Working: like a dog

Ok, technically dogs don't work - well, unless they are working dogs (I should think my metaphors through more carefully) - and they probably don't use computers or sit at desks on Swiss balls or use free/open source software but all these things aside, it's going to be a busy one today.

In the spirit of procrastination I've left my deliverables to the last moment - though steady progress is being made - and it's time to get stuck in.

Who knows, might even have to cut morning tea back to 20-30 mins :)


Watching: Kevin Rudd on Lateline last night

The more I see of this guy the more impressed I am. The Prime Miniature is going to have to pull out something particularly sneaky and evil this election if he wants to keep his job. (And perhaps his seat)

Ruddy (K-Rudd, the Ruddmeister, Kruddy - this is going to need some work) was really on top of things and seems to have a plan. Admittedly Tony Jones tossed him up a few lollies in the interview stakes and didn't overly push Rudd on some of his answers (most likely because he answered the questions so effectively) but didn't let him off scot-free either, pressing him on what he planned to say to (Evil Dick) Cheney when they meet on Friday.

The usual tired cries of ABC left-wing bias will no doubt spew forth from the peanut gallery (Rod Quantock made the point recently that the ABC would have to be run by Lenin and Marx to make up for the right-wing bias in commercial media) but the fact is that Rudd spoke with conviction and intelligence on a swag of topics for more than 20 minutes. (Another one of the things I love about Lateline and the ABC, which commercial station would give over this much time to a single interview and digging down into detail?)

At the end of the interview, Tony Jones seemed impressed with Rudd and finished up by saying "Kevin Rudd, it sounds like your speechwriters have come from the West Wing" - which I think was a good call. Roll on the election.

You can download this interview from http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/vodcast.htm

The transcript isn't up on the ABC website yet but you can check here for it during the day.

Riding home: through the puddles in the rain

Worth every squelchy moment. :)


Playing: my new guitar

Sitting in the arm chair last night picking away at my new electric guitar, my housemate Abi came in and sat next to me (banging the guitar head in the process - accidentally I know but it put me on edge a little) and said - "Oh, is that Tim's guitar?".

Now strictly speaking it was Tim's guitar but it's mine now (preeeciiiouss) and for whatever reason I didn't take that so well. It's as though I've mentally incorporated some of the guitar's "cool factor" into my own personality and having the guitar associated with Tim rather than me took me out of that zone.

(Yes, I can be a bit of a twat sometimes :)

Anyway my response was a bit of a mini-scowl and a muttered "No, it's mine". If you're out there Abi, sorry I was a grumpy git. (She promptly disappeared to her room) (And yes, next time I see her I will apologise in person)

Anyway (I really use that word a lot, don't I) after this I took both guitars to my room for a bit of a play. I have a trusty old nylon stringed acoustic as well which I got at uni about 15 years ago when the fret-bar thingys (what do you call the metal bits that divide the frets?) on my first guitar started falling off. (I'd like to say that it's because I was so rock but that's just not true).

So I worked through my usual warm-up routine (previously mentioned here), firstly on the acoustic and then with the electric (all plugged in and amped up).

It was the little differences that made it interesting. I've often bemoaned the fact that the frets on the acoustic are spread so far apart and that the neck is so wide, making it difficult to reach across to the fourth fret and beyond. (Because obviously it wouldn't be my lack of dedication to practice). I took comfort in the thought that when I (finally) got an electric, everything would be more centrally located.

Well this is true however it also means that the strings are a tiny bit closer to one another as well, giving me a decidedly sausage fingers experience at times.

The difference between the nylon (acoustic) and steel (electric) strings helped here in some ways, with the steel strings being thinner and feeling more precise.

After 15 years of playing one guitar, my fingers have physical memory of the chord shapes that I need (mostly - F is still iffy) and that translated across fairly well but finding the strings when picking will take a little more time.

It was when I moved on to the songs that I'm learning that the leccy's charms started to really come out. Rocking along to the admittedly simple chords of the Dandy Warhols' Godless in particular was a lot of fun and if it wasn't so late, I would have been rocking a whole lot louder. (Actually, this doesn't sound very rock at all but what can I say, I'm generally a considerate guy).

