31 May 2006

two tribes

...is what we will increasingly have in Australia as the wages of the lowest of the low are driven down while the salary packages of the highest of the high are ramped up by the ubiquitous remuneration advice industry. Benchmarking, doncha know. And the Prime Miniature thinks that we work for the good of the economy, rather than the opposite. I think he might have a reality check heading his way as people figure just how widely and deeply the workforLess legislation will hit them, their families and their friends. Plus I also suspect that most people also believe that the economy, so skillfully steered by the government, is there for them, rather than vice versa. Watch this space.

And I see that my opposition to the sale of the Snowy scheme lumps me with the extreme right, according to Crikey. Well bugger me, as they say. Who'd have thunk it?

Finally, it seems that the great Queensland conservative merger is off. Now, to my point from last night. It emerges that there was no unanimous agreement in the party room, rather some members were opposed. Nor was there even a vote. Now, if actual active party members can't trust their leaders, what chance does the ordinary voter have?

Update 1: Maybe it's just stupidity or incompetence rather than outright bastardry? Or an oversight - oops, we forgot to consult! Did you really wanted to be asked what you thought? Happens, you know.

Update 2: Quick, someone hit me over the head.

30 May 2006


Sometime during the working day I came up with a theme for tonight, but I suspect it's gone. It may well have been some reflections on the nature of democracy as she is practiced in this country, so that's what we'll do. Inspired, of course, by the current machinations here in sunny Queensland with the Coalition partners deciding to join themselves together.

At one level it possibly hardly matters to the punter/voter in the street, such is the apparent growing level of cynicism with the political process as a whole. However, Queensland's particular history, with a dominant Labor party in the 1940s and 1950s and then the Bjelke-Petersen ascendancy through the 1970s up to 1989 seems to have resulted in a greater polarisation. The rural/regional (RARA) bit is fiercely protective of its conservative traditions which mainly found their voice through the Nationals, but are not far removed from some of the more luddite - for want of another term - bits of Labor. However, the growing influence of the SEQ corner, driven by substantial migration from both down south and overseas, has blunted the strength of the rural vote, exacerbating the impact of the redistribution of electoral boundaries by Goss (which eliminated the B-P gerrymander). And it is this trend which has driven the proposal for the Nats to amalgamate with the Liberals under the Liberal banner.

Those who vote more based on federal party policy and issues will be faced with a conundrum if this merger comes off. There will not be a distinct rural lobby or voice, thus opening the way for a repeat of the One Nation phenomenon. Groups such as the League of Rights and similar are still in existence if not particularly 'vibrant', but they represent a dormant force which will be easy to rouse if no more moderate conservative party is available.

You also have to feel for the party members, who undoubtedly knew nothing of all this. What is the process for consulting them? Is there one? (Or do only the Democrats do that?) And if not, how much of a democracy are we where representatives don't even consult their supporters? I retract all this if in fact some process has been followed...

Of course it's just fascinating to watch the developments, as federally the Libs have been utterly dominant for the last decade. Everyone's positioning with nothing but pure self-interest in mind - in other words, pure politics played out publicly. Howard, Vaile, Minchin, Joyce, the other 'powerbrokers'. What normally goes on behind closed doors, all out in the open. Makes you glad you're not part of the game - unless power is what drives you, surely what politics is about.

Whether Federal Labor can benefit from this remains to be seen. If it turns into a train wreck they need surely do nothing - the old adage about governments losing elections. At State level Beattie already cast out some bait, based on the elements of the rural heartland who are not automatically opposed to Labor as mentioned earlier - or at least, who hate the Libs more than they hate Labor.

The major blogs have some good stuff and debate on this tonight - much deeper analysis than this pissy effort. See
here for example. Still, I'd love to see the conservative parties engage in some of the soul-baring and bastardry for which only Labor usually grabs the headlines. We all know it happens, but Labor's more evident factional system simply makes it easier for lazy journos to write about. So that's what we hear.

Finally, my much drier than expected economic viewpoint has come to a screaming halt with the proposed sale of the Snowy scheme, which I reckon is just plain bastardry, on the part of Iemma particularly (as NSW has the greatest share of ownership). There have been some good letters to editors in the past week or so: how can this be sold with no apparent parliamentary debate, where will the profits go, can environmental flows be guaranteed, will maintenance investment still be carried out (jobs etc) and so on. I have no doubt that economic cost-benefit analyses will show that it would be better to have the Scheme in private hands. They always do. And similarly, I always come back to the law of diminishing returns: what happens when we've sold off everything? Do we ever look that far ahead? Or do we trust in one particular economic theory?
That's one for another day.

