31 August 2007

every picture tells a story

Got a big party tomorrow, I should be practising a few songs. However, before we do that, the week in roundup from Chateau VVB:

  • The spin cycle, courtesy of Joey Johns' media advisor rather than Whirlpool, was fabulous to watch. No wonder people no longer believe everything they hear (well, Howard supporters aside). Everyone who is anyone has had media training, has access to the best PR that money can buy. Somewhere today I was reading about the insidious practice of PR agents preparing video and audio clips that lazy journalists can use directly for their reports. In this way the intent of the spin, rather than a more objective view (I hesitate to use the word 'truth', which means of course that I must be a postmodernist...) is carried forward straight to the 'news'.
  • Pulp mill. I haven't followed in depth but it'll be fascinating to watch the various reactions as they play out in this never-ending lead-up to the election. Malcolm Turnbull, an otherwise probably good choice for a future conservative PM (well, arrayed against the morally bankrupt rest of them, at least Turnbull must understand money somewhat better) may be out of Parliament a lot sooner than he thought, having bought his way in originally. A real doctor's wives issue, with of course the otherwise Labor-leaning forestry workers lined up against. Just like the old bloke down the road who lost his job as a linotype operator when computers came in.
  • The takeover of Aboriginal business assets. Beneath contempt (actually, everything the government does is beneath contempt, it's just a matter of - relatively - how deep...).
  • Kevin Rudd. Yawn.
  • IR: the biter bit. I really, really, really hope that the business coalition's advertisements prove to be a turning point. Call it class envy, I don[t care, I just think that people don;t like to treated like idiots by the filthy rich. Yeah, that's class envy. Guilty, yer 'onour.
  • It's supposed to rain next week.

Part of preparation for tomorrow's big night has been to make a replica CD jewel case cover in order to customise it for the happy recipient. This has, in turn, entailed some teach yourself Photoshop.

As I have the patience of a wounded buffalo, it usually Mrs VVB who tackles all things computerish, and indeed she has some experience (read: has previously fiddled about in) Photoshop. However in this case she was tired and took a strategic decision to leave me to do my own dirty work.

This I did. I more or less got the result I wanted and except for the fact that it would identify a number of people who may not wish to be associated with the views expressed at Chateau VVB, I would reproduce it for you here.

Instead, it's off to practice. Have a lovely weekend.

30 August 2007

dark side of the moon

Well the life thing is filling up and so here's just a couple of random thoughts from today.

Chateau VVB is not automatically a Labor supporter, although that may not appear evident from a casual reading of the posts, but it's stuff like
this is why. It was all I could do to keep dinner down while Paul Lennon eviscerated reality in not answering Kerry O'Brien tonight. Money. Talks. Loudly.

There's a theory called
subsidiarity that asserts that the closer that government is to the people, the better the quality of governing. Not so. What you actually get is a better class of stupidity. And more laws.

Also, I noted the other night about young girls dressing to look like Paris Hilton. Well, if the accents I get from the young Aussie ladies on the checkout are any indication, they also sound like her. What's wrong with an Australian accent?

Yeah I know, just some more unthinking reflexive anti-Americanism, it comes with the chardonnay I guess.

Roll on the weekend.


27 August 2007


To Olde Sydney Towne with Chaste and Unsullied Airways, for to mixe with the great and gude of the reserche communitie and to discuss how to make moore of all thinges of natural provenance. And there was much slappinge of backs, and congratulations for the creation of a new Entitie. But also was there seemely strate questioning and plain spekinge, such as to make my poor head spinne.

Actually, the principal factor influencing the spinning was the substantial amount of alcohol imbibed the previous day and evening. However, a discreet veil is what we shall draw. I did manage to get some questions of my own in and caught up with everybody I needed to over morning tea (fruit! what a brilliant idea! and it went down a treat to my aching stomach) and lunch.

Sydney is already pissed off to the max over APEC. Two of the taxi drivers I had said they were going to take next week off, and one reported at least 6 drivers from his work doing similarly. A contact I was talking to at the workshop today told me about a wedding planned for next weekend in North Sydney (I think) that they don't know if they'll be able to hold if people can't get to it.

I can't see this doing the (insert obligatory reference) PM any good. In fact a rello whom I went to see, after stating that she was a life-long Liberal voter, reckoned she'd probably turn this time. It's the lies, you see.

