Cheeseburger Gothic

Tony Abbott and the Holy Grail

Posted Thursday into Funny by John Birmingham

Got this via Dee Madigan. It's pretty funny.

And yes, I haz interwebz again.

5 Responses to ‘Tony Abbott and the Holy Grail’

Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted Yesterday
I gigglesnorted at "It's and efficiency dividend"

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Bangar reckons...

Posted Yesterday
I believe Mr Rabbit is trying to be a bigger prick than Howard, the sad thing is he's succeeding.

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John swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Yesterday
Howard was in the business of winning elections. Abbott doesn't seem to care.

It's all about his team, which at this point is pretty much down to the coal industry and Andrew Bolt.

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GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Yesterday
So when Arfur finally cuts off all of Tone's limbs I truly wonder whether the F35 will be able deliver the coconuts on target, or whether a European Tornado aircraft is best suited to our military needs?

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damian reckons...

Posted 7 hours ago
So we dismember Abbott, skewer Pyne, rotisserie Bishop and eviscerate Brandis, we arrange for the rough sodo^H^H^H^Hlove of Morrison and Corman, but ultimately surely it's Shorten's black heart that must be slowly roasted on a spit? Does anyone really still dream of an ALP that is any better in any way? Didn't the 2013 election finish that idea off?

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Internet still down

Posted Thursday into Writing by John Birmingham

Got a tech coming around later this morning to replace the wall plate for my coaxial cable which was also slagged by the lightning strike last week. I'm writing this on my iPad, upstairs, using the data plan on my phone.

I have my Saturday column to get out later today, and I'll be interested to see how that goes on the pad, rather than the big arse iMac, which is a lot less attractive to work on without connectivity. At least for media work. For book writing it's probably better.

18 Responses to ‘Internet still down’

pi reckons...

Posted Thursday
I had internet failure at home playing hardcore diablo, solo on torment level 4, against a rift-guardian when they had 25% health left. Had to wait til next day to find out whether I had lived or not.

What's this 'work' of which you speak?

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted Thursday
Have you considered that the lightning strike you reference and its effect on your life are signs from God (who makes art in heaven) to change your evil, libertine ways?

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted Thursday

Easy to forget that in the 'old days' a column was prepared using "traditional methods" manual type writer, tippex, mailed off to the publisher, or deleivered to the editor from the desk you worked at.

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pi reckons...

Posted Thursday
'mailed'? I think you spelled that wrong... isn't it spelled 'emailed'?

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted Thursday

"traditional" methods probably include looking up the spelling in a solid book type dictionary as well

pi has opinions thus...

Posted 14 hours ago
'book'? I think you spelled that wrong... isn't it spelled 'ebook'?

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted Thursday
Here's something I didn't expect. While the singular focus of the iPad does make it a little inconvenient to write the column because I can't have multiple windows with all my sources running at once, it's not the biggest impediment to getting this job done.
That would be sitting down.
I'm so used to standing while I write now, and even wandering around the office thinking through the next line or par, that sitting at a table to type is proving distracting and difficult. My thinking feels slower, more sluggish.
Dunno why.

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted Thursday
It can be hard to break a long-standing tradition.

Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted Thursday
*crowd goes wild*

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted Thursday
would you say its the standard?

Sudragon puts forth...

Posted Thursday
Well that deserves a standing ovation.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted Thursday

OUTSTANDING


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Murphy mumbles...

Posted Thursday
Doesn't the golden hovercraft have a satellite data uplink for the SLBMs you keep onboard? Why not just use that?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Thursday
I'm not sure what the fruit company equivalent would be, and frankly I don't care to know, but you wouldn't want to go Ctrl-Shift-L or whatever and see those babies take off accidentally.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted Yesterday
I keep a PAYG 4G Mifi around just in case something happens to the land line (or I need to go somewhere and the data plan on my phone isn't going to cut it)

(Actually I have multiple MiFis for different countries when I travel overseas, but I do have a specific Telstra one for here if my main connection is fuxored)

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John mutters...

Posted Yesterday
You can't run the mac's internet off your phone's mobile hotspot?

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Bangar is gonna tell you...

Posted Yesterday
The phone is a useful backup as long as you have enough data.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted 16 hours ago
So. Brisbane Ice Storm - Bzzt Zap rinse lather repeat?

