Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Retrospecticus

I must take the opportunity to farewell Psephite.

I was hoping the election blogging adventure would end in a somewhat different way I must confess.

But this process has not been without its benefits. The boss was particularly impressed when I righteously claimed to be part of the blogging fraternity.

I can now add blogging to the list of cool memories I have which have sprung from the internet. It will be up there on the all time list of cool memories, but I'm afraid it won't surpass having a hotmail address since 1997 (yes, before Microsoft got their paws on it) and using the internet back in the days before any newspapers were online and when it was just a collection of Simpsons and '80s Japanese cartoon fan pages. You may have had to wait 5 minutes for the page to load, but it was worth it - you could download all sorts of erstwhile copyrighted media as the lawyers hadn't yet worked out what a modem was.

Maybe by the time the next election rolls around there will be a yet unthought of medium through which we can communicate our thoughts and well, let's face it, anger.

Ta ta!

Monday, November 29, 2004

The last stone

We've decided to call it a day. Psephite was originally set up to critique the election and as that has now been and gone we have struggled to maintain the rage, so to speak. So, upon consultation, I am winding up Psephite.

Thank you to all those who read and posted comments, it was amazing to realise that there were people out there actually reading Psephite.

I can't speak for the others but I will continue to blog but in a more focussed form. I am hoping to get my book blog off the ground soon.

Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What the White House said to Timothy Garton Ash

Via Arts and Letters Daily, an interview with Timothy Garton Ash about his dealings with the White House and his new book Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West. The interview includes the first contact the Whitehouse made with Garton Ash:
It's the White House here, could you come and tell President Bush about Europe, uh, next Thursday at 1:45?

Says it all really.

Monday, November 22, 2004

2004 Weblog Awards

If you would like to nominate a blog for one of the awards on offer, do it now. There is a 'Best Australian blog' category. Tim Blair has a couple of nominations so I have named Backpages (even after its demise) to even the competition up. The number of nominations has no affect on the winner - voting will start in December.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Wheel of Fortune.

It's taken me a long time to come back to psephite - mainly because I didn't know how to respond to the Australian and US election results.

When I think about politics I often think in terms of cycle - like the medieval wheel of fortune where you inexorably experience ups and downs. I think this way partly because of the way politics is described - by 'terms' and the electoral 'cycle', which convey a sense of finite time and a bias towards change, and the two party / adversarial system, which suggests that power will swing. I also think it's because my lifetime has been split between Liberal and Labor Governments at the Federal level in Australia - one of my first political memories is Bob Hawke coming to power in 1983. I grew up in the Hawke / Keating years, and it was only when I was Uni 'becoming a grown-up' that the Liberal Government was elected under Howard. Because I've lived unde both reigns for about the same amount of time, it makes me feel like Government is a pendulum - it swings back and forth, from left to right, from Labor to Liberal, at regular intervals over time.

I found the 2004 election result confronting because it didn't conform to my idea of an electoral pattern, or the wheel of fortune. Because after 8 years in power, in which most time appeared to be spent teetering on the brink of electoral defeat, the Howard Government is simply getting stronger. And this made me realise that politics in my lifetime in Australia has been abnormal. It's not usual for incumbency to be spread between two parties. Politics isn't neat or fair. Statistically, it's more likely that the Liberal party will be in power than Labor. Maybe the political Wheel of Fortune is weighted in the conservatives favour, and it is that much harder for the Labor party to gain enough momentum to end up on top.

On the other hand, I don't want to fall victim to a 'it has to be that way' mentality. I don't want to explain away defeat by saying that the electorate is inherently conservative. That the Liberals are the natural party of Government. I kind of feel like that's a Tory ruse.

So I guess what I take from this election is that political power is not a given. It won't inevitably shift, or correct itself. There is no promise that people will simply become tired of the Governing party and switch allegiances. All you can do is keep working to get enough shoulders behind the democratic wheel.

