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Diary

 #7 - Southern Summer 2004-05


 

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 3 January  10 Jan 18 Jan 23 Jan 25 Jan 5 Feb 7 Feb 19 Feb

 Going Postal! The disasterous invasion of Iraq. Cowboy spiders of  the wild West [of Australia]. 'slapped cheek' virus.
tsunamis and the short sightedness of governments 
bushfires. the kitchen is finally being finished-Not!
the sink is in, so is the dishwasher. Depleted uranium 

 

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 to part 8 Autumn 2005

 Sat 19 Feb very early - this is not a blog.

What I am doing here is clearly not a blog. Someone would have responded by now. Maybe what I write here is too mundane to be worthy of any comment whatsoever. Distinctly possible. On the other hand maybe the lives of people who have looked at it are just so full and hectic they don't have even 2 minutes to spare in their frantic web browsing. It couldn't possibly be that the lack of slander, salacious gossip, expressions of belief in the supernatural, or complete absence of any reference to astrology causes pain to empty headed visitors. No of course it couldn't.

Things of recent note within my benighted viewpoint:
  • The plumber has connected up the kitchen sink and the dishwasher - hallelujah! or something. We no longer have to wash the dishes in the laundry trough or the bathroom washbasin. Shouldn't complain though, we have only been washing up like that for 4 months. I blame the plasterer called J Jonker from Hell [ well, Mirrabooka really ] for the bulk of the delay - see the spring edition of this diary for why.
  • On Tuesday of this week just past I saw a documentary on SBS television about the use of depleted uranium {DU] weapons in both wars against Iraq. Depleted uranium dust left lying in the sand and soil around the carcasses of destroyed tanks and in buildings attacked with these weapons is having an utterly devastating effect on people who live in the areas. The incidence of leukemia is rising, particularly amongst children who play in and around the tank wreckage, is rising up beyond 8 times more than what it was before the first gulf war.[Professor Siegwart-Horst Gunther] Furthermore the incidence of deformities in new babies, and the incidence of miscarriages, is also now many times greater than it was before the first gulf war in those areas. What seems to be unfolding is a disaster of potentially gigantic proportions which may well eclipse all the other damage done to the people of Iraq. If the Americans and British do not go in there quick smart and clean up all their spent DU cannon shells and missile tips and the uranium dust, then these radioactive materials - particularly the nano sized particulates - will be spread over all the landscape as well as becoming incorporated into the structures and surfaces of buildings everywhere. If that happens the long term death toll over the next half century will be measured in hundreds of thousands. [And what the hell has been happening in Afganistan? You can bet that DU weapons were used there against armoured vehicles and bunkers just like in Iraq and Bosnia and Serbia.] visit here for more info,
  • On a brighter note, I have refined my understanding of what is involved in the creation of consciousness. This came about through responding to various postings on the JCS-online discussion group at Yahoo, in subject threads named Critique of Stapp, and Damasio's error. I'll write some more about this later today [after I have been to bed] or tomorrow. I'll have to update some of my pages where I discuss consciousness as being the updating model of self in the world {UMSITW].

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 Monday 7 Feb

The plumber came, and then the plumber went. Apparently he needs the carpenter to do some things, and the electrician to do other things, before he can connect up the kitchen sink taps and drain pipes and ditto for the dishwasher. Ye gods! When will it all end?

I didn't write it at the time but 2 weeks ago this coming Wednesday we went out to Bob and Jeff's place at Gidgeganup. It has only taken me about 4 years to get around and do it. Mind you it is a 55 minute trip each way from here. Glenda and I went with the two youngest girls. Emma was a bit overwhelmed by Bob's new dog called Kane. The dog is about 6 months old and still a bit of a galumphing puppy. Emmie got over it though and some days later referred to 'the nut farm we visited' in a fairly equable manner. She was referring to all the fruit and nut trees and bushes they have there. It was really good to get out there and the quietness, the summer dryness, and the general colour of the bush and something about the house, etc, reminded me of what it was like when my family first arrived in Australia and lived at Kelmscott more than 35 years ago.

