January 31, 2005

Kudos To Iraqis

The bravery of the millions of people who turned out to the polls in Iraq deserves a mention and a lot of respect.

At polling stations across the country there were women in veils holding the hands of children, and men on crutches, and people who had been maimed during the terrible years of Saddam, and old people. Among those lined up to vote in Baghdad was Samir Hassan, a 32-year-old man who lost a leg in the blast of a car bomb last year. He told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to." - nytimes.com

44 people were killed in attacks on polling stations and voters. I've read a couple of editorial comments that pointed out that the electorate was woefully uninformed (some thought they were voting for a President, rather than a transitional National Assembly), and that largely Sunni areas had a lower turnout than Shi'ite and Kurdish areas, and that violence and intimidation were widespread.

But you know what? Even if the voters weren't entirely sure how the system worked (I have sympathy, after the FPP/MMP changeover), they made a definite and resounding statement of desire for stability, restoration of quality of life, and freedom, just by participating. And since the voter turnout was estimated at an average of 60% in most areas, that's a pretty powerful message to the insurgents.

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January 30, 2005

In A Battle Of Wits, Motivation Cracks It

You may have heard about the Government's proposal regarding car theft prevention. If you haven't, do read it, because some of the other ideas in the proposal are quite good.

But. Immobilisers are going to become compulsory (cost to you: $300) in cars less than 15 years old, and all new imports. Well, I read this today in the nytimes - it was obviously only a matter of time:

"BALTIMORE - Matthew Green starts his 2005 Ford Escape with a duplicate key he had made at Lowe's. Nothing unusual about that, except that the automobile industry has spent millions of dollars to keep him from being able to do it.

Mr. Green, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, is part of a team that plans to announce on Jan. 29 that it has cracked the security behind "immobilizer" systems from Texas Instruments Inc. The systems reduce car theft, because vehicles will not start unless the system recognizes a tiny chip in the authorized key. They are used in millions of Fords, Toyotas and Nissans.

All that would be required to steal a car, the researchers said, is a moment next to the car owner to extract data from the key, less than an hour of computing, and a few minutes to break in, feed the key code to the car and hot-wire it.

[...] But the cost of equipment could be brought down to several hundred dollars, Dr. Rubin said, and Adam Stubblefield, one of the Hopkins graduate students, said, "We think the entire attack could be done with a device the size of an iPod."

[...] The Texas Instruments chips are also used in millions of the Speedpass tags that drivers use to buy gasoline at ExxonMobil stations without pulling out a credit card, and the researchers have shown that they can buy gas with a cracked code. A spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, Prem Nair, said the company used additional antifraud measures, including restrictions that only allow two gas purchases per day."

And you just know it's only going to get easier. Just like car alarms, where the infra-red codes are yours for the downloading into your PDA.

So it kind of seems a little silly to me to make a system like that nationally-enforced. I mean, hey, you're trying to pit a static system against the pace and persistance of a learning system. If you have a species that can't evolve fighting against one that can, the money's usually on the evolver, eventually.

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Time Flies When You're Not Involved

Wow. It's nearly two years since the American invasion of Iraq. Two years! If I'd taken a gut feel of it, I would have said 9 months or so. I suspect that if I lived in Baghdad, it'd feel like a decade.

The really bizarre thing is that most Americans do not understand that their country is at war. They seem to think Iraq is under the same category as "peace-keeping" with the UN. It also makes it hard to see how, now that war is declared, any retaliation on US soil can be called a Terrorist Act. Isn't it just called fighting back, once someone has declared war on you?

From the nytimes:
"We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning," Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, one of this war's most vocal opponents, warned in a speech here on Thursday. "We thought the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought that victory on the battlefield would lead to victory in war and peace and democracy for the people of Vietnam. In the name of a misguided cause, we continued in a war too long. We failed to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand that our very presence was creating new enemies and defeating the very goals we set out to achieve."

I hope so much that the Iraqi people can go to the polls today. I hope that the people who love their country can claim it for themselves. But it's asking a hell of a lot of each individual. Would you risk it? I think I might, if I were single and felt strongly for a candidate. But I don't think I would if I had spent the last two years desperately trying to keep my family alive, huddling from gunfire every night and wondering if the electricity will be on tomorrow so the kids can drink boiled water.

To live without fear is to live in freedom.

The Iraqi people deserve to be free, regardless of the governance they choose.

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January 29, 2005

Argh! Nature! Get It Off Me!

Carefree Tampons - For Women Who Know How To Protect Themselves. Comfortably.

What, exactly, am I protecting myself from? My body? Blood? Knowing that I'm not pregnant? I wonder why women are encouraged to 'protect' themselves against their own natural functions, but not against sex and STDs and unwanted pregnancy. I've never seen a condom commerical or a martial arts course for Women Who Know How To Protect Themselves, but I would like to.

