Sunday, 30 September 2012

Things you hear on ABC radio

I was flicking stations in the car this morning and caught the news on TripleJ. The lead story was about a "march against violence" in Brunswick (I think) following the murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne.

I'd prefer a nice little remembrance ceremony, but the types who attend these things just love to "march".

What's the bet that some of the types that march are also the types that in a few weeks time will be complaining about  harsh jail terms and screaming that we lock too many people up. Wouldn't surprise me if they also love to hate the Police and are the first to get violent and abusive at any other protest.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

REALLY dodgy advertising by Cue and Myer

This billboard is on the side of the railway overbridge leading into Circular Quay station. Sorry about the really poor quality - the lights had just turned green and I was riding away one handed.

The big words says "Cue made in Australia" - but there are words in a much smaller font that say "is predominantly" - meaning the whole thing actually reads "Cue is predominantly made in Australia". It's just the kind of thing you'd miss if you were driving under here at 40km/h.

I really don't care if their garments are stitched together by 12 year old slave kids in Bangladesh - it's the deliberately misleading aspect of it that I can't stand. Why Myer agreed to it is beyond my understanding.

How a newbie bike commuter can navigate using The Force

GPS units are a dime a dozen these days - there are plenty of options if you want to mount a smart phone with GPS on your handlebars, or a bike specific GPS. When I started commuting though, none of these options existed. If you were going somewhere unfamiliar, you photocopied maps from a mapbook, sticky-taped them together and then marked the route with a highlighter. Or you got really tricky and wrote out a route map with all the turns and distances between them.

I did that once or twice, and then decided to use The Force.

My reasoning was that almost every other cyclist on the road knew where they were going, and as there are a fairly limited number of options for where people are riding to at 0630, chances are that if I simply tailed one, I'd end up getting to where I wanted to go.

And it worked almost every single time. If I developed a gut feeling that a cyclist was starting to lead me astray, I'd stop and wait for another one to come past and then follow them. On busy routes, like the Canada Bay area into the city, there are hundreds of cyclists trundling along each morning. Waiting more than a minute for another cyclist to come along is pretty rare - unless the rain is absolutely bucketing down.

Commuters are generally pretty easy to spot. For starters, most of them tend to be wearing a back pack or they've got panniers attached to their bike. Some of them tend to be riding fairly casual, upright bikes. Those on fancy road bikes are usually covered in fluorescent material. Once you know what to look for, you just tag on behind them and away you go.

This bloke was a bit different - he's entirely avoided the lycra look, and he's certainly not riding a flash road bike. However, Mr You Can See My Undies went flying past me when the lights went green, and I had a bit of trouble catching up to him to take this photo (I blame it on Friday Legs). If the weather is balmy and the ride is short and flat, there's no need to spend a motza on all the go-faster gear.

It's going to be interesting when they start demolishing the monorail. It broke down last week - two trains were stranded due to a power outage, and they had to bring in cherry pickers to get the passengers out. Thankfully, I've never had to be rescued when my bike has broken down.

Statistics on the "dominant left"

The "dominant left" is not a political thing. I wrote about it back in August. Instead, it refers to the apparent preference for us to move in a counter-clockwise direction.

I ride around The Bay twice a day. Or at least 1/3 of it. There's a bike/pedestrian path that loops around the whole thing - it's a very pleasant 7km trek.

On Friday, I decided to count the number of people going clockwise and the number going counter-clockwise to see how much truth there might be in this theory.

In the early stages, the dominant left was up 18-7, and I thought the theory was really on a roll. But then I hit a few gaggles of people coming the other way, and it ended up being 35-28. That's really not dominant at all.

It's not much of a sample either - I only covered 1/3 of the loop, and I did the count once. If I remember, I'll do some more counts next week and we'll see what we end up with.

Another problem is sorting out those who are doing the loop versus those who are only using part of the trail to get somewhere else (like me). In the morning, I ride counter-clockwise to get to work. In the evening, I ride clockwise. The direction I travel is not governed by a dominant anything.

