Archive for November, 2008

The Age I’m In (Force Majeure)

Posted: November 30, 2008 in creativity

the-age-im-inLast night we saw a moving dance performance at the Carriageworks in Sydney by Force Majeure (directed by Kate Champion), called “The Age I’m In”. The title of the project refers to both, the times we’re living in as well as as the different ages that were represented by the eleven performers. What we saw were in fact moving bodies, themselves ranging in age from early teens to early eighties (!), playing the roles of their own lives as well as those of others, right down to young children.

Apart from the performers, spatially the large stage was also sparingly filled with semi-transparent screens, lights in multiples shapes, shades and colours, and a stream of sound ranging from jazz to brass band to electronic intelligent dance music, all dubbed over by voice fragments collected in 80 pre-performance interviews with people from all walks of life and of all ages. The dancers continuously moved their bodies and lips to the soundbites and changing figures of light, which at times not only created a feast for the senses but also hilarious moments, eg when an adult in his mid 40s suddenly seemed to speak with the voice and earnestness of a 6 year old.

The whole idea behind the gestural dance of voices and music seemed to tap into the contemporary consciousness of the Australia, embedded in the age and ages people live in. The performers’ artistry transformed verbal interview statements into revelations, ranging from the seemingly innocent reflections on life by a 6 year old to the protesting resistance against parental values by teenagers to problems and afflictions of ageing suffered by the grandparents’ generation.

But far from personalising those issues, the individual statements were framed within larger societal contexts, such as public health (for example breast cancer, drug problems), diverging generational value and culture expressions (eg different music tastes or the bemoaning of a society that has lost the notion of respect), treatment of minorities (one of dancers for example is partially disabled) or the controversial and fickle role of religion in society. The only omission for me was the role race plays in Australia, especially since we live in a country that still hasn’t come to terms with its indigenous past and is often struggling with living up to its ideals about multi-culturalism. 

But “The Age I’m In” though was not just about the grand themes and storylines running through contemporary society; the performance also focused on the physical and emotional intimacy of relationships and the difficulties of expressing them in often hostile contexts. Moving examples (literally) were the presentation of disability, ageing and breast cancer.

In all cases it was not just the rivetting physical articulation through gesture and movement in light and sound that intrigued and transmuted the spectator’s experience, but also the dexterous handling of certain props like those small portable video screens. For example, being moved from head to toe and back again by some dancers in front of the bodies of other dancers revealed in a powerful way not just the nakedness below their cloths but also the physical vulnerability and mortality of our human lives.

In fact, these video screens played an important role throughout the performance. They complemented the lighting and sound effects through moving on-screen patterns, amplified verbal statements through video clips or simply underlined the rawness of the human experience by becoming an almost living part of the wild dance forms expressed by the adroit bodies of the performers. As such they also somewhat blurred the boundaries between the physical planes of the dance and the cyborg world where humans and machines are melded into weird synthetic and hyopthesised life forms – an aspect of growing importance in the age we are in.


Food Aid is counter-productive argues the following article. The equation seems simple: more food aid means more people who will put more pressure on their human and natural environments which in turn will lead to more hunger and more food aid. To break away from this merry-go-round, food aid needs to be slowly replaced by initiatives that create sustainable survival and living practices.


by Walter Youngquist
Optimum Population Trust Journal, October 2008

The caption, to an appealing picture of small children, reads: “Hunger deepens as Haiti awaits food aid.” I have been to Haiti. It now has 9 million people living in an area smaller than Malheur County, Oregon. Overpopulation has also destroyed almost all the original forest, resulting in the worst erosion I have ever seen in the 70+ countries I have been in. As a result, Haiti has for many years been on the international food welfare program. From population pressures on the environment, more countries are continually being added to this food welfare program.

The United States has been one of the chief sources of this food, as it currently is expected to be now in the food crisis in Haiti. The Population Reference Bureau (2007 chart) projects the Haitian population will rise from 9 million to 11.5 million in 2025 and 14.3 million by 2050. Obviously, under current procedures the result of providing more food for Haiti is more Haitians. It is clear that the problems of Haiti only become worse with international food aid. This fact now applies to many regions, so the current food aid programs in both the near and long term only exacerbates the problem. It is counter-productive.

