tales from urban dilettantia

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Wastage, Bleeders, and Murky Data in the Horse Racing Industry

Hey Australia, it’s Melbourne Cup Day.

It turns out that it’s actually quite hard to find well-researched information on issues of animal welfare in the racing industry.  All credit to organisations who lobby against cruelty in the industry, but their sites aren’t always the best of source of resources, and at times show a misunderstanding of the underlying statistics.

Given it’s Cup Day, I’ve put together an overview of some of the studies I’ve encountered during a quick skim of the literature. Bear in mind that I haven’t looked in detail into the authors, nor methodologies used in the studies, so cite with caution.  The two issues that immediately arose when I ran a search were ‘wastage’ (the commercial term for horses lost to the racing industry) and ‘bleeders’ (horses suffering from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or ‘EIPH’).

One of the most concerning aspects in my opinion is how just murky and under-scrutinised this whole industry appears to be in this respect – pinning down solid, credible data is no simple task, even where suspicions have been raised that the industry may be the horsey equivalent of a puppy mill.   For example, there’s very little information relating to the origin of horses sent to abattoirs.  This in in part due to an glaring absence of record keeping, the complication of abattoirs frequently procuring horses via auctions rather than directly from from racing stables, and the fact that some of the relevant data (where it exists) is considered to be commercial in confidence.

An estimated 80 per cent of those horses that actually end up on the racetrack suffer EIPH – these horses are known in the industry as ‘bleeders’.  (Hinchcliff, K.W., et al., Association between exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage and performance in Thoroughbred  racehorses. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2005. 227: p. 768-774.)  This is quite an interesting one statistically, as horses can either bleed from the windpipe or in the deeper lung area, with some commentary noting the former applies to ‘around half’ of all racehorses, and the latter up to 90 per cent.  Wikipedia references studies stating the proportion of racehorses suffering EIPH at some point in their career falls between 40 per cent and 70 per cent.   I’m not clear on the number of non-racing horses who suffer from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, although some of the literature implies it is significantly lower.

It’s been estimated  “pregnancy in 1000 Thoroughbred Australian mares produces only 300 horses which will actually race”.   (Bourke JM (1995) Wastage in Thoroughbreds. In ‘Proceedings from the Annual Seminar, Equine Branch, NZVA’. Auckland pp. 107-119. Veterinary Continuing Education, Massey University)  Where do they go?  One of the more nteresting and recent studies in this area – greatly impaired as it was by lack of industry data – is detailed in a 2008 paper published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.  Here’s an extract of the relevant section:

An assessment was also made on the possibility of collecting further data within the abattoir setting. In this study data was collected over three collection dates from 340 horses processed at an Australian abattoir. This occurred between November 2007 and January 2008. The data showed that 59.8% of the horses had a dental age of  7 years with the remainder (40.2%) being > 7 years. Observations of the types of brands present indicated that 52.9% of the horses processed had originated from the racing industry with 40.0% of the sample group carrying a Thoroughbred brand and 12.9% carrying a Standardbred brand. The remainder of the group (47.1%) had no visible brand.

Wastage or horse loss (Jeffcott, 1990; Bailey, 1998) occurs at all stages of the horse’s life, including prior to racing, and it is estimated that pregnancy in 1000 Thoroughbred Australian mares produces only 300 horses which will actually race (Bourke, 1995). Similar pre-racing wastage has been found in Standardbred horses (trotters and pacers). A survey conducted on the 1990 crop of Western Australian Standardbred foals (Dyer, 1998) reported that 29% of foals were unregistered while approximately 26% were registered but never raced. Of the unregistered foals, 25% died or were destroyed and in 13% of cases, the cause of death was deliberate destruction. Of the registered, unraced horses 15% died and deliberate destruction was the cause of death in 12% of cases.

