Disgraceful

My Sunday was spent visiting Villawood detention centre, which was organised through the social justice council at school and the Queens of Peace social justice group which runs out of the Normanhurst parish of the same name. You hear a lot of crap in the media about the "queue jumpers" that are invading our country, stealing our jobs, bludging on the dole, and perpetrating criminal acts. I'll tell you right now, 99% of it bullocks. The people who our government is illegally locking up are everyday people just like you and me who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or have been persecuted unjustly in their home country. They come to Australia for a better life and to escape persecution, something which a bunch of convicts decided to a little over 200 years ago. Now we've set up our own little utopia for ourselves, we don't want to let others in to share it. The real criminals are the "Liberal" conservatives who illegally detain them, and the Labor party for not being socially and morally responsible and objecting to the way these people are being treated.

This is a small part of my experience on the day, as well as a few stories from the inside.

Getting inside was the hardest part of the whole experience. The whole process is designed to keep you out, and make it as confusing as possible along the way. We're weren't able to park inside the centre, so we had to park out on the street which is about 200 meters from the centre. Once passing through the gate which bars entry to the facility, we were asked by an immigration officer whether we've been to the facility before. Our group leader Chris said yes, which was true for half the group, and we started to pass up the road 200 meters. Chris said that if you say no he'll ask you all sorts of questions about who you are, where you've come from, who you're seeing, how long you're staying for, etc, although he doesn't really care and just wants to tie you down a bit longer. At the end of the road we were confronted with a 3 meter high barb wire fence, as well as a smaller fence behind it, as well barb wire on the ground around the fence. We headed up towards the main entrance, but before we entered the facility we had to collect a form so we could be processed by the security officers later on. Never mind that they don't advertise that you have to get one of the forms to be processed. We had to collect the form from a small building on the other side of the road, and then cross back and ask the officer to let us in. Once we were inside the entry building we had to collect a number and wait to be processed. There are only 2, a maximum of 3 officers who are processing visitors, so it gave us more than enough time to fill out the form.

The form isn't the most intuitive thing to fill out to say the least. There's a whole heap of administrative crap spread all over the form, making it difficult to work out which parts you're suppose to fill out, and which parts you're not suppose to. The worst part about the whole procedure is if you incorrectly fill out the form because the processing officers will not accept it and send you to the end of the line to fill out another. Eventually one by one we were called up after half an hour of waiting (although it can take up to 2 hours) to present our forms as well as photo identification with our addresses on them. My processing officer was in a fairly good mood, not asking me too many questions and finally giving me a hospital-style bracelet to wear. Unfortunately one of my friends was not being allowed in due to some bureaucratic crap that the processing officer contrived. She brought up some completely bullshit clause in some law, saying that they wouldn't let him in because he was regarded as a minor (he's 16, but so are other people in our group), and they need written consent from his parents that the leader of the group was his legal guardian for the day. Fortunately Chris was extremely well versed in the procedures and laws that bound the detention centre, and was able to argue quite strongly that he was legally allowed to go in without written consent. Since their definition of a minor was someone "Under 18 years of age", one of the members from the parish quietly told me to ignore what was happening and get through the metal detectors into the compound as quickly as possible.

Once I passed through the checkpoint we had to be stamped with UV ink so they could differentiate between visitors and inmates during a lockdown. The security facilities have recently been upgraded, and now they're decked out with some of the best metal detecting equipment available in Australia, courtesy of 3 million tax-payer dollars - don't bother considering upgrading the facilities of the detainees. Meanwhile, the other person from school had gotten through while they were too busy having an argument with Chris, so we moved into the meeting area while he sorted out the mess. It actually worked out really well, because once we were inside Chris was able to argue that they just let in two minors without any problems, so why should the third be any different? My personal opinion of the staff wasn't too high. Did you know that the government doesn't actually run the detention centres? They outsource it to a variety of different companies, Villawood belonging to a company named GSL (Global something Logistics). Most of the people there seemed nice enough, but overall they weren't the brightest of sparks, especially the managerial staff. I met a Croatian lady inside that said that she was beaten up by another detainee while a guard looked on and did nothing. Chipped her front two teeth, and they wouldn't let her prosecute unless she went through the Australian Federal Police - the AFP didn't give a toss about her and did absolutely nothing.

