a little east of reality

Thursday, April 27, 2006

kovco bungle

Remember the soldier I wrote about a couple of days ago, Private Jake Kovco? He is the first Australian soldier to die in the current Iraq situation. Well things are going from bad to worse.

Firstly there is plenty of speculation over his death. The news had been that he was accidentally shot while cleaning his rifle. Some people speculated that it might have been suicide. It turns out there were three people present, but not looking at him at the time of the shot, so the plot thickens even further. The Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said today:
"He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon.

"It was near him in his vicinity and he made some kind of movement which suggests that it discharged.

"There was obviously a live round in it which there should not have been and that's as much as I should probably say at the moment."
Doesn't really do much to explain it, but maybe he doesn't want to conjecture before the official inquiry is completed. Kovco's cousin, Adam Blackman, said in a radio interview:
"The things in the paper about him accidentally shooting himself, we all knew in our family that he did not do that."

"We need closure to this.

"I can see the way everybody is talking, the government and everything, we're never going to be told the truth about what happened to him.

"The story changes and changes and changes."
Then came the news that they had managed to SEND THE WRONG BODY HOME! The outrage over this was compounded when it was learned that the Dept of Defence had decided to use a private contractor to organise the transfer of the body. One thing that had me raising my eyebrows was this little outburst from Blackman:
"It's shocking. It's a disgrace. The government and the Australian army should be ashamed of themselves.

"John Howard, you're nothing but a shocker."
For those of you not familiar with Aussie slang, the insult 'shocker' probably sounds a bit weird. It's basically like saying "unbelieveably bad/hopeless". Now seriously, I can't stand John Howard (our Prime Minister). I think he's a smug SOB who's made some terrible decisions in office that have hurt the Australian people and diminished their lifestyle and future prospects for a happy, financially secure and environmentally sound life. So generally speaking I'm high fiving anyone giving the guy a hard time. But this is ludicrous! Does he really think it's the Prime Minister's job to tell the Defence Force how to ship home the body of one of their own soldiers? To personally prevent human error from occurring in the transfer of a body located oversees? Puh-lease! Why the hell aren't they this demanding of him as a leader when he's raising the cost of public education or overturning a century of progess in industrial relations law?

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley naturally had something to say about the bungle, suggesting that the return of bodies of service personnel should be handled by the military, as was the case in Britain and the US.
"This is a dreadful mistake that should never have happened," he told reporters in Sydney.

"I'm not going to seek to politicise this. All any Australian feels is just simply the utmost sympathy for Shelley Kovco and her family."

"Never again must any Australian casualty be handled by private contractors.

"Never again must circumstances occur where our honoured dead are brought home by anyone other than the services for whom they fought."
Nope, no politicising there at all. Mm. Though I agree with the sentiment of what he's saying, the private contractor in question is Kenyon International, a company that has been involved in the recovery of bodies from more than 300 disasters during its 75-year history of operation. It's not like they just send the body home by Kuwaiti Express Post.

Anyway, I do feel for his family. They don't even really know what happened with Jake, and having the body of another soldier (who incidentally hasn't been identified, except that he was European) sent home to them must have just added to their pain. It implies a certain amount of carelessness over all they have left of him, which is obviously upsetting.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

if you can read this...thank a teacher

This week Global Action Week for the Global Campaign for Education.

"Millions of parents, teachers and children around the world are calling on their governments to provide free, good quality, basic education for all the world's children. They are part of the Global Campaign for Education; we add our voice to their call."
- Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel, April 2002.

Imagine if you hadn't even been to primary (elementary) school. When we talk in our societies about problems like drugs, environment, etc people often say that it's education that will make real change. We talk about how the internet is spreading information far and wide, provoking discussion, changing people's perceptions of the world around them, and again, effecting change.

But we fool ourselves if we believe that these things can touch the illiterate and uneducated of our world. That widening internet doesn't tell you anything if you can't read what's on the screen. Education starts with the basics - and that means school.
Education is a basic human right and fundamental to the fight for human dignity and freedom. For 125 million children and 880 million adults, that right is violated every day.

The Global Campaign for Education promotes education as a basic human right, and mobilizes public pressure on governments and the international community to fulfill their promises to provide free, compulsory public basic education for all people; in particular for children, women and all disadvantaged, deprived sections of society.
Primary school education is such a given in our lives, it's hard to imagine a place where children pray to be lucky enough to get a few years of schooling. Most of our kids are praying that the school holidays will hurry up and arrive. They don't know what it is to yearn for knowledge and be refused.

