29 April 2007

here come de judge

Yesterday's big spread in the Australian about what a small time, and apparently incompetent, player David Hicks was couldn't go unchallenged when you need to keep the fear factor up all the way to election time. So here 'Attorney-General' Philip Ruddock does his bit. What a good soldier for the cause he is, when you can't get a good jury you can also be the judge.

And coincidentally in the background is the current TV ad for taking out Australian citizenship, it's "more than just a ceremony". Which of course it was under Labor, I guess. And you can get "full consular assistance." Well, you used to, now it depends (on bits that I can't recall from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations).

Really, words do not describe, do they?

27 April 2007

the logical song

I have kept forgetting to post a link to this wonderful periodic table of "visualisation methods", management strategy models and tools and other rare beasties to keep indentured professionals in a state of catatonic...geez I dunno, the words fail me, give me your suggestions... for a long, long time.

If you run your mouse over each box a sample pops up. This list is, without doubt, one of the most wonderful things I have ever run across. You can take it seriously as a compendium of tools available, or you can just gaze at it in wonder, knowing full well the hours, days and years that lots and lots of people have spent being intellectually and emotionally pummelled as they get forced through whatever the process-du-jour happened to have been. Like my good friend who, on arrival in a new area decided to show what a good bloke he was and volunteered to coordinate the annual business planning process. He was still at it eleven months into the year.

I have a business planning session next week, as some kind of perverse welcome-back-to-work present. I hope we have on-line audio-visual capacity on the room. If so I'll be going to this within the first five minutes.

Incidentally, the link was sent to me with the e-mail title "recipes for spaghetti and other disasters" - a reference, of course, to the Barry Jones Knowledge Nation fiasco.


your gold teeth

A bit more on Working Identity. Another theme that struck me about the case studies was the number of people who went into the not-for-profit sector, ie mainly humanitarian causes. At least half a dozen of the 25-odd cases, all successful professionals including quite a few in management consulting, had identified through either serendipity or reflection that this was where they wanted to work - to make more of a difference, they found. There's one snippet where an investment banker reflects on what he feels he had achieved in investment banking and decided it wasn't very much, and his embarrassment to the extent that he used to hide his profession when meeting people at parties, for example.

Which is not to take a cheap shot an investment banking, tempting though that is. More to the point, the theme of moving from highly paid for-profit jobs into (usually) less well paid employment in the not-for-profit sector seems to be becoming more common, as I read similar stories quite often in management journals and business magazines.

Of course for it to be a genuine trend you'd need to do some objective comparisons over time. I'm not trying to draw any long bows between the rise of the market economy and greater levels of dissatisfaction and inner turmoil in highly-paid executives. I've no doubt that many businesspeople have always sought to assist in various philanthropic ways. Still, it would be interesting to see whether there is in fact some trend emerging.

My copy of Working Identity is to go on loan almost immediately in a direction I hadn't anticipated, namely to a good friend who has just failed to get a job he had every reasonable expectation of getting and is now in introspective mode. You never know, as they say.

Finally, Kenneth Davidson, who seems to be drifting even further "leftish" in his economic analysis, not that there's anything wrong with that as we must let a hundred schools of thought contend, writes here about the imminent shitfight over the proposed Australia-China Free Trade Agreement. Government reliance on dodgy modelling is nothing new, Keating and co did similarly on the Uruguay Round negotiations. Those forecast numbers have still not been achieved as far as I am aware. Why you'd want to go into an agreement with an economy that ceteris paribus is destined to overwhelm you anyway is beyond me. Davidson laments that trade "liberalisation" will be the outcome with the China agreement: well no surprise there, that's what such agreements are meant to do. Classifying China as a market economy for the purposes of the agreement is just crap, there's no other word for it.

Trade agreements are fine in principle, provide you get something out of them. That's the bit that seems to be missing here. Investment? Services? Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of the main church (St David's?) at the Port Arthur site. I love the feel of the light in the afternoon.

Last thoughts. Does Australia love Snoop Dogg? Do you love Snoop, as his lawyer avers? Answers on the pack of a Chupa Chup to this address.

26 April 2007

going up the country

The country we are going up - the journey referred to a couple of posts ago - is an internal one. One of a great many late realisations that I've made is that it is possible, indeed desirable and perhaps even necessary, to continually look inward and reinvent yourself. As I hinted, for a substantial period of my life I drifted through what I was doing. I was moderately successful, defined in work terms, which seems to be how we define ourselves far too frequently. Not outstanding but certainly comfortable would be how I'd put it.

I was fortunate a few years ago to get onto a personal development course. It was without a doubt the most intense example of such activities that I've seen and, almost without exception, those of us who experienced it got a lot out of it. While the immediate effects may wear off, it left a substantial legacy including the continuing desire to change, as well as some of the tools you need to do so.

