December 31, 2008
Children traditionally stroll about the neighborhood on this day asking for presents.
Hogmanay also refers to the gifts given or received on Hogmanay. (A tad tautological, non?)
More recently it has become a raucous New Year's Eve party in many Scottish cities at which revelers sometimes do behave a bit swinishly.
December 28, 2008
While others get their knickers in a knot over genetically modified produce and product, for example, for my money, nanotechnology is more exciting in a good and a bad way.
Nanotechnology sounds pretty spiffy, but it's not exactly new, and future applications are airy-fairy, ill-defined. Mostly stuff, like much of what we hear reported from medical science, will never come to fruition in a town near you or me.
Sunscreens, much touted as an essential accessory to protect humans from the death rays of the sun, not to mention premature aging, contain nanoparticles, which might turn out to be a boo-boo.
"The tricky thing for sunscreen makers is this: the two key sun-blocking ingredients, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, come in relatively big particles not easily rubbed into the skin.
Since 1990, makers have pulverised them into nanoparticles 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair or 200 times smaller than a blood cell. This gets rid of the white residue.
But laboratory tests have established that nanoparticles of metal oxides can penetrate cells and damage DNA."
That's not really the bit that got my attention though. Far more alerting and alarming was finding out that sunscreens containing nanoparticles damage steel - in a big way.
"BlueScope Steel has recommended its workers avoid some sunscreens after hand and finger-shaped damage was detected on some steel products.
It seems installers had left nanoparticle sunscreens on the steel and in six weeks it caused damage equal to 15 years' weather damage."
Holy crap: we're told to put this shit on our skin, as often as possible?
Holidaying feds leave bathers waiting for suspect sunscreen list
December 26, 2008
"This time of year, wind turbine blades ice up, biodiesel congeals in tanks and solar panels produce less power because there is not as much sun. And perhaps most irritating to the people who own them, the panels become covered with snow, rendering them useless even in bright winter sunshine.
In January 2007, a bus stalled in the middle of the night on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains. The culprit was a 20 percent biodiesel blend that congealed in the freezing weather, according to John Jones, the transit director for the bus line, Summit Stage.
Winter may pose even bigger safety hazards in the vicinity of wind turbines. Some observers say the machines can hurl chunks of ice as they rotate."
There are days when you know with absolute certainty that you're in the wrong job.
There wouldn't be many executives in the financial industry who would ever have that thought, not when they're paid so handsomely and pampered and coddled, all while accepting billions in bailout money from sucker taxpayers.
not been capable of being focused on their awfully important jobs.
"Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $US233,000 ($340,000) per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year financial counselling and chauffeurs gave executives more time to focus on their jobs.
JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $US211,182 ($310,000) private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $US25 billion ($36.6 billion) in bailout funds."
"Before 1999, bribes were deductible as business expenses under the German tax code, and paying off a foreign official was not a criminal offense."
When the tax code was amended in 2000, Siemens kept on going, without the deduction.
Still, it's not all bad for Siemens:
"Each year, Mr. Siekaczek said, managers in his unit set aside a budget of about $40 million to $50 million for the payment of bribes. For Greece alone, Siemens budgeted $10 million to $15 million a year. Bribes were as high as 40 percent of the contract cost in especially corrupt countries. Typically, amounts ranged from 5 percent to 6 percent of a contract’s value.“Bribery was Siemens’s business model,” said Uwe Dolata, the spokesman for the association of federal criminal investigators in Germany. “Siemens had institutionalized corruption.”
the Siemens case is notable for its breadth, the sums of money involved, and the raw organizational zeal with which the company deployed bribes to secure contracts."
"In its settlement last week with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Siemens pleaded guilty to violating accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribery abroad. Although court documents are salted throughout with the word “bribes,” the Justice Department allowed Siemens to plead to accounting violations because it cooperated with the investigation and because pleading to bribery violations would have barred Siemens from bidding on government contracts in the United States."Siemens have paid a $1.6 billion fine for their accounting violations.
They're all paid up and good to go.
December 25, 2008
It is believe that the prez-to-be still owns some shirts, but they're all from last season.
December 24, 2008
December 21, 2008
Let's just note a couple of things, shall we?
