Free Speech, Censorship and Trump
Reply to: https://theconversation.com/no-twitter-is-not-censoring-donald-trump-free-speech-is-not-guaranteed-if-it-harms-others-153092
I find it remarkable how many conservative figures are right behind the power of the Free Market and the rights of private property holders to do whatever they fancy with their private property... right up to the point where it bites them (or someone they identify with closely, like Mr Trump) in the backside. Mr Trump has not been silenced by having his Twitter account access cut off - or rather, he has only been as silenced as someone who has full access to the White House press office, and to every single major media organisation in the USA, can possibly be.
He also hasn't been censored in the least. Censorship involves government action to block certain types of speech, images, concepts and so forth, from the public view. The various Australian government bans on various types of media (such as certain genres of manga, certain types of pornography and so forth) are censorship. Twitter choosing to ban a person from having an account on their service is not censorship, because no government action is involved. Twitter is a privately owned corporate entity. It is NOT a part of the US public infrastructure. As such, the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which starts with the words "Congress shall make no law ..." (being very clear about which entity it binds) does not actually apply. Twitter, as a corporate body, is allowed to make whatever rules it fancies regarding which speech is appropriate on their service, and which users are allowed and disallowed, and they're allowed to be exactly as arbitrary and petty about it as their user base will tolerate.
As someone on the political left (I think of it as being part of the evidence-and-reality-based caucus), I have heard every single one of the arguments about why Twitter is allowed to kick people off if they choose from conservative speakers, usually defending Twitter's choice to disallow speech from people of colour, transgender people, people with disabilities, women, people who aren't ethnically "white" and so on, simply because someone got under the skin of a bigot. Heck, look at the history of various journalists getting kicked out of their jobs, booted from social media and so on, because they dispute the nature, popular history, or value of ANZAC day, for example, or argue about the whole "Change the Date" thing from the side of Indigenous Australians. It is thoroughly amusing, in a rather jaded and cynical fashion, to watch all these conservative thinkers rushing around clutching their pearls about "censorship" and collapsing on their fainting couches, simply because for once, the boot is on the other leg.
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Five Things Make A Post
1) I've moved house, which is why I've not been visible for the past couple of weeks. The new place is a bit more expensive than the previous one, but it comes with a lot more basic amenities, including things like a roof that doesn't leak, doors which fit their frames, decent insulation, air-conditioning and heating (both of which are relatively essential in an Australian context these days), and a dishwasher in the kitchen. We're currently in the unpackening stage, and probably will be for a few more weeks at least, if not months.
2) Subsequent to 1) above, may I actively dis-recommend iinet as an internet service provider to anyone living in Australia? They have been less than helpful and less than useful in the process of the move, and I suspect I'm going to have to argue things back and forth with them to get some billing issues sorted out (such as them charging me for another month of service at our previous address, even when I gave them two weeks notice of the move occurring during the previous billing period). They have not been helpful, they have not been friendly, they have not been particularly cooperative, and I'm just about done with them. 0 out of 10, would not recommend to anyone, not even my worst enemy.
3) Due to issues related with 2) above, we haven't had working internet for about a week and a half. I'm currently in catch-up mode, and I'll find out what's happened in the rest of the world as I go along. I'm reasonably certain the world hasn't ended (I'm sure I would have noticed if that had happened) but if people want to pass on bits of news to me, I'm not going to turn them down.
4) One of the things I'm attempting to do now we've moved to the new place is build a gardening habit. At the moment, it consists of five minutes work in the garden each day (timed on my phone), which at present is mostly about removing weeds from the front garden area. Which at least means the amount of weeds in the garden is going down slowly. I have Plans for one particular corner of the (minuscule) back garden area, but I'm going to wait until we have the house in vague order first, then hire it done, because these Plans involve a lot of set-up, and I know from extensive past experience I am not good at setting things up, although I am fairly good at maintaining them once I get the required habits built.
(I should note: the gardens, both front and back, are largely sand. Either black sand, because this is Perth and black sand is pretty much the default for most of the city, or yellow brickie's sand, because reasonably recent building site, and therefore covered in the stuff. Easy to dig, desperately hungry and thirsty).
5) As a result of extensive hand-washing and use of hand sanitiser, I'm now discovering I need to use hand cream more often. I would welcome recommendations from readers for a brand of hand cream which is a) not too expensive (I'm not paying more than about $10 at most for a 100mL tube, and probably lower than that would be preferable); b) not too heavy - I want something comparatively light and easily absorbed (for comparison - we have some sorbolene cream in the house which I don't use on my hands because it is too heavy, and leaves them feeling greasy; this is a sensory thing for me, so I'm likely to bounce off things good and hard if they're too heavy); and c) reasonably readily available in Australia?