Bourke (1995) has also estimated that approximately 33% of the Thoroughbred population of Victoria may be lost to wastage each year however, these wastage figures include all areas in which horses are lost to the racing industry (e.g. reproductive failure, death of foals, various training and racing injuries and those relinquished for slaughter: Bailey, 1998). Interestingly, a more recent survey of racehorse trainers in the 2002/2003 race year reported similar figures. Hayek et al. (2005) found that the total wastage rate for horses in training or racing was 39% for Thoroughbreds and 38% for Standardbreds. Of the 39% of Thoroughbreds which left a racing stable only 6% were reported to have been sent to a knackery while 17% of Standardbred horses were reported to have been sent to the same destination. However, as the authors noted these figures do not include horses which were sent to a slaughter plant via a more indirect route, that is being sent to auction and purchased by an agent buying horses for slaughter, so the exact number of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds in the study group which were ultimately slaughtered remains unknown.”

Doughty, A., Cross, N., Robbins, A. and Phillips, C.J.C. 2009. The origin, dentition and foot condition of slaughtered horses in Australia. Equine Veterinary Journal 41, 808-811.

Additionally, some of the literature suggests that horses who are unsuccessful on the racecourse may transition into the more harmful sport jump racing – a spectacle banned in New South Wales, and recommended to be phased out elsewhere by an Australian Parliamentary Inquiry.   Clearly, in addition to wastage and health issues, not to mention the subjects of gambling and whipping, there’s also a whole discussion to be had about the ethics of meat production versus the breeding of animals for an entertainment industry and so forth.  But, given they’re currently running  a Race That Stops A Nation, that’s one for another day.

Good Reads: A Miscellany of Blogs

I love reading the internet. Lots and lots of the internet. All of the internet!  No, that’s unreasonable; that’s too much internet.  However, I do use Feedly to subscribe to more than I can reasonably read, and  have resigned myself to occasionally declaring RSS bankruptcy and marking all as read.

I also have a habit of talking ad nauseum about the things I’ve read, and as a result, a number of people have asked for a list of the blogs I subscribe to.  Now, you probably don’t actually want a list of all the things I subscribe to, given that they include an assortment of high-volume feeds that largely post junk, but reliably throw in a few gems one can pick out by skimming the titles.  (I also have a list of around ten to fifteen low-volume local blogs of various sorts I subscribe to, that aren’t particularly relevant if you’re not a local, although I heartily recommend curating a similar list relevant to your own area – it’s a really nice way to tune in to what’s happening around you.)

And so, sans the junk, the webcomics, and the overly location-specific, here are some of my current favourites.

FlowingData: Data visualisation, infographics, and statistics.

Information Is Beautiful: Distilling the world’s data, information, and knowledge.

Mind Hacks: Neuroscience and psychology tricks discussed and perhaps explained.

Schneier on Security: Security and security technology.

Cipher Mysteries: The latest news, views, and research on uncracked historical ciphers.

Ribbonfarm: Experiments in refactored perception.

Atlas Obscura: Curious and wondrous travel destinations.

Google Maps Mania: Tracking the websites, ideas, and tools influenced by Google Maps.

Making Maps: DIY Cartography: Resourced and ideas for making maps.

Messy Nessy Chic: Blogging the off-beat, the unique, and the chic.

Strange Maps: Cartographic curiosities.

The Mapping London Blog: Highlighting the best London maps.

Strange Harvest: Architecture, design, culture.

Visual Complexity: Visualisation of complex networks.

Colossal: Art, design and visual ingenuity.

I’ve also become increasingly interested in finding great podcasts over the past couple of years (better late than never), so I’ll post a list of Good Listening shortly, to brighten your commute.

Travel the World

I hoard an alarming number of bits and pieces of Tiny Projects and Personal Projects and Just-Messing-Around Projects and This-Will-Be-Useful-for-a-Project Projects.  I’m a damn fine candidate for leaving this world in some bizarre digital reenactment of the Collyer Brothers‘ demise.  So, to free me of some of my digital clutter, have at this one:

Google Map: Travel the World

This project’s really just me putting pins on a Google Map every time I stumble across something that interests me in the (inaccurately named) Satellite View.  (This all started when I was panning around looking for inspiration for a different project, involving art and screen captures and screen capture art.  That project is still deep in the project clutter pile.  Please don’t ask me how it’s going because it’s not.)