That said, when I ride around Homebush, I always go counter-clockwise. I can't think of a single time I have gone the other way. That holds true for individual and group rides. How weird is that?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lies, damned lies and opinion polls

I once had a job interview with a polling company. I'd done the serious Maths subjects at school, gone on to do some reasonably serious Maths units and uni and was generally half competent with crunching numbers. I was looking for work, so the agency I was signed up with sent me off to a polling company.

I flunked the interview totally. I was asked some fairly deep questions and my mind went totally blank. Ah well, so much for that career. About all I recall of the company is that they were in a dingy brown office at the cruddy end of North Sydney - a long hike up a big hill in the hot summer sun, and well away from the flash companies in the North Sydney CBD that employ the hot looking chicks.

During the interview, I was handed a fat blue book full of polling results and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the methods used to properly weight a survey to avoid skewing the results. For the people who interviewed me, that was a big deal. The quality of their reports hinged upon them getting that right.

According to what Paco has discovered, it's not a big deal for those doing the Democrat polling in the US.

Go and read it.

There. My duty is done.

Pedestrian runs into cyclist

All hell seems to have broken loose over at Prick with a Thing - a right punch up has been going on in the comments since last night.

And the topic? Some wowser with a blog trying to make it unlawful for anyone to walk anywhere after they've had a few beers. That's right - walk.

Perhaps this is an opportune time for me to weigh in with my experience of riding down George St at peak hour tonight. Apart from nearly mowing down half a dozen pedestrians who decided that if they stepped out in front of me against the lights, I'd be able to slow down from 40km/h to avoid hitting them. They only stepped back when they realised that:

1. I had no hope of slowing my bulging mass, as I was moving a lot faster than they expected, and
2. I really had no intention of putting my fingers anywhere near the brake levers - they could step back onto the kerb where they belonged, or they could get flattened

It's interesting how when you're on a bike, your body stance and facial expression can clearly convey a message to a pedestrian without any words being spoken. ie, "I have the right of way. Wait for the green light - now get the fuck off the road, or it's going to hurt. A lot."

The errant pedestrians were a mixed bag - old women, young women, middle aged women. Not a single bloke amongst them. None had earphones in, none were yapping on a phone. (Woman not yapping on a phone? Were pigs flying too?). None appeared inebriated in the slightest - they were simply in a hurry to get across the road to catch their train or bus, and they weren't above breaking a few rules to do so.

And then there was the idiot bloke. I was stopped at a red light (cyclist stopped at red light? Had hell frozen over?) and was watching the pedestrians crossing in front of me when a bloke ran across the road way back from the pedestrian crossing, and then ran straight into my back wheel. He bounced off, steered around me, stepped onto the footpath and kept on going without looking back or saying sorry. There were no cars behind me - I had two lanes to myself. The silly git simply wasn't watching where he was going. He didn't appear pissed at all - he was just a bloke in a suit hurrying to be somewhere else at 5.15pm. Possibly the Apple Store, which is what I was stopped out the front of.

So there you have it - my version of a man bites dog story. People out walking do stupid shit all the time, and  plenty of them do it sober. If we're going to ban anything, we should ban people with shit for brains being allowed to do anything. Including breathing.

(No pedestrians were maimed in the making of this posting).

Monday, 24 September 2012


Thanks to Tim Blair, I wasted a few minutes of my life reading this dribble by a noted Fairfax columnist. I am reasonably familiar with Central Station (that's a train station for you out-of-towners) as I worked there many moons ago. See the photo below? In order to get to my workplace, I used to enter a door near where that bloke is standing. Except to get to the door, I had to leap over a metre wide puddle of piss each morning, because the doorway was a favourite place for winos to sleep. And the winos that slept there pissed in their pants. Every single morning. Before I got to work. And boy, they must have had a lot to drink before conking out, because the puddles were enormous. And deep. I am pleased to say I never, ever misjudged that leap and landed in a puddle.

Central Station was that kind of place. It's been spruced up since then - the stonework has been cleaned, the old pavement replaced and the dingy, dirty alcoves have been opened up and filled with shops. It's a hell of a lot better than it used to be.

But it's still an old train station.

