25 December 2008

The big deal at Christmas

Arrived in adelaide a bit earlier than normal this year, so I've had the pleasure of shopping at the mall, hanging at the pub with the after work crowd, and a few games of scrabble with Mum. She's beat me both times, as have my interstate/international friends on every single online match, darnit. Got to work more on that end-game strategy.

During 2008 my Nanna went into a residential home. She'll be 95 in March, she's pretty with it but has started the forgetting that seems to come with great age. In her own flat she had lost interest in eating, her insides started to pack in, eventually ending up at a hospital with kidney failure. Now she lives in her own room in a ward that is quite cleverly designed to appear to seem smaller than than it really is. They have dining rooms with four or five tables dotted all over, plus activity rooms, a hairdresser and even a bar (open for seniors happy hour every Thursday 3.45 to 4.45 pm- apparently they all queue up in anticipation). If or when I start to fail on my feet or think that the cleaner is stealing my pens, I wouldn't be too upset to be in a place like it. Hopefully with some mischievous old ladies who could do stitch and bitch, although in another 30 years I probably won't have progressed past plain on the old knitting needles.

Anyhoo, Chrissy day so far has been quiet for us. Great to catch up with Smithy and Reg who both studied with me in Canberra but have washed up on the shores of d'laide, quite independently. Picnic in the park and hopefully a trip to the beach tomorrow.

This post was going to be a round-up of the big deal stories for Christmas. In Adelaide, people got all whiny about the tram line extension interrupting their commuter regime during 2008. I think it extended their cross-city car trip by about 10 minutes. But they ended up with a lovely melby-style main drag, and soon will have nice, clean fast trams scooting between central station and the entertainment centre. Sounds like a good deal to me. Latte-sipping Australia is huffy that the PM could only bring himself to put forward a 5% reduction in CO2 as a target for Australia. (15 % if he rest of the world gets its act together at the big Copenhagen meeting at the end of 2009). Our own on-line activist community is screening an ad comparing him to the climate-change denialist former prime minister, and airing it during the cricket - the highest rating show on tv over summer. Shame really, because they had to come so far in this country to even get climate change recognised politically as really real. And Penny Wong is such a dead-set smart toughie minister, I bet she would have liked to go further, but the mining can pull the strings pretty hard in this country. Based on my quick review of the press is some far-flung WA towns (more on that later), rural Australia doesn't seem too bothered as they're not so worried about climate change anyway.

But aside from all that, I can't really go past president-elect Obama with his shirt off for the top ranking story of the month. My word. It is wrong to have salacious thoughts about the leader of the free world?

Merry Christmas readers, happy Hanukah, happy new year, etc etc. Love, Aunty B.

22 December 2008

5 December 2008

Advantages to living in a cold, calvinist country

  1. When you go to the shops at 5 pm, and make the 10 minute cycle home, your white wine is nicely chilled.
  2. It gets dark before five and people in canal houses tend to leave their curtains open until about nine. If you rug up and walk around in the early evening you have a very good chance of seeing someone naked.
  3. When it is snowing, and you absolutely have to go out to the bank, there are plently of other locals getting around who don't see anything strange in cycling when it is one degree and ice is gathering on your beanie.
  4. If you ride in this weather for more than 10 minutes your face goes kind of numb so you can't feel the little icy needles hitting anymore.
  5. Getting back inside makes you feel reborn.
  6. You get to see ducks walking around on icy ponds in the park . Haha, skating ducks.
  7. The exchange rate is very good to the dollar.
Disadvantages to living in Netherlands in the winter:
  1. It's cold
  2. It's calvinist

2 December 2008

cuddly killer bots

So, Washington is having a think about how they can make war robots that obey geneva conventions, and don't get "angry or frustated" when going into battle.

Quotes include:
Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech university, who is working on software for the army, has written a report that concludes that robots, while not "perfectly ethical in the battlefield" can "perform more ethically than human soldiers".

He said that robots "do not need to protect themselves" and "they can be designed without emotions that cloud their judgment or result in anger and frustration with ongoing battlefield events".

Here's an idea.. how about we try to work out how to, er, like stop wars - rather than building killing machines that won't shoot at ambulances? Call me crazy.