Shitpost is the American Dialect Society’s digital word of the year.

Yikes. The Pokémon Company spent six years in a legal dispute with Redbubble over copyright infringement. It sought $44,555.84 in lost royalties — but the Court found “[t]here was no evidence to establish that many of the sales were of the kind of items which were available for sale and commercialisation within the Pokémon universe.” (The infringing items included Pikachu/Sailor Moon mashups, and shirts that read “I might <Pikachu> in the shower”.) The Court awarded the Pokémon Company just $1 in damages and 70% of its costs.

Now let’s see how the Hells Angels fare…

Some of these stories about foreign objects lodged in people’s bodies in various ways are horrible but also amusing:

When a 47-year-old man with a 30-year pack-a-day smoking history came into hospital with a chronic cough and an X-ray showing an opaque white haze in the lower zone of his right lung, his doctors suspected carcinoma.

On closer inspection, they found a “mustard coloured foreign body” that turned out to be a plastic toy witches’ hat from a Playmobil set had been wedged in his lung since he was seven years old.

John Hattie is a very important man in education; he’s currently the head of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. Hattie is big on data-driven reform, which is good, but his technique of throwing dozens of disparate studies in the “meta-analysis” blender has faced criticism.

So I was interested to read this reflective interview with Hattie about how his ideas have been interpreted and implemented worldwide… but I was derailed by this answer:

HK: I also wondered about the language issue between New Zealand, Australia, Denmark and the UK. There must be a lot of language issues?

JH: Oh, yes. I am not sure with Danish, but certainly in the Scandinavian countries, they don’t have a word that distinguishes between teaching and learning. Japan doesn’t.

This claim struck me as a snowclone — Language Log’s term for this kind of silly linguistic argument:

Journalists and others often make an ethnographic or political point by observing that a particular language or culture “has N words for X”, where N is either zero or some number viewed as excessively large. … [T]hese rhetorical flights are hardly ever true in linguistic terms, and their logic would be suspect even if the facts were correct.

It was Hattie’s definitive “Japan doesn’t” that sent up the red flag for me. I’m a (very beginner) student of Japanese, and I recalled that Lesson 7 in the Minna no Nihongo textbook listed oshiemasu (polite form of 教える, “to teach; to instruct”) and naraimasu (polite form of 習う, “to take lessons in; to be taught; to learn (from a teacher); to study (under a teacher); to get training in”) as separate words.

So much for data.

I am absolutely furious about the current racist campaign against young African people in Melbourne. Every time I try to put my thoughts about it in order, I get so angry I need to step away.

Fortunately, the tireless campaigners at the Flemington-Kensington Law Centre have published a comprehensive myth-busting list of 10 Things You Need to Know About Crime Reporting in 2018.

Victoria does not have a youth crime wave – ethnic or not. However, facts and statistics are of little interest to a person already convinced that their intuitive, deeply felt, folk wisdom is enough. Arguing with a ‘tough on crime’ proponent is like arguing with an anti-vaxxer. When the independent Victorian Crimes Statistics Agency released its latest data report in December and stated that overall criminal incidents recorded in Victoria was down 4.8% and significant downward trends in many crime types, much of the online law and order world did not believe it. “Look at the papers” they cried. “We read about crime every day!”

But for everyone else here are some basic stats. …

Please read it, please share it, and please recognise the patterns so that you can speak up next time you hear someone regurgitating the latest racist nonsense from the Herald Sun or The Australian.

It is 2018 and I’m going to try to post something here every day. Of course, 2018 may be a bad time to revive a blog, since the cool kids have apparently moved on to newsletters:

The appeal of a specific, engaged audience is also responsible for the return of community email. Newsletters distributed only through the “phone tree” friend-to-acquaintance-to-friendly-stranger model were wildly popular in the days of early email and early blogging, took a nearly two-decade break, then reappeared thanks to a Miranda July pet project, the buzzy 2012 email community Listserve, and most notably, the 2013 founding of TinyLetter. As part of a May 2017 New Yorker survey of the death of the public personal essay and the return of email newsletters, Awl alum Carrie Frye speculated that writers, and female writers in particular, have declared to themselves, “I’m going to make an Internet on which my essays go out in pneumatic tubes to just who I want them to go to, and no one else.” Newsletters are an easy a way to build that tiny, private audience away from the ugliness of the internet at large.

