27 July 2008

a place in the sun

It's a placemarker post, as the pooter at Chateau VVB gets packed up - yes, right after these words - and will, ceteris paribus, be unpacked and unleashed at VVB-by-the-sea sometime later this week.

And as we have to negoitate a new contract for broadbandery, maybe a couple of days after that. It depends on who is around to do it, whether they have time and how access stacks up priority-wise to everything else that will need attending to.

Cripes, you accumulate a lot of shit over the years. And it's so hard to say goodbye.

But goodbye Chateau VVB, you have been our home for longer than either of us ever had a home before. We loved you (the exposed brick, the beams in the cathedral ceilings, the delightful new spots around every corner, the ups and downs, the convenience to shops and what-all, the views of the incoming storms, the fireplace on a winter night) and hated you (the leaves, the fucking leaves, in the pool, all over the roof, everywhere, the fact that you were not a low maintenance house, the bloody leaves).

VVB-by-the-sea, here we come.

A tout a l'heure, mes petits.

20 July 2008

oh lord please don't burn us (*)

After a week when all things religious have dominated the Australian media, it's reassuring - actually no, it's more like terrifyingly bizarre - when similar themes appear elsewhere.

Even if it is
Aberystwyth. And it's not quite on the same scale.


But not as weird as this - all things are relative (ha ha), it seems. I wonder what they study at the Pontifical Gregorian University? I mean, it's not as if there have been any new discoveries, have there? The textbook is still the sdame one they had...oh, a couple of thousand years ago (or some time in between once the blokes decided it would be a spiffing way of keeping the sheilas in second place for all time).

* Oh lord please don't burn us.

cq skyline

The post title is the name of a song, I've linked to Halfway before and will do so again.

Because this is a picture of a CQ skyline. Nice, isn't it? As the sun sinks you get a fantastic depth and texture in the folds of the hills, with the trees and stream valleys.

Another thing I love about this new adopted home is the wide streets. On a Sunday arvo there isn't a lot of activity, although Maccas, KFC and a couple of cafes were doing good business.

But the streets stretch into the distance, and in between each street is the little back lane for the 24 door saloon.

It's very restful and settling - always a good thing with another working week in the offing. Speaking of which, I have some reading on supply chain gaps to get into.


17 July 2008

(he ain't heavy), he's my brother

Looks like he is heavy after all - one of the seemingly endless throng of Jensens lets loose on the Catholics.

Tell me, is at all possible to take these loonies seriously? I believe this, you believe that, they believe something else, I'm better because my belief is better than your belief and way better than their belief.

Where does the bit about Jesus's love figure in all this? Poor bloody Mary gets a hammering too, doesn't she? What did she do wrong?


Mind you, tomorrow's letters to the editor should be enlightening.

comes a time

Here is the post that should've been 600, an article by Andrew Sullivan in the Times (via Bookforum) on the conservative response to societal breakdown.

The Chateau must be getting more centrist by the second, I broadly agree very much with Sullivan's tale. You can't go on squeezing people by giving them no alternatives to both parents working two jobs with the mother returning to work as soon as possible after a baby's birth.

Of course, in any discussion such as this you need to talk only in generalisations - there will always be individual choices and in some cases this will be two parents working regardless of any inducement that government might offer.

For others, well whether it's seen as top-down dirigisme or a "nudge", the challenge facing government is how to send a message that will, over time, change the culture.

I was taken by Sullivan's relating the squeeze - fast, widespread liberalisation of social norms in the 60s (well, it happened, you don't need to put the former Deputy PM John Anderson's particular pejorative interpretation on it) - alongside the reality of a globalised economy and how that has translated into our current working and home lives.

While my mother chose to be a stay at home mum (although she ran her own business until her marriage), I couldn't have imagined that Mrs VVB would be anything other than a working mum. Although that doesn't explain why I chose a job which then precluded her from being one, until we returned to Australia.

