Billy Moran (1928-2007)

Posted by jerry on February 16th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music

I was saddened to hear a couple of days ago of the death of one of the great stalwarts of Irish music in Australia, Billy Moran.

Billy Moran

A fine accordion player, I shared a number of great sessions with him over the years at the National Folk Festival and other places. I was privileged to share a stage with him at the 2005 National in Canberra. And at the sessions if you sat too long without playing, he would raise an eyebrow and suggest you start the next tune. Of course he would know it – I doubt there are many tunes he didn’t know.

Billy Moran

Billy was a rough diamond who played music since he was a lad. According to he spent some time working in the Midlands of England, and his accent was a mix of Irish and north country. Migrating to Austrlia in 1950, he worked on the Snowy Mountain scheme and at Maralinga – site of the British nuclear weapon tests. He finally settled in Melbourne and he haunted the sessions. He certainly had stamina. At the National Folk festival several times he would start a session mid afternoon, and if you were around at two or three in the morning, you could still hear his accordion playing.

Billy Moran

Billy, we will miss you.


Internet – fifteen years on

Posted by jerry on February 15th, 2007 — Posted in History, New media, Technology

It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since Tim Berners-Lee released the software and the concept of the world-wide-web to the public. I remember having used ‘Gopher’ to retrieve documents, and then being amazed by Mosaic v1 when I first saw it. I’d used email since 1989 at the university, so I guess it was fairly early when I came to the World-Wide-Web, in about October 1993. I suppose I could put in a shameless plug for my book Virtual States (The Internet and the boundaries of the Nation-State) here, but I won’t 😉
The BBC has put up a timeline of world-wide-web history – ever wondered whatever happened to the Cambridge University coffee pot? It’s all here 🙂

BBC - web history


Evicted possum

Posted by jerry on February 14th, 2007 — Posted in Journal

For a couple of weeks now, we have heard movement on the roof. But when we went outside we couldn’t see the culprit. The footsteps were heavy – this was no rat, we thought possibly a cat on the roof. Then I went up on the roof to investigate. And there I found a large hole in the eves and a tile nudged loose. The noises, coupled with their timing – just after dusk and around dawn finally pointed to one thing – a possum.

Not wanting to hurt the creature – they really are cute – we called the Possum Man. Yesterday he arrived in the early morning and made lots of noise scrambling around the roof. The end result was a one-way door that would let the possum out, but wouldn’t let him back in again.

Last night I heard the noises. Possums are creatures of habit, and we had sealed off his usual route in and out – and we were warned that possums get upset when their habits are frustrated. At three and four AM the possum was clearly disturbed, stomping around in his hobnailed boots.

And this evening I heard footsteps on the tiles. Not on the ceiling, but outside, on the roof. I grabbed the camera and tripod and a flashlight and hurried outside. By this time the possum had given up on the roof and marched huffily up the wires to the top of the telegraph pole in our backyard.


I shone the torch, and he just stared back forlornly. Tonight the realisation was setting in that he had been evicted, and would have to find a new home at the top of a tree, rather than curled up in our cosy roof among the insulation batts. And so I took a couple of photos of the artful lodger.


They are about the size of a large rabbit, with the agility of a cat – possums can climb anything, and make use of telegraph wires like a seasoned tightrope walker. They make it look so easy waddling along the wires as though they were on firm ground. Occasionally they’d stop and look intently at something with those keen eyes, then carry on as though nothing had happened. Tonight, though, our lodger just curled up and sulked, looking accusingly at the flashlight and camera.

Sharon has a great picture of another possum that used to live by the roof of her office at the University so you can see what these gentle creatures look like in daylight


A serious Mac collection

Posted by jerry on February 14th, 2007 — Posted in History, Technology

Okay, I admit it, I like Apple Macintosh computers. And yes I’ve been using them since about 1999 – and I do still have almost all the macs we have bought over the years, each a generation above the next. I guess all up we have eight, from the humble 512k through the mac plus and colour classic to a couple of the old iMacs and so on. And they all still work.

Apple Macintosh computers
The 512k mac (with its half a meg of RAM) still boots up on a 400k disk using System 0.95 (yes it’s before System 1!) – the same disk also has MacWrite and MacPaint – text and graphic editors – and still has enough space for several documents – all on a 400k floppy disk. Programs were very light in those days.

But some people are serious collectors and Jeremy Mehrl (aka soyburger) has 67 macs in his basement, all neatly wired in place and fully functional.

wall of macs

And his bar uses 30 mac classics – there’s something delightful about the repetetive design element that is very appealing

wall of macs

Giles Turnbull of Or’Reilly caught up with Soyburger and did an email interview with him about the collection.

Many thanks to Shawn Day of Randomosity for pointing to the collection 🙂


Time travel and hypertext

Posted by jerry on February 13th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Theory, Writing

Having just read the remarkable novel The Time Traveler’s Wife I got to thinking just how common time travel is. So common, in fact, that you have to think carefully to realise you are doing it every day. There are hints, of course, like when your Partner looks at you strangely over the coffee and says ‘have you heard what I just said?’ and you realise you were thinking about the sound of a violin you heard last week, or a funny email from your daughter.

As Mark Marino notes, time travel is a common theme in literature and film. But these narrative devices work on safe constrained parameters – the film maker or writer supplies the context against which the time travel is juxtaposed for its effect.

Time travel narrative

He makes the claim that perhaps hypertext is different – and he may be partly right. The thing about hypertext is that it can have many more variables than linear fiction – whether novel or film – and may be constructed in a ‘writerly’ way by making it wiki-like with multiple authors. But real time travel is far more complex.

We time travel all the time, but have little control over where it takes us – the scent of a rose takes you to that garden in Leeds Castle in the UK ten years ago, or the sight of some wrapping paper takes you to the gift you are thinking of buying your partner next week. The thing is, it is only by exception that we actually experience narrative sequence in an ordered linear sequence. We are constantly steered by connotations and overtones of meaning.

It makes me wonder then, why some people seem to get hot under the collar about the time and resources that go into spaces like Second Life – real life experienced in a virtual world. Don’t people get that we are always embedded in a multiplicity of virtual worlds? And to think the authorities were worried about novel-space, like the court case surrounding ‘Madam Bovary’.

Angela Thomas, a New Media researcher from Sydney explores Second Life and uses that space for teaching new media literacies – you see, it’s all about real human interaction, it’s just the space that’s virtual. Perhaps that is more healthy than sharing a real space and daydreaming off somewhen else!