Was lying awake at 3:00am this morning completely unable to remember the first verse of Jingle Bells. I have no idea why I needed to remember this in the wee hours of late May, but it was driving me nuts. Second verse, fine. Part of the third verse, also fine. First verse? Complete mental blank. My brain didn’t drag it up until I was brushing my teeth, hours later with fitful sleep at best in between.

Was waiting for the bus across to Morley this morning when someone got out of a car stopped at the lights. Not terribly unusual, except for the fact that they violently hurled the contents of a large takeaway cup at the car behind them, then jumped back in before driving away. Completing this little tableau was the police car (apparently unseen by the perpetrator) waiting at the other side of the intersection, which turned on its lights and casually took of in pursuit. Nice to see a little bit of instant karma.

Last Tango in Halifax ain’t bad is it? If I’d realised Nicola Walker was in it I would have started watching ages back.

Spiderman, Spiderman…

Many, many years ago my Dad happened to get a copy of The SAS Survival Handbook out of the local library. I found it fascinating – page upon page of advice on navigation, first aid, locating and trapping food, building shelter, signalling, and everything else a body could need in the aftermath of a plane crash, earthquake or other assorted apocalypse. I spent hours poring over it, and ended up getting my own copy to spend even more hours poring over without having to worry about late fees.

There was one thing that confused me though. Among the suggested equipment that you should carry with you at all times (which included knives, razor blades and a flexible wire saw – not really so great for air travel nowdays) was something called a ‘beta-light’. This was described as a ‘crystal’ that glows – glows forever in fact – providing enough light to read a map by or to tie to a hook and line as a fishing lure.

This puzzled the hell out of me. A glowing crystal? That’s the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a Charles Berlizt book about the mystery of Atlantis, not a hard nosed book about how to snare and skin badgers. Yet there it was, listed between the iodine crystals and waterproof matches (which you should split in half lengthways to save space). “Beta-Light”. Was that a brand name? Like it’s a “better” light? I couldn’t tell. I asked my parents what this magical item might be, but they were no help and didn’t seem to comprehend how unlikely and science-fictional such an item seemed. I tried looking up “beta-light” in the encyclopedias down at the library, but there was no such entry, and those in those now far gone days before the web that was pretty much the limit of research. So the concept of perpetually glowing crystals settled down into a quiet corner of my brain to await further developments, none of which were to occur for decades.

A few weeks back Spiderman 2 was on TV. I saw Spiderman when it came out in the cinemas and quite enjoyed it, but had never actually seen the sequel, and since I had nothing on the next morning decided to stay up and watch. I thought it was pretty good – Alfred Molina in particular did a great job of making Doctor Octopus a sympathetic villain, and Toby Macquire continued to be excellent at portraying a scrawny nerd from Queens. The one thing I did find amusing about the who thing however was the plot’s insistence on the importance of tritium – a substance so common that the oceans are full of it, yet a few grams is apparently enough to destroy the whole of Manhattan. Oh how I laughed!

Just out of idle curiosity, during an ad break, I decided to look up tritium on Wikipedia. Oops. Turns out I had been confusing it with deuterium. I don’t know if a few grams of tritium would be enough to destroy Manhattan, but I wouldn’t want to risk it. Continuing through the article I stumbled over the following…

The emitted electrons from the radioactive decay of small amounts of tritium cause phosphors to glow so as to make self-powered lighting devices called betalights

Holy crap! I clicked on the link, and there it was, all laid out for me!

Turns out a beta-light is not a “crystal”. It’s a sealed container of glass or plastic filled with gaseous tritium and lined with a phosphor. As the gas undergoes radioactive decay the beta particles emitted cause the phosphor to fluoresce, producing light. It won’t of course last forever, but it will provide light for many years, and although increasingly replaced with less radioactive light sources, it’s still pretty safe and would be a handy thing to have in a survival situation. Case closed!

