Wednesday 22 December 2010

Wednesday photos

Riding into the sunrise - for the first time in a few days, I was buffeted madly by wild winds. Until I rode home - but that was another story.

Smile - you're on candid camera.

I'm going to have a hiatus for a week or so, unless I can work out how to blog when mobile. Here's something to keep you occupied during that time:

Some 10 minutes after driving Chris Williams's Packard-engined Behemoth my hands were still shaking, my voice was croaking and the cool autumn wind was chilling my sweaty overalls. My face was cherry red from the infernal heat of the engine and my eyebrows singed from its 24 flaming exhaust stubs. In my entire career I have never driven anything as visceral, as physical or as sheer bloody terrifying as Mavis, the 42-litre Packard-engined Bentley.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

How do the NBN financial assumptions stack up?

The NBN business case is out - if you want to wade through all 160 pages of it (like I did), you can find it here. You can follow a reasonably informed debate on this at Catallaxy, where I originally posted much of this comment.

There are a number of assumptions driving the financial models underlying the business case. As with any model, you can tweak the numbers you put in to get any result you want. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The amount of revenue the NBN will gather is based on two things - how many customers it signs up, multiplied by the average revenue per customer.

The business case gives us these numbers.

The average revenue per customer is termed ARPU - Average Revenue Per Unit. You are a Unit - get used to it. I am a Unit on a Bike. Or a UNOB. Hmm - don't like the sound of that much.

The plan states that the ARPU will be $34 per month. It's worth looking at how they calculated an ARPU of $34 per month.

There is a table on page 101 that sets out the wholesale prices for each plan

12mb - $24 month
25mb - $27-30 month
50mb - $34
100mb - $38
250mb - $70
500mb - $100
1000mb - $150

There is a graph on page 118 that shows the subscriber split by speed.

I check these things carefully, because I used to do this sort of modelling at work from time to time, and I know how much bullshit went into the models.

From eyeballing the graph, I get the following splits for 2014:

12mb plan - 53% at $24 month
25mb plan - 16% at $28.50 (splitting $27 and $30)
50mb plan - 24% at $34 month
100mb plan - 7% at $38 per month

From that, I calculate an ARPU of $28 per month ex GST.

In 2020, you get:

12mb plan - 45% at $24 month
25mb plan - 5% at $28.50 (splitting $27 and $30)
50mb plan - 15% at $34 month
100mb plan - 25% at $38 per month
250mb plan - 10% at $70 per month

This gives an ARPU of $34, but it is driven by the truly heroic assumption that 10% of the population will be on a 250mb plan with a wholesale price of $70 per month.

It then goes on to assume that by 2028, 40% of the population will be happy paying a wholesale price of between $70 and $150 per month.

I call that "fantasy". I'd love to see the hard data that supports those assumptions about what Australians are willing to pay for their broadband.

Monday 20 December 2010

Monday photos

We had quite a storm come through on Sunday afternoon. In one direction, the sky was clear and blue. Out west though, it was black and awful. It rained buckets for a few hours, and although it cleared up overnight, today was windy as hell. It was one of those days where I had to lean over more than usual when standing at red lights in case a gust knocked me over the other way - that would be embarrassing and painful. The city buildings cause the wind to swirl in all directions, so you might spend the first 1/3 of a block belting along with a fast tailwind, then get slammed sideways for the next 1/3, then spend the last 1/3 gasping into an awful headwind.

The tide was right up this morning - higher than I have ever seen it. Storm surge I suppose.

Come afternoon though, it was way lower than usual.

Badly taken photo as I battle gusty headwinds on a climb. Nice shoes though, and a cute pannier.

Dirty, hairy weird beard hippy on a fixie.

Part of the Panthers Triathlon team. I caught them at this set of lights, and expected that this was the last I'd see of them. However, only one of them had any idea where he was going, so they took it "relatively" easy - I managed to stick with them for a while.

When we got into town and were waiting at another light, I asked one if he came in this way often. His response was that he'd never do it again - he valued his laps too much. Or maybe he said life - it was hard to understand him.

