Saturday, December 24, 2011

"The Wild Holiday Goose"

Dal Carver, owner of the Wild Goose Cafe in Ashland, Oregon, and an extraordinarily gifted piano and keyboard player, and I, a ne'er-do-well folkie, came up with the idea for this album in 2005 or so. In October. With the help of a mindblowingly great group of musicians and recording people (Tom Freeman), it was finished in six weeks. We sold a thousand or so, gave all the profits to local schools for art programs. Bonus: I only sing one song on it. You're welcome.

No lie: this is a really great album. Try "Jingle Bells" first and you'll understand.

  The Wild Holiday Goose by Little Thom

I'll get all the track info soon.

And why someone in Germany is selling one I do not know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I May Marry This Video

This is fatuous, lowbrow YouTube stuff, but hellonfire, this made me happy for a little while:

Bottomfeeders: "Sigh"

A song you can purchase for pennies here or here (and lots of other places listed in the right-hand sidebar), and listen to right here.

Sigh by Little Thom

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Sunshine Face

My sunshined-face baby, and some other people I love.

June 21, 2010, our Valley View Road home.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

UPDATE! Dingo! | New Inquest For "A Dingo Ate My Baby!" Case

Update, June 12, 2012: The dingo did it!


I'm now convinced this story will still be playing out in the 27th century:
A new inquest into the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain will begin on February 24, Fairfax media reports. 
Fairfax says Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris will conduct the inquest into the death of Azaria, who was nine-weeks-old when she disappeared from her parents' tent at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in 1980. 
Azaria's mother Lindy said she saw a dingo leave the tent, a claim that was greeted sceptically by many in a case that gripped the attention of the nation. 
Fairfax says that Ms Morris is reopening the inquiry mainly because of information provided by the Chamberlains' legal counsel regarding dingo attacks since Azaria's disappearance.
Information regarding dingo attacks since? Interesting. Maybe they found a dingo den full of baby carcasses...

• Hilarious picture came from here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Explosion at Canberra Food Court? [updates]

Jus saw this, unsourced, on Twitter.
Theres been an explosion at the food court at Belconnen Mall in Canberra
Update: News story here:
A man has be taken to hospital after suffering burns and fragment injuries in an explosion at a shopping mall in Canberra that also left another man with superficial facial injuries.
Update 2: I asked Twitter user if he was there:
No, some friends of mine are. The word is a bomb went off near Donut King. Waiting to hear confirmation of what happened.
More here. Big news orgs are getting this now:
Some witnesses speculated the incident was the result of a gas bottle detonating, while others blamed a “homemade confetti bomb”.
Update, December 18: Looks to have been an accident.

Soul-Crushing News

Tens of thousands of children abused in Dutch Catholic institutions, report says 
Eight hundred Catholic clergy and church employees were guilty of abusing children over 40 years, a commission reports
How the Catholic Church still exists, and that so few within its ranks have been punished—with what we've learned in the last decade and more—is just so fucking depressing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Louis CK's Experiment

A couple days ago I paid $5 to download video of a recent performance by comedian Louis CK at the Beacon Theater in NYC. (You can but it right here.) Christine and I watched it on my laptop, and it was an all-around excellent experience: good video, sound, etc. and the performance was several times literally laugh out loud and almost out of our seats funny.

I did not realize that I was part of an experiment:
People of Earth (minus the ones who don't give a shit about this): it's been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?
He goes on to explain that he decided to bypass going with a "big company," which would have paid him a big guaranteed fee, and which would have sold videos of the performance - videos with limitations - for a whole lot more than $5. He paid for the production himself - video, editing, the website where it was sold - paying more than $200,000. There was, as you could see, risk involved with this experiment.

What happened?
The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we've sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000.
Experiment successful. An the cool thing is that with its success, Mr. CK says he plans to do this in the future - screw the big companies.  So the experiment was a success for us, too.

• A friend points to a Reddit thread Louis CK took part in two days ago. One comment from him, replying to a question about how much he actually does on the editing of his shows:
yeah I do the whole thign. On season 1 I had an editor and we shared it about half. But season two i edited without any help. It was fucking hard. and yes, i sit at the macbook and just put it together from start frame to finish.


Songs Make Excellent Christmas Presents

And they're darned inexpensive!

1983: A very good year for sweaters!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Remembering Iran-Contra

I don't know where Charles P. Pierce has been hiding (just from me, probably), but witnessing his sudden appearance and meteoric rise on the internets via his position at Esquire's website has been inspiring, and provides an opportunity for a learning experience unparalleled I think in recent internet history. I honestly have the feeling that if I were to read everything he's written in, say, the last ten years, I'd emerge a smarter—and wiser—person by several factors.

An example:
... Iran-Contra was a straightforward constitutional B&E. The Reagan people wanted to fight a war in Central America. Congress did its constitutional duty and shut off the money. The administration then broke the law by arranging private funding for its pet war. One of the ways it did that was to sell military hardware to the government of Iran, which sponsored not only terrorism, but also the kidnapping of various American citizens abroad. All of this was in service to a private foreign policy, devoid of checks and balances, and based on a fundamental contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law… 
Iran-Contra was the moment when the country decided — or, alternatively, when it was decided for the country — that self-government was too damned hard, and that we’re all better off just not knowing. It was the moment when all the checks and balances failed, when our faith in the Constitution was most sorely tested, and when it was found most seriously wanting. Iran-Contra is how all the crimes of the subsequent years became possible. It is when the Constitution became a puppet show.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home From Tasmania

All I've got to say right now is "Ow." Followed by beer. And "Wow." And snoring.