The visit was rounded out very nicely by an encounter with some kangaroos we met on the road a few hundred metres along McKnoe Drive after the turn out of Echidna Road. We weren't going very fast and two of the roos were already just standing in the road so I saw them from a fair way off and so slowed down to a complete halt 20 metres from them. The two on the road were a half grown joey and its mum who stood there for a few seconds until the joey got skittish and bounced down the road a bit at which its mum took off into the bush and the little one followed. As we went by the spot we saw another, bigger, roo in the bush on the other side from where the first two went to. I guess that one was a buck, which just stayed still as we went past. Well that was a little bit of excitement that put the kids into a good mood for spotting animals as we went along for the rest of the trip.

While we were at 'the nut farm' and Bob was showing me around all his nut trees, I had one of those radical mistakes of perception which illuminate the true nature of experience, if one knows what to remember and think about at the time of the revelation. We were standing amongst some of the trees and Bob was explaining what they were and there was a 2 inch [50mm] black polypipe lying along the ground in front of me. I was looking down at the pipe when I heard a sound and believed it came from the pipe. A sort of quiet, hollow 'clunk' sound. It happened again after a few seconds and I thought it was a sort of echo within the pipe, the kind you might get when a distant stop cock was turned off suddenly.

This happened a couple of times and each time I thought the sound came from the pipe but things didn't seem to add up because no water was coming out of the end of the pipe, nor was the ground wet as it would have been it water had recently come out. Jeff eventually noticed my quizzical examination of the ground and asked me what was wrong. I asked why the pipe should be making a noise and we all listened for a short while until the sound occurred again. I said: "There!" at which Jeff pointed out that the sound was not coming from the pipe at all but from the windmill over the old bore which was about 30 metres away. Once he said this, I could here that he was right; the sound was a quiet periodic clanking coming from the top of the windmill as it free-wheeled slowly in the light breeze.

I suspect that sound reflecting off the ground helped to cause the confusion, but until the mistake was pointed out I could really 'hear' a sound from the pipe, even though something about it wasn't quite right.

I will have to send this example of misperception to Peter Main. [And what has happened to Ray Mondor?] I also need to add it to the list of other such which is on this website somewhere!

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 Sat 5 Feb

Hmmm. Long time no speak ... no worry, the world still kept turning. Things have progressed for us domestically: the granite bench tops have finally gone onto the kitchen cupboards! Hopefully this Monday the plumber will come and connect up the sink, the dishwasher and the gas cook tops and we will finally, after three and a half months, have a usable kitchen again. Doing the washing up in the laundry - in my case - or the bathroom - preferred by my wife - has been a real pain. Yours truly has ended up doing most of the washing up because the laundry is the safer and more efficient place to do it, but Glenda and Gwyneth both reckoned they simply could not cope with washing up in the laundry. Something about the aesthetics and it feeling cramped. Hmmm.

Anyway the granite looks great!. Glenda got all of the cupboards, granite bench tops, Miele brand electric oven, gas cook tops, dishwasher, and a sink, second hand all for less than $3,000, from some people in Dalkeith who simply wanted to renovate.

It cost some hundreds to have the granite removed and transported by specialists, but for not much more than $2,000 all up, inclusive of reshaping and reinstalling, the granite [itself] went from a house where they didn't love it anymore to our place where it has transformed the look of the back of the house and will radically improve the utility of the kitchen. To have that amount of granite put in as new could have cost as much as $30,000 just for the granite itself! I hope the people in Dalkeith like their replacement granite kitchen - different colour granite and different colour wood were the main reason for the change apparently. Methinks money is no object in Dalkeith however.

I went back to work last week after a couple of weeks off and this has been a shock to the system of course. A big part of the reason I didn't write anything here.

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 Tue 25 Jan

Just found a really interesting article in Science and Consciousness Review - on-line - which demonstrates a visual illusion caused by sound! I have tried it out and it works, irrespective of whether you believe it or, or understand it, or not. The authors conclude from the various tests they have performed using EEG on subjects exposed to the experimental set up that the sensory mode interaction - ie the integration of input from auditory nerves into the visual representation - occurs very early in the processing, well before conscious awareness.

