28 April 2006

blinded by science

Today's 'news' is a mixture of the tragic and bizarre and won't be improved by any commentary from me. So, for something different, here's an excerpt from the transcipt of this evening's Perspective on Radio National:

Next time you meet a scientist, ask them why they do what they do. They will probably tell you something like when they were a child they met Sir Hillary Edmond or loved to try out the wacky experiments of Prof Julius Sumner.

Debbie Richards, Associate Professor, Department of Computing Macquarie University.

Prof Richards was described at the end of the program as a 'science communicator'. Just as well she's not in the history department.

25 April 2006

you're the voice

In today's free weekly newspaper, the 'Street Poll' questions of passers-by was "Has the Australian Wheat Board scandal changed your opinion of John Howard?" And the responses were:
  1. "I don't know. I don't know anything about it."
  2. "I don't really know much about it."
  3. "No. I've been disappointed with the Government because of their handling of the refugee situation."
  4. "It certainly hasn't - he's still a scumbag."
Made my day, it did. In other news, my liver is still recovering from two evening's worth of unadulterated punishment as we caught up with old friends at Byron Bay.

21 April 2006

working man blues

someone close to the cutting edge of employment or its alternative sent me this tonight:

New Legislation

freedom of choice with a gun to your head
your right to work hard until you drop dead
or we'll get some other fool in here instead
'cos we got this new legislation

the secretary's future doesn't look great
the boss says she showed for work an hour late
besides she refused to go out on a date
and he's got this new legislation

the 4th year apprentice he's done well at tafe
he's worked real hard to make his future safe
but we've got to downsize son so you're on your way
cos we got this new legislation

your union card won't do you favours round here
cos we've smelt your breath and we think we smelt beer
and if you discuss it son your'e outa here
cos we got this new legislation

we wouldn't say darlin' that you're overweight
we think your'e lovely your work has been great
but we're all out of uniforms except for size eight
cos we got this new legislation

overtime's over the contract is signed
penalty rates mate are all in your mind
cos we've got your ars now on our bottom line
cos we got this new legislation

your right to life's over as soon as you're born
24 seven we've got you on call
your time's now our time that's no crime at all
cos we got this new legislation

what we said last year mate we can't recall
and that mutual agreement wasn't mutual at all
cos we made the small print incredibly small
and we got this new legislation

words and music by allan caswell and catherine o'brien copyright 2006

poetry in motion

The PM's disillusionment with current modes of literary analysis and pedagogy was the subject of discussion over dinner with the old man (90) tonight. We wondered, what does Honest John think about Les Murray? (thanks CS for the link!). Murray is Australia's current living embodiment of culture (we are informed). Is he po-mo? He's a raving conservative, but can you recite a line of his poetry or even name one? Does it resonate for you?

Yeah, thought not. Anyway, we're off for the weekend. It will be good - catching up with an old mate to drink beer and red wine and talk cars and families and PMs. Bring it on.

18 April 2006

I want to live the real life

There's article in today AFR (not available on line) about networking and how to do it properly. It's a delightful mishmash of truisms (don't look for immediate returns); good advice (you need to be genuine and authentic) and non-sequiturs (you need to have your 15 second pitch ready otherwise people won't pay attention to you).

Maybe I'm missing something, but to me being authentic is as much about listening, getting on the wavelength of the person you've met and demonstrating your interest in them as a person rather than some over-rehearsed summation of your objectives (I will eventually want you to give me something) or a straight sales pitch (have I got a deal for you).

Bizarrely, the article also talking about companies putting their people through speed-networking exercises to help them bring their skills up to scratch. Very authentic.


Mrs V V B reckons the IR legislation is going to bite the Howard Administration in the bum: job security is important to Australians. Here's hoping for a non-stop string of bastard boss stories between now and the next election, then. She reckons AWB just doesn't cut it and I have to agree with her. But I reckon West Papua might do just as well: they're not Muslims, they're being persecuted by Muslims. Regardless of how wrong that statement is, it will resonate around the bbq. Might even stop one or two. And anyone who thinks this column's timing is a coincidence ("look who did it first!") is kidding themselves.

