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Really, Dudes?

I am currently running on about four hours sleep, if that. It's been hot and sticky for the past two days over here (it actually hit 40C on Tuesday, yesterday wasn't as hot, but it was muggy as well) and overcast to boot, which means the night doesn't cool down as far as it could. Which, in turn, means it's harder for me to get to sleep, because I'm feeling all hot and horrible. I tried switching on the fan, but that means I'm trying to sleep over the noise of the fan, which in turn means I don't get all the way down into sleep - I sort of bomb out at the sort of doze where one's peripheral awareness is still "on", and thus any strange noise, strange light, or unexpected whatever is enough to jerk one out of sleep.

Last night came with a doozy.

I was attempting to sleep by about 11pm, because I hadn't had the best night on Tuesday night either. Around about midnight, the thunderstorm which had been forecast for the past two days hit. It continued on until about three AM. It also apparently passed if not dead over our suburb, at least fairly close to it (close enough that some of the thundercracks required me to shield my ears to mute the volume of them). It is *still* going even now (at 6.26am as I'm writing this), but by about 3am or thereabouts the combination of exhaustion, the cooling effect of the storm on the weather, and the reduction in volume caused by the storm moving on a little made it so I could zonk out for a bit until my alarm went off at 5.30am.

Today is definitely going to be one of those days where I have a nap.

But either way, it sounded like we had about three or four thunder deities up there having a competition about who could make the most fsckin' noise. Definitely a case of "do not want" in every single way, shape and form. No incense for the thunder gods today - they don't deserve people believing in them.

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Current Mood: tired tired
26 JAN 2015

Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, a fleet of eleven vessels illegally made land on the eastern shores of this continent. Approximately 1480 people landed in the area now known as Sydney Cove, along with an additional cargo of livestock (horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits - these last two are now known feral pests) without permission from the traditional owners of the area, and without consultation with their elders. This group of illegal immigrants proceeded to make camp, and to occupy the lands of the Eora people without permission.

They were the first of many. Battles between the illegal arrivals and the original inhabitants were inevitable. Who won? Well, whose language am I using to write this?

This story provides a lesson for people seeking to enter this country by sea. Stop meekly presenting yourselves to the customs cutters, stop meekly surrendering to the Navy vessels. Come in force, well armed. Dodge the patrols, and set up camp on the mainland, raise the flag of your past homeland, and refuse to acknowledge the government in Canberra. Claim the land was empty when you arrived.

It's already worked once. Who's to say it won't work again?

I recognise the house I am living in is built on land once part of the traditional lands of the Beeliar group of the Whadjuk Nyungar peoples. The name of the suburb I live in is a word from their language. Their land was taken from them without compensation, without recognition of their ownership, and without recognition of their essential humanity. This was wrong when it happened, and it is still wrong now. My direct ancestors did not necessarily take part in the actions of dispossession, but they benefited from them indirectly by being of the same racial and ethnic group as the dispossessors (three out of my four grandparents were born in England, and emigrated here at the invitation of the Australian government in Canberra).

Australia Day commemorates the day a bunch of thugs sanctioned by the government of a foreign power started a campaign of robbery with violence. What is there in that to be proud of? I stand with the dispossessed, and hang my head in shame at the lack of action from successive generations of Australian political "leaders" towards a realistic acknowledgement of the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples of this country, and the lack of work toward a treaty.

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Current Mood: ashamed ashamed
Scammer: Global Area Gargo Ltd

I'm almost hesitant to put this one up, since it's not quite as subtle a scam as the other ones I've listed - this one is pretty blatant, and tends to get automatically sorted into the "bulk mail" section of my email for me. But hey, just in case anyone out there needs it, here it goes.

It's another employment scam, but this one varies from my previous listings by telling you there's a job opportunity, rather than strongly implying you have a job offer. However the first and foremost caution on employment scams always applies: employers will not be contacting you telling you about job opportunities or job offers out of the blue. Unless you've left your details with them previously, and asked them to contact you when jobs become available, an employer won't bother seeking you out with that information.

(Another strong hint, and the one which decided me about putting this up: I got three of them at once in a single day's email. Someone really wants a bite from this one).

The job title is "Operations Controller", and they don't list a wage. It's only supposed to require a couple of hours each day, and "no practice is required in financial services" (which should trigger scam flag two: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is).

If you want the job, you're supposed to reply to the email, at which point they'll probably either ask for your resume, or they'll send you out an application form asking for all sorts of personal details (I suspect this mob are mostly in the identity theft business). If they're going the full monty, and adding in the "hoover out the bank account" section of the game, they'll offer you a job, give you the two weeks probation period they're offering in the "ad", and then at the end of those two weeks, they'll tell you you're not quite what they're looking for, so sorry. By which time the damage will be done.

In my three different emails regarding this "job", I was contacted by three different people using three different throw-away email accounts, and given two different reply-to addresses.

Dalton Herbert (apparently-from mulin@zahav.net.il), reply to globalarea.financialdepartment@gmail.com
Cameran Munoz (apparently-from ezoenaoki@ybb.ne.jp), reply to globalarea.cargoinvestments@gmail.com
Nolan Cherry (apparently-from qyvat@theyogurtstation.com), reply to globalarea.cargoinvestments@gmail.com

Note the reply-to addresses are all gmail addresses (or in other words, throwaway email) as well. This is the low rent version of the scam, where they're not even going to bother spending the time and money on acquiring a web domain.

Needless to say googling on "global area gargo" gets no results which even look vaguely like a company website - google does the nice thing and redirects you to "global area cargo", which gets lots of results for shipping firms. If you insist on "global area gargo", you get a list of personal web pages which contain the misspelling requested - none of them company sites.