Farrelly writes:

Still can’t believe people aren’t clamouring to fill these colonnades full of chic little tapas bars and smoky music joints.
Which just goes to show how out of touch she is with the economic geography of the area. Le Prick recently reviewed a fabo tapas bar at the other end of town that I am dying to try. What I hated most about the review is that not long ago, I was spending part of my working week in a building right over the road from Barrafina,  so I could have eaten there by now. However, I am no longer at that end of town, so a visit will have to wait.

But back to Central. Barrafina might survive where it is by extracting $50 from each patron on each visit. It's patrons can afford to spend $50 per visit because there are lots of financial companies clustered right around it, full of well paid employees. Barrafina would never survive at Central, because Central is full of people who are in a hurry to be somewhere else, and aren't interested in lingering over a beer and a few plates of boquerones - spanish white anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, parsley and chilli {seis}  13,20.

Having worked in the area, I can tell you that the office buildings down that way are full of public servants in grey, plastic slip-on shoes; or public servants in cardigans their mum knitted. The sort of people who don't live in the inner city - they all lived at least an hour away by train. Somewhere further out than Merrylands perhaps. Those people don't provide enough of a market for fancy tapas. The people I worked with didn't even go out for lunch - they were so stretched with mortgages etc, they brought vegemite sandwiches to work. They didn't even go out for coffee. The other inhabitants of the area are overseas students. Crammed 10 or 12 into a 3 bedroom apartment, buying rice in 5 kilo bags and living on packet noodles.

Farrelly might wish for a chic tapas bar, but that won't make it happen. I wish for a nice little pub at the end of my street - something like The Lord Dudley. It would be just close enough for me to be able to walk, but far enough away that we couldn't hear the drunken patrons spewing out at midnight. However, we all know that isn't going to happen - there needs to be a market for a pub like that to survive, and if you ask me, that market doesn't exist in this area.

As for "smoky music joints", it was thanks to Farrelly and her nanny-state mates at Fairfax that the "smoke" has long since been removed from "smoky music joints".

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Obama - lawyer for slum lords?

Oh dear. It seems the Dear Leader has feet of clay.

Have a read of this - if true, I don't know what to say......

In March 1994, a year before "Dreams" was published, Obama was the lead defense attorney on an obscure case in Cook County Court that has heretofore escaped examination by the national media.
In this case, Obama defended a Chicago slumlord and powerful political ally who was charged with a long list of offenses against poor residents. The defendant was the Woodlawn Preservation & Investment Corp., controlled by Bishop Arthur Brazier, a South Side Chicago preacher and political operator.
Brazier's burgeoning real estate empire included a low-income housing project at 6223 South University. Today, MapQuest describes the Woodlawn neighborhood as "quaint and sedate." But in the winter of 1994, it was a frigid hell.
Brazier was closely allied with Obama and his firm, not least because Davis was on WPIC's Board of Directors. Davis was also the corporation's registered agent, and he received the court summons when the city filed suit on the South University apartments.
Brazier's WPIC had failed for nearly a month to supply heat and running water for the complex's 15 crumbling apartments. On Jan. 18, 1994, the day the heat went off, Chicago's official high temperature was 11 below zero, the day after it was 19 below.
Even worse, the residents were then ordered to leave the WPIC complex in the winter chill without the due process they would have been afforded by an eviction procedure.

Some light weekend reading

Comet Storm - it took me well over an hour to read the whole thing, and that was broken up by a nap in the middle. Fascinating bit of research. If you don't have an hour to spend reading the whole thing, just read the first bit to get a flavour of what he's on about.

That led me to this album of pictures of Odessa Craters. I noticed that quite a few craters are near farmsteads etc - before aerial and satellite photography, did the people living there realise that part of their farm was an impact crater?

I also read this blog on huge floods. What spun me out is the idea that huge pot holes in the bassalt were caused by whirlpools of water.

Have a read of all of it. It's amazing how some people spend their days....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

What's the bet.....

Apparently Antarctic sea ice is now at record levels.  As in record high levels. I haven't seen any mention of this in the papers that I normally read.

What's the bet that when all that record amount of ice starts to melt or calve off as icebergs, the warmies are all over it proclaiming "unprecedented levels of melting in Antarctica".

