Lazy Luddite Log


Phar Lap: Publicist for Synchrotron

I was amused to note the prominence in the papers today of the story that the mysterious death of legendary Australian racehorse Phar Lap has finally been solved by use of synchrotron. The forensic work on some Phar Lap hair was done by a U.S. synchrotron, but nonetheless this story has generated some attention for the Australian Synchrotron, including separate articles about this major project next door to Monash University (Clayton Campus). And what is the word on Phar Lap? The Big Red was killed by someone administering a lethal dose of arsenic, confirming what popular speculation has transmitted over several decades.

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Choose Your Medium

I am becoming increasingly aware that different modes of communication serve different purposes and fit different kinds of behaviour. I recently had a mobile phone given to me and am suddenly noticing how it affects behaviour. I tend to prefer knowing in advance what is happening in my day and therefore my preferred form of communications technology is email, which conveniently allows me to plan things days or weeks in advance, in consultation with however many others. In contrast to this, others prefer things to happen spontaneously, and for them the mobile phone is a godsend, allowing them to plan things on the go, sometimes even as they are happening. Observe the following mock conversation:

"I'm at the corner of Collins and Swanston, where are you?"

"I'm in Flinders Lane, but now I'm walking into that little lane connecting it with Collins"

"Oh, yes, I know the one, I'll run into you in a minute or so..."

I personally prefer to just say (days in advance) "Meet under the Clocks at 12 Noon" and leave it at that. I can however see that there are times in which this more up-to-the-moment communication is very useful. And more to the point, it is a form of communication that suits particular personality and behaviour, and I suppose it is a good thing that different temperaments have forms of communication suited to them. It is also worthwhile for those of us with differing temperaments to recognise that these differences exist, which may help us communicate better once we understand those differences.

Another difference is between private and public forms of internet communication. To my way of thinking email is private while websites are public. Of course this distinction is somewhat blurred by a number of things. In email, some distribution lists are so big that few of those on them truly know who everyone is on the list, thus making this more like a public forum. Likewise, particular sites such as LiveJournal allow one to 'lock' particular posts so that only specific 'friends' can see them, thus making those sites a private form of communication. The distinction is a confusing one, and this causes problems.

With email its convenience is sometimes its shortcoming, with the possibility of hitting 'send all' rather than 'send' being all-to-easy a mistake to make, so one has to look carefully at what one does and who one is saying things to. Even more caution seems necessary for sites such as blogs and journals, with many forgetting that their tiny little corner of the web is open to scrutiny from anyone and everyone, whether acquaintance or stranger, whether friend or foe (for those of us who are so archaic as to still have foes). Knowing the way in which these different modes work helps to communicate better. If I want the world to know, then put it on a website and use my public speaking filters, if I want to tell particular friends something, then I send an email to specific addresses. And over-and-above that, if I want immediate and nuanced form of communication, I pick up the phone. If I want an even more immediate and nuanced form of communication, I make arrangements to meet with that person face-to-face.

Some years ago VicHealth ran a public information campaign on mental health and one part of this campaign was a postcard-sized advertisement with a picture of a teapot and cup of tea on it. The caption on that card was something like "an indispensable crisis management tool" and it struck me as so relevant to many instances of preventable conflict I have observed, whether among political colleagues, or personal friends, and for that kind of preventative communication to occur, the mode needs to be the right one for the job. Sometimes only face-to-face will do.



Nuclear Madness

I got a letter published in the Herald-Sun yesterday. Every paper has its own preferred tone of writing and I think I have got the right alarmist tone for a letter expressing dissenting perspectives to be published in the Hun. Here is the text of that letter:

The Herald-Sun headline ('Nuke Bomb Madness', 10/10/06) may as well be broadened to 'Nuclear Madness' because the nuclear industry, whether intended for energy production or weapons of mass destruction, puts all of us at deadly risk. Nuclear arms in the hands of a totalitarian dictatorship like North Korea is a terrifying thing, but the current push for expansion of the nuclear industry worldwide should also give us cause for concern.

