April 29, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.


Friedrich Nietzsche

April 28, 2009

Red flag to a pig

"As we look for cases of swine flu, we are seeing more cases of swine flu. We expect to see more cases of swine flu," Richard Besser, the acting head of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC)"

"In fact there's no evidence at the moment these outbreaks were started from pigs," Professor Kelso said."

Handy dandy tip, for those swooning over all things swine: despite the tag, it has not been confirmed that the flu has come from pigs.

Yes, seriously.

But let's not let a catchy tag go to waste.

I guess "Mexican flu" doesn't have a scary enough ring to it; neither did "Spanish flu".

Red flag up on swine flu

April 26, 2009

Knock, knock

What do you get when Mel Gibson and twelve Catholic bishops gather together?

Err, much conviviality and a very nice dinner had by all, apparently.

On a wing and a pray

Happy birthday Kathy!!

April 25, 2009

Nicholas Bolton - Gen-Whiner Genius?

Nicholas Bolton, 27 years old, and now quite rich, all without breaking a sweat or putting in long years of work.

Pariah, prat or a Gen-Y prototype (as in: want big money; no want work)?

I'm stuck believing that Bolton pulled off a magnificent stunt, a moment deserving of a hearty "bravo".

I'm not stuck believing that he is representative of a generation though. He's a young guy with serious chutzpah, and he screwed with the big end of town with significant finesse.

Backfill: Bolton proposed a series of resolutions to replace the managers of BrisConnections, and more than a third of the vote supported him. What those unit holders did not know was that he had struck a secret deal and was paid $4.5 million to vote down his own resolutions at the meeting.

Random commentary picked out from around the MSM:

"The 27-year-old self-styled entrepreneur [last week] pulled off a coup of a kind by selling the voting rights of his company Australian Style Investment's 19.5 per cent stake to the Brisbane road project's builder, Leighton, on the eve of a meeting called (by him) to wind the company up.

But other BrisConnections mum-and dad investors have been left high and dry, facing paying instalments to underwriters, Macquarie and Deutsche, that could bankrupt some.

In a piece mauling Bolton, his choice of hats and tarring Gen Ys at the same time, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Erik Jensen wrote that ''Nicholas Bolton may be Australia's foremost prat''.

''Now 27, he was among the youngest ever to make the front page of the Australian Financial Review, and one of the few to have appeared topless in The Age's business pages. He is the best proof that karma does not exist.''

But not everyone was so unkind. News Limited business columnist Terry McCrann wrote that: ''In a moral sense Bolton clearly stiffed his fellow small holders. He gets the $4.5 million; they get stuck with the $1 a unit to pay, all the way up to personal bankruptcy. In a practical sense though, he hasn't cost them. Indeed, he nearly got them off.''

Others were positively admiring. ''Nick Bolton, take a bow. Outwitting the "masters of the universe" is quite a feat,'' wrote Ray Farley of Wentworth Falls, in a letter to a Sydney newspaper.

''Those overpaid suits are usually the ones making millions for doing nought but having a clever idea. They needed an upstart to let them know their extortionate schemes aren't as smart as they used to be.''

A.King of Sydney had similar sentiments. ''Nick Bolton rocks. Well played son. It was an awesome outcome.''

...

"So why did you take the money, Nick?"

He paused for a long time.


"I took a commercial approach to this before buying in," he said.


"I saw an opportunity to improve the position of unit holders through our entry in the company and the actions we were planning to undertake. It was a commercial transaction, intended for commercial gain, for unit holders and for myself."


By his own admission, he was "playing a game" from the start, and the result was to extract a benefit from the carcass of BrisConnections.


"To the extent there was an altruistic outcome it was unintended, in that my interests were aligned with the interests of all other unit holders," he said. "But there was always a commercial intention on our part. We didn't seek the tag of white knight, and it doesn't fit."


Does he now fear his name, and his reputation, have taken a battering?


"To the mass market, yes. One needs to take an informed or educated decision as to whether or not that's right or wrong. To those at home it has definitely affected my credibility, but in other circles I am fine."


'"To take money for something that would be of prejudice to others I think might raise questions," he said. "This wasn't one of those cases. I consider commercial prudency to be the number one motivator here. My personal ethics go to operating a business by the rules. If there are opportunities out there and they require exploitation of the rules, I don't think that's unethical. It comes down to interpretation, I guess, but I certainly think I have conducted things very ethically."