 

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Sunday 23 Jan

The callousness of the Indonesian military never ceases to amaze and horrify me. Apparently Indonesia's Health ministry is estimating the number killed by the tsunamis as just under 174,000 souls. [ Reuters.co.uk Updated: Sun 23 Jan 2005 | 16:16 GMT] And a World Food [WFP] Program spokesman says they are now feeding about 400,000 people in Aceh, and the same report tells that Indonesian troops and volunteers are still pulling 1,000 or so corpses from destroyed buildings every day. Yet the vice president is asking that foreign military personnel - are almost certainly all unarmed [except perhaps for a few MPs] - should leave by the end of three months. From the descriptions of the damage that was caused and the conditions that survivors are living in, it seems clear that outside aid will be required for some years to come, and it seems very clear that the Indonesian military do not have the facilities or the ability to carry out all the major infrastructure work that is needed. Roads, bridges, wharfs, railways, water supply, electricity supply, sewage systems, hospitals, schools, etc. I have copied some of the Reuters story below. Of course there needs to be, as soon as feasible, the hiring of local contractors to do most of this work. This is essential for rebuilding the local economies of all the areas affected.

But the Indo military still seems to be more keen on fighting local independence movements rather than building local economies. This is because the Indonesian military still has a feudal era mindset. They have still not understood that if they want Indonesia to be a great country rather than merely heavily populated, they have to nurture true democracy. Of course the idea of true democracy frightens everybody who fears exposure of their corruption. Korupsi is the biggest problem in Indonesia, not local separatist movements, and the military in Indonesia has been on the take for 40 or 50 years already. Democracy requires public accountability, a properly constituted and properly paid public service and a free press. I think free trade unions are necessary also to represent workers and keep employers honest in their dealings with those whose labour is the source of wealth.

On a much brighter note: Emma our youngest, can now float on her back and propel herself slowly by kicking her feet. This is great progress compared to a fortnight ago when she couldn't even get her ears wet without obvious distress.

I was fascinated to see an article in the Australian on-line by Glenn Milne in the Opinion column, in which he advises Kevin Rudd to throw his hat into the ring and contest the ALP leadership against Kim Beazley. He lists 5 reasons why Kevin Rudd should stand, some to do with ALP machinations and some to do with Kevin's intrinsic good attributes. His last point is a good one:
'Which brings me to the fifth and final reason Rudd should have a go: character. As one Left MP observed: "People like Kim Beazley and Simon Crean are Labor aristocracy. They've had doors opened for them all their lives inside the party.
 
"This bloke has done it all himself. He's come from genuinely humble beginnings, he hasn't had the backing of a faction, he hasn't had a patron. And yet this is where he's got himself to. And as for all that stuff about him being a media tart well, every time I see him on television I think: This bloke is hungry. I reckon if he got the job he'd crawl over cut glass to get at [John] Howard."'

When I knew Kevin Rudd as a student of Mandarin at ANU in the late '70s, he was a very conscientious, hardworking student and a very ethical person. If you watch him now in his TV interviews, you will see that his responses to questions is always very measured and thoughtful, covers the salient issues, and does not descend into gratuitous ad hominem attacks.

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 Friday 21 Jan

The bush fires have continued unabated all week. Each morning a smoky haze has lain across the city causing discomfort to every body and medical emergencies for a few. We in Bayswater have been luckier than people in suburbs just south of the river because for them the easterly winds have driven a dense plume over them. We have caught the peripheral most days. Today, Friday, was a classic example. When I got up at about 8 am - not late by my standards especially as I am on holiday for this week and next - there was a thick haze visible to the south of us which just seemed to get more and more dense. It seemed to be spreading northwards towards us too, so that its boundary when I first saw it was south of Great Eastern Highway but as the morning progressed it seemed to be reaching the river about 300 metres south of us. Luckily the sea breeze came in and started driving it all eastwards. This caused our air to becomes very smoky for a while, which the evaporative cooler pushed through the house, but then it cleared up completely. Cyndy from work sent me an email however saying it was really horrible in the ***deleted*** building because of smoke all around outside. From this I deduce that the plume headed in a broad path from E S East of Perth in a W N Westerly direction which took it over the Perth CBD. The 'Fremantle Doctor' really earned its name this week pushing all this pollution back into the hills. Pity the poor b**stards that live in the hills though.

