30 September 2006
The Kazakhs should get Cohen on the payroll. Anything he did for them would be more effective than "where the bloody hell are you" in attracting tourists (I loved the comment that this would have been an effective advertisement for deaf people!).
Back to the article on Borat, as I read the last excerpt I suddenly started getting images with Margaret Whitlam and Janette Howard. Deeply disturbing!
29 September 2006
Update: See, it's true.
When the government doesn't own Telstra, then it can complain about removal of phone boxes without fear of being called hypocrites. At the moment, that's what they are.
This story about AMEX bringing in workers below the stipluated wage rate could become exquisite. I read somewhere that Kevin Andrews is seen as not being very good at selling the government's message on WorkChoiceLess. Why on earth doesn't someone ask whether the problem is actually with the 'message' itself? Like, that it's, like, bad?
Anyway, enough with the whinges already. Today provided some exquisite (also, again) irony. I got a letter saying I have permanency again, having relinquished it some years ago. On the same day the law says I can retire. Now, that's a true choice. Kevin, Kevin, maaaaate, talk to me about choices.
I'm off, this is ridiculous.
Sorry, it's actually preposterous. Yep, preposterous.
27 September 2006
LeftWrites has a fabulous piece of analysis about the close connections between the Global War on Terror (tm) and what we used to do to witches ("build a bridge out of her!"). What this article demonstrates to me mainly is how traits in human behaviour stay consistent through the ages. It's a bit of a stretch to think that those currently propagating the GWOT - ie the supposed response, not the terrorism bit - did any research on witches and how they represented an earlier type of terrorism, but the responses are remarkably similar.
Margaret Whitlam lets a few volleys go. What a woman!
Finally, brew number 10, a Morgans Australian Bitter, has been bubbling slowly but steadily downstairs for the last three days. All the signs are positive. I need someone to cast a spell to ensure it's a good'un...maybe a witch?
26 September 2006
Former adviser won't influence Telstra board, says serial liar. Yeah whatever. We're all mushrooms, feed us another one.
Truth will out. I love the smell of executive fear in the morning.
Beats writing about bloody motor cars, eh?
I've been listening to this Lucinda Willams CD on the car stereo. Kicks arse.
25 September 2006
Just doing the evening blog rounds and cleaning up the desk area a bit and I ran across a couple of photos. So, rather than the ongoing public exposition of trying to justify - no, make that define - my beliefs, which is ongoing because they keep changing in a grey-on-grey world, let's just slip back to, oooh, about 1974. Looks like a Sunday afternoon in sunny Belconnen ACT, maybe we could have trimmed the edges of the grass on the footpath. Or we could have gone and drunk some beer.
On the left, my 1970 Triumph 2.5Pi, post engine rebuild because it's got the second set of plates on it. On the right, a 1968 Triumph TR5 belonging to a housemate. It was the same colour as the sedan (dark blue). Today, the Pi in resaonable nick would be worth about $3000. The TR5? In similar condition, about $25000, as only a few were built and imported to Oz.
I backtraded the Pi on a warmed-over Mini K and he traded the TR on a Datsun 240Z.
Oh to be young and fancy free.
24 September 2006
I've referred to Top Gear a few times in this blog. It's a fabulous program, Jeremy Clarkson is my favourite Tory (look at him snipe at UK Labor today) * and even Mrs VVB likes it.
But I was quite amazed to see the comment thread on the Spin Starts Here, which is in my view Ozblogistan's snark central - not that there's anything wrong with that, it's a dirty job but someone has to do it - with all the positive comments on Top Gear and how many people watch it. I guess I'd made some assumptions about TSSH's regular commentariat, based on the usual topics examined in that particular part of the interwebs, that simply didn't hold true for the bizarro boyos of Top Gear and their singular pursuit of the best fun you can have sitting down. Actually, they're not so bizarro: if there's one thing that makes Top Gear stand out, it's entirely unaffected way that Clarkson, Hamilton and James May relate to each other. In fact, ever since I heard about Hamilton's accident, I'd been thinking how much I like him because (a) he's about 5 metres shorter than Clarkson and May but doesn't let that get in the way, because (b) he's always taking the opposite view to Clarkson on any issue that they're arguing about. It makes for genuinely involving television. And it's about cars!
