June 30, 2008

Irony

From tomorrow people in the Netherlands will no longer be permitted to smoke in restaurants or public places.

In keeping with the new laws, patrons of Amsterdam's cannabis cafes will not be permitted to smoke tobacco indoors either, instead they'll have to take their joints full strength.

Only pure marijuana joints will be smoked and tolerated indoors.

True.

June 29, 2008

Orange orbs

The Northern Territory was allegedly terrorized by a bunch of spaceships last week.

People in Liverpool, Britain, have also had recent encounters with "13 orange orbs".

[Really, if tanning salons were illegal, the world would be a safer, happier place for all.]


A UFO researcher, Keith Douglass, supported the sightings as being valid, based on the following staggeringly scientific and compelling evidence:
"The description was more or less spot on."
If you haven't already staggered and flayaled enough, Douglass then revealed this staggeringly scientific and believable tid-bit:
"These craft could go anywhere. There's probably 200 around the world. They've go agendas like us. Some are friendly: some don't like us."
I want a recount.

200 UFOs and only one lunatic?

The numbers don't add up.

There are way more than 200 orange orbs just in Chapel Street on any random morning.

June 28, 2008

Jeremy rides the zeitgeist

Our friend, from a way back, Jeremy Justus, of Piss Stance and Surveillance, Paranoia, and Abjection fame, is horribly, horribly, horribly right to be preoccupied with garbage and ideological surveillance.

But first we must segue, entirely inelegantly, for a momentary reminder of the trade-offs between actions and environmental protection. Eg, biofuel versus feeding people. Eg, punitive garbage and recycling regimes versus the black plague.

As always, it's increasingly a case of: pick your poison.

Now back to Jeremy's preoccupation with garbage, recycling, ideology and surveillance: his notions and mullings are steadily coming to rude life (not literature) across the globe, with outrageous and stupid-minded results.
"[A]s a Christian minister I’m required to speak out against injustice,” declared the Rev. John Bannister, the rector of Whitehaven, a seaside town in Cumbria, in the far northwest. Referring to the garbage cans residents here use, he said, “To be given a criminal record for leaving your wheelie bin open by three inches has, I think, really gone beyond the bounds of responsible behavior.”

Across Europe, residents are struggling to adjust to a new era of garbage rules. Britain, particularly, is in the midst of a trash crisis, with dwindling landfill space and one of Europe’s poorest recycling records. Threatened with steep fines if they dump too much trash, local governments around the country are imposing strict regimens to force residents to produce less and recycle more.

Many now collect trash every other week, instead of every week. They restrict households to a limited amount of garbage, and refuse to pick up more. They require that garbage be put out only at strict times, reject whole boxes of recyclables that contain the odd nonrecyclable item and employ enforcement officers who issue warnings and impose fines for failure to comply.

[A]s Ian Curwen, a spokesman for Copeland Borough Council, which encompasses Whitehaven, said: “Ultimately as a country, we have to do more. We can’t just keep producing and throwing things away.”

[Err, no, no we can't. The end of production, capitalism, and the global economy will be announced when your next recycling schedule is distributed - ed.]

But Britons do not like being told what to do. Encouraged by anti-government newspapers, they particularly resent government meddling, as they see it, in such intimate matters as the contents of their garbage cans. As regulations get more stringent and enforcement more robust, there have been reports across the country of incensed residents shouting and throwing trash at garbage collectors, illegally dumping and burning excess garbage, and even surreptitiously tossing trash in — or stealing — their neighbors’ garbage cans.

The twice-a-month collection regime, now in use in more than half the country, is particularly unpopular and became a contentious issue in recent local elections ... having infrequent collections creates a health hazard, what with the smell, the maggots and the rats.

“It’s supposed to be environmentally friendly, but it’s not,” Mrs. Cocks said. “How can it be environmentally friendly to have two weeks’ worth of rubbish in your house?”

Indeed.

And it doesn't matter how much of it's in a recycling bin, it's still garbage.

Jeremy is the leading candidate for becoming the Cassandra of all things garbage. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Take out the trash precisely, now. It's the law

June 27, 2008

June 26, 2008

Captain Chaos

A well researched and considered piece in last weekend's Australian (yes, yes, it's Thursday and I've only just gotten around to reading Saturday's paper).
"The Labor Government is six months in power, and chaos and indecision are impinging on normal decision-making processes. There's a lot of noise and announcements but insiders say nothing much is actually happening.

The two words most commonly used about Rudd's office are chaotic and dysfunctional. One only need drop by to have that confirmed.

Senate estimates teased out the example of Hae-kyong Holdaway, the mother of two who worked 36 hours straight after being asked to hurriedly draft legislation for FuelWatch.

One of the problems, insiders say, is that the favourite way for members of the PM's staff to begin a phone call is "The Prime Minister wants ..." One public service source says often after such a phone call there is no follow-up and the work is often done in vain.

[Ah, yes. I remember the torture well. Be assured folks, this is a nasty habit run rife throughout the public service, it's not unique to the PM's office. It peculates from the top right down to the lowest reaches of every department - ed.]

It was under Epstein as chief-of-staff that Beazley as Opposition leader became obsessed with - and disappeared under - a 24-hour news cycle. Everything was seen by how it would play on that night's TV news. The same thing is happening to Rudd now."

Worth reading the whole thing for an early insight to the Rudd government. In other words: it's not your imagination, things really are as bad as they look to the punters - Inner Circle.

