Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I'll Take My (Political) Football And Go Home...

This amounts to Reynolds using the entire CFMEU as a weapon in what appears to be a personal fight between his wife and himself, versus Labor.

Just saying - if I was a CFMEU member I don't think I'd like my membership dues being used as a bargaining chip by some asshole who thinks his wife is above the sanctions imposed on every other politician who had contact with Burke.  Just saying...

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Simple Pleasures

Today is one of our warmer days this spring/summer, at around 29C outside.  I still managed to get a lift out of it.  My friend in the UK skyped and we talked for an hour, easily.  I ate some home baked bread for a late breakfast/early lunch, started a new batch of bread.  Sister came to pick up some fish for her dog (he loves it, I generally have heaps left over) and have a coffee with me.

We wandered around the rabbit shed for an hour talking to and about the bunnies, had a coffee and snacks, and I gave her a tub of salt-preserved olives I'd made earlier in the year.  Showed off the latest bits of the vege garden, and after she went home I planted some "mystery seeds" I'd collected someplace, a bunch of rocket and cress, and whatever else I thought would benefit from the upcoming heat and sunlight.

And I found out something that makes me even happier - my compost piles are now healthy enough to support worms!  (In the heat here, compost piles often dry out and lose their bacteria, and worms generally go into the dry sand and die.)  But I have a thriving colony in the compost now, so as long as I keep it watered and feed new material in I'll have the BEST soil conditioner aside from the bunny wastes.

I sat there just watching the worms dig their way into the planter tub I'd put the rocket and cress into, and got one of those euphoric moments. Despite the sweltering humidity and heat, despite all the digging and the mulching and feeding, despite this being the sort of day where in Perth I'd have been sulking in airconditioned comfort, I felt totally blissed out.

Don't think I'd EVER trade this back for a stressful harried city life...

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bunny Serenity

She couldn't have known, last Christmas, what she was starting.  By giving me a single dwarf lop rabbit at Christmas, my partner gave me start into something which is fast becoming my number one occupation, hobby, and amusement.

Once I had Peta and started to learn about rabbits, I became the "expert" on lagomorphs apparently, and a friend gave me a rabbit they'd been given for Christmas before finding out that they really aren't rabbit people.  And Peta and Eddie begat about three litters of little dwarf lop bunny kittens, and they went to new homes as they got older, and Moccha stayed behind, extending my family to three.  Then Moccha had to be found a girlfriend, so Lola has just arrived.  And I got a squeaky and very large white rabbit named Fluffy, and two little white does named Mel'n'Norma.

I've joined the OzWest rabbit club and built a mozzie-proof rabbit shed and more hutches for everyone so that the rabbit kind of uncontrolled breeding can be controlled. And I've decided that it's the best hobby - ever.

One girl that I got was very nervous about being touched or picked up and would grunt and squeak and try and box hands away.  Now, not even a week later, she's running around lounge watching TV and working out why the cat isn't the least bit interested in eating her.  I can pick her up, cuddle her, and hand feed her like my other bys and girls.  That's a beautiful sense right there.  

The other girl is cute as a button and lively as a coil spring - and inclined to nip without warning...  The twins are teenage girls right now and starting to show an interest in Moccha, who's one of the most intelligent and human-oriented rabbits I've ever seen.  He has eyes only for Lola, and she's more interested in exploring the world than playing house with him.  Eddie just wants anything that's female - but given the choice, he sits outside Peta's hutch and makes big soulful eyes at her all day if I'd let him.  

I spend time each day letting the rabbits have turns at running in the front yard, it gives me a chance to sit in the shade, read books, and keep an eye on them and - most of the time - I feel terribly relaxed watching rabbits browse and scrabble and jump and play.  People say alpacas are very relaxing to watch, they should try a morning or afternoon spent watching bunnies...

I'm also grateful that someone had the good sense to think to herself "Hmm, what can I get Ted for Christmas that will fill his life for years to come?" and came up with that certain little black and white bunny...

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

We Can ALWAYS See You

Why does this story surface every year? "Delete Your Browser Cookies!  Evvviiillll!!  Evil!"

What a load.  While you're at it, go to your doctor and ask them for all your medical records and insist they wipe every trace of you off their computers, then get frustrated that they actually have to have you name on invoices and go to the Taxation department and ask them to cancel your tax file number and remove all your details except - oh yeah, the ones at the Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages...

When did anyone get the idea that they were anonymous and mysterious?  What exactly is it that you're doing online that all traces have to be meticulously removed, shredded, and the space filled with binary snow?   Our entire lives are filled with physical cookies that record where you last used your credit card, when the last time really was that you used the bus to go to work instead of the car, and a lot of other detail that it only takes a bit of determined searching to find out.  Just like, you know, browser cookies.  

Also, some cookies in your life as pointed out above (such as medical records) are damn useful if you happen to be struck down by a serious illness and don't have the time or capacity anymore to rush home and get all your medical records from the shoebox under your bed...

