New version of Live Writer (2011)

Very different. There are things like —

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which weren’t there before, and a whole new look to the interface.

Meanwhile so many things I could/should have noted the past two days – Joan Sutherland’s death not least among them.

But I spent yesterday tutoring – second-last session for the year – up in Sydney, and also had a nostalgic morning coffee at The Coffee Roaster in Surry Hills.

Friday I have my eyes checked at Teachers’ Eye Care in Surry Hills and then head off to Redfern for lunch with the South Sydney Uniting/Herald people.

Saturday is the last tutoring session.

So that’s three train trips this week.

Other people’s ideas – from today’s Google Reader crop

On schools and teaching

Rob Baiton mostly blogs about Indonesia, about which he knows a great deal from experience. Today he focuses instead on teaching.

What makes teaching really rewarding for me is that "lights on" moment where someone that you have taught finally sees all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and the light goes on. This is almost always followed by a smile and an exclamation of surprise, "I can do it!" I had three of those moments in one day today; a young bloke in Year 6, a young girl in Year 8, and a soon to be doing the HSC lad. Each are studying different subjects, which is a challenge for me, but this is not about me.

It might have just been a fluke of coincidence, but each of them today had a "lights on" moment where they realised that they can actually do the work, and do it well. In most respects, all I do is help them visualise the pieces of the puzzle and facilitate in getting the pieces into the right spots. It is nice, and it feels good, to watch children understand that they can be successful and grow into that new-found confidence.

I know exactly what he means. 🙂

More political is Hedge Fund-Funded Charter School Lobby Buys Elections, Destroys Education from the USA.

New York state is one of the recipients of Race to the Top funds. It has been awarded $700 million from the federal government in exchange for a promise to undermine public education. In New York and other states long term incumbent state legislators are now facing unknown but suddenly well funded newcomers whose campaigns have been bankrolled entirely by hedge fund investors who are making a fast buck from the charter school industry.

There is nothing wrong with incumbents facing challenges to prove their political value to their constituents. There is something very wrong when those challenges come about because elected officials represent their constituents by choosing to fight the wave of charter schools and then risk electoral defeat for doing the right thing.

As one challenger of a New York City state senator put it, “The checks started rolling in“ after wealthy charter school backers began supporting his and other’s campaigns for office. This sudden largesse and alleged concern for public education proves beyond any doubt that the charter school movement is a gigantic fraud, a mirage created for the sole purpose of enriching one class of people at the expense of millions of children whose right to an education will be jeopardized.

Regard this as a warning, Julia Gillard, as you have, in my opinion, been too drawn to the New York model.

On the "burqa" issue (or, alternatively, the jilbab + niqab, or abaya issue) and mosques

Both the following are from the excellent US source Foreign Policy.

1. The burqa ban: it’s complicated.

Having said all that, I don’t like the notion of French gendarmes arresting or fining people on the street for what they wear. If the French government wants to prohibit state employees from veiling, or require people to uncover their faces when they drive or enter government buildings, fine. Private businesses, like banks, should be allowed to do the same. But we shouldn’t pretend there are easy answers.

2. British soccer hooligans took part in "Ground Zero Mosque" protest.

Sept. 11 protests over an Islamic community center a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site drew an unlikely ally: British soccer hooligans.

This isn’t particularly shocking, given that many hooligans have long been tied into European right-wing political organizations. The most infamous among them were militant followers of Red Star Belgrade in the early 1990s. Headed by future-Serbian war criminal Arkan, the Delije were notoriously violent fanatics, and later became a backbone of Serbian paramilitary units in the Balkan Wars.

The small protest contingent were members of the English Defense League, an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim organization. (They style themselves as a "Counter Jihad" movement.)…

On climate science

Should The Earth Be Cooling?  Good source.

Examining the model outputs, as the world enters the industrial age, the models begin to show a split between the results from purely natural influences and those from natural+human factors. However, while the overall trends begin to diverge, the shorter term fluctuations remain in agreement. As the natural result warms, the natural+human result warms. As the natural result cools, the natural+human result cools.

Then things change.

Over the section of the model runs depicting the last 30 years or so, the two model run types diverge completely. While the natural results show a distinct cooling trend in line with the actual observations of solar irradiance, ENSO, and PDO, the results from the natural+human runs show a marked warming trend. This divergence is highlighted in the figure.

Looking at both the actual observations of historically significant climate forcings including solar irradiance, ENSO and PDO and the results from model runs depicting solely natural climate influences, we would expect our planet to be notably cooling.

However, examining climate models including both natural and human influences, we would expect a continued warming trend over the last 30 years.

Which is exactly what’s been happening.

On media and the riots in the Northern Territory

Read Bob Gosford: “I live in the small township of Yuendumu, 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs on the southern fringes of the Tanami Desert on land owned by people of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre language groups.” Today he offers a guest post from my friend Frank Baarda. Frank has lived in Yuendumu … for 35 or so years.