Yes, we do.
And I was mightily amused to hear on radio that Laura Bush won't be coming. So the ladies lunch at the Bondi Icebergs will be minus the star attraction and Janette won't be able to be the perfect host to her husband's best, and possibly only, friend. Oh schadenfreude, in buckets. That's Hyacinth Bucket, of course. Can you imagine how livid she must be?
I was late getting down because Pure and Unsullied Airlines cancelled my flight. I had to go past the office to get some stuff and while in town I saw a young lady made up to look exactly like this person from a TV series.

Weird, man. What people will do. Makes change from Paris Hilton lookalikes, though.

Saw a couple of interesting cars. On New South Head Road, sunny Sunday Sydney afternoon, a couple jammed into a T-bucket, massive rear wheels, blower, the works. Rather like this one.

The cabbie and I had been having a grand conversation (Dick Cheney is evil, catch the drift?) when we came up behind this monster. I commented that it would good fun for such an afternoon but that the occupants were getting a bit shaken around, and he replied that all the potholes were same ones that were there 20 years ago, so the driver should have known where they were.

Then today, going through the Eastern Distributor tunnel in a rattly old cab I could hear this exhaust and other noise. Couldn't figure out what was causing it until we came out into the light a Mazda RX3 Savanna ranged up alongside - very snazzy, roll cage, massive wheels, the gauges on the bonnet, the tachos with sticking-out things and the unmistakable whine of a blower. It was shaking like crazy and very loud and my driver commented that it would be tiring to drive - after about 5 minutes I reckon. But he got in front of us and whenever he eased off the throttle there'd be a massive flame from the exhaust, same as for the V8 Supercars. Massive valve overlap? Again, takes all kinds.
What we discussed on Sunday night, I have no idea.

25 August 2007

everybody get together

Collectivism is not a word you hear all that often any more and when you do, it is usually in disparaging tones. Reverse PC I guess - collectivism as a symbol of all that was wrong with the old Soviet Union, communism more generally and then, broader again, anything that's not fully market driven.

So it's possibly a bit surprising that I've run across it twice this week.

On Wednesday night I was at one of those annual 'gala' dinner thingoes, this time for a medical research institute here in Brisbane. In his summing up address the Executive Director said "I am an unashamed collectivist." Quite a bold statement and certainly drew my attention away from the steak and mash.

What he was talking about wasn't that he ran a communist enclave or that he drew on a lot of public funding, but that he encouraged all his researchers to seek collaborations wherever they could. And also to collaborate with each other, gently reminding the audience (to general polite laughter) that individual units often don't practise this.

So in fact not quite so extreme as his statement may have been interpreted, but he used the phrase quite determinedly - it did gain attention and it underscored very graphically what he was on about.

Then today I was traipsing around a suburban shopping centre in search of stuff when I came across an art exhibition, put on by the Brisbane Artists Collective. Probably much closer to the standard definition, but also I imagine a more sensible way for them to handle their finances.

Which got me thinking about cooperatives, which seemed to be a much more common way of organising joint/mutual economic activity - maybe within a limited geographic area? - in the past. I guess most coops have been wound up now or turned into limited liability companies to "unlock the value."

Crikey I hate that term. Financial finagling - it unlocks the value all right and then distributes it upwards.

Have a piece of jaundiced ideology, courtesy of Chateau VVB.

In other news, today I saw one of these.

And decided yet again that I'd like one. I am on-again-off-again about grey imports and here's why.

When the Federal Government was introducing its Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS), I was contacted in my then work capacity by a number of local traders who thought that the new restrictions it introduced on importing used cars - particularly the "grey market" from Japan that it was aimed at - would shut them down. There was actually quite a community of these traders in sunny Queensland.
And regardless of other rights and wrongs, it was yet another policy aimed at protecting local manufacturing. Unlimited imports were allowed into NZ in the 1990s and closed down all local assemply.

I spoke to a few traders and visited a couple, including one that sticks in the memory - a most unlikely trader. She organised a bang-up, typical industrial area, sandwich platter and bent my ear like crazy. I listened politely, took notes and it all seemed pretty cogent.

When I checked back with the licensing authorities, it turned out that she was well known to them and wasn't quite as squeaky clean as it appeared.

RAWS seems to have been introduced successfully, has probably cleaned up the market a bit but you can still get what you want.

I must say an R34 V-spec is still quite enticing if you could get one with verifiable history.
The one I saw today was very dark blue with dark alloys: with those massive pumped guards it looked the duck's guts.

Almost as much as one of these. Want one of them too.