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Little help needed

Posted Wednesday by John Birmingham

I had a nice note from a drop in reader, LCB, down the bottom of the Burger Lite entry, about the chuckles they'd had reading some old columns and blogs of mine. In one of those weird coincidences I was trying to find all of my old Blunts and comedy features yesterday. I wanted to toss them into Scrivener to practice putting together ebook manuscripts.

Uno Problemo, I seemed to have lost most of the files in the move from my old system to the new about a year back. Secondi Problemo, not everything would have been in my files anyway. I found one Bounders Club on my old machine, for instance, another two reproduced in full at somebody's blog, but no mor eat Fairfax. And I'm pretty sure I've written more than three.

So, does anyone have any particularly fond memories of lulz either here, at Blunty or just published generally, say at The Bulletin, over the years? I'll see if El Goog can dig them up for me.

20 Responses to ‘Little help needed’

Quokka asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Would the BT have some sort of trail?
The comments & the interaction in the BT blog before it went national & it got munted by trolls were hilarious.
I don't usually read the comments these days, my eyes, they burn.

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insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Wednesday
Which three do you have so we're not doubling up?
I agree with Q that Fairfax should have an archive. Pester them.

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robW mumbles...

Posted Wednesday
Here's the phone number for the NSA: (410) 694-0750.

They'll have a copy.

Lulu asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Or George Brandis.

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Rob would have you know...

Posted Wednesday

The end times of Kevin Rudd here and in Blunty always made me laugh. Sort of like I wasn't alone in feeling we had been sold out by a sauce shaking dickhead.

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted Wednesday
were they all be archieved in the national gallery anyway?

Dave W asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Library- words. Not art. Well, it could be art of the splodey kind. But yep, I remember seeing National Library of Australia links pop up on googling something birmo related. That was a couple of years ago now.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted Wednesday

but we all agree they deserve to be surely.

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Quokka mutters...

Posted Wednesday
Have you tried googling 'treeman' & see what pops up.

Therbs puts forth...

Posted Wednesday

Never ever google trolls.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
I don't know if this helps or is what you are looking for, but you can find Blunts going back four years:

http://www.smh.com.au/execute_search.html?offset=1220&text=blunt+instrument&ss=Comment

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted Wednesday
This might be the same thing, but I can't be sure. It shows Blunties going back as far as 2007:

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/execute_search.html?offset=1180&text=blunt+instrument&ss=Federal+Politics

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
I remember one Bounders Club member went by the name of Man Clumsy. A striking and vivacious young lad as I recall.

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Wednesday
That must have been a while back. Poor old Man Clumsy was just complaining the other day that sh- er, he would have been off to schoolies in the year the current crop was born.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted Wednesday
http://blogs.brisbanetimes.com.au/bluntinstrument/archives/2009/05/post_26.html

http://blogs.brisbanetimes.com.au/bluntinstrument/archives/2008/09/from_the_minute.html

http://blogs.brisbanetimes.com.au/bluntinstrument/archives/2009/05/

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/blunt-instrument/those-flaunted-mammaries-just-will-not-do-20130123-2d7r3.html


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NBlob asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Anything that features the above relic is deeply unfunny. Like my (nurse) daughter's Ebola joke; you probably won't get it.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
There was the EGM of the Bounder's where Serge had redecorated with distressed Baltic Pine.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted Wednesday
Yes damn it. Where the hell is that one?

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Quokka mutters...

Posted Thursday
Try http:/JBisonholiday/NowhereBlob/Houseparty/JellyCrystals

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Caitlin Monroe character bio

Posted Monday into Books by John Birmingham

I was organizing my work files when I came across a series of character work ups for The Disappearance series. Tusk Musso was in there, still carrying all of the baggage we loaded him up with in that 'Build Me a Marine' entry back at JSpace.

And Caitlin. My beloved Caitlin. It was fascinating to read the bio I wrote her before I wrote even a single word of Without Warning. Before I got anywhere near that first line:

The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers.

In my early planning she was more of a 'bionic woman' type, loaded up with inserts and biomods. I stripped all that out, along with a lot of the family history you see here. Her father and siblings, you might remember were much more conventional. Nonetheless, whenever I needed to understand how she might respond to an extreme situation, such as her imprisonment and sexual assault by al Banna, I would return to this document and read it through.

Reading it now makes me want to go back to that series:

Caitlyn awakes in a hospital bed in Paris. She has been taken there along with other protesters who were set up. She sustained a head injury and was scanned. A lesion appears to have formed on her hippocampus, leading to memory problems. The lesion is not related to her head injury.