As at the time of writing, it appears that 95 things have interested me.  Some of the points have been marked because they look pretty neat from the air (like the Boeing Everett Factory), and others because they have some particular historial or cultural resonance that interests me (for instance, Centralia, and the Blue Sky Mine).  I’ve included a link to more information for each pin, and a photograph where available.

I did want to port this original Travel the World map to the new Google Maps Engine Lite Beta, but unfortunately Lite has problems supporting the images and hyperlinks at this point, so for now I’ll keep adding to the version I’ve linked here.   Just turn on your (inaccurately named) Satellite View, click around, and come see the world with me.

 

Western Australia: State Election 2013

I’ll update and re-run the whole Election How-To  series for the Australian Federal Election later in the year, but for now here’s a quick roundup for the Western Australian State Election:

Western Australian Electoral Commission has lots of information for you: the candidates, the polling places, the district and regional profiles, the inquiry hotline, early voting, social media coverage and more.

There’s a good overview up at the Wikipedia entry for the election.

And, as ever, the ABC are doing a sterling job over at their election site, with all the data, election calculators, candidate profiles, boundary redistributions, and – most importantly – the divine Mr Antony Green.

Finally, my FAQ published for previous elections is still broadly relevant.

Western Australian elections make me cranky (see: odds from SportsBet) so I shall now return to my regularly scheduled, obviously non-partisan, activity of Making A Troy Buswell Action Figure.  I just need some glue for the hair.

Skinny

I don’t think I’ve ever written a body politics piece here before, and certainly not one about my personal experience of body shaming. It isn’t my area of expertise, and I’ve noticed that writing body politics posts tends to end with one’s entrails smeared across the wall. My somewhat narrow view of human attractiveness suggests that having one’s entrails smeared across the wall isn’t a good look.  Nevertheless, let us start bluntly.

This year, I lost ten kilograms.

(I wonder what you thought when you read that? That’s so unhealthy. That’s so healthy.  Go you. For fuck’s sake, how uninteresting. Something else?)

Backstory: this year I took up rock climbing. It transformed my social life, my experience of the outdoor world, and my body. It stripped a layer of fat from my body and put on wiry muscle where I’d never had muscle before.  I’m as strong and fit as I’ve ever been. I can climb a tree, swing from one arm if only for a brief moment, and I’m on my way to doing the first chin-up I’ve ever done. I find myself liking my physical form for what it does, rather than what it is.

But here’s the thing.  Many of you haven’t seen me in person, so you won’t know what I look like.  Perhaps you’re imagining someone around average size dropping ten kilograms.

In fact, I’m five foot four. I’m very lightly built. I have tiny wrists and hands and ankles.  A year ago, I was an Australian size ten – the second smallest size one can generally buy. Today, I’m at the lower end of a size eight. I am skinny.

Culturally, I have the mammoth privilege that comes with being thin. Cheap, pretty clothes. Doctors diagnosing my illnesses, rather than telling me the only problem is my weight. Tiny airline seats fitting me. Hell, this year I’ve found I can shop in the children’s section. And most significantly, I’m not on the receiving end of widespread bigotry and condemnation.

Great. I know how fortunate I am, to the extent that anyone in such a position of privilege can ever truly know such a thing. And so, when I talk about being on the receiving end of body shaming, I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not dismissing my privilege. Shaming someone for thinness is not ‘exactly the same’ as shaming someone for not being thin. That’s bullshit. It is not equivalent.

However, there’s a belief that feeds discrimination, and a behaviour that heartbreakingly crops up from time to time even in my most feminist of social circles. It’s the belief that it is acceptable to pass judgement on my shape. On anyone’s shape. Boobs and thighs, belly, arse, ribs are all fair game for comment and criticism.

Too often I’ve seen people – feminists, activists, smart and caring people in almost every way they can be – point at pictures of skinny women’s bodies and decry them as ‘Horrible’. ‘Ugly’. ‘Disgusting’. ‘Urgh’. ‘Needs to eat a cheeseburger’. Bodies just like mine.