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A general retort to some arguments circulating in fandom at present
Content note: deals with fandom discourse; "You" throughout this screed is very much used in the general plural, rather than the individual specific. This came about as a response to a long thread on Twitter; I'm moving it here because I think Dreamwidth (and blogging in general) is a bit more suited to long-form thought and discussion than Twitter will ever be.
( Essay under the fold )
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What I've been up to lately
So, if you've seen my previous entry, you will have seen it mentions carpal tunnel syndrome. Here's the basics.
Back at the end of March, just before the country went full lockdown and everything went crazy, I noticed when I was working away at work, my left hand was feeling a bit ... burny. Like, if you've ever put Deep Heat or Icy-Hot or something mentholated like that onto skin where there's no underlying muscle problems, that's what it felt like. First time I felt it, I wrote it off as minor fuss and bother. But then it persisted. So I called my GP, who sent me off to get ultrasound scans of my wrists, on the suspicion it was carpal tunnel syndrome.
Well, the scans came back normal. Mostly normal, anyway - I have bifurcated medial nerves on both hands (or in other words, instead of having one nerve laying alongside the vein in the carpal tunnel, the nerve is split in two, and lies on either side of the vein) but this is apparently a pretty normal human variation, nothing to be concerned about. I switched to an ergonomic keyboard, which made it easier to type for longer before the burny feeling came back, and carried on.
Then last Tuesday, I overdid things, and wound up with my hands actually hurting me, and with a complete lack of grip strength on my left side (couldn't hold a tablet PC for longer than about a half a minute before my strength gave out). I had a minor breakdown (oh gods, crippled for life!!!!1!) and called my GP back. He referred me to an OT who is a hand / arm specialist, and I saw her today. Described all my symptoms, she did a bit of an exam, and the diagnosis is an overuse injury (caused by the fact I type pretty constantly for work; my main hobby is creative writing which I also type for; and then I socialise online by... typing some more). So I have to rest things.
I've been given a splint, and I have to rest my hands, massage the hand and forearm on a daily basis, and take breaks from typing every hour. Heat pack on the hand and forearm if I start feeling pain / discomfort. Come back in two weeks for a follow-up appointment.
So, this is why I have largely been maintaining radio silence for most of the past month and a half. And will be continuing to do so for the next however long, until either my hands heal up, or I wind up getting speech-to-text software.
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Carpal Tunnel News
The carpal tunnel is playing up. Back to radio silence.
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What I Learned About Working From Home from 10 Years on the Dole...
Now, I'm going to be the first person to say working at home is not the same thing as being stuck on the dole. For one thing, working from home definitely pays better, trust me on this (even with the supplements, working from home still pays much better than being on the dole), and this opens up a lot of options which weren't available for me when I was on Newstart. But there are a lot of similarities between being locked down to the one place by a COVID-19 lock down, and being locked down to one place by the sheer fact I can't afford to go anywhere or buy anything. So here's some of the tips I'm finding I'm recycling now I'm back in my bedroom a lot.
1) You have to have a routine
This is even more the case for when you don't have the distraction of a job than if you do - you need to have a routine, and a number of things that need doing, and you need to be able to deal with those things during the course of a day in order to give yourself a sense of having achieved things. This is where "to do" and "have done" lists come into their own - they're great for creating that sense of achievement, which is something a lot of us need in order to maintain our mental health.
2) You can't just stay in one place all day
Whether it's on the couch in front of the TV, in front of the computer, curled up with a good book, or whatever - you need to get up, you need to move around, you need to do something that isn't just sitting in the one place. So take breaks, by which I mean things like "set an alarm to get yourself up off your backside and walk around the house", or "get up and walk to the end of the street and back again" or something like that.
(My plan for the next few weeks is I'm gradually emptying out various planters, moving them to the front garden - near my desk space - and I'm going to plant them all up with flowers, bulbs and herbs so I have something to fuss over and look at while I'm locked down...)
If all else fails, keep yourself decently hydrated - if you're drinking lots of water, eventually plain old bladder pressure is going to make you need to get up and move. At least fifty percent of my tea habit came about as a way of making sure I was getting up and moving away from the computer during the day (even if it was just to the toilet and back again).
