Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Good news at last (and thank you for keeping me sane)

Ms T has, as you may know, suffers from an immune disorder requiring lots of heavy cytotoxins (as well as surgery back in February that left a seppuku-scar, a couple of tumours, now gone, that frightened the daylights out of us, and other stuff).

And a great many people have said so many wonderful things to me about my previous posts, that it would be unfair to keep good news to myself. You may not know this, but it is a jack under the flat tyre of depression to know that other people understand.

So. We’ve had a little string of bits of nice news, and in my appreciation of your previous kind words, here they are.

“That’s not a cancer” – a worrying lesion gets a specialist’s cold-shoulder.

“The celiac bypass is perfect” – the surgeon following an ultrasound examining the 30cm of leg-vein that’s shunting from the aorta to the celiac artery, supplying Ms T’s liver and stomach (it may have been better if he hadn’t said to himself “damn I’m good” while looking at the pictures).

“Liver scores are good, and your kidneys are picking up” – today, at the renal specialist.

In fact, the renal said, the current round of mustard gas – sorry, cyclophosphamide – seems to be doing what it’s supposed to be doing: making the patient as sick as a dog, slaughtering the immune system, leaving the patent subject to random infections, leaving the patient defenceless against tumours that normal people wouldn’t ever know had been there because they’re dealt with and so on.

And keeping her alive.

The blood vessels remain open; the arteries that remain to her remain open (the carotid isn’t coming back, but there’s collaterals built around the blockage, thank heavens!).

The renal specialist was the most surprised, which surprised us. After agreeing with my general opinion of surgeons (“So smug I could punch him.” “Oh, everybody wants to punch surgeons, that’s how they are.”) she said to my wife, “Actually, I’m surprised at how well you’re doing. I thought you’d be on dialysis by now. If you survived.”

She did. And there’s my Christmas, along with taking care of Bunjaree Cottages for our guests (if you want to head to the Blue Mountains, we’re here and there are still vacancies for the long school holiday!) and writing when there are people to write for, and doing GIS when it’s there, and wondering at life when there’s a moment to spare.

And here, as I said, is my thank you for the dear, kind, gentle and loving souls who have helped keep me sane this year. We – me and Ms T – both know what such things mean in the hard days and sleepless nights, and our appreciation is hard to adequately express. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The plea of a deadbeat dad: how does my son enter work?

I haven’t often felt this inadequate as a parent.

No, strike that.

I have always felt inadequate as a parent. I was inadequate when Ms T was not-coping with post-natal depression and our eldest son was perfectly capable of crying for seven hours at a stretch, unless she was cradling him and dancing to early 1990s thrash-punk (he still likes The Pixies’ “Dolittle”, thank heavens). I was manifestly inadequate when he was being bullied in Year 4, to a point that was close to call-the-police. I tried to be adequate through his teens.

Now he’s nearly an adult, we get on brilliantly, and I’m insanely proud of things like his university results – where the hell does a son of mine get the seriousness to land regular “distinction” results, including in one did-it-on-spec unit that’s in the doctoral stream and he doesn’t yet have his BSc?

(This is especially poignant for me, the university drop-out because I ran out of cash in 1990.)

For someone who thought “why didn’t I know you?” when I carried my father’s coffin, that feels good. Snd I’m also gob-smacked at how he’s learned to care far and beyond his years: knowing how sick his mother is, he doesn’t maunder or rage, he simply says “yes” to whatever burden her illness brings to him. Cheerfully.

But: I have NO idea, none whatever, about how to tell him to get a start in the job market.

You see: when I started out, it wasn’t so hard. For office types, there were regular start-by-examination in any number of industries. My start was in the insurance business, as an 18-year-old clerk; I then moved to telecommunications – as a trainee with paid training – on the basis of another enter-by-exam job offering.

And I moved around a few jobs and suffered a few interviews, and then found my first niche, as a journalist specialising in technology. That was in 1987.

Since then, I have hardly ever needed to go through the indignity of job-seeking and interviews. I have been head-hunted, I have travelled with the furniture in acquisitions, and I have coat-tailed (“You do the bid, I’ll do the work and take my cut” – a wonderful way to outsource the interview thing!). But I have hardly ever actually applied for a job.

Which, as you might guess, makes me utterly useless to advise my son about how to get work in the long university break.

So: my son is intelligent, can present a decent facsimile of someone who likes the customer even if he doesn’t, can work hard, talks intelligently, likes old ladies and toddlers, and detests the very idea of making his start with McDonald’s. What should I suggest to him?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Google’s tutorial: how to lose a defamation case

How shall I put this? Bluntly, I think, is best.

It shits me to tears when the commentariat sees fit to drip venom on the result of a court case without reading the damn judgement. Even more tears, when it’s clearly a comment from someone who doesn’t understand the court case or even the legal system under which it was fought, but still sees fit to drip venom, etc.

And it shits me to tears when it’s clearly a knocked-off-in-a-hurry bit of cheap American clickbait with no reference to what happens in another country.

Enter ReadWriteWeb, with this brick-thick intervention into Google’s Australian defamation loss.

"Court rules - wrongly - that Google is a publisher". Even even the bloody headline is wrong. 

Google is a publisher, and proud of it when it wishes to be. When it decides to let journalists into the inner sanctums of Google Maps, it is insanely pleased with itself at its job of correcting maps that governments think are authoritative. In other words, if a Google Map is more accurate than the “real” map, it’s because Google collected “ground truth” data, reconciled the discrepancies between that and its own maps, and publishes its own maps.

It also relentlessly (if, anyhow, you happen to be a recipient of notices) publishes its own Official Google blog posts, and creates its own direct mail campaigns (had one in the letterbox this week). Any claim that Google isn’t a publisher is disingenuous. And because some people between the Pacific and Atlantic have trouble with words like that: really, Google is a publisher, whatever statements it makes to mislead idiots.

But it’s the complete and utter failure to actually read the judgement that makes me want to pick up a broadsword and kill a thousand men in a mead hall.

Here’s a few salient points about the case. From the judgement, which Jon Mitchell didn't bother with because of the long words.

  1. Google treated the original request – “remove defamatory material” – as too trivial to bother with. Its response was the equivalent of “here’s a phone, call someone who gives a shit”.
  2. Google treated the court as too trivial to bother with. It had the opportunity to call witnesses with knowledge of what happened, and didn’t.
  3. Google treated Australian defamation law as too trivial to bother with. It decided that its defence would rest on decisions made in England – which, in case it hasn’t noticed, is actually a different country. Its legal mind was about 25 years out of date, since we stopped sending appeals to the Privy Council in 1986. Australian courts can consider judgements in other jurisdictions – as they do, including those from America – but English decisions are no longer binding here. Idiots.
Now, instead of a frankly dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers off-toss by a remote twerp, here are the three facts which, it seems from reading the judgement, actually matter:

  1. Google was asked to amend the search results so as not to present a defamatory imputation.
  2. Google admitted in court that it could have done so.
  3. Yahoo had already lost a case on the same facts.
In other words, Google just couldn’t be arsed. Its decision was “don’t bother and don’t spend more on the fight than a settlement would cost”.

The judge frequently makes it clear that Google could have done better, and had it done so, the jury may have been free to find in favour of the search engine giant.

In other words, through the combination of arrogance and can’t-be-bothered, Google has supported a precedent that ReadWriteWeb detests. Take your complaint to Mountain View, fools, and stop giving us patronising piss-in-the-pocket advice from the other side of the Pacific.