June 25, 2008

Wednesday Wisdom

Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.
Jane Wagner

June 24, 2008

When gangland trollops go bad

I've never had a deep and abiding interest in gangland lawyers, so I have no benchmark for normalcy or best practice in that sphere.

And we've all had dubious, dodgy or outright insane moments when it comes to matters of partnering-up, so I'm really not one to judge - who would dare, ordinarily?

Still, I'm figuring that if your soul mate and love of your life was gunned-down when you where in your early twenties, and four years later you're pregnant with the baby of some younger chap still living with his Mum, who, upon learning the awesome news that he is going to become a father, promptly wilts under the burden of delirious happiness, goes out with a can of spray paint and applies said paint to $30 K worth of Versace handbags in a shop at the Crown Casino complex, landing him with some (more) petty criminal charges - well, even for a gangland lawyer, I reckon you'd have to say that her judgment and taste in men has hit rock bottom, that she has dipped into the shallowest end of an already, stretched, strained, depleted, endangered genetic pool, tempting fate with the potential for a Darwin award, as it were.

Here ..

June 23, 2008

He has nowhere to go

Now I'm a believer.

Costello was often and bitterly criticized by commentators for not going after Howard like a rabid dog on heat. Gutless, was one frequent epitaph, which at the time - not long ago - I thought a little harsh.

The flip side - his sturdy loyalty - did look suspiciously like the posturing of an insecure, skittish school girl when it really mattered - a year out from the election with Howard up in neon lights as yesterday's man.


Worse was to come after the election loss. The leadership virgin refused to lay down with the losing side, deeming the bed to be not damned good enough for him.

Timing.

Timing is everything.

The newly disingenuousness Costello saw himself, not as a leader of the opposition,with grand plans to become PM in his own right, cutting a swathe through Rudd for a thrill-filled three years, no Costello would have none of that - he was off to make his fortune in the private sector. Trading on his bestest-ever Treasurer tag, he would stockpile popularity and cash akin to releasing a newly minted Paris Hilton sex tape.

Hasn't happened.

Won't happen.

Costello can't find a job.

Even the work of writing his biography must induce bitter tears at the thought of the meager $50K advance.

(Hey, tell it to someone who cares buddy: no one buys books about or by Libs: your publisher will be lucky to recoup, fact.)

In addition to his blunder-headed obstinate stupidity about the appropriateness of challenging Howard, Costello, as far as we can tell, didn't build relationships or personal interests while in parliament. Thus his naked unemployability now. Other pollies - those who reached the top job - were never so stupid.

The critics were right about his character.

What they didn't foresee was Costello, still a youngish man, cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Costello job hunt falls on hard times

Just a little bit stingy

We're tight-wads, for no obvious economic, political, sociological or moral reason:

"Internationally, the comparisons are stark. In 2005-6, Australia's ultra-rich (those with a personal taxable income of $1 million-plus) gave away 1.39% of their income. A recent World Wealth Report estimated the ultra-rich elsewhere were giving between 3% and 11% of taxable income. Those in the Asia-Pacific led the way, donating 11.8% of their total investment portfolios. Next came those in the Middle East (7.7%) and North America (7.6%).

Obviously, some wealthy Australians give extremely generously. But the Queensland findings matched anecdotal evidence. "Most charity collectors will tell you that they always do better when … doorknocking in those suburbs at the bottom of the socio-economic pile," David Thompson, the chairman of the Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations, told ABC radio. "It's far tougher at the other end."

Brings to mind something that Camus said: "Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity".

What price a moral life?

June 22, 2008

Who knew?

I don't think I'd recognize a John Mayer song if it whacked me in my left ear drum, but hey, my days of drooling over young men with guitars is long gone, so it's no surprise that I don't spend much time hanging out in the local music store.

The first I knew that this guy Mayer existed was during the tortured period when he was the pretend / real / PR stunt / real / real / ex boyfriend of flibbertigibbet celebutard Jessica Simpson.

In truth, I felt sorry for the lad, even though he's a grown man, capable of making rudimentary grown up decisions, and even though I had no idea of his IQ, I felt that he'd reach beneath his natural depth of bottom dwelling pond scummishness, and could, surely, set his exchange of bodily fluid sights a tad higher than a breast-implant blonde who makes bimbos everywhere feel deeply ashamed to be a bimbo.

The dark dating period eventually passed, although it seemed to me to go on about as long as the average Iraqi war.

I was then able to forget about Mayer, on the assumption that he was a random dude who'd had his few minutes as a handbag to the dippy Simpson, albeit, a random dude who made an heroic effort to expand Simpson's ability to think and speak by buying her a dictionary.

But he didn't go away.

It turned out that Mayer has sold more CDs than Simpson and won a goodly number of music awards. Trivia facts without which my life would not be as complete and knowledgeable as it has now become.

Then, much to universal dismay, Mayer met the romantically-challenged Jennifer Aniston, everyone's all time favorite dumped-upon ex-wife.

Yet again, Mayer finds himself accused of being the world's biggest recycler of famous-ex-wives, leveraging their vulnerability for his dastardly, superficial ends.

Local trash mag, NW, well known for *journalists* sitting in their office cubicles making up stories and conversations, with a scant snip of reality stolen from the US gossip blogs, last week published this deeply considered nugget, which is 100% representative of the general sentiment since the JenJohn fling started a couple of months ago:
"Jen is ... heading for a bigger fall than she had after her split with ... Brad Pitt.

"If John dumps Jen, it will kill her" says a worried friend."
Kill her?!

