Catch you later, Internet

It’s time to pack up and move back to Perth. That means packing my computer (and router, and everything else), and that means goodbye to you, Internet.

Keep in touch, Internet. I’ll see you on Sunday… or maybe not for a while. 🙁

Ah, we had some good times sharing our obsession with cats. (Although you can get pretty creepy sometimes, and you’re prone to borderline stalking.)

The Secret Powers of Time

This video was highly recommended by Dan on twitter:

Here’s the video description:

Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

It’s an interesting speech that is well worth your time.

I was particularly interested in the assertions regarding education. Probably because both major political parties in Australia are advocating a “return to basics” approach to education, which Professor Zimbardo implies is destined for failure.

Transgender reading

I’ve been reading a lot about transgender issues.

From Wikipedia:

Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from the usual gender roles.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex).

Importantly, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Gender transition is one of the most overt and visible aspects of transgenderism. The concept that people can change their gender is interesting, and seeing results of the process can be astonishing.

Photo series are intermittently posted to online forums; usually either by someone interested in gender transition themselves, or by someone fascinated by the results (hopefully without moral judgement).

Here are some that I have come across online:

These results may not be typical, but they do show that gender transition is achievable with medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy. They demonstrate that there are options for people who want to change their physical and social gender. (Although they may lead to unrealistic expectations regarding results.)

Fortunately, there are more balanced transgender resources online. Lynn Conway has an informative site documenting her own experiences and including galleries with links to other personal stories (rather than spectacular photo series without no broader context) which often describe issues faced by transgender people.

It’s interesting to read about how transgenderism is viewed by different cultures.

Most western cultures traditionally treat transgenderism in much the same way as minority sexual orientations: as something of which to be ashamed. Although it does appear that most societies are becoming increasing progressive and accepting.

Some Asian cultures consider transsexualism to be rather novel and entertaining, which could be construed as better or worse depending on your perspective. Here’s a video of Thai “newhalfNong Poy appearing on a Japanese television program:

Transgender issues generally represent conflict between personal liberty and social expectations. People have a right to live life as they want to, but most societies strongly define gender roles. As a result, there tends to be broad social stigma associated with transgenderism (which is disappointing).

Popular culture seems to be consistently intrigued by transgenderism.

Artists and writers have utilised it as an interesting theme for exploration or documentation (eg. Ranma 1/2, Transamerica, The Iron Ladies). However, there’s a fine line between interesting media coverage and derogatory exploitation in popular culture (eg. There’s Something About Miriam, tabloid coverage of Lana Wachowski).

While intriguing, many people also seem to find it rather confronting.

Fortunately, the Internet allows anyone to engage with transgendered people (eg. via personal online videos) without intermediary mainstream media. This is particularly beneficial in improving understanding within the general population, and in providing information and solidarity for other transgendered people.

This video (while professional produced) tells a personal story:

Ruth eloquently explains that:

It’s immensely uncomfortable to have people perceive you as male, when you feel that you’re female.

That’s a plain and straightforward assessment which is very difficult to argue with in any objective way.

At some point, most people will feel that their body doesn’t match up with who they are inside. Rather than gender, these feelings may result from relative weight, height, age or any number of other factors. Although relatively minor, these experiences may facilitate greater empathy with transgendered people.

Anyhow, I’ll end this post with one of my more interesting findings:

The Australian Sports Commission overtly discredits the assumption that “males will change gender in order to reap rewards in women’s sport which they are unable to obtain by competing in men’s sport”. Wow. It’s amazing that they even have to discuss such ridiculous assertions.


Han Hoogerbrugge is responsible for some superb interactive artwork.

I can’t believe that he’s been active online since 1998, and I haven’t heard about him until now. Maybe I’ve seen his stuff before… but I didn’t realise the volume and quality of his work. It’s like discovering nekogames or vectorpark for the first time.

Here’s the first work I came across (via reddit) and here’s an example of his style in a music video for “You’ve got to…” by The Young Punx:

Magical stuff.

Batman… cat!

There’s a cat in the neighbourhood with some very distinctive markings. I call him “Batman”. Fittingly, he tends to hide in shadows while stalking our cat, Bruce.

Since Mao passed away, I’ve been slowly working on a children’s book about her. I’ve written the text, but I really need to improve at drawing cats in order to hit the level of quality I hope to achieve for the illustrations.

I feel that I’m making progress, but I’m not there yet. At the moment, I’m focussing on learning shape and texture by sketching in greyscale. I want the final illustrations to be more stylised and simplistic (and colourful obviously!)

I tend not to use commercial software (I don’t have Photoshop or Painter). So I’ve been using MyPaint, an open source painting program with a great range of brushes and an “infinite” canvas. (There’s a good introduction here).

It’s taking a while to learn the ins and outs of the MyPaint, but I can see a lot of potential in it. I get the feeling that I need to: find a set of brushes that I like; and work out how/if I want to use layers. Aside from that it’s all practise I suppose.

Hopefully, my time at the cat sanctuary in Langkawi will help me improve quickly. I probably won’t have a tablet and PC with me, but I will have a sketchbook!