To be honest, this is such a blatant scam it isn't funny. If you wind up with one of these "job offers" showing up in your junk mail filters, leave it there. If it shows up in your main inbox, might I suggest investing in a decent spam blocker? Whatever you do, don't reply to it. The only job they have available is "sucker".

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
A Small Update

Just to bring people up to speed on what's happening in my life and what I've been up to.

The good news:

1) I have a new smartphone! I've been saving up for this for most of the last couple of years, and the Telstra shop had a fortuitous sale. My old mobile phone was a little Nokia handset which had been a bit dodgy from the word go - one of its little quirks was that whenever I used it for phone calls, the "6" key somehow kept being pressed. No, I don't know how. Either way, calls were constantly interrupted by beeping and at the end of the call I'd have a page of 6's to delete. Plus it only had text entry from the keypad, which meant it was slow and fiddly to use, and meant I didn't really get much use out of the non-phone functions.

My new phone is a Samsung Galaxy Trend, and it seems to be a lot closer to what I was actually wanting (which was a replacement for my old Palm m515 which could also make phone calls). Certainly it's far easier to use the calendar, note-taking and contacts features than it was on the Nokia. I don't think I'm likely to be using the web-based features of it all that much, though - while I'm at home, I'll use my computer for web browsing, and while I'm out, I'll either be driving, or if I'm on public transport, I'll be working on crochet.

2) I've started to work seriously on improving my performance as a housekeeper. I'm using a combination of Chorewars (to track what I've done, and how much I've "earned" for it - at a rate of 10c per chore) and Habit RPG (to keep up with the weekly and monthly chores and try to keep me up to a couple of daily targets). I'm trying to do 20 "chores" per day on weekdays, and 15 per day on weekends (which, at 10c per chore, means I'd be earning about $13 per week for the housework. Given that by setting my own pace previously I was averaging about $10 per 8 days, this means I'll be saving up for things off my wishlist a bit faster than I was before).

The not-so-good news:

1) Himself was home earlier in the week with a nasty cold/cough combination which I appear to have caught off him. Woke up this morning with a scratchy sore throat, and I'm feeling a bit flattened and dull. Hopefully it will burn through in the next couple of days. In the meantime, lots of peppermint tea, and maybe some lemon and honey later on. Oh, and lots of feeling very sorry for myself, always an essential part of being unwell.

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Current Mood: not a well bunny not a well bunny
Apparently, I am Useful...

It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.

To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.

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On Waking Very Early

I could wish Dawn didn't bother prodding me with her rosy fingers at 4.14 in the morning. They're forecasting 39C today for Perth, and I think I see how it's going to get there - the thing which woke me was a combination of needing to pee, and being too warm to sleep properly (despite sleeping on top of my covers rather than under them). It's still somewhere around the mid to high twenties, by the feel of things.

(Actually, a quick check of Meteye on the weather bureau site shows the temperature at the site nearest to us (Jandakot) is currently about 26C. Which does explain why I woke up so damn early).

So, rather than lie about feeling grumpy because I couldn't sleep, I decided to get up and get the laundry on so I can get it out and onto the line before the weather really starts getting horrible. Actually, now there's enough light to see by, I might shift on to the next part of my routine (watering the plants, then having a shower and getting dressed). If I can get the worst of the housework done by about 10am (about the time the weather really starts hitting the high notes) I can spend the rest of the day sitting around under the air-conditioning playing some (more) of the new games I bought through Steam.

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Current Mood: grumpy grumpy
Drabble set: Grunt/ICBW

Grunt

Cloud looked dubiously at the outfit he was handed. It was skin-tight blue lycra, the helmet was more face-obscuring than the infantry mask, and the weird gun fitted around the end of his right hand. He was told it was "point and shoot - even a space-case like you couldn't fuck that up, Strife."

Okay, so it apparently contained shielding so they didn't wind up getting their balls zapped by whatever nasties came out of the mako reactors, but really...

He suspected the reason every unit got rotated to Reactor duty was to stop the grumbles about the infantry uniform.

ICBW

"It could be worse," Dawlish told him.

Cloud looked down at his scrawny form in the reactor Grunt uniform. He looked back up and raised his eyebrows.

Dawlish grinned. "Some of the other options? The stuff you have to wear if you're on tower security? Skin-suit like this, rollerskates for mobility. Then layer on big bulky armour. Or there's Aero Combatant gear - helipack in one hand, sword in the other. Nine times outta ten, you wind up hitting the target with the wrong one."

"So how do I avoid that?" Cloud asked.

"Practice your throwing arm, kid," Dawlish said.

Author's notes:

* Inspired by a day of playing FFVII, and thinking about the absolutely awful excuses for uniforms Shinra force a lot of the troops you wind up facing in the early stages of the game into (Grunts, Special Combatants, Aero Combatants and Mighty Grunts). I suspect someone in either Weapons Development or Public Safety was having a bit of a laugh at their expense.
* The last line of the second one is a pointer to the outfits worn by the Grenade Combatants - they wear the standard uniform, much like the MPs. Why yes, I do suspect there are a lot of decisions about military specialisation made in the Shinra military on grounds of "at least I won't look a complete dork in the uniform".
* Needless to say, I don't own FFVII - if I did, the uniforms would be far more practical, and there'd be at least one shrink on the SOLDIER payroll from the start.

(I'll post these over at AO3 tomorrow).

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Current Mood: content content
The SIWOTI[1] Fund

As some of you may know, over the past year, I've been dropping small change into a jar (well, a yoghurt container these days - the jar got broken some time earlier in the year) when faced with egregious stupidity online. Essentially, the rule of the SIWOTI fund is either 5c per comment which gets moderated down by moderators, OR a minimum of 10c per article which raises my blood pressure or makes me stressed. Yesterday was the maturation date for the end of the fund's "year", and I totalled up how much it came to.

