Throw him in the Hole

I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, but have never managed to do a lot of sightseeing I’ve wanted to do. This time around I finally took a little trip out to Alcatraz!

All I know about Alcatraz is from movies like Escape From Alcatraz, The Rock and Birdman of Alcatraz. In reality, I didn’t expect it to be anything like these movies, but what really impressed me was how accurately it had been modelled in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 on PS2.

I must admit, though, that the solitary confinement cells look particularly effective. Perhaps I should threaten my kids with something like this when they’re being particularly trying.

Snow in San Francisco

According to reports, I might be here for an historical occasion. It’s actually supposed to snow here in the Bay Area. It has been unseasonably cold here especially over the last weekend. I really hope it does!

Went and played some basketball in Oakland today. I remember the last time I was here watching the local news channel and they’d have the nightly murder count for Oakland, right after the weather. This little place we went to was a nice area though.

San Francisco

Here I am in “Sunny California”, only it’s not so sunny right now. It’s cold, wet and miserable. I don’t travel well, and it usually takes a good week for me to recover from jet lag. I left Sydney around 1pm on Friday, flew 13 hours to San Francisco at 88 mph and arrived 8:30am on Friday. How’s that for time travel.

Actually, we circled SFO for an extra hour or so because Air Force 1 carrying President Obama was there. I don’t know if he was coming or going. I had hoped to see his plane when I landed but the arrivals area doesn’t have many airfield-facing windows. I think if I had stopped to look around I might have been pulled aside for questioning by overenthusiastic security personnel.

I was disappointed, too, that I wasn’t subject to one of those famous TSA gropings I’ve heard about. I don’t see why you can’t enjoy getting groped and I was quite looking forward to it. Maybe on the way back?

I was supposed to go into the office on Friday afternoon but after a shower and a quick trip to get some supplies I thought I’d watch a bit of TV. I must have instantly dozed off, and when I woke it was 7pm. Oops.

So I went out and had dinner. Fast food here is so cheap it’s ridiculous. I can see I’m going to have fun with Subway’s $5 menu. I had a $5 Chicken and Bacon Ranch which normally costs $10.50 in Perth.

After dinner I didn’t feel tired so I watched watched TV, Skyped home and played around until I was tired which was midnight. I went to sleep thinking that I’d wake up at 7am and check the weather and maybe go out exploring but I didn’t actually wake until 1pm. And it has been constantly raining all day. Not a heavy rain, but somewhere between a constant drizzle and a light shower. Anyhow enough to dissuade me from venturing far. I ended up to walking out to Wal-Mart to find some Star Wars toys. Hehe. I was also hoping to catch an NHL game but lower deck tickets to see the San Jose Sharks are $145. About $100 too much for me. I’ll try calling home again, and go out for another Subway tonight and see what tomorrow brings.

Abbott happens

He's got massive earsBecause of my commute to and from work, I don’t get to watch the TV news very much. I try to keep up at work and late at night, hitting News.com.au, Reuters,  CNN, CBC, BBC and others during downtime in between calls just so I can keep a handle on what is happening in the world. Also of value are the forums at sites like Fark where discussion and debate on current affairs ensue.

I am ashamed to say that the first I heard of Tony Abbott uttering his now infamous “shit happens” was last Monday or Tuesday night on The 7PM Project, an idiotic show trying to find a happy medium between comedy and current affairs, but failing hard in both. To be fair, it wasn’t me who turned it on; I think nobody had bothered to change the channel when the CH10 news finished.

I was only half listening to it, focusing  more of my attention into some mindless Facebook game to wind down for the day when I heard the hosts prattle on about a politician saying a swear word. “Great”, I thought. “Nothing better to report on, so how about a hatchet job on a pollie who said a bad word”.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone swearing or cursing, and I have been known to use a few from time to time.  But the thing is, you’ve got to use them in the right place and at the right time. Repeating a swear word over and over again when you cut yourself with a knife or hit your thumb with a hammer soothes better than any balm an the market.

So with my attention divided, I wasn’t exactly sure that I heard the story right. “Really? Did Abbott actually just say “Shit happens” when referring to soldiers killed in action?” I thought.

Shit's going to happen later, for sure.

The next part of the “report”, and I use that term advisedly, showed Abbott being confronted about it. “It was taken out of context”, he cries. “Well, can you explain the context?”, asks the reporter.

What followed next was an excruciatingly long, awkward silence shared between the reporter, Abbott and the rest of Australia accompanied by a nervous tick in Abbotts eye. “Say something, you idiot! Anything!” This had to be one of the rare times that a politician was unwilling to open his mouth. After what seems an eternity, Abbott  finally utters “Um, I’ve given you the response you deserve”.

