The Tragic Irony of the Broken Men

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:44 am

One more case in someone Sue was talking to, but we know of enough cases already to establish the pattern: men who want to control all facets of their wives’ lives, including controlling their access to money and cutting them off from friends and family.

{armchair psychology warning}As far as I can tell they need to do this because they feel powerless. It’s a way to have some power, and it’s a way to keep the wife from leaving or building a separate life… they don’t feel as though they can hold her through love or companionship so they have to do it through compulsion.{/armchair psychology warning}

The tragic irony is that the cure for powerlessness can be the love, affection and respect of a good woman1. But you can’t compel that, in fact compulsion kills it. Freedom and companionship and the security to recognise that other friends don’t threaten or diminish you are what nurture it… but these guys are too broken to see that. It’s a vicious circle.

  1. OK, or other partner of your choice

Does this make me a bad person?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:58 am

Report in the paper yesterday that the Great Barrier Reef is doomed within decades. It’s horrible news and a complete disaster, but I have to admit that my first thought was ‘wow, better go see it soon then!’

Of course ‘better cut down on energy use and look for good alternatives’ is there as well, and I do try to do what I can, both in my own life and in educating others abouit climate change. But there’s often a sense of hopelessness and despair… I know enough about climate change to know that if the reef is going to be extinct within decades, then it’s already as good as dead: even if we stopped pumping CO2 into the atmosphere today, it will take 100 years or more for the levels to drop, so significant warming is already locked in my our past behaviour.

But we can’t afford a philosophy of despair… after the Reef, what becomes extinct next? And what can we and can’t we save? Got to work on it, and keep working on it, in creative and innovative ways.

But in the mean time, if the Reef is going away, I want to experience it first.


Pattern Recognition

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:17 am

With thanks to Kradlum at the William Gibson Board:

World’s oldest woman dies (Aug 28 2006)
World’s oldest man dies (Oct 12 2006)
World’s oldest person dies (Dec 12 2006)
World’s oldest woman dies (Jan 19 2007)
World’s oldest person dies (Jan 24 2007)
World’s oldest person dies (Jan 29 2007)

I think I see a pattern emerging here… If I were the world’s oldest person right now, I’d be watching my back.

Hybrid Vigor (or something)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:42 am

Mowed the lawn early yesterday morning, before it got too hot. Was still streaming sweat and blinking it out of my eyes the whole time.

When we first arrived the front lawn had been fairly recently turfed with a small, low-growing but dense (lots of blades per square metre) variety of grass. The ‘verge’ along the side of the road hadn’t been turfed, but was covered in weeds, and the turf grass was spreading from the edges of the turfed area. This ‘colonisation’ seemed like a good thing, as grass replaced weeds.

In the past 7 months we’ve been in drought, and I’ve been mowing the lawn reasonably regularly. That has killed off the broadleaf weeds on the verge, and it has been replaced by grass from who knows where – maybe seeds blowing on the wind or carried in pet fur or bird poo.

As I was mowing yesterday, I noticed that the ‘wild’ grass on the verge is much bigger, stronger, greener and healthier, while the ‘tame’ grass on the lawn is pretty brown and sick looking and not really growing much at all. Basically, the grass that was used as lawn requires regular water to thrive – it’ll look lush if it gets it, but can’t survive without it. In a drought with no rain and with sprinklers being illegal, it’s struggling. The ‘unauthorised’ grass is probably native, or at least much better adapted to low water conditions. It might even ‘reverse colonise’ the lawn…

Droughts are likely to be much more common going forward, so less lawn and more native plants is going to be an important strategy: the native garden is flourishing.

(And I’m resisting the impulse to extend the metaphor to other kinds of colonisation.)


Flying The Flag

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:50 pm

Australian flag

Went to the beach for a picnic on Friday, which was Australia Day (January 26). Most of Australia seems to have had the same idea, so it took us a while to find a parking space and a relatively unbusy bit of beach, but we did and it was fantastic. Clean, fine white sand that squeaks as you walk across it, blue water and surf, sun… and the family. Celebrating living in Australia.