That's exactly what industry and finance and the share markets have been telling themselves for a couple of decades - politicians too, for that matter - in other words, the entire edifice of our democratic-capitalist lives functions on the same flimsy, yet peculiarly effective defense: rules were not broken and we made money. Phew. Ethics unscathed.


Nicholas Bolton is a smidgen past the zeitgeist. His generation gave us the derivative models and hedge funds that have helped bring down the global economy. (Ably overseen by remnants of the Boomers and Gen-X managers with both hands on it.) Not so much a Gen-Y poster boy as one of the establishment really. And what does karma have to do with any of it?



For Bolton, it was all about the money

Columbine - the lessons

Ten years down the track, the murders at Columbine high school are worth revisiting, not because mass killing - by gun - in the US continues to be an awful and common occurrence, but because Columbine triggered the first and last serious study to enlighten and learn, in the hope of the past not being repeated.


There have been no subsequent mass murders at US high schools; some have been thwarted.

My only quibble is that so much weight has been given to the location - a high school - deemed, apparently, to be more heinous that a mass shooting on a university campus, at a shopping mall or a nursing home. This genuinely ground breaking - objective - work could and should have continued over the years to encompass this unique and uniquely destructive phenomena no matter the age of the killer and no matter the location of the murders. It's unfortunate to offer clarity around a single incident, a single demographic, and to leave it there, as if the job is done.


The lessons:

One - profile

The first lesson is really one that we have unlearned, which is that there actually isn't a distinct psychological profile of the school killer.

Oddballs did not fit the profile, because there was no profile.

They had a few things in common. All were male. Ninety-eight percent had suffered a recent loss or failure.

Two - leakage

Gunfire in the classroom is the final stage of a long-simmering attack. The Secret Service found that 81 percent of shooters had explicitly revealed their intentions. Most told two people. Some told more. Kids are bad at secrets. The grander the plot, the more likely to sprout leaks.

We have taken the principle of leakage to excess. The belief that any unkind word may signal mortal danger caused school districts to impose zero-tolerance policies.

The taking seriously part is fine. We do need to investigate every "joke," just in case. But we also need to respond reasonably. We should not execute a search warrant every time a little kid points his finger and goes, "Bang."


Three - emergency preparation

We need to prepare students and teachers better for an emergency. Harris and Klebold caught their high school unprepared. We're less naive now. Most kids and their teachers are now drilled on lockdowns and evacuations. Police departments have up-to-date floor plans and alarm codes.

Four - don't contain, get in there and kill the shooter

Cops followed the old book at Columbine: surround the building, set up a perimeter, contain the damage. That approach has been replaced by the "active shooter protocol." Optimally, it calls for a four-person team to advance in a diamond-shaped wedge. (If there isn't time to gather four officers, a single officer should charge in alone.) They're trained to move toward the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter. Their goal is to stop him at all costs. They will walk past a dying child if they have to, just to prevent the shooter from killing more.

The four most important lessons of Columbine


On older essay about Columbine - The depressive and the psychopath - also worth a read for anyone overly eager to cling to cliched, pop-psyc, homily ridden media generated analysis of seemingly incomprehensible or seemingly random mass murders.


April 24, 2009

April 22, 2009

No strings trillions

Mr. Barofsky was particularly critical of the Treasury Department’s refusal to demand detailed information from banks and other financial institutions about what they are doing with the money they receive.

But Treasury officials have argued that it is almost impossible to get meaningful information about how banks are using money under the troubled-asset program, in part because the money came with few conditions.

Three trillion in U.S government money (so far) and no idea what the banks are doing with it.

Bloody brilliant.

We're not getting out of this any time soon folks.

Bank aid programs are seen as open to fraud

Wednesday Wisdom

Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.

Howard Aiken

April 21, 2009

Life's conflict of interest

Carbon is essential to all known living systems, without it life as we understand it would not exist - including us.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most common carbon compounds.

Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A) -

"formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will lead to the regulation of the gases for the first time in the United States."

While we know - or should by now - that labeling something "natural" doesn't equate with "good", it would appear that labeling one of the building blocks of all life a "pollutant" is a tad unhinged and perhaps a sign of how far along we have traveled in becoming self-loathing.

Naming carbon as an enemy is just the latest anti-anthropogenic act.

There's no ambiguity about this as a political statement: carbon is a pollution = life is a pollution.

Further, carbon is harmful to health = life is harmful to health.

Are you noticing any conflict of interest here? Any at all? It's a dilemma for the dim-witted, non?