Well and truly grogblogged

Although I didn't make it to the 'colourful' part of the evening, a grand time was had by the surprisingly numerous bloggers who turned up to the Clock Hotel in Surry Hills last night.

- > Got to meet the man himself, Darp, even if he can't spell Psephite he's still rather cool.

- > Picked up me Pandagate shirt and have already worn it, the quizzical looks from passers-by alone are worth the 25 bucks.

- > Weezil and Suki Lombard rock in big way. Go read their stuff, your life will be empty without them.

- > The Daily Flute was as cool as I had expected and we got along a treat. Funny how a tall straight Pommy and a short Aussie dyke could get along so well.

- > Also in attendance: Jess from Ausculture, Red Betty Black, Eric from Eating Tahini on Trains, Tim Lambert, Fulmination Dave, Moo Cow, Will Type for Food (a RWDB, apparently) and loads more who I didn't meet or can't remember. Sorry. Beer. A lot. Of beer.

Other round-ups can be had at Ausculture, Darpism, and Will Type for Food.

UPDATE: Photos at Darp, Suki's place, Weezil's place and Boudist.

Google scholar beta

Check out Google scholar, the Beta is online now. It allows you to:
search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

I would be very interested to see how libraries could utilise this. Will look at giving it a good workout and review in a day or two.

More blogging about Sydney grogging later when head can concentrate a little better...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Book them

I've been on a bit of a books/language bent in my last few posts so I thought I would continue it by pointing to a San Francisco bookstore that is allowing its books to be arranged according to colour. Someone has posted some photos, if you'd like to take a peek.

It reminds of my years working in a bookshop where there were so many books they were piled on the floor. As well as the shelves being double packed, books were piled at least 10 high on the floor down every aisle. In that place we used to organise books by size. Of course, there was a loose subject categorisation that happened but beyond that books were out on the shelves according to fit. Hardcovers at the back, paperbacks at the front. Most of my job consisted of moving books, trying to find space where there wasn't any. It was like the proverbial painting the Harbour Bridge. You'd start at one end of the store and by the time you got to the NEXT AISLE the first one required maintenance. The worst aisle was the one that held the religion books. I'd tidy it up, find space for books when god knows there should not have been any at all. I'd pop downstairs for a fag and in the monitors I'd see some fundamentalist nutcase head into the aisle. By the time I got back up it was utterly destroyed. God knows what they were looking for, I hope they bloody found it because I still harbour a grudge against religio-freaks who destroy books. Grrr.

Speaking of weirdo religious shit:
John Hostettler, the Congressman representing the 8th district of Indiana, has been convinced by local religious groups to introduce legislation in the House that would change the name of an Interstate 69 extension to a more moral sounding number.
If they didn't have such filthy minds it wouldn't be dirty would it?

Goodbye Back pages

Chris Sheil has decided to close down Back Pages to focus on writing his book. A sad occasion for the Australian blogosphere, yes. The positive? Chris has given us his 10 rules for blogging. A must-read for all current and would-be bloggers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Never seen nothin' like it

Language eh? It's a weird and tricky thing. Even though I may not always write so good, I am of the opinion that there are rules to be observed and there is such a thing as good English. Ok, call me a fascist but I assure you the rest of my tendencies are thoroughly to the left.

I was absolutely thrilled then to read this extract from John Humphrey's book. Although it seems he may be treading ground that Don Watson has already covered, I have to admit that Humphrey's version seems a tad more entertaining. His description of language pendants described several people I know:

The Pedants are those who think there is only one thing that matters: observing the rules. They will avoid a split infinitive however convoluted the resulting sentence may sound. They cannot see a dangling participle without wanting to hang it in the right place. Solecisms are scars on their backs. They feel almost physical pain when they see apostrophes in the wrong place and commas where no pause is intended.