3) Contact with other people is important
I say this as an introvert's introvert who has low social needs to begin with - humans need contact with other people in order to remind ourselves we're human. The good thing about this is it doesn't have to necessarily be in person - I find online chat works nicely for me (and once I've weeded my Twitter feed, I'm going to settle down and enjoy that rather thoroughly). But you need to be interacting with other human beings in some way, shape or form. Remember, we're descended from social apes (like chimpanzees) rather than solitary ones (like orang-utans).
4) Dress up and take pride in your appearance
No, really. This one helps a lot - maintaining a bit of pride in your appearance, wearing good quality clothes (yes, dress for comfort, but that doesn't have to mean ratty old trackie-daks, grotty t-shirts, or pyjamas all day), doing your hair, putting on makeup if you wear it regularly and so on. It goes in with "you have to have a routine" - having part of that routine involve making sure you look presentable (however you define the term) really does help with making you feel less isolated and more capable of connecting with people.
5) Make sure your surroundings are comfortable and comforting
If you're sitting in your bedroom a lot, make the bed. If you're in the kitchen, wash up the dishes and put them away. If you're in the lounge room, do a bit of a tidy. Tidy your desk or desk-like-area so you're able to work there. Make sure it's possible to stay reasonably warm (in winter) and reasonably cool (in summer) without needing to take heroic measures (like bundling up as though you're going to the Antarctic, or stripping to the skin). If you can't feel comfortable in your space, you're going to resent having to remain there, and you're likely to wind up feeling put-upon and hard-done-by. Neither of which feelings are particularly conducive to productivity or getting through things easily. This is something we don't really have much choice in, so we may as well treat ourselves kindly while it's happening.
6) Don't forget to eat and drink
Again, this goes with "you need to move". Try not to eat your meals in front of the computer - for one thing, it's not good for you; for another, it's not that good for the computer, either. Make your lunch into a meal away from your desk or desk-like-area - eat it outside if the weather's fine, but at least pick up and move away from your computer chair in order to eat lunch. Make your lunch a bit of an event - pick a favourite food or a comfort food, or just fancy things up a bit. Now is probably not the best time to start a new diet... but it is a pretty good time to try a few things you haven't tried before.
7) Get out and see some nature each day.
Go for a walk in the street; if you have a garden, take a walk around that. Encourage the local wildlife to hang around - a good birdbath can be made from a ceramic plant saucer (about 2cm deep, and about the same in width on the side, so they have somewhere to put their feet), and there are lots of birds which will take advantage of it to splash around and fuss at each other, and a lot of enjoyment can be gained from bird watching (this probably isn't a good idea if you have cats - not unless you can put the birdbath somewhere the cats can't get at it). Pets are great - even pets you borrow from the neighbours (our neighbour's cat considers us to be part of its regular staff, and will show up on a regular basis for pets and scritches, as well as considering our backyard as part of its tiger territory). Failing that, house-plants, pot plants on a balcony, and so on - anything will do, no matter how big or small. Combine it with your walk - have a look at the gardens of your neighbours (and if you really like what someone's doing with their garden, why not leave them a note to say so - combine socialising-at-a-distance with getting your daily dose of nature).
8) Remember, this too shall pass.
This period of lock down and quarantine will eventually come to an end (either they'll figure out that vaccine they're working on; or we'll develop a certain level of herd immunity; or the virus will just burn itself out; or we'll all decide there are different options in the eternal toss-up between safety and convenience). We won't be stuck as isolated, atomised individuals forever. In the wider scheme of things, human cultures of all kinds have survived multiple examples of pandemics and plagues (Western culture has survived a lot of them, but the one which sticks with me at the moment is the Black Plague of the 1400s - people back then thought the world was ending, too) - the situation we're in at present isn't actually an unprecedented one; it's just one we're unaccustomed to. The last time humans had to really worry about this sort of thing was back in the 1940s, and for those of us who post-date polio, it's not something we've had to deal with in our lifetime. But that doesn't mean we can't survive it. Remember, we're all descendants of the people who survived epidemics before us. We can get through this.
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Despite the date, this is real...
I can hear the shrieks of glee from the writing community from here - we have our dream of "I just have to think about the story and it's there" a bit closer! This may be aimed as medical technology to allow people who are shut in their heads to communicate with others but I suspect the big buy-in will come from the writing community. Still a bit surreal in places, but that never stopped James Joyce...
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Still got the RSI, but I'm going to be trialling an ergonomic keyboard and mouse combo while working from home today. Yup, the day has come, and I'm working from home like so many other people. We shall see how it goes.
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RSI in L hand. Typing verboten as result. Radio silence for now.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/144005.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
In the light of current events...