Or not so much.

Besides, I'm going to make one of my incredibly famous predictions: John and Jen are going to be together longer than anyone is predicting - except me, because I'm predicting longer than anyone else. As a bonus, I'll include a baby, before Jen's ovaries shrivel-up like a couple of drops of mouse turd left in the midday sun too long.

I think they work. I think they have chemistry. I think they look right together.

I'm firmly on the side of team JenJohn!

Especially after researching Mayer.

Who knew he was a multi-talented man, determined, self made, admired by more senior and famous musos, award winning, quirky, seemingly very intelligent, genuinely committed to his craft.

Holy shit. I'll say it: Mayer sounds pretty cool and he has truly earned his own success.

Click the link for a glimpse into the life and mind of Mayer. I didn't know any of this stuff. He doesn't even especially seem like a total dickhead. He blogs. He must be OK.

John Mayer: famous girlfriend blues

Six of one, half a dozen of the other ...

Multi-billionaire Richard Pratt is charged with giving false evidence during a price fixing investigation conducted by the ACCC.

Rather than take him to court for the price fixing, the ACCC imposed a $36 million penalty on Pratt's Visy cardboard business, an amount that was paid up promptly with the loose change found down the back of the Pratt family-room couch.

Now they're taking him to court on four counts of knowingly giving false and misleading evidence while on oath during an interview in 2005.


If found guilty, Pratt could face up to four years in jail on each of the four counts, or fines totaling $8800.

Let's review those penalty options, shall we?

If found guilty, Pratt could face:

- Jail time: 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16 years maximum

OR

- Fines: $2200 + $2200 + $2200 + $2200 = $8800

Hmm.

June 21, 2008

Defiant Rudd gov't rips pittance from needy

"The Coalition used its Senate majority – due to expire at the end of next week – to disallow abolition of Medicare Dental, established by the Howard Government.

The scheme offered up to $4250 over two years for people with chronic dental health problems.

It was forecast to cost $13 million over the next five years, and has already assisted more than 311,000 people.

The Government has argued the scheme isn't working and funding is needed instead for its new teen dental program.

Dental industry groups and leading dental health experts supported Coalition attempts to try to retain the scheme.

Government Senate manager Joe Ludwig said the present scheme was a failure."

Try telling that to the few hundred thousand people who will now suffer in silence and have their health deteriorate due to serious dental problems, all because Rudd refuses to commit a paltry $13 M over five years. It's loose change from the budget, yet a world of change to those assisted.

Coalition defiant over dental scheme

Ooommmmmm

As I have been want to mention from time to time, I'm a devotee of the idea of honest reviews, of which there are precious few in our peddling-toward-sub-mediocrity-with-mild-enthusiasm world.

I was delighted with this little gem from a review in the NYTs of Mike Myer's new film:
"To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. ... No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again."
Ah.

A review that made me feel good all over.

Calm.

At peace with the world.

Zen.

Bless

The Love Guru

An incovenient opera

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, first a film and then a book, is becoming an opera. Officials of La Scala in Milan say the Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has been commissioned to write it for the 2011 season.

Dear Mr. Gore,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my draft of “Verità Inconveniente.” Rest assured that I and the management of La Scala are committed to a serious presentation of your scientific work. I will try to adopt some of your suggestions, but I hope you appreciate the constraints faced by the composer of an opera that is already five hours long.

I agree it would “round out the résumé” of Prince Algorino in the opening scene if he were to sing about his creation of a communications network. But the “Mio magnifico Internet” aria you propose seems to me a distraction — and frankly out of place in an 18th-century Tuscan village. I believe the peasants’ choral celebration of Prince Algorino’s wisdom suffices to establish his virtues.

I will ask our technicians about the feasibility of producing “stinky smoke” to accompany the entrance of Petroleo, but it may be unnecessary.

...

You ask for a detailed revelation of how Petroleo prevents Prince Algorino from becoming king. I understand your interest and desire to introduce another villain. (Incidentally, the translation of “Bush” would be “Arbusto,” not “Shrubulo.”)

But no narrative purpose is served by Algorino’s singing about his “stolen throne” as he wanders in exile

...

During Algorino’s instruction in the Weather Seer’s castle, you again accuse me of “caving” to the critics by omitting your famous chart correlating rising temperatures and rising carbon dioxide over the past 600,000 years. But it is of no consequence to me which came first, the carbon dioxide or the temperature. As an artist, I simply felt it would be jarring to interrupt the Seer’s aria with a PowerPoint presentation.

I did plan to use a simpler chart etched on the castle wall for the duet we originally planned for Algorino and the Seer. I loved your idea of matching the musical notes with the graphs of temperatures and CO2 concentrations, but the resulting melodies were unfortunate. I was unable to find any tenor or baritone able to sing either of the graphs.

...

I don’t share your fear that audiences will expect Prince Algorino to “offset his travel footprint,” so I don’t see the need for the tree-planting scene you suggest. Once the Weather Seer has explained Poseidon’s passion and shown him the rising seas, Algorino should immediately rush back to save Gaia. And why, with his lover in peril, would he pause en route to rescue a drowning polar bear?

...

You complain that it’s a “cliché” for Gaia to collapse and die alongside her lover. Perhaps, as you suggest, we could have her first drape a medal around his neck (although I think the Nobel would be anachronistic). But as much as I admire your other idea for an “outside the box” death scene, I cannot accept it — and again, despite your accusations, this has nothing to do with the scientific criticism of your work. Whether your predictions for sea level rise are correct or not, it would be logistically impossible to end the opera by drowning the village under 20 feet of water.

