31 July 2007

doo doo doo looking fair go out my back door

What is it with these Kevin Rudd ads (he said, the dulcet sounds of our alternate PM attempting to be inspirational and reasonable in the background).

"The fair go has gone out the back door."

"Sick 'im Kev."

Look Kev, I don't want the whining PM and I don;t want you either. I want "the following program is chock-a-block with sex and violence, and should only be watched by the terminally disaffected."

Actually, I thought that overt political ads (ie not including WorkChoices) were limited to once writs had been issued?

As you might have guessed, P2B = nil. Got home from a work-related do at 8.30, said function did not repeat not offer alcohol, so that's a been a long day.

29 July 2007

leaving on a jet plane

"His lawyers indicated to my department ... that he wanted to get out of Australia as soon as possible. If anything that rather heightens, rather than lessens, my suspicions."

Really, 'Minister'? How about that he's just been through an unconstitutional application of executive power? Dressed in Guantanamo orange (what signal do you think that sent him? I bet it's deliberate). He's got a new baby he hasn't seen? His lease has been torn up and he has no home here?

Don't you reckon he might quite justifiably be trying to put as much Indian Ocean between himself, his family and the wide brown land as he can?

If you genuinely believe what you said, you're a disgrace. Not that we didn't know that already. And while you're at it, what part of the Christian creed you're so devoted to supports that particular view of the world, where everybody is guilty until proven innocent, but still guilty? Nice one.

It's Andrews overboard, watch Howard let him go. That'll be a shame, it's hard to find parliamentarians as extremely socially conservative as the PM and Hyacinth, and Andrews filled the bill perfectly. Howard will be very upset. The people will be picking up on this, make no mistake. "First they came for..."

Good thing. Stew in it, you destroyer.

**I'm stumped for a musical reference title. I could use "Yours is no disgrace" again and strikethrough on "no", but that's piss poor. There are some very applicable song names with "scum" in the title but while that's how I feel, it just diminishes me too.

Update: gave it a title. And found this cartoon at the Canberra Times.

Oh, and P2B = steaming.

Second update: Channel 7 news tonight was heavy on the fact that Haneef was flown home first class (mentioned 3 or 4 times) at taxpayers' expense.

Just another cheap crack consistent with the government's agenda? Or laying it on with a trowel that at last Haneef got some recompense? I immediately jumped to the first conclusion, then the second occurred to me. Who's to know? But they really empathised the first class bit.

28 July 2007

modern love

What a low productivity Saturday! We have done bugger all, and not even particularly stylishly at that.

There was an article in qweekend (the colour insert for the Saturday Courier Mail) the about loss of freedom to explore and learn as children. The article drew from a book call
The Dangerous Book for Boys, a how-to-grow-up manual for the Xbox generation. The article attributed blame (blame! we must have some to blame! as Mrs VVB continually mocks me) to current policies that "undervalue childhood" and how all educational activities from childhood are aimed at employability. A Prue Walsh says, "When you hear politicians talking, they only talk about education as if it were some sort of sausage machine. You put the child in one end and out the other end come identical sausages that can go into the workforce and fulfil the requirements of the economy."

As much as I can identify with that statement given some parts of my work, I'm more inclined to look at the legislative environment that now operationalises (aaah... that feels better) the growing proclivity to (a) protect children, but more importantly (b) sue if anything goes wrong. My child fell over! You must pay me!

But Prue Walsh's comment about how politicians view education also strikes a chord. Once again, it's the marketisation of life. Yes, it's always been important since hunter-gatherer days to get a job. But if you define everything in life around market signals, guess what you get?

The article's conclusions about the potential effect on future generations, such as obesity and inability to do very simple things, seems pretty much spot on, though. But if we can't go back to those carefree days, do we need to be able to replicate the experience? Or do we invent something else?

And I was also most taken with
this article that take some recent events in Britain (you can induce some idea from reading the article, but the examples are nothing I was aware of) that have destroyed people's confidence in public institutions, namely the BBC. Except it doesn't seem to mention the BBC very much. But losing faith in "premium phone lines", as mentioned in the article. Yes...when I talk about the marketisation of everyday life as the most pernicious effect of two decades of economic liberalism (fundamentalism more like), it's stuff like this I am talking about. I wonder whether whoever said that went home and spent any time reflecting on the ludicrousness of the statement? Not if you're in marketing, I guess.

Finally, a little personal story. An ad appeared on our office intranet the other day, someone's elderly parents were moving from the family abode after many decades, the father had been a home brewer and had a stack of tallies to get rid of which would not fit in the new unit. I put my hand up (electronically) and so last weekend I went around to collect these bottles.

All well and good , there were about five dozen, the interesting point was that most of them were full. That's the thing about home brewing - unless you have a sizable, ready supply of friends to take the stuff or are an utter alcoholic, you can't drink as much as you can brew.

He was a lovely old bloke, born and raised out the back of Broken Hill but had lived in a number of outback towns. He'd never had a brewing failure.

So I've just had one of his products. It's five years old according to the carefully printed label. Held an excellent head (more than mine do, bugger) and tastes fine.

I won't be brewing for a while, I think.

And tags! I hadn't 'got' tags, but that
other Latin bloke up the road in Toowoomba gave me the drum. Except I keep forgetting to put them on each post. Dogs, age, tricks, and their mutual incompatibility.

I'm running out of photos that don't include the two offspring as adorable infants or stuff that I would prefer didn't identify me more than using my real first name already does. Don't expect it to make sense, I must listen to my own imprecations more often. Anyway, this is the Hotel St George in Algiers, it's probably got a more Arabic and less French name now. We used to go there for a meal occasionally, it was a rare oasis of stuff we understood, in a city where we really understood bugger all. Algiers was our first time overseas, what an introduction. The restaurant meals weren't anything amazing but it was a night out. The main feature was the cats - you couldn't have a meal without 3 or 4 cats rubbing your legs and hanging about waiting for a feed.

PS, just a bit later: Thinking about the marketisation of life, I heard on the TV news tonight George W Bush talking up the US economy to the punters (whatever the American equivalent of punters is). No doubt because of the recent falls in stock prices. From memory, the President said that the US economy was "large". Do you reckon that was the case before he became President? He asked Americans to "look at the economy." He said it was "flexible", and "resilient."