24 August 2007

white limbo

P2B=limited by work fixation. It's been an insane week with more to come. Although this doesn't prevent the prescribed coffee intake and networking activity, just means that my day has to stretch elsewhere to get the stuff done. Anyway someone said to me during the week that even though I no longer post daily, he's still sort of amazed that I can churn out 2 or 3 posts a week. Well you'd admit that there's not a lot of depth here, even if VVB isn't quite "what I did on my holidays."

Given my comments on APEC and the water cannon the other night, I was struck my this letter in the SMH today:

Well suited for protest

Memo to security: my business colleague and I have decided to march on our APEC holiday. Could you bear in mind that we'll be the ones in suits and ties? I know I'll be OK, but I fear my friend is getting too old to flee the water cannon.
T. Thornett Wollstonecraft

Gerry has also posted on the subject as he is involved in non-violent protest but I fear, as does he, that what my deputy headmaster in years 10-12 used to call the "lunatic fringe" will fuck it up for the genuine protesters.

Iemma has
cleared 200 cells for the anticipated tally and if you don't think that the police will be under orders to ensure that there's standing room only, you're deluded. Shows of force are meant to keep the populace docile and submissive, and APEC is a massive opportunity for the forces of right.

In fact I'll be in Sydney but gone before the stuff starts, I hope.

In the absence of any recollection of stuff over the last couple of days that I may have thought interesting at the time, I'll be leaving it here.

Update - oh no, not yet. Class joke in the comments at Harry Hutton's place:

A Buddhist walks into a pizza takeaway and says 'make me one with everything'.

Hadn't heard that one before. Very good!

Update 2...I remembered a discussion with a like-minded mate during the week. We were discussing the Haneef affair and agreed that it was no longer possible to have any confidence at all in the Federal Police. We also agreed (I told you we were like-minded) what a terrible thing this was - if we are in increasingly dangerous times as we are constantly reminded, not least by a barrage of government TV advertising, then shouldn't we have complete reliance on the Federal Police? What happens if the Army is proven to be politically compromised?

21 August 2007

put down that weapon

P2B=well it's windy and drizzling in Brisvegas and really I'd prefer to go to bed but it's too early so the next best thing after looking at my facebook page, poking a couple of people (whatever that means in facebookese) and asking the facebook proprietors to add my old, now disestablished high school to their list, is to...er...what? Oh yeah, write some stuff here.

1) "Aspirational nationalism." Perhaps it means we all want to be Hitler, but who knows? It's such a wanky, wonk-y phrase and I bet it doesn't speak to the former aspirationals / battlers out in suburbistan, it sure doesn't speak to me and being a blogger, I'm a target market for this kind of hucksterism. How do the spinners and hardheads or whatever come up with this crap? The only thing that does surprise me is that it wasn't Labor, this is the sort of nonsense oxygen-gobbler they usually specialise in. That said, I don't think it'll do the lying little insert objectionable word here any good either.

2) Water cannon for APEC. I never, no really, never thought I'd see the day when we had this kind of anti-democratic, anti-citizen, anti-humanity kind of weapon in this country. It just brings on a sense of immense sadness in me. We're down there with the old commo states, the 'stans, the fascist dictatorships that still dot the globe. No matter that it was a Labor government - in this game, they're all the same, protecting their own, the rich and powerful, from the human consequences of their decisions. Not that you'll actually get a decision out of an APEC meeting if history is any guide. Oh I forgot, the
Bogor Declaration. In 1994, ffs. Whoopeefuckingdoo.

3) There is no 3. And P2B=pissed off to the max, now.

19 August 2007

hello, hello, how low

From Strongtorquecustom, some examples of their work. I'm not usually a hot rod/custom fan, but I do appreciate the design, workmanship and effort that goes into some of these types of vehicles.

That'll be pronounced veee-hicles, as offspring no 2 always says.

But outstanding nonetheless.
P2B=I was like, you know...

18 August 2007

union city blue

P2B=mad as hell.

I was going to put all the weekend's posts under the same heading, but I've just seen several of the employers' cartel advertisements, one showing the Union Bosses closing down a business because we need to keep workplace reform (Note: Not WorkChoices, because we all know that reform is always good) and another spreading fear about Interest Rates.

They really should talk to the
Governor of the Reserve Bank before they make their advertisements, shouldn't they? Remember what happened last time? Oh, that's right, they got away with it, didn't they?

And it got me thinking about this?

This happened for real, not some second-rate ad agency interpretation of the employers' cartel instructions.

We should never let the Australian people forget the lengths, the extra-legality, that the Howard Government has gone to in search of destroying all semblance of balance in employment contracts.
May they rot in hell.