The SIWOTI fund this year came to $128.85 AUD. $64.85 of this is going to buying booze, probably a bottle of rum for the household "liquor cabinet"[2] and a bottle of wine for my parents' Christmas present. The other $64 of it is going toward games.

The main thing which contributed to the fund's size this year was the bountiful harvest of stupidity, daftness, and sheer WRONG from the Australian Federal Government. Their antics proved the leading contributors to the fund, and I'd like to thank our Prime Minister and his cabinet for providing such a wide range of things that annoyed me. Other big contributors included #gamergate, and various other MRAs online.

The SIWOTI fund re-starts today, and will get closed again on 21 DEC 2015.


[1] Someone Is Wrong On The Internet
[2] The small, reachable space behind the microwave where I store the bottles of cooking brandy and cooking sherry.

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Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: "Nothing To Prove", The Doubleclicks
Have Another Employment Scammer: Gerosys Group

If you get a job offer purporting to be from the Gerosys Group, treat it with caution. It flies the "scam" flag good and hard.

Let's start with the basics: this mob contacted me out of the blue offering a job. I didn't contact them. One BIG red flag to begin with.

Second red flag: I have no memory of ever being contacted by this group for an interview. Generally, this is a pretty important step toward getting a job.

Third red flag: the job description offers $2600 per month for 20 - 25 hours work, recording financial payment information and processing payments. That's at least $26 per hour for what doesn't seem to be much actual effort. Or in other words, they're paying too much for the work they're asking. This means someone is trying to hook me through my greed.

Fourth red flag: These two paragraphs from their Job Description form:

"JOB ACTIVITIES
We sometimes have customers that owe us funds and pay us in financial instruments cashable only in the local area. Since we work all over the world, it is much easier for our customers to transfer money to our Assistant Clerk who are in the same area. After receiving funds Assistant Clerk must record information about transfer and report. Then send money to one of our branches.

WHY DO WE NEED ASSISTANT CLERK? WHAT DOES IT GIVE US?

Reduces % of taxes (avoiding double taxation);
Reduces expenses for offices maintenance (as Assistant Clerk is an official company's representative, so the construction and maintenance of the office is not required);
Number of clients is increased (as many customers can't make an international money transfer);
Our service is increased (as the international transfer needs about 5 days to reach our central office and then a couple of days to reach the performers branch. Consequently, it slows down our work significantly. It'd be much faster if Assistant Clerk receives the money and directs them to the appropriate department/branch. This is how we reduce terms of payments expectation and can provide a service to the customer more promptly)."


This mob purport to have a branch office in Sydney[1]. So why would they need me, living in Western Australia, to process payments in Australian currency?

Let's not forget, this whole "we need you to process payments into the appropriate currency" business is generally the mask for a scam wherein the scammers gain access to your bank account and vacuum out all the contents.

Fifth red flag: They're asking me to scan a copy of my passport, driver's license or other ID and send this in.

Can we say "identity theft", kiddies? I knew we could!

All of the above are enough to hoist the Scam flag high. The whole thing stinks of scam. The following are the little garnishes which just add grace notes to the smell.

* The person who purported to send me the letter (Alexis Poulson) doesn't appear to exist, and particularly not in Sydney, Australia. Nothing on Facebook, nothing on LinkedIn.
* The name of the "HR manager" on the employment agreement form doesn't show up in Sydney either, and it's a particularly common name.
* Their domain is registered to a Russian domain registry, rather than one in the USA (the website appears to be for a company based in Boston) or Australia (given their Australian branch office).
* There's a "news" item on the bottom of the front page of their website which links straight to the job description I quoted above, apparently soliciting new staff in Australia and Canada.
* The job, as described, needs only high school graduation level education (they actually say "high school diploma or GED", which is a very US-centric description of the whole business).
* The "Company seal" on the employment application firm lists the company as a "limited liability company" (which isn't a company description we have here - we're more likely to go with proprietary limited companies instead), and doesn't have an ABN (Australian business number - a REQUIREMENT for doing business in Australia for GST purposes). So either they're not a genuine company, or they're busy evading tax here in Australia.

I've reported them to the ACCC here in Australia, but I'd urge anyone who gets a job offer from this mob anywhere in the world to be extremely wary. As always, the marks of a genuine job offer are these:

* You go looking for them, they don't go looking for you (particularly at the lower rungs of the ladder; particularly if the unemployment rate is higher than 1%)
* A genuine job offer will come with a request for an interview first, because a genuine employer wants to keep you on in their company for a long time. They will therefore want to find out whether or not you're a "good fit" for their company in the first place.
* The wages won't be massively out of line with the industry standard for the sort of work they're asking for. If your highest educational qualification in this day and age is a high school graduation, you're looking at minimum wage work, not the sort of stuff that pays $26 per hour.
* They won't be asking you to perform duties the banking system is actually perfectly capable of doing (eg international money transfers or currency changing).

[1] 100 Walker St, North Sydney, for the interested. From google maps, it looks like an office complex. If anyone wants to visit and take a dekko at their directory, I'd be overwhelmingly interested in finding out whether they're registered on the directory.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
On Command Decisions and Backseat Driving

In the hours following the cessation of the siege in Sydney, there's been a number of people crawling out of the woodwork wondering why the police didn't bring in a sniper to shoot the hostage-taker and bring the thing to an early end. The plaints tend to go along the lines of "if a television camera can get a good shot, so can a sniper rifle; why didn't they get a sniper in?". Unfortunately, the police aren't allowed to respond to such asinine comments with the equivalent of a good solid clip around the ear, due to reasons of public relations and all. So I've decided to do it for them.

(If you're one of the people who has been making such remarks, please read the following very carefully, using the "speaking to the hard-of-thinking" voice in your head.)