So do you reckon they looked at the economy? Where do you think they found it? Do you, perhaps, think that maybe Americans couldn't find "the economy" out there, but did in fact reflect on their own circumstances? And perhaps couldn't, in all cases, draw a correlation?

"Look at the economy." Sausage machines. And so on.

I rest my case.

27 July 2007

say it isn't so

If there was any kind of justice, there'd be some Judge Dredd type of superthing rolling up to the front doors of Messrs Ruddock, Andrews, and Keelty, and dispensing a little summary justice.

Except it wouldn't be justice, it'd be vigilantism, and isn't that what they do? What we're fighting against?

Isn't it?

26 July 2007

man of colours

Colours? As long as it's khaki. You gotta give it to him, when it comes to ideas, he's got a never ending supply of well used ones.

P2B = moderate, as long it's a well used supply of old cracks about the PM. VVB is nothing if not scrupulously even handed.

As if. And now he's going to do an 'emergency response' on public housing? Maybe he could start with the CGT tax relief on investment housing. Disclosure: Chateau VVB, via an interest in Chateau VVB and half, is a beneficiary of these laws. There's that even-handedness again folks, no wonder people vote for the buggers. By people, I of course mean other people. Just in case you were getting worried about the extent of our even-handedness.
And as for this one - South Australian cricketer Mark Cosgrove has been suspended from the National Centre of Excellence for repeated inappropriate treatment of accommodation. I can only assume it was because they treated the accommodation in a less than excellent manner. So, what's wrong with 'usual'? How about 'everyday'? Isn't that good enough?
Actually whenever I read "centre of excellence" I damn near cack myself. What the fuck does it mean? Talk about a meaningless bureaucratic concept. Some years ago my job was as desk jockey for policy on Australia's interests with respect to one of the UN specialised agencies. This agency, in common with much of the UN I have to admit, was an anachronistic liability. As part of ongoing reviews, someone made the suggestion that it could reinvent itself as a "Centre of Excellence". This was my first encounter with the concept. I thought to myself, "OK, this place is currently eleventy different kinds of useless. But just by renaming it a 'Centre of Excellence', it'll somehow miraculously come good? Stone the crows, this is just stupid."
Unfortunately, much of my working life since those days has been dealing with similar kinds of stupidity. Fortunately, they pay me quite well. Presumably for my ability to stomach stupidity.
Revised P2B = some stuff makes me highly excited.

25 July 2007

smoke gets in your eyes

P2B = quickies only. I am (supposed to be) wrestling with impenetrable bureaucratese and preparing for a presentation tomorrow (instead of farting about with stuff like this).

Anyway, all owners of British cars will be familiar with Joseph Lucas, the Prince of Darkness.

Courtesy of offspring no 1, here's how you can quickly get the same effect.

If you've got several hours and are willing to download a massive pdf file so you can read some impenetrable bureaucratese (hint: don't bother), here is a lot more gumph on the Lucas company. The file is pages 282 to 341 of some industry report. It's a scanned version of an old document, obviously typed on a 1950s era typewriter and nowhere in it could a quick scan find a reference to what the document actually is. Although the website is British Government. So, like I said, don't bother. There's 10 seconds of your life I've stolen.

nashna lamthem

P2B, which is VVB code for "propensity to blog" = sfa. But thanks to ole' mate derf, here's a new anthem for us all. No girt by sea here.


Australians all let us rejoice
The weekend now is near
We've worked all bloody week for this
Dear God let's get a beer.
Our desks abound in paperwork
Our hands are stained with ink
In desperate stage, we'll fly the cage
Advance to Friday drinks!!
With joyful strains, destroy our brains
Advance to Friday drinks.

22 July 2007

alice's restaurant

P2B = enough for this to catch my attention.

From the Times of London, some
memorable instances of wrongful dismissal and similar workplace shenanigans. This is why we must have AWAs, I reckon. As always, the comments are great, as indeed they are for this review of a restaurant by A A Gill. And he said, moving on a little, this one also, which neatly features a comment from Australia linked to our workplace laws. You know I just write as I go, I couldn't make up these coincidences if I tried.
AA Gill seems to share Jeremy Clarkson's ineffably Tory take on how the world works, especially a righteous disdain for (a) anything attempting to be ecologically sound and (b), the pernicious effects of a never-ending incursion of the State into people's everyday lives. This week, Clarkson
observes that the legal framework is now encouraging the spread of what you might call 'local junior vigilante snitches'. After he's ranted about this for long enough, he gets to the actual motor review, which goes, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh."

You can't argue with that.

turning japanese (*)

P2B = niche applications only.

I need to introduce you good folks to the wonders of Tatsuya Ishida's Sinfest.

Go! Enjoy!


(*) not really, got stuck for a music-related title...

21 July 2007

clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

It's like a long playing record with only one track.

I guess the poor bugger has to do his job by buoying the faithful, maybe it'd be better if he actually tried to address the issues and make a connection. As reported, this is just dross, the wrong message for the wrong market.

But hey, what do you expect?.

More: a good article from Karen Middleton in the Canberra Times today. Except I would characterise a "dead" electorate more as an electorate sick of lies and spin. No one side of politics has a mortgage on spin, but the current government certainly has wrapped up the prevarication, dissembling and dishonesty department.

real life

P2B = max!

What a turnaround from last night's enuui and introspection. Just look at these pictures.

What car is this, I hear you ask yourselves (well actually what I may be hearing is that clicking sound as people move rapidly in the direction of away, but let the rest of us plough on nonetheless).

It is in fact the actual car on which the model in this post and this one also was based. A couple of days ago one Stuart Dent, of somewhere in the UK, left a message on a recent post inquiring about my model. Seems he had been searching for a model Isis, had run across my original post and was dumbfounded, gobsmacked one might even venture, to realise that it was a model of his very own Morris Isis, rego no 150 BJO. Looking at my original post reminds me that I'd never taken fresh pictures of the model which are actually in focus. So here are some.

