Tales from Urban Dilettantia


Words and locks and keys

I had a lot of words here.  Then I put them all in the cupboard, but then I got just a few out again.

Frog put the cookies in the box.


Our Game

Carlton and Collingwood players contest the first ball-up in the inaugural AFL Women's match in February 2017

Photo: Carlton and Collingwood players contest the first ball-up in the inaugural AFL Women’s match in February 2017 (by Tigerman2612)

Like many Australian kids, I grew up kicking the footy in the back yard.  Having a brother, I heard people comment ‘maybe he’ll be a footy player one day!’ from time to time.  (Or, depending on the sporting season, ‘maybe he’ll be a champion fast-bowler one day’.)  In contrast, no-one ever said ‘maybe she’ll be a footy player one day!’ about me.

To be fair, I would have made a bloody awful football player, even if the opportunity had presented itself.  I was tiny, had terrible eyesight, and a truly astounding lack of co-ordination.   But, more significantly, it was the 1980s and for all intents and purposes, women’s football simply didn’t exist.  In fact – while Wikipedia tells me that a small State league was established in 1988 – I didn’t hear of women playing footy until the late 1990s, when I was quite astounded to learn that some friends were playing in an inter-university league.

In spite of this, Aussie Rules football (at least, the kind with men) has been a constant in my adult life – I’ve been a member of my AFL club (the national league) for a decade and a half.  I’ve slept out in a queue for Grand Final tickets, back in the days when you had to spend a night on the concrete outside the ground to secure a seat at the biggest game of the year.  I’ve cheered on my WAFL team (the State-level league) in many finals.  I’ve organised my calendar around footy fixtures each year.  And occasionally I’ve ventured down the park for a bit of kick-to-kick, especially after a few drinks on Grand Final Day.  (Fun fact: one of my little fingers is permanently crooked.  I broke it many years ago on a junior-sized ball while attempting to take a mark.  I did warn you that I’m uncoordinated.)  I think it’s a wonderful game – athletic, often spectacular, occasionally hilarious, and featuring a relatively simple rule set that makes it accessible to new audiences.

But, while enjoying the game as a spectator and occasional tipsy amateur, I’ve long been aware of the many problems that surround it.  A lot of these problems mirror those in other highly masculinised sports – for example, rugby league – and are often highly gendered.  Off-field behaviour from players that runs the gamut from inappropriate to downright criminal.  The patronising and objectifying discussion of player’s partners – collectively, ‘the WAGS’.  (That’s ‘Wives and Girlfriends’, if you’re lucky enough not to have heard it before.)  And a course, a history of homophobia so entrenched that queer players – of which, statistically, there must have been many – have been made invisible.
Over the last decade, the AFL has begun to make tiny steps towards a more inclusive culture that better reflects the game’s diverse fan base.  We’ve seen the introduction of the Women’s Round, which celebrates women in the sport, as well as the AFL’s substantial base of female supporters, and 2016 saw the first Pride Game.

However, when it comes to the issue of women and footy, I’m firmly of the opinion that we need women playing at the highest level to change the culture of the sport for the better.  A nod to women’s footy (and footy’s women) in one round a year – one round, that is, of the men’s game – is not enough.
And this brings us to 2017’s inaugural AFLW – that’s AFL Women’s – competition.  This year, it’s been very much a testing of the waters.  The games have been scheduled before the commencement of the men’s league’s season (with the often-extreme summer heat only being partly offset by a shortened game length). The new teams, somewhat awkwardly, have the same names as the men’s teams – presumably a marketing decision.  Most of the games are being played at smaller suburban grounds (many of which have been filed to capacity, to the credit of the league’s supporters).  And, importantly, we’re not quite sure what shape the league will take in the future.

But regardless, it’s been absolutely amazing to turn on the TV and see people like me (or at least a more co-ordinated version of me) playing the sport I love.  And I can’t start to imagine how much more amazing it must be for the girls in Auskick – our national children’s footy program – to see this pathway rolling out in front of them.  Or perhaps even better, it may be that they’re not amazed at all, because they’re about to grow up in a world where they can take it for granted that women play footy professionally – why wouldn’t they?

Now, today, I’m feeling pretty wibbly when it comes to talking about the AFLW, because I know that an AFLW team guernsey – one I was so excited to order – is waiting for me in my PO Box.  I was, in fact, so excited to order it that I announced the fact to a couple of my male, footy-tragic colleagues (men with small daughters, no less), because I thought they’d say – at the very least – ‘hey that’s cool!’   What they actually did was shrug at me, and then talk to each other for a bit about the mediocrity of non-male football.   And on Monday, when they asked how my weekend was, and I said ‘I had an amazing weekend – watching the AFLW made me so incredibly happy’, they turned away from me, and started talking to each other about how poor the AFLW was, and how it was a ‘novelty event’ that wouldn’t last.  (Let’s add ‘failure to read social cues’ to their long list of failures.)

