Tuesday 31 January 2012

Tuesday photos

Sheesh! You write something, go away on holidays and come back to find all hell has broken loose. Gab sent Andrew Bolt a tip off about a recent post, and next thing you know, I'm flooded with comments. Whilst I'm out in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than a phone with an intermittent signal. 

Many years ago, I was trained in the operation of "The prick". No, that wasn't sex education - it was a radio that was often no better than two tin cans connected with broken string. You could never get a signal out of the bloody things when you needed one, so some poor sap would be tasked with climbing the nearest suitable tree in the hope of restoring comms. That all came back to me last week, when I'd have to climb a certain hill in order to find out what was happening back in the blogsphere. I could read comments, post the odd comment elsewhere, but I wasn't going to sit down on a log and try to write a few posts. That would just have to wait.

And then I returned to the Big Smoke to find that in defiance of Tim Flannery, the grass had refused to die (as it normally does in summer) and was as green and lush and tall as a Borneo jungle. The tomatoes had also decided to ripen, and one thing you don't do with ripe tomatoes is leave them for another day. I've been mowing, harvesting, roasting, washing, cleaning, feeding the kids and helping get them ready for their return to school. Oh, and I had to go to work as well.

But things have settled down a bit, so posting may return to normal soon. 

The harbour this morning - over on the far right, there is even a bloke in a kayak.

The evening rush hour - 15 of us fighting to get through when the lights went green.

Monday was a stinker of a day - it was 35 degrees when I rode home, and about 75% humidity. When I got home, I ran a cold bath and lay in it for a good half an hour to cool down. If we'd had enough ice cubes in the freezer, I would have thrown them in for good measure.

And now I need to go research my next post.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Mad search terms

I rarely look at the statistics that Blogger offers up regarding where traffic is coming from and going to. However, I had a peek tonight for the first time in months.

One of the top search terms bringing people to this blog is "hitler kills tinky winky".

The Internet - teaching you something new and disturbing about people every day.

Economics 100 was never this interesting

I never ever, ever thought I'd be putting up a 3 minute clip about economics. I was bored out of my brain for most of Economics 100, and spent the bulk of the lectures making paper planes and throwing them at the lecturer. Or drinking. Which is why I now need to watch short clips on economics to learn all the stuff that I missed back then. This is a good clip on value - and apparently he'll be producing one per week from now on. Even non-economists should be able to understand the concept he is expounding upon.

And it was Economics 100 that I did, not Economics 101. I don't think we had an Economics 101 course.

h/t - Samizdata

Our forebears were a tough lot

From a book I am reading:

"He arrived in Borneo to be greeted by the agent and the news that rebellion had broken out among the Dayak head-hunters. They set off on a survey with a contingent of Sikh soldiers. That night there was an alarm, and the Sikhs began firing into the dark. Bullets whistled everywhere - up in the air, into trees, even straight through the engineer's tents. Next morning, the Sikhs were sent marching back to base - facing head-hunters seemed less of a risk. in fact, shortly after the Sikhs had gone a Dayak informed them that the rebellion was over, and proved his point by unwrapping a cloth and proudly displaying the head of the chief rebel.


One of the surveyors, Inerny, wanted a large tree chopped down so that he could get a sighting, but the men pointed out that there was a huge bees' nest in the branches. Inerny however insisted. The axemen did their work and fled leaving Inerny sighting down his theodolite. Not for long. The irate bees descended and the surveyor had to leap into a swamp to avoid being stung to death. Unhappily, the swap was full of leeches who greeted this unexpected meal with great enthusiasm. Pauling found the story 'very amusing'. Inerny, who nearly bled to death, failed to see the joke.

Question - should we investigate the Dayaks for making off with the head of the chief rebel?

Monday 23 January 2012

Astro turfing 101

Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.

In the SMH today, we had David Shoebridge MP complaining about the number of firearms permits being issued in NSW. You can read David in  his own words here.

Intriguingly, the SMH quotes The National Coalition for Gun Control. What exactly is the NCGC?

