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Just hit 70 with my Night Elf Druid (feral spec). When I logged on I noticed I had played this character for 14 days 8 hours and 22 minutes. That’s 344 hours on this toon alone. I have another main on a different account – a demonology specced undead warlock, on whom I have spent slightly less time, and a few alts which have only had a few hours each. So perhaps 700 hours of play all up.

Hmm… I could have learned French in that time. But then, why would you? Of course I could have learned the rudiments of calculus, or read the complete works of Shakespeare, or written my own translation of Dante, all things I have wanted to do for some time, and which have more than once been the subject of New Year’s resolutions. 

But I read and study all the time.

It’s not an easy thing to find the right balance between work, study, and play. In fact I’m so stressed about it, I think I’ll go and have a cold beer, and then go fishing.

And in case you were wondering, I have only just scratched the surface of World of Warcraft, a beautiful, challenging and immersive game which I would recommend to (almost) anyone.

This was an article I wrote ten months ago after comment by The Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide in the Church Guardian of March 2008 that Anglicans welcomed the Prime Minister’s apology to indigenous people for the stolen generations. The announcement of Mick Dodson as Australian of the Year seemed an appropriate context in which to dust it off and re-post:

I was a little surprised to read in the March edition of The Guardian that “Anglicans Welcome PM’s Apology.”

Perhaps there has been some specific research I am not aware of to gauge Anglican thought on the matter. Polls of the general public returned varying results. Some groups claimed to find a majority in support, but a Channel Ten poll with 10,000 respondents found that 76% disagreed. Yahoo/Channel Seven reported that a poll of 23,000 showed 62% disagreed. Whatever the actual figures, it is difficult to view the Prime Minister’s apology as an act expressing or contributing to a sense of national unity.

The Archbishop said that people reluctant to apologise complained that it should not be necessary to relive the events of the past before we can move on. This is an argument I have more often heard from Church leaders. Following some disaster in a parish, or some injustice against a lay person or member of the clergy, we frequently hear urgings along the lines of “Well yes, it was terribly sad, but it’s all the past, too much water under the bridge, can’t do anything about it now, we need to forgive and forget, let’s move on together.” Of course the Archbishop is right to point out that such arguments are complete nonsense. The extent to which peace and reconciliation are possible depends on the extent to which there is a commitment to truth and justice.

Read the rest of this entry »

From a justifiably angry column in the Jersusalem Post

“Even if the Palestinians want peace, Hamas won’t let them have it, because Hamas knows best, and jihad “is the only solution.” Don’t believe me, read the Covenant. It likes nothing better than killing Jews, and the bigger bully in Teheran thinks that’s a damn fine thing too. No one says a word, because the UN is dominated by the Islamic states, and the Western governments know where the oil comes from, and nobody likes the Jews much anyway. The people calling for the end of Israel while they march on the streets of London and Dublin aren’t all Muslims by any means.” 

“In a bizarre reversal of all their commitment to human rights and the struggle of men and women for independence and self-determination, the European Left has chosen again and again to side with the bullies and to condemn a small nation struggling to survive in a hostile neighborhood. It is all self-contradictory: The Left supports gay rights, yet attacks the only country in the Middle East where gay rights are enshrined in law. Hamas makes death the punishment for being gay, but “we are all Hamas now.” Iran hangs gays, but it is praised as an agent of anti-imperialism, and allowed to get on with its job of stoning women and executing dissidents and members of religious minorities. If UK Premier Gordon Brown swore to wipe France from the face of the earth, he would become a pariah among nations. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens to do that to Israel and is invited to speak to the UN General Assembly.”

It is worth reading the whole article.

Worth noting too, that Hamas says that the condition for any reconciliation between itself and Fatah, in other words, the condition for a unified Palestian Authority, is that Fatah must cease any discussions or negotiations with Israel.

How many times does it need to be said? No matter what Israel does, there can be no peace with Hamas. For heaven’s sake, Hamas says the same thing. 

Australia Day honours and all that. A chance for recognition for people who have made a substantial contribution to their local communities or to state or nation.

In addition to many other awards, numbering in the hundreds, each year one person is selected by a committee to be ‘Australian of the Year’. My understanding is that the Prime Minister makes the final decision, but I cannot imagine the PM not accepting the committee’s recommendation.

This year’s choice is Mick Dodson. Pardon?

It is hard to think of anything positive Mr Dodson (or his brother Pat, for that matter) has done for Australia. In fact Mick Dodson is likely to be most closely associated in the minds of ordinary Australians with two mischievous and dishonest reports: that of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and the notorious ‘Bringing them Home’ report about the Stolen Generations.