More soon, including lots of pics and video. Here's one for now, taken from Bruny Island, just off Hobart, Tasmania.

And here's a picture of a home appliance:

That, my friends, is an LG washer/dryer combo. It washes - and it dries! (Some please tell Jack to look at this photo. And tell him I have closeups too. Thank you.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sydney to Hobart, Day 8: Goodbye Eden

We were scheduled to leave late this afternoon. Sitting in the boat this morning we listened to boats radio in to Marine Rescue Eden: "Marine Rescue Eden, yeah, look, we've just left Twofold Bay and we're headed down to Tassie. Just checking in..."

The fleet is headed out - and we're following their lead. Off in an hour. We'll have cell phones until tomorrow, maybe, maybe tonight, then out for three days or so.

It's sunny and calm, another beautiful day in Eden. Another good day for leaving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hardest day of the year to not be with you, my family and my friends in the good ol' USA. Ow.

Sydney to Hobart, Day 7: Off From Eden Tomorrow

November 23: After four full nights at anchor or on the jetty here in Eden, NSW, the winds in the Bass Strait are finally shifting, spinning from the southwest to the northwest—"She'll be right up your ass"—so tomorrow afternoon we'll be setting off south on the second and larger (in many ways) leg of the great Sydney to Hobart Sail 2011. Hoping for four to five days, three or so of them will be out of contact.

Back out to where the albatross goes...

I hear you smiling, baby...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sydney to Hobart,Day 5: Quick Video

It's now Day 5 of the great Sydney to Hobart sail with Skipper Craig aboard the Southern Ocean. I wish I'd written more, but the first two days were spent in various states of wretchedness, up to and including actual wretching. (Kids, if you want some real excitement some Friday night, try taking a dump in a bucket in the belly of moving sailboat on a sloppy sea, all while trying not to vomit—only one bucket available! Whoopee!) The last day of travel was good, I spent a good amount of time at the wheel, day and night hours, so I may finally have my legs. We'll see. I don't care—if I can do those first two days I can do damned anything.

We're in Eden, NSW, now, 300 miles south of Sydney, waiting for a handful of weather systems to move through the Bass Strait before we can head off to Tassie. May have to wait until Friday. That means I have actual work to do for my real job—so just a quick video here, and a pic or two.

First, Craig proves that I actually drove the boat:

I almost yelled, "Hello, Lieutenant Dan!"

Look at this:

It's so weird: I just recently learned bout these clouds by reading and writing about them for work. I'll do a post on them later—just wanted you to see that shot. There are better ones, and there's video, too.

Here's a Pacific gull, native of —twice as large at least as regular old gulls.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sydney to Hobart, Day 5: Eden, New South Wales

Monday, November 21: It's now Day 5 of the great Sydney to Hobart Sail with Skipper Craig aboard the Southern Ocean. I wish I'd written more, but the first two-plus days for myself were spent in various states of wretchedness, up to and including actual wretching. (Kids, if you want some real excitement some Friday night, try taking a dump in a bucket in the belly of moving sailboat on a sloppy sea, all while trying not to vomit—only one bucket available! Whoopee!) The last day of travel was good, I spent a good amount of time at the wheel, day and night hours, so I may finally have my legs. We'll see. I don't care—if I can do those first two days I can do damned anything.

We're in Eden, NSW, now, 300 miles south of Sydney, waiting for a handful of weather systems to move through the Bass Strait before we can head off to Tassie. May have to wait until Friday. That means that while I'm here I have actual work to do for my real job—so just a quick video here, and a pic or two.

Pics and video. (Click on pics to get larger, clearer versions.)

First, Craig proves that I actually drove the boat. We're five or so nautical miles offshore at this point. (We got as far as 23 miles off on the way down.)

I almost yelled, "Hello, Lieutenant Dan!" I guess it's better I didn't.

Look at this:

It's so weird: I just recently learned about this cloud phenomenon by reading and writing about them for work. They're very rare—and we drove right under that sucker! I'll do a post on them later—just wanted you to see that shot. There are better ones, and there's video, too.

Here's Eden's Killer Whale Museum, home of the skeleton of "Old Tom"—the orca that helped whalers get their whales that Christine had told me about ages ago. (More about that later, too.) Eden Cove behind.

We'll finish with a Pacific Gull, found only in Southern Australia, and huge—twice as large as average gulls. Look at this beauty:

That's all. More soon. Love to you, Christine...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sailing From Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania

I mentioned the other day that I may be going on a sailing trip. Well, the details have been worked out, and tomorrow or Thursday (Australia time) I'll be headed to Hobart, Tasmania, on a 38-foot sailboat. Skipper: Craig. Crew: Me. (Home, gnawing fingernails on walls, ceiling: Christine.)

Short story shorter: Craig, friend of Christine's who lives in Hobart, bought a sailboat on the internet a few months ago. It's here in Sydney, so he flew up last Thursday to get it ready and sail it back home. I had expressed interest in tagging along when I first heard about this some months ago, but Craig said he had had a close friend going back with him, and said no. I forgot about it. On Thursday, when Craig got here, he said that his friend had backed out. There ya go. 

