The Hair Snare

This one starts with a cold open, one right out of the Vince Gilligan textbook, or maybe one from whoever directed that Firefly episode that opens with Mal sitting on a rock, naked, in the middle of a desert. Except this cold open is set exactly four years ago today, and the man isn’t in a desert on a rock, but is slumped over a desk, in a pose that is awkward and certainly unnatural, but mercifully fully clothed. He strains every now and then, each shuddering motion a little more urgent, a little more ragged, but also a little more resigned than the last. “That went well,” Mal quips in his opening, and this man would like to say this too, except he can’t really move his jaw without pain. It really hasn’t gone well either.

This man is me, and somehow, somewhy, I’ve become ensnared this day, strands of my then lavish beard held in a vice-like grip by my late 2011 Apple iMac’s DVD drive, the left side of my face now bound to the fate of this hunk of brushed aluminium and glass. I still really can’t believe what has happened to me right now, the grim realisation having swept over me and then retreated under the weight of improbability several times already in the minutes I have been yoked like this. It can’t be denied for much longer though—there’s logically, and literally, no escaping it.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been stuck for now; my eyes are trying to dart around to see if I can find my phone so I can call for help. Other parts of my brain are trying to come up with alternative plans of action, none of which seem potent. Call out for a neighbour to summon the fire brigade? Would they know what to do? Is there a specialised DVD drive rescue division? Would I appear in some five minute segment of one of those “World’s Craziest Rescues” that you might see on 7mate at 1am in the morning? Who would play me in the dramatic reconstruction? I always wondered who would play Magnum in a Magnum PI remake, but never who would play me getting rescued from the jaws of a DVD drive. There was a minor villain with a rocket launcher in a James Bond film who looked a bit like me. I wonder if he still acts? Maybe they could spice me up a bit. Tom Hardy might be a good choice. He is very beard capable and as a bonus he did star in a Star Trek movie as well, although unfortunately the worst one.

A quiet calm has also descended. I always thought that my death certificate would read “Hit by an ice cream truck” or similar. But no, I almost chuckle to myself now: it was always going to be this, affixed forever to the right side of a video display in my very own home office, a Wario Amiibo staring at me mockingly from the corner of a desk. At least they wil be able to say that I died doing what I loved: peering behind my computer so that I could try to insert a USB Type-A plug into the slot the wrong way. I was always good at this too.

Just before I’ve almost completely given in to this ultimate, irresistible state, I attempt one last, violent jerk of the head away. There’s a quick staccato series of sick popping sounds this time, and my head lurches suddenly away. I’m free—I think?—although it takes a little while for this to register. The only immediate sign of the trauma I’ve just endured are the couple of coarse whiskers now protruding from the side of the iMac’s malevolent chassis, two final hairy indignities. A more thorough inspection of the scene would also show some of my regular desk paraphernalia has also been disturbed, but you’d have to be intimately familiar with this environment to really notice, and I doubt anyone else would. One thing is for sure though: I’ll never forget just how fragile our attachment to this mortal coil is, or how strong a beard’s attachment to a disc drive can be.

Two beard hairs protruding from the side of an iMac

Better off read than dead

Last year I decided that I should read more. Now by no means have I earned the modifier “prolific” in my reading, but last year I did read significantly more than usual. Here is what I read.

Hello everyone—I hope the new year finds all of my friends well and ready to make this year the most extraordinary ever.

Despite the arbitrary nature of where we decide to mark a date on a calendar and call it the start of the new year, I do tend to take the opportunity to make certain promises to myself. You might call them resolutions, but my resolve can be a little bit more ephemeral than that. Last year I decided that I should read more. Now by no means have I earned the modifier “prolific” in my reading, but last year I did read significantly more than usual. Follow me on Good Reads to keep up with me this year where I will be trying to read even more! As an interesting aside, about three quarters of the books on my reading list were read on a Kindle. I guess that means it works.

My 2010 Reading List

New books

Anthem
Ayn Rand
1984
George Orwell
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future
Mark Bauerlein
Surface Detail
Iain M. Banks
Snow Crash
Neal Stephenson
Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Sharia Law
Nonie Darwish
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Christopher Hitchens
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Steven D. Levitt
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
The Girl With Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson
One Very Big Picture
Sydney Hickman
A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty
Dave Goldberg
Coders At Work
Peter Seibel
Being Geek
Michael Lopp
Value-able
Roger Montgomery

Audio books

Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway
1776
David McCullough

Re-read

Hyperion
Dan Simmons
The Fall of Hyperion
Dan Simmons

Abandoned

The City & the City (50%)
China Miéville

A belated thank you

It’s been over a month now since the federal election and I just wanted to post a public thank you to everyone who voted for me and helped me out during the campaign.

It’s been over a month now since the federal election and I just wanted to post a public thank you to everyone who voted for me and helped me out during the campaign.

Thanks to your support I managed to poll 718 votes, or nearly one percent of the primary vote — a really pleasing result given the deficiency of lead time and tiny amount of campaigning. I can only hope that the secular message catches on, and we can pull even more votes next time, sending a signal that we are concerned with the increasingly emboldened radical religious movements within Australia and abroad, and that we are prepared to vote to keep Australia secular.

On election day I stood at the Pyrmont Community Centre polling booth, giving out how-to-votes. The words of support and acknowledgement that some of you gave to me were a great encouragement and I hope that I’ve helped your voices be heard.

In particular I’d like to thank Jay, Ian, Lyle, and Warren for helping distribute leaflets in the week leading up to the election as well as Erin for donating her time to stand in the firing line at a polling booth for a few hours. Also to Matt R, for the leaflet drops, discussions and helping out at Pyrmont on the day. To those of you who emailed me directly, such as Peter and Karen, your thoughts and well-wishes were very appreciated.

Lastly, but by no means at all least, to my darling partner Mandy, who put so much effort into leaflet dropping, organising the election party, constantly salving a doubtful soul, putting up with the sleepless nights, and everything else that she always does: you’re the best and I couldn’t have done it without you.

On a final note: I’m serving as the Membership Officer for the newly formed NSW branch of the Secular Party. We’re going to be driving for 750 NSW members so that we can be registered as an official political party in this state. If you’re at all interested in joining this important cause, please email me or watch this space.

Secularism works for everyone

One of the main objectives of my candidacy for this election is to promote the concept of secularism. I used to think that the word was generally well known and understood, but in the various discussions I’ve had recently it has become apparent that this is not the case.

One of the main objectives of my candidacy for this election is to promote the concept of secularism. I used to think that the word was generally well known and understood, but in the various discussions I’ve had recently it has become apparent that this is not the case. Given how important I think the secular state is for fair and effective governance, I find this lack of awareness alarming.

Continue reading “Secularism works for everyone”

Not that I need to tell you how to vote

I’ve fielded many questions about how to vote for me in Sydney or the Secular Party in the senate. Here’s the low down.

I’ve fielded many questions about how to vote for me in Sydney or the Secular Party in the Senate.

Here’s the low down for:

Naturally, if you do not find the allocation of preferences on either ticket to your satisfaction, you should modify them to best represent your interests. belowtheline.org.au allows you to fully customise a preference allocation before polling day to make sure your vote counts the way you want it to. Numbering 84 boxes requires some stamina but technologists are certainly doing their democratic bit to help you out!


Authorised by John Goldbaum, 7 Rockwall Crescent, Potts Point NSW 2001.