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Australian bush fires
I include the following from BBCi for those who have just returned from visiting another planet and aren't aware of what has been happening:
[from BBCi, 2009/02/22]
In the beginning, this was an unspeakable tragedy. I recall a news helicopter was ahead of the fire, looking down. It might have been moving pretty quickly, or it might have been windy. It was hard to tell. Every so often the apparent movement of the fire was punctuated by explosions which zipped away into the distance. It is only then that you got an idea of how quickly it was travelling, it is was only then that you realised that those explosions might have been cars, or gas tanks, or other detritus of what the day previous was a town. This, and the suspicion that some of the fires were started deliberately, is an unspeakable tragedy.
This gave way to an unspeakable tragedy of a different form. People telling horror stories, such as that woman who's dog was in the back of her truck only he's not here anymore as he caught fire... in the back of the truck... as the people were fleeing. In the midst of Australia's tragedy, I feel the need to court controversy by asking how many of the 200-odd lives could have been 'saved' (or, rather, not lost) if people got the hell out while they could still see the horizon in both directions?
I have never experienced a forest or bush fire. When I was small I was caught up in a scrubland fire - Wyndams Common - but I am not aware of anybody dying as everybody got out PDQ and the fire service kept it from spreading too far. Last year there was a nearby field fire. I think, to a certain degree, fire is an ever-present danger, though obviously some situations (as these events certainly have shown) are more threatening than others.
We don't have a formal fire plan, however the mental plan that we have - that we would have put into action if that field fire had crossed the boundary into our neighbour's land (thus putting it closer than about 2/3rds of a mile) - is to grab the budgies and the cats. If there is time I would grab the computer base unit and backup DVD and mom would get the important papers and her childhood photo album. Then we'd get in the car and go. The end.
It would be a personal tragedy, no doubt about it, and I am sure to spend the rest of my lifetime searching for the odd thing that I no longer have. But at least I'd be around to do so.
The devastation and scope of the bush fires hit the world's media pretty quickly. Satellite imagery suggested the smoke has made it beyond the Philippines. Can somebody, anybody, explain to me why the hell people hung around when they knew what was coming? Like those people in California that try to fight off a forest fire using a garden hose, sometimes events that unfold are too big, too powerful, too ferocious. That's when you have to draw the line and ask is it worth protecting my plasma TV or is it more sensible to protect myself and those I love? Material things can mostly be replaced. Lives cannot be. There's no comparison.
Children out late
Another slice of BBCi:
[from BBCi, 2009/02/22]
Surely allowing your children out late without a damn good reason (and maybe even with) is just bad parenting? It seems something of a trend these days to blame schools, blame the government, blame other parents and other children; how long until people with difficult children look in the mirror and realise that a lot of behaviour can be put down to upbringing (regardless of what liberal excuse-makers might want to suggest). Take me, for example. I was a difficult child. Hyperactive, easily bored, extremely angry about being sat in the back of the class and called stupid when I was reading Chocky and not stupid waste-of-time Elf Light & Candle Light like the rest of the class - I'd moved beyond books with pictures and really big Ladybird-style lettering. I suppose I could very easily have been a truant and a problem. My mother was strict when she needed to be (and yes, that included the odd spank, as I would do to my children if I felt they deserved it - and to hell with what the law states). But more than that, she made me feel loved, wanted, and a part of the world. Important, not ignored. And when I was being punished for being bad, sometimes I would not know why I was being punished but those would have been the early days when I threw Oscar-nominatable tantrums; but on the whole I remember knowing why I was being punished. Didn't always help, but I did know why... ☺
I was never a truant, and while I did some daft things "for fun" and frequently forgot my homework (for me, schoolwork was schoolwork and out of those hours was definitely not schoolwork), I never did anything especially 'bad'. [read below] Even when on my own going to college, I went. Okay, I might have arrived late (I'm so not a morning person), but I don't think ever more than about ten minutes, and I did turn up for every scheduled lesson....
Point is, had my mother not cared, I could have caused quite a bit of trouble, and been quite a different person. There are many worse things I could have been, but mom's upbringing made sure I knew what is right and what isn't. Not in terms of what is "acceptable" but in terms of what is morally correct, which is so much more.
Maybe it is about time society had the balls to assess people's abilities to be a parent before they come to term? That is sounding very Orwellian and there is undoubtably a huge potential for abusing such a concept; however I wonder how many teenagers got themselves in the family way, either intentionally to try to live on the soc, or as a side effect of getting their brains screwed out, boinking like bunnies... how many of these didn't really want children, how many aren't even that sure what to do with said children, and how many are still living their selfish lifestyles with very little accomodation for the fact that they now have dependencies - people to look after, to care for, and most importantly ... to love. Is this the reason for the out of control children that TV seems gleefully eager to give airtime to? For a certain fact, everybody under the age of 12 isn't a monster. There are school-age teenagers who aren't getting laid every time they are alone. And there are, believe it or not, kids that score As on their exams. For those with less direction in life, that we hear about in the news time and again, it is a problem we all have to think of a way to deal with now as the problem exists now; however for the future we should consider more radical proposals...