Adjacent to the United States, Mexico now has 107 million people, projected to grow to 125 million in 2025, and 132 million by 2050. In a failed economy, Mexico simply dumps its surplus population across its northern border, providing maps and information pamphlets on how to make the crossing. With 302 million people in the United States now, the PRB predicts 345 million will be here in 2025, and 420 million by 2050 — an increase in just 43 years of more than 118 million. The United States does not now have the resources to take care of the people already here. The U. S. now imports 65% of its oil, and 16% of its natural gas, and, since 2002, has been a net importer of agricultural products, the deficit in which in 2007 was more than $10 billion dollars — imports versus exports.

In Mexico the population problem is simply shipped north, accounting for about 80% of U. S. population growth and nearly 100% of California’s growth. In the United States, crowds everywhere and imports from the rest of the world, totaling more than $2 billion a day, indicate the population is beyond domestic sustainable size.

Nearly all problems are related to population growth. Dr. Albert Bartlett has made this observation:
Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale from the microscopic to the global whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced further by increases in population, locally, nationally or globally?

Increasingly, across the globe, nightly television brings to our living rooms photos of malnourished people, particularly touching are the starving children. But the population problem is homegrown, and must be solved at home. Advanced countries can provide the means and the knowledge for a given country to adjust its population to its sustainable food resource base, but implementation of that action becomes an individual responsibility, and collectively a national responsibility. Thus far this most fundamental of all humanity’s problems is consistently ignored by nearly all — if not all — public officials everywhere. It has never, to my knowledge, become part of any political platform or a politician’s agenda seeking office or one seeking to remain in office. All of the above also relates to the United States.


While wind farms dotting today’s landscapes might suggest otherwise, transition periods for changes in energy generation traditionally are measured in decades and century periods rather than the 10 years Al Gore fairly recently suggested. Complex industrial systems are inherently inert and resisting when it comes to radical change, due to factors such as huge development and replacement costs for infrastructure, relative reliability of current systems vs. uncertainty and risks of new alternative ones, commercial interests, mass attachment to established dominant paradigms, etc.. It took Europe 70 years to embrace the automobile, 80 years for oil to capture 25% of the global primary energy market, 150 years for steam locomotives to disappear and even horses were still used as draft animals in America and Europe until the 1960. “A world without fossil fuel combustion is highly desirable and, to be optimistic, our collective determination, commitment, and persistence could accelerate its arrival—but getting there will demand not only high cost but also considerable patience: coming energy transitions will unfold across decades, not years” argues Vaclav Smil in the following article published in The American, a magazine of ideas.

By Vaclav Smil
From the The American, November 19, 2008

Filed under: Big Ideas


Our transition away from fossil fuels will take decades—if it happens at all.

During the early 1970s we were told by the promoters of nuclear energy that by the year 2000 America’s coal-based electricity generation plants would be relics of the past and that all electricity would come from nuclear fission. What’s more, we were told that the first generation fission reactors would by then be on their way out, replaced by super-efficient breeder reactors that would produce more fuel than they were initially charged with.

During the early 1980s some aficionados of small-scale, distributed, “soft” (today’s “green”) energies saw America of the first decade of the 21st century drawing 30 percent to 50 percent of its energy use from renewables (solar,wind, biofuels). For the past three decades we have been told how natural gas will become the most important source of modern energy: widely cited forecasts of the early 1980s had the world deriving half of its energy from natural gas by 2000. And a decade ago the promoters of fuel cell cars were telling us that such vehicles would by now be on the road in large numbers, well on their way to displacing ancient and inefficient internal combustion engines.

These are the realities of 2008: coal-fired power plants produce half of all U.S. electricity, nuclear stations 20 percent, and there is not a single commercial breeder reactor operating anywhere in the world; in 2007 the United States derives about 1.7 percent of its energy from new renewable conversions (corn-based ethanol, wind, photovoltaic solar, geothermal); natural gas supplies about 24 percent of the world’s commercial energy—less than half the share predicted in the early 1980s and still less than coal with nearly 29 percent; and there are no fuel-cell cars.

