29 January 2006

rescue me before I fall into dis beer, oh

Have just brewed up batch number 6. As numbers 3, 4 and 5 failed to meet good manufacturing practice - although they were - barely - fit for use - I am not optimistic. Anyway I've tried to address all factors that could go wrong - bad scientific practice but if it works, saves time and money - including silicone gel on the joints to eliminate air getting in, lots of disinfecting and rinsing and the starting temp is pretty bang on at 28 degrees. An early bad sign is that the specific gravity was at 1.035 rather than the 1.040 that the hydometer indicates it should be. Ah well, will just have to wait now. If it doesn't work again I will be very snaky.

Also I see I attracted a dissenting view on my last post. Good. All about conversations and the comment raised a very good point. But it was anonymous, so do I have a kind of troll or someone making a point/taking the piss?

Update 30 January: absolutely no sign of bubbling in the air trap. However specific gravity has fallen approx. 05 so some fermentation taking place. Not much fermenting smell, though. Damn damn damn.

Update 31 January. Specific gravity has fallen another .1. The sample in the hydometer smelt roughly beer-like. Might be OK. Actually, provided it's moderately alcoholic (and we'll be able to estiamte this from hydometer readings once fermentation finishes), after the first 2 it doesn't matter what it tastes like. Sort of.

28 January 2006

we need someone to blame

I see several letters to the editor today talking about attendees at the Big Day Out, wrapped in the Aussie flag and using it to barge patriotically into queues or making other concertgoers kiss said flag: if they didn't, they got a punch in the head.

This is nasty, jingoistic nationalism folks. That genie is out of the bottle. Better start getting those flags up in your front yards before the thought police come around.

On the other hand, we could just find someone to blame.

I nominate John Howard. No surprises there. He would "never condemn someone for being proud of the Australian flag". More carefully crafted weaselly dog-whistling words. What a leader. What a man.

26 January 2006

**gives in to temptation**

Well as usual we've been lectured and hectored and told all the things we're not in a typical effort that leaves one feeling chastised and diminished rather than reassured and uplifted.

For feeling uplifted, you have to go to people like
this - I watched the acoustic concert DVD this morning as an antidote. These blokes are (apart from being consumate musicians) just utterly in the moment: urging each other on and giving each other praise through applause, looks and gestures that reflect a lifetime of playing together, shared values and, one senses, an enduring sense of hope and looking forward (especially Crosby). This DVD always lifts me up and I realise that one day, that other pompous little prick will be a footnote on the pages of history - a broader, more inclusive history that looks beyond simplistic rote stories of white explorers and Donald f**cking Bradman. Keep the faith, people.

in my Australia

I think Pryor is brilliant.

25 January 2006

I'll never understand how this is meant to work

How can someone repeatedly answer I don't know in front of an Inquiry established under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 before something snaps? Isn't there some limit which is reached where the Commissioner says "you're lying" and said witness either gets contempt of court and spell of deprivation of liberty, or is sent somewhere to be eaten by buffaloes? I'm not so naive that someone who is evidently incapable of running a company wouldn't be employed in a well-paid executive position again - after all, that's what the old boys' network is for, isn't it? - but there must be some sanction applied?

And just for laughs,
this . Can someone do a similar version for Australia? Talk about scarifying (and hilarious). I should have hat-tipped where I got it, but regrettably I have forgotten and several minutes' searching has failed to throw it up (so to speak). Will amend if and/or when I find it. (Update) Meh. It was from the blogwatch section of today's Crikey. I gotta get out more.

Remember tomorrow to honour your god, serve your queen and salute the flag. It's unAustralian not to do so. And eat some
lamb. You know it makes sense.

24 January 2006

hamburger here, steak elsewhere

In my first post on venividiblogi I said this wouldn't be a deeply research blog, more just passing comments. And when I read stuff like this, I think I've taken the right path. I've admired Fred Argy's work for a while and this example just shows how a short but rigorous analysis of economic models can be so illuminating. What an absolute shame that such insightful and sensible stuff always gets buried by dross.

23 January 2006

analysis 'r us

I feel obligated - ie I have placed this obligation upon myself - to comment on the Ministerial changes now taking place. I commented on another blog about Sen Patterson: "I was particularly enthralled by Patterson’s claim that she would miss championing the causes of the disabled and their carers. My better half works in that field and I can tell you that there is f**k-all evidence of any change as a result of all that ‘championing’. There are thousands in circumstances too dire to imagine. Is that what Ministers do: ‘champion’? Spare me."