Noticed a heap of Australian flags flying that day, on people’s tents and shelters, on cars, in hands. That’s something new for Australia, and something I associate with America. Nice to see the Aussie flag get an airing, definitely. And yet…

Nationalism in all its forms worries me, just because it can so easily become xenophobia and supremacism. What’s the step from saying ‘Australia is great’ to ‘Australia is the best (and everyone else is inferior)’? Not that big. So I do think there’s a place for patriotism… and even just gratitude for the blessings our country has. But the flags worried me for more reasons than that.

The political context, and I’m sure the motivation behind the large number of flags this year, is in two linked events. Serbian and Croation fans (or actually, Australian fans of Serbian and Croation heritage) wore their respective flags and colours to the Australian Open tennis, and that led to some fairly minor brawling. In response to *that*, organisers of the Big Day Out music festival discouraged (didn’t ‘ban’ I don’t think, although that’s how it was portrayed in the tabloids) the wearing and waving of flags at the festival. Politicians on both sides waded in ‘defending’ the right to fly the Australian flag, plenty of people did, and there was no violence at the Big Day Out.

I guess what worries me is if the attempt to define an Australian identity is in opposition to other identities, and is about exclusion – ‘I’m a real Aussie, not like them’. Maybe I’m just too curmudgeonly an old leftie and internationalist, and I should just kick back and enjoy the beach… and maybe get a flag.

…aaaand… we’re back

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:41 pm

OK, enough with the hiatus already, got stuff to talk to you about. 😉

Mithel (a guy at a forum) on motorcycle commuting:

When i started to commute, i told my boss my work day was about 2 hours shorter. The drive is part of work, the ride is mine.

I feel the same way. This morning was just magic, warm and sunny, clear roads, feeling good.


Hiatus – Let’s Make This Official

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:21 pm

I’m just not at all motivated to blog at the moment. Sorry.

I will be again, some time, and will be back.


Dangers of A Flailing Bush

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:23 am

From Glenn Greenwald: http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2007/01/collapse-of-bush-presidency-poses.html


Pretending I Don’t Hear

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:29 am

…the drumbeats of war between the US and Iran. Pretending that Bush’s references to Iran and Syria in his ‘surge’ speech were just sabre rattling, and the US attack on an Iranian (nearly-)consulate in Iraq wasn’t really an act of war. Pretending that the insistence that Iran’s nuclear program is a nuclear weapons program, despite their strong statements (and the UN inspectors’ conclusions) to the contrary is somehow different from the insistence that Iraq had WMD despite the same kinds of contrary (and, as it turns out, correct) evidence. Pretending that I still believe Bush’s decision making processes are rational.

Perhaps if I pretend hard enough, and put my head under the blankets, the drums will go away.


Cutting Their Own Throats1

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:03 am

This article from Salon’s ‘How The World Works’ is a nice example of the phenomenon I want to talk about. It talks about the American car industries long and stubborn fight against government mandated standards for emissions control and fuel efficiency of vehicles. The article makes the point that it’s a losing fight: while the American car makers fight to keep building big, fuel-guzzling, inefficient vehicles, the Japanese manufacturers build smaller, better built, more efficient vehicles… and the drivers of America buy them. Ford and GM run losses and lose sales… and keep fighting hard for the ability to do so. If they had started working on actually building fuel effecient vehicles sooner – in response to government pressure, or even better before such pressure was needed – they’d be more competitive now.

The other example is the recording industry: if they’d started using and building and improving web-based delivery for music from the beginning, rather than fighting it tooth and nail and trying to stick with CDs as the only medium of music delivery, they’d be in a far different and better position now. In this instance Steve Jobs, iPod and iTunes may have saved their bacon, but being more agile in the first place would have been a much smarter business decision.

Are there lessons here for other industries, such as, oh, I dunno… electric power generation?