So, I’m off to go pick up my guernsey from the post office now.  And fuck those guys.  I’m not going to show them, and I’m not going to tell them how delighted I am, because they are so clearly part of The Reason Women Can’t Have Nice Things.  What I’m going to do is wear that guernsey down to the game on Sunday – the first ever AFLW game to be played in my State – and cheer until I drop.

Adulting and Adulthood

I’ve been giving some thought, recently, to why the neologism ‘adulting’ really grates.

I had a look around to see what other people had said on the matter. Most of the dislike for the word seems to centre on criticism of people – particularly Millennials – for whom said ‘adulting’ is optional.
I take this point, although singling out Millennials makes me uncomfortable (they’re the ones who have to live with the planet that we’ve messed up, after all). I too have the privilege of letting things fall apart a bit without major consequences.

Being highly educated, white, a property owner, in a permanent job (with sick leave, no less), a good credit record, and so forth, I too have a safety net. I’m fortunate to have choices that wouldn’t be open to me if I lived in public housing, if I had rent inspections, if I had already defaulted on paying fines, if family services were watching me and I feared they would take my children. I’m fortunate that to ‘adult’ or not to ‘adult’ is frequently a choice.

However, I don’t think this fully captures the reason I loathe the term. My issue – the one I haven’t seen raised elsewhere – is one of ability and disability.

I’ve been open with people about my mental health.  When I’m not well, I frequently struggle with some fairly basic functions. Dealing with the mail, paying bills, doing laundry, running errands, cleaning the house, remembering birthdays, replying to messages, eating properly et cetera. Over the years, I’ve wobbled between keeping vaguely on top of such things, and letting them go altogether. When my capacity to cope has been low, what little I have has been wholly funnelled into my job.

None of this is particularly unusual for someone with longstanding, treatment-resistant mental health issues. And I have many friends (some with similar mental health issues, some with mobility constraints, and some with other chronic health conditions) who share my experience.

I won’t speak for them, but for me, the territory between disability and adulthood is terribly murky. I am accomplished at berating myself, and it is but a small step from saying ‘I am unwell’ to ‘I am a failure, I might as well be a child’.

And herein is the problem. Herein is the murkiness. When I see these things – dealing with the mail, paying bills, doing laundry, running errands, cleaning the house, remembering birthdays, replying to messages, eating properly et cetera – referred to as ‘adulting’, there is a subtle sting. An implication that the failure to do these things is a failure to grow the hell up.

Part of this – much of it, in fact – is my problem, not yours. It is my responsibility to learn not to berate myself, and not to define myself by the things I fail to do. And, I’m well aware that it buys into a logical fallacy – namely, denying the antecedent.

However, I think there is a wider issue here that warrants examination – one that plays into the tendency to infantilise people with disability, and one that challenges what adulthood looks like. When I’m curled up in a ball and can’t leave the house, I’m an adult who happens to be curled up in a ball and can’t leave the house. When I have crippling anxiety about getting a task done, I’m an adult with crippling anxiety about getting a task done. When I’ve eaten condiments out of a jar for dinner because I’ve been steam-rolled by antidepressants that just aren’t working, I’m a goddamn condiment-eating adult.

So, should people stop using the word ‘adulting’? That’s their call. For my part, I’ll work on my own issues – the shaky mental processes that cause it to grate and generate a vague yet needling sense of grief. But I do believe – passionately – that we need to think about how we define adulthood, and how that intersects with disability. We are all adults here, doing our best – clean laundry, or not.

Theme Post: 2017

A new year sees the end of one theme, and the beginning of another.

In 2016, I chose ‘Share’.  I’ve reflected on it over the past few weeks, and worried that I’d chosen a ‘soft’ theme – one that simply involved ticking some boxes.  I shrugged off the things that I’d managed to share, and instead made a  list of the things I’d failed to share.  And when I communicated this to others, they pointed out that I was stuck in my usual routine of magnifying the bad and diminishing the good.

Here’s a picture of some of my thoughts on ‘Share’, and my first forays into 2017’s theme, ‘Control’.

A picture of 'Share' (2016) and 'Control' (2017).

