About the "Requires Hate" thing
[WTF are you on about?]
( Under fold for length )
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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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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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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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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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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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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 -
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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Why I Still Feel A Wee Bit Leery About The Civil War Plotline in the MCU
Okay, so Marvel have announced that CA3 is going to be "Civil War". Given I wrote out an 800-word plus screed about why I don't think the Civil War plotline would work in the MCU yesterday, my first thought here was "Curse you, Marvel Studios!".
So, here's the core reason why I didn't think it would work: the Civil War storyline in the comics was built on over thirty years of context wherein Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have a strong friendship. That was part of what helped make the Civil War storyline into the tragedy it was. We don't have that context in the MCU. Instead, the only context we have so far is Steve and Tony arguing fairly persistently all the way through "Avengers", and being shown as being pretty solidly coming from completely different perspectives all the way along. Yes, they manage to work together to fix the helicarrier and to fight the Chitauri, but we don't know how much of that is Steve and how much Tony - there are still hints of very deep ideological differences which aren't really explored in their discussion of Coulson's death. There are NO hints toward any further contact in any of the other films - no phone calls in Iron Man 3 or Captain America 2 (the nearest we get to the hint of a link is Tony Stark being targeted by the Insight helicarriers in CA2, but he would have been targeted by HYDRA because of his intelligence and his "loose cannon" attitude anyway, no matter whether or not he had a relationship with the Captain). We don't know what's going to be happening in Age of Ultron yet, but I suspect they're going to be arguing there, too - we certainly don't see any signs of them working together in the one trailer which has been released.
So the Civil War plotline as it was being used in the comics isn't going to be feasible, because there just isn't the emotional context for it.
This means the Civil War plotline has to be rethought, which I know is going to get a lot of the fanbois up in arms. Hey, Kevin Feige has actually said it isn't going to be like the Civil War plotline in the comics (for which I am devoutly thankful). Fortunately, they're handing it to the Russos, who have shown they can handle tricky material (Captain America 2 in the wrong hands could have been terrible - instead it worked brilliantly).
I suspect it's going to be building on the events of Captain America 2, and on official unease about and distrust of Steve Rogers as Captain America. After all, if you look at the storyline of CA2 from the outside, there's a LOT to be uneasy about. The man was declared a fugitive by a trusted bureaucrat and the head at the time of the agency he was working for; he vanished off the radar for two days, re-appears to assault another agent of the same agency, killing him (this is how they're going to push away Sitwell's murder by the Winter Soldier) and vanishes again. The next day, he's responsible for a terrorist attack on a major government agency, massive property destruction and the effective destruction of the entire US intelligence community - and he's vanished off the map once more and is apparently being PROTECTED by other so-called superheroes! The HYDRA sympathisers (not the outright members; there was evidence in the wrap-up of CA2 they were being purged) in the government will be wanting his head.
(Let's make it clear here: at least part of the point of CA2 was that the aims of HYDRA, and of the Nazis, were always congruent with the aims of the upper echelons of any society - eternal glorification and privileging of their own, and suppression of dissent within the lower orders. This is why HYDRA was able to snuggle itself inside SHIELD - because the aims of SHIELD were essentially to preserve the status quo, and to suppress dissent within the lower orders. HYDRA wasn't a parasite inside SHIELD - it was a symbiote.)
Anything which happens in Age of Ultron will merely confirm the doubts of the doubters about the sanity and motivations of Steve Rogers.
So I suspect the Civil War will be run very much along the lines of "is this so-called Captain America a terrorist threat to America?" or "Has Cap gone crazy?" If the whole thing is run along those lines, I suspect the end of the Civil War plotline may wind up largely paralleling the "Nomad" storyline of the 1970s - Steve Rogers resigns the role of Captain America, and goes off to look for America and see whether he can find himself fitting in anywhere.
 In this version, the Winter Soldier's appearance and attack is written off as "the Winter Soldier was Barnes, his best friend! Obviously they set it up to throw off suspicion!" conspiracy stuff.
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Chocolate Hazelnut Drink
(Because I like this one and want to share it with people).
Take a mug, and put in two generous teaspoons of Nutella or equivalent choc-hazelnut spread. Add milk (I use full cream milk, because if I'm going to have an indulgence, it's going to be an indulgence, godsdamnit!) to the point where it just covers the spread at the bottom of the mug (so your mug is going to be at most 1/4 full).
Stir until smooth. Add more cold milk to the halfway mark. Stir again until combined. Now fill the mug to the top and stir again. You'll probably have small lumps of chocolate-hazelnut spread here and there, and you'll almost certainly have some smears of it along the edges of the mug as well as all the stuff which was on the spoon which hasn't combined into things. Don't worry.
Put the mug into the microwave, and heat on high for 1 minute. Take it out and stir again - this time, stir until all the chocolate hazelnut spread on the spoon melts and dissolves into the milk.
