31 March 2009

computer games

How is that on all the forensic science shows on TV they can hack into another organisation's computer system and pull up all sorts of barely related facts in 7 seconds, yet on any of the purpose designed systems we have for relatively simple things like approving someone's leave, it takes 10 minutes?

Just sayin', you know what I mean?

29 March 2009

sad eyed lady of the lowlands

Why do think women have been so sad recently? Only in the UK. Hah!

Jeremy Clarkson
dismisses the Mazda 626 diesel. The good thing is it only takes him about 5% of his review to do it. The other bits, including the bit about the knickers, are very good (and strangely apposite given articles in today's Sunday Mail). (Do not read this if you are sad woman, it'll only make you cry. Or go wtf?).

Rolling Stone sticks the knife into the financial gurus. The main shame about this piece is that ever since Hunter S. Thompson, every up and coming smart alec wants to write like him. And none of them can.

Busy week coming up, no posts for a little while at least.

28 March 2009


A quick-ish round of interesting things to read brings forth a variety of views on the Global Financial Crisis, what caused it and how to fix it. Of course what you write depends on what you believe and, more importantly, what you'd like your readers to believe. So none of the linked articles come with the highly-valued, yet regrettably globally unknown, VVB seal of approval (left).

Thought you'd like that.

So here, to start, we learn that:

The persistence of low interest rates, which, he assured us, made all the sense in the world, sparked a speculative orgy in securities and derivatives. These instruments, he had assured us, would help people manage risk; instead, they created systemic risk.

here, the author snips at the edges of protectionism to argue for more of that particular policy stance. I've been so infected with the protectionism is bad vaccine that I can't read this without beginning to tremble...but all arguments have some merit, don't they?

Meanwhile, the redoubtable Anatole Kaletsky
argues that economists should limit themselves to explaining, because when they try to get prescriptive they get it wrong. Especially some of them - like thirty years' worth. Hear hear!
In less salubrious news, the Courier Mail and its 'independent' columnists continue their campaign to dislodge the Premier. As she's only just been re-elected, it's going to be a very long three (ish) years. We learn that some people were late for a concert on Friday night because not enough car parking gates were open. The Premier had taken the Arts portfolio the day before, therefore it's her fault. On this basis, John Howard was personally responsible for soldiers' boots that fell apart.
Des Houghton, please accept the Piers Akerman Award for Senseless Partisanship and Lack of Any Journalistic Ability Whatsoever. And take a holiday, please. For three years.

27 March 2009

great southern land with cat

Late home tonight after a visit to neighbouring city to be instructed about what happens when big steel things fail. More interesting than you'd imagine.

Anyway we were having a sort of discussion about awful songs and somewhat by coincidence I'd put a double CD of 70s hits in the car player for my trip out to the Central Highlands (no, not quite Hamilton Island) during the week. That's what reminded me about Jeremiah was a bloody bullfrog, which I have always thought to be an appalling waste of energy, both in making it and listening to it.

There were a heap of other semi-forgettable tracks (Rock the boat, George McCrae) but then this one came on. Well it's certainly forgettable from the perspective of musical content, so why did I find it so appealing? 'cos I did.

So that leaves us with the task of picking the song to take us into the weekend. Typically, while I was driving earlier this week a couple of possibles - along with Sailor of course - popped into my head. But what would be suitable? Hmmm...how about the bloke who's undoubtedly one of Australia's greatest rock talents?

Also gratifying was listening to a bloke pick out some nice 12 bar in the music shop when I went in to get some badly needed strings today. People who can play well give me the shits. On the other hand there was a young bloke playing at the function I went to tonight and he wasn't anything special. So there, or something.

Meanwhile, I presume that Friday catblogging still exists? This is Kim, on the classic 1960s telephone table that Mrs VVB hates with a most unreasonable passion. Thereby strengthening my resolve that we will keep it.

Bottling day tomorrow. Bring it on.

26 March 2009

the logical song

When I was in about my mid-teens, I toyed for a while with the idea of becoming a journalist. Prior to this I'd never given any thought to what I wanted to be when I grew up beyond my old man's admonition - well, more like a threat - that if I became a motor mechanic (as he then was), he'd kill me. Becoming a smoker was also on the proscribed list, and so I became neither.

But I was relatively accomplished at English as a school subject, so why not a journo? I can't recall whether, at that tender age, I'd become aware of the juxtaposition of the profession of journalism with lots of drinking: maybe.