Name: Caitlyn Monroe

DOB: Sept 1. 1976

Current Appearance: Blonde hair. Grey/green eyes. 5"9. 71kg. Surfer's physique. Long, well muscled legs, unusually powerful arms and shoulders. Calloused hands and sides of feet. Some scarring on left upper thigh. Lower back. Old entry and exit wound right shoulder. Some faded, old defensive scarring on her forearms. Small chip set scar within larger scar tissue mass. She moves with a low centre of gravity and a noticeably feline flow of her limbs. Her resting state is still, almost unnaturally so.

Parents: Father Unknown. Mother. Tamsyn Ozorio. Monroe's mother, a Honolulu hotel cleaner died during childbirth. Turned out by her Brethren family for having sex as a teenager, she won a trip to Hawaii in a Wal-Mart store promotion and stayed there. With no known relatives willing to claim the baby, Monroe became a ward of the state. She was fostered out to a series of homes, staying in none longer than six months. She was a problem child and many of the homes were themselves problematic. At the age of six she was 'adopted' by Echelon and raised by them to become a weapon. She had carers and tutors rather than parents, but the Echelon staff were kind and, with four other Echelon babies, they became her family.

The Echelon Parents, Monroe Cohort: Mary Jane Monroe. 'Mother'. DOB Jul 25, 1970. US Army Lt-Colonel. Psychologist. 'Father' Dave Monroe. US Navy Commander. Psychologist.

Echelon children, Monroe Cohort: Michael, born Aug 2 1996(actual); James. born Feb 3 1998 (actual). Trish. born March 12 1997 (actual). Julianne. born October 3 2000 (actual).

The Echelon Program.

First mooted in the late 1990s, but not activated until late 2002, the Echelon Program took a small number of state wards from a young age and 'adopted' them into Echelon families. They were to be raised, as the children of Sparta were once raised, to be weapons. In their early years the Monroe Family were 'home schooled' near two military bases where Dave Monroe worked as an Army psyops specialist. The Monroe children grew up around the children of other military personnel, forming friendships with them, playing with them, leading otherwise normal lives. They were told from an early age that they were adopted, explaining their age cross overs and physical dissimilarities. James and Julianne, for instance were olive skinned and dark haired, where Caitlyn blonde and fair.

In addition to their normal schooling however, they received much additional tuition. Firstly in foreign languages. After school, five days a week, tutors would train them in Arabic (Mondays), Chinese (Tuesdays), Spanish (Wednesdays), Russian (Thursdays), French (Fridays). On Saturdays all conversation took place in one of those languages, on a rotating basis. When the children started high school, German and Japanese were added to their curriculum.

They also received intense physical training, although it was never sold to them as 'training'. They were simply raised to believe that everyone should play a lot of sport. Their sports included swimming, cross country orienteering, martial arts, gymnastics, pistol and rifle shooting. From as early as they could recall, their father and his army friends would take all of the children hunting. They were encouraged to stalk, kill, and butcher their prey. Occasionally they even traveled overseas to hunt. Foxes in England. Wild boar in Australia. Bears in Canada. One these trips they would occasionally meet other Echelon children, often described as 'cousins' with very similar backgrounds and skills to their own. Caitlyn had a winter hat made out of white seal fur from a pup she had clubbed and stripped herself on one such trip.

As the children grew they came to socialise increasingly with their 'cousins' and less and less frequently with anyone else. Their training became harder and more dangerous. Their academic lessons more challenging. From the age of ten, they began formal instruction in civics, with an emphasis on the idea of public service. At fifteen they were told the meaning of their lives and what was intended for them. They were shown a video of the Twin Towers attack, and later atrocities. They were asked if they wanted to help stop that sort of thing ever happening again. Of course they did. Their conditioning was akin to that of a suicide bomber, but it was life long and conducted with the full resources of a hyper power, and under the tutelage of psyops experts. From the age of sixteen to nineteen the Echelon children undertook the equivalent of an undergrad degree in espionage. They were assessed and their various strengths analysed by the programs administrators. In spite of their unusual upbringing the children, or young adults by now, were not automatons. They were individuals with their own foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Their controllers gradually came to assign them different roles based on their individual talents and inclinations.

