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Remember this guy?

From about six weeks ago.

Well, sure enough

A man has been charged with extinguishing the Eternal Flame at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

The 36-year-old Yarraville man allegedly climbed over barriers and used a fire extinguisher to put out the flame on May 25.

The man has been charged with theft, criminal damage and a number of other offences under the shrine regulations, including behaving in an offensive manner.

Still no word on the motive (alleged motive?), which is the thing I’m most curious about, so it remains to be seen whether this guy is a nutcase, a common or garden dickhead, or someone with a real axe to grind and was carrying out some kind of weird personal protest. Since he’s not even been named and is just referred to as an anonymous 36 year old Yarraville man I’m starting to wonder if loony is right after all. In any case the fact there are such things as shrine regulations – in contrast to the US where I believe attempts to legally prohibit flag burning have been long declared a breach of the First Amendment and unconstitutional – means the criminal case is probably going to be over pretty quickly if the police can prove that the guy they’ve nicked is the guy in the video. Watch this space.

The pussification of schools #6

Cracked! missed one on their recent list of the 5 Biggest Pussifications of Schools, and while it’s probably not unique to this place the recent example comes from a school just south of Melbourne.

No touching.

Parents claim they were not told directly of the new rule, which extended a ban on contact sports …

Yes, they’d already gone that far, and that depressingly common policy is touched on in Cracked’s number four Biggest Pussification.

… to a ban on any physical contact at all, such as playing “tiggy”, hugging or giving each other high-fives.

Aside from the fact that this comes hot on the heels of a anti-bullying TV ad campaign that shows school kids shaking hands (for some bizarre reason it’s a weird handshake that’s not shown directly because it’s ‘just for kids’, but what can be seen looks less Masonic and more like the kind of gang style handshake done by wiggas) it’s pretty clear that this lame brained rule hasn’t been well thought out at all. Because it effectively bans simple expressions of friendship and support.

One parent, Tracey, said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules.

The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment, Tracey told radio 3AW.

And that’s not even the right-on silliness apex.

Another parent, John, said his children were told they could not high-five each other.

Seriously? Christ!

“I have a couple of children, and they have been told that if they high-five one another that’s instant detention, and if they do it three times they will be expelled,” John said.

“I mean, what are they actually trying to teach?”

One child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high-five, it would have to be an “air high-five”.

Yes, well, the problem there is that I suspect an air high five is not actually a real thing but some bollocks made up by someone on the school’s staff who’s heard of air kissing. What an ‘air high five’ really is is known as being left hanging.

Now it should be said that the school claims that this is only temporary…

Principal Judy Beckworth said it was “not actually a policy, it’s a practice that we’ve adopted in the short-term as a no-contact games week”.

… though having a no-contact games week doesn’t actually sound a hell of a lot more sensible to me, and especially not in a country that invented a football code so manly and tough that rugby players struggle and a competitor once found himself, and I’m not making this up, nailed to the pitch with his own leg bones. No contact games week? Pffffffft. Serious pussification of school right there.

“In response to an increased number of recent student injuries, including a broken collarbone, wrists and concussion, we decided to have a ‘no contact games week’ at our school,” Ms Beckworth said.

“Parents, teachers and I were concerned about the increasing number of students injuring themselves recently by playing roughly in the playground during games like chasey, tiggy, football and basketball.

“We are very serious about student safety and that’s why we decided to do this.”

And? Such is school life, though I spent years playing school rugby without ever knowing anyone to break a bone or get a concussion or in fact get anything worse than the odd bruise or cut. And I don’t mean anyone in my class or year, I mean anyone in the entire school while I was there. Maybe there was and I didn’t know that the kid two years below me that I didn’t even know by name was suddenly wearing a cast because of an unlucky tackle on the rugby field, but if so there was no mention made, no big hooha and no non-contact games rule even thought of, let alone imposed. I can’t help but wonder if the apparent rarity of injuries was just that we were getting better tuition and supervision on how to play contact sports without seriously risking ourselves or other players, and I also wonder if a high number of injuries – if it really is high – at Mount Martha Primary indicates that that’s not happening.

Not that everyone’s on message with that excuse anyway.

… one parent, Nicole, claimed that the school was backpedalling because some parents were told by the school that the new rule would be in place for a minimum of three weeks, which would be extended if the children did not behave themselves.

They’re kids, for heaven’s sake. It’s practically inevitable that one of them will forget or have a dummy spit and go too far and provide the excuse for the extension. In fact if you’re counting high fives, hand shakes and hugs then they probably already have.

[Ms Beckworth] did not believe the school’s response was an overreaction.

“When you have students badly injuring themselves, it would be unacceptable for me not to take action,” she said.

Oh, Jesus. Look, it’d be unacceptable for you to ignore it, but an event does not necessarily demand action. By all means recheck to assure yourselves that you’re already doing your best and take action if you realise that you’re not, but for Christ’s sake include a sanity check to make sure you’re not going too far. If kids are getting bollocked for putting their arms around a friend’s shoulders to comfort them then I’d suggest that second bit is being overlooked.

