Another Dark Little Corner

moon phases

Started this before change to "New Blogger", as backup in case of trouble with digiphoto blog "In a Small Dark Room", or rants & links blog "Hello Cruel World" . Useful - at one stage Dark Room was there, but like the astrophysical Dark Matter, we could't see it ... better now, but kept Just In Case.

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There is nothing. There is no God and no universe, there is only empty space, and in it a lost and homeless and wandering and companionless and indestructible Thought. And I am that thought. And God, and the Universe, and Time, and Life, and Death, and Joy and Sorrow and Pain only a grotesque and brutal dream, evolved from the frantic imagination of that same Thought.
Mark Twain (letter to Joseph Twichell after his wife's death)
[me, on a bad day]

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Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea in Books > Fiction & Literature > Women's Fiction > Glitz & Glamour at
Travis Tea is a pseudonym for a group of (mostly) science fiction and fantasy authors who were amused by PublishAmerica's claim (at their site) that SF & F authors are "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."

So about thirty writers knocked off a novel over a long weekend, writing it as ineptly as they possibly could. Plot, characterization, graceful prose ... none of them are to be found in ATLANTA NIGHTS. Grammar and spelling take a drubbing. The book was submitted to PublishAmerica -- and it was accepted.

Now you can see for yourself what PublishAmerica considers to be "believable storylines" and "believable every-day characters."

Prepare to be amazed.

This is a book that sure will resonate with an audience...and all writers with a certain Maryland publisher will sit and read their own books again after reading this one. A great book! ( Chris Bartholomew )

Breathtaking! Mind expanding!You will never view reading a book in the same way! (Heather Stecher)

Amazing. Incredible. Mind-bending. Sweet. Coy. Surprising. These are all words. Some of them are found in this book. Buy it. Read it. Lend it. Love it. I have seen the future of American literature. And his name is Travis Tea. ( Redd Ruffansohr)

Why on earth would a talented, smart, dedicated, and otherwise exemplary group of people participate in a hoax of this magnitude? For a worthy cause, I suppose. ( MacAllister Stone)

I anticipate MANY pleasant hours reading and re-reading this piece of utter drek -- trying to puzzle out which of my favorite writers to blame for each and every dreadful chapter.

I just hope I recover from the annoying twitch beneath my left eye that I developed upon reading the first three pages. Fans in the know could develop an online game of "identify-the-chapter-writer" to keep ourselves occupied for months.
Possibly of some relevance to the poor publishing practice seen above.

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Proscenium (in the Dark)  
Time comes round again. January again. The Janus month that pauses, facing both forwards and back; we contemplate both hopes and regrets. If half the country is lost in happy holiday hedonism, others work overtime to make up.

Days are hot and diamond bright, sun glare blank and pitiless. Night is onyx, clear and dark, stars glowing like gardenias through warm air that rests smooth against the skin. At evening, as the globe turns its shoulder from the day, sometimes a thunderstorm crashes over the city like a breaking wave, sluicing down the day's heat in a cold shower as indignant shoppers, strollers and loungers scatter to shelter in a spray of clutched hats, towels, bags and whirling umbrellas.
In a week or two this will be gone. New York has August, Sydney has February. Its thick, damp blanket will fall on us in a clinging grey shroud of hazy heat. January hedonists will fill up air-conditioned offices or retire indoors to slump near fans and mutter at the madness of logjammed cruise liners bringing winter-chill refugees straight to apoplexy season.

But not yet. Now it's show time -Festival rules and anarchy is loose. Now fireworks outdo nighttime lightning, and the seething multicoloured city flashes & glints, a tourist-tempting opal turning and turning in a summer setting. Now crowds sprawl on the Domain grass and Town Hall floor, surge in cheerful chaos around Quay parades, samba down at Darling Harbour, sit politely in theatre seats and chatter in and out of bars all over town. Now outdoor cats watch and hide in the dark of tangled bushes' branches. Indoor cats driven from breezy stairtops play draughtcatcher on cool lino by the kitchen door or stretch themselves, languid along a shaded open windowsill.

