Thursday, December 23, 2004

Have I addressed your objection? Or have I gotten lost? :) I shall end on another optimistic Brave New World note...

At both ends, technology can be expected to minimise the requirement to spend large sums in law enforcement. Once it is cheap and easy for grandfather to have a full and happy virtual reality life as a head in a tank, there will be less incentive to knock him over the head. Once it is cheap and easy to have your unborn child removed as soon as you find out about her, so the Mahdi can raise her in a tank and bring her up to be one of his Fedayeen, there will be no incentive to court death and prosecution by pursuing an illegal abortion.

Since you don't advocate even a different punishment, or the definition of a separate crime of (early/late term) abortion as separate from murder under the law, yet you do advocate a bias against policing these crimes, you deny today's reality, and assume a world where it is possible to be harsh yet fair, even if 90% get away with murder and the other 10% get jailed for life. Although it is true that prohibition in the US was very effective at cutting abortion rates, many people would still take the risk of being jailed for life, than the alternative "prison" of an inadequate family situation. Also, denied abortion denies the next sperm, egg or frozen embrio a chance of life in a much better starting situation. Although this is hard to weigh up against the taking of a life it still needs to be done. The only way that I think it can be fair, is if it is taken out of the state's hands, and allowed to be "enforced" through the moral institutions which care about it the most, and that believe that God is on their side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ask me some detailed questions about the bathtub curve view of life! Where are these contradictions you see? I believe that as the health resources available to distribute will always be finite, they should be preferentially directed towards the middle of the bathtub curve. However, I am adamantly opposed to both active euthanasia and active infanticide/abortion. Show me the contradictions- I hunger and thirst for a self-consistent Weltanschauung!

My traditional thoughts were that people vehemently against first tri-mester abortions in particular, were also people who would mourn as much for a miscarriage as for an accidental death of a baby. This seemed to be the case for Kylie, and a number of other anti-abortionists I know of. This goes along with my perception of people who have a one life / one value mentality will view abortion and active euthanasia as murder. You speak about health resources - but what about police resources. I assure you that if more police resources were put to assessing whether certain deaths in hospital were suspicious or not regardless of how close to death the people were anyway, a lot more would be found to be murder perpetrated by the doctors or family members. This is where my "slippery slope" argument comes in. As more police resources are put in to police abortion laws and euthanasia laws, the more pressure is placed on the people involved to demonstrate that the deaths were imminent, or the costs of keeping them alive were too much for what the life was worth etc. As far as abortion is concerned, once the convenient legal line of birth is gone, certainly some suspicious miscarriages may well be charged as murder - Now that would give a new meaning to the term "miscarriage of justice". In moral-religious terms it is quite simple - Sins take you away from God and could result in eternal damnation. On this life however, the uncertainties of evidence of various kinds and the relative prevalence of natural deaths make that slope on the left of the bathtub very slippery indeed in terms of enforcement. The question is : Is there not a contradiction between your one life/one value view on the unborn on the definition of murder and the way you think resources both health and police resources should be allocated?

I will mount a spirited attack on the separation of Church and State just as soon as you provide a definition of it. It is good to remember that the Christian Roman Empire lasted until the sack of Constantinople in 1452- i.e., more than a thousand years. And religion and the state were inextricably entwined during every minute of the 3000-year reign of the Pharaoahs...

My definition of Separation of Church and state is the principle (enshrined in USA's constitution for instance) that the laws of the "Church" as in any moral edicts or by-laws given in any registered religious organisation are independent of the laws of the country. It also means that the head of state cannot also be a head of a religious organisation. This does not mean that just because murder is disallowed with Christians that this law cannot be also a law of the country, but that the country's law is independently defined, judged and policed from any christian institutions. Although Australia does not seem to have this enshrined in the constitution, the principle is well known, and is argued at great length when, for instance the GG is/was also the head of a Church. I agree that where there wasn't an alternative in the past history, in the examples you mention for instance, long and stable Theocracies did thrive - but in modern history, from whence the principle first surfaced, how have countries that disavowed the principle thrived compared to ones that didn't?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Back to debate blogging

My intention with my blog of 3rd December was a blatant attempt at trying to get someone (hell anyone) worked up enough to put a comment there. I must admit it was an abject failure :-(. However, I'm still hoping, and since all comments get sent to me as email, it won't go unnoticed just because it's way down there at the bottom of my blog ready to be archived. I still want to argue about impartiality of various articles from any and all sources that we read. Also, I want to know Dr. Clam's thoughts on treatising life on the edges of the bathtub curve of life - He did briefly mention it and I'm infinitely curious, as that is where I perceive some contradictions on his view on life. I am also curious as to whether Lexifab feels vindicated in his views on war in Iraq or whether he has lost interest in despair at the situation moving on at its own pace. And another thing I remember I wanted to argue about: The separation of church and state and freedom of religion - These are crucial elements in any new nations constitutions. The main problems with Iran can be traced back to the lack of these as a cause. Even the Roman empire, I believe became destined to fail completely once Christianity became its "official" religion. (My point being here that it wasn't because of Christianity's laws but any religion being entwined with a government causing the problem)

Friday, December 17, 2004


Last week I complained that we played the top team too often. This week I'm going to complain that we play the bottom team too often. This time around we had Sandor instead of Dan. The opposition had only three players this week, and it should have been a walkover, except we just took it too casually. We won but there wasn't much good to say about it.

Tis the season not to be jolly

To keep going with my theme of hot Summers being bad, and combined with Christmas stress - even worse, statistically, the cases of domestic violence increase dramatically in summer, especially in the tropics. I can't mention any specifics, but I've got direct evidence that this is also not a myth. I am predicting numerous arguments between my relatives between now and March, but there's nothing I can do to stop them. I can see why hordes of North Queenslanders head South for the summer. And birds too for that matter. What are the chances that I could just "forget" Christmas, wake up in the morning and realise I'd missed it. Not likely. Perhaps I should just try and go along with the so-called christmas spirit, and put lights up all around the house and make everybody happy. I know, I could pour pure alcohol all around the house and just light it up! That would make for a good show.

I hate to be negative, but all these people going around looking jolly and pretending to be happy make me sick. Who are they trying to kid. All I want for Christmas is a lazy day with nothing to do, lots of cold non-alcoholic drinks, no kids nagging me to play with their presents. In other words, what I want for Christmas is for Christmas not to be Christmas. Gee, I'm glad I've got that off my chest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Chop the mango tree down

5 years ago, not long after we moved into our new house, I planted an r2e2 mango tree, which I thought was a good idea because of the spectacular looking mangoes and the glut of "Bowen" mangoes that family and friends would give me. Kylie has constantly threatened to cut it down because she hates the mess of mango trees, and she especially doesn't eat the r2e2 variety at all. My kids have also started to refuse to eat the r2e2 mangoes that I get, and I have stopped preferring them too. I think I will swallow my pride and chop it down, replacing it with some other tree. Maybe I will do it as a Christmas present for Kylie. This doesn't help me with my need for more free mangoes for the daily feeding ritual of my "fruitbat" kids who have them for breakfast, though.

If I haven't been blogging, it's probably because I've been playing around with sending bulk e-mail to Cueldee's online customers using This has been quite a good experience, mainly due to the improving technology and the good features of the web site. If you're not already on my list you can easily join by clicking join here. It's intriguing how direct the feedback is from email compared with other communication methods. My main focus at the moment is to make sure my emails don't get confused with unsolicited spam. I also have to make sure I don't cross the line and actually create unsolicited spam. Since I am still kind of experimenting, I hope that our customers are understanding to start with.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


For the third time this season, we've played the top team, out of eight games. Since there are 6 teams in the competition, this would seem to be a little unfair. However, we didn't disgrace ourselves at all, and except for a bad run of 17 points lost in a row late in the first half, we were very closely matched. We made some amazing saves, and all four of us got some success at blocking (I even convinced Casey to give it a go, and se managed to psyche out the opposition even though she's not really tall enough to reach the top of the net). Our serves, and reply to serves were quite inconsistent, and perhaps we can improve before the semifinals. If you are interested here is the game results page.

Mango Madness

ie. the stress-inducing hot weather, not a Parigi daily feeding ritual.

This "sickness" which is endemic in North Queensland causes me (and a lot of other people as far as I can tell) to have a very short fuse. Already, I have had arguments with people for the very first time. On the plus side, I have trouble eating when I'm stressed, and, I've found in the last few years, I go from a maximum of about 74.5 kg from August to October to about 69 kg by February to April. So, I'll snap or shout at anything that merely looks at me the wrong way, but I become slim and handsome :-).