I may be as privileged as hell, and may not generally be on the receiving end of a cultural barrage of crap because of my body shape, but you know what? I am not okay with you posting pictures of women who look like me and commenting on how hideous they are. It is absolutely unacceptable.

The enormity of the social problems we face when it comes to physical form is beyond overstatement. We exclusively, pathologically market our clothes as displayed on the bodies of women far to one end of the bell curve. We objectify and idealise a single shape amongst the multitudes. We encourage self-loathing and self-harm. We are the architects of a society of shame.

Now, when those of you who really ought to know better post a picture of a woman’s body – of anyone’s body – and tell me it’s disgusting, you’re promoting the acceptability of linking physical form and shame. I’d like to say my feelings aren’t hurt when I see you saying my shape is wrong, but that wouldn’t be true. It is always going to be personal, just as it is always going to be political.  And, besides, it doesn’t help fix a single thing.  It simply reinforces the insidious idea that there is a ‘right shape’ and a there is a ‘wrong shape’.

I’m not wrong. I’m not ugly. I do not have an eating disorder.  I’m not sick or vain or brainwashed or setting a bad example. I’m just me, a rock climbing, skinny bitch.

To shame the body of another human being is to perpetuate the behaviour that feeds discrimination and self-loathing. But beyond that, it plunders you – our best and brightest, our feminists, our activists, our fighters. There are so many battles to be fought in this arena – battles around education, agriculture, advertisting, poverty, bad science, mental health, and the way we define spaces – both public and private.  So, wake up.  Give up the pointing and the shaming.  Instead, choose your battles wisely, and fight well.

Ten Days

(So much has happened since I wrote this. I’ve been sitting on it, frightened to let it go out into the world and become reality.)

Nothing happens for a reason.  The incident that will ever mark the beginning had not the least connection with the things that followed it. I learned of a death – a bad death – six months too late, from the front page of a newspaper. Shock at the brutality of it. A sharp twist of betrayal and a wordless horror at the manner of learning something, surely, I should have been told.

I lied there, when I said there was no connection between the incident and that which followed. I am an unreliable narrator. The connection is this: I promised I’d cry about it on the weekend, and for a number of reasons I never did. I’m sorry, Tim.

I presume the wider world hummed along and something in the shape of a weekend occurred. Someone would surely have noticed had it been omitted, and all going to plan, I would certainly have grieved. However, in place of a weekend, all I have is a collection of stupid, frozen, cliched moments, and a dawning realisation that there is no more grace, no less banality when things happen to oneself than when they happen to others.

Things. I am suddenly a person with a partner who has cancer. It has spread. I am a person with a partner who will probably be alive in five years, by virtue of a mix of medical science and dumb luck. There’s probably, and then there’s probably. I am a character in a an awful film, a poorly written book, a farce. I am a person with feelings that have come straight out of a self-help pamphlet. From the inside, nothing will ever be the same. From the outside, I am immaculately, mind-numbingly predictable.

I find myself biting my tongue when colleagues ask How are you? How is he? replying Okay…okay… in an appropriately subdued manner. This is a misrepresentation. I am an unreliable answerer of questions. Inside, I am smiling radiantly and answering Well that’s a stupid fucking question right there, isn’t it? Inside I am beautiful and rude and angry and trying so hard to be heartless in the places it doesn’t matter, in order to sustain enough heart to go around.

I am artificially busy. I make phone calls like a woman who has never hated the telephone. I instruct nurses to bring drips. I break rules, prioritise ruthlessly, make mistakes, cause offence, and forget to be my obedient, compliant, excruciatingly anxious self.

This is a horrible thing of course, I said to him, but it is so very interesting. I am learning so much, so quickly, about so many things.

Nothing happens for a reason, and the banal and fascinating, lovely and horrible nestle within each other in unpredictable ways. And, in all sincerity, I hope someone dear has the presence of mind to slap me if I ever forget that this is how things are, to shake me if I ever start asking why.