Does anyone know whether anyone has ever done "zombie plague outbreak on cruise ship"? I mean, the nearest I can think of to this one being done cinematically is probably "Alien: Resurrection" (where it's "human-eating alien outbreak on cruise ship In Space!!!"). Oh internet, share your wisdom with me - has this been done before?
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/142902.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
COVID-19 - Where I am, What I'm Doing
Okay, this is getting tagged "COVID-19" in the title and in the tags so people who are busy trying to curate their reading lists (e.g. me!) can avoid it if they feel the need.
What this is: a quick run-down of my situation with regards to COVID-19, and why I'm not talking about certain topics.
( Read more... )
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My plans for the weekend
Stay home and play computer or PS4 games. No, this isn't me self-isolating because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an ordinary weekend for me.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/140448.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
A plea from someone who uses "pick and pack" services as a disability accommodation
Could all the people who are currently choosing to get their groceries picked for them and delivered in order to avoid the potential of coronavirus exposure please remember, for some people, the pick-and-pack stuff is a necessary service to get groceries at all? If you're looking at the last available delivery slot or the last available pick-up place for the day, why not make the minor sacrifice of leaving it for someone who might actually need it. I'm already looking at having to sacrifice spoons I don't have, and a day of rest I desperately need, to perform essential shopping, because the delivery and pick-up booking times have blown out to a week ahead.
A couple of extra sentences, because this is important: I use the "pick up from the counter" service, because for me, being in a supermarket is cognitively overwhelming and exhausting. Other people might use it because they have difficulty physically walking the distance required to find all their groceries. Still others might use it because the sheer logistics of trying to organise everything in order to be able to get to the supermarket is just too overwhelming. For many people in these situations, the alternative to "pick and collect" or "home delivery" is not "drop in to the shops even though it's a bit more inconvenient and/or risky" - it's "no groceries at all". I can appreciate people don't want to take the risk of catching coronavirus - but could you please consider the people for whom this "useful" service is actually a "necessary" one before you start using it to the point of excluding us.
Thank you, in advance, for your consideration in this matter.
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The Cost of Doing Nothing
As bush-fires rage and rage across Australia (I'm in one of the few state capitals which isn't actually being directly affected by bushfire smoke; I feel as though I'm cheating somehow) our Prime Minister keeps on banging on about the costs of taking action to deal with climate change. Apparently it would cost too much for us to change what we're doing to work to mitigate the risk of climate change. That's why we're not doing anything - because doing something would cost too much.
What's happening now, all down the east coast, and cutting the transport across the Nullarbor, is the cost of NOT dealing with it. So let's start counting that cost, shall we?
Direct Costs (as at the morning of 05 JAN 2020):
* 23 people are dead, since September. At least three of these people are volunteer fire fighters - who weren't being paid for their work (and whose compensation for extended absence from workplaces and so on is being limited to $6000 by the federal government).
* More than 6 million hectares of land burned. It may recover, it may not. We can't count on recovery. We certainly can't count on the arable stuff being able to be farmed in the next growing season, because that depends on an end to the drought.
* More than 450 million animals known to have been killed since the start of the fire season - and that's mainly the livestock, I'm guessing. The impact on native wildlife is still unknown, but we may well have entire species going extinct as a result of habitat destruction. I realise this may not seem like much to our politicians, since animals can't vote, but the destruction of biodiversity makes it harder and harder for the landscape to recover from these sorts of catastrophic events.
* 110 properties and 220 outbuildings known to be destroyed in Victoria alone.
* Destruction of essential infrastructure (electricity substations, water treatment plants, power transmission lines, water tanks etc)
* Destruction of workplaces (eg Adelaide hills wine industry - 1/3 of that has been burned; Mallacoota abalone collective (2nd largest employer in town); any number of farms; etc) which results in people being put onto Newstart (and let's not forget: the rate of Newstart is ridiculously low. It's about half the poverty line income).
* Increased mortality rates, ambulance call outs and hospitalisation rates in smoke-affected and bushfire affected areas.
* Greater rate of distress from smoke-related illnesses on the East coast, greater rate of distress from psychological illness all over the country.
* Nullarbor highway & Coolgardie-Esperance highway blocked between Norseman and Caiguna. Which means here in Perth, we're going to start running out of things which are brought over from the eastern states by truck, because the trucks aren't getting through. (Yeah, it's small bikkies. But it's still a cost we're going to be paying).
Foreseeable knock-on costs in the future:
* Rents are going to rise in Melbourne and Sydney (and possibly also Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth) as those people who have been made homeless and jobless by the fires try to find somewhere to live and something to do.