Interestingly, the American E.P.A has been very specific in naming "heat trapping gases" and the need to reduce them.

"According to the E.P.A. announcement, the finding was based on rigorous scientific analysis of six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride."
Note that the E.P.A is targeting global warming - "heat-trapping gases"- despite the greenhouse effect having been tossed over a cliff like so many superfluous Marxists.

Some of the six gases have long been known to be nasty, and getting them out of manufacturing is good itself. The problem jumping out, however, is that "heat-trapping gases" were last century's boogey man, back in the days when Earth was deemed to be suffering from warming - remember that old fashioned scary threat of a "greenhouse effect"?

The greenhouse concept gave birth to the "global warming" catch-cry, which had to morph into "climate change" when the greenhouse notion was discredited, and now, since none of the preceding turned out to be descriptively correct of the next man made Armageddon, the latest incarnation of our doom is "extreme weather events".

As each euphemism fails to fit the real world, and as science fails to retain independence from politics and social movements such as eco-fundamentalism, the adopted lexicon keeps shifting.

"Extreme weather events" is more forgiving of facts that fail to fit the computer model, accommodating, as it does, heat, cold, wet, dry, wind, drought, famine, fire, flood and broken toe nails. It's the description that "climate change" was supposed to encompass, but couldn't.

As MIT's Prof. Richard Lindzen recently reiterated:

"The earth's climate (in contrast to the climate in current climate GCMs) is dominated by a strong net negative feedback. Climate sensitivity is on the order of 0.3°C, and such warming as may arise from increasing greenhouse gases will be indistinguishable from the fluctuations in climate that occur naturally from processes internal to the climate system itself."

EPA clears way for greenhouse gas rules

Duh News

Australian masters of the universe, in their genius, have declared that Australia is in recession.

Irrational exuberance has been laid off.

What next, economic transparency?

RBA confirms recession

April 19, 2009

Irrefutable "consensus" in doubt

"Last week, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said experts predicted sea level rises of up to 6m from Antarctic melting by 2100, but the worst case scenario foreshadowed by the SCAR report was a 1.25m rise.


Mr Garrett insisted global warming was causing ice losses throughout Antarctica. "I don't think there's any doubt it is contributing to what we've seen both on the Wilkins shelf and more generally in Antarctica," he said."


Or not so much.


According to real scientists, the Antarctic is hunky-dory, gaining ice, has experienced a couple of decades of cooling climate, and the recent collapse of the Wilkins shelf was a perfectly normal event.


"Consensus science" is a bitch.


Revealed: Antarctic ice growing, not shrinking


Talented ugly person baffles world

From the Borowitz Report:

Talented Ugly Person Baffles World

Networks Lift Restrictions on Unsightly


"The success of singer Susan Boyle on the reality show "Britain's Got Talent" has caused both television networks and their viewers to reconsider the intrinsic value of ugly people, media experts say."


In living rooms around the world as well as in the executive suites of media giants, those exposed to the Susan Boyle phenomenon are grappling with the paradox - thought impossible up until now - that an ugly person could be talented.


In New York, NBC chief Jeff Zucker confirmed that his network was "seriously considering" lifting its official ban against featuring unattractive people on the air.


"For years, the letters NBC have stood for ‘No Butt-ugly Characters,'" Mr. Zucker said. "We're beginning to re-think that."


Jenifer Genterson, a news anchor from Abilene, Texas, is just one of a chorus of beautiful TV talking heads who have been startled and inspired by the surprising presence of talent in an ugly person.


"In the TV business, we're told that beauty is everything," Ms. Genterson said. "But Susan Boyle has shown us that ugly people have the right to live, too."


But Professor Logsdon, who studies the rare occurrences of ugly people in the media at the University of Minnesota's School of Communications, warns that the isolated example of Ms. Boyle may give ugly people around the world too much hope.


"The fact is, only one in a million ugly people will ever get on TV," said Professor Logsdon. "Most of them will wind up in academia."


Elsewhere, one day after lifting travel restrictions on Cuba, President Obama said he would send Vice President Joe Biden there for the next four years.



April 18, 2009

Somewhere over the horizon

A year ago, His Kevness, newly minted as PM, basked in the warm glow of St Cate, newly birthed of her third child, and generally snuggled into the the squishy intellects of 1000 of Australia's clever and anointed.

Yes, it was the 2020 gathering, and the nation's eyes turned to Canberra for inspiration - something that had never happened in the history of the ACT.