 

Swinging on the Spiral

“I’ve been asking people around me to write about personal positives in their life, the way they make a difference in their own way, as part of their daily experience of living in the world. Now it is my turn to share with you about my life and how I try to make a difference. Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around love.” – Jaunita Landésse, setting the agenda for the 51st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.

It is interesting that I’ve been invited to write about the way I make a difference in the world in a week where I’ve been struggling to even co-exist with the world. After many hours of begging my brain to think-think-think, I decided that the best way to address the subject was to take the scope above and to fill in the gap in this sentence:

‘Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around _____.’

And when I did this, I found my answer.

Curiosity. That’s me.

It is perhaps more evident that curiosity drives my inner world, than it is that it drives the outer. I’m a life-long learner, a researcher, a dilettante who hyperbolicly claims she’ll try anything twice, an adventuress, an analyst and a woman who describes herself as ‘interested in everything’. (That’s a lie; I’m not in the least interested in Rugby League.)

If you’ve visited this blog in the past, you’ll have seen that it’s quite the jumble of things. Specific topics (cycling, politics, statistics, happiness, art, polyamory), a repository for my lists of hundreds of interesting Wikipedia articles, and tales of local history that I’ve spent hours and days and weeks researching just for the love of researching. If I have one defining characteristic that has not changed in the least over the past three decades (if you ask my Mum, I expect she’ll tell you I was a most curious baby) it’s overwhelming, unconquerable, fervent curiosity.

How, then, does this curiosity make a difference beyond my internal world? If you’ve had a conversation with me about something that excites me, you’ve probably noticed that (a) I talk really, really fast, and (b) that I love to share the knowledge grown out of the seed of an initial fascination. While it’s hard to gauge a degree of influence, many people – at work, at home, here on the internet – have mirrored my enthusiasm and have taken the time to tell me they’ve appreciated the sharing of my interests. An even better indicator, I think, is that people often go on to send me links, books, thoughts and pieces of news related to a discussion we’ve had, long after the initial conversation. We go on to listen and learn together.

I am most certain that the infectiousness of curiosity makes a difference in the world, as does the distribution of learning. I’ve learned this not from my experience as a giver of curiosity, so much as being on the receiving side of similar excitement from others who share this passion. Their curiosity feeds mine, plants new seeds and ideas, travels off in random directions, and iteratively feeds back into their wonder and awe as it returns. To learn for the joy of learning, to discover for the joy of discovering, to chase trails, to unwrap stories and to adventure on – these are the ways I write my own story and make meaning in my world, and perhaps too, in the worlds of others.

Now, wonder and awe are magnificent things, but has occurred to me as I write that curiosity also makes a difference in a more intimate way. It brings difference into the world because I’m interested in you.

I truly want to understand what makes you happy, what makes you sad, why you do what you do, what you think, how you feel, how you think, what enchants you, what enamours you, where you come from, your stories, how you’re just like me, how you’re utterly unlike me, and how you occupy and interact with your world. And I think, again from being on the receiving end rather than the giving, that it does make a small, warming difference to meet someone who is curious about you. It is good to, in that moment, know you are an interesting creature. And so, in a tiny, intimate way, I can give you the gift of my curiosity and all that entails, and likewise, if you too are interested, you can give that gift to me.

Curiosity has become more than a personality trait. More than an instinct, a proclivity or a habit, all these though it has been. But beyond them, it has become a guiding philosophy; it is my self-determined raison d’être and my maker of meaning, in a universe where I perceive no other meaning than that I create.

As Jaunita lives to love, I live to discover.

Spiralling out, keeping going. That’s the person I want to be.

 

Spiral - Sculptures by the Sea

With a loving nod to Cary, comrade in philomathy. Lateralus is your song.

Of Maps and Murder

Once upon a time, this particular time being the night of 26th of June 1936, or perhaps the early morning of the 27th, Henry William Griffiths of Maylands kills his family one by one, with fishing line and an axe. Then he half fills the bath and locked the bathroom door. Finally, he tidily sits down in the water still wearing his pants, shoes and socks, and cuts his own throat.

The newspapers of the day provide detailed coverage,  both in the aftermath of the discovery, and following the inquest.  The journalists at The Mirror supply a wealth of particularly heart-wrenching details, publishing photographs of boggle-eyed children staring at the Griffiths house (‘kiddies gaze at house of awful tragedy’), the Griffiths’ toddler (‘bonny kiddie murdered today’), and the family dog (‘the only one left’).  (I am later unsurprised to see the long-defunct Mirror described as ‘the “scandal sheet” of its day, dealing with “juicy” divorce cases and the like.‘)

34 Wellington Street, 1936

Various acquaintances assure the press that Henry and Kathleen were a happy couple, adored their children, gave no clue at all that anything was wrong. (People tell the right lies after a death, and apparently even more of the right lies after four.) But of course, it all comes out at the inquest. Henry had spent time in Heathcote Mental Hospital. He was reportedly convinced the CIB and Taxation Department were recording his conversations, that the Government thought he was an international spy, and that his wife (who tactfully told people he was ‘worried about business matters’) had been conspiring against him.

The family publish death notices in the papers . Many of the notices are loving, even of Henry. They bury Henry and Kathleen side by side in Karrakatta Cemetery, one of their sons with each of them.

It is June 2012. I am at the cemetery. It is a damp, grey day and the section numbering on the map isn’t matching the numbering in my notes. I wander around lost for an hour and a half before I find them.  I’ve brought flowers with me, and I stay to weed the plot.  Afterwards, I travel the two suburbs north to see the house, and return to take a photograph on a bright sunny afternoon some months later.

*

I first come across this story while idly browsing Trove, and nearly pass on by, but for a peculiar inconsistency. The papers give the address as Wellington Street in Maylands, and one goes so far as to give the house number, 34. Curious to see whether the house has been swallowed up in the suburb’s inexorable gentrification, I pull up the address on Google Maps’ Street View.

Or rather, I try. There’s no such street. I poke around the obvious places first – councils, government, the old Road Board – but there’s nothing online indicating the street ever existed, no record of it being renamed.  Suddenly, I’m interested enough not to let this one go.

To trace this story back to its beginning, I need a different approach; to go back to someone, something, a source that that recognises the address. I need to find something capable of pulling up memories of web of streets eighty years gone.  The answer, it seems, is in the very place I found the story. The newspapers of the time hold knowledge; each birth and death, each celebration and each crime, each council decision, each wedding, each story worth a scattering of words. And, because Trove – by its nature – knows everything the newspapers know, I go foraging amongst its memories.

Slowly, from advertisments, stories and random fragments, the area around Wellington Street begins to resolve. Wellington Street near Beaufort Street. Wellington Street intersecting with York Street. Wellington Street on the route of the long-gone #18 tram. Trams.  I visit the State Library at lunch to check some books on history of Perth’s tramways, quite certain at this point that at least one of them will have a useful map. No luck. Tram enthusiasts and local history websites likewise yield nothing. One last roll; Google’s Image Search. And there, a photograph of a heritage map displayed in the East Perth Train Station – a map showing the tramlines. It’s too small to make out the street names and I’m ready to make the trip over to East Perth to look for myself, but I don’t need to – a little more digging, and I’m looking at a high resolution version on Flickr. Formerly Wellington Street. Now the last block of Stuart Street in Bayswater.

Much closer, I track up and down the block in Street View. I think I’ve found the house a couple of times, and then wonder if it was demolished to make the small park nearby. I don’t realise yet that I’m largely focusing on the wrong side of the road. This isn’t going to work; finding a house that looks a little like the right house isn’t enough.  One workers’ cottage looks rather too like another workers’ cottage.

Helpful as the internet has been, this is something more specialised. This is the State Library’s moment. I search the catalogue and find that the library holds a collection of aperture cards showing local real estate developers’ promotional plans from around 1890 to 1940. At this point, I don’t even know what an apeture card is. I ask at the desk and the woman looks surprised and takes out a shoebox-sized container  from underneath the desk.  In the shoebox is their entire collection.