So rather than rant incessantly about the possible new Ministry, I'll float a few half-formed ideas about how we describe the work we do. I guess we all try to bring about change. I would have thought a Minister would do that by legislating, but maybe championing really is all it takes. Someone in a service job brings about change by delivering the service: hairdressing (always, for some obscure reason) is a good example. It's when we get into the realms of executive jobs that it becomes a little, er, imprecise. I should have kept it, but there was a job advertised in one of the weekend papers that had all the buzz-phrases: innovative; synergistic; client-centred; strategic; on and on it went. And I had no idea at all what business the company was in or what contribution this job might make to whatever the company did. I can only imagine that to get such a job, we write a letter and construct a CV in the same meaningless terms and then, at interview, just reel off the same stuff. What did you achieve in your last job: "I brought about a client-centred realignment through synergistically strategised outcomes." "Beaut, that's just what we want. Tell me, what does this ink blot remind you of?" "Money."

I can't keep doing this. So, in respect of Ministries, I am reminded of the election of the Hawke government at which time the old man, bless 'im, said, "This is the best Liberal government we've ever had." He was right and it's been downhill ever since.

22 January 2006

Things you didn't know about Melbourne

According to the Boat Show on Channel 9 this morning, people there "enjoy recreating their boats". Presumably this doesn't mean they build the boats all over again?

21 January 2006

a disturbing story, with pictures

I can't say I was aware of this particular case (pdf alert) - but a quick check throws up this. The source is The Guardian so you can fairly assume that there are points being made, but I found the medium used - comic book - very compelling. Judge Dredd in real life, sort of (yes, I know not a fully accurate comparison).

music hath charms

Anonymous Chris seems to be a bit down on Hoobastank, but I'm more a 'whatever gets you through the night' type. I'll certainly agree that said H'stank is nowhere in the league of the others - Beatles, Harrison and the sublime Crosby - but by the time I'd failed to get my head around the metre of both Harrison and Crosby I needed something simpler to crank out. After all, it was for 'getting demons out' relaxation and the last thing you need is to be sweating over chord changes - well I was.

It's been a bit of a slow news day so no reason to go into some extended rant about the various iniquities of our elected rulers. Accordingly, also less compulsion to remove demons but I really must practice more. Suggestions?

19 January 2006


I'm kind of flat. In NSW, we have videos of young men of middle eastern appearance going the biff with vengeance and intent, but none getting arrested. In Queensland, we have all manner of things going on with hospitals, but trying to figure out who did what to whom seems beyond our ability. Action plans notwithstanding. And in the Cole Commission, via DFAT and Iraq, we have the unfolding tale wherein we are learning, slowly, who in fact really did what to whom - and what it cost. In Bali, the unsettling prospect of a number of young Australians about to face the death penalty, not to mention the ongoing soap opera that is the Corby case. And in Weipa, the extremely long arm of the law is about to settle uncomfortably around the shoulders of a bunch of Papuans who on face value deserve to be welcomed, after a suitable period for interviews. Instead it's likely to be hello Nauru, as we have an underutilised bit of infrastructure there. That was 20 minutes' worth of news, before we got to the stock market (ooh, AWB again) and then the great releaser, sport.

I can't be bothered inserting the links, you know where to find stuff.

Such a concentrated dose of bastardry, stupidity, culpability and all the rest of the y words just leaves you a bit breathless, eh? Why can't we be nicer to each other. I need to go away and bone up on
realist doctrine. No, that would be very counterproductive. Rather, I'm off upstairs to pick up the 12 string and get some demons out. Keep the faith, people.

18 January 2006

New approach to advertising

The seller attempts to woo people of a particular disposition that "the car is absolutely terrifying to drive". No doubt they're out there.

16 January 2006

Badda bing, badda boom

I have no idea what the words above mean, but I recognise them vaguely as coming from some contemporary American popular culture - a TV or film, I imagine. But I've long had a pet theory that recent - in fact everything after Korea - US military history is informed by the rise of Hollywood and that American servicemen and women have increasingly seen war, and their role in it, through this prism. And since the rise of video/computer games, those too. Which is why some elements in this review of recent books by returned US servicemen and women don't surprise me.

Inauthentic disengagement

Some of you casual visitors to this site might be wondering how I reconcile my earlier objective of being fair minded with the last, rather splenetic, efforts. Two answers: I can - or I can't.

I reckon I'm being authentic in getting my views out (ooh, can I call this 'bearing witness'?) but I guess some of the language was unacceptable. If I was really being fair-minded I'd apologise but hell, I really loathe that 'government' so I won't.

Interesting discussions around the 'sphere tonight on Geoff Gallup's resignation. Various 'righties' are doing the usual
'just tough it out' approach, others reckon it's because 'lefties' are narcissistic. I reckon it's just a lot more common than is recognised and lots of people have no choice other than to 'tough it out'. That might just be doable in a job that's not on the front line, but with Brogden and Gallup, that option is just not an option.

And in relation to how we relate to each other - I can understand how people like those I linked to can hold the views they do - sort of - but I can't condone it. Is there no alternative to dogs eating dogs, since capitalism won in 1989? Yeah, the commies ate their own too, in greater numbers, and somewhat more forceably. Doesn't make this right, though.

14 January 2006

utter scum

I needed something to cheer myself up, so I had to revisit the story of how he came to known as Honest John. Three decades of lying, err, interpreting.

Authentic engagemnet No2

I don't see anything wrong with being a Howard hater. I'll tell you why I am - I resent how successful he's been at implementing his 'program'. Keating might have been a headkicker but, to me, he talked in terms of the future and where the country could go. Howard's 'vision' for me is reductionist - the mechanics of how a society works - look after yourself, grab as much as you can, demean and despise anyone who's different and if you can't manage all of that, you're a loser and society shouldn't care about you. Look, there's another tax cut.

Instead, what we got was the reassurance that we would be 'relaxed and comfortable' - ie the reassurance of a classic conservative - when all along the dismantling of
all the good things about the country was under way. But that wasn't a 'lie' - just a 'non-core' promise.

What cuts me is that he has successfully brought the country around to this view and has, over the last ten years, suborned the instruments of governance that mitigate the inevitable outcomes of such a 'program'. Puke.

13 January 2006

Why I'm not in politics

I just see things differently. Apparently the Government has latched onto apparent differences of opinion within Labor to accuse them of being split on Kyoto. No doubt there will be extensive obfuscation as Labor attempts to counter this abhorrent and damnably false accusation.

What would I do? I'd turn it around: admit that yes, we do have differences of opinion. But we understand that the world isn't simple and we're working through how we respond, rather than lockstep following of a party line. We think that's the more sensible and inclusive approach that's likely to yield a sensible outcome.

That kind of appraach just doesn't fly any more, eh?

11 January 2006

Listen to the music

A couple of weeks ago the Minister for Home Affairs and I went to see - and hear - the Doobies. We don't get out much, for different reasons, so this was quite special for us. As we walked in we saw lots of people who looked quite old - rather like us, really, but this came as a real shock. I envied those few blokes not in slacks and checked shirts, but rather in jeans and black t-shirts and with earrings and pony-tails. When I grow up, I'm going to dress like that (if I'm allowed).

The show was pretty damned good - for a big band (8) they were extremely tight and, in their post Michael McDonald period they sounded exactly like they did when they first got big. Played all the good stuff and the crowd was up and rocking. The only slightly bizarre note was that the bloke taking most of the lead vocals - Tom Johnston - looked exactly like Jim Haynes.

10 January 2006

The gay agenda - on a big screen near you

Wait until the Reverend Fred gets a whiff of this. She wasn't sure that she would go to the cricket again? "I don't know whether I'll be in or I'll be out."

Sure makes a change from

The destruction of a country

Even people I know who seem quite moderate in their opinions leave me gasping when they start talking about the systematic destruction of all that was good about Australia since 1996. Happened again today with a friend who I have always considered well-informed but a 'moderate' politically. For a government that was going to have us 'relaxed and comfortable', the quite single minded ideological attack on all our institutions has been relentless. Including:
  • complete politicisation of the military, Federal police, Reserve Bank board and public service;
  • belting the judiciary and ABC into submission;
  • left the ALP far behind in how to look after your 'mates' ;
  • children overboard;
  • demonisation of homosexuals;
  • extreme interference in people's personal affairs (isn't this what they always accuse the ALP of doing?) such as the ban on discussing euthanasia, intrusive anti-terrorist legislation, proposed mandatory counselling for divorcing couples; band on RU486 - this list just goes on and on;
  • misleading the public on commitment to the invasion of Iraq;
  • student unionisation;
  • etc etc (waterfront, 'Pacific solution', bailouts for mates, Kerry Packer's memorial service and so it goes).