Nikolas (8) has just got his year three report back, and amazingly it is even better than what Belinda's was in year three! This is a little surprising because with Belinda I had made a concerted pre-school effort to get her a head start in maths, etc., and her results in maths are outstanding. With Nikolas, however, I neglected to do head start type maths books at all, but it seems that he tries desparately to keep up with Belinda's maths and english, and his maths is even better than what Belinda's was, and his english is also better than hers was. This is quite strange because he has a very analytical brain (hmmm like mine?) and it seems his improvement in english has got a lot to do with his teacher this year, which managed to give him a semblance of self-motivation. It also helps that he has found books that pique his interest which require much improved reading skills. He won a book from the library about Jupiter. It seems to be aimed at year 5 to 6 level - but he looks to have read the whole book before we even realised he had it. I think that ignoring his school work altogether makes him more self sufficient in learning.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Liked This article courtesy of the Australian Financial Review:

The time you take to read this newspaper today will probably be longer than the battle of the Eureka Stockade, which seems to have lasted (nobody was using a stopwatch) for about 15 minutes.
By most military standards, Eureka - which happened 150 years ago today - was a skirmish. Accounts of the death toll conflict (almost every fact about Eureka can be contested), but Pierpont will use the figure of 22 diggers and five police. Some accounts put the diggers' death toll as high as 30, but the list compiled by their leader, Peter Lalor, puts the number at 22, including three whose names were unknown.

As every other windbag in Australia has pontificated about the significance of Eureka over the past week, Pierpont thought he'd go with the flow and deliver a few opinions of his own.

Rather belatedly, Pierpont should point out that the Communist Party of Australia's attempt to kidnap the Eureka name has little credibility when one looks at the facts.

Karl Marx has been quoted as saying "the workers" were the main force at Eureka. As Gerard Henderson noted in The Sydney Morning Herald this week, the communists decided in the 1930s to hail the Eureka rebellion as a true manifestation of the revolutionary struggle and incorporated a reference to Eureka in the preamble to their constitution.

The communists also formed the Eureka Youth League as a left-wing alternative to the Boy Scouts a singularly unsuccessful initiative because Baden-Powell's scouts had uniforms, badges and a paramilitary structure that was much more appealing to the boys of the day. The scouts also laid great emphasis on personal responsibility whereas the communists were chronic whingers, who blamed capitalism for everything.

Marx was only half right about the workers. Certainly the diggers worked like dogs, but they weren't wage slaves for some plutocratic capitalist. They were free men and their own bosses, trying to strike it rich in a goldfield. They were small capitalists, not the factory fodder of Das Kapital. Mark Latham got it right when he said the diggers were self-employed contractors and the hard-working aspirational class seeking tax relief.

The first diggers at Ballarat headed straight for the rivers and streams and panned them for gold.

Rafaello Carboni - the only eyewitness to give a full account of the incident - grizzled about being searched for his miner's licence when he arrived at Ballarat by "a six-foot fellow in a blue shirt, thick boots, the face of a ruffian, armed with a carabine [sic] and fixed bayonet". He bemoaned coming 16,000 miles (his calculation of the distance from Italy) to escape Austrian tyranny only to be suffering from "colonial brutedom".

His moans lessened a bit at the end of the month when 177 ounces of gold were discovered at a depth of 60 feet on the hill opposite where he was working.

This was the key to Ballarat. The easily won gold was soon discovered on the surface. Then inquiring explorers sunk deeper and discovered old, deeper waterways that ran in different directions to those on the surface. Some of these gutters contained rich gold and some were barren. Soon syndicates formed and dug down to 60 feet and then beyond 100 feet.

The nature of the gold screamed out for syndicate or company operation and financing. Instead, the authorities were selling licences to individuals. Carboni's licence cost #2 and entitled him to dig for three months, which was not too bad a deal. However, he was limited to one patch 12 feet square or 144 square feet. A syndicate of four could handle a patch four times that size, which was better, but still involved hazards.

As miners dug down, they struck the water table, which required constant baling. As shafts sank deeper, they needed to be timbered, which was expensive. And there was still no guarantee they would strike gold at the bottom. Often they would "shepherd", just turning over a few shovelfuls a day while waiting to see whether their neighbours struck gold.

The licence fees applied whether gold was struck or not. And the raids by the police were vexatious. The licences being paper and perishable were not normally carried by the miners as they were working, but were kept in their tents, which might be half a mile from the hole. So they had to stop work, go back to their tents and retrieve the licence while being harassed by the police.

There is no reason to quarrel with the conventional judgement that this was a stupid tax, harshly prosecuted.

Nor did the climate help. Ballarat boils in summer, especially in northerly winds. And as Pierpont can testify after one unforgettable day at the Ballarat races, in winter it freezes. Carboni was exactly right when he referred to "this Ballaarat, a Nugety Eldorado for the few, a ruinous Field of hard labour for many, a profound ditch of Perdition for Body and Soul". Perhaps the worst point, which rarely seems to be made in histories of Eureka, was that the authorities having levied the licence fees did not in return provide the diggers with any protection from the lawlessness on the field.

Theft and claim jumping were rife. Carboni complained that his hole was next to one that was "jumped by the Eureka mob, where one man was murdered in the row". When Carboni went to fetch timber, the dirt he had left behind to wash was gone. Indeed, he said even his little hole was gone. The whole patch had been "clean shaved" by claim jumpers.

So the police were there at the behest of the governor to collect taxes, not to maintain law and order.

It was in this atmosphere on October 8, 1854, that a drunken digger named James Scobie was killed late at night after being refused entry to the Eureka Hotel. The publican, James Bentley, was suspected of murder, but released for lack of evidence. That infuriated the diggers, who burned down the hotel. (And for the benefit of non-mining readers, it takes a very infuriated digger indeed to burn down a pub.)

Three of the men involved in the riot were convicted and jailed, which further inflamed passions. On November 29, an angry meeting was held at Bakery Hill where some diggers burned their licences.

On the following day the police again raided the diggings, got stoned for their pains and arrested more diggers. The diggers held another meeting, elected Lalor as their leader and formed a rough stockade from slabs of timber. Inside the stockade, they armed themselves with pikes and firearms. The pikemen drilled and those with guns dug rifle pits.

It was not so much an armed rebellion as a defence against further raids by the police. At 3am on Sunday, December 3, there were perhaps 120 men inside the stockade. In the dark, a force of some 1000 troops and police had assembled. They launched a surprise raid and quickly overran the ramshackle defences.

As a symbol of Australian revolutionary spirit, Eureka doesn't quite make it. To begin with, only two of the diggers were Australian-born. As Pierpont's source for this statistic is Latham, he is not wholly comfortable with the number, but certainly there weren't many.

Only one of the fallen on Lalor's list of 22 was Australian, whereas 10 were Irish.

As the Irish were Catholics, it takes some skewing of history to repaint them as socialist revolutionaries, but doubtless that was child's play to any communist who could believe Joe Stalin was a nice chap.

The spine of the rebellion also seems to have been provided by Californians, who formed a Rangers Brigade, armed with Colt revolvers and long Mexican knives. They were standing sentry when the soldiers attacked, which raises the possibility that Eureka has more credibility as a revolutionary symbol for Los Angeles than for Australia, which means Hollywood has so far missed the opportunity to exploit this morsel of its military past.

The Californians were sticking to the principle of the American Revolution ("no taxation without representation"), which is really what Eureka was all about.

In seeking the meaning of Eureka, we should not ignore its consequences. A total of 113 diggers were arrested for their part in the affray and spent a few months in jail awaiting trial, but juries sensibly refused to convict them. Most of the trials were before Redmond Barry, who was sympathetic to the diggers' plight. (He was less sympathetic later to Ned Kelly.)

In 1855 only months after the battle the miners began to make their own laws and run their own courts to settle pegging disputes. The mining code was overhauled and modified. The code became kinder to ordinary diggers and, more importantly, expedited the formation of syndicates and companies that could exploit the deep leads.

Lalor, who lost his left arm during the stockade, became a prosperous miner and conservative MP, rising to become speaker of the Victorian parliament. Above all, the battle probably hastened the onset of democracy in colonial Victoria.

The lesson of Eureka is that Australians do not have the revolutionary mindset. They are not much interested in ideological struggle, although they will fight for ordinary human rights. They are pragmatic and they found practical solutions for their difficulties without erecting any more barricades.

Where England had a civil war, and the United States, France and Russia had earth-shaking revolutions, Australia patched up an imperfect system and made it less imperfect.

After Eureka, the legal system worked to protect the oppressed, and democracy emerged. All this was achieved without any more blood being spilt. It's not glamorous.

Indeed, it's downright prosaic. But it's better than revolution, bloodshed and a legacy of a century and a half of hatred and bitterness.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Where did it all go? I told Belinda, that during the holidays, I could get a bike, and we could practice the route for riding to school together, without the pressure of peak traffic to worry about. To this she answered - "But that's going to take you so long! That's exactly the kind of thing that gives me reason not to have any kids. There too much stuff like that, that you've got to do for them all the time, like teaching them how to ride and stuff like that." I was thinking "Huh??" Kylie was thinking: "must remember to write this down with other reasons she's given us for not having any kids, so that we can show her the list at the birth of her first child."

