May 30, 2009
Does it make you think, as Archimedes, or someone, did: "arh huh, I've found the answer!!"?
Or did it remind you of the old fashioned "bing" made by a cash register?
Bing isn't contemporary or technologically catchy; not in sound, not in name.
Did Bing Cosby spring to mind as well?
Sorry Bill, it's not doing it for me.
I'm hearing strains of White Christmas, rather than can't-live-without interwebs app of the future.
"Fred Hilmer, now vice-chancellor of the university of New South Wales in Australia, but previously a McKinsey partner, business school dean and CEO of the Fairfax media group, says that, while you need some clever people, organisations with lots of them can go wrong fast"
Hilmer has denied the spirit and/or intent of the alleged quote.
Hands up everyone who has ever experienced the burden and horrors of working in an organization with “lots” of clever people?
Anyone at all?
Unlike in the US, we Aussies are a tad sedated about supporting our men and women serving in harsh and far flung countries.
Perhaps you've never felt an urge to parcel up a packet of Twisties and a good brand of instant coffee for our boys in Afganistan or Iraq, or other random spots in the world where our forces serve long and hard, but don't let that stop you. You have the thought now, don't you?
To make this little adventure easier, our three Aussie blogger friends are providing step by step instructions for everyone, from box type, food weights and address information.
Yes, truly, you can send an unknown soldier a box of treats to lift their spirits as they serve in your name and mine.
Once would be nice. Once is good.
Make it a binannual good deed, a minor thing you can organize when you're doing your own shopping - see, you don't even have to go out of your way.
Perhaps you'll find it so much fun putting care and thought into your soldier parcel that you'll want to do it more often.
The box costs you, the contents of the box will cost you a few dollars extra when you go to the supermarket, but the postage is gratis, not a cent from your pocket, just a trip to the local Australia Post retail outlet.
Does it get any better or easier than that?
And let's not forget a warm and hearty shout out to Nilk, Kae and Boy on a Bike for initiating a long overdue blog to support Australian forces in such a meaningful way. On ya guys!
Ocean, Sky and Khaki - Supporting our Australian Forces
That's a goodly amount of time for Spector to contemplate the oddity of b-grade actresses not jumping back up after being shot dead. Perhaps he'll come to appreciate the difference between make believe and the real world.
One murdering misogynist down.
Law Blog post here ...
Far more revealing and amusing are the virulent comments from Gen Ys, jumping in with a bloody minded determination to look like utter prats with zero grasp of the real world of business. Here ...
Young, bitter, twister?
May 27, 2009
May 23, 2009
One of the unhealthiest and costliest aspects of the US medical industry has always been the nexus between employment and health insurance.
The conflict of interest inherent in employers choosing and providing health insurance for their employees has significantly contributed to absurdly expensive, roll of the dice health care - or no care - that the majority of Americans seem to hold sacrosanct. None of that nasty socialist medicine for them, no siree! Yet they notice nothing wrong with their boss determining their insurance, ipso facto, determining their access to health care, which, in the US, means someone else is in charge of when, where, how or if they will receive medical treatment. Certainly health insurance in the US functions in that manner in any case, regardless of whether one is employed or not, all utterly fucked, in other words, but root cause goes way back in time to the quirk of history that married employment and health care, which also, in one blow, embedded medical inequality.
Given this history and ideology, it's no surprise that moves to legalize moral penalties and impinge specifically on employee's private lives ever deeper would most vigorously spring up in the US.
Other countries, other cultures, aren't too far behind - hello Australia, weighing all the little kindy kids and sending off letters to parents telling them their children are too fat - but the US embraces these insidious, pernicious forms of social / labor control with alarming gayness.
Personally, I don't and never will give a rat's arse if my colleagues eat nothing but pizza or can't walk more than 20 feet in one wearying session. I've worked with more than enough incompetent, lazy arsed, nasty little shits to know that being in tip top - by whose judgment? - shape doesn't correlate with being productive or effective in the office.
That's not to suggest that slovenly lard arses are darned fabulous, they aren't. I have no evidence to offer about any thing.
I do know that the most preaning and vain are very often the most useless employees, but that has nothing to do with the state of their health.
"In its effort to overhaul health care, Congress is planning to give employers sweeping new authority to reward employees for healthy behavior, including better diet, more exercise, weight loss and smoking cessation.
Growing numbers of employers have adopted wellness programs after finding that they can lower health costs and increase the productivity of workers.
Critics say that holding people financially responsible for their health behavior is potentially unfair and that employers have no business prying into their employees’ private lives.
Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a research and advocacy group, said financial rewards and penalties were often a form of lifestyle discrimination. “You are supposed to be paid on the basis of how you do your job, not how often you go to the gym or how many cheeseburgers you eat,” Mr. Maltby said.
But federal officials insist that the rewards and penalties can be used in an ethical way.
Ethics experts at the National Institutes of Health have developed guidelines for assessing workplace wellness programs. In the current issue of the journal Health Affairs, the experts, Steven D. Pearson and Sarah R. Lieber, say the unhealthy behavior of some employees can affect co-workers by driving up costs for the group as a whole.
“The core ethical justification for penalty programs is that employees should be held responsible for voluntary actions that cause harm to others,” they write. But, they add, employees should be exempt from penalties when it is “unreasonably difficult or medically inadvisable” for them to meet a particular goal or standard."
Shall we measure and punish cholesterol levels?
There is no medical proof that cholesterol contributes to heart attacks or strokes. It's an assumption. Cholesterol is necessary for good health. The medical target of no more than a 5.5 reading in total cholesterol is arbitrary, it has no scientific basis. Some people have a naturally higher or lower baseline for cholesterol, yet the health standard is the same benchmark for all.
Some are now claiming that exercise contributes nothing to weight loss efforts or general health.
Should workers be required to use a supposed preventative medicine, even though we know wonder drugs can turn out to be dangerous, even fatal, and pulled from the market long after the pharmaceutical company has raked in billions in profits?
Things that we believe to be true today can later proven to be false.
Where do we draw the line? Where did this mass acquiescence come from?
If American's largely believe that government has no business messing in their lives, how the hell did they come to believe that a boss, a profit making corporation, has any business telling them what to eat, when to exercise, or how to live when they're not working?
There is a moral imperative here, which has nothing to do with productivity, or the potential "driving up costs for the group as a whole", nor anything to do with "voluntary actions that cause harm to others". Absolutely fucking nothing!
The moral imperative is to object to this infantilization: vigorously, continually, without exception.
Grow up people. Take responsibility.
Don't be too stupid to decline to be treated as another commodity to be maximized during the production process. Don't be too stupid to tell the social engineers, no matter their guise, to just fuck off.
Congress plans incentives for healthy habits
I got over it when, amongst the never ending hand-wringing, I realized that the amounts lost in the pursuit of gambling in Australia each year equated to, roughly, in the ballpark of, the amount of perfectly good food Australian's throw in the rubbish bin every year, or the amount collectively spent going to the cinema or to concerts.
It's all in the way people choose their recreations, or waste their recreational dollar. Whatever.
How is one worse than the other, really?
It's remarkably small bickies in the scheme of things.
"The Reverend Tim Costello said poker machine venues had been "advertising furiously" while the stimulus payments were flowing. "What this has stimulated is more marriage breakdowns and lost businesses and crime committed, because when (poker machine) income jumps as dramatically as this, addiction jumps, and that just tears communities apart."Yeah, yeah.
Get a grip.
There are micro tragedies, I don't doubt, but at the societal level, the health or failure of the economy, and the collective social well being, don't hinge on the dire extent of gambling any more than they hinge on the number of trips to the cinema, book sales or edible food thrown in bins.
Stimulus poured into pokies
May 20, 2009
A 21 year old rapper was shot in the head and killed as he was standing outside an LA shopping mall.
In general, being shot in the head with a bullet and not getting up again is fairly compelling evidence of being a) shot; and b) dead.
Not according to our local broadsheet.
Clearly uncertain about the confluence of heads, bullets and death, The Age offered up this headline:
Rapper 'shot dead' at Los Angeles shopping mall
Meanwhile, this hyperlink heading from the Herald Sun was indisputably accurate (an unusual feat for our beloved tabloid):
Australian swine flu cases triple
True, they have. Be alarmed! We’ve jumped all the way from one confirmed case to three.
And in oddly subdued, that is, non-headline grabbing news, Sol Trujillo quietly slipped out of the country last Thursday, more than a month ahead of his official notice period.
Not working out his resignation added a cool three million dollars to his termination package.
Yep, Sol's final insult to Telstra and to Australia was be be given three million to not work at Telstra for six weeks.
Half a million a week.
To not turn up at the office.
Hell. I could have done that job. For half the price.