Firstly, emissions trading has failed everywhere and failed unequivocally.
Secondly, we already have ample experience of what can, does, and will happen when artificial markets are created for intangible assets of dubious and over-hyped value: a few people get very rich, others scramble to get a piece of the action, and the rest of us suffer and pay a stupendous price.
In sum, that's what ET will do, no matter how you spin it, slice it, or dice it, no matter the computer model, emissions trading is an opportunity to screw everyone over other than those who will swindle the scheme with a clear conscious, at the urging and with the blessing of governments.
"The trouble is that Kevin Rudd wants ET to be painless, so the scheme will give the generators almost $4 billion of free permits over the first five years — with no quid pro quo.
The Rudd model gives away so much to interest groups that it plans to spend the entire revenue from ET simply to compensate everyone affected. Only a tiny fraction of that would drive changes in behaviour.
Polluting firms, electricity generators, households, motorists and small business: everyone is looked after. Many will be deliberately overcompensated. Treasury predicts that ET will raise prices by 1 per cent. But the Rudd model uses the revenue to pay for a permanent 2.5 per cent rise in pensions, family benefits and all other welfare benefits.
Aluminium smelters whose electricity bills will rise with ET will be given that money back, in spades, receiving permits for one tonne of free emissions for every 0.7 tonnes included in their electricity bill. Come to Australia, polluters' paradise!
Coal-fired power stations will be given $700 million a year to compensate them for the loss of asset value. But if their asset valuations assumed that tackling climate change would not diminish the plants' value, they were unrealistic. That is not taxpayers' fault.
Ross Garnaut envisaged a rigorous emissions trading scheme with few exemptions, and raising $4 billion a year to speed research, development and commercialisation of clean technology. The Rudd model spends everything on compensation, and has nothing left over to help solve the problem."
Meanwhile, mulling over Rudd's announcement, Dr Richard Denniss, apparently incredibly confused about science and policy, is as gung-ho as any convert could possibly be to the 21st century affliction of getting hysterical over wanting to dominate the Earth's climate, and being so confused, he desperately, desperately believes that without an ET scheme we'll all be rooooned, roooooned!
At least he has the sense to recognize that the government policy has a few iss-th-ues:
"The industry assistance package proposed by Kevin Rudd is one of the most generous in Australian history; it should be known as the carbon polluters' rescue scheme.
The dirtiest brown coal-fired plants will receive the biggest slice of the $4 billion of help to coal-fired power stations, and 90 per cent of the permits required by "emission-intensive" activities, such as aluminium smelting, will be provided free. Also, the agriculture industry, which is responsible for about 16 per cent of Australia's emissions, will be excluded from the scheme until at least 2015.
We are told that our "trade-exposed" businesses will leave the country if we don't give them billions of dollars worth of permits, yet when the Australian dollar sailed up to 95 US cents early this year, there was no sign of them packing their bags.
The other argument is that they didn't see this coming and that it is unfair to the coal-fired power stations whose assets are worth less in a carbon-constrained world. Apparently all those highly paid executives ... did not notice that Australia committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the Rio Earth Summit back in 1992.
It seems that when the Government's objective is to protect shareholders rather than protect jobs, the ideological concern with industry assistance is less strident.
Finally, the scheme is inequitable. Not only does it shirk Australia's responsibilities to the rest of the world by concocting some new measure based on per capita emissions, it contains an unexpected sting in the tail for those households and small businesses that want to "do their bit" to save the planet. If it goes ahead as planned, it will mean that no matter how great the efforts that Australian households make to reduce their own emissions, the only effect will be to free up emissions for the big polluters to use.
As the household sector uses less petrol and coal, the big polluters will have more permits available to them to increase their pollution.
There is, however, some consolation for householders who are keen to keep trying to reduce their emissions: the harder we try to save energy, the lower the demand for permits will be. The unlikely consequence of household and community efforts to "do their bit" will, therefore, be a reduction in the price of permits bought by the big polluters."
See how befuddled he is? Poor Dr Denniss probably also believes that hammering households to reduce their water consumption - of which they use around only 9%, or whatever - the lower will be the demand for water by business and agriculture, you know, those users of almost all of our water.