Caitlyn Monroe stood out for a number of reasons. She was unusually intelligent, with a tendency to grow bored if not continually challenged. She had been accelerated at least eighteen months ahead of her age cohort in the Echelon academic program because of this. Program controllers speculated that her unknown father may have been the source of her academic abilities. She had a natural acuity for languages beyond even the norm in the Echelon cohort, which was itself a statistical outlier because of the way the children had been trained so intensively in languages from an early age.

She was off the scale in a number of physical indicators. Again, the Echelon children were stronger, faster and had much grater endurance than the norm, because of their life long training. But within this group, Caitlyn also stood out. Her strength, her fast twitch musculature, her cardio vascular health, her eye hand coordination, pain thresholds etc were all significantly greater than her peers. She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

Psychologically she returned high scores along both empathic and competitive axes of personality matrices from an early age. In sports and games she exhibited high drives towards dominating opponents, but without objectifying them. Indeed, as she grew older, her ability to empathise with opponents became an advantage she deployed with great effect. Whether playing chess, paintball or judo, she was better able to 'read' an opponent than anyone else in the progam. In later role playing exercises, she demonstrated a unusual willingness and ability to blend into any group, to establish trust, and to betray it, without a qualm if necessary.

She was emotionally self-contained, not nearly as giving as her 'bothers and sisters', and not needing physical or emotional contact to the same extent. Nevertheless, her empathic nature allowed her to understand others needs in this regard, and although she was naturally happiest with her own company, she was able to 'swtich on' with friends, family members, targets etc.

At the end of her 'undergrad' period she was allocated to a specialist training cadre for assassins.

Job: Killer. Caitlyn Monroe is an employee of the Office of Special Clearances and Research (OSCAR), an executive unit of the Echelon Program. Her pay and conditions are equivalent to a US Ambassador. She specialises in deep penetration and multiple target preperation. Rather than individual targets, she is assigned to target clusters, such as independent cells or leadership cadres. She penetrates the target group, gains their trust, and sets them up for sanction by OSCAR. Her operations are deniable. She sets up cells to be wiped out by rival factions. Money handlers can be sold out to criminal interests. Recruiters from radical mosques set upon by neofascist street thugs. Sometimes however, she is required to take direct action herself, and on those occasions she will simply 'disappear' entire clusters. Killing them all and organising for disposal.

Home: Her only home is in the Echelon reserve, five thousand acres of woodland in northern California, at the centre of which is a small compound a little like Camp David where the Echelon cohorts can gather for family events. Other than that she moves from one safe house to the next, or lives wherever her 'cover' might take her.

Interests: Caitlyn surfs, a legacy of her time in California. She keeps three short boards at the compound and when on vacation (six weeks a year) travels to surf breaks with her brother Michael. She has an extensive memorystick library of surfing videos, going right back to Endless Summer and OSCAR subscribes to three surfing magazines on her behalf. She wants desperately to take on the big wave riders at Mavericks etc, but is restrained from doing so by OSCAR, because very few women have ever ridden those breaks, and she would quickly find herself on the cover of half the surfing mags in the world if she did.

She cooks. As part of her language training, she was frequently exposed to the cuisines of the country's whose languages she was learning. She took French cooking lessons in French. She worked as a kitchen hand in an Italian restaurant. Through learning about the cuisines she also learned about the histories and culture of the subject countries. She can relax when cooking and at family gatherings she has become the kitchen boss, taking over from her father, Dave. Mary-Jane was a woeful cook. The children's meals were often prepared by their language tutors, as part of the training.

Fears: Abandonment. Does this gel with her self contained lonesomeness? Or does it explain it? Perhaps she cuts herself off as an insulation against abandonment.

In her early years in the program both tendencies were noted. Caitlyn was content to be on her own, and spent much of her free time reading or playing by herself. But twice, when she thought she had been lost by the family she displayed neither fear, nor paralysis, but rage. Observed by program analysts, she was later questioned about the incidents, one at shopping mall, the other at a fair ground. They concluded that in fact she had suffered an intense fear reaction to being 'lost', but had referred the emotion into a furious rage. All of the Echelon children display understandable sensitivity to abandonment issues, but when tested most of them exhibited normal 'fear' responses, rather than intense anger.

Prejudices: No known prejudices. The Echelon children were raised to judge people and situations on the merits.

