Sunday, 29 April 2012

One Thing At A Time


Every time I start trying to plan my next trip overseas I get myself all tangled up.

I start with a simple thought: I should visit Japan.

What I should do next is start researching Japan, looking up sights and cities that I'd like to visit, foods I'd like to try, festivals or events I might want to be present for, which seasons would be the best for what I want to achieve during my trip.

What I do instead is either get distracted by a part of my brain that is still listing other places I want to visit* or I am struck by the Australian Distance Justification and start actually trying to shoehorn visiting these other places into the same trip.

The Australian Distance Justification is essentially that since we're so far away from everything it is financially and ecologically** sensible to try and see as much as possible any time we go abroad.

The idea of 'just' visiting one country is a bit hard to wrap my head around.
If I fly allllllll the way to another continent, only visiting one place seems wasteful.

And of course skimming over countries doesn't do them justice either so by the time I'm finished with that line of thought I'm mentally spending six months to a year out of the country so I can see an appropriate chunk of multiple countries.

Visiting just one country could be worth it if I did it right but part of my brain won't stop saying 'well, whilst you're over there...'.

This shilly shallying isn't a problem exclusive to travel plans, I get this way about just about everything.

I start planning taking up a hobby or spending time on something and then get distracted trying to factor in everything else, get paralysed by choice and just end up dicking around or making plans instead of actually doing things.
Or at least instead of doing them properly.

I go to pick up my knitting and I start thinking maybe I should do some drawing or practise my Italian or do some writing or read something and I gather a bundle of things together and try to do a bit of everything and don't concentrate on any one thing as much as I should.

I still get things done, I still travel, but if I could break myself of this tendency I'm sure I'd get a lot more of everything done.

I just need to figure out a way to do it which doesn't involve going to far in the other direction and making things so rigid that plans and schedules can't be changed.

Like any pattern of behaviour, I know I can't change it over night but I can notice when I'm doing it and make a conscious effort to knock it off.

For instance I'm going to start looking into what I might like to see in Japan.

I'll probably also do a little research into Scandinavia but baby steps.

*I'd like to spend more time in Scandinavia, visit other cities in Europe I haven't seen yet, other countries in Europe which I haven't visited yet, visit different countries in Asia, visit Africa or South America at all, get back to the USA, see Canada...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Ricochet's Random List Of Slightly Unconventional Men That She Thinks Are Tasty - Round Two

Disclaimer #1: The men themselves may not be unconventional but they're not dudes I routinely notice other people phwoar-ing over. I know many of these fellows have their admirers but they're usually not as vocal as the admirers of others. So here I celebrate them.

Disclaimer #2: Yes, this is a pictures instead of words post.

Disclaimer #3: Despite the use of the word 'tasty' I still respect them as unique and complex human beings. Who are tasty.

Ron Perlman

Jack Black

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chris Barrie

Sebastien Chabal

Luca Zingaretti

Mark Boone Junior

Michael Shanks

Jorge Garcia

 Tyler Labine

John Leguizamo

Alan Tudyk

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Whilst I'm On The Subject

You know what the percentage of gun owners in Australia is? It's about 5%
I know they're available but mostly what would be on the shelves would be rifles and shotguns, things suitable for hunting the selection of animals that our citizens are allowed to hunt.

As far as I'm aware we don't really have a large selection of handguns available and even if we did I think you'd have to really proved that you were in a profession where you needed it in order to get licensed and be allowed to purchase it.

If somebody asked you 'Why do you want to buy this gun?' and you said 'Self-defence' they'd blink at you and say 'You're shitting me right? Who are you? Bloody John Connor?' and they'd carefully jot your name down on the Whackos List because you're obviously paranoid and delusional and think that someone is hunting you down. Nutbar.

As a country we haven't needed guns much in our day to day.
Apart from hunting and our early adventures in genocide we haven't had to protect ourselves against many aggressors, haven't thrown off our colonial overlords (ie, the British) and as a result there are some mind-sets we just haven't developed.

A lot of self-defence/home-defence examples given when describing personal use of guns in the USA is in relation to home invasion and the like.
I don't know if America is just riddled with crime but honestly the idea of someone breaking into your house or threatening you on the street and you saving the day with your gun...
Well, in Australia it's just not something we think about that much.

Obviously home invasions occur but they're not regarded as that common outside of bad neighbourhoods, are seen as freak occurrences and don't often end in death.
Possibly because we don't have guns to point at each other, I don't know.