17 August 2007

never ending story

Something a bit different - I'll update the post over the weekend with stuff I find or whatever. This will bring many benefits, mainly that I won;t have to think up a new title for each post.

This is a significant benefit.

First, courtesy of moronland (what a great blog title, shame more of us can't use it), you need to know about a
female horse stuffed with wax. Yes, indeed. The only question this raises in my mind is, why does the Chinese language enable one to say such a thing?

On utterly unrelated other matters, I started a FaceBook page during the week. This is yet another fun noughties way of wasting an otherwise perfectly good life doing stuff, wherein one can define 'stuff' as 'nothing'. Social networking? When the computer can bring me a beer, I'll treat it seriously. Even offspring number one wrote on my wall that I should prepare to be utterly baffled by it.

However, I will say in FaceBook's defence that it's (a) more grown up than MySpace and (b) more user friendly than LinkedIn.

Geez I hate this running two words together and capitalising both. It's PainFul.

The picture is of offspring no 1 at his preferred pastime of d-j'ing. Actually, that's amongst his pastimes of drinking beer and fiddling with cars. Takes after his old man in both of those, he does.

Update no 1: as a typical middle manager I was drawn to this story, as indeed I am to anything that might shed some light on my working life. Regrettably this is a colour-by-numbers exercise so not much light being shone. I take a pretty different view on most of this - to start with, in the knowledge economy you don't treat the staff like worker bees, you seek their input and work up your schemes together.

The need to be unremittingly positive is a vexed one with me - I once worked for a bloke who practised this relentlessly and so, in my book, had zero credibility. I try to be more honest with the current team on the understanding that if I tried something fake, they'd see through it immediately and then nobody's a winner.

A few years ago my then team put me up for an award - "Person most likely to brighten your day." What that said about me as a manager I don't know, but I construed it that it was their job to do their jobs and it was my job to keep them happy. It worked for a while.

Update no2:

It's expensive to rent stadiums.
Are you quite old? Do you stutter? Want money? (Only in the land of the free).
Do any of you know how to build a box that will hold someone's feet - and some rattlesnakes?
Stories courtesy of here.

14 August 2007

chinese rock

Anil Dash's blog is always insightful, I should visit it more often. I was struck by the reference to design in cooking. We're going to have a push on design at work as a way of stimulating some 'value-adding' (sorry, there must be a non-bureaucratic term for it, but...) in other product and service industries. BRW had an article on design last week, someone was quoted as saying the next wave of prosperity will come from right brained people. You can choose to disagree and call it a fad if you wish, but it should at least spark some reflection.

Recently we've had the Richard Florida phenomenon which induced all sorts of Councils and other organisations to start claiming that their communities were more tolerant or creative or whatever. And that as a result all sorts of marvellous, economically desirable things would transpire. Given that some of these claims came from regional areas famed for demonstrating behaviours that were precisely the opposite, it's all a bit much to get excited about.

That said, ongoing reliance on raw materials exports seems to me to just economic suicide. Similarly, and this will damn me as a troglodyte, I think we need to put much more effort into maintaining manufacturing capability in the country. It's the old self-defence argument or whatever you want to call it and I'm perfectly aware of the arguments against. I just think we need to retain a substantial ability to actually make things. Financial services, hedge funds, clever financing mechanisms that enable things to happen when there actually isn't the money to pay for it are all well and good. If the crunch comes, they'll be worthless, but the ability to make a functional cart might be like gold.

This is terrible stuff, that's all of that for now...

Back to Anil. And I also liked the story on 'pixels are the new pies' - how screen design is influencing more traditional ways of imparting information. Good stuff.

On another tangent entirely, Mrs VVB has not been well and so I was thrown onto my own resources to make me some vittles tonight. And I couldn't be bothered, so I trotted down to the local Chinese for some chicken chow mein.

This dish bears as much resemblance to good Chinese food as Corn Flakes but when I was little, a trip to the Mee Lee Wah, the then only Chinese in town, was real treat. A bit later when the old man and I would be collecting new cars from the factory in Sydney, or undertaking some other road trip, a meal at the Chinese in some country town was a must.

And I still love it, it still tastes the same, if you could term chicken chow mein a comfort food then that's what it is to me. It brings back the memories and the feelings of those childhood days, which is something I think many of us yearn for more than we care to admit.

P2B=you've seen it.

The next day....update....

"The scale of the problem is absolutely massive because there's very little manufacturing done in Australia these days.
"There's very little engineering or technical support into the process at all within Australia.

