When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

"If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all" (Si l'on n'a rien de bon à dire, ne rien dire)

"Je lui dirais... que les sottises imprimées n'ont d'importance qu'aux lieux où l'on en gêne le cours; que sans la liberté de blâmer, il n'est point d'éloge flatteur; et qu'il n'y a que les petits hommes qui redoutent les petits écrits."

--- Le Mariage de Figaro, Acte V scène 3 / Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

"I would tell you... that printed nonsense is only important where they interfere with the course [of events]; that without the freedom to criticise, there is no flattering praise; and that only small men fear insignificant writings."

--- The Marriage of Figaro, Act V scene 3 / Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

"Nobody in the game of football should be called a genius. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein." - Joe Theismann, Former quarterback


"It was a complex chain of oppression in Virginia. The Indians were plundered by white frontiersmen, who were taxed and controlled by the Jamestown elite. And the whole colony was being exploited by England, which bought the colonists' tobacco at prices it dictated and made 100,000 pounds a year for the King...

"Levelling" meant equalizing the wealth. Levelling was to be behind countless actions of poor whites against the rich in all the English colonies, in the century and a half before the Revolution.

The servants who joined Bacon's Rebellion were part of a large underclass of miserably poor whites who came to the North American colonies from European cities whose governments were anxious to be rid of them. In England, the development of commerce and capitalism in the 1500s and 1600s, the enclosing of land for the production of wool, filled the cities with vagrant poor, and from the reign of Elizabeth on, laws were passed to punish them, imprison them in workhouses, or exile them...

Although colonial laws existed to stop excesses against servants, they were not very well enforced, we learn from Richard Morris's comprehensive study of early court records in Government and Labor in Early America. Servants did not participate in juries. Masters did. (And being propertyless, servants did not vote.) In 1666, a New England court accused a couple of the death of a servant after the mistress had cut off the servant's toes. The jury voted acquittal. In Virginia in the 1660s, a master was convicted of raping two women servants. He also was known to beat his own wife and children; he had whipped and chained another servant until he died. The master was berated by the court, but specifically cleared on the rape charge, despite overwhelming evidence...

A historian who studied Boston tax lists in 1687 and 1771 found that in 1687 there were, out of a population of six thousand, about one thousand property owners, and that the top 5 percent- 1 percent of the population-consisted of fifty rich individuals who had 25 percent of the wealth. By 1770, the top 1 percent of property owners owned 44 percent of the wealth.

As Boston grew, from 1687 to 1770, the percentage of adult males who were poor, perhaps rented a room, or slept in the back of a tavern, owned no property, doubled from 14 percent of the adult males to 29 percent. And loss of property meant loss of voting rights...

The colonies, it seems, were societies of contending classes-a fact obscured by the emphasis, in traditional histories, on the external struggle against England, the unity of colonists in the Revolution. The country therefore was not "born free" but born slave and free, servant and master, tenant and landlord, poor and rich. As a result, the political authorities were opposed "frequently, vociferously, and sometimes violently," according to Nash. "Outbreaks of disorder punctuated the last quarter of the seventeenth century, toppling established governments in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina"...

What if these different despised groups-the Indians, the slaves, the poor whites-should combine? Even before there were so many blacks, in the seventeenth century, there was, as Abbot Smith puts it, "a lively fear that servants would join with Negroes or Indians to overcome the small number of masters."

There was little chance that whites and Indians would combine in North America as they were doing in South and Central America, where the shortage of women, and the use of Indians on the plantations, led to daily contact. Only in Georgia and South Carolina, where white women were scarce, was there some sexual mixing of white men and Indian women. In general, the Indian had been pushed out of sight, out of touch. One fact disturbed: whites would run off to join Indian tribes, or would be captured in battle and brought up among the Indians, and when this happened the whites, given a chance to leave, chose to stay in the Indian culture, Indians, having the choice, almost never decided to join the whites...

The Virginia Assembly, after Bacon's Rebellion, gave amnesty to white servants who had rebelled, but not to blacks. Negroes were forbidden to carry any arms, while whites finishing their servitude would get muskets, along with corn and cash. The distinctions of status between white and black servants became more and more clear...

To call [the middle class] "the people" was to omit black slaves, white servants, displaced Indians. And the term "middle class" concealed a fact long true about this country, that, as Richard Hofstadter said: "It was ... a middle-class society governed for the most part by its upper classes."

Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality"

--- A People's History of the United States / Howard Zinn

You can do anything you set your mind to

A domesticated duck stood on the edge of a cliff and thought to himself, "If a swan can fly, I can too. After all we are all the same". He then took off by jumping off the cliff and fell to the ground.

A vulture, having witnessed the whole event came by while the duck was still breathing and said, "Stupidity is trying to be something you are not."

He then tore off the duck flesh and ate heartily.

--- Written by a friend

Friday, November 04, 2011


Links - 4th November 2011

"Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages." - H. L. Mencken


Whither USP? - "Somebody had asked an African-American student in a US college who had the most racist attitude towards African Americans in American society. That African-American student thought for awhile and replied, “The educated African-Americans. Because they feel that since they have succeeded in this system, the system works. So if other African-Americans don’t succeed in the same system, it has to be something that’s wrong with them, and not the system”... Just because an individual is fortunate enough to be equipped with the traits that enable him or her to succeed in the current system, does not mean that all others who fail in the same system are not deserving, and does not mean that the current system cannot be tweaked or improved"
Similarly, just because some people don't succeed does not mean that there is something wrong with the system

France's richest say: Tax us more - "We, the presidents and leaders of industry, businessmen and women, bankers and wealthy citizens would like the richest people to have to pay a 'special contribution'"

Groupon's fall to earth swifter than its fast rise - ""Most of the deals are for female-centric services like spas and nails or for high-ticket non-necessities like skydiving and travel," says Richard Breen, a Greenville, S.C., marketing executive who used to use Groupon. "I typically delete it each day now without opening the email""
Another example of how having a dream and passion do not necessarily lead to success

Orangutan populations develop different cultures just like humans

Bra Recyling - Bra Burning to Produce Fuel - "61% of Japanese women feel weird about throwing their bras away, since many of their districts require clear plastic bags, which apparently draws the attention of perverts (seriously)"

Economists See More Jobs for Machines, Not People - NYTimes.com - "The tone of alarm in their book is a departure for the pair, whose previous research has focused mainly on the benefits of advancing technology... Technology has always displaced some work and jobs. Over the years, many experts have warned — mistakenly — that machines were gaining the upper hand... “In medicine, law, finance, retailing, manufacturing and even scientific discovery,” they write, “the key to winning the race is not to compete against machines but to compete with machines”"

La France, pays d'Europe qui compte le plus de millionnaires
On doute que l’impôt sur la fortune chasse les riches du pays

Language at risk of dying out – the last two speakers aren't talking - "There are 68 different indigenous languages in Mexico, further subdivided into 364 variations. A handful of other Mexican indigenous languages are also in danger of extinction, though Ayapaneco is the most extreme case"

Bosses Four Times As Likely To Be 'Psychopaths': Survey Says

Golf courses, not history, should make way - "Although golf courses are located in constrained areas near water catchment zones, military training grounds or flight paths, not only do they occupy huge tracts of land, they are economically unproductive, socially exclusive and environmentally damaging. If Singapore's policies are based on pragmatism and inclusiveness, golfing should not be considered a practical activity here. Golfers should go to neighbouring countries for their sport. Given the increasing congestion in public parks like MacRitchie Reservoir and East Coast Park, it is unacceptable that a privileged few have exclusive access to large plots of land in a tiny country with a burgeoning population... Singaporeans should ask themselves to choose between saving an exclusive golf course or a culturally, ecologically and historically rich site like Bukit Brown Cemetery, if they are keen on nurturing this Singapore Soul. This is not a difficult choice, even for the wealthy, if we are thinking of wealth and happiness for all Singaporeans for generations"
One comment: "There is no need to keep cemetries forever. They are something that we would not like to see if we can. In some European countries, the dead are buried for some years and then exhumed to give the space to new deads. Graves of Lim Boh Seng is worth remembering. Too many becomes eerie. On the issue of Golf Clubs versus cemetries, the former provide jobs and enjoyment for the living. I support LTA's wise decision to construct a road throught he cemetry."