It was that course, along with a few things that have happened in the meantime, that led to me getting
Working Identity (from Amazon, no-one in Brisbane seemed to have it including the Australian Institute of Management whose computer system showed one in stock, but it was nowhere to be found).

Working Identity relates a number of strategies for bring about a career change that are wholly consistent with the general approach taken on the course: finding oneself first; becoming much more comfortable with ambiguity; looking for new sources of inspiration; and, particularly in the context of job change, trying out new versions of yourself in new situations.

Because I've never learnt the lesson of "never a borrower nor a lender be", I'll be lending it to a couple of people to see what they make of it.

The picture shows one of the many walking paths we enjoyed while in Tassie. This one is on the Freycinet Peninsula, heading back to Coles Bay from Hazards Beach. I love paths like this - every corner you approach promises something new. I feel the picture accurately captures the nature of following a path where the journey is the destination, where the things you discover along the way represent the most value.

Comments on the day's proceedings? Radio CommunistNational, which I was listening to on the way back from the waste recycling centre (oh how I yearn for the days of going to "the dump") had a quite insightful program on Howard's repositioning of the Liberal Party, including interviews with a number of the 'wets' who were unceremoniously dumped along the way. There was one wonderful snippet (couldn't pick up from whom) about Maggie Thatcher being wheeled in a few times to provide her particular view on how the world should work. The speaker described the rapturous reception she received, and the content of her speeches as "stupidly offensive". Or it may have been "offensively stupid", I thought at the time that it could have been interchangeable.

25 April 2007


The triangulation starts here (see comments on previous post for some sort of explanation).
The picture has no relevance to the topic, it's just a close-up of the bricks in one of the buildings at Port Arthur - they made the bricks with sea water and the salt content made them vulnerable to the weather. I liked the pattern.
I was thinking, see. Have we ever had a PM called Kevin before? It just sort of struck me that amongst the Roberts and Bobs and Johns and Pauls we haven't ever gone bogan chic, if I can be so rude. PM Rudd has a nice sort of ring to it - in an On Our Selection sort of way - but Kevin? I am reminded of the more famous Kevins - this one for example. Well, it's got to happen first I suppose before we get all thing about his name.

There was a letter in the Courier Mail this morning from a bloke who runs a recruitment agency, wondering how he'll ever get a fair run in bidding for government work in a Rudd-led government, with Kevin's wife being Therese Rein, founder and CEO of

A fair point, I can't recall any other PM with a spouse who was in business. I don't have an answer to the question - it'd be a big ask for her to sell the business should we actually get a PM Kevin - but surely it's better to have a PM with a spouse who understands business from an owner's point of view, who's been there and done it so to speak?

Trip update: I took two books with me - The Natural Advantage of Nations and Jeremy Clarkson. Natural Advantage would put bricks to sleep. I got about 20 pages into it and put it away until the return flight. I was quite struck by the number of Australian examples, but I was more struck by the apparently unaddressed need for lots of editing. On one page Ken Henry, Secretary of the Treasury is lauded for talking about consumer sovereignty and on the bottom of the same page is a pretty weak damnation of the reliance on a single mechanism, the price signal, in a market economy. Now that's a slightly simplistic analysis of what's actually in the book, but if you are going to try to make a case in economic terms you can't have potentially contradictory arguments - and certainly not in such proximity.

There are lots of examples of successful innovations with the potential to lead to sustainability in economic, social and environmental terms but overall the tone is relentless without being intriguing. I would have thought such a book should draw you in, caress you to its way of thinking. I'll need to get back to it at some stage but I have been distracted. Not by Clarkson - which I'm whipping through a couple of stories a night - but by
this. It was recommended to me and so far I like the approach. It is also based a lot on case studies, but the stories of each individual's goals, motivation, psychological and practical responses to issues which arose in the search for a new career and so on are well captured and analysed.

And money? Well, it's a hit, don't give me that do goody-good bullshit.

A strong economy is good for you.

24 April 2007

down two then left

Australia's rising, inflation isn't, all's well in the universe. Looks like the end of history, so this will also presage some changes at chateau vvb.

It's been obvious for a long time that I have nothing new or insightful to say about the Australian polity and, in particular, the disastrous way it has been 'managed' (and believe me that's what it has been - certainly not 'led') over the last 11 years. My disdain for John Howard and the deep, unnecessary damage he has done to Australian society since he came to power knows no bounds, but simply repeating that view here doesn't change anything.

There are plenty of blogs which do better analysis of that damage, and of the particularly limited and regressive worldview of Howard's that brings it all about, not to mention the vindictiveness that informs his political machinations. Best we leave that job to the experts.

It's time that vvb went off on a bit of a different journey, symbolised at the beginning by the fabulous piccie that mrs vvb took of one of the many natural arches on Tasmania's eastern coast, and also these goats at one of the places we stayed (one of two places run by ex-Queenslanders). Which kind of got us thinking about a potential move, too.