Desires: Autonomy. Like all of the Echelon cohort, Caitlyn has a strong desire to please her adoptive mother and father, a programmed urge which was later transferred to her controllers, without lessening any attachment he felt to her parents. Unlike her siblings and other Echelon cohorts in both the US and partner countries, Caitlyn displayed a notable desire for personal autonomy from her earliest days in the program. Translated into adult behavior this manifested itself in such mundane ways as a stated preference for living alone during her college years, and individual leisure activities such as surfing. More significantly she tested high for an ability to work alone, under extreme duress, as long as she had confidence in her controllers.

Attitudes: Caitlyn consider 99% of men to be undate-able, but acknowledges that she herself falls into this category. She has an almost naïve faith in the idea of one true love, but a realistic appraisal of the chances of meeting him. About three billion to one.

She hates commercial television, but loves romantic comedies and maintains a large collection of them on stick.

She reads cookbooks, popular histories and biography.

She hates exercise classes but loves training on her own in a gym.

Her favorite city is Florence.

Her favorite season is autumn.

She loves airport lounges because there’s nothing to do but relax and wait.

Her favorite snack is coffee and a Spanish donut, which she indulges in once a month.

Otherwise she tries to eat only organic foods when not on a job.

She has a contraceptive subdermal insert.

She hates cigarette smoke, but quite likes the smell of pipe tobacco.

She does not vote.

When at home with her family she likes to play board games and cards.

She describes her religion as frisbeetarian, but she is quietly Catholic, mostly non-practicing.

Her room at the compound still contains many of her childhood toys and she is prone to tantrums if it is disturbed while she is away.

Friends: Caitlyn has no friends outside of Echelon. She surfs with an Australian girl, from another Ecehlon cohort. And when in London she always catches up with a financial analyst, another woman, from the UK program. She has no close male friends among her contemporaries, but her unarmed combat instructor, a former marine, is something akin to a favorite uncle. Now retired, he lives in Florida, and she sends him emails and cards via Echelon. He is a friend of her fathers and sometimes travels out to the compound for holidays. A football fan, she has taken him to a couple of games, including a rugby world cup in France in which the American team was beaten 113 to 6 by Scotland.

Enemies: Her enemies are mostly dead.

25 Responses to ‘Caitlin Monroe character bio’

Drew from OZ ducks in to say...

Posted Monday
"Her enemies are mostly dead." lol.

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Sparty has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
Hits home on what Echelon was really about, which to some degree had to play second fiddle to the main MacGuffin - I'd be interested to read a pre - disappearance novel.

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DarrenBloomfield asserts...

Posted Monday
So, now we can explain Jacqui Lambie.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted Monday
Wiki entries on Birmoverses. Birmopedia sideline. What this sort of detail shows is what sits behind the books, and that's just one character. A great example for those who want to make a series work.

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sibeen mutters...

Posted Monday
She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

I suspect you're jumping the shark with that one a tad, even for a novel.

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Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted Monday
Wife and friend just returned from a talk from Robin Hobb which included some technique. Interesting points of similarity - detailed bios of characters, chapters to clarify characters etc. Apparently Fitz (if anyone reads Hobb) has a whole life story, far beyond what will ever appear in the books. The stories are something that happens to him during a part of that life. Odd coincidence with this topic tonight but innerstring.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted Monday
I can see them having an apartment near Monterey, California where the Defense Language Institute is set up. That would account for Caitlin's language training. I wouldn't be surprised if some of her swimming and mil grade skills actually come from the Navy SEAL community, they'd be better suited for some of that work.

As for Northern California, I bet in addition to surfing Caitlin probably enjoys skiing, particularly on Mount Shasta. Having spent some time there with Cindy I have to say there is some pretty interesting terrain there.

I gotta say, I think her martial arts training in Japan, which we saw in Angels of Vengeance, was far more brutal than anything the military could have doled out. As a reader, I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to find that some of her killing skills came from a place other than a standard military organization.

That might also be down to the fact that aside from a month of Tae Kwon Doe and another month of Karate, I don't know martial arts.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted Tuesday
Funny thing is, that detail about her having studied old school Aikido in Japan isn't in the character profile. It came to me later after I read Damon Young's Philosophy and the Martial Arts.

Murphy reckons...

Posted Tuesday
And the best part is that your bio didn't become a strait jacket.

I definitely think there is something to be said for improvisation.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Chicom Mick is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
A very interesting read JB. It gives her character even more depth just reading the above details. It's a bio worth revisiting.

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JohnT has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
That was really insightful JB. Man expands Echelon in a way I never suspected and really gives insight into Caitlyn. I also like this idea of fleshing out characters for stories. Thanks for the behind the scenes look.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Tuesday
Damn, that was fun.