Laura Barton meets Gillian Tett, assistant editor at the Financial Times - ""I happen to think anthropology is a brilliant background for looking at finance," she reasons. "Firstly, you're trained to look at how societies or cultures operate holistically, so you look at how all the bits move together. And most people in the City don't do that. They are so specialised, so busy, that they just look at their own little silos. And one of the reasons we got into the mess we are in is because they were all so busy looking at their own little bit that they totally failed to understand how it interacted with the rest of society"... "one of the things I learned as an anthropologist is that to understand how a society works you need to not just look at the areas of what we call 'social noise' - ie what everyone likes to talk about, so the equity markets and M&A and all the high-profile areas everyone can see. But you need to look at the social silences as well." When she looked at the map, she realised how much of the City was ignored... The financial system, she says, is "so dysfunctional, so tribal, that people just don't communicate with each other"... "And they put me into the economics department." She pulls a face. "Initially I thought, this is absolutely horrific!" Her Damascene moment came one day when struggling to write about the foreign exchange market. "I thought, you know what, this is just like being in Tajikistan. All I have to do is learn a new language. This is a bunch of people who have dressed up this activity with a whole bunch of rituals and cultural patterns, and if I can learn Tajik, I can jolly well learn how the FX market works!""

Church HIV prayer cure claims 'cause three deaths' - "The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them... HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will "cure" their infections... The church's website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, shows photos of people the church claims have been "cured" of HIV through prayer"
Ethnocentricity which privileges modern medicine over what is really important to real people!
If God helps those who helps themselves, how do you know it's him helping and not them?
Not only does God hate amputees, he also hates HIV patients

Tu Er Shen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "Tu Er Shen (兔兒神 or 兔神) is a Chinese deity who manages the love and sex between homosexual men. His name literally means "rabbit deity"."

Facebook user sued for liking a thread - YouTube

The Real Science behind Scientology: Scientific American - "Scientology might have helped Isaac Hayes, just as psychoanalysis and bungee jumping might have helped others, but that doesn’t mean the intervention was the reason... I recently interviewed the acclaimed science-fiction author Harlan Ellison​, who told me he was at the birth of Scientology. At a meeting in New York City of a sci-fi writers’ group called the Hydra Club, Hubbard was complaining to L. Sprague de Camp and the others about writing for a penny a word. “Lester del Rey then said half-jokingly, ‘What you really ought to do is create a religion because it will be tax-free,’ and at that point everyone in the room started chiming in with ideas for this new religion. So the idea was a Gestalt that Ron caught on to and assimilated the details. He then wrote it up as ‘Dianetics: A New Science of the Mind’ and sold it to John W. Campbell, Jr., who published it in Astounding Science Fiction in 1950.” To be fair, Scientology’s Xenu story is no more scientifically untenable than other faiths’ origin myths. If there is no testable means of determining which creation cosmogony is correct, perhaps they are all astounding science fiction"

Escape the City (UK) - Do Something Different - "We are on a mission to help you find exciting alternatives to your corporate job"

Evil Star Wars Stormtrooper photographed in loving scenes with young son - "They were created by amateur artist Kristina Alexanderson, who likes to believe the footsoldiers actually have a normal home life despite their deadly day job as Darth Vader's henchmen."

The men are to blame | Her World Singapore - "There’s been much debate of late about the Abercrombie & Fitch billboard that is splayed right across their soon-to-be-opened shopfront in the middle of Orchard Road... to me, honestly, the whole fracas really boils down to one thing. Men and their oversized egos"
The men are always to blame.
Comments: I hope no sane woman in singapore ever reads let alone believes this. the person who raised the issue first was a lady who wrote in to The Straits Times, and those who came out in support of said woman, were also ladies. if anything it's been the guys who've been against the removal, and it was a guy who wrote in to complain about the double standards in advertising. I had no idea Her World peddled sexism."
"Her World: ugly women writing for ugly women."

Man gets smartphone dock built into prosthetic arm

Foreign Libyan Journalist's Confessions on REAL Libya and Gadaffi - YouTube - "The rebels lack the popular support that Gaddafi enjoys... throughout my stay in Tripoli. A resident... said, 'we lived in democracy under Mohammad Gaddafi. He was not a dictator. I lived in Freedom. Libyan women had full human'... 'Life was good under Gaddafi. We were never afraid'... 'Everyone loves Gaddafi, and we love him because we love Libya'... 'A new cycle of colonial wars which started in Libya with the sinister objective of refreshing the capitalist global system'. He knows that his country will be targetted in that cycle with the very same motto that they used against Lybia and are now using against Syria. In the absence of an effective anti-imperialist media that can challenge and pre-empt the tricks of Imperialism through its global media, it is the role of all progressive people to champion the sovereign states of the global South who like Libya and Syria are a thorn in the sides of the West. Otherwise they will be picked off one by one to add fuel to the dying fire of Imperialism."
Totally stripped of context. If you don't know that Libya was a tribal society, and believed her post-colonial delusions you might think Gadafi was a Saint

Contrex - Ma Contrexpérience - 97s - YouTube

Translating English to English

Actually this probably applies for all native speaker-non-native speaker interactions

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Australia 2011 - Day 4, Part 1 - Journey to Ayer's Rock

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves." - Rudyard Kipling


Australia 2011
Day 4 - 1st August - Journey to Ayer's Rock
(Part 1)

Somewhere in Melbourne I saw a flushless urinal which explained that the cubes at the bottom had bacteria to keep the urinals fresh. It made me realised I'd never seen such an explanation in Singapore.

