PeeWee Gets An iPad

Is it any wonder we lost the war.....

A bunch of Vietnam Veterans, mostly Army guys with a couple of Navy boys, have been exercising together for well over two years now.
Boy, imagine how fat we’d be if we weren’t exercising!

At the end of our session we get coffee, so I guess it’s more of a social event now.  As you can see, no one is sweatin’.

The Navy guys think it is cool to hang around with us good lookin’ Army types.

The gym has had to turn chicks away by the thousands when we are there.

From Bike Pittsburgh:

A new bike parking location is open at Pittsburgh's Century Building, 130 7th St, between Penn Ave and Fort Duquesne Blvd. $100/year gets you access to two bright-green, locked shipping containers for secure bike parking. There are also bike racks under an awning provided free, covered bike racks.

The Bicycle Commuter Center is the brainchild of Bill Gatti from TREK Development Group, the company that developed the Century Building. They're trying to attract young people to live downtown, and to build foot traffic in the area.

They're not quite bike lockers, which are very cool, but this is the next-best. It's a small good thing.

I was an infantry soldier in Vietnam in 1970/71.

I gave a disc of the pictures I took in Vietnam to Ern Marshall who has a very good site on the Vietnam War,  to my amazement he put them all on his site!

Some of my pics are here 

This is one of my favourites
We are dirty, unshaven and travelling light this day to meet the boss who has some mail and drinks for us. We've been on patrol for a couple of weeks and doing it a bit tough.  That's Roy, Ashes and Harry the Black.  I'll post a story on Harry the Black soon.
 The padre came along this day as it was not long after one of our mates was killed.  Thats the padre with no hat or weapon.  Next to him is the OC, Capt Brewer; and then our platoon sgt Mick Coleman. That ugly bastard with the mail is Big Julie (who is not well incidentally) 

Paying the Enemy?

I am a Vietnam Veteran and I have a son in the Army who is due to be deployed to Afghanistan soon, so I feel I am more qualified than most to comment publicly on this issue

There is an article in The Australian today that says we have pledged $25m to Afghanistan to pay the Taliban to lay down their arms.

Anyone who knows me will be amazed when I declare that I AM FUCKING SPEECHLESS!

I like to watch.

I pinched that line from a Peter Sellers movie.   

I don’t watch much TV, or go to the movies very often.

Paula and I went to see Avatar in 3D and I am going back to see it again – I just put my brain into neutral and enjoyed the ride.

I am really over American movies and TV shows; and I can't stand those bloody sitcoms.  I dunno why they pay the celebrities so much money to overact and to say those chintzy lines dreamed up by the script writers. 

Lemme see how to make a goodin’, American style.....

A shoot-em-up

Cars stacked on the mill and no one gets hurt

Explosions that are big flame balls (has anyone seen a real explosion?)

Good lookin’ cast with perfect teeth and perfect hair and no wrinkles on their faces.

Show fear, anger, hatred, jealousy and coolness – all in the one scene.

Spend a gazillion on props.

Gimme British stuff anytime.  They have actors that look like real people with real teeth.  Which brings me to what I wanted to tell you about.....

Paula bought two series of the BBC drama “When the Boat Comes In” on DVD just before Christmas.  We spent a lot of the Christmas holidays in an air conditioned lounge room while it was 40 degrees outside and we watched these shows.  The series was made in the 70s and it is superb.  We finished watching the whole two series and thought that was it – then I managed to get the whole four series on DVD from the UK via Ebay, and we are gradually working our way through it.

A fantastic series.

Other shows I like are..

Judge John deed

Caesar Milan the Dog Whisperer  (my Jack Russell has proved to be a perfect student in Caesar’s techniques.)

Channel 13 Austar (Actually it’s 113)

How the Earth was Made

Various documentaries on animals and nature.

I avoid the news which is all American anyhow.  I often wonder what happened in Canada or New Zealand today – certainly nothing on the news.   

I can’t stand those reality shows and network dramas that are formula driven, even the scripts are the same in each country which runs their local version.

Anyway, time to check out what Jack Ford is up to on “When the Boat Comes In”

ps - Don't forget to go and see Avatar in 3D.

The Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Comet.

Three Champions.

We have read that the Pittsburgh Comet may shut down.
Say it ain't so.