Sincerely,

Giorgio Battistelli

The Aria of Prince Algorina

Stealthly data centres

Ha!


Everyone is looking for carbon emissions in all the wrong places.

Forget power stations, brown coal, oil and its multitude of wondrous services and products, forget hairspray, forget cow burps.

Data centres.

Yes, data centres, my friends.

Data centres will kill us in the end.

The interwebs is evil after all.

So, step away from that hyperlink, that www address, send your ISP provider into poverty, disconnect from the network: YOU are killing the planet!

"The problem is that most computers in data centers run at 15 percent or less of capacity on average, loafing the rest of the time, though consuming electricity all the while. (In the old days, when they housed a few large computers, data centers were far more efficient. Mainframe computers run at 80 percent of capacity or more.)

The computers also generate a lot of heat, so much so that half of the energy consumed by a typical data center is for enormous air-conditioners, fans and other industrial equipment used mainly to cool the high-tech facilities.

The nation’s data centers doubled their energy consumption in the five years to 2006, exceeding the electricity used by the country’s color televisions, according to the latest government estimates.

The availability of electricity, not just its cost, presents a threat to the continued expansion of data center computing that can hamper companies across the economy, as they increasingly rely on information technology.

Based on current trends, by 2011 data center energy consumption will nearly double again, requiring the equivalent of 25 power plants. The world’s data centers, according to recent study from McKinsey & Company, could well surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020."

Demand for data puts engineers in spotlight

Meanwhile, from the distant mists of time, we can reveal that the very first hyperlink was a catalogue card, the interwebs started life in paper form, catalogued and manually built, maintained and searched by human labor.

The web time forgot

Of course, let's never forget that William Gibson invented cyberspace on his rusty manual type writer.

June 20, 2008

Class action against g-string wearers

A 52 year old woman has filed a suit in the Los Angeles Superior Court 13 months after a "metallic ornament" hit her in the eye while she was trying on a low-rise g-string from Victoria's Secret (one of their top sellers!).

Suing for $25,000, the woman injured her cornea and took several days off work at the time of the incident. She also claims that she will suffer for the rest of her life.

Having put a value of only $25,000 on this injury, I'm figuring that:

- parking officers get paid an awfully high daily rate (and get no sick leave); or
- the woman is not expected to live long (like, maybe another week or two); or
- the g-string induced injury is so trivial that it's only worth about $1000 a year to the victim.

Whatever the truth, I believe it's time that all refined citizens of the world initiated a class action to sue all low and high rise g-string wearers.

Her eye?

Huh!

My eyes have been damaged for years!

And the eyes of an innocent, unsuspecting, unwitting public.

Girt by fat

Back in the day, we were girt by sea.

Now we are girt by fat.

Forget gerbal-worming and the end of our natural shore line, determined Australians have already reached the end of their natural girth lines and are going to sink the great land brown long before carbon emissions, lesbian whales or rabid underarm hair growth send us all to hell in a hand basket.

We're not going to go out with a bang, or a binge drink, we're going to go out eating.

And eating.

And eating.

And eating.

And eating.

We have surpassed our good friends and role model - America - we are now fatter than thee.

Nine million Australians are a ticking "fat bomb"

Meanwhile, the Japanese are aiming for a gold medal in national svelte, with employers required - by law - to whip out the tape measure to check employee health.

Those failing the tough test might be sent off for "dieting guidance".

The Japanese government, being rather ambitious, has set a limit of 33.5 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women. Off to counseling for those who bulge over the limit, combined with have any other health concern, the latter being quite a flexible concept, I'd guess.

Japan, seeking trim waists, measures millions

Duck Friday

June 18, 2008

Wednesday Wisdom

Walking isn't a lost art: one must, by some means, get to the garage.
Evan Esar

June 16, 2008

Eco-friendly munitions - because we care

Next time you're thinking of shooting down your annoying co-workers, or that the creepy guy at the bus stop, or when you're planning a smallish war, think about the environment first, do the right thing: buy from BAE Systems.

Nothing says your give a shit like clean, quiet, lead free munitions.

(From 2006)

"British firm BAE Systems wants to make quieter warheads to cut noise pollution and eco-friendly rockets.

Scientists are also working on explosives that can be composted if not needed and grenades that produce less harmful smoke.

But critics were most stunned at the plan to design bullets without lead because it can harm the environment and pose a risk to people.

The Ministry of Defence backs green weapons, saying armaments should incorporate eco-design."
Here, here!

Eco-designed bombs!

Eco-designed guns!

What next, 'ey?

Eco-designed world leaders?

A little green on top ...

Lead-free bullets .. to save the world

June 15, 2008

Terrorists have special fist jabs

The candidates aren't even official yet, but this year's US presidential election is going to be uglier and less liked than a freckle-faced, red-haired stepchild.

I'm quite sure that - like VW drivers and members of the freemasonry - terrorists have any number of cute little signals and special brotherly handshakes used for identification and bonding purposes. I'm just not entirely convinced that there's any such beast as a "terrorist fist jab".

What the hell is a "terrorist fist jab" supposed to be? Sounds like the name of a beating & battery method, rather than a euphoric terrorist-like greeting that one might offer one's wife , in lieu of a peck on the cheek, on arrival home from a successful day at work - or while standing in front of thousands of people and a plethora of journalists and cameras.