In light of this surprising development, I now plan to watch Spiderman 3 to see if it can answer my questions about three body gravitational problems.



Kidding. There is no force on Earth that could make me watch Spiderman 3.

As the Sun Rises Slowly over Darch

There had been a major storm on Thursday. It’s important that you know this.

A couple of weeks back my good friend Matt was in town from Switzerland. As this is something that – given the appalling cost of air fares – rarely happens, arrangements were made that a bunch of us would get together at Fabes’ place in the far northern wastelands of Darch and spend Saturday hanging out, gaming and just generally catching up.

As a non-driver it’s always been somewhat difficult for me to get up to Fabes’ house. The most usual course of action has been to get the train up to Greenwood, then phone him to come and pick me up. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about this, so it pleased me immensely when some months back Transperth started a bus service from Warwick – the station before Greenwood – to pretty much just outside his domicile. So, a few days before the Saturday meetup I sat down with the Transperth website and plotted out a timetable that would allow me to get up to Warwick in time to catch the first bus of the day to Darch, arriving on Fabes’ doorstep just after 8:00am, thus maximising the time available to hang out with our international visitor. The timetable was as follows…

5:00am: Get up, shower, eat a pre-prepared breakfast
5:50am: Pick up prepacked bags and walk to train station
6:13am: Catch train to Perth
6:25am: Arrive at Perth Station, walk to Perth Underground
6:59am: Catch train from Perth Underground
7:12am: Arrive at Warwick
7:30am: Catch bus
8:02am: Get off bus and walk to Fabes’ house

So, I packed all my bags and in anticipation of my early start went to bed at 7:30 on Friday night.

My alarm went off at 5:00 on Saturday morning. I staggered out of bed and into the shower. I got dressed, ate breakfast, double checked that I had everything and at 5:50 staggered out the door and began walking. Given that the short stroll to the station was the longest walk I expected over the weekend and that rain was forecast, I was wearing my new Doc Martens which, while not yet broken in and hence very harsh on my ankles, would at least keep my feet dry, unlike my old pair which were very comfortable but almost separated from their soles.

I arrived at the station just on 6:00 as planned. I tagged in with my Smartrider and sat down in the pre-dawn darkness to await my train, pleased that everything was running to schedule.

6:13 came and went. No big problem, the trains are usually a few minutes late after all. 6:20 rolled around and I got a little concerned. I was just pulling out my phone to call the Transperth Info Line when the crossing lights started to flash. Finally! I stood up, picked up my bags and stood ready to board. The train came racing around the corner at a speed that indicated it had no intention to stop and barreled through the station, it turning out to be the Avonlink service. Damn. I sat back down and called the Info Line.

“When’s the next service from Bayswater Station?” I asked the woman when my call was answered – quickly for once it being nice and early on a Saturday when all right thinking people were still asleep rather than bothering Transperth operators. “The first train is at 6:13, then the next at 6:45” she informed me. Which I already knew. I thanked her and hung up.

It was obvious at this point that something had gone badly wrong with Transperth’s systems. I could hang around and hope that the by now ridiculously late 6:13 service turned up, wait for the 6:45 which wouldn’t get me to the city in time for my connection, or call for a taxi. I decided to call for a taxi and, after placing the call, trudged over to the carpark, tagging off along the way. Unable to determine how much train travel I’d done between tagging on and off at the same station in the stupidly early hours of the morning, the machine sucked the default maximum $9.00 fare out of my card, which did not improve my mood one bit.

I spent the next ten minutes – which felt like thirty – standing around in the car park vacillating over heading back on to the platform and waiting for any train that decided to show its face, or stay where I was awaiting a Taxi that didn’t seem to want to turn up. Eventually however a cab rolled in, slowly, as if the driver was afraid of being suddenly attacked by a bunyip. I flagged him down and we rode into the city, thankfully in silence as I was in no mood for polite conversation.