What I said... you give away the ability to do things, you bear the 'unintended' consequences. Surely the fanatics of pure comparative advantage also heard the one about the number of baskets that one should prefeably put one's eggs into?

13 August 2007

shake it up

P2B=pretty damn minimal if the truth be known. Been practising some old songs for an upcoming party, I haven't been playing enough so my fingers are all soft and now they hurt. Got to develop some baby callouses between now and then, got to get my voice back into some state of trim, got to learn not to mess up so many simple chords.

Fortunately, by the time showtime rolls around I will be sufficiently lubricated not to care and just to let it all hang out.

The headings on the blogs are dispiriting, as are the headlines and the opinion pieces.

So it's a wonderful thing when my
favourite motoring program - click on Top Gear to see the video manages to work le parkour into one of its stunts. That's just wonderful stuff - all the production crew must be awfully right-brained to come up with these insane ideas.

That's insane in a good way, I hope you realise.

The right-brained will inherit the earth you know, I read that in the Business Review Weekly (yes! really!) so can I suggest you all start using yours.

Mine's in for a grease and oil change.

There, that feels better than ranting about you-know-whom and his you-know-what, doesn't it? Don't we all want to contribute to a better world?

Here' s a photo chosen at random from the collection 'cos it's kind of unexceptional. It's the town of Stanley in Tasmania, the photo was taken from the geological outcrop known as the Nut that rises over the town. I reckon Stanley is one of the neatest, cleanest towns I've ever seen. I did see a sign claiming that it had recently won a Tidy Towns context - not surprised.

12 August 2007

money changes everything

P2B = Medium. Would quite like to have a rant about a few things, but do I want to commit the time? If I could type more quickly, I'd get it done.

First, here are some
brain-teasers that I'm sure some readers will enjoy. Found via here where, if you linger, you''ll find lots of funny stuff.

The continuing tale of the water tank. I spent lots of energy yesterday trying to wrestle the old lattice into place to re-make the fence. Kind of like getting an octopus to lie straight, I imagine. Eventually gave up and went for using a stack of old fence palings. It looks a bit dodgy but with a coat of paint and the passage of time it'll be OK. No rain yet of course.

I was most taken with
this column by Canberra Times economic columnist Peter Martin. Of course I'd be taken with it, because it aligns with some of my own prejudices (I wouldn't try to characterise my prejudices as thinking). While I am forever ranting about economic rationalism and the Washington Consensus and who knows what else, it is more fundamentally the power that economics has over the rest of life that annoys me most. Not being an historian and certainly not an historian of economic thought, I imagine it's unlikely that this is a new development. Even if Bill Clinton said "it's the economy, stupid."

Treasuries of course need to safeguard public spending - we don't need to look too far afield to find examples of inappropriate spending by desperate politicians. But the whole system is distorted, the bottom line has far too much sway. So I was kind of relieved to see that Productivity Commission staff are being exposed to some ideas that might get them thinking about things in different ways. Even if, at the same time, Catallaxy reports that Tasmanian Treasury people have been bludgeoned with the 'Austrian school' that Catallaxians are always banging on about.

Note that, utterly subconsciously, I've differentiated my views about 'good' economics and economics of which I disapprove by use of language? Didn't even have to think about it. Not very helpful to mutual understanding, eh?

It wouldn't be a VVB column without a reference to our superhuman PM, would it? Somewhere today I read that Howard's introduction of the permanent campaign to Australia's body politic may be counting against him. Good. I've mentioned a couple of times that I thought purely political advertising was limited to the actual campaign period after writs have been called. Evidently not from what we've seen on the TV recently but bloody hell I wish it was. Pure political ads are lowest common denominator information - they tell you absolutely nothing but seek to get you stirred up about some potential 'enemy'.

That's a very negative thought to finish up on, so I'll just remind myself that in a couple of weeks I'll be at a party with my trusty guitar and another opportunity to make people feel good. I haven't been practising very much, certainly I haven't been keeping the older repertoire up to date but I got some very positive, unsolicited feedback during the week that my very amateurish efforts are in fact appreciated, so I'll be giving it 150%. It's a buzz, you can bet on that.

Finally, this is a semi-anonymous blog (I'm starting to think it should have been totally anonymous but will have to pay the price now for that decision). So here's a semi-anonymous photo of yer 'umble correspondent. Because it's not anonymous, I can't relate the story of dinner last night with some of our neighbours. Especially as they paid, as thanks for us looking after their place when they go away. We'd do that anyway. No, more to do with... enough. Not necessary at all.

