Monthly Archives: April 2012

Miscellaneous interests

The other day I read something saying that making friends is now based on knowing what you’re interested in and finding people who like the same things.

That’s probably not what the article said, but that’s what I’m now thinking it said.

It was comparing social life online – meeting people through your interests – with social life of the past – meeting people through geographic proximity.

I’ve always been crap at meeting people, but lately I’ve thought I should at least try, and, as there’s currently no way to try meeting people offline (I never go anywhere, and I live in a paddock), the only possibility is online – through finding people with similar interests.

That’s where the problem lies. What are my interests? I have no idea. I don’t seem to have any, or I have too many with no depth. What I’m interested in today will be gone by tomorrow. Sometimes I’ll have an intense interest in something for 15 minutes. I don’t think you can even call that an interest; it’s more of a passing fancy. Yesterday I spent most of the day trying to learn about bikie gangs, and I do mean most of the day: about 9 hours. It seemed like a really interesting topic, yesterday, or until I had to stop searching because there was a storm and I needed to turn the computer off. After that the whole topic seemed ridiculous, and today I not only couldn’t care less about it, it even seems like a gruesome and horrible thing to be interested in.

This is what happens with all of my “interests”. They don’t last. I might be interested in 20 things in one day, but then when I get to the end of the day I won’t even remember what they were.

For any really at-the-time interesting topic I start a private wiki and collect articles about it, and for a time I’ll be obsessively interested, even passionate, following leads hither and thither like a detective. But looked at overall the topics don’t add up to anything. They’re not going anywhere. They don’t make a list of things I can say “this is what I’m interested in”, and anyway, now I don’t care about them any more:

– bikie gangs
– anxiety
– a news story about the death of a young girl in the desert
– David Foster Wallace
– a news story about a schizophrenic man running wild in the bush around Melbourne
– succulents
– a psychiatric hospital
– Henry Lawson
– the history of a specific succulent
– mental illness
– Pakistan
– cybersecurity
– Somalia

I guess some of those topics could be bundled together (a mental health bundle, say), but I’m not interested in the rest of the bundle, only those specific parts I’ve already looked at and left behind.

So, it’s probably hopeless. There’s nothing I can say is my interest, or not unless you consider Miscellaneous to be a topic. I’ll continue to check tags on WordPress, though, when I’m happy enough to handle being severely disappointed over and over and over again.
^_^

(In case you don’t know, you can see individual tags and get feeds for them, or follow them in your WordPress Reader if you’re that way inclined. What I do is replace the word “miscellaneous” in http://en.wordpress.com/tag/miscellaneous/#!/fresh/ with the required tag-name and paste it into the address bar of a browser. That way you’re not restricted to looking at only the popular tags.)

A fox!

It’s the middle of the day, Sunday, and I just saw a fox on the front lawn!

I’d gone out there because one of the neighbours’ roosters was making an unusually awful noise. He was standing on the grass, looking pathetic (it’s been raining for two days and his feathers were droopy). I couldn’t work out why he was making such a noise, but, as it’s one of the few times he has ever stood still near me, I took a photo of him.

And then I looked up and saw the fox. It was upwind (so maybe the rooster had known it was coming) and had just run in under the fence. I waved my umbrella and yelled, and it turned around and took off.

The rooster was really upset after that, and I started to worry about the usual four chickens who hang around here. I found them, though (or I saw three of them; I just hope the fourth is behind them) – hiding in the patch of weeds where I’d previously found a cat; a pretty stupid place to be hiding. I tried to lure them back closer to the house – I think they’d be safer near to where the dogs’ scents are – but they won’t move from the weeds. And now the rooster is over there with them, too. At least they’re all sticking together, but I doubt that would help much if the fox returns.

Outbreak of random links

I’ve just read a 2009 TIME article about outlaw motorcycle gangs in Australia: Outbreak of biker violence leaves Australia on edge. Throughout the article there are links to gallery images… but they’re irrelevant gallery images. Well, except the first one, which is at least related, maybe: “pictures of gangs in New Zealand”. But “pictures of wildfires devastating Australia”? And “fighting crime in Mexico City”?

This is my favourite:

Veno says the gangs had been trying to broker a peace to head off the plans for new laws banning their existence. “[Notorious] have made an outrageous move of hitting people coming from peace talks that could have saved their bacon.” (See pictures of Australia rescuing its koalas.)

Public violence

Recently there’s been a run of bikie-related violence in cities across Australia, and yesterday there was a shooting in a shopping mall on the Gold Coast – actually in the mall, in front of shoppers, and presumably under CCTV and maybe even the surveillance of security guards (I don’t know whether shopping malls go to the extent of watching people surreptitiously, but it does feel like they do).

