Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dock Dogs 2014 Australia

Today we watched, for the second time, Australian Dock Dogs competitions.

The event was taking place on the Bond University campus in beautiful Varsity Lakes, Gold Coast.

It was quite entertaining. A new Australian record was set today in the Extreme Vertical category.



Big Air category - after landing.





The new Extreme Vertical champion.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Currumbin Swell Sculpture Festival 2014



Another year, another Swell in Currumbin beach front. These are the pieces I found most interesting.
A giant green octopus?

AK-47 made of car parts.
[Daniel Clemmett]

AK-47 detail.


Manta rays made of plastic bags.
[Lauren Grey]

Detail of the manta ray.


Make your own postcard.

A cold tree.
[Vanessa Anseline]

An awesome wolf made of chicken wire.
[Ivan Lovatt]

The eye of the awesome wolf.

A funny creature from Mad Max?
[Christopher Trotter]

The real driver.

Stone pods of soft eggs. A pleasure to look at and very touchable.
[Glenn  Manning and Kathy Daly]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Savage Continent by Keith Lowe

Keith Lowe looks at Europe as a whole in the aftermath of WWII. He describes what happened and provides well researched statistics and context.

Keith's aims in writing the book were: "to break away from the narrow Western view that tends to dominate most writing on the period" and "to clear a path through the labyrinth of myths":
"Many of the 'massacres' I have investigated turn out, on closer inspection, to be far less dramatic than they are usually portrayed. Equally, some quite astonishing atrocities have been hushed up, or simply lost in the sweep of other historical events".
"Statistics really do matter, because they are often employed for political purposes. Some nations routinely exaggerate the crimes of their neighbours, either to distract attention from their own crimes or to further own national causes."

For many eastern Europeans the war truly ended only in the 1990s with the retreat of the Soviet Union armies and regaining of independence.

I learned many things from this book. For example, I learned:
  • that Lithuanian partisans were fighting the Soviet Union well into the 1950s - the last partisan group in Lithuania was destroyed in 1956,
  • that Jewish population in Bulgaria increased during the war,
  • how the Greek communists lost the civil war, despite large popular support,
  • how Stalin gradually took control of Romania and other central European countries.
Central and Eastern Europe lost freedom after WWII for 50 years.

The 20th century European history is fascinating, because it shows how low people can go, but also it gives us hope: shows that forgiving and living together in peace is possible.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ukraine, 2 September 2014 - Hitler and Putin

There are lots of parallels between Hitler in 1938/1939 and Putin in 2014. Both started with foreign territories that were culturally close: Hitler with Austria and Sudetenland, Putin with Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Both were talking about peace while grabbing more and more foreign territory, both had support of the majority of their people, both were able to convince some portion of foreign leaders and regular people that they were the good guys, both suppressed free media in their countries, both used propaganda shamelessly, both made people who opposed them disappear or get beaten.

"On Friday night, a local lawmaker left his home in the north Russian city of Pskov and was attacked from behind by three men. He was beaten unconscious, only to wake up, bloodied, in a hospital hours later. The lawmaker, Lev Shlosberg, had been leading an investigation into the mysterious burials of several members of the Pskov-based 76th Airborne Division who were rumored to have died fighting in Ukraine. Journalists who attempted to reach the cemetery days earlier were also attacked." Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/miriamelder/vladimir-putin-isnt-going-to-stop#48gn400

The big difference is that Putin has nuclear weapons and was not afraid to threaten Ukraine with them if they don't stop resisting.

"Kiev has received threats of nuclear retaliation from Russia through unofficial channels if it continues to fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Minister of Defence, Valeriy Heletey, announced on his Facebook page on Monday." Source: http://www.newsweek.com/russia-has-threatened-nuclear-attack-says-ukraine-defence-minister-267842

A few days ago there was an incident with the plane of the Russian Defence Minister who did not file the correct flight documents to fly over Poland from Slovakia and was subsequently temporarily denied entry into Polish airspace. Well, we did not need to wait long. This is a video made by one of the Russians fighting in Ukraine - Arsen Pavlov aka "Motorola". He says "If you don't want to let Russian Federation defence minister through Poland, Motorola will come to you"... watch till the end to see what he means: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4zTM8FvJR4



This is not a joke. Russians lived under Soviet propaganda since 1917 to 1989, then had about 10 years of relative freedom under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and started falling into tyranny again under Putin since 1999. Russians, contrary to Germans, never acknowledged that they were the bad guys during World War II: they attacked Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland, but they still have monuments to Stalin and proudly display the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union.

