Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two interesting little words

Public service. Let's pause to reflect upon those two interesting words, shall we? 'Public service', you might think, is a 'service' provided for the 'public' at those times when the 'public' requires a 'service', often by people skilled in the delivery of 'services' for the 'public' - called, in the evocative language of the times, 'public servants'.

Whoa! Not so fast there with your assumptions, sonny! Just because you happen to be lucky enough to be a member of the public ('somebody who exists') don't go thinking that public services are services provided for the public. They're provided to the public, sure, but public services are actually services provided for governments, by governments; and they're not so much there to 'provide a service' as to meet economical and environmental guidelines and to satisfy the stringent regulations laid on them by governments. So you can see 'public services' are so much more important than mere services provided to the public!

Here's a fascinating example. Adelaide has recently been experiencing a whopper of a heatwave, a real bastard of a thing. Exactly the sort of time you might want a 'public service' like 'electricity', right? Wrong! South Australians have been advised not to use their air conditioners during the heatwave, out of consideration for one another. The logic goes like this, see - it would be a real bummer if the power went off while you were using your air conditioner, and if everyone used their air conditioners at once, as they tend to in the middle of a heatwave, the power might, well, go off. So to avoid the power going off, you don't turn the power on in the first place. Simple!

And what about this quirky little example, from where I live, Melbourne? It was a horrid day. We've had a record heatwave, and things just seemed to get worse and worse. Unfortunately, Melbourneans, troubled, perhaps, by the occurrence of 'pain' and 'heatstroke' when they stood in the heat, made the mistake of turning on their air conditioners as soon as they got inside. Result? By the end of the day, power had gone off around the city, and all the public transport had ceased to work. So all the hot and weary and tired commuters had to find alternative means of transport*.

Isn't that wonderful? By now, I think I've given you enough examples, and I'm able to proceed to my main point. I have discovered this: that public service is something that the public are completely free to use at all times, except when they need to. This is why electricity works at all times except when in a heatwave; and also why transport works every hour of every day except at the end of the day during a heatwave. And what a wonderful concept it is!

Imagine if the 'public service' that is so generously provided to us by the government were extended to other things in life. Doors, for instance. If we were free to use doors at any time except those times when we needed them, they'd be much easier to make. Instead of being made out of expensive things like 'door latches' and 'door knobs' and 'door hinges' and 'doors', they could be replaced by other things. Like bricks. Then we wouldn't have to walk anywhere at all, we could just sit in our rooms and, like, respirate for the whole day. Similarly, many other things, like pens, phones, fridges, cars, and houses could be made out of much simpler and less expensive materials, and we would be released from the obligation of 'using' them when we 'needed' them. I'm sure there's a government department working out a way to provide these 'public services' as we speak.

"Beats me," says the guy in Adelaide. "I was just hot and needed to turn on the air conditioner. Is it too much to expect electricity as a public service?"

And I suppose we could do more to provide services to the public as part of the 'public services' that they expect. Like build more power plants, or nuclear plants, or allowing greater competition in the energy sector, or not setting prices, and so on. We could put in more dams and energy infrastructure, and upgrade our rail systems and roads, and heck, we could even build an across-Australia broadband network while we're at it. But that sounds a little complicated. Certainly too complicated for so simple and elegant a system as the 'public service', don't you think?

I know I do.

*Thankfully, the day before, Connex had announced that all transport on Friday would be free, which was not only generous, but, in hindsight, obvious. You don't have to pay for transport that you don't use, and you can't use transport if it doesn't work! This is why we have 'public service' companies like Connex, to organise things like this for us.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The lunch they have when they don't have lunch

Lunch break at my workplace is a laughable idea in more ways than one. For one thing, it's usually not 'lunch', since we do shift work and what we call 'lunch' falls halfway between whenever we start and whenever we finish. Sometimes this makes it closer to dinner time, sometimes it's closer to breakfast. It's hardly a 'break', either. Those of us who are lucky officially get half an hour off (the only official break that is regularly scheduled in the day, in fact). Once my lunch break was so short that it officially ended before it started, which was a real bugger.

Still, if you're spry and keep an eye on the time, you can stroll down to Errol Street, enjoy a smoothie from a cafe, get a sandwich from the shops, and toddle back to your work desk with minutes to spare. I like to do this as it gets me out of the office and I get a chance to stretch my legs.