But try telling that to the now unemployed telly-head Ed Hill in the US - first came this ludicrous analysis of nothing:




Then came the apology:



It's going to get ugly.

Really, really ugly.

Plants behaving thoughtfully

Rocket flower knows it's rellies

Brainless but well coded.

Some plants recognize their relatives and change their growing behavior accordingly, while other plants cleverly sniff out the most worthy target to maximize their own growth and well-being.

While some people might like to use this information to suggest that plants are sentient, or at least deeply emotional, the flip-side, if you consider it for a wee bit, is that behaviors are so embedded in all DNA that human free will looks determinedly shaky the more we discover. That sad little notion takes the glee out of finding that plant behaviors are smarter than previously thought.

Loyal to its roots

June 14, 2008

No feminist high ground for Hillary

Hillary Rodham Clinton played tough guy throughout her presidential nomination campaign, right up to and including her inelegant, aggressive, churlish, bitter non-concession speech.

By contrast, Obama hasn't wandered far from his metro-man persona, taking a traditionally feminine conciliatory, measured, stance on pretty much everything, even offering up effusive praise of Clinton on a regular basis.

Upon her final, publicly agreed defeat, Obama didn't miss a beat in acknowledging Clinton's (arguably) wonderful achievement in being the first woman to run as a presidential nominee, for her tenacity and success, for crashing through ceilings for other women, for setting a fine example, and so on and so forth.

Clinton, by contrast, still hasn't - and we can expect never will - acknowledged Obama's achievement in being the first African-American presidential candidate. She hasn't really acknowledge Obama, period.

She came to bury Cesar, not to praise him.

She's the traditional Baby Boomer who truly does refuse to get the fuck out of the way.

Feminists and social commentators now bleating about sexist coverage given to Clinton need to get over the knee-jerk response and do some real analysis.

The Clinton and Obama rhetoric could not have been more different, their personalities more opposed, their campaign methods more contrasting.

Clinton never came close to capturing the zeitgeist.

The more masculine candidate lost.

I'm not buying the feminist message on this one. Not now. Not ever.

Ironically, the traditional tough-guy Clinton was beaten by the new age softer guy.

Media charged with sexism in Clinton coverage


Future abandoned

Under the new beaut Rudd Rapture government, current and future generations of Aboriginals have been abandoned, tossed into the flotsam of history.

No hope to see here.

"Brough's replacement, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, had said pre-election that she would remove two key tenets of the intervention by reinstating the CDEP program and keeping townships closed to outsiders by reinstating the permit system. She kept her word. So when intervention funding took a heavy hammering in federal Labor's first budget, the whole thing was looking shaky. Federal Labor maintained it supported the intervention but quietly began dismantling it.

What had been achieved? The NT and federal governments, having long neglected the bush, seemed finally to accept they had a responsibility to improve Aboriginal towns. There was better policing and broad, non-invasive health examinations of 15,000 children that uncovered, at the softer end, thousands of minor but hindering ear, nose and throat problems. The interventionists identified hundreds of remote-area children who had never spent a day at school (as distinct from the thousands who rarely attended). The real question was what Aborigines had learned from it. Would they send their kids to school?

In early April, I took a 6am stroll down the Todd River in Alice Springs. It was illegal to drink along the riverbed; all Alice's public areas had been declared dry. It was a sea of green cans. The Aborigines there were playing hide-and-seek with the authorities. They were shadow drinkers. These were not people who started wondering about that gin and tonic at 5pm; they were chronic alcoholics who needed to drink all the time.

The town camps looked like they always had: places of wreckage. Income management meant half of the welfare money went into a bank account and the other half came in the form of a voucher to be swiped for food or essentials at accredited stores. Liquor and cigarettes could not be bought. Locals I spoke to said the cards -- not linked to anyone's name -- had become highly tradeable. If you had $200 credit on a card, you could sell it for $150 in cash and head to the bottle shop.

There were reports of people shifting away in numbers, to Mount Isa and Port Augusta. Thirsty liquor refugees were arriving in Darwin in unprecedented numbers to make their homes in the long grass, where they could be left alone to drink.

It became possible to consider the intervention in the terms of a spectacular but short-lived life. It was more or less over, 10 months after it had begun. Brough's departure had been fatal. If one definition of conservative was someone who liked things how they were yesterday, not tomorrow, it was clear now who the real conservatives were."

Life and death of a crisis

June 13, 2008

Feeding frenzy

Chubby little Aussies (well, the whole frightfully fat thing is infectious, apparently, and we probably caught it from America) are feeding themselves less than they feed their gambling habits.

Yes, oddly enough, despite our girth - and despite our by sea girt - Australians spent $91.5 M on food in the last financial year and $148 M on gambling.

That translates to an average of $4350 per person on food and an average of $9491 per person on gambling.

Update

Oops: that should have read "billions" folks, not millions. Gambling might be around $7200K per year, but some sources are quoting higher, perhaps factoring out children under five years, on an assumption they don't yet gamble. I'm just shooting in the dark there, don't quote me, don't call the ABS.

An occasional series

Triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia - fear of Friday the 13th.

Duck Friday

June 12, 2008

Lesbians versus lesbians

I'm rootin' for the Lesbians.

Pick your corner people!

We're not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that

All the (French) President's women

"Valerie Pecresse is a woman accustomed to controversy. When President Sarkozy made her his minister of higher education last year at the precocious age of 39, her appointment was dismissed as mere political tokenism. When she introduced a bill aimed at giving universities greater control of their budgets, students marched in the streets with placards denouncing her. When she refused to back down, the World Socialist Website got terribly uptight and produced a leaflet condemning her as 'elitist', 'spurious' and 'a right-wing Gaullist'. All of this, she expected.