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Dirk ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
Well Murph try googling Sambo or KravMaga and you get a taste.

So three Hoopers and 2 Hooper ebooks in the pipeline and a Hammer.
Wanna do a releasedate agenda for those, JB?

sibeen asserts...

Posted Tuesday
Dirk, could you please do the same for when your next Night Beast is out.

Murphy puts forth...

Posted Tuesday
Yeah, Dirk. I was taking that Karate class about the same time John got his forearm split in two. He has better medical care so at the end of the day he got better.

I, on the other hand, had a bit of ankle trouble during that class and decided that forty was not the time to be trying out Karate. They tend to amputate first and ask questions later at the VA.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Surtac mumbles...

Posted Tuesday


A nice dose of nostalgia - thanks John. I think I now know what to re-read over the Christmas break (after Dave volume 1 of course ...)

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Peter Bradley puts forth...

Posted Tuesday
Excellent! But more interesting for me was the contrast between what was there and the back story I had in my head built from what we found out in the books.

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Blake has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
Ive often wondered if Frank Herbert (Dune) did the same thing, it always felt to me like he'd invested considerable effort to build this amazing sandbox full of intricately detailed support characters, most of whom are dead or sidelined by half way through the book.

I was never a huge fan of the next few books because i didnt really get into the narrative without the depth the original cast gave. Eventually he does bring them back and tell some stories i engaged more with so i wonder if he too felt invested in the charecters enough that he had writers guilt for killing them.



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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
You know what we need next?

Milosz!

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

spankee reckons...

Posted Tuesday
Milosz's bio read by Milosz:
"I am always interesting in hear myself talk.."

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted Tuesday
Yes to Milosz! He rocks :)

tqft would have you know...

Posted Wednesday
Yes Polish

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted Tuesday
Spanish doughnut? oh you mean a churro!!!!!

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pilgrim3 has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
Thank you,just ordered Without Warning at my library.

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tarl reckons...

Posted Thursday
Minor comment about the "parents". Specifying a rank for a U.S. officer (Lt. Col., CMDR) which lasts for the duration of a childhood isn't viable - an officer gets promoted every 4 years or so, or leaves the service. For something like Echelon, if you were going to use officers, they'd start 3-4 ranks below what they would be when the child graduated. Assuming they didn't get squeezed out as the promotion tree grew narrower.

It's also unlikely you'd have command-line officers in what is basically a technical M.O.S. Maybe warrant officers, who actually will have a rank which stays with the job for a decade at a time. Or retired officers who are working as civilian contractors.

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The Secret Life of Passwords

Posted Sunday into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Really lovely and thoughtful piece in the NYT about the way our passwords "take on secret lives". It's a great Sunday read.

Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

Perhaps my biggest surprise has been how willing, eager actually, people are to openly discuss their keepsakes. The friends I queried forwarded my request, and before long I started receiving passwords from complete strangers. There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).

21 Responses to ‘The Secret Life of Passwords’

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w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Sunday
Yep, so true.
For a 4 digit pin, I mainly use my mate's pin he told me 20 years ago because it is a mildly amusing pun.

And, the secrecy! Write them down. Perhaps put them on post-it stickers on your computer (semi-joke). Because password crackers don't generally find out your password by breaking into your house.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted Monday
I use two methods for choosing computer passwords. I choose randomly chosen automobile license plate numbers (e.g. 367ULK - taken from the license plate of a Toyota I was stuck behind on California Hwy 395 somewhere near Susanville). Or I do it the way the International Dada Committee chooses the date for their conferences (by randomly drawing pieces of paper showing numbers and (letters and sometimes symbols, depending on the host's requirements) from a box or bag.

Any password with any kind of meaning designed to allow fast recollection can potentially be sussed out.

tarl ducks in to say...

Posted Monday
If you're worried about someone sussing out your passwords, remember that rubber hose cryptanalysis almost always works.

The goal of a password is making it harder for someone to pretend they are you while not making your own life hell. So you want something you can remember relatively easily, you can touch-type accurately frequently (without having to mumble it), but brute-force crackers won't trip over. That generally means long sequences of words, and an increasing number of applications are allowing that. When you see a password limited to eight characters, it indicates either an obsolete program or an obsolete programmer.

The requirements for mixed case, numbers, non-alphabetics, etc. actually reduce security because they increase the odds someone will put them on a yellow sticky. And with people having to type passwords on iPhones and the like, shifting and selecting numbers have gotten much more painful than typing extra characters.