Individual choices. Government sends its messages, some respond, some don't, you get a sort of result. How to structure an inducement for people to have a stay-at-home parent without that inducement resulting in lots more babies. Cardinal Pell's imprecations aside (we need more white Catholics and fewer brown Muslims is what I imagine he's saying), sooner or later we are going to have to get serious about population growth.

Let's leave aside the whole "growth" model for the moment.

Providing assistance in kind would prevent inducements being misspent on plasma TVs, but would mean more public servants, or you contract private providers to help out home parents. The service society.

let's call the whole thing off

"You say tomato" and so on.

Last night I wrote: "On which thought, time for dinner. I defrosted some cooked meat, can't tell what it was so I've added some tomato paste. Works every time - I hope."

Which I did. Cooked up a little spiral pasta and poured the meat, with added tomato paste, over. The meat turned out to be a strognaoff and the addition of tomato paste definitely did not work this time.

I had it as stroganoff tonight, it was...a lot better.

And so, on which trite, domestic note, we celebrate post number 600 here at pied-a-terre VVB.

Actually, speaking of pied a terre, I'll need to brush up la francaise as I am attending a Bastille Day dinner on Saturday night. Several years of learning French at school didn't really leave me with much facility in the language as I was always too embarrassed to give it a real go when we had to speak. Teenage boys, etc, I would put it down to.

On the other hand, as soon as we got off the plane in Algiers in January 1977 there was no choice. I eventually did acquire some ability and several instances stand out in my mind. I once answered the phone at the office and, as part of the conversation, gave out our address. Our Algerian receptionist then appeared, listened to the performance and applauded.

In another example, I was in a corner shop buying some stuff when the shopkeeper asked me where I came from and guessed that I was Spanish. I was quite chuffed, at least Spain is in Europe (sort of).

The best one was trying to explain to the tellers at the bank that in Australia we have 4 codes of le football, ie we have le football (which everyone understands) and we have 3 others that Algerian bank tellers can't even imagine. Especially Aussie Rules.

16 July 2008

speak no evil

Cardinal Pell says "it's one of the worst things that can happen to a young woman."

He meant her suicide, not her rape by a priest when she was just a little girl.

And as for the church's spokesfool who suggested that her parents stop "
dwelling crankily on old wounds" : to the media training room, immediately.

Anyone who still pays obeisance to this lot of criminals needs a good firm whack to the back of the head.

here are just the people to do it. Oh, it's them again. A broad church, you might say.

Meanwhile, some good news: the
Sheffield Shield name is back. Maybe now we can see some other names reverting - Lang Park, perhaps.

I note that many of the "leftard" blogs are condemning the Government's emissions trading green paper. Must be just those of conservative disposition who can't seem to bring themselves to criticise anything their 'side' does. I do like generalisations, it makes writing ill-thought-through blog posts so much quicker.

On which thought, time for dinner. I defrosted some cooked meat, can't tell what it was so I've added some tomato paste. Works every time - I hope.

14 July 2008

jump in my car

Just a quick post of tonight's Top Gear, which mostly examined the ability of several of British Leyland's finest products to confirm why British Leyland became a spent force so long ago.

As background, I grew up with British Leyland and its forerunner, the British Motor Corporation. We (the fambly) were the BMC agents in a NSW country town. The Mayor, a staunch conservative, was the Holden dealer. The newspaper was the Daily Liberal. The old man had different beliefs that must have seemed odd, it was only when he went to uni a few years later that he figured it all out. Get the picture?

So, Top Gear and 3 of BL's finest, all evidently Monday builds. A Triumph Dolomite Sprint. Well, I had a Dolly in Singapore, not the Sprint but a car that had been owned by the Managing Director of the BL agents there. It went better than any standard Dolly motor had any right to, it certainly had a distinctive, fast loping idle that indicated head and cam (only one) work.

