Monday, March 28, 2011

It's A Great Time to be Deaf

One hears fascinating conversations nowadays. In days gone by people used to have quiet conversations as befitted something that was supposed to be private. In those days an eavesdropper was a wretched furtive soul who lurked at keyholes and pressed a glass up against the wall. A grubby raincoat was implied even if not actually worn.

Nowadays an eavesdropper is anyone who just happens to be in the general vicinity of the conversation whether they want to be one or not. I have just finished eating dinner at a cafe (no not Satellite, it isn't open in the evenings). The pasta was delicious and the conversation was fascinating. Not my conversation, I was dining alone, I mean the conversation of the two women at the table next to me. For half an hour I was regaled with the story of a third woman's collection of drug addictions and her hapless mother's attempts to minimise, conceal and deny those issues. I got enough information to testify at this woman's trial should it come to that. After all the juice had been sucked from that particular piece of chemically dependent fruit they went on to cheerfully trash the tackiness and general lack of taste of another friends wedding. I must admit green and blue bridesmaid dresses don't sound particularly appealing.

The only thing worse than hearing an entire conversation in this fashion is not hearing the entire conversation. A few weeks ago I was waiting at the traffic lights when a woman walked past engaged in an animated conversation on her mobile. As she passed by me I distinctly heard the words "masturbatory fantasies" before she was gone out of earshot. I had to restrain myself from chasing after her and tearing the earpiece from her head so that I could get the rest of that story.

I've mentioned before that the increasing loss of privacy in the modern world seems to be largely optional. Those people who desire their privacy will gain it in great measure simply by not spilling their guts in public. There was a time when police had to gather evidence on criminals, now all they have to do is friend them on facebook and wait. We walk in a cloud of noise and much of that noise is everybody else discussing the most intimate details of their life at a level usually reserved for horserace announcers. The hearing impaired among us are luckier than they know.

My personal opinion? I think the mother should stop covering for Marie and get her into rehab as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'll Have a Double Helping of Mists and a Side Order of Mellow Fruitfulness

Summer has fled shrieking from our shores and has left Autumn in its place as a sort of consolation prize. I'm quite fond of Autumn, it doesn't have the harsh stridency of Summer, the icy malevolence of Winter or the fickle, slightly slutty, teasing of Spring. Autumn is the season you don't have to dress up for. If Autumn drops round and you're wearing a tracksuit and ugg boots, that's just fine with Autumn. You can sprawl on your couch watching DVDs with Autumn, just try doing that with any other season. Summer would be all "Come on, let's go to the beach", Winter would just stare at you and sharpen the kitchen knives in a suggestive manner while Spring would agree to watch DVDs but wouldn't like anything you put on and would conduct a loud phone conversation with her best friend through the entire movie.

Autumn has something of the appeal of an elegant hotel just a little past its prime. The luxury is still there but you don't feel bad about putting your feet up on the furniture. There is a hint of decay about Autumn, a premonition of time running out. At the back of this is the knowledge that Autumn is inevitably followed by Winter, that all the life we see will soon be dead. Perhaps Autumn could best be described as a diplomat. Some smartarse once described diplomacy as "Telling someone to go to Hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip". Autumn makes me look forward to Winter.

With Winter as its climax Autumn should be gloomy and oppressive but it carries the gloom and oppression with such style that you enjoy it anyway. The Titanic may be sinking but the band is pretty damned good. I think I identify with Autumn; my Summer is over, the darkness draws nearer with each passing day. There is more time behind me than ahead and the decay is there to see if you look but I'm still somewhere worth staying and I don't mind if you put your feet up on the furniture.

Autumn is altogether my favourite season; Summer is glaring realism, Winter is harsh edged brutalism while Spring is a kaleidoscope of ephemeral and irrelevant fads that fade just when you might get interested in them. Autumn is baroque; ornate, elegant, doomed. And I like baroque.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shock and Awe Something Else

One of the problems with writing a blog full of gleeful inaccuracies and opinionated stupidity is that sometimes you get caught out. And when you do get caught out there are your words on the internet for somebody else to wave in your face. I got caught out over the entire No Fly Zone over Libya issue. I thought there was no way it would happen then with the metaphorical ink still wet on the figurative page of my blog tomahawk missiles started breaking half the windows in Tripoli.