* Cost of electricity is going to go up, as all the power companies on the East Coast raise prices to cover the damage to infrastructure caused by the fires (they're going to do this even if they didn't get affected by it at all, let's be realistic here).
* Cost of water is going to go up all over the East coast, because firstly, drought; secondly, damaged infrastructure; thirdly, guess what's been thrown on the various fires all over the place.
* Cost of food is going to go up, because the amount of places which are growing it has just taken a rather substantial hit - and this means not only animal protein, but also vegetable crops as well.
* A number of communities are going to be effectively wiped out by the bush-fires, because it just isn't economically feasible to rebuild.
* Increased rate of hospitalisations and medical treatments for chronic conditions will continue to rise for at least 12 - 18 months down the track, because the impact of profound and prolonged stress on human bodies is unpredictable in the individual cases, but will probably show up in an increased rate of auto-immune disorders, stress-related disorders, and so on. Compounded, of course, by things like less healthy food choices being available to individuals on low incomes, etc.
* Increased rates of alcohol and drug-related disorders, because that's one of the predictable lack-of-coping methods people use.
* Increased rates of PTSD and complex PTSD presentations in psychiatric care situations.
* Increased mortality rate will have a "long tail" effect, covering approximately the next 12 to 18 months (because stress kills, even if it does so unpredictably).
* Insurance premiums will go up, drastically, especially for people on the East Coast.
This is just me doing a bit of thinking off the top of my head and skimming the news stories. To me, it seems like the cost of doing nothing is ridiculously high. Especially when you consider part of the cost of doing nothing is the cost of having to do all of this again next year. And the year after. And the year after that.
Surely compared to the cost of doing nothing, the cost of doing something diminishes?
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On Facebook, Originality, and Billionaires
Inspired by: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/21/mark-zuckerberg-plea-biillionaire-class-anti-democratic
Mr Zuckerberg says without allowing people to become billionaires, we won't see "innovations" and "original products" like Facebook. So, let's have a look at just how "innovative" or "original" his product is, shall we?
The original idea Mr Zuckerberg was exploiting (the "face book") was not his own - his main "innovation", if it can be called that, was transforming it from a print format limited to simply one university campus to an online database version, able to be diversified to many. Facebook (the website) came about because Harvard University created a "face book" for its first year students - a book of photographs of the first year students containing basic information such as names and majors, distributed to the first years, as a way of facilitating making contacts when one first arrived at university (rather than doing this the old-fashioned, plebian way by, for example, asking questions of classmates and dorm mates such as "hi, what's your name?"). Speaking as someone who was there in the 1990s when this was happening to a lot of things, the transformation of something in the real world to an online database was not necessarily an innovative idea - or if it was, it was an "innovation" which occurred to a vast number of different people all at the same time. Basically, a lot of people were figuring out how to use relational databases to create neat web content in the mid to late 1990s - Facebook was just one of the players.
In format, Facebook is largely a web 2.0 version of an old web 1.0 "portal" site - which means it wasn't particularly original or novel even when it first appeared. The main difference between Facebook and the old Netscape Navigator or AOL web portals is Facebook scrapes one heck of a lot more data out of your account, in order to be able to sell you better targeted advertising and make Mr Zuckerberg more money. The site has not added anything either new or particularly innovative to its framework in years. The only real distinguishing feature of the corporate entity's business practices is a tactic of "embrace and extend" ... a tactic which was pioneered by Microsoft in the 1980s.
So yeah, Mr Zuckerberg. Let's have a talk about "innovation", shall we? Starting with what it means, and how your company doesn't actually do any.
(Mark Zuckerberg did the equivalent of winning the lottery, and deep down he knows it. It's why he's so insistent on telling this story, the one where he "deserves" every penny he can get his mitts on. It's why he doesn't want to have to pay more in tax, why he doesn't want the company broken up by a monopolies investigation, why he's willing to conspire with as many people as possible in order to ensure the status quo doesn't alter. He knows he won the lottery, and the odds against him winning it the same way twice are phenomenal. He knows he can't recreate his success if it gets taken away from him, because his success, such as it is, is based on pure, dumb luck.)
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A Household Hint
I've been made unemployed again (my contract expired at the end of last month - if you're hiring admin staff in Western Australia and need someone three days a week, let me know!) so I'm spending a lot of time at home. This is (fortunately or unfortunately) currently coinciding with a bout of rather nasty pain from my right temporo-mandibular joint, which means I'm currently drinking one heck of a lot of tea in an effort to keep things from getting entirely too painful. Plus, of course, it is SPRING in Australia, and it's been about three years since the rear courtyard and steps of our place were sprayed with weed-killer. So in order to be dealing with the combined problems of a) boredom; b) too many weeds in the paving; and c) no money to spend on weed-killer, I've been using what I call "the poor person's glyphosate" on the weeds in the rear paving.