Well, Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers Party is not exactly an unbiased source, but this is interesting:

I refer, of course, to the so-called National Coalition for Gun Control—"national", hardly! The group is actually a coalition of two people and, as far as I can determine, was created to serve the ego of the self-styled next leader of the Federal Greens, our old friend Lee Rhiannon. As far as anyone knows, the coalition is made up of a Tasmanian lawyer based in Hobart and Samantha Lee, the grandly titled chair of the group.

If the coalition were properly constituted it would no doubt have a constitution, a registered address and, indeed, a membership list. We should be able to apply for membership. I do not believe the group has any of these community-based organisational attributes. It is a straw dummy, a coward's soap box filled with froth and no substance.

The Coalition of Law Abiding Sports Shooters said something similar a few years ago.

The CLASS link provides an interesting snippet:

On Thursday 18th March 2004  Ms  Samantha Lee made unfounded claims, bordering on slander, that the ‘pro-gun lobby’ sent out a cancellation notice using Coalition for Gun Control (CGC) letterhead.

Well, the NCGC put out this Media Release in Feb 2008 complaining about a gun show in Wodonga.

If you download the original Word document and have a look at the properties to see who wrote it, you get this:

Good thing the NCGC didn't stuff up and put out their release on the letter head of the NSW Attorney General's Department. (The "Angie Stephenson" is/ was also a spokesperson for Animal Liberation NSW). According to this link, Samantha Lee also worked for the Attorney General.

Anyway, here you have the NCGC allegedly being setup by Lee Rhianon (a Green), and it allegedly consisting of two people and a fax machine (or two people and the computers of the AG's department - I just hope the phone numbers on that NCGC press release don't belong to AG supplied phones). And then somehow the SMH manages to run a story that includes input from David Shoebridge (a Green) and a Green front group. Funny that. Is that a coincidence, or are we just being manipulated and played for fools?

Disclosure. I don't have any guns in the house. I haven't had a gun license in 2 decades. However, I do enjoy doing the odd bit of hunting every few years (when I get the opportunity) with friends who own firearms. I've been a member of a pistol club, and I started shooting at the age of 12 on a relative's farm. I've fired about a dozen different handguns over the years.

I was a pretty good shot before I joined the Army Reserve, and with some expert training, I became a bloody good shot. I am probably still quite proficient with the M-16, SLR, M-60, Browning Hi-Power and F-1 sub-machine gun. I reckon I could still operate a grenade launcher, rocket launcher and the Charlie Gutsache. I've never shot anyone, or taken part in a massacre of unarmed civilians. I manage to conceal my craziness most of the time.

As for the 3 guns per person limit that Shoebridge is pushing....I'll leave that for another day. If I had a bit of bush and I needed to clean out the vermin and feral animals, I'd want at a minimum:

  • a .22 for the small stuff
  • a shotgun
  • a .243 for the medium sized stuff, or the small stuff that has to be shot at a reasonable range (foxes)
  • a .308 for the big things
That's four. I wonder how many foxes, rabbits, feral pigs, goats etc Mr Shoebridge has shot? I wonder if he's even seen a feral pig, and the damage that they do to our native bush? Somehow, I doubt it.

Is "rort" a naughty word?

Our favourite Green, David Shoebridge MP, has written a blog post complaining that a Green councillor has been reprimanded for a code of conduct violation. David thinks that is very bad.

Councillor Freewater was raising legitimate matters for public debate and he should not have been prosecuted for raising them publicly.

The thing is, when referring to his fellow councillors in the press, Freewater used the term "rort".

What's the definition of rort?

Well, it's a "financial impropriety" or "to defraud."

If Freeman thought his fellow councillors had been engaged in fraud, he should have reported it to ICAC and had his claims properly investigated. If he doesn't have evidence to support such an allegation, he should apologise and shut up. If I was accused in public of defrauding my council, I'd sue the bastard that said such a thing.

Sunday 22 January 2012

A few links worth having a look at

Carpe Diem - the beginnings of the Chinese economic revolution

The effect of throwing money at education. ie, no effect at all. Things might even get worse.

Compare the changes and improvements in China (above) with the progress made by Aborigines in Australia.

Another look at how the underclass carries on in Australia.