Friday, December 03, 2004

Movie - The Assassin

I watched the original French version of this movie a long time ago on SBS. It was one of those movies with concepts so cold, with characters so well "executed", that the scenes just stick into your brain never to leave! When the "Hollywood" version showed on Win here the other night, the temptation to watch it was too strong to resist. Although this version was nowhere near as well "executed", the memories of the original came back and I was shaking and having cold sweats half way through. The final assignment on this version however, and the "Cleaner" sent in to clean the assassinations by killing all witnesses, just didn't ring true. I kind of want to see the original again, but I fear the nightmares might come back.
Movie - The Assassin

I watched the original French version of this movie a long time ago on SBS. It was one of those movies with concepts so cold, with characters so well "executed", that the scenes just stick into your brain never to leave! When the "Hollywood" version showed on Win here the other night, the temptation to watch it was too strong to resist. Although this version was nowhere near as well "executed", the memories of the original came back and I was shaking and having cold sweats half way through. The final assignment on this version however, and the "Cleaner" sent in to clean the assassinations by killing all witnesses, just didn't ring true. I kind of want to see the original again, but I fear the nightmares might come back.
No Comments

I think I must have won all the philosophical, political arguments that I was having on various blogs, because nobody's been doing any commenting about them :-). So, it is time to come up with my conclusions.

1) Australia would have done a lot better job in Iraq without the interfering Yanks. Imagine what a success East Timor would have been if America got involved. OK first of all we Shock and Awe the evil Indonesians that are there, then we send in massive amounts of troops, and then we declare victory, and then we set an election date. I don't think so.

2) Politicians would have to be crazy to flirt with the idea of banning abortions, or for that matter, any meaningful reform of both legislation on first tri-mester pregnancies and of euthanasia. There's few votes in it and on the edge of the bathtub curve I was demonstrating the slopes are steep, and that makes for a very slippery slope with regards to making clear-cut legal lines, necessary for laws to be workable. However, I do believe that people that decide to have an abortion do deserve to go to hell. I would let a higher judge than the supreme court make that call, however.

3) How is it that we can solve the policing problems in East Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, etc. but somehow we bungle Palm Island policing? The truth is that the behaviour of the police gets all the blame from the Palm Islanders and other indigenous groups; The aboriginals involved get the blame from almost everybody else, and the real culprits, the politicians who make very dubious decisions with regards to the administration of these Aboriginal communities get away scott free! Ideally, Palm Island should just have a handful of police officers, but should have a plentitude of Aboriginal Liason officers. And if there aren't enough around, do what we do in foreign shores as diverse as Iraq and Solomon Islands - We train some more, until there is!

4) In a way, I have to eat humble pie with regards to Lexifab. Before the war in Iraq started, he correctly predicted that Iraq had no WMD. This leads me to believe he correctly viewed all the talk about there being plenty as complete spin. It is very likely that the espionage agencies had told the governments that on balance of probabilities there was no WMD at all to be found, and the fact that those agencies were secretive, means that the governments can interpret any information any way they like. However, I did state at the time, that even if that were so, the strategic etc. basis for war was still strong.

5) I'm going home for the weekend, and so until Monday I won't answer any comments on these posts :)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wacky Wednesday

Well, as I predicted Wednesday was rather eventful. I argued some more with Kylie with regards to Felicia's preschool christmas presentation, which clashed horribly with beach volleyball. Anyway, from what I could tell, Felicia was just as happy to come play in the sand while I played volleyball as have me come along to the presentation. Anyhow, I come home early from work so I can get ready for volleyball and help Felicia get ready for her preschool thing. I asked Kylie if I should get them dinner before we all go out, and she said "No, you should pack your bags and get out!". Anyhow, I decided to tell Belinda and Nikolas to get some play clothes on so that they can play in the sand, and they do: so does Felicia. Kylie asks her why she is doing that and she says she doesn't want to go to the pre-school. Anyway, just as we were about to give up, Kylie asks "Don't you wat to wear your nice Christmas dress?", suddenly Felicias face lights up and she says "OH, Yesss" and peace is restored. Anyhow, after volleyball, Kylie still has't forgiven me, and in a rage, she lashes out, I instinctively bring up my knees, and her wrists hit akwardly against my knee and she gets a hematoma (I don't know if that's spelt right). It was just dumb luck that she had an unrelated doctor's appointment the next day, where it turns out her original ear complaint was already gone, but she had to have a blood test to make sure there was no serious problems due to her wrist injury.


Which brings me to ths weeks game, which due to Sandor pulling out, I called our old team member Dan, with whom we'd won three first division finals in a row when we were still plaing on Tuesdays. As it turned out we were playing a fairly weak team, and would have probably won even with three players, but it was great having Dan there. He's got great timing in his net play, spiking and blocking nicely, and unlike Sandor, Anthony and Casey, he picks off the loose return of service with a spike like it deserves! That happens a lot with weaker teams like this, and it can be very intimidating for them when it happens. For once we got maximum points from the game, and hopefully Dan will fill in again when we need him. Dan also suggested we should put Casey as permanent setter because of her obvious superior skills in that regard.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I was having a shower this morning as one does, and Felicia came in to ask something, then she went off giggling after she saw me naked. I think its time we also banned her from walking in the bathroom unannounced. She has been eating too many forbidden fruits of knowledge obviously.

Spit Songs

I was just picking up some photos the other day when I met a former employee whom we'd made redundant. I had heard she got a job at the local radio stations and as I started talking to her, I asked if she was still working there, and if I gave her a CD of some music I wanted played if she could pass it on using the usual channels to give it a chance of getting played on air. She just told me to give whatever CD I had to Katie, who still works here and is her flatmate. Anyway, I found a compilation of my favourites which I had put on to a CD and had a niceish label on it which I had made probably more than a year ago. I checked to make sure it didn't have anything too obviously offensive and passed it on. Ideally, I wanted to just put Apple Sauce and Rubber Angel onto a CD and label it like a commercial quality single, but I'd lost all my equipment etc. to do any of that, so I just sent what I had with a covering note and shrugged my shoulders and hoped for the best. I guess it is more likely that 4TO FM and HOT FM here in Townsville would now be more likely to play "Apple Sauce" if it is requested by phone, fax, email or through their web sites. So if I remember, I might do that sometime to see if I get any response. For all I know they might have already played it. I just don't listen to the radio that much. However, if anybody reading this has got nothing to do, it might be worth going to the request part of these radio stations and request Apple Sauce to be played. Hell, it doesn't matter if your on the other part of the country :-). Also, JJJ would have it on their systems also, so a request there might bring results. Now that people can actually buy/download these songs, its time to start marketing them.


Hey, it's December now, so as promised, I will go into more detail into my Lancet study analysis, and into why thinking it wishful thinking that the death statistics are unreliable, but however, the innocence or not of the victims can be taken with a pinch of salt either way. News reports analysis may give a better "feel" for numbers of civilian deaths, and a "feel" for an approximate timeline for death rates. Geographical distribution can probably be gleaned better from the Lancet study also. I have therefore come up with a number of assertions that derive from a balanced view of various statistics, and as complete as possible aversion from spin.

1) Business conditions in Iraq and bordering countries have considerably improved from pre-war levels. This I glean from improved investment and finance figures, returning ex-pats, continued stability towards Turkey's border, and a stabilising of security arrangements and issues, despite localised instability in and around the Sunni triangle.

2) Death rates from the US Shock and Awe period are probably unconscionably high. Although these weapons were used with pinpoint efficiency, the power and time delay from when they were ordered to their striking, probably meant they killed many people not actually targeted, that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also many buildings that would have been useful to the occupiers would have been completely destroyed.

3) Very hard to know the balance of risk in hunting down some militants mercilessly. Does it motivate the next suicide bombers too much, or does it prevent one from becoming just that? Hard to see how suicide bombers can be deterred by merciless killing of their brethren.

4) As much as Iran and other countries distance themselves from the particular situation in Iraq, there is probably quite a high deterrent effect to some countries. The rule of thumb is that working states can be deterred to a much greater extent than failing ones. The assertion being that Iran will probably be much more deterred than North Korea, and China might even ponder what it means for them - they've got a lot more to lose now than before.

Kylie is constantly testing my priorities. Last night she gave me a note about how Felicia's pre-school christmas concert is on at 6:00 pm wednesday night. She went on to say that since that was when my volleyball game was on that I would have to call up Sandor and tell him I wasn't going to volleyball. Of course, I said firmly that I was going to volleyball, and that I would sort it out with Felicia if she got disappointed. Anyhow, she decided that just because I was a "bastard" didn't mean that she wouldn't go, and that therefore I still needed to call Sandor to tell him that I couldn't pick him up and his kids like I have been for a 6pm game lately, because she would have the Kia, and I couldn't fit everybody in the other van. Anyhow, I phone him up and what does he say? Oh, was meaning to call you up, because I can't go to volleyball because he is going to a concert by his son Caleb (11). I briefly roased him for not having his priorities straight, and thought about the irony of it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I had a situation recently where lexifab was the other side of the fence, so to speak. While my parents were away, there was a week where two dogs were in their yard, the pool was a dark shade of green, there was an awful smell of rotting meat coming from somewhere, and a termite nest somewhere near the disused chicken coop. Naturally, one of the neighbours called to the council to complain about the dog howling all night, place smelling, green pool and wood problem. Naturally enough the council letter arrived as my father was coming home. He asked my advice on what to do (do your parents do that?) and I told him straight up to go and talk to ALL the neighbours and sort it out directly and in a civil manner. Although none of the neighbours were saints themselves, this tactic is so much better than to start a war with the neighbours with the Council as arbitrator. I would suggest talking first even if its other way around. There is no harm in occasionally saying hello, and gee thats a noisy dog you've got there, and a big ugly tree growing into the fence etc. just to touch base before taking it further.
Iraq and Lancet