Once we were inside we met up with a detainee named Noori who's friends with everyone, including some of the guards. We had brought some food with us too (things like grapes, biscuits, sweet and savory things), and we put them down on they table for the detainees to take what they want. Noori is having a 7 day hearing starting Monday that could possibly get him released, so he was quite anxious about the whole thing. He's been there for a number of years now. He arrived in Australia with his family of 4 and was sent straight to Villawood to await processing. His family was released after 28 days but he's been trying to get out ever since.

Descriptions of the centre were pretty dire, although the detainees were in reasonable spirits.

Food is served three times a day, first at 7.30, then at 12.30, and then finally at 16.30 - they are not fed in the 15 hours between dinner and breakfast. The food is prepared by the Bangladesh detainees, so most meals consist of rice or pasta with a curry. Many of the other detainees are not used to the spiciness of the curry and suffer horrible digestive problems, especially the Chinese. The same food is served in a 5 day cycle, and there are no changes made to the menu whatsoever, not even for religious occasions. The medical situation is even worse. The detainees are unable to keep painkillers in their rooms and are only able to receive medical treatment 2 times a day, these times separated 4 hours apart. The medical staff are also completely indifferent to the medical condition of the detainees and regard them as an annoyances rather than people. One of the detainees told me that some of the detainees had ringworm and were not being treated for it by the doctors on site. Poor hygiene standards exacerbate the problems of communal health too. All toiletry and shower facilities are communal, and sanitary waste is often left months before it is removed. There's also a faulty generator at one end of the compound which makes a constant grating noise at night when the detainees are trying to sleep - can't be doing any good for their state of mind.

The visiting area was a 60 meter square grassed area with a tree and a few gazebos. One of the detainees told me that before October last year there was no grass or gazebos. The reason they were put in was because the United Nations High Commission sent a delegation to assess the conditions at the centre. The government were trying to promote an image of the centres much more delightful than the harsh existence that was a reality for these people. The delegation were not allowed to visit the "living" quarters.

The detainees go through a number of different stages of detention. When they arrive, they are sent straight to Stage 1, the highest security stage of the entire system. There they are treated harshly by the guards, and are given very few rights. I am not clear on whether they are kept in solitary confinement, but it would not surprise me. If they progress out of Stage 1, they move onto Stage 2. Stage 2 is much more lax, with the detainees being afforded more rights. They are able to see visitors more freely, and are given work to do during the day. The detainees are not paid in money, but in phone cards and other such material. There are drink dispensing machines within the centre, but they are unable to use them unless they are slipped money by visitors. Stage 3 is the final stage before moving out into the community, and is the laxest of them all. Conditions are still terrible, but they are mostly treated better by the guards.

All detainees leaving the centre are told the same thing when leaving - they are not told whether they are being deported or legitimately released. Detainees are told to report to management, where they are told to pack their belongings and report back as they are being released. Once the detainee returns to management, they have to fill out forms and wait to be released by the officers. Sometimes the detainees who are being legitimately released are held in limbo for a number of hours by management just to make them sweat, keeping them wondering whether they are actually going to get out or whether this is all some sort of cruel joke.

Detainees who are being deported are handed over to an AFP officer and leave straight for the airport. This normally happens on Friday afternoons so the detainee's legal representation is unable to get an injunction to stop the deportation. They are usually flown to Perth, where they are then put onto a plane to Johannesburg, and out of the responsibility of the Australian government.

One of the most shocking things I found during the visit was the amount each detainee is charged for staying in detention per day - $175. Let's say the average detainee is held for 2 years. That's $127750. If they've been held the full 7 years possible, that's $447125. Now imagine a family of 5 who have been detained illegally for two years while being processed. That comes to $638750. How on earth is a family suppose to pay that back to the government whilst supporting children, buying food to stay alive, as well as paying rent?

The government offers to waive this fee if they leave the country, but these people have obviously come here for a reason, and who wants to be sent back to a country they've been trying to escape from?

What grates most is that for the money that these people have to pay they should be in at least 3 star facilities with decent food and medical attention, maybe even an area to do some exercise or let their children play in.

Instead our government sees fit to imprison them for the crime of wanting a better life.