The UN, the US, the Arab League and the less wretched members of NATO leapt into action with a vigour and unity of purpose that lasted almost until the first missile was fired. After which it all fell apart of course.

Russia and China, whose abstentions permitted to UN Security Council to behave with what might look like decision if you didn't look too closely, hedged their bets by criticising an action they could have stopped with a single word. It was interesting to hear Russian president Dmitry Medvedev using his once a year free pass to criticise his prime minister but apart from that there was nothing new. The Arab League was all in favour of a no fly zone until it looked like someone might actually implement one; now they're less keen. Apparently they aren't happy that the first thing the United States did was take steps to ensure that Qaddafi couldn't implement a no fly zone on them. The Americans learnt a long time ago that in warfare it is better if the casualties happen to somebody else. It would take a nastier and more cynical mind than I possess to suggest that the Arab League wouldn't exactly saturate its pillow with tears if the US took a couple of score aircraft casualties by attempting to impose a no fly zone without suppressing Qaddafi's air defences first.

The United States meanwhile is attempting to palm the whole business off on to somebody else as soon as possible so that they can fade discreetly into the background. Their essential position is "We've knocked him down, now somebody else can kick him" or to put it another way "We broke it, you buy it." Good luck with that aim guys, the squabbling has already started. Britain and, I think, France want NATO to lead the effort. Turkey and the Arab League disagree. Germany wants nothing to do with any of it and Luxembourg has announced that they could not possibly give their support unless the operation was under the auspices of NATO. Well god forbid that France or Britain should have to face Qaddafi's hordes (actually barely a single horde) without the serried ranks of Luxembourg firm by their side. Lets face it, Luxembourg's only contribution to warfare is to occasionally provide the venue but Libya won the bid this time.

The real problem the European leaders face is the same one the Roman senators faced after the assassination of Caligula. Having been deprived of real power decades ago by Augustus when the time came for them to step up and reassert themselves as leaders of the "republic" they couldn't do it. They had forgotten how. The only thing they could think of to do was offer power to another emperor. If the United States thinks it can slide out from under this one it has a serious disillusionment coming.

Now, lets see how much of this entry remains accurate for as much as forty eight hours.

It Would be Totally Useless if it Existed at All

In another entry in was has turned into a semi regular series on the wacky hijinks got up to by the Hadron Supercollider and its staff I have exciting news. Time travel is just around the corner. Or, to be more exact, hypothetical time travel is just around a hypothetical corner if a hypothetical particle called the Higgs singlet behaves the way scientists expect it to always assuming the particle exists at all and we can make it. One can't help think certain scientists have a new career in political speech writing waiting for them if they ever get tired of chasing non existent sub atomic particles down twenty seven kilometres of tunnels.

Apparently the Higgs singlet (it's like the Higgs boson only different) may (or may not) be able to jump out of the point in time and space it currently occupies and reappear at a different point in time and space, possibly. It is further hypothesised that if scientists can control the production of Higgs singlets (so far they haven't managed to make one) they might be able to use them to send messages to either the past or the future. They could probably also send them to right now but that wouldn't justify the size of the research grants.

I'm not particularly impressed with the concept of sending messages to the future. I can do that myself. In fact anybody can. Since we have not yet got transmission time for messages down to zero any message sent arrives in the future at least relative to when it was sent. I can do that without a Higgs singlet, Higgs mitten or even a Higgs slutty red stiletto (you just knew a clothing joke had to come somewhere). What I'm doing with Mr Higgs' slutty red stilettos is none of your business.

Sending messages to the past is a little more impressive I admit. I personally am writing this entire blog entry solely because a letter turned up from myself three months into the future telling me that writing it was the only way to avoid being torn apart by an octopus. To avoid tentaclely doom I decided to get writing.

Although technically impressive sending messages to the past is likely to be an exercise in futility anyway. Either the recipients ignored our advice in which case they're idiots or they took it in which case we're idiots. Frankly I fail to see the point of any time travelling message longer than "Sorry!"

I wonder if the brains trust coming up with these heady ideas of time travelling junk mail have stopped to consider that even if we do succeed in sending messages to the past they're not going to be able to read them. People in the past don't even know what a Higgs singlet is (I'm not entirely clear myself), they certainly don't know how to detect one if it did turn up. If we do discover a way of sending messages through time the very first thing we're going to get is an announcement saying "you have nine hundred million new messages". Then we will have to go through the weary process of deleting all the ones that were for anybody further back in time than ourselves while wonder why our future selves talked so damned much; and most of it is going to be spam anyway.