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

"Behead chickens who insult Islam"

Lebanese men ransack US fast food chains Hardee's and KFC as they protest against the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli

I know that it's pretty insulting to call "fried chicken" a "food", but what has smashing up what is probably a locally owned franchise got to do with it?

Even climate alarmists get filtered by the SMH

The SMH environmental section today carried a story lifted from the Guardian about how the Arctic will be free of summer ice by 2015-16. That claim was made by Professor Peter Wadhams:

"This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates".

Interestingly, the good Professor was also featured in the Grauniad last week, but his message that time clearly didn't please the likes of Ben Cubby, the environmental editor at the SMH. Why is that? Well, look at what Professor Wadhams had to say then:

A leading British academic has called for accelerated research into futuristic geo-engineering and a worldwide nuclear power station "binge" to avoid runaway global warming.
Nuclear power? And not even a word about wind or solar? Can't print that!

Even worse, the professor then failed to say really bad things about Big Oil:

Asked whether the latest evidence made a ban on drilling for carbon-releasing oil and gas necessary as Greenpeace has contended, Wadhams said "philosophically" such exploration made little sense. "We have been conducting a global experiment with the burning of fossil fuels and the results are already disastrous and this would accelerate them," he argued saying that there were also practical worries because of the enormous difficulty of dealing with any spillage or a blowout under moving ice where oil would get trapped inside the ice in a kind of inaccessible "oil sandwich'.
But he said at least that companies such as Shell had shown some responsibility by carefully planning its expected exploration in the Chukotka Sea off Alaska and had shown a willingness to use ready-made containment domes that could cap off a well if anything went wrong. He was more fearful about drilling methods in the Russian Arctic where environmental concerns were lower down the agenda.
That's an interesting bit of filtering by the SMH.

I just need to put an entry in my diary now for 2016 to see whether the prediction of an ice free Arctic in summer comes about.

Monday, 17 September 2012

US newspaper ad revenue in free fall

Quite an incredible little article from Carpe Diem:

I think part of the problem is that if you print crap that people aren't prepared to pay for, your revenues will collapse. People will either read crap for free elsewhere, or they'll pay to read a premium product produced by someone else.

Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual  amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.   


A friend emailed sent me a newsletter recently that they'd received from an "Education officer". They asked me how long it took me to spot the obvious mistake.

My main roll will be to ensure that the new National Quality Framework is implemented

Really? My main roll is a sausage roll. My olde English teacher wood role over and dye if I rote a sentence like that.

Another Labor stimulus package?

Hell, I hope Gillard and Swan don't find out about this latest GDP boosting effort in China:

Since 2007, 15 bridges have collapsed in China. Only three of them were more than 15 years old at the time of their collapse, according to a report by the Shandong Business Daily.On Aug. 24, a 330-footlong approach ramp of Harbin’s Yangmingtan Bridge fell over, killing three and injuring five. The bridge had been in use less than a year and is the eighth bridge collapse in China this year. The Harbin administration has so far not openly addressed the case.
Zhao Wenjin, the lead commentator of Lanzhou Daily, commented on the incident, saying, “With each collapse, we need to reflect: why are we chasing GDP?”
According to a Jingyang Net report, Wang Yang, Party secretary of Guangdong Province, said at a provincial Party meeting in 2009: “Sometimes the GDP number looks good, but it didn’t really create wealth for society. It was, instead, a waste of society’s wealth.
For example, building a bridge creates GDP. When the bridge collapses and is taken down, it creates another addition to the GDP. When the bridge is rebuilt, more GDP is created. As such, one bridge resulted in three additions to the GDP. But it was a tremendous waste of resources.”

Via Samizdata.

Pancakes and ribs

We took the little tackers to Darling Harbour on the weekend - although I find most of it to be a disgusting tourist trap, there's a few things there that the kids love to visit. So we indulged them.

After a couple of hours of running around, it was time to get fed. We settled on a place to eat via the simple method of walking in and sitting down at the closest establishment - when you've got hungry kids, that's usually the simplest way of cutting short the whinging.