Seeing the pictures of Stuart's car resolves one of the disappointments I had with the model. The bonnet just seemed too short, as I recall my own car had a monstrously long bonnet to accommodate the 2639cc C series motor which distinguished the Isis from its lowly 4 cylinder cousin, the Oxford. You can see this difference in this photo, of Stuart's car alongside a Mk1 variant.

But of course the Mk2 versions had vestigal fins, making the back appear longer in proportion to the bonnet. I do notice some sort of green fungus growing on the radiator grille, though, which I will need to figure out how to fix.

Anyway, what a pristine example Stuart's car is! Stuart says it's unrestored which makes it just amazing - as a Mk2 Isis this would have been built around 1959. Because my own one was never in such good nick. I got it off the old man in October 1968 and sold it about a year later. There it is in the picture below. Do notice the racing stripes lovingly applied with electrical tape. As I was still in school I didn't have much income - I used to earn $13 a weekend at the garden centre which covered petrol and beer, but not proper racing stripes. Or paint. Or anything else.

I have no idea what I must have been thinking when the photo was taken, but the pose is very disturbing. Not to mention the floppy toweling hat, the faux-Lennon glasses and something hanging around my neck. On top of the after effects of having my brain eaten yesterday, I think it's time to crawl back into bed and slip into unconsciousness until Monday. These memories are too much to bear.
So, good people, the wonders of globalisation and the intertubes. I never even thought I'd get a model of an Isis, but at that time I only knew about mass-produced die cast models. I should have realised that somewhere in a corner of old Blighty, someone would be lovingly creating by hand models of forgotten English motoring history. So to get my model was great. For Stuart to be moseying around the nettysphere looking for Isis-related paraphernalia and run across this little blog might be expected, given the tubosphere's ubiquity in these modern times. But to find a model of his very own car? Amazing. I must let Carl and Amanda at Crossways Models know.
Afterword: in the time it took to put this post together, what with taking and uploading photos, scanning, doing other stuff, etc, there was a car accident just outside. I heard the tyre squeal, the crump and thensome other sounds. I raced outside and there was a car on its roof - seems like it had been travelling up the hill, maybe a bit fast and a car had come out of the street on the left, the first car had stopped and swerved but the second car must have just caught it and nudged it over on to the roof, an easy thing to happen when a car it not balanced on the road. There were already plenty of people on the scene so no need to intervene. It was a bit different a few years ago when a young bloke with a skinful aboard wrapped his car around the light pole alongside our driveway. I got there first but couldn't help him....

20 July 2007

it's alright ma, i'm only bleeding

Statements of the bleeding obvious.

You look around the lead sentences in many small blogs and you get "can't be bothered blogging" or some variation. We've had it here at Chateau VVB on many occasions and it has now been formalised by the P2B (propensity to blog) quotient, just to save time typing.

Yet at the same time you (or I, anyway) get the feeling of guilt that, having established the blog, it should be maintained, fed, nurtured and allowed to grow.

It's the growing bit that gets worrying he said, starting to warm to the stream of consciousness about to...what?

You see, the growth should be in the writing - content, style, ability to entertain and/or inform. And so if the growth is not in evidence, you start to wonder....all over again.

You'd never believe, reading this little blog, that when I was 16 I wanted to become a journalist. That was even before I started drinking, surely the other main prerequisite for a successful career in journalism along with some ability with words.

Ranting about John Howard doesn't do it and - er, big admission coming up - it doesn't even make me feel good any more.

Although those lucky people who got to listen to my unsolicited comments on the 7pm ABC radio news as we drove home tonight might query that assertion.

So, how to grow? Maybe taking some more effort over the writing might help: you know, drafting it up offline and posting later. Although that might detract from the immediacy of some comments if they relate to current events. It's not a journal or magazine article, after all.

And never forget: it's not a competition. Which is just as well, as VVB doesn't seem to figure anywhere on the
Oz Blogs rankings. Although looking through this list certainly confirms the nature of the blogosphere as a multitude of small communities. What is the fascination with cooking, he asks himself?

If you go back to post number one, you will see that I never set out for VVB to be a well researched exposition on anything, rather simply some personal views: opinions, in fact. I'm not a specialist in any particular field either by training or experience. No, actually I am: I'm a darn fine cog in any set of big wheels, the sort of organisation that looks like a Heath Robinson invention. Like the one below. In fact this particular one is very close to the actualite. (Picture courtesy of here).

The challenge is to turn this cogginess, coggitude if you will, into something else and that's the little journey we have been going on for the last couple of months. I thought I was making good progress until this morning,when a well credentialled amateur - well no, this person has practised professionally -
burrowed into my brain and set the hares running. Talk about discomfort!

So how well do we know ourselves? Some people seem to from an early age. Maybe in many of these cases the external confidence and certitude masks the inner turmoil. Other seem to drift lazily through life and it all falls into place: not necessarily fame, wealth and power, but just whatever it is that floats their boats.

Anyway my brain has been burrowed into and now I have to assess the feedback. Am I holding onto the past? Did I simply answer the questions honestly and this person has misconstrued the responses? Does it matter a flying fig?

This is the problem with just writing stuff as it comes into your head. You get to a stage in the piece, you've said bugger all, you have in fact stolen a little bit of everybody's lives (well no, it was your choice to plough on so ya boo sucks if you have) and oliver sudden you have to make a point, the 'aha' moment, and draw it to a satisfying conclusion.

No such luck, at this or any other time. The answer is 'I don't know', or my other current favourite saying, 'the answer is always in the middle'.

Shortly afterwards....

Fuck it, you finish the shitty piece, press 'publish' and go trawling and almost immediately come up with some good stuff. Like this:

"Yeah, we make big efforts over the batter," says Rigby. "I can't stand it when you get batter which is really thick and there's a shrivelled piece of fish inside." What prompted him to get into a seemingly declining fast-food trade? "I set up Sea Cow with my brother Dan after working as an equity trader in the City," he says. Surely there was more money in his old job? "Maybe, but it was soul-destroying, watching people getting fired all the time. So I jacked it in and took some time off to travel." He found himself in Sydney, Australia. "They have great fish bars with the catch of the day spread out on ice. Simple, brilliant food with an accent on freshness. I knew this would work over here. A new spin on an old favourite - that was the idea."