(*) Look, if I don't win Lotto next weekend, can one of you dedicated readers spot me about $195G? I simply have to have an Audi RS4. I have yet to read a bad review. Even Clarkson couldn't find a fault.
to 'the left', there is nothing that cannot be achieved through a centrally-dictated, mechanistic approach to contolling what institutions do - this story about the (probably, one hopes) unintended consequences of targets and performance measurement in UK schools and hospitals gives a fabulous insight into what happens when governments can't clearly articulate what results they want from their spending;
to 'the right', there's nothing that cannot be achieved through brutality - the unintended consequence here is to one's own people who have to administer "the programme".
23 September 2006
Today another friend e-mails me to say that she'd given herself ten years in her current work environment, but the signs are that there's not a lot of interest in new ideas or good research. So she's looking to move on. A young family that she'd like to spend more time with, the potential to be self-employed and trade on her reputation in her field, and a lot less daily bullshit. Sounds tempting.
Another work colleague into whose office I poked my nose earlier in the week asked me what I was going to do, as a few other friends do from time to time.
Some of these people probably don't need to worry too much where the next quid is coming from, but some do. Certainly the effects of a buoyant economy include the increasing choice of what you can spend your time doing.
Rather than the economic perspective, it's more the personal that I am finding intriguing although the links are inevitable. Looking for self-actualisation, some greater feeling of being valued, as well as flexibility or lifestyle or whatever, seems to be driving some of these decisions. However, the economic imperatives around us will influence what we do. For example, after a period where people seemed to be retiring earlier, now we might need to work for longer: for example, as home ownership becomes more difficult for many Gen Xers, the oldies might need to lend a hand. Only the privileged would be able to do this on a retirement income.
Certainly, many don't want to retire anyway but would rather take on some part time or voluntary work.
I see I have quite quickly strayed from my original story about people changing jobs for a better balance between income and sanity, and retirement. The balance between income and sanity has always been with us I guess: the truly passionate/devoted can follow their dreams and live on gruel, the rest of us have to get on the treadmill to a greater degree. Seems like a few are looking for a better treadmill, though.
Finally, when you work for the rich and famous it's almost inevitable you're going to get it in the neck sooner or later. I was tickled by this little story from the SMH - sounds like Mrs Murdoch has her own way of parlaying her influence:
'Not many people can influence Rupert Murdoch. And there's only one Wendi Deng in the world. A Los Angeles Times report this week paints an interesting image of Deng's role in the multibillion-dollar empire of her husband, Rupy. "Deng's effect on Murdoch also should not be underestimated," the paper reports. " Deng, who is of Chinese descent, hired feng shui experts to rid the [Murdoch-owned Direct TV] El Segundo headquarters of bad vibes. Murdoch had installed a new president, but the feng shui experts felt his office overlooking the ocean and the mountains was unlucky. So he was moved to an office with a view of a parking garage and a sewage treatment plant."'
20 September 2006
Instead, here are a couple of songs that always used to make me feel good and, by jingo, they still do. Dave Clark 5
and this one holds a special memory for me, believe it or not... young love
Erk. Banish those thoughts immediatement.
I started writing a whole heap of other mumbo-jumbo about my distorted thought processes but it was boring boring boring so fortunately for all concerned it got canned.
19 September 2006
El Gran Goos
Born under a lettuce leaf in outer Mesopotamia in the year of the Aadvaark. Schooled with a strap right across *his* back, he found early success in arranging sandwich ingredients in alphabetical order. After a rapid rise to the position of OIC Dust (and Mites), he finally found fame as the bloke you hang your hat on when you're home (or away). After a spell in the regions, and then the hospital, he can now be found building sand castles and ordering around people smaller than himself. Loved by all that have never met him and avoided assiduously by those who have, his life goal is to be a paperweight. Wet wet wet.
Awarded honourary degrees in anthropology, chicken-sexing and obfuscation before the age of 5, his first job was to sort the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, and children from their legally appointed guardians. He was so successful at this latter task that he spent nearly a decade behind reinforced glass and barbed wire, just so the rest of the team could meet their targets. A short spell in the bovine industry saw him turn his talents to driving genuine God-fearing country people out of their ancestral properties while simultaneously preaching to them the virtues of starvation and recycling air. Never short of an opinion on damn near everything, his contribution to *the project* will be to render the minutes meaningless. Obsessive about *family values*, although his own offspring are notorious for being rude to their elders.
