28 September 2008

on the road again

Have just done the Capricorn Coast to Brisbane and return road trip thing. Chateau VVB was up for auction on Saturday, someone needed to be there (so it seemed, anyway). Left after work on Friday, a bit of a bugger really as I'd been in Gladstone anyway, but had to bring a work colleague back and then swap the office car for the yellow Saabmarine, as offspring no 2 calls it. So an extra 280 km or so just for fun.

It being a late departure after a full day, and a few full days before that, I didn't feel up to going all the way (I'd be in Adelaide if I did that, ha ha) so stopped in Maryborough. Still arrived late, after reception had been closed a while, they left the key under the doormat. Cute. I had a small bottle of vino collapso from the well stocked bar and hit the sack.

Awoke early, before reception was operational so I left the cash for the vino on the table, put the key back under the mat and hit the frog and toad.

It was just on 6, the sun was up and it was brilliantly clear. I came out of the 60 km town limit but saw a car coming up over my right shoulder on the Bruce Highway at the 100km mark. Thought briefly, not so good as I wasn't utterly awake but then floored it and pulled out in front of him. Turned up the radio, it was Bob Seger with
Hollywood Nights which is a great driving song, so I cranked it up further and awaaaay we went. Life is just extra grouse sometimes, you can't foresee it. The early morning sun on the canefields, the green hills in the background, the open road...ah yup, I was extremely alert and it was all good.

The auction was a damp squib, no registered bidders although the agents (cough spit) had led me to believe we had at least one. So Chateau VVB is still for sale. Amazingly, the original architect turned up to have a look and may in fact be interested in putting in a bid. Had a yarn to him about what we had liked or not about the place. He hadn't seen it since about 1976.

Took it much easier coming home as I knew there would be police everywhere. There were. Just as well I wasn't driving one of
these. You'll enjoy Jeremy's take on modern Britain, there are lots of things he doesn't like about modern life, eh?

22 September 2008

simply the best

It would be highly inappropriate for a little blog that's been drifting closer to the centre since the departure of the littlest liar to make any comment about the death of capitalism.

So we won't, although you might want to follow that thread for a while if you're interested.

But we were mightily taken by a pronouncement we read over the weekend about Australia's "world-class" system of financial regulation, leading to a reassurance that because we were "word-class", Australians had little to fear for the future of their savings and investments.

Being "world-class" is important in Australia. We could debate until the cows returned to whence they came whether it's because we have been so far away from Europe, or some innate convict-mentality writ large, or whatever, but it's always important to be "world-class". I guess I've written the phrase more than once in my work roles over the last decade or so.

Its derivation aside, the phrase does indicate a recognition that effort needs to be put into regulatory structures, or indeed whatever, if we are to compete.

But it struck me as passing strange that at a time when the regulatory mechanisms of the acknowledged world leaders in finance were shown to be somewhat lacking in nearly every respect, that someone would still want to compare us with them, as if this was a good thing.

"We're different, we're better" might have had more clout. Waddaya think?

21 September 2008

diamonds are a girl's etc

Etc indeed.

I dunno how much spare time you have to do your blogcrawling, maybe you have the 'ole RSS going so you it that way, maybe you subscribe (?) to delicious and all that stuff, whatever it does.

But you have to visit VVB-the-the-sea to get your
Sinfest interpretation of the Wall St meltdown and I can assure you, it's very different to what Commmmmmsec or Kocccchie or Terry McCrann will be telling you, let alone what rubbish Kev'n Mal might decide to spruik, whether bipartisanly or in violent opposition.

There...doesn't that feel better?
Multiple blogger failures yesterday. I had a really nice cheap shot that comprised extract from a letter to the Editor of the Age in which someone, probably a City trader, in the UK seemed to rail against people railing at the financial meltdown (you still with me?), saying just to leave it to the experts, along with a story from Friday's AFR in which a young Sydney trader, over a beer on Thursday night as the financial world imploded, noted that some of his firm's clients had lost a lot of money ("there was blood") but the firm itself had done outstanding business, "best for months" in fact. Wonderful.

So that was the cheap shot. It's because of highly numerate but utterly amoral people - a phrase I've used several times this year, you'll note - that much of what has happened, has happened.

Along with a whole bunch of people with a deep-seated, but irrational, belief in one particular answer to all the world's problems.

I'll leave you to guess what it is, thus avoiding yet another cheap shot.

For something more substantial on financial stuff, I recommend today's
Peter Martin.

And for something more substantial again, I give you the JM Toys white metal 1/43 scale model of the Austin A99. The A99, which took the A95's mechanicals and wrapped them in bodywork by Pinin Farina, was a hulking great lump of a thing yet spectacularly well proportioned. A car for the upper middle class who couldn't afford a Daimler.