But what she had not anticipated was a petition, signed by several members of her own staff and presented to her with a stiff formality reserved for the weightiest matters of state. The petition had nothing to do with the thornier issues surrounding her ministry. Instead, it noted that Mme Pecresse only ever wore trousers and that her employees would prefer it if she made the occasional effort to sport a more fetching sartorial get-up. They would like her, in effect, to wear more skirts. 'I do more or less what I want in any case,' says Pecresse, the corners of her lips twitching momentarily into a wry smile. 'But I do now try from time to time to put a skirt on.'"

Or a classic frock and wrap, as shown below.


For a glimpse of the other glamorous French Ministers, see here (link c/o the ever resourceful Dylan).
"... however much they might try to ignore them, the Sarko Babes still have their critics. When the justice minister Rachida Dati gave her six-page Paris Match interview last December, it fuelled considerable outrage: 37 lawyers were so incensed by her confessed weakness for Prada, Chanel, Dior and cut-price T-shirts from Monoprix that they saw fit to chain themselves to a courthouse. A male politician could not resist pointing out the geographical location of Dati's ministry on the Place Vendome (alongside the Ritz hotel, Cartier and Boucheron): 'One has the impression that what interests her in the Place Vendome is not the department of justice, but the place itself, with its beautiful shop windows and jewellers.'

Dati herself remained publicly unapologetic, insisting that as a child of poor immigrants, she had earned the right to enjoy luxurious clothes."

As much as I haven't spent any time yearning for our local gals, especially Gillard and Therese, to become obsessed with Prada or Chanel, I can't quell the little notion that they could make a smidgen more effort. There is a certain lack of manners and grace in eschewing any hint of care or style. Taking apparent pride in one's dishevelment or dowdiness is not a sign of having better or more important things to do, it's a sign of disregard, sloppiness, a lack of self awareness, courtesy to others gone awfully astray.

I suspect that I will now, and forever, yearn for our public servants to demand their Minsters live up to their positions, and I will yearn for our lawyers to chain themselves to fences in objection (or even in favor) to something - anything.

Ah, France, it's a foreign country, they do things differently there.

All the President's women - by Elizabeth Day

(Perhaps not surprisingly, the number one Google search for the term "all the president's women" is a site dedicated to Bill Clinton ... mildly interesting, if for no other reason than the number of women ... didn't realize how easy it was to lose track of them, it's a Hugh Hefner party's worth of women. When lined up in little boxes, it really does beg the question why Hillary has stood by her man. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven ... on it goes ... err, surely there's an upper limit of tolerance for any woman per marriage ... here. )

June 11, 2008

Total tools

Yesterday PM Kev committed his government to a $35 million subsidy for Toyota to build 10,000 hybrid Camrys a year at Altona.

Our friendly Victorian Premier, whatshisname, has matched that subsidy dollar for dollar.

Seventy million dollars for "green" engines to be shipped in and the cars assembled here. No research, no innovation, just assembly of car parts already being made elsewhere in the world.

Without so much as a blush, Toyota executives have bitten the two hands stuffing money down their throats - obviously not enough of it, since the exec's were still able to speak - don't need the money they say; were going to do it regardless they say; their decision has nothing to do with government incentives they say; was already planned to go head they say.

What they said, in other words, was that our Federal and State governments have just pissed $70 million of our money up against a car engine for no reason, no benefit for the community, the car industry, or green technologies.

Won't stop Toyota taking the money though. And why shouldn't they. They're not as dumb as our innovative, fearless leaders. No siree. Not even close to being that retarded.

Retooling industry for uncertain times

(BTW - the technology for the green Camry will allegedly be out of date by the time the cars start rolling out. According to experts. Who aren't politicians with their hands on our money.)

Half grapefruits in demand

George Clooney allegedly dumped former waitress Sarah Larson because she recently acquired her very own breast implants. No news on what size Larson chose. Based on photographic evidence to date, she was previously a triple minus A cup.

Meanwhile, Australian surgeons claim that lovely 20-somethings are purposefully, deliberately, of their own volition, requesting the bolted-on half-grapefruit look strongly favored by many American actresses and *personalities*.

Let me repeat myself: Australian women want their breasts to look like half circles bolted to their ribcage.

(Like this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and
this, and this, and this ... and so on, ad infinitum.)

Wednesday Wisdom

Ahhh. A man with a sharp wit. Someone ought to take it away from him before he cuts himself.
Peter da Silva

June 10, 2008

Barbie Barack


German doll maker and repairer, Puppenklinik of Marcel Offermann, has created a limited edition Barack Obama doll - only 999 copies - a doll so freakishly life-like I almost set a place at the dinner table and poured him a drink.
Almost.

June 8, 2008

Dark matters muchly

"Although cosmologists have adopted a cute name, dark energy, for whatever is driving this apparently antigravitational behavior on the part of the universe, nobody claims to understand why it is happening, or its implications for the future of the universe and of the life within it, despite thousands of learned papers, scores of conferences and millions of dollars’ worth of telescope time. It has led some cosmologists to the verge of abandoning their fondest dream: a theory that can account for the universe and everything about it in a single breath.

“The discovery of dark energy has greatly changed how we think about the laws of nature,” said Edward Witten, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

When it came time for one physicist to discuss new ideas about dark energy, he showed a blank screen.