Neither of this pair is to trusted with anything more significant than the biscuit tray. "Outcomes?" "Results?" "Never met one I couldn't avoid!"
People have less to fear than they think.
15 September 2006
A rare burst of levity in the drab VVB suburban lifestyle will occur tomorrow night: we is going to a party! What fun! It will take some dedicated efort to remember what to do. Fortunately the invitation said "bring musical instruments" so I simply have to remember to take the guitar and not the piano accordian.
Speaking of stomach Steinways brings us back the old man, who went to school with this chap, and who only outlived dad by a couple of months. Apparently Saffron was a 'colourful character' even in his school days from what dad used to say.
16 September...I've just remembered what it was I was going to write about and boy, is it ever ironic.
I was in a CBD supermarket at lunchtime yesterday. This market has a double row of cashiers to both the left and right of the head of the curly queue of shoppers, so the cashiers call out "next" when they are free for the next customer. When my turn came, I heard the call but couldn't discern which direction it came from. I turned left but, seeing no cashier with a hand raised, I turned right only to see a young (about 20-ish) person rushing off to 'my' cashier. Too late! I had to wait for the next one who, fortunately, was in my field of vision.
Having successfully concluded the transaction and while walking back to work, I was thinking that I hadn't expected this kind of situation until I was maybe in my 70s: certainly not my mid-50s. I didn't even think badly of the person who simply took advantage of my mistake - it's a dog-eat-dog world and I no longer expect any kind of community spirit or recognition of others' interests. I guess what's really sad about that is that we are so individually oriented.
There must be more people about with what used to be called 'manners' I suppose, but we no longer give that kind of behaviour the emphasis we once did. So what's ironic is that the poor old brain took a day to remember the incident but also, now that the story has been recounted, I sound really old-fashioned. Which was not the intention but may be the insight. Far too heavy for a Saturday, will leave it to mull over for a couple of decades.
13 September 2006
The dynamics at the table were interesting. We had two young female students and, of the invited experts, two male and one female. The female (no names to protect the guilty, especially those with blogs - unless you wish to identify yourself;-) ) seemed to enter into a good conversation with the students quite quickly and it took some determined effort on the part of the blokes to make their points. That said, there was a high level of courtesy displayed and when someone started to talk, the others took turns to listen and, where appropriate, respond or add to the points being made. Quite refreshing, really.
Given that all the experts - you don't mind being called that, I hope? - had substantial knowledge of the main issues as well as the related ones that arose - pricing policies, land use, sustainability, ensuring equitable outcomes in a social policy sense, resource use and so on - it was a pretty full-on discussion and I think the students were pretty blown away by the depth and complexity revealed as well as nonchalance (?) with which all this knowledge was delivered.
The lecturer who set the question apparently has a reputation as a hard marker so anything less than a 7 will probably result in several aggrieved people seeking revenge (on behalf of the principals).
Early on, one interesting issue arose in trying to define "institutional infrastructure", the phrase used in the assignment question. Seems it doesn't pop up on Google and while we all agreed it probably meant governance, it was also apparent that the students would need to define it very carefully up front. Apparently that issue has been a trap with this assignment in previous years.
Now the girls have the hard task of making sense of all the stuff and actually doing the assignment, while the rest of us wait with some measure of interest.
All in all a good outcome and it only cost me an arm and a leg for coffees for all (several coffees, in fact). We were all pumped when it was over, and the caffeine probably rated up there with the intensity of the conversation as the likely cause.
Thanks to all.
12 September 2006
(a little later)
The IMF and World Bank meet in Singapore, the Singaporean authorities ban several NGO observers. No surprises there, that what the authorities of authoritarian states do. What grabbed my attention though was this: 16000 delegates? WTF? How many countries are members of those two august bodies? FFS, what on earth are all those people going to do?
I don't know where White stands in the policy firmament in Oz. His bio lists his positions under the former Keating government, his inaugural position at the School of Strategic Studies and then some time in Defence under the current government. If he's out of favour now, maybe that explains the somewhat contrarian (to the endorsed official, you know what that means) view he espouses. Good for contrarians, we need lots more. It's a shame we don't seem to get more of this depth of analysis, too.