But for me, the best part of the story was that it has tracking code embedded in the URL I was given, to let Wired know I got there via Feedburner:  

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Monday, 16 November 2009

Age Of Irrelevance. We Haz It.

Age of Irrelevance. We haz it.   I was watching 2012 - and the books the good doctor Helmsely was reading on his desk - and it occurred to me:  He was reading Steinbeck? Obviously someone chose the books on the desk with a bit of care, to set the scene and give cues as to the character of the man.

But we're at this point in the timeline of human knowledge where books lose their relevance to us pretty much immediately. Where even material published online dates in months rather than years as material in printed form did last century, and certainly nowhere near the centuries that printed material retained it's impact in times before that.

The Mars rovers launched towards mars in mid 2003.  For the best part of the next 12 months, they were the talk of the town as they outlived expectations.  Then they were the talk of the town for a week or two each time something went wrong and was recovered by a combination of engineering, mental agility, and the seemingly dogged determination of the little robots to hang in there.

Today I read that they are finally going to move the bogged rover after six months of scenarios and tests - and I barely registered it. People I mentioned it to, had to stop and remember what Spirit and Opportunity were, and then wondered why I was even mentioning something as trivial as that.  After all, we have robots that can walk, run, play soccer or ken-do, fly, launch missiles, and dive to the ocean depths.

So I wonder what 2010 will bring us? And when it happens, will anyone actually devote attention to it?

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rabbit Talk Is A Load Of Shit.

What my rabbits have been teaching me lately:

I've discovered why commercial rabbit farmers are failing so badly at getting one of the world's most fecund species to reproduce.  Should I tell them?  "Pssssst!  Guess what farmers?  Rabbits figured out how to do it millenia ago...  And they're willing to tell you, if only you'd look and listen!"

This is actually also what my rabbits taught me about feeding.  I've read horror story after horror story about rabbits starving to death rather than adapting to a new feed, or developing the runs and scouring to death.  And I've fed my rabbits whatever green feed is to hand, three different types of baled hay, pellets from three different manufacturers, and fruit and vegetable scraps from the local Local Fruit & Veg markets, and bread, crackers, and leaves flowers and branches of a range of trees and shrubs.

Guess what?  Rabbits fed themselves for a long long long time and they obviously managed to get it right.  I watched mine, and let them teach me.  What's the secret to these happy panavore rabbits?  Well, for a starters, it's the way I saw them approach a new plant or feed when I let them wander around the garden.  They will check a new plant out, sniff it, then wander off for a while.  If the sniff didn't make them ill, they go back and take a few mouthfuls, and wander off again.

The seemingly random behaviour, isn't.  If they still aren't sick after a while, they go back and eat a bit more.  Then they leave it alone again for a while, and I believe that they spend the time trying to figure out if this plant had any beneficial effect on them.  The thing is, after that it becomes part of a whole rabbit conversation.  That too I've noticed, that rabbits teach each other, as well.  And the way the do it seemed a bit alien to me at first, but now I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  A lot of rabbit dialogue occurs in the form of fecal pellets.

The little balls of dry poo that rabbits drop serve a few purposes.  And in this case, they "inoculate" the other rabbits in th herd into tolerating the new plant, in effect teaching the others in the herd about this new food source.

See, with rabbits, (some of you may know part of this - please bear with me - there's a bit more) there are two types of poo.  The most important one is the cecal pellet, which is a mucus-covered "bunch of grapes" which you'll rarely see, because the rabbit re-ingests it right away.  The reason is at least twofold.  One, the rabbit has no second stomach like cows and ruminants, so this is a way of re-digesting the cud, as it were.  Two, the bacteria in a rabbit's gut need to be "topped up" regularly.  And these bacteria are also somewhat tailored to the type of feed the rabbit is eating.  Third use for these cecal pellets is to inoculate the young kittens with the right bacteria to be able to digest and absorb solid feed.

Rabbit kittens are not born with these gut bacteria, the doe drops cecal pellets outside the burrow so that when the kittens are old enough to venture outside and nibble at the world out there, they will find these pellets.  "Hmmm" says the kitten, "These things smell like mum.  Mum's been a food source for me before."  In effect, the doe is indoctrinating the kittens with "local knowledge" and equipping them to cope with local food.

The dry pellets are true manure, but if you watch your rabbit you'll see it re-ingest some of these dry balls.  In fact, you'll see rabbits seemingly randomly pick up anyone's fecal pellet and eat it.  And apparently that's another conversation in itself.  Because, that seems to be how they find out about new foods and plants in their range.

And I believe that's why my rabbits are such panavores, able to tolerate such a wide range of foods.  Because even though I don't have them all in a common hutch, I do let them out for runs in a large common area.  And when Peta is running around, she's dropping pellets carrying her food tolerances.  When Eddie goes for his run, he picks up on that and then his gut is inoculated for that food, too.  Then the kittens get a run, and they get both parents' bacteria.  And the next day, I might start the day with the kittens and then Eddie and then Peta.

