Monday, 31 October 2016

The day I didn't go postal

Hi everyone,

Another sunny couple of days here.  Sunday went well, although it started out with heavy clouds and a few showers of rain.  This cleared, but the day was left with a strong wind from the north that whipped up a lot of dust.  Former-brother-in-law arrived mid-morning, and around midday I had a long skype with Grace and Rachel.  They're doing great and were excited for Halloween.  Grace will be a Shopkin and Rachel will be a little skeleton (as we skyped she was dressing up and pretending to be British rocker Izzy Bella!).  Love my girls.

Farm work in the afternoon, after which I got a short ride in.  I can tell you it wasn't easy fighting the headwind, or even the sidewind.  Still, it was good to get out there and burn some calories.  I'm only disappointed I didn't notice I was on 10.99kms when I got back - I would have peddled in a circle till it was 11kms exactly!  I kept the fitness theme going later in the evening with some weights, stretching and core work.  The rest of my life is going to pot, but I can still control how I look.

Today has been a sunny day with cool air.  In the morning we installed some new panels in the yards, and then got a steer with a jaw abcess in so that the vet could lance it (and boy, did it need lancing).  I caught some of the Cowboys-Eagles game over lunch and then headed out for more farm work putting the stock crate on the truck and fitting the hay mower to the Fordson. 

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

The bit of the day that was a downer was a letter from Tatura post office advising that I didn't get the job there.  Sure, it wasn't a great job, but the simple truth is it was work and that's a little hard to come by at present.  You know you're getting desperate when this -

- stops seeming stupid and unrealistic and merely seems impractical and inconvenient.  I know one has to press on, but at the moment it seems like I'm simply repeating the same actions over and over and (logically enough) getting the same lack of results.

Nothing more to note.  Not sure what tomorrow will throw up but hopefully it all stays quiet.

How's your week starting?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Show us your Kits: The first aid edition

Hi everyone,
A few months ago I wrote about the contents of my SES kitbag.  This post is a second chapter in "showing us your kits".
In the boot of my car I have my first aid bag.  I decided to build my own first aid bag rather than buy a pre-made one from St John Ambulance or Red Cross.  It enables me to customise it to injuries I think I'm likely to encounter.  More importantly, it was cheaper.  So, what do I have?
The first item is the bag itself.  Yes, it's in camouflage colours, and yes, it does say "NRA".  It came free with renewing my membership of the National Rifle Association.
The first bundle of items in the bag are cotton balls and cotton tips for wound care.  Along wth them is a triangular bandage for use as a sling, in binding limbs following snakebite, and as a general bandage.  I also have fabric and plastic bandaids, and a box of rubber gloves (they were cheaper than non-latex gloves; economics requires me to hope that I won't have to treat someone with a latex allergy).
I found that take away containers are ideal for packing things that are prone to leak or burst, and they'll also double as dishes for antiseptic and other fluids.  In this one I've stored a bottle of antiseptic and a pack of antibacterial wipes.
The next bundle contains a 1 litre bottle of methylated spirits.  "Metho" has a range of uses - it's a brutal but effective antiseptic, it can light a fire (if you're careful), and it eases insect bites.  In the same bundle I have another triangular bandage, two instant icepacks, and an empty water bottle (I'll be the first to admit that it's there under the "it'll come in handy" principle).
The next bundle is a tape measure, antibacterial soap, paper tape and a torch.
Another take-away container contains medication: Hirudoid cream (for treating bruising), antiseptic cream (use is fairly obvious), hand sanitiser, and boxes of paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen.  This box also contains a crepe bandage, safety pins, tongue depressers and a penknife.
Towards the bottom of the bag is a candle in a sealable jar and a cigarette lighter (as a last-ditch source of light, and as a source of fire).  There are also pliers and snips of various types for dealing with embedded objects.  In general, embedded objects should be left in place to avoid causing further injury or bleeding.  However, cutting an object back may be necessary for casualty comfort, and removing fishhooks is likely to require pliers.  The rolls of clingwrap and aluminium foil are for sealing wounds against contaminants, especially burns or anything where a significant amount of skin has been removed.  n addition, clingwrap can be used to treat open chest wounds: a patch of clingwrap is taped on three sides over the wound, creating a kind of one-way valve.
At the side of the bag in a stiff envelope are two large non-adherent dressings, as well as the American Red Cross guide to wilderness and remote first aid.  I also carry a copy of the Australian first aid text book, and a 24 pack of AAA batteries.
In one of the end pockets of the bag are some general emergency resources: scissors, insect repellent, caffeine tablets, a bushfire awareness card, a bible, a notebook and a sealable tin.
In the other end pocket are some further general resources: some rather crappy field glasses, a solar- and wind up-powered radio, a cooling bandana, duct tape, a plastic rain poncho and a biro.
On the to-buy list for me are a couple of military-issue trauma bandages, which have fittings which allow them to be fastened firmly in place on an injury, and also a tourniquet (these are coming back into acceptance for preventing catastrophic blood loss).  I should also buy (don't laugh) a box of tampons, as these are recommended for managing puncture wounds where the object is not embedded in place.
So there you have it.  Do you carry any first aid gear with you?  Or any other emergency items? What do you have?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Akhenaten and Bicycles

Hi everyone,

Reasonably quiet day here in my world.  I was up later than planned, at 0830.  Breakfast as usual, and then took the dog for his walk.  Sadly, he wanted to walk through one of the swampier parts of the farm, so I came back with a bunch of mosquito bites.  When I got back I cut up the vegetables for tonight's kai si mein, and then as nothing else was needed kicked back for a bit with some coffee and a book.

