Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is this weeks topic in Australia.

Something weird happens to some men, and they go mad.  They can't move on from a failed relationship, and become obsessed.  They stalk, and sometimes kill their ex-partner.

Now I have been a bit like that.  Obsessed.  Waking up in the morning and the first thing you think of is the girl you can't have.  And in a relationship, I've gotten so angry that I hit myself in the head.  Why?  Because you can't hit them, but I was so enraged that I had to hit something.  And I don't smash things - so hitting myself in the head seemed like the best option at the time.

Once, very early on, I felt jealous.  Then a switch flicked in my head and I never felt jealous again.  My life would have been very different if I'd stayed jealous.  It would have been very hard to cope.

So, as with so many things in life, it is only by the grace of God that I was not a perpetrator of domestic violence.

And of course we are told that you shouldn't blame the victims of domestic violence.  And it is true.  Really all they did wrong was choose the wrong guy.  They could be fucking saints, and in the end not be able to cope, do something "wrong" and set the guy off.

What is the nature of violence?  A thing is violent if it forces you to change your picture of the world.  For example, if you lose an arm, your picture of yourself will change.  Your picture of what you can do will change.  Your picture of how others see you will change.  This is a dramatic change.   But imagine you lost it because someone cut it off.  This is worse.  Why did they cut it off?  Might they return and do more damage to you?  Can you trust other people not to hurt you?  Will you have to redefine your whole picture of the world from "safe and friendly" to "unsafe and scary"?

The problem with violence is two fold.  The actual physical damage, and the change in the victim's world view.  And usually, its the latter that really hurts.  I mean, the same physical injuries suffered in a car accident wouldn't be much of a worry at all.  Indeed, if you walked away from a car accident with a black eye and bruising, you'd probably be quite happy.  No, except in the extreme cases its not the physical damage, its the forced change in the picture of your world.

Anyway, I have no solutions to domestic violence.  What can you do if you are the sort of guy who is physically violent to women?  Change?  Fat chance.  Just avoid relationships.

I suppose the most important change would be more serious penalties.  Not viewing it as a minor thing.  And when things have gotten to the stage of AVO's (apprehended violence orders), you pretty much need automatic imprisonment for any transgression.  Together with treatment of the psychological problems - although I don't think such treatment will be effective.

But its important to have a very clear line between what behaviour is acceptable in a relationship and what isn't.  We need to set a standard that is widely known, so that unacceptable behaviour sticks out like a sore thumb.  So that the early signs don't get missed.  And obviously this is a tricky area.  Different cultures, different religions, have different ideas about roles in marriage, and yet I think we do need some clear standard of what is ok, and what is not.  And its not good enough to say that its when he finally gives her a black eye.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Peak Civilisation?

Some time during the Roman Empire, civilisation reached a peak.  Then along came the dark ages, and civilisation fell away.  In 1000AD, people could not imagine building something like the Pantheon.  The skills to do so were long gone.   But progress began again, and the renaissance took hold.  And ever since then, its been non stop progress.

This progress has been incredibly fast.  Starting, perhaps with the printing press, we've gone onto steam power, trains, production lines,  radio, vaccination, telephones, television, cars, aeroplanes, modern surgery, antibiotics, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, computers, the internet, genetic engineering,  artificial intelligence, mobile phones etc etc.

And social progress too.  From universal schooling, democracy, equality, longevity, social security...

But can it go on forever?  We've got a finite planet, and all our progress has been inevitably accompanied by expansion.  Our population has grown exponentially.  Our resource use grows exponentially.  We've done incredibly well so far.  Agricultural production has for the most part been able to keep up with the population.  And that is the most important thing.  Sometimes local population growth causes social instability.  We have a bit of a war, and the population pressure eases.

But we've just hit a big stumbling block.  Global warming.  We need to rapidly change the way we live, or that food supply may not be so constant.  And the necessary change goes against human nature.  Can we do it?

Because if we can't, then some time this century, our civilisation will hit its peak.  And if that happens, it could be really ugly.  The world is now so totally interdependent, and we are so dependent on technology, that it won't take much for it all to fall apart.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tetris Battle

For a few years now I've been addicted to Tetris Battle on Facebook.  You are supposed to think that you are playing Tetris competitively against another Facebook user.  Every time you complete a line, it gets sent to them.  Complete many lines in successive turns and a great many lines are sent to the other player.

I play the version where the first player to 2 knockouts wins.  A knockout is when you are pushed to the very top of the pattern by the weight of lines underneath you - lines the other player sent.