He dropped me off at the underground station, and I paid him the $26.00 fare – putting me $35.00 in the hole for a trip that should have cost a tenth of that if Transperth had actually been potest etiam freno circumducere stercore suo. I headed down into the station and caught the 6:59 train.

I sat down in the nearly empty carriage and relaxed. Everything was back under control and my carefully arranged schedule was no longer in jeopardy. Phew!

The train reached Warwick on time and with no problem. I disembarked and got the escalator up to the bus station, checking my watch to confirm how long I had before the bus arrived. My watch read 6:14 giving me…

My watch read 6:14.


The world around seemed to waver and melt. Nothing made sense. Had I somehow looped back in time? Was I was having a stroke. Had I lost the ability to read a clock face, or to do simple mathematics? I blinked hard and looked at the watch again to make sure I wasn’t making some kind of ridiculous mistake. It still read 6:14.

Then I remembered Thursday, and the truth hit. As I stood there in numb shock the last few hours of my life rewound in my head, and I watched them play over, now with a completely different interpretation…

There had been a major storm on Thursday.

There had been a major storm on Thursday which had cut power to my apartment. This required me to reset my bedside clock radio. I’d reset it, but reset it an hour early and somehow not noticed for a couple of days. Its alarm had gone off at 4:00am, and I had got up, showered and dressed, walked down to the railway station just before 5:00 and stood around on the platform getting incensed that the 6:13 train wasn’t turning up at 5:13. I’d then paid a completely unnecessary $25.00 for a taxi ride to ensure that I was an hour early for my connecting train, and was now standing at Warwick Bus Station an hour and 15 minutes early for the first bus of the day, while the train I had intended to catch would just be pulling in to Bayswater station all the way on the other side of town.

To say I was floored at my own incompetence would be an understatement. If the newsagent at the bus station sold beer and had been open at such an ungodly hour I fully believe I would have bought one and downed it in a single swig. I was stunned.  Stunned like a mullet. I stood with my mouth hanging open for a full five minutes before my brain dragged itself back into some semblance of order and I started to consider my options.

I could wait around on the cold, windy platform for over an hour. I could catch the next train to Greenwood and give Fabes a call for a lift. I could catch the next train back to Perth, then back out to Bayswater, walk home, go back to bed and then never leave my apartment again. In the end I decided to send Fabes a text message asking for a lift, ride up to Greenwood and start walking – the idea being that he would get my message when he woke up and by then I should be well on my way to his place – or at least the shops about halfway, reducing the inconvenience of having to come and rescue me.

A fine plan, which I put into action. A fine plan, except that I forgot to account for a few important factors…

1: I was wearing my new, unbroken-in Doc Martens.
2: I was wearing a heavy backpack full of games and other sundry amusements.
3: I was carrying an aluminum tool case containing a copy of Arkham Horror with a couple of add ons.
4: I was wearing a heavy coat to compensate for the early morning chill.
5: The distance from Greenwood Railway Station to the shops was not about a kilometre as I though, but four kilometres.
6: I am a fat, unfit bastard.

With no response from Fabes by the time I reached Greenwood I started out walking.

The first few minutes were reasonably pleasant. I strolled along the roadside as the sun rose slowly over Darch, happy that I was taking responsibility for my massive time-based cock up, and that all was well. But then I started to sweat. And the duct tape that I had slapped onto the back of my ankles to protect them from my boots began to rub off. And with that gone, the skin started to rub off. Within the first kilometre I was in a state of increasingly sweaty agony, but kept soldiering on in the desperate and quite inaccurate knowledge that the shops would be just over the next hill. I started lurching, trying to find a gait that would allow me to keep moving without tearing my ankles down to the tendon. My coat and hat became soaked with sweat and I couldn’t remove either, not having any way to transport them at the same time as my backpack and Arkham Horror box. My disheveled and hobbling appearance became so extreme that early morning joggers started veering off the path to get avoid me, no doubt wondering if they were witnessing some kind of publicity stunt for The Walking Dead, and the rain clouds gathering on the southern horizon moved closer, threatening to add another torment to my catalogue of discomforts.