16 April 2006


I'd forgotten how good this site is and through it I got back to another I used to skim occasionally (skim, mainly because my economics aren't up to proper understanding). But the discussion about the Economist rings true. For a while I liked the Economist because of the insanely clever captions (oh yeah I are deep), then I got some reasonably good analysis out of it, then it started to get tedious and then it descended into a pro-US stance that seemed disconnected from any proper analysis, or from reality for that matter. The structural imbalances in the US economy are well recognised, but for some reason these didn't seem to matter. And an economy where the gap between the haves and have nots appears to still be widening isn't a good thing either, although the Economist doesn't seem to mind.

A lot of us do mind. Common sense and a fleeting acquaintance with history will tell us that people don't like to be obviously downtrodden forever. A few of those points are made
this is just like being back in Algeria or Burma, where the minute-by-minute doings of President Boumedienne and U Ne Win respectively were breathlessly reported to a downtrodden people looking for relief from their threadbare lives. As they say in the classics, we've come a long way, baby.

Today's title refers to
this, not this. But you knew that.

Update: Talk about tales of the bleeding obvious. What did they expect to happen? Oh yes, I remember now, carpeted with roses.

15 April 2006

I'm looking through you

With the Saturday papers mainly informing what I'm thinking at the moment - not at all a good thing, in the main - I thought I'd link to this article to give you the grist of some things to think about, in a far more evocative way than I could.

I'll stick by my assessment that the current federal government is doing incalculable damage to the 'body politic' in this country and that, very slowly, even supporters are waking up to this. But around Ozplogistan there are still plenty of people who just reckon the left should shut up and cop it sweet - there is a mandate. Not for this bastardy there isn't. We have a classic case of information assymetry. Anyway...sip of red, deep breaths, change the TV channel and...

I thought I'd return to some of the stories about consular 'clients' I dealt with during those years overseas. It's seemingly a law of nature that the more extreme the circumstances, the better characteristics of people emerge. Those consular cases with relatively smaller problems mainly caused me the most angst. Just after the first APEX (advance purchase) fares were introduced, I got a bloke in Singapore. He'd come for three weeks as I recall, but had spent all his money in two days and now he wanted to go home, but he couldn't fly for 19 days and what was I going to do about it. His predicament was a direct result of his own stupidity and he wanted a bailout, but he wasn't going to get it from the taxpayer. I told him we could contact his rellies and get them to send him some money - no, he didn't want that. Every morning he'd turn up, ask the same question, get the same answer, and then he'd sit there for a while and then disappear. After a while he didn't come, so I guess he got himself home somehow.

On another posting, four Aussies died in fairly messy circumstances. The three sons of one of the couples arrived a few days later to sort out the details - even thought there was little they could do in a practical sense. Mrs V V B and I decided we'd have them stay with us rather than a hotel - the 'logic' was that if they saw how badly this place ran its hotels (they were all government-owned), they'd have some pretty pointed questions about how they ran the airline (and, given it was the second crash in 3 months, quite rightly). On arrival the questions about how it all happened began immediately - not surprising. At that stage we didn't know much so I just had to play along with them a bit.

One thing about this direct contact with families, you learnt a lot more than you might have preferred. There were three sons (there was also a daughter, but I came to understand she was estranged from the blokes). The eldest son was a doctor, the second a lawyer and when I asked the third what he did, I learnt he was a mail sorter and he was the one dealing worst with the loss of the parents. But it was an open window into the dynamics of the family which, while helpful in terms of doing my job, I felt a bit voyeurish.

The doctor came in handy - part of my job was to identify the remains and, in this case, there wasn't that much to go on. Mind you, he didn't fare any better, even though these were his parents. But, in one of those stories that you don't often hear about, the Yanks came to the rescue. Seems they had - maybe still have - a well resourced forensic laboratory based in Hawaii and, though this was a military dictatorship, they offered this service and the 'strongman' who ran the place accepted and so, a few days later, all these pathologists and others arrived to start to try and piece together identities from dental records and the like.

I remember some of those consular 'clients' relatively fondly now, after all these years. At the time, I guess I was just fearful. What of, I don't know now....

14 April 2006

(good) friday on my mind

It's been a quiet but very good Good Friday. A little yard work, a little blogcommenting and a little sleep. And as offspring no 2 observes, we gave Jesus a wash to help celebrate.