Not today, though: Melbourne was officially hotter than hell, and there was no way I was leaving the air conditioned womb of my office. Still, I decided, it was necessary to get as much enjoyment out of my lunch as possible, and so I decided to pack in all the varied enjoyments and delights of my half-hour walk around North Melbourne into the small office space. So at 4.15 PM, I officially notified my colleagues via email that I was checking out and going to lunch.

For the first ten minutes, 4.15 to 4.25, I was of course walking up to Errol Street. This was made somewhat difficult by the fact that I was doing it while seated down, in my chair. And by and large, the walking involved me swinging around occasionally and turning pages in my book, Lud-in-the-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees. This was further complicated by the fact that C. was seated at her computer just across from me bashing away at whatever transcript it was they gave her to torment me with.

Not to worry, though. By 4.25 I had arrived at Errol Street and commenced to saunter around the shops, thinking idly what I might get myself for lunch. Well, it wasn't so much 'saunter', as swing around in my chair for another minute or two; and it wasn't so much 'around the shops', as I took my book and toddled off to the office toilet, where I finished off another page. I decided that I didn't really want a large lunch, maybe just a drink with a little something. Perhaps some mocha? Then again, the cappuccinos down Errol Street are pretty good too. But I had my heart set on a mocha, so I took my cup, poured the rest of my jar of Milo into it, and took it into the kitchen where I added milk and boiling water, and stirred. Mocha at its finest! I returned to my chair, and closed my eyes as I enjoyed the culinary delights of Errol Street. In the office.

By that time it had got to about 4.35. It was almost my time to walk back to the office (even though I hadn't left it), but I was still feeling a tad hungry. I decided to get a take away cappuccino from the cafe (instant coffee, with boiling water, and milk!) and - since I had discovered a spare two dollars handy in my top pocket - one of their sweet muffins (a Mars Bar from the sweets machine!) I read another half page of my book, and then sauntered over to the kitchen again and got these things. By the time I got back it was almost time to get back to work, but I did a quick, experienced check of my email and comments on my blog before getting back to the transcripts.

On the whole, lunch at work was a fulfilling experience, and I quite enjoyed my little wander around the office, seeing the sights, and so forth. (Though I don't know whether Red appreciated me wandering past his computer all the time when he was doing work.) Though next time maybe I'll just go down Errol Street again. Even if it is hot. Don't want to get too set in my routines, or anything.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The bitter butter nutter

LEMON BUTTER Juice of 2 lemons rind of 1 lemon 1 well beaten egg 1 tablespoon butter enough sugar to thicken bring to boil while stirring.
That was the recipe for lemon butter Lachlan sent me this Tuesday via mobile. On Australia Day he'd promised to bring lemon butter over, but instead he brought a whole bunch of lemons, and left me to figure out what to do with them. Being wildly original, I hit on the plan of making some lemon butter - hence the SMS.

Somewhat irrationally, I decided to do it late tonight, in the middle of this four-day Melbourne heatwave. Since I had tonnes of lemons, and thought I had tonnes of sugar, I decided to do double quantities. How hard could it be? I juiced the lemons, added them with the rind to a small saucepan, and as I started to bring it to the boil, remembered that I'd forgotten the eggs. Not a problem. I sprinted to the fridge, broke open two eggs, and quickly beat them up with a fork. Well, you can beat and beat and beat eggs and still be the loser: my lemon butter quickly revealed solidified remnants of egg white that floated sadly to the surface and then down into the depths again.

I added sugar. Then I added some more. Then I added some more, again. And again. And again. The butter remained entirely liquid, it refused to 'thicken' as the recipe seemed to say it would. It occured to me after a while that perhaps I'd just have to wait for the thing to boil and cool down, after which it would do the thickening. Barely had I turned my back on it than it decided to start boiling. Boiling? It was more like a chemical explosion; it fizzed out of my tiny pan, hitting the hot pan on the stove, causing me to take it off and pour it all into my biggest saucepan. I whacked it back on, and stirred like crazy to try and contain the convulsing liquid below the surface.