May 17, 2009
The plight of the Maldives poses an eschatological question as much as an environmental one. When will the world end? How can we prepare for it? In that respect, we are all Maldivians. The islanders just happen to be among the first groups to contemplate these questions seriously. But that’s not to say each and every Maldivian spends his or her day preoccupied with sea levels. Ahmed Abbas, one of Nasheed’s longtime friends and the political cartoonist for the magazine Sangu, told me that Nasheed was overreacting. “We have been here for 3,000 years,” Abbas said as we drank espressos and ate ice cream one afternoon at a cafe in Malé. “Coral is our base. If one millimeter of water comes up, then one millimeter of coral goes up, too. So don’t worry.”He may be flip, but he's not stupid. He should continue to enjoy his espresso and ice cream with considerable peace of mind.
The Maldives is getting a lot of publicity as potentially the first nation to go under the sea. Their president has announced, on the one hand, that the Maldives aims to be the first carbon free country in the world; on the other hand he wants to find a location to set up a new Maldives - moving across town, as it were, en mass - having proposed moving 300,000 Maldivians to India, Sri Lanka or Australia. They're welcome to come here, if they really want to, I have no objections at all, but I don't want them to be hasty in swapping their beautiful surroundings and established culture for a life in the 'burbs of Australia.
If the PR messages are mixed, so too is the science.
Actually, there is no science to support any pending notion of the Maldives drowning not waving.
The beat-up is based entirely on the issue of potential raising sea levels, ipso facto, the Maldives will go under, surely?
Well, no, it seems not.
Oceans don't rise unilaterally or uniformly. It doesn't take a science degree or even much nous to appreciate that point right off the top.
Of course, the Apocalypse profiteers (and a big cheerio to our friend Al Gore!) adore the promotional value of the Maldives being sunk. The image of all those pretty islands is almost as endearing as an endangered panda.
"in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Al Gore encouraged Congress to pass legislation reducing carbon emissions by citing Nasheed’s initiative as just one example of what could happen if they failed to act. Joe Romm, the author of the blog Climate Progress, told me: “There is no saving the Maldives. They are wise to find a new place.”
Real scientists are none too impressed with the Maldives new narrative as first victim of climate change / global warming / extreme weather events. Those who really have a clue seem a bit appalled by the Maldives' poster child status.
"Paul Kench, a coastal geomorphologist at the University of Auckland, has made eight expeditions to the Maldives to research how islands form and evolve. Kench first traveled to Baa Atoll, north of Malé, in 1996, frustrated, he said, “with the perception that sea levels will go up and simply drown them. No one had established any real science.” He has discovered since then that both seasonal weather patterns and periodic wave events — like the tsunami in 2004 and, in late 2007, a highly unusual, 20-centimeter surge in sea level recorded throughout the Maldives — alter the surface, the beaches and the height of the islands in unforeseen ways. In particular, he found, “the notion that the Maldives are going to disappear is a gross overexaggeration. Both the tsunami and the sea-level rise lifted sand from the beach, spread it across the island surface and formed a natural buffer.”
Kench has followed news of Nasheed’s planned exodus with dismay. “It’s a political weapon they have,” he says. “It’s a little bit unfortunate, because they don’t know how to deal with the change. . . . If they withdrew from this notion that ‘We are going to have to jump on a plane and fly to northwest Australia’ and that kind of hyperbole, if they seriously confront the problem, they would get a lot more international assistance.” Talk of catastrophe, he continues, “hijacks all the serious work that needs to be done.” He sees it as a distraction from the careful scientific labor that could find ways to protect the islands."
As indeed is the entire climate debate. Whether protecting islands, animals or habitat or finding alternative energy sources that pack the same punch and utility as petroleum, there is much real and expensive science to be done, yet hundreds of billions are being thrown away on the whimsical, vain goal of "saving the world" by reversing the temperature by one degree in one hundred years time. It would be difficult to invent a more perverse distraction to the problems of water, food, energy and geographic security. But, there you go, doomsayers have won the most death dealing PR exercise in all of recorded human, economic and scientific history.
Being poster child for disaster isn't quite the success the president might have been gunning for:
"Nasheed’s political opponents claim that his proposition to move has cost the Maldives international respect. “We are a country so dependent on tourism,” Mohamed Hussain Shareef, Gayoom’s spokesman, told me. “The minute Nasheed says we are about to sink and that we’re moving, my phones started ringing off the hook with tour operators asking questions. We can’t go back to them and to investors now and say, ‘Everything is O.K.’Apparently "come to the Maldives before we drown" isn't a compelling business or tourist message.
"all islands and coastlines are formed differently, a fact sure to be explored more in years to come as planners develop more property in areas susceptible to rising sea levels. This is why Kench, the coastal geomorphologist, believes that the Maldives aren’t nearly as doomed as others think. He knew he was on to something big when he returned to the Maldives after the tsunami and found that the wave had actually raised the island surface as much as 30 centimeters, and did so as far as 60 meters inland. “This is actually building the islands vertically, building ridges that will buffer these islands from sea-level rises,” he says. “That sand is a permanent addition that is now draped among the coconut trees and is going to stay there.”