A few weeks or so ago, I wrote about the sublime Crosby Stills and Nash, having just watched a DVD of them from 1992. Today it was another of my all time favourites - Martin Scorsese's film of The Band's last concert, The Last Waltz. There's a few rather dated, hokey bits - the interviews with the band members extremely stoned, for example - but some of the songs in this concert are near musical perfection.

One thing I find extremely appealing about the concert is the fact that everybody's having obvious fun. The Band were big names when they decided to call it a day, but the guests - Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan among many - are a testament to how big they were. And these superstars, which is what they were, are just having a ball.

Ronnie Hawkins, who I'd never heard of before seeing the Last Waltz, just has a ball, ad-libbing acknowledgement to the band members and leetting out quite untuneful whoops all the time. Young is quite, quite whacked when he saunters up to do Helpless but after a heartfelt tribute to the Band, he blows a few notes on the harmonica and strums a chord or two. Robbie Robertson looks over at Rick Danko and Garth Hudson and mouths something - maybe "has he got the right key?" Then a big slow grin spreads over Young's face and he drawls, "I got it now Robbie" and away they go. Can you imagine today's crop of oh-so-serious rockers doing that?

The version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. They have a horn section in, which does some fills in the chorus. Robertson obviously doesn't like it and he frowns furiously. The second chorus, he attacks the guitar with a vengeance, trying to play over them. By the third chorus, it doesn't seem to bother him as the crowd goes berserk. Levon Helm takes vocals and really lets rip (in fact they all do right throughout the concert - they open their mouths wide and give it all they've got). The only version of this I recall from the time was a cover by some no-names and I never liked it. Never knew what I was missing.

But of all the songs which includes their big ones, my absolute favourite is It Makes No Difference. The late
Rick Danko takes lead vocals, it has a simple chorus that rips at your guts, and the words are searing, but this song is one of those that, paradoxically, always lifts me up. Here it is:

It makes no diff’rence where I turn
I can’t get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no diff’rence, night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

Now there’s no love
As true as the love
That dies untold
But the clouds never hung so low before

It makes no diff’rence how far I go
Like a scar the hurt will always show
It makes no diff’rence who I meet
They’re just a face in the crowd
On a dead-end street

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

These old love letters
Well, I just can’t keep
’cause like the gambler says
Read ’em and weep
And the dawn don’t rescue me no more

Without your love I’m nothing at all
Like an empty hall it’s a lonely fall
Since you’ve gone it’s a losing battle
Stampeding cattle
They rattle the walls

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

Well, I love you so much
It’s all I can do
Just to keep myself from telling you
That I never felt so alone before

13 April 2006

song sung blue + yellow

A blue song.

West Papuans. Have just had the unsettling experience of Vanstone on TV repeating "we will decide etc etc etc". I have some degree of hope that Australians will look on West Papuans rather differently than how they looked on Iraqis and Afghans in 2001.

A yellow song.

Caught up today with a good friend who's about my age and just been through one of those health scares that blokes my age have. He and his wife are off on a three week walking holiday in Corsica. Sounds great and he's a gentle soul and such a good bloke - one of those rare ones who can be totally honest without it appearing boastful or whingeing - just calls it. I couldn't help but feel really happy for them.

I want to break free

A comment I've just left over in Adrian's cab:

"Adrian - when you do a post like this, I know that the real issues are getting some traction. It's not about the surface issues of bribery or how you do business in the middle east, it's about whether the government can be trusted. Oh the irony - as you will appreciate.
What it tells us is that they think they can get away with anything, but the public does have limited trust and this will begin to bite.

As you know I'm not a conservative supporter, but my principal objections to this lot are not their policies but their systemic dismantling of the checks and balances that make our system a reasonably well functioning democracy. The changes to the election laws, recording political donations, emasculating the union movement, hobbling NGOs, and so on. Stacking boards - well everyone does it, I admit.

Just on the unions, like all large organisations you get individual agendas and so on and I don't deny that many union officials are not at all interested in member's interests. But the reasons why unions came into being are still valid and, since Workchoices, even more needed.
I agree, the government is utterly culpable over this and if there was any decency, Howard would get rid of Vaile and Downer without delay. Well, hah!