It broke its timing chain about a kilometre from home after a high speed run at night down the east coast of Malaysia, Mrs VVB wide-eyed in the front and offspring numbers 1 and 2 asleep in the back. Talk about good timing - ha ha. When I came to sell it a mate from the Hash House Harriers expressed interest in it as a car for his wife, took it for a drive and came back to say it was far too powerful.

The Austin Princess? Never released in Australia although there a very few personal imports. On our first posting, to Algeria, I couldn't reconcile myself to not having my own car. Then a bloke in the UK Embassy decide to sell his Princess. I took it for a drive and was hooked: quiet, comfortable and every square inch was covered in velour. Buying it would have been a disaster because of the Algerian regulations on ownership of cars, but fortunately he decided to take it back to England before I could dothe deal.

Finally, the Top Gear fellows tested a Rover SD1. I never had one of those (but I did have a P6B). I once drove an old, bright lime green SD1. Again, covered in velour - except for all the bits that had fallen off - and as slow as a wet weekend.

Sorry, no pictures, I'd need to start a flickr account or something. Most readers won't care anyway. As for the others, they know what these beasts look like but may be interested in committing some comments about the Australian Top Gear, still to grace our screens. How could you now have presenters mimicking each of Jeremy, Hammond and Captain Slow? It's formulaic, character-driven and predictable and you'd need to replicate that model, yes?

Now, for those two others who, with me, were going to audition: who of us was going to take which part? I kind of fancy myself as a more compact Jeremy but my driving skills are more James May. Not a good mix.

13 July 2008

magic by numbers

This fascinating article, via Bookforum, lays out in sufficient detail the inexorable desecration of supposedly impartial statistics gathering and dissemination in the US. We know a little of similar activities here - eg the usual one cited that if you work for an hour a week, you're deemed to be employed.

But it's reasonable to suppose that there are many more similar changes that have been made to our system of statistical reporting over the years. The death of a thousand cuts, you could say. Given that people put their hard-earned on the line to make investment decisions, both personal and business, on the basis of these figures you'd like to think they were reliable. However, public servants on contracts, the rise of a view that the public should support the government of the day, not be impartial, frank and fearless have put paid to all of that. It's all about the program, yes?

Maybe one of my fellow bloggers with access to the numbers and the intelligence could do the research?

Speaking of fellow bloggers, a random investigation this arvo revealed that Club Troppo - surely one of the more sane, serious yet readable blogs about - has not only redefined Chateau VVB from leftish to centrist, but I'm now a "long time blogger" as well. I feel all kind of...funky.
The centrist tag sits well. Since I first heard the term - in 1983 - I've considered myself "wishy-washy left" but my views were perhaps polarised by John Howard's unique view of how government should work, and what his in particular should do to Australians. Without a doubt the nastiest cabal of immoral arseholes you could imagine, they did their very best for over a decade.

Kevin 07 was a very good year. The machine might be looking a little brittle at the moment - and could certainly do without the daily help of the Milnes and other idiot commentators who never miss a chance to examine, or more likely concoct, some imaginary fault - but they'll come good and they certainly won't be worse than what we just disposed. Of.

But I believe, Howard and Co aside, that the Chateau reserves a slightly more sceptical view of what is (a) desirable and (b) achievable, and neither 'side' of politics has a mortgage on it here in Godzone.

And, gven that we are now a "great southern land of the Holy Spirit" - well, except for here in Squat VVB, I must say - we seem to be Godzone.

Look out.

12 July 2008


I came to this article about the Book of Revelations and end-times enthusiasts in the Guardian expecting a trite put-down of believers and some smart-arse commentary on the final book of the Bible.

I did get a 'hook' for something that I was planning to write on another matter entirely:

"Furthermore, the mind is capable of artful compartmentalisations..."

But moreso, I found the article quite entrancing and well argued. As an avowedly secular household - well, bits of it - Chateau VVB has a popular, but unfortunately rather shallow scientific interest (as it might be described) in those who have deep beliefs and also in how books like the Bible come about, and come about their power. Maybe those bits of the Chateau should devote more time to reading and research, and less to ill-considered blogs. But that's one for another time.