‘Control’ scares me.  It’s a theme I’ve been avoiding for years, skirting around the edges of it and looking away.  But I’m coming to admit that I believe that, without maintaining tight over everyone and everything, I’m nothing.  That everything will come falling down.

This is a profoundly unhealthy way of being.  It ignores both reality, and the sovereignty of others.  And it’s something I think I need to tear down – not something that can be chipped away at gently.  Hence, ‘Control’ scares me, because I’m obsessed with it, and can’t yet envision what life would look like in the absence of that obsession.

Here’s another picture I made about it, after a bit more thought and some more conversations:

A picture of 'Control' (2017).

I think there will be more pictures, and there will certainly be more reading.  I’m not sure where this will all lead, but I hope it is somewhere better than I am now.


As promised in last month’s post, here is the mindmap for my 2016 theme, ‘Share’, along with a couple of mini maps about things that block or enable sharing.

They’re all dodgy phone photos, because the perfect is the enemy of the good, and because holding off until I manage to post beautifully scanned, cleaned-up versions in late 2023 won’t achieve much.

2016 'Share' Map

2016 ‘Share’ Map

Four central questions, or bundles of questions, popped up while I was working on the map.  I don’t have answers for any of them now, but I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll be closer:

  1. How to manage overcommitting? How to say no? What not to share? Boundaries?
  2. But who wants to hear?
  3. What does sustainable sharing look like?
  4. Why does this scare me so much?


Share Enablers

Share Enablers


Share Blocks

Share Blocks


2016: Share

Before I die I want to...

Once a year, every year, I choose a theme.

It’s usually no more than a word. A guiding thought for the year to come. A subject of inquiry. A standing piece of advice for life’s decisions, big or small. Once, it was ‘sovereignty’, once ’hearth’, once ’capability’. I think once it may have been ‘balance’, and once ‘the small’, but my record-keeping is somewhat lacking.

So, once a year, every year, I choose a theme. But ‘choose’ isn’t quite the right word. It implies a range of possibilities, when in fact it is a matter of a single idea, bubbling to the surface. Almost always, it emerges when Ju and I meet to discuss the year just gone, and the one to come.

This year, somewhat to my surprise, my theme is ‘share’. I am surprised because it seems more outward-looking, more engaged with other people, and more open than any introvert-who-just-wants-to-be-left-alone could be. Consequently, I have found myself stubbornly pushing back against the idea.

Sharing time? I don’t have time!

Sharing energy? I don’t have energy!

Sharing stories, experiences, food, friendship, space? Did you hear what I said about time and energy?

Evidence that I have found a fitting theme.

As usual, perfectionism – ever my companion – intervenes. It appears self-evident that I need to conduct this inquiry on a grand scale, at no cost to all the other things I do. That somehow (if I’m a better person, a kinder person, a healthier and stronger and more organised person) time and energy will rain from the heavens and all will be well.

This is – self-evidently – ludicrous. I have learned and forgotten and learned again that the only way I do things well is incrementally, in tiny, successful steps. (I recorded this knowledge many years ago on The Map of Win which hangs in my hall, but I still forget and re-learn.)
And so, some tiny sharing possibilities.

Write here again – just a little. Nothing epic, nothing grand.

Help organise Cary’s open-house breakfasts at The Workhouse (instead of just showing up at best).

Process and upload just a handful of a three-year backlog of photos to my Flickr.

Give a tiny gift.

Make a date to appreciate a friend’s new house.

I will – as usual – make a mind-map soon to explore the idea of sharing more broadly and deeply. And this year, I will share it here.

Wastage, Bleeders, and Murky Data in the Horse Racing Industry

Hey Australia, it’s Melbourne Cup Day.

It turns out that it’s actually quite hard to find well-researched information on issues of animal welfare in the racing industry.  All credit to organisations who lobby against cruelty in the industry, but their sites aren’t always the best of source of resources, and at times show a misunderstanding of the underlying statistics.

Given it’s Cup Day, I’ve put together an overview of some of the studies I’ve encountered during a quick skim of the literature. Bear in mind that I haven’t looked in detail into the authors, nor methodologies used in the studies, so cite with caution.  The two issues that immediately arose when I ran a search were ‘wastage’ (the commercial term for horses lost to the racing industry) and ‘bleeders’ (horses suffering from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or ‘EIPH’).

One of the most concerning aspects in my opinion is how just murky and under-scrutinised this whole industry appears to be in this respect – pinning down solid, credible data is no simple task, even where suspicions have been raised that the industry may be the horsey equivalent of a puppy mill.   For example, there’s very little information relating to the origin of horses sent to abattoirs.  This in in part due to an glaring absence of record keeping, the complication of abattoirs frequently procuring horses via auctions rather than directly from from racing stables, and the fact that some of the relevant data (where it exists) is considered to be commercial in confidence.