I've been reading Immanuel Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos on and off for a month or two.  It's heavy going, and I wasn't encouraged to persevere by Velikovsky's reputation as a fringe theorist among fringe theorists.  Today I said 'sod it' and decided to flip through the bits on Akhenaten (which genuinely does interest me) and call it a day.  It's probably enough to say that this book really isn't worth your time.  The basic argument is that somehow (I didn't pick up how) the accepted chronology of ancient Egypt includes a non-existent 600 year period.  This is why the histories of Egypt and of the Jewish people don't match up. I had a hard time following how Velikovsky was making this point, although that may reflect the stop-start way I read it.  He certainly seemed to follow the approach of most fringe theorists (Erich von Daniken and Gavin Menzies are also offenders) of declaring that because a piece of evidence might conceivably demonstrate such-and-such, it proves such-and-such.  It's not helped by Velikovsky's nondescript prose style which does nothing to hold the reader's interest.  If it were half the length and tightly written it would be a diverting argument, but as it stands it's really a book for experts in ancient near-Eastern history, and experts in ancient near-Eastern history have uniformly said it's drivel.

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

In the afternoon I decided it was well past time for my bike to be put back to work, so I got it out of the shed, checked the tires, wiped off the dust and put some oil on the chain and gears.  My legs weren't really up to a run, but they were happy to push pedals on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  I'd only planned on about 8kms but instead went about twenty because it was a beautiful day (Runkeeper stopped for a while and only counted 17kms).  As I pedalled along I did find myself thinking - couldn't you guess? - about how bikes could be used in emergency response work.  They've been used by the military in the past, after all.  And one of the old civil defence manuals I have recommends them for carrying messages in a post-atomic-bomb city.

Italian soldiers before World War I with
folding bicycles strapped to their backs.
Image from here

I found that it was an idea that sounded good right up until it needed to be applied.  Clearly, they would be useless for road rescue unless one were using nothing but hand tools and manual hydraulics.  By contrast, a 4WD can carry a hydraulic pump and rescue tools, and almost by definition the accident would be reachable by motor vehicle.  Storm damage would fare little better.  Yes, one could carry a chainsaw, rooftop safety gear, empty sandbags and plastic sheeting by bicycle, but it's not easy to imagine circumstances where an emergency response was required where a motor vehicle wouldn't work better (perhaps an extremely remote house, although someone who chooses to live so remotely is by definition unlikely to call the SES to manage storm damage.  The only application I could readily think of was use in land searches or remote area work where speed rather than thoroughness would give them an edge over crews on foot; even then it doesn't take much to see additional problems (like the risk of injury).  So much, then, for bicycles as an emergency response resource.

Not much more to note on today.  I think former-brother-in-law is coming up for the long weekend.  This will make Dad happy at least.

Hope your weekends are starting out well.

Friday, 28 October 2016

... and I'm running again.

Hi everyone,

Quick update from here on a Friday evening.

It hasn't been as exciting a couple of days as one might have thought.  Wednesday I took the maternal unit in to the hospital for an appointment.  In the afternoon I finally bit the bullet and started counting calories again.  I haven't gotten badly fat, but I've certainly gone downhill.  That has to stop: everything in my life might be going to pot, but I want to stay in control of what I can.  Naturally I finished the day out with a run.  Far slower than my usual pace but I have to start somewhere.

Thursday was a day that was heavy on the buildup.  I typed the minutes of the Unit Management Team meeting earlier this week, along with some notes for the unit meeting before training that night.  I wasn't going to be there myself, as I was booked to go over to Benalla for a meeting of the Controllers in our area.  It went well and productively, although partway through the evening I started getting messages that two of the more senior members had been bickering ferociously over some minor issue.  These are the difficulties of leading people of strong character: every so often disagreements take on a life of their own.  I've hosed it down today as best I was able (I suspect not terribly well) and I'll let it go a couple of days before I start trying to sort the root issue out - that'll leave people enough time to cool down and engage in a little mature re-evaluation.

On a related note, I think I've got time for one further bit of volunteering in my life and I'm seeing what's available.  I was interested in the Coastguard, but the nearest flotilla is an inland one and 90 minutes away.  Suggestions?

Today was another day on the move.  Long walk for the dog, and then a little quality time with the computer to report to Centrelink and look for jobs (insert bitter laughter here).  I went in to Shepparton in the afternoon to run a few errands and pick up a copy of today's Shepp. News (which has the job ads in it).  Out for another run in the late afternoon.  I only meant to go about 8kms and wound up going a bit further.

I'm not sure how this weekend will go.  It's a de facto four day weekend, with Cup Day coming up.  Lord knows if this means we'll be getting rescue callouts.

Not much more to add at this point.  Time to post this and call it a night I think.

Hope your days are going well.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Review: Antony Beevor,The Fall of Berlin 1945 (Penuin: New York 2003)

Hi everyone,

Yesteray I finished reading Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945.  I think it took about 6 days for me to go through, which says a lot about Beevor's ability to keep the account moving while describing the multiple viewpoints involved.  He shifts fairly effortlessly from the German and Soviet frontlines, to the stavka and the Reichstag, and to the broader international picture (especially Yalta) inasmuch as it related to the fall of Berlin.