The only bits about this whole story that hasn’t gutshot my faith in humanity and set my misanthropy gauge spinning into self destruction again are the newspaper poll result that overwhelmingly showed that people thought the school had gone too far, and the admirable reaction of the children themselves.

The Year 6 students at Mount Martha Primary School were so disgusted by the new rule that they staged a sit-down protest on the school oval at lunch yesterday before they were moved to the school gym and given a dressing down…

I only hope that that spark of dissent in the face of unreasonable restrictions isn’t completely crushed out of them by the time they’re adults.

Stretchy briefs

Normally I play Devil’s Advocate with the legal profession. I understand that the crime does not have a cookie cutter nature and that juries and judges, both of whom have access to more information than the rest of us reading newspaper reports, may make decisions we can’t easily understand or accept. I understand that the system is designed to allow guilty people every chance to slip through the cracks and that this is a necessary consequence of the highly desirable feature that few innocents, ideally none, are jailed by mistake. And I understand that an essential part of this is that prosecution cases must be more or less destruct tested, which in turn means defence counsels who are willing to say practically anything to help their client.

Practically anything, because I don’t think they do anyone a service by stretching credibility beyond a certain point. I have a ‘for instance’ here, but first some background:

Three of the children were seriously injured in the crash when Tanya Chilly lost control of the Mitsubishi Pajero and the car rolled.

‘Three of the children’? If you’re thinking that implies there were more than three children in the car you’d be right. In fact there were ten. And if you’re thinking that a Pajero is a Mitsi Shogun by another name and doesn’t have enough seats for driver plus ten you’d be right about that too. The kids were apparently sharing four seats between them, perhaps made easier by the fact that they ranged in age from 1 to 10 years old.

Chilly, a mother of seven, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today to three counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury, nine counts of failing to ensure a child was restrained in the car…

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that she only put a seat belt on one of them.

…one count of driving unlicensed…

A possible reason for which will soon become clear.

…and one count of drink driving.

A nice little baker’s dozen of driving offences then.

Chilly, 35, of Epping, had a blood alcohol level of .233 – more than four times the legal limit – when she crashed in Rockbank about 5pm on August 5 last year.

It was her fourth drink driving conviction.

It’s not actually stated anywhere in the article but I’m guessing the other drink driving convictions might be the reason her licence was suspended at the time.

[Prosecutor Ray Gibson] said Chilly swerved to avoid potholes on the dirt road when the car flipped on to the driver’s side roof.

One child suffered a broken leg in the crash, another had internal chest injuries and a third had a broken arm.

Mr Gibson said Chilly had been drinking beer and sharing a one-litre bottle of Jim Beam with the father of her seven children in a paddock, where the man lived, before driving off to get some takeaway food.

The three other children in the car also belonged to Chilly’s partner. He had eight children with his now estranged-wife.

When later interviewed by police, Chilly said the children were “just all over the place in the car”.

She admitted putting the children’s lives at risk when driving back to the paddock and was sorry for what had happened.

Okay, but this post is not so much about Chilly and her actions as about what her lawyer said. So has everyone absorbed all that background, particularly the last bit about sitting in a paddock getting plastered? Good, then feast your minds on this:

Defence lawyer Jill Prior said Chilly’s decision to drive had been “the lesser of two evils”.

Remember what I said about stretching credibility? Jeez, that’s stretching it so far that when it’s let go the bugger’s going to snap back hard enough to take someone’s face off. And in case you’re wondering how Ms Prior works that out…

It was a decision “contrary to her motherly duties” but the children were hungry and complaining and she didn’t want to leave them with her partner and his brother who were both blind drunk.

“It’s not an easy scenario to digest by any stretch of the imagination,” Ms Prior said.

Chilly was terrified of leaving the children with the two drunk men, she said.

Which was followed by some stuff about her client being an alcoholic and having suffered through a 12 year long abusive relationship, but is now turning things around and has been sober for the last few months. I can almost hear the Ambush Predator’s knuckles cracking from here – sorry, Julia, I know this kind of thing presses your lawyer rage button – but even though this kind of thing is pretty well worn in courts all over the western world I’m not actually going to make anything of it. For all I know it could be the honest truth and in any case her job is to keep her client out of jail, and if any of us law abiding types are ever on trial for something we didn’t do we’d want our lawyers doing exactly the same thing. But the ‘lesser of two evils’ part? That raises a couple of questions I’d like to have seen put to Ms Prior.

Wouldn’t an even lesser evil have been to get the kids some food sorted out earlier on before everyone got pissed, and wouldn’t that have avoided having to pile 11 people into a car with seats for about half that, drunk or sober, in the first place?

Feel the tobacco control stupid – words fail me

As at time of blogging – click for linky

Oh, for fu… Yeah, okay, baccy control idiots. Whatever you say. Sure, his name really is shared with a medieval merchant and jewel thief, and I also happen to know that curiously enough Dick Puddlecote has also been executed and buried in five graves, which I believe makes blogging something of a challenge for him. And in case I ever get added to the list, though maybe there’ll be a separate list of heretical non-smokers who support smokers, my family name really is Exile and in the early 70s Mr and Mrs Exile Snr took their wailing infant son along to the local sky pilots in order to have the little nipper christened ‘Angry’. Honest.