An estimated 80 per cent of those horses that actually end up on the racetrack suffer EIPH – these horses are known in the industry as ‘bleeders’.  (Hinchcliff, K.W., et al., Association between exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage and performance in Thoroughbred  racehorses. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2005. 227: p. 768-774.)  This is quite an interesting one statistically, as horses can either bleed from the windpipe or in the deeper lung area, with some commentary noting the former applies to ‘around half’ of all racehorses, and the latter up to 90 per cent.  Wikipedia references studies stating the proportion of racehorses suffering EIPH at some point in their career falls between 40 per cent and 70 per cent.   I’m not clear on the number of non-racing horses who suffer from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, although some of the literature implies it is significantly lower.

It’s been estimated  “pregnancy in 1000 Thoroughbred Australian mares produces only 300 horses which will actually race”.   (Bourke JM (1995) Wastage in Thoroughbreds. In ‘Proceedings from the Annual Seminar, Equine Branch, NZVA’. Auckland pp. 107-119. Veterinary Continuing Education, Massey University)  Where do they go?  One of the more nteresting and recent studies in this area – greatly impaired as it was by lack of industry data – is detailed in a 2008 paper published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.  Here’s an extract of the relevant section:

An assessment was also made on the possibility of collecting further data within the abattoir setting. In this study data was collected over three collection dates from 340 horses processed at an Australian abattoir. This occurred between November 2007 and January 2008. The data showed that 59.8% of the horses had a dental age of  7 years with the remainder (40.2%) being > 7 years. Observations of the types of brands present indicated that 52.9% of the horses processed had originated from the racing industry with 40.0% of the sample group carrying a Thoroughbred brand and 12.9% carrying a Standardbred brand. The remainder of the group (47.1%) had no visible brand.

Wastage or horse loss (Jeffcott, 1990; Bailey, 1998) occurs at all stages of the horse’s life, including prior to racing, and it is estimated that pregnancy in 1000 Thoroughbred Australian mares produces only 300 horses which will actually race (Bourke, 1995). Similar pre-racing wastage has been found in Standardbred horses (trotters and pacers). A survey conducted on the 1990 crop of Western Australian Standardbred foals (Dyer, 1998) reported that 29% of foals were unregistered while approximately 26% were registered but never raced. Of the unregistered foals, 25% died or were destroyed and in 13% of cases, the cause of death was deliberate destruction. Of the registered, unraced horses 15% died and deliberate destruction was the cause of death in 12% of cases.

Bourke (1995) has also estimated that approximately 33% of the Thoroughbred population of Victoria may be lost to wastage each year however, these wastage figures include all areas in which horses are lost to the racing industry (e.g. reproductive failure, death of foals, various training and racing injuries and those relinquished for slaughter: Bailey, 1998). Interestingly, a more recent survey of racehorse trainers in the 2002/2003 race year reported similar figures. Hayek et al. (2005) found that the total wastage rate for horses in training or racing was 39% for Thoroughbreds and 38% for Standardbreds. Of the 39% of Thoroughbreds which left a racing stable only 6% were reported to have been sent to a knackery while 17% of Standardbred horses were reported to have been sent to the same destination. However, as the authors noted these figures do not include horses which were sent to a slaughter plant via a more indirect route, that is being sent to auction and purchased by an agent buying horses for slaughter, so the exact number of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds in the study group which were ultimately slaughtered remains unknown.”

Doughty, A., Cross, N., Robbins, A. and Phillips, C.J.C. 2009. The origin, dentition and foot condition of slaughtered horses in Australia. Equine Veterinary Journal 41, 808-811.

Additionally, some of the literature suggests that horses who are unsuccessful on the racecourse may transition into the more harmful sport jump racing – a spectacle banned in New South Wales, and recommended to be phased out elsewhere by an Australian Parliamentary Inquiry.   Clearly, in addition to wastage and health issues, not to mention the subjects of gambling and whipping, there’s also a whole discussion to be had about the ethics of meat production versus the breeding of animals for an entertainment industry and so forth.  But, given they’re currently running  a Race That Stops A Nation, that’s one for another day.

Swinging on the Spiral

“I’ve been asking people around me to write about personal positives in their life, the way they make a difference in their own way, as part of their daily experience of living in the world. Now it is my turn to share with you about my life and how I try to make a difference. Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around love.” – Jaunita Landésse, setting the agenda for the 51st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.