  1. This post is named in honor of Terry Pratchett’s fictional salesman of dubious sausages-in-a-bun, Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler. His name comes from his claim that “I’m cutting me own throat at these prices”.


They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:53 am

Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, has an ear for the power and majesty of the old English hymns. In the Iron Maiden song ‘Revelations’ he uses these lines from a hymn by G.K. Chesterton:

Oh God of love and altar
Bow down and hear our cry
Our earthly rulers falter
Our people drift and die
The walls of gold entomb us
The swords of scorn divide
Take not thy thunder from us
Take away our pride

On one of his solo albums Bruce sings the old hymn Jerusalem, written by William Blake:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded there
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o’clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
‘Til we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

I’m sorry, but the pleasant but facile and very repetitive modern liturgical music that comes out of Hillsongs and other publishers these days is just not in the same league. I think maybe it comes from a religion that comes to the people where they are, rather than in some ways expecting them to come to it. But what good is a religion that is just a watered-down version of my everyday life?

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

(when I get a moment I’ll post Bruce’s version (which adds some words) here for your listening pleasure)


Couldn’t make it up

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:25 am

From Salon:

The failed Oprah blackmail plot? The FBI was involved in setting up a sting to catch a man allegedly trying to blackmail Oprah Winfrey’s company over recorded phone calls he said would “not destroy but hurt” her reputation. Keifer Bonvillain was arrested Dec. 15 in Atlanta after reportedly trying to extort money from a victim who goes unnamed in the FBI’s report, but who is identified as “a public figure and the owner of a Chicago-based company.” Over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune said the figure was Oprah, and reported that Bonvillain was asking for $1.5 million in exchange for keeping recordings he’d made of conversations with an Oprah employee private. He’d e-mailed and written Oprah about the tapes, but was finally arrested after an Oprah representative, who was working with the FBI, wired him $3,000 good-faith money toward the full blackmail payment. (Associated Press, Chicago Tribune)

How good is the villain’s name? 😉


Bruce Sterling on the state of the world

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:34 am

Jon Lebkowsky mail-interviews Bruce Sterling on The Well – and Bruce has a fair bit of interesting stuff to say: http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/289/Bruce-Sterling-State-of-the-Worl-page01.html


Seven Deadly (Driving) Sins

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:51 am

(I include riders along with drivers in these, at least for the ones that apply)

1. Talking on the phone
– some people (usually those who do it) get defensive on this one, but I have both real evidence from this study (and others by the same team) and anecdotal evidence from my time on the road: someone commits one of the other sins below, and you’ll almost invariably find it’s ‘cos they’re on the phone.

2. Failing to indicate – we’re not mind-riders. And sometimes we (on bikes, I mean) move fast enough that you don’t know we’re there. So indicate your intentions every time – and early enough. The law here says 30 m or 100 feet before the corner. The people who lock up the brakes and stop completely, and then indicate have it dangerously in the wrong order… but they’re still better than those who don’t indicate at all. Taxi drivers must get too tired from driving all day, I guess…

3. Failing to head-check before merging
– Mirrors have a blind spot (heh, I originally typed ‘blond spot’ ;)), and the only way to merge or change lanes safely is to look over your shoulder in addition to looking in the mirror. Even if you just figured out you’re about to miss your exit. Always shoulder check before moving out of your lane.

4. Distractions – the phone is the worst offender, but it can be anything – a hot cup of coffee in your hand, a burger dripping in your lap, a pet wandering around the car or sitting in your lap, rubbish rolling under the pedals on the floor, turning around to discipline the kids, fiddling with the radio… If your attention isn’t on the road in front of you while you’re piloting a tonne of steel at high speed, you’re putting your own and others’ lives at risk1.

5. Failing to drive for the conditions – I stayed off the bike for two days this week, because they were rainy: the first seriously rainy days for a couple of months. I knew the roads would be covered with oil and muck that would make them slippery and dangerous, and I knew people wouldn’t drive appropriately for the conditions. Sure enough, there were two fatalities on Brisbane roads in the rain, one of them a 24 year old mother who died in front of her 4 year old child and her mother. If traction and visibility are reduced, it only makes sense to drive more slowly and more carefully… and failing to do so is negligent and will stand a good chance of getting someone killed.