It's take up to two weeks. Highlight of the trip: the Bass Strait.

I'll be out of internet and phone range for much or all of that time. Hobart is way down there: Nothing but open water between us and Antarctica. I will of course have much to post here when I return.

The route is the same as taken in a what is a very famous race here, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, held every year stating Boxing Day.

Did I mention I've never sailed before? (I have been on the sea, as I said in that other post.)

Here's the boat (second one out). Best I could do for now:

Here's Craig showing Christine around, up on the bow:

Skipper Craig and Christine on the Southern Ocean.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wild Kangaroos Give Me a Boxing Show

This is a video I took in 2006, on my first trip to Australia. (This is a repost, rewritten, from January.)

I hadn't been in the country long when, one very early morning, probably 5:30 a.m. or so, I was walking in the capital city of Canberra, not far from the city proper (though you wouldn't think that seeing the video). Suddenly, there they were: The first two wild kangaroos I had ever seen. They were hanging out in front of a high school. I immediately became transmogrified into the worst videographer in history, which will you see in a second.

After what would likely be considered "cardiac event," I managed to remember how my lungs, eyes, legs, arms, hands, and fingers worked, and started videoing. The kangaroos are immediately seen disappearing behind a small clump of trees. Great. While mimicking the camera work in The Blair Witch Project, I make my way around the trees.

Then something truly remarkable happens: As my camera peers around the end of the tree clump, the two kangaroos are standing there, looking at me. They're looking straight at me, like they were waiting for me. As Christine says, "You can almost hear one of them sigh, and say to the other, 'Well, come on Meryl, let's give the doofus tourist a show.'" And HOLY CRAP THEY DO. They rear up on their tippy-toes, lean back on their tails, and go to town, kicking, punching, heads flapping around like punching bags. And when the camera inexplicably starts videoing the sky at one point—I may have been losing consciousness from the excitement—the kangaroos actually stop and look (at the 39-second mark), seemingly waiting to make sure I'm not screwing up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Two Blind Indus River Dolphins Found Dead

Two more blind dolphins were found dead in the Indus River here on Saturday, putting the number of dead dolphins found in Sukkur to 28 in six months.
The Wildlife Department shifted the two dead blind dolphins to Dolphin Research Institute for post- mortem. 
The wildlife and the fisheries departments have so far failed to find the possible cause of the deaths of the precious specie. Sources said that the higher authorities recently formed a probe committee, which had revealed that some fisherman threw poisonous substance into the river which is causing deaths of the endangered fish found only in two rivers Asia-Ganges and the Indus River.
I've seen those dolphins, or a closely related species, in the Ganges River. Just magical creatures, so elusive—I could only ever see them for a second as they curved up out of the water and down again quickly. Nobody else was seeing them—I thought I was seeing things. The imprint off their shape—especially the very long beak—seemed to be burned into my cornea.

Let's hope they figure out what the hell's going on.

American Exceptionalism

I was sitting in one of my Oregon haunts, the Wild Goose - in the bar in back - one afternoon a few years ago when two guys walked in. They took a seat in the corner and Dennis the bartender quickly had two beers at their table.

There were two guys at the bar speaking German. (I know this because I speak pretty good German.) I don't know if I sensed something or what, but I started paying attention, because something wasn't right: The dudes who had just walked in had immediately become very uncomfortable. They looked like they were about to shit their pants, to be truthful, and it was all about the two guys a the bar—speaking a foreign language. The Germans weren't doing anything other than talking—they were just sitting there, talking. They hadn't even looked around the room that I noticed. 

The two dudes in the corner didn't say a word to each other. They sat in stunned silence. It was as if they had walked in to find a goat on top of the bar being raped by a gorilla. And nobody cared! Everybody just sat there, as if speaking in a foreign language was some kind of okay thing to do! Why wasn't this outrage being stopped?!

After just a few minutes the two dudes suddenly got up from their table and walked, arms swinging, toward the door.

"So long guys!"called Dennis from behind the bar, oblivious to the dudes' outrage.

"Yeah," mumbled one, looking back over a pumping shoulder. "We'll be back, and when we do WE'LL TALK ENGLISH!" and SLAM, out the door they went, I'm sure with a feeling of great conquest in their loins. The Germans never even noticed them.

Every time I hear the phrase "American exceptionalism," I remember that afternoon.

"Going on Strike From One's Culture"

Matt Taibbi with second thoughts about OccupyWallStreet:
Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It's about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one's own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it's flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
That's a really good way to look at it: It's a bit bigger than we understand right now. And that's okay.

And not just "American society," I think it's "modern society."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beating Non-Violent Protestors

These are big tough guys beating young men - and women - and really wailing on them - with nightsticks. This is just cowardly crappy shit.

And some more crap: UC Police Captain Margo Bennett said the protesters deserved it because they linked arms - and LINKING ARMS IS "AN ACT OF VIOLENCE."

I want to kill something.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sailing From Sydney to...

I had a curious offer dropped in my lap yesterday: A friend of Christine's who lives here in Australia, but quite a distance away, bought a sailboat here in Sydney over the internet, and arrived yesterday to pick it up. He'll be sailing for home next week. He was supposed to be joined in that return trip by a friend—but the friend backed out. (Why? I'll tell you later.) So I've been invited along. The trip will take about two weeks on the water, traveling constantly.