I did it the easy way on the way home - found another cyclist and sat on his bum as he pushed into the 40-60km/h headwinds. It was gusting up to 67km/h - that's 40mph in yankspeak. I normally sail down the big hill on my trip home at a bit over 60km/h without even trying - just coasting. Today, I was going hard at the pedals and only touched 45km/h for a brief instant before the speedo rapidly fell back to 30.

Something blew into one eye on the way home, so I'm half squinting at the screen because it bloody hurts to keep that eye open. I also became a helmet convert today - as I was rounding the Bay, the wind caught a fairly thick branch as I went under a tree and it blew down and smashed me on the helmet. It was a pretty hard blow - enough to give me a bad case of the wobbles - so much so that I almost mowed down a pedestrian whilst recovering. If I wasn't wearing the skid lid, I reckon the force of the blow on my naked scone would have taken me down, and hard. I'd be sitting here with stitches in my scalp if not for the helmet.

Saturday 18 December 2010


I read a recommendation on Inspector Gadget this week about a pommy show called Coppers. I've watched 4 out of 5 episodes so far - it's excellent. Far removed from your usual reality cop shows. The first episode is a corker for anyone interested in how the underclass is progressing these days. The travails of two very stupid crims made up most of the episode. It's awful, but it just has to be watched. Here's the bloke - a heroin addict who after 15 months in prison, re-offends on his first day out. This is him at age 32 (I think).

He'd been arrested over 50 times - here he is around 23.

The same effects were evident on his partner, the other crim. She was 30 going on 45, an addict and a prostitute.

One hilarious scene is where the bloke goes nuts because his partner - the prostitute - had shacked up with another bloke when he was in prison. He was quite happy to get her to have sex with other men for money, but not for pleasure.

The worst bit was the interviews with the grandfather of the female crim - listening to him describe how she started using heroin at about 15, and then went downhill from there. Interestingly, no sign is ever seen of her mother or father - just her grandfather, who clearly looks after her and loves her. It was just terrible watching what she put him through.

Each episode is about 45 minutes. Spend a bit of time and have a look at them.

As for the big question - what the fuck do we do with these people? The show doesn't pretend to have any answers, and neither do the coppers involved. I'll take the wisest course and stay well away from trying to answer it as well. Just watch the shows, and be horrified and amazed and appalled.

Friday 17 December 2010

Friday photos

A trio doing the overtaking thing first thing in the morning. The woman at the back in black was in front - then the guy in green overtook her, then the bloke right up the front overtook both of them. Then I overtook the lot.

The usual game of dodgems around the Ashfield section of the Bay Run - the path is a narrow strip of badly lady asphalt that's shared by gazillions of runners, dogs, prams, bikes and who knows what. At times you veer to the right....

...then you veer to the left....

....then you think - "what the fuck?"

Bozo here jumped the red light. Just down the hill, you can see a pair in fluoro vests. One of them was picking up planks of wood. Just as Bozo reached them, plank guy swung around and almost collected bozo in the guts - only a rapid bit of swerving saved him. If there had been a car alongside, I would have been calling an ambulance. It's bad karma to jump red lights.

A pair toodling in at an easy pace.

A pair going for it on the Pyrmont Bridge.

Me and this bloke watching the pedestrians, thinking "How many of these muppets are going to cross the road and then start walking straight up the bike path?" Answer - at least half a dozen.

A couple of kids out for a spin around the Bay.

It was quite warm this arvo - there was a strong, dry wind in my face all the way home, and I think I have cooked my throat. Either that, or the Thai salad I had for lunch has destroyed my body. I followed the advice of John and traipsed down town to Thanon Khao San for lunch. It was a great experience - John knows what he's blogging about when it comes to food. I asked for the papaya salad to be spicy. Bugger me if that wasn't a big mistake. I was crying before I'd eaten half of it, and thought I was going to faint at one point. Being an idiot, I kept on going until there was nothing left. Strangely though, I didn't sweat at all. In fact I didn't sweat on the way home either. Not a drop. I think that salad fried all my sweat glands.

The desserts at Thanon Khao San were excellent - I'll be back. And it was cheap too! And the service was great! All that was missing was a ping-pong show.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Plenty of hits

Can't have been to Queensland, as there are no cane toad symbols painted on his door. Strange lack of emus as well.

No cyclists either - thankfully.