1) A sniper rifle and a television camera look very different.

Googling the terms "image television camera" and "image sniper rifle" will bring up galleries of pictures of each of those. Each search takes about 0.3 of a second to complete. Given a hostage-taking gunman wants to cultivate the press, but discourage police snipers, it's likely even the most daft example of the breed in this day and age will probably try to familiarise themselves with the differences between the two - you could call it a necessary job skill. Seeing television cameras is a cue to pull out your list of demands and make it clear the hostages aren't dead yet. Seeing a sniper rifle is a cue to start really threatening the hostages. It's important not to muddle the two up.

2) A sniper rifle and a television camera have different fields of view.

Television cameras tend to work best at medium to close range. Sniper rifles are designed to work best at long range. So the position a television camera operator is occupying in order to obtain a decent shot (even through a zoom lens) is likely to be a lot closer than the position a sniper would need to be occupying in order to obtain a decent shot. Indeed, the television camera operator might well be blocking the field of view for the sniper.

3) Television cameras and sniper rifles are affected differently by weather conditions.

Television pictures tend not to be blown off course by strong or irregular winds. Sniper bullets, on the other hand, do. A television camera can get pictures in conditions where a sniper wouldn't be able to get a shot. Contrariwise, a sniper is capable of getting a shot off in conditions where the television camera is useless.

4) Real life is not like video games.

In video games, if your sniper misses a shot, you can always have another try, or go back to your last save point if you got killed. In real life, death is for keeps. In video games, the aim is usually to kill as many enemy combatants as possible, and never mind the collateral damage or the civilian casualties. In real life, the aim of the police in such situations is generally to try and keep the death count down - I have no doubt the NSW police were hoping to keep the death count in this particular case down to zero.

5) Real life is not like movies.

In the movies, snipers never miss the crucial shot. In real life, they can and do. In real life, the target of a sniper drops to the floor, dead, before they know they've been hit. In real life, even a bullet fired from a gun fitted with a noise suppressor is loud, and gives at least some warning. In the movies, accidents don't happen to disrupt that crucial shot - civilians don't walk into the path of a sniper's bullet at exactly the wrong moment, the target doesn't move, and the whole thing goes perfectly. In real life, accidents can and do happen. In the movies, there's always a crucial shot to take. In real life, there may not be.

Incidentally, the reason both movies and video games are so different from real life is because both of these media are constructed stories, following a set narrative which was created by humans to be culturally satisfying. Real life runs on different rails, and doesn't have to satisfy anyone.

6) At the time the most-used television shot was taken, the siege was barely begun.

The passing shots of the gunman in the cafe were taken very early on in the siege. They were the first visuals the wider public had of the situation. The fact they were widely circulated is actually a marker of how unusual they were - if there'd been more shots, we would have seen more pictures of the gunman. As it was, we got that one rather blurry image of the gunman, positioned behind his hostages, which was repeated regularly throughout the day. It wasn't replaced. It wasn't superseded by something new throughout the course of the sixteen hours of the siege. So it's likely that shot was the ONLY shot the television cameras got of the gunman (and once he realised television cameras could see him, he made damn certain he wasn't in view of them again, because he's just as capable of doing the "if the cameras can see me, so can a sniper" math as anyone else).

7) How do you know they didn't call a sniper in?

It seems highly likely to me that the NSW police (who strike me as a competent force on the whole) would have called in at least one sniper to get a look at things and see firstly whether there was a suitable vantage for them to be working from, and secondly, whether they were likely to get a decent shot at the gunman without risking the hostages. If a sniper wasn't used, it was probably because in the professional judgement of both the sniper(s) themselves, and of the person in charge of the operation, the risks of using a sniper outweighed the potential benefits.

Essentially, my point is this: the people who are wondering about the snipers, or wondering why things were done thus rather than so weren't there and weren't responsible for making the decisions. Things turned out poorly in one respect - three people died, and another eight were injured or treated in hospital. However, in another respect, things turned out surprisingly well - only three people died, one of whom was the gunman; the majority of the injured were mainly taken to hospital for observation and monitoring; and at least five of the hostages escaped completely unscathed. It could have been better, and it could have been much, much worse.

We in the general public cannot possibly wish to find out what went wrong more than the police do. We aren't the ones who will have to live with the knowledge we were supposed to save the lives of the three people who died, and yet we couldn't. The police on scene did the best job they could. The back-seat driving and "Monday's Expert" commentary from various members of the general public most definitely isn't helping. If you think you could have done better, go speak with your local police force, and offer them your expertise for the next time (gods forbid) this happens. Or, alternatively, go join your local police force yourself. Put your life on the line, put your precious skin at risk, and put your money where your damn-fool mouth is. Otherwise, shut the merry hells up and stop second-guessing the people who do this for a living.

PS: For those bitching about the fact the gunman was out on bail - that's a problem for the justice system, not the police force. For those whining about the way ASIO didn't spot this guy as a threat - I suspect they're looking for people who are going to group together to create terrorist cells and undertake complicated plots. This siege, while it had some of the trappings of terrorist activity (the calls for the IS flag etc) was actually something which has more in common with the sorts of "lone gunman" attacks which are so common in the USA, and was probably undertaken for similar reasons to those. Namely, one over-entitled man decided other people ought to die or be terrified in the service of boosting his ego.

EDITED TO ADD (19 DEC 2014): One other little wrinkle about why the NSW police might have decided a sniper was a Bad Move - it's an extra-judicial killing, or to put it in more blunt terms, deliberate murder. We don't have the death penalty here in Australia; if the police kill someone, there's usually an enquiry into the matter (which is, in fact, the process which is being started in NSW now) and charges can and will be laid against the officer responsible. It can be a career-limiting move.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
The Sydney Siege

The siege is over, three people (including the original hostage-taker) are dead, and the dust is starting to settle. Including, one must point out, the rather colossal amount of bulldust stirred up by the whole business in the media.