It is interesting that I’ve been invited to write about the way I make a difference in the world in a week where I’ve been struggling to even co-exist with the world. After many hours of begging my brain to think-think-think, I decided that the best way to address the subject was to take the scope above and to fill in the gap in this sentence:

‘Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around _____.’

And when I did this, I found my answer.

Curiosity. That’s me.

It is perhaps more evident that curiosity drives my inner world, than it is that it drives the outer. I’m a life-long learner, a researcher, a dilettante who hyperbolically claims she’ll try anything twice, an adventuress, an analyst and a woman who describes herself as ‘interested in everything’. (That’s a lie; I’m not in the least interested in Rugby League.)

If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you’ll have seen that they’re quite the jumble of things. Specific topics (cycling, politics, statistics, happiness, art, love), a repository for my lists of hundreds of interesting Wikipedia articles, and tales of local history that I’ve spent hours and days and weeks researching just for the love of finding things out. If I have one defining characteristic that has not changed in the least over the past three decades, it’s overwhelming, unconquerable, fervent curiosity.

How, then, does this curiosity make a difference beyond my internal world? If you’ve had a conversation with me about something that excites me, you’ve probably noticed that (a) I talk really, really fast, and (b) that I love to share the knowledge grown out of the seed of an initial fascination. While it’s hard to gauge a degree of influence, many people – at work, at home, here on the internet – have mirrored my enthusiasm and have taken the time to tell me they’ve appreciated the sharing of my interests. An even better indicator, I think, is that people often go on to send me links, books, thoughts and pieces of news related to a discussion we’ve had, long after the initial conversation. We go on to listen and learn together.

I am most certain that the infectiousness of curiosity makes a difference in the world, as does the distribution of learning. I’ve learned this not from my experience as a giver of curiosity, so much as being on the receiving side of similar excitement from others who share this passion. Their curiosity feeds mine, plants new seeds and ideas, travels off in random directions, and iteratively feeds back into their wonder and awe as it returns. To learn for the joy of learning, to discover for the joy of discovering, to chase trails, to unwrap stories and to adventure on – these are the ways I write my own story and make meaning in my world, and perhaps too, in the worlds of others.

Now, wonder and awe are magnificent things, but has occurred to me as I write that curiosity also makes a difference in a more intimate way. It brings difference into the world because I’m interested in you.
I truly want to understand what makes you happy, what makes you sad, why you do what you do, what you think, how you feel, how you think, what enchants you, what enamours you, where you come from, your stories, how you’re just like me, how you’re utterly unlike me, and how you occupy and interact with your world. And I think, again from being on the receiving end rather than the giving, that it does make a small, warming difference to meet someone who is curious about you. It is good to, in that moment, know you are an interesting creature. And so, in a tiny, intimate way, I can give you the gift of my curiosity and all that entails, and likewise, if you too are interested, you can give that gift to me.

Curiosity has become more than a personality trait. More than an instinct, a proclivity or a habit, all these though it has been. But beyond them, it has become a guiding philosophy; it is my self-determined raison d’être and my maker of meaning, in a universe where I perceive no other meaning than that I create.

As Jaunita lives to love, I live to discover.

Spiralling out, keeping going. That’s the person I want to be.

Spiral - Sculptures by the Sea

With a loving nod to Cary, comrade in philomathy. Lateralus is your song.

Of Maps and Murder

Once upon a time, this particular time being the night of 26th of June 1936, or perhaps the early morning of the 27th, Henry William Griffiths of Maylands kills his family one by one, with fishing line and an axe. Then he half fills the bath and locked the bathroom door. Finally, he tidily sits down in the water still wearing his pants, shoes and socks, and cuts his own throat.

The newspapers of the day provide detailed coverage,  both in the aftermath of the discovery, and following the inquest.  The journalists at The Mirror supply a wealth of particularly heart-wrenching details, publishing photographs of boggle-eyed children staring at the Griffiths house (‘kiddies gaze at house of awful tragedy’), the Griffiths’ toddler (‘bonny kiddie murdered today’), and the family dog (‘the only one left’).  (I am later unsurprised to see the long-defunct Mirror described as ‘the “scandal sheet” of its day, dealing with “juicy” divorce cases and the like.‘)

34 Wellington Street, 1936

Various acquaintances assure the press that Henry and Kathleen were a happy couple, adored their children, gave no clue at all that anything was wrong. (People tell the right lies after a death, and apparently even more of the right lies after four.) But of course, it all comes out at the inquest. Henry had spent time in Heathcote Mental Hospital. He was reportedly convinced the CIB and Taxation Department were recording his conversations, that the Government thought he was an international spy, and that his wife (who tactfully told people he was ‘worried about business matters’) had been conspiring against him.