And let's not get into multinational keyboards screwing around with where the non-alphabetics are - the keyboard you are forced to use isn't necessarily the one you are used to, and the labels on the keys don't necessarily match what the computer interprets the keys as.

insomniac puts forth...

Posted Tuesday
In NZ we all use pun numbers

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
Choice, bro!

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted Monday
I reuse my qwerty password on a lot of sites but figure I'm way too unimportant for anyone to be interested in me, or assume my inconsequential identity.

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Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Monday
I generally pick something from a book I'm reading, a film I've just seen etc - we have to change them regularly at work, so keeping just one wouldn't work. Having said that, my e-mail password (picked on the same principle) doesn't change and it's become my standard 'go to' password for a lot of things over the past several years.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted Monday

Marx Brothers had passwords sorted out.

<DL> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: ...you can't come in unless you give the password.</DD> <DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Well, what is the password?</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, no. You gotta tell me. Hey, I tell what I do. I give you three guesses. It's the name of a fish.</DD> <DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Is it "Mary?"</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: [laughing] 'At's-a no fish!</DD> <DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: She isn't? Well, she drinks like one! ...Let me see... Is it "Sturgeon"?</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, you-a craze. A "sturgeon", he's a doctor cuts you open when-a you sick. Now I give you one more chance.</DD> <DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: I got it! "Haddock".</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: 'At's a-funny, I got a "haddock" too.</DD> <DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: What do you take for a "haddock"?</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.</DD> <DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: Y'know, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it. [Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens peephole again.] Hey, what's-a matter, you no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say, "Swordfish." Now I'll give you one more guess.</DD> <DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: ...swordfish, swordfish... I think I got it. Is it "swordfish"?</DD> <DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Hah. That's-a it. You guess it.</DD> <DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Pretty good, eh?</DD></DL>

Harpo Marx ("Pinky"), whose characters operated only in pantomime, gets into the speakeasy by pulling a sword and a fish out of his trench coat and showing them to the doorman.

Marx Bros - "Horsefeathers"

Halwes puts forth...

Posted Monday
I watched a lot of marx brothers when I was a kid but have only recently switched on to the incredible dialogue. I think it was the slapstick that must have attracted me when I was young but, reading some of these scripts now, these blokes were incisive social commentators and comic geniuses.

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Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted Monday
Nice piece, even if it gave me flashbacks. I used to run a couple of networks on the same site, one with about 1500 users, the other only 150. But about 1350 users were teenagers and of the rest, some had grown up with computers as walls of flashing lights in movies they probably didn't like anyway. Security was, as they say, an "issue". There was the adult who argued that he should be allowed to use "password" for every login and never, ever change it. Another claimed to forget so often that eventually her HOD asked for it to be made permanent and semi-public. Kids of course swap passwords faster than STDs which not only allowed file-swapping but plausible denial of the contents of their home drives. Every problem had a technical solution, most of which we set up in advance but the human factor gets you every time - i.e. your boss says cut back on security to "make life easier". Still, at least his default password was m3g@cactus - because he was such a prick. Gaaah! It's all coming back. Is it too early to start drinking?

Therbs puts forth...

Posted Monday
I found vodka with a couple of fingers of apple and mango juice, on ice, topped with soda water is quite the refreshing beverage to cope with bad memories and regret..

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Blarkon puts forth...

Posted Monday
This is why people farking hat being forced to change their passwords regularly.

Blarkon mutters...

Posted Monday
s/hat/hate

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted Monday
Yeah. We all hate having to keep changing passwords.
I particularly hate it when my password change fails, with the message, "C'mon pal. You have to do more than just change the number at the end."
What! But that is my brilliant strategy. I don't have a Plan B.

Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted Monday
Yer all users, that's what. Users! (runs MONDAY script forcing everyone reading this blog to change their passwords. ALL OF THEMMMM)

Blarkon mumbles...

Posted Monday
People most likely to not change passwords are those with the most sensitive accounts. The same people who configure service accounts with admin privileges and use the same non-expiring default password for every service account.

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spokenoise puts forth...

Posted Monday
Man I hate the 'One capital, one number and eight letters' push for non sequenced individual passwords. I can never remember them and constantly need to re change them and then I'm never sure what password is for what site, bank or service.

For me the next killer app is whatever solves this.