There were a few bits of the article that really grabbed my attention. I particularly liked this bit:

"For many millennial dispensationalists, international peacemakers, who risk delaying the final struggle by sowing concord among nations - the United Nations, along with the World Council of Churches - have been seen as Satanic forces."

Which struck me as grasping at straws to express a political or ideological conviction rather than a religious one.

I liked the story of the Millerites - calculated the day the world would end and Jesus would return, it didn't happen, they cried for a bit and then an outside-the-square thinker amongst them decided that Jesus had returned, he simply was up in the sky somewhere. Problem solved.

And this, again reflecting what appears to be a group using religious imagery as cover for a political outcome:
"And so it came about that a cattle-breeding operation emerges in Israel with the help of Texan Christian fundamentalist ranchers to promote the birth of the perfect, unspotted red calf, and thereby, we have to assume, bring the end days a little closer."

Actually the article deserves far better than this random mud-slinging. It's undoubtedly so that end-timers will always be amongst us...until the end times. The references to Nazism, Marxism and the close brush with mortality that was the Cuban showdown between Kruschev and Kennedy - the author's comment that this incident has passed from general memory is telling. I can remember it, although being only 11 at the time and living in a country town, its importance eluded me.

So I'd be interested in what people have to say.

The compartmentalising comment I was going make was that many of us, if not most of us, have to compartentalise in order to get through, in particular, our working days.

So, for someone who has been working in economic development for quite some years now, I should be 100% behind the globalisation 'experiment' and all that goes with it.

But alas when I read in the Business Review Weekly that businesses should take advantage of the casualisation of the workforce in order to reduce their costs, I see red. Particularly when the way it is portrayed, it looks like casualisation occurred because, perhaps, workers demanded it: "For example, the casualisation of the workforce has created opportunities for managers to align their wage costs with revenue".

What, this had nothing to do with business lobbying government to change ("free up") labour market regulations? It happened all by itself? I have no doubt that some people like casual work, but the idea that thousands of people with mortgages and families would voluntarily trade security of income for - a freer lifestyle? - just defies commonsense.

Alright, it's just a magazine with deadlines rather than a considered journal, but the message is pretty clear: screw your staff and then, just when they think you're finished, do it again.

So, that's what I was originally going to write - albeit briefly - about. But the roads we follow to get where we were going are far more interesting.

The journey is the destination, yes?

my name is

Hours of fun, more bogan names for you.

When in doubt, double the letters.


That's got a ring to it.

cuts like a knife

It does.

I've noted before the increasing use of knives in street violence. It's not as bad in Australia as the story indicates it is in the UK, but we seem to have the same trend happening.

Quite a long time ago offspring no 1 told me that it was quite usual for kids to be carrying knives in the centre of Canberra on a Saturday night, so it may have been going on for a while.

I don't have a feel for why it has come about - whether it's an increase in violence in general or whether this is a trend within similar amounts of street violence.

Certainly as I get older I feel increasingly vulnerable when I'm out at night, to the extent that often I won't go.

Video violence? A generation of poor parents, inadequately brought up by their own parents and unable to pass on notions of what passes for responsible society? Are we about to return to a more authoritarian, unquestioning type of society? I noticed the comments about army service made by some of those interviewed. I've always seen this as a simplistic answer, but hyou always have to question. Does it have some validity?

10 July 2008

walk my way

"Siobhan Moylan is a journalist with the ABC".

The ABC would be the televison broadcaster which tonight used the word "sidewalk" in one of its news stories.

You know what I was like? I was, like, you know, appalled.

09 July 2008

say my name

I saw part of the 7.30 Report interview with George Pell. He kept talking about a "Jones." What does it say about Archbishop Pell that he can't use the simple honoric "Mr" or the full name, ie including first (or "Christian") name.

He sounded like he was talking about some kind of peasant underclass.