Now the other player is not "live".  So in what sense you are playing "them", I'm not sure.  Is it a recorded game of theirs?  You can actually play people live, but I don't do that.  It feels kind of weird.  Anyway, what bugs me is that I will get on runs where I win games easily, again and again.  I may go up from level 79 to 82 in no time at all.  But equally, I can lose games.  I've lost 7 games in a row.  And typically been sent 40+ lines in less than the first minute of the game.

So please, people working on Tetris Battle, stop putting me up against absolute Tetris geniuses.  Assuming that I'm about as good as the level I'm at, my winning ratio should be about 50%.  That means the chances of losing 7 games straight are very low (1 in 128).  So if the virtual person I play against sends me 50 lines in 45 seconds, maybe swap my opponent for someone not quite so good!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Selective adblocking

I use adblocking software, but I've just noticed something interesting.  Over time, I've disabled it for websites that I like.  The latest being The Washington Post.  What an excellent website that is!  Its sort of like an anti-Murdoch news.  It preaches excitement and hope, and rubbishes Republicans.  Its hard to imagine wanting more...

Less kittens

I have this browser plugin the replaces any picture of Tony Abbott with a picture of an adorable kitten.  So right now I'm suffering from kitten starvation.  Isn't it wonderful.

Monday, October 12, 2015

And hello Malcolm!

Look, Malcolm Turnbull took over as PM of Australia about a month ago.

When you go on anti-depressants you get an immediate hit, but after that it feels like nothing has changed.  Then about 3 weeks later, you realise that you are smiling.  That a weight is gone and things don't seem so hard.  And that is how its been with Malcolm.

Its been drip, drip, drip for a month, and I feel better.  Each thing was only little, but they added up.

Maybe the first thing was his appointment of a woman, Marise Payne, as Minister of Defence.  Now that is a job that is reserved for the boys.  And Malcolm, coldly, deliberately, snubbed the old guard.

Then was the low key announcement of the sudden processing of all refugees on Nauru.  It was going to take about a week, and the detention centre was going to be opened up, with the "inmates" now free to go anywhere on the island.  And suddenly, if you are like me, you realised that the cruelty of indefinite detention actually served no purpose.  And again, the old guard would have been frothing at the mouth with inchoate rage.  Tony, you may recall, was good at inchoate rage.

Next, a 15 year old shot a police worker.  It was terrorism, in that the 15 year old was Muslim, and was dressed in black etc.  But Turnbull, the police chief and the Premier of NSW (where it happened) all came out and spoke reasonably.  They stressed that the Islamic community suffered as much as anyone when this happened.  They stressed that you could be Muslim and a good Australian.  They asked for the cooperation of the Muslim community in working to stop the radicalisation of youth.   And then they stopped talking about it.  No more "death cult".  No standing in front of a bank of Australian Flags.  And I reckon, all around Australia, people felt relieved.  Maybe even smiled a bit.  We were living in a new Australia.

What did Turnbull do differently to Abbott?  Well, he defused the situation.  Is that because he's smart?  Maybe, but he doesn't have to be smart, he can get advice from smart people.  And he did, and it reduced the tension.  And he must have wanted that.  Wanted to appeal to the best in people, rather than stir up the worst.  And Tony, be honest, you were such a combative prick that you were happy to up the tension by dredging up our worst emotions.  Fuck I'm glad that you are gone.

Finally, Turnbull stood up in front of the Liberal Party and praised Tony Abbott.  I hope he didn't really mean it.  But I'm glad he did it.  When you praise someone, you are telling them that you don't see them as a threat.  That they are yesterdays man.  And I'm sure Abbott knew this, and just had to sit there and take it.

So all of these things add up to me feeling a bit of hope about our future.  The anti-depressants have finally kicked in. Here is a man who can maybe bring out the best in us.  The opposition will have a role again - to argue their case, and to have an input into government.  That is something Tony would never let them do.

Of course, Turnbull still has to show his hand when it comes to actual policy.  And he could be a typical right wing arsehole yet.  But I hope not.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I may end up renting in a few months.

Anyway, I've thought about what I hate about renting, and have decided what I'd like in my rental contract:

1)  At least a 3 year lease.  If the owner is desperate to terminate the lease early, they pay for the removalists, and the cleaning of the property, and all incidental costs of moving.  Plus, say, $1000 for the inconvenience.

2)  The owner maintains the garden and pays a fraction of the water bill.

3)  No rental inspections.

4)  I may pay for any necessary maintenance, and deduct the cost from the rent I pay.

5)  All communication by email.

I think that is fair.  Of course I need to think about it a bit more.  There may be more conditions I need.

Maybe its a bit rough not having rental inspections.  Just specify that cleanliness and tidiness are not issues that may be complained about - only actual physical damage to the property.  And even then, it can be fixed when I vacate - so why bother about it earlier?