The family publish death notices in the papers . Many of the notices are loving, even of Henry. They bury Henry and Kathleen side by side in Karrakatta Cemetery, one of their sons with each of them.
It is June 2012. I am at the cemetery. It is a damp, grey day and the section numbering on the map isn’t matching the numbering in my notes. I wander around lost for an hour and a half before I find them.  I’ve brought flowers with me, and I stay to weed the plot.  Afterwards, I travel the two suburbs north to see the house, and return to take a photograph on a bright sunny afternoon some months later.


I first come across this story while idly browsing Trove, and nearly pass on by, but for a peculiar inconsistency. The papers give the address as Wellington Street in Maylands, and one goes so far as to give the house number, 34. Curious to see whether the house has been swallowed up in the suburb’s inexorable gentrification, I pull up the address on Google Maps’ Street View.

Or rather, I try. There’s no such street. I poke around the obvious places first – councils, government, the old Road Board – but there’s nothing online indicating the street ever existed, no record of it being renamed.  Suddenly, I’m interested enough not to let this one go.

To trace this story back to its beginning, I need a different approach; to go back to someone, something, a source that that recognises the address. I need to find something capable of pulling up memories of web of streets eighty years gone.  The answer, it seems, is in the very place I found the story. The newspapers of the time hold knowledge; each birth and death, each celebration and each crime, each council decision, each wedding, each story worth a scattering of words. And, because Trove – by its nature – knows everything the newspapers know, I go foraging amongst its memories.

Slowly, from advertisments, stories and random fragments, the area around Wellington Street begins to resolve. Wellington Street near Beaufort Street. Wellington Street intersecting with York Street. Wellington Street on the route of the long-gone #18 tram. Trams.  I visit the State Library at lunch to check some books on history of Perth’s tramways, quite certain at this point that at least one of them will have a useful map. No luck. Tram enthusiasts and local history websites likewise yield nothing. One last roll; Google’s Image Search. And there, a photograph of a heritage map displayed in the East Perth Train Station – a map showing the tramlines. It’s too small to make out the street names and I’m ready to make the trip over to East Perth to look for myself, but I don’t need to – a little more digging, and I’m looking at a high resolution version on Flickr. Formerly Wellington Street. Now the last block of Stuart Street in Bayswater.

Much closer, I track up and down the block in Street View. I think I’ve found the house a couple of times, and then wonder if it was demolished to make the small park nearby. I don’t realise yet that I’m largely focusing on the wrong side of the road. This isn’t going to work; finding a house that looks a little like the right house isn’t enough.  One workers’ cottage looks rather too like another workers’ cottage.

Helpful as the internet has been, this is something more specialised. This is the State Library’s moment. I search the catalogue and find that the library holds a collection of aperture cards showing local real estate developers’ promotional plans from around 1890 to 1940. At this point, I don’t even know what an apeture card is. I ask at the desk and the woman looks surprised and takes out a shoebox-sized container  from underneath the desk.  In the shoebox is their entire collection.

The aperture cards are frustrating. Well actually, they’re fascinating, but none of them quite hit the geographic area I’m chasing. I check and double-check all of the cards for Maylands, Mount Lawley, Falkirk, Inglewood and Bayswater. Just before closing time, I zoom in a little harder on a particularly detailed image I’d bypassed the first time around, and there it is. Wellington Street. Numbered lots, even. Numbered lots with boundaries matching those I can see on Google Maps.

So it is that I learn Wellington Street has become the western extension of Stuart Street, and that number 34 has become number 108. I compare the photographs from 1936 to the image from Street View. There have been some changes over time, but it’s the house.

formerly 34 Wellington Street

This is how I come to be lost and then found in the cemetery on a damp, grey day. This is how I come to be sitting in a small park in the rain, near an innocuous cottage not unlike every other cottage in the street.  This is how I come to be wandering along a laneway in the bright winter sun, on my way to see a house that – in all honesty – is merely a house for all that has happened there. And this is how I come to be writing a story of maps and mysteries, while quietly wondering at the story of a bad death.

Griffiths Plot, Karrakatta Cemetery

 In Loving Memory of Harry and Kathleen who departed this life suddenly, June 27th 1936.  Aged 34 years and 4 months & 32 years and 11 months.  Darling son and daughter-in-law of Ada M. Mulligan.  “So deeply mourned, so sadly missed.”