Steering through the spin that every commentator seems to revel in in some way, this is my reckoning of the gist of what the Lancet study discovered, moderated by other indirect techniques of reckoning what went down. Now Dr Clam has brought up two possible sources of inaccuracy that weren't discussed either in the Economist or the Lancet article itself. One is possible "invented" deaths by some of the interviewees keen to show that life is worse after the start of the war. Another is possible "invented" deaths by any one of the actual Lancet researchers/employees. I won't go into detail yet, but I have calculated that this is largely wishful thinking. However, the researchers did point out that as soon as you start talking about the circumstances of the various deaths, rather than the numbers themselves, a lot less can be said with any certainty at all. Therefore, it is actually much more likely that an interviewee would lie about whether the person that died was at home or being directly involved with Saddam's regime. The study indicated that there was a huge peak of deaths early in the conflict, and I think it likely that a large proportion of them should be considered military deaths. Therefore, I would even postulate that a majority of the 100,000 deaths would be either military, paramilitary, or deliberate human shields for certain targets. Now since the war was declared over, things have been actually much better than the first couple of months, as far as Iraqi deaths are concerned - and also very likely to be close to the equivalent of before hostilities started. Therefore, I am much less concerned about the current instability than I am at the Shock and Awe tactics having been used against a failed or failing state. I am not sure if the US military is happy with rough numbers indicating 100 Iraqis dying for every 1 Coalition troop. It does tend to make their tactics look a little cowardly. Different tactics would have almost certainly lead to less Iraqi deaths, better relations with civilians, at probably the same cost of coalition lives, which would have been suffered in direct conflict rather than suicide missions and random captures of non-combat support personnel. Is less deaths overall a noble concept? US opinion seems to only depend on US personnell deaths. If I make an analogy with abortion, if abortions reduce future violent crimes, should we only consider the deaths of people with a life history that concern us, or value all lives equally?
Blogging on

Well, it seems my blogging buddies have been caught cramming to get their novels done on their time as well as everything else, and I seem to be in the unusual position of keeping the flame burning with reasonably regular content here. This gets me thinking, I should really catch on to this Nanowrimo for a couple of reasons. My friends etc. seem to think their novels weak, when the evidence I've seen seems to indicate that they should give up their day jobs and write full time. I didn't do well in High school english at all, and not just because I learnt the language later, and that I'm native Italian speaker. My writing, especially my creative writing is complete crap. If I went into Nanowrimo, I would redefine crap in everybody elses eyes.
Speaking of Nanowrimo novels, I finished reading "The Fork" last week and I haven't written any comments about it yet. I did rather enjoy reading it, especially the first few chapters and the concept of the fork itself. I guess I could describe it as going from "Alice in the looking glass" to "Sliding doors" and moved on until it had the strange complexity of "Multiplicity", or even that Kylie Minogue clip where she starts off as one and somehow, her and everybody on the clip gets multiplied. Of course, I was thinking half way through "Hah, write your way out of this mess you've got yourself into". Of course, just like a series of episodes of "Doctor who", it ends dramatically but neatly, ready to move on to the next episode. One thing that to me distinguishes a "great" novel from just a good one, is whether it makes me dream, or visualise a concept in the book. That is the case with this book, where I'm constantly thinking back to the moment of the first fork, and the dicovery of how it worked. Perhaps this fabulous and original concept is a little wasted on a doctor Who novel, because it could stand up on its own merit, I'm sure. However, I think a doctor Who afficionado like lexifab would be a better source of critique on this novel than I. My thoughts would be, to keep the main novel structure as is, peer review from Doctor Who fans would be the ideal way forward to market it. If, however, you would want to write him out of it completely, I'm not sure of your ideas on reworking the plot, but my instinct would be on simplification, and perhaps dwelling more on the detailed intricacies of mirror image chemistry and sliding doors concepts of following just two paths of the fork in more detail.

Alan Jones

I was listening to Alan Jones on TV on "Today", and he talked a little about Australia's current account deficit blowout, and how it relates to trade policy. Click here to his radio site I give this editorial an MII of 2. The only reason he didn't get a one is because he sort of qualified his statement by saying it wasn't as simple as this. The reason I give it such a low impartiality score is because I believe spin is the greatest threat to truth, much greater than outright lies. He makes quite a lot of assertions as if they were statements of fact, mixing it in with some figures and statistics for good measure. He then goes straight from these assertions and makes a case for his conclusion as if it is the only possible conclusion to make starting from his "facts". Its not because I disagree with him (in this case I do), but he is perpetuating a conclusion that experts have debunked hundreds of years ago and are still debunking, the conclusion that tariffs are good for the country putting them up. However, I made the call long ago not to listen to him because whether I agree with him or not, I have never seen him make a balanced argument, or a case for moderation, or put things into their proper perspective. He serves only to influence the uncommitted to a "populist" style argument, something I like to think other countries do too often, but Australia doesn't. If anyone out there is reading, why not put a comment in just to let me know :)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Marco's Impartiality Index

Due to my distinctive preference in reading only articles etc. that are very impartial, I will start giving an index to every article or articles I am given or read and I will give them an MII rating from 1 to 10, where 1 is complete bias mixed with several exagerrations and misuse of statistics and dubious statements. 10 is articles which use well established facts, gives concise arguments from moderates of either side, puts every issue in a historical context, giving any suitable background, makes comparisons with any analogous situations and lets the reader come to any conclusions. I read a few articles on the Townsville Bulletin regarding the Palm Island Riots. There was a article of ">"A Tale of two families", one an aboriginal family on palm island and another of which was a policemans family . MII - 8. This clearly gives both sides of the story from fairly random or typical selection of characters, but is a bit heavy in emotion, and a little lacking in depth. One of the articles on page three, I would give an MII of 9, as it hints at the history of the people involved in the initial death, and the context of it happening. One disturbing thing for me is that the general population around here instinctively sides with the police regardless of any counterbalancing information; giving a lot of latitude for politicians to pull strings through which would add fuel to the general touchy situation in the island, knowing that if it erupted, the blame would fall on the aborigines there. There seems to me, to be anecdotal evidence of just that sort of thing happening. The lack of Aboriginal Liason officers (the best way of reducing police/aboriginal tensions), a week delay for the autopsy result, the alleged stationing of an officer whose previous stations ended when similar riots happened in other communities, seem to smack of weasel government policy(aka The Way of the Weasel, by Scott Adams). It kind of proves my point when, suddenly, the Government leaps to action with considerable resources to sort out the mess, looking like the saviour rather than the cause, when very few resources were spent on the conciliation between police and Aborigines on Palm Island in the first place.

The closest analogy I can think of, is the resulting riots in immigration detention centres in the last decade. In hindsight, government policy contributed greatly to those happening, while at the time a very large majority of Australians were thinking - "those ungreatful sods" about the economic migrants/Asylum seekers/Illegals involved.

Kylie made Toblerone cheesecake to go with the mango cheesecake and peach pie she made earlier in the day. Marco had argument with Belinda over the fact that he didn’t bring home the computer(I actually had it in the car, but I didn't want her to have it yet). Cooked lasagne for dinner. Fed the kids. Watched Ice Age with Nikolas, Felicia and Zachary. Belinda sulking in bedroom. Went to bed.

Marco got up(at 5:15am went to work for 3/4 hr and then picked up some mangoes from my fathers place), fed kids breakfast, mowed part of the lawn. Sat down and worked out shopping list for party food. Went to supermarket and bought groceries. Came home and cooked filling for Chicken Vol-au-vents, Salmon Puffs, Broccoli and corn quiche, mini quiches, and Savory puff pinwheels. Kids washed plastic chairs. Whipped cream and decorated both cheesecakes and peach pie. Loaded kids table, chairs, drinks etc into van and took them to Kristy’s. Forgot platters and had to go back for them. Did all the pastry stuff and loaded them into the car, dressed ourselves and the kids and went to Kristy’s for Dad’s surprise 60th birthday party. Arrived late and missed the surprise. Marco had to go back to the shop to get the custard Mum forgot. Had to go back home to get the desserts later because there was no fridge space at Kristy’s. Nanna, Aunty Marg, Aunty Robyn and Uncle Glen(Collinsville mob), Leanne, Philip, Kaitlyn, Melissa and Christine (Mackay mob)all came for the party too. Got home Just before eleven o’clock, put all the left over food away and sent the kids to bed. Went to bed ourselves.