Dishonest because the Royal Commission (Dodson was counsel assisting) knew very well that the research showed clearly that the proportion of aboriginal deaths in custody was no higher than that of other ethnic groups, and in some cases lower, yet perpetuated the lie of higher aboriginal death rates. The report recommended special treatment and conditions for indigenous people based on the alleged additional difficulties faced by aboriginal people in coping with imprisonment, even though the research showed that some of the proposed special options, for example home or community detention, actually resulted in higher suicide rates than imprisonment.

Dishonest because despite page after page of tragic tales of separation from family (and some of them truly are tragic) the authors of the Bringing them Home report (Dodson was one of them) have not at any time been able to name even ten aboriginal persons who were removed from home or family because of government policy to ‘steal’ aboriginal children. No such policy ever existed anywhere in Australia.

There has been one case where a court has given compensation to an aboriginal person for being improperly removed from his home – that of Bruce Trevorrow. But Mr Trevorrow was able to claim compensation precisely because he was able to show that his removal was contrary to goverenment policy, and that the social worker who removed him (though it was clear she thought she was acting in his best interests, and rescuing him from a violent and abusive environment from which parental care was frequently absent) had acted beyond the powers granted to her.

These reports were mischievous because they falsely exposed Australia to international ridicule, harmed rather than improved actual outcomes for aboriginal people, and encouraged an ongoing refusal by some indigenous groups to acknowledge any responsibilty for their own life, work and well being.

Much more could be said, about, for example, Mr Dodson’s vocal and vindictive opposition to the Federal Government’s attempts to reduce the appalling rates of child sexual abuse in remote indigenous communities.

On what possible basis is Mr Dodson an appropriate or reasonable choice for Australian of the year?

For the first time ever, New Zealand Police have shot dead an innocent bystander.

This was a tense and complicated situation, in which other lives were at risk. The criminal the police were trying to stop was at that moment aiming a shotgun into the cab of a truck he was trying to hijack. The driver of the truck is convinced the police action saved his life.

Without the slightest evidence the shooting of seventeen year old Halatau Naitoko was anything other than a tragic accident, some are already demanding that the officer concerned stand trial.

How about letting the same rules apply to police as apply to everyone else, and have an investigation first?

No that is not an overstatement. Members of the European Parliament have called for the suspension of all aid to Nigeria following the Nigerian Parliament’s unanimous support for legislation prohibiting marriage between persons of the same gender.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Despite recent reforms, it still needs help to overcome violence, poverty, lack of educational, transport and medical infrastructure, etc. A reduction in aid will mean less support for local agriculture, fewer medical resources, reductions in vaccination programmes. People will die.

I have encountered the same kind of liberal love and inclusiveness in some church and environmental groups. All the talk is of tolerance and valuing diversity. Until someone actually expresses a divergent opinion.

And by the way, I have a gay brother, and brother in law, whom I love dearly.

Or even a single seat in a by-election? How many elections now is it since the Liberals had a victory? (Not counting the minority government of Colin Barnett in WA).

For non-Australian readers, the Liberals are the conservative party in Australia – we’re on the opposite side of the world, so this is perfectly logical, really.

But some things to note about the Frome by-election (South Australia’s first since 1994).

First, it may still be too close to call, with only thirty votes between the leading candidates, and the certainty of a recount.

Second, there were three conservative candidates: the Liberal Party’s Terry Boylan, the National’s Neville Wilson, and popular Mayor of Port Pirie, the independent Geoff Brock. The conservative vote was thus split three ways. The National Party candidate directed preferences to Geoff Brock, who appears to have won the seat. If those preferences had been given to Terry Boylan, he would have won comfortably.

Third, despite Premier Mike Rann’s claim that the result (the first ever loss of a by-election in SA by the opposition) is devastating for the Liberals, there was a net loss of 16% in the Labor Party vote.

While losing the seat is disappointing for the Liberal party, the result, with its massive loss in the primary Labor vote, is surely much more concerning for the Labor Party.  A swing of even half this amount across the state would see the return of the Liberals to power.

That said, this does confirm there are some real issues for the Liberals. The Liberal Party, both state and federal, has continuing difficulties finding credible leadership, and maintaining clear policies which are distinguishable from those of the Labor Party.

To regain their position as the pre-eminent political force in Australia, the Liberals need: strong leadership; clear and consistent conservative policies; to reinvigorate their partnership with the Nationals; to take more note of local issues; and to be more open to fielding popular local candidates.

Simple really.