The outcome of 2020 continues to reverberate, with visions and plans that would smack any but the most cynical of gobs.

"Of the 170 ideas put up by the productivity group, 111 are being taken forward, while 43 are being considered further.


The economy group produced 111 ideas: 68 are being taken forward, 39 considered further. Of 82 ideas on sustainability, 57 are going forward, 22 are under consideration.


The figures for the other groups are: rural, 158 ideas, 106 going forward, 22 considered further; health, 171 ideas, 81 taken forward, 55 considered further; community and families, 242 ideas, 86 taken forward, 107 considered further; indigenous, 81 ideas, 38 taken forward, 35 considered further; creative, 160 ideas, 32 taken forward, 82 considered further; governance, 184 ideas, 90 taken forward, 43 considered further; and Australia's future security, 54 ideas, 40 taken forward, nine considered further."


And to think so many of us considered the 2020 conference to be a wasted love-fest, a scandalous use of taxpayers money. Shame on us!

Lots of 2020 action, but no republic

April 17, 2009

Exercise Tips

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface where you have plenty of room at each side.


With a 5-lb. potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides, and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. Each day you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.


After a couple weeks, move up to 10-lb. potato sacks. Then try 50-lb. potato sacks. Then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb. potato sack in each hand, and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. (I’m at this level.)


Once you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each sack.


Python loses dinner to technology

Epic struggle between man and nature?

Well, maybe not.

Once was a time that a python didn't have to wrestle with technology.

Once was a time that man didn't come equipped with a mobile phone.

"The python dragged him up a tree, but when it eased its grip, Nyaumbe said he was able to take a mobile phone out of his pocket and phone for help."

As you do.

Epic struggle between man and snake

Duck Friday

April 15, 2009

Mother load

Looking old? Come on, own up. You don't look as young as Miley Cyrus anymore. Miley is only a few years away from playing someone's mother, like, probably paring with Zac Efron in a rom-com with a whacky mother-son relationship at the core.


Actor Hope Davis was recently offered a role opposite Johnny Depp. For us common folk, that would be a dream come true. Davis was to play Depp's mother. Depp is 46 this year, while Davis is 45. For those slow in taking off their shoes to do subtraction, Davis was born one year after Depp.


Glenn Close appeared as Mel Gibson's mother in Hamlet, which would have meant - in human years, not Westen-Capitalist-Democratic-Hollywood years - that she had given birth at age nine.


Playing the seductress mother opposite Dustin Hoffman in the The Graduate, Anne Bancroft was only five years older than her on screen toyboy.


In Giant Elizabeth Taylor was Mum to Dennis Hopper, despite being only four years his senior.


Clocking in at one year older than Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie was still deemed amply old enough to be Farrell's mother in the woebegotten Alexander.


Actress Lea Thomposn was the same age as Micheal J. Fox in Back to the Future - both were 24. Apparently everyone thought this was quite normal, reflecting current and future realities.

There's an irreducible logic to casting women who are younger, ever younger, for the role of Mum to older, ever older men.

Davis should have jumped at the chance to play Depp's mother. Give it another two years and she'll be lucky to be offered a role as his great-grandmother.

Old enough to be his mum? Must be the movies


Wednesday Wisdom

Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts.

Jim Morrison

April 14, 2009

Celebrity round up

One rich, famous and fatuous misogynist not getting away with murder: it has taken six years for Phil Spector to be found guilty of murder.

One rich, famous and fatuous all-round bigot getting away, but not without a big-whopper drainage of his bank account: it has taken 28 years and seven children for Mel Gibson's wife to file for divorce.

One famous and fatuous faux-lesbian has one new tattoo: Lindsay Lohan had a Marilyn Monroe quote about toilet etiquette inked on her wrist: "Everyone's a star and deserves the right to twinkle."

April 13, 2009

Proof in search of a ghost



This is footage of an alleged ghost.

The Liverpool council is so excited by moving lights that they're paying a ghost expert to examine the footage, find out the ghost's name, social security number and date of expiration, and ask how Elvis is getting on.

Really stupid woman not eaten by bear

A 32 year old woman jumped into a polar bear enclosure during feeding time at Berlin Zoo.






She suffered bites to her arms and legs.

The MSM is reporting that "it's not known why she jumped into the enclosure". She's a freeking idoit, that's why! Not difficult to join the dots!

April 11, 2009

Pilaging the writers grave

"Ms. Nesbit said that Mr. Crichton left “many, many electronic files,” and that there could well be other novels or unfinished material. “We haven’t begun to really go through it all,” she said.