I'm going to have mega fun tomorrow. Offpsring number two has a uni assignment that - once you burrow under the several tons of pseudo-po-mo wankery in which it is couched, is about how to take account of greenhouse in urban planning and design. To give her and her project group some insights I have assembled a small band of my policy mates, all of whom have firm views (including on pseudo-academic wankery) but also on issues such as this. Several have not met each other, to the best of my knowledge, and are of exceptionally strong character, shall we say. There will be fireworks (I hope), leading to (I also hope) some good insights into the policy dilemmas the assignment hints at. Nothing like a good argument.
*No, this five years, silly.
11 September 2006
Sometime over the past few weeks the intensity of the arguments I see and hear around me seem to be escalating, people retreating even further (if that were possible) into predetermined positions, the possibility of hope seems to be a will-o-the-wisp on the horizon.
What brings on such a negative posture? Wish I knew. Everything else is proceeding as to plan around the VVB family: new toilets installed today, isn't that wonderful?
Maybe it's just the blogosphere because real life - ie real real life - still seems OK, ie everyone around the personal space is still operating according to Hoyle. Maybe it's some random chemical imbalance brought about by coughing for two weeks straight. Can't be good for you.
This is pointless. I'm going to talk to the cat.
(a little while later)
Oh all right, I'll cheer up. Consistent with the name and implied mission of this little blog, I went looking for something that might bear reporting and, in the food review section of the Times of London, I find this:
Now clubs are sprouting all over. Every other pressand this:
release for a West End restaurant boasts a members-only bar or attic for smoking
cigars and licking the ears of Moldovan hookers.
The brasserie starts with breakfast and shimmies into lunch, then dinner and
supper, so you could waste an entire day here. I started with imam bayildi,
because I’m trying to overcome my blackballing of aubergines. It was pretty good
for an eggplant, though I wouldn’t want my chicken to marry one. The kids had
crispy squid, which they tricely scarfed. Mother had tuna tartare, a big plate
of cold, dead, maroon fish, the point of which escaped me, but which she liked.
Ally had a lobster, which kept him happy for hours, like edible Meccano. Flora
ate eggs benedict as if it were her last meal (and it probably will be — as far
as I can tell, it’s all she eats). Mother had a suckling-pig sandwich that we
oinked would be an Italian porchetta, but turned out to be heartily paved with
granary bread and was a bit like trying to eat a small Cotswold cottage.
Now this is all good stuff, in a look-at-me-aren't-I-clever sort of way. The same as the wonderful Mr Clarkson, who writes for the same rag, if the Thunderer can be called a rag. That style of writing appeals to the look-at-me-aren't-I-clever bit of me, a bit which has never been satisfactorily vanquished. Mr Searle attempted to do this in year 11, as I recall, when he asked us to bring in examples of what we thought was good writing. Proving once and for all that I have not progressed one whit in all those 40 years, I brought in something from Modern Motor which was all how-clever-look-at-me. Mr Searle then slowly and meticulously demolished it in front of the entire English class. I thought I'd learnt then but evidently, no.
I still reckon you don't get people who can write such obscure yet poignant and wonderfully illuminating phrases in most Australian writing. Well, in the motoring and food columns anyway.
What's the point? It's all about looking forthe small things that keep us going when all around us is turning to poo. Speaking of which, the new toilet works fine. What a relief.
10 September 2006
But I've also got a bit tired (again) of blogging, even to the extent of not doing the rounds of my faves as much as I used. The arguments are by and large getting a bit tired; the extreme drives out the considered; and some of the good ones have disappeared into the ether.
I was going to do a link to the online furore about the program about to be aired on 9/11, and there you go, I've done it. I'm not surprised about stories of secret cabals within Hollywood seeking to institutionalise a 'right-wing', 'Christian' agenda against the usual claims of the film industry's left-wing bias. The reason I'm not surprised is that, while I subscribe to the dictum that "if it's a choice between a stuff-up and a conspiracy, go for the stuff-up every time", I'm still a sucker for a good conspiracy theory.
On another tack entirely, my favourite Tory lists his favourite cars. It's a shame that most are in the prohibitively expensive category but very revealing that the Vauxhall (nee Holden) Monaro gets a guernsey. On that particular episode of Top Gear, the Munro beat the S-type Jag and the Chrysler 300C over a series of objective and subjective criteria. If you've never seen Top Gear then do yourself a favour (as Molly used to say) and watch it. Even Mrs VVB, never much enamoured of motor cars (mainly because of the thousands I have thrown away on them) is a fan. What more can I say.