Neil Young's Heart of Gold was similarly fun while Down Below by The Cruel Sea possibly sounded better on the acoustic, as did Spanish Sky by Chris Isaak.

Even though there is a strap on the electric, I'm not quite up to standing and playing yet but all things in time.


Playing : Babyfoot

Babyfoot, Foosball, Table Soccer (Babyfoot is the French term for it and I'd say the coolest) - whatever you call it, I've been playing it.

Not necessarily as well as these guys but playing it nonetheless.

My (now former) housemate Tim's friend Hamish (whose room incidentally I now live in) has a serious babyfoot table set up in his flat and Eric (French housemate), Tim and I headed over there last night for a few beers and a few games.

I might start by mentioning that this is a game that I've played perhaps 5 times in my life - it's always seemed interesting but ultimately I've tended to prefer Air Hockey.

(Not that I'm making excuses for how particularly lame I was/am at the game, it's just a fact. I'm happy to have scored a few goals in each game and not done the undy run around the table)

One of the things I like about Hamish's table is that each player has the head of a rock/pop star. (And Stevie Wonder is stuck in the middle of the field as referee).

Here's Art Garfunkel. Some I didn't recognise but I remember Kurt Cobain, PJ Harvey, Thom Yorke, Janis Joplin and I'm not sure if this was McCartney or Jagger.

There is apparently some secret key to the two teams (I suspect it's living vs dead musicians) but this is yet to be revealed.

The gameplay was fun and surprisingly physical, there are evidently key strategies that I need to learn (though I might say that we didn't see any of the trick shots from the video, so maybe if I master them...) and the evening ended with Hamish proclaimed supreme master of the table. (Ok, not literally, that would be just far too geeky but he did reign undefeated)

Here are a few more shots - I'm a bit of a fan of the camera phone look, I thought about bringing my proper digital camera but there is something very documentary, very gritty and real about pix from a camera phone that really appeals. It also brings a slightly painterly quality to things as well (if you'll excuse the wankiness)

Ok, well I'm off to eBay now to see what one of these babies is worth.

(I'm also thinking that if - scratch that - when I have a band, Babyfoot is a pretty good name. Up there with Ampersand - which unfortunately is taken).

One final thing that I liked about this particular table was that with the red vs navy blue strip it was just like the A-League final between Melbourne and Adelaide the other day.


Grinning : like an idiot

Dear God, please let this be true :)

PM may struggle to hold Bennelong

A poll out this morning indicates Prime Minister John Howard may face a battle to hold his own seat at the next federal election.

A poll conducted by Roy Morgan Research, for the Crikey website, has found Labor is ahead in Mr Howard's Sydney seat of Bennelong 55 to 45 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

The poll of 400 Bennelong voters was carried out in the middle of last week.

It also revealed a 75 per cent approval rating for Kevin Rudd compared to 44 per cent for the Prime Minister.

The ABC contacted the Prime Minister's office this morning but there was no comment on the Bennelong polling.

Being reminded : why I hate the Murdoch press

(In which Couch Media gets a little Bolt-Watchy)

While The Australian makes claims to be Australia's quality national broadsheet newspaper, (well it is the only nominally national broadsheet) I tend not to read it for it's tendency to rapidly angry up the blood.

Like the rest of the Murdoch/Newscorpse stable, it skews steadfastly to the right of the political spectrum - less obnoxiously than the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph but far more smugly.

I had an RSS feed pop up on the computer just now from The Australian website while I was setting up my Netvibes account on a new computer at work. One headline in particular grabbed my attention - Critics' 'conspiracy' perplexes Flannery.

For those who came in late, Tim Flannery - environmentalist and this years tokenistic choice for Australian of the Year (deserving - certainly but few doubt that this award isn't a desperate grab for eco-cred by the Howard govt) has been taking a bit of flack recent by the usual suspects (the right-wing thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs primarily and assorted Murdoch journos) for his public statements and positions on environmental issues.