And while you might recoil in horror at a Labor Government, think of it in these terms - an inexperienced pack of has-beens and party hacks who suddenly have to become accountable, or a proven pack of corrupt, amoral (think Ruddock, Vanstone, West Papua, please Adrian) crooks being given the licence to ramp up their activities even further. I'd like to think that, if given the choice, Labor would rise to the challenge - but then I look at 'em. Maybe you're right! "

11 April 2006

down in the boon (doggle) docks

And I just got an invitation to the worldtechnopolisassociation 5th General Assembly. Now that looks like a first-class boondoggle if ever there was one. And lunch at the Ipswich City Council. That should appeal to the delegates from Bangalore.

I can't explain

I'd like to add my perceptions of the last couple of days of the Cole Inquiry. Because I'm not fan of the current government, I really hope that this issue is the beginning of their end. It's taken a while for the Commission to get to this stage, but the value of such a Commission is that usually, it does. The restrictions of the Terms of Reference will limit the findings but, as has been explained in a few places in today's papers, the general public perception seems to be biting at last. Up to now, the whole thing has been far too arcane for the average punter (unless he's a wheat farmer I suppose). People have a (well founded) understanding that you need to pay bakhsheesh to get stuff done in the Middle East. I can vouch for that having spent time there.

But every time I've seen that argument used, they seem to gloss over that the people getting the kickbacks were people were about to go to war with (and I'll leave how the actual entering into that war was handled).

As Cole gets closer to the 'truth', the perception starts to emerge that AWB is a very good example of an arrogant government that thinks it can get away with anything - and when that starts to happen, more people start to prick up their ears. There's the very often repeated saying that "no matter who you vote for, a politician always gets in" but all governments have their useful lives. And it always reminds me of my dear old dad (well, maybe stow the "dear old" bit at the moment) who said, on the assumption to office of the Hawke government in 1983, "this is the best Liberal government we've ever had." Not far from the truth, either.

For fans of the Westminster Principle (of Ministerial accountability) and how it gets interpreted more and more flexibly, this is the closest we have come for a long, long time that a Minister might go. Given the TOR, it won't be a sacking but an easing out (and a nice diplomatic present one would guess). And if Vaile goes, the whole Coalition arrangement gets opened up even further (post McGauran etc).

Anyway, my little lovelies, interesting times. We live in 'em.

And for those who've tried unsuccessfully to post comments, I don't know what the problem is but I've sent an inquiry to Blogger.

10 April 2006

the sounds of silence

No post tonight as I am contemplating the human condition. Feel free to comment, particularly if you are a friend - I know I've got some. Actually, I don't feel bad about last night's contretemps.

08 April 2006

people are strange

this is just bizarre. make sure you read it all. whenever you get annoyed because idiots are stealing your oxygen, console yourself that there are squillions of people out there who evidently breathe some other gas. maybe they're giant shape-shifting lizards. and all of them are amateur cartoonists. can you guess it's near bedtime?

another saturday night

Well, I don't ain't got nobody - hmm, triple negative - but I felt it was worth recording that batch 8, a Coopers Aussie Bitter, tastes OK after the minimum secondary fermentation period of two weeks. So any visitors from Canberra or Taiwan can get a reasonable brew here. Followed up that stubbie with one from (I think, I keep forgetting to colour code the crown seals so I can tell 'em apart) batch 7 that also tastes OK, thus proving that to the untutored and/or undiscerning tongue, after one stubbie anything tastes OK...

The papers are full of tales of bastardry that I could recount, analyse and become vituperous about, but it wouldn't get us too far. The unfolding tragedy in the US as George W Bush admits some role - as I understand it - in the leaking of information to the media about a serving US spy (Valerie Plame) because her husband (George Wilson) had caused his administration distress by telling the truth about the nonexistence of Nigerian nuclear material being bought by Saddam - are you with me still? - has a reached a new phase with another of the band of crooks, one Lewis 'Scooter' Libby admitting he authorised (?) the leak under orders. It all smells very much like Watergate and, if there still any justice in the world, it will end up the same. Here's hoping.

Today's picture come to you courtesy of
model cars of Raceland and I include it just because it tickled my fancy. A lovely French family going on holidays on a Saturday night - as you do.