Thursday photos

Had another early start this morning. I had better luck photographing the rising sun due to a bit of cloud cover. Here's where I try to abide by Cav's rules of photography - except I have stuffed up the rule of thirds. Again.

Same scene, but all wrong. It's a bit tricky taking photographs over one shoulder whilst changing gears with the other hand and accelerating. I'll get the hang of it one day.

Didn't see many other cyclists at sparrow's fart.

Lovely morning for a ride though, if a tad warm.

Hardly any bikes on the bridge either.

The bloke at the front here was a bad aggressive for my liking. I was sitting behind a slow moving taxi as we approached a corner because I knew that trying to pass that taxi would be a stupid move. Dopey here went down the outside, and sure enough, the taxi went wide as it went around the corner and Mr Aggressive was almost smeared between it and the concrete kerb. Sometimes, cyclists are our own worst enemies. The bloke behind him was little better - except that he was Mr Wobbles. I pride myself on riding with almost no perceptible wiggle in my body or bike - I am as erect as a Guardsman on parade (without trying to be rude). This bloke managed to weave from one side of the bike path to the other with each downstroke of his pedals. And I don't mean just one lane - I mean the entire path!

A storm came in around lunchtime. We had hail at home - stones big enough to convince the neighbours to run outside and cover their cars with blankets. I missed that - it just rained heavily when I was riding home. Although the flash went off when I took this photo, it was so dark and gloomy, it still came out blurred. It was almost like riding at night.

I was utterly saturated before I had even left the CBD. It was one of those days to be thankful for lycra - otherwise, I'd be sitting here with my inner thighs covered in rash ointment.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Tuesday photos

Not such an early start today - and when I did get going, this bloke blasted past me. Bastard - and all dressed up in his team kit too. (Commuters as a rule seem to avoid wearing jerseys and knicks in the colours of say Lance Armstrong).

Trundling up a long hill on a laid back bike. It's nice to know that not only could I blast past her on the up hill, but I could do it one handed whilst taking a photo surreptitiously.

Passing cyclists under a canopy of green.

Interesting helmet - a construction worker heading home. He's wearing his work helmet, not a bike helmet. He was wobbling a lot too - I found that he was eating a Picnic as I went past, which explained the one handed bike riding.

Another pair heading home. Surprisingly large number of bikes about in the middle of the afternoon (I left work early).

Monday 13 December 2010

Monday photos

This morning was a great time to be alive. I was up around 0545 and on the road at 0615 - a stupidly early time for me these days. I used to do that every day - winter included. Now, I'm lucky to crawl onto the saddle at 0700.

Getting away early in summer is a must - it was 18 degrees when I left, so I wasn't a ball of sweat when I arrived at work. Leave it an hour later, and you bake.

First photo is actually from this afternoon - it just looked better than the morning photo. Why not start with the best?

The morning - beautifully crisp.

Very few bikes around this morning, but plenty of runners.

And a few rowers.

One problem with leaving so early - you are riding directly into a low lying sun. Not a problem when it's overcast, but a real pain on a day like today.

Council Xmas decorations - not the total lack of any implication that this is a religious holiday. No angels, no Jesus - not even a lamb or a shepherd or a wise man. Bloody PC dipshits.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Sunday photos

Haven't had much time to blog this week - things have been busy on the home, work and social fronts.

The week started pretty miserably - rain and grey skies for the most part.

Then the sun came out, and it's been hot ever since. A couple of ladies having a nice chat on the way home.

Like I said, it's been sunny. I'm not used to taking photos with the sun out.

You could call these next two passing shadows.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Mark Latham is brilliant

You have to read his entire book review:

In Howes’ world, ideological consistency is a vice while careerist opportunism is a virtue. He claims to have left the Trots because of their suppression of political freedoms and free-thinking. His answer was to join the NSW Right faction of the Labor party.

This conversion, however, has had an unlikely upside. One of the unwritten rules of political activism is that all Trots are ugly. Aesthetically there is something to be said for turning them into faceless men. More than most, Howes has benefitted from this.

Is that an excellent put down, or what?