Of course, buiness and agriculture already pay a tee wee, insignificant smidgeon, itsy witsy amount for water (and power) compared with we dumb-schmuk consumers.
You didn't forget, did you?
Melbourne dwellers will have to wait until 11.04 pm, but if you live in Algiers, or if you can get on an emergency flight out, you can start your business at 1.04pm.
December 20, 2008
A man should be able to:
1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.
2. Tell if someone is lying.
3. Take a photo.
4. Score a baseball game.
5. Name a book that matters.
6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible.
7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.
8. Not monopolize the conversation.
9. Write a letter.
10. Buy a suit.
At least the refugees will know it's Christmas.
December 19, 2008
December 17, 2008
From today's letters in The Age
WITH so much in the news about global warming, climate change and the need for all of us to do our bit in terms of alternative, renewable energy sources, it seemed an appropriate time to mention our 12 solar panels, installed in April 2007 at great cost to cut back our carbon footprint and ease our energy bill.
We have recently received our first "solar credit" after 18 months of even bigger energy bills. The amount credited was $1.20. Apparently, with the Victorian solar energy scheme, we still pay for all the energy we use (even though we generate it ourselves with our solar panels) and are only credited with anything sent back into the grid.
Needless to say, we are not exactly overjoyed and, in fact, would quite like our money back. No one explained that we would be subsidising the energy company with our solar panels.
In Germany and other parts of the world, solar panels installed on residences actually cover the cost of energy used and you still get paid for any excess that goes into the grid.
There's something terribly wrong with this system.
Anne S. Walker, Carlton
Yes, yes there is Anne.S.Walker of Carlton.
There's also something wrong and evil about emissions trading, but we'll discuss that a little later, shall we?
Right now, let's bask in the knowledge that installing solar panels will cost you mega bucks, on top of which you will still pay a power company for the free sunshine that you use.
Ah, bless. The search for intelligent life continues.
Former rock star Environmental Minister has announced an even more diabolical - and short lived - scheme than the current miserly pretense at supporting alternative energy sources.
December 16, 2008
December 14, 2008
The MSM avoids serious debate on health care, irresponsibly going straight for the collective emotive jugular, which, lets be honest here, is a cheap shot at all of us.
"It’s hard to know that there is something out there that could help but they’re saying you can’t have it because of cost,” said Ms. Hardy, who now speaks for her husband of 45 years. “What price is life?"That happens to be a couple in Britain, but that same quote is repeated with interchangeable names on and off in our papers though tout the years. It's the plaintive cry from those who have already lost a live and death health battle, but who'd very much like to have a few weeks, or a few months, or - rarely - a few years more on this mortal coil no matter the cost, so long as someone else is paying. With universal health systems that "someone" is invariably the rest of society.
"[The British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] has decided that Britain, except in rare cases, can afford only £15,000, or about $22,750 [US dollars], to save six months of a citizen’s life."That's not an entirely accurate statement. The decision isn't based on what the country "can afford", it's based on an assessment of costs and benefits, and criteria around maximizing the health spend to benefit everyone in need of medical care - concepts all too foreign to the bloated and obscenely discriminatory health system in the US.
But others are now considering the British model, perhaps finally appreciating that emotive public calls for this or that, and a finger in the wind, aren't sound criteria when distributing health dollars.
"As spending on drugs soared in many nations — often haphazardly — overall health often showed little improvement. So international aid agencies are advising governments to adopt British assessments and deliberations to improve their public’s health while lowering costs, and officials are listening — a trend that is likely to accelerate during the present global economic slowdown."Health care is rationed, it always has been and always will be. Rationing is inevitable with goods or services that have unlimited demand and limited supply. At least the rationing in countries with universal health cover is reasonably fair to all. Meanwhile, the brutal force of rationing in America has a lot of very ugly and disproportionately unfair outcomes.
"The United States already spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as the average of other industrialized nations, while getting generally poorer health outcomes."British balance benefit vs. cost of latest drugs
December 13, 2008
If, for some inexplicable and / or bizarre reason, you ever find yourself surrounded by police requesting that you surrender, your safest bet is to do so, promptly. You can throw in monumental dollops of humility and humblest apologies etc and so forth too, if you'd like, but that's not essential. As soon as you surrender your chances of living another day are increased enormously.