301 Days of Wikipedia

In 2011, I posted 300 Days of Wikipedia.  Subsequently, friends commented that this action was likely to get them fired, citing a sudden and overwhelming urge to spend all day reading Wikipedia.  No-one was, to my knowledge fired.  And so, in the spirit of trying ever harder, I have compiled a sequel.

As per last year’s post, a warning.  While many of the articles on this list are work-friendly and generally inoffensive, do be aware that my interests sometimes stray into the gory, morbid and pornographic, and click accordingly.  (This batch contains an article on the war photographer who helped break the My Lai Massacre news, cruel and unusual experimentation, sport, and a giant spider sculpture.)  If you come across any broken links or other errors, leave me a comment and I’ll fix them up.

001 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak
002 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack
003 555 (telephone number)
004 A moron in a hurry
005 Aerogel
006 AFL siren controversy
007 Alder Hey organs scandal
008 Ali Dia (footballer)
009 American Mustache Institute
010 Andreas Grassl
011 Anglo-Zanzibar War
012 Ant mill
013 Barbados v Grenada (1994)
014 Barometer question
015 Bear JJ1
016 Bed burial
017 Bedford Level experiment
018 Benford’s Law
019 Betteridge’s Law of Headlines
020 Bicycle infantry
021 Black fax
022 Blood in the Water match
023 Blood-vomiting game
024 Body snatching
025 Bootstrap paradox
026 Boston Corbett
027 Breaker boy
028 Bugchasing
029 Bummer and Lazarus
030 Burke and Hare
031 Burst of Joy
032 Bus bunching
033 Business speak
034 Bystander effect
035 Camping (game)
036 Canadian Parliamentary Cats
037 Candy desk
038 Cargo cult
039 Casper (cat)
040 Cat piano
041 Cecil Jacobson
042 Cecil Kelley criticality accident
043 Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge’s Taxonomy
044 Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler story
045 Cher Ami
046 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sarcophagus
047 Chess boxing
048 Chicago Tunnel Company
049 Chicken eyeglasses
050 Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office
051 Christian side hug
052 Cliff Young (athlete)
053 Coal hoal
054 Cocktail party effect
055 Coffin birth
056 ComBat
057 Conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia
058 Contaminated currency
059 Copycat suicide
060 Coral Castle
061 Corpse road
062 Cow magnet
063 Crypt of Civilization
064 Cryptomnesia
065 Cultural cringe
066 Curse of the Colonel
067 Cute cat theory of digital activism
068 Dabbawala
069 Darius McCollum
070 Dead mall
071 Deep-sea gigantism
072 Descent from antiquity
073 Digital dark age
074 Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
075 Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam
076 Dog whipper
077 Domino Day 2005 sparrow
078 Doomsday argument
079 Drunkard’s cloak
080 Dunwich
081 Early flying machines
082 Early world maps
083 Eddie’s House
084 Elem Farm Ollie
085 Elevator paradox
086 Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy
087 Ellen A. Martin
088 English As She Is Spoke
089 Euthanasia Coaster
090 Exquisite corpse
091 Falling on a grenade
092 Flirty fishing
093 Floater
094 Florence Y’All Water Tower
095 Four-dimensional space
096 Fox tossing
097 Fred the Undercover Kitty
098 Gaëtan Dugas
099 General Butt Naked
100 George P. Burdell
101 Ghost army
102 Goose pulling
103 Gravity Research Foundation
104 Great Stink
105 Greg Packer
106 Greyfriars Bobby
107 Guess 2/3 of the average
108 H. H. Holmes
109 H. Rochester Sneath
110 Hairy Frog
111 Handlebar Club
112 Hansa Carrier
113 Hard problem of consciousness
114 Harold Hering
115 Hart Island (New York)
116 Hashima Island
117 Helike
118 Helikopter Streichquartett
119 Henry Box Brown
120 Here be dragons
121 Hiroo Onoda
122 History of longitude
123 Hobo
124 Hockney-Falco thesis
125 Hollywood Freeway chickens
126 Hotel toilet paper folding
127 Hubble Ultra-Deep Field
128 Hugh Thompson Jr.
129 Human experimentation in the United States
130 Human flesh search engine
131 Ice-hotel
132 Illusory superiority
133 Imber
134 Impossible colours