Image from here

The book is less a history, however, than a 400-odd page indictment of all the belligerents.  I would defy anyone to read it without a sense of outrage.  The Third Reich insisted on prolonging the conflict when it was clear the war was lost, causing utterly needless military and civilian casualties.  The Red Army sank the hospital ship MV Goya, killing over 6000 people (p. 188) and the ocean liner MV Wilhelm Gustloff, killing about 7000 people, mainly civilians (p. 51).  Its soldiers were tacitly permitted to rape about 2,000,000 (yes, two million) German women (p. 410), in an act which would probably now be regarded as an act of genocide*.  And on the Western Front, British and American leaders were almost wilfully blind as to the Soviet Union's plans to absorb parts of Eastern Europe.

It's hard to have much respect for homo sapiens as a species after reading this book, unless you read closely and notice how many people declined to be part of an act of barbarism.  And by that, I don't mean that they emulated the self-righteous folkwho, pre-Iraq War, wore badges saying 'not in my name'.  I have in mind the members of the German Technische Nothilfe, who took on the work of "air raid rescue, general disaster response, and relief work" and who seem to have continued this work well into 1945 (see p.4).

Poster for Technische Nothilfe
Image from here

I also have in mind Soviet General Berzarin, the commandant of Berlin, who directed the Red Army's field kitchens to feed German civilians (pp. 392 and 409).  Cynical and political and an attempt to win hearts and minds?  Almost certainly, but one can't argue that it's better for people to starve when they can eat.

Red Army field kitchen, Berlin, May 1945
Image from here

Beevor also records that the German Red Cross as well as civilian and Bund deutscher Madel nurses continued to provide care through the worst fighting and after the surrender, and even after mass rape at the hands of the Red Army (pp.224, 314, 387 and 393).

Orphaned and homeless German children being led by a nurse
to the Lichterfelde children's home, Berlin 1945.
Image from here

Beevor's book leaves very little in the way of excuses: the battle for Berlin was an exercise in criminal barbarity on all sides.  But if we look close enough, we can still find men and women who in the jaws of Hell demonstated all that is best in human nature.

* cf Prosecutor v Jean-Paul Akayesu, New York Times, 5 September 1998 (Int'l Crim. Trib. for Rwanda, 1998)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Of jobs and plasma

Hi everyone,

It's been a warm day here, and the evening is not cold - I'm able to sit up and type this in a polo shirt.

The morning followed its usual pattern of breakfast, feeding the orphan calf, walking the dog, getting the mail and checking for jobs.  This last has taken on an added level of meaning with the government talking about another welfare crackdown.  I'll have  more to say on this in another post, because I suspect the proposals put forward will actually make it harder for unemployed people (like me) to get any sort of work.  As things stand, I was pleased to see this ad in yesterday's paper and sent off an application in a heartbeat.

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

I spent the afternoon loading the truck for the old boy to take to the other place tomorrow, and then
went into town to the Blood Bank.  As always, it was rewarding.  Sadly, the only volunteer role there is making tea for people who've just donated, which is a bit trivial even for me.  My only other errand in town was to buy a pineapple, since the old boy likes that fruit fresh and Lord knows more fresh fruit won't hurt him.

I've been reading Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945, which seems fairly topical given the current battle for Mosul.  I'll talk about it more when I review it, but something that strikes me is the difficulty of ascribing blame.  On one hand, the Third Reich certainly dragged the war out when it was clear their cause was lost.  I have a vague recollection that this is a breach of the laws of war.  On the other hand, the Red Army's discipline was so lax that one can say they used rape as a weapon, effectively by default; in addition, their handling of prisoners fairly often included executing SS members on the spot.  In which case, perhaps the Wehrmacht was justified in dragging out the war.

This has been on my mind since an apparent proposal that the laws of war be waived in relation to Mosul.  The experience of 1945 says to me that the situation in that city must be chaotic on any measure, with ever increasing circles of crime and reprisal.  The laws of war have value in that context, not because they'll always be enforceable, but simply to make sense of the chaos.

Nuremberg Courtroom
Image from here

Behind every emergency services hero is a family making other plans

Hi everyone,

I saw a good internet meme the other day which said "Behind every emergency services hero is a family making other plans".  I'm not sure if it's like that for police or ambulance officers or professional firefighters, who work in shifts, but it's certainly true for volunteers.  There've been many times when I've bolted out the door in the middle of dinner because my pager has made the squealing noise it makes for a road crash rescue.  And there've been many times when my car's been gone in the morning because of a 3am storm damage callout.

Now, this is OK for me: I share a house with my parents and me being there or gone is no big deal.  And for several members of my unit, turnouts are practically a couples thing: many people join with their wife or boyfriend or housemate.  But for many families, there'd be tales of missed birthdays and ruined dinners and fractured dates because some stranger needed help.

