Cory coming to Melbourne next week for four events

I'm heading to Melbourne, Australia next week to do a series of events with the Center for Youth Literature of the State Library of Victoria. I'm doing four events: The science of fiction, Creative versus Commons, Digital fiction masterclass, and Future fiction with teens. I hope you'll come out to them!

Police sued after horse drools on protestor

So goes the story, as Australia's tabloids have it, in their outrage-fueled denunciation of a frivolous lawsuit. Turns out, though, that the horse also crushed the guy's foot and kept him out of work for six weeks. How about that! [Adelaide Now]

Dinosauric knit mitts


These dinosauric knit mittens were made by Etsy seller HotScones, who ships from Australia. $43.61 (US) a pair, plus shipping.

HotScones (via Laughing Squid)

Yip-Yip-Yip leggings


Australian tights makers Black Milk continue to plumb the depths of weird juxtaposition and tessellation with these Sesame Street Yip-Yip-Yip leggings, which retail for AUD85 plus S&H.

Read the rest

Obit for a prolific newspaper site commenter

David sends us "An obituary for a prolific commenter on the Brisbanetimes.com.au news website. This nonagenarian only took to the internet in the last year or so and was prolific in the comments on the site. A touching tribute to a respected member of a community."

The person who commented under "Bob Menzies" was "a lifelong Queensland public servant" who been a member of the Liberal Party since 1950, and who wore a black suit to work every day of his working life.

Read the rest

Town council snoops on phones to find litterbugs & unlicensed pet owners

Juha sez, "Wyndham council in the Australian state of Victoria has been spying on residents for three years to find not terrorists, but people who litter and keep unregistered pets, and advertise without permission. Words fail me. If this isn't a wake-up call for greater privacy protection, I don't know what is." Cory 16

Australian Army on institutional sexism: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

Michael sez, "In response to a breaking scandal the head of the Australian Army gives a textbook example on how to respond to sexual abuse in the military, hell, misogyny in any organisation: blunt, unambiguous, drawing on both institutional policy and personal ethics, and frankly a bit terrifying in a Tywin Lassister kind of way. I quailed and I'm not even a soldier. I also think there should be more of this."

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.

Chief of Army message regarding unacceptable behaviour

(Transcript: Skepchick)

(Thanks, Michael!)

Canberra Skywhale: fanciful, breast-studded lighter-than-air cetacean


Here's a beautiful gallery of publicity shots of the Canberra Skywhale, a lighter-than-air sculpture created by Patricia Piccinini to celebrate the centenary of the capital city of Australia. The Skywhale is a fanciful, breast-studded creature from a contrafactual alternate history:

"My question is what if evolution went a different way and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim. In fact coming from a place like Canberra where it's a planned city that's really tried to integrate and blend in with the natural environment, it makes a lot of sense to make this sort of huge, gigantic, but artificial and natural-looking creature".[8]

The Centenary of Canberra Skywhale (via JWZ)

Store wants $5 browsing fee to deter "showrooming" by online shoppers


A specialty food store in Brisbane, Australia posted this sign, demanding a $5 deposit from people who enter the shop, refundable with your purchase. They are trying to curb "showrooming" -- when customers of online businesses use brick-and-mortar competitors as showrooms to check out goods before they order them. As Consumerist points out, this is likely to be a self-defeating strategy:

If customers aren’t buying, the seller needs to figure out why and adapt accordingly. If this store’s prices are truly the best, then maybe it should be offering a price-match guarantee. If it truly offers products that aren’t available elsewhere, then how are these showrooming shoppers buying these items from someone else? Perhaps people are just curious and want to see the prices and have no intention of buying anything anywhere? Think of how many times you’ve looked at Amazon just out of curiosity. Window-shoppers are part of the retail equation; it’s up to the retailer to either ignore them or turn them from looky-loos into bona fide buyers.

I'd go further than this. It takes a lot of retail exposure to turn some browsers into buyers -- you might see something in a shop, think about it, and go back.

