Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 13 December 2007


I've just bought an ASUS Eee PC 701. Basically, it's a very small note book computer (225mm x 160mm x 25mm), about 1/3 the size and weight of a conventional laptop. It can be carried around like a book, and comes with a wallet to facilitate this.

It should be very useful in my traveling work, as it boots up in about 15 seconds, and will do most of what my current laptop will do. You wouldn't want to try gaming on it – but that's not an issue for me. It comes within inbuilt wi-fi and a camera, and runs Linux software.

Because I have a WD external hard drve, its basic memory is not a problem.

So far, it's proved entirely compatible with all my external hardware with the notable exception of my scanner/printer, which loads and thinks it's working, but fails to respond. I'm inclined to believe I've overlooked something simple, and will sort it eventually.

In the meantime, it's a cheap ($499) and portable solution to managing information on the move.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Adventures in the Blogosphere

Because I'm a Vietnam Veteran, and have witnessed the havoc that modern firearms can wreak, I have strong opinions about gun control. I've also served alongside Americans, and am familiar with their trigger-happy behaviour.
As you're probably aware, there are a large number of pro-gun sites lurking in the blogosphere, and occasionally I post my dissenting opinions on these. I understand that this is a free country and healthy debate about matters of security is important. There are other sites where I do the same, but the responses go nowhere near the extremes of hate, fear and vilification generated by dissenting opinions on the pro gun sites. They range from name calling through all manner of homophobic garbage to physical threats.
There's a lesson there somewhere. A forensic psychologist would have a field day with these people.
Most recently, I found my comments were accepted but altered to the point of absurdity, before I was finally banned from posting. Some of the material is posted below, with the italics indicating where my post was altered. The words in quotes were taken from previous posts.

"Arrogant old fools"
Yes, I'm old enough to have lived and learned. Be patient - it will happen. It's called "The getting of wisdom". Not that I have any--being pompous and condescending is a good substitute though.
Obviously name-calling is a handy substitute for logic and common sense, just as being a superior being allows me to totally ignore the evidence provided by a wide range of agencies.
"Foisted on us"
These laws aren't "foisted" - they're the policy of government democratically elected. The fact that it's democratically elected means it can never, ever be wrong or be captured by vociferous lobby groups. The "us" referred to is well in the minority in this country and minority groups can be safely ignored, unless of course they're gay or ethnic minorities.
Obviously, democracy is a concept not well understood by the gun lobby.
Democracy means the majority is always right and can therefore trample on the rights of free citizens at will.
If "gun laws are so much in advance of ours why are those of you who are Australian residents still here?
The "facts" you quote are something else entirely. The gun lobby long ago cornered the market in dodgy "research". I'd be perfectly happy to take the cited examples apart but since I know I'm absolutely right, that would be a wasted effort.
It won't be long before the legal system begins to develop a voice. A few successful class actions will change policy.
After Vietnam Veterans developed the Agent Orange action, which provides a model, it's only a matter of time. My personal experience of that process provides me with optimism, because I've never yet met a lawyer who didn't begin salivating at the words "class action".

And as of today we see another report -

"Four now confirmed dead in Colorado shootings" - and again and again and again............

God help America - home of the brave, land of the free - last haven of the lunatic.

The Plod Zapped

There's an interesting story in today's Toowoomba Chronicle. I was out Mitchell way a few weeks ago, but had a much less eventful drive.

Mitchell police survive electrifying ordeal

By Maree Butterworth
When Mitchell police Sergeant Craig Shepherd and Senior Constables Debbie Cousins and Glen Fletcher saw trees getting hit by lightning at Arrest Creek 5km south of Mitchell they knew they had to get out of there. Sergeant Shepherd began to drive along Mitchell-St George road and just as they were questioning whether cars could actually get hit by lightning, about 12.30am their question was answered.
“The lightning bolt hit the car aerial, which is about 10 foot high, a steel aerial. The whole car turned orange and sparks flew all around,” Sergeant Shepherd said. The officers had been checking floodwater levels after five storms. had recently passed through but never thought their patrol would be so eventful. It was like slow motion. “The windscreen cracked in two places where the aerial bent over and the aerial was melted into the windscreen”, he said.
“My hair stood up and I asked the others if it (my hair) was on fire. It was like something had grabbed the car. I’ve seen a lot of freaky things in my time but I’ve never seen that.”