We'll build you a stadium.
We'll give you a sweetheart deal on the land.
We'll arrange corrupt financing.
We'll make closed-door backroom development arrangements.
We'll ignore Council and the voters.
You can ride in Burkle's jet.
We won't pay anybody a living wage.
You can put up all the digital signs you'd like.
Zoning won't be an issue.
Don't sweat the neighborhood issues.

We'll do these things, not because you'd like them, but because
they'll give you things to investigate and blog about.

Say it ain't so.

The Beaver Changes Its Name

Located twenty miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh, the bucolic borough of Beaver PA has been known to flirt with pretensions of grandeur. Realtors™ are known to say, "Beaver is the other Sewickley". Particularly self-assured residents may even turn it around and say, "Sewickley is the Beaver of Allegheny County".

Residents of Mount Lebanon are quite confident that neither of these cute hamlets will present any challenge to their dominance.

But there's a problem with building websites for Beaver businesses: web filters and parental controls tend to exclude websites that include certain words, as today's story in the New York Times regarding the renaming of a Canadian magazine will illustrate.

In 1920 when the Hudson’s Bay Company began publishing a magazine for its 250th anniversary, The Beaver probably seemed to be a good title. The company owed much of its early fortune to the trade in beaver pelts.

The Beaver, which was initially a bit of in-house boosterism, evolved into a respected magazine about Canadian history. Last week Canada’s National History Society, the nonprofit group that now publishes The Beaver, decided that the Internet required the magazine to undergo a name change.

There are workarounds. You avoid repeating the address on every page. You can present the address as a typographic image, rather than as actual text. You can submit the site to various web screening services and hope to make the whitelist.

There may be Seven Words You Can't Say on TV, but there are many more problematic words on the web.

Australia Day tomorrow - we'll be here, bright and early

Finished: The Back of the Napkin

Finished reading "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam. This book dealt with thinking visually and telling/selling through images, specifically sketches and charts drawn on Napkins.

Back of the Napkin: Visual Thinking CodexRoam presents a series of thought experiments that takes the reader through his perspective on drawing. He asks, How come in Kindergarten everybody can draw, and by 12th Grade nobody thinks they can draw? His Visual Codex provides generic examples of the type of pictures you might use in different situations, determined by the interrogatives (when where who what how why) and by a selection of five dimensions that he identifies.

napkins for drawingRoam recommends Vanity Fair Everyday napkins for drawing, but says that most any will do.

Where Edward Tufte is a minimalist and a purist, Roam is more of a generalist, more concerned with generously communicating an idea than the efficiency of how many dots are required to display meaning.

This was a very good book that I'll make use of whenever I think about how to make a conceptual presentation.
Has man made global warming finished?  

I ask because the topic seems to have gone cold in the news.  I haven't seen some outlandish claims, oh, in weeks now.

It seems that once the guys and gals all got together for their shin ding in Copenhagen it's now all over.  I don't recall seeing the fat lady sing.

Has man made global warming gone the way of the Y2K Bug where we were greeted with silence as the new year dawned? 

I certainly hope it doesn't just die away.  A lot of explaining has to be done by those who have the knowledge, data and evidence - but will the real story ever come out?

Where are those investigative journalists?

Oh, that's right, they were the ones singing the loudest about the LOOMING catastrophic damage to the planet.

OK, that's it for global warming, let's move on to the next big thing...

Hmmm, what about the Republic?   Prince William has been in the news here a lot.  His balding top seems to be the big point that the newspapers are making.  Will he be king of Australia?  Dunno.  But maybe we can resurrect Malcolm Turnbull to look into it now that he has nothing to do.

ps I am related to Malcolm through a common ancestor, Owen Cavanough, from the first fleet. 

The full story is here 

This is a good article by Sean Parnell as it highlights how veterans are 'abandoned' by the services.

A couple of points that are not mentioned in this article.

First, it is service wide.  It doesn't matter whether you are Army, Navy or Air Force.  If you can't pass the tests you're out; regardless of the cause.

Second, there are hundreds of volunteer pension officers who are helping guys just like Major Bird.  They are ex service people who know how hard it is to seek military compensation.