...and in late breaking news, the Rolling Stones have agreed to leave a number of very naughty songs - well they were deemed naughty by some people when they were first released - off their playlist for China because it will set back the Glorious Revolution by several centuries. "Let's Spend the Night Together", "Brown Sugar", "Honky Tonk Women" and "Beast of Burden". I can understand the last - don't want those pesky several billion peasants to figure out where they fit in the Great Socialist Paradise Scheme of Things, do we?

Actually, having had Sticky Fingers on the lo-fi this morning so I could play along, I have to admit that Brown Sugar is the most perfect amalgam of racism, misogyny, class stereotyping and sado-masochism that I think has ever been represented in one short piece of popular culture. A triumph! Such fun to bellow at the neighbours "hear him whip the women just around midnight." That'll keep 'em in line.

Update: Actually, the problem here is that in between typing "update" and sitting again at the computer, I've cooked and eaten dinner, had a short conversation with father and now I've utterly forgotten what the update was about. In this interim period we've had the ubiquitous Rodent on our very own Pravda - it really is just a *Howard Administration mouthpiece nowadays - announcing the money for medical training after the obligatory reference to "strong economy". You gotta admire the self-control: he never gets off message: only the Liberals can bring you a strong economy. Relentlessly campaigning.

And now we're getting double demerit points for speeding in Queensland, so we've had the relevant Minister sounding very serious as one does when discussing very important topics such as this. The fact that double demerit points hasn't worked anywhere else is no barrier - if you can't work your way through a policy problem, your ever-ready bureaucrats will have an off-the shelf diversion remedy.

Ah, now I remember the update - actually batch 7 stills tastes like shit.

* Used to be known as the Australian Government: now the Howard Administration. Sounds somehow more appropriate. Gives you reassurance that they're in control.

This post brought to you by the strong economy.

NB: this is not a strong economy.

After update update: on second thoughts, they're German. Not because Raceland is a German based company, but because of the hat. And the sideburns. And the suitcase.

07 April 2006

Friday on my mind

Ai yi yi, where to start? Let's try a bloody good story, well told, and see how close we get. The day started with coffee with someone from my work who wanted to get my opinion on how to handle a particular situation in her area. I'm ultra chuffed that someone would come to me for help, but it's always a worry about what sort of advice I give. In this case the situation wasn't life or death and - as is probably the case more often than not - she'd done half the work already, but was looking for some validation. Which, after some faffing about on my part, was provided, after which we commenced solving the world's problems.

No sooner was I back in the office than Mr Unguarded Moment was with me - well perhaps he'd been invited - and we started solving the world's problems all over again. By the time I go to doing some of the 'stuff' I'm allegedly paid to do, I felt like Hercules after the labours.

Which wasn't such a labour, as the day proceeded rather well, with all sorts of decisions being made, stuff being done, opinions being shared and conclusions reached. Easy P.

The eventually quite productive day ended with drinks put on by another area from work. All good, nothing really out of the ordinary until a young bloke was invited to stand up and sing. And he did - some light operetta sort of stuff, he had a trained voice and after a slightly tentative start to ensure he had his pitch, he really let loose. It was quite, quite stunning, moreso because of the incongruity of being in the workplace.

At various times during the day I had all sorts of ideas for stuff to put in to tonight's post. The AFR had a couple of items, including
this one that reflects the points I made a couple of days ago in relation to the same article. The Australian Institute for Commercialisation is certainly not a disinterested observer on this issue but their points are valid. The last thing we need is existing oligolopy rents being bolstered even further.

Finally, the uncomplimentary thought occurred when I was out for my lunchtime walk that any Aussies who still believe in the innate goodness of government must be just irredeemably hopeful, while those who still
trust the Howard Administration to represent their best interests are just hopelessly deluded.

And as it's Friday, here is our second, poor deceased pussy.

Having lost Baxter, we were paranoid about losing Angus and kept him inside. But he noticed that our old moggy, Kim, was allowed out and he wasn't, so he started playing up. Then we were getting some repairs done to the house which meant leaving doors open, so we started to let him out to get used to outdoors. But a speeding car got him - he'd just turned one. Vale Angus.