Eventually I got it calmed down, but noticed that it was STILL not thickening. What the hell was I going to have to do? I decided then that the whole point of lemon butter was not lemon, or butter, but sugar. I'd have to start adding sugar like a bastard. So I stopped shovelling spoonfuls of sugar in and instead just started pouring it straight from the box into the pan, and stirring. No such luck. Eventually I got to the bottom of the box and started rummaging around in my cupboard, emerging with a four-fifths full bag of caster sugar. In this went, into the seething and spitting mass of lemon butter (well, the seething and spitting mass that was still in the pan and not all over the stove, anyway). That dwindled away to two fifths of a bag, then to one tenth of a bag, then the whole bag.

I scrutinised the panful of lemon butter with a jaded eye. It was thicker, kind of. I poured part of it into my measuring jug, and poured the contents of my measuring jug into an empty Morello cherry jar, and repeated the process until I'd gotten rid of all of it. Then I shoved it all into the fridge and looked at my phone.

It was 11.30 PM.

Well that attempt at making lemon butter was an utter failure, I texted back to my brother. Next time I bring the lemons and you make the butter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fashion tips from Tim

This natty piece of national neckwear graced my eye as I was perambulating around the web today.

What do you think of it? I'm quite pleased with it, and by the time I left for home I'd half-convinced myself to buy it.

- With this bow-tie, I'll undoubtedly be the most patriotic dandy on the street!
- If people stop me and ask what is the meaning of this, I can simply explain "I wear it for my great love of the nation that brought the world pavlovas, lamingtons, and iced vo vos."

Then again, I don't think I'll buy it after all. Wearing a national symbol in a bow-tie like this would be frivolous, ill-mannered, and utterly tasteless. I mean, come on! There are much smarter ways of wearing the bow-tie.

And I guess it wouldn't look too good for the flag, either.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free!
With manta rays, box jellyfish,
Our home is girt by sea!
Did I forget to mention crocs?
We've also got them there!
And sharks, and also bluebottles -
Advance Australia Fair!
And snakes that like to swim and bite -
Advance Australia Fair!

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
Our magpies swoop and snap!
Our platypi have poison feet,
Our spur-winged plovers flap.
We've spiders, pythons - bloggers too!
On land, in sea, and air!
Our dingoes eat our kids for tea -
Advance Australia Fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing -
Advance Australia Fair!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Literary criticism as a medical condition


MELBOURNE, WEDNESDAY - A man who picked up an unputdownable book on Monday morning found that he was unable to finish the book. Several days later, screaming with boredom, eyes beginning to bleed as he attempted another unreadable sentence in the unlikely literary bestseller that he was incapable of putting down even though he wanted to, he was discovered by his neighbours, who immediately alerted the paramedics. He had only made it to page three.

"We could see it was a serious case," says one paramedic who was on the scene at the time. "We couldn't attempt amputation, as he was still capable of reading through the unputdownable book, with a little gentle encouragement. Only the most serious cases of unreadable unputdownable books are treated with amputation."

The man, who was given stimulants to assist him in his reading of the unputdownable book, finished it four nights later, and put it down with what is reported as "a sigh of relief."
"From now on I'm only going to read eminently putdownable books by the most awful authors imaginable," says the man. "Postmodern theory, for instance. Once I start that, I find I CAN stop - and frequently do."


1) Do not attempt to put it down. Repeated attempts at doing so may cause pain and significant self-harm.

2) If you have picked the book up with only one hand, keep your other hand well away from the book and reach for the phone and call the paramedics.

3) Place the book down on a table or surface at chest height before it starts to feel heavy.

4) With a careful course of assisted reading, you should be able to make it through the unputdownable book in a relatively short time.

Remember, treat unputdownable books like you would any other hazardous substance - do not let any other people near it.

Yes, we still did

You may or may not remember what you were doing on that fateful day after the day after the day after the day after the day when Barack Obama was inaugurated as President. But you were still making history on that special occasion, in which momentuous events had recently happened, and the first African-American president of the United States had been inaugurated just a short while ago. Perhaps you were out walking the dog. Perhaps you were sleeping soundly in bed. Whatever it was you were definitely-doing-but-can't-quite-remember, important decisions that affected the fate of the world were undoubtedly in the process of being decisively thought about, on that very special day after the day after the day after the day after the day of the Inauguration.

Now, with this handsome day after the day after the day after the day after the day of the Inauguration commemoration plate, you can commemorate your lingering pleasure in those fateful-but-slightly-difficult-to-remember-events for all time, or perhaps for a slightly more convenient shorter period of time.