If there's an event on in your city this week, I hope you'll lend your support. My country isn't even listed in the event list ~ I wish I'd known earlier so I could have maybe planned an event. I'll have to remember it for next year. It would be a cool thing to be involved in and get some kids involved in.

More information on the Global Campaign for Education.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

we will remember them

Part of the 4th Battalion landing on the beaches of ANZAC Cove at 8 am on 25 April 1915.

The ANZAC Dedication, Dawn Service, 25 April 2006
At this hour, on this day, 91 years ago, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, at Gallipoli, made immortal the name of ANZAC and established an imperishable tradition of selfless service, of devotion to duty and of fighting for all that is best in human relationships.

We who are gathered here today in this dawn vigil remember with gratitude the men and women who have given and are still giving, in our Armed and Supporting Services, all that is theirs to give, in order that the world may be a nobler place in which to live. And with them, we remember those left behind to bear the sorrow of their loss.

Let us therefore dedicate ourselves to taking up the burdens of the fallen, and with the same high courage and steadfastness with which they went into battle, set our hands to the tasks they left unfinished. Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of the ideals for which they died. Let us, with God’s help, give our utmost to make the world what they would have wished it to be, a better and happier place for all of its people, through whatever means are open to us.
This morning I stood with 27,000 people in the cold chill of pre-dawn to participate in the annual ANZAC Day dawn service. I haven't been to a dawn service for maybe ten years. I was surprised to see how many families with young kids were there.

The ANZAC tradition began with those who fought in World War 1 at Gallipoli, but now this national holiday remembers all who gave their lives, those who gave their good health, and those who returned but were never the same. Many ANZAC day marches (held in many places in Australia) also have a group of people who march to represent the civilian victims of war. But mostly the day is about showing respect for those who willingly sacrificed their lives for the sake of the safety and freedom of their fellow countrymen.

And it is an amazing thing. Firemen and police officers also risk their lives for others, but most live to retire. There is a risk of death, but not an expectation that it is likely. A soldier going to war in 1915 had to face the very real possibility that he would never see his family or homeland again, because wars were fought more closely at hand and the list of casualties was much longer.

The Ode
(Click here to hear the Ode read while the Last Post is played. (WinMedia))

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Sad postscript from yesterday's news:
Soldier's body coming home from Iraq

Monday Apr 24 07:59 AEST
Australia's first Iraq war casualty will be honoured in an ANZAC Day ceremony in Victoria.

The irony is that Private Jake Kovco, 25, died from an accidental shot to the head, rather than as part of active service. The linked news story says he was cleaning his pistol at the time, but this is apparently wrong. Firstly it was a rifle, not a pistol. Also it seems it had been laid down and accidentally discharged. This kind of rifle, I'm told, has a bit of a reputation for accidental discharge. As a result it should never have been laid down like that while loaded ~ certainly not by a highly trained sniper, who should definitely have known better (assuming of course that it was even him who put the gun down). There's going to be an inquiry to work out exactly what happened. What I would like to know is why they are even issuing these rifles to our troops in the first place if they have a reputation like that?

Private Kovco was based in Bagdad as part of a security detachment protecting Australian officials. He was the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq, although other Australians have been injured in insurgent bombing attacks and in vehicle accidents. Sadly this guy was a father of two young kids,a son Tyrie, 4, and daughter Alana, who is almost 1.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I want a cat like this!

This is a cool story.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A cat saved the life of a newborn baby abandoned on the doorstep of a Cologne house in the middle of the night by meowing loudly until someone woke up, a police spokesman said Saturday.

"The cat is a hero," Cologne police spokesman Uwe Beier said. "Its loud meowing got the attention of the homeowner and saved the baby from suffering life-threatening hypothermia. The homeowner opened door to see why the cat was making so much noise and discovered the newborn."

Beier said the boy was taken to hospital at 5 a.m. on Thursday, when overnight temperatures fell toward zero, and had suffered only mild hypothermia. He said there was no indication of what happened to the boy's mother.

Can you imagine if the poor homeowner had ignored the cat and opened the door later to find the little baby dead from hypothermia? Terrible thought.