On things political, I am grinding my way through "Power Crisis", by Rodney Cavalier. It's put me to sleep on the couch at least a dozen times. There are great moments in it, but also huge tranches of zzzzzzzzzzzz......

...where was I? Crikey, there's dried drool all down my chin.

Ah yes, Rodney Cavalier. I worked out what his problem is - he's been around government too long, so he writes in pure, unadulterated bureaucrat. Great slabs of prose have the consistency of porridge. The subject matter is great, but it reads like a Treasury paper on the movements in T-bond rates over the last 3 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........

If you are suffering from insomnia and are in to NSW politics, it will do wonders for your sleeping patterns.

Monday 6 December 2010

You learn something new every day

If you've got 10 minutes to spare, download and listen to this podcast on Aboriginal education and employment. I listened to it a few days ago, but let's see if I can recall the salient facts:

  • Most Aboriginals live in urban areas (knew that already)
  • The Aboriginal workforce participation rate is about 60% - not much lower than non-Aboriginal Australia
  • The bottom 150 schools in the country, resulting from the NAPLAN tests, are pretty much all small schools in remote Aboriginal communities. The failure rate is over 70%.
  • One problem is not that the kids don't turn up to learn - it's that the teachers don't turn up to teach!
  • There are 10,000 adult Aboriginal men in the NT who have finished school and are totally illiterate - they are unemployable
  • Low expectations is a big problem
  • Poor behaviour and discipline is an even bigger problem
  • However, when you compare the performance of dysfunctional, welfare dependent Aboriginal families with dysfunctional, welfare dependent white families, there is almost no gap in performance - both are completely shit.
There was more, but the brain can only absorb so much. Give it a go.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Dublin bike scheme - why it works

Good video on youtube comparing the schemes in Dublin (success) and Melbourne (failure).

Thanks to Jonathan Lovelock for the link.

Friday 3 December 2010

How much are those nasty elite private schools leeching from us?

By the looks of things, not much.

The ICSEA scores that rate how "rich" a school is have been revised - you can see the top 43 schools in NSW here.

Don't ask me what the ICSEA rating is, or how it is calculated. All I know is that if you have a "high" score, the school is full of kids from wealthy families.

First thing to remember - there are 43 "elite" private schools on this list for NSW, but there are 916 private schools in NSW. The elite are just 4.7% of the total.

I dumped the PDF into Excel and sorted it by ICSEA score. Here are the top 10 in order:

  1. Kincoppal, Rose Bay
  2. Redlands, Cremorne
  3. Moriah College, Bondi Junction
  4. SCEGGS, Darlinghurst
  5. Ascham, Edgeclif
  6. Pymble Ladies' College, Pymble
  7. Cranbrook School, Bellevue Hill
  8. Ravenswood School for Girls, Gordon
  9. Abbotsleigh, Wahroonga
  10. Barker College, Hornsby
Lots of lovely leafy, expensive suburbs there. Nice places to live - except you need to have an income about 5 times mine to even scrape in to the worst house in the cheapest street. But I'm not the jealous, envious type - good luck to them.

I then had a look at the school with top score - Kincoppal. It's definitely an elite school for micks. I dumped the fee schedule into a spreadsheet. The average annual fee for day students is $17,341. Boarders can add another $19,000 to that. If you have your kid there for 13 years, it will set you back $225,440.

Holy moley.

The annual report states that 85% of their income comes from fees. If that's the case, the state and federal governments are chipping in a combined $3060 in recurrent fees, and $1,500 in capital - a total taxpayer contribution of about $4,500 per year.

As there are 905 students, that comes to $4,072,500.

I'm not going to grind through all the other schools in the list, delving into annual reports to extract numbers. Let's just assume that the top 20 schools have 1000 students each, and the state and federal governments give them $4,500 per student per year.

That means the elite schools are getting $90,000,000 per year.

Now, one thing to remember is that the state usually give private schools 3 to 4 times more than the federal government, so of that $90 mil, lets assume $70 million came from the NSW education department.

The NSW DET has a budget of $11.839 billion. Or $11,839,000,000. The elite schools are getting 0.59% of that budget. However, they teach 1.82% of the kids in NSW.