Because nobody on the blogosphere ever chooses to adopt a nom de blog.


Tip of the akubra to Chris Snowdon on Twitter.

A little bit of politics?

This is CCTV footage of a man with a fire extinguisher putting out the eternal flame at Melbourne’s Shine of Remembrance at 8:20 yesterday morning, and is being reported by both press and broadcast media as vandalism.

A man who snuffed out the Eternal Flame at the Shrine of Remembrance could face additional penalties under laws designed to give the war memorial special protection from vandals.


A HEARTLESS vandal used a fire extinguisher to put out the Eternal Flame at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne yesterday morning.

Police have released CCTV footage of the man and want the public to help track him down.

That second quote there is The Herald Sun being so keen to help catch the guy that they put the rest of the article, including the man’s description, behind the paywall.


For what it’s worth he’s apparently Caucasian, early 40s, slim build, about 170cm tall (or near enough 5’7″ in old money), and wearing a dark jumper, and I would say that he’s also a prick for doing that. But I can’t help feeling that if he’s caught this is going to turn out to be something a bit more complex than simple vandalism. Take another look at the guy: does he look like a vandal? Is he acting like a vandal? And was what he did a wanton act of property destruction that’s typical of vandals?

To my mind it’s no to all three – he looks like a guy on his way to work, which at that time on a weekday he may well have been, and he behaves like someone who’s thought the act out in advance and gone out with the intention of putting the flame out, nothing more and nothing less. It’s vanishingly unlikely that he just happened to find a full fire extinguisher lying around in the street and decided to use it on the flame, and if he had and had also been your stock vandal you’d have expected the extinguisher to have ended up being hurled at something breakable. Nor does his dress or age seem like that of someone committing a random act of vandalism. Instead it seems more likely that he’s decided to put the flame out for some reason, gone and bought an extinguisher in advance – one that’s large enough to do the job but small enough to go in a bag – for that specific purpose, and then quite cooly gone about doing just that. It’s also something that will cause outrage but not any permanent damage. Didn’t leave the extinguisher behind either, I notice.

This may legally be vandalism but I suspect the motivation for it is something a bit different, and wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be some kind of fucked up anti-war or anti-capitalism protest. And I say fucked up not just because I wouldn’t agree with it as a form of protest but because people who do something designed to provoke outrage from the general public in order to draw attention to whatever cause they’re into normally do so with the expectation, if not the intention, of arrest. The Femen protestors in the Ukraine who keep showing up at public events and getting their tits out, that muppet who swam in the Thames while the university boat race was on, people who chain themselves to things, they all do it with the aim of getting lots of attention and accept the risk of arrest as a fair price for it. What they don’t do is calmly flash boobs in a random direction when nobody’s around or swim in rivers on a completely unimportant day, and then equally calmly leave the scene. I just can’t help feeling that this guy was getting something personal off his chest, and I’d be astonished if all of this hasn’t already occurred to Victoria Police’s investigators.

He may be a dickhead for what he’s done but he seems unlikely to be your typical vandal, and I’d have thought it’s at least possible that that difference might lead police to him. So why is the media happy simply to paint him as a common or garden vandal and run off some fairly brief copy about it, some of which is behind paywalls anyway?

Strangely specific search terms

As both my regular readers (hi, Mum) will know I don’t often look at the search terms that have brought people to my little corner of the interwebs because that way strangeness lies. Now and again I do have a look but I don’t really want to spend much time thinking about why “sister reaction porn”, “nicole graves tits” or “welding goggles” led here or why, in some cases, people were searching for those things. But I was going through some that were used quite a while back and one caught my eye that really does make me wonder…

if the sas were after me, id be shitting myself

How anyone got here from that is beyond me, and sticking it into Google now doesn’t link t my place at least on the first few pages. But what really surprises me is that this search was apparently used twice. All I can say, whoever you are, is that if the SAS are after you I very much doubt I’ve ever said anything here that would have helped anyway. But then I’ve never blogged about anyone by the name of Nicole Graves either.

When constabulary duty’s to be done

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Readers who take an interest in police activities may recognise that as one of nine ‘Peelian’ Principles of Policing. The idea is a straightforward one: that a police officer is just another citizen, no different from those around them except that they’re paid to enforce the law for a living and so need a few extra legal powers. How true that remains in 2012 is up for debate when that little difference has grown to mean they also need all sorts of extra equipment, as can often be seen merely by glancing at a police officer and what they carry around with them these days. In this part of upside down land police, now mostly decked out in cargo pants that make the wearer look like they have an allergy to trouser presses, are provided with some or all of the following for use in the course of their duties.