Of course what is most distressing is the lack of a viable opposition. So you can forget about any change in the 'leadership' for a while, it seems. Except this isn't leadership as it is normally defined - providing a vision of hope that people can sign on to. It's division and fear. Better get used to it.

09 January 2006

The Washington Consenus beats all

This article in On Line Opinion, from the Institute for Globalisation eerily asserts, on the basis of very little evidence, that a totally globalised world will deliver the best of all outcomes. It's hard to know where to begin with stuff like this, especially when there is indeed a substantial amount of evidence backing up the benefits that flow from consumer choice and free flows of capital, goods and services. But a good start might be:
  • not to assert that globalisation (in its full incarnation) is inevitable;
  • not to confuse consumer sovereignty with citizen sovereignty, which this article does when it starts to discuss the 'contractual deficit' that has arisen because people are demanding more from their governments;
  • to consider that rather than small government as an absolute panacea, that governments which tell the truth might be preferable in the first instance (eg not making outrageous claims for the benefits from trade deals, such as happened with the Uruguay Round - and others);
  • not to conflate citizens' responsibilities towards their elected officials and each other with the apparent 'responsibility' to keep consuming, even if (rather bizarrely) they should consume fewer 'SUVs' and only take one holiday a year.

I note that the author is involved with Young Labour in the UK and is following an honourable tradition of accepting the precepts of Hayek and Friedman as if they were engraved in stone and therefore need to be adopted in the policy platform of every party.

The world - or, more accurately, the people in it - don't work quite that simply. That said, a little more truth, followed by action, from some governments in relation to their industry subsisidies would go a long way towards helping developing countries reliant on these goods for a living.

Well, this post pretty much sums up my dilemma about economic policy - the degree of economic liberalisation we have experienced in recent decades has worked pretty well hasn't it, and so more liberalisation will continue the trend.

I keep thinking about the

law of diminishing returns (although not in such an economic sense as portrayed here, maybe - do I mean unintended consequences)?

07 January 2006

Teach yourself HTML

Yeah well, some hours later - it seems - I have a blogroll and the next task is to format it so it looks like the rest of the page. Inability to do stuff like this easily makes me very. Extremely very. More than usually very.

**gets over it**

06 January 2006

The baby boomer male

There's a lot of comment around on the death of Steve Rogers and the fact that he suffered from depression but felt unable to talk about it to anyone. In the last few years I've actually noticed that more of my peer group - all classic boomers - are able to open up and not feel uncomfortable. This has included on issues of our health and wellbeing. A few years ago I would not have thought it possible. We have to somehow raise the awareness of a bigger proportion of this - and subsequent - generations that it's perfectly OK, it's normal and it's certainly not poofy.

A few of us to whom I'd apply these comments have had the advantage of some training courses that forced us into being more open in our communications with each other and with other people. See previous post...

Australia's skills shortage

Amazing how many conversations I have about this. Was talking to some workmates about it today - how much of today's shortages are due to the unintended, unforeseen consequences of the privatisations of the last decade or so? All the apprentices that Qantas used to train, for example. Similar for energy companies. Even the bloody training levy. Since then, skills/upgrading has been the first to be dispensed with as profit maximisation becomes the sole objective. In an economic sense, cross-subsidisation of organisations that used to provide these benefits is seen to be inefficient. So we made sure it didn't happen at all, and end up with the shortages we now are wailing about. What do want - outcomes or policy purity? Is that efficient? It's about time that we started to give spillover effects a bit more value.

bloody insurance companies

We were robbed last week. They took my wallet, keys, a mobile and a (broken) watch. We changed the house keys but the replacement key and remote kit for the car is $2500. Can't be claimed on the house contents policy, and can't be claimed on the car policy - until they steal the car. Very helpful.

04 January 2006

I married Isis on the fifth day of May

Well, not actually. It was, I think, in about October 1968. And this is more or less what she looked like.

A 1958 Morris Isis, mine was in a fetching faded shade of green with white (well, kind of faded off white) side stripe and roof.