To its credit, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) assists these volunteer pension officers by providing computers and stuff to help guys like Major Bird submit his claim.  At a recent meeting of volunteer pension officers and advocates in Sydney before Christmas, the Repatriation Commissioner Bill Rolfe (I was in the same rifle company in Vietnam with Bill) advised us that the reality of the GFC is that we cannot expect DVA to keep increasing the expenditure on grants to help us.  Bill is highly regarded in the veteran community and I am sure he got a fair hearing when he told us that we need to work smarter by sharing resources.

Nothing wrong with that.  Our mob does that already, we especially share our intellectual assets

DVA expenditure on volunteers helping veterans is $4m.  

DVA expenditure on lawyers fighting veterans is $10m. 

A wingspan of over 2 metres

It's a sign of courage by a local politician if they advocate realigning political boundaries - merging the City and County, or doing something about the number of local political entities that once made sense but now primarily serve to maintain the status quo.

Maybe that's not enough of a change. Maybe we should think bigger.

Neil Freeman takes realignment to a higher level, and considers what the map of states would look like if they were realigned the way Districts of the House of Representatives are. Here's his view of the 50 states (click the image for his site):

In our present format, the population of states ranges from 493,782 to 33,871,648. In Neil Freeman's depiction, the population of states will range from 5.4 to 5.6 million. Major cities and their suburbs are in the same state. His map restores the historical structure of the electoral college and the political alignment of the United States' federal system.

In this image to the right, I've overlaid the existing state boundaries above our regional map in Neil Freeman's depiction.

In the areas that I'm familiar with, these boundaries make contemporary sense. Breaking Upstate New York into Erie, New England, and Susquehanna makes great sense. I think the Ohio split into North Coast and Sohio makes sense. I like the way the State of Allegheny works. I think that the States of Allegheny and Erie would be better off in the new structure than they currently are, combined in the same entity as Philadelphia.

I think we'd have better national politics with a state map like this.

Facebook's Information Bubble

Economists generally warn us about bubbles, where the pressure of growth exceeds underlying fundamentals; once speculation sets it the bubble becomes an attractive nuisance, and when the bubble pops it leaves a lot of people suffering, except for the smart ones who know enough to get out early.

FacebookFacebook has become an information bubble. It knows so much about so many people, but the real treasure is that it knows who your network is. This accumulation of glommed data is a marketer's fantasy come true. And yet, Facebook has not found a way to make money.

This week's New York Times artice, The Three Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now, is notable for a few reasons. To myself it's notable in that it's lifted, word for word, from its original position on Read Write Web. Usually the Grey Lady does not simply repurpose content from another source without explicitly acknowledging the provenance, but perhaps times are changing.

The most important thing about the article is its urgency and its degree of specificity; click this, hover there, choose this. This sort of specific guidance from a source with geek credibility is commendable.

FacebookIANAF (I am not a Facebook-er), but I've had friends show me what they do on Facebook. I haven't tried it because I'm concerned it's a lot like doing heroin, one flirtation and you're hooked. That seems to be the case among people I know.

Last week a friend of mine sent me a link to his Facebook page so I could see his avatar image. I also saw the avatars of a dozen of his friends. Being somewhat geeky, I pressed Shift/F5, the page refreshed, and I saw another dozen friends. I did that a few times and realized that anybody can sequence through all of any Facebooker's friends.

I followed a few of the links, because I know some of his friends. On their Facebook pages, I found other people I knew among their friends - these would be "co-friends". I found I could even drill down to friends-cubed, third-level friends. This is sort of the opposite of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Facebook's Info Bubble

The thing that concerns me is that people are loading their information about themselves and their friends into Facebook, assuming that FB is (1) benign, (2) cost-free, and (3) sustainable. The problem is that eventually, Facebook is going to have to make money.

When a guy with a forest needs money, he sells firewood.
When an Afghan farmer needs money, he sells opium.
When a company with your information needs money, they sell your information.

In his new book, Jarod Lanier writes regarding Facebook, "The real customer is the advertiser of the future, but this creature has yet to appear at the time this is being written. The whole artifice, the whole idea of fake friendship, is just bait laid by the lords of the clouds to lure hypothetical advertisers—we might call them messianic advertisers—who might someday show up".

"The only hope for social networking sites from a business point of view," Lanier writes, "is for a magic formula to appear in which some method of violating privacy and dignity becomes acceptable."

Facebook users are giving this Corporation most of their key information. Facebookers that take surveys and complete profiles give even more information that helps FB assign them to various demographic profiles.