Smith & Wesson M&P .40 pistol with 15 round magazine

Capsicum spray

Asp telescopic baton

Holden Commodore SS model (pic by Bidgee via Wikipedia
and used under Creative Commons licence)

Surely this doesn’t need a label

Whereas their fellow citizens are, as long as they provide them themselves and are sensible about using them in public, allowed roughly the following: a water pistol, offensively strong perfume, a small stick, a Commodore SS minus the decals, and finally…

Surely this doesn’t need a label either

And to be brutally honest I’m not all that sure about the water pistol or the stick. In private, sure, things are different, and Aussies can even buy a Smith & Wesson Military & Police model semi-auto pistol, though not the .40 and not with a 15 round magazine (maximum the law allows is .38 and ten rounds) and with predictable restrictions on use, purpose and storage. Good luck asking to be allowed to wander round with one in public though, and I don’t think you can get capsicum spray or telescopic batons at all.*

You might be thinking that this is going to be me going off on one about private gun ownership and why, if the public is the police and vice versa, law abiding and responsible citizens may not arm themselves. Bearing in mind that closer to Robert Peel’s day the police borrowed firearms from passing members of the public at least once I could say something about that, but actually no, not today.** And not least because the police here are, with very rare exceptions, only armed when on duty – presumably a law abiding and responsible police officer becomes a criminally reckless tool at clocking off time or Victoria Police can’t afford enough guns so it’s sharesies. No, where I’m going with this is that if the police really need all those toys, plus radios and body armour and even more kit carried by various support units, because of the demands of 21st century policing then why the fuck did they decide to stop a stolen car being driven at high speed on the Hume Freeway by forming a roadblock made out of unarmed and unequipped citizens in their private vehicles? And double why the fuck did they leave them in the goddamn cars, and triple why the fuck did they include vehicles with children on board?

”The primary duty of a police officer is to protect life and property. This duty comes above all else, including the need to apprehend offenders.”
– Victoria’s chief traffic policeman, Kieran Walshe, in an opinion piece for The Age in January

David Rendina in that clip there had his partner and their 8 and 9 year old children in his vehicle when police gestured to him to park up at the rear of the formation on the emergency lane side, and being one of the last to be directed he had little choice because the freeway was already blocked. Unfortunately for him the driver of the stolen vehicle this show had been put on for decided to try to barge through the block by smashing between the vehicles in the emergency lane and lane one. Happily nobody was injured and so he still has his partner and children, but his ute is currently un-driveable and he’s waiting to find out if it can even be repaired. Since he’s an electrician and that’s his work vehicle and had his tools on board that means he’s currently unable to work as well, though no doubt that’s a lesser consideration than being ordered by police to put himself and his family in the way of a fucknuts car thief with his foot on the floor.

ABC Melbourne Radio: Did you think you were put at risk?
David Rendina: Yes, of course.
ABC: In order to catch a… a driver of a stolen car.
DR: Yep.
ABC: Do you think it’s worth it?
DR: Not at all.
ABC: Do you think it was worth putting your kids and you at risk to catch a kid with a stolen car?
DR: No way. Erm, I think if I was asked to do that or given an option my answer would be no.
ABC: Were you given an option?
DR: No.

774 ABC Melbourne radio interview (mp3 here, approx. 20 minutes long)

Let’s reiterate that this was a pursuit that had already been begun and called off after just a few minutes and left to the air wing to follow from high up because of the risk to other road users, and while I’m prepared to believe the Assistant Commissioner talking later on that recording that the decision was made to stop the idiot because he was still driving like a twat even after the police stopped chasing I find it really difficult to believe that the only option open to getting him stopped and nicked was to put a load of people in his way, wait for him to crash into them, and then haul him out and slap the cuffs on. Victoria Police has a budget of some $2 billion, which among other things buys and runs lots of police vehicles, some of which could perhaps have been used to hare down the Hume warning people to get off as soon as possible (there are four exits in the 15km or so north of where the roadblock was ordered) while others, if allowing the suspect to crash into cars was absolutely necessary, could have been put in his way instead of vehicles belonging to members of the public. Yes, I know they’re expensive and wrecking them costs taxpayers money, but Vic Police is on the hook for compensating those people whose cars were wrecked and whose children are having nightmares. And where’s the money for that going to come from? Yep, you got it.

A review has been ordered, but for Christ’s sake, Vic Police, Benalla is the best part of 200 kilometres away from where the roadblock was made. You say you had eyes on him from the air the whole time, and even at the speeds the moron was doing it gave you over an hour or so to come up with a better plan than ‘Oooh, I know, let’s just stop all the traffic and wait right here for him.’ You cannot have it both ways – either the police and public are one, in which case there’s a discussion to be had about the seemingly widening gap between the two, or they are not, in which case you’ve got no goddamn business putting anyone’s arses on the line but your own. In either case you’ve sure as hell got no right putting kids at risk. The public in Tottenham a century ago may have lent their property and even voluntarily mucked in, but that was in a time where the public could have things the police didn’t rather than the other way round, and I expect that even the very keenest to help would have been pretty reticent to let the bobbies borrow their kids to use in lieu of bullet proof jackets.