I think women need to be educated, especially young women, that carrying and insisting on a condom is about being a smart, sexy and protected person, not about being 'easy'. A condom should be in every woman's wallet, imho.

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January 28, 2005


I feel I should write a little on the Aushwitz anniversary, since WWII is a subject that has fascinated me since I was eleven.

The Aushwitz memorials are solemn and terrible. I am glad that time is being given to the subject on the national news, because otherwise people *do* forget, and do become desensitised. I'm glad they show the stories of survivors, I'm glad they showed the footage of crematoria and murder.

However, I think that a new emphasis should be given to the thousands of individuals that Israel recognises as 'the Righteous': people who risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to help others who were often total strangers.

Please, if you can, get hold of the book 'The Righteous' by Martin Gilbert. It is a stunningly uplifting and humbling book - account after account of people who acted as humans in the midst of barbarism. To me, this book brought home the Holocaust in a new and distinctly human way, a way that the terrible photos and incomprehensible statistics could not. The courage of the human spirit is a tender and wonderful thing.

I have been thinking a lot about Iraq recently. I think that America should withdraw and allow the country to return to its base state. The only reason that Iraq exists as a country is because of the British, who decided sometime arond 100 years ago that the middle east was too messy, so they drew nice borders that looked good on maps, without any sort of reference to the people living on the land they were dividing up.

How would you feel if all of a sudden you woke up and found out that you now lived in a country called Bolosphere which incorporated half of Australia, the North Island of NZ, Samoa, and Indonesia? I think I would become an insurgent quite quickly, or at least fiercely partisan to the NZ people.

Maybe Iraq is just a colonialist pipe dream. Why not let the tribal system re-organise the land? It's surely better to keep them busy fighting between themselves than messily united to fight against America.

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January 27, 2005

Holey Teeth!

My teeth are holey and unblessed. Poor teeth. However I now have super-strong secret-squirrel toothpaste so perhaps that will help.

It is hot. My knees ache. I am preparing for decrepitude.

Bread is boring and stale, unless you buy it fresh every day, which is expensive. Or make it, which is also expensive. The dentist advised me to avoid acidic foods like soft drinks, fruit juice, and fruit in general. The EDS team advise me to eat 7+ servings of fruit/veges each day. Flavoured milk is full of sugar. Diet sweetners are tools of the devil. Too much carb is bad. Too much meat is bad. Battery farming is immoral, free-range chicken is exhorbitant. Fish oil is good, but fisheries are evil. Soy is great, except that upwards of 90% of world production is GM. Coffee, tea and chocolate exploit and poison people in third-world countries, or else you can pay $10 a packet at Trade Aid.

Pick your way through the minefield. La da dee, la da dah.




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January 26, 2005

Wednesdays Are Never Friendly

At school, Wednesday was always PE or Careers Class or Sports Day. At work, Wednesday was a desert in the middle of the week. Currently, Wednesdays are EDS days, where for an hour of psychotherapy and several hours after, I do nothing much except cry and hate myself.

Stupid Wednesdays. It's the hardest day of the week to spell, too.

I read in the Herald about Don Brash's propsals on welfare reform, some of which I agree with and some of which I think are a bit harsh. I also think that he should perhaps ask himself where all those convenient part-time school-hours jobs for DBP mums are going to come from. Anyway, the reason I actually wanted to comment on the Herald article was because, at the bottom, it quoted a statistic from Close Up @ 7 that said "88% of the callers to the show said "yes" to whether they thought Brash was on the right track with welfare."

Given that the 'voting' costs 99c a call, I wonder if they've considered that the beneficiaries and young mums who think Brash is an out-of-touch idiot can't really afford to spend money to make their views known. It's kind of like saying "99% of voters want to continue to exclude women from voting".

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January 25, 2005

To Alcohol!

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of beer being sold in cans. Before that I guess it was bottles, and before that it must have been kegs. Technology is grand.

Actually, since I don't drink beer, it doesn't matter all that much to me personally. But I'm sure the rise of tinnies can be appreciated by all.

Hee hee, that reminds me of a funny memory. Dad was giving advice to my older brother on business ideas, and suggested a local-delivery service "so that people can call you up and say 'I want a tinny'". I guess his slang has not moved on much in the last 30 years *grin* he's so cute at times.

(actually, that was probably one of his more lucrative schemes, had he but known it)

Dad's refusal to update his language led to some other amusing moments... amusing to look back on, that is... when he was teaching me to drive, he'd consistently tell me it was a '30 zone' and then looked distinctly peeved that I didn't automatically convert miles to kilometres!

I'm reading a really interesting book called 'A History Of The Twentieth Century' - it's in three volumes, I'm reading '52-'99 at the moment. I'm learning so much! It's by Martin Gilbert, if anyone wants to track it down.

I am painting lots at the moment, larger canvases that take a tube or so of paint to cover. It's more expensive but a better result, and hopefully will pay off at the Dunedin Exhibition next month.

