Free Range Ablett

Some people don’t smell like they should

AFL ‘Superstar’ Gary Ablett Jr announced today that he’s leaving the Geelong Cats and moving to the Gold Coast Suns.

The movement of AFL players between teams is something that would normally rate on my interest radar somewhere below the antics of the fleas on Paris Hilton’s chihuahua, but I’m feigning an interest this time because it’s a great excuse to pull out a reference to a strange and obscure song by the strange and obscure (and probably defunct) Perth band O!, which goes by the name of Free Range Ablett.

It goes a little something like this…

Some people smell good!
Some people don’t smell like they should,
Some people smell like a free range Ablett…

Free Range! Free Range ababababa abababa,
Ababababa abababa,

And his faithful companion the…
Egg roll, Egg roll,
Free Range! Ababababa abababa,
Gary-gary-gray-gary-gary-gary Ablett!
And his faithful companion the…
Egg roll, Egg roll,

(Those lyrics may not be 100% accurate, and the song’s actually about his dad, but hey, let’s not let that ruin the fun :))

That’s better…

OK, my blog is now starting to look more like I want it to. Need to get that header sorted out, and rearrange the sidebar a bit, then I might finally be satisfied.

In my perambulations around the net the other day I stumbled over this quite remarkable page –The Neanderthal Theory of Autism. It’s a page outlining a theory that Autistic spectrum disorders are actually the legacy of breeding between modern humans and Neandertals in prehistoric Europe, and that the symptoms of autism are actually Neandertal traits.

It’s an interesting idea and there’s some interesting evidence in there (the much higher rate of autism in European as opposed to African populations for instance) but there’s also a lot of absolute fruit-loopery of the highest order dressed up in the garb of science.

The basic methodology seems to work like this…

1) Neandertals may have done things this way
2) Some Autistics do things this other way
3) The first way and the second way are kind of similar
4) Therefore Autistics must be Neandertals! It all fits!

For instance, this piece of crystal clear logic…

Most of the finds of Neanderthals are from caves. It’s possible that Neanderthals spent a lot of time in caves, or maybe they hibernated there during winter. Autistics have a fascination for caves. Many autistics are afraid of the sound of a motor-bike. A motor-bike sounds similar to a bear. It is possible that the instintive (sic) reaction of autistics when they hear the sound of a motor-bike triggers an ancient fear for cave-bears.

Uhhhh…. OK, let’s look at this bit by bit. Yes, most Neandertal finds do come from caves, but this has less to do with the habits of Neandertals and more to do with the fact that caves are very good at preserving old bones, so that’s where we tend to look for them. I mean sure, Neandertals may have been hanging out in caves all the time, but you can’t build a hypothesis around the fact that we’ve gotten very good at narrowing down our search for archaeology over the last 200 years.

Autistics have a fascination for caves“. We do?! No one told me this!? I shall have to start looking for a cave to be fascinated by right away!!! Honestly…

Motor-bikes, well, yes, the sound of a motor cycle does freak me out a bit, particularly if it comes tearing around a corner at full roar without any warning. But that’s not because it sounds like a bear, it’s because it’s a loud, sudden noise. Autistics don’t like loud sudden noises of any kind, be they engines, thunder, gunshots or – yes I suppose – cave bears. You might as well argue that Autistics are scared of the sound of motor cycles because the people who ride them tend to be large and hairy, and hence resemble cave bears.

The entire work is full of this kind of stuff. Particularly annoying (or laughable, depending on how you look at it) is the chain of supposition which will state tentatively that Neandertals might have behaved in a certain way, or might have had a certain trait, and then roll on into the next sentence on the confident assumption that they definitely did. That’s not science, that’s wish fulfilment.

So yes, an interesting theory, but let’s try and find some real evidence to back it up before we go riding off into the sunset clinging to the fur of a mammoth (which is apparently why Autistics like climbing over things…)


The Social Singularity

Why I will never have a Facebook account.