Put the mug back into the microwave and heat on high for another minute. Stir again to combine, and drink. If you're really feeling indulgent, and have the appropriate bits and pieces, you can top it with whipped cream and maybe some drinking chocolate dusted on top, but it's lovely just the way it is now. Enjoy.
(If you don't have a microwave, you can probably make it on the stovetop, but you'll need to watch it like a hawk - milk tends to scorch easily.)
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Game Review: "Mysteries and Nightmares: Morgiana"
Game Genre: Hidden Object
Plot Genre: Fantasy
Producers/Creators: Wild Tangent Games, Little Gaming Company
Cost: 4 WildCoins to play (68c Australian based on 50 WildCoins for $8.50)
Gameplay: The "hidden object" genre of games tends toward two extremes of gameplay. On the one hand, there's the games where you're going to be led by the nose from plot point to plot point, with very clear instructions all along the way. On the other hand, there's the games where "what should I do next" is as obscure as all get-out, and where the gamer spends a lot of time clicking wildly on just about anything in frame in the optimistic hope of finding out what they should be doing now. "Mysteries and Nightmares: Morgiana" fits itself extremely firmly into the latter category.
You're given a couple of general hints on whether there's something you need to be doing in a particular scene in the gargoyles which support either side of your inventory tray - if their eyes are glowing, there's something you can do here. Trust me, you will NEED those gargoyle hints, because the actual "hint" hint itself is about as vague as a political promise from a candidate who is seeking broad-base support from a rather apathetic electorate. The "map" function also proves helpful here - learn to love the map, you're going to be referring to it a lot.
Why are you going to be referring to the map a lot? Well, unlike other games of this type, if you're in a room where you can't do anything at the moment, clicking on the hint will merely get you the information either that you can't do anything at present, or you've completed all the tasks in that room. Given you get that information from the gargoyles, this is no help whatsoever (other games of this type will at least let the hint button point you backwards out of the room). On the map, however, you are able to discover that a room you entered about five, ten, or fifteen pages back has something you can complete (and it allows you to jump directly to that room, rather than walking there the long way) which will, hopefully, trigger other options elsewhere. Or at least let you complete a hidden object puzzle to find the mcguffin which will allow you to move on to the next plot point.
Your tasks and notes are kept in the notebook, accessible through clicking on your heroine's portrait in the upper left corner of the screen - the number below the portrait is the number of outstanding tasks you have waiting to be completed. As per genre rules, the resolution of one or more of these tasks is tied up together. Unlike other examples of this genre, you aren't able to access your previously completed tasks, or your notes on previous sections of the plot.
In the actual hidden object sections, there's a pleasing lack of the "disguise things as other things" visual trope which tends to bedevil some examples of the genre - instead all the player has to contend with is the challenge of knowing what to look for. For example, when the list of objects says "bow", do they mean "bow as in Hawkeye or Green Arrow's weapon-of-choice (longbow)" or do they mean "bow as in loopy knot (bow tie/ribbon bow)"? This is a pretty common thing in the genre, and is (for me) the cause of at least some swearing when, after spending ages chasing down everything else on the list, I eventually click on a hint and get taken to something I've been looking right at, but know by a different name. This is basically the developers exploiting a bug (or possibly a feature) of the English language, and it's pretty genre-typical.
Plot and Tropes: Okay, we have an amnesiac heroine who has been captured from their home and dumped down in a decrepit castle and has to figure out who she is, what she's supposed to do, and how to get home. There are magical talking animals (well, one talking mouse), magical wands, and whole heaps of creepy statues, skeletons, and torn tapestries all over the place. The furniture doesn't talk, fortunately.
Essentially, it's a story which is about sisterhood and rivalry. The female characters are so generic they just about come plain wrapped (one dark haired, red-eyed, pale-skinned evil princess who wears dark red; one blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned good ditto, wearing pink), there's only one masculine speaking role (the aforementioned talking mouse) and the resolution of this plot is rather hackneyed and hasty - it's as though the writers basically got told "we need a four hour storyline - no more, no less" and when they reached the four hour mark, it got chopped off short. It's a pity, in some ways, because there were some interesting plot hooks which could have yielded some fascinating developments had they been further examined (for example: we're told using magic sends the users insane; one of the things the player character is required to do on a regular basis is to use magic to achieve certain effects...).
Effects: There were some animated cut-scenes, and some reasonable voice acting, although the accent tended to wander around a bit (trying for English, occasionally drifting to northern USA). The voice actors at least did appear to be acting, rather than reciting things blankly off the page, so that was a nice change; also the CGI scenes didn't veer too far into the uncanny valley space.
Overall: It was interesting, but not that interesting, and the frustratingly opaque nature of the gameplay really did decrease my enjoyment of the game. Compared against other games of the genre, I'd give it three out of ten for gameplay, six out of ten for plot, and five out of ten for effects.