Well, nothing, really.
05 September 2006
Michael Pascoe writes:
It’s not hard to form the opinion that Alinta CEO Bob Browning seems to favour a rather greedy corporate culture. Perhaps in America, it would be called "ambitious" rather than "greedy", but you get the drift.
For a start there’s Alinta's’s outrageous fee gouge, nicely documented by Alan Kohler – it makes Macquarie Bank and Babcock & Brown look like charities. Then there’s the swifty Alinta is trying to pull over the ACCC with its APT game, whereby it
gives an undertaking to get its AGL deal done and then tries to renege.
And now Alinta’s Browning is being held up as a prime example of how CEOs are copping much bigger remuneration than their shareholders are being told about.
A study by governance advisers ISS Australia highlights how CEOs at the biggest companies are, on average, getting $2.5 million more than their shareholders know about it via a serious mismatch between the disclosed "fair value" of options in annual reports and what they are actually worth. Exhibit A, CEO Bob:
An example was Alinta, where the value of 40,000 options exercised by chief executive Bob Browning last year was 33.4 times the fair value placed on the options in the 2003 annual report.
The report disclosed a "fair value" per option of 20¢, which put a total value on the tranche at $8000. Mr Browning actually made $6.68 per option, exercising them at $4.52 each in 2005 when Alinta shares were trading at $11.20.
Somehow, one is not surprised. Among the other examples, BlueScope’s Kirby Adams picked up $4.4 million on options valued at $480,690 and Axa’s Les Owen’s $166, 650 "worth" of options actually came in at $1.6 million.
Now, let’s hear it again from some CEOs about how costs must be curtailed and the rising price of labour is a bad thing, never mind a lecture on the sanctity of transparency and disclosure.
There's no need to go into the details of how CEO salaries are set by boards on the advice of 'remuneration consultants' who are in on the joke, while the factory floor/front desk wages are set by cost competition downwards. But once you get to a level where you have control over the mechanisms, such as choice of accounting models and exactly how much gets disclosed, you are in a very privileged position. What the story describes is theft, nothing more or less. Stealing. Bring back the stocks, I say!
On the TV behind me, Tony Abbott is trying to justify the proposed sale of Medibank Private. As do many other lummoxes out here in the 'burbs I wonder: what happens when we've sold off everything and then government's have no ready made easy fixes to their inability to manage a budget? The story on the TV has just been rooned by the sound of the year 12 debater, Kim Beazley, speaking slowly, deliberately and unconvincingly about the issue. I've heard pieces of rock with greater persuasive powers.
03 September 2006
There's a stack of work to be done and I can't raise the energy to even think about the issues: I did manage to type out a summary page of some budget figures that will contribute to thinking at some future time. I hope tomorrow I'll feel better.
A few things have struck the consciousness over the weekend that I could have commented on, but the only one that remains was what Costello said at Don Chipp's funeral: something about how all Victorians would be sorry at Chipp's passing. "Victorians?" What bloody stupid thought process leads to that? Is he campaigning in the Victorian elections (well yes, but even so...). Bloody weird.
And as for this - does he realise that there might actually be some tension between members/users (who want low costs and premiums) and shareholders (who want profits, generfated through higher premiums)? The most ideological government since Whitlam.
Fortunately here in sunny Queensland we don't need none of that there ideology, as the campaign ads for both Labor and the Coalition demonstrate. Talk about amateur hour. What a waste of money.
Finally, I was looking for something that I thought I had read earlier but got this instead. Why baboons make poor CEOs, or some other conclusion you may wish to draw.
01 September 2006
However, on Wednesday I was a little closer to usual bedtime as a result of having been out to deliver the future, optimism and daily grind talk to another bunch of grateful folks. Well, that's my story...
Anyway, when I'm sufficiently back to normal to recommence posting, there'll be a few changes around these here parts. I'll fiddle with the profile and taglines a bit (and thanks to those who made such suggestions) in order to rid this little blog of any propensity to diss the dwarf (or perhaps pummel the pigmy): that, I will leave to comments elsewhere.