I mean, does that or does that not get the mental cogs turning? Maybe not so much the reinvention of fish and chips (except "the eating of fish and chips also enables it to be appropriated in support of cosy visions of democratic solidarity" perhaps), but the - to me, anyway - more obvious one of yet another story of the arid world of big money: "soul-destroying". Ever since Bernard Salt coined the phrase I've had a theory, utterly unsubstantiated by anything except blind envy and deep prejudice, that most of the 'sea change' stories are of people who are precisely in that position: they've made a motza, have got sick of the corporate life, and have the comfort of enough moolah to follow their hearts. Cool, if you've got it. The alternative, namely living in a caravan park - well, one of the few still left - doesn't do it for me.

And the reinvention of fish and chips as a piece of Australian innovation. Who'd have guessed? Actually, this is a rattling good read, the sort you get much more frequently in Pommy papers than here (he says, returning to an old theme).

Not only, but also: justification for why I feel unsatisfied with my bloggitude...I'm an
amateur. Glad we cleared that up.


red red wine

P2B - can't be bothered.

Why write a thousand words when a picture will suffice? Pryor in the Canberra Times nails the wine collection and the anguish of being the other in one frame.
Jo - more car stories soon!

18 July 2007

the letter

P2B - pretty bloody minimal. However, have some of today's letters to the editor in today's SMH.

I begin this letter while sitting on a train stuck between Waverton and North
Sydney stations because the train ahead of us has had a power failure. At least
I have time to reflect on the various ways that there has been progressive
degradation of the system.

In the 1960s my father, a stock and station agent in Grenfell, could phone an order to Sydney before 2pm and the goods would arrive on the next morning's train. Then, the Askin government decided to reduce the service to three days a week. I seem to remember various discussions around "cheaper to transport by road" and "bloody unions". That was the beginning of the rot.

The trend continued. Successive governments have closed rail lines, counting only the short-term costs. You have to wonder about such costs as building and repairing roads to withstand the mass of heavy traffic, the cost to society from injury and death caused through truck accidents, the hidden costs such as sleep loss from B-doubles thundering through suburbs during the night, and the environmental costs from diesel burning.

So now we have excess heavy road transport, an inadequate intrastate rail service and a pathetic urban network. It seems much of this rot came from governments adhering unthinkingly to various ideological fashions, especially so-called economic rationalism and the "user pays" cant. Well, how rational is it to fail to invest in maintaining infrastructure that makes a society work?

And the news, by the way, is the user always pays, one way or another: through monetary charge or through some loss of amenity. This applies whether facilities are run by government or private enterprise.

It's time we demanded that governments stop pandering to simplistic or selfish reason and start addressing the question of facilitating a healthy, functional society. The investment and commitment needed to maintain a proper preventive maintenance program for our rail system would be a good start. We used to have one, but someone got rid of it.
Peter Thompson Killara

I am furious. Not just at Howard's continued incarceration of Haneef, but more at Rudd showing not-so-early symptoms of Beazley's "Tampa ticker".
Peter Dwyer Epping

When is federal Labor going to display some principled opposition to ill-conceived Government action (for example, the new Northern Territory laws and the Haneef visa revocation) rather than supporting everything the Government proposes "in principle"?
Beatrice Marett-Bird Ashfield

On other things...

Listening to

Solomon Burke, Nashville. Offspring no2 thinks I've gone over the to the dark side, all I can say is "c'mon you ole devil, take me down." It's great.

Tonight's picture shows you the cream of the Islamabad diplomatic community sorting out a minor protocol kerfuffle in the time-honoured way. Kind of reminds you of this, doesn't it?

17 July 2007

blister in the sun

Tonight's picture is to tantalise you (well, sort of, depending on your propensity to tantalisation). It is indeed yer 'umble correspondent, some years ago. Quite some years ago, in fact. Multiple bits of equipment festoon his person, the large backpack certainly dates the video gear, as do the flares. The shadow thrown by the camera lens could be misconstrued, especially if you squint. Mind you, it'd also make a medical marvel.

16 July 2007


P2B = stone mofoing zero. Have a picture.

It's the caves at Mole Creek in Tassie. The observant amongst you will note that it is devoid of both moles and a creek.

Truth in advertising...phooey.

15 July 2007

everything is broken

P2B quotient - very very low. I look through the OzPolitics feed and it all looks very familiar. We are obsessed with what obsesses us.

So all you get is a link to today's Times, "for video, picture and analysis of David and Victoria as they arrive in the US."

And by crikey there's heaps (
link provided, you'll have to trust me when I say I haven't clicked through on to any of them).



Of a bloody footballer? Tell me, the world has gone stark fucking barking crazy, has it not?

Tonight's picture is of the previous Australian Embassy in Islamabad (there is now a much more substantial building in town), taken from a Nomad aircraft that was pretty much on its side, about 1000m up. An interesting experience, to be sure. Especially with a raging hangover. And that was the pilot...

11 July 2007

everyone's gone to the movies

I don't know how much it helps to point to the GetUp Oz in 30 seconds campaign here at chateau VVB as well as all the other places that have linked already, but it certainly is good! Australia's got Talent (tm)!

I've seen all good people

P2B quotient = high.

Today's good people include Jack Waterford, editor-in-chief at the Canberra Times. Of course the Crimes is the perfect soft-left kind of rag that a town proportionately overpopulated by public servants needs, but it does a good line in analysis, probably somewhere between the histrionics of the Murdoch rags and the increasingly Entertainment Tonight irrelevance of Fairfax.

Random thought - if the current government gets returned, there may not be any soft-left public servants left in Canberra.

It claims to "serve the National City and through it the Nation", which it sort of does although with a fair lick of local shenanigans. The PM, who chooses not to live in the Nation's Capital City, can therefore ignore it with impunity.

Anyway I reckon Waterford always writes well and this piece on the continuing train wreck that is the Occupation of Iraq is a good example. What's also interesting is this piece which, although tagged as a letter to the editor, is evidently a companion opinion piece but by whom, I don't know.