At some point we are going to have to stop inventing better means of communication and give some time to think of something worth communicating. But then who am I to talk?

Get Your Beatification in Now to Avoid Armageddon

May 21st, remember the date. On that day the world comes to an end. At least this is according to the calculations of Family Radio a Christian ministry based in (do I need to say it?) the United States. Apparently their crack team of theological mathematicians (those who can both read the bible and do sums) has determined that the apocalypse will occur on May 21st 2011. That's one in the eye for all of the idiots who were relying on Mayan superstition to give them until 2012. Meanwhile the premier of New South Wales is probably wishing it had come a month earlier as actual Armageddon is the only thing that will save her from the electoral version of the same come Saturday.

Placing an actual date on Armageddon is never a good idea, particularly if you're religious. For starters there is always the danger you'll be wrong and then you're going to look like a complete dick. Even worse you might be right (as the Aztecs were) and then the consequences could be even more dire. If you are right everybody will blame you for the whole event and that might make your last hours a little unpleasant. Still being wrong is probably worse, as the clock ticks over to May 22nd there are going to be a group of people standing around looking at their watches and avoiding each others gaze. Unless the world does end in which case I suppose they'll be delighted.

Actually history suggests that predicting Armageddon is no bad thing. In the past even when the time has come and passed a little backing and filling about how god decided to spare us for a little while longer tends to keep the masses satisfied. Let's face it, you're not exactly preaching to people with a full deck. If they were prepared to believe you when you said the end of the world was coming they'll probably swallow any excuse you provide for it being late. When all is said and done who can complain about not dying in a fiery hellscape anyway?

Still on things religious it would appear that the pope is going to beatify his predecessor. This seems appropriate since the only way a Catholic could avoid beatification during the pontificate of John Paul 2 was by committing suicide. One can imagine the throng in Heaven parading their beatifications while John Paul sits sadly wondering what the hell is taking Ratzinger so long. You'd better hurry up Josef, you've only got until May 21st.

Incidentally my spell checker insists on spelling Armageddon with a capital "A". Is Armageddon a proper noun? I didn't think so but I will accept the testimony of anyone with a vague comprehension of grammar.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No Flies On Libya

Things are falling to bits in Libya or, from another perspective, the glorious forces of the beloved Colonel Qaddafi are driving the drug addled, Al Qaida supporters who dared to rebel against his munificence from their positions. Meanwhile various world leaders have taken the opportunity to display either studied indifference or hand wringing impotence. So as you can see its business as usual on the world stage.

The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have both announced that they think a no fly zone would be a good idea. I agree, the flies in Libya are horrid. The leaders of France and Britain both agreed that a no fly zone would be a really good idea until it dawned on them that the United States wasn't taking the hint and they might have to do it themselves. Since then their statements have been rather more circumspect. The US itself is currently attempting to straddle both the indifference and impotence stools and is in danger of falling between them.

So what is to be done? Implement the damned no fly zone of course and if Qaddafi challenges it, crush him like a bug. Of course this wont happen. Demands for such things tend to come loudest from those least likely to be shouldering responsibility. Australia's foreign minister has been particularly vociferous in this regard. The Arab League also covered itself in glory by demanding a no fly zone while at the same time stating that they wouldn't do it themselves and probably wouldn't even help pay the costs of whoever did.

The nations of western Europe, too, are great at making magnificent statements of moral intent coupled with resolute inaction. Sadly for all these great humanitarians the only nation that might actually summon up the balls to do something about it isn't interested. Still scarred from its last couple of attempts at proactive diplomacy in the Muslim world the US isn't just not taking the hint, they're not even taking phone calls.

And there the matter will rest because the best opportunity for a no fly zone is already past. With Qaddafi charging for Benghazi like Rommel on a bad face day what's needed now is not a no fly zone but active air support. Good luck getting that from the mish mash of pusillanimous wretchedness that is western Europe.

The sad truth is that western Europe is an old folks home for countries. Once they were mighty but now they are sad, decrepit and virtually senile; listened to only out of pity by their younger and more vigorous sibling in North America. They may jabber as much as they like, without America to back them they are nothing and the rest of the world (including Qaddafi) knows it.