And the shooter was “a muscular man of Pacific Islander appearance with a tattooed neck”… Anyone who knows the Pacific would be able to tell which of the three major groups of people he comes from (Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian), which would narrow his origin to a specific set of islands and possibly even a community of expats in Australia. And a neck tattoo is a lot more visible than one anywhere else – it would probably show up in passport photos, or on CCTV.

My point: he’d be easier to identify than someone who was a white Australian. And he was operating in full view of the public in a shopping mall… This is not someone who was trying to hide himself. So, why would that be? Does he want to go to prison? Did he have no choice about doing it? Does he know the police won’t get him even if they know who he is?

He shot two people – according to the police in the article, a man who has links to an outlaw motorcycle gang, and a woman who was standing nearby: an innocent bystander. And presumably there are now also a lot of people who will be scared about returning to that mall, or who will feel less secure in public generally. He shot two people, but injured a lot more.

I hope the police get him, obviously, but presumably he’s just a low-ranking associate in a gang of thugs, and it’s the high-ranking ones who are running the show. It’s not a show the rest of us should have to live or die with, but I feel sorry for the police, frankly. They probably have fewer resources than the gangs do, and meanwhile the rest of us keep demanding “Why don’t you do something?!”

How do you shut down organised crime? Is it possible? Let’s hope so.

UPDATE:

I misrepresented bikie gangs. (Sorry, lads.)

I just read part of the report from a Senate Committee hearing into organised crime back in 2009, and several of the people speaking there said that the crime associated with Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs) tends to be carried out by individuals, not by the club as a whole. It’s not organised crime, it’s disorganised.

Maybe yesterday’s shooter was an independent operator – associated with a club, but not working on behalf of it.

Reading the news

I read a news article yesterday and this morning I’m still thinking about it.

I keep wishing journalists would do behind-the-scenes stories to explain what’s going on in the broader context of news events, but I guess they don’t have time. In the absence of more explanation, I just end up speculating and imagining.

My latest speculating and imagining builds around this article. A video has been added since last night, but thanks to my dodgy slow connection, I can’t see more than half of it.

From what I’ve read or seen, these are the facts:
– A 34-year-old woman with a blood alcohol reading of four times the legal limit rolled a car on an unsealed and presumably semi-rural road in western Melbourne.
– The car was carrying ten children and only nine of them were restrained. Some of them were injured in the accident, and one may permanently lose the sight in one eye.
– The woman will be pleading guilty to the charges, so there won’t be a court case or any further explanation of what happened, or not unless the judge’s sentencing remarks appear online (I haven’t yet checked whether that happens in Victoria).
– According to the article, the children had been hungry and the woman took them to get food because she hadn’t wanted to leave them at home with their father, who had passed out drunk.
– The children were all under 16, and one was a six-month-old baby. Seven of them were “hers” (a strange term when you think about it, but I guess the article is trying to establish the family structure or something). Three of the kids were her boyfriend’s; he has 15.
– The video shows the woman walking up the street towards court alone.
– The article says the children are no longer in her care, but doesn’t say what’s happened to them.

Put yourself into that story. Be the woman, or the boyfriend, or one of the children, or one of the police or ambulance workers arriving on the scene of the accident, where it’s dark and presumably children are screaming; or be the lawyer, or the judge, or a social worker, or someone in the extended family, or a neighbour, or even the mechanic who has to haul away the wrecked car and find something to do with it.

Where to start making sense of the situation? Where to start if you were trying to get things sorted out? It seems like a cascade of troubles, all locked together. What if you were the woman and wanted to stop drinking – and you had ten hungry children with no food in the house and a partner you didn’t trust to look after them? How is it that there was enough alcohol to get very drunk on, but no food? Did anybody in the house have a source of income? What will they do now their car is wrecked? What will happen to the children – have they been split up? How is it the woman had to walk to the court, under the TV cameras, all on her own – does she have no one supporting her even in that small way? If she goes to prison, will the boyfriend leave? Will she lose the house? If she has a job, will she lose that too? If she goes to prison, will that help or hurt her and the kids in the long run? (Maybe it would be a way to dry out and get some more education; or maybe it would be terrifying and stressful and lead to further problems down the track.)

And what about the fact she’s Aboriginal? I think the journalist is not allowed to state that fact baldly, but look: the lawyer arranged for the matter to be heard at the Koori Court, so there we go.

The story is like a stereotype of the worst sort, except in this case it’s the actual situation. At the start of reading the article I was even thinking “I bet she’s Aboriginal…” and then when it was confirmed I felt terrible: not only had I been racist and prejudiced, but those things have just been reinforced.

I really wish some journalist would follow the story up and put things into a larger context. The family can’t have been in such a state because they’re Aboriginal – except that yes, maybe that is partly the reason: generations of poverty? ongoing racism? I don’t know, which is the point. I would like to know how a family ends up on the side of a road in a wrecked car in the middle of the night, and what could happen next.