Hmmm, this is obviously the year of draws. A draw in the federal election, and now a draw in the AFL grand final. They’re going to replay it next Saturday, which is frankly hilarious. Call it schadenfreude, but the idea of all those fanatical footy fans moving heaven and earth to get tickets to the grand final and booking flights to Melbourne and so forth, only to have to do it all over again in a week’s time – well it has me cackling like a loon.

I’m a bad, bad man ;D

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about Facebook.

Barely a week goes by these days without someone asking me if I’m on Facebook. Now in my experience when someone asks you if you’re on Facebook, they don’t actually mean “are you on Facebook?” they mean “can you add me to your friends and if not why do you hate me?” – because when I tell them that no, I’m not on Facebook they get a very confused look on their faces, as if they’ve asked what my blood type is and I’ve told them that I don’t actually have any blood.

My reasons for avoiding Facebook are threefold, and I figured I’d explain them here in the hopes that people might stop regarding me as some kind of weird, alien, untrustworthy, internet communist.

Privacy: Facebook has an absolutely appalling record when it comes to respecting user privacy. Historically they’ve tended to regard any information you put up on your Facebook account as their own property, to do with as they like. Public scrutiny has forced them to clean up their act a bit but I still wouldn’t trust them with a Subway order, let alone intimate details of my personal life.

Call me paranoid if you like, but I work in the internet industry and thus perhaps have a better viewpoint of just how bad privacy abuse can get. My details are mine, and I’m not releasing them to anyone without a really good reason. Handing them over to a bunch of privacy-happy clowns like Facebook just so I can post messages on a “wall” is simply not going to happen.

The Social Singularity: I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most social of creatures. I have a pretty small group of people I count as friends, and a somewhat larger group of people I consider acquaintances. If I sat down and did the maths the total of both groups would probably come in under 30. This is a figure I’m perfectly happy with – after all, my friendship is so awesome that it needs to be carefully rationed out ;D

Facebook is not built like this. Facebook divides the world into two groups – Friends, and people who you haven’t friended yet. Anyone who’s a Friend gets  to see everything you do, with no way to filter information based on how much of a friend you actually consider them.

(OK, from reading Lamebook I believe there’s some kind of private message system, but I really can’t be bothered looking up the details)

Add to this the fact that rejecting a friend request on Facebook has become the new social faux-pas. Your Boss, your Aunt, that homeless guy down at the supermarket, any of them can look you up and send a friend request. You can reject it – and have to go through a painful litany of excuses the next time you see them – or accept it, and have them reading every detail of your social life. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

Facebook collapses your entire social circle into a singularity. Everyone you know suddenly has the highest level of access to your personal life. That is not something I’m ever going to get on board with.

Contrarism: I admit it, I’m a contrarist. If everyone is carrying on about how great something is, I’ll be the curmudgeon in the corner refusing to join in just on general principles. This is just the way I am, deal ;D

So yes. I don’t have a Facebook account, and do not plan to obtain one at any point. So stop sending me those damn invites.

Carn the… oh who cares?

Football! Football football football! FOOTBALL!!

This weekend it’s that “one day in September”, the culmination of the Australian sporting year, the AFL Grand Final. I really don’t care.

Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. I tend to regard sport as a waste of time that could more profitably be spent reading books or looking up humorous cat photos on Google. But the thing about this year’s grand final is I really don’t care.

You see I do take a very vague interest in the AFL. Not in the sense that I’d go to a game, or even watch one on TV. But I do very vaguely support a few teams, and am mildly pleased when they do well.

For instance, for reasons of geographic patriotism I very vaguely support the two Western Australian teams, West Coast (the Eagles) and Fremantle (the Dockers). I’m always slightly pleased when they crush teams from the Eastern States. On occasions where they play each other I tend to more or less favour the Dockers, since my brain still regards them as a new, underdog team in need of support – despite the fact that they’ve been around for over a decade now and did really well this season.

For historical reasons I vaguely support Essendon (the Bombers) and weakly despise Geelong (the Cats). I also have a slight fondness for Port Adelaide (the Power), for no reason that I can adequately explain.

None of these teams are in the grand final this year. Instead it’s between Collingwood (the Magpies) and Saint Kilda (the Saints). I have absolutely no opinion, positive or negative about these two teams, and as such couldn’t care less who wins.