Basically, the only people who would not buy this plate are racists.

To purchase one of these fine and patriotic American plates, write to:, and we will put your plate in the mail right away!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Schmuck Friday

(An occasional series)
This is Gough Whitlam, the ex-Prime Minister of Australia.

Don't you know who I used to be?

You might say he's the quintessential ex-Prime Minister of Australia, the Ex Man of Australian politics. He's been the ex-Prime Minister of Australia for longer than I've lived. As a matter of fact, he's been the ex-Prime Minister for over ten times longer than he's actually been the Prime Minister of Australia.

Why does he go on about it so? Why do the media go on about it so? We're never allowed to forget it: Gough Whitlam is now a somebody, but he was once a somebody that mattered. He's a guy who said, "It's Time," once upon a time. Most ex-politicians like to dwell on their achievements, but with Gough, the focus is single-mindedly, almost obsessively, focused on the achievement of his opponents, the way they managed to get the Governor-General to fire him.

I would like to propose that Gough Whitlam hereby resign from his post as Australia's quintessential ex-Prime Minister. True, it would mean giving up the spotlight and media attention naturally paid to who he once was, but he'd be able to immediately take up a post as the Man-Who-Used-To-Be-Australia's-Ex-Prime-Minister. As Australia's first former ex-Prime Minister he would enjoy a position without peer - and just imagine the media attention he'd get!

Men and women of Australia - it was time!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The state of state poetry

This is Elizabeth Alexander's 'Praise Song for the Day' that she read at Barack Obama's inauguration as president.

What do you all think of it? Pavlov's Cat seemed to like it, but Skeptic Lawyer was less positive. And I don't know how long it took the professional poetry critics to respond to it, but this unenthusiastic response by Adam Kirsch - 'Elizabeth Alexander's bureaucratic verse' - appeared barely hours after the inauguration. But he does make a good point here: "In our democratic age, however, poets have always had scruples about exalting leaders in verse. Since the French Revolution, there have been great public poems in English, but almost no great official poems. For modern lyric poets, whose first obligation is to the truth of their own experience, it has only been possible to write well on public themes when the public intersects, or interferes, with that experience--when history usurps privacy."

Let me put it to all of you folks - what did you think of it? I didn't mind it. It hardly lives up to the standards set by public poets like Spencer, or Kipling, or Dryden, but it strikes me as being a fair example of a lyric written for mass consumption.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Multiple bipolar personality disorder

I just listened to this ABC news segment (not online, but here's a related piece) about a possible genetic link between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and they interviewed a mental health patient talking about the disorders she's been diagnosed with.

I've had depression, bipolar disorder one, manic depression, bipolar disorder two, schizoeffective, schizophrenic, borderline personality disorder.

Crikey! It must be bad enough suffering from one mental illness, but judging from all these responses, her doctors seem to be suffering from hypochondria on her behalf.

Liveblogging the Lego Inauguration

Legoland swears in mini-Barack Obama in mock inauguration

2.00 AM - Well, it's been a long time coming to this Lego inauguaration, and some commentators thought the Lego Barack Obama would never make it. Indeed, there were some anti-plastic Legos in Legoland who insisted that Lego Barack Obama was not a real Lego at all, but a human Barack Obama masquerading as a Lego one. Thankfully, Legos have accepted Barack Obama as their president, and it's clear that this inauguration is a positive step forward for plastic people everywhere.

2.10 AM - And just look at the sea of Lego faces out there. Plastic people from all four corners of the plastic world have gathered here today for this historic moment (so historic, in fact, that it will be repeated over and over again in Legoland for the next few years).

2.15 AM - Terrible! The head of the Lego chief justice has just fallen off during the swearing in! What a bungler! But kudos to Lego Barack Obama, he's paused to let the chief justice retrieve his head. If he's troubled by this mistake, he's not showing it. And as he reaches down to pick up his head, he continues reciting the oath of office.

2.20 AM - Now for the bit everyone's been anticipating. The Lego Barack Obama delivers an inspiring speech to the crowds of waiting Lego Americans. For a plastic toy, he's such an effective speaker! And he's promising to do everything in his power to help rebuild the Lego nation. He says he'll 'put Lego building block on top of Lego building block', and use 'all the latest Lego toy trucks and cars and trains' until the task is done. Inspiring!