Mr. Burnham said, though, that HarperCollins had no plans to take Mr. Crichton’s name and create a franchise in the way that ghostwriters have continued to publish books under Robert Ludlum’s name long after his death. “We’re not taking a name brand and spinning books out of it,” Mr. Burnham said."


Or maybe just a little bit.


Micheal Crichton left behind one completed novel and one third of a novel in progress, with notes.


Can't quibble with the posthumous publication of a completed novel, even if it might not have been his final draft, but bringing in another writer to complete two thirds of the unfinished work is unnecessarily greedy and shows a monumental disrespect to a dead author.


The note of optimism that other scraps and bits might be tucked away in his files, with the potential for more books written by other people under Crichton's name is disheartening.


Authors die. New authors await. Such facts used to contain a self-evident finality about them.


Posthumous Crichton novels on the way


April 10, 2009

Real world economy: opacity and pseudo-objectivity

Are you still pursing your lips, blaming Fred & Mae, debating the culpability of Clinton versus Bush, quite sure you've got a handle on all things sub-prime, but aren't entirely sure whose hedge fund was ugliest or which braniac built the most abused derivatives programs?

Time to take it up a notch and get a grip on the real world of business, not only the financial markets, but all organisations run by the captains of industry, before all that lip pursing creates an unerasable set of cat's bum lines.

"What we have is not so much the crisis of some underlying commodity that gets reflected in the financial system, as a crisis caused within the financial system itself. The most important bubble of the last decade or so was not of the housing sector, but of the financial sector, a bubble reflected by the 20 percent of S & P 500 profits that were made in the financial sector.

...

These factors have received a good deal of attention. But they are not the whole story, and certainly not the most original part of the predicament. What seems most novel is the role of opacity and pseudo-objectivity. This may be our first epistemologically-driven depression. (Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and limits of knowledge, with how we know what we think we know.) That is, a large role was played by the failure of the private and corporate actors to understand what they were doing. Most heads of ailing or deceased financial institutions did not comprehend the degree of risk and exposure entailed by the dealings of their underlings—and many investors, including municipalities and pension funds, bought financial instruments without understanding the risks involved. We should keep this in mind when we chastise government agencies such as the SEC for failing to monitor what was going on. If the leading executives of financial firms failed to understand what was taking place, how could we expect government regulators to do so? The financial system created a fog so thick that even its captains could not navigate it.

...

There was also the fallacy of diversification of activities within the firm. This was predicated on the belief that the more areas you are financially involved in, the more protected you are from loss in any one area. But the unintended consequence of this is that the more areas you are involved in, the less you know about them, and the more subject you are to unexpected and unanticipated shocks, especially when the assets decline in tandem.

The diversification of financial firms, which was supposed to create efficiencies and synergies, ended up spreading contagion, as investment banks and other financial institutions such as AIG (once a successful insurance company) were brought down by divisions specializing in real estate or in derivatives.

The complexity of newly created financial instruments, which were supposed to use mathematical sophistication to diminish risk, ended up creating opacity—an inability of any but a few analysts to get a clear sense of what was happening. And the creation of arcane financial instruments made effective supervision virtually impossible, both by superiors in the firm, and by outside regulators.

...


The cult of “accountability” was linked to key innovations that turned out to have unanticipated undersides. One was the shibboleth of linking pay to performance, which put a premium on schemes that purported to measure performance. This tended to produce “hard” numbers that seemed reliable but were not. It created tremendous incentives for CEOs, executives, and traders to devote their creative energies to gaming the metrics, i.e. into coming up with schemes that purported to demonstrate productivity or profit by massaging the data, or by underinvesting in maintenance and human capital formation to boost quarterly earnings or their equivalents.

...


Some recent policies seem likely to exacerbate the problems I’ve outlined. Take the Treasury’s encouragement of institutional consolidation through amalgamation. Bank of America was encouraged to take over Merrill Lynch; and JPMorgan Chase took over Bear Stearns, and then bought the assets of Washington Mutual. Whatever the purported advantages of these takeovers, the creation of ever larger and more diversified companies makes it more likely that these firms will be plagued by the epistemological problems noted above. The Treasury has created more firms that can’t really be understood (or whose riskiness can’t be assessed)—not by their managers, not by government regulators, and not by investors."


It's a dense piece, by Prof Jerry Z. Muller, but well worth your time to read the whole thing.