What is the poor person's glyphosate? Boiling water. To kill weeds in paving, pour boiling water over them until they start to either a) wilt; b) smell like cooking greenery; or c) both. If it's a really big, bushy weed, pour the water over the base of the plant - kill that and you'll get the rest of it, trust me.
This has several advantages over commercial weed-killers. Firstly, it's entirely non-toxic to the rest of the garden (and to the gardener, for that matter). The thing which is killing the weeds is the heat, not the chemicals - the water itself is entirely non-toxic to the garden when it cools down past boiling point. Secondly, it's not toxic to animal life (if you have pets or fish, you can use this particular weed-killer with no problems whatsoever - just keep them out of range for about five minutes while things cool down). Thirdly, it's also a nice, non-toxic way of dealing with the ants in the paving (pour boiling water down an anthill to give the ants the hint you're not interested in having them excavating Right There). Fourthly, it's cheap and easy. Or at least, it's certainly a lot cheaper and easier than buying commercial weed-killer and using that would be.
Essentially, what I've been doing is each time I boil up the kettle for a cup of tea, I've been taking the remaining hot water out the back door while the tea brews, and pouring it onto a clump of weeds. So far I've managed to clear the back steps, and I'm getting started on the paving nearest the door to the house. At this rate, I'll hopefully have everything cleared by about the end of the next week or so. Then I can get started on the front paving, and clear a bit of that.
 Long story short-ish: the temporo-mandibular joint is inflamed, which refers pain to the nerve on the right hand side of my jaw, which means if I'm not taking regular painkillers, I wind up with everything from my wisdom teeth to the front edge of my right incisors aching like blazes. Including the upper pre-molar which was removed a few years ago. It's a bit annoying, to put things mildly. (Actual joint pain: about a 2 - 3 out of 10. Once the teeth get involved: easily a 6 - 7 out of 10, if not higher). This only gets worse if my right ear or the right side of my jaw get cold. Hence hot liquids as a palliative measure.
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Down with the Lurgi
I was a fool last week. We had some really frantic stuff happening on Friday, and when I went home, I thought "thank gods that's over".
I had forgotten "thank gods that's over" is the phrase my immune system basically connects with "I have finished all my major assessment, the break has started, and I don't have to do anything for at least a week, so there's plenty of time to be sick". So guess what happened?
( Description of symptoms below - skip if you don't like mucous )
I'm busy trying to keep ahead of things by keeping up lots of warm to hot fluids (tea, hot water, lemon and honey, etc) to try and stop the throat-stripping cough, and mainlining Fisherman's Friend cough lollies (because they're the nearest thing I've found to a shot of Drano for the sinuses). I'm also trying to make sure my middle ears drain at night by laying with the affected ear up (of course, there's only so long I can do this... then I have to switch over to the other side, drat it). Plus I am doing my regular scheduled Bit for the profits of whoever owns the Kleenex brand this week. My voice is currently in "phone sex worker" mode, because I'm speaking with a chest voice (it is far too uncomfortable for things to resonate anywhere north of my lower jaw). Oh, and I'm very glad I bought a new tube of lip balm a few weeks back, because I just know my lips are going to wind up chapped in no time flat.
Do I actually have the time off uni and work to be sick? Do I what?? I had a tutorial presentation I had to give on Monday for uni (first cab off the rank for the semester - I figure I'm either setting a high standard or a low one for everyone else, and I'll find out which it was at the end of the semester) which required me to talk for about ten minutes (with a scratchy voice and next-to-no functioning brain). Plus work has heaps of stuff for me to be doing, because we've just switched a batch of systems over and what this means is the people who are doing my job (myself and one other guy) are manually doing what a bunch of other people used to do, and discovering all the possible ways things can go wrong. (I did some preliminary work on the subject last week - although it was mainly in the form of "drawing up a bingo card", because playing stuff-up bingo is a lot tidier than murdering people. Can you tell I used to work tech support?).
At least today everyone else in the office was working from home, so I could basically treat the office like my own personal lazar house, turn up the heating, and just settle down to baking whichever blasted virus is responsible for this lurgi out of my system.
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This is Normal
I get up in the morning, get dressed, do the chores. Read the news. There's news of another mass shooting in the USA. Two of them, in fact. There's no news of a mass shooting in my country. This is normal.