The greatest feature of the Isis was that you could carry about 23 people in perfect comfort along with any necessary accessories for luxury travel such a kitchen, billiard table or swimming pool. A throbbing 2639cc of C-series power (about 55 hp if I recall) meant a relaxed touring speed of about 70 mph or slightly higher if you didn't mind welsh plugs popping out.

I sometimes wish I still owned one, but then I wake up screaming. Instead, I bought a 1/43 scale handmade model in white metal. The finish is reassuringly British. When the digital cmera eventually gets fixed I might see if I can be bothered taking a picture that's actually in focus.

20 20 hindsight

The release of the 1975 Cabinet papers has spurred the inevitable onslaught of invective, usually disguised as opinion, on the record of Whitlam government in its final year. There's little doubt that there was a pretty amazing amount of ineptitude in economic policy - particularly before Hayden came in as Treasurer. Given Whitlam's obsession with 'The Program' - and the need for a lot to be done after 23 years of conservative - very conservative - rule, an 'ambitious' set of budgets was always going to happen.

But what gets lost in all of this is the effect of the 1973 (?) abandonment of the gold standard as a first step in unwinding the 1945 Bretton Woods accords. A more economically literate, and a more seasoned, government would conceivably have acted appropriately. But after 30 years of postwar growth and stability, it seems that no-one really foresaw the consequences of walking away from Bretton Woods. Unintended consequences, they're everywhere. And so we got stagflation and everybody said "how did that happen?". Hence the end of Whitlam.

How would a McMahon government government have handled the situation, I wonder?

03 January 2006

Authentic Engagement No 1

One of the principles I kind of agreed with myself when setting up veni vidi blogi was that I would try not to fall into temptation and lapse immediately into predisposed opinions. The PBS FTA issue falls into this category. It would be very easy to assume ab initio that (a) all big pharma is bad, or (b) all US multinationals are evil or (c) this sort of foreign investment is not good for the country. None of these are true either individually or collectively. That said, it's easy to have the gut reaction I referred to earlier when the facts - as perceived and informed by the usual filters - leads you to 'automatic' conclusions.

This isn't going to be a blog with opinions backed up lots of in-depth research on these sorts of issues, but I hope I can put across my personal perspective on such issues without being dogmatic on one hand, or just bloody anodyne on the other.

Learning to have genuine conversations with people, particularly those with whom we disagree or with whom we feel uncomfortable (or who simply make us want to hit something, usually them) is an ongoing evolution. I'm hoping this blog is part of my learning.

USFTA and the PBS

Well today's headline didn't surprise, an 'ongoing review' of arrangements was always on the cards. And setting up what appeared to be an industry-heavy reference group seemed predestined to be a forum for the US to continue to pursue its 'strategic objectives' for the FTA. However it's harder to discern what the actual impact might be. I don't know how much US investment in Australia in the pharmaceutical sector there is, but the nature of this industry generally means that Oz is on the end of the line because of our small domestic market. We do have substantial generic drug manufacturing capability and this sub-sector really should have been set for a bit of growth, given the imminent expiry of a number of 'blockbuster' drugs.

The gut instinct (hmm...that should have been the name of this blog) says it all stinks. We'll see.

02 January 2006

..and home brewing

Really pays to think ahead when designing these things.

About the brewing...I've been doing it for a year. The first couple of batches worked according to Hoyle, but every batch since then has seemingly failed to ferment, in that there were no tell-tale bubbles in the air trap. I restarted the third batch and it turned out OK. Tried that again on batch 4, but while it seemed to bottle OK it's pretty flat. But drinkable, it's simply a very obvious home brew. Batch five I have yet to test.

I had brewed up a fair bit in anticipation of the son and heir (ha ha...but that's a story for another day) joining us over Christmas. He decided not to, so I have a stack to get through over the rest of summer. It's a dirty job...

Are we there yet?

Well, enough of lurking and the occasional comment. Time to put the heart on the sleeve. I am hoping that this will be a new journey filled with interesting characters, surprises over the hill and perpetually off-camber corners - 'cos life's like that.

We're going to be talking about music, politics, extremely basic economics, motor vee-hicles and what it means to be a baby boomer as the cohort gets greyer. Oh yeah, I forgot, we have it all so what's to discuss?

In short, the human condition. May as well set the bar high.

As someone once said, "it's all or nothing with you".

Fasten your seat belts, folks.

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