It seems that everyone is buying houses at the moment. Just to keep up with the Joneses, I'd like to record that I am saving hard for an extension cardboard box.

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January 24, 2005

Nude Anchors For Hard News

Since hard news has such a time making it on to the networks, perhaps we should start a new rule: any news story that is important but lacking in interesting video footage will be presented by a nude anchor, thus satisfying our need to see something interesting while being told about war crimes and the like.

I just found this and I'm feeling a little cynical about the TV news again:
"The abuses may well be going on still. Even as the Graner trial unfolded, The New York Times reported that a secret August 2002 Justice Department memo authorized the use of some 20 specific interrogation practices, including "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning that was a torture of choice for military regimes in Argentina and Uruguay in the 1970's. This revelation did not make it to network news. "

I heard an excellent song yesterday and I am now determined to hunt it down on CD and purchase it. It's called "The Underwear Goes Inside The Pants" by a group called Lazyboy.

Channel Z is closing down (*sad*) but I will give this new Kiwi station (instinctively hate the name, I'm afraid) a bit of a go and see if it suits. It's hard to find alternative rock on the radio... I guess because 'alternative' usually also means 'minority'.

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January 23, 2005

Bonjour, Mon Petit Babouin!

A Zoo in Kent, England has been gifted 19 Guinea baboons, which came from a Paris Zoo (the newspaper commented that these were "sexy French baboons" so the overcrowding that promted the gift was to be expected).

Anyway, the baboons only 'speak' French. No use yelling "Oi you lot, grub's up!" to a discerning group used to being called politely to dejeuner. So the keepers have been issued with French phrase books, and the problem is slowly being solved.

(I found the article on the guardian.co.uk website. And then I found this:)

1,367 passengers who paid around 19,000 pounds for a round-the-world cruise on the P&O vessel Aurora have just left the ship after spending 11 days stuck in Southampton because of a problem with the ship's propellers.

The strange thing is, almost no-one complained. The biggest concerns came from some of the women that they didn't get a chance to wear their more summery cocktail dresses.

"We were going nowhere, but in style," said Alan Cooper, 65, summing up the mood at Southampton's Mayflower cruise terminal."

"But in the end it was nobody's fault," [Kathryn Kelly] said. The civil servant from Kettering, who celebrated her 48th birthday on the Aurora with her mother Norma, 71, used three years' worth of holiday entitlement for the cruise."

"Those on board managed to consume a total of 12,843 bottles of beer, 12,626 bottles of wine and champagne, 1,246 bottles of spirits, and 9,800 cocktails during the 11 days."

P&O's loss was somewhere in the region of 22 million pounds.

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January 21, 2005

Unusual Error

I'm just watching the Be Sharps episode of the Simpson's and you know what? The billboard outside the church lists them as the Be Sharps before they name the group. It's a really unusually large continuity error for the Simpson's.

Does anyone know any corrupt and/or compassionate doctors? The best thing in the world right now would be nice, legal, strong painkillers. Something ending in "-ine" would be good. Injectible, swallowable... I'm willing to lick it off the floor, to be honest.

I've had a cluster of seizures and it's led to a strong and strange migraine down one side of my head. But you know what? Absolutely no doctor I've ever met will believe me when I say the only thing that shifts it is opiates. They think I am a drug-seeking bad girl.

Memo to doctors. Bad girls would not spend five bloody hours in the waiting room only to be insulted and ignored. They would text message their drug dealers and get hold of something in 30 minutes.

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Goodies! Goodies!

Ok, they're new to me. I got The Goodies out on DVD from the library and have been laughing between random crying (see depression entry) so that makes me more balanced, I suppose. Either that or more unbalanced... hmm.

The Goodies are very good. The one with the Giant Kitten destroying London was particularly funny, as was the "Making Babies By Doing Dirty Things" episode. The BBC makes some random things, but so much funnier and more original than American humour, and on a shoe-string budget too. Maybe having less money makes you work harder. Or maybe the Brits are just naturally hilarious.

I think it's because the British are always taking the piss out of themselves, and the Americans tend to only show 'winners' who take the piss out of 'losers'. But in the Young Ones and The Goodies and other shows of the ilk, the stars of the shows have bizarre personality disorders and often, hygiene issues.

Goodies! Goodies! Goody Goody Yum Yum...

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Focus on The Babysitter

Focus on Family has decided that SpongeBob Squarepants is evil, because, according to Dr Dobson: "SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

I can't help but wonder, as all those concerned socialite parents attended that black-tie dinner, who was doing the babysitting? "Ok, sweethearts, kissy kissy, mumsy loves you. Darlene, the tv dinners are in the freezer and just chuck on a video or something to shut them up before bed. Gotta fly!"