The saddest part about this sad truth? While there are some nations that are genuinely impotent in this regard (such as Australia) the nations of Europe are impotent simply because they are too afraid to fuck. Even now in their utter decline Great Britain or France singly, never mind together, have the muscle and the firepower to grab Qaddafi by the hair and feed him head first into a meatgrinder. They're just too scared to do it. That's what transforms their posturing from the merely pathetic into the genuinely despicable.

There will be reasons of course. The United States has shown exactly what can go wrong when you stick your military nose into another country and no doubt the mess that would follow the fall of Qaddafi would be pretty ugly for a while, but what's happening in Libya is pretty ugly right now. Sooner or later Qaddafi will go and when he does those who replace him will remember who helped and who stood aside and did nothing.


Hmmm a no fly zone from the UN after all, it must be suffering delusions of adequacy. A week or so late but what the heck. If they manage it well they might get it in place just after Qaddafi has mopped up the survivors.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is it Called Twitter Because its for Twits?

This officially sucks. I have been running this blog for over a year now dishing up a stream of mindless, semi coherent and occasionally amusing drivel. I thought I was getting somewhere and then Charlie Sheen comes along and without any effort just blows me out of the water.

My own personal bitterness aside, isn't it great that Charlie can be flashed all over the world in a matter of seconds? Back in the old days every village had to provide its own idiot, now we only need one. No doubt some technology hating Luddites out there will yearn for the days when such things were home produced. "Charlie Sheen," they will say, "is taking bread from the mouths of honest local idiots and causing unemployment amongst crazed loons everywhere."

It's about time these killjoys learnt to move with the times. Sure it will be tough for a while but I'm sure that with a little retraining the redundant idiots will find gainful employment in either the drug addict or homeless crazy person industries. Besides what is Charlie to do? He has a couple of ex wives (proof of the greater fool theory), a cocaine dealer and a porn star to support. The man must do something.

Isn't it amazing how the world changes though? There was a time when if one came across a dishevelled, substance abusing nut job one either gave them a couple of dollars or doused them in petrol and set them on fire depending on ones personal proclivities. Nowadays we follow them on twitter and nobody has to be doused in anything.

Twitter is awesome as well. Before twitter mindless, boring people would take up hours of your time droning on about inconsequential crap nobody but them gave a rats about whereas now they have to limit it to one hundred and forty characters or less. You can't tell me that isn't progress. Nowadays when somebody wants to tell me about the progress of their hernia operation I just tell them to get a twitter account.

Facebook, twitter, netcasts (I must admit I thought that last one was a fishing term) and the like have rendered a priceless service to the human race. They have made privacy so much easier. If you want privacy nowadays all you have to do is turn off your computer. It's not like anybody is actually going to visit you or anything. They'll simply assume you've vanished into thin air.

Wait a minute, if you turn off your computer you won't read my blog. Please, please, please don't turn off your computer. I need your validation, without you I don't exist. I promise I'll try and be more like Charlie Sheen in the future, or less; whichever you want. Just keep reading please, I'm begging you.

I love you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Save A Bicyclist, Drive on the Footpath

Continuing my impromptu series of stuff I see out the window of my cafe comes a blog entry about bicyclists. There are a group of bicyclists sitting at one of the outside tables. I know they're bicyclists because we are too far from the beach for them to be surfers. There they sit talking, no doubt, about all things bicycley.

At least, I assume that's what they're talking about. It's entirely possible that they are discussing the economic impact of Ferdinand II's expulsion of Protestants from Bohemia in 1620 (the economic impact was pretty severe actually as they were the most productive part of the population but Ferdinand was far more interested in religious orthodoxy than he was in economic management).

Sydney isn't really set up for bicycles, there are a handful of bike lanes which go nowhere in particular and tend to end at awkward (and occasionally life threatening) moments but for the rest bike riders have to ride on the roads where they are terrorised by motorists or on the pavement where they terrorise pedestrians. Various idiots bemoan the fact that Sydney isn't more like Copenhagen or Amsterdam in its bike friendliness. These people are forgetting that both these cities are virtually flat and that they are situated in countries you could spit across thus making car ownership less critical.

Still some things could be done to make Sydney a little more friendly to bicycles. I think the best thing we could do is give pedestrians sticks. Every time they see a bicyclist on the footpath they could hit them with the stick. This would drive bike riders onto the roads. Once there the bicyclists could challenge car drivers for possession of the streets. I realise that this may seem like a one sided struggle but you'd be amazed at how much damage a bicycle can do to the front end of a modern car, particularly if you hit it at a high enough speed. That's before we even get on to the inconvenience of hosing bits of bicyclist off the underside.

