Hello Cruel World
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Hamster Power! (from John M Ford)
Bakadyne Electrics Dai-Nippon Ltd Present:

"Nation what control meep-meeps control all cosmos." -- Diet Sumito, Industrious Overlord

A Publishing Phenomenon - Travis Tea
Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea in Books > Fiction & Literature > Women's Fiction > Glitz & Glamour at www.lulu.com/content/102550
Travis Tea is a pseudonym for a group of (mostly) science fiction and fantasy authors who were amused by PublishAmerica's claim (at their authorsmarket.net site) that SF & F authors are "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."

So about thirty writers knocked off a novel over a long weekend, writing it as ineptly as they possibly could. Plot, characterization, graceful prose ... none of them are to be found in ATLANTA NIGHTS. Grammar and spelling take a drubbing. The book was submitted to PublishAmerica -- and it was accepted.

Now you can see for yourself what PublishAmerica considers to be "believable storylines" and "believable every-day characters."

Prepare to be amazed.

This is a book that sure will resonate with an audience...and all writers with a certain Maryland publisher will sit and read their own books again after reading this one. A great book! ( Chris Bartholomew )

Breathtaking! Mind expanding!You will never view reading a book in the same way! (Heather Stecher)

Amazing. Incredible. Mind-bending. Sweet. Coy. Surprising. These are all words. Some of them are found in this book. Buy it. Read it. Lend it. Love it. I have seen the future of American literature. And his name is Travis Tea. ( Redd Ruffansohr)

Why on earth would a talented, smart, dedicated, and otherwise exemplary group of people participate in a hoax of this magnitude? For a worthy cause, I suppose. ( MacAllister Stone)

I anticipate MANY pleasant hours reading and re-reading this piece of utter drek -- trying to puzzle out which of my favorite writers to blame for each and every dreadful chapter.

I just hope I recover from the annoying twitch beneath my left eye that I developed upon reading the first three pages. Fans in the know could develop an online game of "identify-the-chapter-writer" to keep ourselves occupied for months.

Possibly of some relevance to the poor publishing practice seen above.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Time comes round again. January again. The Janus month that pauses, facing both forwards and back; we contemplate both hopes and regrets. If half the country is lost in happy holiday hedonism, others work overtime to make up.

Days are hot and diamond bright, sun glare blank and pitiless. Night is onyx, clear and dark, stars glowing like gardenias through warm air that rests smooth against the skin. At evening, as the globe turns its shoulder from the day, sometimes a thunderstorm crashes over the city like a breaking wave, sluicing down the day's heat in a cold shower as indignant shoppers, strollers and loungers scatter to shelter in a spray of clutched hats, towels, bags and whirling umbrellas.
In a week or two this will be gone. New York has August, Sydney has February. Its thick, damp blanket will fall on us in a clinging grey shroud of hazy heat. January hedonists will fill up air-conditioned offices or retire indoors to slump near fans and mutter at the madness of logjammed cruise liners bringing winter-chill refugees straight to apoplexy season.

But not yet. Now it's show time -Festival rules and anarchy is loose. Now fireworks outdo nighttime lightning, and the seething multicoloured city flashes & glints, a tourist-tempting opal turning and turning in a summer setting. Now crowds sprawl on the Domain grass and Town Hall floor, surge in cheerful chaos around Quay parades, samba down at Darling Harbour, sit politely in theatre seats and chatter in and out of bars all over town. Now outdoor cats watch and hide in the dark of tangled bushes' branches. Indoor cats driven from breezy stairtops play draughtcatcher on cool lino by the kitchen door or stretch themselves, languid along a shaded open windowsill.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Some recent rules

Basic Flying Rules:
1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.
3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

The Laws of Anime
These resemble those of other popular storytelling forms (see some works of Pratchett, Terry)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Indian Ocean Tsunami: Side-effects, After-effects
Diving Thailand (mainly in Russian, however) has photos of some of the odd fish washed out of their accustomed home onto strange shores.

Nature also had some articles about the possible ecological effects & studies people are hoping to do to about them. Gotto go back and get those links ...

Indian Ocean Tsunami - satellite photos before and after
rolos.nature.com/news/2005/050103/ full/050103-2.html

Aerial shots reveal extent of devastation
Michael Hopkin
Published online: 04 January 2005; | doi:10.1038/news050103-2

The sheer force of the Indian Ocean tsunami is shown in these satellite photos.