The aperture cards are frustrating. Well actually, they’re fascinating, but none of them quite hit the geographic area I’m chasing. I check and double-check all of the cards for Maylands, Mount Lawley, Falkirk, Inglewood and Bayswater. Just before closing time, I zoom in a little harder on a particularly detailed image I’d bypassed the first time around, and there it is. Wellington Street. Numbered lots, even. Numbered lots with boundaries matching those I can see on Google Maps.

So it is that I learn Wellington Street has become the western extension of Stuart Street, and that number 34 has become number 108. I compare the photographs from 1936 to the image from Street View. There have been some changes over time, but it’s the house.

 

formerly 34 Wellington Street

This is how I come to be lost and then found in the cemetery on a damp, grey day. This is how I come to be sitting in a small park in the rain, near an innocuous cottage not unlike every other cottage in the street.  This is how I come to be wandering along a laneway in the bright winter sun, on my way to see a house that – in all honesty – is merely a house for all that has happened there. And this is how I come to be writing a story of maps and mysteries, while quietly wondering at the story of a bad death.

 

Griffiths Plot, Karrakatta Cemetery

 In Loving Memory of Harry and Kathleen who departed this life suddenly, June 27th 1936.  Aged 34 years and 4 months & 32 years and 11 months.  Darling son and daughter-in-law of Ada M. Mulligan.  “So deeply mourned, so sadly missed.”

*

See A House on Highgate Hill for more local history from Perth’s inner-north.

Bad Poetry Retrospective

I have a good five or six posts in Simplenote that are labelled ‘draft’ or ‘almost good to go’. Thing is, I’ve been writing so very much at work over the past few months instead of doing technical things, and it’s consuming most of my writing capacity.

In the meantime, I was planning on leeching some content from better writers than I and posting some of my favourite poetry here, but in the course of searching for it I rediscovered ‘Bad Poetry at the Flying Blogspot’ – something I wrote sporadically for my LiveJournal back in the day. Hold my hand; let’s travel back in time.

Oh, Office Job of Doom (2005)

Oh Office Job of Doom,
You sap my will to live
As each second passes,
And I can barely find comfort
In the knowledge that
I will be out of here in two hours.
Nor is there solace in knowing
That I am here but two days in each week,
Or that better things await me.

Oh Office Job of Doom,
You are so much less interesting
Than rioting in Cronulla,
And yet you both suck
So very much.
I wish to stab you in the face
With something very pointy,
Or better yet
Something very blunt.

How is it that you warp
The very fabric of Space-Time
Oh Office Job of Doom?
If I could understand this
I would surely not be working here.

Words to Adobe Creative Suite In No Particular Poetic Form (2006)

My love, it occurs to me,
That you and I
Have the most dysfunctional
Of relationships.

On the one hand,
I defend you against the likes
Of upstarts,
Such as Quark and Freehand.

Together,
We sniff at MS Paint,
And bring new beauty
Into the world each day.

On the other
I rain abuse upon you;
And as you claim ‘Out of Memory’
I swear I’ll never forget.

You send ripples of electrons
Pulsing desperately
Across the surface
Of our motherboard and hard drive.

My wailing and cursing
And gnashing of teeth
Can be heard
By the neighbours.

For as long as we both shall live, my love,
It will be you and I
Trading punch for punch,
Down the hall.

Ode to David Tennant, Upon the Watching of Season Four, Episode One (2008, not actually an ode)

Mr Tennant,
You are quite fabulous, especially in glasses,
And we have as good a relationship as can be expected,
Given that we’ve never met.
Offered a choice between
Your good self and The Doctor
I would at first be inclined towards The Doctor
What with the space travel and time travel
And all that.
However, upon serious reflection
I would most likely choose you,
Because you could always pretend to be The Doctor
Then spend the rest of the day
Talking to me in that sexy, sexy accent.
Also, I’m not sure
In spite of having read many works
Of filthily speculative fan-fiction,
Of quite how, biologically speaking,
A Time Lord would go with the making out and so forth,
And I’m sure you appreciate
Quite how critical a concern that would be.
Further, Mr Tennant,
I saw you on Top Gear,
And you were quite adorable,
Much more so than Billie Piper,
Who cheated.
So if you’ll just bring the car around to pick me up,
My hatbox and I shall be waiting for you, Mr Tennant,
With love.