If you hedge your bets, figuring that the nice officers will shoot to fell you with a little wound to the right calf, which will leave you with a scar and a story to tell, you're pretty much on the way out already.
It's really, really, really, really hard to shoot a small target, and an arm or a leg is a small target. If by dumb luck such a wound is inflicted, it won't incapacitate the target.
Police or the military would endanger themselves and others if they went about their business with the intent of inflicting harmless wounds in life threatening circumstances. That's why they are trained - and why they must and why you and I, the public, want them - to aim for the largest mass, the torso. Multiple shots fired ensure that the target goes down and stays down. A wounded person can keep attacking, or threatening, or, if they have a gun, shooting.
So, a little round up:
Real life isn't like the movies.
Police will aim to shoot you in the area of the body where all your life-giving organs are arranged within your person.
Police will shoot until you drop and are no longer a threat to anyone.
Police are legally permitted to do this, it's core to the job description.
Your odds of surviving such a scenario are bleak.
Teen shot dead by police
The lad's MySpace page is now dissected and analyzed. He was part of an anti-immigration group, or a racist group, as we would have called it in the dark days before we cleansed public discourse.
Naturally, clever commentators are pontificating from high, or at least from the heights of their couches:
"Justice activist Father Peter Norden said yesterday that a more sophisticated response was needed in such situations.Sure, sure. It's obvious now. Father Norden speaks with stunningly sophistocated insight. As the lad kept advancing with a couple of large kitchen knives, the police should have made a few phone calls and waited patiently for a psychiatrist to arrive.
‘‘I do not blame police because they do not have the skills and they do not have the resources,’’ he said. ‘‘The answer is not more weapons. The answer is more sophistication.’’
He said police should be able to call on people who are trained in dealing with irrational people in such emergencies. A three-hour stand-off was a better outcome than a dead body."
(Yes folks, there's a simple, obvious and wrong answer to everything in life.)
Two knives, three alarmed police offices, and a 'scared little boy' lies dead in seconds
Meanwhile, across Europe, youths continue to protest, for what purpose who knows, over the police shooting of another 15 year old in Greece. Here ...
December 10, 2008
December 8, 2008
In the words of the form email provided:
"As an Australian I believe that I have the right to express myself in my own variety of English."
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!
P.S - Don't let the need for an email address put you off. What? You don't believe Microsoft already know your email address? Use your secondary address, or if you don't have one, get one.
Email your support here ... scroll down the page.
First handy-dandy fact: if you hang about with the page open for too long (say, ten minutes), before eventually get around to remembering to fill in the blanks and hit the submit button, you get thrown out to the logon page because the petition page has timed out. Cure: start again, refresh the page.
Second handy-dandy fact: following my written inquiry, Macquarie kindly provided the following, by way of explanation for the petition, seeing as MS Word 7 ostensibly does have an Aussie spellcheck option (as helpfully evidenced in the comments by Aussie ex-patriot Dylan):
"Regarding the Spellchecker, yes Word comes with an Australian English option. It has, for many years, come with this option but it was Microsoft's version of Australian English which wasn't particularly Australian (for example, it would accept 'realize', with a 'z', as correct). So we produced the Macquarie wordlist and to do this we required Microsoft to give us the software that could produce the correct files specific to Microsoft Word's spell checking system. In recent years Microsoft has upgraded Word and changed the spell checking system but has not given us the updated software to produce the spell checking files in the new format. To produce a Macquarie spell checking wordlist for Word we need Microsoft to give us the right software OR to include our wordlist as the default Australian English. It's obviously a commercial decision for Microsoft (and Apple) to include external data in their software products and one way to influence those sorts of decisions is with consumer pressure. We already received lots of requests for an updated spell checker so we though we'd make the most of that. Hence the petition."So, there you have it!
December 7, 2008
"... how some of our country’s best-paid bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn’t only the bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics.All fall down
So many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so."
Are these people morons???!!!
In the US, the big recession boiling pot, more than half a million jobs were lost in the last month. In less than 12 months nearly 2 million jobs have been lost, two thirds of those since September. The goal of the new Obama government will be to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years. That's barely the re-creation of jobs lost in less than one year. Just jogging on one spot to almost (or not even) keep up.