6. Tailgating – two seconds is a good guideline. Just watch the vehicle in front pass a stationary object and count 1 – one thousand – 2 – one thousand. If you’re closer than that and something unexpected happens, you’re going to hit them, because there’s not time to react and brake. Sitting on someone’s tail in a place where you can’t overtake anyway doesn’t get you there any quicker, it just irritates them and makes them more likely to crash – and you likely to hit them after they crash.

7. Running/jumping lights/pulling out without looking and allowing time
– If you run a red light, you have a huge chance of killing or injuring someone. People do try to check a bit before taking off on a green light, but if you come really late and fast they may already have started. And if you jump before the green (say on seeing the red in the other direction) you’re also much more likely to be in an accident. Same for pulling out of a side road without adequate checking – even if you come out of that street all the time. And you shouldn’t assume everyone is doing the speed limit, either – the person coming toward you may be going faster – and sure they shouldn’t, but that’s no consolation when they hit you. Stop long enough to make a good judgement about their speed… and it’s courtesy to drive so that you don’t make others have to brake and swerve to miss you.

These are in addition to the ones everyone knows about like speeding (which gets a lot of attention because it’s easy to police, but probably is more of an exacerbating feature in accidents caused by the above than an actual cause of accidents), fatigue and drink/drug driving, of course.

And one more deadly sin: driving as though everyone else is a saint (in terms of these sins). Defensive driving means driving like a saint yourself but assuming that everyone else drives like a sinner. If we could all work towards being cleansed of these sins, we’d all live longer.

  1. I know: Sue’s mother was crossing the road at age 60 with two older women and some guy fiddling with the radio in his car hit and killed all three of them. One reason my daughters don’t have a grandmother.


700 posts

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:52 pm

Didn’t even notice the milestone as it went by: I just noticed that today’s post was number 704.


Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:52 pm

So, Australia just defeated England 5-0 in the Ashes.

OK, that probably means virtually nothing to most readers of this blog! All right, without getting too complicated, The Ashes is a serious of Test cricket matches between Australia and England. They started in 1882. The trophy is an urn contain the ashes of the bails (little wooden bits at the top of the stumps), commemorating the ‘death of English cricket’ at the hands of the Aussies. The Wikipedia article has more detail if you’re interested. They don’t happen every summer, but perhaps 2 years out of three, I think.

Test cricket matches run for five full days, and often still end in a ‘draw’ (neither team wins by bowling all members of the other team out twice and scoring more runs). An Ashes series is currently five of these 5 days matches, played over a couple of months.

The feat of winning 5-0 has only ever been achieved once before in the century-and-a-quarter history of the Ashes – and that was also by Australia, 86 years ago.

It’s a mighty achievement, particularly since England had won the Ashes last time the two sides met, in 2005, after a long time in which Australia was dominant. It’s made bittersweet by the resignations of two batsmen (Damien Martyn and Justin Langer) and two bowlers (Glen McGrath and Shane Warne). Warne in particular has been a mainstay of the team and effected the outcome of this series, and will be very much missed.

The last two matches were completed in 3 and 3.5 days, too… pretty dominant. Anyway, this is a triumphant day for Aussie cricket fans.

PS Being me, I don’t have a category for ‘Sport’, so I put this under ‘Religion’. Seems appropriate in Oz.

Happy New Year

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:35 am

….aaaannnd: We’re back! Actually, I’ve been home for about a week, but still kinda in holiday mode and not blogging. Back in work mode now, ‘cos I have lots to do in January, and back to the blog (well, hopefully with some actual content tomorrow, rather than this kind of ‘waffle about the blog’ stuff).

Hope 2007 is fantastic for all of you. I know for some of you it’s already presenting some challenges, and there’s a long way to go – so best wishes, thoughts and prayers are with you for things to improve.