This list of contrasts could be greatly extended, but the point is made: all of these forecasts and anticipations failed miserably because their authors and promoters ignored one of the most important realities ruling the behavior of complex energy systems—the inherently slow pace of energy transitions.

It is delusional to think that the United States can install in 10 years wind and solar generating capacity equivalent to that of thermal power plants that took nearly 60 years to construct.

“Energy transitions” encompass the time that elapses between an introduction of a new primary energy source oil, nuclear electricity, wind captured by large turbines) and its rise to claiming a substantial share (20 percent to 30 percent) of the overall market, or even to becoming the single largest contributor or an absolute leader (with more than 50 percent) in national or global energy supply. The term also refers to gradual diffusion of new prime movers, devices that replaced animal and human muscles by converting primary energies into mechanical power that is used to rotate massive turbogenerators producing electricity or to propel fleets of vehicles, ships, and airplanes. There is one thing all energy transitions have in common: they are prolonged affairs that take decades to accomplish, and the greater the scale of prevailing uses and conversions the longer the substitutions will take. The second part of this statement seems to be a truism but it is ignored as often as the first part: otherwise we would not have all those unrealized predicted milestones for new energy sources.

Preindustrial societies had rather simple and fairly stationary patterns of primary energy use. They relied overwhelmingly on biomass fuels (wood, charcoal, straw) for heat and they supplemented their dominant prime movers(muscles) with wind to sail ships and in some regions with windmills and small waterwheels. This traditional arrangement prevailed in Europe and the Americas until the beginning of the 19th century, and it dominated most of Asia and Africa until the middle of the 20th century. The year 1882 was likely the tipping point of the transition to fossil fuels, the time when the United States first burned more coal than wood. The best available historical reconstructions indicate that it was only sometime during the late 1890s that the energy content of global fossil fuel consumption, nearly all of it coal, came to equal the energy content of wood, charcoal, and crop residues.

The Western world then rapidly increased its reliance on fossil fuels and hydroelectricity, but in large parts of Africa and Asia the grand energy transition from traditional biomass fuels to fossil fuels has yet to be completed. Looking only at modern primary energies on a global scale, coal receded from about 95 percent of the total energy supply in 1900 to about 60 percent by 1950 and less than 24 percent by 2000. But coal’s importance continued to rise in absolute terms, and in 2001 it even began to regain some of its relative importance. As a result, coal is now relatively more important in 2008 (nearly 29 percent of primary energy) than it was at the time of the first energy “crisis” in 1973 (about 27 percent). And in absolute terms it now supplies twice as much energy as it did in 1973: the world has been returning to coal rather than leaving it behind.

These are the realities of 2008: coal-fired power plants produce 50 percent of U.S.electricity, nuclear stations 20 percent, and there are no operating commercial breeder reactors.

Although oil became the largest contributor to the world’s commercial energy supply in 1965 and its share reached 48 percent by 1973, its relative importance then began to decline and in 2008 it will claim less than 37 percent of the total. Moreover, worldwide coal extraction during the 20th century contained more energy than any other fuel, edging out oil by about 5 percent. The common perception that the 19th century was dominated by coal and the 20th century by oil is wrong: in global terms, the 19th century was still a part of the millennia-long wooden era and 20th century was, albeit by a small margin, the coal century. And while many African and Asian countries use no coal, the fuel remains indispensable: it generates 40 percent of the world’s electricity, nearly 80 percent of all energy in South Africa (that continent’s most industrialized nation), 70 percent of China’s, and about 50 percent of India’s.

The pace of the global transition from coal to oil can be judged from the following spans: it took oil about 50 years since the beginning of its commercial production during the 1860s to capture 10 percent of the global primary energy market, and then almost exactly 30 years to go from 10 percent to about 25 percent of the total. Analogical spans for natural gas are almost identical: approximately 50 years and 40 years. Regarding electricity, hydrogeneration began in 1882, the same year as Edison’s coal-fired generation, and just before World War I water power produced about 50 percent of the world’s electricity; subsequent expansion of absolute production could not prevent a large decline in water’s relative contribution to about 17 percent in 2008. Nuclear fission reached 10 percent of global electricity generation 27 years after the commissioning of the first nuclear power plant in 1956, and its share is now roughly the same as that of hydropower.