Got up at about seven o’clock(Actually, got up at 5:15am again, went to work for 3/4 hour, then went to my fathers place to feed their dogs). Had breakfast. Tidied up the lounge room and swept the floor. Picked up the chairs and table from Kristy’s house. Alicia(11 year old new friend of Belindas, recently arrived from Tasmania) arrived at ten o’clock to play with Belinda. Met her and her mother Helen. Washed all the dishes left over from the party cooking spree. Picked up the grannies and went to Mum’s for lunch. Walkerston and Collinsville mobs were there too. Had plenty of leftovers for lunch. Out of towners left about half past two. Jensens’ all lay down and went to sleep so we packed up to go home after the grannies got their cup of tea and apricot loaf. Took the grannies home and got back at about 4:15pm. Kids played some more on the computer and watched video until 5:oopm then took Alicia home to her house. Came home put the clock(Old piece of furniture) into the boot of the van after taking the table and chairs out again. Put up the Christmas tree and decorated it and chased Zac around trying to get him to stop taking the decorations off the tree again. Fed the kids lasagne and mangoes for dinner. Put the Christmas tree in the playpen in the corner of the lounge. Tested out the lights and put the kids to bed. Had baths and made the wife type my weekend activities for me. Made her some lasagne fed her, took her to bed and loved her to sleep.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Palm Island

On the eve of 150 year anniversary of the Eureka stockade, Palm Island has tried to re-create some of the chaos and burning of that famous event. A little reminiscent of the LA riots (in a sense "blacks" vs police brutality), it once again seemed to start from an unfortunate death relating to a clash with police. In North Queensland, we have been taking deaths in custody extremely seriously, so it is even more disappointing. I do believe that police are behaving professionally in very difficult situations; However, here again, statistics have been indicating for a long time, a lingering problem with incarceration of aboriginals, which remains a comparitively very high link to suicide compared with everybody else.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Just moving some comments from a previously ignored thread

Dr. Clam said...
Soon we will all be under surveillance by everyone else all the time, so automatic registration of conceptions will become possible! I think the bathtub curve is a very handy tool for deciding how we should deal with human mortality- the more risky a stage of life, the less we should make a big deal of death during this stage...

1:03 AM
Marco said...
There is a bit of a contradiction there, surely. Are you saying that although we should concern ourselves less with deaths at the risky ends of the bathtub, that we should strongly prohibit "playing God" at those same ends if it involves killing, but encourage as many resources as we can "playing God" in saving lives, both with extremely premature babies and the very elderly, who would otherwise die?

The contradiction there is mixing "concern ourselves less" with "strongly prohibit" and "many resources" when talking about essentially the same person.


Another boring newsreport from wednesdays game. First point, we serve a lollipop, they set up nicely for a spike. I make the perfect block with an outstretched left hand for a winner! That was the one and only nailed block from either team of the whole match. After half time, I looked at the scores and was disappointed that we were 9 points down against a fairly weak team. Then Sandor pointed out that I was looking at the wrong score - we were 6 points up. Anthony, at the end of the game also thought we'd lost not having overheard our conversation of half time. Anyhow, we won, but Casey was way off her ball fetching. I was knackered just retrieving the ball after most points.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Quote about Eureka Stockade

American writer Mark Twain visited Ballarat in the mid 1890s and described Eureka in this way:
"It was a revolution - small in size, but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and oppression... it is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle."

I should add "Typical for Australia" to get another victory from a lost battle. Coming up for the 150th anniversary of Australia's first and only civil unrest.
GM Crops

China is set to open the GM Genie out of their bottle, but I am predicting how it's all going to end. It will be just another way for agriculturally protective countries to keep barriers high to ag imports for another generation! This will be a big boon for Australia's organic agriculture industry. EU is used to high prices, and with a lack of other countries to import from, and a lack of the right climate for certain crops and animals, the incentive for Aus is to keep the genie in the bottle as long as possible to gain maximum benefit from the prejudice of Europeans against GM foods. Strategically, I think Australia would be crazy to start using GM crops before they are endemic world-wide. Prejudice, especially in Europe is so high that it has made a huge market distortion in the industry, offsetting all possible yield and other benefits for the forseeable future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Text of the article

*premium content copyright by the Economist*

A statistically based study claims that many more Iraqis have died in the conflict than previous estimates indicated

THE American armed forces have long stated that they do not keep track of how many people have been killed in the current conflict in Iraq and, furthermore, that determining such a number is impossible. Not everybody agrees. Adding up the number of civilians reported killed in confirmed press accounts yields a figure of around 15,000. But even that is likely to be an underestimate, for not every death gets reported. The question is, how much of an underestimate?

A study published on October 29th in the Lancet, a British medical journal, suggests the death toll is quite a lot higher than the newspaper reports suggest. The centre of its estimated range of death tolls—the most probable number according to the data collected and the statistics used—is almost 100,000. And even though the limits of that range are very wide, from 8,000 to 194,000, the study concludes with 90% certainty that more than 40,000 Iraqis have died.

This is an extraordinary claim, and so requires extraordinary evidence. Is the methodology used by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, in Baltimore, and his colleagues, sound enough for reliable conclusions to be drawn from it?

The bedrock on which the study is founded is the same as that on which opinion polls are built: random sampling. Selecting even a small number of individuals randomly from a large population allows you to say things about the whole population. Think of a jar containing a million marbles, half of them red and half blue. Choose even 100 of these marbles at random and it is very, very unlikely that all of them would be red. In fact, the results would be very close to 50 of each colour.

The best sort of random sampling is one that picks individuals out directly. This is not possible in Iraq because no reliable census data exist. For this reason, Dr Roberts used a technique called clustering, which has been employed extensively in other situations where census data are lacking, such as studying infectious disease in poor countries.

Clustering works by picking out a number of neighbourhoods at random—33 in this case—and then surveying all the individuals in that neighbourhood. The neighbourhoods were picked by choosing towns in Iraq at random (the chance that a town would be picked was proportional to its population) and then, in a given town, using GPS—the global positioning system—to select a neighbourhood at random within the town. Starting from the GPS-selected grid reference, the researchers then visited the nearest 30 households.

In each household, the interviewers (all Iraqis fluent in English as well as Arabic) asked about births and deaths that had occurred since January 1st 2002 among people who had lived in the house for more than two months. They also recorded the sexes and ages of people now living in the house. If a death was reported, they recorded the date, cause and circumstances. Their deductions about the number of deaths caused by the war were then made by comparing the aggregate death rates before and after March 18th 2003.

They interviewed a total of 7,868 people in 988 households. But the relevant sample size for many purposes—for instance, measuring the uncertainty of the analysis—is 33, the number of clusters. That is because the data from individuals within a given cluster are highly correlated. Statistically, 33 is a relatively small sample (though it is the best that could be obtained by a small number of investigators in a country at war). That is the reason for the large range around the central value of 98,000, and is one reason why that figure might be wrong. (Though if this is the case, the true value is as likely to be larger than 98,000 as it is to be smaller.) It does not, however, mean, as some commentators have argued in response to this study, that figures of 8,000 or 194,000 are as likely as one of 98,000. Quite the contrary. The farther one goes from 98,000, the less likely the figure is.

The second reason the figure might be wrong is if there are mistakes in the analysis, and the whole exercise is thus unreliable. Nan Laird, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved with the study, says that she believes both the analysis and the data-gathering techniques used by Dr Roberts to be sound. She points out the possibility of “recall bias”—people may have reported more deaths more recently because they did not recall earlier ones. However, because most people do not forget about the death of a family member, she thinks that this effect, if present, would be small. Arthur Dempster, also a professor of statistics at Harvard, though in a different department from Dr Laird, agrees that the methodology in both design and analysis is at the standard professional level. However, he raises the concern that because violence can be very localised, a sample of 33 clusters really might be too small to be representative.

This concern is highlighted by the case of one cluster which, as the luck of the draw had it, ended up being in the war-torn city of Fallujah. This cluster had many more deaths, and many more violent deaths, than any of the others. For this reason, the researchers omitted it from their analysis—the estimate of 98,000 was made without including the Fallujah data. If it had been included, that estimate would have been significantly higher.

The Fallujah data-point highlights how the variable distribution of deaths in a war can make it difficult to make estimates. But Scott Zeger, the head of the department of biostatistics at Johns Hopkins, who performed the statistical analysis in the study, points out that clustered sampling is the rule rather than the exception in public-health studies, and that the patterns of deaths caused by epidemics are also very variable by location.

The study can be both lauded and criticised for the fact that it takes into account a general rise in deaths, and not just that directly caused by violence. Of the increase in deaths (omitting Fallujah) reported by the study, roughly 60% is due directly to violence, while the rest is due to a slight increase in accidents, disease and infant mortality. However, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because the more detailed the data—on causes of death, for instance, rather than death as a whole—the less statistical significance can be ascribed to them.

So the discrepancy between the Lancet estimate and the aggregated press reports is not as large as it seems at first. The Lancet figure implies that 60,000 people have been killed by violence, including insurgents, while the aggregated press reports give a figure of 15,000, counting only civilians. Nonetheless, Dr Roberts points out that press reports are a “passive-surveillance system”. Reporters do not actively go out to many random areas and see if anyone has been killed in a violent attack, but wait for reports to come in. And, Dr Roberts says, passive-surveillance systems tend to undercount mortality. For instance, when he was head of health policy for the International Rescue Committee in the Congo, in 2001, he found that only 7% of meningitis deaths in an outbreak were recorded by the IRC's passive system.

The study is not perfect. But then it does not claim to be. The way forward is to duplicate the Lancet study independently, and at a larger scale. Josef Stalin once claimed that a single death is a tragedy, but a million deaths a mere statistic. Such cynicism should not be allowed to prevail, especially in a conflict in which many more lives are at stake. Iraq seems to be a case where more statistics are sorely needed.