Hmm, LStg79. What's the current exchange rate? Looks like it's going to cost me $185 plus postage. Might wait awhile.

19 September 2008


I can see where this is going to lead...

No, more obscure videos, you mofos.

18 September 2008

underneath the radar

Underneath the radar...that's where Canada mostly flies. We have views of Canada, probably not very well formed: they're mostly like us, they don't like being mistaken for Americans but they have a dependence on their large neighbour as their biggest market. They're pretty much small-l liberal in the views, it's a stable place.

The Canucks I've known while overseas were all good company, particularly because they shared the Aussie fondness for beer (although one older couple were indeed quite conservative and refined, stangely enough they tolerated my crudities and occasional excess enthusiasm). One bloke from Newfoundland exhibited all the extreme behaviourial traits that often distinguish people from remote areas.

this Slate article, via Bookforum, came as a bit of a shock. Some of this news had penetrated the mainstream media here, but only on rare occasions...it's not a narrative. Hmm, well.

But some of the similarities to Australia are disturbing. The global financial shockwaves seem only to be one element of some kind of widespread unravelling of what we thought to be certainties, or at least solid long term trends.

Canada will bear some watching, I think, over the next few years and may provide some insights into our own little corner.

the times they are

You'll love this here.

No more words nee

Oh all right, it's the best take on the Murkkn election that you'll see for a long time (or the longest time, I believe it is also said).

Courtesy of a commenter at the inimitable
Gorilla Bananas.

houses of the holy

In the (well, relatively new) tradition of VVB bringing you blogs you most likely haven't got around to discovering yet, I bring you sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy.

I really wish I understood a lot more of this interwebbby stuff, but the latest post there mixes current affairs commentary with popular music references, rather like a blog not too far from around here which modesty forbids us from mentioning by name.

And I can relate to that, as indeed I can to one comment on the latest post:

Disco Inferno! Can you think of another British indie band from the last 20 years whose music could seriously be used to frame a discussion of this sort? DI have been effectively rescued from critical obscurity over the last few years but it still seems like few people grasp their true import. The fact that those legendary five EPs remain out of print is a crime.

Anyway for those of youse who are interested in the don't mention the sub-prime word current market meltdown, have given up worrying about your disappearing super, don't get apocalytically angry about how the rich/captains of industry types seem to escape from all of this unscathed apart from a yacht or two and just want to get an alternative perspective, I think that SDMYABT might just meet a need. Just look at the blogroll: months of new fun.

Enjoy, as they say.

17 September 2008

money (*)

I seem to remember banging on some months ago about the structural weaknesses engendered by unregulated financial flows and the risks associated with the unfettered growth in complex financial instruments that no-one but their creators could understand. And the additional risks because the creators had no interests beyond their carefully constructed mechanisms.

Now it's all unravelling, there'll be the inevitable overcorrection in levels and types of regulation and we'll all be back at square 1-n.

Around these parts, the one thing that Mrs VVB and I always agree on is that you need someone to blame. Looks like we're not Robinson Crusoes.

Rather than fail at matching the bucketloads of analysis and similar codswallop elsewhere, VVB is pleased to bring you Harry Hutton and his friends' take on it all:

Not a bad idea to fatten yourself up before the second Great Depression starts. I never understood what was great about the first one.


(*) And we also mourn the passing of Richard Wright. What would all we 60s and 70s tragics do at parties without someone to crank out Wish you were here? Or at those parties where the punters never left the 60s, See Emily Play, Interstellar Overdrive and Careful with that axe, Eugene.

16 September 2008

silvery moon

That bright dot you can just see in the background is a new rising star for the Liberal Party. Oh all right, it's a moon then. Think of it as a metaphor. It's going to shine light over all it surveys. But being a moon, it'll be reflected light, yes?

So whose light will it reflect?
I really think it's hard to see Malcolm Turnbull as a stalking horse for any others in the Libs: he is his own man (quite apart from all the other things he owns, yeah cheap shot). To all appearances he is ideologically distant from the current eminences grises (extremely grise in the case of Nick Minchin) so how is he going to keep them down on the farm happy? Yeah sorry, it's the other lot who are down on the farm.

I had accumulated a whole truckload of snarks for a post tonight, but spending a couple of hours thinking about distributing responsibilities for the big bits ("deliverables", yuk yuk) of the business plan amongst the willing team has torn my poor ole brain to shreds.

John McCain said something diabolically funny, might have been about the US economy. But I think Kevin Rudd said exactly the same thing about the Australian economy today too.
The view of the moon of course comes to you direct from the viewing balcony here at VVB-by-the-sea. Which I might call VVBC in future. Hilarious, isn't it. My neck hurts, too much typing at an inappropriate desk - goodnight.