These spans should be kept in mind when appraising potential rates of market penetration by nonconventional fossilfuels or by renewable energies. No less important is the fact that none of these alternatives has yet reached even 5 percent of its respective global market. Nonconventional oil, mainly from Alberta oil sands and from Venezuelan tar deposits, now supplies only about 3 percent of the world’s crude oil and only about 1 percent of all primary energy. Renewable conversions—mainly liquid biofuels from Brazil, the United States, and Europe, and wind-powered electricity generation in Europe and North America, with much smaller contributions from geothermal and photovoltaic solar electricity generation—now provide about 0.5 percent of the world’s primary commercial energy, and in 2007 wind generated merely 1 percent of all electricity.

The absolute quantities needed to capture a significant share of the market, say 25 percent, are huge because the scale of the coming global energy transition is of an unprecedented magnitude. By the late 1890s, when combustion of coal (and some oil) surpassed the burning of wood, charcoal, and straw, these resources supplied annually an equivalent of about half a billion tons of oil. Today, replacing only half of worldwide annual fossil fuel use with renewable energies would require the equivalent of about 4.5 billion tons of oil. That’s a task equal to creating de novo an energy industry with an output surpassing that of the entire world oil industry—an industry that has taken more than a century to build.

The scale of transition needed for electricity generation is perhaps best illustrated by deconstructing Al Gore’s July 2008 proposal to “re-power” America: “Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative.”

Nuclear fission reached 10 percent of global electricity generation 27 years after the commissioning of the first nuclear power plant.

Let’s see. In 2007 the country had about 870 gigawatts (GW) of electricity-generating capacity in fossil-fueled and nuclear stations, the two nonrenewable forms of generation that Gore wants to replace in their entirety. On average,these thermal power stations are at work about 50 percent of the time and hence they generated about 3.8 PWh (that is, 3.8 x 1015 watt-hours) of electricity in 2007. In contrast, wind turbines work on average only about 23 percent of the time, which means that even with all the requisite new high-voltage interconnections, slightly more than two units of wind-generating capacity would be needed to replace a unit in coal, gas, oil, and nuclear plants. And even if such an enormous capacity addition—in excess of 1,000 GW—could be accomplished in a single decade (since the year 2000, actual additions in all plants have averaged less than 30 GW/year!), the financial cost would be enormous: it would mean writing off the entire fossil-fuel and nuclear generation industry, an enterprise whose power plants alone have a replacement value of at least $1.5 trillion (assuming at least $1,700/installed kW), and spending at least $2.5 trillion to build the new capacity.

But because those new plants would have to be in areas that are not currently linked with high-voltage (HV)transmission lines to major consumption centers (wind from the Great Plains to the East and West coasts,photovoltaic solar from the Southwest to the rest of the country), that proposal would also require a rewiring of the country. Limited transmission capacity to move electricity eastward and westward from what is to be the new power center in the Southwest, Texas, and the Midwest is already delaying new wind projects even as wind generates less than 1 percent of all electricity. The United States has about 165,000 miles of HV lines, and at least 40,000 additional miles of new high-capacity lines would be needed to rewire the nation, at a cost of close to $100 billion. And the costs are bound to escalate, because the regulatory approval process required before beginning a new line construction can take many years. To think that the United States can install in 10 years wind and solar generating capacity equivalent to that of thermal power plants that took nearly 60 years to construct is delusional.

And energy transitions from established prime movers to new converters also take place across time spans measured in decades, not in a decade. Steam engines, whose large-scale commercial diffusion began with James Watt’s improved design introduced during the 1770s, remained important into the middle of the 20th century. There is no more convincing example of their endurance than the case of Liberty ships, the “ships that won the war” as they carried American materiel and troops to Europe and Asia between 1942 and 1945. Rudolf Diesel began to develop his highly efficient internal combustion engine in 1892 and his prototype engine was ready by 1897. The first small ship engines were installed on river-going vessels in 1903, and the first oceangoing ship with Diesel engines was launched in 1911. By 1939 a quarter of the world’s merchant fleet was propelled by these engines and virtually every new freighter had them. But nearly 3,000 Liberty ships were still powered by oil-fired steam engines. And steam locomotives disappeared from American railroads only by the late 1950s, while in China and India they were indispensable even during the 1980s.