Bonsoir, mes petits.

10 August 2007

help me make it through the

I subscribe to a newsletter from a firm of training providers. The theme of the latest newsletter was employing older (mature age) workers. Some snippets, with comments:

"Many employers are beginning to recognise the benefits of employing mature age
people. Some have found that the push to employ younger generations has led to a greater rate of staff turnover. Mature age employees generally tend to be more
reliable, committed and dependable. They are likely to remain with an employer
longer than their younger counterparts, which ensures that the benefits of training and business and product knowledge stay with the organisation over a longer period of time. Mature age people make excellent mentors and coaches for younger staff, passing on a wealth of information and skills. They often contribute a degree of maturity that is an added advantage when dealing with both internal and external customers. Furthermore, they tend to have a strong work ethic and produce high quality work."

Translation: the reduce-costs-by-whatever-means movement of the early 90s, as economic rationalism took hold, actually has cost us longer term. All knowledge and energy does not reside in HR managers under the age of 25. Or CEOs and other executives on cushioned or protected employment arrangements. Middle managers who apparently do nothing actually kept the wheels turning. How were we to know?

"Policies, programs and legislation that determine fiscal, financial and industrial relations practices often both reflect and influence attitudes within the business and wider community. Superannuation, payroll tax and workers compensation can provide disincentives through the loss of benefits such as concessions. Negative attitudes and stereotypes about the value of mature age workers are still prevalent and need to be actively challenged in every sector. Some employers still fear that they may not see the return on their investment in training mature age workers. Some have concerns about the mental or physical capacity of mature age workers. The large number of job advertisements seeking juniors indicates a reluctance to pay higher wages and salaries for maturity and experience. Based on the evidence to support the value of mature age workers, the assumptions underlying this practice can be challenged. It many instances, it may be more beneficial to engage older workers."

Yes, economic rationalism had longer term costs. How were we to know? So many people were preaching it, the theory just seemed so...so....rational. But we senior executives know how the world works and if we actually asked our workforce they might tell us something....different. Best to leave it alone.

"Mature age workers are not a homogeneous category but present a range of different needs, preferences and priorities. While workforce participation for some is restricted due to poor health, others have boundless energy and enthusiasm and are keen to continue working. Some may feel compelled to do so due to financial commitments. Many enjoy the continuing stimulation and challenge of work as well as the social interaction with colleagues. There is growing recognition of the need for informed choice by members of this group about their employment preferences. While there is a need to support and encourage mature age workers to return to or enter the workforce, it is important that this not become coercive. All people should be given equal opportunity in employment, education and training, regardless of age. Options such as phased retirement, flexible working hours, job sharing and home-based work respond to the changing needs of older workers. Attitudes also need flexing. We need to challenge a culture that regards our older citizens as worn out, physically and mentally incapacitated, behind-the-times seniors who should sign up for bingo and bowls and pack their bags for the nursing home!"

Think for yourselves, you fuckwits. The world doesn't stop turning after your 25th birthday. And training consultants could possibly be a little bit less condescending.

Apart from that, all tickety-boo.

No political discussion or observations, it'll be a bloody 3 months or so. Nothing happening here to influence anything momentous, know what I mean?

A couple of conversations over the past 2 or 3 days have restored my faith in fundamental human nature. We just want to look after our families, friends and those we care a bit about. Help each other get through the day - and the night.

Simple really.

P2B=quite high but I couldn't express what I'd like to talk about adequately so I won't try.

08 August 2007

style council(s)

Well I called this yesterday. And while we're on the subjects, what do you reckon Howard thought about Kennett's council amalgamations? Undemocratic? Unnecessary?

The letter to the SMH that I blogged yesterday very accurately described the effects of the recent fervour for undemocratic behaviour by governments of all stripes, and the current council amalgamation effort in Queensland certainly qualifies. However, for Howard to damn it is pretty funny: after all, he's the one who knows all about subverting democratic checks and balances.


07 August 2007

mirror mirror

A top letter to the ed in today's Sydney Morning Herald. Good stuff, Michael Leslie of Alstonville.

Secrecy and the deals done at the top are the biggest betrayals

Your editorial "An Australia more than just the sum of its parts" (August 4-5) makes much of the damage done to Australia by inefficient federal-state arrangements.

This is trivial compared to the change in both layers of government such that we are now ruled by elected dictatorships protected by secrecy imposed in the name of national security or, more banally, commercial-in-confidence arrangements with the rich and powerful.