Another issue currently getting a run is housing affordability. Chateau VVB is much plagued by this because, as Ross Gittins points out, many baby boomers have ridden the real estate roller coaster all the way up while their kids can't even afford to get into the park. This is our situation exactly - much as we'd love to the spend the kids' inheritance, I don't think we could bring ourselves to do it.

Finally, I've been listening to the Drive By Truckers, bought on the advice of Anonymous Chris who has not only turned me to alt. country but has also divined the politics of Chateau VVB to a T. So the Drive By Truckers are like Springsteen on steroids, with lyrics like:

And all them politicians, they’re all lyin' sacks of shit
They say better days upon us but it’s sucking left hind tit

Go to the link and read the lyrics. All good people.

10 July 2007

long distance runaround

It'd be really handy to know what influences the propensity to blog (which from now on, until we forget it, will be referred to as P2B). Last week the posts came quite easily, even if they weren't all that inspiring or different (Howard, cars). On the other hand, I doubt if anyone comes to chateau VVB for either inspiration or difference...
Anyway I've just not been in much of a mood to write anything over the last few days but feel this...bloody obligation.....to churn summat out. Know wot I mean?

So from my favourites list, here's a couple that I only visit occasionally, mainly because they tend to suck me in and I spend a few hours reading and following links.

I dunno who
Anil Dash is apart from what he says about himself, he lives in New York and is associated with a company that provides, as a competitor to Blogger/Google, infrastructure for blogs and other similar stuff. He's got a lovely straightforward writing style, I'd love to hear him speak as I imagine he's a very clear communicator. He has a rare ability to take a subject that you may not have much interest in, and make it compelling.

Look at all the blogs and sites he contributes to. How do people make that time available? Maybe they work 24/7 (it is New York, after all). Maybe he types faster than me (in fact I'm sure he does). He probably also thinks faster, more to the point.

this one will suck you right in if you are interested in organisations and management (sounds of footsteps heading for the virtual door). There is much to the power of narrative if it's done well: "bloody good stories well told" is the phrase I believe.

I think most organisations put a lot of effort into how they do their strategising, but nonetheless I think many of them go about it quite arse-about. A year or so ago I was involved in a little experiment (well it was experimental from my perspective, others had more confidence!) to put together a community of practice.

This ended up being very successful, just how successful I'll get an insight into in a few months' time. The guiding principle for the group was that "
culture beats strategy." The number of references there indicates that the phrase isn't unique or new, but even so I'd guess that you'll find organisations will use a so-called 'strategic' approach 99 times out of 100.
The basis for the culture is the personal relationship. In the example where I was involved, we only had 20 off people so it was a doable task. Part of developing a common culture with this group involved getting them to tell their stories as well as some surprising simple exercises to get them out of their own comfort zones and thinking more deeply about each other's comfort zones, in other words understanding the issues and objectives that drove each other.

With business and university people in the same room, you can imagine that there was not a lot in common on most issues. I was hoping that we could remove from the equation the organisational impediments, particularly for the uni representatives, and just focus on what could be achieved within these people's own areas of responsibility. And believe it or not, quite a lot could be, once we got thinking about it.

That's not to say that solutions fell from the sky, but having made the breakthroughs on the personal level, there was more willingness to seek agreement rather than throw the hands in the air. On the Anecdotes site linked to earlier, I found
this in the left hand sidebar. Communities of Practice, as popularised by Etienne Wenger, is another way of describing the outcomes of taking the culture beats strategy approach to group or organisational development.

Well that filled in half an hour or so that could have more usefully been devoted to the work I brought home. The fire's going, I put on a big piece of wood that had been white-anted just to get rid of it, and it's smoked the place out. Which means we have to open the windows, which lets the cold in. Very sensible.

Tonight's picture comes to you from a place where they do strategy differently. This is Torkham, on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border at the commencement of the Khyber Pass.

Negotiations with the Customs people could be exhaustive, a personal relationship would have helped, often an inducement could result in a very beneficial relationship.

08 July 2007

2000 light years from home

Aaah, the first of the many Triumphs. This the Triumph 2000 story.

I'd owned the Datsun 1600 sports for about a year and I still quite liked it. But one Saturday I was due to take out this sheila I'd been kind of courting and I decided it'd be nice to do so in a more comfortable machine. So I went out to do the rounds of the car yards: in Canberra, this meant going to Fyshwick.

So I was poking around and found a very nice 1968 Triumph 2000 Mk1. It was a dark olive green with beige upholstery, it had 20-odd thousand miles on the clock and was, in the manner of the big Triumphs when they were new-ish, quiet and refined. So I bought it. Can't remember if the lady in question was all that enthralled or indeed interested. For example, it's taken 35 years for Mrs VVB to come around to my way of thinking that cars are interesting.

The 2000 really was a ripper and I had lots of fun in it. It did let me down a couple of times, most notably the time that the old man and I went to Melbourne for a wedding. It was a cousin on my mother's side of the family, so she'd flown down early to do all that family thing. Dad and I left about 10 pm at night, for reasons I now can't recall. I was to show him what sophisticated touring was about - I had a set of driving lights and a portable tape player that I'd fitted into the glove box, linked to a small pair of speakers in woodgrain boxes on the back parcel shelf. Very sophisticated.

It was in early winter I think - it was certainly bloody cold - and around Holbrook the generator light came on. We pulled into a truck stop and Dad suggested I pull the genny out. Of course. As one does. At 1am in the morning. To do what with it, exactly? But I didn't ask, I just did what I was told. In fact, all these years later, I still don't question authority nearly as much as I should, and now I know why...

Anyway, it was so cold that I couldn't hold a spanner, so we stretched out in the seats and tried to sleep. The next morning the car started so we resumed the journey. Put simply, we weren't recharging the battery but as the engine, once running didn't use any battery power all we had to do was minimise use of other electrical functions. So no music. Also, using no indicators and minimising brake usage so the brake lights didn't come on. This was fine on the highway, once we got to Melbourne it got interesting.