There are fewer and fewer people in this world who wince when they see 'vegie's' on sale or a shop offering 'CD's'. People who take personal offence at such language are uncommon these days. They are swamped by those who tell us that language doesn't matter as long as people understand you. Understanding something is just the first step. It's when you move beyond understanding that the real magic starts to happen. I may understand what the language of a poem is saying but it wouldn't be a very good poem if that's as far as it went.

I don't think it's too much to ask to extend this extra dimension to everyday speech and writing. No, I don't think we should all start talking and writing as if we were bards but I do think a certain respect for language would make life a little more interesting. I don't want to hear of another document being 'socialised' or that 'going forward' we'll be doing such and such (well, actually I prefer going backwards so you can count me out of that one) or that 'we'll take this offline' when they really mean we'll talk about this later.

I accept that language changes, I accept that subverting language conventions can be effective, what I don't accept is pure laziness. I also don't accept the ghetto-ising and jargonising of language until it is beyond the comprehension of everyone except the person who wrote it. Are you listening project managers?

* A gold star to the first person who notes every error in this post. This does not include the ironic use of poor language in the title and the first paragraph. (In fact, if you didn't realise it was ironic you are immediately disqualified).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Hubba hubba

The Paris Review is offering fifty years of interviews with writers FOR FREE. Excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Just can't get enough, I just can't get enough

I just read a very entertaining article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed about a man and his books. I was horrified to find myself agreeing with almost everything he said. You see, I may work on the web, do a bit of blogging, love my new iBook and have been known to use nearly 300mb in downloads a day, my true love though is books. The older I get the worse it becomes.

Sometimes my interest may wane slightly, this is usually when I don't go to a bookshop every day. At the moment though I am in the full throes of a binge. Thankfully I live and work in an area blessed with decent bookshops. Usually the lack of bookshops doesn't stop me though, it only makes the challenge greater, the quest to find a bargain or something obscure and interesting more vital. For example, I once bought a book on darts by Leighton Rees (World Cup Singles Champion 1977, World Professional Champion 1978, Grand Masters Champion 1979) simply for one chapter that included:

His comments on the Japanese theory of Zen darts:
"With all respect to the Japs (sic) and their beliefs, in my opinion, most of that is absolute tripe"


His views on alcohol and darts:
"Although some purists insist otherwise, I maintain that alcohol is not incompatible with increased performance dart-play. It helps to steady you up. I find that a couple of pints prior to serious play is just right for me."


Proper preparation of equipment:
"Just before a match get yourself a drink to see you through, particularly if it is a clash over the 3001 or 1001 distance. If you run out of beer halfway through a match your game can go to pieces...Find a little corner to call your own where you know your beer, cigarettes and matches are. Then you can find them automatically without interrupting your concentration on the game."


Needless to say it's a gem of a book that only set me back one dollar. (I waited til the last day of a sale when everything in the shop was one buck. I'm a cunning and patient book buyer.)

Usually the books of interest to me run in phases. There are some things I will always look for: literature, lit crit and poetry. I had a severe phase of football book illness that still lingers and I will always check the sports section for gems like the Rees tome or Sam Fussell's Muscle: Confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder. (If you haven't read it you must. Story of Oxford nerd turning beefcake and his run-in with 'roids. Pure gold.)

Generally though most books are of interest, the only things I avoid are computer manuals and economics books. Can't ever see the day when either of those will spark the fire within. I believe they are two topics whose books hold no value whatsoever beyond the initial vocational worth to the first owner. Obviously their publishers know this - they cost a bomb.