More on Statistics

I didn't expand or explain my previous rebuttal of evildrclams attack on the figures I was using because my following argument I feel to be the height of obvious common sense (at least for such a well read intellectual as he is). There are a number of ways in which I filter statistics that I read or hear about from time to time. The number one factor in determining its relevance to me is impartiality of the original source. This I often determine by proxy with the impartiality of the source I obtain it from. I always check the given assumptions, relevant researched details as a second check, but usually I don't bother to write them down, bookmark them to pass on. Like with cash or cheques, I don't often check to make sure it's not counterfeit. I take it on trust and I might have a quick look if I don't trust the source implicitly. The secondary source I obtained this particular data was "The Economist" (what! again). Now from years of reading it, I have learnt that it is one of the most impartial magazines I have seen. There is almost no political bias, and very little country bias as well. The reason it is more able to say fairly controversial things is that every journalist signs off on every article. Thus individuals can't be targeted because they've offended one or another political entity in their articles. In this particular case, if the Economist was partisan, it would have certainly rejected this statistic. It's support for the war has been unwavering. It explained in detail how the researchers got their information. The researchers used various methods to determine exagerrations of the kind evildrclam talks about. It even rejected certain areas as being not representative because of the huge attacks in some of the randomly chosen suburbs. The most reliable statistic uncovered is the difference in death rates before and after hostilities started regardless of cause of death. The calculated violent deaths form the data is actually less reliable than the general death rate calculations. The figure of 100,000 is the extra deaths comparing death rates before and after the date the attacks started, regardless of cause. I would almost certainly have taken this data with a pinch of salt from any source which at some point indicated even a minor inclination of being against the war or the US.
Sorry to keep this line going, but I believe evildrclam has been hoodwinked a little by spin. From what I could tell, Saddam Hussein had pretty much finished with his campaign of intimidation within his country. The remaining people were sufficiently deterred from making trouble that few needed to continue being tortured. Those who could leave were desperately trying to. He was "drip feeding" the remainder of the population just enough that the infant mortality and other non-violent deaths were not that bad, and he would have continued in that vein indefinitely had there been no war. The real damage - ie. to the underlying infrastructure, economy, etc. was already done. The previous wars were far more terrible than this one. This one, however, has the chance of guaranteeing future improvements. In my opinion, the real advantage in having such a huge US army there is that it's in the right place for various geopolitical projects which will have benefits for the region and the rest of the world. Having more people on the ground (which are incidentally, almost useless as policemen)would just mean more targets for the terrorists. You imply that more people on the ground from varied countries would have helped. I'm saying that all people that have entered Iraq that aren't native, are targets in one way or another. Less is more, I believe in this case.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Well, nothing much happened. I wish Kylie had written it down so that I could remember it. Belinda and Nikolas have taken to sleeping in the family room because their rooms are too hot (our living areas are air-conditioned, but none of our bedrooms). Anyway, after a couple of days of me trying to read a novel while Kylie subverted every attempt because she wanted to talk to me instead, and she thought it was rude to read when somebody wanted to talk to you. We ended up fighting because I interrupted something she was going to say and didn't apologise. I ended up sleeping in Belinda's bed. Kylie really needs a friend she can talk to. Unfortunately, the four friends that she would happily talk to for hours have left town. They're all of the female persuasion, an Aussie single, Sri-lankan descendant, and a German mother of three in Brisbane, and a Greek descendant from Sydney. Now, if one of these were to phone up from the blue, just to talk or whatever, without being prompted by me of course, Kylie's life would be so much happier....And I could get back into reading without interruptions.

Mango season

Belinda and Nikolas eat as many as I'll give them, which is lucky because there are hundreds of delicious mangos to get through. I've manged to get them not to ripen all at once for a change, which means they won't have to gorge,then be left mango free all of a sudden.
Statistics and such

The statistics of 100,000 that I mentioned does have a high standard deviation, but the real figure is just as likely to be more than that than it is of being less. These figures are trustworthy so get off your neo-con high horse. Beside which, I agree with you that its a drop in the ocean as far as violent deaths in Iraq historically go. But, I don't think "Shock and Awe" is as effective against failed states as it is against working ones. The general population is just as likely to be on your side as against (with failed states) (e.g. Germany vs. Ukraine WWII). The point of brutal force killing many innocents to get at the guilty, is as much a deterrent for the guilty as it is to "save coalition forces". To get it right in Iraq should be more trying to get the population on side as it is of "winning battles". I think the US forces are being somewhat brutal to make an example of certain enemies to deter other enemies from making a lot of noise. I think evildrclam is seeing the US military with rose coloured glasses (ie. what the neo-cons want you to think is the truth). Again, I am not saying this because I have changed from my support of the war. On the contrary, I am still pro-war even with the benefit of hindsight.

As far as Iran Deterrent is concerned, just as Indonesia made an example of East Timor, not because they thought they deserved it, but to show Aceh, West Papua etc. that even if the case for separation is strong, their new country could be rubble without Indonesia or its leaders losing much political capital. The hardliners know they are taking a risk as Saddam Hussein did by continually playing brinksmanship with the UN.

I also think you are being grossly unfair to the Kurds. The kurds (population at least) is the only one that explicitly thanked the coalition for doing what they've done. They are also the only group that explicitly mentioned Australia as part of the coalition and thanked them separately as well! They have unambiguously supported the process as it has gone through, and the Turks themselves are as much to blame for the impasse from their border being used as a staging post. I am sure the Australians would have worked much more in unison with the Kurds if they were given the job to take Iraq. A little how the Northern Alliance was used in Afghanistan. I know the politics is more complicated with Turkey etc., but Australia wouldn't have been expected to concern itself with that.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Iraq Revisited

I want to reflect back on my original backing of Aus involvement and of backing USA's decision to "Attack". Statistics, and unexpected results matter greatly to me, so what's happened to my thoughts? Recent statistics out show that the most probable number of Iraqi civilians dead who would otherwise be alive had there been no "attack" is calculated at 100,000. This is much more than my "reckoning" based on the fact that they were dying like flies even before the conflict. Also revelation upon revelation of the brutality and heavy-handedness of the USA army in particular has revolted me considerably. On the plus side, this has definitely meant that it is overall a good deterrent for Iran especially to go down a similarly defiant plan as Saddam Hussein. On the minus side, I think USA has alienated the rest of the world so much, that there would continue to be resistance in the UN for any similar "project".

So, my conclusion? I still think Australia would have done a better job than USA (o.k. so I'm still crazy).

Did Australia get any gains? If you mean a free trade deal - what free trade deal? NO.
However, we did get some "real" battle experience for our troops, at no expense of lives. That is a primary gain, and made the whole thing worthwile. Who cares if it was worth it for the USA?

So. My conclusion? Thank God we did't let any US troops into East Timor, Sol Islands, Fiji etc. That would have been an unmitigated disaster. So Iraq is also nearly an unmitigated disaster, but at least it might spurn Iran into "offering" as well as brinksmanship into their negotiations. As far as terrorism is concerned, the result is fairly balanced, with Terrorists losing ground, but gaining followers in equal proportion.

I just wish the USA could have been as pragmatic as we were in East Timor and Bali. They just MADE themselves look like the bad guys unnecessarily. Less "Shock & Awe" more "Good Cop" would have achieved so much more! I kind of think Iraq was a bit of a lost opportunity in that sense.

Israel & Palestine - I've lost hope there. I'm willing to bet there will still be intifadas a generation from now - any takers?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Euthanasia vs Abortion

What about the other end of the bathtub curve? Although euthanasia is essentially banned and considered legally murder, if my grandmother,97, dies in hospital should the police spend as many resources investigating the death as for a 20 year old? Should mercy-kills, euthanasia, be classed as a separate crime, even if the punishment remains unchanged? Should doctors be both the suspects and the ones in charge of the evidence? If you mourn less for somebody because they are at a risky end of the bathtub curve, would it matter as much what caused it? If Kylie felt under stress due to an argument and she ended up miscarrying, would she want the police to investigate it as they would a death of a baby? Would all conceptions have to be registered?

I don't care if anybody else is interested: Here's another volleyball report. Well, by some freak of numerology we were at the top of the ladder before this weeks game, but we had to play a newish team that hadn't lost a single game yet (we played one more game than them is the only reason we were in front). Anyhow, there was only three of them, but it was much harder to block against a team that can jump spike effectively. They would invariably spike "over" our blocks, and if not they would very effectively pick the gaps. Also their serves were consistently hard so that we would too often be on the defensive. However, I did manage about three successful blocks, and we only lost by eleven points. Casey, who is only 14 (however, with her twin sister has won the Townsville under 18 pairs, which means she is quite good), made a spectacular block from the baseline (yes it was going in even though it was going straight towards her head)which redeemed her from the fact that she is too hopelessly short (so far) for any sort of effective netplay/intimidation. She is incredibly fit and seems to always beat us when the ball needs fetching.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I recommend one joins critters a group which will critique yor book in exchange for critiquing the books (SF,Fantasy or horror) of others in the group.
A Conversation With R. Scott Bakker (Fantasy/SF writer)
Interview September 2004

After all the reviews, after the way both books seem to be selling here in Canada, the temptation is to blame the 'corporate editor' -- you know, risk-averse, enslaved by the bean-counters, all that. But when you talk to editors, you realize they don't have this cookie-cutter template in mind, they just know what they like, and they have a series of hunches about what will and will not sell. And it also tends to be the case that the 'higher' you go career-wise, the busier you become. Editorially speaking, New York is the summit of the publishing mountain, and there's very little in the first 200 pages of The Darkness that Comes Before that shouts commercial viability! It's a hard book.