Anyway. It is hard to see, really, Jesus saying that tolerance of sexual identity is wrong. I imagine if he thought that, then he'd have kicked the prostitute straight down to hell. And also, since Jesus is our perfect example and he and his immediate crew never seem to have wives or even girlfriends, perhaps the case can be made that Jesus also found heterosexuality deeply repulsive.

And on another topic entirely:

You scored as Hermione Granger. Your alter ego is Hermionie Granger. Your one intelligent witch, but you have a hard time believing it and require constant reassurance. You are a very supportive friend who would do anything and everything to help her friends out.

Hermione Granger


Sirius Black


Severus Snape


Remus Lupin


Ron Weasley


Harry Potter


Albus Dumbledore


Peter Pettigrew


Draco Malfoy


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com

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January 20, 2005

Good But Not Infallible

Before I had a cat, I thought cats were always graceful and accurate. Then I realised how often they slip or scrabble, then walk quickly away with a "I meant to do that" air. Same thing with dogs' noses. Sock can walk within a couple of metres of a cat and not notice it. Her eyes are better at seeing contrast and movement than colour distinction (obviously) and if a cat sees her coming, he will sink down softly and freeze, even right out in the open.

Chances are, if the cat doesn't move, and Sock doesn't almost literally stumble over him, she'll miss him entirely. I guess there is a lot of information to process from a nose at any given moment and a cat or other living thing doesn't smell as strongly as dead things, or human food, or petrol or whatever on the wind.

I got a call from the Epilepsy Assist Dogs association yesterday and they were quite excited to hear about Sock. Apparently she's the ideal age to enter the training program, which takes two years. Because we've already got a strong emotional bond and she's intelligent and obedient, she's an excellent candidate for success, which is fortunate, because just like guide dogs, not every pup will make it as an Assist dog. The trainer will be in Christchurch in the next few months (I gather one trainer has to cover all of NZ and parts of Australia!) and so things will kick off from there.

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January 18, 2005

Get Your 2c Worth In Our Casino

I swear, word for word, that is the sign outside the local dank-spot. Truth in advertising at last! Jim Anderton should take a lesson. There is something about the phrase:
"We'd raise the drinking age to 20. Now that's Progressive"

No. No, it's not. That would be, in fact, the definition of regressive.

Worried about the Sock. I wish she was not pregnant, cos she'll have to stay at Deb's for a month (I can't raise the pups here, it's impossible). I'll have to be there for the whelping and probably a week after at least. It's not going to be fun.

People tend to look at me and say "but, she's a dog. they just get on with it, like nature, don't they?"

Yeah. Nature. About one in three pups might make it. As it is, one in a litter often dies even with the best vets and care. And the bitches tend to have a high attrition rate also. So no, nature does not just magically get on with it.

And also... Sock is a social dog that has bonded with me. She feels like my child. I don't know if she feels quite like a kid to me, but I know where I stand in her world. If I just dump her at Deb's to give birth I think she will be devastated, and rightly so. Since the depth of the bond is my "fault" then I will just have to lump the extra responsibility for a bit.

I am so glad that I don't have to find homes for the pups. All spoken for, regardless of litter size.

(Just my luck she's been knocked up by a doberman or something and the pups will be unsaleable freaks of nature!)

"No, really, cocker spaniels always look like enraged oven mitts as pups. The cuteness only comes out once your EFTPOS transaction goes through."

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January 17, 2005


Hmm well as I said in my previous post: feed a cold, medicate a mood. My mouth tastes like dry, yet fetid, sports socks. I'm having trouble remembering what day it is or what time it is (a side effect of the meds that is really bizarre) and I think I left my washing in the machine since Saturday. But I'm really not too sure. I shouldn't suppose it matters a great deal.

On the bright side, meds! Sleepy sour-mouth girl. Eat your pills. The pink ones keep you from screaming. I have no idea what the yellow, white or orange ones do, but I assume they're essential. Or at least non-malevolent.

Sleeping using sleeping pills is very nice, although funny-tasting. Sleeping using tranquilizers is not so nice, because they give you strange dreams and make you leaden for a day or two afterwards. So if you take 'em every day... you can see how they'd build up in the system. I'm cautiously decreasing the dose where I can. For all that I enjoy substances I don't really want to feel exhausted the whole time. It's kind of like trying to abuse corn plasters.

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January 15, 2005

Depression Impression

It's strange to be depressed and know it. There's a little glass globe somewhere in my chest that contains myself apart from my treacherous mind, and that smooth cool ball tells me I'm depressed and my emotional perceptions are likely not to be trusted. I just have to clench my fists and ride this through.

It is almost like grieving, in an odd way. Most of the time, things are fine, and then out of the blue a picture or a word will associate in the mind and devastation descends like a oiled blanket.

It is summer and the weather is briefly glorious. Butterflies hitch determindly through sweet scented air. Somewhere a tui sounds.