As a bit of a teaser, I'm hoping to also embark on a bit of personal journey over the next little while, some of which I plan to share. It'll be revealing, mainly about how someone can sail through life for so long with so little understanding of what's been going on around him, but maybe talking a bit about that will be where the value will come from.

For consistency with this approach, I've asked that venividiblogi be dropped from the daily OzPolitics feed. And if I do get the urge to vent about Howard, I have another tiny spot in the Wordpress part of the blogosphere. I haven't posted there for ages because I keep forgetting I started it (update - and I deleted my wordpress account so I won't be doing any more posts there - clever). So instead, here are some other pictures.

Here are some caves (King Solomon's at Mole Creek).

More wave sculpture on the Tasman Peninsula on the east coast.

Stewart's Bay, next to Port Arthur. We had a little self-contained cabin, it was positively silent except for the sound of the waves in the background. And, for some reason, utter pitch darkness inside. Made the ritual going to the toilet at 2am journey quite interesting.

Keogh's Creek near the Tahune AirWalk. Wowie zowie, is that airwalk ever an experience. Not for those with vertigo, to be sure.

Triple Webers on an original ex-Bathurst Holden XU1, owned by the people who ran one of the places we stayed. We also went to Georgetown to catch the first (Prologue) session of the Targa. Good fun, for those of that kind of inclination.

23 April 2007

back in the ussrbrisvagas

Mr and Mrs VVB returned safely to the arms, charms and whatall of house, cat and offspring no 2 this arvo. Blogging will be resumed probably after I'm back at work and back in the rut. For the meantime there are eleventy thousand photos, both digital and traditional negatives, to sort through and choose which to print.

The highlights?
  • arriving in Melbourne to find that the reception for the "apartment hotel" was on floor 8 and the lifts were u/s. So I trudged up to 8, got the key to the room (which was on 9), wedged open the stairwell door, went back down and collected Mrs VVB and the heavy bags and went up to 9. Slowly. There was an elderly French couple waiting in the lobby and even after two treks to the room and time to get settled, the poor dears were still waiting for the "in 30 minutes" repair when we went back down. At least I got to exercise my minimal, vestigal French. They got the lifts working but they soon went out again for a few hours.
  • the fabulous National Gallery, and how much the inhabitants of chateau VVB prefer traditional forms of art;
  • the museum isn't where it used to be 40 years ago;
  • buying food (to cook) on Easter Sunday can be a challenge in Melbourne CBD;
  • the Spirit of Tasmania is quite good fun even if you don't sleep like you expected to;
  • Tasmania is breathtakingly beautiful - every turn you make unveils a new vista (hence the number of photos);
  • especially Port Arthur and the Huon Valley;
  • but we don't think we'll go to live there, altho' we did discuss it a bit and spent an afternoon looking around to get a feel for the suburbs (we've had a real estate feed coming in for about a year);
  • it takes about a week until you stop thinking about work during the ritual 2am awake period;
  • the proprietors of both the owner-operated places we stayed at were ex-Queenslanders (including a couple from the next suburb who also patronise the shop where offspring no 2 works - yup, it's a small world);
  • you don't really miss the internet and newspapers and all that hoo-ha;
  • and you don't want to come home.

But here we are. Selected photos later.

06 April 2007

just a song before I go

As those of you who laboured (ha ha) through last night's ode to the government's new-found interest in my innards will know, chateau vvb is off on some long-delayed holidays, leaving vvb-ette to mind the chateau and cat.

So in a frame of mind to give you something to have a laugh at and almost certainly stir up the culture wars - well, if there were enough readers it would - here are couple of articles from something called Radar.

First up, America's
worst colleges. As Radar says, this really should be a useful service. The dominant and successful colleges I imagine do all sorts of advertising to attract the "best and brightest", but what if you're mainly known for irrelevant courses or the propensity of the student body to engage in antisocial or criminal behaviour? Shouldn't prospective students get a few insights into the bad along with the good?

Although I must say that America's entrepreneurial society does spawn some, er, inventive ways of raising money even in a student body.

Second, American colleges'
worst courses. Lots of so-called cultural studies of course with an emphasis on making something out of nothing from popular TV shows. But I was most taken with The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur. That'll be the late Tupac, of course. The idea of gaining an extra credit for learning the Humpty Dance should appeal to those who are driven to achieve at all costs.

Enough of this frivolity. The serious business of ensuring we have packed everything has commenced. As it's been a while since Mrs VVB and I have been hols, this endeavour holds the potential to presage the inevitable tension that will erupt the within the first minutes of collecting the hire car.

Just joking folks. This holiday has been a long time coming and I reckon we're up to making the most of it. How I'll deal with lack of Crikey and blogging is another matter. So, to make up for that, the reading material I'm taking is:
- Amory Lovins and others -
the Natural Advantage of Nations;
- ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation -
Educating for the Creative Workforce;
- Jeremy Clarkson - ...
and another thing.