(I suppose if I really think about it I’d prefer the Saints to win, because it would annoy Eddie McGuire. But really, that’s about it.)

Anyway, roll on Saturday, so we can get this over and done with for another year!

Meme Me

Office Shenanigans

A conversation in the office today..

Coworker: (in relation to some ugly concrete panels at Esplanade railway station) What are they for?

Me: What’s it for? What’s it mean?

Coworker: Magnets! How do they work?

Me: Double rainbow!

Coworker 2: I’m on a horse.

It’s a wonder we get anything done at all.

Open Source Quarto

Something more-or-less useful for once.

Over the weekend I wanted to print out a document in quarto format. That is in such a way that 8 pages are printed on the same piece of paper (both sides), it’s folded into quarters, some staples are put in the middle, the top is trimmed, and presto! You have a classy looking 8 page booklet.

Now you’d think that with the open source community’s love of all kinds of independent, home crafted, maker type stuff this would be an easy ask. But apparently not! Nowhere online could I find any program or set of instructions that could carry out the simple task of taking a word processing document and sending the contents to a printer in such a way that it could be folded into a quarto. Madness!

So, I had to figure out how to do it myself. And I thought I’d explain how for every other mad bastard out there trying to make their own booklets.

Now, these instructions are probably not the most efficient way of doing things, but the get the job done, which is the main thing. Oh, and I’m not going to explain in what order you need to arrange your pages as this will change based on how many pages you’re printing (you should be smart enough to figure this out for yourself anyway). These instructions tell you how to get four pages printed out – with the top ones upside down – on one piece of paper.

Step one – Write up your document in Open Office. I suppose you can write it in some other word processor and paste it in, but seriously, why would you be using anything else? 😉 Keep in mind that you’ll be printing out your pages at a quarter normal size, so scale your content accordingly (I found 22pt was good for body text).

Step two – Export each page of your document as a separate pdf file. Yes, this is a pain, but as I said it’s the only way I could figure out to get things to work.

Step three – Open up a new A4 Inkscape document. Drop in some guides to divide the page into quarters.

Step four – Import the first pdf file. The text and graphics will drop into the page as a single object. You’ll need to scale it down – oddly Inkscape seemed to import my pages at half size, so I only had to scale them down by a further 50%. Drag the object into the appropriate quarter of the page – if you have snap to guides enabled it should snap neatly into place.

Step five – Repeat step four until all four pages have been imported and placed. You’ll need to rotate the top two pages 180 degrees so they’ll be the right side up when folded.

There you go! Repeat the steps until all your pages are placed, and then print them out (make sure to print the rights ones back to back and the right way up). Fold them up, staple, cut, and you have your own semi-professional looking booklet.

So that’s it. An entirely open source (if you ignore the intermediate pdf step) way of printing in quarto. Get to it my little home publishing cobras of desire!

Why Piano Matters

And nothing else

I was trawling around the net the other day (as one does) and ended up on a truly atrocious website that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Geocities in 1998. Animated gifs, marquee text, 20 point Times New Roman against a tiled background that rendered it completely unreadable – a nightmare from the depths of time and sad casualty of the browser wars. I was about to close it down before it could infect my computer with blink tags when the midi file started, and I was forced to pause and figure out what the sublime piano music emerging from my speakers was.

At first I thought it might be the Moonlight Sonata, but it wasn’t. I was wracking my brain for possible other pieces when it suddenly clicked. Nothing Else Matters. By Metallica. It was a frickin’ piano cover of Metallica! And it sounded fantastic!

I was, to use the modern phrase, quite blown away.

I’ve managed to locate a similar version of the song on YouTube by one Scott D. Davis who seems to do a lot of this kind of thing. So, enjoy!

No-one Cares Enough to Hate it Anymore

The West should be Ashamed

This post from the Worst of Perth,

a) Says something really important about the decline of print news
b) Says something really important about the West Australian (although frankly it’s nothing we didn’t know already…)
c) Almost sounds like Spider Jerusalem

These can only be good things.

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