that there are people who are unable to see photographs of nudity, particularly of children or youth for what it really is, innocent nudity in its natural state. The real people with the problem are those who see things that are not there. They should not be the moral arbiters of society.

Nudity/nakedness does not have to be sexualised.

What is more disturbing are advertising images of children in provocative poses who are still fully clothed. Even worse are American child pageants.

I went to the football club today, but the database I was working on was down so I didn't stay very long. I went to Thomas and Sarah's place and went dog walking with them and Timmy and Morgan, the Beagles who are not very obedient. No wonder I so enjoy walking Kane, who is such a pleasure.

04 June 2008

Alma or Arthur

Tropical cyclones (also called typhoons or hurricanes) have localised names. From Scientific American

If one is born in the Atlantic Ocean or east of the international date line in the Pacific, it is called a hurricane; in the northwest Pacific, a typhoon; in the southwest Pacific and southeastern Indian oceans, such a storm is dubbed a severe tropical cyclone; in the north Indian, a severe cyclonic storm; and in the southwest Indian, a tropical cyclone.
Alma, which began in the Pacific, was renamed Arthur after the weakened storm crossed into the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean and grew.

I spent Monday and Tuesday at the football club. Nothing terribly exciting. Crazy fans may think working at the club is glamorous, but it is not.

Today I had the day off from the football club office. I had lunch with my friend Lesa where she works, way down the south side of Brisbane, which isn't even Brisbane anymore, but Logan City.

Afterwards I went to the Gabba to check out Wednesday training and then helped The Brits (a devoted supporters group of our club) serve up dinner to our players and trainers. I enjoyed dishing it up to them.

Meanwhile, it has been good spending time with my brothers.

I do look forward to returning to Kane though and our lovely walks together.

01 June 2008

Vidal on Capote

There is a great article about Gore Vidal, one of the literary giants of our times. Geniuses never seem to get along with other geniuses.

"Capote I truly loathed. The way you might loathe an animal. A filthy animal that has found its way into the house."

"What was Capote doing that you didn't like?" "Lying," Vidal shouts. "The one thing I hate most on this earth. Which is why I do not have a friendly time with journalists."
He would have hated Oscar Wilde too.

I have been having a great time in Brisbane. On Friday, I slept in and then went into the city, firstly to the Queensland Art Gallery. As I left, I asked the guy at the front desk where they hid all their good stuff. I thought I saw three Monet's but they were John Russell's, an Australian impressionst. There was a tiny Rodin and two earlier works of Margaret Preston's. Not even their Indigenous collection had very much.

Later, I met another old college friend, Jon, for dinner dinner at Govinda's, a vegetarian restaurant, which is run by the local Hare Krishna Temple. Good healthy wholesome cheap food. Later we went to the Valley for a few beers. Fortitude Valley is where everybody flocks for a night out in Brisbane.

On Saturday, it was also my birthday. I went to a football game in the afternoon between our reserves team and they won. Must be me bringing luck. Then it was off to The Den, which is our football club's social club for dinner and a drink with other footy-obsessed friends, before heading to the game. My team won! It was the perfect birthday gift. I sat near the interchange bench again.

After the game, I met up with a player friend of mine for a catch up, which was great although I waited nearly two hours as he had physiotherapy. Highly decorated (he has a lot of medals), but a genuine and nice guy.

Today (Sunday) has been a bit more relaxing. My brother Joseph and I went out for laksa for lunch. This evening, my other brother Thomas, and Sarah joined us for dinner at a steak house. I'd been out most nights since I arrived, so it was good to do the family thing.

For the coming week, I will spending the days at my football club helping out.

football - round 10

BRISBANE LIONS 4.7 11.12 15.17 18.21 (129)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 6.2 12.3 15.8 (98)

Brisbane Lions: D Bradshaw 6 J Brown 6 J Sherman 2 J Charman A Corrie T Johnstone T Notting
North Melbourne: M Campbell 3 B Harvey 3 D Petrie 3 D Hale D Harris C Jones H McIntosh S McMahon D Pratt

Brisbane Lions: S Black L Power J Brown T Notting D Bradshaw J Macdonald
North Melbourne: A Simpson B Harvey D Pratt D Petrie M Campbell S McMahon

Umpires: B Rosebury J Armstrong S McInerney
Official Crowd: 22,118 at the Gabba

I enjoyed the game last night and it was great to see a win against a competitive side. The behinds were frustrating to watch.

Courier Mail photos

I'll put up some of my own photos when I return home.