Anyway, we got to about 10 kms short of the relloes before the battery said "no more, please!" After the wedding, and with a rewired generator, I came back solo and that was one trip: Broadmeadows to Canberra in 5 1/2 hours. Not bad for a car with 100 mph top speed.

Anyway, some time later I was consoling myself about the loss of yet another lady and mixed the driving with the alcohol, as one used to do. I attempted to demolish the block of flats across the road from the folks' place and did enough damage to ensure that the car would never be the same again. While it was in the repairers I first bought a Yamaha RD250 bike and then the Austin 1800 (we've already done the Land Crab story).

Here's a Mk1 Trump in the same colour as mine was - must say I like the set-up! Would I have another one? Like a shot. I reckon the Mk1s were the pick - the dashboard was quite futuristic in design, quite something considering the cars were designed in the late 1950s. Having independent rear suspension in those days was a real rarity, although the Triumph's swing axle design was far from perfect.

I can remember driving up to Sydney one weekend and for no good reason at all - I never did it again - I took the long road through Penrose and Bundanoon on the southern highlands. As I turned into the main street in Bundanoon (I think, or it could have been Penrose) another 2000 turned in at the other end. He flashed his lights but I still hadn't got used to the flasher on the left hand side of the steering column, so I had to make do with a raised finger off the wheel as he passed. Bugger.

For those who are interested, this model is another handbuilt white metal model from Crossway Models. You can see the rear door handle is drooping. Even with a strong Aussie dollar, these models cost a motza and so I do try to stick to the cheaper die cast models. Fortunately most of the cars I want are available in die cast.

greek chorus

All quotes not really quotes, only what I thought I just heard on the TV behind me.

First, courtesy of the lazy man's almanac, Wikipedia, the
Greek chorus: In tragic plays of ancient Greece, the chorus (choros) is believed to have grown out of the Greek dithyrambs and tragikon drama. The chorus offers a variety of background and summary information to help the audience follow the performance, commented on main themes, and showed how an ideal audience might react to the drama as it was presented.

So, back to the news:

(1) Lying sack of shit, cunningly disguised as a PM - we will keep you safe from people who want to do you harm. Because believe me, there are people you want to do you harm. (No, I don't mean my government!!! Don't believe everything that Alan Ramsay says!!)

(2) Idiot son of the aristocracy - people want to do you harm in Indonesia. We know this for a fact. What? Oh, yeah. Sorry, got the line wrong a bit there. I meant to say, I am advised that there are people who want to do you harm in Indonesia. I'd also like to send Kevin Rudd to Afghanistan.

(3) "Treasurer" - our brave soldiers are not fighting to keep interest rates petrol prices low.

Hint - they're fighting for one of the many other reasons we have said they are fighting, as amended from time to time.

Kevin Rudd: mouth moves, stuff comes out.

And further: They also represent the general populace of any particular story.

Well, they represent 51%. Or they once did.

In many ancient Greek plays, the chorus expressed to the audience what the main characters could not say, such as their fears or secrets.

Oh be still my beating heart! Do I really want to know what is really in hearts of our gallant triumvirate of feudal Liberal overlords? Puke, no. I can't handle the truth!

Meanwhile back at chateau VVB, I decided that I'd like some apple dumplings like mother used to make. With a little assistance from Mrs VVB - but not a hell of lot, 'cos she'd never made them before either - we have made some.

My main recollection of mother's apple dumplings from when I was little, apart from the fact that I used to really like them, was that I could never remember "cloves", so I'd ask whether the dumplings had "those umm" in them.

And as is the case in families, "those umm" passed in to everyday conversation, such that cloves were always referred to as "those umm".

Oral family histories - I love it.

06 July 2007

see emily play

I've just scanned in some more pictures of some the remaining models that I haven't written about yet. This is the Morris 1100 story (although the keen eyed pedants amongst you will note by the grille that the model is in fact the Austin variant - this was at the height of British Leyland's badge-engineering phase so you could get the 1100 in Austin, Morris, MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas versions).

Anyway, our 1100 was bought during the engagement period of the now Mrs VVB and me. I had my first mini, an 1100K, when we met, having sold the Triumph 2500Pi about two weeks before that fateful night. Hmm, might need to revisit that phrase...

Anyway, getting engaged and having to start planning for married life and all offered the perfect opportunity to change cars ("I'll back trade the mini and we'll have a cash in hand difference").

Yeah well. I sold the Mini and got an Austin Freeway (the third one I'd owned, refer to this post for the history). Then one Saturday afternoon, not too long after, I went with one of my housemates to look at a Holden EJ wagon - this feller had decided to supplement his income by doing a bread run and he needed a van. We found the house, there were cars everywhere. My mate knocked at the front door and blow me down, it's answered by a bloke I used to know several years earlier. An intriguing and very entertaining fellow, known as "Honest Ed", he dealt in anything that would make a buck. So we go out the back and the yard is full of cars, including the desired EJ wagon - my housemate bought it - and a Morris 1100.

For no good reason at all except I liked to change my cars every three months, I take the 1100 for a drive, it seems fine, I buy it. Another housemate who was a proper mechanic (ie trained and employed as such) diagnosed a burnt valve, but in the year or so (the soon-to-be Mrs VVB started to question the frequency of car changeovers...) that I owned the 1100, that never caused a problem.

It did let me down badly once, when we took it to Melbourne, with a married couple who were friends of ours and their baby. The trip down was marred by the motor frequent cutting out, I couldn't find the problem. Then the car ran fine while we were in Melbourne but on the trip back, just out of Jugiong, it gave up the ghost entirely.

I hitched into Jugiong, rang home, it was a Saturday arvo so the folks were at bowls so it was a bit of a wait but I eventually got onto the old man who came and collected some very frazzled folks and baby. Diagnosis - torn fuel pump diaphragm.

