2015 Eclipse, Edinburgh

We had great eclipse viewing conditions in Edinburgh yesterday morning. (In your face, Transit of Venus 2004.) Armed with a pinhole camera and just the right degree of cloud cover, I even managed to get a few decent photos. No eyeballs were harmed in the taking of these images.

21 March 2015 · · Events

Rage Quit

I grew up thinking of Malcolm Fraser and Australia’s Liberal Party as the bad guys, a view which only became stronger when I immersed myself in 1975 lore as a political science student in the late 1980s. When Gough Whitlam died last year, I lost a hero. Once I would as happily have danced on Fraser’s grave as on Margaret Thatcher’s.

But while Thatcher’s legacy in Britain becomes more toxic by the year, Fraser’s is more benign. His government presided over some positive changes—welcoming Vietnamese refugees, establishing SBS, opposing apartheid and white minority rule in Rhodesia, and the Northern Territory Land Rights Act—and saw through some of what Gough started. I’ll never approve of what he did in 1975, although I attach most of the blame to Governor-General Sir John Kerr for cravenly going along with it. Dismantling Medibank was a blot on his copybook as well, as was making a minister of John Howard. But after his time as prime minister he did and said a lot worth admiring.

David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times captured it best. I love his reference to the old jokes about how Fraser looked like an Easter Island statue, too.

Time to relinquish the rage.

20 March 2015 · · People

A Magazine, Stickers and a Flute

Illness and work combined to break my blogging habit* for a month, so here’s a backlog of links.

The privileged are taking over the arts—pop culture is doomed.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories.

Vanilla Bright Like Eminem.

Frankie Boyle on offence and free speech.

Rain-soaked photographs like impressionist paintings (source).

Wolf Hall was essential television, but how true to history was it? Count up the bodies.

Octopus gets crabby.

Why the Internet could be the next failed state.

The girl who gets gifts from birds.

Read More · 13 March 2015 · · Weblog

Memories of Pterry

A sad day for fans of comic fantasy, a genre Terry Pratchett pretty much came to define.

My copy of The Colour of Magic dates from 1985, the first Corgi paperback edition, which described the story on the front cover as “Jerome K. Jerome meets LORD OF THE RINGS (with a touch of Peter Pan)” and on the back as THE WACKIEST AND MOST ORIGINAL FANTASY SINCE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (who knew Death started out as a blurb writer?). The comparisons had a whiff of desperation, but did the trick: as a teenage fan of Tolkien, Douglas Adams and Three Men in a Boat, I paid my A$4.95 and started reading.

Read More · 12 March 2015 · · People

On the Thin Ice

Easter Craiglockhart Hill Nature Reserve, Edinburgh, 8 February 2015.
Easter Craiglockhart Hill Nature Reserve, Edinburgh, 8 February 2015.

Honk. (Mouseover: Quack.)

9 February 2015 · · Journal

Tsubu Tsubu

Chocolates that represent Japanese onomatopoeic words to describe texture.

The Hundred Birds Project.

The threshold effect.

Half of the DNA found on the New York subway matches no known organism.

Funding cuts in Australia prompt young scientist to reject prestigious fellowship.

The joy of a deadpan Amazon review when you least expect it. Nice punchline in the comments.

Let’s talk crap.

7 February 2015 · · Weblog

Cultural Churn

Google’s romance with librarians is over.

Cory Doctorow: It would be madness to hand over our archives to VCs (Boing Boing).

All my blogs are dead (“so I’ve started backing up my work”: oh dear, oh dear).

Social media explained with donuts.

Has instant news left us hungry for slow-burning stories?

How Twitter makes money.

Why did everybody do the Harlem Shake?

Twitter CEO addresses the platform’s persistent harassment issues.

Mark Ames of The eXile on the geometry of censorship and satire.

7 February 2015 · · Weblog

Boom! Shake it Off, the Room

Alan Partridge quotes on Taylor Swift pictures. Because.

Mad archery skills.

“A part of me wants to build monuments to myself. But another part of me wants to disappear completely.”

Africa’s quiet solar revolution.

Paul Krugman: “Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves.”

Have a dekko at Cathy Wilcox’s grouse cartoon A-Z of all things Oz.

It's now impossible to satirise Tony Abbott.

South Sydney 55 Wests Tigers 11.

The making of a climate refugee.

Ancient human jawbone surfaces off coast of Taiwan.

How to eradicate grey squirrels without firing a shot.

The ATM bombers.

31 January 2015 · · Weblog

Je suis grand, je contiens des multitudes

A few final links on Charlie Hebdo I missed before, plus some further thoughts first posted in the giant Metafilter thread about them.

Je suis Charlie? It’s a bit late.

“All eyes are on us, we’ve become a symbol.”

How the “survival issue” was made.

“It’s okay, you’re alive, you’ll be able to keep drawing me.”

Read More · 31 January 2015 · · Events

Adventures in Prodgers

When I first moved to Edinburgh in 2001, I spent a lot of time in its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, which were more prevalent then than they are now. On one visit I found a small hardback with a title and author that seemed to come from one of those “awful books” compilations, and picked it up for a pound on a whim.

Read More · 22 January 2015 · x2 · Site News

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Why the modern world is bad for your brain.

Algorithms aren’t gods, they’re caricatures.

Has David Cameron really gone to war on encryption? He can’t ban it... but if he gets his way he won’t have to.

Fascism arrives as your friend.

Jon Ronson interviews Adam Curtis on his forthcoming film Bitter Lake.

Electricity plants.

Everything that could wipe out humanity in one handy infographic.

21 January 2015 · · Weblog

Knit Your Own Owl

“The stories we absorb seem to shape our thought processes in much the same way lived experience does.”

Philip K. Dick: A Day in the Afterlife.

Satellite images reveal the extent of Boko Haram’s destruction in Baga. I posted a MetaFilter thread on the attacks the other day.

Week one of the new EU VAT rules. Terrible for digital small businesses.

Ship Your Enemies Glitter. Offer may not be available in the EU.

Dutch universities dig in for a long fight over open access.

Why the EU doesn’t need new anti-terrorism legislation. It isn’t as if there aren’t other laws that could be used to prosecute. Pretty obvious and old ones.

“There’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it.”

David Hicks “has every right to sue the current Australian government for false imprisonment”.

Read More · 18 January 2015 · · Weblog

January 2015