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Recent Rules  
Basic Flying Rules:
    1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
    2. Do not go near the edges of it.
    3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

The Laws of Anime
These resemble those of other popular storytelling forms (see some works of Pratchett, Terry)

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Taxes: Building Our Future  
Taxation for the Future
Australia is living off two great sources of capital laid down earlier, but we are not renewing or building them up - a bad sign for the future. These sorts of "public goods" have, in history, been badly served by private investment, and taxes are needed so they can be invested in these, to help tide us over future difficulties.

One type of capital is our natural resources: fertile topsoil, clean fresh water, fisheries, etc, etc, etc. Recently there was an estimate of $10 Billion to restore them to function on a long-term, sustainable basis. (We have only begun to recognise how important some of the unseen supports like this are once we'd knocked a few out, eg, the multiple causes and effects of salination.)

The other is the massive public (& private) investment in our urban and rural infrastructure: water & sewerage systems, transport (not just roads) for goods & people, energy generation & distribution, communications, as well as health systems, education, firefighting services, etc, etc. Many were developed over the century from mid-Victorian times to the middle of the 20th Century, & haven't been maintained much since.

Now we have a chance to repair and, indeed, *improve* these, learning from earlier mistakes and using more efficient, less toxic methods. This will give a good basis for our descendants to improve their lives, instead of scraping by, slowly getting worse, regretting lost opportunity.

Most of these projects, public or private will need some sort of support from public funds, either directly or through rebates or deductions. Now every tax rebate or deduction has to be made up from somewhere; either cutting someone elses' services or raising their tax (that's why I don't claim my charitable donations). Thus anything attracting such support should be really making a contribution outweighing that if you use "triple bottom line" accounting which takes into account the usually-hidden impacts on those two capital resources, and on the social structure.

A skilled population, whether it's tradespeople, engineers, doctors or nurses, is a valuable resource in itself, and an investment for the future. Yet the present PM, reported in Hansard introducing a training bill, actually described the training part of a person's time as not "productive". Doesn't bode well for his government's support of improving our workforce.

A well-built sustainable water collection, distribution & purification system will take some maintenance over time, but will last without huge extra investment. The same for energy or transport systems (eg fixing/rebuilding bridges or taking freight off roads, thereby reducing road damage bills). A big push into reforming (in the genuine use of the word) agricultural practices & land-use, or ways of building cities can lay a good foundation for centuries of advance instead of continuing decline.

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Australia Institute & NCOSS agree on something  
My Comment
All fines are already calculated on a "Units" system.

If you make each Unit = X% of *pre-tax* income, instead of $X , this makes the system MORE equal - similar pain, similar deterrence, e.g. 1 weeks' income for ABC floor cleaner and 1 weeks income for ABC General Manager, for people in different circumstances.
Individuals can already argue particular personal reasons for lowering an amount, this shouldn't change.

I'd prefer this applies to all fines, not just vehicle-related ones.

It would be interesting to work out those that apply to "non-natural persons", such as companies fined for pollution.

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Treat Nail Guns with Caution (Nail Gun/Rail Gun?)  
It's a pretty rare injury' 2005/01/17/1105810801237.html
January 17, 2005 - 8:31AM
A nail gun backfired on Patrick Lawler, 23, on January 6 while working in Breckenridge, a ski resort town in the central Colorado mountains. The tool sent a nail into a piece of wood nearby, but Lawler didn't realise a second nail had shot through his mouth, said his sister, Lisa Metcalse.

He was taken to a suburban Denver hospital, where he underwent a four-hour surgery. The nail had plunged four centimetres into his brain, barely missing his right eye, Metcalse said.

"This is the second one we've seen in this hospital where the person was injured by the nail gun and didn't actually realise the nail had been embedded in their skull," neurosurgeon Sean Markey told KUSA-TV in Denver. "But it's a pretty rare injury."
Despite his lack of medical insurance and hospital bills between $US80,000 ($104,561.5) and $US100,000 ($130,701.87), Katerina Lawler said her husband is in good spirits.

"The doctors said, 'If you're going to have a nail in the brain, that's the way you want it to be,"' she said. "He's the luckiest guy, ever."

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A Persistent Taxation Myth (sorta repeated)  
A Persistent Taxation Myth

I keep hearing this myth of "they're taking away half my income" once you move into the highest tax bracket, in fact Sally Loane's finacial person this morning alluded to it. The only people who ever "lose half their money in tax" are very low earners who may lose large amounts of benefits by earning a small amount.