Apart from the three officers’ skin feeling on edge, hair standing up and their ears ringing, they fortunately escaped virtually unharmed with an interesting tale to tell their colleagues. It was something you never saw in your life and I hope we never see again” he said.
The lightning bolt passed through the aerial of the four-wheel drive and into the engine bay which caused complete disruption of the vehicle’s electrical equipment. Because they were concerned about their safety and in an open area with lightning still around them they had to crawl back into town with the car lights and sirens uncontrollably blaring.
Concerned they would disturb the residents of Mitchell in the early hours of the morning they managed to disconnect the engine and the car described as “dead” was later towed away to Roma.

It's not reported as to whether any of the police involved now have super powers.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Some Election Stories

Voting at the recent election reminded me of the time I was a polling clerk at the historic 1972 federal poll. As a young teacher at the time, I often did this work, as it paid fairly well, and wasn’t difficult. At least, it wasn’t difficult at a conventional booth. I made the mistake of putting my name down for work at a booth operating in the then Greenslopes Military Hospital in Brisbane. The reason for choosing this booth is lost in the mists of time, but it may have something to do with discovering that an attractive teaching colleague of the opposite gender was also working at Greenslopes.

This was an interesting situation because amongst the more conventional tasks, I had to take a ballot box on wheels (a hospital trolley in fact) around the wards so the bedridden veterans could vote. As a new veteran myself in 1972, I felt eminently qualified.

My colleague and I, (with two scrutineers from the major parties who followed us around ensuring fair play) were at the bedside of one eighty year-old veteran who had lost the ability to speak as the result of a major stroke. His wife was by his side. She told us that he communicated by blinking once for “yes” and twice for “no”. With the agreement of the scrutineers, we began to work our way down the ballot paper, to establish his first preference vote. His wife said that he always voted Liberal, so we really didn’t need to check – but of course we did. He clearly blinked once when we got to the ALP candidate. His wife became very angry – insisting that we were making a mistake. We repeated the exercise, got the same result, and also got a firm two blinks when we indicated the Liberal candidate. The lady wasn’t happy, and went off muttering darkly about “bloody men who tell you one thing and do another”.

Apparently they had been married for nearly sixty years, and she had always thought he voted the same way as she did.

Later in the day, just before the poll closed, one very inebriated chap came in demanding to vote for Billy McMahon. After getting over the disappointment of being told that he couldn’t (wrong electorate), he took a ballot paper and staggered away in the general direction of the voting booth. In those days, they were solid wooden structures – not cardboard – which was fortunate, as he was falling all over the place and would have brought down a row of cardboard booths like a row of dominoes.

Before putting pencil to paper, he decided he needed to meet an urgent call of nature, and wandered off to the toilet. Someone had to make sure the whereabouts of the ballot paper was known, so he had to be followed, and being the youngest present, and the correct gender, I got the job.

When I arrived in the toilet, all I could see was a row of cubicles, two of which were occupied. I ascertained which was his, mainly by the sound of snoring emanating from the second cubicle on the right. I decided to wait – but five minutes later the booth closed, so I went out to ask my supervisor for advice as to the next step. I was told in no uncertain terms to retrieve the ballot paper. There was no suitable answer to the “how?” question.

In the end, I had to peer under the door, and could see the paper on the floor. I reached in and retrieved it, grateful that the task was simple. It was marked, so I put it in the box.

This bloke eventually woke up about two hours later when we were well and truly into the count, and wandered off into the night. I guess he got home safely.

Another voting story took place back in the late fifties, when my father was principal of the then two-teacher school in Carmila, central Queensland. (My mother was the assistant teacher). As such, dad was the polling clerk whenever there was an election, as the school was the local polling booth.

Just before Christmas one year, there was a Federal election. As people came in to vote, they would say first their surname, then the Christian name, and be crossed of the roll before taking the ballot paper. My dad was doing this part of the process when a middle aged woman, whom my father didn’t know, came in to vote.

“Name please,” said dad.

“Maher,” replied the voter.

“Christian names?” asked dad.

“Mary Christmas,” responded the woman.

“Oh, and a happy New Year to you and your family”, replied dad, a trifle confused, “but I need your name for the roll”.

“Are you a bit deaf, it’s Mary Christmas,” she answered.

The penny dropped, and dad located her name on the roll. It was indeed “Mary Christmas Maher”.

Apparently she had been born on 25th December, and her parents thought the name was entirely fitting.

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