Fred + Edward = Fredward

Heidi and I went to see “Rev on The Road”, a local presentation of some films from the Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

The double bill included: The Family Jams, a music documentary focussing on Vetiver‘s 2004 tour with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom; and Stingray Sam, an episodic musical space western.

The Family Jams had a rather disjoint start, but later revealed itself to be a wistful and charming travelogue that manages to sincerely capture the life experiences of a close group of musicians and friends.

My favourite song from the film was probably “Bridges and Balloons” by Joanna Newsom. Here’s a video for it:

Stingray Sam was more focussed on entertainment with imaginative writing, good humour, and balanced pacing. The musical numbers (from the Billy Nayer Show) were particularly entertaining.

Episodes 1 & 2 of Stingray Sam are online on Cory McAbee’s homepage. My favourite song from the series features in episode 2; here’s a video:

Holiday planning (with cats!)

Heidi and I have just finalised plans for our next holiday.

We originally planned to go the US (including a week-long stay at a dude ranch), but then decided that we’d rather have a short relaxing journey somewhere nearby (leaving visiting the US until we have at least a couple of few months free).

Given that we’ve seen a lot of Thailand and Singapore this year, we figured that we’d try somewhere new in South-east Asia. Bali was an early consideration, but we were concerned about how touristy it is meant to be, and about the possibility of a dengue fever outbreak. So we opted for Langkawi instead.

It took a few days of planning (tripadvisor and Wikitravel were invaluable), but I feel that we’ve put together a great holiday for a reasonable budget. It includes: boutique resorts, wooden villas, kelongs, a few days in Kuala Lumpur, full-recline airplane seats, and a whole bunch of cats.

I searched flickr for a few of the places we are planning to stay at, and the photo indices reassured me that we have made the right choices. Below are some thumbnails from various searches.

Cats at the Bon Ton Resort, which includes an animal shelter and sanctuary:

Kelongs at the Langkawi Lagoon Resort:

Add good food to all of the above, and I’m really looking forward to it! 😀

“Tough on asylum seekers”

It appears that both sides of Australian politics want to appear “tough on asylum seekers”. I’m astonished that such abhorrent rhetoric is seen as a positive way to garner support. Is it really worth pandering to people who want to draw a hard line against victims of persecution?

What’s next? Are we going to expect our politicians to be tough on victims of crime or systematic abuse?

There is a lot of misinformation regarding asylum seekers in Australia. I’ll cover some of that later, but for now I’ll just note that (by definition) asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, meaning that all people have the right to seek asylum in Australia.

The Refugee Convention

The Refugee Convention reflects a time when the world was responding to the horrors of war with collective humanity. Here are some key articles of the convention that I feel Australia is failing to adequately satisfy:

Article 3
The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.

Enforcement of Australian immigration policy focuses on mandatory detention of boat people, which tend to come from Asia. Moreover, the Australian government is refusing to process the refugee claims from Sri Lankan and Afghan nationals.

Article 21
As regards housing, the Contracting States, in so far as the matter is regulated by laws or regulations or is subject to the control of public authorities, shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory treatment as favourable as possible and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances.

Living conditions in detention centres are generally regarded as poor. Moreover, I doubt that refugees are treated as favourably as tourists who have overstayed their working holiday visas (whom I assume are not immediately sent to detention centres on remote islands).

Article 26
Each Contracting State shall accord to refugees lawfully in its territory the right to choose their place of residence to move freely within its territory, subject to any regulations applicable to aliens generally in the same circumstances.

They aren’t going anywhere while in detention centres, and my understanding is that they may be relocated to regional areas when they are granted residency (although this point is conjecture).

Article 31

1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

Mandatory detention seems like a pretty serious penalty. Having to pay back the government for some of the costs for your detention represents a further penalty.

Myths and misinformation

Stateline WA recently ran a report entitled “Dispelling myths about asylum seekers” which drew upon Murdoch University research by Sue Hoffman and Dr Anne Pedersen. I’ve collected a few facts here (also drawing from the asylum seeker factsheet from Australia political action group GetUp!).

Facts on asylum seekers:

  • Australia is not being swamped by “boat people”; Over 90% of illegal immigrants arrive via plane.
  • Australia does not take more than its “fair share” of refugees; Australia has a relatively low intake (around 15x less than the UK and 30x less than Germany).
  • Most boat people are not illegal immigrants; Over 90% of unauthorised boat arrivals are genuine refugees.
  • Boat people are not simply “queue jumpers”; They are usually refugees who have had to employ the help of smugglers in order to escape persecution.
  • Refugees can’t stay in Indonesia or Malaysia because they are not recognised there; In our region, Australia and New Zealand are the only signatories to the Refugee Convention.
  • Most refugees are not “aiming” for Australia. They are mostly just trying to escape from their country of origin.

The Stateline report noted that myths about asylum seekers are particularly concerning because there is a strong link between false beliefs and negative attitudes.

I would hope that political leaders would seek to inform the public through a process of: research, dissemination of information, debate, and rational decision-making. Rather than that, the two major parties in Australia simply want to win elections by capitalising on misconceptions and fears.

It’s a shame that both major parties in Australia appear to have decided that real leadership is either too difficult or simply not worthwhile.