So, all of us who do emergency work - paid or volunteer - let's take a moment and thank our long-suffering families.  They put up with middle-of-the-night callouts, or times when we come home so wound up we're no fun, or when we can't stop talking about this or that job.  I hope we can say what Richard Lovelace said to his mistress on his going to war -
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.
We couldn't love our families like we do, if we didn't love helping others as much we do.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Coffee, Kitten, Cars and Cattle

Hi everyone,
I began this post yesterday by hand with a cup of coffee on a sheet of newspaper.  Blogging by hand!   I was at the Bendigo Show and rather bored.  The old boy wanted to come over to lend support to a member of his cattle breed society in relation to a dispute with a rival society.
I'm here because he wanted to stop off on the way at the Rushworth property and blow up some tyres on machinery there.  I worry about him going to that property on his own because it's remote.  It has basically no mobile phone coverage and there's nobody to help him if he gets into strife.  Anyway, that's how I come to be here in a dining hall drinking obscenely overpriced instant coffee (there is no way Nescafe Blend 43 is worth $3.00 a cup).

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

If I'm honest, at the moment things aren't going so great.  I kind of feel like I'm living life hopping from one good bit to another like a character in Mario Bros.  One good bit, for example, was Thursday.  We were called out to attend a rescue with a difference: a kitten had managed to get stuck inside the wall of a double-brick house.  I'm happy to report that we got Felix out intact.

Thursday night brought SES training.  It was road crash rescue night, which the scenario being a car on its roof.  This one was particularly challenging because the car had been used for training in the past and already had a few cuts in it (which meant its structural integrity was already compromised).  It had also been rained on so the inside was mucky and wet.  There was a lot of loose broken glass inside it.  In short, it was basically the same as operational conditions.  We did pretty well and had Fred-the-Training-Dummy out of the vehicle only about 12 minutes outside of our target time.

Once I'm away from the good bits, however, I go back to being a loser whose life is going nowhere.  Unemployment is hard, y'all.  I'd be less worried about the financial side of things if I didn't need to support Grace and Rachel; I've been too ashamed to skype with them for weeks.  I wasn't born to be a parasite, but I'm hitting such a brick wall with getting a job that for the first time in my life I don't know if I'll ever work again.  Great thing to be saying at the ripe old age of 38, isn't it?  You'll understand why the Pristiq is kind of vital for me at the moment.

Sadly, I'm looking a bit shabby at the moment too.  I haven't been able to run for ages what with the weather and being on call all the time, and I've been eating way too much.  Sleep isn't great because I just wake up tired.  I was kind of shocked to see how old I look in the mirror the other day.
Today I had a chance to redeem myself a bit, drafting up cows and calves for ear tagging, drenching and marking.  It came to about a hundred animals in total, and the calves had never been handled before, so you can guess how much work they were to manage.  There's a corner of the yards where the water pools; after the first 40 animals or so it was a big shin-deep pool of slurry.

Not much more to add that I can think of.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  I don't know what it's going to bring; about the best I can hope for is a callout that has me doing something valuable.  Thank God this is plasma donation week.
Hope all is well with you good people - sorry to be a bit of a Debbie Downer this time!
More tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Peyrou v Nivelle (Paris, 20 July 1792)

Last year I bought a legal document from the French ancient regime on eBay for the princely sum of $10.00.  I recently translated it.




Translation was not straightforward: The script is hard to read and words often run into each other.  In addition, a number of the words appear to be French legalese or archaic (or both).  Often accents are not where one would expect them to be.

I have transcribed and translated the document line by line below.  Doubtful points are marked by asterisks and question marks.  Interpolations and educated guesses are marked by square brackets.


Le S[eigneu]r Dourif avoué en tribunal de Paris
Lord Dourif solicitor in the Tribunal of Paris

Declare au Jean Godot avoué du Citoyen Nivelle
Declares to Jean Godot solicitor for Citizen Nivelle
Que sans aucune approbation prejudicielle
That without any prejudicial consent
et sous touttes [sic] reserva de droit meme de demandes
And under all [reservations?] of law and also of claims
la nullite de l’assignation et accupera[?] pour le
the nullity of the summons and ******** for the
jean[?] peyrou ancien negotiant à paris sur l’assignation
Jean Peyrou former trader at Paris on the summons
à la Donnée au tribunal du de*reme arrondissement
at the [finding?] of the tribunal of the ****th district
du Department de Paris aus funde requete
of the Region of Paris *** ***** request
et ordonnance des place des quinces fermès derniers
and judgment of the place of the ******* ****** last
*** novembre prefere **if à requie n’ent
*** November prefers **** to ****** *’***
ignore du *** acte.
ignores from the *** act.
F. Donnet  Bourgeois De eglucerne [Signature?]
F. Donnet gentleman of *********
**u  au * Gadot afre*e le
*** of the Godot ****** the
vingt j[ui]l[le]t[?] 1792 [Signature?]
20 July 1792


[Stamp:] La loi le roi
The law the king
D[epartment] de Paris
D[epartment] of Paris
Minute / note
2 sols 6 deniers [probably the filing fee].

[Handwritten:] L’arrond’
The dist.
a *ier au
to **** to the
J Godot avoué
J Godot solicitor

Context and Comment

This document appears to be a waiver of a claim (or part of a claim) between a trader named Peyrou and a man named Nivelle, or perhaps of the benefit of a procedural point.  Presumably the dispute was a commercial one.

The document is a good artefact from its time.  The seal marked La loi Le Roi dates it to before 21 September 1792, because it was on that date that the monarchy was abolished.  The apparent use of the conventional date 20 July 1792 supports this: on 22 September 1792 the Republican calendar recommenced with Year I.  I’m intrigued that the document seems to use the titles “Seigneur” or Lord and Citoyen (citizen).