Let's look at the other 43 schools on the list. Here are the next 10:

  • Newington College, Stanmore
  • MLC School, Burwood
  • Roseville College, Roseville
  • Frensham School, Mittagong
  • The Scots College, Bellevue Hill
  • Queenwood School for Girls, Mosman
  • Masada College High School, St Ives
  • Kambala, Rose Bay
  • The King's School, North Parramatta
  • St Ignatius' College, Lane Cove
Again, lots of nice schools in nice Sydney suburbs. They all charge a lot too.

However, it gets really interesting when you look at the bottom half of the list:

  • The Scots School Albury, Albury
  • Oxley College, Burradoo
  • Wenona School Ltd, North Sydney
  • Kinross Wolaroi School, Orange
  • Presbyterian Ladies College, Croydon
  • Meriden School, Strathfield
  • Tangara School for Girls, Cherrybrook
  • Redfield College, Dural
  • Danebank School, Hurstville
  • The McDonald College, North Strathfield
  • The Armidale School, Armidale
  • Santa Sabina College, Strathfield
  • William Branwhite Clarke College, Kellyville
  • The Scots School, Bathurst
  • Inaburra School, Bangor
  • PLC Armidale, Armidale
  • St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill
  • Reddam House, North Bondi
  • Rosebank College, Five Dock
  • Arndell College, Oakville
  • Pittwater House Girls College, Collaroy
  • St Paul's College, Walla Walla
  • New England Girls School, Armidale
I've never heard of half these schools - and note that many are out in the rural and regional areas. I covered St Paul's College in Walla Walla by chance recently.

It's a Lutheran school near Albury-Wadonga with 215 kids. Annual fees range from $4648 to $7300, with the average being $6053.

The state contribution is $1.15 million and federal $405,000.

Dividing those numbers by 215 kids, we find that:

Parents chip in an average of $6,053
The state government chips in $5,381 per kid
The feds chip in $1,883 per kid
Total taxpayer contribution is $7,264.

Total of parent and taxpayer contribution is $13,453.

As I have blogged before, the NSW DET gets $18,431 from the taxpayer in order to educate your average high school student. How they spend that money is a mystery to all and sundry - certainly nothing like that actually seems to end up in the schools. I suspect the DET has a bloody big furnace in their basement where they heat the building by burning two or three billion in cash each year.

There are of course quite a few more schools on this list of the "elites" that educate kids for less than what it costs in the state system.

Remember when I said earlier that it costs parents an eye-popping $225,440 to send their kids to 13 years at Kincoppal?

Well, let's calculate the cost of putting a kid through the state system.

- 7 years in primary school at $14,657 per year = $102,599
- 6 years in high school at $18,431 per year = $110,586
- total = $213,185.

Heck, that's only 9 grand short of the fees for the most expensive, most elitist private school in the state.

Of course if you add in the state contribution at Kincoppal, the total comes to $265,223 - so over 13 years, it's 50 grand more expensive.

But let's look at 13 years at St Paul's in Walla Walla. Well, we can't - it only does high school. but six years there will only set a parent back $36,096. The total cost of 6 years there is $80,718 (including government contributions) - and this is for a regional school, which in the DET book, is "more expensive" to run.

Compare that total cost of $80,718 for high school to $110,586 for an average state school.

Yet somehow, St Paul's is an "elite" school, and the funds it gets from the government - about $1.5 million per year - should be slashed.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. Those that love the state system tell us it's under resourced. OK, it gets less cash per head than the top 20 private schools in the state. However, it actually gets at least 35% MORE than the schools in the bottom half of the "elite" table, and certainly more than the other 900 or so private schools that are out there.

I could spend the next year grinding through reports to build up a more complete picture, but I think it is fair to say that the DET is not under resourced. What it does with those resources is another matter. I think it wastes them like a drunken sailor with three days to live.

Thursday 2 December 2010

More on the collapse of the Green dream

What is it with media pundits and their inability to do simple sums? Here is Cheryl Kernot in the SMH today:

The Greens recorded a very marginal increase in their base vote and lost a seat in the upper house, dampening the hype that began with the election of Adam Bandt in the federal seat of Melbourne.
Yes Cheryl, they did record a marginal increase in their base vote - they went from 297931 in 2006 to 302950 in 2010. However, almost none of that increase appeared in the 4 seats that were hyped as going Green - Brunswick, Melbourne, Richmond and Prahran. They actually shed an aggregate of 2147 primary votes in these key seats.

The big winner in all of them was apathy. The donkey vote has remained stable since 1999. What is clear though is that more and more Victorians just aren't energised to get out of bed and vote in state elections anymore - and this is particularly true of Labor voters. Instead of swinging to the Liberals, they just stayed in bed. Why make the effort to spoil your ballot when you can sleep in instead?

Brunswick - the Green vote came of a low base in 1999, almost quadrupled by 2006 to 9890 and then collapsed like a souffle in 2010 to 8062. Their share of the primary vote went up slightly because the Labor vote imploded. It's interesting to note though that in this seat, much of the Green vote appears to have come from the Libs, not Labor. There goes the notion that Labor party voters are drifting Green.

Melbourne - the Greens didn't run a candidate in 1999, but have steadily increased their vote since then. This was the only one of the 4 key seats where their vote increased between 2006 and 2010. In this seat, the increase in the Green vote nicely matches the decline in the Labor vote. In this instance, we could say that Labor voters have gone Green.

Richmond - the Green highwater mark was 2002, and they have gone backwards ever since. Their primary vote is 18% down on 2002. Labor has shed over 9000 primary votes in that time, but it appears none have gone to the Greens - most have joined the party of apathy. Again, the idea that Labor voters are going Green has been shown to be a myth.

Prahran - this has gone from Labor to Liberal. The Green vote dropped 24% from 2006. The Labor vote collapsed, dropping 36%. Instead of those Labor voters leaking to the Greens, they have charged into the apathetic camp. There is no support here for the idea of Labor voters turning Green. Why did the Libs win Prahran? Their primary vote was lower than it was in 2002 and 2006 - but as you can see, the Labor vote evaporated. 4200 Labor voters stayed in bed, as did 1500 Greens. The loss of those primary votes and the Green preferences was enough to give the seat to the Libs. Questions have to be asked - why did all those Labor voters stay home? What put them off so much?

Here is a seat the Greens will never win - Broadmeadows. The reason I picked this seat is that I know where it is - when you drive from Sydney to Melbourne, you drive through it on the outskirts. It's always looked like an outer suburban shit hole to me. That's because it has a big Ford factory. Everyone knows Fords are crap. I had no idea until now that the member was one John Brumby. Fancy that.

Brumby's vote has dropped by about a third from 2006, but he still romped home. Note that the Green vote dropped by about 12% from the last election. Clearly, Labor voters on the fringe are not defecting to the Greens. My take is that they are over Labor, but only a very small number will swap to the Libs - but none will go Green. Instead, they just stay at home and do nothing.

OK, one last chart - this one from Derrimut, which I guess is a sort of mid-outer western suburb. As I have no idea what Melbourne geography is like, I am going to guess that this is classic battler territory. Mexicans - feel free to correct me.

This seat didn't exist in 1999, so we only have 3 elections to go on. Notice that the Greens didn't run a candidate in 2002 - it's only recently that they have developed to the point where the can run someone in most seats. That fact alone - putting up a candidate - is going to push up their total vote. If you didn't run someone last time, you got zero votes. The increase in the total number of Green votes across the state does not necessarily mean that their candidates are getting more popular - it may just mean they are running more candidates.

If I ran 10 candidates at the last election and they got 10 votes each, and I ran 20 at this election and they got 6 votes each, then I will get more votes in total - even if the popularity of my party sank like a stone.

What all this says to me can be summarised as follows:

  • The idea that Labor voters are going Green holds true in only certain, limited electorates
  • Labor voters did not swing to the Greens or the Liberals - they swung to apathy. They are still Labor voters at heart, but can't bring themselves to vote for another party.
  • The Greens have not captured them - if anything, the pandering to the Greens may well have produced all this Labor apathy. The Labor base was anything but energised.
  • The Libs didn't win government by attracting a lot of voters - only 50,000 more in total voted for them than in 2006. Labor lost because 240,000 of their voters failed to vote. They lost the will to vote Labor. I've heard for years that oppositions don't win elections - governments lose them. The numbers here back that idea up.