Lucky for me, fantasy readers are unlike any other reader. Think of how many people reread entire series in preparation for the release of a sequel. It really is quite extraordinary.


Which kind of demonstrates that editors look very subjectively at new novels; which is a point I've been trying to make...

Another letter of interest:

Author: Kristi Sprinkle
Date: 04-29-02

The only necessary persistence you really need with finding a decent literary agent on the Web is a knowledge of what you are seeing on the screen in front of you.

Whether you are looking for an agent to represent your mystery novel, or that great non-fiction piece on the mating habits of the Monarch butterfly, you need to be aware that not all agents are good for you.

I have a method of finding literary agents that works very well. Yes, it may be a little time-consuming, but in the end, I know I'm not being ripped off.

First, write your book and put together a great query letter. Agents get a little irritated with someone who's got a great story idea, but hasn't done anything with it.

Then, go over your query letter many times for errors in tact (writing an agent should be like writing your mother and applying to be her child), errors in grammar and small errors (like not signing on the bottom line).

Many good cyber examples of query letters exist out in the great world of electrons. Find one that suits your style.

Second, I go to a site that lists all agents in my area or all agents - try to find one that also tells you what they're looking for and how to approach them. Fiction Addiction is a place to start. I chose this site because I like to write fiction. I also cherish the off-the-wall sites that list agents such as On Fiction Addiction, the advantage is that the listing includes whether or not they belong to the much-respected Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) where agents pay to follow the canons of good agent behavior. Also, Fiction Addiction tells you briefly what the agents represent, as well as how to approach them - whether with a query letter, synopsis or manuscript.

If I have an Internet listing I want to pursue but can't tell what the agent represents, I go a step further. I will copy their name and paste it into a search engine such as Google.

A particular search on Google is good for two things: What I get from a search engine is perhaps, five to a hundred listings for any particular agent. If, at a glance, I can tell that the sites listed are from valued sources such as represented authors or positive news items about the agency, then I know I have chosen well.

The second good thing is that by searching Google, I have a chance to see if the agency is listed with any site, such as Preditors and Editors, that has anything negative to say about them. The Preditors and Editors site is a collection of first-hand experiences from people who have dealt with bad agents or book doctors. The site also collects data on changes of address or whether or not the agent's phone is disconnected. The site isn't totally negative and has a comment next to the listing if the agent is recommended - usually by writers. I pay attention to those listings, especially.

On the other hand, if an agent is listed on the Preditors and Editors site and all the other Web searches conclude the OPPOSITE of what the site says about them, send them your query, anyway. The point is that the more searching you do on an agent, the less likely it will cost you to do business with them either financially or emotionally.

A bad agent is one who charges you fees up front for things like postage or mere representation. I think it is common knowledge to stay away from this type. Any reputable agent will tell you the same thing.

I confronted two of these bad agents in email after correspondence about my work. Both handled the email a little too defensively. However, they never wrote back anymore and I suddenly stopped getting their snail mail and spam.

I was a little embarrassed asking them about their listing in Preditors and Editors, but then realized that these people make their living by being predators.

The other type of bad agent is one that refers you to either a book doctor (when, in actuality, the 'book doctor' works for the agent) who will gladly look at your manuscript for a huge fee. If these book doctors don't tell you upfront about the fee, they will often say that your book looks promising, and, after you send it to them, they send you an elegant note back telling you that for just $49.95 a page, they can make it saleable. Usually, if you do pay them, you never hear from them again.

After I get a list of agents that handle the kind of work I do, I will often discard the ones that aren't listed in the AAR, first. The exceptions for me are those who work in Hollywood or are looking for books that have screenplay potential. Since these agents don't handle books constantly, there would be no reason to join the AAR Even then, I will check them out thoroughly by searching in Google or in one of Jeff Herman's books.

Great, so now I have a list of agents that are listed in the AAR, that don't charge fees and that handle books of my genre. I know what they're looking for and I have the correct addresses for them. I think that's a good start.

Oh, yes. One more thing. When I get my list of agents I promise myself to send out five query letters every day until someone says, "Yes, we'd love to represent you."

Until then, Dogo Culk!

Copyright 2002 Kristi Sprinkle. All rights reserved.


Great, I've got all these ideas, but I haven't written a book. All I've got is this blog.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Anoter inspiring letter -

Author: Terry W. Burns
Date: 10-11-02

I've written 20 years with only one rejection.

You don't believe that? It's true. The dictionary says rejection is to refuse to accept or to repudiate. Repudiate? That's not about writing, that's personal.

I was doing a lot of writing and a lot of querying and submitting. Obviously heartless little slips were coming in right and left. I took them very personally. These people didn't know me, and they weren't reading enough of my writing to make fair judgments. I was incensed.

Then the statement I had just made hit home; they don't know me. If that's the case, how could it be personal? It couldn't. I realized that a response would be a rejection if they said I had body odor, my writing sucked and my mother dressed me funny. I was the one making it personal, not them.

What were these funny little slips of paper if not rejections? I got to spend some time with well-known agent Donald Maass. I was involved with hosting him when he came to our writing conference as one of the faculty, so it was more than a ten minute interview, it was hanging out for a couple of days. I did have an interview scheduled with him, and over the course of the evening the day before he told me how to find out if he handled works such as the one I was set to pitch.

When I got back to the house I did the homework I should have already done. I got online and over the course of several hours I found out the type of works he had successfully placed and what his clients wrote. The question he wanted me to ask myself was not, "Do I write like these people?". Hopefully, we are all unique as writers. He wanted me to ask myself if the readers of the books he was placing would be likely to be readers for the book I wanted to pitch. The answer was no. He wasn't the right agent for me to be going after.

That was the answer. Each agent has a base of publishing contacts that they have strong inroads to. They spend their time working those contacts trying to find material they feel is a good fit to take to them. They spend time on occasion trying something new, trying to open new doors, but primarily they work where they are most productive.

Editors are exactly the same. They know who their readers are and what they read. They search for works they feel sure their reader base will buy. They too will spend some time trying new things, but only if sales in the established areas afford them the flexibility to do it.

So those little slips of paper are 'negative market reports?' I can live with that. There is absolutely nothing personal about it, and it probably doesn't even reflect on my writing - unless they add something specific to the contrary. They are just saying they don't feel they are the market for that particular manuscript.

That means it's a numbers game. I could be sending to the right place at the wrong time. If they had just published a similar book, then the market isn't there. I honestly believe there are Pulitzer quality books that are never published because the author doesn't stay with it long enough to find the right market, and we know some very marginal books HAVE been published just because they came under the right person's nose at exactly the right place and time. Sure, the writing has to be acceptable, but as much as we might wish it were true, a work won't make it just on quality of writing. The market has to be there.

'Negative market reports.' I got one because I guessed wrong, or my research turned up the right place but it was the wrong time for whatever reason. It's an elusive connection and I have to keep doing market research and keep knocking on doors until the link is made. No rejection involved. Well, except for that one guy who said I had body odor, my writing sucked and my mother dressed me
funny. Now that hurt!

Now that's something to ponder, oh those of you who make up words because they are too lazy to look them up and would rather use plenty than to be concise.


Found an inspiring letter in writersnet

Winston Churchill said it best when he wrote - “Writing a book is an adventure: to begin with it is a toy and amusement; then it becomes a master, and than it becomes a tyrant; and the last phase is just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude - you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
Writing your first novel is a daunting task. It is a dance; a balancing act between your inner-editor and that part of you that, for some inexplicable reason, wants so badly to put your story down on paper.

I struggled with myself for most of my twenties, including a two year stint in the Peace Corps, where I started and quit twenty different projects. Though I wrote almost every day in my journal and in letters to friends, I could never really get past the inner-editor that kept trashing my stories, in order to write the great American novel that I had anticipated when I’d first arrived in Africa.

I would sit there in the heat of the Namibian desert, banging away on the keys of an old typewriter, romanticizing that the Hemingwayesque setting would somehow provide enough fodder for my imagination and that the book would simply write itself. I’d always make it to about the fifth page before I’d hit a wall and would end up sitting there staring at the blank pages with a despondent and vacuous look in my eyes.

Afraid that I was going to end up a starving writer, I went to graduate school where there was little time to do anything else, but digest and regurgitate esoteric political theories on why dictators preferred briefs over boxers and how this contributed to their bellicose regimes. I was then sidetracked to the second San Francisco gold rush, searching for the next killer app and enough financial freedom to give me the time to write. After the company that I had started went bust I did finally have the time that I needed to write, though not exactly in the way that I’d imagined. I thought that I would be writing my first book on a tropical island with a pina colada in one hand and a pen in the other. Instead I was sitting with my laptop in the corner of a dusty library shushing high school students.