2.40 AM - Now he's spoken with the Lego George and Laura Bush. And just look at the plastic smiles on their Lego faces! Come to think of it, George's smile looks a little bit faded. Is it possible that his Lego attendants have had to texta the smile back on his plastic face for this important ceremony?

2.45 AM - It's done!

Lego Barack Obama will now go to work in the Lego Oval office, right in between the little Lego knight dude fighting the Lego dragon, and the Lego guys in space. Huzzah!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Words that will make transcribers across the nation quake with fear

Jon Faine will return to the morning show on 774 ABC Melbourne this month.

What have we ever done to deserve this?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Haecceity! Pardon me!

(say huy'kayuhtee)
noun Philosophy (in the philosophy of Duns Scotus) the discrete properties or characteristics of a thing which determine its individuality. Compare quiddity (def. 1). [Latin haeccitas this-ness]
- Macquarie Dictionary

Haecceity is the quality of ‘this-ness’ in a ‘thing-in-itself’. - Deleuze Studies
I wrote this on the tram the other night. I thought the Baron's discovery of an obscure word meaning 'thisness' merited not just a poem, but a whole scene out of My Fair Lady....


It’s the thisness it’s the thatness
It’s the total where-you’re-atness,
It’s the ofness of the theness,
The A-B-C and 1-2-3-ness,
It’s the most specific thingness,
This all-encompassingness -

CHORUS OF CHAMBERMAIDS: (Popping out of whatever shoebox or cupboard Henry Higgins keeps chambermaids in)


So, if you’re on-and-offing
Enough to set you coughing,
Then the nowish and the thennish
And the soonly and the whennish
And the willish and the isness
Will indicate your business -




Oh, go on Eliza, it’s really quite simple, even for such an insalubrious specimen as yourself.


Yes, that’s right…

It’s the garnish of the garning,
Of the garning in the marning
At the offness of the offal
On wot’s me favver’s waffle,
It’s who-how-why-when-wattlish -
It’s ainting – no – it’s nottlish…




Well, I don’t like it, whatever it is, or isn’t.

But Eliza, don’t you see?
It’s the little itty-itting,
The it-it-iterating,
Of this teensy-tiny-bitting,
And it’s really rather fitting,
That this should be the whatness
That concerns the fundamental thatness -



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

World of Warcraft limericks

Apparently the next Bar Open poetry slam is about World of Warcraft. I'm not able to make it, but here's a bit of what I would have read out, if I could... (LE, I think you might get a kick out of this.)

World of Warcraft limericks

Pointed criticism
Like, dude, you're one stupid f*er.
You have all the brains of a heiffer.
Your shooting is awful -
You make me go ROFL -
And your comments are, like, not really clever.

A moderate and temperate response to injust criticism
LOL, man. Just LOL, man. L-O-L,
In case you found that hard to spell.
But enough of this talk -
You must now face my orc,

He encounters a fair maiden at his learning institution
I once knew this chick in my school
Who played W-O-W. That's cool.
So I said, "You a Mage?"
She said, "DDUUUH! Hundredth stage!"
Girlz totally sux. Boyz rool!

A vigorous exchange of views
"Your shooting is hopeless and dumb,
And you totally aim like my mum."
"Like the bum of a troll,
Your face makes me LOL."
"Like, dude - you look at trolls bums!"

An eccentric individual
............. MUUUUUUUUUUM! Get off World of War!

A lighthearted dialogue
"You're Goatse."
---- "You're Tub Girl."
---- ---- ---- "Like, yeah!
Whatever you say, dude - I'm meh!"
"You can't make this shit up -
Watch Two Girls, One Cup."
"Like, sure dude. Right now. It's just - AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Character sketch
There once was a scourge from Azeroth
Who almost no-one could bear with.
He drank too much Coke,
And lithped when he thpoke -
That hideouth thcourge from Azeroth!

Socratic discussion
A dwarf met a night orc from hell,
Who was totally NOOB in RL.
Said the orc, "SOB!"
Said the dwarf, "Hey, F* me!
IMO, you're PITA as well!"

DIY Passive Aggression

As an adjunct to the Passive Aggressive Status Update Group, I'm including this - a bona-fide, DIY Passive Aggressive note!