You only pay the marginal rate on **the money you get _above_ the limit**.

Last year I did this calculation, using the ATO figures in the table below, to show you need to be earning well up in the multiple $100,000s per annum to get close to 50%.

For 2003-2004, you'll pay a total of $16,182 tax at $62,500 -- that's 25.9% -- then start paying 47 cents of any dollar above that (not counting fancy bits off or on).

To get close to paying 47% of your total income you have to be getting much, much more, e.g. 42% tax on $262,500; 46% tax on $962,500.

Of course the "average" (i.e. the Mean) income is a bit over $50,000 pa, while the "average" that's closer to the one earned by most people (i.e. the Mode) is several thousand lower than that, so there's a very tiny group earning even only $100,000, or more. [Of course if a couple is earning that much combined, they each get the advantage of a tax-free zone and lower brackets, greatly reducing the amount of tax taken out compared to the same amount earned by one person.]

The total of ALL the people -- not just those *very* high earners -- who are in the highest bracket is only 12% of the whole population (not just taxpayers) meaning that 88% of Australians are on lower rates -- virtually all of whom would be using government supplied infrastructure & services.

Without the structures and services funded by taxes, the cost of living would be very much higher, and that 80-90% would find life considerably harder. I suspect even fairly wealthy people would find themselves with less truly-disposable income without the kind of often-forgotten foundation that public works & service provide.

The majority of us know that if we strike trouble - like my recent medical crises - we will need social support. Not just trustworthy & affordable health care, but, say, someone for the aged mother I care for, community nurses who aided my convalescence, meals on wheels, etc.

Even when you have help from family or friends, that support stops the total ruination that too often you see in both the third world & the US when a crisis hits. That fellow in the news tonight with a nail in his head just got a $US80,000 medical bill, and, being a self-employed building worker, he naturally can't afford full medical insurance. There's a big health-lending market there. That family has decades in unexpected debt that will drag them back in very many ways.

Tax rates 2001-02 and 2002-03
Taxable Tax on
income this income
$0 - $6,000 .............. Nil
$6,001 - $20,000 .... 17c for each $1 over $6,000
$20,001 - $50,000 .. $2,380 plus 30c for each $1 over $20,000
$50,001 - $60,000 .. $11,380 plus 42c for each $1 over $50,000
Over $60,000 .......... $15,580 plus 47c for each $1 over $60,000

Tax rates 2003-04
Taxable Tax on
income this income
$0 – $6,000 ............. Nil
$6,001 – $21,600 ... 17c for each $1 over $6,000
$21,601 - $52,000 .. $2,652 plus 30c for each $1 over $21,600
$52,001 – $62,500.. $11,772 plus 42c for each $1 over $52,000
Over $62,500 ........... $16,182 plus 47c for each $1 over $62,500

None of these include assorted general rebates to deduct, nor the Medicare levy to add.

Source: the Australian Taxation Office web site at
( in general)

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Well-worn Tech for water-harvesting  
Well-worn Tech for water-harvesting detail/-/1568983247/qid=1105764059/sr=1-2/ ref=sr_1_2/103-1892066-8186225?v=glance&s=books

Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India
by Morna Livingston, Milo Beach
# Hardcover: 120 pages
# Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (May 1, 2002)
# ISBN: 1568983247
# Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 10.0 x 1.1 inches
# Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds - Metro plus Delhi, Heritage, Stepping into the step-wells of Delhi... )

printer-friendly version of same

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Links to satellite photos of Indian Ocean tsunami damage  
Some links to satellite photos of Indian Ocean tsunami damage
Digital Globe satellite photos of tsunami damage to coastlines:

National University of Singapore satellite Asian tsunami photos:

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2005-01-04 -
Essays on web design interaction usability experience architecture etc.
Essays on design, engineering and project management
#37 - How to build a better web browser
By Scott Berkun, December 2004
#35 - How to give and receive criticism
By Scott Berkun, September 2004

And many more. The archive goes back to 1998, with some interesting titles -- things that don't necessarily change with the technical changes that have happened between 1998 and 2005.

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