A decade ago the promoters of fuel-cell cars were telling us that such vehicles would by now be on the road in large numbers.

Automobilization offers similar examples of gradual diffusion, and the adoption of automotive diesel engines is another excellent proof of slow transition. The gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine—the most important transportation prime mover of the modern world—was first deployed by Benz, Maybach, and Daimler during the mid-1880s, and it reached a remarkable maturity in a single generation after its introduction (Ford’s Model T in 1908).

But massive automobilization swept the United States only during the 1920s and Europe and Japan only during the 1960s, a process amounting to spans of at least 30 to 40 years in the U.S. case and 70 to 80 years in the European case between the initial introduction and decisive market conquest (with more than half of all families having a car). The first diesel-powered car (Mercedes-Benz 260D) was made in 1936, but it was only during the 1990s that diesels began to claim more than 15 percent of the new car market in major EU countries, and only during this decade that they began to account for more than a third of all newly sold cars. Once again, roughly half a century had to elapse between the initial introduction and significant market penetration.

And despite the fact that diesels have been always inherently more efficient than gasoline-fueled engines (the difference is up to 35 percent) and that modern diesel-powered cars have very low particulate and sulphur emissions, their share of the U.S. car market remains negligible: in 2007 only 3 percent of newly sold cars were diesels.

And it has taken more than half a century for both gasoline- and diesel-fueled internal combustion engines to displace agricultural draft animals in industrialized countries: the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped counting draft animals only in 1963, and the process is yet to be completed in many low-income nations.

Finally, when asked to name the world’s most important continuously working prime mover, most people would not name the steam turbine. The machine was invented by Charles Parsons in 1884 and it remains fundamentally unchanged 125 years later. Gradual advances in metallurgy made it simply larger and more efficient and these machines now generate more than 70 percent of the world’s electricity in fossil-fueled and nuclear stations (the rest comes from gas and water turbines as well as diesels).

There is no common underlying process to explain the gradual nature of energy transitions. In the case of primary energy supply, the time span needed for significant market penetration is mostly the function of financing, developing, and perfecting necessarily massive and expensive infrastructures. For example, the world oil industry annually handles more than 30 billion barrels, or four billion tons, of liquids and gases; it extracts the fuel in more than 100 countries and its facilities range from self-propelled geophysical exploration rigs to sprawling refineries, and include about 3,000 large tankers and more than 300,000 miles of pipelines. Even if an immediate alternative were available, writing off this colossal infrastructure that took more than a century to build would amount to discarding an investment worth well over $5 trillion—but it is quite obvious that its energy output could not be replicated by any alternative in a decade or two.

Renewable conversions now provide about 0.5 percent of the world’s primary commercial energy, and in 2007 wind generated merely 1 percent of all electricity.

In the case of prime movers, the inertial nature of energy transitions is often due to the reliance on a machine that may be less efficient, such as a steam engine or gasoline-fueled engine, but whose marketing and servicing are well established and whose performance quirks and weaknesses are well known, as opposed to a superior converter that may bring unexpected problems and setbacks. Predictability may, for a long time, outweigh a potentially superior performance, and associated complications (for example, high particulate emissions of early diesels) and new supply-chain requirements (be it sufficient refinery capacity to produce low-sulfur diesel fuel or the availability of filling stations dispensing alternative liquids) may slow down the diffusion of new converters.

All of these are matters of fundamental importance given the energy challenges facing the United States and the world. New promises of rapid shifts in energy sources and new anticipations of early massive gains from the deployment of new conversion techniques create expectations that will not be met and distract us from pursuing real solutions. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of these unrealistic calls, such as the popular claim that America should seek to generate 30 percent of its electricity supply from wind power by 2030.