Worst thieves ever

Some of you will know, and some will have guessed, that my flat was broken into while I was out on Saturday. It was an absolutely underwhelming break-in. After, apparently, prying my bedroom window open, they checked the bedroom cupboard, missed the camera hidden under the clothes, waltzed into the living room, looked in my accordion case(!) for jewels, didn't bother taking the laptop, tried to open the door and found that the deadlock was bolted. Then I guess they must have just ducked out the bedroom window again.

Worst. Thieves. Ever. Honestly, isn't that like gate-crashing the party, but gate-crashing the wrong place at the wrong time? It's pretty lame. And if they took the trouble of breaking into my flat and ducking around, they could have at least helped themselves to some of the biscuits in the cupboard! And it only occurred to me last night, those guys didn't even wash up any of the stuff I had in my sink.

Maybe I could leave them a note next time. 'Biscuits in the cupboard, dishes in the sink. If there's any trouble, call Tim on ______'.

Still, their thieving activities have at least given me some entertainment over the last couple of days. They gave me the inspiration for a passive aggressive comment. Also, I've been exchanging emails and phone calls with the real estate agent yesterday, who've been in touch with the owner: word from the agent is 'the owner is happy for you to fit the window locks to the window.' Which is kind of funny, because, hey, 'according to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, S208 (1)& (2): 70(1), the landlord is obliged to provide locks to secure all external doors and windows of the premises.' Negotiations are ongoing...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Always take the whether with you...

Here at Melbourne, the weather is unpredictable in the most predictable ways. Things will never turn out exactly how you want them too, and you'll never guess exactly how the weather is going to be in the afternoon, much less in the coming week.

We've had a surprisingly pleasant summer so far, very different to the heatwaves of recent years. This has lead to a certain dread on my part: when summer kicks in, I keep on thinking, it will really kick in with a vengeance. Endless days and nights of unrelenting forty degree temperatures, days when you can't think of anything but the heat.

The result: I've become an obsessive reader of the website, and related weather updates. Which has lead to my current dilemma, my current whether about the weather, if you like...

At, the news is hideous. They say it's going to be a virtual INFERNO tomorrow: 37 degrees celsius.

BUT! At, they say it's going to be a veritable doddle, a walk in the park, an almost-but-not-quite-Antarctica. Twenty nine degrees celsius, if that.

I just don't know whether to believe the guys at, or the chaps at
If it's going to be a pleasant twenty nine, then maybe I should choose to believe, and be pleasantly surprised by the mildness and clemency of the weather at this time of year. Then again, if I believe what they say at, I could be happily unsurprised by the way the day turns out.

And what if it turns out to be a BOILING thirty seven degrees? I could still choose to believe in, and have the grim satisfaction of being proved correct. If I believed in the predictions of, on the other hand, I'd be pretty ticked off at the way the day turned out.

What to believe? Who to listen to? I Just. Don't. Know.

Nice whether we're having lately...

UPDATE! - Then again, I would be rather bucked up to be grimly satisfied about being correct about the unpleasantness of the weather. Grim satisfaction is so satisfyingly grim, don't you think?

Two essays, two words

Two word essay regarding the nature of capital punishment
Stoning rocks!

Two word essay meditating on the significance of modern music stars who smoke pot
Rockers, stoned!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sharon Gould's book of words

Anybody who thought writing is ineffective would have been surprised a couple of days ago when editor of Australian literary magazine Quadrant got publically embarassed - by a couple of footnotes. Said footnotes were appended to an article written by a person claiming the name Sharon Gould, a fake personality invented by Katherine Wilson for the purposes of fooling Quadrant.

Yes, I'm talking about the Quadrant hoax - it's all over the media and the blogs by now, and you can read all about it here, here, here, here, and here. It's provoked a whole range of bizarre ideological positioning and attacks all over the media. Perhaps the strangest responses have probably come from Margaret Simons, who broke the story of the hoax, and commented on the ethics of other journalists as the story she was writing about developed.

I'll say it here and now - I like Quadrant. I've never thought that Keith Windschuttle was a good choice for editor of the magazine, but it's not just Windschuttle that has been cheated here. Wilson has abused the privilege of space that Quadrant gives to writers, and she's effectively lied to everyone who reads the magazine. That's all being debated elsewhere, but for now, there's a couple of things about the whole affair that have left be befused and confuddled. No, wait, make that febuddled and deflused.