Anyway I'm not a journalist but I do like to pick apart the failings of the journalist's art. Yesterday I found myself with some time to kill and a Courier Mail. Ripe fields, indeed.

In relation to Tourism Queensland's "
best job in the world" project, we learnt that "(T)he Australians are so far behind in the voting stakes that their only hopes of landing the six-month, $150,000 'island caretaker' job is to make the short-list on their own merits." Several paragraphs on, we find "(T)he winner - to be announced on Hamilton Island on May 6 - will be the one who is determined by TQ to have the best range of technical and personal skills to promote the Great Barrier Reef and islands to an international audience."

"WTF?" I thought to myself, starting with the fact that I'd much rather my hard-earned tax went towards the best person for the job. However, it seems that there is some on-line voting and the winner will be determined by a combination of adjudged ability and on-line popularity, rather like Dancing with the Stars. Maybe they could have told us that, if it is indeed the case?

And if it's not, why not? Merit, etc, again.

Anyway that's a pretty trivial offence - failing to explain the procedure. Just the facts, ma'am as Perry Mason used to say.

More obvious failings can be found everywhere else. My car rego renewal slip contains this classic: "Failure to pay your registration by the expiry date will make the vehicle, unregistered and illegal to drive." On that basis I'd be better off never paying my rego because each year I would be getting another car, albeit unregistered and illegal. But I could sell it for parts, surely.

It's actually quite rare to run across a superfluous comma, but there you go.

Anyway, I now have a far better job. Look at this:

My territory.

23 March 2009

fun fun funnest

If we haven't regretted already the mistake in delegating to American teenagers the sole reponsibility for all neologisms in the English language, we should start now.

"The funnest iPod ever."


A combination of the worst of the advertising industry's attempts to be 'hip' together with its congenital laziness.

Phrases like that make me want to bite things, starting with the keyboard, then the desk, the walls, house bricks, and advertising agencies. By which I mean their buildings. Their 'HQs'. 'Command centrals.' Boardrooms.

I want to bite them, but then I fear I'll start slobbering over them because by that stage I'll be displaying all the symptoms of rabies.

Bite. Bite, do you hear me? Bite bite bite.

22 March 2009

let's get weird

"With all the doom and gloom in the world at the moment, I think it's just what we need,"...

What on earth could this person be talking about?

a protest song about cruelty to fruit
I'll spare you a youtube link, no doubt your head is exploding already.

The comments thread is predictable, so I'll continue that line by listing my least favourite songs:

  • Judy in Disguise with Glasses: John Fred and his Playboy Band
  • Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep (no idea who, er..."sang" this)
  • any so-called R'n B songs with gargling instead of singing. Think all the Australian Idol series until the last one.

you spin me right round

David Dale in the SMH does their buzz word of the year contest. It's got all your old favourites in it, but there are a few more that have been getting up my snout recently:

- "roll out" = implement
- "around" = related to or about, depending on context. One of the comments at the linked article also mentions this one.
- "back to back" = consecutive. In the early 90s when the Canberra Raiders won several consecutive victories, the commentators of course were reduced to talking about "back-to-back-to-back" victories. When I become king, everybody will get beaten over the head with a Latin grammar book until they learn to use words that have proper derivations, say exactly what they mean and save you talking about everybody's backs being against everybody else's backs.

Other things to get up my snout today include the early edition of the Liberal Courier National Mail Party. It was a very early edition, of course, even if we only eventually get it at 8.45. But the front page screamed "BACKLASH - Early poll results show Anna Bligh set to secure a narrow victory in yesterday's election despite a surge of support for Lawrence Springborg's LNP". And inside "Bligh cops a voter nattering as LNP's bid left swinging."

A piece by one Darrell Giles talked about "throngs of voters" turning up early, and "political experts from all sides say this was a clear sign that people wanted change. They had something to say and wanted to get it off their chests at the first opportunity." Giles doesn't name the "experts"

Over at
Pineapple Party Time, reports from commenters who were either voting or working at polling stations all agreed that there wasn't a big early turn out.

It's pretty close to true that the Courier Mail has represented the only effective opposition to Labor for a while, but the degree of partisanship during the election period has been intolerable.

Will be interested to see how they spin it tomorrow.
This editorial is extremely grudging and somewhat lacking in accuracy. Or a lot. This here is just classic, do take a look at "Peter's" comments).