After what seemed close to a million years I reached the shops. I had just enough energy to stagger over to the bus stop and collapse, finally able to shed my coat and hat. About three minutes after my arrival, the bus – the same bus that I had intended to catch at Warwick – hove into sight and I flagged it down, much to the consternation of the driver who seemed uncertain of what fare to charge gimping sweat monsters. I rode the rest of the way to Fabes’ house, and staggered up to the door just after 8:00am as planned, but much more tired, pain-filled and filthy than envisaged the night before.

Apart from that it was a great day.

M.C. Surveyor General in the Upper House

People are currently expressing a great deal of surprise that the hip-hop term “diss” (that is to disrespect someone) first appears in the December 10th 1906 edition of Perth’s own Sunday Times.

Those of us familiar with the history of our fair state however know full well that rap was an important and influential part of Western Australian history and politics from the 1880s right up until the first world war.

Take for instance Lord John Forrest’s maiden speech to Parliament in 1890…

I’m Lord John Forrest, G.C.M.G.,
Raised in the hood of Bunbury,
With Dr John Ferguson my Pop did sail,
I learned to rhyme at the feet of Bishop Hale,
First native born son to become a surveyor,
For the Lands and Survey crew of Western Australia,
Searched the deserts for Leichhardt with Tommy Windich,
Then from Esperance to Adelaide showing Eyre he’s my bitch,
Pinned the source of the Murchison down real pretty,
Then cruised the red centre to Adelaide city…

It continues like this for several paragraphs, but they’re mostly just demands for a knighthood and/or railway and poorly worded insults leveled at John Septimus Roe (let’s not even get into the infamous East Coast/West Coast feud with Sir Henry Parkes).

The Trust Game

Just got an email from the FBI informing me that the FBI agents I’m (apparently)  dealing with to obtain the money I’m (apparently) owed by the Nigerian Government as compensation for all the money I (apparently) lost to 419 scammers are fraudsters, and not the real FBI at all. Additionally the bank that these fraudulent agents are (apparently) dealing with on my behalf is not the actual Central Bank of Nigeria, and as such I should only deal with the Central Bank of Nigeria that these new, real FBI agents are (apparently) putting me in touch with.

I just don’t know who to trust anymore! ;D


So there was just a new Apple ad on TV. One which grabbed my attention with an unmistakeable baseline…

My first reaction was “Holy crap! That’s Gigantic!! Awesome!”. My second reaction was “Uh… do Apple realise what that song is actually about…?”

If I may be allowed to be blunt, the song Gigantic by the Pixies is about a cock. A big black cock. A gigantic black cock.

I don’t know if that’s meant to be a hint about some kind new Apple product, but if it is, I don’t think I’ll be buying.

Good ad though.

Notes on Physics

The Probability Maxim: All possibilities are played out somewhere in Probability.

The Probability Paradox: Probability travel links universes into continua that invalidate the Probability Maxim. First noted by the Wyrm philosopher Ryzan in 720 BC.

Artonic Quantum Theory: Artonic energy can only be expended in discrete units or quanta. This limits the amount to which Probability can be fractured, thus restricting which universes can be reached from any given universe and creating multiple interlaced continua – thus preserving the Probability Maxim. Disproven when the energy value of the Artonic Quanta was shown to be beneath the minimum necessary to fracture Probability.

Meta-Probability Theory: Championed by Zurvár physicist Àeksùl this theory proposed a second dimension of Probability, creating continua inaccessible to standard Artonic Probability travel. Fell into disfavour after the death of Àeksùl in his tragic laboratory disaster.

Harmonic Probability Theory: Probability can only be fractured in discrete units, restricting what universes are accessible and creating multiple interlaced continua – thus preserving the Probability Maxim. The currently accepted solution to the Probability Paradox.

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