What all this shows is that CALM [Conservation and Land Management, a WA state authority] should be doing decisive and frequent controlled burns in the State forests during late winter and early spring whenever there is a strong westerly wind without rain, which is often at that time of year. Yes of course it rains in that season also but varying the intensity of the aerial fire bombing could cater for that and cooler burning is what is needed anyway. The simple and obvious fact seems to be that the burnable detritus of the forests: the dead gum leaves, and the twigs and branches shed through self-pruning will always continue to accumulate until it burns. Something is always going to set it off eventually, be it pyromaniac or lightning. If we leave it for long enough then the fires will be wild and uncontrollable.

I have been posting some messages to the Mind and Brain and JCS-online groups at Yahoo groups. I pains me to see how some people can just quack on around the subjects of consciousness and evolution. A month or so ago on JCS-online a whole bunch of seemingly ernest academics chuntered on about solipsism, as if they were doing something deep and meaningful. I think not. The truly annoying thing about it for me is that I would love to be in the position of having time to spare to prepare hair brained treatises at public or shareholders' expense, but it will never be. Rats.

A major trouble I have writing this and working on all the other pages of this site is that the only uninterrupted time I seem to get normally is near and after midnight. The brain does not work so very well then, particularly if one is accustomed to getting up next morning in time to get to work. I do NOT get up 'early', I am a night owl and I often quite happily do the 17:00 to 18:02 phone shift at work which many others hate. But even so my body has got into this powerful habit of getting at most 7 hours sleep each night and this is just not conducive to prolonged periods of powerful mind work during daylight hours. Even less so in the depths of the night.

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 Tuesday 18 Jan

Right now I am breathing air quite tainted with the smell of Eucalyptus wood smoke. There have been wild fires burning in the hills south east of Perth since early Sunday, or maybe it was Saturday. Whatever, we in our suburb have been lucky because the wind was easterly until yesterday when it dropped, then this morning it had turned south westerly. This meant the smoke was at first going over the southern suburbs towards Fremantle for the first two days and for today it was heading northwards along the Darling Range. After sunset today there seems to have been a change. I just went out the back to check and the wind in now definitely coming from the south east. This means we are more or less directly down wind from the fires that are still burning near Pickering Brook and Karagullen and other places well back from the escarpment in some rather inaccessible areas of State Forest. If the wind backs further to east south east we will be under the main plume and things will get much smellier for us. Apparently all the southern suburbs have had ash raining down on them as well as having to breath the particulates and acrid tang of burning trees.

Of course all the changes in wind direction have made it very hard for the fire fighters. Sunday and yesterday they had temperatures in the high 30s and above 40oC! It got to 42o in our back yard yesterday. God knows what it must have been like trying to deal with bushfires in those temperatures.

The fires were lit by an arsonist. Apparently about six or more have been lit, most on the weekend. Given the 9 or more deaths of people caught in bush fires in South Australia just last week it can only be a very disturbed person who is setting the fires in our hills. There have been other fires,also deliberately lit, near Geraldton about 400 km north of Perth.

It makes me feel like arson should be a capital offence! Or a life imprisonment with no parole.

 

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 Mon 10 Jan - I'm not very prolific at this am I! Well as nobody else seems to give a stuff it doesn't matter.

I have decided I really like Moby. I'm listening to his CD 18 right now and it seems he has a few things in common with Philip Glass. Well that's my take anyway: melodic, harmonised and rhythmic with each piece constructed out of nested sets of repeating and repetitive elements. Philip Glass obviously [true?] has built a far greater complexity into his works which I suppose is made possible by his using classical orchestras and ensembles which generally have large numbers of people who have been trained to obey composers and conductors. Whatever, I reckon they are both great.

Just before doing the dishes a while ago - which is what started me listening to Moby - I had been listening to a talk by Nicholas Humphrey, it is a video recording and I used the 'modem' option rather than broadband because Lewis must have been downloading something which seemed to be taking the bandwidth. [I need to put a coin-in-the-slot meter on Lewis's network cable] Anyway it is the audio - what the man is saying - which counts, not the picture of his head talking. The talk is called
A SELF WORTH HAVING, and the text is worth reading if you don't want to listen to his voice. In fact the text covers a lot more than the video and ranges into several areas that don't seem to be even mentioned in the video.