Propaganda works like advertisements, you may think that you are immune, but you are not. If you listen to it often enough, it soaks in. What propaganda can do to people? Let me give you an example from a book I am reading now: "Savage Continent" by Keith Lowe. On page 29, he describes the fate of displaced persons in Germany after the war:
"[...] as Poles, [they] were even blamed for starting the war and bringing this whole misfortune upon Germany". This is exactly what Russia is doing now: blaming Ukraine for civilian deaths in Ukraine where Russian-sponsored and Russian forces are fighting Ukrainian forces. There would be no civilian deaths if Putin did not want parts of Ukraine for himself.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Melbourne, Victoria

Some Australians say that Melbourne (pronounced Mel-ben, not Mel-born, see Forvo) is their most European city. A city of culture and sophistication. For me it was the most American of Australian cities... a mix of San Francisco and New York. Have a look:

Land divided into squares. I saw that in the American Midwest.
Concrete elevated highway and an island of skyscrapers. Could be almost any big American city.


A downtown mess of old and new, tightly packed. Too much colour for Manhattan, but maybe Boston?

Streets wide for cars, narrow for people, few trees. 
Trams going uphill, a new imposing skyscraper next to old buildings - San Fran?


But then Melbourne has many faces. Have a look at these:


Some Persian Gulf state?

Somewhere in Scandinavia? 
Over-engineered train station... Netherlands, definitely.
An office building. Germany?
Paris or Warsaw?

Blocks of flats, a common sight in Europe, but this is Melbourne.
I'm sure I saw places like this elsewhere, but this is Melbourne too.

Melbourne is tourist-friendly. There is a free tram, number 35, that goes in a loop around the centre of the city. 

Free tram.
Melbourne people are friendly: in 24 hours since arriving, 4 people helped us with directions - without asking, all we had to do was open a map and look a bit lost. :-)

Melbourne is very political. We were there only Friday and Saturday and we saw four protests: first on Friday night, a very loud march against Israeli actions in Gaza (people had "free Palestine" signs), then on Saturday, a gathering in Federation Square against the terror of ISIS in Iraq (Muslims, Christians and Kurds against terror), then on the steps of a government building ecologists protesting the lack of protection of forests, and finally a few bikers protesting the laws that limit their right to meet freely. Then there were stalls: Falun Gong making people aware of how the Chinese government is persecuting them - a terrible story really - a reminder that China is not a free democratic country. Another stall tried to make people less afraid of Islam. There were also flowers in memory of the victims of flight MH-17 (put there by Ukrainians).

Federation Square - Anti ISIS protest.
Poster on the church: Let's fully welcome refugees.


Finally, I used the opportunity to visit the Jewish Holocaust Museum. It is small, but well designed and maintained. Its strong point are volunteer guides.
Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre
A few glimpses of the world of Polish Jewry before WWII:
Jewish newspaper in Yiddish from Warsaw, 17 August 1939.
Jewish Sports Club in Białystok.
And the terror of German occupation from 1939 to 1945:

German soldiers rounding up Jews in Poland - Strażacka street.
Jewish mother and three children walking towards gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sara, Kalman, Bronia, Miriam, and Nathan.
My motto: Ellie Wiesel's speech in Oslo in 1986.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Ukraine, 18 July 2014 - Putin's "Green Men" Are Back

Putin did not choose to openly enter Ukraine. According to Ukrainian sources, Putin is sending the Russian army into Ukraine again without insignia and documents, but fully armed with tanks, anti-aircraft, and other weapons. He did it before in Crimea, now he is doing it in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Buk missile launcher being transported in Russia controlled area of Ukraine.

Yesterday, his men (I am using this term broadly here, I treat both the regular Russian army without insignia, the Russian special forces sent earlier, and the local Russians and pro-Russians as Putin's men) shot down Malaysian civilian MH17 plane killing 298 people. His propaganda does not deny it directly, but instead is insinuating that it could be Ukrainians, and that anyway it is Ukraine's fault because they don't want to give up Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Phone conversations between pro-Russian forces, recorded and released by Ukrainians clearly indicate that it was those pro-Russian soldiers who shot down the plane, mistaking it for an Ukrainian transport plane. I hope that Russians in Russia wake up, and realise what kind of government they have and what propaganda they are fed. Shame.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sikuli

What does a software developer do when he has to rename 100 files? Writes a little script. In this case in Sikuli - a tool that will eventually allow computers to take away even programmers' jobs. Click to enlarge:

If this was for work, images would be replaced with file paths - the DRY principle!