I drive to the university where I study. I drive carefully because I'm aware I'm moving around about a ton of metal at speeds of 40 - 70 km/h, and that can cause some serious problems to the human body if such a thing isn't done with due care and attention. I don't worry about other drivers pulling out a gun and shooting me for bad driving. This is normal.
I get to university, and go into a classroom. I'm not looking at the rooftops for snipers. I'm not watching my fellow-students cautiously, waiting to see whether today is the day one of them "snaps". I don't look for exit routes out of the classroom if a shooter should enter. This is normal.
I go to the supermarket to pick up groceries. I don't worry about getting shot in the car-park. I don't worry about getting shot in the mall on the way to the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot in the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot at all. This is normal.
I'll go to work later this week, and I'm not worried about my employer (who knows of my history of mental illness) deciding they're not going to keep me on due to the potential risk to my colleagues. They also know I'm not going to shoot up my workplace. People shooting up their workplace is very unlikely in this country. This is normal.
Politicians in this country don't have much to fear from crowds - the worst is maybe a cream pie, or an egg to the head, or maybe a bit of ballistic fruit or something like that for the really objectionable ones. They don't need armed bodyguards everywhere they go. This is normal.
The police here are armed - but they face severe penalties for shooting a person in the course of their duties. They know most of the people they're going to be facing don't have access to guns, so they have to use less extreme measures of taking control of a situation. This is normal.
We still have the rare person who wants to take out a bunch of others and "go down in a blaze of glory" - usually to prove something about their masculinity to themselves. They don't tend to use guns, though - guns are hard to obtain here. They also tend to survive being arrested, and go on to get long jail sentences rather than being taken out in a hail of bullets. The most popular weapon for them these days is the car. But this is also normal.
Children in our schools don't have "active shooter drills". They don't plan what to do if there's a shooter in the building. They don't plan how to hide, how to cower in a cupboard until things are over. We have occasional bomb/fire drills where the entire school evacuates onto the oval. This is normal, too.
This is all normal. This is the way Australians live. A nation of twenty-seven million people, with a lot of different racial tensions and a growing resurgence of white supremacists, and with a conservative government in charge which probably wouldn't do anything to stop the white supremacists either. But we don't live in the constant fear and paranoia today might be the day we get shot down in the street by our fellow citizens.
The way people live in the USA is NOT normal. I just think you need to know this.
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One Tweet Summarises an Election
[Eddy Jokovich; @EddyJokovich: The #Insiders panel asking “what will be the LNP agenda over the next three years”. I shouldn’t have to tell you this but aren’t these questions meant to be asked before the election? #auspol ]
What annoys me about this tweet is twofold.
Firstly, there's the whole point that firstly, the press were supposed to be scrutinising the various parties policy offerings (ALL the offerings of ALL the parties, guys, not just the big two) and providing the public with coverage of all of these. They were supposed to be doing this before the election. So clearly the Australian press have fallen down on the job, or they were lazy and didn't do their job, or they weren't trained properly and didn't know this was their job, or they were being actively prevented from doing their job. Any and all of these may apply, and all of them are horrifying to think about.
Secondly, there's the subsidiary point that we AS VOTERS were supposed to be looking into this OURSELVES. We shouldn't be relying on the press to spoon feed us everything in carefully measured sound-bites. We should, instead, be doing things like, oh, going to the various websites of the various political parties and reading their policy statements for ourselves. We should not be wholly reliant on the media to pre-digest these announcements for us. We should, instead, be doing some of our own damn legwork.
That a government was re-elected with absolutely NO policy information given, with every single question on policy matters turned aside as being "part of the Canberra bubble" or "it's all in the budget"; with ministers being missing in actions, with candidates doing their best impersonations of the invisible man or invisible woman; and with their only damn point being "look how terrible the opposition are"... this is a failure on two counts. Firstly, it is a failure of the press, who are supposed to be the public's advocates and watchdogs in such matters. Secondly, it is a failure of the electorate, because we have failed our democratic duty to ourselves.
The second is the more crucial failure, especially in this era of press consolidation and near-monopoly press control by the Murdoch media. We, as citizens in a democracy, have a responsibility to ourselves to be educated voters. To take the time to have a look at the various parties on offer, to learn what they stand for, to figure out whether we agree with this or not. Otherwise, we are failing ourselves, and we make ourselves into easy targets for the sort of exploitative, populist politics which delights in a divided electorate, and which chooses to divide and rule, pitting people one against the other. We owe it to ourselves; we owe it to each other; to create a country where we can all have a fair go. We didn't do this. We failed as citizens.