Looking at the rest of that year, I note that in 1792 France entered upon wars with Austria and Prussia, that the Paris mob stormed the Tuileries and conducted the September massacres, and that the trial of King Louis XVI commenced.  This document is a useful reminder that even when the great events of world history occur, ordinary men and women still go on earning a living and leading a life.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Shouting 'fire' in a crowded church?

An interesting decision on religious vilification was recently handed down by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The decision is titled Investigation report no. BI-205 (23 August 2016).  It concerned the broadcast by United Christian Broadcasters Australia Limited (t/as Vision Christian Radio) of a lecture by Biblical apologist Chuck Missler as part of the 66/40 series.  The lecture discussed the Book of Revelation and included these passages -
This beast, of course, is the one that was described in Revelation thirteen. It’s a political system on the one hand and/or the leader of that system on the other, and here it’s presented as a scarlet coloured beast. That’s a very interesting colour. That’s the colour that’s been adopted by the Vatican as its primary thematic colour. ...
Verse four: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”.  Well purple has a lot of different meanings – it certainly was the imperial colour of Rome, every Senator and Councillor wore a purple stripe as his badge of his position, and the Emperor of the empire was arrayed in purple. And scarlet is the colour that’s been adopted in a similar fashion by Roman Catholicism. ...
Let’s move on, Revelation seventeen verse six “I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus ...”. ... Now as you’re following this I want to recommend, I don’t normally do this but I want to recommend another non-biblical source that you ought to have for your library, if you’re a serious Christian. And that’s a book by Dave Hunt called “A woman rides the beast”. Dave Hunt is a sound scholar, thorough researcher, he does have some views that I happen to have a slight disagreement with, one of which I explain to you as we get to it. But I have an extensive library on this subject - the classic work in this area is one by Alexander Hislop, published in 1881 and it is in most serious libraries. However it’s very dated, it’s also somewhat argumentative and not as perfect a reference as you’d like. Dave Hunt has repaired that, he’s done a thorough amount of research, it is extremely well documented, it is very controversial, because he doesn’t pull any punches. He makes a very clear linkage between the woman in Revelation, which isn’t the beast, it rides the beast, he makes that distinction. Many prophecy buffs that write books are insensitive to the fact that the Pope is not the Antichrist. The Vatican rides the beast, it isn’t the beast and so, but there is a clear linkage to the Vatican. That doesn’t mean it is limited to the Vatican but the Vatican certainly qualifies. The history of the Roman Catholic Church is part of what you need to acquaint yourself with if you’re going to understand your bible. There is no organisation on the planet earth that has murdered more Christians than the Roman Catholic Church. One Pope, one afternoon, murdered more Christians than all the Roman Emperors put together, and you need to understand that. I’m not going to get into that heavy here because there’s more to be done... but when you understand the history of the medieval Europe, and you see verse six, you immediately, draws you to a recognition of the abuse, of Christians specifically, by the Roman Catholic Church.
“I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the Saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus”. You can’t even find a second choice that comes close to them as an identity here. And that’s one of the reasons, I think, that John says “I wondered with great astonishment”. If he was shown the blood of the martyrs at the hands of pagan Rome, he wouldn’t be surprised – pagan Rome was the enemy of the church. But to find the so-called “Christian church” guilty of murdering martyrs astonished John. There’s a clue right there that the source of the blood of the Saints is in a surprising place.
A complainant alleged that this broadcast breached cl. 1.3 of the Open Narrowcast Radio Codes of Practice, relevantly providing that "Narrowcasters will not broadcast programs which are likely to incite or perpetuate hatred against or vilify any person or group on the basis of ... religion"

The Authority dealt wih the matter this way by noting that the speaker intimated a connection between certain passages of the Bible and the Catholic Church, particularly referring to the Vatican, Roman Catholicism, the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.   This was considered sufficient to establish that "for the purposes of clause 1.3, the group of persons identified is members of the Catholic Church and the relevant basis is religion".

In considering whether the broadcast was likely to incite hatred against or vilify a person or group based on religion, the Authority asked if the broadcast "was likely to have urged a reasonable person to share feelings of hatred against or vilify any person or group on the basis of religion".  The terms ‘hatred against’ and ‘vilification’ are directed towards the provocation of of a very strong reaction in listeners: it is not enough to induce a mild or even a strong response. 

In this case the Authority considered that the broadcast "was sectarian and to some extent critical" and that "some listeners may have considered the statements to be critical of the Catholic Church by associating it with the Antichrist, blasphemy, a counterfeit religion and claims of murder".  However, the relevant clause had not been breached because
Dr Missler did not use explicit language during the program that would have been understood by an ordinary reasonable listener as directly urging, stimulating or encouraging them to share feelings of hatred against or vilify a person or group on the basis of their religion or current religious practices and beliefs
[to] the extent that some listeners may have understood that the program was inciting them to share feelings of hatred against or vilify of members of the Catholic Church on the basis of their religion, it was not explicit or extreme enough to provoke the strength of audience response contemplated in clause 1.3 of the Codes
As such, the broadcaster did not breach clause 1.3 of the Codes.