15 September 2008

another side

Well I snarked about the amount of attention being paid to the Sarah Palin phenomenon by Aussie blogs, but I'll definitely now have to eat that particular piece of humble pie flavoured hat.
On the other hand, I bet there aren't too many Aussie blogs bringing you the Sinfest strip version.

Oh, it is to enjoy, nicht war? And I recommend you visit Sinfest regularly - it's outrageously good.

13 September 2008

diamond head

A little light entertainment from one of my fave bands ever (more popularly spelt 'evah', I am led to believe): 801, featuring Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera who were also a major part of Roxy Music.


Knew you would.

even in the quietest moments

I can't recall reading much other comment on the role of credit ratings agencies - apart from breathless reporting of their "warnings" and "announcements" in the mainstream press - than at Possum and here. The link is, to my recollection, the first questioning in the MSM of their modus operandi, role and impact on things.

So it's kind of reassuring to learn that other people are asking the very simple questions that should have been asked yonks ago. The agencies subscribe - at least in public - to the usual 'neoclassical' (you have to be so careful with labels and descriptions) economics: lower public debt, big surpluses in any circumstances, tiny spending on any program that smells of 'social' and even of supposedly desirable expenditure such as hard infrastructure (very blokey, isn't it?). Yet at the same time as they hold themselves up as 'independent', so that governments can point to them and say to the punters "look, we told you, we have to do what these people say", they fall prey to the usual, inbuilt weakness of the market system: if you pay enough, you can get what you want, although the broader outcomes will be decidedly suboptimal.

Surely their role and influence will have to change as this information becomes more widely understood. Too much to hope for? How would you do it? Yes, start up a competitor, a genuine one. Won't help the punters who want governments to spend, though. Unless you could start a triple bottom line ratings agency? Look, I've discovered a market niche!

Meanwhile, without additional commentary from me,
one person's reflection on 9 September 2001, popularly known as 9/11.

Then before you can move on, you catch the
title and first few lines of his previous post and you just have to read it. AA Gill and co, eat your collective hearts out.

12 September 2008

the rascals

Not just Mr Brown. Add Bush, Benanke, Cheney and all those other manipulaters from treasuries around the world who are colluding with rascals from the futures, oil, gold and currency markets!

Could Barclays really not wait a bit longer for their £10 million?

Indeed... a measly ten mill. Why on earth not? What apack of rascals!

Also, what Alistair in Turkmenstan said.


So it's a Friday night and after watching a bit of the footy I thought I'd turn the new bigscreen over to Mrs VVB so she can watch whatever it is she watches and I'd come and look at a few blogs. As if this was different to...oh yeah.

Anyway, the 'sphere is alive to the celebration or condemnation, depending on your point of view, of Peter Costello and Sarah Palin. Just remind me, where do we live again?

So, Costello it is, then. Yawn. The AFR today does a fairly respectable deconstruction/ demolition of the Liberal Party "World's Greatest Treasurer" myth. At last, but what a pity it wasn't in the Telegraph. Maybe it was, but buggered if I'm going to go looking.

As for the "will he or won't he" for leader of the Libs: yawn. A confected media light breeze in a thimble. The only thing that gets me going - and no surprises here - is this thing about what a great leader he would have been. A brilliant Parliamentary performer. Well yes, exceptionally good with the snide, the sarcasm, the outrage, the put-down. Just what a nation wants in a PM. Look how useful and relevant to the job in hand the voting public thought those same qualities (only more erudite!) were in Keating. The great unwashed voting public actually do want a broader list of abilities in a PM. Most of them in fact don't watch Question Time. Amazing. Does the paid commentariat not realise this?

Answers on the back of a piece of paper that's been in Ian McLachlan's wallet to Liberal Party HQ, behind the bike sheds, Tuesday after school. And where's that other Costello fellow?

So instead I started fiddling about with the colours on the VVB template, then I started fiddling about with the new (well, new-ish) tools that Blogger has added and before you could say "eejit" I'd lost my old template.

Hence this new look. I think I quite like it, I'd be interested in any views. For those of you who really don't have a life :-)

The picture? That's the paternal grandfather sometime after he emigrated to Australia from Poland, so early 1900s. What a fine fellow he looks, although the stories seemed to indicate something different. Only met him once, I was about 4 or 5.

On which note, it's about time to check the footy scores.

A toute a l'heure.
Oh yeah, the picture. It's Afghanistan. Apparently everyone's going to send more troops to defeat the Taliban/al Qaida/"bad guys" there. I'd really be thinking hard about this, at least as long as the words complete victory figure in the political speeches that presage such actions. The politicians, and we've got 'em in Labor ranks, who make these statements really ought to go and read some history. Yes, times have changed, weaponry and technology is on our side (except for what can be bought on the black market etc etc) but it's a formidable field of battle. Just think twice, then a few more times.

