Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Motivation slogans for an electronic age

Every morning, look your status update in the face, and click LIKE!

You are worth more than one 140 character tweet! You are worth more than two 140 character tweets! You are the whole twitter account!

Embrace the power of the positive facebook comment! Be the change you are!

There should be a website with a button saying just how awesome you are! I would share that button!

There is no other server-based identity like you!

Use the technology for you! They call it iPod, not myPod!

Take the 'um' out of 'forum'! You are the comment you want to be!

Don't just be a cyberspace - be a cyberplanet! A cybercosmos! A CYBERMULTIVERSE!

You are the enter key. You are the enter key. YOU ARE THE ENTER KEY!

Make every day a 100 smiley day!

Be of the net, be with the net, be for the net - BE INTERNET!

Tim 'Guru' Train's book The Seven Hundred and Seventy Seven Billion Pixels of Serenity will be released soon in no good bookshops.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Baked bean Monday

It's Monday, which means it must be time to eat my ritual Monday baked bean. No, not plural. Just one. We have about 20 baked bean cans in the cupboard, and I figure if I eat just one every Monday, by the time I'm 85, I'll have got through... one can.

That's okay, I'm sure I can take it.

Not sure about 'half a broad bean Tuesday', though, coming up tomorrow, in which I have gravely undertaken to eat half a broad bean in my bold effort to keep back the billions of broad beans we have around the house at the moment. Or 'rice grain' Thursday, where I polish and boil a single grain of rice before dividing it into equal 9ths, to be taken each hour for the rest of the day (I mean, by the time I reach the 7th rice grain I'm pretty full.)

On the other hand, bugger it. I'm eating the rest of the ice cream.

Scientists stunned at discovery of South Morang

MELBOURNE, MONDAY - with the completion of the Epping Rail line extension, scientists have been stunned at the discovery that South Morang actually exists.

"We just thought it was a myth! The stories were always contradictory, and seemed to derive from old folk traditions", says Edith Blithers, Doctor of Professorships at Melbourne University.

Rail technicians had intended to keep the rail line extension going indefinitely, but had to make a rapid change of plans when the train lines hit South Morang. "It just, like, sprang up out of nowhere!" says Blithers.

The outlying suburb with the name which sounds like something you make out of sugar and egg whites, had long been the subject of local Melbourne folk stories, often involving bunyips, and yowies, and people who vote for the Coalition.

This is not the first time inner-city boffins, who mostly spend their time quaffing lattes in cafes, have been surprised in this way. In 2007, scientists were shocked to discover that, far from being a mystical vale whence medieval kings and knights were taken by beauteous faerie maidens, Avalon was actually a place full of concrete where they landed planes. And in 2010, after surveying the results of the latest particle accelerator experiment, quantum physicists had to revise their calculations regarding the probable existence of the Melbourne suburb of Pakenham, from 'barely possible' to 'likely'.

Now, thanks to this latest great discovery, people from North Melbourne to Northcote will have to revise their description of South Morang from 'place that doesn't exist' to 'place which probably does exist but I may never visit'.

UPDATE! - National Party wins second term in Mordor New Zealand, surprising many Australians who had previously thought that Sauron John Key didn't allow elections.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Sometimes at work while I'm typing I like to close my eyes for a little bit, just to see what it's like. Sometimes at work, too, while I'm typing and I have my eyes closed, I like to rest my head on something comfy, like the back of a chair, or a desk, or a large concrete brick. Sometimes at work I can't remember what happens sometimes at work next because I wake up four hours later, and find that I have typed a column which I never read from Lasker's Chess Magazine, 1923, with full analysis of a game which I have never played over, and that I have a bag of Swiss cheese tied around my ears.

But let's not go into those details now, because sometimes at work I actually have ideas, very useful and productive ideas, such as the following:

- If I ever had a boy I could call him Noam and I would put him in the back garden all the time and then he would be a garden Noam.

- Tomorrow, I might buy a can of tuna, and put it on top of the piano, and it can be a piano tuna.

And then, at this point, I start to get distracted from my distraction, and think to myself about all the piano accordions around the world, and why don't people invent violin accordions or mandolin accordions, and then start thinking about violins and mandolins with gigantic squeezeboxes attached to them. (It could happen, you know.) So there's no need to go any further into that, is there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The reason I am not a mainstream television producer

Here's an interesting video of Paul Henry

in which he demonstrates that, given a year to reflect over matters, and a sympathetic audience, and a good chance beforehand to decide what his answers are going to be, you can still come out looking like a bit of a putz. We're getting him here on Australian breakfast television, but let's be honest, it's not for his scathing analysis of breaking news. We're getting him because he's a guy who once said some little offensive things on New Zealand television and caused a big media shit storm in the process. Channel Ten are obviously hoping to replicate his success, but you can't exactly shout that out in the promos: 'COMING UP! THAT PRESENTER WHO IS JUST A TEENSY BIT RACIST!'