Interestingly, the Authority was referred to but did not consider relevant the history of antagonism in which a strand of Protestant thought has considered Catholics to be inherently disloyal and murderous.  For example, the 'Chick tract' Are Roman Catholics Christians? (Ontario 1985) includes these passages -

Page 4

Page 11

Nor is it difficult to imagine a ready audience for these views among those who consider the Catholic church to be deceitful -

Note the refusal to use the names adopted save in quotation marks

... or demonic -

In this context, the broadcast is arguably a kind of auditory equivalent of the "Deutschland erwache" flag.  Strictly in itself, it carries little or no threat.  In context, it operates as an incitement to people of a certain strain of thought to view part of the community as a mortal enemy.  'Awaken' indeed.

Image from here

To this extent, then, one may submit that the Authority is using too stringent a test for claims under cl. 1.3.  A better test may, perhaps, be to ask whether the broadcast would be understood to incite a listener to shun contact with the group discussed.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Going Postal

Hi everyone,

I find myself having a lot to say about today, despite not having actually done very much.

I was up reasonably early this morning, as I had a dental appointment at 0900.  The practice I go to is Riverview Dental, who always make you feel welcome which is good.  My teeth are in pretty good order, aside that I need a filling which I've booked in for December (it's not urgent).  While I was in Shepparton I went to the greengrocer near the dentist and bought some asparagus, bananas and a couple of pineapples.  I love fresh fruit and I want to go back to being a proper health-nut.  I've fallen off the wagon: with the constant weather- and flood-watches I've been reluctant to take the time to go running even when the weather's been clement, and I've been snacking and eating salted and sweetened foods in a truly grotesque manner.  Ugh: I don't want to end up like my father.

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

I went on to Tatura after the dentist.  There'd been a job advertisement in yesterday's paper for a counter hand at Tatura Post Office.  Part time and limited term work, but I called yesterday and they asked me to drop in a CV.  What do I have to lose?  I received a knockback yesterday for a job as a part time cleaner with Spotless, which is about as demoralising as it gets: I can't even get a job cleaning other people's s*** out of a toilet.

In relation to the postal job, I was interested to read about the existence of Postal Police in both the United States and Nazi Germany.  It was the second of those that genuinely surprised me: the Postschutz was an arm of the SS and ultimately functioned as a combat formation.  One can detest the Third Reich but still be fascinated by how totally a society can be militarised.

Images from here and here

While I was in Tatura I also picked up a copy of the local paper.  The Guardian included a photo from the weekend of some members of the SES at the Show-&-Shine.  I always think it's good when members (especially the younger ones) get to be in the paper in uniform - it's a great way for them to see that the community thinks what they do is really good.

It's been a book-tinctured day as well.  While I was in Tatura I stopped in at the opportunity shop which always sells books for 50c or a dollar and picked up a crossword dictionary (I've always been jealous of people who can solve the cryptic crosswords).  On the 'what I'm reading front', I've crossed two books off my Goodreads list.   I flipped through Terry Breverton's Immortal Last Words and found it a bit disappointing: it wasn't so much a collection of last words as quotable quotes by or about people who are dead (for instance, the entry for Mahatma Gandhi is a statement on his death by Jawahurlal Nehru - Gandhi's last words after being shot were "He Ram" ("Oh God!).  I also read Faces of the Visitors by Kevin Randle and Russ Estes, which is about UFO encounters.  It was better than I expected - a fairly objective attempt to separate what Close Encounter reports are plausible and which are not.  Refreshingly it concedes that nearly all of the photographs of aliens which are in circulation (for example, Alien Autopsy) are probably fakes, or so inconclusive as to be valueless.

A photo posted by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

I've also taken books of English and French poetry off the list of things I'm reading and put them back on the shelves.  I can't seem to get through them at present: it's like trying to chew through a road surface.  I'm not sure whether I'll keep on with Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos.  Velikovsky caused quite a stir in his day, but his theories are pretty well viewed as nonsense now.

It rained on and off all afternoon and I mostly spent time reading.  I checked the job ads on LinkedIn but there was nothing I was even loosely qualified to do.  Not much more to add.  Hopefully tomorrow throws me a bone.

How are things with you?

Sunday, 16 October 2016

This orange life

Hi everyone,

I'm typing this at the SES shed while the weather radar plays on my screen.  There's a band of weather crossing our area at the moment and I have the depressing feeling that as soon as I get  halfway home there'll be a callout.  I'll give it about half an hour before I call it quits and head for home.

128 km Yarrawonga Radar

It's been a good couple of days to be in orange overalls.  You remember the flood rescue I mentioned the other day?  There was a little bonus wrapped up in it for me, with yesterday's Shepparton News report on the incident featuring one of my photographs (I suppose they got it from the Unit's Facebook page).  It's not a colossal life-changing event - the Shepparton News is hardly the New York Times - but it's a win and I'm pleased to have it!

Today was a valuable day as well: the Tatura Show-and-Shine (that is, the big car club rally) was held today.  They had invited us to attend and put on a static display.  They also asked if we could do a road rescue demonstration if they supplied the car.  Of course we were very happy to do that.  I'm proud to report that we lasered through the car, completing a whole-side removal and a sideways roof flap manoeuvre in 15 minutes flat!  I'm really pleased with that.

After we finished at the car rally we came back to the shed and put the vehicles away.  I've waded through a reasonable heap of paperwork and now, as I said, I'm waiting for the rain to pass through so I can go home.  Certainly looking forward to a proper night's sleep tonight!