Hmm. Haven't made my mind up...completely. (I've had just a wee bit of experience behind the wheel of a boat on a seiner in Alaska. I've only been an afternoon on a sailboat.)

Christine's been on the phone to insurance companies. This could be her big break...

Coca-Cola Overturns Bottle-Ban in Grand Canyon

Because Coca-Cola should be deciding national park policy. Makes perfect sense:
Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.
Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.
And listen to this crap, from Coca-Cola:
She also characterized the bottle ban as limiting personal choice. “You’re not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume,” she said.
Coca-Cola is worried about our personal consume it's products in our national parks. Makes you want to stick a flag pin up your ass.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupying Foreclosed Homes

I haven't hear of this happening before, but it sounds like a really good idea. Could see it really taking off.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sacha Baron Cohen as Lord Monckton

This is possibly the funniest thing that has ever been done in the whole history of doing things:

Lord Monckton.


Monday, November 7, 2011

My FaceBook Music Store

I've set up a CDBaby FaceBook Music Store where you can listen to and buy my songs. You lucky devils. (And the telephone gives you some idea of when this photo was taken. Maybe the sweater, too?)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stephen Colbert's Super PAC

Stephen Colbert - of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report - is doing something extraordinary to American politics, through the founding of his Super PAC, "Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow." It is not often that you get to witness someone of Colbert's stature pull off a stunt like this: using a law (or in this case two Supreme Court rulings) to highlight the absurdity of said law. The whole thing is downright Mark Twainian.

To get a proper idea of what Colbert is doing, look at it this way: If the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that said it was perfectly legal for extraordinarily wealthy people to designate their homes as foreign countries - thereby making them off-limits to U.S. police organizations - Colbert would right now have a mansion next to the White House with a 24-hour-a-day, Las Vegas-themed, gangster/biker party going on, complete with drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, strippers in every window, and dogfights in the front yard. And possibly live kitten barbecues on the veranda.

And there would be nothing the cops could do, because the Supreme Court made it legal for extraordinarily wealthy people - and Stephen Colbert is definitely one of those - to designate their homes as foreign countries. (Colbert's would probably be called "Colbertistanistan.")

Except Colbert wouldn't be doing because he's a rich asshole - he'd be doing it to show how horribly undemocratic and morally perverse the Supreme Court ruling was. And that's exactly what he's doing here.

The Supreme Court ruling Colbert is lampooning is actually two recent rulings, and they concern one thing: the role money plays in political campaigns in the U.S. In this case by the way of the "Super PAC."

What's a Super PAC? It's a brand new kind of PAC, or "political action committee" (see last link for more on them), an organization that raises and spends money on advertising for or against candidates for public office. If you want to spend money on political candidates - apart from contributions directly to a candidate or a political party (these have their own rules) - it has to go through a PAC. It's the law. PACs have been around for a while,  but they used to have restrictions: Corporations, unions, and individuals used to have strict limits on how much money they could give to PACs; and PACs were only allowed to spend so much money. Why? Because it was believed that allowing extremely wealthy corporations, unions, or individuals to spend enormous amounts of money on political advertising gave them an unfair advantage over us regular schmoes who don't have yacht-loads of cash to spend on such things - which isn't exactly rocket science.

As of the Summer of 2010, those restrictions are gone. Thanks to those recent Supreme Court rulings. (Well, some restrictions remain, but many are gone.) What effect did it have? 84 Super PACs were quickly formed, and, over the course of only a couple months, they spent $65,326,957 on the 2010 midterm elections. $65,326,957. (And the 2012 election cycle—it'll make 2010 look like pocket change: read this. Or don't.)

Stephen Colbert looked at all of this and thought it was just nuts. Which it of course is. And he decided he was going to show just how nuts it was. How? By forming his own Super PAC. And he did it. Stephen Colbert can now hold the equivalent of drug-fueled machine-gun target practice contests, with strippers in the windows and dogfights on the lawn - right in the middle of the American political election process, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. (He'll probably spare the kittens. He seems like a nice guy.)

An excerpt from Colbert's victory speech after getting the okay for the Super PAC from the FEC:
Sixty days ago today, on this very spot, a young man petitioned the FEC for permission to form a super PAC, to raise unlimited monies and use those monies to determine the winners of the 2012 elections. Moments ago, the Federal Election Commission made their ruling. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to say … We won!
"Sorry to say" is exactly right.

It's going to be a very interesting 2012 election year. Maybe some of it will be the good kind of interesting - thanks to Stephen Colbert.

• More here.

All 2012 Super PACs

Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow


—I've edited this very lightly for clarity, and to get rid of the typo - in the first damn line. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Report: Another Protesting Vet Hospitalized By Police

Americans have been so blasé about police brutality for so long. It's nice to see that the OccupyWallStreet protests are making it one of its unintended issues:
Sabehgi was due to undergo surgery on Friday afternoon to repair his spleen, which would involve using a clot or patch to prevent internal bleeding.
This was after being arrested, beaten (allegedly), kept in a police van for some hours, then in a cell for more hours, and finally - after 18 hours - taken to a hospital. Just so wrong.

 P.S. Is The Guardian the best American news organization right now?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Christmas Beetle

I was reading on the veranda late the other night when I was suddenly bombarded by what could have been empty walnut shells. I actually thought someone was throwing things at me - some drunk neighbor, not an uncommon thing - then I saw beetle in a planter:

I picked it up and got some shots, most of which did not come out because it was too dark. One good one:

Look at those claws!

