Sounding the Conch

A petitition is circulating to save Pacific Studies at the Australian National University from erosion through underinvestment. I signed it with the following comment:

I was a PhD student at ANU precisely because of the Pacific expertise concentrated in RSPacS/RSPAS, and benefitted enormously from spending time with staff who had studied the region for decades. In the early 1990s there was already concern that Australia’s attention was turning away from its Pacific neighbours, but at least ANU remained a crucial repository of knowledge about them. Climate change promises to bring Pacific concerns back to the forefront for Australia, and arguably already is. It would be incredibly short-sighted of ANU to lose its position in Pacific studies at that very moment—not to mention disheartening to those who have devoted much of their lives to maintaining it, and younger scholars who were hoping to.

31 May 2016 · Comment · Journal

Ghost Towns

Brazil’s coup.

The dangerous acceptance of Donald Trump. Ten things every politician who endorses Trump should be forced to defend. Trump on climate: even worse than you thought. Trump’s Twitter stormtroopers. Just what were Trump’s ties to the Mob?

Aw, jeez.

Mongolia’s new national addressing system.

Floating solar farms.

Neanderthal cave structures from 175,000 years ago.

Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report after government intervention.

Every schoolkid in Britain should hear this. Not to mention every undergrad engineer.

Ashgabat: the city of the living and the city of the dead.

30 May 2016 · Comment · Weblog


More links filched from MetaFilter and Twitter.

Read More · 22 May 2016 · Comment · Weblog

I promised my father-in-law my never-fail sourdough recipe, which is even easier than the one I was using a few months ago because it needs no kneading and actually works better than if you do. Here it is, with the earlier recipe after it.

Read More · 22 May 2016 · Comment · Food

Achilles and the Tortoise

A paradox noted by Zeno \ Declares that there really can be no \ Winning races we run \ Against those who've begun \ Far ahead of us. Still, what did he know.

The trouble with this time of year is that the closer I seem to get to a time when I can catch up on non-work stuff, the more the moment edges away. So I’m just going to throw a few things out there in an effort to pass the tortoise.

The limerick is a throwaway written for a forum comment at the OEDILF, by the way, which I won’t be able to submit to its main database for fifty to a hundred years, depending on paradoxical chelonians, so here it is.

22 May 2016 · Comment · Whatever

A Low-Flying Panic Attack

Just my luck that Radiohead release a glorious new album right in the middle of marking season. Makes a change from posthumous discography binges, at least. I’m past first reactions now and up to about ninth, but it still feels a little premature to post a review. In the meantime, some earth-shaped links.

148 lost notebooks.

The other budget. The Arctic death spiral. Humans have caused all warming since 1950. Fort McMurray’s fire. Cambodia’s drought. How climate scientists feel about climate change.

Mass surveillance breeds meekness, fear and self-censorship. The fog near a cliff. Whistleblowing is an act of political resistance.

Working-class actors are disappearing in Britain.

Concrete madeleines for former ACT residents.

9 May 2016 · Comment · Weblog

Sometimes it Snows in April

Not just a Prince reference; it actually did snow on the hills around Edinburgh yesterday, although in our part of the city it was merely wet and freezing.

Speaking of El Symbol: Prince memories. The oral history of Purple Rain. Prince’s low-profile generosity to green causes.


The sugar conspiracy.

Five insane things we believe about money, thanks to movies and TV.

What would happen if we just gave people money? The long history of basic income proposals is enlightening; nobody ever talked about it in the late 1980s, when I first thought it seemed a good way to go.

George Monbiot on neoliberalism.

Only 15–20 years before widespread loss of ocean oxygen.

And I know I said I don’t normally link technical how-tos, but I’m going to again. If you accidentally crack the screen of your Kindle 3, these replacement instructions (as simplified in the comment from Dave, dated 06/15/2015) are the business. A new screen, battery and keyboard cost me around twenty quid on eBay, and following the steps wasn’t hard.

30 April 2016 · Comment · Weblog

This year’s string of pop deaths means that my music archives threaten to become nothing but obituaries; I still haven’t done my recap of last year’s listening (or the year before’s). But Tom Ewing has kept ploughing through 2001’s UK number ones, and even though I wasn’t paying much attention to pop that year I’ve commented on a few—reproduced here as a useful stop-gap during marking season.