Of course some bicyclists will fall by the wayside (or kerbside if you prefer) but these would be the weak and sickly. Those who survived would be the strong. The hard, ferocious bicyclists who will rise from their mangled bikes red eyed and thirsting for revenge. I give it about six months before motorists have been terrified off the streets and have started driving on the pavement instead.

Hmm, it looks like we're going to have to give the pedestrians bigger sticks.

An Open Letter to Dogs

I am sitting in the cafe looking at a large dog. The dog, in turn, is looking at the omelette its owner is currently engaged in consuming. "Go on, give me a bite," the dog seems to be saying. It is doing its best to make its large and powerful body look undernourished and is being roundly ignored by its owners.

Oh canine, canine where is your pride? Once you were wolves roaming free; peasants in their huts cowered at your howl. Now the best you can manage is "Oh go on, throw me a stick." A stick!! For gods sake, once no sheep was safe from you and now you hunt sticks. Even when one of your number snaps and bites the face off a child we just shake our heads and mutter about how lousy your owner must have been. Oh yes, and then we kill you.

I suppose in the early years hanging around with humans must have made some sense. You got a guaranteed food supply in return for running around and barking which I think we can both agree you would have done anyway. As the years went by, however, we moved further up the path of civilisation and we dragged you with us willy nilly. Now when you bark the neighbours complain and as for running around, only in a leash free park pal. We train you to guide our blind and accompany our elderly. These are the people you used to cut from the herd and rip to bloody shreds while the rest of us were just grateful we were spared. Now you stand at traffic lights and tell them when its safe to cross the road.

Let's face it, cows got a better deal from us than you did. Okay we eat them but that hasn't stopped cows from waxing mightily over the Earth. And cows don't really have to do anything. Nobody expects cows to fetch sticks, guard homes or perform tricks. Ask a cow to guide a blind person across a road and see how far you get. No; all we ask of cows is that they stand in a field and eat grass and we don't get upset if they shit there. There are even places where cows are sacred. With the possible exception of the greyhound track I don't think there is anywhere dogs are worshipped.

No; in the symbiotic relationship stakes cows scored and dogs failed. I'm not sure what you can do about it at this late stage but if I could give you one piece of advice it would be; try to be a little less helpful and a lot more edible.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Birthday Greetings #22

Happy birthday to Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. It was Ferdinand's sad lot to spend most of his life in the shadow of his much more famous brother Charles V. Charles was Holy Roman Emperor, Duke of Burgundy, King of Spain and ruled over a goodly chunk of mainland Europe. Such a broad domain was too much for one man to handle (although Charles arguably did a better job than the current European Union) and he delegated the job of ruling the traditional Habsburg territories (Austria and Bohemia) to Ferdinand. Ferdinand also served as a sort of deputy emperor when Charles happened to be busy elsewhere.

In being given Austria and Bohemia to take care of Ferdinand pretty much got the short straw. While Charles was swanning around in Spain (now almost sinking under the weight of the gold and silver extracted from the Americas) Ferdinand was stuck in what was then the arse end of civilised Europe with truculent Poles to the north, an aggressive Ottoman Empire to the south and various bitching vassal states in between. Still Ferdinand played the cards he was dealt and managed to get himself elected King of Hungary although the ruler of Transylvania (then a sort of semi independent Hungarian vassal state thingy) challenged him for the throne and dialled in the support of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. After some years of war they decided on a judgement of Suleiman option and divided Hungary between them. Transylvania became a vassal of the Ottomans and Ferdinand settled down to somewhat nervously rule western Hungary. Southern Hungary had already been conquered by the Ottomans who on a couple of occasions attempted to extend southern Hungary to the gates of Vienna. Somehow Ferdinand managed to survive all of this but one suspects that he slept very lightly for much of his life.

Meanwhile back in the Holy Roman Empire Catholicism was under threat from the emergent Protestant faith and Charles tapped his brother to deputise for him at a Diet in Augsberg which was supposed to sort out the mess once and for all. Ferdinand did so more or less in so far as he managed to stop Protestants and Catholics killing each other (much) but ultimately his measures sowed the seeds of greater discord to come.