Oh yes: "spin" = can be used to stand in for any number of verbs, but rolls off the keyboard too easily nowadays.

the sloop john anna b

The good ship Bligh sails on with an outcome no-one predicted except those who have gone over and re-parsed what they predicted a few days ago. If you've got the time for that shitzz, all good. Meanwhile, grass has been cut and edges trimmed without a snake sighting, the vat she is all clean and shortly the preliminary process of making a Coopers Real Ale will commence. I hope it works out because if it does, next time I'll make an Unreal Ale.

Boom boom.

I got one e-mail from a friend last night, in response to my comment that we have at least three more years of Smart State, that is most unbecoming of them but has to be shared:

"Maybe that should be The Tart State (TM)
Let's hope she picks her own cabinet instead of the ship of fools the factions usually want."
The first bit is very naughty but that last piece of the comment is right on the money. We are waiting with either breathless or breathful anticipation, depending on whether the anticipation started while breathing out or in. You know how it goes.

There'll be at least one punter in these here parts unhappy at the election outcome: an SMS to Editor of the local rag this week warned against electing "a woman" as Premier because of what the last one did.

Oh, those women! They just can't fuck up like a man, can they?

Back to lawn edging, I was doing a most un-VVB like bit of completer-finishing by vacuuming the gutter, which was full of grass clippings. As I have to bend over to do this, I suddenly got a vision of myself as Chuck Berry.

Just try to imagine this picture with Chuck holding a lawn vacuum instead.


I didn't think so. As youse were.

20 March 2009

state of the heart

End of another week and tomorrow we trot off to do our democratic duty and scribble "a pox on both your houses" on a piece of coloured paper. We're in Queensland, of course, so we only get one piece of paper. This is called being unicameral, which is of course a lolly with only one, brownish, flavour.

Many pundits are tipping a hung Parliament. I'm sure that many people's views of politicians would support such an outcome, only somewhat more literal.

Sometime after the ritual scribbling we need to get another batch of beer brewing, as we're about to run out.

After that we need to mow the lawn, being careful to look out for the brown snake that Mrs VVB spied slithering into the garden bed earlier this week.

Recent things to get up our snout include stupidly competitive advertisements ("our batteries last 34.27% longer than theirs under specifically controlled conditions that can only be replicated in our own laboratories which are, of course, 13.77% better than theirs").

And political attack ads. Enough said.

And something else which I annoyed me this morning but I can't recall now, so it must have been only low level annoyance.

Somehow or other a song wheedled itself in to my poor brain about a week ago and it's stayed there ever since. It came out while we were overseas and because most of the places we went were somewhat cut off from the rest of the world, and particularly Australia, we missed out on more than a decade of Australian rock history: it was only on quick trips home that we got a chance to find out what had been happening. This one came out in 1980 (according to the clip) but I probably didn't hear it until the late 90s at the earliest.

Bizarre to think that when we went overseas, Daddy Cool was still fresh in our minds (I have a clear recollection of hearing them play Eagle Rock live in the Monaro Mall, Canberra, when it was released). Yet this other song is so full of feeling and meaning, it could have come from another planet let alone the same band and it sheer blows me away still.

My current task is to manage a passable version on the acoustic. The acoustic badly needs new strings, I badly need an infusion of ability.

Maybe I'm just easily satisfied. But if you are too, then this will set you up for the weekend.

18 March 2009

art of noise

mexican hat dance

Anyway, I didn't finish the story from the conversation about manufacturing. My interlocutor - oh, how I love that word! - then stated that they (ie he or she, but deliberately if ungrammatically obscured in this case) were a lifelong conservative voter but hoped for a return of Labor in Queensland at this weekend's election because "Labor understands manufacturing."

There you have it.


This is what is known by people who follow such things for a living (in other words, people who don't have real jobs) as a wicked policy problem. Economic theory -well, one of them anyway - says that you go for the cheapest because that will free up scarce resources that can be spent on alternative items, such as plasma TVs and prostitutes (thank you FG).

I should clarify at this point that although the current Federal Government may be guilty of many things, spending your hard-earned taxes on plasma TVs and prostitutes is most probably not amongst them.

Back to the main point, I believe I heard on the news that part of the slouch hat is currently made in Czechoslovakia anyway. Czechoslovakia? How on earth that can that come about? By what obscure application of comparative advantage did Czechoslovakia become the sine qua non of hat makers around the world?

Anyway, surely hats aren't a high-tech manufacturing sector anyway, with the possible exception of what ladies wear to the Melbourne Cup. So hardly a strategic industry, except we're talking about hats that sit atop the heads of our soldiers, so perhaps strategic by virtue of proximity.