Other measures also suggest that the Maldives isn't facing oblivion any time soon:
"Steve Nerem, a professor in the aerospace engineering sciences department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, measures sea levels. Since 1993, when he began mapping the oceans using satellite technology, sea levels have risen an average of 3.3 millimeters a year. But around the Maldives, they have risen an average of 2.2 millimeters."The fact of real data doesn't stop Nerem in his tracks. On the contrary, he is irrational about things that might never happen.
There is “all kinds of local variability” in the data, Nerem says. “The bottom line is that we can’t say with any kind of certainty what’s going to happen. But there’s lots of reasons to be concerned that it is going to be a big problem. The data doesn’t rule out a meter of sea-level rise” by 2100, he explains. “The data does rule out zero.”
Of course, the data he speaks of comes from computer models. He ignores the data taken at the scene of the would-be crime of the millennium.
Then there's scientist Nils-Axel Momer, former president of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, and something of an expert in such matters. He has studied the Maldives, personally visiting the islands at least half a dozen times. He proved beyond doubt that the sea there had not risen in half a century. Momer used real life measuring instruments on site, poles stuck in the briny, in real time, in the real world. All very regressive of him. He probably even got his feet wet more often than not. What a fool, hey?
Wanted: a new home for my country
Really, it doesn't.
Every search engine, no matter your criteria, provides you with results that tell you nothing more or less than what everyone has looked at, which is fabulous if you and your interests are a conglomerate of all those other people. The premise of Google, in particular, is to make you one of the conforming crowd, the ultimate in group think. The most successful tool ever for imposing hegemony by the most people over the most people.
A search on Google compels you to accept the popularity test, even if the results lead you to content that is irrelevant, banal, wrong, poor quality or plain irritating. As far as Google algorithms are concerned, that which the most people are viewing must also be given to you, no alternatives will be offered. The group has spoken.
As much as I favor the Google home page over any other, for its persistently clean design, and especially the quirky special occasion re-imaginings of the Google name that pop up numerous times a year, it's intellectually repellent to discover the limits of the Google imagination.
"Mr. Bowman’s main complaint is that in Google’s engineering-driven culture, data trumps everything else. When he would come up with a design decision, no matter how minute, he was asked to back it up with data. Before he could decide whether a line on a Web page should be three, four or five pixels wide, for example, he had to put up test versions of all three pages on the Web. Different groups of users would see different versions, and their clicking behavior, or the amount of time they spent on a page, would help pick a winner.
By allowing the crowd to dictate every little design aspect, by insisting that mass data is a superior arbitrator of good design than a human, Google puts its severe intellectual limitations on show.
“Data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions,” Mr. Bowman wrote.
Google is unapologetic about its approach.
“We let the math and the data govern how things look and feel,” Marissa Mayer, the company’s vice president of search products and user experience, said in a recent television interview."
Data, not design, is king in the age of Google
Over the last decade or two, it has become politically incorrect to oppose such ostensibly healthy social interventions.
But oppose one must.
There is no equivalence between, say, smoking and drunk driving, and the human requirement to eat and drink, the latter being crucial at some minimalist level, while the former are optional.
When governments, with the backing of the masses, attempt to socially engineer ordinary everyday behaviors that bring no harm to others we should be hysterically alarmed.
The slippery slop is real, not hypothetical.
Who is qualified to calibrate which drinks, which volume of sugar, and then, if sugary drinks - which would surely have to logically include flavored milks - when would sugar in fresh fruit become taxable for its evil obesity contributing nature? Bananas be gone! Cheesecake can't be far behind if calorie count is the target, but how to police the sins of home baking, hey?
The multi-billion dollar market in low fat and low sugar food & beverages, not to mention dietary aids and programs, has simultaneously resulted in the expansion of Western hips and waist lines. Paradoxically, the more the food and beverage markets and social behaviors are messed with, the more education people are given on nutrition, the more they're berated, the fatter the populations in the West become.
Perhaps politicians and the public need to take a deep breath and look at the failure of mass social behavioral modificaton. Perhaps we should all stop getting so excited by the prospect of telling other people what to consume or how to live their lives, and stop being so rabidly filled with happiness at the prospect of being able to punish others if they refuse to conform to some arbitrary morality.
Shoud we tax sugary drinks?