07 July 2008

here it comes again

Here's a brilliant - sort of - little article on catchphrases, how come into being, grow, mutate and either die or become part of the furniture. Courtesy of Bookforum which also regrettably threw up a couple of links I would have loved to follow but which drew the attention of the Unsuitable Site: Access Denied filter. Oh to be on my own ISP again - soon.

I know
Mark Lawrencewill like it.

I was particularly taken that it covers a couple of currently most infuriating sayings: "my bad" and "teh" which has infested the blogosphere - or at least the left hand part I think - like a virus.

"My bad", a particularly obnoxious saying that, as the article says, trivialises its very meaning, is everywhere now. I blame commercial radio for importing most of the neologisms up with which we are forced to put - as it were. The usually sloping foreheaded types who make up the frontpersons of commercial radio depend on being "hip" and "with it"...hmmm, those are both a bit passe, no?

Anyway, for those of you who enjoy words - enjoy.

spanish harlem

The precautionary principle reaches uncharted corners of humankind as Brendan Nelson and the Coalition again shift their position on climate change in the period since John Howard realised that it was a live issue for people.

Costa is on the lookout for the wellbeing of New South Welshpeople when he either (a) sells out the people of NSW by going against their wishes or (b) shows leadership by doing the right thing regardless.

Most people I know think that I'm crazy express the usual refrain that they'd willingly pay more provided it's just a hypothetical, if it comes to the ballot box a fair few will forget their hypothetical positions I'd guess.

Max Markson, 'celebrity agent', says he wouldn't promote Roberta Wilson, but he would represent Mick Gatto, he wouldn't represent David Hicks "because he's a terrorist" but will represent Coery Delaney. You could go crazy trying to figure out human behaviour couldn't you? And what about 'celebrity lawyers'? Ever noticed how defendants from utterly different parts of the country and from all sorts of backgrounds facing all sorts of charges all end up with the same lawyers?

Hey, what about that Rafa, eh? Spanish is the new Swiss.

And doesn't the Tour de France remind us that the land of cheese-eating surrender monkeys is just so pretty. Got to get there for a look, one day when we don't have a mortgage.

I think the plonque is thicker at the bottom of the cask.

OK, take a break, got to watch
Top Gear.

(later) Well, everything I like about the show.
  • Weirdly compelling similes (a car like "a pensioner's terrier");
  • absurdly enthusiastic driving tests (a BMW M5 Touring and a Mercedes AMG 6.3 estate being hurled around an airport at night, with fires),
  • downright stupidity (racing motorhomes);
  • brutally honest appraisals (unlike Australian car reviews) - the latest Honda Civic Type R was worse than its predecessor; and
  • insulting the show's audience (a bloke who admitted to having bought the latest Honda Civic Type R).
Anyway we'd better go off and do some stuff, there is plenty of stuff to be done. Tomorrow we do a bit of a trek into the Central Highlands, haven't been out there for a while.

Tell you about it when I get back if there's anything of any interest to tell.


05 July 2008

it takes a lot to laugh (*)

Here's a couple of jokes to cheer you up.

"May I take your order, sir?" the waiter asked.
"Yes, how do you prepare your chickens?"
"Nothing special, sir," he replied. "We just tell them straight out that they're going to die."

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"
She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

I forgot to ask whether you needed cheering up, you'll notice. No big deal, I find it more often the case than not that people seem to need cheering up.

If you want more, go
here and you can sign up to get some light relief in your in-box every Friday. I've not run across the proprietors in person, they seem to be from the Martin Seligman Positive Psychology school. Maybe this sort of stuff doesn't work for you, I'm aware that there's a fair amount of scepticism about it. However boats, what floats, and so on.

(*) and, of course, it takes a train to cry.

03 July 2008

smooth criminal

I've got a choice between reading a paper on international standards in pressure-pipe welding, and what we need to do to get welding contractors up to speed, or write about...