And you know what?  I wish I could take credit for this, but a damn rabbit taught it to me...

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Friday, 6 November 2009

Short, Sharp, Suicide

Love some studies, they point out such interesting factoids.  Like this one, reported at Treehugger, where they pin down the number of ways cyclists meet their doom.  There appear to be lots of creative ways to total cyclists at intersetcions, and some neat codenames they've developed amongst themselves.  A true subculture, and I think I mean that in the truest meaning of the prefix.

The most interesting factoid to come out of it is that 30% of the fatal collisions seem to involve cyclists riding against the flow of traffic.  Fully one third of cyclists aren't actually being deliberately cruelly and coolly killed by mean nasty car drivers, they are just being subject to Darwinian selection kicking in.

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Some charities - just make me question things...  I started donating to a fund that was supposedly taking my $20/mth and using it to provide living condition improvements to some country in Africa.  Why am I not clear on the aims of this fund?  Because I paid them for a few months, and then started idly looking for anything they'd actually done, and found doodly-squat.

I used their email address and sent them my details and asked them to stop debiting my account.  They didn't.  I sent a second email, six weeks later, and told them that if I had to pay my bank a fee for stopping their debits, I would be billing them for those fees plus my time, and that I would also begin legal action against them for theft.

That got a result, and email from someone at their office promising that the debits would be stopped by my request.  I said a nice thank you, and asked them to also remove my name, details, and email address from their databases.  I (wow, this is good response!) received a reply to that too, saying this too had been done.

Until about six weeks later, when I got an email from them asking me if I wouldn't like to renew my debit arrangement...  So I emailed again and said, very bluntly, that I had their written promise to remove my details from their database.  I actually got a phone call from someone, who said that the email must have been obtained by one of their other recruiting efforts.  So I politely asked him how the recruiter would have known I'd been a previous subscriber, and then said that if I got one more spam email or request from them they would definitely see inside a court room.

And that worked.  Finally.  Until...  I got one of their "please renew" letters in the snail mail some three months later...  No I haven't bothered to sue them but if I get any more mail from them, I'll name them here.  (And I'll make sure they get to see this article, too...)

So charities are NOT my favourite people in the world, you understand?  And that made today even more galling.  I came inside after a stretch of gardening and saw I'd missed a phone call.  Since they were kind enough not to hide their number, I called them back.  After establishing that they were a charity I sometimes bought raffle tickets from, the Indian woman on the other end asked me for my phone number to see why I'd been called.  Not finding anything, she launched into a potted history of the charity, and finally asked me for a donation.

That is all on my mobile phone call, on my dollar, thank you very much.  I pointed this out and she didn't seem to care a lot, asked me again if I would donate to them.  I explained that I was on a disability pension and couldn't afford it, and she asked if anyone in my family would like to donate.  I think it was about at that point that i said something along the lines of "goodbye" and hung up.  Or maybe it was "fuck you..."

Anyway - that's why if you come to me and ask me to support your "blue fuzzy karaoke shave-a-thon for save the orphans" I'll probably say something along the lines of "goodbye."  Or whatever...

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Schroedinger's Hadron Collider.

I've been collecting links to stories about the theory that Higgs particles are preventing themselves from being formed in the LHC.

The theory basically says that the Higgs boson can't be created, therefore if we have a machine that's capable of creating one at some point in the future, then effects from the future will flow back to - well, to now, really - to ensure that the LHC isn't capable of producing a Higgs boson.

Physicists are divided on this - but do remember that things like quarks and the Uncertainty principle would have been considered total whack only a century ago.  And then just as they start cranking up the eV levels on LHC again - this.  I presume it isn't a belated April Fool's joke, but I wish it were.  Oh how I wish it were...

Because after Schroedinger's Cat and Schroedinger's Kittens, how much more bizarre an occurrence does there have to be before the message gets across?  A fricken bird dropping a bread roll, it doesn't get any more bizarre than that.

(For anyone that wants to know about Schroedinger's Kittens I do suggest getting Gribbins' excellent book out of the library.)

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Failed Prediction - Hey! Hang on!

Amazingly enough, one of these failed predictions IS true.

"God's Church Ministry, Fall 2008
According to God's Church minister Ronald Weinland, the end times are upon us-- again. His 2006 book "2008: God's Final Witness" states that hundreds of millions of people will die, and by the end of 2006, "there will be a maximum time of two years remaining before the world will be plunged into the worst time of all human history. By the fall of 2008, the United States will have collapsed as a world power, and no longer exist as an independent nation." As the book notes, "Ronald Weinland places his reputation on the line as the end-time prophet of God.""

Because the Financial collapse did happen around then, and it did reduce America's standing in international finances.

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