If you've ever worked in a large organization, and if you have a clue, this will resonate, and that overwhelming queasiness you feel when you read the "accountabilities" section of job descriptions will finally be explained.

Our epistemological depression

Back to the cave ladies

Contemporary commentary from that well known thought-leader and Cardinal about town, Cardinal Pell:

"In terms of adultery, in terms of divorce, in terms of grandchildren, yes we are in big trouble as a society because of the sexual revolution," he said.

"It came out of Virginia Woolf and that crowd (in England in the early 20th century).


"It's a century-long movement that has happened.


"In my view, it's a disaster. It has ruined lives. It is ruining our society."


Arh, "feminism" - was that the word you were groping for Cardinal?


As it began, so it continues: women are the cause of all that is morally wrong with the world, including, grandchildren, apparently, although I'd swear that Virginia had none.


As always, thanks for playing Cardinal Pell. Looking forward to your next public intellectual paroxysm.


Here ....


Then what's the point?!

Gosh-golly (see, I'm trying not to blaspheme on Good Friday), what's the point of a global financial crisis if church attendance doesn't go up-dee-dup?

"People are not flocking to the church in despair over tough economic times ...

"In each of our congregations there are people who have lost their jobs," Dr Jensen said.


"I haven't seen them coming here because of that yet.

In his Good Friday sermon, Dr Jensen said the world financial crisis showed that materialism was "hopeless".

"You can have hope if you have God," he said.

"Whereas if you only have materialism, well, the house of cards has fallen and collapsed.

"So what else is left? Where are you going? We live for more than just this material world. We believe God answers our prayers."

All prayers, except for those out of a job, which are promptly returned to sender.


Makes a person contemplate long and hard on what type of global catastrophe is needed to get the unwashed, unemployed, lazy no good, white trash, heathen masses into churches to seek consolation, fire breathing sermons and redemption.

Job losses not filling churches

Duck Friday

April 9, 2009

News mash up

The MSM is so good at mashing up the news - in the way that one mashes baby food, so that it doesn't resemble food, nor the constituent parts from whence the mash started life.

Grabbing the headlines by a crown of thorns is the story of a major Sydney hospital "banning" crosses and bibles.

Ensuing outrage across the land.

Ho hum.

Really, as a society we should learn to save our outrage for the outrageous least outrage be threadbare when truly needed.

The hospital's chapel has long been used by many denominations. It's a "multi-faith" chapel, as they say in the trade.

If you believed the headlines and the telly news, you'd think the stained glass windows had been boarded up and the pews replaced with a few upside down empty milk crates. One chap goes so far as to describe the chapel, denuded of crucifixes, as looking like a backyard shed. Yeah, well, a pretty fancy-dancy shed by most suburban standards.

The decision made by the hospital was simply to remove symbols specific to any faith, unless in use for a particular gathering, eg, a ceremony. When the chapel is open for walk-ins of the any-faith variety Christian symbols, including the alter cross, are safely stored away, so are readily at hand when needed.

Contrary to the hysterical headlines, the hospital hasn't banned anything, they've adapted to the times, just as religion adapts to whatever times happen along. Hey, remember witch burnings? That was those times. These times have a whole menu of religions and persecutions from which to choose and the Royal North Shore Hospital's management has acknowledge that in a low key, non-offensive, all-embracing manner.

Hospital bans bibles, crosses

Broken Ice


The Wilkins ice shelf become unstuck earlier in the week. It was all over the news!

This is the ice bridge in Antarctica, "hanging on by a thread" -
here.

This is the ice bridge after it stopped hanging on -
here.


Steve Irwin: but not as we knew him

Sculptor Mitch Mitchell is gobsmacked that no one wants to buy his over-sized Steve Irwin piece.

Dude: find a photo of Irwin, hold it up against your work. Spot the difference?


April 8, 2009

Continuing the fine tradtion bringing news to you for free

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories.”

So says the Associated Press, who collectively still haven't got the hang - or the profits - of the interwebs. Now they're all huffy about the whole thing.

I walked off with the work of The New York Times in order to bring this important matter to your attention.

A.P seeks to reign in sites using its content

Wednesday Wisdom

Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made.

Otto von Bismarck

April 6, 2009

Coming up short

A drunk Muscovite, Alexander Kirilov, age 44, thought it would be a bit of a luff to have sex with a raccoon.


The raccoon disagreed, parting ways with his suitor by biting off the man's penis.