Here’s a Channel 9 story which probably ran a half hour before what I saw on The 7PM Project:

Firstly, I’m not accusing Abbott of deliberately making light of a trooper’s death. I’m going to stop a few millimeters short of it and give him the benefit of the doubt. But, like the slain soldier’s father, I was pretty shocked and offended at his dismissal of of this man’s life under the circumstances. “Shit happens” is a phrase that acknowledges that bad things happen to people for no particular reason. I’d like to think that Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney died for something, no matter how righteous or unjust the reason.

Secondly, I can only guess at what Abbott was thinking during this ambush. “How can I spin this? How can I make myself look less like a bad guy?” It must have taken a while for him to realise that this task was impossible, so he tried for some ineffective menacing stare-down and trite avoidance of the question.

What concerns me is that this guy may be Prime Minister one day. If he were to send my kids into war on his behalf and dismiss my loss when they were killed in action as “shit happens” then I’d pretty much give up on this country and live elsewhere. I’d have to turn my back on a man and the country he represents if he didn’t value my child’s service and sacrifice.

You know how those who practice the fine art of pugilism will come in with an unseen or disguised haymaker to knock their opponent out after a few rounds? It’s the knockout punch that sends the other fighter to the canvas, so powerful and unexpected and perfectly timed that there’s no defense? How about this, for a knockout: say, plainly, that you made a regrettable mistake and you’re sorry!

How could anyone with even the slightest political competence not be able to come out and spin that comment into, “Yes, that’s exactly what I said. No matter what we do to try and keep our brave men and women on the front lines safe, sometimes situations turn bad and there’s nothing you can do. It’s a tragedy that a young life ended so needlessly and, after the fact, all we can say is that sometimes these things just happen. Now, if you’re trying to say that I dismissed that young Digger’s ultimate sacrifice? Never. You know as well as I do that was never my intent and I’m offended that you are trying to insinuate as such through this pathetic attempt at gotcha journalism. My apologies to the family and people of Australia if I caused any offence.”

Seriously, that line took me a minute to think up and I don’t have decades of being a professional asshole under my wings. How’s he going to perform under more stressful or important circumstances if he can’t even handle this?

Yet, with a month to prepare, he came off looking like a severely autistic child when the music stops.

Let your fingers do the talkin

Its interesting how effective the spoken word can be at helping people understand what you are feeling and thinking. We have created so many variants and forms of verbal illustration that you can say anything in about a thousand different ways. Sometimes those words can be beautiful and paint a tapestry so lush and unique its hard to forget them, and at other times they can be blunt and intrusive and equally hard to forget. Its also interesting how the written word (based off the spoken word) can often be misconstrued cause it lacks the nuance and subtle inflections that the spoken word conveys. This has become more apparent in the internet age as people communicate consistently via text and often that text lacks those things that make spoken words so effective and can often lead to misunderstandings.

Then there is the finger, a display so succinct and effective, completely universal (at least at a human level) that is unmistakable in its intent or meaning and cannot be misconstrued or mistaken for anything other than what it is.

It can be said in so many ways using an endless array and compilation of parlance and slang but it always comes down to one unmistakable thing:

Johnny Cash Fuck You

Via Geek Variety.

Kubica out of action for 2011

It’s sad new indeed that Robert Kibica was injured in a crash in opening stage of the Ronde di Andora rally on Sunday. This article has most of the details. He has true grit and great determination and I’m sure he’ll race again but it will take him a while. The good news is that he’s out of an induced coma and can move his hand which was in danger of being lost.

Thoughts then turn to his replacement. My money is on Nick Heidfeld, who was a team mate of Kubica in the BMW Sauber team. Another option is Nico Hulkenberg who is currently a third string driver at Force India. Hey, he scored pole at Brazil in his rookie season but failed to keep his drive when he couldn’t bring sponsorship to the team.

Beyond these, desirable contenders are a little thin on the ground. Bruno Senna is a short term option, but he surely doesn’t rate as a primary driver. It’s a bit sad, because Renault feel they can make a good push on the championship this year with their new R31 and it seems Kubica was the only one who could make it happen.

Kiss my Yasi

Meet Cyclone Yasi:

This is the cyclone superimposed on continental USA:

It’s a big mother fucker of a storm. It’s due to hit the mainland between Cairns and Townsville in the next few hours. Wind gusts of 320 km/h are expected.

All this is coming after much of Queensland was under a flood the size of Germany and France last week:

I have friends over there who have packed up what they can and evacuated south to Sydney or Melbourne. I’ve also seen people on TV who think they can ride it out. They have no idea what winds that fast can do. This is Darwin after Cyclone Tracy (Category 4) Christmas Eve 1974:

Yasi is Category 5. Here’s another comparison graphic: