Tuesday 30 September 2008

A close shave

Nearly developed a very nasty case of road rash tonight. I went for a spin on the bike, and was nearly home when I decided to do a left hand turn into a street that would take me along a nice bit of waterfront. Trouble is, when I braked in preparation for the turn, the front wheel almost slid out from underneath me. Now that is something that you might expect on gravel, but I was on asphalt, and there was nothing remotely slippery about it.

What had happened is that my front wheel had suffered a puncture and gone flat in about 5 seconds - and I hadn't noticed it as I was too busy paying attention to all the nasty "I'm off home now" traffic on the road beside me. As the tube went flat, the tyre separated from the rim, and hence the skidding - I was pretty much riding on 1mm of metal rim instead of 23mm of inflated rubber. And metal rims 1mm wide do not grip that well on anything.

I managed to hold the slide (making all those broggies on gravel as a kid worthwhile), so instead of falling under a truck to my right, I managed to slide into the kerb on my left. My front wheel slammed into the kerb about a foot short of the corner, and I then bounced around the corner and came to a halt in a quiet side street, heart racing, shoulder muscles torn from the effort of staying upright and me quietly cursing the RTA and their useless bloody road surfaces.

I was reasonably close to home, so I walked the bike home rather than fixing the flat on the side of the road. When I removed the front wheel to fix the flat, I found an almighty ding in the rim from where the wheel had crashed into the concrete kerb - it's off to the shop tomorrow to determine whether it can be repaired, or whether it is time for a new wheel rim.

The front tyre also needs replacing - they're supposed to be good for 6000km, but it's only done 3000km since new. Just goes to show how even a kevlar reinforced tyre gets chopped up quickly by Sydney's nasty road surfaces. The gouges on the tyre from broken glass and metal shavings have to be seen to be believed. This is not a bike friendly town. Tyre + rim = maybe $300. This is not a cheap sport.

But at least I am home with all my skin and bones intact.

Monday 29 September 2008

The windbag must be home

Rudd must be back in the country - I went for a ride this morning and almost got blown off the bike. Only a prodigiously boring windbag could create such an effect.

Even the rowers were having a hard time of it. Rowing in wind-driven chop like you see here is no fun at all. In my day, when no one wore gloves, the oar blades would hit the top of the chop as you went forward on each stroke, and that would strike up spray that would always land right on the spot where you were gripping the oar. A wet oar handle is a quick way to get lots of blisters. You knew you'd had a rough day when you could count 36 blisters on each hand.

A sign of why we have a financial crisis

In days gone by, finance was hard to come by. You'd make an appointment with a bank manager, put on a suit and go and lay out your case as to why the bank should give you money. It was a time of trepidation for many, as banks were notoriously tight with their lending criteria.

Nowadays, the bank comes to you, and they try to lend you as much money as they think you can afford, and then some. Borrowers have become like French geese, with a funnel stuffed into their beaks and corn being force-fed into their gullets.

When I see a car like this, it reinforces my view that the banks only have themselves to blame, and that any bank managers crying poor to the government should be shown the door with a swift kick up the date.

When I was at Uni, studying Commerce, everyone wanted to be a Merchant Banker (this was at a time when Alan Bond and Laurie Connell were riding high). I know that because one of lecturers did a survey one day and asked us students to raise our hands if we found a certain career choice as being attractive.

90% wanted to go into stock broking or merchant banking. Maybe 10% thought commercial banking was attractive (essentially going to work for Westpac was seen as a sign of abject failure).

I was the only one who expressed an interest in manufacturing. Out of about 300 students.

In other words, my fellow students all wanted to get rich by working for a stockbroker or a merchant bank (no one had heard of Macquarie Bank back then, funnily enough). Being a commercial banker was not seen as the road to riches.

However, a reasonable number ended up working for banks after the likes of Bond Corp went belly up, and they had nowhere else to go. But the desire to make money never went away, and I suspect it was the likes of them that came up with all sorts of money-making schemes as they cast an envious eye at their compadres in the stock broking and merchant banking houses. The only way for them to make money was to grow their banks like topsy, and that meant lending money with a fury.

Main Street bankers are normally seen as a sober lot when compared to their Wall Street rivals, but I don't believe there is much difference between the two. Next time you get one of those "you have been pre-approved for a $5,000 gold Mastercard" type letters in the mail, consider who is to blame for this mess.

Saturday 27 September 2008

With teachers like these..........

"The federal govt spends 75% of its education budget on private schools and 35% on public schools".

I hope that is a misprint by the paper. I really hope it is.

How long until I kill my Nokia N95?

If I hadn't spent so much money on such a small pile of crap, I'd have fed it to a dog by now.

Consider this.

I charged it completely on Thursday night. It even beeped at me to let me know that the battery was full.

I was flat by 9am Friday, even though I had not touched it to do a single thing. It failed to even last 12 hours on a brand new battery.

Then it decided to start locking up everytime I tried to use the "maps" function. The only way to recover was to remove the battery and reboot the bloody thing.

And speaking of reboot time, it takes at least 5 minutes to boot. I am going to time it one of these days, just to find out how long it takes. I can make an omelette for breakfast in less time than it takes it to boot (that I do know).

I seem to have solved the "maps" problem. I went into the GPS application and told it to find out where I was standing. After 5 minutes of searching the heavens (and flattening the battery), it managed to find out where I was. Since then, the mapping function has performed as it should - but it shouldn't have needed that initial "boot" to get it to work.

As for changing between functions...........sigh.

When I was at Uni, I did a stats course. We had to do all sorts of number crunching, either on a PDP-11 mainframe, or on the ultramodern IBM XT PC's in the computer lab. Or they might have been the AT model. Whatever. They had two 5 1/4 inch floppy drives - you booted DOS from one disk, then inserted a second disk that ran the application that you wanted - say Lotus 123 (Excel did not exist at that time). After putting a spreadsheet together, you'd save the data to a floppy, then take out the 123 floppy and put in another floppy in order to run SPSS (a stats package).

Now, consider how long it takes to close a program, remove a floppy, put that floppy back in it sleeve, take another floppy out of its sleeve, insert into floppy drive, boot program etc etc.

The Nokia takes even longer to flip between applications. No, let me rephrase that - to crawl between applications. Flip has too many connotations about speed. I imagine that there is a little troll inside the phone, sitting there in a cubicle waiting to swap floppy disks over every time I want to use the camera or the music player........and they are the type of troll that doesn't get out of bed unless they are being paid doubletime.

I don't know what Nokia were thinking of when they designed this phone.... but whatever it was, they couldn't have been thinking about very much.

Public school teachers - MIA

Junior started high school this year, and he has been attending what we think is one of the better state schools in our area. It's in a fantastic location (so fantastic, the state government tried to close the school and sell the land for development, as it has amazing water frontages), has good facilities and is not suffering from being stuffed to the gills with useless drongo kids.

We got some test results the other day - they were from some statewide assessments in Maths and English and that sort of thing. They came with a covering letter from the former-heroin addict that is now "running" the Education Department. In it, he said that we should feel free to contact Junior's teachers if we want to discuss the results etc etc.

We wish!

One of his teachers has called me twice this year, both times when I was at work, and both times to discuss his miserable performance in her subject. I spent a good 10 minutes on the phone each time, trying to get from her an idea of what we (we, as in her and us) should do to turn his performance around.

She didn't have a clue. She was just telling us that he was not doing well, probably because she was under orders to do so, but coming up with an action plan to improve his education was not in her job description.

During each call, I asked her to email me certain information, which she promised to do (and has never done). I have rung the school, asking to talk to her, and have never been put through. I have left messages with the school asking repeatedly for the information to be sent through - we've never heard anything back.

J went to a parent-teacher night earlier in the year, and that turned into a complete debacle. She was supposed to have 5 minutes with each teacher, but the teachers were so disorganised and ill-disciplined, everyone ran over time and she missed out on speaking to several of them. When she met the teacher where we have most concern about Junior's performance, all she wanted to talk about was how her sister was pregnant. J's assessment of the teacher was that she was straight out of teacher's college, was completely clueless and utterly scatter brained. We have enough trouble with Junior being scatter brained - he is 12 and full of hormones, so you expect that from him. But from his teacher?

J of course asked again for certain information to be emailed to us, but nothing ever arrived. The excuse we were given was that "your email address is wrong" - this was after I emailed the school to ensure that they couldn't get it wrong - all they had to do was hit "reply" and send me what I wanted.

I even left them our fax number, but that didn't help either.

They have our address, because we get a regular newsletter in the post, but they won't post out the educational information that we actually want. Newsletters - yes. Curriculum information - no. Begging letters asking for us to give the school money are also ok. But nothing that will actually allow us to "partner" with the school to provide the best education possible.

The receptionist at the school will not give out any phone numbers - none at all. I rang last month and asked to be put through to the Library (I wanted to know if an overdue book had been returned). The extension for the Library was busy, so the receptionist told me to call back later. When I asked for the direct number of the Library, she refused. Under her rules, I might have to call back 20 times before being put through, if the extension that I want to talk to is busy or not picking up. There was no consideration for the cost of my repeat calls, or the complete waste of my time.

I had a look at the website for my old school. It lists the office numbers and email addresses of the 20 most senior teachers and the Headmaster. It even lists mobile numbers for some teachers.

With Junior's school, the website does not even provide the name of the Headmaster, let alone their email address or phone number. There is a generic, Department-supplied email address, and the reception phone number. And that is it.

So, Mr Heroin-Addict (former), how on earth am I supposed to get in touch with anyone at this school to discuss Junior's performance? Should I just front up one morning at Assembly and make it known that I want to talk to the dingbat in charge? I might want to talk to the teachers that you employ, but they don't want to talk to me. A one-way conversation will not get us anywhere.

The state school system is always crying poor, and screaming that the private schools get too much money. Well, here's some news for you - you don't deserve any more money, because you are a useless pile of trolls. You are worth less than a thimble full of toe fungus. You are a disorganised, disinterested, un-dismissable rabble.

If Junior does not pull his socks up this semester, I'm going to start attending the local Catholic church each week (a tough gig for a lapsed Anglican like me) in order to get him into one of the local Mick schools.

Petrol prices at the end of the rainbow

As I was waiting for the lights to change, an employee of this petrol station wandered out and adjusted the price of unleaded - downwards by 5 cents a litre (I think).

So prices are falling, eventually.

Is that the death of FoolWatch that I see at the end of this rainbow?

Ferry nice view

A ferry makes its way up the Parramatta River, near Putney.

Woin Swan is an idiot

Why does the government feel the need to bail out the non-bank lending sector, given that some of these idiots are responsible for writing the crummiest mortgages on the planet? Talk about reinforcing failure.

"Prudence" used to be a by-word for banks, but it seems that word was excised from their in-house dictionaries in the 1980's. Banks are supposed to be prudent because they are looking after our money - your money and my money. When I go to the ATM this morning, I want money to come out, and the only reason the bank will be able to dispense it is because they have not blown it on one foolish scheme or another.

I fail to see why any of the following statements by Woin make any sense at all:

"We need to have a competitive mortgage market so that people out there who are under financial pressure can get a fair go," Mr Swan said.

Does that mean that people who already owe a lot of money need to be able to go out and borrow more money? Or does it mean that people who don't have enough of an income to support a loan of any size will be able to get a loan?

"This is an important measure to introduce competition into the mortgage market over time."

The mortgage market is already quite competitive. The problem is not a lack of competition between lenders - it's that all of them no longer have great pots of money to lend out. Keeping more lenders in the market will do little, if nothing, to increase the total pot of money available for lending.

And what's with the phrase "over time"? I take it that is a cop out so that if no one notices any difference in 6 months time, he can say, "This process will take time blah blah blah".

Mr Swan described the move as a temporary measure, but did not rule out further taxpayers' money being spent to help the non-bank sector.

Interestingly, all the comments in the article are from the banking sector, rather than the non-bank sector.

Since the middle of last year mortgage lending from the non-bank sector has plummeted to $2.5 billion a quarter from $18 billion a quarter.

And if you ask me, that's a good thing. Do we really need these guys issuing even more low-doc and liar loans to those that can least afford to pay them back? Do we need hordes of shonky mortgage brokers prowling the western suburbs in BMWs enticing people to sign up to NINJA loans, and pocketing a handy commission up front in the process?

Our housing market has been horribly inflated by stupid amounts of money being lent to people suckered by the tale of an ever-rising market.

I just hope we don't end up following the UK down the crapper.

Friday 26 September 2008

Palin, the uber-Democrat

It's clear to me why Palin has the Democrats in a frenzy; she's more aligned with the old-style Democrat base than any of the current crop of perfumed carpet baggers that claim to represent the working class.

Although I am a plutocrat, you don't have to go back far in our family tree to find a rock solid Labor membership. My grandfather was a train driver, a member of AFULE (Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Engineers), a union organiser and eventually a state MP, representing of course the Labor Party. He held his seat for over two decades - he was old, old-style Labor.

One of my uncles was a wharfie. These guys were solidly working class - their origins were about as blue collar as you can get. Grandfather served in parliament alongside other Labor members who were all short a finger or two - lost in industrial accidents of one form or another. I imagine that they all had hands the size of dinner plates; proper horny-handed gentlemen with rock-like callouses from working for a living.

They were the type of guys (for they were all men) who started as an apprentice boilermaker or steelworker or carpenter, maybe picked up a bit of education along the way (but more often than not, didn't even have a leaving certificate from school) and entered parliament later in life after coming up through the unions the hard way.

I have no idea if Grandfather was typical of his time or not, but he was a hunting man (we still use his .44/40 lever action from time to time, which he used to shoot koalas) and a God-fearing man (church every Sunday, and a man who lived the word of the Book, not just paying lip-service once a week). I doubt he was much of a pacifist, give that his younger brother, who signed up at age 40*, is buried in France (WWI) and both his sons saw active service in WWII.

When I look at his portrait, I see that stern, unsmiling expression of his time, of someone who came up the hard way and ended up as the cream of the working class. I see someone who was a fire-breathing lefty when it came to the economy, but socially very, very conservative. He would probably find the Rev Fred Nile to be a bit soft when it comes to social policy.

His type were swept out of the Labor Party in the late 1960's. He didn't live long enough to see that, but if he were alive today, he'd probably be branded a God-bothering, hillbilly redneck from the deep south (and yes, he was from a small country town in the south of WA - just north of the real hillbilly area of the state).

To me, Sarah Palin is a bit of a throwback to that time. No, I am not calling her a redneck hillbilly. Instead, I think her family has more authentic roots in the birthplace of what we Australians would call the Labor movement than any of the current crop of Democrats. If Grandfather met John Kerry, and was told he was a representative of blue collar America, he would have laughed his head off, but I think he would have recognised Palin as one of his type. Sure, she doesn't have hands the size of dinner plates and callouses the size of walnuts, but she is of that stock.

Which is why she terrifies the Democrats, and why she connects so well with a particular class of American that is supposed to vote Democrat. Hell, I've been a member of more unions than every current serving Labor member of parliament, and I bet I've done more manual labour along the way than every one of them put together. I've probably dealt with more real, front line shop stewards than most of them. I know what a workplace looks like, having spent a decade crawling around the strangest places of a very blue collar industry.

Palin, and her family, give me the impression that they've been down that road as well. Scott Palin looks like he's eaten a lot of meals in a crib room with a lino floor and formica tables and wobbly chairs, eating fish and chips and sharing girlie magazines with the boys, and he has a hardhat with his name on it - and it's not for show. His workboots are real workboots, not something that you pull on for a photo opportunity at a building site.

Obama has not spent his career with workers - he spent it with those that weren't working, and nothing would annoy my grandfather, with his monstrous Presbyterian-style work ethic - than people who didn't pull up their socks and get on with it. Obama doesn't know what the working class looks like. Most of the Democrat big wheels give me the same impression.

* - interesting factoid for any military types reading this. My great uncle had a 4 digit service number. By the time Dad joined, they were handing out 5 digit numbers.

Cool - I want one

This remote controlled aeroplane was doing some pretty cool stunts when I went past. I stopped for a few minutes to check it out.

It was really quiet though - nowhere near as noisy as the planes of my youth. Are they making electric planes these days?

I meet drivers like this on almost every ride

Poor bastard - and I'm talking about the dead cyclist.

I had one idiot overtake me from behind today in the middle of a roundabout, which is about as stupid and illegal as it gets. He was simply in a hurry to get somewhere and didn't want to wait another 2 or 3 seconds for me to clear the roundabout. I had to brake and get out of the way, as he left me a gap of about 6 inches between his car and the kerb.

So if you ever wonder why some cyclists get right out into the middle of the road as they approach roundabouts, it is simply to block idiots from passing when it's as dangerous as all buggery. They're not being impolite - they're just trying to stay alive. If you want to blame anyone, blame the idiot drivers that have brought us to this point.

Take time to smell the flowers

I took a few minutes out from a two hour ride today to snap a few photos of the flowers that are starting to bloom - just to prove that I am not always a hard-hearted RWDB.

Got no idea what any of them are called. My name for them is "pretty".

Not even the pelicans were flying

How the weather has changed in 3 short weeks! This was taken on the last day of August - a cold, wet and miserable day; so miserable, not even the Pelicans could be bothered to take off (there are 4 of them sitting on the mudflat in this photo).

The jacket, leg warmers and gloves with long fingers are about to go into storage for 6 months - they are no longer required, even at dawn. I had a pleasant 2 hour ride yesterday, and returned with the makings of a tan, which is saying something as my forearms have not seen sunlight for months.

The Rocks

From the Harbour Bridge, looking across the rooftops of The Rocks at a ship being manouvered in by tugs.

From one of my recent rides.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Killin' cousins

I've heard of "kissin' cousins", but now it appears we have a documented case of "killin' cousins".

Police identified the attacker as Qasem Mughrabi, 19, from the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jebel Mukaber. They said he carried out the attack after his cousin refused to marry him.

What can I say? These people are complete whackjobs.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Really terrible editing at the SMH

I have been reading the online edition of the SMH this morning, which is a good thing. If I was reading a paper version, it would be covered in red ink with comments like "could do better".

First pet hate - mindlessly adopting American expressions. In this example, even though Fairfax loves to print stories about US cultural imperialism, they have used the term "lawmaker" instead of whatever the correct term is for his title. If he is a member of the state Senate, then he is a "Senator". I don't know what the right term is, but the SMH should be able to find out and use it. "Lawmaker" jars my sensitive Australian ears.

Second pet hat - writing about stuff you clearly don't understand. Try reading that article regaring the price of oil going up $25 a barrel and see if it makes a lick of sense to you. It reads to me like an assignment written by a 12 year old.

This story is not the fault of the paper, but after reading it, I wondered how on earth that person got a licence.

The inquest heard medical evidence that Ms Sutton-Smith suffered from bi-polar disorder and could become extremely agitated, The Daily Mail said.

Her mental condition made it likely that she would act impulsively and fail to appreciate when she was in danger, the paper said.

And someone thought it was a good idea to let her drive? It's a wonder only one person ended up dead.

Monday 22 September 2008

Napalm sticks to kids

There has been a fascinating and lengthy brawl going on over in Blairdom today. I have not seen that many posts since Tim moved to the dark side.

I would like to toss in my two cents worth over there, but it appears there are two Vietnam Vets going at it hammer and tongs, and I don't want to get caught in the crossfire.

I burst out laughing when I read this comment from Richard Sharpe:

I spent the early years of my career re-fighting the war in Vietnam, albeit in places like Shoalwater Bay, Canungra and High Range. This is a new war. Whilst we are very proud of the achievements of the ATF in Phuoc Tuy, don’t make the mistake of re-fighting Vietnam in the 21st Century.

Yep, did that too, except I was doing it at Northam, Bindoon and Nannup. Funny how the Vietnam War was over in 1975, and I was still re-fighting it in 1985. We even had an enemy dressed in black pyjamas and wearing conical hats, running around yelling things like "Di-di mow" and "chicken chow-mein" as they shot at us at oh-dark-hundred.

I think I can understand why Burke has been brought in by the DS (Directing Staff). He'd give a talk, then one of the DS would march in and yell something like this at the cadets:

"Right you lot, that's enough listening to yellow pooftas for one day. Bayonet practice starts in 5 minutes. The last one of you to have their sorry carcass on the parade ground will be the target. I'm sure most of you will feel like killing something after listening to that idiot crap on for an hour."

When I signed up, I told the recruiter all sorts of rubbish about why I wanted to join. Being patriotic and wanting to do your duty was not the done thing to say, so I waffled some dribble about why I was joining.... but the fact was, I knew what it was all about and why I wanted to do it. I like our country. No, fuck it - I love it. And I was happy to kill any bastard that wanted to mess with us.

As for understanding the enemy, and why they fought, I was all for that too. If it helped me blat them in a more efficient manner, then I wanted to know. You could put 10 Harvard professors in a room and have them lecture me all day on why they think it's evil for us to kill our enemies, but at the end of such a session, I'd still walk outside and happily pick up that big lump of machine gun and march to the sound of the guns. That's because when I joined, I'd been indoctrinated by 16 years of the modern equivalent of God, King and Country. A few hours of lectures by some twat with a bent for post-modernism and stalinist deconstruction would be unlikely to undermine such firm foundations.

As for the question of whether it is a good thing or not for ADFA cadets to be lectured to by this guy, I suspect that their only concern (like all students) would be whether they would be tested on it or not. I had to put up with an enormous amount of lefty shit from lecturers when I was at uni. I wrote papers that made them happy, but I didn't believe a word of it. If they were happy, I got a good mark, and I didn't give a shit about what they were teaching - in the end, it would give me a degree that would start me on a good career path. I just kept my head down and regurgitated their crap.

You may think that's a terrible attitude to take, but I look at it this way. During my infantry training, I had to crawl through a fair bit of mud. But at the end of the training, I went home, washed it off, had a beer and fell asleep in my armchair; happy, clean and content. Some of the units that I studied were like that - I crawled through crap, but at the end of the semester, I washed it out of mind and stepped back onto the path I was travelling along. Crawling through intellectual crap should bother a soldier less than crawling through a spot of mud. If you are confident in your moral positions, it washes off more easily than mud.

Anyway, as I said, I had to put up with some loonie-lefty lecturers from time to time. I occasionally had to tell them that I would be away for two weeks due to an exercise, and that was enough to utterly horrify them. When they suddenly understood that the bloke they had been tutoring for some months was in fact a closet baby killer, some became a little unhinged. Have you ever seen someone back away, their arms flailing, like they've just opened a envelope full of anthrax? I saw that, and whilst I was a bit taken aback at the time and didn't know how to react, it makes me grin today to think that a few simple words could have such a tremendous impact. I even had one bloke (shorts, sandals, long socks, beard) try and talk me into resigning from the Reserves. Fat chance of that working. He spent the rest of the year either scowling at me or ignoring me.

And let me just dispense with this notion that the Army turns soft, innocent recruits into killers. The Army simply helps the process along. I reckon that inside most modern men, there is a Spartan waiting to leap out and poke some bastard in the guts with a pointy stick. People of a certain age may remember the film that made Richard Gere's career - An Officer and a Gentleman. Some may even recall some of the cadences that the cadets chanted as they ran:

Eighteen kids in a No Fire Zone,
Rooks under arms and going home,
Last in line goes home alone,
Napalm sticks to kids.
My platoon actually got in trouble for singing stuff like this - but only because the Major who heard us thought we were becoming "too American". The killing and the maiming and the burning was fine by him, but copying the Yanks was not. I can understand that - I joined the Australian Army, not the Marines. But no one was teaching us cool Australian marching songs, so we copied the only ones we had. Yes, I actually knew the words to that song by heart once. We knew that if had to go to war, we had to be the meanest, nastiest, most killing-est bunch of bastards on the battlefield, and we did what we had to do to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for that time. If we thought our instructors were being a bit soft in that area, we picked up anything that would help to develop that mental shield.

I wish Burke could go back in time to visit our Regiment around 1988. He could have given his talk, and then we'd retire to the boozer and entertain him by singing songs like the above.

As for this dribble:

"students should try to understand terrorists rather than fight them"

Let me just say this about the fellows that I served with. I can't speak for the Army of today, but the Army that I served in was not full of pseudo-intellectuals pondering the next wankfest where they might score a speaking engagement (and I served in a University Regiment which was about 80% Arts students). We were a very well educated set of grunts, but we didn't philosophise much about why we were there or what we were doing.

We didn't need some moral imperative to fight - if the government told us to go do something, we would have done it - no questions asked (except maybe some queries about allowances and tax free status). The only term that I can think of to describe those guys is that you would not insert them into a battlefield, you would unleash them. Think about the battle scene in Braveheart, then put those Scotsmen in DPCU's and add modern firearms (and yes, we were fond of chucking brown-eyes as well). Unleashed is probably putting it a bit mildly. Those that volunteer to serve are self-selected from what I would term the rugby end of the masculinity spectrum, rather than the Burke-badminton end.

As a closer, this bloke is spot on.

PS - I have figured out why Burke is there. It's to uncover the softcocks. If any meat head gets taken in by his views, they get ejected faster than a streaker at the cricket.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Finally, the N95 coughs up some photos

I have now had the Nokia N95 in my possession for just over 3 weeks, and it has taken that long to get it to cough up the photos that I've taken on it. My first impression is that it takes great photos - so long as you only want to view them on a screen no larger than 2 inches across.

Some fire trucks outside an apartment block in Five Wog. I suspect one of the wogetts living there set her hair on fire with some straightening irons.

This is how I got the photos off.

I bought a blue tooth dongle so that my PC could connect to the phone via bluetooth. That allowed me to sync the contacts in Outlook to the phone. And that was it. No photos came back the other way.

After rooting around with the Nokia PC Suite for two weeks (a bit of software every bit as bloated as MS Office), I got rid of it and installed Nokia's Ovi suite. Nokia do not explain the difference between the two, and the phone does not ship with the Ovi suite on CD - but they do ship the standard PC suite (which does not work).

I installed the Ovi suite, which at least found the phone, but it refused to transfer any photos either. After reading a number of blogs, I eventually found a way to import the photos using some software from Roxio. That is the only thing that works. Apart from bringing the memory card up as another drive and copying them off manually - and the card only showed up after I installed the Ovi suite. The only thing the Ovi suite is good for is making the memory card visible so that Roxio can do its thing.

Have I mentioned what a useless bucket of shit this thing is before now? And why any prospecting buyers should look at something running a Windows or Mac OS?

Sensible people should start shorting Nokia stock based on this pile of pus.

When will the Greens stop polluting the environment?

These Green signs were put up for the Council elections last weekend. Any bets on how long it will take before they take them down? Two months? Three months? Never?

Nice tilt you've got there

I know this might sound like a sickening thing to do, but try this exercise:

Go to the SMH website and type "obama" into their search engine.

Then have a look at the headlines it returns. You can try the same thing with "mccain".

Notice anything about them? Am I the only person to think that the SMH is tilting a certain way?

Nasty way to remove a tattoo

The always excellent Bystander pointed me at these two crispy guys. He makes a good point in his latest article about the tragedy of the way the paper has spun this story - they only make the news because they bonked Paris Hilton half a lifetime ago. What a sad indictment on our modern media that they decide to slant things that way.

The story mentions that the well-inked guy is badly burned beneath the waist. I guess if his bottom half is anything like his top half, it will be covered in tatts. What's the bet they are now all completely buggered, and that his first concern will be for his lost tattoos, rather than the 4 people that died in the crash?

And here's another point about celebrities - note that there were 4 passengers in the Lear jet. Remember all that hoo-ha about carbon emmissions and global worming and all that other crap? Any chance that these two crispy people have played at some concerts proposing that we all get taxed to death in order to 'save the planet'?

If so, I hope this is a judgement on high about their hypocrisy.

Wiggers in our midst

As the temperature climbed into the 30's today, I packed the kiddies into the car and took them down to the Leichhardt pool for a dip. Along with just about everyone else in the suburb. I thought I had taken a wrong turn for a minute and driven to a swimming pool in Tokyo, such was the crush.

But if I was in Tokyo, I would have been surrounded by polite people.

The language definitely told me I was not in Tokyo.

In days gone by, I went to the pool for one reason only, and that was to try and churn out 50 laps and then go home. (Getting my car without power steering out of the car park after 50 laps was always a challenge, since I could barely raise my arms to scratch my nose). Now, I spend most of my time messing around with a Monkey on my back. I wear a rashie for the simple reason that he has viciously sharpened finger nails, and I prefer that he digs them into the rashie rather than my skin.

Since my head is above water 99.5% of the time, instead of below it, I get to see and hear what my fellow pool-people are like. That's a big change from doing laps, where you have to surmise what someone might be like by the shape of their feet or the colour of their bathers. I don't have to do that anymore - I just watch and listen.

Most of the time, things are pretty dull. The indoor pool will be full of kids around the 1-4 year old range, and most of the forty-something mums sit in a chair by the side of the pool instead of jumping in for a splash with the youngsters. I get the raised eyebrow from time to time for wanting to throw the Monkey into the air and have him come down in an enormous splash. Many of the mums have this look of, "Can we just get this over and done with so I can go home and have some vodka?"

But enough of that.

Today was Wigger Day. Within a minute of getting into the water, my attention had been drawn to a girl of about 14-15 and her sister, who looked about 6. What got my attention was that as I towed the Monkey past them, the elder yelled at the younger, "Get over here, you f*&cking c*&t!", and yelled it with a lot of aggression.

Now I am usually non-plussed by swearing. I've been bawled out by instructors who managed to turn the air blue for long periods of time. But I am unused to that kind of language in a public place between sisters.

Except that over the next hour, it became clear that they were aboriginal.

Why did it take me an hour to work that out?

Because both were paler than me, and I am the albino of our family. When dad goes out in the sun, you could mistake him for Kamahl after a few hours, but I could get sunburn in a submarine 50 metres beneath the Arctic icepack. That's how pale I am. And these two were whiter than I.

As I towed the Monkey up and down the pool, I went past this wigger on a number of occasions, and noted that she had a very highly developed case of defiance and an enormous chip on her shoulder. She would mouth off from time to time, just to show that she was "different" and "special".

What a plonker.

When we left, she was part of a brood that walked out to the carpark at the same time. There were 7 or 8 of them, all young kids, and she was yelling about being stressed because "I haven't had a bong this afternoon". Wow. You are so tough. Smoking a bong a few times a day and bragging about it in public. She was making some sort of statement to the kids, which consisted of around 30 words - 20 of them being "fuck", or one of its derivatives.

Why are we not allowed to brand these people with a big "L" on their forehead?

Here's the rub.

On most visits to that pool, I swim and splash alongside a lot of people that I would describe as noticeably Aboriginal or Islander or Melonesian. They don't look like they are 100% Aboriginal or whatever, but they are Aboriginal enough to be worried if the KKK ever comes to town.

The thing is, they are no different to you and me in their behaviour - they play with their kids, are polite and watch what they are doing. Afterwards, they sit in the cafe having an icecream and whiping the mess of their children's faces. If our kids crash into each other, we look each other in the eye and smile and shrug our shoulders and have that little moment of connection between two parents who are trying to keep their kids safe whilst having a good time, and trying to stop them from interfering with others whilst they are doing it. They are middle-class, well adjusted Australians who happen to have a better tan than me. They are probably happy to be termed "aspirational".

But that wigger and her brood - they were anything but. I thought about it afterwards and decided that her behaviour was all about exclusion - she didn't want to join in with the rest of us, or allow us to interact with her. She wanted to stay aloof and different. I have read about "social inclusion" policies in the UK, and can see what they are on about. But what do you do when people are "socially excluded" because they like it that way? At one point, she crashed into us, and I had that little moment of looking her in the eye as I turned around to see who we had collided with, and all I got was a "What the fuck are you looking at?" type of hostility.

I will make an enormous and unfounded leap here and say that she is probably a welfare case (there is a big housing commission development not far from the pool, and I have been through it and seen her feral type there all to often). People like this want us to pay our taxes to support them in their chosen lifestyle, but then they do everything possible not to join in with what I would call the "civil society".

Am I being mean when I say, "Just cut the fuckers off?" If you want out, we're not paying for you.

The best thing about this entire encounter was that I pointed her out to Junior and explained what a "wigger" is, and what it means to be a complete and utter loser. It was a good lesson in trying to reinforce what behaviours that are unacceptable.

I am sure I will get a note from the school next week complaining that he used "wigger" in the playground, and I will have to appear before a Human Rights star chamber somewhere.


When I mentioned this to J, her comment was that she couldn't understand why people should try to deliberately degrade themselves instead of bettering themselves. Her parents arrived in this country with nothing, started their own business and raised their kids to do the best they can. Wanting to be a wanna-be gangster wigger is just the pits.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Any bets on whether fuel watch will last until the election?

The whole issue of Fuelwatch seems to have died a quiet death with the recent falls in the price of a barrel of oil.

Let's assume that we get lucky and the price drops back down to say $80 a barrel over the next 12 months. Will Foolwatch be wound up as a short lived political expediency, or will it outlive us all as a bureaucratic monster that refuses to die?

I'd like to know whether the staff that are working on it are on contract, or whether they have been taken on permanently. I'd hate to think of the cost of winding it up if they all have to be given redundancy payments.

Anything government related is hard to kill. I met a bloke once that was part of the reform team that Griener put into State Rail in order to stop it sending NSW into bankruptcy. He told me that the SRA finally finished its conversion from coal to diesel at some point in the 1960's. However, it was his job to come in 25 years later and finally close down all the coaling and watering stations that still existed out in the bush, employing a few men here and there, but collectively adding up to thousands of positions.

Have any of the fatheads in Canberra considered the possibility that we might have faced a one-off blip with the oil prices (higher prices of course acting as a brake on consumption whilst spurring more exploration and the bringing on-stream of more production), and that Foolwatch might not have a reason for existing if the price drops back to $80 a barrel or less?

Hell, even at $100 a barrel, people seem to have stopped complaining. Foolwatch was always less use that a dead mullet, but it's even more useless now.

Friday 19 September 2008

Pathetic letter of the week

The NRMA President is at it again, writing garbage to those that line his pockets (ie, us, the members).

Here is a snippet from the latest cesspit:

"The Board will continue to wrestle the oil companies until the stranglehold they currently enjoy on Australia's transport energy future is ended".

"wrestle"? How do you "wrestle" with an oil company? Do you go down to the refinery at Botany Bay and grapple with a feed pipe?

As for the "stranglehold", the NRMA has the size and muscle to buy into the oil industry if it wants to. So why doesn't it? I bet the answer will be along the lines of "too risky and not a good enough return". Well, if that's the case, why are you attacking shareholders who are game enough to put their money into buying a stake in an oil company?


This clown, who earns several hundred thousand dollars a year via various directorships associtated with the NRMA, also had this to say:

"...calls on the Federal Government to develop an alternative fuel industry that is green, less volatile and cheaper for Australian families".

In other words, take the taxes extracted from you and me and pour them into one of his pet projects.

How about this for an idea, Alan. How about the NRMA puts up the money to develop an alternative fuel industry. You can put it to the members, along with a business plan, and try and raise the money yourself. After all, if the goddammed supposedly long-suffering motorists of NSW won't stump up the cash, why the hell should the taxpayer?

It is unbelievable that someone like this should get paid so much.


J suited up for some meetings today and looked awesome. She has spent the last year getting a home-based business idea off the ground, and it is starting to bear fruit. I am hoping to be a retired house-husband in a few years time. It had better succeed wildly. The fun part of getting the business going was trying to cope with a pregnancy that was less than comfortable, but the idea is so good, even with her flat on her back with pregnancy pains (and then a newborn), the idea has taken root and people are starting to pay her good money for her product. Not bad for someone that has been largely confined to the couch for the last eight months. Now that she is on her feet and back to 100%, I'm looking forward to a Wealth Manager cold-calling us from the bank asking how we want to invest our new-found fortune.

Here's one hilarious sidebar to this business idea. J originally approached one of the Councils in the inner west with the idea of doing the work on their behalf (her product is something that almost every Council has in their strategic plan as a Good Thing that they should be doing, but none of them have been arsed so far to do it). The Council staff umm'd and ahh'd and eventually came back and said, "We are too busy this year to contemplate doing it", even though J would have done 99% of the work, and it was something that they were supposed to do every year for the last six years.

So she decided to do it herself. Bugger the Council and their "I'm too busy" staff attitudes.

All I can say is this - thank goodness for every Council employing a proportion of good-for-nothing nuff-nuffs. If it wasn't for them and their lack of get up and go, we wouldn't have this winner of an idea.

I'm going to have to get used to talking to the media, because she’s been getting increasing media coverage, and I occasionally answer the "office" phone and will probably find myself talking to a sponge-headed "journalist" before too long. I've listened with interest to a few phone interviews (as I've sat beside her blogging), and have found that what they print bears no relation whatsoever to what was said in the interview. They generally get the business name right, and that's about it. J might find herself being described as an "Albanian goat herder" next week, which doesn't bother us - so long as they promote the business, I don't care what picture they paint of us.

All the stuff on my "shelf of stuff" in the office was recently banished to a cupboard to make room for a business award that she has picked up. I can see that we are going to have to create an "ego wall" soon to have space for the stuff she is going to collect. That's led to being invited to speak to various groups of people around the place, which will probably create more media interest etc etc etc.... I wonder how long it will be before she is our new mayor.

I'm also sharing my desk and PC with J's first employee. It's an odd feeling - I am used to managing up to 40 people, but they were not employed by me. I did not have to pay their wages. J has actually created a job for someone else, and is putting money in their pocket. After reading about that dill John Murphy and his antics in parliament, I wonder how many politicians could say, "I have had to make the payroll for my employees". A move to a proper office is now on the horizon - there is only so long that she can continue to run this thing from our lounge room. Personally, I couldn't think of a better place to work from than the nearest couch, but the way things are going, we might have 10 employees next year, and we don't have a lounge room big enough to hold that many couches.

And then Kevin Rudd will tax or regulate the whole thing out of existence. John Murphy is our local MP - your taxes are required to stuff more beef stroganoff into his face and the mouth of his wife.

The whole idea of starting up your own business from home is just so cool. I've spent 20 years commuting into the city to work for someone else, and to work hours set by someone else, to put up with crap from people with sludge between their ears and to rewarded with a kick in the nuts when it is all over. There are no committees in J's business. There is no HR department. There are no executive toilets. There are no risk managers and pencil counters and auditors and policy managers and best of all, no powerpoint presentations. Our meeting room is any cafe within a 10km radius. The hours of work are those that you choose to do. Naps after lunch are not an issue. There is no web filtering policy or staff newsletter or dress code or hierarchy of chairs that are issued to staff at different levels within the organisation.

It makes me wonder why people want to climb the corporate ladder when they could lounge around on the small business couch.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

So McCain can't use a computer to send email....

So fucking what? Here is a photo of an A4 Skyhawk cockpit. I have no idea if this is from the era when McCain got blown out of the sky whilst flying one, but this looked a damned sight more complicated to master than sending a frickin' email!!

And there is probably a "computer" or two of sorts in there somewhere. Just because it isn't running Vista, doesn't mean it's not a "computer". We tend to forget that computers are the offspring of the military, and that pilots etc were very extensive users of computers before they got turned into fancy boxes for playing Doom and surfing porn.

In fact, I take my hat off to anyone that can interface to a computer using toggle switches instead of a mouse and a GUI. Whilst flying inverted at 0.8 Mach and dodging SAMs.

And personally, if I was a yank and was making a choice between someone that had decided to master the nuances of email, vs someone that had the intestinal fortitude to serve their country in a time or war..... I wouldn't be putting a whole lot of weight on he who knows how to use the thumbwheel on a Blackberry.

Sunday 14 September 2008

NSW votes

Although my head had been splitting yesterday, I crawled into the nearest school and cast my votes in the local election.

We live in a Labor stronghold here - the goons around here would still vote Labor even if Frank Sartor and Co went through the place with the Angel of Death slaughtering all the first borns.

At the local level, the Labor councillors and the mayor are pretty competent. I have no complaints about our council - they seem to be well run, solvent and motivated. I also personally like the deputy mayor, even though he is Labor to the eyelids.

So I was a bit torn when I went to the polling place. The local Liberals have not articulated any policy positions that sounded more attractive than what we have now. In fact, I was unable to determine what exactly the local Libs stood for, apart from being elected.

But as I walked into the booth to mark my papers, a vision of Angela D'Amore, our local MP, appeared before me. At that point, I put a "1" against the Libs and walked out. I could not bear the thought of her gaining any comfort from the local elections. In fact I want her to feel as bad as Reba Meagher, and to quit next week and disappear into obscurity.

I guess a lot of other people felt that way.

How do you know when a politician is guilty of moral turpitude?

When they start parading their kids before the press.

When an MP starts trying to make a visual statement about family values, you know they really were running around in their undies.

Wet, wet, wet

I have become disgustingly sedentary since starting the new job. All I do is wake up, get in the car, sit in the car for 45 minutes, sit in the office all day, then sit in the office for another 45 minutes to an hour on the way home. My exercise is limited to walking from my parking spot to the office, which is about 100 metres. It's easy to see why the population is blobulating at an incredible rate.

After the killer ride last weekend into the hills (nay, mountains) of Northern Sydney, I stuck to the flat bits of the west today. Unfortunately, there was this thing called "weather" heading my way, and I rode smack into the equivalent of that red blob in the middle of this rain radar picture. Without any wet weather gear of course, or any preparation such as sticking my wallet and phone in a plastic bag before setting out. You know that it is raining hard when the raindrops hit the ground, then rebound up enough to whack you in the face. It's always a fun experience when the rain hits your underside as hard as it hits the topside.

I didn't care a bit, since it was quite warm and pleasant, and the traffic was light. The only thing that bugged me was the salt running out of my helmet liner. Over time, I have sweated enough into the helmet liner to turn it into a salt lick. If I ever stop somewhere in the country, I am going to have cows licking my head before I can say "moo". The problem is that when it really pours down, the rain gets into the helmet liner, where it turns into brine, and that then runs into my eyes. I thought I had ridden into an Al Queda mustard gas attack there for a minute, it hurt that much. The salt water coming out of my helmet was much saltier than the sea, so it really stung. One moment, I was riding along with the odd rain drop whacking me in the eyes, and the next, I was standing on the side of the road trying to rub the salt out of my now red and thoroughly shut eyes. If there is one thing you need to do when on the road, it's keep your eyes open, and that was impossible.

When I got home, I walked into the shower and found that after 5 minutes, I was not as wet as when I walked in the door. That's how hard it had been raining.

Good and bad podcasts

Until now, I have never been much of an iPod user. Although I have ears the size of a woolly mammoth, my actual earholes are too small to fit those new-fangled earbuds into. I have been forced to endure them for the last week because for the first time in nearly two decades, I am driving to work. The last time I had to drive to a place of employment was when I worked in a video shop whilst at Uni. Back then, which was the late 20th century, it took less than 10 minutes to make that drive. Now, my commute is 45 minutes on a good day and 90 on a bad one.

I will never wear headphones whilst on the bike - you need your ears to keep you out of danger.

For the first few days, I tried listening to the radio, but I spent so much time changing channels trying to find something interesting to listen to, I just about wore the buttons out. Then along came Father's Day, and my very own iPod (how is it that everyone else in the house that is over the age of 12 had an iPod before me?)

So, here is my list of stuff worth listening to, and that which is not.

Good - Counterpoint on the ABC, which features Michael Duffy. They put the last 4 weeks on line, and the 2 that I have listened to so far were good.

Mixed - Bath University. Some have been excellent, others have been utter duds. One was by a bloke that enunciated around 5 words per minute. Another was by a yank that insisted on reading a prepared speech, which sounded terrible. Even though the speakers were on the other side of the planet, and I couldn't see them, I could tell who was ad-libing to their slides and who was reading from a text. I hate boring speakers. The site is worth a look, but be prepared for mixed blessings.

This week, I am going to give a Tim Fischer talk on trains a go. It could be entertaining, or a very short lived feature in the memory of my iPod.

If you can suggest anything worth listening to, please leave a comment.

Re-evaluating Henry Rollins

In my younger days, I was quite partial to a bit of Henry Rollins, as seen here.

(The sound is terrible, but it gives a good idea of his musical style). Probably not the kind of thing that people over 40 would appreciate much. I saw him at Selina's (Coogee Bay Hotel) once at back in the mid 1990's. I think my eardrums melted that night. It was after that show that I started wearing earplugs to gigs, since I was still yelling at people in the office three days later on Tuesday.

Henry was true to form - loud, well inked, well toned and pumped. I think he sweated on me when I was in the mosh, which was a silly place to be. Spending time in a Henry Rollins inspired moshpit could easily lead to a trip to the dentist the following day to have all your teeth replaced.

I am pretty sure this was the gig where Damien spent the night on my porch, wrapped in washing. We had become separated, and as I was very drunk, I fell out of the pub, grabbed a kebab and staggered straight into a waiting cab. Once home, I stumbled straight onto the couch and fell asleep with a half eaten kebab on my chest and Rage on the TV. I was also completely deaf as well.

Damien was going to crash the night at my place, since he lived out in the western boonies, but when he arrived about an hour later, I was too far gone to hear him banging on the door. He walked down the side of the house and banged on my flatmate's window, which only completely freaked her out, as she thought he was a rapist and/or axe-murderer, and since I was snoring on the couch, she did the only sensible thing and hid under the bed for the entire night with her cat.

Unable to find an open window that he could crawl through, Damien grabbed our washing off the line, made himself a nest and slept on our front doorstep. I'm not sure who looked worse when the sun came up - me, with half a kebab smeared all over my body; Couchy, who was covered in cat scratches and fluffballs from under her bed, or Damien, who had spent the night on a concrete slab with just a few shirts and a sock to keep him warm.

Years later, I saw Henry when he did a spoken word tour. I think we went to the Enmore to see him talk. It was a great talk - funny as hell and really entertaining, but I didn't like his politics. He got quite political towards the end, and I would have walked out, only I had seen him with his shirt off and figured that he'd rip my head off before I made it to the exit.

So it was nice to find this clip on youtube. Just be aware that he says "fuck" about 80 times in 10 minutes. If you can put up with that, it's very good.

Saturday 13 September 2008

What does your gaydar say about Matt Brown, ex-Police Minister?

I never thought I would be grateful for personal injury lawyers

It's over two years since I was cleaned up by a car that failed to give way. The car hit my bike just forward of my knee, catapulting me sideways onto the concrete. I didn't break anything, but I got a pretty bad case of whiplash as I went over.

Until then (actually, until 3 days after the crash), I had always viewed whiplash as a method for con-artists to milk money from insurance companies. It's been given a horribly bad name thanks to people running around in neck braces.

Whiplash refers to the act of tearing all the muscles and ligaments in your neck. Now to someone that might have played a bit of sport, that doesn't sound so bad. People get hamstring tears and knee injuries all the time, and you don't see them running around squealing like stuck pigs. They are usually lying on the ground, rolling around and squealing like stuck pigs, but the injury heals and there are no demands for compo.

The problem with whiplash is that your neck is supporting a great, big, fat melon, and it has to do that 24 hours a day. If you pop your knee, you just elevate it for a while and hobble around on crutches. You can take the weight off it, and allow it to heal.

Necks aren't like that. There is no downtime for the neck, so healing takes forever - up to 18 months. During that time, you can experience an awful lot of pain. I was off work pretty much for 3 months after the crash, and I am a workaholic that would work in an iron lung. It was pretty amazing to be laid out so badly that I was unable to function for that length of time. The killer was the headaches - headaches so bad, no amount of painkillers could blunt them. So doing any work was out of the question, let alone driving, weeding in the garden, lifting the kids - even carrying much in the way of shopping.

To put it bluntly, I was thoroughly fucked. I would lie in bed for days, trying to find that perfect position where the pain eased off enough for me to snatch a bit of sleep. At times, my head would feel like a large multi-faceted crystal, with each point a source of throbbing or needle-sharp pain, and any action that set off the pain would cause it to bounce and rebound around inside my skull. I'd see colours behind my eyelids. I had dreams whilst I was awake. The pain was intense enough at times to make me throw up.