So if you want the ugliness of the internet at large, stay right here, but if you want Quality Content™ you should instead subscribe to these email newsletters: Erin Cook’s Dari Mulut ke Mulut, Anthony Agius’s The Sizzle, Osmond Chiu’s Agitate, Educate, Opine, and Sophie Benjamin’s The Monthly Missive.

Hidden Folks is an interactive Where’s Wally-esque game with charming graphics and sound effects.

Legendary Hero is a Korean tokusatsu/sentai show (think Power Rangers). Available with English subtitles on YouTube. Lots of fun so far!

Carlton smashed Collingwood in the inaugural AFLW match tonight. Good stuff.

The match was booked for an oval with a capacity of 24,500, but thousands more were locked out. I put that down to the AFL’s disrespect for the women. They still don’t believe people want to watch women’s footy, despite a long history proving the opposite: “More than 41,000 people turned out to watch a women’s football match on Adelaide Oval in 1929.” A proper league has been a long time coming.

I often wonder why there is no Australian version of the Amicus podcast. Melbourne Uni’s Opinions on High blog is useful, but a journalist exploring big cases in a more conversational style would be great.

Listening to the most recent episode, I realised that even if somebody started one here, it couldn’t be the same: Amicus played clips of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Ginsberg in oral argument, which is not allowed by our High Court.

The High Court now streams video of its hearings (a day or two after the fact), but the rules for using those feeds are excessively restrictive. I’m glad I have been able to show my students the swearing-in of Australia’s first woman Chief Justice, but that’s about the only way these recordings can be shared.

These are records of public hearings, which have already been sanitised by the Court prior to publication, and they should be free for journalists to use.

I like this story:

Lowe’s 15-year-old daughter came home from school with a burning question that would leave an impression on the RBA chief: what was he doing to make sure women have equal chances at the central bank?

“I didn’t have a really good answer at first and she said ‘that’s not good enough,”‘ 55-year-old Lowe said in his first interview after taking over as governor four months ago. “So that made me think about where we’re going.”

Since then, Lowe has promoted women to two of three RBA assistant governor roles focused on monetary policy — the first time females have held such positions.

Now, not every 15-year-old is the daughter of a powerful man like RBA Governor Philip Lowe, but the point remains: young people who stand up for their convictions can effect change. It’s a nice reminder, at the start of a new school year.

In a back-to-school column, Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shephard question whether we really have private schools in Australia any more.

Years ago we began to widen school choice by increasing public funding of private schools. We were told this … would be a good deal for taxpayers when families paid much of the schooling bill. … And now [that] promise – that publicly subsidised private schools would actually save public funds – is under challenge. The public funding of private schools has risen to the level where the running costs of most private schools are now substantially met by combined state and federal funding. If a private school is defined by who pays then they are rapidly becoming public.

They still collect fees, a hangover from when they needed the money to match the investment in public schools. But for all but the wealthiest schools the fee income seems to be icing on the cake. When we realise that schools enrolling similar students churn out similar results, it becomes harder to justify the icing – especially when governments are such big partners.

(Fair play to Bonnor and Shephard, they’ve managed to blow some fresh wind into the sails of a report they wrote six months ago for the Centre for Policy Development: Uneven Playing Field: The State of Australia’s Schools.)

My very safe prediction for 2017 is that the usual suspects (Simon Birmingham, Kevin Donnelly, the IPA muppets) will again tell us that increased education spending hasn’t improved our academic results, and that it’s more important to consider how the money is spent.

I agree! Let’s ask whether the money pumped into over-resourced private schools couldn’t be better used elsewhere.

And listen
About those bitter songs you sing?
They’re not helping anything
They won’t make you strong

John K Samson (of Propagandhi and The Weakerthans) has released a solo album, Winter Wheat, which includes the final two songs in his series about Virtute the cat.

I always thought neenish tarts were English. In fact, they’re Australian — but despite a long-running hoax, they were not the accidental invention of Ruby Neenish of Grong Grong, NSW. They were probably created in a large commercial bakery that ran a chain of tearooms, but nobody knows where the name comes from.