You will by now, quite reasonably, have concluded that I have neither a substantive policy point to make nor anything particularly instructive to say.

But rather than leave you utterly empty handed, I will quote Phil Ruthven in the BRW. He's talking about the need to ramp up productivity growth again as the only substantive way of combatting the recession:

"Australia will jettison activities that should be outsourced overseas and replaced with growth activities that are also competitive - or allowed to go broke. That is known as creative destruction."
Couldn't have put it better meself. I dips me (foreign-made) lid.

17 March 2009

"you know i'm bad, i'm bad...."

In a conversation today I said it was appalling that Australia was throwing away its manufacturing sector and had been for some time. We need a manufacturing industry, we need the R&D that underpins the development of new widgets, we need the engineering, mathematical and conceptual skills base that drives the R&D, we need kids in school studying maths and science to obtain the understanding of real and theoretical things that eventually grow into that skills base.

If we don't, it's not so much that we end up being a nation of financial whizzkids, accountants and people who dig things up and grow things (I've heard university-educated graziers talk about genetics, that's all very much a Good Thing)...it's we end up being beggars.

I know it's wrong, it's bad, it's anti-economic theory....

Well it's anti some economic theory....

But, as you know.....you know it makes sense.

09 March 2009

get over it

I'm going to be gone for a while but in lieu of anything even remotely sensible, here's a selection of things that are absolutely giving me the shits recently:

  • all the hundreds of companies whose ad agencies use that "I feel good dada dada dada da" song;
  • reruns of Top Gear;
  • as we're halfway through Good News Week: Mikey Robins;
  • reading the same Glen Milne column every Sunday (hmmm, thinks, in best Bluebottle voice: "so why do I keep doing it?")
  • how "get-go" has insinuated itself into everyday Australian language almost overnight;
  • the colour of Natalie Bassingthwaite's teeth (I guarantee you'll be looking next time, eh);
  • red lights on deserted roads;
  • pointless blog wars;
  • waiting for the bloody election to be over;
  • I feel good dada dada dada da;
  • as I've reformatted this three times already: formatting on blogger....

See ya later.

06 March 2009

long time comin'

Long time comin'? That'll be the weekend. There's a new bloke in the shop and, after two weeks, I can see that Friday beer o'clock with him is going to become the norm. Not in a sense of overdoing it - after all, the bloody nanny state NH&MRC now says 'no more than four' - but just really looking forward to week's end, a bit of a chat with new company and a refeshing ale, or three and a half.

So, let's not waste time with idle election speculation. It is, I believe, still within the bounds of probability, standard deviations and all, so no news here folks, just move on.

A long, long time ago in what may have as well have been another galaxy, I shared a house with a bunch of blokes. Most of us had a few things in common, but particularly drinking beer and playing snooker. So it eventuated that we would spend a lot of time at the local Workies.
One of the fellas had a friend, I think from work, who was always there. Older than us, probably in his late thirties or maybe early forties, recently divorced and headed downhill rapidly. Good company up until a certain point but then the conversations got pretty repetitive.

One weekend I ended up at this bloke's place - at least I think it was him - to tape some records. If you were male and of a similar age to me you may recall that time - everyone was fastidious about gear, you'd monitor the recording levels to minimise hiss and maximise headroom and look oh so serious, talk rubbish and try to impress your mates.

Anyway this bloke, or whoever it was, had Best of the James Gang (*). I fastidiously recorded it, it was utter shit but I couldn't admit I stuffed up and go back to re-record, so I kept it. And eventually lost it, probably a damn good thing.

But I recall the album and would love to get it again, but it doesn't seem to have been re-released like many others of that era.

But here we are on a Friday night looking for something to post, I nearly put in Blondie's Denis (watch it anyway, they've dropped it a couple of tones and have obviously, as the compere says, "had a few" but it's magic) until a random thought insinuated it into my poor little old head.

So, without further ado, I give you Funk 49.

Have a good weekend.

(*) Hmm, the wonders of Google. This seems to be a download of the album, I wonder how it works. For later.

04 March 2009

every picture tells a story

Running the Numbers An American Self-Portrait

"Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2008"

It's quite extraordinary. Please have a look.

we're in the money

Aaah, where to start on a day when Australia starts on the recession other people said we had to have, to create a direct link back to the depression we had to have, all courtesy of the Labor party which of course - as anyone who remembers Gough Whitlam will know - just wants to spend and spend and spend and spend and sp...