06 April 2006

old friends

Not in the Simon and Garfunkel sense, of "high shoes with round toes", but more the sort I wrote about on 9 February (A short story of ambition and redemption). Ms ('dis' in this case!) Harmony, Mr Infrastructure, Mr Unguarded Moment and I met this morning. We've been on a pretty incredible journey, we four (and others) and it takes but a moment before we're sharing pretty deep stuff. Spilling the guts might characterise it, but this is more about saying honestly how we feel without any fear of losing some 'advantage', appearing weak or even self-centred. As it turned out, the four of us were feeling pretty similar things.

Our journey is - we think! - meant to lead us to being more effective, 'better people', maybe even being 'centred', whatever that means. We'd all probably describe it differently, but we know what we mean. Yet paradoxically, the further along the road we've travelled, the further away is our destination. Some of us feel we've lost something of ourselves along the way. But it wasn't excess baggage, it was part of what makes us go. Our engine management unit perhaps, if that doesn't stretch a metaphor too far.

But it was incredibly reassuring to realise, in one of those 'bing!' moments, that we all felt the same. We're well able to analyse what we're feeling and support each other, but what else to do about it is another question. We've taken some steps, will see what happens.

My, but all this is obscure! Just as well, I guess. So rather than try some pointless insight, I'll leave it to Keef and Gram, who say it so much better....

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted
I bought them for you
Graceless lady
you know who I am
You know I can’t let you
slide through my hands
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away

I watched you suffer
a dull aching pain
Now you decided
to show me the same
No sweeping exits
or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter
or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away

I know I dreamed you
a sin and a lie
I have my freedom
but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken
tears must be cried
Let’s do some living
after we die
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them some day
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we’ll ride them some day.

05 April 2006

both sides now

Back to the old spleen. One Sharon will be happy!

The utter cockup at Cowra has not necessarily proceeded to the Government's advantage. It's been 'fixed' - yeah, 'fixed' - and now we wait for the next one. As I said a couple of posts ago, the leadup to the next election will be littered with for and against vignettes from the workplace. Because I'm a 'bleeding' heart, it's bleedingly obvious to me that the legislation, premised on a desire to do away with unionism in the country once and for all, is an utter shambles because it uses a proxy to do away with said unionism, and it's very hard to legislate effectively for a proxy outcome. The list of egregious bastardry is growing, what a shame that only WorkChoiceLess has any traction. Crikey's running hard on Rob Gerard but the mainstream media aren't touching it, the abolition of the staff rep on the ABC Board (ooh those evil unions again) gets a bit of sympathy (regrettably mostly from the Friends of the ABC who are easily lampooned as effete elites) but AWB is just too distant and too arcane. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if the sale of Medibank Private gets a fair of sympathy, as the sale of the Snowy Mountains Scheme is rightfully doing. And the Nats are up in arms about media policy and lessened competition in regional areas. I love it that a lot of their constituents are supporters of the ABC, which doesn't tend to give out wrong information, with potentially fatal results.

The problem for Labor in all of this, of course, is that party's equal enthusiasm for privatisations in the heady days of 1989 and after when global capitalism had conquered all. So if they object now, the inevitable response is "well you did it too so there".

But notwithstanding, the tide is beginning to turn. I loved this letter, in the SMH today:

It's all about respect … for those who earn it

I am 65 and have seen many governments come and go. I don't remember one for which I had as little respect as this one. Integrity, truthfulness and loyalty don't seem to matter at all. I am so disgusted with the new industrial relations laws that for the first time in my life I am writing to a newspaper. The men of my father's generation battled for years for decent working conditions, and they succeeded. Along comes a little man with an overinflated ego and with the stroke of a pen he takes the country back 100 years.

The working people are, and always have been, the backbone of this country. In disasters such as fire, flood, Granville and Thredbo, it's the average Joe and Joan who get out and do the hard yakka, putting things to rights. Sure, governments and the business sector give cash, but very few from these areas get dirty hands and aching backs.

The new industrial relations laws are an abomination and anyone who had anything to do with them should hang their heads in shame. The workers are entitled to, and deserve, respect for what they do; deserve a decent wage; deserve overtime, sick pay and holiday loading, and, most of all, deserve job security. Without them, the country would grind to a halt.

Fred Daly once said there are the needy and the greedy, and it seems to me the needy are getting needier and the greedy are getting greedier. John Howard and Peter Costello carry on about the enormous surplus. The Government is not a bank to hoard taxes; taxes are there to run the country. People don't want piddling little tax cuts. They want a great health system and a great education system and the infrastructure in top shape.

As for the economy, sure, there is plenty of money about - for the ones who already have it. But there is not much joy for people on low incomes or pensions. Besides, the economy was turning around when Howard was elected Prime Minister. Mention tariffs or 9 per cent compulsory super or floating the dollar and giving control of interest rates to the Reserve Bank. Does Howard's name come up? Don't think so. Guess it was a bloke called Paul Keating.
Fay Finucane Kariong

Go you good thing, Kay.

In other news, the coffee with the mentoree went swimmingly as expected. She's got lots of tricky questions for me and is a really good listener. Being a good mentor is a bit of a hard act: have to restrain from coming over all omniscient (not hard, lack of knowledge on most things gives me away usually within a few minutes of any conversation), just being a good listener, trying to help her understand how things work (ahh, large bureaucracies and their intricacies) and trying to contribute perspective and context. Oh I love context.

And I had yet another deep and meaningful, at a level between bogan and academic, with the other staff member I mentioned, on the issue of international aid to developing countries and why it doesn't work. Good stuff. Helen Hughes would have been pleased.

04 April 2006

deeper water

No, we're still paddling here at venividblogi. However it still feels good even if the muse doesn't strike with the swiss clockwork precision that it oughta.

So I'll link to
this post and particularly the comments thread, which is a surprisingly good-natured exchange of views even if there is not a great deal of difference in those views. Comments threads so often degenerate into slanging matches and personal attacks, especially on political and economic blogs but it was in fact surprising to see all commenters abide by the instruction to keep it clean.

While I normally inhabit the wishy washy soft left corner of the 'sphere ('cos I get the Fear elsewhere), you often get visitors - usually the same ones - from the 'other' perspective (yes, there's more than two, but you know...) and it all gets pretty willing. I admire those visitors even if I don't know their motives: hope to convert; short of others things to do; "is this the right room for an argument"? If you've got the nerve (and the time) , try
this and this.

So, on to being more pleasant, more self-evidently wishy washy. Did a trip out to a client today that was, as the current saying has it, all good. We're trying to help them, they're amenable to being helped by helping back in return, why isn't the rest of life like this? The interesting bit is that I went out with one of my team members whose interest in stuff - the human condition - matches mine and we converse on a mutually satisfying level (ie somewhere between bogan and academic!). I'd really like to point him to the blog as a basis for extending the conversation, but while any of the team could find out about v v b, I haven't shared it with 'em as I feel it poses too much of a risk in terms of maintaining the work relationships (supervisor/team members or boss/subordinate to put it bluntly). Perceptions, self-perceptions and the Fear. That would indeed be getting into deeper water. Given the number of blogs, this situation must arise reasonably frequently. Wonder what happens elsewhere?

Tomorrow will be good, it starts with coffee with my mentoree, a *classic Gen Y whose company I very much enjoy, as I've enjoyed the company of the various people I've mentored over the past few years.
* Yeah, not too keen on generalisations such as Gen X, Gen Y etc but having read a few articles on the defining characteristics of Gen Y recently I was quite taken aback when this person, on our first meeting, popped out with a few comments that fitted the template exactly. However, what I think is getting lost in the rampant characterisation is that we all go through learning processes as we start to grow up and the lessons being learnt by Gen Y (eg you can't have it all immediately) are no different to what most, if not all of us, learn when we first join the workforce. What might be different is that as they grew up, many of them did have it all immediately (courtesy of wishy-washy baby boomer parents and and lots of credit) and that today there is a lot more analysis of such trends by virtue of the proliferation of media such as the internets.


03 April 2006

eine kleine nachtmusik

Picked up on a comments thread on the Road, this little ditty will soothe the savage, er, breasts, of many of my friends. At least it's not seditious - yet.

At work today a computer fault had Outlook 'working' at about 10%. Took me right back to the days of twin floppy disks and waiting for hours for the beige box to do anything. Plenty of time for reflection, phone calls, learning how not to seethe. How soon we forget.

This came on top of a total system malfunction a week or so ago, when you couldn't even make a phone call because all the work numbers are...on the system. And while I'm on the subject, I'm a bit sceptical about how much productivity emanated from the IT revolution. Oh sure, we produce more...and, arguably, we produce it more quickly, so the stats will be evident and positive. But is more..paper...useful? Lots more?