When I first heard about the siege, my first thought was "well, this is convenient, isn't it?".

Why was it convenient? Well, to start with it completely buried the MYEFO statement, something the Abbott government must be sighing with relief over (for our "the dog ate my homework" government, this must have seemed like the equivalent of Teacher calling in sick!). For seconds, it gives our PM a chance to look all concerned and serious on the telly, making statements about how the besieger had "a political motivation"[1] and so on. For thirds, it gives the tabloidosphere something to really chew on for the next few months (anyone want to bet we're going to be hearing a lot about Islamic "terrists" from the shock-jocks, the talk-back tabloids, and the Murdoch media? No takers?). For fourths, it neatly justifies all that extra money the government was handing ASIO a few months back. For fifths, it also neatly justifies any amount of crackdowns on public speech critical of the government, "undesirables", public protest and so on. The sixth useful thing it does is justifies increases to police funding (especially "elite" "counter-terrorism" units).

I can't help but think of the last time we were put under an increased security regime (under the Howard government, in the years following the September 11 2001 attack in the USA). At the time, one of the things people were saying was that there was no evidence of terrorist activity in Australia, and all this extra security theatre was a waste of money. People were saying the same things earlier this year when the government effectively doubled ASIO's budget. Will they be saying it now? Probably not as loudly...

And the MYEFO is still buried deeper than a dead thing.

The man who took the hostages, Man Haron Monis, is being demonised in the press. He's already being labelled as being mentally ill[3][4]. He had a history of violence and imprisonment (according to his lawyer, he was harassed and bullied in prison) as well as a string of charges against him. He also had a history of extreme ideology, but there's a strong thread running through things that this man was acting alone. He wasn't likely to have been part of an organised terrorist cell - indeed, he's just the sort of person a serious organised terrorist movement wouldn't want within a thousand miles of their active cells. But do you want to bet we're still going to see an increase in security theatre to prevent organised terrorist activity - one which will, purely coincidentally, result in a crackdown on "undesirables" (including the mentally ill) and public speech criticising the government?

It seems this siege was the action of one deeply troubled man with a history of violence. But it was still incredibly convenient for a lot of people, and I have no doubt they're going to be exploiting it to the fullest.


[1] I'm sorry, but I wouldn't trust the PM telling me the sky was blue without looking out a window to make sure, or to tell me water was wet without turning on a tap to check - to put it at its most charitable, his perception of reality is so very different to the consensus one it seems sensible to ensure his statements are well benchmarked against checkable data[2].
[2] To be less charitable, the man is a lying liar who lies and who wouldn't recognise the truth if it bit him on the bum.
[3] I'm mentally ill myself. The majority of mentally ill people are no more likely to commit violent acts than the rest of the population. Instead, they're more likely to be victims of violence.
[4] What I'm really disliking in seeing a lot of comments about this story in a number of places is the strong link being made between mental illness and any form of socially unacceptable or merely disliked behaviours. You don't have to be mentally ill in order to be an arsehole, and gods above the people making such comments are proving this in spades!

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Finding Me Elsewhere

I've just started up a Steam account (had to get one in order to be able to download and play Final Fantasy VIII on PC, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered). I'm Megpie71 over there.

I'm also Megpie71 on Tumblr, Megpie71 on Twitter (although I only use it about once in a blue moon), and Megpie71 on either Livejournal or Insanejournal. I'm registered on Disqus as Megpie71 too.

Actually, if it comes right down to it, if you see a Megpie71 anywhere around, it's probably me. If you're not sure, ask.

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Current Mood: calm calm
An Overdue Update

Since the beginning of November (or thereabouts) I've been undergoing one of my periodic mood downswings. Which is why things have dropped off somewhat. Essentially, I've been spending just about every day for the past forty days waking up, realising I'm not dead (and cursing when I realise this, because it's been a massive disappointment at times) and working my way through life as though I'm walking through chest-high treacle in a cold climate. On top of this, I've had an impromptu rent inspection (sprung on us with about 7 days verbal notice - the real-estate agent decided to take advantage of an opportunity and get a look at the place to make sure we're not destroying the joint) which has necessitated cleaning the place to inspection-ready standards, and also a minor meltdown over my partner hiring someone to get the windows done. Currently I have a knee-rug to assemble before Saturday (7x9, I have 4 of the 7 strips already joined up; I'm finishing assembling the final one of the remaining 3 this morning. Then it's just tidying up ends, which is long and fiddly and takes forever; joining them to the main rug; and making a border for the whole thing) as a Christmas present for my father-in-law, as well as a batch or two of biscuits for my mother-in-law.

Fortunately, I managed to beg off going to my parents' place for the evening meal on Christmas day (I've been doing a lot of therapy lately, which has stirred up one heck of a lot of unresolved anger at the 'rents) and will instead be just knocking it down to a quick trip to drop off their presents and pick up ours. But that means at least another two or three batches of biscuits to bake next week (in time for Christmas) to cover my parents, my brother, and my two nieces; not to mention a quick plunge into the joys of the local shopping mall at Christmas time in order to purchase something fancy to pack them all into.

All of this while, as mentioned previously, feeling as though I'm doing everything through chest-high treacle in the middle of winter.

To add to all of this, the depression makes me as irritable as all get-out, so I currently have a temper shorter than a wet cowpat, and a fuse which is best measured in micrometres. I've been taking care of myself by avoiding the political news and the political blogs as much as possible, as well as walking away from a lot of stuff that I'd otherwise be wading into.

So, that's why I've been fairly quiet (for me) this past month or so.