Today’s quote:

The report of my death was an exaggeration” Mark Twain, 1897

Yuendumu is in the news. Not because of its star footballer, not because of the gradual destruction of its social fabric, not because of anything positive such as its arts achievements. No, because of “travel warnings”, “rioting”, “lock-down” and the flying in of a tactical response team.

To all those friends and relatives that anxiously rang us to ask if we’re safe, thank you. Yes we are.

I can’t think of a single incident in the past in which the Warlpiri residents of Yuendumu have not respected non-Warlpiri residents’ neutrality in such matters.

They respect our right to be kept out of it. This respect is not reciprocated by “mainstream” society, that has the arrogant belief that it is entitled to interfere and dictate to remote Aboriginals how they should live their lives. The Intervention epitomises this arrogance…

What an exciting blogging week it has been!

Not that I personally have set the blogosphere on fire, but two issues that do have had some play here. My top visited in the past seven days have been:

      Home page 187 reads
      Open Letter from U.S. Scientists on the IPPC 43
      Climate change is real, real, real… 42
      SBY’s speech in the Australian parliament 37
      Some of my best friends are gay –- 29
      Not everything in this life is as simple 29
      The incomparable norrie 19
      A BBC2 documentary we haven’t yet seen in Australia 15

I posted about norrie, whose quest for official recognition of a gender neither M nor F grabbed world attention this week, because I know norrie personally.

I posted about climate change because it is there. Two commenters in particular have been vigorous in their replies: Roger from New Zealand, and my old sparring partner Kevin from Louisiana. Kevin’s main contributions have been to my page on the subject. Kevin, who really is a funny man (sincerely!), has a post of his own on climatology.

Kevin has, it seems, become angrier with me — well, not so much with me as with everyone who believes the mainstream climate scientists have generally speaking got it right. What finally pisses Kevin off may be seen in his more recent comments on my page, and that amounts, with all due respect, to the idea that there is a UN-sponsored plot to remove money from the pockets of US citizens and curtail their freedom to do whatever they bloody well like.

There is a converse conspiracy theory that has rather more merit, except that I would object that it is unfair to lump all who have doubts about global warming into this camp. Nonetheless I do believe when a sustained PR attack is made on a group of working scientists it may well mostly be a sustained PR attack rather than a scientific argument — and PR is always paid for by someone. The following video is admittedly insubstantial:

But see also Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on climate change science and policy.

Meanwhile over on the photo blog things have been much more sedate. No individual post has really stood out in the past seven days, but this one has been top so far this month with 77 visits.

On how photography has undergone a revolution in recent years see THE NEGATIVE IS NO LONGER A SQUARE OF FILM.

Photography is dead. That news may come as a surprise, since obituaries about art tend to be written about painting. Invented in the 1830s, photo-graphy is still in its infancy as an art form compared to the centuries-old medium of painting. Despite inventions like portable paint tubes and fast-drying acrylic, painting has not undergone the transformations that digitalization is bringing to the medium of photography. Of course, I’m speaking about the death of film photography. Happy to save on the cost of film and the time taken to develop it, consumers embraced digitalization with such gusto that a whole industry is dying. In 2005, the film photography giant AgfaPhoto filed for bankruptcy. In 2009, Polaroid ceased the production of instant Polaroid film, and Kodak discontinued Kodachrome film. Digital photographs are not only cheaper and faster to produce; they can be stored endlessly and shared instantly with countless friends. Polaroids, though ‘instant’, could not be emailed and tweeted. For artists, such mass-market developments are turning film photography into a specialist field, like lithography…

Whatever happened to Autumn?

Adrian Phoon asked that question on Twitter earlier today. Down in Crown Street at noon I wondered myself…

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Not everything in this life is as simple as we first thought…

Gender is simple, right? “Male and female created He them”… End of story.

If only.

Anthropologists have known for years that in the real world it isn’t and never has been quite so cut and dried. Those who explore our chromosomes know that even at that basic level the story is not quite what the Bible tells us. Rather, male, female and various intersexes created He them…

Recently the ABC’s Gen Y show Hungry Beast investigated the issues here and here.

As many as 1 in 1000 intersex babies are born with ambiguous genitalia and subject to genital remodelling surgeries where the surgeon arbitrarily assigns them as a boy or a girl. For 1 in 3 people the doctors choose the wrong one.

There are no long-term follow ups for people who’ve had these surgeries, and very little data is available on the true extent of how their lives are affected. Both the Intersex Organisation of Australia (OII) and the Intersex Society of North America confirm extremely high levels of trauma and dissatisfaction among intersex people who’ve been subject to childhood surgeries. Their medical records are routinely concealed or destroyed by medical professionals, and many are never told the truth about their bodies.

This combined with widespread general ignorance about intersex within the medical profession are two of the most urgent issues intersex people face today.

“Fixing sex” by Katrina Karkazis, Duke University Press (2008)

See also Intersex in Australia.

The degree to which gender is social construction as distinct from gender as biology has been the study of anthropologists and social scientists. It is quite clear that gender expectations are quite variable.