I'm also kind of jealous. When people are looking for a doorstep to leave a baby on, why don't they ever pick mine? Seems a rather easy way to get one. According to this article, around one baby per week is left this way in the UK. When I think of all the couples trying so hard to adopt. I would definitely keep one if Family Services would let me. Do you think it holds any weight that the parents picked your door, or would they just take it away anyway? I can't imagine what makes someone leave their baby like that - not to merely give it up for adoption, but to actually feel so desperate they just put it on someone's step and run away.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

gathering no moss

I slipped out of work around 3pm today so Sky, Rev and I could jump in the car and head for Sydney to see the Rolling Stones concert along with 60,000 other lively fans at Telstra Stadium. We were the proud possessors of some awesome tickets.

How awesome you ask? Well here's the seating chart.

The guys came out on stage and my first thought was, 'dudes...you are OLD!' Talking to people afterwards, I think it was the first thing that crossed most people's minds. The Stones have been around for 40 years!

But then the music started and hit after hit started pumping out of the speakers. They owned the stage and Mick especially travelled the length and breadth of it stirring up the audience and working the place into a mass of yelling, singing, clapping fans. By the end of the show these grand-daddies of rock were jumping around like young guys playing their first big gig. Forty years on or not, these guys love what they do.

Keith Richards was a bit of a revelation. He is craggy and cool, with a rough, destroyed voice scraping out of his throat through the cigarette smoke. He's a textbook hard-livin' rock guitarist and all I could think about was Johnny Depp doing Jack Sparrow in Keith's image - an image that couldn't have been clearer as he stood 12 feet in front of me doing the 20th century version of 'ahoy, me hearties!'. Awesome.

Here's the set list:

Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Let's Spend The Night Together
You Got Me Rocking
Oh No, Not You Again
Dead Flowers
It's Only Rock ‘n’ Roll
Tumbling Dice
Night Time Is The Right Time
This Place Is Empty

(B Stage)
Miss You
Rough Justice
Get Off My Cloud
Honky Tonk Woman

Paint It Black
Sympathy for the Devil
Start Me Up
Brown Sugar

You Can't Always Get What You Want

This photo came from Baps; I didn't sneak a camera in to this one. It's not fabulous quality, but very 'Mick being Mick'. Surprisingly, neither of us knew the other was going. Halfway through the concert, when the band is playing the B stage and are not easy to see, I noticed there was a text message on my phone from Baps.

Baps: I'm at the Rolling Stones concert.
Me: Me, too. Holy crap these guys are old, haha. And fabulous!

Later, as we're all making our way out, she must have checked her phone.

Baps: Are you at the concert, too?
Me: Yes, I am.
Baps: What was the last song?
Me: Satisfaction.
Baps: Where were you sitting?
Me: A6, Row E, Seat 4

Suddenly the messages stop and my phone is ringing. I answer to an excited Baps.

Baps: Who the bloody hell did you have to sleep with to get that seat??!!
Me: Thank goodness not the band! ^_^

Anyway, even if we did crawl into our beds around 4am, and even if I was 3 hours late for work the next day, it was worth it. There's something irreplaceable about live rock. I miss seeing it more often. I know, I know...it's only rock 'n' roll.

But I like it. ^_~

Sunday, April 09, 2006

bad blogger! in your basket! grrrr

All I want to do is kick back and read up on how everyone's been doing, and finish a couple of posts that are in draft form right now. I decided that all I could feasibly do without feeling guilty about leaving other things undone was to write one post. So I spent a little time telling about how I found out that one of my favourite authors has a blog, and some exciting news I read on that blog.

And then Blogger ate it.

It didn't even leave me the first draft. It just ate the whole thing, bones and all. Check back with me later this week for a new version, plus a rant, plus a report of the Rolling Stones concert I'll be seeing on Tuesday night, plus an excited droolfest about my new gadgetry.

But for now...bad Blogger! Bad!

Friday, April 07, 2006

sleep deprivation for a good cause

It's been a sparse week for my blog. That's because I've had about nine hours sleep in three days. I promised I would look over an assignment for Silent Bob, but with me having been in Adelaide for two weeks, I didn't get an early start on that as I'd hoped. The English really needed some work. I also made the mistake of not reading his essay topic first up. I thought he was writing about asbestos, but in fact he was writing about ethical practice, responsiblity and liability in engineering, using asbestos as a case study. So a lot of stuff I initially thought was useful actually didn't address the questions that made up the topic.