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Current Mood: depressed depressed
About the "Requires Hate" thing

[WTF are you on about?]

Under fold for length )

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Crash Boom Fizzle

There was a thunderstorm yesterday morning. Which I don't mind - I'm not one of those people who gets freaked by thunderstorms (the ones which are more likely to worry me at the moment are hailstorms accompanied by heavy wind - our place has no eaves, so the windows are vulnerable). I lit some incense for the thunder gods, and got on with the day.

Unfortunately, however, the router for our home interwebs decided to die, which may or may not have been connected to the thunderstorm (we're dealing with a lot of second-hand tech here - it may have decided to die for Reasons of its own). However the nyetwork card for our gateway box died at the same time, so it's more than likely to have been a consequence of the thunder gods having their fun and games.

At present, I am on the internet via a rather ancient router (found in Steve's Collection Of Assorted Tech Bits And Pieces He's Never Thrown Out Because We Might Need Them Some Day) and my errand for the day is to find a computer shop and see whether I can get hold of a PCI network card (preferably the oldest and cheapest of their stock, since that means it has more of a chance of fitting into our rather ancient gateway box).

So there's another thing to add to my long-term goals and plans... get enough money together that we can afford to replace all the various discards and spares we're calling our network infrastructure.

Updated later: Apparently PCI network cards are a thing of the past. I managed to get one by heading all the way out to Cannington (from Yangebup) after calling around all over the place to try and find a supplier. Eventually I wound up giving up, phoning the local Dick Smith and asking if they had the part, and when they said "nope", asking if they knew anyone who did. So they referred me to one firm, who referred me on to another group, who referred me on to a third, who wound up having the part. Austin Computers, in Cannington, if anyone's interested.

Doesn't help that putting "computer parts" into the Yellow Pages brings up a thousand and one entries for "Geeks 2 U". Geeks 2 U are a mobile computer service franchise, and the bane of my job-seeking life. When I go searching for part-time work in IT on Seek, about once a month their ad trying to recruit more consultants shows up (they aren't looking for staff, they're looking for sub-contractors with an existing IT repair business to glomp under the umbrella of their franchise). So I start off averse to them to begin with - and I wasn't particularly happy to have them showing up as the major listing for the whole damn category.

It annoys me, because if we want computer parts, we want the actual *parts*. Himself is perfectly capable of wielding his own screwdriver, thanks very much. We don't need to pay someone else a ghastly hourly rate just to drive out here and wave a rubber chicken over the carcass of the gateway box while they plug in a new card. But I couldn't find the place that sold the parts, because it was buried under all these listings (suburb by suburb) for people who'll come and install the wretched things.

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Current Mood: bitchy bitchy
Easy Fried Rice

The name is something of a misnomer, as fried rice is definitely easy in all its incarnations. This is the version I make when I have a bit of leftover rice as a result of overdoing the cooking in the week previous.

I tend to start with steamed rice, and if I have two takeaway food containers worth (or about four serves, in other words) then I have enough for frying up.

My usual ingredients for fried rice:

2 - 3 eggs, made up into a bit of an omelette (slice the omelette thinly once it's had a few minutes to cool - I'll generally make it first out of everything).
250g bacon rashers, rind removed and chopped up.
1 onion, diced finely
1 - 2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely chopped
1 tablespoon or so crushed ginger (as in, the stuff you get in a jar)
2 cups frozen peas, corn and carrot mix
approx 1/4 cup soy sauce
approx 4 cups chilled steamed rice

Optional extra ingredients:

* Tinned champignon mushrooms (either whole or sliced)
* Chopped cooked chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc
* 1 tablespoon or so crushed/chopped lemon grass (the stuff you get in a tube)
* 3 spring onions (green onions), sliced
* Chopped chives
* Chopped coriander (cilantro, for our American friends)
* 1 - 3 tablespoons lime juice

Start by making up your omelette - break the eggs into a bowl, mix them up together and add about 1 tablespoon or so of water per egg. Mix together a bit more, then pour into the bottom of a greased frypan or wok (I don't own a wok, so I use a frypan) over a low heat. Slosh the egg around so it covers as much of the surface as possible, then scrape the cooked bits into the middle until you run out of runny egg (tilt the frypan to ensure the runny stuff doesn't clump into the middle of the omelette). Let it sit until the top looks mostly solid, then flip and cook the other side. Don't worry if your omelette breaks up at this stage, because it's only going to get chopped up anyway. Flip all the bits over, cook for about 1 minute on the other side, or until you're pretty sure it's cooked through, then pull it out of the frypan and put it into a spare bowl to cool.

Now, put the chopped up bacon into the frypan, and cook over low heat until it's starting to render up its fat. This is a good way of using up cheap, fatty bacon, because the grease gets used to cook everything else, and the meat just melds into things nicely.

Next, add the onion. If you're doing this like me, and prepping things as you go, you'll be chopping the onion as the bacon is rendering, and lo and behold, just as you've got the first half of the onion chopped, the bacon will have yielded enough grease to ensure the onion doesn't stick to the pan! If you're prepping things first, cook the onion until it's starting to turn transparent before adding the next ingredient.

Next up is the celery. Again, if you're prepping as you go, the onion will be just starting to get transparent as you add it. You want this to cook until it's just starting to soften a bit, so about 3 minutes.

Next, add the garlic and the ginger together. If you're adding lemon grass and/or meat, now is the time to put them in as well. Stir well to make sure everything is blended together.

Next, stir in the frozen vegetables. If you're adding champignon mushrooms, make sure you quarter the whole ones, and throw the liquid in as well. This stage is going to take about 5 minutes, because you're wanting to make certain the vegetables are all cooked (as well as breaking up any frozen lumps of them that have slipped in).