How are your Sundays going?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Review: George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)

The arts have an interesting relationship with poverty.  Artists tend not to come from the bottom rungs of society, despite the occasional claims to be 'of the people' or 'speaking truth to power' and whatnot. In Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell seems to have slipped into poverty somewhat accidentally for a period in the 1930s and stayed there to experience it firsthand and derive a book's worth of experience.

Downout paris london.jpg
Image from here

Orwell's decision actually to live in poverty sets this book somewhat apart from (say) Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor and Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom.  He describes the life of the down and out from the inside, rather than as an outside observer.  When this was combined with his gift for clear prose and his broad sympathy for humanity, it produced an incredibly powerful series of pictures of the life he and others were obliged to live on the bottom rung of society.


Looking back on the book, however, it's hard to escape the impression that at all times Orwell would have been able to obtain work and money any time he needed it (see chapters 21, 24 and 38).  This gives the book a retrospective touch of artificiality that is a little disappointing.  While he talks perceptively of how going to the dogs simplifies life by obliterating the future (chapter 3), what he doesn't get to is that after a time, living wholly in the present is crushing: when one's prospects are limited, the future largely consists of things you don't want to think about.  And the past is full of things you'd mostly prefer not to remember (the present suffers from the comparison).


This mix of good and bad is perhaps encoded in the structure of the book.  The gift for finding the colour and depth in daily life is something Orwell shares with Ray Lawler and Albert Camus.  But it sits awkwardly with describing a life as utterly dead-ended as Huis Clos.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Picking up the fleece

Hi everyone,
On Thursday just gone I tried something I hadn't done before in the way of employment: work as a rouseabout.
Let me explain.
The meaning of the term 'rouseabout' shifts a little depending on context, but broadly it refers to a general hand working in a shearing shed.  In this case some friends of the parental units (farmers of the older generation, just like the parentals) were having 120 of their sheep shorn.
The job of the rouseabout is to 'pick up' for the shearers.  That is, to notice when a shearer is about to finish shearing a sheep, to step in and as soon as the fleece hits the floor, to pick it up, carry it over to the table, and to throw it so that it lands more or less open, then to pick off the bits that are dung-marked, bloody or otherwise stained and throw them away, to pull off the shank wool and throw it into a hopper, and to pull off the wool that is matted and waxen and to throw it into another hopper, and then to put the fleece to one side or to put it into the wool press.
I got to the shearing shed about 0700 on the Thursday.  One of the shearers had already arrived - a gentleman about 70 years old.  I don't recall his name.  "Have you picked up in a shed before?" he asked.  I said no.  "Oh fuck" he said and sighed heavily.  He then tasked me with penning up sheep for him and hte other shearer, who arrived presently.  I learned two things from penning up sheep. First, they're more pleasant to herd in close quarters than cattle: they kick less, and not as hard, and there's no risk of being crushed by several hundred kilos of livestock.  Second, the writer (Randolph Stow?) was not lying who said that they're basically a walking cotton bush and about as bright.
The sheep penned, and a second shearer and rouseabout having arrived, the shears started up.  The day settled into three 'runs' of 40 sheep each, with me more or less constantly on the move on the jobs I mentioned.  Regrettably, I didn't think to time the shearers, but at a guess they might have been only 3-4 minutes per sheep.  You can guess how quickly I found myself needing to move to pick up for both of them, sort the fleece and generally clean up, even with another rouseabout there plus the farmers who owned the sheep.
I had a vague notion that food was traditionally supplied for the shearers and shed hands, and this seemed to be the case.  Morning and afternoon tea took the form of sandwiches and coffee, and lunch corned beef with vegetables.
Tom Roberts - Shearing the rams - Google Art Project.jpg
The 'rouseabout' is the boy at the far left of the picture
Image from here
One other thing I learned was that Tom Roberts' famous painting of The Shearing of the Rams (1890) [pictured above] is remarkably accurate.  For one thing, the floor in the picture is accurately strewn with heaps of wool and dung.  The rouseabout is carrying the wool in the way I was shown.  And having someone sweeping the floor is a necessity.
The pay for the day wasn't bad.  The market average is meant to be about a dollar per sheep for a rouseabout, and we were paid a bit over the average.  It's a long way from my window office in the Rialto, but right now I'll take any work that'll keep me afloat.
Image from here

Three glasses of wine

Hi everyone,

Here it is, Friday evening and I'm wondering what the Hell I do next.

In another blogpost that'll come up in a few hours, I talk about the work I managed to land yesterday as a rouseabout in the shearing shed.  That's been one of the more striking events this for me this week.  I'd feel good except I've had a couple of rejection emails for jobs this week and that sort of thing wears you down.

In the other half (well, third) of my life things are quieter.  That is, my pager hasn't been beeping as much because the flood event is in a bit of a lull.  My unit had a callout yesterday morning, for a road crash rescue in Murchison where we were asked to go and give the local crew a hand.  I didn't go because I was already at Costerfield for work.  However, from the video it looks like it was a solid job for the two units to tackle.

The other thing on the SES front is that last night we were asked to assist police with rescuing two chaps who managed to submerge their car in floodwater.  The job came through just after training, so we had a good turnout, and we were out at Gemmill's Swamp until well after midnight on the job. 

It was gratifying to find that we received a little recognition for the job in the form of a tweet from the anchor for WIN News -

- and in the form of the SES and Emergency Vic news services retweeting my instagram photo.