Our bureaucracies, and even web sites which ask you to specify M or F have not reflected reality.

South Sydney’s norrie has become something of a lightning rod for these issues, and not just recently. Indeed, norrie has quite consciously volunteered lightning rod duty. See my post The incomparable norrie. As norrie says on Facebook, the issue has become viral now world-wide.

And there has been a development.

THE case of the state’s first genderless citizen has forced the equivalent of a bureaucratic sex change on the government.

It has revoked an official document issued last month to an androgynous Sydneysider called Norrie whose sex was listed as genderless.

Sydney’s most famous gender-ender made the news from London to Beijing last week when the Herald revealed that the government had for the first time issued a registered details certificate and a change of name certificate saying ”sex: not specified”.

But Norrie received a phone call on Tuesday from the Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar Greg Curry, who said he had legal advice the document was invalid.

In Parliament yesterday, the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said the media coverage had prompted many inquiries. Mr Curry and the director-general of the Attorney-General’s Department, Laurie Glanfield, sought advice from the Solicitor-General.

The registry refused to release the full advice, but said it concluded the registrar did not have the power to issue certificates with the sex recorded as anything other than male or female.

The 48-year-old from Redfern has since received a replacement change of name certificate that says ”sex: not stated” – which a spokeswoman said was standard for such documents – and offering a fee refund of about $100.

Norrie, who recently jettisoned the surname ”May-Welby”, felt ”violated” by the bureaucratic reassignment and filed a discrimination claim yesterday with the Human Rights Commission.

”I think it’s really funny that these bean-counters think there’s a difference between ‘not specified’ and ‘not stated’. We are beyond Monty Python now,” Norrie said yesterday.

The issue came to a head because the government, which recently amended the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act to allow for sex  changes in foreign-born citizens, did not consider that anyone might want their sex to be unrecorded.

Norrie was registered as male at birth, began hormone treatment at 23 and had surgery to become a woman – but has since ceased taking hormones and identifies as neither sex.

The Greens are now calling for reforms to allow sexless documentation for adults, which was a recommendation in a Human Rights Commission report last year.

Given that there may be legal proceedings down the track I must now be careful, not just for myself but for the integrity of any case norrie may make in future. But it does occur to me as an English teacher that not specified and not stated are synonymous. Not specific would have been an entirely different matter. “It has revoked an official document issued last month to an androgynous Sydneysider called Norrie whose sex was listed as genderless.” That is inaccurate, as neither version actually says “genderless”.

(At least two barristers read this blog most days. I trust I have not trespassed in the last paragraph.)

Meanwhile on climate change

Another area where what we once thought is not what we think now, and where you’ll have noticed I have taken a firmer stand in recent times based on a careful examination of the available material online and in book form. You will find I have added to my page on the subject and have had a lively exchange there with my old blogging friend Kevin from Louisiana, who is very sad about me.

I have also added a list of the Neil’s Second Decade posts on the subject, as this template (which I still love) doesn’t give a list when you hit Categories.

There is a very real discussion to be had, given climate change is pretty much as mainstream scientists say, about what might be done. One contribution worth following up there is Climate blueprint could slash emissions.

A new report says Australia could cut its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 through measures which would cost households less than $4 a week.

ClimateWorks Australia, a partnership between Monash University and the philanthropic Myer Foundation, is launching the report today and hopes the new blueprint will kickstart the stalled climate debate.

The detailed report is broadly a hybrid of the Government and Opposition’s positions, but promises to deliver carbon reductions five times greater than the two major parties have promised.

Executive director Anna Skarbek says the cost to the community would be $185 per household per year, or roughly the price of a cup of coffee each week.

"We are not suggesting what form of a carbon price, however we have modelled the carbon price that the Treasury modelled for the Garnaut study," she said…

Monday retrospective: 22 February

This blog:

14 February: I’m old-fashioned in my way…; Peter Garrett and the insulation tragedies. 15 February: Pauline Hanson – exit pursued by a bear; Taking time to think about the controversies now hitting “climate change”; Pune And After. 16 February:Piers Akerman channels Sir John Houghton; Protected: First draft: my South Sydney Herald NAPLAN story. 17 February: Random, but age may be part of it; Fooling around. 18 February: SBHS, Science, certainty, climate change. 19 February:Sorry — but this is about climate change again; In praise of “Billy Elliott”. 20 February: Having strayed into film study yesterday…; Jon Taplin has a valuable post today; We are so lucky to have the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 21 February: The vibrant world of Australian Indigenous music.

And a new page: Climate change is real, real, real….

Neil’s Sydney Photo Blog:

14 February: Year of the Tiger. 15 February: National Gallery, Canberra. 16 February: lake burley griffin, canberra: 1. 17 February: lake burley griffin, canberra: 2. 18 February: canberra miscellaneous. 19 February: national gallery: sculpture garden; outside the national gallery, canberra. 20 February: fooling around. 21 February: back in good old belmore park!

The template change there on 16 February produces lower case headings.

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