Just reading the weekend paper we see the following examples: John Thorpe of the Australian Hotels Association is to visit every minister to prevent any competition to his grog and gambling palaces; Sydney is to be closed down and a ludicrous wall built to hold a conference which should be held in Canberra; the NSW Government is to sell off all Crown leases while hiding the environmental value of the land; and the bizarre case of the Tasmanian hospital takeover despite opposition from both doctors and economists.

What has happened is that parliaments have lost their sovereignty. They are now rubber stamps to an executive which operates in both state and federal spheres by transferring some public property or monopoly power to a private person or group in return for their political support. The winners don't complain and the losers either don't know they've lost anything because of the secrecy or are powerless to do anything about it.

At election time, the winners support the government and most doubters are convinced by sophisticated propaganda to vote against their own interests with the promise that they will personally benefit in some way. Both Liberal-National and Labor governments use the technique.

It's our own fault - a mixture of selfishness and gullibility has turned us into a scared, xenophobic country prepared to put up with the national security state as long as we can buy cheap electrical gadgets.

We put up with the destruction of the institutions that made Australia great: our public schools and hospitals and our telecommunication infrastructure are a shadow of the past, our public services are a mixture of propaganda offices and sales agencies. And for what benefit? The workers work ridiculous hours and neglect their children while the rich get richer.
This concentration of power in the executive is leading us to disaster.

Michael Leslie Alstonville

P2B=lazy but enthused

war pigs

P2B=medium but exercised.

Let the deep and meaningful analysis occur elsewhere. This is just to say that we think it's going to be a dirty campaign (well, on one side anyway). People who are born to rule (Hammy alert - look away! look away!!) don't take readily to being deprived of relevance. And he thinks Rudd's vain!! Fuck me, how do you spell deluded?

That said, I reckon Peter Dutton has lost them the conservative/bogan 18-29 demographic (I'm sure there is such a thing...actually, wasn't there a Young National actually on Big Brother a while ago?).

Don't overlook the influence of
this person - (warning - another puke alert) - whatever the rodent may think about his party wanting him, the country needing him or his endless quest to be whatever it was he imagined himself as a youth (oh, I forgot, he actually wanted to be PM...), it'll take a B-double full of fertiliser to extract Hyacinth from the perch on the harbour.

Throwing buckets of money at superannuated National Party councillors seems downright stupid, although it does explain the joint Senate ticket in Queensland I suppose.

On the other side, it'll be either nano-scale targets (and keeping Julia out of sight while Wayne Swan learns the art of the 10 second grab, something he has yet to master) or efforts such as
this which induce nausea even in partisans such as yer 'umble scribe.

On second thoughts, my response is probably classic baby boomer so can be discounted commensurately.

As if to prove that as a political strategist I'm the equal of any (male) quantity surveyor, I'd simply suggest that on interest rates, the line should simply be "he takes credit when they go down and points the finger when they go up." Evasiveness in leaders is not appreciated. Let's see what the Reserve Bank does.

I get all squirmy when elections roll around. I love the theatre and the uncertainty, but the rest is very cringe-y, as Mrs VVB puts it. As this photo from what must have been the 18 October 1980 Federal election shows, I don't take losing easily. Grown men do cry over the silliest things.

Addendum: something to cheer up all lovers of management fads.

05 August 2007

suspicious minds

"Andrews: 'Well Jon, firstly, the suspicion I've formed on the material at the time I made my decision, was to clearly raise a suspicion in my mind.'"

Translation: I'm an underperforming idiot that couldn't trusted to carry the morning tea tray without getting something wrong.

You couldn't make up stuff like this, could you?

Not only that, but
I have substantial conflicts of interest between my personal beliefs and (taxpayer-funded) 'professional" responsibilities, but that's OK because I'm on the side of truth and light. Well, maybe it's OK, but actually I'd rather not answer the question because I'm an idiot.

VVB would like to say we can hear the sound of scales falling from eyes around Australia but even if we can, natural caution suggests to wait until the results are in.

Meanwhile hope springs, as you know it does.

P2B=brief but really, really, really annoyed.

whole lotta shakin' goin' on

You know when you read something and you think, "this can't be true!" Even if you haven habitually low opinion of your fellow humans, particularly those in positions of political or commercial power - or even both - surely kidnapping slaves for the good of the empire is a step too far?

But it's the Times of London, the good old "Thunderer", surely they'd be reasonably sure of their facts before going to print?

Anyway, one to watch.