We talked about the questions and what they were really asking and he spent the second-to-last night before it was due writing the answers more fully. Meanwhile I edited what he'd already written for correctness. The next night I edited those answers while he made sure all his referencing was done. I ended up taking out a lot of the part he'd written earlier that week that was less on topic. He couldn't afford any superfluous stuff, having finished with a 3000 word essay for a 1200 word assignment. Basically my part in all this was to fix the English and then help to pull out the non-crucial stuff so as to get it under the word limit. He of course had all the research and writing to do and got even less sleep this week than I did.

By the end of the exercise I realised that English is not his only academic problem. He has all the usual study faults of the average kid straight out of high school: not much sense of how to structure an essay, no idea what a theoretical framework is, relies too heavily on internet research, barely passable referencing skills. This led to the following conversation:
chosha: next time you have assignment, I'll take you to the library and teach you how to find good information.
silent bob: Okay.
chosha: Actually let me just explain something. I'm happy to help you and the offer's there, and I'm actually pretty good at this stuff, but it's always up to you. Some people don't like help. You can say 'no' and that's okay. I won't mind.
silent bob: /shaking his head/ I will never say 'no', because I know this will be help to me.
chosha: Okay then. But we have to start a lot earlier next time.
silent bob: /nodding and looking as worn out as I felt/ Yes, I think so, too.
I think we're both going to sleep very, very well tonight.

Monday, April 03, 2006

a-z meme

Okay so Breazy didn't tag anyone for this meme, but it was a cool one, so I took her general invitation to do it.

Accent = Mostly Australian with a bit of a lilt from the West Indian family and some over-pronounced R's as a hangover from hanging out with too many dreaded Americans when I lived in Japan.
Booze = During the 4 &1/2 minutes I spent as a drinker, my favourite tipple was Malibu (coconut-flavoured Barbados white rum). Actually all the best rum (Mt Gay, Goddards) comes from Barbados. My grandma used to put a crapload of it in our Christmas cakes. Which is why I couldn't eat them.
Chore I hate = floors (vacuuming, sweeping, mopping) which is why the Keyboard Kid earns extra pocket money at my house each week.
Dog or cat = Cat. Dogs are so needy.
Essential Electronics = mp3 player, and see my blog at the end of this week for a wonderful amazing update to this answer. ^_^
Favorite Perfume/Cologne = Looking for a new one actually. On guys I LOVE Drakkar Noir. /drool/
Gold or Silver = Silver. The only gold I will ever wear will be a white gold wedding ring (one day) which will look pretty much silver anyway, and my newly acquired One Ring (to rule them all). Of course I can't wear that all the time because of the whole invisibility thing.
Hometown = Officially, Adelaide, but my heart still feels a tug when it hears the word Osaka.
Insomnia = only the self-imposed kind, as in 'can't sleep because I am trapped in the Matrix internet.
Job Title = Policy Analyst. Yeah, I know.
Kids = only the ones people let me borrow
Living Arrangement = share a rental with the dread pirate Phi and Silent Bob
Most Admired Trait = now just this evening someone complimented me on my analogies; I often get comments on my teaching skills, which sadly I don't use so much these days.
Number of Sexual Partners = just 1 at a time, thanks ^_~
Overnight Hospital Stays = Zero
Phobia = spiders, crossbows
Quote = "A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it." (Rabindranath Tagore).
Religion = Christian (LDS)
Siblings = 1 older brother and 1 younger sister
Time I usually wake up = 6:15am
Unusual Talent = remembering numbers. I worked in the office of a paint brush factory about nine years ago and I can still remember most of the product codes. I forget other stuff like birthdays all the time.
Vegetable I refuse to eat = capsicum (bell peppers)
Worst Habit = procrastination
X-Rays = most recent were of my spine because I started seeing a chiropractor again after several years
Yummy Foods I Make = The Italian dishes often get a comment. My favourite dish I make is a copy of a chicken/garlic/spring onion/cheese dish from Ninnikuya, a garlic restaurant chain in Japan.

Zodiac Sign = Virgo

I'm going with the no tag thing this time, too. It's cute though, so if you feel like doing it, let me know so I can read yours.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

oh, canadian fed-ex lady

Oh my goodness me! Stumbled upon this incredibly funny and amazing poem thanks to Greg over at Delenda Est Carthago. Sooooo good!

PS...if the Canadian Fed-Ex lady is reading this, please check out big poppa e's website. ^_^

Saturday, April 01, 2006

my new desktop wallpaper

/sigh/ [source]