my cat’s breath smells like cat food

They sell tiny (82g, drained) tins of tuna, sometimes mixed with chili &c., in the shops here.

They never seemed especially appealing, but they were practically giving them away this week, so I bought a few as easy desk food.

For those steeped in the ritual of serving wet food to pets, as I once was, it is impossible not to feel like you’re eating cat food. Everything is the same.

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From time to time I am gently reminded that I live in a foreign land and have nothing culturally in common with these people whatsoever. Last week I used the phrase “pure as the wind-driven snow,” for example, and the person I was talking to looked at me like I was a space alien.

Later I used a line from this ad, a phrase so iconic that you would be extremely hard-pressed to find an English-speaking American between the ages of 30 and 60 for whom it was not instantly recognisable.

Thus it is in the spirit of international brotherhood that I make this attempt to educate you, my foreign readers:

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Malones Faux Irish Pub

A month or so ago, Malones opened their newest branch of pre-fabricated Irish pub right next to my office in KL, so like any obedient western ex-pat, I headed there with my obedient western ex-pat friend for a pint. I think it was perhaps their third day open for business.

The cuisine looked stereotypically Irish, I’ll say that. We did not sample it.

One pint of delicious Paulaner — I was unwilling to discover what kind of Guinness they’d pour after three days in business — led to a second and, as you do, a second led to a fourth, and eventually it was That Time.

I walked to the back and chatted with the affable new manager, who cheerfully and without any hesitation informed me that the toilets would be installed next week.

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a hundred words about drinking water

Nat’s overheard-in-KL reminds me of a similar experience, in reverse:

When we were first building expertise in our KL office, we would hire top graduates fresh out of Malaysian universities and bring them to Perth to learn our business.

One of these grads had been in Perth for two or three years, and was getting ready to return. One day he saw me walk over to the kitchenette and down a big mug of water from the tap.

And he shouts across the room, “The water is safe to drink here? We have been boiling it needlessly the entire time?”


they were too busy charging 29% interest

My credit card company’s crack team of fraud prevention softwares flagged a transaction today as “unusual” because it occurred “out of state”. By which I can only assume they mean Massachusetts.

After three and a half years of almost exclusively Australian transactions, minor car service is the one that finally, at last, tipped them off.



it’s great to be back

I know intellectually that I must have been colder at some point in my life, but I struggle to think of when.

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“Brutal” is right

do not buy this book

It takes a rare talent to transform a subject as theoretically exciting as the Irish mob into such a thoroughly lifeless bore, a talent which was deftly employed throughout Brutal.

The first nine thousand pages were dedicated to the author regaling us with tales of how sweet he was at punching dudes in the face. To hear him tell it, he was basically the best at face punching.

The next couple of chapters are a list of all of the black people he punched in the face and why they totally deserved it.

Then he and his ghost writer went on about some boring murders and shakedowns, and the boring people who were doing them for their boring reasons. Lucky for Kevin, he apparently never took a direct part in any of those activities, but was always close enough to the action to be a credible state’s witness. That was both super convenient and entirely 100% believable no seriously guys I am being serious here.

I am so glad I got this book from a library, because I would have felt like a real jackass if I’d paid for it.

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in which we test the Australian medical system

My feet hurt. Not when I abuse them during exercise, oddly, but a bit when I’m going down stairs, and a lot if I apply pressure to the top of either foot.

I assumed for a long time that it was just a sore muscle or strained connective tissue. I took four weeks off while I traveled, and the pain subsided, but it returned with exercise. Four months later, I thought perhaps it was time to see a doctor.

He was a bit puzzled at first; I knew I hadn’t dropped anything on both my feet, and he ruled out stress fractures, but light pressure on most metatarsals produced sharp pain. I was skeptical, but went for an MRI of one foot: AU$345 from a private clinic, about a quarter what it would have cost me in Boston.

The MRI turned out to be the perfect diagnostic tool for this case. The white areas indicate fluid within and around the bones that hurt when pressure is applied, which is apparently a typical response to major stress. An x-ray wouldn’t have told us anything.

left: healthy bone / right: big problems

I asked if things would stablise here; if I don’t mind the pain, can I just carry on as usual? The answer was unambiguously no: if I don’t let them heal, I am reliably informed, stress fractures are imminent.

As a result, I am prohibited from stressing either foot for twelve Earth weeks. He gave me orthotics that are supposed to reduce stress when I walk, but so far it feels like they’re doing more harm than good. Given how slowly they make me limp around, I think I’ll move faster if I scare up a set of crutches.

Interestingly, according to this article, it seems to be a common affliction among basketball players, and is only being diagnosed prior to stress fractures now that MRIs are widely available. I also find it mildly alarming at how much more complete the oedema appears to be in my films, compared to those shown in the article.

I no longer, it seems, have the body of an eighteen-year-old.

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won’t somebody please think of the children

Last week, sensationalist newspaper articles ran across the country — this is a representative example — breathless with the news that, somehow, knives, guns, and ammunition were carried on an airplane as checked luggage.

Truly, if this non-event is “one of Australia’s most serious breaches of airport security” then I look forward to finally being able to carry toothpaste, leave my shoes on, and cut my steak with a real knife again. I get it. We won the war on terror.

Although I’m still not clear on why this even warrants a newspaper article, let alone what will no doubt become a full parliamentary inquiry, my favourite part of these articles is this: they spend 500 words whipping up a frenzy about airport security and baggage handling over nothing, but virtually no discussion — certainly no breathless outrage, calls for inquiry, or quotes from rabid anti-gun nuts — of the fact that a duffel bag full of guns and knives was traveling in the care of eleven- and fourteen-year-old boys.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you Australian society doesn’t have their eye on the ball.


I’m not wild about some of his other policies

But when it comes to waste, fraud, and mismanagement, Alan has impressed me for a while. I watched this hearing, and this is a pretty good six-minute summary:

If I were the Fed, I wouldn’t let Kohn anywhere near a microphone ever again

When it comes to this $1.2 trillion, I’m willing to bet that virtually zero of it was lent. Lending implies that there’s some chance of being repaid. When you loan to an insolvent institution, that’s called a donation.

The only issue I take with this report is this idea that there’s no cap on these gifts from the Fed. There’s a very clear cap, and that cap is zero. Congress — not the President, and certainly not Bernanke — gets to appropriate taxpayer funds. There’s no authority in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 for making loans against worthless collateral, backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government.


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