Collecting books is a disease, I truly admit that. It is a very pleasant one however and can at least give the afflicted the feeling of knowledge and a connection to world that is fast receding into the distance.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Out there

Went to the Newtown Festival yesterday. It was absolutely huge, as usual. And also as is normal, the usual mixed bag of yuppies, goths, dykes and poofs, uni students, hippies and god knows what else. Also, the usual stalls run by Green Left and Socialist Alliance on King St. One of them was selling a t-shit with a rat on it and 'Don't blame me. I didn't vote for the lying rodent.' I had a half-smile but there was a sinking feeling in my stomach. It's all very well wearing something expressing this sentiment but after the last election, who cares? Who's looking for someone to blame when the majority voted for the bastards? You know if you wear it around Newtown that most people would nod in agreement. This is just such a mircocosm though, such an isolated area of absolute leftness. I think this is why some of us around this joint found it so hard to comprehend the result. Everything we saw, everyone we knew were voting left. Who the hell was voting right? For me Newtown is completely normal. It's scary to think that it's 'out-there' in comparison to the rest of the country. I'm not talking in terms of dreadlocks, tatts and dogs on rope leads either. I know people here dress, er, eclectically. It's the politics. I honestly thought the feeling felt here was a general trend. How wrong I was.

And that, dear friends, is my last post on the election. I promise.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Typing, not journalism

I don't know about fellow bloggers but I can't say that I have ever imagined myself as a journalist. (Except when I was in primary school and I conned my parents into helping me put together a photostatted 'newspaper' called the 'Hotline Herald'). Eric Engberg, a retired CBS journo has written an article claiming that bloggers like to think they break the news and that they are taking the place, or at least are a small threat to, traditional media. He believes they are having themselves on. As Truman Capote said of Kerouac's On the Road, "That's not writing, that's typing!". Engberg believes much the same about bloggers. He cites the fact that early blog callers of the US election got it so wrong in interpreting the exit polls as an example that they just spew out stuff with no real 'craft' or 'discipline'. (Hang on, he may have a point there).

I have to agree that bloggers can't really compete with journalism. We just don't have the infrastructure or resources. I have to kind of half-agree with his feeling that all bloggers care about is hits and notoriety:
This is the kind of stuff we used to run in my aforementioned school paper, when the speculation surrounded who was going steady. The difference is that the bloggers aspire to being a force in our public life and claim to be at the forefront of a new political-media era. It was clear to me, from following their efforts that night, that, unlike journalists, some blog operators who are quick to trash the MSM not only don’t care about the veracity of the stories they are spreading, they do not understand when there is a live hand grenade on their keyboard. They appear not to care. Their concern is for controversy and "hits."

I have to make the clarification that I don't think is ALL bloggers care about.

Anyway, his article got me doing some naval-gazing and wondering why the hell I blog. I have started three group blogs and with all of them I have ended up being almost the sole contributor. I have to wonder then, why do I find it so enjoyable when my fellow bloggers have fallen by the way-side? Some may say it is because I work at a university and have more time than others...whatever.

I blog perhaps because I am a frustrated 'writer' and I see blogging as like doing laps of the pool - you do it to get fit for the big game, not as an end in itself. I do think blogs have their place in terms of knowledge sharing in workplaces and discussion in the general public arena though. It allows people who are frustrated letters-to-the-editor writers to finally have their say and not worry about pesky editors rejecting their work. It allows political brawls to come out in the open and for those with self-sufficiency and creativity to actually get their work out there.

Anyway, I don't think blogs are going to take the place of 'serious' journalism I'm not putting any money on the likes of Bolt, Devine x 2, Ackerman et al though. I think I have seen a s*&^load of blogs that add more to the world in terms of intelligent discussion than those typists.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Right in retreat

Two Cents is no more. Bummer. I was needing some fun this evening. Right now I am not going to have rant about this, I'll leave this to everyone else.

Even more crikey

After crazybrave generously shared the sealed Crikey section, it is now on Crikey with a reply from Andrew Bolt and Simon Hollins.

Now I'm off to have a look at the Blogger templates. Getting bored with this one, too straight maybe, perhaps something more diagonal is in order...

Comments

I have enabled the Blogger commenting facility and am going to phase out the current system. If you want to comment on posts here, please use the Blogger commenting link. When I figure out how to disable the other one without losing all the current comments there will just be one link. Cheers.