Now, the poor, the disabled, the sick, the elderly on the pension, the parents, the children who can't yet vote, the rural populations, the indigenous population, the recent migrants, the detainees in foreign lands, and everyone else who isn't earning over $200,000 per annum in this country are going to be paying the price for our failure. They'll be paying the price in reduced services, in more punitive welfare conditions, in increased prices for those services which remain, and in decreasing quality of service as well. They'll be paying the price in discrimination, in stigma, in negative coverage in the press, and in all the various little ways they've already been paying for the past six years.
We failed them. We failed ourselves. Now what are we going to do about it?
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What The Actual Fuck?
We've just embarked on a three year gamble. The Australian public, in their infinite self-centred, short-term-focused wisdom, have re-elected the Liberal-National Coalition government under Scott Morrison. I have no idea why they chose to do this - possibly it's because enough of them are deluded into thinking Australia runs on a presidential system, and they weren't happy about the idea of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister. Possibly it's because enough of them have fallen for the American way of thinking of themselves as not being members of a working class or a middle class precariat, but rather as a group of billionaires who are temporarily short on cash, so they want to do things like preserve franking credits, tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year, and negative gearing because one day they might, just might, get some benefit out of it. Possibly it's because they want the vicarious enjoyment of kicking the poor, which is always on the menu in a Liberal government. Possibly it's just because they don't want to think about climate change, an on-coming global recession, and any of the other big problems looming, and they think if they just hide their heads under the covers, it will all go away.
To be honest, I don't know, and I don't really care. This isn't about why the Australian people elected the government they did. It's about what's going to happen next.
The Liberal party went into this election with absolutely no new policy. Their entire campaign was "the ALP are big and scary and are going to eat your children". In the past six years of Liberal government, we have heard them, time and again, blame the ALP for every single problem which came up. It didn't matter what it was. If the problem wasn't caused by the ALP under Rudd and Gillard, it was caused by the ALP under Hawke and Keating, or the ALP under Whitlam, or even the ALP under Curtin. So we can expect another three years of hearing the ALP is responsible for whatever difficulties the government is encountering, and we can expect the government to be demanding the ALP do something about it (because of course it's the responsibility of the party in opposition to fix things, not the party in power). So there are problems waiting for this government when they get back in - things like the whole issue with the Murray-Darling scheme, and the water rorts there; things like the Centrelink robodebts and the paltry rate of Newstart; things like the lack of movement on wages in the past six years; things like the massive rip-off that is JobActive; the results of the banking royal commission, and so on. Problems they largely caused, and which they have been extremely reluctant to deal with.
Does anyone actually think they're going to do anything about those problems now?
We have a bunch of social issues which have been simmering away. There's the low movement on wages, which is making the lives of everyone who isn't already retired more difficult. There's the increasing casualisation of the workforce, which means a lot of people don't have the stability to do things like buy housing, make long-term plans, settle down, have families. There's the decay of our social support networks, and the increasingly punitive nature of our social security system. If you're applying for government assistance, you're automatically assumed to be sponging on the public purse for no good reason, and you have to jump through an ever-increasing amount of hoops in order to prove yourself a member of the "deserving poor". We have the rise of public white nationalism, and public anti-Semitism, and public anti-immigrant sentiment, and public anti-black sentiment - often led by members of the government. We have the rise of public anti-indigenous sentiment.
Does anyone think these things are going to go away?
Over it all, we have the looming spectre of global climate instability. The climate is changing. The climate has been changing for the last thirty or forty years now. It's reached the point where we can't pretend otherwise. It's starting to affect us. It's starting to affect every other species on this planet - and that's going to affect us because all life on this planet is linked together in a web. The web is starting to break. We've been told, again and again and again, that in order to deal with the problems facing us on the climate front, we're going to have to take drastic action.
We've just elected a government whose policy on climate change comes down to "if we ignore it, maybe it will go away".
So we've started a three year national gamble. We're gambling that for the next three years, nothing too terrible happens on the global economic front. We're gambling for the next three years, nothing catastrophic happens in terms of drought, floods, cyclones, bush-fires, or any of the other myriad manifestations of climate variability. We're gambling that for the next three years, we don't wind up getting pulled into a war, caught up in a trade dispute, faced with a global epidemic, or any of the other really big political problems which might crop up.
We're gambling this, because we have, with the full foreknowledge of their incompetence, re-elected a shower of MPs who have PROVEN themselves incapable of handling the challenges of government. This mob couldn't run a chook raffle in a country pub with the local CWA doing all the tricky bits for them. Why do we think they're competent to govern?
Seriously, Australia, what the fuck were you thinking yesterday?
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