Study is being... problematic
I managed to get my study all done yesterday (well, except for the textbook reading for Cultural Studies, and I'm going to see about getting that done this morning). But two of the "readings" for Cultural Studies were episodes of Dr Who ("The Beast Below" and "Planet of the Ood") and I found those ... problematic for reasons which had everything to do with the medium, and very little to do with the actual content.
I'm finding I have more and more trouble with audio-visual content these days, mostly because of those audio processing problems of mine. I have particular problems with things like spliced-together versions of things (which one of the "readings" for Engaging Media was this week - spliced together bits of various Disney movies, assembled to tell a story), because with those I don't have the rhythms of speech to help guide me along and give me cues about what the next word is. I also have problems with streaming media where the audio stream gets out of synch with the video (which is practically anything which is over 10 minutes long) because I'm tending to use mouth movements as visual cues to make sense of the audio stream, to help me pick out which bits of the noise I'm hearing are the significant bits. When those fall out of synch with the audio, I start losing the ability to understand the audio stream, and it means I wind up having to work harder to make sense of things. Subtitles help. Subtitles (preferably proper closed captioning, rather than the YouTube automatic ones) give me something to focus on in the visual domain that can make sense of the information coming out of the audio stream. When there aren't subtitles, I can either a) watch the images, and strain to make sense of the dialogue; or b) close my eyes and concentrate on the audio, in the hope of being able to make sense of that without visual data to go along with it. Plus, of course, being in the situation I'm in, any other noise around me comes in at the same damn volume (or louder) than the audio stream I'm supposed to be concentrating on, and putting in earbuds or putting on headphones just means I'm not able to actually move for the duration.
End result: dealing with streaming video input is rather stressful for me these days. There's a reason I tend to stick with games where there are subtitles, where there aren't voice tracks and so on, and it's not just because I don't have the twitch reflexes for the less accessible stuff. Doing these readings at the end of a long day... well, I wind up very tired, very stressed, and I'm still tired and stressed the following morning, because my brain just hasn't had enough time to cool down.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/114759.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Ethical Living and the Signalling of Economic Virtue
The Guardian here in Australia has a new series of articles (Life Swaps) they've started about "how to live more sustainably". So far there's been two articles published, one on better food choices, and one on fashion choices. They're pretty much what you'd expect of this sort of thing - largely about how to spend more money in the pursuit of a better lifestyle, and they're an excellent example of the genre of article I've come to think of as "middle class left-wing virtue signalling".
( Essay under fold )
The next article in this series is due out on Saturday. I'll be interested to see what it's about, and how it tackles the subject. I'm willing to bet there's going to be at least one on transport, which will recommend buying an electric car rather than a petrol-driven one as the "sustainable" choice; recommend cycling as the "do-it-yourself" alternative, and which may mention public transport in the "gentrification" option, but will probably be more likely to recommend the real-estate version of "gentrification" instead - getting yourself a nice place in a near-inner-city suburb which is close to your workplace.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/112976.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Generalised Message For The Entire English-Speaking World In The Wake of Brexit
Rupert Murdoch is not our friend.
Rupert Murdoch is an ageing billionaire sociopath, who appears to believe the world will end when he finally dies, and is going to a great deal of trouble to ensure this is the case for all the rest of us, too. Rupert Murdoch's motto at present appears to be "apres moi, le deluge".
The only apocalyptic "End Times" approaching are those of Rupert Murdoch - he's 85, his father died at age 67, while his mother lived to 103. Which means he's pretty much reached the age of splitting the difference between the two and any year he gets after now is a gift. He is in his personal "end times" and he doesn't like it.
Rupert Murdoch's media properties (all of the News Limited newspapers in multiple countries, all of the Fox television stations in multiple countries, Sky TV in the UK, and so on) are generally not institutions which display a one-to-one correspondence with consensus reality. This means if you see something being heavily reported on Fox News, or in the Murdoch press, you should check with other sources to ensure you're getting the correct picture. Or indeed, whether there is actually a picture there to be getting - the Murdoch media does have a long history of making things up out of whole cloth in order to sell advertising space, and also of bouncing the same made-up story around their various international properties in order to give it creedence.
Please, don't trust them. They don't have your best interests at heart. They don't have anyone's interests at heart except those of Rupert Murdoch, and his primary interests are in acquiring power over world leaders and getting All The Money for himself.
So think about it: do you really want your life overturned because one cranky old man with a lot of money doesn't want to die and resents the fact it's inevitable?
If you can do nothing else, please fact-check what you're hearing from Fox, what you're hearing from News Limited, and what you're hearing from Sky. Find some source which isn't inside the Murdoch Media fold, and see whether they're reporting on the particular "crisis" of the week. Spread the news about what's actually happening out here in consensus reality, rather than in Murdoch-land. Tell people where you found counter-stories, and where you find your facts. Spread the news that there's more out there than what the Murdoch media is telling us.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/66113.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
(Yet) Another Mass Shooting in the USA
I'm not going to go into huge detail about this one (save to note that so far this year, there have been more mass shootings in the USA than there have been days in the year). Instead, I'm going to concentrate on some things which could be tried to stop these things from happening (or at least slow down the rate of them) without necessarily altering gun laws.
( Detail under fold )
Now, none of these three things is going to drastically drop the number of mass shootings immediately. If you want an immediate impact on the number of mass shootings in the USA, then it's going to have to be done through gun control laws, just the same as everywhere else on the planet. But in the medium-to-long term, and particularly if you have the NRA and their paid-up politicians remaining as stubborn as ever on the issue, then these measures will help.
So start speaking to the media firms. Start speaking to your political candidates. Start demanding change.