When Facebook goes bankrupt, a few interesting things will happen. Their assets will be reorganized and used in the most financially beneficial way. What's interesting is that the Facebook privacy policy and privacy guarantee evaporate into vapor at the moment of bankruptcy. When the Facebook bubble bursts, the privacy policy pops too.

There will be a bidding war for FaceBook's database, which will become more valuable in bankrupcty (free of the privacy policy) than it ever was during Facebook's tenure.

The smartest thing for the buyer of the database to do would be to immediately reintroduce the Facebook service, encouraging Facebookers to continue contributing and updating their information, only now without the same privacy policy.

Primbee by the lake

Nice car huh?

Itsa bit late, I can't sleep and I am outa rum; so I bin lookin' at cars on the internet.

I really like the style and look of these Jaguars, they remind me of the E Type Jaguars from the 60s.  I had a mate in Cootamundra where I went to school.  His father ran a garage and had an E Type.  I got to sit in the driver's seat one day and I could hardly push the clutch in, it was so heavy. But I was impressed!

The above model ran from the late 90s to the early 00s and they are now selling for as low as $30,000.  That's a big drop from $200,000 new.

I hear the early models had troubles with their engines so I'd better steer clear of them. 

I wonder how much a grease and oil change would cost?

You're gonna wash me eh?

Don't worry about the look on Buster's face, he loves every minute of it!

I bin mowing lawns for over 45 years and it is only this year that I am getting it right.

You see I used to mow the lawn really, really short, that way I figured I'd have to mow less often.


See how nice the lawn looks when cut a little higher, and it's easier too.

Yep, I bin a dickhead for 45 years when it comes to mowing lawns - but no more.

I even know when to stop - I wait for the lumbar spondylosis to kick in, then the osteroarthrosis on my left knee to play up; and finally the main indicator is when wet stuff appears on my face.  That's when I stagger inside and hopefully I'll be rewarded with a nice cuppa from Paula.

Hey, my day is not done - the dog has to be washed!

The Bag Lady of Oahu

This picture was taken at Diamond Head, an extinct volcano in the south east of the island of Oahu, Hawaii. In the background is Waikiki.

To get here, the bag lady endured a two hour journey. It began with a bus ride from Waikiki, then a walk up to the crater, through a tunnel that cut through the outer edge of the crater, a climb up a worn and well trodden path that was wet and slippery from a week of showers. Indeed some parts of the island were still without power due to the storms as the bag lady continued her journey to the top of Diamond Head.

She was well prepared. She had on her rain-proof hat, a 99c raincoat and a $6.99 (plus tax) umbrella. She carried this stuff in her red bag – no fancy back-packs here.

It was no easy journey. She bent over with the exertion required for the steep climb, puffing and panting, her knees aching in protest. The intermittent showers failed to dampen her spirit within. She tackled the steps, two sets, and rested in between. Then she tackled the spiral staircase.

Suddenly she was at the top, 232 metres above sea level. She could see nothing because of the heavy rain. She waited, and waited some more. Fifteen minutes later there was a break in the weather.

That’s when I took her picture.

The grin never left her face.

 She was not from Oahu, but Australia. This was her first trip overseas to Hawaii. She had dreamed of visiting this place for many, many years. Michener’s novel lit a flame within her that didn’t diminish even after the 30 years or so since she had read the book, and now finally, in her fifties, she had arrived!

Her name is Paula, she is a remarkable woman. She is intelligent and attractive. She has a keen and somewhat warped sense of humour, with an eye for the ridiculous. These are her obvious traits. But her inner strengths of compassion, kindness and caring for others may not be obvious to some because it is hidden behind her humility.

 It has been a special privilege and honour for me to share my life with Paula for the last 15 years.

I married her in Honolulu on Monday 3rd December 2007.

We don't have any magpies around our place in Wollongong, but there are still plenty in the bush.

I do miss their warbling.

I went off photography for a few years when digital manipulation came in.  These days any old shot can be tarted up, sometimes too much in my opinion.

I still think there is something magical about getting a great shot, being in the right place at the right time; like this one of the magpie.

To me photography is all about light, and how it plays on a subject.  I'd like to do a photography course but I am a hopeless student.  I usually end up asking a zillion questions and dominating the class.  