Here's a beetle butt:

I put the beetle back into the planter, and in thirty seconds or so it was gone—dug down into the soil. Ah, I thought, "it" is a "she," and she's gone to lay some eggs. Research must be done...

Christine's sister Shannon said she thought it was a Christmas Beetle. They show up every summer, and, she said, look like our friend here.

She's right, no doubt about it. And I was right that she was going to lay eggs. Photo herelife cycle description here:
The life cycle of a Christmas beetle is from one to two years. The larvae of Christmas beetles live and develop in the soil for about a year, eating decaying organic matter and plant roots of mainly native grasses and other vegetation. In agricultural land larvae can feed on the roots of crops and pasture. In urban areas larvae often feed on the roots of turf. This feeding can cause plants to turn yellow and wither. 
Toward the end of winter the larvae move closer to the soil surface and pupate. The adults emerge several weeks later and dig their way out of the soil. They then fly to the nearest food plant to feed. And of course their other main duty at this stage is to mate. They then lay eggs in the soil close to their food source.
There are 35 different species, 8 in the Sydney area. And I may have to dig up those eggs, put them in soil in a glass jar, and watch them. Stay tuned...

Shocking Look Into Free Medical Clinic in L.A.

This is what late-stage cancer looks like if left unchecked, like many cancers were 100 years ago and still are today in the developing world. But I encountered this case this month, and Yvonne, the woman who sat crying before me, lives in Los Angeles.
Dr. Mehmet Oz writes about a very recent experience in Los Angeles. That quote above is the least of it.

Japanese MP Drinks Water From UNDER Fukushima Plant

If I were Japanese, I wouldn't think the MP brave - I'd think him an idiot:
A Japanese official has drunk water collected from the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, after reporters challenged him to prove it was safe. 
Yasuhiro Sonoda appeared nervous and his hands shook as he downed a glass during a televised news conference. 
The water he drank was taken from puddles under two reactor buildings. It is decontaminated before being used for tasks such as watering plants.

He "appeared nervous," did he? Huh. Maybe that's because the Japanese people (along with the rest of us) have been lied to repeatedly ever since the disaster happened.

Best of health to MP Sonoda.

Update: Plant will take 30 years to close.

Update II: Just found this: Fukushima Diary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Melbourne Cup Day

Today is the day of the Melbourne Cup, otherwise known as the Stanley Cup of Horse Racing (by me, only me.)

It is an event of such import in Australia that in the state of Victoria it is an official holiday. Really. In the rest of Australia, it is not an official holiday, but is by many treated as one.
A few of the rels will be coming over for snacks, champagne, and pavlova. We'll head down to he TAB and have a flutter. All around good fun. If we win a big one we'll let you a month or two.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Naked Drunk Russian "On Wings of Love" Smashes 17 Cars

"Naked Drunk Love Wings." I feel a song coming on.

Oh look—a picture of the naked, drunk, love-winged Russian. Because why the hell not?

Fukushima Much Worse That Previously Thought

In other words - of course they were lying:
The Fukushima nuclear disaster released twice as much of a radioactive substance into the atmosphere as Japanese authorities estimated, reaching 40 percent of the total from Chernobyl, a preliminary report says.
The estimate of much higher levels of radioactive cesium-137 comes from a worldwide network of sensors. Study author Andreas Stohl of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research says the Japanese government estimate came only from data in Japan, and that would have missed emissions blown out to sea. 
The study did not consider health implications of the radiation. Cesium-137 is dangerous because it can last for decades in the environment, releasing cancer-causing radiation.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Pub

Sigh. I have to walk a full six minutes from home to get to it.

Magpies With Chick; Crested Pigeons' Mating Dance

I got two nice videos yesterday.

In this first one I say that what we have here is two currawongs and their chick. Why? Because I'm an idiot. They're magpies, and I should have known that. (I've been told the way to distinguish the two is that the magpies have white on their beaks, and currawongs don't.)

Just minutes later a pair of Australian Crested Pigeons showed up on the same roof, and performed a beautiful mating dance, with tails rising and opening and heads bobbing. Really nice:

Cops Cheer Fellow Cops Indicted on Multiple Charges

From the annals of "We Really Have Lost Our Collective Minds, Haven't We?:
A three-year investigation into the police’s habit of fixing traffic and parking tickets in the Bronx ended in the unsealing of indictments on Friday and a stunning display of vitriol by hundreds of off-duty officers, who converged on the courthouse to applaud their accused colleagues and denounce their prosecution.
Think about that for a second. The people charged with enforcing the law cheer their fellow law-enforcement colleagues who are accused of breaking the law, and some of them on very serious charges, including "ticket-fixing and drugs, grand larceny and unrelated corruption," and in the case of four of the arraigned officers, "helping a man get away with assault."

How safe would you, as a citizen, feel in an environment like that? It'd be like a group of your country's soldiers cheering other soldiers arrested for helping the enemy.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking forward to the Jim Carrey film, "The Number 83"

Oh, it's coming alright:
The numerical figure of 83 centimeters may not, at first, seem all that amazing. But, according to Japanese archaeologist Saburo Sugiyama, that figure shows up just about everywhere at the site of the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan.
In presenting his findings at a special meeting of Teotihuacan experts, Sugiyama said there was a "constant presence" of 83 centimeters throughout the more than 7-square-mile city once inhabited by 100,000 people, more than 14 centuries ago, reported FOX News Latino.

U.S. Sending Armed Drones From Civilian Airport

Holy crap, that sounds on its face ridiculously irresponsible.
The US Air Force is flying armed drones from a civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a growing battle against Al-Qaeda linked Shabab militants in Somalia, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
How'd you like to take a flight out of that airport? Nothing dangerous about that, right?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chris Chandler and Paul Benoit: "One Percent / Ten Ton Shoes"

Chris Chandler says "Tear down that Wall Street, Mr. Bernake!" With Paul Benoit.


Matt Taibbi puts it plainly in Rolling Stone:
Americans love winners. But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.

Report: Oakland Police Gave Protester Brain Injury

He's reportedly an Iraq War veteran.

Army Ranger Killed on 14th Deployment

I worked with a guy in a salmon cannery in Valdez, Alaska, in 1985 or so who talked about, sometimes bragged about, doing 12 tours of combat duty in Vietnam. I don't want to turn such a thing into a cliche, but he was probably the scariest person I ever came across. He was a sad, paranoid, violent man.  It actually bothers me right now in my gut just picturing his face. Not fear, but Jesus, this was the saddest individual.

I've talked about the guy a few times in the years since, and just about every time someone would say, "Nobody was allowed to do that many tours! Bullshit!"

An Army Ranger who was on his 14th deployment to a combat zone has been killed in Afghanistan. 
Sgt. First Class Kristoffer B. Domeij, 29, was killed Saturday when the assault force he was with triggered a hidden roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. 
Domeij served four deployments in Iraq and another nine stints in Afghanistan. During that time he was awarded two Bronze Stars. His third Bronze Star, earned during his final tour in Afghanistan, will be awarded posthumously, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
14 tours and he's 29? Did he ever get home? Ai yai yai.

RIP, Kristoffer Domeij. And a good wish from far away to that guy I met in Valdez. I hope he's found some peace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HS Teacher Faces Fines For Helping Students Register to Vote

Things that make me want to bite a moving train number googelty-million:
The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote. 
Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida's new and controversial election law. 
Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.
Esquire's Charles Pierce on this here.

Northern Lights Visible Across the U.S.

Of course this happens after I move to the Southern Hemisphere:
Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, are unusual so far south -- the colorful, 20-minute display was a rare sighting caused by a recent solar storm. This video [go to link for video] was captured by the color allsky camera at the Automated Lunar and Meteor Observatory, or ALaMO, at the Marshall Center in Huntsville, Ala.
They even saw them in Texas! I saw a green curtain effect aurora in Alaska when I worked there in the 1980s - but in the Lower 48? Never. Lucky.

MSNBC has a few shots that people sent in. One, from Wisconsin:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"A Guide to Preparing and Assembling a Bear Skeleton"

I'm researching an article about bears—did you know that fossil evidence shows that polar bears diverged from brown bears starting only about 200,000 years ago? amazing!—and I just came across this:
Not a lot of people are going to be articulating bear skeletons, but if you were—this is the manual you would want. Bear skeletons are fascinating because the anatomy of a standing bear is so similar to our own. The skinned-out hands and feet are sometimes turned in as homicide remains. This manual has detailed illustrations of bear bones, including all the carpals, and tarsals from the hands and feet. This is the step by step process once used by a grade school to do a museum quality skeletal mount of a bear.

Here's a sample page:

I think we all know that we need this book. It's only $34.99—and you never know how a party might end up some night, for example.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

About the "47% of Americans don't pay taxes!" crap

Most lies like this are worth ignoring, but this one keeps cropping up, and it just did again.

For starters, it's 100% wrong. The 47% figure is about federal income tax, not taxes in general. The great majority of people who work - even those 47% who don't pay federal income tax - still pay taxes, as in payroll taxes, etc, and just about all of us pay taxes, local, state, and/or federal, on various things we buy, too. So again: Wrong. Not true. Dishonest. A lie. Take your pick - but if you hear people spreading this crap, educate their sorry asses.

Secondly, at what point does the fact that 47% of Americans DON'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FEDERAL INCOME TAX bother people for the right reasons, rather than inhumane political reasons?

In other words, Stop being horrible dishonest asspeople. You might actually enjoy it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Electric Bonsai Band

Just got blasted back to seeing The Electric Bonsai Band - not electric, not a band - in, where? Portland, Oregon? Seattle? - so many years ago, maybe even the 80s. My god he was good. Fast, smart, scary smart, and just as funny as hell.

I am so happy to have found him (Andrew Ratshin) on Napster. Please go, listen. "I am My Dad" is so good - although it is much better live.

Ratshin also played in Uncle Bonsai.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

NZ Trying to Avoid Huge Enviro Disaster

New Zealand is bracing for an environmental disaster amid fears that a container ship stranded off the North Island could break up and spill oil into the pristine Bay of Plenty, the environment minister has said. 
Nick Smith told local media on Friday that the accident "has the potential to be New Zealand's most significant maritime pollution disaster in decades". 
Officials said the pollution would be far worse if the ship broke up on the Astrolabe Reef, releasing the 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil on board into a marine environment that is home to whales, dolphins, seals and penguins.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Australian Crested Pigeon

We've had s regular vistor (along with the cockatoos) for the last couple weeks. We first got to know him (her?) by the sound of his flight: a buffeting whistle and hum, kind of like a partridge or quail, but louder and tighter.
If startled, this pigeon takes to the air with a characteristic whistling flight, and glides with down turned wings. The whistling sound is produced by the air passing over a modified primary feather on the wing.
Before long we saw him on the veranda, poking around for leftover seeds or whatever else he could find.