Actually, I rather think we should get him over here too, on the grounds that he clearly has a juvenile sense of humour, and I do too. Also I happen to like big media shit storms - just a little bit.

This is probably the reason I'm not a mainstream television producer. (That, and the fact that I don't really know, or care, about the identity of the daughter of the brother of the father of the aunty of the guy who plays B1 in Bananas in Pyjamas. I can't think of any other reason, none at all.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Train of thought

You've heard of a person making a name for themselves, but sometimes the name makes a person for itself as well. There are cases where a name seems bizarrely appropriate for a person who you associate with a particular profession. (And I'm not really talking about Aptronyms, such as Alan Ball, Lloy Ball and Michael Ball, all either footballers or volleyballers).

No, I'm thinking about public figures with public names, like politicians; I'm thinking of names like Hawke and Menzies that seem to be descriptive of whole character traits, names as good or better than you'd get in novels. In some cases, it's true, the names seem to have more character than the politicians. (Not always - Bob Brown, for better or worse, has much more character than his name). But really: how good would a novelist have to be to come up with names like Gillard and Abbott for their two main roles, that of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader? Or have a side player like Katter running around? 'Gillard' is eerily reminiscent of the French device for capital punishment; 'Abbott' shows how the Opposition leader just can't get away from the ecclesiastical references even if he wants to; and 'Katter' bespeaks both a certain wildness, and a certain pliability about the man.

There used to be a chap in politics in New South Wales called Richard Face. I can find bugger all about him, but, as was pointed out to me years ago, what a name 'Face' is for politics. Just think of all the headlines he could have inspired: 'Losing Face'. 'Who is behind Face'? 'New Face for a New Cabinet', and so on. On the face of it, Mr Face didn't seem to have been such a bad fellow after all.

Then there's the triumvirate of independents and a Green who are keeping the ALP in power - Oakeshott, Windsor, and Bandt. 'Bandt' is the easiest to interpret; it slips easily into a narrative about the Greens, happy to ban anything and everything they disagree with. 'Oakeshott' is a better name, I think - if anything, that name is cunningly deceptive: you think of terms like 'shot his bolt', or 'that oak is shot', making you think of somebody who is basically useless, or of a person who makes a rapid appearance and then runs away. Maybe those ideas will turn out to be true, but if anything, he's a guy that can be very long-winded, almost pointlessly so (here's the evidence, which of course you shouldn't bother watching.) Kerryn once observed of Oakeshott's 'decision' speech that it was a moment all Australians would remember, like the Dismissal. I agree with that actually - I remember exactly where I was when Oakeshott was making his speech. I was at lunch, and when I came back he still hadn't finished.

'Windsor', too, is an excellent name; it is positively saturated in hauteur and patrimony. That seems to describe the man fairly well, though it doesn't quite explain why he's in politics. About the only impression I've got of Tony Windsor is of a man who lies in a fairly opportunistic manner, and usually gets away with it; if that is the case, maybe you the first syllable of 'Windsor' is descriptive: a man who is full of wind, who is windy, who is a windbag... but I know very little about Windsor, apart from the fact that he will probably be retiring very soon, and who is probably very rich as well.

The Opposition has some beauties as well, at least metaphorically. Much was made, years ago, of the pun 'Abbott and Costello', when there was a court case involving then Treasurer Peter Costello, and Tony Abbott. The Coalition has not only an Abbott, but two Bishops - Julie Bishop, and the alliteratively splendid Bronwyn Bishop. And you can't ignore Malcolm Turnbull - certainly Turnbull himself doesn't, for I think it was from him that the quip 'Turnbull in a china shop' first came from. You also automatically think of terms like 'Turncoat', 'Bullish', 'Bullshit', even 'Burnt Tool' - there's a lot of character in that name alone.

This might all seem about as significant to the running of politics as reading the tea leaves, and it is. On the other hand, maybe there really is something in a name - something to live up to, or something to live down to, or something to get away from.

Of course, this is coming from someone who was a teenager when a certain Neal Blewett was almost constantly in the news. Every time I heard his name, I would comment, 'Aw, Neal blew it again!' So feel free to attach that amount of significance to all the comments above.

This Train of thought is over.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There ought to be more of it

The Baron is currently reading something about mole deterrence.

Whatever is, I plan to do the absolute opposite.

I mean, who DOESN'T want moles in their lives? MOLES!