So I taught myself about photography.  

I am in awe of the professional guys though.

Notice the mirror on that sharp bend?

The moral of the story is...

Check a bloody normal map before taking a Garmin shortcut!!!

I wuz in Tumut over Christmas and on my way back to Wollongong I decided to call in and see an old Army mate at Queanbeyan.

Now I know the way - pop down to Gundagai, zoom along the Hume Highway that is double divided all the way to the Canberra turnoff - ezy.

But my Garmin was having non of it.

I gave it its head.  

Big mistake.

It took me on a short cut through Wee Jasper, I reckon it took me over an hour longer.

But the scenery was nice.....

The real jungle book?

Unbelievable!  A tiger, a lion and a bear living together - and they are mates.

Well probably until one of them gets a girlfriend, and then it's all over.

More story and pics .... 

Gee, what am I going to write?

Green Pirates in a Seagoing Prius

Once upon a time, there was an alternative fuels (biodiesel) vehicle named Earthrace. She was a 78-foot wave-piercing trimaran made out of carbon fiber. She was created to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat while making an environmental statement. The way-cool vertical fins at the stern are engine air intakes.

After that project, she was seconded to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which could be described as a Green Peace splinter group. She was refitted with Kevlar wrapped around the carbon-fiber hull, and was equipped with speakers capable of 9,000 watts to disrupt whaling operations. She was re-christened Ady Gil, after a Sea Shepherd sponsor. Her mission was to join Sea Shepherd's 2009-2010 anti-whaling effort and physically block the harpooning of whales.

The Japanese whaling fleet was not unprepared. Their company included the Shonan Maru 2, which is described as a "security and utility" vessel. For two days, the Ady Gil had prevented the whaling fleet from taking a single whale. The Ady Gil had announced their intention to ram the stern (disabling the rudder) of any ship that harpooned a whale. Also, the Ady Gil was towing a rope while sailing close to whaling ships in hopes of fouling the propellers. Finally, series of maneuvers culminated in the Shonan Maru2 ramming the Ady Gil. In the photo at right you can see the Ady Gil under the Shonan Maru.

There's always at least two sides to a story. Japan's Cetacean Research Institute, which supports the whaling for research purposes (I guess it's for their own good), claims that their vessel was attacked by the Ady Gil. The Ady Gil was flying a pirate's flag, and had the skull-and-crossbones painted on the hull.

One crewmember of the Ady Gil suffered broken ribs in the collision. The violence was limited to the collision; there was no shooting. Another Sea Shepherd vessel attempted to tow the Ady Gil to port, but the carbon-fiber trimaran was lost enroute.

Here's a video of the ramming, you may want to mute your speakers - language not appropriate for young audiences.

Here we have activists and industry engaging in acts of war on the open ocean. National governments once held a monopoly on the legitimate use of organized violence. What makes this interesting to me is it's another indication of the diminishing hegemony of nation-states.

The true believers in the Sea Shepherd vessels are no different from their fellow travelers in other conflicts who are willing to be martyred for their cause. The industry, with shadow support from government, is the true seat of power.

Finally, it must be said that this represents another round in the geek Pirates vs Ninja internet meme (Pirates=Sea Shepherd, Ninja=Japanese security vessel). (also)

Failure to Connect the Dots

Today's Wall Street Journal carries this news about a recent snafu:

Connecting the dots, or pattern recognition, is something humans are supposed to be good at. It's an essential survival skill, and it's the subject of much research. While individuals are excellent at pattern recognition, organizations don't seem to be very good at it at all.

On 12/23, before the Detroit attack, I blogged about alternative New York magazine covers that summarized the decade. I really liked the one that summarized the decade through an image of connected dots because that was the phrase for the failures that led to 9/11, and I thought we'd been trying to make ourselves a connect-the-dots decade.

I also liked the artist's work because it suggested that reality is a probability distribution, if you think about the dots as waves rather than particles, and at times that's a good way to look at things.

In the aftermath of the Detroit attack on NWA flight 253, an Airbus 330, and recognizing that we failed at pattern recognition in both 2001 and 2009, I've revised the artist's depiction.

I wanted to include a video of PeeWee Herman playing "connect the dots" on Magic Screen, but for the first time YouTube gave me bupkis.

From cartoonist Steve Benson: