tales from urban dilettantia


Welcome To Leftovers-Night

This post is like a Leftovers-Night dinner.  You’ll see.

Right now I’m doing some work that involves re-running a model through twenty or so different scenarios, and each run takes around a minute, so I have Notepad up and am using the runtime to write. It feels like a luxury to have some time to start thinking about having a page to fill with words.

I’ve been trying to manage the number of hours I’ve been spending in the office, but even when I’ve been able do that, the intensity of the last month has been something to behold. There’s not much I’m able to say about it in a public forum, but it involves a lot more responsibility and a whole bunch of time-critical work. I’m hopeful October will see a promotion, as I feel there’s a significant mismatch between the level I’m on and the work I’m doing.

Over the past month, the last module of my professional qualification has started up, so I’m studying and involved in a bunch of other things too. I know it’s something I come back to time after time here, but the struggle to manage commitments seems to be something of an ongoing theme in my life. I made a mind-map while I was having lunch yesterday, and even though many things spawned sub-commitments and began to ooze from the edges of the A4 page, it feels better to have the majority of it laid out.

Out of everything I’m doing at the moment, passing the last module of my Grad Dip is far and away the most significant one when it comes to my long term well-being. In part, this is because repeating will be a very expensive exercise, but more because the timing of finishing the course directly relates to when I’ll be free to leave my current employer without having to repay my sizable study debt. ‘Freedom, horrible freedom!’ as they say. (‘I’m the Queen!’ ‘No you’re not!’)

What else? Oh yes, the week just gone has been a shocker when it’s come to mental health – by far the worst in recent times. While horrible, the upside of this has been that I’ve managed to get through it without messing up anything significant, which is quite exciting – my ability to manage depressive episodes has really lifted in the past couple of years, and this is a topic I’d like to write more on at a later date.

Other than that…well. I’ve seen The Mountain Goats, Jeff Martin and Henry Rollins recently. Rollins was doing his Frequent Flyer spoken word tour, and I don’t think I have anything near the articulacy to express how moving and inspiring I found it. The man is a spectacularly interesting human being, and I find much of his discussion around depression, adventure, happiness and human experience to be almost painfully resonant. (I’m selfishly frustrated that he’s famous, because if he weren’t it would be easier to say ‘hey mate, come have a drink with me and we’ll talk about life the universe and everthing’.)

Musicwise, I’ve been obsessing over a few things, mostly relating to recent gigs. Jeff Martin’s Live in Dublin album is excellent, and I would strongly suggest getting it from iTunes if you haven’t already. portabledave has also put me onto The Tallest Man On Earth aka Kristian Mattson, a profoundly Dylan-esque folk muso from Denmark whose new album, The Wild Hunt, I’ve had on repeat. And then there’s the latest Mountain Goats album, The Life of the World to Come, which has this song about the thylacine, the dodo and the golden toad which just about moves me to tears every time, because (like most Australians?) I’m well aware of the heartbreaking footage they’re referring to in the first verse:

The sun above me and a concrete floor below
Scratch at the chain links maybe bare my teeth for show
Fed twice a day I don’t go hungry anymore
Feel in my bones just what the future has in store
I pace in circles so the camera will see
Look hard at my stripes, there’ll be no more after me
Laze by the shoreline while the sailors disembark
Scratch out a place to sit and rest down in the dark
Smell something burning downwind just a little ways
They set up camp and sing and sweat and work for days
I have no fear of anyone I’m dumb and wild and free
I am a flightless bird and there’ll be no more after me

In Costa Rica in a burrow underground
Climb to the surface, blink my eyes and look around
I’m all alone here as I try my tiny song
Claim my place beneath the sky but i won’t be here for long
I sang all night the moon shone on me through the trees
No brothers left and there’ll be no more after me
(- Deuteronomy 2:10)


And finally, a few links that I’ve stumbled across and appreciated in recent weeks:

COP15 Wrap

A wrap-up for anyone who hasn’t managed to follow the news today:

After two weeks of negotiation and a long, long night of extra time, the long-anticipated 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended in a non-binding accord as the required 100% consensus could not be reached. (I’ve written before about the torturous UN consensus-building in the context of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)

Some of the specific factors contributing to the non-consensus were:

> The inequities existing around the fact that the current situation has largely been caused by emissions from developed nations, but that most of the emissions projected in the next 50 years (in a ‘business as usual’ scenario) will be from industrialising nations. Understandably, industrialising nations aren’t inclined to agree to anything that is perceived as punishing them for being a tipping point for a problem initially created by developed nations. To some degree, this particular block is one that can be addressed with sufficient funding and technology transfer mechanisms.

> China’s disagreement with much of the rest of the world regarding monitoring of emissions. And honestly, given China’s foreign policy position has been ‘we don’t like people looking at our stuff’ for a very long time, this hardly comes as a surprise and will continue to be a sticking point into the foreseeable future.

> Strong resistance from island nations and their supporters to any agreement resulting in a projected temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, being the maximum sustainable increase proposed for many island nations (such as Tuvalu and the Maldives) ranked as extremely vulnerable. This can’t be resolved simply by funding or technology transfer, and can’t equitably be resolved by repatriation either. And I’d note here that history has demonstrated repeatedly that disenfranchised national groups without a homeland are a recipe for a human rights disaster.

> The unmentionable issue of relatively short electoral terms in many developed countries, and the concern that any leader committing a nation to a path where the majority of electors see (or even expect) a reduction in material wealth, rise in prices or perceived decline in standards of living (however unsustainable) may reasonably assume that they will be voted out of office. Personally, I have a bunch of problems both in terms of this concern being a driver of long-term political decisions and in feeling that my fellow voters may reward such decisions with dismissal at the polling booth. However, none of my problems change that fact that, for instance, a Kevin Rudd might well fear leaving a country in the hands of, for instance, a Tony Abbott. For many developed nations (particularly non-EU nations) this is very much the elephant-in-the-room, and highlights how our political structure can lead to, and rationalise, dysfunctional long-term outcomes.

There are a bunch of other things going on here, but these are the ones that have really come to mind today. I might leave it here, as I’m wilting somewhat under information overload, and there are people on my f-list far more qualified than I to speak on some of the issues at hand.

In the meantime, the Wikipedia article on COP 15 is very much a work in progress but looks like it is on the way to providing a good overview.

Full text of the accord is here.  The Guardian has just posted a breakdown of the critical points of the accord here.

The Road to Copenhagen

07-18.12.09 Copenhagen

For all those in Perth, this is (at least in part) an information post about the events and Global Day of Action (12 December 2009) timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, 7-18 December 2009.

For anyone unaware of the significance of the conference, Copenhagen is arguably the most significant global climate change event since Kyoto in 1997. From the UNFCCC‘s website:

“The process leading to Copenhagen was launched in Bali, December 2007, when all Parties agreed on the Bali Action Plan – a two-year process leading to an agreed outcome on climate change action in Copenhagen.” http://unfccc.int/2860.php

Some of you (and here I’m thinking the wonderful [info]pokmcfee) will be there in an official capacity, but for those of us in Perth there are still things you can do. For my fellow bicycle lovers, the Global Day of Action kicks off with the Ride For Change, in affiliation with Perth Critical Mass groups:

Ride For Change
Link: Facebook Event
Blog: WordPress
Twitter: @rideforchange
Hashtag: #rideforchange
Date: 12 December 2009
Time: Starts 10am
Where: PICA (Perth Cultural Centre, James St, Northbridge)
What: There will be a short bike ride followed by a meetup with food and stalls in Russell Square.

The Ride For Change is scheduled to coincide up with the 2009 Walk Against Warming which also starts from the Cultural Centre:

Walk Against Warming

Link: Facebook Event
Website: Walk Against Warming
Organiser Website: Conservation Council WA
Date: 12 December 2009
Time: Starts 11am
Where: PICA (Perth Cultural Centre, James St, Northbridge)
What: A similar walk to previous years, from the Cultural Centre to the park at Russell Square followed by speakers (including the Lord Mayor, Lisa Scaffidi) and stalls – in previous years the sustainability information at the stalls has been excellent, so make some time to check them out.

If you’re interested and looking for more resources and ways to contribute, check out some of the following links:

Climate Movement Australia:

Global Alliance for Climate Justice:
Facebook Group
TckTckTck viral campaign website
@TckTckTck on Twitter
TckTckTck FanPage on Facebook
Time For Climate Justice
An article on the TckTckTck campaign
TckTckTck – About The Deal We Need

Australia is only directly responsible for a small percentage of the world’s total carbon emissions. However, we are not only a high per capita emitter, but also punch far, far above our weight when it comes to climate change science. Our scientists are world-leaders in this stuff, and it’s critically important for our political representatives to back-up and endorse their work with appopriate policy on the global stage. Western Australian renewable-tech businesses (including the very impressive ASX-listed Carnegie Corporation) are taking their technology to national and international markets, and we have an extraordinary opportunity to develop other renewable baseload generators such as geothermal hot aquifers. This is far more than technology for Western Australia – it is technology we can export (particularly under the Clean Development Mechanism and its yet-to-be-decided successor) across the globe.

The 2007 results of the UN’s IPCC Fourth Assessment Report indicate that catastrophic environmental outcomes are probable, and indeed criticisms of the report indicate that it actually understates the situation. Bearing in mind that the IPCC is phenomenally conservative body, nothing we see out of Copenhagen is going to look better than this. In fact, it’s a fair bet that it’s going to look much worse.

With various factions within the Federal Opposition pushing increasingly hard against the introduction of the draft Emissions Trading Scheme, this is time for a call to arms. This issue needs to be presented as a no-brainer to all our political representatives, State and Federal, Government and Opposition – stalling tactics, refusal to act, blocking of critical legislation, these things must equate to political suicide. If this is an issue that matters to you, then this is the time to contribute what you can to bring it to the forefront of the public consciousness. Engage in non-violent civil disobedience, culture jamming, bring your friends and family along to the events, write to your Members of Parliament, write, photograph, document, lobby, and do whatever it is that you do. If you have a plan and need help to execute it, tell me what you are doing and I will fight with you.

Because this is our home.


A Node's Place is in the Home Tern, Coffs Harbour Coffs Harbour Coffs Harbour Nudibranch, Arrawarra, NSW Sea Cucumber? Arrawarra, NSW Urchin, Arrawarra, NSW Starfish, Arrawarra, NSW Polychaete Worm, Arrawarra, NSW Shrimp, Arrawarra, NSW Shrimp, Arrawarra, NSW Mollusc, Arrawarra, NSW 

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@dilettantiquity is interested in an unreasonable number of things, including the wide and wonderful universe, happiness, well-being, wine, optimal human experience, non-violent communication, complex systems, existential nihilism, rationality, technology, grassroots organising, cacophony, music, creativity, learning and love.