27 May 2006

since you been gone

Yes, Gerry, this has been the longest non-posting period since v v b started. It's been due to various occurrences. Last weekend the Minister for Home Affairs and I went to Fraser Is for a long-ish weekend to celebrate 30 years of armed truce lawful wedded bliss. It wasn't long enough to properly see and enjoy the place but we did get about a little, had a couple of great meals and on the Saturday night there was a bloke playing guitar and singing, just the way I wish I could. But second best is hearing someone else do it well and third best is something recorded. Gimme live any day.

On the way back we called on some good friends who live just west of Gympie. Had a great lunch and one (light) beer on their balcony overlooking the Mary River valley. Grass, trees, cows, bucolic and restful. They are downstream of the proposed dam at Traveston crossing. There are plenty of anti-dam placards on the roads around Gympie so it will be highly exciting to watch the citizenry rise up against the government - particularly in view of their fondness for guns in that part of the world....

At the same time work has been relatively busy, which has meant bringing a little work home, something that I haven't had to do for a while. And it's about to get a whole lot busier with some big stuff coming down the pipeline, which will be quite exciting.

And to add to all that, the elderly relative has gone into hospital and this time he won't be coming home again. Through the unflagging efforts of Mrs v v b, we were able to keep him at home with us much longer than many families would have been able to manage. However, the latest decline in his condition has got me a bit reflective and is not conducive to blogging, certainly without getting far too personal to be either interesting or even digestible for the casual reader.

In response to my request begging, v v b is now listed at Catallaxy. Ideologically, a less compatible site would be hard to imagine. I enjoy the discussion at Catallaxy but the endless parrying about the influence of Karl Popper and similar luminaries simply reminds me of arguments about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. Like pure socialism, pure libertarianism appeals for policy purity, but who'd vote for it? The gut level repugnance is what I feel and I imagine I wouldn't be Robinson Crusoe. Anyway, good luck to them and if they want to invite people to link, then this is what they get. However, I did promise to try harder.

In fact, my sadness - cunningly disguised as Vesuvian anger - at what the mendacious little turd (link superfluous) has been up to lately, has in fact led me to boycott the news. The ABC, now in fear for its existence, has become an Australian Pravda in its relentless boosting of the nation's 'leader' and his every thought. Puke. No more. The rest of media just laps up every diversion and inanity the Libs toss out, so there's no relief in perusing the commentariat. We'll be turning to hearth and home here at v v b, particularly the hearth, as the evening temperature drops and warm fires and warm pussycats become more attractive.

Now we're all up to date, the next post will be another in the series of motor cars we have owned. Over at
Larvatus Prodeo, discussion of soft top cars in cooler weather reminded me of driving my old Datsun Fairlady around Canberra, in the middle of winter, with the top down, so we might cover that one next.

16 May 2006

baby you can drive my car part the third

Because I wasn't happy with all the photos of the models, and I haven't got around to taking any more, we are now going to move out of sequence. The next car was a 1964 Mini Cooper (998cc long stroke version), but we will move on to the one that came after that, which was a 1964-ish Austin Freeway station wagon. I can't imagine what possessed me to want a wagon - maybe all those girls I'd get in the back, ha ha - but that's what we got. It was in fact in pristine condition with that special 1960s new vinyl smell. I eventually sold it to a school mate some time later. In common with all Freeways it was as slow as a wet weekend. I did get the head shaved and put a set of extractors on it which made no noticeable difference to the get-up-and-go at all. It did have good anchors, though, which proved helpful once when coming back from a weekend trip to Sydney with the lads and I came on the back of a slow-moving Holden just the Sydney side of Goulburn. "Your bloody precious EHs would never have pulled us up in time!" I gloated to my Holden-loving load of suddenly-pale passengers, which may or may not have been an accurate statement.

Some years later when my second Triumph, a Mk2 2.5PI was hors de combat after I attempted to ford a flooded river in it - forgetting at the crucial time that the air-intake was a hose about 6 inches off the deck, so it snuffled up a great gob load of H2O and bent all the rods - I bought a
Wolseley 24/80 (scroll down for the pic) as a temporary runabout. The 24/80 was of course the upmarket badged version of the Freeway, with leather seats and all. I called this one Eric the Half a Car, for reasons which will be immediately apparent to all Python lovers. For a car that was quite old and extremely decrepit, this was quite a good 'un - only let me down once (starter motor). It got fearfully abused: my favourite trick on the dirt roads around Canberra was to come howling (well, floating) into a corner and flatten the accelerator and brake simultaneously, it being an automatic. You could get a nice sort of drift going, accompanied by "please make him stop" sounds from the Borg Warner 35 'box.