08 September 2008

what shall we do with a drunken sailor?

I shouldn't be, but yet I always am, amazed by the inconsistencies that the media, pundits, opinionistas (and opinionistos, I s'pose) exhibit in their attempts to get the rest of us to see things their way.

Today's example is the editorial in the AFR, not on line free. It's about the rotten state of the State of NSW and why it's important to the economic well-being of the rest of the country that NSW get back on its feet. Quite rightly, it focuses on the varied misdeeds of the Carr and Iemma governments and the Labor political machine behind them that is, to all intents and purposes, the actual government. Quite rightly again, it then goes on to argue that the entanglement of half-arsed political jockeys is not necessarily a sustainable basis for good governance, and so on and so on.

Then it decries the fact that NSW hasn't competed for investment, jobs and so on. Now if NSW, rather like some other States we could name, started throwing incentives around like a...oh, I dunno, a drunken sailor...how do you reckon the comments would go? Misuse of taxes, distortion of investment into optimal sectors, crowding out of private investment, and so on and so forth. You can just see it, can't you?

Well? What makes the current environment so different? NSW actually had an agreement with Victoria and SA that they wouldn't compete for investment: after all, the Productivity Commission produces a boilerplate text book each year lambasting precisely this practice. Should be a Good Thing, then, eh?

Because of course part of the structural reason that NSW is in its $1b black hole is that it hasn't privatised its electricity industry, according to the usual neoclassical economics rule book. So Standard and Poors, the people from whom you could until recently buy an investment rating in return for a quick sniff of your sister's underpants, is going to downgrade NSW to AA+? Smells a bit like two bob each way to me, to carry the olfactory metaphor a bridge entirely too far.

Not only that, but this whole story omits the role of the recent federal government, whose leader moved most of the functions of national government from the national capital, where most countries locate theirs, to Sydney, and spent no little effort building up Sydney as Australia's only global city, unquote, financial capital, unquote, and so on. So why would the State government throw money at attracting investment when the Commonwealth (and I do love that word) is doing it perfectly well on its behalf, I ask you?

Finally, is it not truly amazing that, with only a little effort, the blame for any bad thing that has happened anywhere around these realms since the year dot can be ascribed to John Howard? I mean, it's perfectly freaky.

So it must be true.

06 September 2008

baby you can drive my car part CMXIV and a half

It's been aeons since a cars-I-have-owned post. So here's another one.

I've had several cars that classified as most unreliable car in the world, a 1976 VW Passat was certainly right up there. It was about 10 years old when I acquired it and it had been subjected to ten years of Burmese mechanicking, which meant that (a) it always got going again but (b) the niceties of the workshop manual would have been honoured only in their absence.

It actually went very well when it was going and did make it up to Mandalay and Maymyo with the whole fambly aboard without mechanical mishap, although I recall we did have a small accident coming back to Rangoon. Sharing a narrow, potholed road with buffalos, ox-carts and sundry other natural wonders made for interesting drives, the like of which we really don't get here in godzone.
It was customary in Rangoon to have domestic staff to help around the house, as much a way of getting some money into the community as to actually help although the houses tended to need a lot of care and maintenance anyway.
We did have a driver for a while and when he left we got a young bloke who seemed too good to be true. Indeed. He had great English and a facility with all sorts of things so, even given the unique nature of the economy under the Burmese Way to Socialism, it seemed odd that he was just a driver for a foreigner.
Anyway the car was so unreliable that he eventually gave that as his reason for leaving us and we really had no reason not to believe him.

01 September 2008

semi charmed life

All right, the ennui lasted a day, as it always does, and because I can't be arsed preparing for a workshop tomorrow I thought I'd do a little light skimming.

Just as the fascination of golf is one good shot in a round (*), I just love articles wherein one sentence makes the whole thing jump. Such as:

Footnotes and pages are studded with semiotic -- or, more properly, semi-idiotic -- insights from Foucault, Derrida and like-minded obfuscators.

(*) Unless you can actually play, of course.


The Business Review Weekly carries an interesting article about how de-industrialisation in some developed countries, Oz included, has led to the 'financialisation' of the economy which is now out of balance because so much wealth, and dependent economic activity, is tied up in residential and commercial property. We make money by selling it to each other. Taking in each other's real washing, so to speak.

Whenever I read arguments against support - of any kind - for manufacturing, I'll now think of this.

It may be economic illiteracy on my part but if as a country we can't make things, we're doomed.

Yes, clever financial people can devise ways of financing things that might not ever get done otherwise. It's a skill and it requires intelligence and effort. Public-private partnerships and so on.

But you still need to make things, because eventually we'll have nothing.

Actually not only doomed, but stupid.

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