Hmm, pressure pipe welding sounds pretty spiffy, eh? Maybe Ha%%y, as he still reads here to find out what I'm up to (don't laugh mate, so does Mrs VVB...) can give me a few pointers. Where are the reputable international suppliers of world-class welders, mate? Do our erstwhile friendly Indon people-smugglers do bulk deals?

Evidently it's a slow night, which gives me time to reflect on my newest ailment, namely indigestion. I've never had it before in my life, now I can't wait until bedtime to whoof down the Gaviscon for some relief. Boy, does that stuff ever work (unsolicited testimonials, the very best kind).

Anyway, what brought this malady on? Mrs VVB, who knows about these things, reckons it's induced by stress. Well I have a little going on at the moment, but not enough for this kind of a response, I would have thought.

The blogosphere has been alight with indignation these past few days as the reality of the NSW government's slide into (even more) authoritarianism becomes apparent.

These young Catholics must either be extremely precious and need to be protected, or somehow dangerous and...need to be protected.

Some discussion predicts that the outrageously extreme - and stupidly drafted - regulations put in place will now draw
even more protest than people who just either don't like Catholics, or don't like their taxes being hoovered up by an already rich institution, or don't like their racecourse being closed, or don't like their public (and this being the NSW ALP, also private) roads being closed, or don't...well, you get the point.

If you can keep your gorge from rising, you can read the government's spokesvomiter give the official view of the event.
"Happy police". I ask you. Times like this remind us that George Orwell actually demonstrated extremely limited imagination in 1984. This isn't doublespeak, it's just totally delusional.

The next NSW election promises to be a ripper as, by any standards, Iemma and his coterie of distasteful spivs should be right out on their collective ears. But - as many people repeatedly point out - you look at the opposition and think, "hmm, maybe we can live in kleptocracy administered by petty crims, in fact, hmmm, doesn't look too bad."

Marginal note - Blogger spelling autocorrection gave me "Cleopatra's" for kleptocracy. There must be a message in that.

Another marginal note - I nearly typed "autocorrect" and then remembered what I think about the term "roadside assist."

OK, that's a couple of minutes of your lives that could have been used for the benefit of mankind, and all other kinds of kind, but at least you now know that I have heartburn.

But Alan Jones has prostate cancer, he should have eaten more

Back to the welding.

Afterthought - actually, didn't get back to the welding, watched Family Guy and American Dad instead. Just fabulous, this also proves I'm not reflexively anti-American.

It does, doesn't it?

02 July 2008

lost for words

Here's what a former supervisor of mine used to call a "rattling good read" (we were all encouraged to make our turgid briefing notes "rattling good reads"). It's the story of Scrabble and it has all sorts of ingredients: economics, the shortsightedness of large organisations, human nature and change over the generations.

With my increasing propensity to forgetting words (and let's not even think about forgetting names) I've been thinking that I should take up crosswords to try and keep the remnant functioning parts of my tiny mind still functioning. I've made occasional attempts to get into cryptics but I think that takes time, to learnt the tricks, the styles of individual crossword setters and so on.

A medium to difficult normal cross word should suffice for my purpose.

All I have to do is remember to do one a day.

I last had that thought about a fortnight ago.

Maybe I need a different brain exercise.

Oh, footy time. Ciao for niao.

01 July 2008

was not was

Alexander Downer stands down.

Does anybody with more time - and fortitude - on their hands care to do a trawl to get some Downer quotes on the uselessness of the UN during the Howard era.

They weren't keen on the UN were they, as I recall.

Nicosia's a nice place, I once had to go to a dentist urgently there. They can put a temporary filling in the with the best of them.

Anyway it'll keep Downer out of sight out of mind for a while, after all Cyprus has been dvided since 1974. From the linked report we can see that Downer indeed "paid some attention" to Cyrus, he appointed two Liberal Party hacks. That must've taken all of 5 minutes, what an incredibly insightful and effective foreign minister he turned out to be.

Oh, that didn't take very long, did it?

Spare me.

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