And then some years later again, I bought another Freeway as wife-to-be and I attempted to scrounge money for our new lives together. I had a warm-ish Mini K at the time and the Freeway was a good deal cheaper, but I only kept it a few months before getting a Morris 1100. Not about saving money at all, more about the fact that I just liked to change cars regularly. Which is why I've owned over 30. And you will have noticed already that I kept changing them for the SAME sorts of cars. I owned three Minis in all, too.

The model pictured is in fact of a Morris Oxford Mk6, but the body shape is generally the same as the Freeway except in details like the grille, tail fins etc. These weren't released in Australia, we got the Austin version (the A60). BMC adapted the A60 to cater for the Australian predeliction for 6 cylinder cars by adding 2 cylinders to the then current version of its B series motor, making a 6 cylinder of 2.4 litres. With a 4 bearing crank, they often used to run the rear main bearing. I sometimes see a Wolseley for sale on eBay and start to think "what about it", but usually someone hits me before I do anything rash.

14 May 2006

any old iron?

Do you remember this old music hall melody?

"Any old iron? Any old iron?

Any, any, any old iron?
You look neat. Talk about a treat!
You look so dapper from your napper to your feet,
Dressed in style, brand-new tile,
And your father's old green tie on,
But I wouldn't give you tuppence for your old watch and chain,
Old iron, old iron."

I am reminded of this today because it's the annual Brisbane City Council
kerbside clean-up for our (leafy, western) suburb this week. Early on my daughter put out an old TV that's she's been carting around in the back of her car for about 3 months and I put out a push (hand) mower. We went out this arvo for a couple of hours and when we got back, someone's taken (ie unbolted) the handles off the mower but the rest of it is still there. Amazing - well, to my mind at least.

We've subsequently added to the pile with some old cabinetry, a couple of chairs, a computer printer, some metal offcuts, an outdoors table and an upright freezer. We should run a book on what goes to scavengers and what the council takes, including whether they actually take the freezer.

Update day 1: Someone took the freeezer! If I'd had money on, I would have lost. We are now officially below the stipulated 2cbm mark. We'll need to find some extra stuff to put out. Chris, the neighbours have plenty of metal stuff too.

12 May 2006

the end of the innocence

Warning: Rodent alert. I know I said I wouldn't do any more posts on him, but...

I was driving home tonight with the execrable Don Henley's faux-emo wailings in my ears. I blame Fred Robertson entirely for making me a Henley-hugger. Whenever I need a good cry, there he is...

But I heard the following words:

"They're beating ploughshares into swords,
For this tired old man that we elected king."

And I thought, yeah, that's about right. We're in a war we didn't get a say on, he was elected but he acts like a monarch. And tired? How can someone make comments about the Beaconsfield miners and still sound so whiny and irritated?

OK, that's out of the system. It seemed much...deeper...at the time. That's what Henley does to you.

11 May 2006

time and a word

There's an amazing number of songs with the word 'time' in the title. I'm sure there's a PhD in analysing the number of times various words appear in popular song titles - apart from 'baby', of course - and drawing some relationships to particular themes in human nature. However, from a start like that, it certainly won't be me.

Got off topic from the word go, there. The need for a reason for a reference to 'time' was to relate to the continuing blogparalysis, although this is caused by various things apart from not knowing what to write. And the point I would have made, were it not for the random intrusion of thinking about why certain words appear more frequently than others in song titles, was that I got plenty of time - plenty, you hear me - and we'll be right back at it shortly. Not 'presently'.

In fact I nearly used 'Let the good times roll' as this kind of sums up the current mood. Whenever I start to feel down, I seem to run across somebody who lifts the mood, whether through a joke or just something insightful that makes you go "yeah, that's right." And walk away smiling. In fact I'd probably be hard pressed to identify any more substantial reason why the good times are rolling.

Anyway normal service will be resumed shortly.

06 May 2006

doing the cockroach

Here's some brain food (eeeugh - sorry about that, as you will see) to mull over. Via the Rae St Institute.