 You know the ones - "We may well do some unspecified thing at some unspecified time provided it doesn't annoy anyone too much".
 If you've ever played a hidden object game where the ruler or pencil you're supposed to find is disguised as part of a ceiling beam, you know sort of stuff I'm referrring to here.
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The Games I'm Playing Lately
When I bought this laptop (say "hi", Orac) it came with a program for "Wild Tangent Games" on it and some games pre-loaded. I was sorta interested, so I took a look, and it turned out to be quite rewarding.
For those not in the know, Wild Tangent are basically a "small games" (what the industry calls "casual games") publishing and distribution house. They provide marketing opportunities for small games, and offer them on a try-rent-buy basis to people like you and me who can't be arsed chasing things around Steam or Origin or whatever. They're the ones who introduced me to Bejewelled and Plants vs Zombies, so they're not all bad, and every week their little launch application updates with a new selection of games to choose from, as well as links to various MMO flash games out there on the web.
If you download a game from their "store", you get one free play (so you can decide whether or not you like it) and then subsequent plays are on a rental basis, paid for with "WildCoins" - you get 50 WildCoins for about $8.50 Australian, and a typical game use costs between 4 and 6 coins, usually about 5. Lately, they're offering the "buy for WildCoins" option as well - pay about 20 WildCoins, and you get to have the game for unlimited use. It probably isn't the best bargain for the developers, but for an unemployed person like me, it's pretty damn great.
Lately I've been downloading a lot of Hidden Object games. The basic thing about hidden object games is they're built around the old "find the objects listed below we've hidden in this picture" puzzles, and they're often quite challenging. There seem to be a few separate sub-genres - one in which you're participating in an interactive storyline (where one of the objects you're finding is going to be useful to you in overcoming the next set of puzzles you're going to be facing); another in which you're given a reward for finding the objects (points or money) and you "spend" your reward on improving a scenario (renovating a mansion, updating a farm, decorating a garden, updating a room etc); and a third where the object is basically just to complete all the puzzles and have done with it. I'm fondest of the "interactive storyline" games, because they're usually fairly interesting, and I've always been a plot junkie.
The thing I find about these games as well is they're generally pretty good for sitting down and ploughing through in one sustained burst (which means I can download an "interactive-storyline" hidden object game, and play it all through in one day) and they have (for me) very low re-playability (which means I can do that one burst as the "free try" play through, and then delete the game). If I have to split the game into a couple of play throughs (say if I start one in the evening after dinner but before I go to bed) then I'll usually get about half to three-quarters of the way through before I need to stop.
So this is how I'm doing most of my gaming these days - I download games from Wild Tangent, play them through, and then delete them off the hard drive.
Why am I stepping up to mention this, and starting to review these games? Well, blame the charming young fools from #gamergate for that. I'm female, I'm forty-three, and I've been playing one form or another of electronic game since I was about twelve. I have been an electronic game player for over thirty years now, and I'm annoyed at these nincompoops trying to claim MY identity as being either inferior to their own, or disclaiming it entirely, or trying to claim I stand with them. So I'm going to be looking at games with a mind to reviewing them in future, as a woman, as an older woman, and as a person who isn't socially permitted to claim the label of "gamer" without getting pilloried for it. Just so these little darlings can see they aren't the only fish in the pond, and that there's more to gaming than buying what's latest and greatest on the X-box or Playstation. Hey, if it helps some developers get an idea of what I'm looking for, and what does and doesn't work for people like me, all the better.
 I don't like the term "casual gamer" because of the implication it carries that someone who sinks multiple hours into playing Bejewelled or Chuzzles on the "infinite play" levels as part of their daily commuting routine, spends ages trying to get each level of a time management game completed to "gold" standard, and goes through a couple of different hidden object games every month across PC, console and smartphone platforms is somehow inherently not as committed to playing electronic games as someone who only sinks their hours into playing FPPPMSEU on their console on Saturday nights. So I use "small games" instead - because they only ask for a small block of contiguous time, rather than the multi-hour chunks required by the larger games.
 First Person Perspective Pseudo-Military Shoot-'Em-Ups.
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I'm Not Overly Fond Of Scammers
One of the unfortunate hazards for the modern job seeker is the presence of scammers in the job market. These are people who have the nerve to be sending out emails purporting to be job offers, but which are actually offers to open your bank account to these people for cleaning out. I've received a couple of these, and given I'm unemployed and don't have that many assets to start with, I tend to take it a bit personally. So here's how to spot a scam.