While the veges are cooking, start looking at the rice. If, like me, you don't rinse your rice before cooking it by the absorption method, what you'll have is a bunch of solid lumps of starchy rice sitting in your containers. The easiest way to deal with this, and get the grains separated is to rinse the whole lot under HOT running water in a sieve, breaking up the lumps by hand if necessary (just squeeze gently under the water and they'll fall apart). Also, take a few seconds to slice your omelette (thought we'd forgotten that, hadn't you?) reasonably thinly. Basically, you're looking at bits of egg about the size of everything else.

Add the soy sauce to the frypan now, and stir well. Yes, it looks like a lot of soy sauce, but don't worry, the rice will soak it all up.

Speaking of which, now is the time to dump in the rice. If you want to be careful, add it in spoonful by spoonful. If you don't mind wiping down the stove later (who am I fooling? You'll be wiping down the stove even if you are careful), just dump it all in at once. Stir well to combine and heat through. You'll notice the rice goes a nice brown colour, which it's supposed to.

This is the point where you add the omelette (as well as the sliced green onions, the chives, the coriander and the lime juice if you're using those). Stir briefly to combine and heat everything through, then turn off the heat and serve. The recipe I've listed makes about four to six servings, and keeps well in the fridge overnight if you want some for lunch tomorrow. (I've no idea whether it lasts longer than that, because it usually doesn't in our household!).

The frypan you use for this recipe needs to be BIG, and even with a large frypan, you'll still probably wind up wiping rice off the stove and its surroundings - this is a recipe which gets everywhere. But it's fun to make, and it's a useful way of using up leftovers. (Incidentally, my other favourite for using up leftover rice is kedgeree, but it requires me to have some smoked cod on hand in the freezer, and also Steve doesn't particularly like it. Fried rice he likes).

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Current Mood: cheerful cheerful
Public Service Message for those in the USA

To all the Americans who read my blog: It’s already Tuesday here in Australia. It’s voting day. Democracy is a participatory system of government. You owe it to yourselves and everyone else around you to get out there and vote.

Yes, even if you don’t like any of the available candidates. One of those people on the ballot is going to be representing YOU for the next however many years, whether you like them or not. So get out there and vote for the one you dislike least. If you don’t vote, you don't get a say in whoever represents you.

Yes, even if you’re in a gerrymandered district where there’s no chance the incumbent is going to lose. The more people go out and vote, the more votes the incumbent needs to win the election, and the bigger the chance they can lose. If 100% of eligible voters vote, the winning candidate needs to have the support of at least 50% of the people. If only 50% of eligible voters in an electorate vote, the winning candidate only has to be supported by 25% of the population. If only 20% of the voters get out there and vote, the candidate needs 10% of the population voting for them to win. The more people get out there and vote, the higher the bar the candidates have to get over in order to win. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, and the incumbent is going to get over the bar anyway, you can at least hope they sprain their back doing so!

ESPECIALLY if you’re in a state which has voter ID restrictions, and you have the right ID. Voter ID is essentially an effort to restrict the voting population to those people who will support the status quo. As per my paragraph above, the fewer people are eligible to vote in a district, the fewer people the candidate has to appeal to in order to win the district. Voter ID laws try to restrict the population and knock down the difficulty level for the big candidates.

Even if you “don’t care about politics”. Politics is all around you. It’s in the air you breathe (whether that air is breathable is a political decision); it’s in the water you drink (whether you’re able to drink the water or not is a political decision); it’s in the food you eat; the job you work at; whether you can find a job or not. Politics is in everything, because politics is about power. The one guaranteed, non-criminal way you can affect things in the current system is by voting. So get out there and vote, and start regaining a bit of control over the world.

Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters, because you are taking back the power the politicians are given. Even if you don’t believe your vote will accomplish anything. Your vote on its own will not make much of a change, this is true. But it will accomplish more than not voting will.

Find your nearest polling place. Get out there and vote. The big boys with the big bucks don’t ask your opinion very often, but when they do you’re a fool to yourself and a menace to others if you let the chance go by without taking it.

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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Game Review - Eternity

Game Genre: Hidden Object
Story Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk/Time Travel
Developers: Lazy Turtle Games
Cost: 4 WildCoins to rent; 20 WildCoins to buy

Game Play: This one varied wildly between "oh good grief, I should have put my brain in a bucket before starting" and "oh good grief, just give me a useful hint, drat you!".

I found I consistently needed hints in hidden object scenes. I also found I was consistently needing hints in the main game itself, and the game hints are ... less than helpful. I certainly didn't find them very useful in most cases.

The game itself is pretty straightforward, and if you know the conventions of the hidden object genre, it's all pretty self-explanatory. There are a limited number of scenes in each "area", so to speak, and you can't leave an area until you've completed its objective. You can't complete the objective without clearing the area in each of the scenes you're looking at, and the in-game "map" (you can select the scenes from a maximum of about five in a rotating wheel) is very easy to master, and shows clearly which areas you've cleared.

The non-hidden object puzzles are a nice mixed bunch, including one "Tower of Hanoi" and a few interesting "match three" style puzzles.

Plot/Tropes: Simple almost to the point of absence, the storyline can be summarised as "complete tasks at various improbable points throughout fictional history in order to obtain clues regarding the location of your eccentric inventor grandfather".

I think my biggest "grr" about it is the description on the Wild Tangent site lists it as being "historical". The "history" in this story is fictionalised and bland to the point of ridicule - about the only genuinely historical figures you meet are Christopher Columbus (who is depicted as being greedy for gold) and Pharaoh Amenhotep (building a pyramid). You meet both Perseus and Theseus out of Greek myth, a stereotypical Mayan shaman wanting you to conceal their secret knowledge and become The One, a stereotypical Viking raider, Robin Hood and King Arthur, D'Artagnan of the Three Musketeers and the Compte de Monte Cristo, not to mention one of Jules Verne's characters and a stereotypical caveman. Each of these "historical" interludes is shallower than the average puddle, and anyone with any historical knowledge whatsoever will tend to cringe rather thoroughly.