PS: not a song title I was familiar with (I looked it up), it's apparently by Modest Mouse.

baby you can drive my car pt 2

The circumstances that precipitated the sale of the A30 and the acquisition of the mighty Morris Isis had been in the making for some time. My maternal grandfather owned a 1959 Austin A95, bought at the behest of my father as we were in the BMC business at the time. When the grandfather passed away in 1968, my father's ride was a 1958 Morris Isis, bought from some bloke in Lithgow to whom he had sold it new all those years before. He'd had his eye on it for some time and when he finally sold out of the business in 1966 and no longer had access to a car off the used car lot, he bought the Isis. And now he'd bought the A95 out of grandfather's estate. So I sold the A30 and bought the Isis from him for only a little less than he'd paid for it. Tight old bastard.

The Isis soon became a cult car at school. The ignition switch was so worn that virtually any key - even off a Suzuki 90cc - would fit and I often came out at recess and the car would have been 'borrowed' to go to the shops. The Isis's main attributes were its immense size inside - many people would have memories of having been one of 7 or 8 to have been carried somewhere - and its torsion bar front suspension, which resulted in a soft ride but truly alarming amounts of lean during cornering.

This being back during the days of very detailed annual vehicle testing by the ACT government's own staff, the annual trip over the pits was dreaded by those owning older cars. One year I was sitting in the car while the tester poked and prodded at it from in the pit, testing for rust. All of a sudden this bloody great screwdriver came straight through the floor and appeared between my feet. This was fixed by the old man going to the dump and retrieving a refrigerator door, cutting out a piece the right size and welding it in.

Being a young bloke, inevitably I had to test how fast it would go so one day a good mate and I took it out on to the Federal Highway. We got an indicated 90 mph, shortly afterwards followed by a distinct unwillingness to go. At all. And a very hot smell from under the bonnet. We eventually got it home by driving very short distances until it stopped, waiting for it to cool and then doing it all again.

And that's how we learnt about
Welsh plugs. After that it always had a knock as a result of a damaged ring land.

Eventually I decided I wanted something a bit more modern and traded the Isis on a 1964 Mini Cooper. The Isis was sold quite quickly to a young bloke who soon afterwards killed himself in it by running into a tree. My father had put seat belts in it but the steering column was rigid and extended way into the cabin - he had no chance. However the circumstances were quite odd, as it seemed his girlfriend was watching from the kerb at the time and the accident was reported on the front page of the Canberra Times.

The model is of a series 2 Isis rather than the series 1 that I owned. It's a handmade white metal model from
Spa Croft in the UK as there aren't any made in the more usual (and cheaper) die cast style. Note the Morris Oxford on the Spa Croft page - essentially the same car but with a shorter wheelbase and bonnet to the Isis, and a 4 cylinder motor rather than the Isis's 6 cylinder C series that it shared with the Austin A90 and A95 and the Morris Marshall. In fact only 12,000 Ises were ever made.

05 May 2006

here there and everywhere

Occasional visitors to this site will have noticed that the frequency of posting has dropped off a bit. And given that two 'friends' - yeah, I know - asked me just today "how's your blog going", it's evident that visitation is probably less than "occasional".

Truth is that I've found it hard going again, even after the fillip of being linked by
Adrian the Cabbie. Even though I don't like conservatives - well actually I feel differently about conservatives - I just can't keep whingeing about the lying sack of shit all the time. Just as I have been obliged to give up swearing at the TV every time - and believe me that's something that is becoming more frequent - the little f**ker appears. Those posts become boring and do not Make a Difference (more on Making a Difference later).

Similarlywise, I have yet to light on a theme that readers, however occasional, might find interesting. Work could provide some opportunities. Today I had to undertake very important duties, by signing off documents for my boss who was away. This brought me directly into contact with People who think that all Nouns and even some Other Words should be prefaced by Capitals because this is a Very Important Way of Writing. Evidently if you are talking about an Evident Trend in Society, this also requires Capitals because - I suppose, I have no idea really - one day that phrase might be copyrighted and we would have to pay it Appropriate Attention.

When this happens I usually sign off the document provided it's factually accurate and meets all other requirements, because just being Full Of Capitals isn't really an impediment to the Reader's Comprehension and it's stupid to send it back for editing. However, I always put a Post-It note on which says "We are not Germans". And wait for the inevitable phone call from some confused functionary asking "what do you mean?" Trying to stem what seems to be a very widespread trend across the country (no doubt caused by the postmodernisation of the school curriculum) from my little desk is another matter.