The first big hint is you're receiving a job offer out of the blue from a company you've never applied to. The two companies I've received out of the blue offers from are RLB Solution Company, and Constellation Travels. I know I've never applied to these companies, because I keep track of where I'm sending my applications (I'm required to in order to get unemployment benefit). Genuine employers wait for you to contact them. Genuine employers aren't trawling for employees, because employment in the current economy is a buyer's market - there are more people looking for work than there are jobs available.
(Yes, there is such a thing as the head-hunter, who is seeking to get people to move from one employer to another. The thing about head-hunters, though, is they're hunting up at the top end of the market, for people with highly specialised skill sets. They aren't looking around the bottom of the market for lowly Administrative Assistants and Sales Assistants).
The second big hint is when you receive a job offer with no other contact whatsoever. No interview, no preliminary contact, nothing except the job offer showing up in your email box.
A genuine employer will want to interview you. They're wanting to make you a part of their workforce, which means they're going to be looking for the signs of both psychological and literal bad breath or poor hygiene, or anything else which might make for problems in fitting you into their team. Scammers, on the other hand, are looking to find their victim and bleed them dry with the minimum amount of effort, and keep things as impersonal and distanced as possible along the way.
Third big hint is that the job appears to involve a lot of money for not very much work. One of the primary rules for avoiding scammers of all persuasions is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Again, the current economy is a buyer's market for employers. So they're not going to be offering you high wages to try and get you started in a low-skilled position. Instead, they're more likely to be low-balling you. A scammer, by contrast, wants to use your greed to hook you in and get you interested, so they're going to be offering lots of money for not much actual work.
Now, some little things which also contribute to the setting off of the "scam" flag. The first is the employer doesn't appear to be located in your country. Now, both of my out-of-the-blue offers ping this one good and hard. RLB Solution turns out to be a firm which appears to be based in Germany (so why are they looking to hire someone in Australia if they don't have an Australian office?). Constellation Travels is based in the Philippines, and also don't have an Australian office (although they say they're going to be opening one in September 2014... pity it's already October).
(If you aren't an actual, established business broker, why would a company be contacting you in order to set up a new office in a country they don't currently do business with? Again, see the "too good to be true" clause).
The second is the company doesn't appear to have a serious web presence. RLB Solution has a website which appears to consist of one page, in German, plus a PDF file (http://rlbsolution.com/vacansy%28eng%29.pdf) detailing the job they have open. The job description is the only part of the site which is actually in English, and they don't offer an English-language translation.
Constellation Travels, by contrast, has a website which is all about offering bespoke Asian tours to rich customers, mostly in the USA and Europe. They don't have a careers page, and they don't appear to be recruiting. Also their news highlights stop at February 2011.
The third one is the people who are contacting you appear not to have a web presence either. Or rather, their web presence is rather insubstantial. For example, the person contacting me from RLB Solution purports to be Anna Stern, their Hiring Coordinator, Human Resources. Except... she isn't mentioned on their website. She doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. The nearest Facebook has for her is Anne Stern. The same goes for the person who's supposed to be contacting me from Constellation Travels, Adrian Forlan. He isn't mentioned on their website. He doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. He isn't available on Facebook.
What's even more interesting - neither of them appear to have an online presence anywhere else, either. I'm not on Facebook or LinkedIn myself, but I have a fairly wide-ranging history online.
None of these minor things are really key indicators on their own. It's the combination of all of them which sets my "scam" flag to snapping in the metaphorical breeze.
But of course, the real indicator is in the job descriptions, once you finally access them. If anyone is offering you money to "process online transactions" or "process transactions via Western Union", it's a pretty good warning they're not planning to actually give you money. They're planning to take all of yours. Most banks in most countries these days will deal quite successfully in currency exchange - it's not like it's a huge issue. So what would they need you for? Why would they need access to your bank account to "process transactions"?
They don't. The reason they need access to your bank account is so they can take all your money instead.
So, if any of you out there are getting emails from Anna Stern of rlbsolution.com, or Adrian Forlan of constellationtravels.com, offering jobs you can't remember applying for, just hit delete.
 Incidentally, this pings off another warning - the job offers payment in $NZ, not $AU. If they're not even offering payment in my currency, why do they need an Australian representative again?
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How To Make A Nice Cup Of Coffee 
(I'm having one of my periodic fits of "I should try and post something every day to get into the habit again". So this is something I've had sitting around on the hard drive for a while now. Enjoy).
Take a mug. Into it put 2 teaspoons of drinking chocolate powder. Add 1 teaspoon of Moccona Hazelnut flavoured instant coffee, 1 teaspoon of Moccona Classic medium roast instant coffee, and 2 teaspoons of coffee crystals (large crystal form raw sugar - you could substitute raw or brown sugar to taste, but white sugar doesn't quite taste right). Add about 2 tablespoons boiling water - enough to basically cover the bottom 1/5 of the mug, in other words. Stir until everything is pretty much dissolved (it won't be, and you'll find this out later, but it'll all look dissolved anyway).