And now Al Gore is telling us that the United States can completely repower its electricity generation in a single decade! Gore has succumbed to what I call “Moore’s curse.” Moore’s Law describes a long-standing trend in computer processing power, observed by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, whereby a computer’s power doubles every year and a half. This led Gore to claim that since “the price paid for the same performance came down by 50 percent every 18 months, year after year,” something similar can happen with energy systems.

But the doubling of microprocessor performance every 18 months is an atypically rapid case of technical innovation. It does not represent—as the above examples of prime mover diffusion make clear—the norm of technical advances as far as new energy sources and new prime movers are concerned, and it completely ignores the massive infrastructural needs of new modes of electricity generation.

The historical verdict is unassailable: because of the requisite technical and infrastructural imperatives and because of numerous (and often entirely unforeseen) socio-economic adjustments, energy transitions in large economies and on a global scale are inherently protracted affairs. That is why, barring some extraordinary commitments and actions, none of the promises for greatly accelerated energy transitions will be realized, and during the next decade none of the new energy sources and prime movers will make a major difference by capturing 20 percent to 25 percent of its respective market. A world without fossil fuel combustion is highly desirable and, to be optimistic, our collective determination, commitment, and persistence could accelerate its arrival—but getting there will demand not only high cost but also considerable patience: coming energy transitions will unfold across decades, not years.

Vaclav Smil is the author of Energy at the Crossroads and Energy in Nature and Society (MIT Press). He is Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba.

Image by Frans Lemmens/Bergman Group.

Even though our human mind has the ability to consider and analyse complexity, we like to focus on simplistic solutions as the following article on drip irrigation demonstrates:


Published in New York Times, November 17, 2008

In an effort to make irrigation more efficient — to obtain more “crop per drop” — farmers have adopted alternatives to flooding and other conventional methods. Among these is drip irrigation, shown above, in which water flows only to the roots. Drip systems are costly, but they save much water.

Or do they? A hydrologic and economic analysis of the Upper Rio Grande basin in the Southwest, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that subsidies and other policies that encourage conservation methods like drip irrigation can actually increase water consumption.

“The take-home message is that you’d better take a pretty careful look at drip irrigation before you spend a bunch of money on subsidizing it,” said Frank A. Ward, a resource economist at New Mexico State University and author of the study with Manuel Pulido-Velázquez of the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain.

With flood irrigation, much of the water is not used by the plants and seeps back to the source, an aquifer or a river. Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned. “Those aquifers are not going to get recharged,” Dr. Ward said.

Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields, which encourages farmers to expand acreage and request the right to take even more water, thus depleting even more of it. “The indirect effect is very possibly to undermine policy attempts to reduce water consumption,” Dr. Ward said.

Policymakers, he added, must balance the need for more food and for farmers to make a living with water needs. “It’s fair to say that subsidies are very good for food security and very good for farmer income,” Dr. Ward said. “But they may be taking water away from other people.”

Celebrity tax dodger, venture capitalist and self-promoter Bono has another one of those unhelpful ideas to promote a better world. I wish there would be a way of making him shut up for good …

bonogame(New York, NY) Look out Tomb RaiderWorld Of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto, there’s a new king in the video game jungle. It’s called UN-Save The World. It’s the brainchild of U2 front man Bono, and instead of killing and raping everything in sight, players of this game try to solve the major problems of the planet like genocide, global warming and AIDS.
UN-Save The World will get young people involved,” said Bono. “We’ve sold over 700,000 copies in two weeks. Thanks to me, this game is going to save the world, yeah!”

Is that possible?

“Not a chance. This game, with its bangin’ graphics and U2 score, is just too damn good to do any good,” said Jack McGuire, an Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations. “Thanks to Bono, the kids who play UN-Save The World will never stop playing and never leave their house.”
“I’m one of those kids, now,” said Kevin McGuire, Jack McGuire’s 17 year-old son. “I tried to help out in real life. I went to a meeting, set up by my dad, about combating infant mortality rates in third world countries. But it was annoying. Everyone there just gabbed about their own ideas and nothing got done. Then, I went home, turned on UN-Save The World and dropped the infant mortality rates to zero in twenty minutes, while rocking out to Zooropa.”