Sunday 26 December 2004 was a day that changed Asia forever. Trillions of tonnes of water roared across the Indian Ocean, and the force with which they struck the surrounding coastlines is all too apparent in these satellite images. Seaside resorts and villages have been reduced to mud; entire beaches are gone. The disaster has left a blot on the landscapes of Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, both physically and in terms of the 150,000 lives that it has claimed so far.
© 2005 Nature Publishing Group

These photographs were captured by a range of Earth-observation satellites including IKONOS, SPOT 2, SPOT 5 and RADARSAT-1, and by the Indian National Remote Sensing Agency. The pairs of images show devastated regions before and after the tsunami.
© 2005 Nature Publishing Group

rolos.nature.com/news/ 2005/050103/multimedia/050103-2-m1.html

Banda Aceh, Sumatra: 10 January 2003 - 29 December 2004

Trinkat Island, Nicobar Islands: 21 December 2004 - 26 December 2004
© Indian Natl Remote Sensing Agency

Katchall Island, Nicobar Islands: 10 July 2004 - 28 December 2004
© SPOT 5/CNES/CRISP, Natl Univ. Singapore

Akkaraipattu, Sri Lanka: 8 February 2002 - 2 January 2005

Taxes: Building Our Future

Taxation for the Future

Australia is living off two great sources of capital laid down earlier, but we are not renewing or building them up - a bad sign for the future. These sorts of "public goods" have, in history, been badly served by private investment, and taxes are needed so they can be invested in these, to help tide us over future difficulties.

    One type of capital is our natural resources: fertile topsoil, clean fresh water, fisheries, etc, etc, etc. Recently there was an estimate of $10 Billion to restore them to function on a long-term, sustainable basis. (We have only begun to recognise how important some of the unseen supports like this are once we'd knocked a few out, eg, the multiple causes and effects of salination.)

    The other is the massive public (& private) investment in our urban and rural infrastructure: water & sewerage systems, transport (not just roads) for goods & people, energy generation & distribution, communications, as well as health systems, education, firefighting services, etc, etc. Many were developed over the century from mid-Victorian times to the middle of the 20th Century, & haven't been maintained much since.

Now we have a chance to repair and, indeed, *improve* these, learning from earlier mistakes and using more efficient, less toxic methods. This will give a good basis for our descendants to improve their lives, instead of scraping by, slowly getting worse, regretting lost opportunity.

Most of these projects, public or private will need some sort of support from public funds, either directly or through rebates or deductions. Now every tax rebate or deduction has to be made up from somewhere; either cutting someone elses' services or raising their tax (that's why I don't claim my charitable donations). Thus anything attracting such support should be really making a contribution outweighing that if you use "triple bottom line" accounting which takes into account the usually-hidden impacts on those two capital resources, and on the social structure.

A skilled population, whether it's tradespeople, engineers, doctors or nurses, is a valuable resource in itself, and an investment for the future. Yet the present PM, reported in Hansard introducing a training bill, actually described the training part of a person's time as not "productive". Doesn't bode well for his government's support of improving our workforce.

A well-built sustainable water collection, distribution & purification system will take some maintenance over time, but will last without huge extra investment. The same for energy or transport systems (eg fixing/rebuilding bridges or taking freight off roads, thereby reducing road damage bills). A big push into reforming (in the genuine use of the word) agricultural practices & land-use, or ways of building cities can lay a good foundation for centuries of advance instead of continuing decline.
Persistent Taxation Myth (repeat & update)
A Persistent Taxation Myth -- repeated, with variations
I keep hearing this myth of "they're taking away half my income" once you move into the highest tax bracket, in fact Sally Loane's finacial person this morning alluded to it. The only people who ever "lose half their money in tax" are very low earners who may lose large amounts of benefits by earning a small amount.

You only pay the marginal rate on **the money you get _above_ the limit**.

Last year I did this calculation, using the ATO figures in the table below, to show you need to be earning well up in the multiple $100,000s per annum to get close to 50%.

For 2003-2004, you'll pay a total of $16,182 tax at $62,500 -- that's 25.9% -- then start paying 47 cents of any dollar above that (not counting fancy bits off or on).

To get close to paying 47% of your total income you have to be getting much, much more, e.g. 42% tax on $262,500; 46% tax on $962,500.

Of course the "average" (i.e. the Mean) income is a bit over $50,000 pa, while the "average" that's closer to the one earned by most people (i.e. the Mode) is several thousand lower than that, so there's a very tiny group earning even only $100,000, or more. [Of course if a couple is earning that much combined, they each get the advantage of a tax-free zone and lower brackets, greatly reducing the amount of tax taken out compared to the same amount earned by one person.]

The total of ALL the people -- not just those *very* high earners -- who are in the highest bracket is only 12% of the whole population (not just taxpayers) meaning that 88% of Australians are on lower rates -- virtually all of whom would be using government supplied infrastructure & services.

Without the structures and services funded by taxes, the cost of living would be very much higher, and that 80-90% would find life considerably harder. I suspect even fairly wealthy people would find themselves with less truly-disposable income without the kind of often-forgotten foundation that public works & service provide.