Ignore the idiots who say "it's too soon" - as I pointed out above, you're currently averaging better than 1 mass shooting per day. How many do there need to be before things change? Ignore the fools who accuse you of "politicising the issue. Shootings like this are essentially about power - which means they're political from the get-go. The choice to do something about preventing them is a political choice, I'll grant you - but so is the choice not to.
It's up to the people of the USA to make it clear they don't want to see this happening. And the best way to start is by denying these little dickweasels who want to exhibit their sense of entitlement, their sense of personal power, the attention that they so desperately crave.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/60468.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
What Border Force did Wrong on Friday.
( Very long Australian political rant below the fold )
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/59862.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
The SIWOTI 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" 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.
 Someone Is Wrong On The Internet
 The small, reachable space behind the microwave where I store the bottles of cooking brandy and cooking sherry.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/49480.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/49034.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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" 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. 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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!
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/48839.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
So, How Badly Were You Shafted By The Budget?
I'm basically looking at trying to find an extra $70 per year from an income which had no discretionary spending available anyway (as per First Dog On The Moon, this is not a budget for people who fancy eating food and living in some sort of housing while wearing clothes). Basically, I can stop replacing clothes, shoes and underwear as they wear out, and thus put that money toward things like health maintenance for my two chronic health issues (under-active thyroid and chronic endogenous depression), or I can do things like actually replace the pair of jeans which gave up the ghost last week and keep the two replacement pairs of sneakers I bought about a month ago for $30, thus keeping myself shod for another six to eight months and wait for my health problems to get bad enough to put me in hospital. The latter will almost certainly cost the Australian taxpayer a damn sight more than $70.
So that particular program is almost certainly about the government cutting off its nose to spite its face for ideological reasons.
[Actually, given a new bra is likely to cost me about $80 a pop (and I need at least three of the wretched things), I'm starting to wonder how expensive a double mastectomy would be. It'd certainly make things cheaper for me overall - I could buy men's clothes, and save a fair old whack of money over the amount I'm charged as a woman who wears larger sizes. Heck, if they'd take the uterus as well, I'd be able to avoid spending money on "feminine hygiene" products too, which would be a nice little saving over the long term.]
It's only going to get harder as things go along, because I'm on Newstart, which is inadequate even now, and isn't likely to get any better (not with the payment rate frozen for three years). I'm old enough I'm not going to be forced to Work for the Dole, thanks be to the gods, but I'm not old enough for an employer to be able to get a subsidy for employing me (ah, the joys of being part of Generation X - neither fowl nor flesh nor good red herring!). Mr Nahan here in WA has already put up the cost of travelling anywhere by public transport, and Mr Hockey over in the federal house has decided to start slugging us more for fuel, so going out isn't going to be an option Any Time Soon.
So tonight I'm celebrating the budget with a cup of hot chocolate enhanced with a good solid slug of the cooking brandy.
May Tony Abbott's path be paved with Lego. And may all his shoes have cheap soles.
*drinks deeply in the hopes of oblivion*
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/42259.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Alan Jones Goes To Journalism School
To be honest, I'm not surprised Alan Jones has had to go to Journalism school. What should be surprising people is that this man got a job as a broadcaster without having any journalism training in the first place. Mr Jones previous history (as per Wikipedia) is as an English teacher, a rugby coach, a parliamentary speech writer, and an unsuccessful conservative politician. There's indications he was very successful as a rugby coach (it's what he got his MAO for, after all) but aside from this, most of his paid employment since approximately 1974 has been as a result of his connections in the Liberal and National (formerly Country) parties.
He used to be a columnist for the Sun-Herald (but lost the job after publishing a column which was pretty much a straight lift from a Frederick Forsyth novel without bothering to attribute his sources - the other staff at the newspaper campaigned to have him removed as a result).
Alan Jones was never a journalist. He was never trained as a journalist. He should never have been taken seriously as a journalist. He's a demagogue. Simple as that.
Sources and Resources:
http://theconversation.edu.au/a-very-naughty-parrot-acma-sends-alan-jones-back-to-school-10212 - The Conversation
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-18/alan-jones-ordered-to-do-journalism-training/4320534 - ABC.Net.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jones_%28radio_broadcaster%29 - Wikipedia page on Jones
http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/business/media-2/alan-jones-greatest-hits/ - Independent Australian
http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_600069 - ACMA media release about the conditions they've put on 2GB.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/33727.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Seems Like the Psych Research Unit is Doing Some Good
I was busy reading through a lovely little article on the ABC this morning about a group of doctors who have submitted a statement to the Senate enquiry into marriage equality here in Australia. The position of this group of doctors (about 150 in all, one of whom is a member of the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is that "marriage between a man and a woman is the "basis for a healthy society"."
Their contention is that ""It's well proven that children who grow up with a mother and a father in a biological mother-and-father family do better than children who don't have the opportunity to grow up in that kind of family,"
Now, my immediate thought when faced with this was along the following lines:
Show me the research - This is always my response to ninety percent of these sorts of statements in news articles. I want to see the studies these people are pulling their quotes from, and actually figure out whether their justification is accurate.
( teal deer underneath )
Really, if you get past the first page of their submission, it's just the same sort of small-minded, socially-conservative idiocy that you'd expect from the Christian (Always) Right - "Don't Do It Because We Don't Like It; Our God Says This Is EEEEVUL!!!". It's a bit disappointing that 150 doctors hold these views, but then again, so long as they don't let their views get in the way of their practice, I've no problems with that. They're entitled to hold opinions as private citizens. It's when they try to use their position as doctors to force those opinions on the rest of the population that I have problems.
( Footnotes below )
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/28232.html. Please comment there using OpenID.