Once we were seated, we discovered that we were in a pancake house. I guess it's been 30 years since I've been into one of them - I tried them in Perth once as a teenager, and never went back for seconds. Having been taught how to make pancake batter at an early age, and entrusted with the frying pan and shown how to flip them by age 10 (as in throwing them up in the air by flicking the pan and catching them), the stuff they serve up in these pancake barns just doesn't do it for me. I find them to be too much cake and not enough pan - if you get what I mean. I don't like them as thin as crepes, but I like them thinner than pikelets. You have to be able to roll them up and eat them with your hands, which means they have to be thick enough to avoid tearing.

Enough of that.

We settled on two types of pancakes for the kids, and the adults selected a filled crepe and beef ribs (no guessing who had the ribs).

The crepe was good, but the filling was only just warm. It seemed to vanish pretty quickly though.

I got a large slab of beef ribs. They had the texture of being cooked slowly in a steam oven the day before (something I can't stand - the meat ends up with the consistency of jelly), and the sauce appeared to have been painted on at the last minute. As a stomach filler, I have few complaints. However, they were far from the best ribs I've ever had. "Salad" consisted of one baby tomato chopped in half and two lettuce leaves, drizzled with a bit of dressing. The chunky chips were not bad.

The pancakes were what I expected - thick and cakey. You know that awful cake mix in a box you can buy at the supermarket? They reminded me of that stuff. We ordered 4 pancakes and between the 4 of us, we could barely finish 3. It was not the size that stopped us - it was the texture. They're edible if you drown them in sauce or icecream. However, they refuse to slide down your gullet unless they are smothered in some sort of lubricating liquid.

Having watched the place in action, I can understand why the above was so. The restaurant seated a lot of people, and there must have been 20 more in the queue outside when we left. Turnover was ferocious. The kitchen was turning out meals like McDonalds turns out hamburgers. It was not the sort of place where you get hand cut fries and freshly made sauce. Oddly enough, it was very popular with Japanese students.

The bill was just over $70. It just served to reinforce my prejudices about Darling Harbour - crowds, bad food and expensive. We should have walked up the road to one of the pubs for lunch.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Preference cascade

What’s a “preference cascade?” It’s people who believed they were alone in their beliefs who suddenly find out that they are part of a much larger group. It’s human nature to not want to be an oddball. It’s human nature not to want to be a one-man revolution. It’s when you find out that most of the people around you share your views that revolutions are made.
It’s perfectly illustrated by a post by Glenn Reynolds explaining how revolutions seem to appear out of nowhere.

Read the rest here. It's really quite interesting.

Gado Gado soup?

I was in town on Saturday (listening to the riotous march go by, wondering what the hell it was) when I felt a bit peckish and started looking for lunch.

The places that I normally go when I'm at work were closed, so I wandered the streets around the QVB looking for something interesting.

I settled on a place called Ipoh - mainly because it was the only joint open. I was tossing up between a laksa and gado gado, and settled on the latter. I like a good gado gado - lots of crunchy vegetables, a bit of boiled egg and all topped off with a good peanut sauce. I sat at my table, reading an old copy of The Spectator, expecting something like this to turn up:

Instead, what I got could best be described as "peanut sauce soup". I like a smattering of thick, chunky sauce - I got a bowl full of running soup. I like crispy vegetables that you can smear a bit of sauce over - I got soggy vegetables steaming in soup. I couldn't identify the carrots from the tofu - it was all just brown bits of stuff.

I won't be trying that again.

As for the march and riot - I missed the whole thing. I had popped into the office, and heard it go by. I'm quite used to hearing noisy marches on the weekends when I'm in the office - most of them go unreported. The traffic on George St gets held up for 10-15 minutes as the weekly mob walks by, chanting and waving their banners, and that's it. Yesterday's mob sounded no different than usual - I thought they might have been state school teachers protesting about budget cuts - just goes to show you can't tell what's going on from the noise. From 20 floors up, all you hear is a lot of noise, and you've got no idea what they're chanting.

What was interesting was the mood on the street when I walked out. The CBD was full (as usual) of people shopping and seeing the sights and so on. When I was waiting for the lights to change at each intersection, I had a listen to what people were talking about. Perhaps half had seen the protest go by, and the rest had been totally absorbed in shopping and had missed it completely .

