Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ask yourself

If you were an asteroid, which country would you hit?


Oh no you ruin the... !! Well, I don't know what you ruined... but no anyway.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

In case it's relevant, Blogger won't accept the code for the quiz results but it's easy to fix. In your "Edit Html" window, add a [/font] to the end of the post, but where I've written square brackets put greater-than/lesser-than symbols instead (I don't know what they're called, obviously).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mr Harvey Lights a Candle

I have a thing for Timothy Spall. Something about him just appeals beyond all measure or reason, which is unnecessarily mysterious and thus really annoying.
He starred in Mr Harvey Lights a Candle, a drama from the BBC shown on Australia’s ABC tonight, and it was a small thing of quiet beauty (despite some too-neat ends) with something real at its heart - just the sort of story that television, given half a chance, does really well. Bravo, in other words. TV can be fantastic, and this was.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I'm trying to get a photo of every type of bird I see around the place this weekend, and it's proving more difficult than I'd imagined. My camera isn't very cooperative with a moving target (the focus is automatic, and far too often it just keeps zooming in and out without locking onto the subject) and the lens isn't great for distance use. Plus, it's the damnedest thing: all the birds just take one look at me and fly away! Boo!

Still... It's a fun thing to do in a rather nerdy way.** I'll update each photo if I can come up with a better version later, but the list as it currently stands is this:

UPDATE: The photos are over here now because this page was taking too long to load. But look! How cute is this bird??

I don't know what to call it, other than Oh You Little Darling.

** Big thumbs up for SBS TV's first instalment of Nerds FC last night. It walks a fine line between laughing with and at the players, but (I thought, anyway) decided to side with them, thank goodness. One of the highlights for me was the coach, Andy Harper, saying after an incident the first time they played: "I didn't think that was the hard part of the game, the throw-in."

:) Nerds rule!

Friday, April 14, 2006


Full moon, Good Friday, 5:45pm.

Happy Easter, reader. I hope you'll have a pleasant weekend.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Overconfidently mistaken

Some scary reading for sarcastic bods like myself: a study outlined in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (mentioned in the Icon section of last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald) found that most emailers grossly overestimate their ability to convey and detect subtle things like sarcasm and humour, and it's all thanks to egocentrism, "the inherent difficulty of detaching oneself from one's own perspective when evaluating the perspective of someone else".

Damn. How's this for depressing: "To the extent that people overestimate the obviousness of the fact that they are 'just kidding' when they poke fun or criticize, they may unwittingly offend." Bloody hell. When do I ever do anything OTHER than kid around, poke fun and criticize?

And don't think that familiarity with the person on the other computer will eliminate problems, either: "we found no evidence of increased communication effectiveness among acquaintances [in comparison to strangers]".

If you've got access to the online journal or the PsycARTICLES/Ovid database, you can check the gruesome story for yourself:

Kruger, Justin; Epley, Nicholas; Parker, Jason; Ng, Zhi-Wen, “Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 89(6), December 2005, pp. 925-936.

Alternatively, and if you're quiet, you can read it over here. It's a long but well-written account, and though I don't know anything about surveys or their results, the conclusions do seem convincing. Unfortunately.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I carried my little camera around in a pocket today and got lucky again. Look:

A little bird, probably a female Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus). I found it sitting on the windowsill there, so I'm guessing it flew in the back door and made its way right through the house. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, it didn't seem very upset, and once I'd opened that window (to the right in the pic) it soon jumped up and flew away.

Possibly the tallest mushroom in history. That's a pair of multi-grips posing beside it (because I was wandering through the paddock carrying them, that's why). They are 24cm long and you can see about half of them sticking out over the grass there, so I'm estimating that mushroom is about 40cm tall. Pretty lofty, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Beautiful sunset today.
More pics at Flickr.

Bird brain


It started in the Melbourne Museum last December. The Southern Diversity exhibition has lots of stuffed birds and animals, and the way I remember it, in the glass case shown on the left in this photo:

there is a bird that looks like this:

I looked at this bird and mentally said to my nonexistent companion, "Oh look! A Rainbow Lorikeet!" Then looked at its title: Eastern Rosella. Oh.

It was a small thing, but unsettling. I couldn't work out whether I was thinking of the wrong bird or had always mixed up the names. And in what seemed like a cosmic joke, outside the Museum and round the other side of its neighbour, the Royal Exhibition Building, there were more of these birds frolicking in the fountain. They had to be Eastern Rosellas, but were they the same birds I'd always called Rainbow Lorikeets?

When you see the two birds together, it's not clear how anybody with working eyes and a brain could get them confused. Take a look at the Eastern Rosella above, and then look at this Rainbow Lorikeet:

The colours are different. It's obvious when you compare them, but I hadn't ever seen them together, and maybe I've got no visual memory. Even sitting here now, I can't remember what either of them looks like.

However. The other day a bird I would have called a Rainbow Lorikeet flew down and perched on the bushy thing growing outside the window here. Thanks to my tremendous housekeeping skills, the bird book I had consulted about the teeny-weeny feather mystery was still lying right at hand, so it was flick, flick, flick to page 188 and... Damnation! An Eastern Rosella!

And to seal the deal, this morning I saw two more birds I would have called Rainbow Lorikeets, and, armed with binoculars and the trusty bird book, I found them: yes, page 188. Eastern Rosellas.

Damnation. All this time, all this time I had them wrong. It makes no difference to them, of course, but it makes a weirdly significant difference to me. I don't understand what that difference is, mind you, I just know that it matters. I thought they were one thing and yet they were another. And it's not that I'm so upset about being wrong, either, or that's not the whole of it. It's bigger than that. I'm wondering about what the truth means, why it matters, if it really does matter. Education, learning, striving to learn what's real... I've always just assumed they were good things, but what if the truth makes you miserable and does no real good in the world? What's the point? What does it matter?

And obviously the next step in this well-rehearsed waltz is to ask whether anything matters, and if there's an answer to that, it's not going to be found in a blog post. So here's something else instead: if you'd like to identify some of the more frequently sighted Australian birds, ABC's Backyard Birdwatch is very handy, and the source of the bird pics used above. God bless the ABC.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Talking about the weather

We had some weird little storms here yesterday afternoon. The first one only lasted about five minutes, but the initial force of the wind was phenomenal and (for me) completely unexpected. It filled this room with spray and I had trouble closing the door against it. Not surprisingly, the power went off for a few hours, and in the meantime we had two more storms from other directions. All in all, a rather strange afternoon weatherwise.

Needless to say, the dogs did their usual storm thing: Little Pup hid under the dining room table, and Big Pup wouldn't leave my side, huffing and puffing in distress as though she was The Little Engine That Really Couldn't. I was trying to count how many breaths she took per minute, but it was too fast to count (not joking).

The photo above looks east, and shows one storm heading north along the coast; there are three more pics at Flickr.