Now top it up with milk. Whole milk, for preference (I figure if I'm going to have myself an indulgence, it's going to be a proper indulgence, thank you very much). If you have one of those fancy coffee makers which can froth the milk, top with hot milk. For the rest of us, use cold milk. This is the point where you'll discover your components haven't properly dissolved. Stir well, until things are pretty well combined, anyway.
If you've used cold milk, you now turn to the miracle of modern engineering which is the microwave. Put the mug in there for one minute at standard temperature. Take it out. Stir some more. Put it back in for another minute. Stir again. By this time, the coffee is hot, smells wonderful, and tastes great when you drink it. If it isn't hot enough, you probably need maybe another thirty seconds or more in the microwave. Stir after each cooking period.
Drink, and enjoy. Limit yourself to one per day, lest the caffiend visit his hallmark of the withdrawal headache on you the following morning (also, it's hard to get people to take you seriously when you're bouncing off the walls).
(The big secret here is making the coffee with milk rather than water. The milk smooths out a lot of the bitterness, and it adds a bit of extra sugar of its own. This is another reason for using whole milk. This is also at least part of why the coffee you get from a coffee shop tastes better than the stuff you make at home - watch the baristas sometime, and you'll see they tend to be making the coffees mostly with milk rather than water).
 In my opinion, anyway.
 Coffee tastes better with the touch of molasses in either raw or brown sugar - it seems to smooth out a bit of the bitterness. White sugar adds sweetness without the smoothing effect of the molasses.
 Although, if you have one of those fancy coffee makers which can froth the milk, you're probably not going to be faffing around with instant coffee in the first place. In which case, mine's a hazelnut mocha with two sugars.
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Why I Don't Trust This Government
The Abbott government has decided they're going to back down on their proposals to get jobseekers to look for up to forty jobs per month (10 jobs per week, double the current maximum). This is being greeted with sighs of relief in some quarters, and in others by comments along the line of "drop the other shoe, why don't you?". I'm one of the latter.
I'm one of the latter because, as I mentioned on the ABC's comments on the article yesterday, I remember the sighs of relief which accompanied their late-April announcement they weren't going to be seeking a $5 co-payment for GP visits... which turned to shrieks of outrage when they brought in plans for a $7 co-payment for GP visits instead. Now, the word is they've taken this step on receipt of community feedback, but the strong impression is the majority of the feedback they're listening to is from the business community - and the business community basically screamed blue murder about it because it would have meant they'd be inundated with job applications from people who were essentially seeking to meet their weekly targets, whether or not they were eligible for the jobs in question.
So let's be clear on this: the Abbott Liberal Government has not given up on plans to punish the unemployed for being unemployed, and they have not given up on the notion of making all forms of welfare more onerous and unpleasant than they already are - they are neo-liberal ideologues to a man (and woman), and they strongly believe being poor is something which intrinsically deserves punishment. There's already talk of extending income management, and making it a compulsory requirement for receiving welfare - or in other words, your welfare payment will come on a specified card, rather than being deposited into your bank account; it will only be able to be spent on certain things, and you will only be able to buy these things in certain locations; and if you aren't on state housing, it's unlikely your landlord is going to accept it as payment for your rent. They haven't backed down on the six month waiting period for people under the age of thirty, and they certainly haven't backed down on the notion of extending work for the dole.
Quite frankly, I'm still waiting on them bringing back the notion of workhouses.
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Our Wonderful Government
The latest bit of brilliance on the part of our glorious elected leaders is to continue doubling down on the unemployed. In the next edition of "the floggings will continue until unemployment decreases" thinking, there's a brilliant plan in the works to have the unemployed required to submit up to forty applications for jobs per month (ten applications per week), starting in July next year.
The current maximum rate is ten applications per fortnight, or one application per day.
On top of this, if you're between the ages of 18 and 30, you'll be required to sign up for 25 hours per week of work for the dole; if you're between 30 and 49, you'll be required to put in 15 hours a week; if you're over 50, you get to volunteer for it if you want to.
Have some references:
Unemployed to be forced to apply for 40 jobs a month as part of $5 billion dole overhaul
Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan
Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers
Work For The Dole Doesn't Work And Never Has
Now, as I mentioned in my post of 25 JUN 2014, we're already seeing an increase in the experience required in order to get a job - it's gone up to an average of 2 - 5 years recent experience in role (or equivalent) since the budget in early May. I have a suspicion by July next year, we might be looking at a minimum of five to seven years recent experience in role to be considered. Or in other words "so much for working your way up the ranks".
The business community has already spoken up about this one, concerned they're going to be flooded with applications from people who are mainly concerned with getting together their numbers and meeting their targets. Already, employers have largely ceased replying to application letters unless you're a successfully short-listed candidate - a number of ads are saying explicitly that only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Or in other words, applying for these jobs is a bit like Don Marquis' lovely metaphor regarding publishing poetry in the US market - he compared that to dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon, and listening for the echo of it hitting bottom.