Moscow surgeons are doing their best to repair the little that is left of Kirilov's mangled member.



April 5, 2009

Being publicly female "immodest"

There is a long legacy of illuminating and depressing feminist writing documenting the practice of women being airbrushed from history.

Well, howdy doody, in 2009, accomplished women in Israel are still being airbrushed away.

"Two female ministers within a 30-strong cabinet may not sound like such a big deal to most. However, it was two women too many for Israeli ultra-orthodox newspapers, so they simply airbrushed the offending female figures out of photographs of Binyamin Netanyahu's new cabinet, on the grounds that printing pictures of women is "immodest".


Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver, the two apparently inappropriate ministers, simply "disappeared" from a photograph of the new cabinet in the weekly newspaper Shaa Tova, with black holes visible in the spaces where they had been standing. Meanwhile, in the newspaper Yated Neeman, male cabinet members were blown up and superimposed on to the images of the two female ministers in the frame.


"This sector simply does not believe that women should have a public life, or even vote," says Galia Golan-Gild, professor of government at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre."



Israeli papers brush women out of cabinet

Do'h

KRudd has carelessly managed to lose one staff each month since becoming our PM. For those of you who have trouble counting, or remembering life before His Kevness arrived, that's 16 personal staff in 16 months.

An anonymous former senior staffer, quoted in a local tabloid, described Rudd as:

"intolerant and socially dysfunctional".

A round up of numbers as at December last year revealed that Rudd had lost about 40 per cent of new appointments to his private office since the previous year December and Gillard had lost nearly 50 per cent.

Finance Department figures revealed that about a quarter of ministerial staffers (270 in all) appointed between December 2007 and October 2008 had fled their covetted jobs (65 in all).

Seems that His Kevness isn't a "people person", and while he gets the all the publicity for being iron deficient (and therefore a little testy), deputy PM Gillard with an even higher staff churn isn't given the same public drubbing.

If His Kevness needs a lamb chop to improve his temperament, perhaps Gillard needs a bit of fruit in her bowl.

Meanwhile: Confirming what we'd already figured out for ourselves, seems that in the exhilaration of unpacking their Blackberrys, manila folders and new security cards, Obama's team of geniuses failed to notice that the US Federal Government has a State Department and within said State Department sits an entire team of people dedicated to administering and orchestrating foreign visits.

Hence the DVD gift gaff to the British PM.

Seems that Obama has also forgotten to appoint a chief of protocol.

April 3, 2009

Friendship

Like it or not, we'll drink to that

Thirteen different taxes on alcohol.

A big, big, big, big, big deficit.

Looks like Kev and Wayne will be hoping that Australia binge-drinks its way through recessionary times. (Try saying that three times when you've had a few!)

Drinkers to help boost budget

Ruddles not superhero

Up until now I thought Kev Rudd was Superman.

Apparently - by his own admission- Kev is only human.

This was bought to our attention follow a couple of temper tantrums over food on his $28K per hour RAAF plane.

First tantrum was over a lack of hot meal service. Gourmet sandwiches are not a meal fit for a PM on an airplane.

Second tantrum was over the appearance of a hot meal, inclusive of red meat. The PM forgot to inform anyone that he was on a non-red meat and all fruit desert diet. The young steward who coped a spray of fury from the wonky-one should have been able to anticipate Kev's dietary requirements from one flight to the next.

Ruddle's response and apology to this public exposure is equivocal, insincere, at best.

Rudd loses temper over meal

Net loss

Some days I think that, in academia, there's four born every minute. You know, if there's one utterly gullible civilian born every minute, then surely the academic ratio is four, or maybe 4.3.


Latest work related research to come out of our very own Melbourne University claims that recreational web surfing on the job boosts productivity. The premise being that we all lose concentration during the day and a little diversion goes a long way to refocusing the mind and getting back to the job refreshed.


I happen to agree that performing an alternative activity when concentration is waning is a constructive thing to do and I agree that purposefully changing focus can lead to higher productivity. As always, I take issue with the lack of comparative data and the weaselly conclusions.


"Melbourne University's Dr Brent Coker says workers who surf the internet for leisure, known as 'Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing' (WILB), are more productive than those who don't.


"People who do surf the internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20 per cent of their total time in the office - are more productive by about nine per cent than those who don't," said Dr Coker, from the university's Department of Management and Marketing.


"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a day's work, and as a result, increased productivity."

From the reporting, only WILB was considered as a means by which to reactiviate concentration, and, therefore, productivity. So the study was flawed and biased before it got started, and the conclusions pretty much foregone.