Firstly are the headlines people are using to describe this whole thing. LP says that Windschuttle has been sokaled. Sokal is a verb now? At Skeptic Lawyer, SL reckons Wilson has demidenkoed Quadrant, and I guess SL has about as much authority as anyone to verb that particular noun. But if we're going to go down this road every time a hoax occurs, will it be possible to demidenko Sokal, or to sokal a Wilson while she's demidenkoing someone else? Will hoaxers try to out-gould one another? What has more value, goulding a Demidenko, or sokaling a Wilson?

And then there's the weird defence Windschuttle has tried on.

Yet I still insist that this was not a genuine hoax.

A real hoax, like that of Alan Sokal and Ern Malley, is designed to expose editors who are pretentious, ignorant or at least over-enthusiastic about certain subjects.

(Clears throat) What's the difference between a real hoax and this hoax? Was the Gould hoax actually a hoax hoax, expressly designed to hoax the hoaxers who thought they were hoaxing Quadrant? Did Wilson pull the ultimate hoax and hoax herself into believing she was hoaxing Quadrant? Maybe Katherine Wilson goulded herself, or Sharon Gould wilsoned herself, completely unknowingly?

It makes more, which is to say, less sense, when you consider the Gould article itself, which is almost entirely plausible, if you take out the footnotes and the name of the author. The only reason the article was considered a hoax was because some of the footnotes were incorrect. Which makes me wonder, what was really wrong here, the footnotes, or the article? Or perhaps they're just the right footnotes for the wrong article, or it's the wrong author for the right article? Maybe Katherine Wilson really is the hoax, the wrong name for the right person, and it's time for Sharon Gould to step forward and reveal herself...
Dr Sharon Gould holds a PhD in Applied Science (Biotechnology), and works as
a biotechnology informatics consultant. An earlier version of this article was
presented at the 19th International Conference on Genome Informatics in
Honestly folks, I just don't know any more.

I guess this is what's called 'Taking to the media with a blunt hoax'.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The New Yorker book of numbers


- Profiles, reviews, features, and interviews tend to focus around ONE significant figure - a person who has become influential and famous in public life.
- There is always only ONE Shouts and Murmurs column per issue. This is because New Yorker readers cannot stand too much humour per issue.
- There is usually only ONE book review per issue. This is because New Yorker readers want to be seen as intellectual, but don't want to go over the top.
- There is also, sometimes, but not often, ONE piece on a Republican politician. This is just plain weird.


- Some New Yorker articles can be written about the friendship, correspondence, or working relationship between TWO famous and influential individuals.
- The ordinary number of full-length film reviews per issue is TWO.


- The number of letters in an issue of the New Yorker is usually limited to THREE or FOUR.
- There are precisely THREE cartoons on the back page for the cartoon caption competition.
- Typical number of words in an article title: THREE, or in rare cases FOUR or FIVE.
- There are usually about THREE poems per issue. This is because New Yorker editors would like to publish a bit of poetry without publishing a lot of poetry.


- Most New Yorker issues have only ONE cover, but others have closer to FIVE. This is because New Yorker editors get excited by things like covers and sometimes go over the top.
- There are usually about FIVE Talk of the Town news items at the beginning of each issue. These include: ONE political piece, TWO pieces about quirkily whimsical events or whimsically quirky characters around New York City, and ONE piece about New Yorker art and/or culture.


- The number of cartoons in each issue of the New Yorker that make you go 'huh?' is usually about EIGHT.


- TWELVE, the number of adjectives I counted in a piece I just read about Susan Sontag. It was worth it.


- The number of cartoons in any ONE issue of the New Yorker must be around TWENTY, if you do not include cover illustrations, article illustrations, or the weird little guys that editors sometimes use to break up paragraphs, but do include the cartoons that make you go 'huh?'


- The average New Yorker article will contain, but not be limited to FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE words.


- In some countries, the number of New Yorkers sold each week are in the THOUSANDS.


Average = Regular
New Yorker writers often use the term REGULAR to mean 'average' or 'ordinary', usually in connection with the measurement GUY. "He is a regular guy..." "He's just a regular guy..." "For the regular guy on the street..."

Similar but not equal too = Recent
When New Yorker writers want to talk about a time but not disclose what exactly that time was, they will probably say 'recent'. "On a recent Saturday..."