Those that had witnessed it weren't happy - the women in particular seemed quite scared. The normal happy mood had soured quite badly.

And remember - all they had seen was a few hundred noisy, aggressive protesters with moronic signs go by - the rioting in Hyde Park was yet to come.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Are lefties more tolerant? hahahahah

Thanks to the Catallaxy open forum, I found this wonderful thread on Democratic Underground. It's worth your time to have a quick flick through the comments. But don't stay too long - it gets very depressing very quickly.

The thread opens with this:

my heart is breaking. my daughter is turning into a republican
I was raised by a feminist and am a proud liberal. I have a low tolerance for republicans who buy into the right wing hypocritical bullshit. 
I have three beautiful intelligent daughters. One of them is living with a republican. I just saw her post something on facebook that made me realize I'm losing her. 
my heart is breaking. anyone else go through this. how do you deal?

How do you deal with this? FFS - your daughter is a grown woman, and she is entitled to lead her own life and to have her own opinions and to form her own attachments and friendships. Lefties always bang on about their "progressive" values - how they are more open, less conforming, and more tolerant and free-thinking than us evil conservative....but the responses on that thread reveal a mindset that is all about control of others, the closing of minds and a complete absence of tolerance towards anyone who thinks differently to them.

My parents are staunchly conservative - but one of my siblings is a complete hippy. In fact, about 25% of my cousins are complete hippies. I'm talking dreadlocks, living on communes, facial piercings and an odd fondness for Combi vans. Do the conservatives in our family shun the hippies? No. My parents got over the conversion to hippie-dom because deep down they accept that we all have the freedom to choose how we live our lives, and it is not their place to interfere. The supposedly staid, intolerant, backward looking, closed-minded conservatives are able to put aside their distaste for the hippy lifestyle because of their core belief in freedom. They don't have to like it, but they accept it.

I'm amazed at these supposedly liberal types (using the US terminology) who prattle on about diversity and tolerance and free-thinking etc, but who are completely unable to put it into practice in their own lives. It's no wonder they are so open to a big and controlling government - they thinks it's fine to control how their family members think and act (even as adults), so it's no big deal to control how everyone else acts and thinks.

Junior will be heading out into the big, wide world in a few short years. I've accepted the fact that it's highly unlikely that he will every hold down a white collar job. The professions are not for him. He'll never join the military. He doesn't even like team sports. He's heading for the arty side of things. I just hope he succeeds wildly as an artist - preferably fronting a heavy metal rock band and rooting at least 1,000 gorgeous groupies every year. He'll tread his own path and make his own decisions and experience his own mistakes. And he'll vote for whoever he damned well wants to.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Packing tips

And now for something a little bit different. The first minute is a bit quiet and boring - the last 3 minutes are an eye opener. Those of you who have spent a bit of time carting everything you need around on your back for an extended period will probably spit your beer/tea/false teeth all over your keyboard when you see the packing style of the second cyclist.

My two cents worth - cyclist number one still packs too much stuff. I can go away on my own for a three day weekend with little more than my wallet, keys, phone, toothbrush and a spare pair of jocks in my back pocket. Still - at least she has her shit squared away.

In my youth, I went overseas for a year. I left with a single echelon bag and returned with a single echelon bag. During my travels, I spent a week or so roaming southern Europe with an American woman like cyclist number two. Her makeup bag weighed more than everything I was carrying. I don't get it.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What is the point of going to uni?

An interesting point about how the modern university operates:

Current universities are built still upon the limitations of medieval book production technologies. The whole idea of a lecture, one person shouting at a crowd, comes from the idea that books were simply, pre-Gutenberg, too expensive for all to have a copy. Thus they must be read out to the students. This is clearly no longer true but 600 years later we're still working within those past technological constraints. I think it's therefore fair to say that within higher education there's some resistance to change.

I'd never really thought of it like that.

Most of my university units consisted of left wing lecturers reading out chunks from left wing text books that someone else had written In most instances, they could have replaced them with a speaking monkey and a teleprompter. A well-spoken monkey would have been easier to understand than some of the muppets that we had to put up with. I was about the only person in one course that could understand the lecturer - after each lecture, all the other students would borrow my notes and run off to the nearest photocopier. Most of them wouldn't have passed if I hadn't been there to translate his mangled english into the written form.