Why recap all of this?

Because every now and then, it recurs. I had another relapse today. I woke up around 3am with a bit of a throb in the head, and by 7am, it had turned into a fullblown riot inside my skull. By 10am, I was reduced to trying to sleep in the bed closest to the bathroom, lest I had to bolt quickly for the toilet to chunder. That turned out to be the Monkey's bed, which is a single bed and about 4 feet long. With a mattress 2 inches thick. I made the best of the vaguely milky-smelling Bob the Builder pillow, and the short doona with penguins in it, but my feet froze and my knees locked up from having them tucked under my chin.

1000mgms of the strongest legally availably anti-inflamatory pills and 12 hours of rest eased it to the point where I could line my stomach with KFC. Funny how at times like this, grease and salt and sugar appear to be the answer to most ills.

This happens every few months. I'll be laid out for 1 or 2 days, utterly unable to function. Which is where the personal injury lawyers come in. I pursued the other guy's insurance company, and got a payout earlier this year. It was not huge, but it will cover me being too sick to work on days like this for about 10 years - ie, loss of income, some medical treatment and an ongoing need to buy anti-inflamattory pills for the rest of my life. The ambulance chaser pocketed 1/3 of the payout, but at least I got some cash out of it.

The lesson from this is that if you do get clocked by a car, take the other bastard to court. Your injuries could follow you around like a bad smell for the rest of your life.

Reba quits

Reba Meagher has pulled the pin on state parliament.

From the story:

"She was handing out how-to-vote cards at Cabramatta for the council elections this morning when she decided it was time for a change," the spokeswoman told AAP.

Did she suddenly discover that no one wanted to take a how-to-vote card from her?

Standing around at an electoral booth can be a brutal way to gauge your popularity (or lack thereof).

Friday 12 September 2008

How did our newspapers remember 9/11?

The local coverage of the anniversary of 9/11 should be an object lesson for anyone who wonders why the traditional media are being hammered by the "new" media.

I read this coverage in the SMH with incredulity - the story gets six short paragraphs before it somehow makes a jump to the presidential election, and Obama's "pig" comment. Who on earth thought that it would be sensible and sensitive to link the murder of thousands of people with pigs?

The Daily Telegraph is no better. The lazy sods at both papers have sourced their stories from the same news agency.

I am disgusted.

My old school sent me some stuff the other day. On the back, they had printed the school prayer, which I had never appreciated properly until now. Here it is:

Teach us good Lord to serve You as You deserve
to give and not to count the cost
to give and not to ask for any reward
to fight and not to heed the wounds
to toil and not to seek for rest
to labour and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that we do Your will
through Jesus Christ, our Lord


It's the best I can do to make up for the pathetic and disgraceful coverage by our media.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Stop the War Coalition does a Lancet

I was poking around the Stop the War Coalition site today in order to determine whether I could photoblog an upcoming protest next month.

Turns out I can't. I will be at work miles away.

However, I did find this incredible statement on their website:

Coppa said that “about 120” US war veterans commit suicide each week. She referred to an investigation by the CBS television network that found that in 2005 alone at least 6200 veterans killed themselves. In that one year, US military losses to suicide were higher than the official figure of US troop fatalities over five years of war in Iraq.

Take note of this term: US military losses to suicide

10 seconds worth of googling turned up this story:

...findings of preliminary Veterans Affairs Department research obtained by the Associated Press revealed for the first time that there were at least 283 suicides among veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and the end of 2005 and a total of 147 troops have killed themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the war. So on the whole 430 troops have killed themselves over the past six years...

And then there was this story which noted:

There are 25 million veterans in the United States, 1.6 million of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to CBS.

There's no doubt the suicide rate per 100,000 is not that good:

While the suicide rate among the general population was 8.9 per 100,000, the level among veterans was between 18.7 and 20.8 per 100,000.

That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 - almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.

But let's go back to the original statement made by Stop the War:

in 2005 alone at least 6200 veterans killed themselves. In that one year, US military losses to suicide were higher than the official figure of US troop fatalities over five years of war in Iraq

It might help to start with a definition. I was initially confused here, because I usually define a "veteran" as someone who has seen active service. That is, served in a war zone. Being shot at helps. However, the US definition of "veteran" appears to be anyone that has served in the armed forces and been honourably discharged. By that definition, I could pretty much call myself a veteran, but I am buggered if I ever will. Someone who served in Vietnam for instance deserves to be called a veteran. Someone that ponced around in peacetime can put up with being an ex-serviceman. Or ex-chocko.

That is why the US has 25 million living veterans - more than the entire Australian population. I guess it's also why they have the VFW - Veterans of Foreign Wars - so as to distinguish those who have gone overseas to face the elephant from those that haven't.

The dopes over at the Stop the War Coalition don't seem to grasp any of those ideas. To them, serving in the Boy Scouts is probably a sign that someone will grow up and work for Halliburton as a torturer in Guatemala.

So out of 25 million living veterans, 6200 killed themselves in 2005. We do not know how many of those were veterans of WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Gulf War I or even Grenada. We do not know how many actually served in a war zone, as opposed to sweeping snow off runways in Alaska during the Cold War. Somehow, Stop the War turns the suicide of (say)a 48 year old who served as a clerk in a motor pool in Germany from 1980 to 1983, and who was discharged in 1986, into a "US Military loss", and associates that loss with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't get it. Tell me if I am missing something here, or whether Stop the War are just completely misusing statistics that they don't understand. I guess they will stoop to any means to inflate the body count.

The Veterans Affairs Dept does tell us this:

...there were at least 283 suicides among veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and the end of 2005...

Again, these people committed suicide after they had left the military. That is how you become a veteran. You leave the military. You become a civilian again. How do they become a combat loss? Do we know that all 283 of these people served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan? Just because someone joins the military, it doesn't mean that they automatically serve a tour in somewhere like Iraq. Remember, the military is not just the Army and the Marines - it includes the Navy and the Air Force. What if some of these suicide cases actually served on submarines in the Navy, and never got anywhere near the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan? (Pretty hard to get close to Afghanistan in a sub.) Or they might have spent their time in the air force based in Japan, running the PX.

This is all part of the perception on the part of some of these lefty wankers that all veterans come back as damaged goods, and I resent that.

But let's recap on the numbers.

Stop the War think 6200 veterans killed themselves in 2005.

With a suicide rate of 20.8 per 100,000 and 25 million veterans, I make that 5200 suicides per year. And remember, the suicide rate in the general population is 8.9 per 100,000, so of those 25 million, you'd expect 2225 to take their own life each year anyway.

But the DVA tells us that 430 troops who actully served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan have killed themselves over a 6 year period, or about 70 per year.

If you really wanted to make a case for some suicides being cases of "delayed combat deaths", then I might let you add a portion of those 70 per year - but not all of them. At most, you'd get those over and above the suicide rate in the general population.

Whichever way you look at it, it's a long way short of 6200.

The Ghost of Lancet walks again.

Donate, or I will kill this kitten

I got an email from the red-topped one today asking me to milk the masses of their hard-earned readies. In this case, I am not talking about Gillard and her desire to tax us all into the ground in order to pay for one-legged lesbian street theatre depicting the evil repression of the HoWARd era.

I am talking about sending money to the people who are being turned into crispy stick people by the bastards that run Sudan. I would normally say that I've done my bit by being supportive of the move by Kargo some months ago to take leave from the Army in order to go to Darfur and hoover up all the UN allowances on offer.

But in this case, we are not supporting Kargo on a marathon session at the public finance trough. Instead, we're being asked to support the mum of an Australian soldier who will shortly deploy to Darfur - she is doing a fun run to raise money for the people of Darfur. Her son Mark will be doing logistics stuff. Which probably involves drinking beer with Kargo and discussing travel allowances.

You can follow this link and contribute your bit.

Monday 8 September 2008

Did Penny Wong kill my phone?

Regular readers who put up with my occasional diatribes may remember that I am the not-so-proud owner of a Nokia N95, which shall henceforth be known as the "overcomplicated, useless pile of crap", or the OUPOC, pronounced Oh-You-Pock. Which is probably Finnish for headjob.