UPDATE: Ok, now I seem to have lost all the &^%^ comments. Ah well, nothing like a clean slate is there?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Enough is enough - I'm outing myself

Ok, with my last post I resolved that I would leave the Panda-hairy-gate saga in peace. Then I decided to cruise on over to Two Cents. Call me a masochist. Anyway, the latest post is entitled: It's not ok to be gay. (I did have a link to this 'piece' but Two Cents have since taken their site offline and made it password protected so only the priviliged few Right people can look at it). So, being a masochist, as I said, I read it. And now I have decided that these silly little children can only get away with what they are saying for so long. I'm not an agressive person, I don't usually fight back, call me a wimp, but this time I decided I would. The thing that got me going wasn't so much their claims that homosexuality is unnatural - I was brought up Catholic, I got over that years ago - it was their scare mongering in regard to gay people having children. They accompanied their charming post with a cutesy photo of some kids. And some bloke dressed in drag. Zoe at crazybrave got brave this week so I decided I would join her.

I am a lesbian. I live with my partner of six-plus years. We have a son. Our son also has a Dad. In fact, he has two Dads, his biological father and his partner. We all live within a couple of kilometres from each other and we see each other regularly. Our son lives with his us, his Mums, and visits his Dads whever he wants, and whever they want. His Dads have photos of him all over the house, they can't help but tell everyone about him, they are very proud. We go out on family outings together quite frequently. We think of ourselves as a family.

Our son attends a daycare centre (another reason I am going to hell - I'm not staying at home with my child) where there are several other children who have two Mums. No one at the daycare centre has a problem. Nothing is hidden. The other children know that some of the kids have two Mums. They don't give a toss.

My son has an extended family that adore him and accept him. Not only that, they accept his mother, their daughter, their sister. They accept my partner, they accept my son's Dads. The important thing for all of us is that my son is loved. And my, that he is.

I don't want to fight with people who believe that I should not have a child. I do not want to fight with people who think that children will be somehow damaged by the knowledge that their mate at school has two Mums or two Dads, or both. I just want to get on with my life and enjoy it with my son and partner. I do have to start making myself visible though, because as long as people like us don't say anything, then rich, right-wing, ignorant young twats like those at Two Cents, will continue to think that their view is normal.

The last word

Hopefully, the last word on Pandagate has beeen posted in the form of an email expose by Rob Corr. For all those who have been following the sorry saga, the emails reporduced in Rob's post are truly entertaining. I must admit to finding great mirth in two things:

- Andrew Bolt got involved in some petty student-politicking
- Alex Lew thinks he's allowed to put (BA/LLB IV)(Melbourne) after his name because he is in the fourth year of an Arts/Law degree. Comicstriphero, if you're out there, can you let me know if this is in/correct? I suspect he may be talking out of his arse...as does Melbourne Lefty and everybody else in the blog world. Please tell us we are wrong if that is the case. As ML points out, this could lead to all sorts of wonderful letters: by Alex's reckoning I should have BA I(Syd), BA(UWS), MInfSys 1(UNSW), MIMS 1(Monash), MA I(Syd) after my name. Yes, I have actually enrolled in that many degrees. The two aborted Masters I blame on having a baby, I am still enrolled in the third. And halfway through an essay on poetry, which I am off to finish, ciao-ciao.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Getting our brains back

Zoe at crazybrave has posted a very brave and thoughtful piece about abortion. Go read it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I ask you

IQ v political persuasion

At the risk of enraging the RWDBs (actually, in the HOPE of enraging the RWDBs), I would like to refer you to a wonderful little table that ranks US states according to average IQ. Oh, and it also notes whether the States are Republican or Democrat. Enjoy.

(But get in quick, it has been hammered with hits and may have to be taken down due to blowing out the owner's bandwidth).