Anyway he has started me thinking again about the 'WHY?' of phenomenal consciousness. This is of course inextricably linked with the HOW? of it because it has evolved through Darwinian selection. There must be a significant utility to phenomenal consciousness because our large human brains use a lot of energy and there is also an enormous cost involved in parenting.

Personally I think I have the answers to just about all these questions.

Generally speaking there are three major payoffs that have induced the evolution of the human brain.

  1. First came navigation, taken in its most general sense which encompasses the whole gamut of time frames from second by second moving around right through to long term moving through a tribal territory and beyond to find resources of all sorts and avoiding danger. Navigating as such also includes negotiating the social world, but I will come back to that.
  2. Learning good tricks which means copying useful behaviours. This started out long ago as offspring copying the primitive tool use and construction by their mothers and significant others, then evolved into word speech then fully grammatical language able to describe all the intricacies of culture and storyland.
  3. The creation of labour value, which started long ago with the making of tools and the development of social alliances but which developed far beyond simple mechanical utility into creativity for its own sake: the expression of artistic creation and aesthetic perception, and the incorporation or objectivication of moral awareness.

These centres of profit, so to speak [ ], are not in any sense mutually exclusive.

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 Monday 3 January 2005  A very sombre welcome to the new year.

With a current rough estimate of tsunami deaths being 155,000 according to CNN as at 15:02 [HKT same as WAST it seems] and the Indonesian authorities only now managing to get to the sites of what were towns and villages on the west coast of Sumatra, we can expect to hear of yet higher numbers of direct victims. How horrible. Furthermore there will be many thousands more deaths from wounds, infections and starvation suffered by the survivors, especially in remote areas and also diseases spread through unclean water and by people crowding together in makeshift shelters.

Is there any good to come out of this hideous tragedy? Well, not for all those who died and precious little for those left behind to grieve for them. It is heartening to hear of so many ordinary people in Australia and other countries responding so fast to donate money to the various non-government aid organisations. I did my little bit, and so also have my two oldest children. They each decided off their own bats [so to speak] to donate to World Vision. In Lewis's case it was all of the money we obtained as refunds for 1/ a Xmas present [a computer game that was not the right version and the shop didn't have the version he wanted, and
2/ a speed ball that proved faulty. NB: It is crudely ironic that this speed ball was made in India and the third of this brand to break soon after installation. This leads obliquely to my next idea.

One thing demonstrated by this tragedy is the absolutely essential nature of science education. At some places the ocean first retreated before the floods surged in. If people on those seashores had recognised this as the sign of a coming tsunami, they would have known to run like hell to higher ground instead of letting their children run down to play with the seashells and fish left exposed. If the various Thai and Indian officials who did receive warning of the tsunamis had understood the nature of what was happening they would not have piss-farted around and debated whether is was worth telling anyone. They would surely have got on the phone to radio stations and police headquarters.

If the general level of scientific awareness was greater in the south and south east Asian countries, then surely the people in Australia, USA and elsewhere who study and monitor earthquakes would have had telephone numbers they could have rung to give warning of the tsunamis expected from an earthquake of 8.9 or 9.0 on the Richter scale. As so often is the case, hind sight is a stern and terrible teacher.

I have just found a very interesting website concerning the search for Near Earth Objects (NEO) This site has a page about tsunamis also, pointing out that tsunamis are created by large meteorites as well as by undersea earthquakes. They also give a history of attempts by people in the region to gain the attention of governments.

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 Wed 29 Dec 3 days after the tsunami

So shit really does "happen"! and this time it has happened to the best part of a million people. It was a miserable and frightening way to die for the scores of thousands who have drowned. And we probably have to witness another few tens of thousands dying from diseases and malnutrition over the next few months and hundreds of thousands of other people have to try and put their lives and livelihoods back together.

There is clearly no way to know beforehand when an earthquake like this one will occur under the sea, and no way on Earth to prevent tsunamis from wreaking destruction in proportion to the size of the earthquake and inversely proportional to the distance from the origin. The pity is though that we humans are so stupid, that it takes such terrible loss of life, for people to take an interest in basic science and prudent common sense. So now, well after that particular horse has bolted, politicians will now start paying boffins to come up with a tsunami warning system similar to what already exists in the Pacific Ocean.