I find this depressing enough when I'm only required to apply for five jobs a fortnight.
One of the more interesting snarky suggestions on the Guardian's comments is sending regular applications and query letters to the offices of Liberal Party MPs and Senators. I'm strongly tempted, I must admit. Just write up a form letter, put together a brief database of names and addresses, and set the silly thing going on a weekly basis. I'd need fifteen candidates a week to bring me up to the level required for forty a month, and it'd be almost cathartic after another week of combing through jobs databases trying to find something suitable to apply for. Oh, and just think, they could bask in the warm glow of helping another Australian do their share of the "lifting" for the economy. What a pity I'm on the wrong side of the country to realistically send applications or query letters to Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Abetz.
 Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
 No, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd love to try out applying for a job in their offices anyway - and see how fast I get sacked for having left-wing political opinions. Maybe I could try a spin on the US Religious Right trick of suing them for discrimination, the same way anti-abortion types are trying to sue for the right to work in family planning organisations...
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Living with an "Episodic" Mental Health Condition
I have chronic endogenous unipolar depression. This is a technical medical term. Chronic means my depression is always there, as background noise in my life. Endogenous means there is no identifiable "reason" for my depression other than "my brain hates me and wants me to be miserable". Unipolar means I get major depressive downs, but I don't get manic highs.
( Continued below the fold )
Employing me, or someone like me, requires a workplace which allows me to vary my workload in order to cope with the changing mental weather. It requires a workplace where my boss is going to accept me saying "I'm having a bad week at the moment; can I please not be put in customer-facing situations unless it's absolutely necessary" without either complaining, attempting to force me into situations I've said I'm ill-equipped to handle, or attempting to guilt me into performing according to their plans. It requires a workplace where I'm allowed to say "I'm feeling overloaded, can I go home?" (and where there's an acceptance this point may well occur twenty minutes into the working day). It requires a workplace where I don't feel required to meet the performance standards set by persons who don't have my rather interesting set of obstacles to performing at capacity. It requires, in short, a workplace which Western Capitalist society is profoundly ill-equipped to supply.
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The Law of Unexpected Consequences
There's a lot being said about what the detrimental effects of the government's proposed efforts to make young unemployed people "earn or learn" will be for the economy. I'd like to point out an effect it's having right now, before the legislation has even been passed (it was introduced to the House of Representatives this week).
In the last few weeks, I've been noticing an up-tick in the number of jobs which are effectively demanding applicants have between two and five years experience, minimum, in the position they're applying for. Or in other words, it's suddenly becoming a lot harder to break into the job market unless you have experience. It's also suddenly a lot harder to trade up within the job market.
Now, I'm theorising here, but I suspect this is due to an influx of CVs and applications from people who are under thirty, and who are desperate to get employed before the Budget legislation is passed through the Senate (because they have to work on the presumption it's going to be passed unaltered; pray for amendments, but plan for the full horror). Employers are getting flooded with applications for any job they offer, and as a result, they're tightening up their selection criteria. The first thing to go is the option to take on someone who might need a bit of training. The end result, of course, is experience criteria get tagged onto just about any job.
Problem is, a certain amount of labour market participation is a condition of getting Newstart allowance here in Australia. The general level is an expectation of putting in applications for ten jobs a fortnight (twenty a month). One of the lovely conditions being proposed for younger unemployed people (i.e. those thirty years old or younger) is a minimum of forty job applications a month, or ten a week, whether or not they're receiving a payment. Which means employers are going to be confronted by more people applying for jobs they definitely aren't qualified for, and will correspondingly tighten up the selection criteria even further, making it even harder for inexperienced job seekers to get into employment.
I would venture a guess Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey aren't expecting either of these results. I'd also venture a guess they don't particularly give a monkey's one way or t'other. They certainly don't seem to give a damn about all the job losses which are occurring (Mr Abbott said earlier this week he considered his government to be "the Australian worker's best friend", which argues either a thoroughly warped definition of friendship, or a possibly psychotic level of detachment from the consensus reality).
[Before anyone says anything about this: yes, I'm aware job ads tend to have criteria which are listing the ideal, and employers tend not to find their ideal employee anyway. Yes, I'm aware I should be applying for anything which seems to even vaguely fit my abilities and skills, and not worry about the experience criteria. But really, can anyone please explain to me how doing so is any different, at my end of the equation, to buying a lotto ticket every week?]
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In Response to Another Mass Shooting in the USA
1) Can I re-iterate a call for the name of the shooter to be buried in obscurity, while the names of his victims are memorialised? This would be a far more fitting treatment of these sorts of crimes than the current practice of focussing on the person who committed the crime to the exclusion of the persons who were harmed by it (and, let's be honest, to the exclusion of the persons this fool meant to be harmed by his actions: namely, all women who have ever turned down a self-professed "nice guy" for whatever reason). Why give this bloke the publicity and notice he so dearly wanted?