ABC Melbourne radio: Would you order your family to park at the back of a road block and wait to be hit by a speeding car?
Asst. Commissioner Fontana: No I wouldn’t.


* You probably can get plain handcuffs if your tastes run that way. Sometimes there are avenues of research I’m just not going to go down for a blog post.
** Interestingly the history of the Tottenham Outrage that appears on the Met’s website makes no mention of the part where police borrowed firearms from passersby or armed members of the public joining the pursuit, though it’s mentioned in at least one other place. Draw your own conclusions.

Okay, enough now

On Sunday I talked about offence seeking and mentioned that something I find particularly weird is this fashion of being offended on behalf of someone else, particularly when they’re not all that bothered themselves, the example being the fuss made over comments by a couple of daytime TV hosts about VC recipient and SAS member Ben Roberts-Smith when he clearly doesn’t think it worth getting worked up about himself. This happens a lot these days, and its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) is generally found when some well intentioned right-on type, generally white, gets offended about something on behalf of a group who are not white and begins talking about patronising these people without noticing how patronising it is to act as if they can’t decide whether to be offended for themselves but need some PC obsessed wanker to do it for them.

However, there’s another depth it can sink to, and that’s when actual threats of violent retaliation are made, which is about where we are now with the level of frothing outrage over the remarks of those two TV airheads.

Two more companies have pulled their sponsorship from the morning television show The Circle as Channel 10 today condemned a number of “extreme comments” and threats on social media sites targeting co-host Yumi Stynes.

The latest company to cut ties with The Circle was Mirvac Hotels and Resorts, which posted on its Facebook page that it had cancelled all sponsorship due to the “abhorrent comments” made on the show last week about Australian war hero Ben Roberts-Smith.


Yoplait has also reportedly withdrawn its advertising within the morning television show. Yoplait has been contacted for comment.

It follows news yesterday that Swisse Vitamins, coffee chain Jamaica Blue and Big 4 Holiday Parks had cut their ties with The Circle after Stynes, along with and veteran journalist and guest co-host George Negus, mocked the Victoria Cross recipient.

Stynes has since become the target of an online hate campaign, including physical threats against her and her children, and racial vilification.

If companies want to ditch advertising during or sponsorship of the show then that’s up to them, and if people want to boycott the show or the products of companies who – how very dare they – don’t think such puerile comments are worth changing their advertising strategies over then likewise. But threatening someone over it? Threatening their children? Seriously? Why, what did her kids do?

What the fuck is wrong with people?

iPads are for pussies

Both my readers (hi, Mum) will probably be aware that I’m a bit schiz when it comes to Apple. I’ve been using Macs for years and will always tell the technophobes who are constantly asking me, an infrequent Windows user, how to do something on their PC – usually fix it – that half their problems would go away if they moved to OS X. “Oh, but I’m comfortable with Windows, I don’t want to have to learn how to use OS X” is the usual reply, which is fine except for two things: firstly, they clearly haven’t learned how to use bloody Windows if they keep ringing me up and asking me why their computer’s stopped doing something it should and whether I think it’ll work again if they de-frigg the hard drive (the honest answers being “How the hell should I know” and “Unlikely, but why didn’t you just try that before calling”); secondly, the learning curve to use OS X to the same standard as they can use Windows is a hell of a lot shorter than the one they coped with when learning Windows, not least because they’re familiar with such things as desktop icons, folders, contextual menus, aliases (i.e. which is Apple for shortcut) and what a mouse is just from using Windows.

But that doesn’t mean I’m an advocate for Apple themselves. I like the products – actually just some of the products, but I’m getting to that – but I can still despise the company. I think they’ve swallowed their own hype that “Macs just work” to the extent of being unable to accept that even Apple’s quality control will let the odd dud through, they’ve refused to honour warranties because their computers hate passive smoking too (I really wish I was making that up), and they seem to have an almost constant copyright/trademark war over every teensiest thing, especially if it begins with a lower case i, and with almost everyone (an Aussie supermarket with a logo that’s kind of like apple peel – really, Apple). This leaves me with a foot in both camps, that of the Apple haters and that of the Mac fanbois. I’m just glad they’re not separated by a picket fence or I’d be very uncomfortable even on tiptoe. As it is I’m quite comfortable telling anyone who’s a casual user and less than keen on doing the computer version of oil and filter changes and setting the plug gaps that they’d probably have less aggro if their main desktop computer was a Mac, but also that they should hand over their money through gritted teeth because I think that the Apple themselves are a bunch of bastards.

And I’m probably less of a fanboi because of the Apple products I don’t like. I’ve said for years that Apple are unable to make a decent mouse with a gun at their heads, and though that’s less true these days it’s a fact that the mouse that came with my current Mac, the machine I’m using right now, has never been out of the box because I’d had one before and thought it was shit (to be fair the $75 Logitech mouse I was using and loved died last week, and they don’t bloody make it anymore). Nor am I enamoured with their mobile devices, partly because my own row with them was over a MacBook Pro, partly because I’m becoming sufficiently middle aged and farty to be content with a mobile phone that makes phone calls, and partly because despite my inner gadget head wanting one I still can’t work out what I’d actually use an iPad for. Plus I’ll always think of this when the name’s mentioned.