I’ve always said that I hate writing, but I love having written. I thought that writers were supposed to be inspired by the wild lives that they led or the fabulous friends that they had, but instead the tedium and the boredom of the process had always frustrated me. But faced with unemployment and unsure of what I was doing with my life I started to write again.

Writing my first novel gave me the opportunity to figure out my process and what I learned was that, rather than waiting around for inspiration to show up, you just have to slog through the boredom, frustration and tedium to get to your story. What I was surprised to learn was just how much of being able to write well was just showing up every day, writing badly and learning to accept it.

I’ve learned that what works for me is just sitting down at the keyboard and writing as much as I can for as long as I can. Doing this keeps my inner-editor at bay. What I usually come out with is a series of unintelligible sentences, dropped modifiers, and grammar errors that would make a 3rd grader wince. But when I start sifting through the wreckage of overwrought verbiage and discordant tenses I find a few gems that I read over and over again with great satisfaction.

The beauty of writing is that it is a very forgiving medium to work in. The writer, unlike the sculptor, painter, or woodworker can discard, reassemble and rework caricatures.

Writing my first novel has also been a lot about overcoming my personal insecurities. Since writing has been the only thing in school that I truly excelled at I was always looking for external validation from it. I was terrified that if people didn’t immediately find my prose pithy and delightful that I might suffer a debilitating brain aneurysm and lose my ability to write altogether.

So much of writing the first book was getting over myself and my ego letting go and realizing that people would both love and hate my work.

It’s more than two years and 68,000 words later, and my book has finally come to fruition. Now in a last act of faith I fling it to the public and I am filled with both trepidation and exhilaration as I watch my baby take its first steps in the world.

The initial reader reviews have been exceedingly kind using words like, inspiring, hilarious and brilliant in its description. For this I breathe a sigh of relief, but I know that other less praising words are likely to be used as well and I’ve learned to be okay with that.

So get that novel out of you even if is terrible. At least it will give you the opportunity to slay that monster within.

Palmer Owyoung
In an effort not to distract Nanowrimo writers, I will try to use my blog as a diary for a while and write things that happened, before I forget that they happened. Yesterday, my work day consisted mostly of arguing with my father and salesperson about future manufacturing direction and succession planning. The greatest frustration is of course the power of the union boss to destroy or damage our business whenever he so chooses. Short of the Guatemalan option (any Guatemalan will tell you, as soon as one union leader "disappears", another one takes their place), the only option as far as that side is concerned is to keep a semblance of good will all around, which sometimes involves giving them what they want, which tends to only increase the union's power. Thankfully, as managers, we'd be making more money working for someone else than owning this business, so that there isn't too much of a kitty to raid. As far as succession planning goes, a semblance of a plan is emerging, albeit medium to long term, if it gets to that.
After work, Me and Kylie went to the university (Kneipp Auditorium if anyone knows where that is, near the admin block), for an Annandale state school music concert. This is where, the 2 bands, 3 string orchestra's, 2 choirs play the music to parents and others who couldn't make it to any of the eisteddfords. Belinda, being in both the senior choir and the senior band playing the clarinet, was a part. We brought Kylie's parents with us, and left the other three children with my father (or as the children call him "Doddo"). The pool there is now nearly clean, now that the salt-water chlorinator has been fixed.
The concert was very nice, although the junior band and orchestras were obviously less able. My favourite was the senior choir, based on the "goosebumps" test. When they were singing, I got goosebumps - that's how good they were. The senior band played "Shake, rattle and roll" and the (large) tambourine player did some pretty wild rock and roll stage antics, causing the crowd to ask for an encore - which they got. Read some more of "The Fork" of wich I'm now up to chapter 18. Once again, I am having trouble putting it down. I had printed out the first ten chapters on friday so I could read in bed, but when I'd finished those on sunday, I couldn't get on the net, so I just had to wait until I could get into work to print another 14 chapters. What am I going to do then? I'm glad I'm not reading a novel while it is being written - I might go crazy not knowing the ending! Maybe when I'm finished fork, I might try to read a NANOWRIMO novel written by a stranger, just for comparison. I am fairly convinced that the ones I've read are outstanding, but I haven't had too much to compare them with. In a NANOWRIMO sense, just getting to the 50000 words is something only one in five that attempt it can even do, but I think that these that I've read would be exceptional compared to others that make it. Sure, I'm not an expert, just a fairly typical reader, but isn't it what a typical reader thinks that counts? I wish I had a network of friends that liked science fiction - I have so much material for them to look at.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A weekend in the life of Me, as written by my other half

Marco's Weekend achievements
Friday evening
Came home from work, showered and dressed in Kylie approved clothing. Attended Jayden's 5th birthday party at Macdonalds, Willows. Went to grandma's for a nap before going home.

Got up at 7:30 am. Buried the dog's breakfast, refilled his water dishes and watered the potplants. Fed the children's breakfast and changed Zac's Nappy. Cut way back, the wild, unruly, mealy bug infested rose bushes, and weeded wild overgrown front garden beds. Looked after Belinda, Felicia, and Zachary while Kylie took Nikolas to a party for the entire morning.

Helped Kylie and Felicia to wash the work van, dug some more weeds out of the wild overgrown front gardens. Had leftovers for dinner. Watched "Carry on Sergeant" on video with Kylie. Read some of "The Fork", and "The Economist"(dry, often boring political diatribe written by people who think they know more than God), and fixed the DVD player, voiding any possible warranty on aforementioned product. Went to sleep once again leaving wife to amuse herself.

Got up at 7:30 am. Buried the dog's breakfast, refilled his water dishes and watered the potplants. Fed the children's breakfast and changed Zac's Nappy. Weeded more wild overgrown front gardenbeds, put sprinkler on grass in back yard. Came in and had breakfast and coffee. Had argument with wife over the fact that she occasionally leaves dirty dishes in the sink meaning that there is less room for me to leave the myriad of dirty dishes in the sink that I like to put there. Stood around and watched as wife once again did dirty dishes. Dried three dishes in an attempt to seem helpful.
Ate more of wife's fabulous leftovers, also gave some to kids. Sat down and watched some rather dull television show about genetic modification in canola farming in Canada and how it relates to Australian farming, and the live export of sheep to the middle East, and a bunch of data relating to agriculture and livestock prices in Australia which will never be of any use to me at any time of my life expectancy. (Landline)
Watched fabulously funny video with wife, "Carry on Nurse". Put Zac down for a nap, got wife to tell other kids not to make noise and wake him up. Took wife to bed and showed her my prowess as an incredible Italian lover. Had a shower.
Watched Belinda play "Winged Warrior". Fed kids some more. They never seem to stop eating. Read some more of the Economist, and made myself a Cappucino. Wife made me a banana smoothie which was truly divine. Went back outside and helped wife to wash her car. Hoped for rain which was a real fizzer. Went inside and ranted and raved at wife because I didn't think she was cooking my dinner of roast pork and vegetables fast enough for my ravenous appetite. Watched "Just shoot me" on TV while preventing wife from unchaining herself from the stove.
Ate my dinner. Left my plate on the dining room table; I'm sure it will just pick itself up and miraculously become clean for the next time I want to eat off it.
Had a shower while demanding wife stands around in awe and wonder at the magnificence of my naked body. Instructed wife to provide me with a type written record of the eventsof my weekend so that when the minions ask me about my weekend on monday, I won't have to bother thinking about it. Lay about while she did it making revolting smells with my butt and laughing about it. Fed the dog scraps from dinner. Went to bed leaving wife to amuse herself again.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Forking Unbelievable

Reading the Forking novel is going to be a little odd for me. Mixed with my general ambivalence to the doctor who "genre", and an incredible familiarity with the starting location (Reads like there's been a fork in history, and Bond University has ben replaced by Scase University which took over JCU in NQ), I can't imagine not having both preconceived ideas yet an automatic familiarity with it. However, it has been very easy to get "into". I am trying hard to read it in a way which is impartial, so I can prioritise my suggestions (if I come up with any). Once again my curiousity has been irreversebly piqued by a casual remark about the book in relation to real life.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Back to a relaxed subject again. This weeks game was absolutely brilliant! Our team of me, Sandor, Anthony (tall) and Casey (short) played a team of four males all about 6 foot. We were struggling at 3/4 time, a few points behind. I then made an amazing sequence of blocks at the net against taller opponents, completely demoralising them. They completely stopped trying to spike from then on, and the game turned to us attacking, where we made a series of set plays to finish them off. I am starting to believe we can win this season! I don't know but by the time I'm forty I could try out at the masters games! Oh no - my heads starting to swell again.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bathtub curve for human mortality Posted by Hello
I can't stop thinking about the abstraction of bathtub curve for human mortality. Although in affluent societies, infant mortality has been reduced to almost nil, if you extend the curve to before birth on the left of the curve, the death rate keeps going up. There are 4 abortions to every 10 live births, which makes for approximate death rate of at least .3 if taken back to near conception. So if you've just been conceived, the chances of dying are as much as if you were 90 years old or therabouts. If you make it to 2 years old, the death rate is about .0002, for your nurtured period of your life to about 15y/o where it jumps up to about .001.