I remember the shock in my third year of walking (actually, probably staggering half-cut) into a tutorial and finding that it was being led by the lecturer, rather than the usual Honours student that usually ran those things.

This is the worst part of university reform - but I doubt it would bother most modern students:

I hope of course that Alex and Tyler do succeed. As they point out, their first course takes half the time for all of the same material as that traditional university technology. Think how much we would all save if a first degree took 18 months not three years (for the English that is). Think how much more if it were not done on campus. But the great problem is going to be those who currently make a living from a slow campus degree: and unfortunately they're also the same people who determine what a degree is.

Egads - the horror of only having 18 months at uni! Back in my day, it was a Bacchanalian feast of booze and sex (except for the Engineers - all they got was the booze), so you had every incentive to string it out for as long as possible. The horrible little swots that attend today probably wouldn't be interested in majoring in debauchery and mayhem, so an 18 month degree would suit them down to the ground.

I doubt they'd even know the meaning of "toga party".

Monday, 10 September 2012

Antony Green on the Greens and other stuff

Always worth a read.

He's put up the sort of graphs that I really like.


I laughed quite hard last month when Tim Blair complained that his sinuses were blocked to the point where he could only breathe through his eyes.

ha ha.

I was quite amused by all the suggestions for sinus irrigation, which seemed to consist of squirting a large volume of salty water up each nostril.

More ha ha.

Then the bloody flu hit me last week. Like a hammer. I've spent most of the past week in bed suffering from the shakes, the chills, the sweats, the overwhelming desire to vomit and the most god-awful headaches that drugs don't even put a dent in. And to cap it off, there is snot production of the likes the world has never seen before. If I can breathe through my nose, it means it's dripping like a tap. If I can't breathe through my nose, it's blocked so tightly with dried snot that a session with an electric drill wouldn't make much impact. Breathing through the eyes is problematic because even they have been getting gummed up with some sort of dreadful goo. I have to soak it off my eyelids and eyelashes at 3 in the morning because it feels so awful, and again when I crawl out of bed a few hours later. If I manage to get out of bed.

So I succumbed to giving the nasal irrigation thing a go.

Take one old drink bottle that's you can squeeze in order to jet water up your nose.

Fill with water and add a teaspoon of salt and another of bicarb.


Tilt head over sink. Pick a nostril. Squirt.

It worked quite well. On my first attempt, clear water went up one nostril and then poured out the other. And it poured out green. I squirted half a litre of salty water up that nostril, and the water came out green from start to finish. So I refilled and kept going until the water ran clear.

Guess what? I could breathe.

For about half an hour. Then the whole works gummed up again. But it was a blessed relief for a while. I've since discovered that Chemists have shelves devoted to pre-mixed packets of nasal irrigation stuff.

And speaking of green.....the snot came out a bright iridescent green. The sort of green that suggests it would glow in the dark (if you were the sort of person who collected snot, put it under a lamp for a short period and then viewed it in a totally darkened room). All I could think of after viewing it is that it's the sort of stuff you'd see in a horror movie - a scientist in a lab coat would hold up a specimen to the camera, explaining that he'd just scraped it out of a pipe at Fukushima, and in the split second before the camera went black, you'd see the green stuff leaping off his scraping tool and dissolving his head.

I thought the worst was over on Saturday, so I went for a test ride. Just a short, one hour easy ride around the suburb. Nothing serious. Hills were taken gently. I didn't race any cars and I doubt my heart rate got anywhere near 80%. I felt good. Really good. The legs were fine, the lungs were clean. Even my eyeballs were free of goo.

All was good, until about 2 hours after I got home. Then I crashed something horrible. Back came the fatigue and the shakes and the headaches, and it was back to bed for me for the rest of the weekend.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

More icey good stuff

After the storm in a teacup that developed after my last post, I thought I'd stir the pot a bit more.

On 27 August, the International Arctic Research Centre put out a press release headlined "Arctic Sea Ice Cracks Record Low, and More to Go".