There are a myriad of dreary tasks to perform in an office when motivation sags, such as returning phone calls, reading and responding to emails, gossiping, photocopying, or even searching the web for text worthy of plagarizing for that all important business case. We haven't been presented with any information to suggest that WILB is a better temporary diversion than carrying out less taxing, and work related, activities before returning refreshed to a task requiring more oomph.


Lets do some sums here: 40 hour paid working week, 20% of 40 equals eight hours, eight hours is an entire working day. However, Dr Coker is careful to note that productivity only increases if the leisure web browsing constitutes less than 20% of total time in the office. Handily vague. So, let's go with 18%. That's still a day's worth of work, more or less, indulging and being paid for WILB. Nice work if you can get it.

If, as claimed, the productivity of these diligent WILB workers is increased by 9%, that would add up to a productive working week of, say, 43.6 hours.


Yet, assuming *only* 18% of office hours spent on WILB, time spent working - productivly or otherwise - is reduced by 7.2 hours, then we add back the 9% booster shot, and it still only comes to 36.4 hours of work. I'll stick my scrawny neck out here and assume that productivity was not measured per se, or at least not objectively, therefore, productivity was likely "self assessed".


Sure, the Internet is great, the Internet is grand, a miracle of modern life, but this academic is yanking a very long and well worn chain if he thinks that "less than 20%" of time spent on WILB constitutes "short and unobtrusive" breaks.


Dr Coker does come to one appropriate conclusion:

"Approximately 14 per cent of internet users in Australia show signs of internet addiction - they don't take breaks at appropriate times, they spend more than a 'normal' amount of time online, and can get irritable if they are interrupted while surfing.


"WILB is not as helpful for this group of people - those who behave with internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without."


No shit Sherlock.


Meanwhile, to file under really stupid fluff stuff: the former yellow "Wiggle" Greg Page, who parted company with his wife Michelle last year, is expecting a baby with his girlfriend.


"Sources report that Michelle is stunned that Page and a girlfriend, known only as Vanessa, are expecting a child".


Yes, the former wife is stunned that other people have babies, out of wedlock, following sexual relations. Stunned!




Irrelevent wives

Someone at The Australian Associated Press went overboard in exercising misbegotten feminist sentiment, insisting that Rein has been "relegated" to mere "first wives" status in London, despite - yes despite! - being a smart, successful, self-made squillionaire.

Honestly, what twaddle.

Rein is not an elected member of Australia's parliament. She has never run for office. She has nothing to contribute to the G20. She's in London because she is married to Rudd. Being relegated to hang out with the other wives is the only appropriate protocol.

There are quite a few other capable and wealthy wives of G20 attendees, Rein isn't an extraordinary exception. She's not over there out-classing and out-thinking a bunch of bimbos.

The Age is hereby formally reprimanded for printing this indulgent piece of fluff and nonsense.

Rein relegated to G20 'first wives' club

Duck Friday

April 2, 2009

Mark Latham regurgitated

Still scratching your eyeballs puzzling over Australia's biggest ever political dummy-spit?

Yeah, sure you are.

In an academic journal, Dr Richards, Mark Latham's former chief of staff, points the narcissism stick. By happy coinky-dink, Richards wrote his doctorate on narcissism.

In the 13,000-word article published in the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies Dr Richards presents Latham as being a:

"narcissistic loner" whose political brilliance was drowned by paranoia, persecutory anxiety and destructive rage."

Richards also believes that Latham would have been a loose cannon PM and success would not necessarily have staved off his tendency to meltdown.

Latham a 'narcisstic' loner primed to implode

April 1, 2009

Kevin who?

"According to the Bishop of London, the election of Mr Rudd as prime minister in November 2007 was something of "an Obama moment'' for Australia."


Or, not so much.


"He has a reputation as a politician who takes ethics very, very seriously.''


Along with symbolic forums and inquiries that lead to nowhere, not to mention an abiding commitment to grocery prices.


The bishop was not the only one full of praise for Mr Rudd.


"And Kevin is a man of great vision and courage, and I think you can see why he is a very successful prime minister of Australia,'' Mr Brown said.


"Thank you very much for coming to speak today, we are very grateful."

Meh, we've heard his speeches. After the speeches: not so grateful.

If they like him so much, maybe they can keep him.

Gushy, gushy coverage ... here

Wednesday Wisdom

I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe.

Richard Gere