It does not mean the Church agrees with every opinion expressed by the person concerned. It does not mean the person has been ‘reinstated.’ It simply means that the Church no longer regards the person as being outside its fellowship, and therefore excluded from salvation (always allowing for the hope in the constant mercy of God, it should go without saying).

So there is no reason at all for anyone to be up in arms because the Pope has lifted the excommunication of any person who has reaffirmed his commitment to Christ, even if that person happens to be a compete idiot who would do himself and the Church a big favour if he left his moronic opinions unsaid.

Debt collectors chase outstanding school fees.

In the category of making a flock of pigs out of a sow’s ear, the article claims that parents are unable to pay fees because of the worsening economic situation. This despite the Association of Independent Schools specifically saying they haven’t noticed any increase in the number of parents having difficulty making payment, and that this time of year typically sees some schools taking action to recover outstanding debts.

Hamas says it will be the only body to oversee relief efforts in Gaza.

Given Hamas’ record in the prompt and careful delivery of aid, giving this job to some other organisation might produce a better outcome for the people of Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas says (of course) that the Palestinian Authority should be in charge of relief efforts. The PA has a history of indolence and corruption, but at least they are not formally committed to the destruction of all Jews, everywhere. So there is some realistic prospect for peace between Israel and a Palestinian State lead by the PA.

But there has been a serious decline in the already poor relationship between Hamas and the PA, with reports over a hundred Fatah members in Gaza have been murdered by Hamas in the last few weeks, many of them tortured to death, and at least three having had their eyes gouged out. This makes it seem likely that giving the PA responsibility for aid distribution in Gaza would lead to renewed fighting, with the potential for much greater loss of life than in Hamas’ conflict with Israel.

Egypt or Jordan are not likely to want to take responsibility for aid distribution, when this would expose them to violent retribution from Hamas, and by proxy Iran. Much as I hate to say it, this may be a time when direct UN responsibility for the distribution of aid is the only option likely to produce positive outcomes for the people of Gaza.

More on aid from Israel to Gaza: “More than 37,000 tons of staple foodstuff and emergency medical supplies entered the Gaza Strip through one Israeli crossing from the time Israel began its military offensive until it declared a unilateral cease-fire on January 17.”

Ha ha.

Computer Games: Global warming is really bad for frogs because nasty UV rays get into their evaporated waterholes and cause mutations.

The Real World: Cold weather wipes out a whole generation of frogs.

OK, it’s not funny.

Another reason to cut it out with the fantasies and look at what’s really happening. The world is not getting warmer, and we are much more likely to be in trouble because of cooling than warming.

Via John Ray

A Mexican man has been arrested after confessing to dissolving some 300 bodies in caustic soda. The bodies of victims of drug related violence in Northern Mexico were delivered to him for disposal by gang members. He was apparently paid $600 a week for this service, a substantial amount in Mexico.

Incidentally, caustic soda is not an acid, but an alkaline salt. 

After the violent insurgent activity in Southern Thailand, it is hardly surprising that Thailand is not enthusiastic about welcoming Muslim refugees. Thailand has the right to protect its borders.

But the UN High Commissioner in Bangkok says they have had complaints that the Thai military is confiscating refugees’ boats and either dumping people on deserted islands or sending them back out to sea with no food or fuel. That would amount to murder. It sounds unlikely to me, but there is no love lost between the Thai military and muslims.

Some Rohingya were rescued by India after being turned away from Thailand, and it is clear from independent reports that they were not treated well by the Thais.

One of the interesting things about this is that complaints so far have been entirely directed at Thailand, which already bears most of the burden of feeding, housing and clothing the huge number of refugees from the North and East of Burma. The UN is largely useless there, as they seem to be everywhere else. The root cause of the problem is the Burmese regime’s ruthless repression of minority ethnic and religious groups, with many thousands killed and millions displaced. But this has not resulted in world-wide protests or all night sessions at the UN.

Most genuine practical help for the Burmese refugees has come from the Thai government, and from independent community or faith groups, many of them Christian. One is the Free Burma Rangers. I love their motto: ‘Love each other. Unite for freedom, justice and peace. Forgive and don’t hate each other. Pray with faith, act with courage. Never surrender.’

Please support them.

President Obama will keep his Blackberry.

Wanting to have some privacy in communication with close friends and advisors sounds reasonable. But since it is a way to bypass the normal official communication channels, it will have to raise questions of access and openness. Perhaps more importantly, any kind of mobile device is vulnerable to hackers, who are not necesarily the most scrupulous persons when it comes to protecting the privacy and interests of others.

Microsoft laying off workers for the first time (?) and shares down by almost 8%.

Samsung, which accounts for about 20% of South Korea’s total exports, records its first ever quarterly loss.