Monday, January 05, 2009

My meaningless, consumer driven life!

Some random facts about my mobile phone...

It has really crappy predictive text. Is hard to manouevre around as it doesn't have arrow buttons. Runs out of power really quickly. Tells you where you are, but more often than not lies. Doesn't so much as ring, but whispers quietly in the corner in a high-pitched voice, hoping someone will notice it. Also, its so hard to hear people on the other end that if there's any background noise at all, that I usually end up a) shouting, just to make sure I can hear myself b) constructing largely imaginary conversations based on what I think people said. The results?

*Phone rings*


PERSON ON OTHER END: Hello Mr Train, this is about your rent that hasn't been paid yet.


PERSON ON OTHER END: No, this is about the rent that...


(etc, etc)

Conclusion: it could be time to get a new mobile.

What's the difference between discomfort and pain?

Just ask a dentist: "Now, don't worry. You won't feel any pain at all. No pain whatsoever. Just a certain amount of discomfort..."

However, they appear to feel much the same...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Terrible news for sex!

Kitt growled and purred her way into the mainstream, becoming one of the first crossover African American sex symbols. - Remembering Eartha Kitt and Freddie Hubbard, NPR


Fans of sex the world over have gone into mounring at the news that American sex symbol J.S. has died.
"What will sex do now?" wailed S., one fan of sex.
"This news of J. S.'s death is terrible for sex", said N., another sex fan. "With the passing of this famous sex symbol, who will step up to the plate and symbolise sex now?"
However, another fan of sex, D., was more upbeat. "Although the loss of J.S. is a devastating blow for sex, things can only get better for sex now. Though not J.S. obviously, who after a long and distinguished career in which she symbolised sex successfully, is now dead. That must be a real bummer for her."
The fan went on to outline his recovery plan for sex, which he called his "one point plan."
"We must now find another person to objectify, stare or leer at, ogle, and salivate over in a number of poses, pouts and positions for various media sources."

In the meantime, other fans of sex have made the point that all those photos of J.S. in the media continue to do so.
"In a way, all that sex she symbolised in the media lives on in all our hearts," says one. "We will always remember that sex she symbolised with love and fondness."

However, controversy still remains over parts of the sex symbol's career. Many fans of sex still debate the meaning of a set of pictures she took, entitled "A cup of tea at home with some friends", set to a picture which shows here having a cup of tea at home with some friends, and indeed appearing to symbolise nothing more than her having a cup of tea at home with some friends. Many fans of sex, however, claim that this was a trick of the light, while others argue that the correct title of the picture should be "A sex symbol has a cup of tea at home with some friends."

"We all feel that now is the time for fans of sex to move on," says one fan of sex, B. "This loss of a symbol for sex is sad, but we send our message to all other fans of sex in this time of need: we are there for you. Sex is there for you."
He adds, thoughtfully: "Oh yeah. Must be pretty annoying for J.S.'s family, too. A real downer. Like, imagine having a sex symbol in your own family and then losing her! That would really awful, man."

Seven ways to say "Happy New Year"

1) As a demand
Walk down the footpath staring right ahead, as if you are going to go straight past the people walking the other way. At the last moment, turn your head to them and bark at them, "Happy New Year!" They will reply obediently, if not willingly.

2) As a mantra
Stand by sadly watching the fireworks go off, repeating the words over and over again in a melancholy tone. It helps to have a few drinks in you so that you get in the right mood (sorrowful drunk).

3) As a football chant
Growl it, howl it, shout it, holler it to everyone on the street, whether they care to hear it or no. This works best if you do it right in their ear.

4) Drive-by shooting
Get a designated driver. If you don't have a designated driver, any old drunk will do. Get them to speed down the middle of the busy city street. Stick your head out of the left-hand window and holler it mindlessly down the cavernous alleys and lanes.

5) As a simple wish
Shut up your shop for the day, and say the three words easily and casually at the last customers as they file out. Perhaps have one half corner of your mouth turn up in a satisfied smile (which half, depends on the weather.)

6) With a hat (a personal favourite)
Smile at one or two people as you go by, wait until they wish you it, then lift the hat off your head in brief greeting and offer it as a cheerful reply, or holy benediction (depending on whether you are an ordinary person, or priest, in that order).

7) On your blog
Happy New Year!
Email: timhtrain - at -

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