Why does that make me want to cry? Silly depression. Here, have some drugs.

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January 14, 2005

Does Jesus Adjust To GMT?

My anxiety levels have dropped markedly. I realised that if I move to another time zone - any other time zone - I need never worry about being caught unawares in the Rapture. (I have to allow a confession/conversion window of about 20 minutes)

All the doomsday and apocalyptic warnings are quite specific about date and/or time of the cataclysm. So just make sure that you live in the LAST time zone. That way, you cut your chances of unsaved incineration by ... um, 12s into 100's... carry the 25... um, well, a lot, anyway.

Further to this comforting heresy, I also solved the problem of my shower. The bath has one of those rubber hose/shower head contraptions that guarantees you will be alternatly scalded and frozen by the low pressure dibble. Also the hot water seems to cost about $6 a tank to heat up and that's just ridiculous. However, if you choose to boil water for a bath, you tend to end up fighting against the laws of thermodynamics rather a lot.

So I boiled one pot of water, tipped it into a shopping bag, adding cold water to temperature, and hung the bag over the bath. A small needle provided a lovely fine spray that actually managed to keep me fairly warm and give enough time to soap and rinse. So there you go. No need to spend thousands on that bathroom upgrade!

Hell, at this rate I will be living in a shack smoking a corn-cob pipe by next year. I'll have to trade in the Sock for a flea-bitten mongrel of a yellow complexion.

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January 13, 2005

Thanks, Now Piss Off

"Indonesia today stepped up its effort to assert control over international relief operations here, saying all foreign troops have to leave the country by March 26, and that its own forces would take over.

The new restrictions will enable the military to increase its presence in the countryside, where the rebels are strongest and where civilians fear Indonesian soldiers the most.

Before the tsunami, Aceh was virtually sealed off to foreigners. Martial law was declared in May 2003 and relaxed to a state of "civil emergency" the following year, as the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 troops severely weakened the rebels. Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group based in New York, and other organizations have consistently accused the Indonesian military of severe abuses of civilians.

The United States terminated military aid to Indonesia a decade ago, citing credible accounts of human rights abuses against civilians in East Timor. This week, restrictions were relaxed on spare parts for Indonesia's military transport aircraft that can be used to deliver aid."

(from nytimes.com)

Sooooo. Basically, the Indonesian government would like your foreign money, but you can take your foreign people and go jump! We want to murder our civilians in peace.

Posted by phreq at 05:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 12, 2005

Hope Deferred Maketh The Heart Sick

"Six years ago it was scenes from Honduras that filled television newscasts and newspaper pages. Then as now, there was a public outpouring of sympathy and support. Then as now, heads of state pledged huge amounts of aid. International relief agencies committed themselves to "build back better," promising to stay for the long term and provide the tools needed to overcome the social and economic forces that make the poor so vulnerable. ...

After the last bodies are counted and public focus shifts, governments stop sending money, pledges are withdrawn, many private relief organizations pack their bags and the poor are left to finish reconstruction projects in the face of the same entrenched systems of corruption and neglect. ...

Half of the sturdy, concrete houses have not been properly wired for electricity. A water and sanitation system was installed four months ago, but the main pump broke down over Christmas. There is a school, but mothers say the teachers have worse attendance records than their children. There is a clinic but no doctor, a police post with no officers, and a community meeting hall, but no one in the community has the keys. ...

Soon after the tragedy, the international community pledged about $9 billion to help rebuild Central America. Today, experts at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University say most of that money never materialized. Half of what did was offered as loans, Honduran officials said. ...

That pattern was apparent in Iran, too. A year after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 destroyed the central city of Bam, killing more than 40,000 people and leaving almost as many homeless, the streets there are still strewn with mounds of rubble. Tens of thousands of people who lost their homes remain crowded in prefabricated housing."

(from the nytimes.com website)

The cruelest thing you can do is promise something desperately desired and then not follow through. Don't pledge if you can't or won't pony up. Maybe get a photo from one of the glut of media stills and stick it on a board in the Government's debating chamber. You promised to help this person. Do you still care when no-one's checking up on you?

But also, perhaps we should look at what grabs our compassion and why. Is it because of the number of white people killed that we care? Is it because a natural disaster doesn't have the social stigma of AIDS or malnutrition? Is it because there is so much video footage of the dramatic moments?

To me this seems odd. I mean, a natural disaster or an accident is surely a less protracted and painful way to die than a grinding, poverty and disease ridden childhood in a refugee camp. And although the disaster left a lot of people homeless, bereft and without livelihood, it also left social structure intact in a way that decades of disease and ill-governance do not. Sri Lanka reopened schools yesterday as a way of supporting children and providing structure. There are medical professionals to staff the clinics when they are rebuilt.