The majority of us know that if we strike trouble - like my recent medical crises - we will need social support. Not just trustworthy & affordable health care, but, say, someone for the aged mother I care for, community nurses who aided my convalescence, meals on wheels, etc.

Even when you have help from family or friends, that support stops the total ruination that too often you see in both the third world & the US when a crisis hits. That fellow in the news tonight with a nail in his head just got a $US80,000 medical bill, and, being a self-employed building worker, he naturally can't afford full medical insurance. There's a big health-lending market there. That family has decades in unexpected debt that will drag them back in very many ways.

Tax rates 2001-02 and 2002-03
Taxable Tax on
income this income
$0 - $6,000 .............. Nil
$6,001 - $20,000 .... 17c for each $1 over $6,000
$20,001 - $50,000 .. $2,380 plus 30c for each $1 over $20,000
$50,001 - $60,000 .. $11,380 plus 42c for each $1 over $50,000
Over $60,000 .......... $15,580 plus 47c for each $1 over $60,000

Tax rates 2003-04
Taxable Tax on
income this income
$0 – $6,000 ............. Nil
$6,001 – $21,600 ... 17c for each $1 over $6,000
$21,601 - $52,000 .. $2,652 plus 30c for each $1 over $21,600
$52,001 – $62,500.. $11,772 plus 42c for each $1 over $52,000
Over $62,500 ........... $16,182 plus 47c for each $1 over $62,500

[None of these include assorted general rebates to deduct, nor the Medicare levy to add.]

Source: the Australian Taxation Office web site at www.ato.gov.au/individuals/ content.asp?doc=/content/12333.htm&mnu=5053&mfp=001
( www.ato.gov.au in general)
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Well-worn Tech for water-harvesting


www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/ detail/-/1568983247/qid=1105764059/sr=1-2/ ref=sr_1_2/103-1892066-8186225?v=glance&s=books

Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India
by Morna Livingston, Milo Beach
# Hardcover: 120 pages
# Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (May 1, 2002)
# ISBN: 1568983247
# Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 10.0 x 1.1 inches
# Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds

Metro plus Delhi, Heritage, Stepping into the step-wells of Delhi...

printer-friendly version of same
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Two places wherein much plush lust may be slaked -- or, alternatively, stirred -- including dinoplush desire. Approach with caution. (Isn't a beanie a type of hat?)

Medium Plush T-Rex
This 10" plush dinosaur is sure to be a big hit with dinosaur fans.

Small Plush T-Rex
This 7" plush dinosaur is sure to be a big hit with dinosaur fans.

Velvet T-Rex
This 11" tyrannosaurus rex is covered in soft velvet and features characteristicly small arms and lots of teeth!

GIANTmicrobes | Godzilla Origins | Bunnywith | Alien | Battle Cattle | Caltrops | HoL | Other Side of the Looking Glass | Fuzzy Dice | Fat Dragons | Call of Cthulhu | Here Be Monsters | Monty Python | Beanosaurs | Presidential Plush
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The Nazi's testimony - from The Guardian
The Nazi's testimony
Oskar Gröning was at his local philately club when a fellow stamp collector cast doubts on the Holocaust. Gröning knew he was wrong - because 50 years earlier he had served at Auschwitz. Laurence Rees on what happened when the ex-SS soldier decided to finally confront his past

Monday January 10, 2005
The Guardian

... To meet Gröning today, and listen to his attempt to explain his time at Auschwitz, is a strange experience. In appearance, he is indistinguishable from countless other elderly, prosperous Germans. He wears good clothes, eats solid German food and espouses conventional right-of-centre political views. Now in his 80s, he talks almost as if there was another Oskar Gröning who worked at Auschwitz 60 years ago - he can be surprisingly critical of his younger self. The essential, almost frightening, point about him is that he is one of the least exceptional human beings you are ever likely to meet. He is no insane SS monster, but a former bank clerk who happened, because of his own choices and historical circumstance, to find himself working in one of the most infamous places in history ....

Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Links to satellite photos of Indian Ocean tsunami damage
Some links to satellite photos of Indian Ocean tsunami damage
Digital Globe satellite photos of tsunami damage to coastlines:

National University of Singapore satellite Asian tsunami photos:
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Useful thought-resource
UIWEB.com - www.uiweb.com/
Essays on web design interaction usability experience architecture etc.
Essays on design, engineering and project management

#37 - How to build a better web browser
By Scott Berkun, December 2004

#35 - How to give and receive criticism
By Scott Berkun, September 2004

And many more. The archive goes back to 1998, with some interesting titles
— things that don't necessarily change with the technical changes that have happened between 1998 and 2005.

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 / . Lives in Australia/New South Wales/Sydney, speaks English. Eye color is hazel. I am what my mother calls unique. My interests are photography, reading, natural history/land use, town planning, sustainability.

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Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.