02 April 2006

communication breakdown

The difficulties some of us find in relating to our fellow humans arise in different situations. For a few years I was a consul at Australian diplomatic missions and I used to hate it. Never knowing what the problem was going to be - only knowing it was going to be a problem - I used to really fear it when a potential consular case lobbed in the door. I always used to think that my colleagues who professed great enjoyment of this particular task were having a lend, if not of me then of themselves.

I simply couldn't understand it, even though by comparison with some mates I had it quite easy - most places I was in were not on the usual tourist routes and so I didn't have a nonstop stream of consular problems. Unlike, for example, a couple of mates who did stints in Bangkok. Whenever I went to visit them while on holidays, I inevitably found myself going to the police station with one of them on a Saturday night while they dealt with the latest drug arrest. That said, I did have a couple of nasty-ish cases.

It has only been recently that I've come to reflect on those days (well, years..) with a bit more affection. The reason, I think, is that I used to get immediate feedback on the job I was doing. If I did something that solved the problem I got instant, and sometimes quite effusive - thanks. If I couldn't deliver what was asked, regardless of whether that request was doable, reasonable or even legal, then I still had a problem.

In more recent years I've done types of work where I'm remote from the impact of the task, in patricular remote from the effect it might have on any human being (aside from other disillusioned souls who might read it, whether voluntarily or by virtue of their own responsibilities). It took me some years to get used to this and then I got too used to it. I'm now back working in an area delivering services direct to people and it's much more rewarding. That said, it's also a more positive environment, where usually the task is to help someone do better, rather than fix some particular nasty impediment (although I get those, too).

It would have been good at the time to have understood what was going on, to have reflected on why I felt the way I did. I see that ability to try and learn beyond the immediate experience in many younger people I now work with. Maybe it's because the notion of career is no more (consular service was certainly a career in those days), so young people need to learn from their experiences in as many ways as they can, because they don't know how that experience might be applied later.

01 April 2006

my sharona

Just to clarify things as we go forward, I have two close friends called Sharon. So references to any Sharons in this blog might be confusing because each Sharon is highly, highly individual. So, future references should be interpreted according the following broad areas of interest:
  1. anything Canadian; anything relating to how people fall off other's people's backs when dancing; dentistry; 'society' in the Middle East; topics that could - with the application of a good deal of imagination or you had to have been there - support the notion of the beneficial aspects of alcohol; the northern beaches of Sydney; the art of remaining uncompromisingly cheerful under all circumstances; or
  2. energy policy; the dangers of organised religion; utter bastards we have known; democracy, she is broke; the leafy western suburbs; neighbours you don't want to know; work is a second-best outcome.
Hope that's clear.

smoke on the water

Smokers nicking out for a puff has been a fact of life for some time and, at the same time, the unhappiness of non-smokers who get to spend an extra 2 to 4 hours a day actually at work. I have to say I've never heard any non-smoker whingeing about this but, when I see regular smokers outside the office, I think exactly the same thing. Never done anything about it, though.

someone has. Now, the Secretary of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources is one Mark Paterson, previously the head of...guess who? Why, none other than the government's greatest supporter on WorkChoiceLess. Draw your own conclusions. I have - it's simpler that way.

you will have the music in you, according to the rulez

A Saturday snippet for youse all, the evils of socialism are being battered into submission by Chinese Idol. But socialism is fighting back. I have two suggestions:

  1. we give them Mark Holden, Kyle Sandilands and Marcia Hines - permanently - to help with future series; and
  2. we rejig Australian Idol so that it must contribute to the national good. (I'd also like to have a competition so that we can identify what is the national good).

And most recently I have been occasionally consumed by Google Idol and particularly the Dutch girls Pomme and Kelly. It's utterly compelling in a sociological experiment kind of way, also extremely funny and quite well done, and finally it seems to me that it's a demonstration of how new (all right, new-ish) technology enables people to achieve quite remarkable things. Or it's banal and utterly derivative? No, I'm with the former.

Speaking of compelling, don't miss Rockwiz tonight. And I'm devastated that their website doesn't have Dougal on it - for mine, the most compelling character on the show.

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