Instead, let's remember and commemorate Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, and his other victims (as yet unnamed to the public).
2) Can we stop demonising the mentally ill for these sorts of crimes? I agree, the guy probably had issues. I agree, he had Aspergers Syndrome, which is one of the autism spectrum of disorders. However, he is not likely to have had a single diagnosed severe mental illness, he is highly unlikely to be provably compulsive or psychotic (i.e. he is NOT likely to have been in an altered mental state) at the time of the shooting, and he is more than likely to be found to be legally sane (that is, he was capable of perceiving the distinction between moral and immoral actions) at the time of the shooting.
The vast majority of people with diagnosed mental illnesses (including the vast majority of people with diagnosed psychotic schizophrenia, and diagnosed compulsive disorders, not to mention the vast majority of people who exist on the autism spectrum somewhere) manage to get through their lives pretty much without perpetrating acts of violence on other people. Indeed, the vast majority of persons with diagnosed mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.
The issues this bloke had were not to do with an altered mental state, with his reported autism spectrum disorder, with a compulsive or psychotic disorder, or with an emotional disorder. They stemmed far more from his attitudes of entitlement and misogyny. Which leads to my next point...
3) Can we label these sorts of crimes (mass shootings, performed by a single perpetrator, often from an ambush location, at a single point in time, generally without a particular target of preference) as being what they are: crimes of entitlement. I call them crimes of entitlement because the vast majority of the perpetrators for these crimes are white men. There have been a few such crimes perpetrated by black or Asian men. NONE have been perpetrated by women. They're crimes performed largely by people who have structural advantages in our society, and who feel they are hard done by because they don't get the "perfect" life they feel they're owed by the universe. They generally aren't high achievers, they blame other people for their own failings, and they generally "peak" into homicidal activity like this at two possible ages - there's one group who bombs out shortly after high school, usually by their early to mid twenties (and the shooter for this latest incident fit the mould perfectly; he was not even original in his dysfunction), and another group which tends to bomb out in their mid-to-late forties. In both cases, it's because they realise they aren't going to get the life Hollywood promised them they were due as straight white men, and in both cases, their actions are because they think their selfish anger at this "betrayal" is much more important than anything else.
In both cases, these people are more likely to either suicide themselves, or commit "suicide by cop" rather than face up to the consequences of their actions. Again, our shooter in this case fit the mould to a "T". He was not unique, he was not some special snowflake, and regardless of his stated "reasons" for his crime, the status of his family or any of the other things people will pull out in order to pretend this crime was somehow "different", he was no different to the last such insignificant wanker to commit such a crime, nor any different to the next one. Which leads to my final point:
4) Can we please have this discussion with and within the USA where we mention that maybe, just maybe, making guns harder to acquire on a national basis might knock the number of these crimes which occur there right the way down? Because this is a VERY AMERICAN CRIME. Everywhere else an incident of this sort occurs, there's immediate action to prevent it from recurring. Gun laws are imposed or tightened up; rules on who can obtain a gun are imposed or tightened; enforcement of existing laws is stepped up; all of these efforts are made to ensure the next time some thoughtless yahoo feels his insignificance is a massive burden, he hasn't got the easy recourse of taking a gun and shooting people randomly in order to get his name in the papers. Only in the USA is this kind of crime treated as something which is apparently unable to be prevented.
Quite frankly, as I've said before, I'm starting to lose sympathy. Yes, these individual events are terrible. But really, there is a solution to the problem, and it's one which has been proven to work quite successfully everywhere else.
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Why There Isn't Going To Be A Double Dissolution Any Time Soon
There's a lot of talk in response to the budget about double dissolutions, and the term has been floating around in the public discourse since early on in the Gillard government, where Tony Abbott was threatening to try and call an election every single sitting day of parliament (no kidding, one of the standard procedures during the Gillard parliament was the regular call by the Leader of the Opposition for a suspension of standing orders so they could call for a vote of confidence in the government. It got voted down every single time, but was so damn regular that Kevin Rudd's first day back as PM was notable for the LACK of this motion). While I'm right alongside a lot of Australians with wanting to get a do-over on the election (hells, didn't we just have one of those here in WA?) so we can get it right this time, I doubt we're going to see a DD any time soon. Here's why not:
1) Tony Abbott doesn't want to call one.