Giro Onwards

The more things change, the more they stay the same?  So journalist Anthony Tan tells us.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like Anthony.  I like it when he gets air time providing commentary on Le Tour.  And I really like it that he is a passionate supporter of international cycling.  But (sorry, Anthony) I don’t buy this one.

See, Fränk Schleck, older brother of the exceptional Andy and an impressive cyclist in his own right, should be on holiday right now.  Instead he received an eleventh hour call-up to the Giro d’Italia, saying, Fränk, how about it?  And to his credit, Fränk said hey, I’m not quite in form but I like this year’s course and I’ll give it a go.

Tan says ‘I accept that Jakob Fuglsang, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek’s original leader for the Giro, is still out due to injury, but compromising a potential podium at the Tour for an unlikely podium at the Giro? It just doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t Fränk simply have told team manager Johan Bruyneel no?’

To begin with Tan’s latter point, quite apart from any politics and desire to demonstrate goodwill within the team, Fränk’s keen to be there.  He wants to ride the Giro, and why shouldn’t he?  For a cyclist to turn down an opportunity to participate in the Giro, simply because it may impact his performance in Le Tour is to imply that Le Tour is a far more important race, a view with which I’d heartily disagree.  Like Le Tour and Vuelta a España, the Giro’s one of the three Grand Tours, and it’s more than reasonable to attribute our obsession with the Tour – at least in part – to manufactured media hype.  The Giro is one of the world’s great races, a truth that is not in the least diminished by insufficient coverage, nor by slighter interest from once-a-year cycling enthusiasts.  As former race director Angelo Zomegnan says, ‘It is often very different from the Tour de France. The Giro has a life and soul of its own.’

And what of compromising a potential podium finish at Le Tour?  Consider this year’s Tour route for a moment.  Consider that the organisers have significantly added to the distance covered by the three time trials, if not the 6.1km prologue in Liège.  Consider that Fränk is a specialist climber, and that a time trial will potentially defeat him every single time.

Elsewhere, Tan waxes lyrical about O’Grady’s remarkable 2008 performance on the 16.2km individual time trial in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, essentially suggesting that Fränk – to put it more bluntly than Tan – just needs to get his shit together.  But is this fair?  For starters, this year’s Tour route incorporates brutal 41.5km and 53.5km time trials, arguably requiring a somewhat different skill set.  And further, it must be remembered that O’Grady was a part of the team who won the team trials at the 2001 Tour de France and 2006 Vuelta a España.  Certainly, team trialling is yet another different experience, but it does hint that he’s far from a time trialling disappointment.

At least in comparison to previous years, the 2012 Tour is all about the individual time trials, and Fränk ain’t going to love it.  He’s a resolute competitor and I’d be taken aback to see him give less than his best effort in Le Tour, but it isn’t looking like his year.

Interestingly, in other places Tan has made a few comments about the Giro noting that it really is a very close field this year with no stand-out favourite.   He’s said that there are around ten serious contenders for the overall win, and – somewhat inconsistently, given his criticisms – he’s included Fränk in their number.  While I agree it’s a close field, I don’t have a strong opinion on Fränk’s capability to take the race out.  However, if one is going to argue that Fränk’s in the running, it’s curious to suggests he ought to have passed up Giro to improve his chances in a Tour that is really not looking too good.

So, could ‘Fränk simply have told team manager Johan Bruyneel no?’ Perhaps. Should a passionate cyclist pass up a race he truly wants to ride, simply to boost his chances in a more media saturated race which is less than likely to showcase his talent?’

Ride your Giro, Fränk Schleck.  If it makes you happy, you’ve already won.