...because, for certain, the inept government has the wrong idea here. It is illegal to provide alcohol to minors. So why are they introducing some new legislation? If one fails, twenty won't do better! We should assess people's suitability as potential parents, and for those who need help, to provide it. Furthermore, part of the process of having a child should require the parent to sign a contract - they won't leave it behind while they go out partying. Alcohol shall henceforth be consumed in moderation. And if you have difficulties looking after one, you will be required to practice birth control because - like laws - if one is causing problems, two (plus) won't make things better. Oh, and to have a support network in place so that any threats issued (such as "get caught clubbing on more time, you and your unwanted baby will be separated) can actually be implemented rather than lie as nothing more than futile minacities.
The end of celebrity culture status
The thoughts of the above paragraph should, furthermore, be backed up by the end of the celebrity culture status.
Imagine, if you will, what would befall me if I was caught in my local McDonald's shoving cocaine up my nose. There is no doubt I would be arrested. I would probably, if living in the UK, spend some time behind bars. As a resident in France I would most likely find my presence here undesirable; and whether I would be further punished here or in my country of origin is something I don't know (nor have any desire to find out).
So the next time some supermodel or pop star is caught doing drugs, same process. I don't give a damn if it stands to ruin their career. I, personally, would find being forced to return to the UK would ruin my hopes and dreams (most of which involve staying out of the UK, cesspool that it is becoming...) but - whatever - that is the likely outcome of me being caught with class A drugs...
There is a reason the TV programme is called Pop Idol - idol, as in to idolise, with leagues of people wishing to emulate their chosen hero; either in actuality by attempting to be a clone, or by simply wishing to act and behave as they act and behave. The laws that apply to you and I should apply equally to them. And to ministers, politicians, members of the Royal Family, and everybody in between. The law is the law, and exceptions - especially those granted on status - show an imbalance, a corruption. If the law is believed to be wrong, challenge it. People do. Some win, some don't. But no more "I can drive my car at 102 on the hard shoulder with a joint in one hand and a mobile phone in the other because I'm somebody famous"...that should stop, and those caught behaving in such a way should be seen to publically pay the price...
Which leads me on to:
Love me, leave me?
What is it about celebrities who scream about privacy? The life cycle of a celebrity appears to be "love me, love me, sod off and leave me alone, love me, love me...". The usual way a celebrity makes the fame circle is to turn themselves into a sort of commodity. The way they do that is, basically, to flaunt themselves to anybody who is looking. Or, as is more often the case these days, to either have sex with somebody who is already a celebrity, or to say something really idiotic that causes a storm in a teacup. Some people seem to go out of their way to attract paparazzi. I shall name no names as it's pretty obvious. Instead, when's the last time you saw Dido sprawled on the ground wasted? When's the last time you saw Leelee Sobieski and Jodie Foster making out? Look on Google images if you want, but the only way you'll get those sorts of pictures is by some hardcore Photoshopping.
There's a lovely picture someplace of Jennifer Love Hewitt 'riding' her shopping trolley in a car park (I do that too, sometimes). I suspect it was more an opportunity for the camera guy than any specific amount of following. I'm not talking about stalkers, they are a whole different thing. But for the paparazzi crowd, you can't appeal to them with a lot of behaviour that you will come to regret, and then complain when you start to feel those twinges of regret (or perhaps those twinges of a litigation settlement). The answer is simple. Become a normal star and not a notorious one, or (more simply) "get outta the kitchen" and find alternative employment - get a real job.
If a bunch of camera weilding nutters turned up at my place of work, I'd walk on by. They're obviously not going to be there for me...
So what was the 'bad' thing I did?
It's quite lame. I 'stole' a Jane Fonda workout DVD from WHS. I say 'stole' in quotes because I went back and replaced it back on the shelf a minute later... much to the astonishment of the employee watching me (and I was pretty astonished to, she looked to be a 12 year old in school uniform, I was quite surprised to see she had a name badge!). I specifically picked that Jane Fonda DVD as it was the least likely thing I would actually consider stealing. Exercise isn't really my 'thing', and the DVD case said more than I needed to know about the contents.
So why did I do it?
Simple. A proof-of-concept regarding security-tagged things and the detectors. Wasn't interested at all in the DVD. I just wanted to get a security tagged item out, and back in again. I've never been an employee of WHS, I know they'd be extremely cynical if I asked to try, and I can't afford to buy my own security setup to play with... so this was risky, yes, but the only real way I would be able to test my theory. Then, theory ascertained, it was no longer of interest. I guess I could have tried walking out with loads (at other shops that didn't employ girls that look like pre-teens!), but that wasn't the point. It was in overcoming the security system.
It's the same sort of logic that lead me to collect a number of computer viri for RISC OS. Hunting down the little buggers, IDing them, and killing them off. Quite a challenge to track and nail a program that is trying not to leave traces (if we discount The Icon Virus that was written in BASIC, a proper multitasking application, and so bug-ridden it was a suprise it ever worked at all).
I'm trying to think... Never got drunk. Never smashed a window. Never killed/raped/maimed anybody. Don't own a gun, samurai sword, chainsaw... Never raised the dead or held a seance. I guess I'm an alright sort of guy, if a bit boring. ☺
By the way - don't ask. It took weeks of deep thought and playing with a home electronics kit, then a further month and a half to get the balls to actually try it out to see if it worked for real. So if you want to know how to get stuff 'past security', you're going to have to go on your own expedition of self-awareness. Or, I guess, you could always take the luser option and Google it. The Internet wasn't around when I tried. I had to think this one up for myself...
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Last read at 16:43 on 2022/05/20.
© 2009 Rick Murray
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