Also, no facebook I do not want to sign into everything using facebook.

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John from Canberra mumbles...

Posted Monday
Guessable passwords are a security problem but the bots we need to worry about are probably not (yet) going to be hitting us with social engineering attacks.

So the question becomes "how many goes do they need to brute force it?"

Blarkon mutters...

Posted Monday
Actually at this point brute forcing passwords is straightforward. Throw Hashcat at a hashed password table.

Security needs to be configured to lock out accounts after a number of invalid attempts - that reduces the chance a brute force attack will be successful.

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Luke is gonna tell you...

Posted Yesterday
Wow, I like the article and your coverage. I have digged more and found another coverage by Sticky Password

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Ursula K Le Guin serving up some smackdown

Posted November 21 into Books by John Birmingham

I saw Le G had been gonged this week for contributuions to American Letters, and that she'd given some sort of kick arse acceptance speech. But I didn't realise how kick arse until I read it.

She gives Amazon a kicking, champions SF and Fantasy writing, and makes you think you really wouldn't want to go up against her in a dark alley without a lot of fire support:

Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. It’s name is freedom.

Thank you.

17 Responses to ‘Ursula K Le Guin serving up some smackdown’

Buck would have you know...

Posted November 21
Fantastic stuff. The world and publishing both need more voices like Le Guin's.

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Naut would have you know...

Posted November 21

Nice sentiment and all, but publishers aren't in just for the fun of it. They can be generous about art once they have a squillion dollars.

Surely in this digital age it is much cheaper and easier to self-publish an e-book and reach a wider market for your niche product than ever before?

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted November 21

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"Books, you know, they’re not just commodities" and there I think you can in a single question divide all those who come to this discussion and what sort of world they would shape if their view comes ascendant.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></font></font>

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted November 21

"Books, you know, they’re not just commodities" and there I think you can in a single question divide all those who come to this discussion and what sort of world they would shape if their view comes ascendant.

Comment now with less formating cues

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Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted November 21


Thanks for giving us the whole thing John. I watched this explode on my twitter feed yesterday arvo and it was obvious she'd touched a nerve. Every single response I saw was in full support.

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Naut would have you know...

Posted November 21

I disagree Barnesm, I don't see books as JUST commodities. But I also don't think corporations can be forced to invest into something just because someone has defined it as "Art".

If Ursula is so concerned, why doesn't she set up an alternative? How is she going to determine what is art?

If the retailers are behaving unreasonably then set-up a writer's union and take your product elsewhere. Find a business partner that is willing to take a risk and leverage the art angle.

The speech strikes me as taking the high moral ground without offering solutions or offering to be part of the solution.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 21
"I don't see books as JUST commodities. But I also don't think corporations can be forced to invest into something just because someone has defined it as "Art" never thought they should.

Naut mutters...

Posted November 21
Ok, so what do you think?

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted Saturday
What do you mean, I think a lot of things.


Naut reckons...

Posted Tuesday
Very true and I suspect you think a lot more things than I.

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ShaneAlpha mumbles...

Posted November 21
Look just submit already.

You know that you are desperate to read that new series by that well known author "Dave Hooper fights monsters" sponsored by Amazon and Pepsi. See if you can pick the subtle product placement. Marvel at the brilliant wordplay as Amazon and Pepsi are both mentioned in every paragraph. (as legally required).

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JBtoo ducks in to say...

Posted November 21
She is awesome

Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 21
Agreed.

Respect.

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Abe Frellman reckons...

Posted Saturday
I've read 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas' as part of a course in ethical leadership and the 'good society'. Indeed it bookended the course, and how your perspective on the story changes after doing the course is used as a tool to see how far you have moved away from any 'utilitarian priors'.

Worth the read.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted Saturday
I can still remember the joy and shock of reading "The Dispossessed"

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Mordwa ducks in to say...

Posted Saturday
Consider me a dunderhead (many do!), but where is the smack down? Art and commerce nearly alway clash; I naively believe that clash is irrelevant as long as the art is good. Or to put it another way; is it more important to be good or popular? And *how much* more important? If "art" is the goal, how much does the money... matter?

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Sweet Jane Says puts forth...

Posted Monday
Careful, Birmingham, you're supporting a liberal cause for art to be used to progress the ideas of freedom. Her words stand against art becoming captive to capitalism and she hopes for the human right to be free of fear.
A lot of Australians under Abbot understand her wish for a future where freedom is not only remembered - it is advanced.

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