Expanding the mining, refining, transporting, consumption, storage and disposal of uranium and spent nuclear fuels is a recipe for disaster, what with those nations wanting to join the club of nuclear arms-bearing nations, and with secret networks of terrorists who have expressed a desire to own 'dirty' nuclear devices. We expand the nuclear industry at our own peril.

In monster movies of the 1950s nuclear mutants like this Atomic Scorpion would best the military in wonky stop-motion animation - if only the reality of nuclear dangers was such fun!

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Book 'em Danno

I have been 'tagged' by friend Bowie to undertake a new internet meme. Regular visitors to this site may know that I am something of a meme skeptic but this meme seems pretty harmless so what the heck. It asks me the following:

One book that changed your life: Lord Of The Rings by J R R Tolkien played an importannt role in turning me into a fantasy fan and setting the course for much of my life following that. I had it lent to me by my school librarian at the age of 12 and she decided to overlook standard borrowing rules and told me to just bring it back once it was finished. From there came an interest in everything from more fantasy tales to drawing fictional maps to writing poetry.

One book you've read more than once: Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan is one book I have returned to on a few ocassions. I could also list it as 'One book you've read that made you think' and maybe such a catagory needs to be added to this meme. Reading non-fiction can be as rewarding as fiction.

One book you would want on a desert island: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams in my five-in-one volume would help keep me amused and sane if I was stuck on a deserted island. I would also want to have my towel with me...

One book that made you laugh and cry: The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss was something of a departure for me in that it is contemporary fiction rather than the speculative fiction I am more in the habit of reading. It is a difficult story to describe as it follows the life of an elderly man who in his youth wrote a manuscript which, unbeknownst to him, was subsequently published, and also follows the life of a teenaged girl who was named for the central character of that manuscript. It made me both laugh and cry which is why I am combining those two questions into this one. This is a pretty accurate review of it.

One book you wish you had written: Well all the Harry Potter books of course! Think of all that lovely income that J K Rowling is getting. Of course in "wishing" I had written it I would also wish for all the skill and self-discipline involved in an undertaking like that.

One book you wish had never been written: Cannot think of anything in particular. I am sure I could compile a list of 'repugnant texts' and most of them would be political or religious texts but I would just as soon have them exist so that they can be repudiated.

One book you are currently reading: I am part way into Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray but I have somehow stalled on it recently. In another mood I may well get into it but just now I am wanting something with more modern expression and with that in mind I have borrowed the Discworld novel Thud! by Terry Pratchett just to tide me over till I can get back in the mood for the other. I have never totally got into the whole Discworld cult but I do enjoy (in particular) the novels involving the Night Watch so this one should be fun.

One book you've been meaning to read: Oroonoko or any other novel or play by Aphra Behn.

I have discussed some of these books in this old commentary post.

I am supposed to "tag five people" but rather will just ask anyone who feels like it to publish this meme themselves. Try adding my question of 'One book that made you think'.

With all this talk of books I have an admission to make: I only ocassionally read books. I have lots of friends who have one or more books on the go at any one time. They read while walking the street. They read while cleaning their teeth. They read in the toilet. I have somehow never established and maintained the habit of always reading. But I find that knowing avid readers makes it seem like I am one of them. The other day someone I was with referred to Ray Bradbury, whom I have never read, but I quickly asked "is he the one who wrote Martian Chronicles" and was right, and only because I have hung with bookworms so much of my life.

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The Transformers Are Here

Well sorta... I got sent this link some time ago but am only now blogging it. It depicts a "real transforming robot" and it is kinda cool in a wonky way. Have a look at it here. The future is now! Of course the computer graphics characters in the coming live-action Transformers will look way more impressive (I hope).

I normally try to do original content on my blog but have just been slack-minded in the last week or so. These linkages will just have to tide me over till I can get inspired once more.