Cute fella, huh? It's a Crested Pigeon, native to Australia.

He's been back almost every day since. Very comfortable, will poke around right next to the much larger cockies, let's us walk out and talk to him.

Here he is doing a fluff-up:

I'll try to get some audio of the wing sound:
If startled, this pigeon takes to the air with a characteristic whistling flight, and glides with down turned wings. The whistling sound is produced by the air passing over a modified primary feather on the wing.
You get a little better look at the wonderful wing colors here:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Aussie Wins First Nobel in Physics Since 1915

AN AUSTRALIAN who found that the universe is accelerating and will end with a whimper rather than a bang has won the Nobel prize in physics. Brian Schmidt's research suggests an invisible force known as dark energy is pushing the cosmos ever faster apart.
I see that and I go - An Aussie won the Nobel in physics in 1915? Get out!

* I had to go look. It's actually an interesting story. Not only does William Lawrence Bragg remain the youngest Nobel Laureate in history,  he's the only one to share the prize with his father. (He's also the first Aussie known to have x-rays used on him for surgical purposes.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Watching My Old Open Mike in Oregon Right Now!

This is too cool. I'm actually looking at the bar in Oregon where I ran an Open Mike for going on ten years. My old buddy Dave Hampton, who took over, is setting up right now, and has it streaming on the web. How freaking cool.

You obviously have to sign up with Veetle, and with Google Chrome (I did, anyway) to do it. It took me abouot two minutes total.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rick Perry's "Niggerhead" Hunting Camp

Just saw this story:
Paint creek, tex. — In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance. 
“Niggerhead,” it read.

That reminded me of when I worked on a purse seiner (fishing boat) in Alaska. Every seiner has a winch drum - a large, hydraulic-powered, rotatable drum (you can see it clearly at 2:19 of the video I linked) - around which you could throw a line to winch something, like the net, into the boat. I was told it was called the "niggerhead." Because you throw a rope around it. (Get it? Get it? Funny, huh?) Pretty sure they're still called that on all or most seiners up there.

Maybe it relates somehow to the source for the name of Perry's camp? Maybe it was a logging or oil term, too? I dont know. Just occurred to me.

Update: More on the word.

National Rugby League Grand Final Tonight! [Manly Wins]

I moved to Australia and immediately caused my local team to make it to the Grand Final. You're welcome!

Bonus: "My" team is the most hated team in the league, by everyone's estimate:
LEAGUE fans across NSW will today become passionate Warriors supporters for just one reason: they can't bear to see Manly, the most hated club in the NRL, winning another grand final.
Ha! Hate on! We will crush the warriors and ride to victory oh whatever. I don't care that much.

But we will have pork chops and beer tonight for the game. That's always good.

Update: Brutal bloody brilliant game, the Sea Eagles won - and I even understood some of it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Defunct U.S. Satellite: 11 AM Sydney-Time [updated]

The latest projections have the UARS satellite contacting the earth's atmosphere around 11 AM Sydney time - and there still remains a chance that some of the doomed spacecraft will made make landfall in Australia.

For me, this falls under the "Tornado Rule.": I want to see the damn thing! But I don't want anyone to get hurt, of course...

Here's a Twitter feed with constant updates.

Here's NASA's UARS site.

Update: Live satellite tracker:

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnowmobile at

Update 12:47 PM Sydney: Oh hell yes. Projected to enter atmosphere in this neck of the woods.

Friday, September 23, 2011

1 in 4 American Young Children Live in Poverty

Good God.
The number of children living in poverty in the United States increased by 2.6 million since the recession began in 2007, bringing the total to an estimated 15.7 million poor children in 2010, according to researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. The researchers estimate that nearly 1 in 4 children under the age of 6 now live in poverty.
Most of their parents do and will continue to vote for politicians who say the poor should pay more taxes and the rich should get more tax breaks. Figure that one out.

My CD, "Bottomfeeders"

Buying LT songs just got easier, and only 99 cents a pop.

 My favorite on this is probably "Sigh." Although Bob Evoniuk's National Reso-Phonic guitar on "You Can Use My Bathtub" is something to behold, too.

If you're not with CDBaby, you can find links to more digital music sites, including iTunes and Rhapsody, at the top right of the page. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Live Video Outside Troy Davis Prison [update: killed]

At 11:14 PM Troy Davis has just been pronounced dead. This is a shameful day for the U.S.

At 10:22 PM AP is reporting that the Supreme Court will not stay the execution of Troy Davis.

At 9:53 PM EST (U.S.) we're almost three hours post-scheduled execution time for American Troy Davis. Story here. Democracy Now is doing an amazing job outside the prison.


Watch live streaming video from democracynow at

Let's hope for good news soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Aussie Meat Pie

Behold, it is a pair of Aussie Meat Pies, seen here in their natural habitat, their flaky top crusts liberally adorned with the requisite tomato sauce.

Here they are again, seconds later, the victims, one gathers darkly, of a most brutal and savage attack.