Well, let's start with executive salaries where, at last, a few commentators such as
Ross Gittins have started to figure it all out.

Shaun Carney's on the case but, not surprisingly, that indefatigable contrarian Janet Albechtson is not.

Get this straight. When so-called remuneration advisors advise a company on a preferred package for a new CEO or senior exec, it's a bought recommendation and any recommendation for a lower salary is a conflict of interest first and betrayal of the executive 'class' second.

Gittins has it in one. Why should the general public accept such rubbish first, and then non-binding AGM propositions second. Institutional 'investors' are part of the executive 'class', same conflict of interest. Fix it.

I'm back on the Crikey feed having joined the 'class action' (maybe a classy action) sponsored by Club Troppo. And the quality of content has gone up since I abandoned my expensive sole subscriber...er, um..subscription.

My tastes are simple, cop this from some probably over-compensated 'market economist':

"I think basically what the figures indidcate is that once you get households and businesses deleveraging there's a limit to what policy can do."
I didn't know I was deleveraging but if he says so, I must have.

Horseshit. Speak English.

Next example:

"Sunday's story reported claims by the industry lobby group -- the Insurance Council of Australia -- that 24.5% of Victorian households do not have any home and contents insurance. The industry used the figure to justify a shopping list of
demands: a call for mandatory home insurance in bush fire areas, forthcoming
rises in premiums and the abolition of fire service levies on insurance
premiums. The trouble is that the Insurance Council have quoted their own research selectively. The true position, using their own data, is that 4.1% of households across Australia do not have home building insurance.
While any level of non-insurance is of concern, this figure is not going to grab the headlines. What the Insurance Council has done is to conflate two separate pieces of data: that
for the number of people without building insurance and that for the number
of people without contents insurance. It is not surprising that relatively large numbers of people do not have contents insurance -- 28% according to the same research by the Insurance Council."

I once went for a job at the Insurance Council. Someone I knew got it and immediately regretted it, this story confirms my good luck at missing out. Mind you, that's what lobby groups do, I am not that naive.

I hope.

Next example:

"More insidious by far was the way that the terror laws were rolled over into social control, employed where conventional law was not sufficient to guarantee legal sway. Recycling is a great example of this. To minimise waste, local councils began using smaller wheelie-bins, and making garbage separation compulsory. When residents, having run out of space in the perishables bin, began using the plastics bin for that stuff as well, some councils responded by putting cameras in their bins. When residents removed these cameras, they were charged under the anti-terror act.

It is a political and cultural disaster of the first order, and will be seen as such in the years to come -- both part of New Labour's wider failure, and its stopgap answer to any dissatisfaction with its small achievements from the people who put it there. Quite possibly CML will hasten Labour's demise and left-wing participants will be pilloried for that. But we're far beyond those considerations. Given Kevin Rudd's promulgation of "social capitalism" -- a phrase with more than a whiff of Mussolini about it -- and Labor's enthusiasm for shipping in UK "New Labour" burnouts, it's worth wondering when we'll get to that point too."

This is about the rise of surveillance culture and outright social control in the UK. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago. I reckon it's as bad as I made out and, as the last excerpt indicates, we'll be importing it back here. Keating lent his policy mavens to Tony Blair, the advice was good enough to get Blair in, then look what happened. Now it's coming back at us.

This is a centrist blog.

03 March 2009

free the people

An article in which you can read:

"claiming that to actually let us know what was going on would set a dangerous
precedent that would harm good government."

"They snivel and lie and duck questions on torture - on torture, for Christ's
sake - while demanding we respect their authority."

"Consequently the police are preparing for a "summer of rage"'.
and in the comments you can read:

"Last election I spoilt my ballot with glitter, a drawing of Margaret Thatcher being eaten by a llama and and a glued on photo of a duck I cut out of a newspaper."
Only if you want to.

Hey, that reminds me..

"Shake your head and rattle your brains
Make you act just a bit insane
Give you all the psychic energy you need
eat flowers
and kiss babies
...for you and meeeeeeeee.

Well, if you like apocalyptic stuff and want to read something and go "oh yes" to yourself about a zillion times, all the while thinking "this is a bit over the top" and "bloody extremists" and "far too much exaggeration" while simultaneously, the other side of your head is thinking "hmm, actually it's not too far of the money, at least in the UK, and we'll be that way soon."

If you can keep all these thoughts contained in your head and it doesn't explode, or maybe just a teensy bit, you'll be a citizen consumer, my son.

Except for the money bit, which one needs to consume.

About Me