Since the stupid thing is supposed to be an MP3 player, I downloaded some podcasts over the weekend and tried to load them onto the phone. It will accept any amount of music, but refuses to take on board any of my podcasts, even though they are all in MP3 format. Thankfully, I got an iPod for Fathers Day, so that solved that little problem. Unlike the Nokia, I was able to get 5 podcasts onto the iPod in no time flat with no recourse to the manual and no requirement to replace the firmware or sim card. And people scoff at Apple and their design philosophy. How little do they know.

But I have been perservering with the phone. I like the idea of having a camera on the phone, since I use my Canon camera an awful lot, and I'd prefer to have one less device to lug around. There's just one problem. No, sorry, there are two problems with the camera on the OUPOC. Hang on, maybe there are three.

Screw it, I'll just start listing the problems and we'll see what the total number is.

To start with, it takes an age for the camera feature to load. With my Canon Ixus, I can have it out of my pocket and taking photos in 2 or 3 seconds, and I do that all the time when cycling. I can whip it out of my back pocket at 40km/h, take a photo and have it turned off and back in my pocket before I start to get speed wobbles. It's that quick.

The Nokia, oops, the OUPOC is a bit more sluggish. Waiting for the camera to start is like standing behind a woman at the checkout counter at the supermarket as she searches through her handbag for her purse, then searches through her purse for a method of payment. Before she finally decides to pay the bill in 5 cent coins. All $87 of it. Waiting for it to load is like waiting for Kevin Rudd to say something meaningful. It takes so long to get going, if you turned the camera on at the start of an Obama speech, it might fire up in time for you to photograph his back as he left the stage. Elizabeth Taylor goes through husbands in less time than this thing takes to get ready to take a photo.

And once it is ready, it then takes an aeon to actually take the photo. You line up the photo, press the "shoot" button, and it just sits there and looks at you. Remember the scene in Titanic where the Captain orders full reverse on the engines? The Captain yells an order at the First Mate, who yells an order at the Second Mate, who yells an order at the Third Mate, who yells out an order for two long blacks and a slice of toasted banana bread.... sorry, went to sleep there and woke up halfway through the next movie.

Anyway, the Third Mate yanks on the big handle thing, and someone down below decks then yells into a speaking tube, and the person on the other end sends a carrier pigeon with a message down to the engine room, whereby an Engineer yells at the stokers to stoke more coal, and after that catches fire, more steam is produced which turns the turbines faster in reverse and..... blah blah blah, by that time, the boat is in two bits and they are settling on the ocean floor and the fat bloodnut is being rescued. Hope I didn't spoil the movie for you there.

But that's about how long it takes it to actually take a photograph. Things went more rapidly in the 1860's when a photographer stuck his head under a curtain and set fire to some flash powder than went "poof", and he then spent two days developing a glass plate in several bath tubs of chemicals. I have managed to take some photos with the phone, but I am yet to entice it to transfer them to the PC that I am writing this on. I have USB, bluetooth and a Vulcan mindmeld program for all I know, and I still can't get a few fucking photographs to move two feet from my OUPOC to my PC.

I have used two different Canon cameras, and have transferred about 8,000 photos and videos from the two of them to this PC with no problems at all. Even Monkey, who is not yet three, is able to take a photo with the Canon and transfer it to the PC. You plug in the USB cable and flick a switch on the back down to "transfer" mode, and it takes care of itself from then on. And trust me, Monkey might be smart, but he has not yet learned to read Bananas in Pyjamas, let alone a fucking instruction manual for a camera.

I then discover that using the camera has one detrimental side effect - it requires about as much energy to capture an image as it takes to boost a space shuttle into orbit. I was at work today when I heard a funny beeping sound that I had never heard before. I searched my desk, eventually tracking the noise down to the OUPOC, and discovered that it was the "I'm about to turn off" sound it makes when the battery is out of juice.

Now my first mobile phone, issued in around 1992 or 1993, spent most of its life parked in a charger on my desk. If you actually took it out of the charger and popped out for lunch, it went flat. It was mobile to the extent that you could talk and walk around the office, so long as you never went more than 50 feet from the charger. And kept calls down to something like, "Hi, I'm on the mobile. Bye." It was good for showing off the fact that you had a mobile phone, but not much good for actual conversations. And it caused your ears to go crispy and fall off.

But as mobile phone technology improved, so did battery life, and it got to the point where I almost never used the desk charger with my last phone. I simply stuck it in the car kit whenever I drove anywhere (which was every few days), and that was sufficient to keep the battery topped up enough to never run flat.

The new OUPOC went flat so fast, I turned it over a few times and inspected it minutely to make sure that there were no holes that were leaking electricity. It went flat faster that a Woin Swan economic statement. In fact by lunchtime, it was flatter than Julia Gillards vowels. If I'd stuck a red merkin on top of it, I would have been arrested for taking the PM hostage (Gillard is PM now, isn't she?)

I came to the conclusion on the way home that my phone was attacked by an emission trading scheme. I have reconstructed the crime, using forensic techniques rarely seen outside prosecutions for terrorist crimes:

Penny Wong: "Does your phone have electricity in it?"

Me: "I believe so, unless you vote Green, and in that case, you'd believe it ran on pixie dust."

Penny Wong: "Did that electricity come from a coal fired power station?"

Me: "No, I have George Obama at home in the basement. I feed him a bag of rice a week, and he runs on a treadmill for me, which powers our home. Of course it came from a fucking coal fired plant. Where do you think we are? France?"

Penny Wong: "In that case, your electricity is bad. I must take away 90% of it in the form of a carbon tax. Give me your phone."

Me: "Fuck off".

Penny Wong: "Green Goons, beat him to a pulp."

Green Goon 1: "We've just come from a protest at the Gunns pulp mill, so we can't do that in good conscience."

Penny Wong: "In that case, beat him with your truncheons."

Green Goon 2: "Are they made of wood?"

Penny Wong: "Of course they are. They're meant to hurt."

Green Goon 2: "Hurt? Yes, they're meant to hurt all right. Trees have been hurt! Fellow goons, we must make a circle and pile our truncheons in the middle and scream and wail like demented attention seekers. We must ask forgiveness from the trees."

Penny Wong: "See here, you must hand over 90% of your electricity. It won't cost you anything, and you must think of the children."

Me: "Which children?"

Penny Wong: "THE children. You know, the children. The CHILDREN."

Me: "I meant which ones in particular?"

Penny Wong: "THE children are our FUTURE. You must think of them."

Me: "The children are our future? Have you been watching too much Doctor Who? Time travel hasn't been invented yet, unless you count going to Tasmania as a trip back into the past."

Penny Wong: "Forget the children. Give me 90% of your electricity. Or we will all die."

Me: "But you just told me to think of the children, and now I am supposed to forget them? And how are we all going to die?"

Penny Wong: "From global warming. It will kill 9,763 people in 2018, plus a budgie."

Me: "Plus a budgie? How do you know that?"

Penny Wong: "Because our computer models have predicted it. A granny will die of heat stroke as she cleans her budgie's cage, and she will smother the budgie as she collapses".

Me: "That's quite impressive. By the way, it looks like rain. Will I need an umbrella this afternoon?"

Penny Wong: "How should I know. Now, give me 90% of your electricity. It won't cost you anything"

Me: "Won't cost me anything? I'll only be able to make 10% of the calls that I need to, and you tell me that it won't cost me anything?"

Penny Wong: "I am convinced it won't cost you anything, because you don't actually need to make most of those calls."

Me: "How do you know what calls I do and don't need to make?"

Penny Wong: "Ah, you see I am one of those special people that know what is best for you, and I am telling you that you need to make 90% fewer phone calls."

Me: "Fuck off".

Penny Wong: "Do you really have George Obama in the basement?"

Me: "Why?"

Penny Wong: "Well, you'd really be doing us a favour if you did have him down there, because it will help to get the Messiah elected."

Me: "Why do you want that overinflated windbag to get elected?"

Penny Wong: "Because with a like-minded environmental socialist in the White House, me and all my friends will get invited to fly over all the time for conferences and working parties and informal get-togethers."

Me: "Yes, you lot really are special".