Of course I only got to that story because, as is my Sunday habit, I'd gone to see who was in the cross-hairs of Jeremy
Clarkson this week. He's gone back to one of his regular targets, namely those of an environmental persuasion. If they buy this week's conveyance they'll lose their knees at the first minor parking lot bump.

It's bad to be a hater, but it's wonderful to watch a good hater in full flight.

And finally, went to get some timber to finish off the fence to artfully semi-hide the tank. Do you know, lattice is narrower nowadays than it was 30 years ago? I found this out after I'd brought 5 metres of lattice support home to discover that the groove running down the middle is narrower than in the previous support timber.

Whoda thunkit?

04 August 2007

fixing a hole

P2B = quite a lot, to be fuelled by beer. And chips.

1) Like many, I guess, I peruse the excerpts from the various blogs on Oz Politics. I probably should get stuff by RSS feed but the couple of times I tried I couldn't get it to work.

That's an aside. Back to Oz Politics. I've noticed that the more extreme conservative blogs, but you can include some commentators at "libertarian" blogs, are always banging on about the "the left" and "leftists", often accompanied by colourful adjectives. Whereas on the other side of the 'sphere, the targets are narrower, or indeed more personal (Howard, other Ministers, Bush, etc). The adjectives tend to be just as colourful, though.

Why would this be, do you reckon? I don't have too much against conservatives as a breed (I wish Howard was more conservative in certain things, such maybe not dismantling the few checks and balances of our parliamentary system). What I do have a lot against is reactionaries (you could include "knuckle-dragging" there, as an example of a typical colourful adjective that is often applied). But I don't bang on about "the right". The adjectives I would apply to Howard refer to his behaviour: petty, vindictive, myopic. The closest to stereotyping I would get is in relation to Ruddock (fascist) and Downer (born-to rule, useless).

So, what's with the stereo? Typing, I mean?

2) Why I am not a quantity surveyor.

The water tank got installed during the week. This time I, rather than Mrs VVB, stayed home to supervise. I had some work to do, but only a couple of hours' worth. I rang after 10 to inquire about delivery, to be told it was an hour to 90 minutes off. At about 11 the installers arrived and did the bits they could, such as digging a little trench from the slab to my drainage pit. They asked did I dig it myself? Indeed I had, but I rented a small post hole auger as after 250 mm down you're into clay.

The tank arrived at 1pm, but it only took them a few minutes to hook it up.

Today I went to get some gravel for the drainage pit. I looked in the hole and thought "about half a cubic metre." I thought that I'd be able to pick it up in the heavy plastic bags that the landscape place sells, but no dice, they said, I needed a trailer. We used to have one, but as it never got even half the work it got in Canberra, we sold it years ago.

So I came home to think about it, and also to measure the hole properly, which turned out to be .3 of a cubic metre. I found a large plastic tub and an old garbage bin that totalled .2 of a cubic metre so off I went back to the shop. I figured I could make the rest of the volume up with broken bricks we have at home and bloke thought this was a good idea. The bloke cautioned me about overloading the car, particularly in relation to braking, but it was fine.

In fact the main problem with driving to and from the place was avoiding the western suburbs acreage women carefully navigating their Benzes and Bimmers wherever it is they go, in their splendidly coiffed glory on a Saturday at a steady 10-20 kph under whatever the speed limit is, peering frantically over the wheel lest a speck of dust land on the bonnet. Or they see another car, maybe an enthusiastically driven bright yellow Saab with an extra 200 kg of gravel aboard, actually travelling at the speed limit,

Except it turned out I did need .3 of a metre of gravel , so I went back the third time. I think I have now seen the look someone makes when they have to keep a straight face, but are actually rolling their eyes inwardly.

Anyway, it all looks fine and all I have to do is make a cover with some leftover timber, which I almost finished except the battery on the cordless drill didn't last so I'll have to finish it off tomorrow as well as reinstall the lattice fence that used to be there to hide the tank a bit.

The subsequent job is to make it rain.

03 August 2007


The best letter to the editor I've seen in a long time, in today's SMH:

The Prime Minister's frantic attempts to fan flames out of his poll embers prompts an adage: where there's smoke there are mirrors.

M.F. Horton Alice Springs (NT)
Also today's cartoon from Pryor in the Canberra Times is pretty good. Very good, in fact.

Apart from that, it's just wtf? By which I mean, P2B=nil.
As a former, now unfortunately deceased, colleague of mine used to say, "Talk amongst yourselves. Smoke if you wish."
Mind you, that was a while ago.

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