A few days ago the postie arrived with a PocketCHIP for me. It’s a handheld Linux computer, with a keyboard and touchscreen, designed for easy hardware and software tinkering. One of its big drawcards is that it runs PICO-8, a “fantasy console”, which has “harsh limitations” such as a 32kb limit on the size of games, and a 128×128 resolution display, but is very easy to program for. If you enjoy pulling things apart to see how they work, both PocketCHIP and PICO-8 are worth a look.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is trumpeting its latest civil case against a dodgy boss. This time it is a restaurateur who allegedly collected a chef’s parental leave payments from the Government, without passing them on to the worker.

I’m pleased that they’re taking him to court, but I’m puzzled by this detail:

Mr Singh allegedly made a false document purporting to show that he paid the parental leave funds in cash to the employee’s husband in May, 2015.

The Fair Work Ombudsman challenged the veracity of the document. …

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says employers who contravene the law and deliberately mislead investigators can expect to face legal action.

Maybe it’s the former prosecutor in me, but I can’t understand why this is only a civil law suit.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code states:

137.1 False or misleading information

  1. A person commits an offence if:
    1. the person gives information to another person; and
    2. the person does so knowing that the information:
      1. is false or misleading; or
      2. omits any matter or thing without which the information is misleading; and
    3. any of the following subparagraphs applies:
      1. the information is given to a Commonwealth entity…

Penalty: Imprisonment for 12 months.

The FWO is a Commonwealth entity, and the employer is said to have deliberately misled investigators by providing them with false documents. It seems to fit fairly neatly into s137.1.

I note that the FWO Guidance Note 1 – Litigation Policy includes the following:

Where the FWO becomes aware of offences having occurred it will, in the ordinary course of events, refer a brief to the CDPP.

I’d like to know whether the FWO referred a brief to the CDPP, and if not, what takes this case outside “the ordinary course of events”?

A quick look at some other recent FWO press releases suggests this is not a one-off. There was an accountant “allegedly creating false pay records that were used to try to cover-up the extent of the underpayments”, a retailer who allegedly provided “false records … to the Fair Work Ombudsman”, a trolley collection boss who allegedly “provided records that he knew contained false information relating to a number of employees” — and that’s just in the last month.

I would expect that crimes would be referred to the criminal prosecutors, especially when they involve allegations of forgery to mislead government investigators. You can be sure that an employee who stole $12,000 from their boss, and then used forged documents to throw the police off the scent, would be hauled into court on criminal charges.

Why don’t bosses face the same rules?

Regent University law professor James Duane tells his class: Don’t Talk to the Police. (As a former criminal prosecutor, I endorse this unreservedly.)

Malcolm Harris:

The refusal of Marxists and anarchists to plot out some unified strategy does more than reduce our numbers. The division separates us like a personality test, leaving both sides lacking in particular necessary energies. Marxists without anarchists have too much respect for law and authority, leaving them susceptible to co-optation by liberals. Anarchists without Marxists can be self-righteous about compromise and getting their hands dirty by interacting with existing power structures. Marxists without anarchists can lack flexibility and imagination, while anarchists without Marxists can lack discipline. Anarchists put on aesthetic performances that captivate and amuse the culture without convincing it, while Marxists craft airtight logical theories that are culturally irrelevant. Marxists don’t know shit about tactics and anarchists can’t strategize. Anarchists are too quick to act, Marxists too reluctant. There are plenty of exceptions to these rules, but they help determine who gravitates to which side, which only increases the problem: anarchists get the artists and tacticians, Marxists get the theorists and politicians. 

… In a room where everyone agrees that the governmental line that extends from 1776 ought to be severed, who circles the A’s on their notebooks and who doesn’t is an internal debate.

Featuring the work of over 300 artists, Bartkira is a page-for-page, frame-for-frame transposition of Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic manga Akira from Neo-Tokyo to Springfield.

Chicken Treat’s #chickentweet marketing campaign — in which they coax a chicken into pecking and stepping on a keyboard connected to Twitter — calls to mind the University of Plymouth’s experiment to see whether a group of macaques would in fact reproduce classic plays by random chance. According to the BBC:

The six monkeys – Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan – produced five pages of text which consisted mainly of the letter “s”.

But towards the end of the experiment, their output slightly improved, with the letters A, J, L and M also appearing.

However, they failed to come up with anything that remotely resembled a word.