We had been scheduled to take Tiger Airways but they played us out by getting grounded. Even though we waited, they didn't fly in time so we had to get a Qantas flight (lucky it didn't play us out like it did many recently), but it was very expensive flight.

It was really early, but some shops at the airport were already open. No surprise as the airport was already very crowded at 6+ - the bus driver said it was this way till 8+.

Almost all the Qantas Domestic counters were bag drop counters - self checkin was expected.

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From the Romance novel sub-genre of Medical Fiction. One was the book of the month.

The bookstore also had ""Kim Kardashian how hot can you be?"

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"Nice girls just don't get it"

Under the childrens (sic) section there was Twilight and Justin Bieber A-Z.

Under the business section was a "signed by author" section, which had been insincerely signed.

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Sydney Opera House Official Licensed Merchandise
Bear in mind that this was Melbourne Airport. Sad. And there was nothing BUT this under "Souvenirs".

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Under "All Toiletries, Accessories" there were "Four Seasons Studs & Ribs" condoms (and as we know, "ribbed for her pleasure, not yours")
Then again it was telling that only one type was offered

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The Classics section - with Steven Pinker. Poor guy.

Walking over to the International pre-checkin section, I found it a lot more exciting. Not only were there more shops but the shops had more things. For example the Health and Beauty shop stocked *2* types of condoms, not just one (they had Four Seasons Regular too). I guess sex is good for one's Health and Beauty. They also sold unisex flight socks as well as ladies' ones. Proceding on the assumption that the Domestic terminal shops would have the essentials and the International ones would have the frills, I observe that ladies' socks are more basic than unisex ones because women are more likely to use them than men.

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A white girl doing a very obvious and tasteless version of the Japanese cleavage-enhancing move on Australian Penthouse's cover

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Krispy Kreme at the airport! Except it was the most expensive KK ever at A$2.50 for an original glazed.

There was a "30 second series" - 50 ideas each in 30 seconds. Many will see this as degeneracy but this is not quite accurate - the sheer volume of things there are to know nowadays can lead to information overload.

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"The Saress. The Ultimate Beach Dress" for "the social woman" to "capture eyes"
Billed as easy to slip on, it is at least as important to note that it is easy to slip off as well

It seems FCUK in Australia is just "French Connection" - there's no UK bit. Maybe it's residual colonial resentment.

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""Rusty Tools". For the person who has everything. Made with 70% dark chocolate and 'rusted' with cocoa powder"

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Departure gate

One can bring liquids and gels on local flights (aerosols must be in their original cans or something). Maybe they figure no one will bother blowing those up. Or they realise airport security is just a huge charade so there's no point acting if the IATA isn't breathing down their necks. ID is not checked at all either - this can be seen as part of Australian laxity.

There is an interstate quarantine in Australia on food. This must be the strictest quarantine regime in the world, and can also be an excuse for protectionism.

At Alice Springs airport it was clear that I wasn't in Kansas anymore - alcohol bought at the airport cafe could not be taken past a certain point. Even the US is not so anal. But then they don't have alcohol problems like the Northern Territory does.

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"Will you be having sex safely this holiday?"
Good to know they think Safety First

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Hertz lets you rent trucks

Someone renting a car too was surnamed "Grope". Hurr hurr.

When booking my vehicles, I had wondered about whether to get GPS. It'd have cost about A$10 a day, but I figured it'd be more economical to get a local SIM and use my phone's GPS. Of course, in the Outback on much of the highways I wouldn't have reception and it wouldn't work, but I figured that since we were not renting 4WDs, when there was no reception we'd be on roads, and they'd be clearly signposted and there'd be only one direction to go in (whereas where the routes were more complicated we'd have cellphone reception). As a backup though, we'd gotten a map at Melbourne airport. Happily Google Navigation (the one with the voice narration) works in Australia, though for some reason it doesn't in Singapore.