UPDATE! - Just beginning day two of the official Lalor mole anti-eradication program, and still no sign of any moles. Damn.

FIG 1: A mole.

Whatever it is, I don't like it #5774: the cake edition

I happened across a rather odd - phenomenon? event? manifestation? device? - in the kitchen yesterday. Let me see, I'll try and describe it:

- It was in a box.
- It was constructed mostly of a kind of orange material.
- The orange material was painted all over in a dark-brown covering.
- Smaller orange semi-circles were scattered around the top.
- It appeared to be lubricated.

It was, in fact, a cake.

Have cakes always been like this? It may be just me, but it seems to me cakes are getting more and more ridiculous these days, what with all the additions and toppings and additional toppings and toppings in addition to the additional toppings and the glazes and the light varieties and the dark varieties and the fudges and the muds and the what-nots.

Shouldn't cakes just be a bit of crumbly stuff baked in the oven for a while at high temperatures, maybe concluded with a bit of sugary stuff spread over the top? Why all this needless complication in the art of cakery these days, anyway? It's all very confusing. It makes me wonder if I've no idea what cakes are about, after all. It makes me look at the phenomenon/event/manifestation/device/cake, and think 'what does it do?' instead of just picking it up and eating it.

Whatever it is, I don't like it and I think it should stop.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Backwardly forwardish movingly static

For no reason at all, here’s a weird piece of jargon that I heard today:

progress thinking
I’m still not sure what it is, but you know, I’ve been doing a little progress thinking of my own. And the gist of my progress thinking is this: we’ve been doing far too much progress thinking and progress talking lately, and there’s been far too little progress action. So how on earth do we hope to make progress progress?

It’s true, of course, that the situation could arise, after our progress thinking leads to progress action and progress progress, where we wish to actually progress regress to a time before progress thinking occurred. And then what will we do? We will have to achieve some real progress progress in the area of progress regress, or otherwise we will be in a state of progress stasis on our desired progress regress targets, and nobody wants that.

I’ll start work on this progress regress progress now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some wort for the road?

Lately, I've been brewing some beer at home, ably assisted by

The Complete Guide to Beer and Brewing, a natty little guide by Laurie Strachan.

Brewing beer, as it turns out, is a simple process. To brew beer, all you need is a tun. The tun is what you perform the mash in. The mash, as everyone knows, is how you produce the malt and the dextrins. After you have performed the mash and produced the malt and the dextrins, you just have to sparge the grains. This is another obvious bit, as everyone who already has a lauter tun will know what sparging is. By the end of this process you'll obviously have a fine wort, which you work with to precipitate out the trub. What the trub is will be immediately, not to mention right away, clear to absolutely everyone and anyone, so I won't go into that. Anyway, you precipitate the trub out of the wort while gradually adding the hops, after which you use a counter-flow chiller (I certainly don't need to go into that), so you are able to get your wort to the temperature at which you are able to put it into the fermenter and pitch in the yeast. At this point the hydrometer comes in and... well, no need to go any further into this process, which is so simple, obvious, and clear that it has been used for many centuries by brewers the world over. More or less.

Contrast this simple, obvious and clear traditional process with the sophisticated, complex ritual we have to go through in order to get beer in a pub: you go up to the bar, you say the beer you want, and you pay them money. I don't have the space or the knowledge to explain in detail the minutiae of each of these steps, but really, it makes you wonder why we ever left the simple old ways behind.

Just by the by, on the working with yeast bit, do you know how frightening that stuff is? It's... it's... well, as they say in the old black and white movies at the top of the tower in the middle of the howling storm after a thunderbolt has struck, causing the nameless thing on the bench to rise up and reach it's horrific arms out - it's alive. If you chuck it in some water, and turn your back for a few seconds, all of a sudden it will have fizzed up. If you add the water and yeast to some flour, and go away for an hour or two, it will have risen and be well on its way to doubling in size. If you add it to a barrel with some wort and hops at a specific temperature, and go off to work, by the time you've come back the whole concoction will be fermenting away and producing alcohol and carbon dioxide and doing your household accounts while studying the finer points of the Greek lexicon on the side. If you like you can harvest yeast off the top of a fermented barrel of beer, but every time you use it to make a new bunch of beer, the Complete Guide advises, it will have mutated. Oddly, for a Complete Guide, the details about how the yeast will have mutated, and what it will have mutated to, are rather incomplete. Given that you have to store this mysteriously mutated yeast somewhere, in a sealed and sterilised jar, in a fridge environment, you would be forgiven for feeling a little edgy and nervous while having it around the house (just as you might feel edgy and nervous at having an axe murderer around the house).