This press release was picked up by Ben Cubby, the indefatigable environmental editor at the SMH. His story, "Arctic ice cap takes a heating, satellites show" How do we know he picked up this press release? Well, his article states:

The ice cap had contracted to just over four million square kilometres, about 77,000 square kilometres smaller than the previous record low in 2007, data from the International Arctic Research Centre and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency indicates.
The only reason I knew about the IARC was because I Googled it after reading Ben's article - which was also published on 27 August 2012.

I would have thought that it was reasonably obvious that Ben's article was about sea ice. After all, he quotes Will Steffen as saying:

''Because as the ice melts it uncovers darker water beneath, which traps more heat - it creates feedback.
Get that? It uncovers water beneath the ice - not land.

One fascinating point about the press release from the AIRC is that it mentions the WWF. Astute readers may know that the WWF owns 1/3 of Earth Hour, and that Fairfax owns another 1/3. A massive multinational globalised advertising conglomerate owns the last 1/3. It's odd that Ben fails to mention anywhere that this scare mongering about melting sea ice is being pushed by the WWF - a company that his employer has secretly partnered with. Well, it used to be a secret.

The ice loss is also attracting the attention of industrial interests such as oil and gas development and shipping. WWF is concerned that new developments in the region should take into account the ability of already stressed Arctic systems to absorb more change.
This summer, researchers and WWF staff are taking part in the "Sailing to Siku" expedition to the Last Ice Area between northern Greenland and Canada where the last summer sea ice is projected to remain longest. Scientists on the expedition are assessing climate-related changes to this little-studied, but increasingly important region. This in one of several WWF projects to encourage resilience to climate change in the Arctic. WWF is also working of projects to reduce global carbon emissions.
When Ben used the press release, he largely managed to omit that it was about sea ice, and he made it about "Arctic ice" instead:

The Arctic sea ice extent has hit its lowest extent since satellite records began, according to data from the IARC-JAXA Information System and the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. More melting this year is likely, as the lowest sea ice extent has typically been recorded near the end of September, a month away from now. The shrinking sea ice is one of the most visible early impacts of global climate change.
"Record-breaking ice minimums are becoming the new normal", says Clive Tesar of WWF's Global Arctic Programme. "We're breaking records on a regular basis as the sea ice continues its decline. ......This summer, researchers and WWF staff are taking part in the "Sailing to Siku" expedition to the Last Ice Area between northern Greenland and Canada where the last summer sea ice is projected to remain longest. 
In fact, "sea ice" is mentioned 11 times in the original press release from the AIRC.

Ben also mentions the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in his article. Their press release mentions sea ice - wait for it - 20 times!

So I think I am on pretty safe ground when I state that this was all about sea ice - in the Arctic.

Now, to Greenland.

Yes, a lot of Greenland sits above the Arctic Circle. That is true. However, the ice sheet that covers that Greenland land mass is, funnily enough, not used when measuring Arctic sea ice. The picture below from the National Snow & Ice Data Centre makes it pretty clear what they are looking at when measuring sea ice, and the ice sheet covering Greenland ain't included in that white bit. Sure, there is sea ice along the eastern coast of Greenland that is measured; but they don't look for sea ice on land.

So, let's go back to Ben's article. It talks about Arctic ice and has a photo of Greenland - and presumably a photo of ice covering the land bit of Greenland, since it was used in articles elsewhere to illustrate the possibility of the Greenland ice sheet melting.

The source information from IARC and JAXA mention "sea ice" 31 times between them. Ben mentions it once, in the very last line of the article, and an inference to sea ice from Will Steffen:

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which keeps separate satellite records of the extent of sea ice, is expected to publish further results over the next week to confirm record-breaking low.
Next time, I'll be more attentive to detail. I'll remember to say "Arctic sea ice" rather than just "Arctic ice".

Anyway, I think we can say that the photo that was used to illustrate this story is a great photo; but it has little or no bearing on what the story is about.

I am now going to write a story about the picking of organic bananas in Queensland, and illustrate it with this picture:

Coffs Harbour is of course in NSW, not Queensland. But who cares about the geographic exactitude - right? (And that's not a real banana by the way).