Above all I can’t work out why the hell I’m supposed to drop between nearly A$600 (for the very basic one with no 3G and little storage) and nearly a grand for the top end on something that’s less of a computer than a $300 netbook. Okay, because I don’t have children obviously I’m not able to appreciate its <sarc>obvious function of being a toy for toddlers</sarc>, but I do have pets and they’re about as bright as a mildly retarded toddler. And if you think I’m buying them an iPad then you are simply fucking insane.

Oh, God, no.

If you thought you’d seen everything as far as iPad applications go, you haven’t seen the RSPCA’s cat app.
Designed for techno-cats who already have everything, it features games for felines who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn in the days before computers.

Are you serious? Look, I love cats and in particular I love my cats (who didn’t wake me up at 6.30, unlike another quadrupedal member of the household), but I’m realistic about things. I can tell you with certainty that “felines who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn in the days before computers” would still enjoy playing with a ball of yarn today, and they will tomorrow as well. As will all cats for, at a conservative estimate, the next few million years. Many long term cat keepers (the old joke is that dogs have owners and cats have staff) will tell you that they’re capable of real affection and even very limited two way communication once you’ve learned to “speak” cat. But most of us will admit that they can’t even grasp the concept of a mirror, much less a computer, so to talk about cats who would have enjoyed playing with a ball of yarn before the computer came along is anthropomorphising a bit much.

There is even a virtual ball of yarn…


… not to mention a game where puss has to protect cheese from invading mice.

This is… oh, let’s just have a look at it, shall we?

So basically, the aim of this game is for the cats to protect the cheese…

You sure? You checked with the cats? Because I suspect that as far as they’re concerned the aim is to make the funny flat prey things die.

Little Simmy here’s just 8 weeks old, but she’s obviously the cleverest. It only took her less than a minute to work out if she’s double taps the app it’ll go to the main menu.

She’s done no such thing. Cats move quickly – ever heard the expression ‘cat-like reflexes’? – and both fight and catch small prey by rapid batting with their front paws. Little Simmy’s not double tapping shit, she’s still just trying to make the funny flat prey thing die.

I hope.

You DO know there's more than one kind of double-tap, right?

Moggies can also pit themselves against other cats to work out which one is smartest.

No they can’t. Look, they’re no more able to conceptualise who or what is smart than they are computers. Unless you’ve taught them elementary maths all this guff with the high scores is little more than a random number generator. This isn’t for the cats – like the whole thing, it’s really for the owners staff.

Okay, I know, I’m being a bit unfair. I do realise that nobody’s suggesting that you buy an iPad just for the cats, though I’m sure someone with more money than sense will, and I did see that the app is free. Clearly it’s aimed at cat staff who are also already iPad owners and who work for cats who spend most or all their time indoors,  which isn’t unheard of in a country where there’s a genuine feral cat problem and, as a result, places where there are cat curfews and even bylaws restricting cats to the property. But Jeez, we talk wistfully about the long(ish) gone days where we made our own entertainment and then stick several hundred bucks’ worth of electronics in front of an animal that by nature is predisposed to entertaining itself. Cats, even house cats, will be as happy with some relatively inexpensive toys from the pet store and even cheaper ones like scrunched up envelopes and Post-Its as they will with a computer game. Most of all they’ll be happy with another cat around for when they want furry company and enough room to bugger off and be alone when they don’t, a sunny spot or two to sprawl in on nice days and a selection of warm spots when it’s shitty outside. That’s pretty much the list of priorities and I don’t think they’d be a lot different even if cats were brighter than they are.

If they were the smartest species on the planet I reckon they’d have invented central heating before the wheel and have email that’d let you know what the other cat’s arse smelled like when they clicked send, but maybe they’d also appreciate the effort that’s gone into an app like this. Maybe even little 8 week old Simmy would double tap it for the menu. As things are… nah, ours will be happy with being fed, petted and looked after plus a selection of $5 toys, bits of scrap paper and all the bogong moths they can catch. And I’d bet the same could be said for cats in general.

Headlines you really don’t expect to see at breakfast time

“Gordon Ramsay’s Dwarf Porn Double Found Dead in a Badger Den in Wales”

Other than the fact that I had no idea that there was such a thing as dwarf porn, let alone celeb chef lookalike dwarf porn – I was only able to carry on eating my toast normally by adding mind bleach to my morning coffee – what’s surprising is that it turns out this story dates from last September but as I write is the fifth most popular online article at the Telegraph (the Sydney one, not the UK one).

Click for embiggerfication

What, if anything, that says about Sydneysiders I really can’t say. 😉

I’m glad I don’t have kids…

… because if I did I’d probably be sitting here now wondering why the hell they can’t be
this awesome.

Zoe, from Thatcham, Berks, plays in a child group called Mini Band which was catapulted to fame last year with a cover of Metallica’s Enter Sandman.
But the youngster’s latest offering has won her hundreds of thousands more fans, showing her shredding her way through the solo of the Stratovarius’s Stratosphere.