May 13, 2009
According to our Treasurer - and he, of all people, should know - Mr Swan:
"Others may be overwhelmed by the scope and the ferocity of the biggestGawd our peoples are ƒυςќing fantastic.
global downturn in memory," he soothed, "but Australians are too strong,
too resilient and too united to be overwhelmed."
Putting on a brave face, but never mentioning the war
May 12, 2009
May 11, 2009
“Man, these Islamic guys want to cut my hands off,” he grumbled over a plate of camel meat and spaghetti. The sheiks seemed to have rattled him more than the armada of foreign warships patrolling offshore. “Maybe it’s time for a change.”Once was the day that a pirate wasn't vain about having a hook, or two, instead of hands.
First they want to keep their hands, next they'll be asking for eyeliner and hair gel.
For Somali pirates, worst enemy might be on shore
May 10, 2009
Fortunately, that hasn't prevented Australian men from keeping their nether regions in tip top snugly form during the sub-prime recession.
The price of men's undies, nightware and socks surged by 3.2% in March. Price growth in this retail subcategory was a buldging 10.2% for the 12 months to March, according to ABS figures.
While most of Kev's stimulus package has been spent on gambling and flat screen televisions, the left-over change may have been spent on new package keepers for the men of Australia. Despite the price hikes, demand for jocks, socks, and whatever it is that men wear at night, keeps on spiking.
During troubled times, it's more important than ever that a man has the support of comfy undies to get him through the day.
Except that we didn't.
The young swine flu lady in question had the flu - past tense - during a visit to the US. She had fully recovered - perhaps as much as two weeks - prior to arriving back in Australia.
It's a bit like laying claim to a startling increase in Australia's wealth and IQ because Bill Gates is visiting our shores.
May 9, 2009
Over in Sicily, the Mafia have taken a liking to wind farms, asserting their control over permits, interlopers and ownership of the market. I guess that counts as a stamp of approval for alternative energy.
Mafia link to Sicily wind farms probed
May 6, 2009
May 3, 2009
Batty cows have much in common with batty people, so the rule of thumb, if faced with a life and death need to resort to cannibalism, is to carefully observe the nervous disposition of your prospective dinner before deciding who to eat first.
Tough steak blamed on cows with human genes
May 2, 2009
"The matter had been exhaustively examined by hearings of the NSW Crime Commission, a coroner's inquest, a committal hearing, three Supreme Court trials (one aborted, one resulting in a 10-to-one hung jury, and one which led to the conviction of Ngo), an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and an appeal to the High Court of Australia, which declined to give leave to hear the case."
A report from a subsequent inquiry - at a cost of $770K - was released last week. Retired judge David Patten ...
"issued a devastatingly comprehensive rejection of the accusations that had been regurgitated on Four Corners and put by Ngo's supporters in submissions to the inquiry".
"Not one scintilla of evidence points to any wrongdoing or improper activity by Mr Kaldas …
"[The] material put before the inquiry increased rather than diminished the strength of the Crown's case at trial. Moreover, Mr Ngo's own evidence, which was not before the jury at the trial where he was convicted, was, I believe, very destructive of his claim of innocence …"
None of which stopped the ABC's Four Corners from "standing by" their award winning episode aired last year that questioned whether the conviction of Phuong Ngo had been a miscarriage of justice and accused Nick Kaldas of sloppy work.
Very sloppy. Damned appalling.
ABC hubris and biased journo's are an expensive injustice to us all.
Four Corners but one sided
Although he was rewarded with a soccer ball and a baseball cap from the governor of Veracruz, so that almost makes up for being branded a pandemic spreader.
Let's keep swine flu in perspective:
The World Health Organization estimates that pedestrian flu strains, the common garden variety types, kill somewhere be 25o,000 and 500,000 every year.
A pandemic just means that something is everywhere.
An epidemic, on the other hand, means that everyone should duck for cover, because it's moving through the population fast.
Find a good dictionary if you're not sure how high your panic meter should be set on the occasion.
This might turn into an epidemic, but it's looking more likely that it will peter out having never threatened to become an epidemic.
Besides, in this day of rapid communication, rapid medical response and rapid government response, it would be plain careless if we ever witness an epidemic on the scales that history has recorded.
Meanwhile, there are possibly tens of millions of people in the world suddenly doing pigs a great disservice by not eating them, all because of this newly minted "swine flu".
Eat pork. Pork is nice. Eating pork will not give you flu. Poorly cooked meat of any kind might give you food poisoning, but that's the worst that will happen.
In any case, it still isn't established that pigs are to blame.
Porcine malady will likely turn out to be nothing more than a flash in the pan.
Pork industry fights concerns over swine flu
Coughs heard around the world