“We are placing a large bet,” Dr. Mountain said, “using our credibility as collateral, that we as a community know what we are doing.”

Through myriad techniques and observations, cosmologists have recently arrived, after decades of strife, at a robust but dark consensus regarding a cosmos in which stars and galaxies, as well as the humans who gawk at them, amount to barely more than a disputatious froth. It was born 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang. By weight it is 4 percent atoms and 22 percent so-called dark matter of unknown identity — perhaps elementary particles that will be discovered at the Large Hadron Collider starting up outside Geneva this year. That leaves 74 percent for the weight of whatever began causing the cosmos to accelerate about five billion years ago.

“Dark energy has the somewhat unusual property that it was embarrassing before it was discovered,” he said.

In 1917, Einstein invented a fudge factor known as the cosmological constant, a sort of cosmic repulsion to balance gravity and keep the universe in balance. He abandoned his constant when the universe was discovered to be expanding, but quantum physics resurrected it by showing that empty space should be foaming with energy that had the properties of Einstein’s constant.

Alas, all attempts to calculate the amount of this energy come up with an unrealistically huge number, enough energy to blow away the contents of the cosmos like leaves in a storm before stars or galaxies could form. Nothing could live there.

Dr. Witten and other physicists used to think this conundrum “would somehow go away.”

“It seems now that the answer is not really zero,” Dr. Witten said.

Einstein’s constant is the most economical explanation for dark energy, Dr. Witten said. The others, involving new force fields or tinkering with Einstein’s gravity, are hard to make work and raise more questions than they answer. But if dark energy is the cosmological constant, it is smaller than predicted by a shocking factor of 1060.

As a result, he said, maybe physicists should give up trying to explain that number and look instead for a theory that generates all kinds of universes, a so-called multiverse.

That idea has been given mathematical form by string theory, which portrays the constituents of nature as tiny wriggling strings, an elegant idea that in principle explains all the forces of nature but in practice leads to at least 10500 potential universes.

This maze was an embarrassment for string theory. As Dr. Witten, one of the leaders of the field, said, “I am tempted to say this was an embarrassment of my youth.”

“Who needs that mess?” he recalled thinking. “There is just one world we live in.”

Now, Dr. Witten allowed, dark energy might have transformed this fecundity from a vice into a virtue, a way to generate universes where you can find any cosmological constant you want. We just live in one where life is possible, just as fish only live in water.

“This interpretation of string theory might be close to the truth,” Dr. Witten said. But that truth comes at a cost.

“Before the discovery of the dark energy, quantum physicists tended to assume that the ‘vacuum’ we live in has some deep meaning that reflects nature’s deepest secrets,” Dr. Witten said. But if ours is only one of a zillion in a haystack, there is nothing special about it, no secret to be found.

“As for how I feel personally, I am not sure what to say,” he said in an e-mail message. “I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic the first, or even second, time I heard the proposal of a multiverse. But none of us were consulted when the universe was created.”

“We really need new theory, and we have none,” Dr. Krauss said.

Dr. Krauss said, “It would be crazy to talk ourselves out of this.”

He added: “You have to do what you can. You would be crazy not to look.”

Dark, perhaps forever

Spun out of control

Any locals wondering (anyone, anyone at all?) whatever happened to The Spin Starts Here, this handy dandy piece in today's paper spills the beans.

I can't claim to have been a regular, or even irregular, reader of the downed-blog, more a random biannual fly-by observer of what, in my ignorance, I thought was an aesthetically messy blog, with an inexplicable fixation on unwatchable local telly (people actually read the updates about Neighbors, or Home and Away?) and a less than original, acerbic or erudite take on pretty much everything else. It was self-described as "satirical". Banal was always what came to my bemused little mind.

Safe to say that I didn't *get* it.
Naturally the whiffs of controversy were also lost on me.

It was no Tyler Durden, that's for sure. Still for a lot of little Aussies it was, um, um, um ... what, exactly?

Cyber snipers cry foul

June 6, 2008

Editorial oozes

As reported on this very blog, way back when, The New York Times prematurely anointed Hillary Clinton as the chosen one for the Democrat's presidential nominee, in what was, at the least, an intellectually sloppy piece of sycophancy.

Some months later, with Hillary incapable of conceding to that man, The New York Times is having the same problem with reality.

So far in my lifetime this is the worst, most convoluted, obsequious, unctuous, invious, mendacious, circumbendibus editorial I have ever read.

It's over. Now it begins.

Told ya so

Henson will not be charged.

I already predicted that, at 9.06 am, May 28.

Gawd I'm good.

Who needs a crystal ball when you have me?

Duck Friday

June 4, 2008

Hillary ... refuses to lose

Hillary has lost.

She has steadfastly refused to concede.

She has also offered herself up to be a VP, for anyone willing to take her.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An occasional series

Arachibutyrophobia

Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

Wednesday Wisdom

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

Flannery O'Connor

June 2, 2008

Local humor

Strange thing happened yesterday, the Sunday Age newspaper got a sense of humor - just like that - from out of nowhere!

It went like this:

"Headlines you won't see this week

Mercedes Corby celebrates
Blazes up a giant doobie

Rudd chucks a sickie
"I'm so over it at the moment," says PM

Notorious criminal rehabilitated, keen to contribute to community
Herald Sun Exclusive"

Cute.

Maybe it was an accident.

June 1, 2008

Kev's choices

Kev wins more friends everywhere he goes:
"Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declared war on the public service, sending in police to investigate the leaking of a cabinet document and demanding even more work from his bureaucrats.