The 1100 is still distinguished by being the only car we ever gave a name to - Emily. It was a faded light green. When Mrs VVB and I eventually went overseas we couldn't sell it. The old man took it off our hands and eventually sold it to the daughter of a neighbour. She later had quite a bad accident in it, she was OK but the car was kaput.
As all my devoted readers know, each car story finishes with the question, "would I own another one?" In this case, if I had a spare garage spot, the answer is a definite maybe. They were as slow as a wet weekend but with the Hydrolastic (pneumatic) suspension they had a quite a good ride, if slightly unusual handling. The seats were comfy and they were very economical - I used to get by on about $2 a week for petrol in 1976. Some friends had the more powerful 1100 'S' version and just last week on eBay there was a Vanden Plas version, which would be very rare, walnut dash and all. Ah time, time, time, see what's become of me...

the end of the line (*)

I really don't know what to make of this Henry Thornton article. Disclosure: I don't know who writes under the HT nom-de-plume, and I'm not sure it'd make any difference if I did.

There was an extract in today's Crikey and this sentence initially had me spluttering:

The point is - all but the most professionally outraged of the punters are only
too well aware, and greet this sort of "revelation" with a universal "ho-hum"
and quickly turn to the sports pages.

It seems to me that if a country gets comprehensively lied to about arguably the most important decision a government can take - to go to war - and doesn't really care, then all the folderol about new defence strategies may as well take place only behind closed doors, it's not newsworthy. Indeed, let's just have sport on the front page as well as the back.

Of course, half a second's reflection will tell you that there are occasions where the sensitivities surrounding a situation will decree that some secrecy is paramount. I'd argue that Iraq was different: it was trumpeted far and wide by the US, Blair signed the UK up in a most public fashion and of course there was Poland and Spain as two of the more enthusiastic early members of the Coalition of the Willing.

We got obfuscation and sleight of hand.

The current shenanigans (and it seems there was
more to it than met the eye) only shows that we have a rattled government under pressure. Howard was declaiming on TV tonight that it was never about oil, and Dr Nelson has subsequently performed a Houdini with twist and pike that should score 10s from the judges. "I never said what I said. And if I did say it, it wasn't what I meant." At least he didn't claim to have 'mispoken', evidently the media minders have picked up that there is no such thing.

Most hilariously, Costello got in for his two cents' worth, which was that it had "always been the government's position that Iraq was never about oil." Well yes, exactly, it always has been the government's position (except for a few hours after Dr Nelson's momentary oversight).

It doesn't really matter what was the government's position, the position never refelected the truth. I suppose this is HF's point. More ominously, I doubt that things would get much better under a Rudd ALP government. It'd take a determined step back from the 'realism' view of international security for us to see any change, and the chances ofthat rate about the same as a change from the neoclassical brand of economics that currently has us in its thrall.

In other words...not now, not soon, but one day...

*I have a head full of Wilburys.

05 July 2007

fun house

Hours of fun.

So far I have (and beware, some of these are awfully close to the crap we see every day):

  • Come to Life. Come to Strategise.
  • The appliances of stygmatise.
  • Every thing we do is driven by fulfillment.
  • Out of the Strong came forth Value.
Tell me your best ones.

everything under the sun is in tune...

...but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

A roundabout way of introducing the notion of jinxes. I have a theory at work that some projects just get jinxed for no apparent reason. No matter what you do, silly little things will keep going wrong that cumulatively will turn the best idea to complete and utter shite.

Which is an even more roundabout way of introducing the story of the old man's Orbital shares. He bought them when Orbital Engine Co floated, about 1967 I think. Still close to the motor business in those days and so, with his engineering and physics bent, was interested in any idea that could make the internal combustion engine, with its highly inefficient bits of metal going in all directions, more efficient.

Of course Orbital did nothing over all those years but he hung on to the shares in desperate hope that one day....

Anyway, when we asked the solicitor to sort out his affairs for probate, the Orbital shares couldn't be traced. Computershare, who run Orbital's share registry, claimed no holding in his name. I thought it was odd but didn't have time then to chase it up.

When we came to close his bank account, the bank's records showed a safe deposit box still in his name in Canberra. Maybe the original share certificates were still there? After much to-ing and fro-ing and about thirty reams of paper, they claimed to have checked the box and it was empty. Hmmmm...

However, the shares still showed up on the assets list in his Vet Affairs pension so earlier this year, I approached Vet Affairs to see if they had a copy of the certificates or similar evidence which, presumably, he would have had to show when first claiming the pension. More to-ing and fro-ing, another forest of paper, but...nope. Nothing.

So eventually, I went to Computershare myself. Two days and two e-mails later, they confirmed the holding. (Memo to self: change solicitors). So I sent off the requisite documentation to get the ownership transferred.

At this stage I should point out, most likely superfluously, that this wasn't about money. Orbital had never paid a dividend and the value of the 1776 shares was $17.76. This was about keeping faith that one day Orbital, now without its founder Ralph Sarich, would vindicate the initial promise of a better mousetrap (which is pretty much what the prototype looked like).

Anyway, yesterday a letter arrives from Computershare. Beauty, we thought. Open it up: the shares were sold on 7 June. Now, Computershare had only confirmed the holding on 5 June, so how could this be?

So today we pick up the electric telephone and navigate the menu of options of who we want to talk to and what we want to discuss and eventually get a live person. So, how did this come about? Well, it seems that Orbital itself had a buy-back of 'unmarketable packages', such as dad's 1776. They had written to all holders. And of course, of all his half a dozen share holdings (the last of the red hot socialists, yeah, well the last of the pragmatic red hot socialists perhaps, given that most of his holdings were privatisations!!), the only one for which he hadn't notified a change of address was Orbital. The opportunity to maintain holdings had expired on 30 May.

If the solicitors had actually found the holding...
If I hadn't left it until 6 months had passed to start looking hard for the holding myself...
If he had actually notified the change of address as he had punctiliously attended to all his other personal administration...
Missed it by **that** much...


Meanwhile, in today's Crikey, all politicians are beneath contempt and all writers are hopelessly biassed:

exhibit one: "In the parliamentary chamber this morning, Crikey understands Lennon spoke about the importance of the pulp mill to Tasmania, saying that without it the Tasmanian economy would be set back by three decades. He then recommended the Gunns pulp mill as a necessity for Tasmania."
Lack of a pulp mill, correction, lack of another pulp mill, will set the economy back by three decades? In terms of what, precisely? Certainly not transformation to a more sustainable and value-added economy, then.

exhibit two: Guy Rundle on our favourite Revered Leader: "Howard is a cynical professional politician and the polls would seem to indicate that most people now share this belief. Part of Howard’s problem is that public dislike of him is now categorical – if he donated blood folks’d say he did it to get the free biscuit."