But why didn't anybody think about this beforehand? Answer: it is still not part of cultures world wide, to invest in basic science for its own sake. In hindsight we can see that public education about the tell tale signs of tsunamis, ie the sea level suddenly dropping at the shore for no obvious reason, especially within minutes or hours after an earthquake, and education about the need to get to high ground or high up in a very strong building, all has has the potential to save countless lives. Furthermore money spent on tsunami detectors and communications equipment, would only need to work successfully once to pay for itself many times over.

It will be interesting to see just how much the US and Australian governments are actually willing to fork out in aid for the stricken people. My guess is it will be far, far less than what is being spent on the Iraq war!

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 Tue 21 Dec   Summer solstice or thereabouts.

I don't think I like Christmas. I just wish we could have a quiet week's holiday here, and let all the northern hemisphere people get on with celebrating the rebirth of the sun. Fat chance of that though. So let us all sing our sacred songs, like:

Jingle tills, jingle tills, selling all the day
Oh what fun it is to buy, with a credit card hurray!

And the amazing thing is, nobody very much it telling the truth about 'where all the money is coming from'.

I think the truth is that most of the buying is on credit, so that credit cards are being taken out to their limits, and some time down the track, a large proportion of those credit card debts are going to be 'consolidated' with a few other debts like personal loans and so forth into refinanced mortgages. In other words the banks as usual are creating the money, which we all are promising to repay, whilst actually relying on capital appreciation of private housing to cover our arses.

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 Sun 19 Dec

The sore throat is still with me and Glenda has it too. We both have inflamed lumps on our tonsils [Gwyneth was disgusted by us looking down each other's throats and describing what we saw ] Anyway, we think what we have is the adults' symptoms of 'slapped cheek' virus - Erythema infectiosum, also called parvovirus B19 or somesuch. This bug has apparently been sweeping through Perth schools the last couple of months or so.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon painting - cutting in around the edges of the new cupboards in the kitchen and along the cornice, etc, in the high corner where the others can't reach. When it is all finally finished, the renovated kitchen is going to look very nice and should be very functional. A curse be upon the Plasterers from Hell who have caused such delays to it all though. Because of them we have been without a working kitchen for at least two months now - instead of the one month Glenda originally planned, and it doesn't look like being finished until well into the new year.

I have made some additions to my 'If I were in charge' page: a short screed about compensation for indigenous people, and more about how to build an industrial strength escape velocity accelerator.

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 Wed 15 Dec

My throat is still pretty bad. I saw my GP yesterday and he prescribed antibiotics. It's a good thing I don't have to do too much talking at work at the moment.

About gravity and spacetime - After reviewing what I have picked up from reading Scientific American about superstrings, the possible quantum nature of so called 'physical' dimensions, vacuum energy and so forth, it seems to me that the process physics people are onto something. they probably have not got the whole story though. To me the concept of 'particles' which have mass being in fact knots in spacetime has a lot of appeal.

Process physics seems to be more or less the idea that at the smallest possible level of existence, the Planck length [named after Max Planck] or thereabouts, relationships or connections randomly come into existence between virtual entities. The connections fade but as they do news connections arise. The fading and breaking of the connections results in a matrix which is constantly shrinking into itself as the disconnections randomly subside, a bit like the reducing bubbles on frothed up soapy water. The new connections randomly forming at greater and shorter lengths maintains the matrix as a constantly inward flowing fractal stream or network. Spacetime exists in a noticeable manner because of longer range connections that connect in groups as circular logic trails. These are statistical anomalies which endure long enough to constitute media which sustain causal interactions.

It is now too late, the rave must continue tomorrow or so.

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 Mon 13 Dec  

I've got the lurgie again. Sore throat, blocked nasal, but not your usual head cold. Just another odd virus that's going around. I had bit of a temperature over the weekend and really felt under par most of the time. The kids have already had this one I think. Lewis also has something and it is affecting him worse than me. Mind you he goes to bed even later than I do, he doesn't get nearly as much exercise as I do and he doesn't get out in the fresh air and sunshine as much as me. It's a wonder he's still alive actually.

I really feel like I have to start writing properly. ie really start putting Shortcut to Imadjinning together.