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Airey-Branson saga

There's some to-ing and fro-ing going on down south between some 'young' Liberals and some lefty bloggers. You may have heard of the frankly delightful Miranda Airey-Branson. Well, Miranda had a blog where she said some not-very-nice things and basically crapped on in a spoilt brat manner about horses, the races, shaving, Sex in the City, all the intelligent stuff. Some lefties started commenting on her blog and she has now taken it down. Anyway, Miranda's larger crime is that she was involved in some dodgy election day action. She and some other Young Libs dressed in green shirts and tried to grab those who were voting Green and give them a Lib how-to-vote card. A better description of all this stuff is at the Age, Robert Corr, and my favourite, Ms Fits. Ms Fits believes she has found her nemesis. My what a tantalising prospect...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It just got worse

Of course it did. And I have absolutely nothing to say. F**k. I'm off to read Ms Fits for some light relief.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Learning to love the dollar

Don't you just love it when you feel as if your whole way of life, your beliefs, are at odds with the majority of the country? After the 'stunning' election result, then the eventual take-over of the Senate by the Right I really didn't think it could get much worse. Of course, there was the gay marriage stuff before the election (who the hell was calling for it anyway??), now there's Abbott saying nothing about the possibility of bringing abortion law back into question, Howard obviously jizzing himself at the thought of pushing through industrial relations 'reform' that defies belief and now...Brendan Nelson is getting in on the stamping-all-over-democracy act by indicating that he will push through his Higher Ed reforms as soon as possible. I'm beginning to feel even more marginalised than I was before the election.

Nelson's reforms particularly frighten me. (Well, let's face it, the who lot of it frightens me). Nelson is getting absolutely no public support from the sector itself but hey, what would they know? They only work at Universities for a living! Our Gav has come out against voluntary student unionism. Nelson would argue that as VC, Gav is out of touch with the student population.

There are several things I want to say about Nelson's package:

1. Getting rid of compulsory student unionism would be a complete disaster. A lot of students know this but unfortunately there are a sizable chunk who don't. They think saving their 200 bucks at the beginning of the year is great. Like the Howard clones this country is fast developing, they see only a short distance and only what directly relates to them. I can't believe that they don't realise how much things will cost on campus if the Unions don't get the money, surely they must realise that services would be limited to those that make a profit and that may exclude basic services like childcare and health services. Still, they get to keep their 200 bucks so they can spend more on booze at college parties and causing a ruckus on King St so what do they care?

2. One of Nelson's arguments is that it:
was the "inflexibility in work practices" and the administrative difficulty of shifting lecturers from low-demand to high-demand courses.

High-demand courses are usually fashionable courses. In time they go out of fashion. Does that mean that funding should be shifted to the fashionable courses and removed from the unfashionable but highly worthy courses? Of course not. Are some areas of learning 'better' than others? Again, of course not. I have this horrible vision of a university in the Nelson mould where courses the Government wants taught are priviliged and funded while the courses, let's say, Arts, that teach people things that aren't necessary quantifiable are left to rot. Hang on, that sounds like a place I know...

3. This obsession Nelson has with academic Unions is unfathomable. Let's face it, we all know academics are hideously overpaid, sit around doing god-knows-what in their musty offices and refuse all attempts to make them accountable. If Nelson really thinks this is the case he really doesn't know what is going on in the unis. General staff need their Union as much as the academics. I can tell you, general university staff aren't there for the money.

I think Nelson knows all his bluster about union strong-arm tactics, inadequate funding for courses due to staff inflexibility and the unfairness of compusory student unionism is just that, complete crap. Maybe I'm giving him and his boss too much intellectual credit but I feel that the unis piss them off because they are one of the last little bastions of intellectual freedom. Knowledge is sought there for the sake of it! What a ridiculous idea! That one would want to expand one's mind, to develop a greater awareness and understanding of the world, to be able to think creatively, see the big picture and understand the lives of others. And where, Nelson would ask, would those kind of 'soft' skills get you in Australia today? Nowhere if he has his way. A nation of drones with MBAs, hideously in debt through education and house prices. Now, that's better.