Then in 1556 came the summons to the big league. Charles V, having decided that he was sick to death of all the travelling, abdicated his titles. The kingship of Spain went to his son Phillip and the imperial title was to go to Ferdinand. The imperial bureaucracy moved at its usual breakneck pace and two years later confirmed Ferdinand in the title. Ferdinand immediately set about attempting to centralise power (not in the Empire, the princes weren't having any of that) in his hereditary lands which is to say Austria, Bohemia and such of Hungary as he had managed to keep his hands on. Unfortunately the local nobility were no more supportive of such measures in their area than the princes of the Empire and ultimately Ferdinand had to accept that each of his territories was going to have to be ruled pretty much separately. Over the next four centuries various Habsburgs would make spasmodic attempts to weld their polyglot empire into a functioning whole with a dramatic lack of success.

After six years as emperor he decided it wasn't funny anymore and died. According to rumour he refused the last rites on his deathbed leading to suspicions that he may have been a closet Protestant. Sounds unlikely to me although he was a strong supporter of reform within the Catholic church.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Apparently I Can Either Eat or Think

Oh my god, I have eaten way too much. This will be a very sloppy and lethargic blog entry (cries of surprise from my readers). Most of my brain is currently engaged in digestion, in fact I rather suspect that my brain is digesting itself. At least that's my excuse, I don't think I need to go into the fact that my brain has the consistency of tapioca pudding at the best of times.

My condition at the moment leads me to suspect that obesity may be the key to world peace. If everybody over ate we would be far too bloated and lethargic to quarrel with anyone. The most we'd be able to do is raise our voices but I'll bet we wouldn't even manage that for long. When everyone on the planet is rolling around holding their bellies then peace and fatty degeneration of the arteries will descend upon the Earth.

Of course things will be a little different in this brave (if bloated) new world. Diet books will be banned as hate literature, people like Posh Spice will be packed off to dietary "reeducation facilities" and when the wage drones at McDonalds ask, "do you want fries with that?" nobody will be allowed to say no.

Some people will, no doubt, see a problem with my brilliant plan but then some people would see a problem with the miracle of creation itself (I've drawn up a list). These officious killjoys will point out that there is already a problem with food security and large parts of the population who, no doubt, would love to be really fat are stuck with being really thin. All true of course but nothing we can't handle. Food security issues are more imaginary than real, that is to say the problem is real but the cause isn't lack of food. The causes are a combination of inefficient distribution, demented farm subsidies and the fact that we allowed the same financial geniuses who did for the US property market what Jaws did for beachside holidays to work their magic on the food markets as well. These problems shouldn't prove insuperable and even if they do there's always cannibalism.

Ultimately, I could be wrong (what? never! I hear you cry) perhaps the issues of food security will lead to conflict within our newly swollen world order. I still think a world where conflict resembles a particularly hard core episode of The Biggest Loser is still better than what we have now. After five minutes of combat everybody would have to stop and gasp for breath, possibly for days and the actual fighting would have to be slotted in between meal times. And since we're cannibals now we could eat the casualties. That should sort out the food security issues for a while at least.

I'm Really Old on Mercury

Well, yesterday was my birthday, another small milestone on my journey to decay. It turned out to be quite an enjoyable day thanks to the kindness of the staff at my favourite cafe. I'm very grateful because it is nice to have ones birthday celebrated.

Still I'm a little bit ambivalent on the whole birthday thing. In celebrating a birthday what you are basically doing is celebrating the approach of your own death. Each birthday is another line on the gaol cell wall of your life marking out the years served and bringing with it the anticipation of release. Of course it's possible not everyone sees it like that.

Birthdays aren't the only way we mark out time. We're forever finding ways of chopping it into smaller bits. I suspect that time in its entirety is just to big for us to grasp so we cut it into bite sized pieces and mark the beginning and end of each piece. Of course this filleting of time does have its advantages particularly if you charge by the hour. This is so much more convenient than charging for results and a lot more certain as well. Cutting time up like this also helps us be late.

Being late is an important social tool which can convey a whole range of meanings without the need for speech. Lateness can be used to indicate ones elevated social status, "I'm far too important to be on time for a meeting with mere you" or importance "so sorry I'm late but the entire universe would fall apart if I wasn't going around patching it up all the time" or simple disinterest "I would have been on time if spending time with you interested me in the slightest". Imagine how galling it would be for the person being late if the recipient of his lateness wasn't even aware of the fact. This is why we need to be able to measure time. There is nothing more irritating than turning up with a reason for lateness so impressive that you're just bursting to tell someone about it only to discover that the person you're meeting simply overslept.