I've just tested the first bottle of Coopers Pale Ale. Quite tasty but utterly flat. Bugger.

05 April 2007

a guest post by offspring no 2

This blog is being written by offspring number 2.....why? There's some heavy stuff going on here in Casa de VVB, and Mr. VVB felt that perhaps I should write about it.

I arrived home today and collected the mail (as usual), and proceeded to the front door. Lent up against the door was a large A4 packet, marked clearly 'Australian Government'...very official. It was addressed to Mr. VVB. I left, and have just returned to the house to discover that the official package was in fact a once in a lifetime opportunity for Mr. VVB to participate in...


What an opportunity. What an honour. Mr. VVB is indeed a very lucky man.

The general gist is that the Australian Government would like Mr.VVB to provide them with 2 very special little brown presents.

So what's in the packet? Let's have a look.

  • Two specimen collection sheets (Did you know that someone makes money out of making paper that you poo on?)
  • Two collection sticks (I thought that a spoon would have been more appropriate)
  • Two collection tubes (no comment)
  • Two labels (he gets to name them)
  • Two screw-top transport tubes (so they can go everywhere he does)
  • Instructions for sample collection (in case you have never sampled your own excrement before).
  • One reply paid envelope. (Which appears to be addressed to the wrong person, I'm sure if Mr.VVB were going to send his poo somewhere it would be to John Howard).

Storage and handling seem to be of concern, displayed in clear red writing. "Sample tubes should be stored at room temperature in a dark, dry location. May be stored in fridge but do not freeze."

So here's Mr. VVB, he's just done his service to Australia...and now he's going to put his two new friends (Todd and Jeremy...he got to name them, remember) in the fridge next to last night's left overs.

Will he do it? Won't he? Will he be allowed on to a plane to Tasmania with the kit, or will it be considered a weapon? All that and more when VVB returns in 2 weeks....

Over and out.

Postscript from VVB:

Various thoughts spring to mind, foremost amongst which is "Australia expects every man this day to do his duty...then collect it in a bag and send it back to us."

As for instructions on how to collect, in case you haven't collected sample of your own excrement before...hmmm, yes. Not one of my hobbies, so, no but yes, but no.

Also, how does someone invent the floating poo catcher? And what testing does it go through to determine fitness for purpose? I think someone's been straining to get to this point.

Anyway I think I'll leave Todd and Jeremy in the fridge, maybe someone can feed them to the cat.

As mini-VVB-ette said...over and......OUT!

Post-script to the post-script: You know it's an election year when you get an unsolicited letter from the government asking you to tell them about something that's very important to you. And enclose a demonstration.

03 April 2007

free falling

Stacks of times throughout the day various things will suggest themselves for a blogpost. If I was rooly rooly keen I'd write them down and then, when the evening comes around (what song does that come from?), I could post. It'd be ever so efficient.

Regrettably, with the need to actually try to concentrate on work, allied with the attention span of a gnat - and the observant amongst you will note the incompatibility of those two factors - I don't. Then every evening, when it comes around, I have to try to remember what it was that so damned fascinating, or at least moderately interesting, so I can write. Speaking of
attention spans... playing video games gives you a longer attention span? Didn't I read somewhere yesterday that the makers of board games like Monopoly are having to bring out new versions that last 20 minutes, not a whole evening, to cater to Gen Y?

Fortunately for all of my reader, work has been insinuating itself into my life to a greater extent recently. This has aligned nicely with an ennui, a certain je ne sais quoi, with the whole bloggerama thing. There are, believe it or not, only so many times you can whinge about Howard and co. No, actually that's not right, many others in the 'sphere do it literally incessantly and VVB is more than happy for them to continue to do so, and we'll come around and leave a comment occasionally. Maybe you're supposed to get some feeling of belongingness by being part of the vast left wing echo chamber but if so, the feeling has passed me by.

It'd also be far more effective to write posts offline, to mould and sculpt them into finely honed pieces of literary brilliance. I believe other people do this, quite obviously I don't. But if I did, there'd have to be an awful lot of sculpting. And would it still be a blog? Ah, the unfathomable, the imponderable questions of life.

No, me neither.

So, what about that David Hicks eh? Did you see Major Mori on the 7.30 report tonight? Good performance I thought, very professional, then he started to sound like he wanted out but Red Kezza just kept on coming. Mori remained professional in his responses but the tone started to sound a bit, not peeved exactly but certainly keen to bring it all to a close. Especially the answers about having to save up questions for Hicks himself when the gag - if it lasts any possible appeals - comes off on 31 March 2008.

How about that Australian Howard Government eh? What a bunch of blokes. Go team.

My neck hurts. Goodnight.

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