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 Sun 12 Dec

At last some progress with the renovations. Voyen the sparky has wired several power sockets within and around the new cupboards. These will provide power to dishwasher, gas cooktop starters, range hood exhaust fan, etc. Also the electric oven now has its 3 phase power wired in. The bathroom now has an extractor fan and [rather dim] overhead lighting unit. The dimness of the single lighting globe is in stark contrast to the overbright output from the heating globes in the same unit. Maybe this will help with any incipient Seasonal Affective Disorder during winter!* Meanwhile we await someone to come trim and shape the granite benchtops and splashbacks. If the granite was not part and parcel of the whole second hand kitchen deal, we would never have chosen to have it. It is very expensive stuff. It's lucky for us that there was so little damage when it was removed from its previous location.

Glenda is right now having another Garage sale. This time the excuse is that some friends from up the street are moving to Sydney and have to get rid of a whole lot of junk. Well Glenda is in her element but I can leave it for preference. The friends up the street have been day-care customers for a couple of years now so Glenda feels quite strongly involved. He is going to coach Manly football club or something like that, so she, a highly qualified nurse, has to give up a good new job she has just started here in WA as a sales rep and delivery/installation supervisor for a surgical equipment manufacturer. We can but wish them all the best.

The weather is really starting to get into summer mode yet everybody has come down with yet another lurgie: this time manifesting as sore throat with temperature, headaches and so forth. Let us give thanks for the jumbo jets that help to share all these things around the planet!

I have been thinking a lot lately about space-time, gravity, strings and so forth. This doesn't mean I understand very much at all, and certainly not the mathematics of it all.

*joke, OK

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 Thur 9 Dec

Glenda's sister Maureen arrived from Thailand for a visit. Her plane arrived 00:45. Typical Perth International airport, there were 4 other planes dropping off passengers between midnight and 1am! It took Maureen an hour and a half to reach the exit door. This often happens at Perth and is the result of scheduling preferences of the airlines who all basically don't give a stuff about Perth because it is not a big enough city for their liking and because most planes don't terminate here but continue on to Sydney or Melbourne for whom the arrival time is much more important! Bastards! The other thing is that the Perth airport authority people want to cut costs by limiting the time that ground staff have to be employed. If the same staff can be used to process the people and planes for 5 flights within one 2 hour period, those staff can be stood down for longer periods, ie wages expenses are kept as low as possible. A similar situation used to be when the Australian domestic airlines, Ansett and the other one, were in cahoots. Domestic flights of both companies from Perth to Adelaide and beyond always took off within 20 minutes or less of each other because they were sharing ground crews.

 

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 Sunday 5 Dec

Yesterday I bought a grass trimmer [aka brush cutter or whipper snipper]. Today my son and I tried it out on all the long grass in the back yard. It seemed to work pretty well. Lewis generally seems to be OK with it. One interesting discovery I made is that when it is whizzing away beheading and chopping up grass stems, the seeds from wild oats get blasted outwards from the spinning cutting head. Because wild oats seeds have a long tail and most of the weight is in the streamlined head, when the spinning trimmer lines scatter the seed heads, the seeds fly out at a hell of a speed and impale themselves half way through the user's clothing. I was wearing shorts and after I had finished the work I discovered that the skin of my shins was covered in small cuts. The effort of concentrating on keeping the tool steady and not doing damage to any of my previous little vines and citrus saplings caused me not to notice the impacts from the seeds. It was interesting to see that one or two seeds were impaled in leaves of the young trees.

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 4 Dec

I saw a really amazing thing this morning. There is a species of tiny little spiders that live around here which capture spiders much larger than themselves by running in circles around their victims at very high speed, tying them up with silk! Presumably they also capture insects of similar size using the same method. The bodies of these feisty little creatures are just a couple of millimetres across.

I am wondering whether this is a method used by immature members of spider species species in general. I tend to think not because I have never seen it myself before nor have I read about it anywhere, as far as I can remember anyway. I can see how it would have evolved though: where a small spider seeking to escape from a larger member of another species ran around the larger creature and - mistakenly due to genetic mutation perhaps - flipping into a moving-in-circles-laying-a-web behaviour pattern with the little creature fixating on the visual image of the larger. As long as the brain of the runner adapts its running direction to keep the larger in the same position relative to the runner's body, ie at 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock, and it keeps laying out a taught but sticky thread, the little creature will run in circles around the larger.