So there are good reasons for carving time up into fun sized bits but possibly the most important is the one I touched on earlier. Time is so big and all encompassing that its just a little bit scary. If time was a blanket it could smother the world. Most of us can make plans for the next couple of hours or so but how on earth do you set a schedule for eternity?

Yet for something so vast our measurement of time is rather parochial. It all revolves around our planet; years, seasons, days. The whole measurement of time is pretty Earth-centric. Of course that makes a bit of sense as this planet was the easiest one to take measurements from at the time but since we do measure time like this it could make things difficult if we choose to go somewhere else. On Mercury for instance my age (42) would be meaningless since the years there are only eighty eight days long; and even that's meaningless because I'm referring to Earth days and Mercury doesn't have those (it has wicked cool Mercury days instead). That doesn't mean that if I go to Mercury I will suddenly become younger (damn) it just means that it will a lot more difficult to figure out how old I am (I think I am about a hundred and seventy three). No doubt a kindly parent will point out if I'm wrong.

Time, no matter how we measure it, will go on forever but we won't so perhaps it is important that we track it. Because the only time we can be certain of is "too late". In between one too late and the next it was my birthday and thanks to Ash and the Satellite crew my birthday was awesome.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I am a Freaking Genius

Ha ha hah hah hah hah hah hah hah heeee!! Oh boy, Wah hah hah hah hah hah hah hee hee hee hee hee ho ho ho!!

Sorry about the above, I've just been thinking about last nights cricket match between England and Ireland. Dear oh dear, quite made my day really.

Anyway, to business. As I mentioned in the title I am a freaking genius. Not two months ago I suggested that eating locusts may be a way out of Australia's awkwardness with agriculture. The awkwardness being that we produce an immense amount of agriculture on a continent not really designed for it with the result that our farmers tend to go through periods of (quite literally) feast or famine.

Now, to my delight, an article (in the Business Spectator) suggests exactly the same thing and cites the research of some Dutch entomologists who state that there are over a thousand species of edible insects in the world. People who insist on opening their mouths while riding a motorbike probably get most of them in one afternoon. Another slightly less icky idea is that harvested insects could be ground down as protein rich food for cattle and the like which is much better than the current option of feeding them ground down cattle. Insects take less grinding down as well. As a matter of fact an insect is pretty much ground down.

I am sitting here basking in the glow of my own cleverness. Is there a sort of opposite to schadenfreude where rather than getting a guilty pleasure at the suffering of others one gets a smug pleasure at totally coincidental justification? If there is I'm sure the Germans have a word for it. I must ask Thomas. German is such a delightfully expressive language. There's a word for everything and if there isn't they'll just make one up.

Anyway my locust driven justification has prompted me to gaze around the world to see who else could benefit from my undoubted genius. Libya comes to mind. Muammar, its time to go. If, in forty years, you haven't amassed enough money in boltholes around the world to keep you in buxom nurses and gold plated tents then you really haven't been trying. There are certain things which are expected from crazy dictators. One of those things is not being quite so crazy as to be unable to read the writing on the wall.

Then there is global warming. My suggestion; buy shares in companies which sell sunblock. Also avoid beachfront property. Actually avoiding beachfront property is a good idea at anytime particularly Summer unless you like the idea of half a million tourists, backpackers and assorted beach goers pissing on your fence. A slightly more sane piece of investment advice can be found from a business journalist (whose name I forget otherwise I would have given him credit, honest) about building a share portfolio. He suggests getting a list of the top two hundred companies by market capitalisation then going through the list and crossing out any you have never heard of or don't know what they do and investing in the top twenty remaining. I plan to do this as soon as I get any money.

Finally what to do about the American economy, here's a bold suggestion. Reintroduce slavery. With the minimum wage at the level it is most of the enslaved won't really notice the difference and you might find that wealthier people actually try harder to keep their employees alive when the death of one results in the loss of an asset from their balance sheet.

I think that's most of the major problems in the world solved. I await a visit from either the Nobel Prize Committee or possibly a mental health professional. In the meantime I'm going to go and watch a replay of the England-Ireland match. It just doesn't get old.