Getting out wasn't a too difficult experience. We said our goodbyes to our friends who were unable to leave, and gave our promises to come back soon. With a touch of sorrow and tearfulness we passed out of the visiting area. The guards seemed much more relaxed now that we were leaving, and one or two of them seemed genuinely happy. We had to leave the compound through a different entrance, and only in small groups. I was in the second group, and as we were waiting to go through the second checkpoint we could here one of the guards through the glass shouting at one of his mates who was operating the first entrance not to open it and let our last group out - our last group consisted of an elderly couple. There was no reason to do this, he simply wished to keep them standing outside for 5 minutes or so to keep them anxious about whether they were going to get out. Disgraceful. Fortunately his friend on the door misheard his friend and unlocked the first entrance, letting them into the chamber where we were waiting. The guard was not very happy at all, and shouted a fair bit at his friend.

They finally let us through, checked our UV ink, cut our tags off, and let us out into the waiting room. We were able to leave through the final gate and head to our cars, but we were not allowed to stop and talk to the detainees through the barbed wire fences. I'd like to publish some more of the detainee stories, but I feel that I should ask for their permission before I do this. Hopefully next month i'll be able to put something up on each of the people that i've talked too.

I think the following best sums up the whole experience.

"You see, once we meet them, hear their stories, share their pain, it is impossible to ever view them as a faceless entity again - as queue-jumpers, as boat-people, as illegals and criminals. For they each have a name, a face, they had a life once, they are someone's father, daughter, brother, friend. They hurt and feel pain just as we do. They deserve our empathy, our help. When we look at them, do we see ourselves looking back?"
-- from the ChilOut's Visitor's Guide

Music is the language of us all

It would seem that I am now learning to play the recorder. No, don't think back to those lessons in primary school where you were forced to endure the horror that is bad recorder playing - but think of traditional folk music. That's better, isn't it? There's an unwarranted stigma surrounding the recorder, and for this I blame the education system!

Our bandmaster at school is trying to put together a group of Year 12s to play recorder in an eisteddfod later this year. Interestingly enough, the eisteddfod has a dedicated recorder section, so it should be fun to see who else enters!

The good thing about the group is that we're all decent players of our own respective instruments, meaning that picking up another instrument shouldn't be difficult. I've only been playing for 3 days but already I can master some relatively challenging Irish jigs. Spent too much time practicing. About 3 hours a day. At night. Around midnight. I don't know what our new neighbours think. :-) Learning the fingerings for all of the notes is what's holding me back though.

The thing I love about brass instruments is that they tend to only have 3 (maximum of 6) valves/keys, meaning that you don't have to worry about putting your fingers in the right place - you just have to remember all of the combinations for your three or so fingers (which is nice, because you notice a lot of different patterns if you play long enough). It's quite mathematical actually.

Whereas with the recorder (and other such woodwind instruments, for that matter), I can't seem to find any discernable pattern that I can get my head around so I can accelerate my learning! Woodwind players out there, is there anything blindingly obvious i'm not picking up? Mind you, I have only been playing for a few days so i'll probably stumble across something in the next few weeks or so. :-)

Learning a new instrument is always a heap of fun though. After working out how everything fits together, you tend to look at music from a different perspective - with brass I learnt a lot about chord structure and harmonics, with stringed instruments I was able to better understand and predict the distances between notes, as well as how riffs and ostinatos work throughout music, computer generated music completely changed the way I look at rhythm and how instruments interact within a peice.

With woodwind, i'm learning how to get away with playing an instrument by blind luck (or instinct - I can't tell which).

Switch

Radiotherapy started today. Felt nothing during the procedure (which was great), except there was a funny ozone smell when the radiation was passing through and ionising the air. Feeling a bit sapped now though. Should be interesting to see how I feel when it's all done.

New laptop arrived today. Goodness. Back to the land of no wires!

I've been hearing good things about the Korean translations in Gnome and Fedora as of late. A friend of mine from school has decided to switch over to Linux for the sole reason of the Korean translations being better than those in Windows. So much so, that he says that the translations are correct 99% of the time, as opposed to about 50% of the time with previous releases of Gnome and Fedora. Good to hear that people are switching because of better software, rather than being fed up with Windows.

Archlinux package maintainership and collaboration: what needs to change

Relatively, i'm an outsider, but these are some views that i've come up when talking to others about how package maintainership and collaboration is handled in Arch. Flame me or whatever - this is something that I have to get off my chest because it's been troubling me for a while. And I apologise for any assumptions, untruths, or just general lack of knowledge contained below. :-)

Package management stagnation is a complete bitch under Arch, and for a distro that's trying to stay "fairly bleeding edge" it's not doing a very good job.