Kevin is not alone. The Lost News talked to scores of other kids who felt similar.

“Tell me, why should I go anywhere, when I can battle global warming from the comfort of my own couch?” asked Kevin’s buddy Gary Weber. “Hey, can you hand me that electric blanket, the AC’s making my feet cold.”

Bono refused to see fault for creating a rockin’ game. “You want the young people to play. You want them to feel like they can do something, like they can save the world, yeah!”

“Well I’m done saving the world,” added Kevin McGuire. “I mean it. The world is saved. AIDS, drug trafficking, hunger, genocide even lawn-jockey poaching, they are all gone. Now I’m moving on to kill and rape some shit in the World Of Warcraft.”

Source: The Lost News

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Keyboardr is an amazingly fast search engine that creates a mashup of google (including google blogs and images), youtube and wikipedia data. Keyboardr represents the top results for each search sections together with a link to ‘all results’. And as the name suggests, you can use your keyboard to very quickly navigate search results by hitting your arrow keys; I’ll stick to the mouse though :). According to Lifehacker, “Keyboardr has plans for more features and search service integration in the future”. But already now it’ll become the search engine of my choice. 🙂


I don’t seem to be the only one who’s got problems to remember what exactly I did a couple of days ago, which is where Memiary comes in. Memiary is a neat web2 application that allows you to enter each day five things you’ve done. The entries favour kind of Twitter style brevity to create a mini-journal to jog your memory. One thing is missing though: a search function.

Go to Memiary, follow the easiest sign-up process i have ever seen, and start using your brevity journal.


Nina Funnell made some interesting observations in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. After three decades or more of campaigning, including the Reclaim The Night which last week had its 30 anniversary, nothing much has changed when it comes to the level of violence experienced by women.

Recent Bureau of Statistics figures show that in 30 years there has been a minuscule 1.5 per cent decrease in violence against women in Australia. The study also nominated a 2 per cent error margin, implying the possibility of no drop, or even of an increase. Even allowing for the fact that women today may be more likely to report violence, the statistics are abysmally depressing. 

In Australia one in two women will be physically assaulted at some point in their lives and one in three women will be sexually assaulted. We also know that by the time a girl turns 18 there is a one in four chance she will have experienced rape or another form of sexual assault. To put that figure in context we also know that men in prison have a one in four chance of being sexually assaulted, suggesting that when it comes to rape, what young women endure in their everyday lives would for men be considered prison conditions.

So where are feminism’s achievements? Obviously not in getting men to listen and change their behaviour, which does not seem surprising in a male dominated society. 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that although feminists have been unable to curb violence against women, they have had significant successes in setting up after-care support networks and counselling services for those who have been assaulted. More recently, feminists have also had notable success in changing attitudes towards sexual assault survivors. Karen Willis, manager of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, says there has been a significant shift in the culture, because 30 years ago women who were raped were routinely shamed and humiliated, whereas nowadays rape survivors are beginning to be applauded and labelled as heroic for speaking out about their ordeals.Such advice does not empower women; it merely reminds them that they are thought of as potential victims, while simultaneously providing a defence for men who rape women who may have been drunk or been travelling alone.

Willis says that feminists have made crucial inroads into changing attitudes and belief systems around the causes of rape, but behaviour has yet to change, largely because most rape prevention programs target women, not men, and in general they often focus on “stranger danger”, whereas in reality women are far more likely to be assaulted by someone they know. Indeed for adult women, the most common form of rape is intimate partner rape, and in Australia one in 10 adult women will be raped by her current or former partner.

Professor Moira Carmody, the author of Sex And Ethics: Young People And Ethical Sex, also says that one of the biggest problems is that many of the anti-rape education programs are based around risk-minimisation and so place the onus of responsibility on women to modify their behaviour instead of placing the onus of responsibility on men to behave in a more appropriate manner. Telling a woman not to walk home alone or not to drink too much stems from the same logic that tells women to cover up so as not to attract rapists.

Willis says that what is needed is a comprehensive education program that targets young men (not just women), and which gives more than just the biological “plumbing” guide to sexual intercourse. The question though is: who will make it happen and what needs to change in society for such changes to take place?