Articles like this one make for interesting thinking about how guns are the new 'speak softly and carry a big stick' and what that can mean for good and bad.

I had a bit of a google around to see if there were any gun ranges in Victoria that I could visit to have a proper go at shooting and see a few guns and therefore have at least some experience with which to back up the comments I've been making.
I know that at the moment my inexperience may cause some of my observations to come across as naive and possibly a little insulting to some people.
Heck I may even be wrong about the types of guns available and legal for purchase in my own country, I simply don't have the information yet.

In any case, the only ranges I could find were for sport shooting, either Olympic style pistols or clay pigeon ranges.

No easily found gun shops with ranges and no gun shops that seemed to be offering hand guns at all.

I'm curious, I would like to know more but I think I might have to leave the country to get any kind of hands on experience.
Assuming foreign nationals are allowed to handle firearms in firearm friendly countries.
I don't know that either!

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Dilemma

When planning for the zombie apocalypse I consider all the usual things:
  • How and where to establish a stronghold
  • How to gather and protect loved ones
  • How and when to form alliances with other survivors
  • Identifying safe routes
  • Establishing and caring for sustainable food supplies
  • Provision of clean water
  • How to source or simulate medicines and medical care
  • Morale/mental health
  • Weapons
This last one presents a bit of a problem for me.

Not because I would have an issue dispatching zombies, self-preservation and terror-adrenaline will have me primed to do my best not to be eaten or infected.

Because I'm an Australian.

And I honestly have no idea how I would get my hands on a gun or what would do with it if I did.

Well, obviously point the bang bang end at whatever you need to shoot and pull the trigger but loading, maintenance, gun discipline...

Add that to the fact that I live in a country that isn't particularly big on guns, doesn't have a super huge range available openly to the general public, and that I would feel a bit like a nervous crackpot if I tried to purchase a gun and I'm in trouble.

I don't think the zombies will calmly wait for me to learn how to shoo before they attack, they're not known for their social niceties.

My relationship with the idea of firearms is a bit complicated.

On one hand I would really quite like to learn how to shoot, just as a technical exercise.

I think I might be good at it if given the chance.

For instance, I had the opportunity to fire a simulation F88 Austeyr at an actual Army base Weapon Training Simulation System facility (where active Service members qualify and renew qualifications on their weapons) and this was my grouping firing an official qualification serial.

This was the first time I have ever fired a gun that was not attached to a game system and which was built and weighted to ape reality, so I was understandably pretty stoked.

If you click on the picture to get the big version you can see the cluster size of my groupings, including the scribbled note down the bottom that my three-shot zero grouping had a spread of 62.4 or 64.2 mm*.

That and my awesome nerf gun story both have me convinced that if I had a proper crack at it, I could be a decent markswoman.

But on the other hand, the idea of actually owning and operating a gun in a pre-zombie world for any reason other than pure unadulterated pride in accuracy and precision makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.

If I could be guaranteed a clean kill shot, I might be OK with some types of hunting.
I'm an omnivore, I eats the meats, I'm aware of where it comes from and the part I play in that system so responsibly killing your own game as long as you're going to utilise it properly and aren't just into killing animals, is theoretically fine.

But the idea of wounding or causing suffering to an innocent animal that I would then have to run bawling after in an attempt to put it down mercifully gives me a major case of the sads.

And pointing a weapon at another human being?

I would have to be sure, DAMN sure that they actually meant me or somebody else unequivocal harm before I pulled that trigger because otherwise the guilt would consume me.

I feel guilty enough about boring, mundane everyday stuff like forgetting somebody's birthday, I'm not sure the bar graph goes high enough to show how bad I would feel about injuring or killing someone who didn't have to be impaired or killed.

I know gun enthusiasts say that guns themselves are just tools and that in the hands of responsible owners they are safe (or useful) and are not inherently evil and sure that's technically true.

I know I thoroughly enjoy Erin Palette's Monday Gunday posts and her passion for the technical side of gun ownership and operation.

The fact still seems to remain that unlike cars, gardening implements, cricket bats and other things that could at a pinch be turned into weapons against the living or the undead, guns were specifically designed to kill or injure.

It isn't a side effect or bonus feature, it's what they're designed for.
Just because you aren't using them for that and God/Gods/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Universe-willing never intend to use them for that purpose doesn't take away from the fact that's what they're designed to do.