If somebody wants to contribute to building a package, or a group of packages, it's practically impossible to wrestle control away from the current maintainer without appearing to be hijacking or disrespecting their work.

Gentoo is a really good example of how community maintainership works really well - you have a package maintainer who decides what goes into the build, but anyone can contribute. Unlike in Arch, where the package maintainer has total control over contribution, and very rarely are users able to take the initiative to update or make bugfixes to packages. (Note that i'm just using Gentoo as an example of how a well designed community can keep things moving along).

There are a lot of users out there who are willing to work on stuff intensely, even if it's only for a few weeks/months or while it holds their interest. And after their interest/commitment wanes, someone else should be able to freely take over the reigns of the particular package/group. I completly understand that people aren't able to stay committed the entire time, but the current package maintainership process completely blows when it comes to collaboration.

Hell, I know from personal experience that you can work on something and be really enthused about it, but a day later you abandon it because it no longer captures your interest. What totally sucks about it is that even though I may not find it interesting or are able to devote as much time to it as I want, someone else out there will find the work that i've done really helpful and will want to carry it on - but they won't be able to because i've dropped off the face of the planet.

At the core of what i'm saying is that if a maintainer is no longer able to maintain and update their packages, it should be easier for an individual or a group to take over maintainership and keep the ball rolling.

The other thing which is a complete bitch is the whole "oh, I feel like creating a new package, let me go and check 3 different places to see if it already exists". If you want the distro to stay bleeding edge PKGBUILDS should be submitted to ONE place - it's an organisational nightmare.

Arch is a totally awesome distro, and pacman is a totally awesome package management system, but the whole process of package creation and maintainership is contrived - and essentially it's holding the entire distro back. It's a case of "the technology is great, but the whole human process behind it is completely ineffective".

I am no way criticising the excellent work that countless numbers of individuals have done to bring Arch to where it is today - all I want to do is get some talk going about reforming what I beleive to be holding the distro back.

So, enough of my rambling. You're probably thinking by now "Ok, that's nice. Anyone can criticise - what's this guy suggesting?"

All requests for packages should still be made on the forums, but the final PKGBUILDs should be consolidated and submitted to this one place. From that place it should be easy to check whether a package already exists, and it should be easily queried.

Yes, I know that the forums already exist for this sort of thing, however it's difficult having to keep track of PKGBUILD submissions there as well as the TUR list, let alone sift through what actually exists and what are just requests. I cannot envision one of the original goals of the forums as being a place where users could contribute packages - the whole forum system was not designed to be used in that way, and it shows.

As for packages that are in base and extra, some sort of user contribution system should be set up so that people are able to submit bugfixes/upgrades/new submissions to packages, but the package maintainer still has final say over what goes. I'm not for rebelling against what's working and tearing everything up no matter how well it works. I'd just like to see more user contribution throughout all levels of package maintainership.

I'm sure that a bit of what I said above fits into the new AUR system that'll be coming in (soon!), but what I see is something that's a lot more broad than just reorganising the maintainership process - users should be able to contribute to packages at all levels throughout Arch.

I'm sure it looks like i've been sipping a bit too much from the bong lately, and in fact the thing that started me out on this whole tirade was the XFCE packages not being updated recently, so if someone got around to that i'd probably just shut up. :-)

Then again, some of this stuff would be pretty good.

Short ‘n Sweet

Chemo is done - glad that part of my life is over.

School started this week. Good to be back, even better to only be doing half my subjects this year.

Got poached by some girl for some tuition college while walking through Chatswood on Thursday. She handed me some propaganda, and I was going to put it in the bin right in front of her to make a point of what I thought of that type of marketing, but then realised that a tree somewhere wouldn't like me, and thought the better of it.

New laptop arriving on Monday sometime. The delivery company are a bit inflexible, but hopefully i'll be able to pick it up.

Can't complain about the price though - 50% discount courtesy of my cousin who works at IBM. Thanks Georgina!

Picked up a stomach bug a few days ago, and i've been in constant pain since. Been told to lay off dairy products, and not venture far from major medical centers, which sorta screws up my plans for going to an air show in Temora tomorrow. We'll see how I feel before I can my plans, though.

Roadtrip to Lismore has been finalised. Details will be shortly posted to Slug Announce. Give me a bell if you're interested in helping out.

Radiotherapy starts on Wednesday. Once it zaps the remaining stuff I should be cleared. Be done in 5 weeks - can't wait!