Everything under the sun is in tune...

03 July 2007

a different drum

This article, via Bookforum, formerly Political Daily Review, tells how close we came to legitimate fee for service downloads from Napster. But the record companies thought it was a bridge too far, too outside the box, beyond any cliche.

And the
inevitable navel-gazing for the next big thing.

And the
inexorable decline of music (how I remember the old man damning Cream's sublime* Disraeli Gears as I played it over and over, the perfect background to not studying for the HSC). It wasn't Django and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, it wasn't Bix Beiderbecke, it wasn't the Dorseys, it wasn't Satchmo, it wasn't...everybody who counted.

Well, sublime except for "Take it back" which one of the blues 'purists' at school lambasted as "not the blues." Just 'cos a song is a 12 bar don't make it the blues...

Now it's me in his shoes and the inexorable decline continues with Kanye West and 50 Cent and Christina Aguilera, not to mention the Spice Girls and Boys and...and...and...

...and I still don't have an iPod or similar because I don't know what I'd do with one. Still buying CDs, more country (for the "power chords and anthemic choruses"...well, sort of), been looking for Blitzen Trapper but despite being reviewed in the Australian weekend Review liftout it's still not in the shops as far as I can see. Hence the recent Wilburys purchase...heritage rock for the over 50s. Bring it on.

the dangling conversation

Look, this is way below the usually impeccably high standards of this blog (rofl), but allow me to showcase to you some of the more, er, outstanding comments from this post at Kevin Drum's Washongton Monthly - one of a series of posts on the commutation of 'Scooter' Libby's sentence for perjury.

Hold onto your hats as the finest minds of a generation - or more - let loose, noting that we have representatives from both sides of the argument...

Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!
Suck eggs, liberals. You will never win.
Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah
hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!

OK, we get the point.

Paris Fucking Hilton did more time than Scooter. Fuck these fucking fucks.
Good example of how overuse of a common swear word initially reduces its effectiveness and then kind of, er, transcends it.

"Come on, pussies, whine for me!! Bush is President and you can't do a thing
about it!!"--Egbert
"Suck eggs, liberals. You will never win."--Norman Rogers
This must be what they meant when they said the adults were in charge.


Uh, Norman Rogers?
I hate Bush, and when I first heard about the Libby commutation my immediate reaction was "Hot damn! This is too good to be true!"
Every time I think the American people couldn't possibly hate Bush any more, he
plays right into our hands.
Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!
This ought to be good for knocking AT LEAST another three points off of Bush's
20-something approval rating.
Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!
Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! Bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!
If that stupid, drunken frat boy motherfucker stays in there another 17 months, even Kucinich will be able to defeat the Republican nominee. Dumb W. Ass is the best campaigner the Dems have.
Good start, got seduced by the hahs though. It must be a disease, or possibly worse, a meme.

02 July 2007

one story town

I look forward to someone - Mike Carlton, Alan Ramsay perhaps, Phillip Adams certainly, doing a similar number to this one on Tony Blair on our own revered leader, when he eventually gets hauled, kicking and screaming, out of Kirribilli.

TBA: this post left sort of open for anything else I find later tonight after I've had a refreshing top-up of
Jeremy, Captain Slow and the Hamster.

and so, some time later....

Having had a feed of Top Gear, and while doing the blog rounds, exchanging a few e-mails and perusing last week's BRW* that I'd lent to my boss over the weekend, I've had the concert for Diana on in the background. On the basis that any music is better then any other TV.

This belief might benefit from some revision. On the basis of most of tonight's performances, I reluctantly have to come to the conclusion that many of my rock heroes and faves are just about at the stage where they should give up the leather pants and shiny coats, lay down the guitars and take up the implements of gardening.

Nearly all the performances tonight have been woeful. Even those old journeypersons of rock, Status Quo, were floundering and it's a bloody 12-bar they've been playing since dinosaurs walked the earth, for crying out loud. Not all that long ago (several ice ages, I guess) they could churn this stuff out in their sleep.

Duran Duran (er, actually, never one of my faves or heroes) were way off and poor old Brian Ferry really needs to take a long holiday.

Rod the Mod still puts a bit of effort into it but he's showing his age - except in his face...hmmm, how does that work? Same for Tom Jones. Isn't he about 100?

Don't start me on the rap acts. Offspring no 2 thinks there's some people finding God while Kanye West does whatever it is he does (well, shout, actually). Unlikely.

*The BRW. There's a column by a Leo D'Angelo Fisher (doesn't seem to be available online) on the gap between how senior management of service companies see (and are rewarded for) their copanies' performance, and the actual service delivery. Fisher uses the examples of Connex (who now run the trains in Melbourne) and call centres for servcies such as banking. He points out the well-known shortcomings of such services ("Connex apologises for any inconvenience caused") with the basis on which executives are paid - broad financial indicators. Fisher suggests that "Boards and shareholders could do worse than adopt a code of managerial responsibility."

I'm at a bit of a loss to figure how this comes about. We have a well-developed business environment which focuses on short term financial indicators. As Fisher points out, the effects of poor service take longer to filter through to financial results. In the meantime, all the factors that influence company performance are lined up the other way: institutional shareholders which typically control the voting do not reflect real world issues, and any small shareholder who had experienced bad service gets shouted down at the AGM. The so-called remuneration consultants are in on "the game" (deliberate reference to institutionalised corruption in Queensland in the 70s and 80s there).

If there's any move against a board or levels of remuneration at an AGM you will hear reports of "shock horror" but the proposals still get up and the same old world keeps turning.

The gap between how the world could be, and how it is, hasn't changed.

01 July 2007

happy birthday mr president

Just send money.

Let's count the days until the Liberal Party cottons onto this one. Doesn't Howard still have a devil spawn of his loins over in the US learning the dark arts?

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