Talking Apple iPhone 5 on Balls Radio

Yes, OK, we fell for it. Shut up. We have to make a living, you know. Apple’s new iPhone 5 was the topic for my spot on Phil Dobbie’s Balls Radio this week.

Oh wait. We don’t get paid for this. Well that’s just wrong.

While the conversation bounced off the piece I wrote for Crikey, somehow I also managed to compare Windows Phone 7 to Judaism. You should probably listen before you complain.

Here’s the audio of my segment. If you’d like more, Mr Dobbie has posted the full episode.

This week’s episode wasn’t on Sydney’s FM 99.3 Northside Radio. There’s things happening the background. But if you want to keep listening then keep track of it all at

Respect, please, NSW Police!

Respecting someone’s religious beliefs is something I though was basic etiquette. But apparently not so, according to NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Police and Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher.

I have no idea who the women in the photo are. I cannot identify them. But I know that if I wanted to identify them, asking them to remove their burqas would cause offence.

If I needed to identify them, I know that in 2011 there are methods other than demanding they show their faces. They’re Muslim women, so I’m fairly sure that I could arrange for another Muslim woman to view their faces in private, without men present.

But this is how those aforementioned gentlemen’s views were explained in a NSW Police media release headed Police Commissioner meets Minister to close Burqa loophole earlier this evening:

Mr Scipione made the meeting a priority today, declaring the Carnita Matthews Appeal decision [my linkage] raised “real concerns” for police officers.

“The Minister and I are in total agreement that we need to take action to close this potential loophole and strengthen police powers to demand identification where necessary,” Mr Scipione said.

“We are working together to fix this issue and legislative change may be the answer,” the Commissioner added.

As I said on Twitter, I thought it might have been nice if the Commissioner and Minister had even just hinted that respect for people’s religious beliefs might enter into their thinking.

But apparently someone’s sincerely-held religious beliefs are a “real concern” and a “loophole”. We must change the laws so the police can ignore them. At least that’s what it sounds like.

I would like to think that this is simply a poorly-worded media release. After all, I respect the NSW Police for doing a difficult job that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole and, looking at the world scale, I know they’re mostly on my side. Unlike some countries we could all name.

I would like to think that the police minister, being an experienced politician, knew how to balance the different factors at play in the community.

But this is the same police minister who reckons we shouldn’t worry that people are illegally arrested because police computer information is out of date. This doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

[Photo: Afghan women wearing their traditional burqas when going outside in northern Afghanistan, by Steve Evans. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

50 to 50 #7: Wearing my Sunday best, for church

[This post is part of the series 50 to 50, fifty posts to mark my 50th birthday next weekend. Originally intended to be one per day, with the final one on the birthday itself, it’s been disrupted by my work schedule. There will still be fifty posts, eventually, just not one per day.]

On Sundays, as often as not, we put on our Sunday best clothes, slicked down our hair with Brylcreem and were driven in our white Holden Special HR station wagon to church. And here’s a picture [embiggen].

This photo was taken some time in 1969, again when I was around nine years old. That’s me on the right, my brother on the left, and a cattle dog called Duke in front. The farmhouse is in the background, the dog house on the right. Here’s another picture.

My mother, descended from some of South Australia’s original German immigrants who arrived in the 1840s, was of course brought up Lutheran. But my father was of English Protestant stock, Methodist to be precise, and a wife must take on her husband’s religion. So our regular church was the Nangkita Methodist Church, a sparse white-painted rectangle with a rust-free corrugated iron roof about a mile east of Mount Compass.

I’ve marked the building on the map below, though it doesn’t seem to be a church any more.

Back in the 1960s Nangkita Road was just a graded strip of gravel and yellow clay. In summer it was rough and dusty, in winter slippery with mud. When we hit some of the bigger potholes, the car would lurch and my mother would swear under her breath, “Shit and tomatoes!”

She also swore if my hair got messed up. She was obsessed with making sure it looked exactly right. If she noticed a few strands out of place she’d spit on a clean handkerchief and wipe them back into place. I’d push her away. “Hold still,” she’d say.

Continue reading “50 to 50 #7: Wearing my Sunday best, for church”

Vale Scott Young

Photograph of Scott Young

I’ve just had the most amazing conversation about the man in the photograph. C Scott Young was, according to Mark Pesce, “the very, very first VRML designer. What he did — with no tools and for (literally) no money — changed the world.” And Mark should know, because he invented VRML.

Alas, Scott died a few days ago after a long, long battle with diabetes-related illnesses. He doesn’t have his own Wikipedia entry yet, but you can get hints of his life in Mark’s personal blog post and the memorial site.

Tonight’s conversation was remarkable because it led me to re-read a somewhat influential Wired article from 1995, Technopagans: May the astral plane be reborn in cyberspace. When that article hit the streets I’d just moved to Sydney in the first boom. Mark Pesce was a minor superstar in the Internet firmament for inventing leading-edge virtual reality technology — he was, almost literally, creating the world of William Gibson‘s Neuromancer.

That article combined what I knew of Mark’s technical work with religious and spiritual ideas which were at least somewhat related to my own. I remember thinking, “I’d very much like to meet this man one day.” That’s why I was so well pleased when I finally did meet him last December.

Mark, I am truly sad that you’ve lost a good friend — especially since there was so much complex news for you this week. As you say, “Remembering is the only gift we living can give those gone before us.”

Common Ground run by a dangerous cult?

I always used to enjoy the wholesome food from the Common Ground Café at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, the Newtown Festival and other events. There’s now a bad taste in my mouth now that I’ve discovered they’re owned by an isolationist cult with abusive child-discipline practices.

A former member says workers aren’t paid and there’s no workers compensation or insurance.

[Update 25 April 2012: I’m closing comments on this post now, for the reasons given in the final comment. If you want to tell me anything more about Twelve Tribes or Common Ground Cafe, please email me.]