This Planet

Look at this planet, son, all this'll be yours. This hatred, destruction, devastation and wars. You'll inherit our cause, and as the globe gets warm, You best prepare for the time when all this'll be yours

Because it's critical to become original, To think as others do fails the individual And so it's integral that other pathways are explored, Aew directions are taken, and alternatives under close inspection Reflecting, and people rejecting human atrocities, And companies that constantly create monopolies And what about political infrastructures that deny justice, Supports minorities in clusters wondering where their next lunch is. And punters in some countries are left to starve, When the world produces too much food for everyone, Let alone a small population that still face the fact that There'll never be food on the plate. Hatred swells as human beings turn on one another, And narrow minds make us think that no-one else has got it tougher, The lower to middle to upperclass syndrome where I'm selfishly prone to keeping other cultures unknown and I'm shown reality in a city where quickly your possessions will Be stolen if you're ever caught drifting on this planet. I apply 30+ 'cos I live in Australia And I wonder when my cancer will come? The ozone layer got holes the size of countries. Ice caps melt, it's got nothing to do with being sunny. We must think it's funny, plus we get a tan quicker. I'm getting sicker, i'm not worried - go figure. With more liquor i'm increasingly detached From the violence represented by police sirens. And migrants are persecuted by tyrants I don't understand us, I need guidance. -- Explanetary - This planet, from the album "Food to eat music by"

Things noted about Melbourne:

<li>People like to drive their cars loudly, lots of flashy toys</li>
<li>Way more people smoke down here</li>
    <li>Everybody seems really young, and extremely relaxed</li>
<li>Their tram system absolutely beats the pants off Sydney's public transport system (oh, and I had to get some

poor lady to show me how to use the automatic ticketing machine because I couldn't cope with it - turns out I had the blood ticket upside down)

<li>The taxi drivers are mad (in the crazy sense)</li>

Because i’m too lazy to type everything again.

20:24 what's happenin' down there? 20:31 <auxesis> ummm... weather was a bit shocking this morning, but it cleared up quite nicely 20:31 <auxesis> went to lunch with my great aunt, who i haven't seen for about a year 20:32 <auxesis> and then we went to parliament house on a tour 20:32 <auxesis> which was pretty neat 20:32 <ctd> fun. 20:32 <auxesis> did you know that during the gold rushes down here $10 billion was found in the space of 5 years? 20:33 <auxesis> anywho... went spent the afternoon in dymocks buying cool books for friends 20:33 <auxesis> and then we went to dinner, and now i'm sitting here 20:33 <auxesis> oh, and in the morning i went to st. kilda beach and bought some music and tea 20:34 <auxesis> hmm... i should just cut and paste this into my blog 20:34 <ctd> that your might as well

Apotheosis

I'm in Melbourne at the moment spending a few days exploring the city. Flew in about 1 this arvo, dropped of our stuff at the apartment we've hired, and soon departed for the National Gallery of Victoria. The name's a bit of a contradiction of terms, huh? Came about when Melbourne was bidding for the title of capital of Australia, and some bright spark thought that perhaps if they apotheosise the title of everything, perhaps people would just think that Melbourne was the capital. That's why the Victorian police commissioner is known as the "Chief Commissioner", and the police commission of every other state is just "Commissioner".

Anyway, i'm getting sidetracked. Spent a few hours there today, and ended up getting kicked out because it was closing time. Had a great time looking through the entire Asian art section, as well as the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century European art. Tomorrow i'm planning on getting up early so I can see the rest of the gallery. First stop is a new exhibition that's just openned that's on grotesque exaggurations of the human body. Looks kinda freaky. :-)

Also saw Alexander this afternoon. DO NOT GO AND SEE IT. It totally blows. My main critique of it was that there really was no actual path the movie was taking, it was just wondering everywhere, jumping between time periods, and trying to be as disjointed as possible. I think what the director was trying to do was tell it as if it were a history book, which, if it was, would have made a lot of sense, however it didn't tranfer to the medium of film all that well. Ok, it was piss poor. Secondly, the acting was completely over the top - the actors spent about 60% of the movie shouting at each other, trying to hype themselves up and be all heroic. Probably the most annoying thing about that was the music. It was like something out of a really shitty Chuck Norris movie from the 80's that repeats the same music over every 30 seconds. And the worst thing about that was that the music was synthesised, and completely cliched.

Enough of that tripe. Time to log off and get out of here.