The monkeys’ work was published as Notes Towards the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

It also reminds me of the wild monkey (again a macaque) who took a selfie. Legal experts say he can’t own the copyright — but neither can the owner of the camera. So feel free to plagiarise those chicken tweets.

Yesterday was International Podcast Day, apparently, which reminded me I’d been meaning to post some recommendations. My education has been very anglocentric, and this year I’m trying to improve my understanding of Asian history, culture and politics. Having visited Japan a couple of times, that’s my point of entry:

  • Tokyo on Fire: This is an excellent weekly discussion of Japanese politics, which I particularly like because they provide the historical context necessary to understand the contours of contemporary debate. The panelists are American centrists (economically dry, socially liberal, and slightly hawkish) but they fairly present a range of viewpoints. It’s worth digging in to their old episodes.
  • Japan in Focus: This weekly show from Radio National features interviews with Japanese experts on current political issues, but also covers social trends and lighter news. It has an Australian perspective, which is nice.
  • NHK World Radio Japan: Brief daily news updates from Japan’s national broadcaster, in English. I tend to listen to this when one of the other podcasts flags a current issue that I want to follow — such as the protests by SEALDs against Abe’s unconstitutional war bills.
  • Asia News Weekly: This has a broader focus on southeast Asian news, with a focus on human rights and conflict. The host is a South Korea-based American with unsubtle opinions, but he does present multiple perspectives before declaring his own is correct.

A lot could be said about Dyson Heydon’s decision to endorse himself as a royal commissioner (Ben Eltham has made a good start here) but for me, this one point is enough:

Take a look at this invitation. Heydon decided that a fair-minded observer would conclude it was not an invitation to a Liberal Party event.

A brilliant legal mind, they say.

Mr Micallef: What is the difference between you and a bucket of shit?

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member has used an unparliamentary expression. I ask him to withdraw.

Mr MICALLEF (Springvale): I withdraw ‘bucket’.

Strong Language, “a sweary blog about swearing”, has kicked off a series of posts about “unparliamentary language” in the Westminster system with a selection of examples from Australia.

Photos of stairs from my April holiday.

I’m a lifelong fan of role-playing games, but I rarely play them. Dungeons & Dragons. Call of Cthulhu. Vampire: The Masquerade. Cyberpunk 2013. Traveller. I’ve been enchanted by the words and illustrations, and drawn into the imaginary worlds of as many RPGs as novels. So I’m always surprised, and a little dismayed, when RPGs are left out of the popular discussion about books and reading.

Like Damien Walter, I read far more RPGs than I play. One of my favourites, The Burning Wheel, is published as a beautiful digest-size book, more like a novel than the usual giant RPG manual. Flipping back and forth between the lifepath tables, different characters and settings emerge every time. Last week, Adam Koebel presented a lecture on why he loves the game.

Recently, virtual tabletop Roll20 hired Koebel (one of the designers of Dungeon World) as its Games Master, to stream demonstration games online. They have just launched a weekly Burning Wheel game. While I don’t have hours to sit and watch talking heads on YouTube, I do like to listen to “actual play” RPG podcasts on the tram — so I created one for the Roll20 Burning Wheel game. Enjoy.

Really enjoying Capitals at the moment. It takes the basic mechanic of Letterpress but adds a little bit of strategy to it. (The free version time-limits how many games you can start — which stops it swallowing your entire life.)

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett tweeted:

Judicial disclaimer—
Everyone is presumed GUILTY until I’ve had my first piece of bacon.

He was joking (I hope!) but there may be some truth to it. An Israeli study showed that after breakfast and lunch, judges are more likely to make parole decisions favourable to offenders.


Many of the people who visit me in my therapy practice spend time talking about work. How much work there is, how they never seem to be able to get it all done, how many hours they spend at work, how tired they are all the time and how fearful they are about losing their jobs. …

We’re working longer hours than ever before, and as our employment conditions continue to worsen, they’re simply repackaged into a new version of normal in an effort to make the truly pathological state of many of our workplaces appear acceptable. …

In the last month or so I’ve had several clients raise the issue of overwork with their managers, with the following results. One had a consultant brought in to assess her team’s workloads against their position descriptions. Each member was found to be working at between 130 and 160% of their load. So the load was reset and anyone working at below 150% was told they weren’t pulling their weight.

The solution? “Nothing can alleviate the stress of overwork except working less.”