There is too much pain and tragedy in the world to comprehend or fix. And part of me thinks - the $60 million in aid NZ pledged could well help so many kiwis and close nations like Samoa... where the disasters a slow societal train wreck a generation in the making, not a cataclysm of nature no-one can control. $60 million to CYFS or the community-based projects that chip away little by little at the low self-esteem, low literacy, poor nutrition, lack of health care and education options, the willingness to throw the teenage mother out with the biblical bathwater...

At times I just want to gather the world in my arms and crawl beneath the bedcovers.

Posted by phreq at 05:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2005

Planning Is For Pussies!

I wondered how long it would take for the issue of withdrawl from Iraq emerged. Well, Brent Scowcroft, the out-going (pushed) chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and advisor to Bush Senior, had this to say:

"He predicted that the elections "have the great potential for deepening the conflict" by exacerbating the divisions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. He worried that there would be "an incipient civil war," and said the best chance for the U.S. to avoid anarchy was to turn over the operation to the less inflammatory U.N. or NATO.

Mr. Scowcroft appeared at the New America Foundation with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, who declared the Iraq war a moral, political and military failure. If we can't send 500,000 troops, spend $500 billion and agree to resume the draft, then the conflict should be "terminated," he said, adding that far from the Jeffersonian democracy Mr. Bush extols, the most we can hope for is a Shiite-controlled theocracy."

(from the nytimes.com website)

It gives one furiously for to think, does it not?

Also, I learnt today about one of the risks of working in a treasury:

"Two carpenters lifted the coin into a shiny rubber-wheeled steel cart and began trundling it along the dented vault floor. (The dents are from gold bars that were inadvertently dropped by vault wranglers in the decades since the building was completed in 1924. These days, handlers wear steel-toed shoes plus $500 magnesium shoe covers to protect feet from accidentally plummeting 27-pound ingots.) "

"Vault Wranglers". It puts me in mind of a Farside cartoon.

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January 10, 2005

Jebus! The Spiders!

I was on the phone to a friend today when I idly opened the bathroom door and saw this ENORMOUS spider, the size of a 75c piece in the bath! EWWRAGHEEEOW!!! Begorrah and hapotchikin, it gave me the heebie jeebies.

I'm somewhat ashamed to say that my solution was to fill the largest container I could find with water and squemishly chase the spider around the bath (from a terrified distance) until I washed him down the plughole.

Only somewhat, because there appears to be a co-ordinated strategy here. Early today (before the petrifiying bathtub experience) I found another, smaller, 5-cent-piece spider LURKING ON MY CHAIR RIGHT WHERE I REST MY HAND!!! I squished that one with a Resene test-pot and spent the next hour freaking out every time I touched the chair by accident, because of the spider juice.

Simply by the power of suggestion, my finger burnt and itched where it had touched the chair.


Spiders! I'm going to have nightmares tonight.

Posted by phreq at 06:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Oh, You'd Know About This...

... you're [insert minority group].

The TV3 News is really starting to bug me. I'm getting annoyed at the way every article that has an Asian, or Maori, or Female slant on it has a reporter that matches the demographic.

I think I would find that really insulting. "Oh, look, we're going to do a filler on Asian medicene. Get me an Asian reporter." "Oooh, this is a Maori land rights story. Get me the most Maori-looking reporter we have."

Bah! I would like see and hear from the best reporter for the job regardless of their skin colour or racial heritage or gender or weight. If the report is objective then the reporter's viewpoint and history should be inconsequential.

Then I think, hey, why bother taking TV seriously? TV is just entertainment. All my real news comes from the papers available on the internet.

Yet still it irks me. Irk Irk Irk.

Posted by phreq at 04:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 09, 2005

No More Outrage - All's Fair, Apparently

The Bush administration has declared that 325 prisoners (non-Iraqi) are not protected by the Geneva Convention. Dangerous, dangerous shit. I shall have a hard time dredging up too much outrage the next time a US civilian is kidnapped, tortured and killed. In a quote from a senior FBI official, the prisoners with detailed and valuable knowledge at Guatanamo "expired" soon after their interrogations.

This from the USA, defender of truth, justice and the American way? This from the people who thought an al-qaeda first strike on the USA was unthinkable, but a first strike on Iraq not only thinkable but imperative?

Well, yes, it does kind of make sense.

I am so glad I'm not an American.

The Geneva Convention stuff is scary. So is the presidential nomination for Attorney General, who is the same guy that re-jigged the definition of 'torture' for the Bush Admin, so that torture only means hurting someone bad enough to kill them. Anything else is apparently acceptable.

I am so glad I'm not an American.

Oh yeah, and the peace in Aceh didn't last too long. Seven men were shot, execution-style, by the military on Friday because they were "suspected of smuggling cigarettes to the rebels."

One of the seven men was 17 years old. He told his mother he was going with a group of friends to dig a motorcycle out of the tsunami mud.