Effects: Not much by way of animation (what there is tends to be paper doll style) and no voice acting (all text based). I'm willing to give them a pass on this because they clearly knew their limits and didn't try to go much beyond them. The majority of the animation budget is spent on the front "attract mode" screen.

Overall: Four out of ten for game play (I would have marked it higher, but the wildly inconsistent difficulty told against it); two out of ten for storyline (sorry guys, I'm a history buff and anachronisms make me itch), and six out of ten for effects (because they knew their limits and stuck within them). I'd suggest this one for kids more than adults - it certainly isn't aimed at adult plot level. If you have some nine-year-olds you want to keep busy on a wet Sunday afternoon, this game might be fun for them.

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Current Mood: exasperated exasperated
Review - Queen's Quest: Tower of Darkness, Platinum Edition

Producers/Creators: Brave Giant Studio
Cost: 4 WildCoins per play
Game Genre: Hidden Object/Puzzle
Plot Genre: Fairytale/Fantasy

Game Play: The hidden object genre tends toward two extremes - either fiendishly difficult, or pathetically straightforward. This game is the latter. The hidden objects aren't particularly well hidden, the puzzles are largely solvable through brute force and ignorance (really guys, one sequence-themed puzzle per game is plenty - having one after another after another really takes the gilt off the gingerbread), and the collectable elements are less than apparent.

I should explain. The hidden object scenes are generally pretty simple to find everything (to the point where I frequently didn't need to use the hint at all, and I'd pretty much given up on this game and put my brain in a bucket after seeing the opening animation). The puzzle mini-games tend toward toward 6-component "do things in the correct sequence" types, which means you need a maximum of 15 attempts to solve things (at 1 attempt per second, this means you're finishing most of the puzzles before your 30 second wait time for skipping them is completed). About the only challenging part is the "collectables" mini-game, where you have to collect four different types of object (one for each zone of the game, not that anything really clarifies this for you) in order to furnish a "throne room" area.

Plot and Tropes: The player character is a queen who has married her handsome prince and is just about to get her little baby daughter blessed by the court wizard. There's an evil wizard, a steampunk-styled dragon, a kraken and a gryphon to battle. This is a fairy-tale themed fantasy so generic it's ridiculous.

It also has one of my LEAST favourite game plot tropes - the "you have to hurry" plot, with no actual time limitation. Seriously, designers, if your plot is telling me to rush to save the baby or the world or whatever, you need to actually find a way of injecting this urgency into the game play. Telling me "X will happen if you don't hurry" when I know full well I could walk away from the game (while leaving it running on my system) for an hour or two, or even a week, and nothing will advance until I get back... well, it loses all impact. I know I'm going to be able to complete the challenge in time, so having the villain repeatedly tell me I won't isn't really cutting it as a threat, or even a realistic plot device. Why not go with "you'll never stop my fiendish plan" instead? At least that has the advantage of being plot relevant.

Aside from that the plot is so linear you can clearly see the end from the beginning, and there aren't even any interesting twists or bends along the way. The resolution of the main plot is vastly unsatisfying, and really did not enthuse me to play the "bonus" chapter (during which you presumably work to resolve the biggest dangling plot thread).

Effects: Imagine the cheapest paper doll animation you've ever seen. This is the standard this game uses. Very pretty pictures from magazines, cut out and moved in rather jerky stop-motion fashion. To be honest, if you're going to use such good visuals and such poor animation, I'd prefer if the animation wasn't going to be played "straight", as this was.

There's voice overs which die out about a quarter of the way through the game, and they're never in synch with the actual mouth movements (which may have been an English-language localisation issue, but is still rather annoying to view). The maps are primitive, but then, they aren't really needed from one scene to the next.

The voice acting is okay, but it loses a lot from the poor quality of the animation. Again, if you're going to have very poor animation, the least that could be done with it is making it into a feature rather than a bug - put a lampshade on it, play around with the whole business.

Overall: I gave this game 2/10 for game play, 1/10 for plot, and 1/10 for effects. Very poor, positively enjoyed deleting it off my system.

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Current Mood: disappointed disappointed
Vandals attack Sikh temple by spraying anti-Islamic slurs on walls

Found here on the ABC

As a Western Australian, I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Minister for Education to amend the religious education curriculum as follows:

Taking the following set of religions -

* Christianity
* Judaism
* Islam
* Hinduism
* Sikhism
* Buddhism

Cover the following topics:

* Key theological and doctrinal concepts (eg major deity/deities, major prophets/philosophers/theorists, major holidays and the story behind them)
* Key internal splits (for example, in Christianity you'd be looking the difference between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christianity; in Judaism, between Reform and Orthodox Judaism; in Islam, the differences between the Sunni and the Shia; etc etc etc) and the reasons given for these splits.
* Worship practices past and present.
* Conversion and Exit practices (is it possible to convert to the religion; if so how; is it possible to leave the religion; if so how; what penalties exist for leaving the religion; etc)
* Places of worship, and iconography (How to spot a place of worship for $FAITH from the outside, if you're so daft you can't read the signs at the front gate).

Hopefully such changes to the curriculum would at least ensure future generations of bigoted nincompoops will be able to target the correct places of worship with their idiotic scrawl. This will prevent us all from being embarrassed by their combination of both bigotry and ignorance.

(One or the other of bigotry or ignorance I can handle. Both at once... well, there's something which needs addressing there).

EDITED 7.35am 30 OCT 2014 - post in haste, edit at leisure.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
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