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Our car - a Hyundai Getz

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I think I took this to post on foursquare

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"Drive on left in Australia"

There was no speed limit on open roads, or something like that, but everyone was really slow. So we went at an effective maximum of 140km/hr for various reasons: road safety, fuel efficiency, in the off chance of a speed limit and to not tax the car too much (the engine seemed to protest when we floored the pedal and went above 140).

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We spent hours driving in this desolate landscape

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It got pretty boring after a while

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Luckily we had two people to share the driving

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Are you falling aleep yet? I am.

We came up to one rest stop - Stuarts Well Roadhouse.

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"Stuarts Well Roadhouse. The home of Dinky the Singing Dingo"

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Dingy place for Dinky

There was a girl at the counter who was quite friendly (despite fitting the description of what one might call 'White Trash' - among other things, too much eyeliner). She told me that the Singing Dingo was "world famous". This translated as "famous all over Australia" - among other things he's not on Wikipedia.

Unfortunately the other staff were cool at best. Notably who I assumed was Jim Cotterill, the dingo's owner, who exhibited the only clear-cut instance of racism I encountered in the whole trip. I know this because there was a group of 38 old white people at the restaurant for lunch (and to hear the Dingo) and he ignored me (even when I asked a question) while talking to them.

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Various writeouts on and photos of Dinky the Singing Dingo

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This is not the Dingo

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Info card. He's 11.

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The Dingo

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"Mine's bigger than yours"
This compares truck drivers' retirement plans

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Dingo in the shade and not singing

In any event the supposed 10 minute wait for the performance looked like it was going to last forever, so we took off at the 18 minute mark (at 12:30 when we left it was in 15 minutes). Outback time is like Indian time, perhaps. MR said it would just be howling anyway, and we had a sunset to catch.

Here is a non-embeddable clip of Dinky which makes my ears hurt (I'm not sure which is worse - the piano playing or the 'singing')

There's no FM radio reception along most stretches of NT highway. Phone reception I understand, but I thought radio waves went further.

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The next rest stop was Erldunda
There was a sign about a mouse problem to be 'irradicated' - another example of Bad Australian English

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"Australia. A Big country"

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"Dehydrated Bullshit"

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Junk food: sausage roll, desert dog, pig dog (from right to left)
The girl behind the counter was a cute Malaysian girl on a working holiday. It must've been quite sad working there. For one there was no 'yes' Optus reception (though she later informed me that Telstra worked).

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Descriptions of the 3

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Pig dog. Mmm.

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"No fishing"

Despite the road from Alice Springs to Uluru being a major one, there were quite a few potholes.

Signs greeting visitors on the road to Uluru were also in Japanese, Italian, German and a local aboriginal language. Italian was a weird choice.

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Ad conning people to do the 2011 Census. Spot the grammar mistake.

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Bogus Climate Change anti-plastic bag law. Even biodegradable checkout style plastic bags will be banned, so you can see saving money for retailers is probably the more important goal.

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"By arrangement with the Pitjantjatjara council the licencee will not sell 'takeaway' alcohol to persons who are residents of or travelling to Pitjantjatjara lands in South Australia, Mutitjulu Community, Docker River, the Peterman Lands or the Central Reserves of Western Australia"
A shameful example of racism manifested as structural violence

At Mt Ebenezer Road House there was an aboriginal art gallery with:

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An unenforceable $5,000 fine for photo-taking inside. "Police will be called". It is 190km from Yulara, probably the nearest place with a police presence. I highly doubt they will spend 3 hours driving down to nab someone for photo-taking.

After looking at ugly aboriginal paintings, I found the real reason photography was banned:

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Scampering mouse
Multiple photos of a mouse: what driving in the Outback for hours does to you

There are signs about speed cameras in the Northern Territory. Perhaps they are hidden in trees by the road - we didn't see any.

After many hours of driving, we saw a magnificent sight on the horizon.

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This is actually Mt Conner - which looks like Ayer's Rock (Uluru). It is not the same, however. Despite knowing of its existence, I was almost taken in. It's made of the same stone.

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Spot the grammar mistake at Curtin Springs Cattle Station

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The girl here was white but didn't seem local (my guess was German and I verified it later). However we had a sunset to catch so there was no time to make enquiries.

More than one person had suggested to me that I take 2 cars to drive in Australia, in case one broke down. Apparently they hadn't considered that a satellite phone would've been cheaper.

Some place had a sign saying cats were not allowed. But who'd bring them out into the Outback?!

There were what seemed to be 2 dead camels at the side of the highway at one point. Then we realised where Australian beef came from.
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