Concerns are held that since the USA has just lifted restrictions on aid to the Indonesian military to allow the importation of spare parts for their planes etc, the military might use this aid bonanza to increase pressure on the rebel-held areas. For the last two years, aid agencies, human rights groups and media have been barred from Aceh by the military. It's only since the tsunami they've been allowed in.

10,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the last 25 years. Long-term, Indonesian soldiers will "guard" the refugee camps the UN runs.

It doesn't look too promising, does it?

(all quotes from the nytimes.com website)

Posted by phreq at 05:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 07, 2005

It's A Silly Game & I Won't Play

I have a friend who I met about two years ago and got to know fairly well. We shared a lot of things together for a while and then I moved back up to Wellington.

Ever since I've known her she has been suffering from depression, and periodic suicidality. I understand that better than most and I've tried to kind of be supportive without being entangled.

Now, she is a mutual friend of mine and Deb's. And Deb is one of these people who can't help getting entangled when she's supportive. We all know how much Deb's going through at the moment. She doesn't deserve this person ringing her up to "say goodbye" every few weeks. She doesn't need the packages and letters with the "open this after you hear" instructions. And she certainly doesn't need the bizarre text messages asking her to travel up north for unspecified reasons.

So I'm pissed off on Deb's behalf, and pissed off on my own behalf a little too. She sends me the same text messages, out of the blue after the last thing I heard was that she was "absolutely" going to kill herself and so if I wanted to see her again come north right away (several months ago). It was another request to come up north. She knows I have no money, and anyway, why would I spend all that money and time on someone who's just going to kill herself?

And there's the rub. I'm pretty sure that this is some kind of "rescue-game" (conscious or otherwise) - she's going to try and try and try to kill herself but something or someone will always come along to stop her just in time, because in her heart of hearts she doesn't want to die; she just wants someone to love her and take care of her.

I wish I could, but I can't. She'll pull me under at the moment. I don't have the energy or the emotional resources to play this game with her. It gives me shudders every time I hear of a suicide (or worse, a murder-suicide) on the news until I'm sure it's not her. I feel guilty for not "being there" for a friend but it's just unfeasible.

The thing is, if she were trying to go in a positive direction, I'd dearly love to help her, because I do understand some of what she's feeling and she's a neat person under it all. But she is swimming in circles and trying to attract sharks, so the only safe distance is the shore, as far as I'm concerned.

I feel really mean! But I feel okay with being mean because I know it's not bitchy-mean, it's survival-mean. And I've never had a problem with survival-mean.

Posted by phreq at 06:09 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 06, 2005

It's A Form Of Osmosis

All my clothes are slowly becoming covered with paint. Usally by accident, sometimes by impatience. I don't think I have any jeans that aren't painty. I am coming to accept that if I pick up a paintbrush several times a day it is simply foolish to expect myself to put on special painty-clothes. I'll never be that responsible. So I'm just kind of expanding my wardrobe of painty-clothes, I guess.

I updated my recommended book list yesterday so if you are on holiday and looking for some good reads (and you happen to share my opinion of what a 'good read' is) then take a look.

The weather is warm and drizzly. The dog is sleeping in my chair and growling in her dreams. I am anticipating a day of painting and running annoying errands in the rain... aha! At last it's a (legitimate) chance to use the Drizabone!


Posted by phreq at 07:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 05, 2005

Fast, Newsworthy, Guilt-Tripping

Did you know that over 8 million people die every year in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India etc from preventable diseases like malaria? But you won't see that on the news, night after night, begging people to give to make a difference.

We like our disasters fast, devastating, visually intriguing and with lots of human-interest stories. I don't know how many times I've seen on the news:
"This is X. He lost his mother, wife and 6 children. Now he wanders his shattered village, desperate for aid that is too slow in coming."

It isn't actually news anymore. We know. We are giving money to help. But we like to watch the pictures and hear the simple "these people are worse off than you by far. Don't you feel guilty?" stories.

In Sri Lanka, 30,000 people were killed by the tsunami. 64,000 people have been killed by the Tamil Tiger rebels in the Civil War. In Sumatra, rebels have been killing their countrymen and terrorising aid workers for years. They've only stopped threatening to kill aid workers since the tsunami.

Remember the earthquake in Bam, Iran about a year ago? People there are still living in tents because promised aid money never materialised. Aid is promised in huge quantities in the glare of the media spotlight, but often it never happens. The Monterey summit in 2002 brought promises from the USA to set up a Millenium Fund to supply $5 billion per year to Africa. NOT ONE DOLLAR has been given from the account.

Yes, give to the Red Cross in the time of crisis. But, more importantly, give to the Red Cross in times of seeming calm, because it's never calm, it's just not a good soundbite for the telly.

Posted by phreq at 06:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 03, 2005

It Sucks, For Less

Well I guess I am now one sixth fulfilled for the year. I achieved a goal and purchased a vacuum cleaner. Who would have believed that it is possible to fabricate, market and distribute a vacuum cleaner for under $40? They must use slave labour or not be dolphin safe, but frankly, I haven't vacuumed this place since I moved in and five months creates a lot of debris. Particularly with a dog.