And by way of comparison I don’t even hold any hope of doing this:

To top everything I can imagine Suzi Quattro looking exactly like that around 1960 or so.

Is this the same Nick Clegg?

Click for linky

On Friday night, François Fillon, the French prime minister, interrupted an official visit to Brazil to call Mr Clegg to “clarify” his recent comments that Britain’s credit rating should be reviewed.
The Deputy PM told Mr Fillon that his recent remarks and those by other senior French figures had been “simply unacceptable and that steps should be taken to calm down the rhetoric”.

Yeah, I know. Being told off by Nick Clegg. It sounds like being savaged by a kitten that’s been quite heavily sedated, doesn’t it? But you know, I reckon he meant it. He might even have meant it more than Cameron meant to say ‘no’ to the Merkozy being last week, and I wouldn’t rule out Clegg going for the full diplospeak version of je t’encule in the future.

Because I think Cleggy boy has noticed something. His reluctant BFF next door has suddenly become more popular with the electorate. Undeserved, perhaps, but even if Cameron stood up to the EU for Britain by complete accident he’d have got some political capital out of it, and Cleggy probably fancies a little of it for himself. Hang on, he may be thinking to himself, there’s votes in this Euroscepticism thingy. And let’s face it, for a man who’s only a liberal or a democrat as and when it suits him it’s not impossible that he might decide to be a Europhile only when it’s worth his while as well.

To paraphrase Marx – Groucho, that is – these are Nick’s principles and if you don’t like them he has others.

I’ve banned smoking in the road outside my house

Of course I’ve done no such thing really. Smoke in here and I’ll tell you to put it out, go outside or just leave. If you take the last option I must accept that once you’re any measurable distance at all from my gate, even if its in millimetres, I have no right to tell you to stop. Well, that’s how I see it, and I don’t feel that’s anything to do with being a libertarian and a fan of property rights – it is, but it’s mainly just being fair and reasonable.

But of course not everyone is prepared to be fair and reasonable with smokers, the twenty-first century’s designated primary untermenschen (drinkers and salad dodgers being the next down the list). Three months ago I left a slightly off topic comment over at Velvet Glove, Iron Fist on a post about smoking establishments starting to reappear in places in Europe. I said this:

Slight tangent, this. I saw a sign in a office building doorway here in Oz recently that said something like ‘No smoking with 5 metres of this doorway’. Might not have been 5 metres (I didn’t think to get a photo) but I remember looking at it and thinking that that applies to rather a lot of pavement and even a bit of road that I very much doubted the building’s owners had any legal control over.

I should have added that I thought the idea was not only a bit iffy from the property rights angle, what with it setting rules on land the rule maker doesn’t own, but that it was completely ridiculous anyway – I’ve been a non-smoker long enough to have grown to dislike the smell, but I find that a couple of paces is all that’s needed and sometimes not even that. Metres plural? Several metres? That’s just being silly.

A quick google image search suggests that these X metres away from the door restrictions are springing up everywhere now as I found examples of signs in Canada and the US plus a UK site selling them them in 5, 10 and even 20 metres of self righteous bastardry. What I haven’t found, except in Queensland where they are mad and have banned smoking 4 metres from entrances with a $200 fine (PDF) if you’re closer than that, is any indication that these things can carry any legal force where that area is both open and public, much less owned by someone else. Even in Queensland footpaths are going to be less than 4 metres wide often enough that this is a problem, and where the smokophobes have demanded the right to make rules over an even larger area of property that doesn’t belong to them it can become significant. How significant I noticed last weekend on a trip into South Melbourne.

The buildings I’ve highlighted here form the Spotlight Centre, a small suburban shopping centre consisting of Spotlight, a supermarket, a pharmacy, a few small stores and cafes, and a gym in the larger building on the right, and an Aldi and a Dan Murphy’s liquor store in the one on the left.

Smoking is, of course, prohibited inside according to state law, though this only came into force in July 2007 and I very much doubt smoking was allowed inside before then. I can’t remember having seen a shopping centre anywhere that permitted smoking in their buildings even before the law banned it. However, the Spotlight Centre has gone further and has decided that they don’t want nasssty smokersss gollum stinking up their entrancesss, no preciousss. And so there are signs on the doors which say, among other things, ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’, though for reasons which I’ll come to I don’t have a photograph.

There are three entrances on different streets to the main building and one to the smaller building (there looks like there will be a second when a currently empty unit is filled). I’ve marked out the rough size and extent of the no smoking zones that result from Spotlight’s banning of smokers a full ten metres – nearly 33 feet in old money – from their entrances, first as they are and second as they’ll be whenever that last main unit with its own entrance is occupied. Embiggering is possible on both images.

Yes, not only do the owners of the Spotlight Centre not want you to smoke inside their buildings, which is perfectly reasonable and absolutely up to them even if there wasn’t a stupid law demanding they do what they’d almost certainly do by choice, but they’re so insistent that even their doors are protected that they demand the right to ban smoking in cars parked outside or even driving past. ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’ is what it says and there’s no mention of an exception for people who are within that distance but are inside their own property, much less on public property.