In a thinly veiled attempt to give all of these criticisms another airing and Flannery another bashing, The Australian has today run a 'story' with the aforementioned headline - Critics 'conspiracy' perplexes Flannery

The language used to describe Flannery is the first sign that something is amiss. Putting 'conspiracy' in the headline (and later in the body of the article) creates links to conspiracy theorys - the domain of wild haired nutters the world over - and sets the tone of the piece.

He is also variously described directly by the journalist as
having a look of naive bewilderment
playing the media game
trying to court public attention.

He also
gets agitated
his problem appears an old one: a tendency to sensationalise for maximum impact based on the research of others
(Who else do you think of when you read "agitated"? The mentally ill perhaps?)

There is no indication whatsoever that the journalist here - Brad Norington - has even actually spoken to Flannery about this matter - there are a few quotes here and there but these could well have been taken from other sources - indeed I remember reading at least one of them over the weekend in a non-Murdoch paper.

At no point does Flannery directly say that he believes there is any conspiracy - despite the fact that this is the gist of the headline. The closest they come is
He fears a "conspiracy", possibly encouraged at the highest levels of power, is working hard to tear him down.

If he had actually said something along these lines, why not quote him. Quoting one word - which for all we know was a word he had to spell in a high-school spelling bee - followed up with a "possibly" which gives the writer license to speculate at will - is a shocking example of writing.

Further quotes (much lengthier ones) are taken from the aforementioned usual suspects, including this doozy from the IPA

Alan Moran, a director with the Institute of Public Affairs, says Flannery "continually" talks outside his academic expertise and makes outlandish statements: "He's basically an alarmist and not very careful with the factual support for what he says. He's made a lot of comments about coal over time and has not been misunderstood because he's very anti-coal."

A further "expert" is drawn in - John Benson, a senior plant ecologist at Sydney's Botanic Gardens Trust - as you really need another scientist's opinion if you are going to attack someone who knows more about something than you or right-wing ideologues.

I'm just wondering how far Norington had to go through his phone book of scientists before he found someone prepared to speak to him. Most of what is written about Benson's concerns isn't even directly quoted but paraphrased - and putting spin on what someone meant is a world away from reporting what they actually said. The only direct quote from Benson is this -
He also disputes Flannery's claim in The Future Eaters that Aborigines helped the nation's ecology by deliberately setting bushfires. "That was used in the wrong hands to justify land clearing," he says.

This doesn't read like a disputation of the fact at all, more an expression of disappointment that people who weren't Tim Flannery chose to misrepresent something that he had said to pursue their own agenda. (Of course, I guess Murdoch journo's aren't familiar with this concept so this interpretation no doubt didn't occur to Norington)

The article goes on to imply that Flannery should be mistrusted for being on good terms with Malcolm Turnbull and Alexander Downer and trying to exert influence in the political sphere (because obviously issues such as global warming are best addressed by opening and closing the fridge door a few dozen times to let the cold out) and also because he receives money for giving public lectures.

It finishes with an admission that Flannery tries to live a carbon neutral lifestyle - which no doubt stuck in Norington's craw as the first thing Murdoch "journos" love to do with eco activists is point out that they use cars and thus are rank hypocrites because they want us all to live in bark huts but don't do it themselves.

(Actually, this is one of the points made time and time again - it's particularly been made in attacking Al Gore - the fact that he flies around the world decrying man-made climate change but flying adds to it - that shows the stupidity of the right.

This absolutist positioning that people trying to save the planet expect everything to be suddenly shut down rather than approached in a more rational and sustainable manner just shows how desperate the corporate minions are to FUD things up. (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - techniques mastered by big business, particularly Big Tobacco, to maintain the status quo).

John Howard (I have no doubt) had Tim Flannery appointed Australian of the Year because his government has a serious eco credibility issue in the lead up to this years election so he can't come out and trash the people who actually want to do things about it but I'm sure he thanks Rupert every night that he has friends that will do it for him.

[Outraged rant ends :)]


Buying: An electric guitar

One more step on the road to rock stardom :)