Further, getting people into the shop is a significant expense for most businesses. Once a person is in your business, you have lots of opportunities to try to convert that person into a buyer, in an environment that you control (see NYC Fifth Ave retailers, who run their escalators in an alternate-reverse pattern so you have to wind your way past all the high-impulse goods and displays to get to the top floor; or grocers who put the milk at the back of the shop). Adding literal barriers to entry is utterly self-sabotaging.

Finally, the idea of imposing a head-tax on everyone entering the shop is especially misguided. It means that a customer who thinks he can talk his wife/kids (or husband, friends, whatever) into accompanying him into the shop while he grabs something on the way past is doomed to not making a purchase. What's more, the retailer loses the chance to convert some of those tag-alongs into customers.

Store Combats Showrooming With $5 ‘Just Looking’ Fee [Consumerist/Chris Morran]

(Photo: BarrettFox on Reddit)

Eating a wedding cake in reverse

Tommy sez, "I made this film clip with a great photographer friend of mine and it took two takes. That means I had to eat TWO CAKES. I ended up eating so much confetti and glitter that I had a glittery poo the next day. But it was all worth it as backwards eating really can end up looking quite beautiful. Thankfully the clip was not about the glittery poo."

Spender - NEVER AGAIN - {Official} (Thanks, Tom!)

Casino cheats used house CCTVs to score $32M

A rich, high-stakes gambler was dragged out of his opulent comp suite at the Crown Towers casino in Melbourne, accused of participating in a $32M scam that made use of the casino's own CCTV cameras to cheat.

The Herald Sun understands remote access to the venue's security system was given to an unauthorised person.

Images relayed from cameras were then used to spy on a top-level gaming area where the high roller was playing.

Signals were given to him on how he should bet based on the advice of someone viewing the camera feeds. Sources said the total stolen was $32 million.

They are capable of transmitting the most intricate detail of goings-on inside the building.

Casinos were the world leaders in CCTV use, and really represent ground zero for the panopticon theory of security. What is rarely mentioned is that "security" measures can be turned against defenders if attackers can hijack them. This is as true when a mugger uses his victim's gun against him as it is when a casino's own CCTVs are used to defeat its own anti-cheating measures. This is the high-stakes gambling version of all those IP-based CCTVs that leak sensitive footage of the inside of peoples' houses onto the public Internet.

Crown casino hi-tech scam nets $32 million [Mark Buttler/Herald Sun]

(via /.)

Australian pop-out camper that is full of well-thought-out features

Here's a slow, gentle, fascinating demonstration video for the Wedgetail slide-on camper, "built for rough Australian terrain." It's a pretty amazing feat of engineering, with lots of thoughtful features. But what really gets me is in the money shot where the whole thing opens up like some kind of origami trick. Big things hidden in little things! Hell yeah!

Wedgetail slide on camper demonstration (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Depriving artists of sleep -- for SCIENCE!

Sean Williams sez, "Australia's #1 sleep research centre in conjunction with the Aust Network for Arts & Tech put #1 NYT-bestseller Sean Williams in a week-long sleep deprivation study with Maker/TechnoEvangelist Fee Plumley, artist Thom Buchanan and lit author Jennifer Mills to see what happened to their creativity without light cues, under constant surveillance, and subject to strict scientific instruction. The result? We all went a bit crazy (predictably) but made some fabulous art, all available under a CC license (including a new short story set in the universe of my next novel, Twinmaker)." Cory

"No Asians" - cornering a racist turns out unexpectedly well

I don't want to give away the punchline here, but it's definitely worth 1:40 of your time to get to it. This Australian gentleman placed a classified ad announcing the sale of his house, with the stipulation "No Asians." A news-crew cornered him in front of the house and demanded an explanation, and, well...

No Asians (via Reddit)

Aussie "footlong" only 11 inches

A "footlong" sandwich was measured to be merely 11 inches in length at a Subway restaurant in Australia. [Reuters]