Of course the reason for this new phenomenon of pushing smokers even further away is as simple as it was predictable. Give the smokers a place to go, as was the policy in the past, and they’ll go and smoke there. Take it away and they’ll smoke wherever there’s a bit of shelter instead, and often that means doorways and entrances where ‘normal’ people – or ‘tomorrow’s victims of denormalisation’ as I like to think of them – have to go in and out. This is particularly true of workplaces, which generally used to cater for smokers and non-smokers alike and would often set aside a room or an area for the smokers if there was space. The law then said they had to stop doing that so of course the smokers ended up going outside, and if the weather was poor naturally they’d stay as close as possible to the door. Incidentally, this is the reason why there’s no photo of the Spotlight’s Centre’s sign informing of their 10m exclusion zones – I did take one but I didn’t realise that a member of staff who was standing a couple of metres behind me having a cigarette was reflected in the glass, and such casual defiance of an unreasonable rule didn’t deserve to be rewarded with evidence put on the interwebs for anyone to see.* For all I know it’s a sacking offence, so just take my word for it that it really does say 10 metres.

The effect is clear. Wherever there have been smoke bans in certain buildings there are now smokers who want or need to use those buildings dragging the life out of their smokes around the entrances rather than relatively evenly spread around, and having been brainwashed into increasing levels of terror at the sight of a lit fag much of the non smoking public have kicked off often enough that some now feel they can apply their own in house rules beyond the boundaries of their property. Currently this is not enforceable anywhere I know of apart from Queensland, where, as I mentioned, they are mad but also rich enough to be able to hire thousands of Zone Enforcement Response Officers (or ZEROs) to roam around with 4 metre tape measures and books of fine forms.** Sadly it’s only a matter of time before somewhere else follows suit and introduces legislation too, and if it’s here in Victoria there’ll be close 170 feet of non-smoking pavement on one South Melbourne road which you won’t even know about until too late because the damn signs are attached to the bloody doors ten metres inside the zone. Worse, a piece of footpath on which you can smoke today could be turned anti-smoking simply be someone knocking a hole in the wall and putting a door in.

And as usual with all anti-smoking measures that will be cheered by some non-smokers when it should really be feared by smokers and non-smokers alike. Because when someone else gets rights over property they don’t own the can is open and the worms are wriggling everywhere. Don’t believe me? Well, as Leg-iron and Bucko have just pointed out coffee drinkers look like joining the ranks of smokers, drinkers and salad dodgers, and while I don’t currently have any desire to ban even strong smelling coffee being consumed by someone who happens to be walking past my house it happens that I am a tea drinker, you see… ***

Can’t happen? Yeah, I expect the smokers who’ll be walking out into roads all over the world to avoid getting too close to someone’s door thought that too.

* Or maybe it wasn’t defiance but the rain that kept the mystery smoker near the door. It was pretty wet that day, but I doubt that’s an excuse so I’m still not using the photo.
** My mistake. Queensland is $53 billion in debt and would be even deeper in the hole if it hand’t sold some state assets. And I made the ZEROs up, though that doesn’t mean something like them doesn’t really exist.
*** Coffee too, but that spoils the point.

Brings a new meaning to the term ‘joystick controller’

I just don’t know what to say about this but I’m slightly surprised that some feminazi isn’t screaming that it’s sexist because it’s been designed to exclude women, sorry, wimmin.

Personally I suspect the feminists are keeping quiet because they’ve had their own videogames in the ladies’ lavvies for years, and they’re much better games with multiplayer modes. This is why they always go to the loo in pairs and take so bloody long. Powdering your noses? Yeah, sure. You’re just trying to level up before the husband/boyfriend/significant other wants another drink.

Guilty ’til proven innocent

I was going to blog on the arrest (with free strip search thrown in) in Germany of Tracey Molamphy on a charge she knew nothing about relating to an incident involving someone she was with more than 12 years earlier, but SadbutMadLad has already done a thorough job on it over at The Raccoon Arms.

Was she unlawfully arrested? No, because the EAW is law. Was she unfairly treated by the German police? No, they were following their lawful procedures. So if everything was above board and followed the law what was wrong? The fact that no evidence needs to be shown to back up the extradition request.

The only thing I’ll add is that thanks to the European Arrest Warrant and its provision for detention with absolutely no prima facie evidence, and of course the feckless politicians who signed the UK up to it, that nasty little phrase ‘Guilty ’til proven innocent’ effectively applies to everyone living in the UK. For that matter it applies to everyone else in the world who might visit any part of Europe – if a British citizen can be picked up in Germany over an incident in Portugal then there’s no reason why an American or an Aussie or a Japanese tourist visiting London couldn’t be arrested over a years old accusation they no nothing about in a completely different part of Europe. Any protection that might be afforded by a statute of limitations will depend on which country issued the warrant since many don’t have one.