I know we shouldn't do it for recognition: that's a very poor reason for doing emergency work (indeed, it's the wrong reason).  But, it's always a nice feeling when it happens.

The third part of my life - home and family -  is just depressing (which is why I'm typing this with my third glass of wine beside me.  I haven't skyped with Grace and Rachel for weeks, mainly because it just feels wrong to hear them call me Daddy when I look at my life and think "they'd run a mile if they could understand".  A father in prison would be an improvement for them.  A prisoner at least has reliable employment.  Sometimes I tell myself I can bounce back or re-tool or something, but I have no bloody idea how to do any of that. Right now, I'm out of ideas, and I don't so much have courage to support me so much as desperation.

Nothing more for now.  But if you have any ideas for what I should do next, this would be a very good time to share them.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Two days of storms, floods and sandbags

Hi everyone,
Tuesday evening, and today has felt like a holiday in some ways.  It's been a really busy couple of days.
Sunday began with a decent bout of wind and a womping big amount of foreboding.  There was an active severe weather warning for damaging winds for the whole of the state - the Bureau of Meteorology called it a one-in-five-years wind event.  I did some farm work in the morning but for the most part waited for the storm response jobs to start coming in.  In this time I started deciphering the doppler wind radar, which I usually forget to check.
Screenshot from later in the day - before the
jobs began the colours were a lot darker!
Ultimately we got out of it fairly lightly.  The first job of the day was a loose sheet of iron on the roof of a shed in Shepparton (I dispatched the auxiliary unit to this job).  We then had a string of tree down / traffic hazard jobs, the first of which the auxiliary unit self-activated to (I was not pleased) and the others our unit went to.  As I said, our area was pretty quiet.  Judging by the radio chatter, though, Beechworth and Kilmore SES units were absolutely smashed by jobs.  I think Wangaratta SES had nearly 300.

While I was at the shed in between jobs (and after things quietened down) I mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms and then did some paperwork.  By about 1930 things seemed to have settled down and I decided to go home.  It was dead still, which I should have taken more notice of.  By the time I was halfway home a number of bands of strong rain had swept through, with the prospect of more to come.
I often check the Mt Gambier (South Australia) radar
 before I check the nearer Yarrawonga radar -
it gives a better idea of what's coming our way.
I'd been home for no more than the time it took to take my overalls off when my pager beeped.  It was a roof-damage job not far from my place, and another of our members was keen to turn out, so he brought the truck over from Tatura.  A rooftop safety system was set up and we made suitable repairs to the roof.  There were no more calls so I guess it kept them dry overnight.  I was home about 2300.
Monday started early with another pager beep at about 0630 with another tree down / traffic hazard.  One of our unit vehicles was going to be in the area, so I asked him to see if he could stop in and I'd join him on scene.  He range me after I was on the road to advise that the job was unreachable due to a major road accident which was being attended by another unit.

Absent any other options I passed the job on to the roads authority and turned around.  By then it was too late to bother going back to bed and so I put the coffee on and got on with the day.
Another job came in about 1000, with a road blocked by a tree near Toolamba.  It sounded like a large job so I activated a crew and headed over myself.  Surprisingly the job had been cleared by the time we got there (by a farmer and tractor I suspect).  The three of us were at the shed afterwards when another job came in.  We'd been asked to go and assist the police by protecting the scene of the accident I mentioned before, which was being investigated by the Major Collisions Unit.  This was a good deal less exciting than it sounds.  We were asked to stand-by outside the police line until we were needed.  In the end we waited for about an hour-and-a-half and were then released because we weren't needed afer all.  Back to the shed we went, picking up lunch on the way.

I did a couple of other things at the shed and went home.  I walked though the door about 1755.  What happened at 1805?  Off my pager went again, this time from the flooding Incident Control Centre.  They wanted volunteers to lay sandbags to buttress a levee at Koonoomoo.  "What the Hell?" I thought, and ut my hand up to go.  Three other members from the Tatura unit volunteered as well, and so up we went to the meeting point at Cobram.
Sheds and sandbags in water, Kempsey
flood, 1945 (NAA: C4078, N2582D)
I understand the work on the levee had been organised a bit on the fly, but broadly the operation went well.  That is, they kept us well supplied with food and water, and there was no shortage of sandbags to lay.  The site we had to work on though was a bit difficult - it couldn't be readily reached by vehicles, so there was a walk of a bit over a kilometre to get there, and it lay in a natural depression which had been soaked in the recent rains, so the ground was radidly churned into a slurry by the tractor and about 30 pairs of boots.  They'd done well mobilising people however - there were about a dozen SES members from different units, and another dozen or so from the Country Fire Authority, as well as about a half-dozen civilians.  The various groups worked together wonderfully well.  Despite all of us getting tired, cold, muddy and our clothes getting filled with spilt sand, I don't think there was a cross word or even a serious grumble the whole night.  We were on site at about 2030 and left the site about 0140 the next morning.  I was home and in bed by 0430.  I'm dead proud of how the members of my unit worked.  I'm proud to serve with them.

I woke about 0930 today.  I'm less stiff from laying sandbags than I thought I'd be.  The pager has stayed quiet all day save for a few administrative messages.  I've kept it quiet - cleaned my boots of mud, walked the dog, read a bit and checked emails (I didn't get the job at the Federal government).  Not much more to add, save that I've picked up a day's work over at Costerfield on Thursday.  Better than nothing.
More tomorrow.