The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, has called in the Australian Federal Police to find who leaked cabinet documents containing advice opposing the Government's FuelWatch scheme.

There are claims ''chaos'' has descended upon various departments and ministerial and department staff are working from before 7am to past 10pm only for their work to be ignored amid a controlling environment.

He also acknowledged his 24/7 work ethic had already provoked deep hostility among many public servants, but pledged to ratchet up his demands.

''I understand that there has been some criticism around the edges that some public servants are finding the hours a bit much,'' he said

''Well, I suppose I've simply got news for the public service, there'll be more.''

The work ethic of this Government will not decrease, it will increase.''

The commission's new analysis was unveiled only a day after a leaked cabinet document revealed the Government ignored multiple warnings from four senior departments that FuelWatch could lead to higher prices and compliance costs of up to $4000 for fuel retailers."

Kev doesn't run the country, he runs around media cycles:

"Frankly, I do believe in burning the midnight oil", Kevin Rudd declared yesterday, in face of ever-louder groans from weary public servants. The trouble is, he also lights the burner before dawn.

The Rudd press office splutters into action around 4am, when a media assistant arrives. His policy advisers begin to appear from about 6.30am. There is a 5.15am hook-up of press secretaries from the offices of Mr Rudd and senior ministers (it occurs at the weekend too, though the hour is more civilized) and also an evening conference call. It's not all the PM's fault. The media cycle is almost around the clock."

Kev will flog 'em harder:

"The PM's office routine means departments must be on the go first thing, ready to jump to attention when Mr Rudd or his staff or ministers want something. Some departments have people on duty at 6am.

Yesterday Mr Rudd said there should be flexible departmental arrangements so people could live "reasonable lives" — but the Government's "first responsibility" was to "those millions of Australians right outside the public service".

Mr Rudd still refuses to accept the tempo of marathons must be measured; several times yesterday he repeated there would be no slackening the pace."

Kev chooses relentless work for all public servants:

"Here was the champion of working families promising to flog a whole city of largely Labor-voting working families, and a lot of them, already worn down by their Rudd-imposed workload, were in possession of government secrets.

Here was the slayer of WorkChoices, who electioneered on the theme that the Howard government was the enemy of the work-family balance, declaring he wanted those he was able to order around to work harder and longer.

The coming of Kevin Rudd, a driven man in obsessive search of endless briefings and the comfort of long documents on which to scribble and to shuffle, has placed much of the public service under significant pressure.

It is much tougher for those working in the office of Rudd and his ministers. Many begin their working days at 4am, have prepared their first ministerial briefings by 6am and stay at the office well into the night. The requirement for this sort of behavior, it is agreed, comes from Rudd himself."

Kev loses battle of the spin, despite never letting other people sleep or have a life sleeping:

"A few weeks ago, The Canberra Times carried a front page story headed, "The city that never sleeps". Alongside pictures of departmental lights burning into the capital's night, the story reported dark jokes circulating about the need for a pyjama allowance in bureaucratic pay packets. The reporter and photographer discovered, prominently displayed in the cafeteria at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, packets of the sleep suppressant No-Doz.

Rudd — having spent much of last year attacking the Howard government for failing to do enough for working families — declared just six months into his own prime ministership that his own Government had done all it could to help those same families deal with petrol, food and other living costs.

As Rudd and his colleagues look to the unaccustomed territory of their post-honeymoon period, they might reflect that the confusion and loss of focus of the past couple of weeks appears to be the sort of penalty that is often experienced by the stressed and the sleep-deprived."

I've never met a perfectionist who delivers good work.

I've never met a control freak who has control over them self.

Kev has lost the plot, he has no narrative, he can't massage a message, he can't control a simple spin.

This - from the man running the country according to media cycles.

This - from the man who takes an exulted pride in not sleeping.

This - from the man who has the biggest pile of briefing papers of them all.

*Snort*

Now it's Rudd's war on the public service

Kevin's way, burning the oil at midnight, toiling at dawn


Rudd's honeymoon just marred

Dem's are noice to each other

Democratic Party officials have agreed to seat Michigan and Florida delegates with half-votes, despite both states breaking the known rules.

Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot.

Hillary has reserved her right to appeal the outcome.

The deal means that Obama's pledged delegates have increased to 2,052, and Clinton's to 1,877.5.
"I understand the rules. ... I can tell you one thing that has driven these rules was being a party of inclusion," Flournoy said. "I wish my colleagues will vote differently."

"There's been a lot of talk about party unity—let's all come together, and put our arms around each other," said Ickes, who is also a member of the Rules Committee that approved the deal. "I submit to you ladies and gentlemen, hijacking four delegates ... is not a good way to start down the path of party unity."

"How can you call yourselves Democrats if you don't count the vote?" one man in the audience shouted before being escorted out by security.

Proponents of full seating continuously interrupted the committee members as they explained their support of the compromise, then supporters of the deal shouted back.

"Shut up!" one woman shouted at another.

"You shut up!" the second woman shouted back.

"We will leave here more united than we came"

"Lipstick on a pig!"

"We just blew the election!"

"This isn't unity! Count all the votes!"

Ah, the Dem's:

Can't read rules.

Can't throw a decent heckle.

Florida & Michigan get half votes

Bring back the warming!

Melbourne is set to have its coldest winter in a decade.

Yeah, it's the weather folks, not the climate.

Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you, tra, la, la ...





Coldest winter in 10 years