135 Inattentional blindness
136 Incident pit
137 Inherited accessory nail of the fifth toe
138 Internet vigilantism
139 James Joseph Dresnok
140 Jedi census phenomenon
141 JetBlue flight attendant incident
142 Joseph Jagger
143 Karl Bushby
144 Kattenstoet
145 Kepler 22b
146 Ketchup as a vegetable
147 Kjærlighetskarusellen
148 Klerksdorp sphere
149 Kowloon Walled City
150 Kuleshov Effect
151 La Princesse
152 Laika
153 Lal Bihari
154 Language of flowers
155 Larry Walters
156 Laser harp
157 Letters of the last resort
158 Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
159 List of company name etymologies
160 List of confidence tricks
161 List of inventors killed by their own inventions
162 Littlewood’s law
163 London matchgirls strike of 1888
164 London Post Office Railway
165 London Underground mosquito
166 Lost in the mall technique
167 Lunokhod 1
168 Magic Roundabout (Swindon)
169 Marvin Heemeyer
170 Mary Ellis Grave
171 Mary Mallon
172 Matthew Robinson, 2nd Baron Rokeby
173 Mayerling Incident
174 Mercy Brown vampire incident
175 Method of loci
176 Miasma theory
177 Mike the Headless Chicken
178 Mill Ends Park
179 Miraculin
180 MissingNo.
181 Missionary Church of Kopimism
182 Moberly-Jourdain incident
183 Mobile Bay Jubilee
184 Montpelier Hill
185 Montreal-Philippines cutlery controversy
186 Moon treaty
187 Motorized recliner incident
188 Mummy brown
189 Murder of Tim McLean
190 My Way killings
191 Myrtle Corbin
192 Nail house
193 Net cafe refugee
194 New York City Subway chaining
195 Nix v. Hedden
196 Nixon’s Enemies List
197 Non-apology
198 Norwegian butter crisis
199 Octopus wrestling
200 On Bullshit
201 Operation Cornflakes
202 Orphan Train
203 Oxford Electric Bell
204 Panelák
205 Parahawking
206 Parking chair
207 Paternoster
208 Paul Erdos
209 Paul is dead
210 Peel P50
211 Pencil test (South Africa)
212 Pepper’s ghost
213 Perpetual traveler
214 Phantom ringing
215 Pink slime
216 Pit of despair
217 Pollen basket
218 Polybius (video game)
219 Portsmouth Sinfonia
220 Powers and abilities of Superman
221 Pranknet
222 Prediction market
223 Premature burial
224 Preview of the War We Do Not Want
225 Principle of least astonishment
226 Project Steve
227 Pruit-Igoe
228 Pulgarsi
229 Quine (computing)
230 Radium Girls
231 Raising of Chicago
232 Realistic conflict theory
233 Roadkill cuisine
234 Ronald L. Haeberle
235 Room 39
236 Rotten and pocket boroughs
238 Russian Woodpecker
239 Sankebetsu brown bear incident
240 Sarajevo Rose
241 Scold’s bridle
242 Season 6B
243 Seasteading
244 Sehnsucht
245 Semaphore line
246 Sexuality of Abraham Lincoln
247 Shaun Greenhaigh
248 Ship of Theseus
249 Shoe-banging incident
250 Shower-curtain effect
251 Silk Road (anonymous marketplace)
252 Sledging (cricket)
253 Smart mob
254 Sockpuppet (Internet)
255 Solving chess
256 Song-plugger
257 Sonjourner Truth
258 St Scholastica Day Riot
259 Stack Interchange
260 Stanislav Petrov
261 Strange loop
262 Sudanese goat marriage incident
263 Sugar glass
264 Svalbard Global Seed Vault
265 Tank man
266 Telegony (pregnancy)
267 Ten Pound Poms
268 The Boy in the Box (Philadelphia)
269 The Day the Music Died
270 The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever
271 Tim Tam Slam
272 Time discipline
273 Timeline of the Future
274 Tip of the tongue
275 Tired and emotional
276 Toilet paper orientation
277 Tower of Wooden Pallets
278 Tri-State Crematory
279 Triboluminescence
280 Troy Hurtubise
281 Tube Challenge
282 Two envelopes problem
283 Unauthorized Apple Stores in China
284 Underground restaurant
285 United States Capitol subway system
286 Unsinkable Sam
287 Venus effect
288 Villejuif leaflet
289 Vinland map
290 Wanda Tinasky
291 War pigeon
292 Waterspout
293 We Can Do It!
294 Weasel program
295 Weather Station Kurt
296 Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan
297 Witzelsucht
298 Wookey Hole Caves
299 Wreck of the RMS Titanic
300 Zero stroke
301 Zorbing


  • LEGO Shinkansen
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • LEGO redback spider
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake



I like animals with too many or too few legs.