If the larger creature cannot disentangle its legs quickly enough, it will soon be trapped. If the smaller creature's silk is sticky enough and stretchy enough then the larger animal will firstly have its legs confined and then, as the little creature keeps going around and around which is what the one I saw was doing, the ever increasing loops of stretched silk will slowly pull the bigger one's legs in until it is wrapped into a ball. The little one can then get close enough to bite and poison the victim.

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 3 Dec

The more I here about what is going on in Iraq the more I think the invasion of that country by USA, Britain, Australia and friends may yet be one of the most ill advised blunders of modern times. My guess is that within 10 years, if not within 5, Iraq will be back under a dictatorship as tight as that of Saddam Hussein. I would love to be wrong of course, but I can't see that happening. There doesn't seem to be any great populist leader available who can stir the hearts and win the minds of the common people of all sects and ethnic groups. Neither is there a tradition of democracy that anyone in the country can identify with. On the contrary, the one single potentially unifying force seems to be Islam and yet Islam seems to be inherently tribal rather than universal.

So there is the on-going shemozzle with the political chaos, civil war and rampant banditry in Iraq itself. As well as this the US has committed so many of its own men and equipment, it has no power to deal effectively with the main terrorists - ie Al Qaeda. Furthermore the US has not made, or chooses not to make available, the resources needed to alleviate the poverty and oppression which are the root cause of the violence and rebellions of Muslims [mainly] against what they see as the blatant oppression, decadence and greed of the West, particularly the USA..  

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 2 Dec  Official start of Oz summer was yesterday 1st December.

Well there we go! How time flies. Or, more to the point, how insidiously the gifts of maturity enter into one's bones... But that's all right. The alternative is unthinkable, for any reasonable person in good health anyway.
Summer is upon us who live in the southern hemisphere once again.

And what is going on at the moment?
  • Some of the kids have finished school/uni for the year.
  • The kitchen renovations are still not finished - I just hope like hell it will all be done by Xmas - but the plasterers were the people who stuffed us around, taking at least three different attendances to get the basic work finished and then leaving the final sanding down for a week and a half. The sanding itself only took an hour or so. When I have details of the names of the guys and their phone number I will put them here with a stern warning not to employ these people in future. The carpenter, plumber and electrician on the other hand have all been very good so far. I will dig out their contact details also.
  • Glenda's parents are not well and her father in particular is descending ever more deeply into Alzheimer's
  • My dad has seemingly allowed himself to be scammed by the 'Swiss Lottery' crooks or some such. I can't believe he allowed himself to fall for that shit.
  • There is a quite contagious 'face slap' virus going around amongst school kids in WA, so called because it causes a deep red area of raised inflammation or rash to appear on the sufferers' cheeks. We think our youngest has been affected by this, or at least I do because she has had a raised temperature on and off for the last week or so with obvious red cheeks on some days. Glenda is not so sure however.
  • I have at last finished reading my signed copy of Going Postal by Mr Terry Pratchett and it is a hoot! To be most highly recommended! I think anybody with a modicum of intelligence could read this one without having read any others of his Discworld series and could get right into it without too much trouble at all. In this respect it is like The Truth which is the first one I ever read.

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Footnotes

 10

 1,000 BODIES A DAY

Some Indonesians said they fear becoming dependent on aid and worry about when international efforts wind down.

"I don't want to stay here forever, but I'm not sure how to get out," said Yunus, a tailor who lost his shop and house, and is now living in a refugee camp.

The WFP said it was positioning a floating warehouse off Indonesia's ravaged west coast.

A 3,000-tonne ship with its own landing craft, loading facilities and enough supplies of rice, noodles and biscuits to feed survivors for a month was due to arrive on Monday.

"It will make a significant difference to food distribution on the west coast. Obviously, we are at the stage where we have to make our own arrangements, with the anticipated departure of the assisting militaries," WFP spokesman Gerald Bourke said.

Volunteers and soldiers in Aceh still pull more than 1,000 bodies daily from the mud and destroyed buildings. The corpses are usually dumped in mass graves.

With so many missing, conflicting figures put the toll of deaths in a dozen countries from Indonesia to Somalia at between 165,000 and 234,000.

Governments and private groups around the world have pledged more than $7 billion in relief funds.

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