Read More · 26 April 2016 · Music

Computer Blue

Ur Man's Eyes

Even though I was starting to get used to 2016 as the year that Death started getting his groove on (I AM A BLACK STAR), the news about Prince was a shock. He hit his stride just as I was first getting into pop and rock as a teenager, and was as big in Australia as he was anywhere in the 1980s. The single-LP version of 1999 (missing “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.S.M.R.”) got a lot of play in our house, and Purple Rain made just as strong an impression. In a fit of pop treachery I swapped my LP of the latter for a Big Country tape (je ne regrette rien), but before long rectified the situation by buying CDs of both. My favourite Prince track, though, wasn’t “1999”, “When Doves Cry” or “Darling Nikki”, great though they were, but an album cut that never makes the compilations, “Mountains” from Parade.

Somewhere around Graffiti Bridge I lost track of the purple one, as my ear turned to indie. The contractual wrangles and triple-album sets didn’t make full-price album purchases tempting, and Princely radio singles in the mid-’90s were few and far between. So although I’ve embarked on a second marathon listen to a late artist’s back catalogue in the space of a few months, I might hit a wall a dozen albums in. Pitchfork’s guide to his late-period picks could come in handy.

Those early albums, though: what a run. What other pop star so totally owned the Eighties? Not Bowie, who went off the boil after Let’s Dance. Michael Jackson only released two albums in the 1980s, and Madonna four. Prince released an album every year of the decade but one, including two double-LPs, and they’re almost all great; and he can be forgiven the gap in 1983 because he was making a movie (and did that again twice that decade, too).

It was the purplest of purple patches. Prince may not have been the tallest bloke, but the man was a giant.

24 April 2016 · Comment · People

Heaven and Hell

Oliver Burkeman: Scheduling is the best way to get creative work done.

The largest ever analysis of film dialogue by gender.

Beware the grinning emoji, my son! The teeth that bite, the renderings that mismatch!

I don’t normally link technical how-tos, but this was a godsend when attempting to install Slack on my iPhone 4: How to download and install apps on older versions of iOS (entirely legitimately).

How Internet mapping turned a remote farm into a digital hell. How the Internet turned a remote town into a digital heaven.

How humanity first killed the dodo, then lost it.

Marine heatwave in Tasmania puts species at risk.

Dolphins have a language. Surely we knew that thirty years ago?

Clive James: “I’ve got a lot done since my death”, but “still being alive is embarrassing”. He’s writing for The Observer again and just reviewed Game of Thrones in The New Yorker, which might even prompt me to start watching it. Plus he has a new verse book about Proust out this week.

The world’s first Pastafarian wedding.

Here are the times I am typically free to meet.

24 April 2016 · Comment · Weblog

Which Way Do Ya Wanta Go?

Last week I had an unexpected urge to revisit some of my earliest programming efforts. Unfortunately, they’re stored on ancient 5¼" floppies which would probably be unreadable, even if I had a 5¼" drive and a way of converting it to USB. Fortunately, at the time I wrote them I also printed out my collection of Apple II and BBC Micro BASIC programs using our school’s dot-matrix printers, and after rummaging through some old boxes was able to find those printouts again.

Read More · 5 April 2016 · Comment · Memory

Serious Business

Benin City, the medieval capital now lost without trace. 100 African cities destroyed by Europeans.

In the capital of Europe. Written before the bombings of last week, which once again reminded me in the worst possible fashion that I’ve visited too many sites of subsequent terrorism. New York, Paris, London... Brussels.

Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates.

Nothing to apologize for.

Teachers sent packing because they earn too little.

Netflix generates more traffic than the entire Internet.

The Bribe Factory.

Global warming’s terrifying new chemistry. Current temperatures are shocking even to climate scientists. Longest coral bleaching event on record. West Antarctic ice sheet could melt rapidly. Carbon emissions haven’t been this high since the dinosaurs.

31 March 2016 · Comment · Weblog

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