One more book for the wish list

The better angels of our nature

We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?”

In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate of Medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the people they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals—all substantially down.

How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? What led people to stop sacrificing children, stabbing each other at the dinner table, or burning cats and disemboweling criminals as forms of popular entertainment? The key to explaining the decline of violence, Pinker argues, is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence (such as revenge, sadism, and tribalism) and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.

With the panache and intellectual zeal that have made his earlier books international bestsellers and literary classics, Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

Found this at Samizdata.

Sense of humour failure

Tony Abbott was criticised this week by a Labor MP for making a humurous response about the Costa Concordia on radio.  Rob Mitchell MP appears to be suffering from a sense of humour failure, which is about as un-Australian as it gets. Rob Mitchell should be deported immediately to somewhere like North Korea, where I'm sure he'll fit in beautifully. Except the fat bastard will have to lose a bit of weight if he's to fit in with the norks.

I grabbed these six cartoons from Theo Spark, and they show how cartoonists around the world responded to the wreck - with humour. Get over it Rob, you puffed up, self-important twit. 

PS - the boat hitting the rocks - that's obviously Abbott's fault too.

Snippets from "Open Road"

"Open Road" is a fairly useless magazine that the NRMA sends me because I'm a member of their roadside service. It usually takes me about 30 seconds to flick through it before it goes into the recycling. The current edition is not on line, and they publish it in a format that makes it a bastard to link to. So I'm not going to bother. If you want to be bored, Google "nrma open road".

In my 30 second flick through this month, I found these two snippets:

From the editor:

"Some people hat the outback. I discovered this while talking to a journalist who had spent a night in Coober Pedy. he was the product of an inner-city upbringing and for him such a remote town was a special kind of phobic hell. No people! Nothing to do! Large men wearing bushy beards and blue singlets! Help!"

Nice to see that someone working in the media has noticed how blinkered trendy inner-city types can be about everything west of the Anzac Bridge. The further west you go, the more icky it becomes for them. And then you hit Adelaide....a special kind of hell.

Then in the letters page:

"Are there any plans to have Open road as an e-book? Us grey nomads are not home for extended periods, and return to multiple copies of Open Road. However, I have a Kindle reader and would be able to receive Open Road via the internet".

My first thought is that poor old Bruce from Doonside has lost his marbles - actually wanting to read Open Road. But then it dawned on me that about 50% of the magazine is aimed at grey nomads, so maybe Bruce is onto something.

My second thought is that it was interesting how some oldies have grabbed onto technology like the Kindle with a passion. Caravaning with a Kindle is a great idea - no more having to lug books around, and you can read it at night without having to rig up a light. Plus you can buy and download books from anywhere that has an internet signal - no more hunting for book stores in pokey little country towns.

What gets me is that so many people think that oldies are technophobic and useless at adopting new ideas. Well, in about 30 years time, I'll be an oldie, and I doubt that I'll have many problems adapting to whatever new technologies exist at that time (assuming I live that long).

My parents were born in the age of the horse and buggy, and they had no problem shifting to the motor car. And when you consider how much more difficult the cars of that era were to drive (no syncro-mesh gears, no power steering, manual chokes, under powered, crank starts, no power brakes etc etc), it makes you realise that most humans are in fact incredibly good at adopting new technologies. The cars that my parents learned to drive were low-tech by the standards of today, but the lack of technology made them much harder to master than say a current Ford Focus.

Well, most technologies. The Taliban have no problems using satellite phones and so on, but the Afghans seem to have a problem using flush toilets.

There are some sick puppies out there

Lots more excellent photos from the Tour Down Under over at Cycling Tips Blog.

And no, you won't catch me wearing something like that on a bike. Or anywhere else for that matter. Those days have passed...

Saturday 21 January 2012

A good reason not to go vegetarian

"And now he's a lady".

Time to fire up the BBQ.

Thanks to Cycling Inquisition, the home of lots of interesting stuff. As in cycling interesting stuff.

Beware of women drivers

Delta Sierra Bravo.

Friday 20 January 2012

Friday photos

Pretty in pink?

Joining the queue at the King St traffic lights. By the time the lights went green, there were half a dozen cyclists piled up behind me.

The race is on - the lights go green in Pyrmont and a small pack heads off towards the Anzac bridge. At this time of day (about 5.30pm), a pack as big as this or bigger forms every time the light turns red. You don't get a steady stream of cyclists going down the hill from these lights - you get a solid shoal of 10-20 bikes every few minutes, and then nothing in between.

And I didn't see anyone behave like last night's idiot - every cyclist I saw stopped for red lights, obeyed the road laws and rode sensibly. That doesn't always happen, but I guess as cycling is becoming more main stream and more middle aged, middle class types are taking it up, the lawless and reckless element are becoming a smaller fraction of the total cycling population.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Thursday photos

Had a busy week so far - haven't had time to scratch my bum, let alone post stuff. First photo is from Monday - it was fine when I left home, but it started pouring down when I reached the edge of the CBD. It warmed up after that and it hasn't rained much since, but I've been getting home totally saturated with sweat. I'd rather be riding in the rain.

See the number plate under the seat? "Dad's taxi".

Shane Warne stirred up a bit of controversy this week when he tangled with a cyclist in peak hour in Melbourne. Here's the cyclist's side of the story. My view? Get a video camera so that you can record whatever happens on the road. Sooner or later, you're going to need it.

Whilst most cyclists tend to be fairly polite and law abiding and sensible, along came the knob above to prove that some cyclists are impolite, law breaking idiots. I rode behind this bloke for about 3 minutes. In that time, he almost ran down a pedestrian at a cross walk (I had slowed almost to a stop to let the pedestrian pass, and he tried to go around me and only pulled up at the last second - in a huff), he then yelled at a pedestrian (although the pedestrian was being an idiot by standing stupidly in the middle of a bike lane whilst he had a red light) and he then rode down the wrong side of a traffic island to get around a corner 3 seconds faster than if you went the right way (like me).

I wasn't pushing it - I picked up an infection on the weekend, so I've been riding at about 70% of my usual pace this week - but I still managed to zip past him once we were on the Anzac Bridge. His biggest problem is that he was unfit and slow. If he was fitter and faster, he wouldn't have to be so aggressive and rule breaking in order to get home quickly. He was taking stupid shortcuts because he wasn't strong enough and fit enough to maintain a fast pace. I stopped at the red lights, gave way to pedestrians, smiled at the guy he yelled at, followed the road rules and still blew pasts him.

This bloke wasn't going anywhere in a hurry - it would be hard work dragging a kid or two up a hill like this. Pretty fast way to lose a bit of weight.

This is steam, not CO2

Steam rising from a NUCLEAR power plant
Just in case any retarded Greens visit again to discuss Senator Hansen-Young and her stupid cartoon, I'd like to point out that the white fluffy stuff that you see rising above coal fired and nuclear power plants is H2O, not CO2. It's water vapour. Steam. Assuming you're a stinking hippies and that you have showers every now and then (a big assumption), the steam fluffing around your bathroom is the same sort of steam coming out of the cooling towers of coal fired plants. That white stuff is not "carbon pollution" and you can't slap a carbon tax on it.

It's also a potent greenhouse gas. A more potent greenhouse gas that CO2. However, I'd like to see you try to tax water vapour.

Picture gratefully stolen from Bob Carr.

Sunday 15 January 2012

VIDEO: The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

Absolutely stunning video. H/T - Carpe Diem. Worth the standing ovation at the end.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Hunting and gathering

I am not a particularly skilled gardener - if we had to live of what I am able to grow, we'd look like a family of anorexics. That said, we are getting a reasonable tomato crop this year - for the first time ever. Over the last decade, I have learned every possible way to kill tomato plants, cucumbers, eggplants, capsicum, chilli, rocket, carrots, corn and cauliflower. If experience is the sum of your mistakes, then I am very experienced.

The tomatoes need picking every day, and as we had a bevy of teenagers in the backyard recently, I told them to grab a bucket and do the picking.

Boy, took about being on the wrong end of a look of horror! It was if I had asked them to enter the Glade of Axe Murdering Maniacs for an extended overnight stay. Collecting food??! How primitive....and strange. And just downright weird.

I told them that I didn't bloody care - the tomatoes needing gathering, and they were the ones to do it. Three of them got off their bum and started tentatively hunting through the bushes, whilst the fourth hung back and said it wasn't for him.

Within 30 seconds, the 3 who ventured into the tomato jungle were having a good time foraging for food. However, Mr Cool had blown it, and not wanting to look silly, he slunk off instead of joining in.

It struck me that this must have been the first time any of them had actually gathered food from its source. They're city kids. Poor bastards.

By their age, I'd put so many rabbits in the pot, I can't bear to eat them in fancy restaurants these days. My uncle could skin a rabbit in seconds - he was a kid during the Depression, and one way to make money was in rabbiting. He could skin a rabbit faster than the eye could follow. A couple of nicks around the paws and then ziiiip! One naked rabbit.

Although I didn't grow up on a farm, I had access to enough of them during my teens and 20s to have spent a lot of time picking berries from bushes, fruit from trees and vegies from gardens. I still think the best icecream I've ever had was a home made one that we concocted from 5 different varieties of freshly picked berries, cream, sugar and a good dash of Vok. I've also helped with the messy business of turning kangaroos, sheep, pigs and cattle into chops and steaks and bacon and pet food. I can't butcher a carcass for nuts - just as I am useless at filleting fish and cleaning squid and octopus. But I've done it and I can do it. Just not very professionally. About the only thing I am good at is taking the heads off prawns.

As for seafood, I've scuba dived for prawns, peeled abalone off rocks, collected crayfish, waded through dams netting yabbies, speared lots of fish and potted drunkenly for crabs.

And with fowl, I've wielded the axe on chickens, shot at a lot of ducks (and missed) and found the best way to get them is with a trap. All very illegal of course, but my uncle was never one for following the rule book when it came to collecting food. Especially delicious food.

The kids have missed out on all of that. Their idea of foraging is to trek up to McDonalds. I'll have to see if I can do something about that.

Socialist Alternative looney tunes

"Capitalism and the origins of racism".

Wouldn't surprise me if the meeting is attended by people like this (go and read the whole thing - hilarious):

After that the speaker seemed to me to cast off all pretence of rationality and even plausibility. Our compromised blood/brain barriers are the result of a conspiracy between the government, the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. The earth has a heartbeat, which is increasing in rapidity. In 1911 it was 7.4. Today it is up near 11. The HIV virus is a myth put about to promote the Aids industry.

But we needn’t despair. Society is changing. The earth is travelling in a part of the universe saturated with health-giving, consciousness-changing photons. The pharmaceutical companies and ‘powers that be’ know this. That is why they are currently doing everything in their power to prevent us getting that photon-electron attachment to our cells. But they can’t prevent us from going barefoot! They can’t asphalt over the entire planet! Here, spontaneous applause broke out. The audience was absolutely lapping it up. They might be brain-damaged but they were still the local intelligentsia and they could still recognise truth when they heard it. But I’d heard enough. I knocked back the dregs of my beer and made for the door.

Friday 13 January 2012

Greens and their scientific ignorance published for all to see

The Summer section of the SMH pubished this cartoon from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens today.

Note the bottom left panel - it shows typical power station cooling towers emitting steam, and she has used them to illustrate "1 tonne of carbon pollution".

Are the Greens really that ignorant?

Thursday 5 January 2012


Rather than lugging around that back pack, saddle bags might be a better idea. What do you think , Cav?

Wednesday 4 January 2012

How to make me feel slow and pathetic

Untitled from Robbie McEwen on Vimeo.


After over a week off the bike, the body had a bit of trouble adjusting to climbing back on yesterday. The legs were fine, the bum was fine, but my scrotum felt like it was sitting on a cheese grater. That was a bit unexpected.

And not nice.


Caught up with some old mates over the break. We were sitting in the swimming pool, and one of them asked:

"Are you still riding your bike?"


Glancing at my guts - "Doesn't look like it".

Thankfully, they are all fat, bald or grey - or a combination of all three.