Tony Abbott is not a complete fool (much as he does a creditable imitation of one). He and his minders are no doubt looking at the dismal figures they're getting in the polls at present (the Liberals are down 45 - 55 against the ALP in two party preferred figures) and realising any double dissolution election is not likely to go their way. At present the Liberals have a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, and a workable majority in the Senate. They'd be fools to risk either of those if they don't have to. Tony Abbott is famous for saying a lot of things he doesn't actually mean, and I suspect his statements about his willingness to face a double dissolution fall into this category. Given he's the one who is supposed to make the "suggestion" to the Governor General regarding when to have elections, I wouldn't expect to see him willing to go to the polls in the near future.
2) Bill Shorten doesn't want one called either.
Yes, the ALP is up against the Liberals in two party preferred figures in the polls. Problem is, "two party preferred" is a polling artefact, rather than an accurate reflection of electoral reality. The question being asked in a "two party preferred" question is "given these two parties as your only choices, which would you pick?". At present, more people, given only two choices, are picking the red box rather than the blue one. But the thing is, at an election, they don't just have the red and blue boxes - they have more choices, and the ALP is still recovering after a rather comprehensive defeat prompted by internal factional nonsense (and there are NO indicators this internal factional nonsense has stopped. Indeed, all the indicators show it's still going strong, and causing more problems than ever; witness the fuss over the pre-selection of Joe Bullock here in WA). At an election, it's more likely people's votes would swing toward other, more minor parties, such as the Greens, the Palmer United Party, and so on. I suspect a more accurate rendition of people's electoral preferences would point toward another minority government situation, with the balance of power being held by independent, Green and PUP candidates, which isn't really something the ALP wants. Yes, they've shown they can deal with it (the Gillard government, for all the poor press reports, got one heck of a lot done during its time in office), but it isn't their preferred situation - they, like the Liberals, would rather have an outright majority to work with.
Expect to see a lot of horse-trading going on in the House and the Senate between the ALP and the Liberals - this would be the more realistic outcome. While there's going to be a lot of talk about the prospect of a double dissolution, I'd not be expecting one until we actually see writs issued.
Incidentally, if we're really wanting a double dissolution, the person to petition is the Governor General. In strict constitutional terms, the GG is the one who calls elections, usually on the advice of the Prime Minister, but not always. Theoretically, if the Governor General were faced with a sufficiently large indication of the displeasure of the Australian people with their elected government, he would be within his rights to call an election, but I suspect the more practical upshot of such a petition would be an immediate call from the GG to the best firm of constitutional lawyers in the country, to find out whether or not he's obliged to pay attention to such a thing (so any such petition would need to have signatures from at least 75% of Australian voters to have an impact, in my opinion).
 The most notable example of same is back from 1975, in the Whitlam dismissal, where the Leader of the Opposition managed to persuade the Governor General of the time the Prime Minister could not pass his supply bills (the ones which pay the wages of the parliamentarians, federal public servants, and federal government beneficiaries and pensioners). This led to Sir John Kerr dismissing the Whitlam government, and installing Malcolm Fraser as a caretaker Prime Minister while an election was called. In the subsequent election, the ALP was voted out rather solidly, and the Liberals were voted in. The ructions of this are still echoing around parliament to this day.
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The whole Frances Abbott thing:
I've been following this as it surfaced in my feeds, and a couple of things which spring to mind:
1) Frances Abbott is as human as everyone else, which means when she sees what looks like a chance to get something for nothing, she'll grab it. Let's be honest - we'd all take the offer were it made to us. The problem is, as Frances is no doubt learning, there is no such thing as a genuine "something for nothing" offer. Everyone pays somehow. If you're getting "something for nothing" in terms of access to services, you're probably being asked to supply your information to the service provider in order for them to on-sell them to advertisers (as per Web 2.0 portals such as Facebook and Linkedin). In Frances' case, what she's paying with now is her self-respect - she's no doubt learning the stuff she got was basically aimed at getting her Dad on side, and not something she obtained through her own hard work and effort, and this apparently includes her job as well. I feel somewhat sorry for her, because through their political machinations, her father and his cronies have essentially reduced whatever level of talent she has for the work to nothing - a non-event, a sideshow. No matter how good her work is, she will always have this hanging over her head, and she will always be regarded as someone who got by on connections rather than ability.
That can't be easy for anyone.
2) Tony Abbott apparently has a deeply entitled attitude toward life, since he appears to have hit up this particular "donor" or "mate" on a regular basis for things like clothing (suits) and similar. I can't help but wonder how many people find a similar cost applied to their "friendship" toward him, and how many he's dropped like hot rocks along the way when they couldn't supply him with what he wanted.
3) Given this tale of an unprecedented scholarship being offered at this "no scholarships" institution to the child of a friend of a director, I find myself wondering whether this kind of thing won't become much more common for the children of politicians, company directors and similar in future, as our higher education becomes much more monetarized and cash-driven. It won't ever be named as "favours for friends", but instead we'll see the children of the Right People (self-defined) getting scholarships, intern-ships and similar through connections, while the rest of the group struggles along on effort.
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