So the idea of going out and purposefully purchasing something that could be used to quite easily kill someone... someone who wouldn't have a chance to get close enough to fight back or defend themselves... it doesn't sit quite right with me.

They seem to make it too easy to make a mistake or do something you'll regret.

At least with a knife you have to get close enough and have the intent fully lodged in your mind before you can do actual damage.
You have to mean it.

This discomfort and reluctance clashes pretty badly with the cultural conditioning that I've received at the hands of movies, books and other media that guns can be used to Save The Day.
Of course they're also usually being used to menace the day which makes them a neutral third party in the conflicts...

Just to mess with me, my brain has no problem with the idea of owning a fully functional set of Japanese ceremonial katanas.

Maybe because you couldn't have one on your person walking down the street.
Maybe because they're such a well-established historical item that I really do see them as predominantly decorative rather than immediately functional these days.
Maybe because they're pretty.
Maybe because you would need to train like hell to be proficient with them and to be guaranteed to hurt others rather than clumsily maim yourself.

The thing is, guns are pretty.

The antique ones are gorgeous examples of workmanship, craft and function.

The nicely designed modern ones are elegant with nice clean lines and smooth surfaces.

Image of Glocks found whilst trawling aforementioned Monday Gunday posts

I like the look of them.

And yet my brain keeps coming back to 'But you don't want to kill anyone do you? DO YOU!?'

And I really don't.

At least not until they reanimate.

*By the time I got my printout I'd forgotten which one it was :-P

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Never Was

I want to tell you that I know you, that I met you long ago.

And that one day we went out walking, to a place we both well know.

I want to tell you that we saw that thing, what happened there that day.

And that we did what had to be done, despite our fears, and chased it all away.

I want to tell you this and so much more but I'm afraid it isn't true.

I've not been to that place, we didn't face that thing, and I will never see you.

And as the horror unchallenged engulfs us, the moment for intervention long gone.

I dream of you and our ungrasped chance and the memories left unspun.

I reach out for you in the swelling dark and imagine you clutch my hand.

And together, one way or another, we cling to us as we watch the fall of man.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Me Vs Me: The Adventures Of A Luddite

The refrain of 'If this is the future, where's my jetpack?' has been knocking around for a fair old while now but based on my customary approach to things, if we had jetpacks available to us, I probably wouldn't use one.

At least not until all the early adopters worked out the bugs - their recognition for these contributions possibly accorded posthumously - and it became absolutely necessary.

I'm basing this assumption on the fact that a button has recently fallen off my mobile phone, forcefully reminding me that I need to buy a new one, and the amount of trouble I'm having deciding on what sort of phone to get does not bode well for my adopting any other forms of technology without putting up a fight.

I've mentioned before that I'm a bit technologically disadvantaged, a bit reluctant to take up certain things, and this definitely applies to the way I think about phones.

It's the cynical, old-before-my-time part of my personality that drives this, viciously gumming a butterscotch as it mutters under its breath that phones are for phone calls and if I wanted to take a photo or access the internet I'd use a dang camera or a gosh-dang laptop computer.

The part of me that wants to try new things is valiantly struggling against this argument, a little more strongly than it used to in the past.

If we get a touch-screen phone, it whispers, we'll be a step closer to having a computer book like Penny. I know I said your laptop was like that but isn't a phone better?

We'd be like Ford Prefect, scrolling through The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and checking out the entry on Eccentrica Gallumbits, The Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon 6!

I'd been having some luck talking myself around to this way of thinking until some friends responded to my remarks about my broken button meaning I needed to get a new phone by commenting that the fact that my phone had buttons at all was the reason I needed to get a new phone.

This is a terrible approach to getting me to try new things.

I react to it in much the same way I did as a teenager to comments like 'Well, look who's finally up!'

I turn around and get back into bed.

In this scenario, bed is a metaphor for old phones.

That sulky part of me would rather like to track down one of my favourite handsets - the Nokia 6085 - and just stick with that for another few years.

It made me feel like I was a Star Fleet officer.

I think I'm going to be able to overcome my hesitant, grumpy self and take a step into the future* to join everybody else, but I'm approaching it slowly so as not to startle myself.

The only thing I can say for sure is that it won't be an iPhone, for no better reason than I can't stand the way that people go on about them.

This may be as irrational as saying I'm not going to try penicillin because of the way everybody keeps knobbing on about it but it's an aversion that's pretty well cemented in.

Now I just have to find a viable alternative, get used to the idea and then hold my nerve all the way up to the register!

*Or even the present would be a good start!