Actually today's been really good in that in between various meetings that actually produced quick outcomes and decisions, I've been able to catch up with a few people who always give me pleasure and with whom I can have a genuine Deep and Meaningful ©. These have included:
  • the reflective partner. He and I have some things in common and much not, but are able to ask each other the hard questions and get an honest answer. We have a running competition about the stupidest work-related occurrence of the week. He always wins.
  • bastards from Treasury. Relentless point-scoring with sarcasm and irony winning over authenticity. I got a couple of points today by pointing out that we are benefitting from some classic Howard middle-class welfare (in-home help for the old man) but with the luxury of voting Labor as we are in a very safe Liberal seat. I am true to myself but have no ethics.
  • lunch with a former workmate visiting from his current home overseas. This with a few other former colleagues and the young bloke who is also visiting from interstate. All good.
  • a consultant mate with whom I can now have a good conversation without feeling the need to have some pseudo (in my case) verbal sparring. It's a pleasure to talk to this bloke and moreso to listen to him engage with others as he has a colossal repertoire of interpersonal skills (some might be better described as 'tricks') and it's an education to see him deploy them. That said, he's utterly authentic, true to himself and ethical. Compare with comments above.
  • finally, Mr Unguarded Moment. We can analyse the world - and do so frequently - but trying to Make a Difference © is another matter. A source of endless conversation. Both he and reflective partner are a fund of stories about worlds that I don't know so it's always an education.
Some of the above might seem a bit Delphic but I do need to (semi) protect identities.

Particularly as visitation is sparse and people might recognise each other. Have you?

01 May 2006

baby you can drive my car #1

Some time ago I thought I'd start a series of posts on my model collection. The models are of all the cars I've owned over the years. Of course all of those cars have a story attached, so sit comfortably, start to think about another place and time and here we go.

Oh, before we start, will we do them in chronological order or some other category? We might start at the beginning but, understanding that consistency is admirable in itself but hard to do, we may wander from the ordained path before long.

The first car I owned was a 1956 Austin A30 two door, bought in 1968 a couple of months before I got my licence at 17. The model is in fact an A35 but there was little difference. The two door versions were somewhat rarer at the time as I recall. The car cost me $70 from Larke Hoskins in Mort St, Braddon in Canberra. My uncle was still in the motor business at the time so he gave me some parts for my 17th birthday and the old man rebuilt the motor with me watching intently. That the family was in the motor business and that I got all interested in cars will become more evident as we progress through all the models. Along with how little I learned.

We registered it and I drove it for all of two months before the opportunity arose to replace it. You'll need to wait for part 2 for that bit.

But other memories associated with the car? Well, it did have rubbishy old floor mats which I replaced with some offcuts of the carpet my folks had just recarpeted the house with. This was called "Tintawn" and was Irish - it was also a commercial grade carpet that was perfect for cars - and, possibly, roadways - but hurt like crazy to sit or lie on. It was, no kidding, like a mix of steel wool and barbed wire. Aslo, apparently the parents of my girlfriend at the time had a deep and meaningful about whether she would be allowed to go in the car with me. That permission was given was, just possibly, more related to fact that the A30 was good for all of 64 mph top speed (tested once!) than any personal attributes I may or may not have demonstrated.

The A30 was sold for $275, the only car I ever made money on (thanks to uncle and the gift of parts). Any A30 will now cost you around $3000. There is little reason that I can readily put my finger on why anyone would want one when you can have an Austin Healy Sprite - essentially the same car - for not much more.

tea and sympathy

It looks like young budding scientists really do look up to role models. This, from today's SMH:

Girl's deadly blog
May 1, 2006 - 2:35PM
A teenage Japanese girl who gradually poisoned her mother into a coma while keeping a blog about her worsening health will be sent for treatment in a reformatory, a court official said today.
The girl avoided a criminal trial after admitting attempting to murder her mother last year using thallium, sometimes found in rat poison, according to an official at the family court in Shizuoka, 150 kilometres west of Tokyo.
After the mother was taken to hospital last October, the 17-year-old continued to attempt to poison her tea and took pictures of her in a coma, media reports said.
The mother has not recovered consciousness.
Investigators searching the girl's room after her arrest found animal parts preserved in formaldehyde along with a copy of a book about Graham Young, a British serial killer convicted of poisoning dozens of people in the 1960s and 1970s, newspapers said.
The daughter, a bright chemistry student, idolised Young, reports said.
The girl obtained the thallium from a local drugstore by saying she intended to use it in a school chemistry experiment, media reports said. She also appears to have poisoned herself in an effort to evade suspicion, newspapers said.
"She has switched from denying to admitting her deeds," Judge Hiroyuki Anegawa said in a statement reported by Kyodo news agency. "She is on the threshold of facing up to the seriousness of what she has done, and we can anticipate that corrective education will be effective."

Yay, go scientists! Especially those who don't like their parents.

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