Beer brewing is simple, fun, rewarding, and, if you do it in the right way (by which I mean the wrong way) will leave you with bottles exploding every half hour, and scattering glass all over your laundry. And of course you don't want to be wrong, right? Wrong.

I've certainly been enjoying the whole brewing process, although I admit that up to now I've skipped the bits involving the tun, the lauter tun, and the counter-flow chiller, as I don't have any of those, or the bits involving the mash, and the sparging, as I've never done them before, or some of the other bits as I get a little scared by them. Actually, I'm mostly doing it out of cans, which give you a wort and hops that have been pre-mixed for you, but I certainly mean to work my way up to doing all those other things, more or less, sooner or later, if you know what I mean. (Strachan's certainly not intimidated by the tuns and chillers and spargers and what not. He has this way of referring to all these steps in the process with the verbal equivalent of a casual wave of the hand in statements such as 'I do mine in a...' or 'I use this...' or 'I plug up the sparger with a...') I suppose to some this might mean that I've taken up every part of brewing except brewing.

So. Beer brewing. It's simple, obvious, fun, it leads to exploding bottles, the yeast does your accounts and can learn to conjugate in Greek, and I might even try it someday. And what have you been doing lately?

Monday, November 14, 2011


There is somewhere a plot of astro-turf
That is forever England.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zen Buddhism for apathetic people

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to see it or hear it, who cares?


What is the sound of one hand not clapping?


Nirvana - the blissful state attained upon cessation of all being.

Death - usually a slightly quicker way to achieve cessation of all being than Nirvana.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The gourmet’s gourmet: a summary of two recent meals I have eaten.

Vegan fish and chips – Okay, so it was just chips. In a bag. From the chip machine. And I’m not even sure whether the chips were made out of vegetables, they could have just been made out of plastic with salt on them. But still – yum!

Quiche Tim – it’s true I followed the recipe for Quiche Lorraine. But who the hell is Lorraine, anyway? And I didn’t follow the recipe very well. So Quiche Tim it is.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sometimes say sometimes again

Paul Keating's just released a book. I haven't read this book, but I know it has a title - I have read the title, at least. It's called

After Words

Not bad, as titles go I suppose - the book is supposed to be a collection of Keating's post-Prime Ministerial speeches. But it raises that age old problem (well, at least as age old as this post) - what happens if he ever wants to release a sequel? Is it going to be called 'After After Words'? Or 'An After Words' After Word' or 'A Word After After Words'? (And also: is it going to have an After After After Foreword and an After After Afterword?)

You see this problem happening over and over again with authors and book titles. Well I can only think of one example, that of Douglas Adams and his 'increasingly ridiculous' Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. So I suppose that hasn't quite reached an over yet. But still. Books. Words. Titles. It's important to think about this stuff, isn't it?

UPDATE! - Of course, another horrible possibility rears its head: what if Keating chose to call this hypothetical sequel: After Words: Electric Boogaloo?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I'm so conflicted

I would like to state right now that I have a conflict of interest with every politician everywhere.

Specifically, my conflict of interest is that I find it hard to find anything interesting about them at all. It's very conflicting.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Greetings, inhabitants of Futuropolis

For GetUp's time capsule featuring our messages to the future (linked by Tim), I have opted for a humble poem, called, well


As the preacher greets the sinner,
As the doctor greets the suture,
We the people of the past
Greet the people of the future

With a short and modest message
In words simple and sincere,
But their meaning and their moral
Is absolutely clear:

We saved the world! Don’t blow it!
We saved the world! Take care!
So don’t sell it cheap on e-bay,
We don’t have another spare.

We saved the world! Start cheering!
Although, of course, it’s true
While we saved it for the future
We just weren’t expecting *you*.

We saved it from igniting,
Or some other gruesome fate
Caused by a changing climate –
What have *you* done of late?

With a legislative program
Of higher taxes, meant
To cut the world’s emissions
By an nth of one per cent,

We saved it. Thanks to us,
And a simple ETS,
Though the globe might still be warming,
It’s now warming one bit less.

So don’t flirt with Terminators
(They’re easy to avoid),
So don’t steer earth in the path
Of a Killer Asteroid,

So don’t die from a pandemic
From the Xenopsylla flea
So don’t waste it watching porno
On your digital TV –

We saved the world! Be grateful!
But don’t move down on the bus,
For we have just remembered
That you is also us.

And when we reach the future
(Whenever that is planned)
We would like to meet us warmly,
We will shake us by the hand,

We saved the world! How jolly!
We saved the world! Huzzah!
Now if you’ll just excuse us
We’ll be with me at the bar.
Email: timhtrain - at -

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