And why do Aussies eat the Aussie Meat Pie? Because of the "classic taste of meat and gravy" is why.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Aussie Bacon

Bacon in the U.S. and Australia are completely different beasts, no near-pun intended. This is Aussie bacon:

We don't get the loin (or "eye") in America, just the strip, and I don't know why the hell not. I feel cheated!

And wow, there is a whole lot going on with bacon, I see, and now I get a bacon education:
Side bacon, or streaky bacon, comes from pork belly. It is very fatty with long layers of fat running parallel to the rind. This is the most common form of bacon in the United States.
And in Oz:
Middle bacon is the most common variety and are sold in "rashers". Middle bacon includes the streaky, fatty section along with the loin at one end.
Who knew?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Peg, the One-Footed Cockatoo

Wild, one-footed cocky that comes to visit several times a week, on a chair on the veranda. You can see the little stump of her left leg there. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Intrauterine Cannibalism

‎"Intrauterine Cannibalism" is the name given to a practice found in some shark species wherein the strongest shark pup of a litter eats all its brothers and sisters - while they're still in the womb - providing it with the physical and psychological nourishment it needs to ensure it is born fat, fit, and savage as a meth-addled mongoose.

 My twin sister is so lucky we don't get to read in the womb.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kevin Spacey and I

Just marking the day when I got my name in an Aussie paper, in this case the Manly Daily, for the first time. (Down in the left hand corner under "Acoustic." Click to enlarge.)

Vanity post now over.

Tasmanian Tiger Hunted to Extinction For No Good Reason

Add another layer of depressing to the story of the Tassie Tiger:

The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has long been the poster child for human-caused extinction. Hunted out of existence by Australian farmers who feared that the striped, canine-like marsupials would kill their sheep, the last thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo 75 years ago next week, on September 7, 1936 (although the species was not officially declared extinct until about 25 years ago).

Now, just a few days before the annual observance of National Thylacine Day in Australia, a new study reveals that the predator was probably not a threat to sheep after all. Its notably long jaw (one of the animal’s most distinctive features) could open to an amazing 120 degrees but was too weak to kill sheep, according to a study published September 1 in the Journal of Zoology.

Great. (The 120° claim is a commonly repeated myth, I've read, just to note. They could open their mouths very wide, maybe to near 80°.)

Look at this beautiful animal, a marsupial dog:


I picture a prehistoric human, ostracized by his tribe and left to wander the old world alone.

After some years he comes across a river, and sees a huge fish in the water. He throws himself in and catches it, and carries it to the shore. He sets the fish on a rock and sits beside it.

"You will be my friend," he says, beaming. He sings the fish songs he has made up, songs about birds, about stars, about the family he misses so much. The fish dies.

The lonely wanderer knows nothing about fish.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playing "The Shack" on Saturday, September 3

The Shack is a very cool Northern Beaches venue. You're even encouraged to bring your own snacks and a bottle or two:

The bio:
Little Thom sings wickedly funny songs about medical procedures, bikinis, an obscene dog, whiskey, and whether or not life is really all it's cracked up to be. And some other stuff. He has written hundreds of songs in his three-decade-long career, and has released three recordings, the latest of which, Bottomfeeders, contains no hits whatsoever, including the tender, "I Can't Wait (To Do a Tracheotomy)."

Friday, August 19, 2011

American With Terminal Bone Cancer Has Yard Sale Shut Down

A yard sale she was having to help pay her medical bills:

A woman fighting a terminal form of bone cancer is trying to raise money to help pay bills with a few weekend garage sales, but the city of Salem says she’s breaking the law and is shutting her down.

Jan Cline had no idea, but the city of Salem has a clear law that states a person can only have three yard sales a year.


“We make such an effort of making it back here (backyard) so that it’s not goobering up the neighborhood, so it’s not like a garage sale all laid out day after day after day,” she says.

Terminal bone cancer. She can't work. And she has to have yard sales to pay her medical bills. Ai yai yai.

The video is a bit tough to watch at the end:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Email From a Fan in Thailand

Just noticed an email in ye olde email receptacle. I thought it was spam, naturally, but turns out it wasn't:

Dear Little Thom,

Hi. This is Kiattisak from Thailand. I found one of your songs 'Inside Joke' from a podcast of The Word Nerds, and liked it very much. I bought the song from iTunes Store last year, so it's been a while but I can sing along only roughly. May I ask you for its lyrics, please?

Best Wishes,

Kiattisak is in Thailand, singing along, if unintelligibly at the moment, with one of my songs, possibly right now. Take that, Bob Dylan!

Oh, wait...

Thank you Kiattisak. (And yes, I sent him the lyrics.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

One-Legged Cockatoo

Here's a video of the one cockatoo we still feed. Her name is Peg:

And seconds after I stopped that video, Peg flew off with the dish. Cheeky bugger:

And this poor bugger looks like something out of a horrror movie:

We believe this bird to be suffering from Psittacine beak and feather disease. It is no fun:
Psittacine beak and feather disease is a viral disease affecting all Old World and New World Parrots (Psittacini, Hookbills). The virus belongs to the family Circoviridae. The virus attacks the feather follicles and the beak and claws-growing cells of the bird, causing progressive feather malformation and necrosis. In later stages of the disease, the feathers develop constrictions in feather shafts, cease development early until eventually all feather growth stops.

We saw something in the paper saying that you should actually try to capture these birds and take them to the local WIRES, as the disease is communicable. We'll look into that some more before actually throwing a blanket over one. Poor fella.