It's a long way from being over folks. It can only get worse from here.
US Loses 533,000 jobs
December 6, 2008
Yes, this applies to food too. When all costs, including packaging and transport are taken into account, buying your mango from a local grower most often contributes to greater environmental depletion and direct cost than buying your daily fruit from, say, Brazil. It's true.
So. What to do about the car industry?
We're not efficient at making cars. Neither is America. Asia is.
Yesterday's paper had the automotive chambers claiming that as many as 100,000 jobs are directly linked to car dealerships in Australia, which I suspect is more than just a little bit over-cooked. We only sell a couple of million cars a year. (Do the maths, then work out the margins per vehicle.)
Our Feds are bailing the industry to the tune of a $2 billion fund, on top of $6.2 billion already promised to our car manufacturers.
This is not what you'd call an unusual situation. The car manufacturing industry in Oz exists solely on the back of subsidies from tax payers. I don't even own a car, but my taxes pay for the car industry to exist.
The US has the same problem, only bigger.
It's time to shut it down folks. Cars should be purchased from the most efficient market, and for many decades that has not been Australia or the US.
December 4, 2008
Sure, I have moments of moral judgment. I don't buy hyped-up "green" or "natural" goods or services when it's blatantly obvious that, for example, fresh spring water bathed in by baby tigers, then filtered by 2068 virgin butterflies before being bottled for my consumption will save neither me nor the environment.
I have no qualms whatsoever about Nike runners. Call me careless or callous, but my first Nikes were purchased at the height of child labor campaigns. What can I say? I take my irony literally, or any other way I can get it.
I don't own a fake of anything. I've never bought anything from eBay and never will. (Ah, bless all those sellers / sucker-buyers of Chanel handbags and other enviable Chanelery, with the multiple photo shots and supporting captions to prove authenticity, right down the the "Made in France" label. Small tip people: Chanel finery is made in Italy.)
In other words, I'd rather own one real Armani, or an authentic Jimmy Choo, than to own a dozen fakes. Quality over quantity. Taste over tacky.
But today I stumbled across a line in the sand. I never even knew it existed!
Hugo Boss designed the Nazi SS uniforms and became a member of the Nazi Party in 1931. He produced the uniforms through out that war.
I know it's a while ago and the company has long changed structure and ownership, but now I'll never get it out of my mind that Hugo Boss is the brand that kept the Nazi SS clothed while millions were murdered.
Turns out that a lady has to have a stead-fast conscious about some of her shopping habits after all.
December 3, 2008
December 1, 2008
Out one side of their mouth our government has blithely thrown billions at our car industry, while out the other they swear black & blue that Australia will lead the universe in all things carbon-trading (at the cost of tens of billions to our little economy), because, you know, Rudd is greener than green.
Every other government is either bailing or begging to be bailed by someone else.
At ground zero, no economist or politician is daring to dissect and proclaim actions needed to address the root cause of the financial melt down.
The global policy is all about: throw money and they will spend.
Or in the case of financial institutions: throw money and they will, arh, balance their own books, stuff the rest of you.
The desperation, the lack of thought for unintended consequences should be enough for a collective gasp, but instead we congratulate our pollies on their fine emergency reactive skills, their fortitude, the gutsy ways in which they are spending our money by the fist full.
So far the US government has pledged nearly $8 trillion pledged in loans, guarantees and investments, and that's just for the financial markets. Their intent is to save the US - and the rest of the world - from far worse. Let's hope it works, or at least doesn't break anything. Unintended consequences can create a bugger of a mess.
US will print as much money as needed
"I am a bit sick of really badly talented buskers, let me tell you" Robert Doyle told a local radio station.
So, there ya go: with that pronouncement our mayor will set out to rid our fine city of "badly talented" buskers.
He also sounds hell bent on ridding us of many treasured locals and along with frequent visitors from the outer 'burbs:
"I don't want the city to be a bogan magnet" he was further quoted as saying.
(*Well, all rather recycled really. A failed would-be premier finally wins an election, as the local city mayor. Not even a second prize. Sort of a booby-prize as far as political careers go. As if our third tier of government wasn't sufficiently third rate already.)