I feel constantly unwell and I can't work out why. Is it because I've eaten too little, or too much, or the wrong thing? Am I perhaps allergic to something and that's why I feel so bad? Is it the medication or the other chemicals I indulge in? Is it anxiety? Is it a stomach ulcer or a mental block? Who the hell knows... there are so many variables it's impossible to work out what to do. I'm planning on going to see a doctor in a couple of weeks but really, it's guesswork with them too.

The domestication of the dog continues unabated.

Posted by phreq at 03:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Shock, Awe & Ignorance

Does anybody actually know what Al Qaeda's objectives are? Really? Because beyond not liking America much, I really don't know. I don't know why the Bali bombing happened, for example, if that was indeed Al Qaeda. Same thing with the Madrid bombing. And then today I found this in the New York Times:

"... one of Al Qaeda's most cherished goals is the overthrow of the Saudi government."

Really? I had no idea. No one seems to have a fact sheet on the group that says:
This is what they want
This is how they plan to get it

Just about any other group you care to name: IRA, Tamil Tigers, Kahmir rebels - have clear goals that they communicate often. Why not AQ?

If you go to this website: http://www.al-qaeda.com/ then it says: "Hacked, Tracked and Owned by the USA".

Then, it automatically redirects you to a page called ITS HAPPENING CURRENT EVENTS FORUM and then advises you that the page is offline to preserve public safety and homeland security. "DO NOT CLICK this GRAPHIC HERE there is NOTHING to see here. Just move along."

Seemed like a challenge to me so I clicked the graphic.

It takes you to http://www.itshappening.com/index.php which is (according to itself) a free mental health support forum, but it's a discussion board with groups like:
Rant & Rave
Conspiracy Theories
Pointless Babble

BUT if you go to http://www.itshappening.com/ you get the same 'blocked for homeland security' message.

I looked at some of the posts on the discusson board and it appears to be a discussion forum for hot-heads. It could well need a mental health expert or two moderating it.

Interesting though. Take a look.

Posted by phreq at 06:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 02, 2005

The Eternal Lethargy Of A Sleepless Mind

I've slept kinda badly recently because I'm having one of my periodic 'aversion-to-sleeping-pills' periods and decreasing my medication a little. I kind of worry that if I don't detox a little every few weeks I'll get to the point where I can't sleep at all without pills.

So today was spent crashing out, napping and not doing a whole lot else. It was quite pleasant but now I'm all achy and odd because it's 6pm and I just woke up, but I'm tired enough to go back to sleep again. After the Simpsons, I think.

I love the way weather forecasts are so often wrong. It was meant to be rainy and awful for days, and instead we have brilliant powder-blue sky and golden sunshine. Hooray! And just enough breeze to tickle the ankles and keep humidity at bay.

Mmmmmmmm, Cantaberous!

Posted by phreq at 05:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 01, 2005

Conversational English Tutor Needed

This is why I am bad at parties. Luckily I have long-suffering friends who humour me. I can not disengage the "teach, teach" part of my black hole of a brain.

This is how the conversation went round the table last night:

"yeah, we were up at Sumner lake... "
"yeah man, the mozzies!"
"nah, we were up there yesterday and there were none!"
"bullshit! look at my hands!" (bites displayed)
"there's more when it's a hot day, you shouldn't have gone fishing in the sun, ya idiot!"
"actually, I think mosquitoes track carbon dioxide. As you breath more heavily with exertion your CO2 output increases, and particularly if you are breathing heavily and you stop for a rest, the CO2 concentration in the air around you increases. Mosquitoes and other mammal parasites can sense the changes from some distance away... "
(people stop, look at me a little long and say, oh, wow, really? hmm)
"so it's your dog then?"
"yeah, she's so cute!"
"oh, who's a cute little doggie then?"
"nice jacket"
"hee hee! yeah, it's cool ay?!"
"won't she get hot?"
"poor hot-dog!" (gales of laughter)
"actually, it shouldn't affect her temperature regulation much at all. dogs can't sweat through their fur and lose heat through evaporation like us. they lose body heat by circulating air around their mucous membranes by panting, and they sweat only through the exposed pads on their feet. so a jacket on her back will affect her about as much as you closing your mouth when you're hot."
(people kind of stop, look at her, look at me. oh, wow, really? hmm)

Aaaaand so on. I need to learn conversational English.

Still, I had fun. And the other people probably had fun. And thank them for not goggling at me. Nothing harshes your buzz like a conversational goggle.


On another topic, this is my headline of the day:
"Thailand Expects Tsunamis To Slow Growth"

all the news you've come to expect...

(from nytimes.com, as ever.)

Posted by phreq at 07:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack