May 19, 2018

Horse 2414 - Rollo Is A Business Goth Because Apparently That's A Thing Now.

I had to walk through the city on Thursday in an effort to deliver a report to a legal firm, whose timetable had changed from having a day of sitting next week to the afternoon session yesterday. Lawyers aren't exactly known for their tact at the best of times and the tirade which my boss endured on the telephone was enough to make him spend the rest of the morning grumbling under his breath like the sounds of a 351 Cleveland V8 at idle. When the report was finally finished, he was as red as a beetroot and escaped for lunch; leaving me with the task of making like Ronnie Rocketpants across this festering wen of a city built around the harbour.

I must admit, that the afternoon itself was glorious; with both the harbour putting on a spectacle worthy of an exhibition in the National Gallery of Australia, and the weather being just warm enough for me not to have to wear a jacket. Instead I was wearing trousers, a white shirt, black waistcoat, black tie, my spectacles and my black cheescutter hat.
I arrived at the legal firm, wherein I was only met by an indifferent secretary on front of house duties that looked as though she would rather be anywhere else in the world and with monosyllabic grunts, which is the universal language of someone who's only there for the money. Of course it could very well be that people in legal firms just have a natural outlook on the world which is shaped by the fact that they have to look over their upturned noses of disapproval. When you're dealing with people with the letters QC and SC after their names and Sir before them, we mere plebeians can't be all that interesting any more.

I duly received the cheque for our services (because nobody's money stinks, even if it has been made as a result of charging for handling urine) and my walk back through the city was far nicer than it was on the way there. When I'd made my way past the cenotaph in Martin Place, someone called out and it became apparent that they wanted to speak to me. For what purpose I knew not, since this made no sense to me whatsoever, but I enertained their calling because as a social creature (albeit one that's incredibly faulty), even I know how to interact with my fellow humans because I am not an alien (despite all the indications otherwise).
These two ladies who were probably no more than about 25 years old, wanted to take photographs of me for the style section of the magazine that she worked for. That was the ruse at least, and so I let them take about two dozen photographs of me before I went on my way. One of them said that it was for something called "Drum Media" which looked kind of semi legitimate and I signed a release form agreeing to have my likeness published. I gave her my address at work in case these people ever decide to cut me a cheque. Apparently I had a "business goth" vibe about me.

I must be getting old or something because yet again I've wandered into something I don't understand. I haven't done anything differently to what I would usually do and my sense of style however insane it is, was more or less informed by a world which ceased to exist before I was even born. Nobody wears ties any more as far as I can tell, nobody wears waistcoats and cheesecutters and flat caps are a thing which hails from another country entirely.
I don't think that I look remotely "goth", let alone "business goth"; the only concession that I'm prepared to make is that black is the universal colour of understatement and is possibly goth adjacent, if that's a thing.

It did make me wonder for the rest of the afternoon as I bashed numbers into MYOB, as to what "business goth" is, if it is indeed a thing. I would hope to see unnecessary buckles, oversized boots, and maybe a black band t-shirt for a band that I've never heard of. Personally I would want a full length black coat, a stovepipe hat, and duel wielded claymores, which would be perfect for some really hostile business takeovers. If I can't have claymores because they're a hand and a half sword, can I at least have a sabre?
Of course then my mind wandered into full on action movie territory, with swashbuckling in the board rooms of the ASX 200, equally unnecessary fights between hordes of boards with crossbows; all set to the strains of Rhapsody In Blue. I mean clearly I have no idea what the heck "business goth" is; so I'm sure that the two photographers from the magazine have no idea either.

May 16, 2018

Horse 2413 - An Eye For An Eyelash Makes The Whole World Scared

I don't generally write very much about the politics of the 45th President of the United States because quite frankly it would be like peeing into an ocean of pee, whilst on board the HMS Whizz-Whizz. The orange haired loon who currently occupies Studio 1A at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue¹ has all the competency of a bull with broadswords gaffer taped as extensions to its horns, that has just been put in charge of security of porcelain miniatures at the Royal Doulton factory outlet. I think that he's comprehensively proven that all of his political ambitions extended as far as November 8th 2016, and that he had no plans beyond that date and still hasn't developed any.

In his ongoing campaign to improve international relations by single handedly being the least capable world leader (say what you like about Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Bashar al-Assad, they've at least shown that they are capable of running their administrations for their own purposes, however mad, bad or sad those purposes are), Donald J Trump has visited leaders of ill intent, insulted America's neighbours and allies, yelled at North Korea to the point where talks have been held between the two Koreas in the fears that he might show up at some point in the future, and in an act with about as much tact as poking a sleeping bear with the end of a baseball bat that happens to be on fire, ordered that the American Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem.

Anyone who has been alive since 1922 should know that relations between the various people groups of the Middle East are best described as sensitive and delicate. It should have been learned by now, that the lessons of colonialism which drew lines over everything was mostly a bad idea and in the case of the Middle East, the only thing keeping the region from devolving into perpetual conflict with increasingly more powerful weaponry, was the Ottoman Empire sitting over the top. The idea of repatriating Jewish people to the Middle East was always going to be and continues to be fraught with danger; there's never really going to be a one state solution or a two state solution to be honest.
Nevertheless, Donald J Trump took the executive decision to throw aside history, common sense, logic, tact, safety and sanity, by moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and let's just say that an insensible decision has already had insensible consequences.

While Israeli officials were celebrating the opening of the brand US Embassy, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in attendance along with other minders from the Trump administration, probably within earshot and less than 70km away, Israeli troops were murdering Palestinian protesters in Gaza; all while American and Israely government officials were having a collective praise party for their devotion to peace.
Meanwhile, more than 2700 people have been injured at least 60 people killed by the Israeli military which has said that it had fired live rounds "selectively" in line with so-called "standard" procedures.
Meanwhile while all this was going on, North Korea has suspended talks with South Korea and will more than likely cancel the summit in Singapore with Donald Trump next month, after joint US-South Korean air combat drills with F-117 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers were carried out in an operation which has been called "Max Thunder²".

If my Twitter and Facebook feeds are anything to go by, Christians in America appear to support Israel to the hilt because they see it necessary for America to be part of the fulfillment of end-times prophecy. The logic is that if you "bless Israel" then you get back blessings in some kind of God-is-a-vending-machine arrangement. I don't understand this.
The theology here is terrible. The modern secular state of Israel is a very different beast to the ancient state. The only thing I can think of is that blessing Israel in the abstract is like moving pieces around a chessboard; instead of moving artillery pieces around the countryside and blowing up actual real living people with flesh, blood, families, and lives. I don't see the connection here with a love for people; especially when you see antisemitism and anti-Islamic sentiments bordering on hate speech from the same side.

The only question I can ask at this point is "What the hell is going on here?" I would choose a four letter expletive but none of them are adequate at expressing my incredulousness at the situation.
Don't apologise for Mr Trump or his administration. This is the third worst Presidency behind that of Warren G. Harding who had multiple corruption scandals and an affair with one of his mistresses which resulted in a child, and that of James Buchanan whose failure to deal with secession actually broke the Union in half and sent the country into civil war.
I think that the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief when Trump leaves the Oval Office. It might take a while to clean out the stink of his administration, or complete lack thereof, though.

¹I think that Mr Trump sees the Presidency as a continuation of his reality TV career.
²How did nobody see this coming?
³I have not made the name Max Thunder up. I am not 9 years old. I suspect that many peopel ate the Pentagon have that mental age though.

May 12, 2018

Horse 2412 - Saxons Surrender the High Ground (1066)

Occasionally I report on sporting fixtures and someone set me the challenge yesterday of writing about the only date in history that everyone remembers...

Normans 3 - Saxons 0

In a result that will surely echo on through many summers future and annoy the merde out of history students for centuries to come, yesterday's fixture at the amusingly named town of Battle, just outside of Hastings, saw our lads suffer an absolute rout.
The Normans laid down the challenge early in the morning but our brave Briton lads under the command of Harold, remained encamped at the top of a hill and inside a wooden fortress. This would have been a good strategy because whoever holds the highest ground in battle is usually the victor and has the added advantage of being able to see more of the field of play.

In the early morning, the Normans tried an initial attack to open the fixture but soon found it difficult to advance up the hill to the wooden fortress and they quickly retreated so as to avoid running headlong into our Saxon pikes. Their troops also came into difficulty, especially those who did not have shields, when our lads hurled rocks and bricks at them. For those who doubt the practical benefits of playing at kricket, those doubts must surely be proven pointless, as a good kricket player can throw a rock or a brick with tremendous accuracy over a distance of many tens of yards.
By about noon, there was a lull in proceedings as both sides took their leave and regrouped. This general malaise in action is common to a lot of battles that we've seen over the years and if it lasts more than about half an hour, then it's almost like the play has been reset and both sides are able to claim the element of surprise if they achieve first strike. This is what the great tactician Harold was hoping for as pikemen were re-equipped with broadswords and axes. The plan was that the Normans wouldn't know what was going to hit them as a Saxon horde rumbled with sound and fury.

In the late afternoon and after the Normans had retreated back, our brave lads broke free of the fortress and thundered across the field and expected to slaughter them there and then. What we didn't count on though was that the Normans had brought along many newly trained archers and they picked us off with wave after wave of volleyed arrows, before we ever got there. After King Harold had been shot in the head by an arrow, right through his eyeball, we fell into a state of confusion and because they still had commanders mounted on horse, it was easy for them to pick us off and hack us down as many of us retreated in all directions and in cowardice.

Three goals were scored by those Norman knaves. Not only did they win the battle but they've succeeded in killing the king and taking government as a result. This is the kind of result which you'll be able to read about in the tapestries for years to come. No doubt that the tapestries will call their leader  William The Conqueror" as he sweeps across southern part of this ancient island and subdues the various minor kingdoms and baronies but mark our words, he will be forever called "William The Bastard" and the people of this green and pleasant land will certainly not tolerate any more kings called William which might follow.

Some sections of the viewing galleries kept on singing out the praises of this new king, as they see him as a departure from the wave of Viking kings and kings with Egg in their names, like Eggbert, Eggread the Unready and Eggleston, who have ruled with an iron rod, a wooden like, and finally a sock full of custard. However, many people fear the upcoming changes which are going to be imposed which will change the names of meats to something vastly different from the animals from which they come from. For international, the nice Saxon word "cow" will be replaced by the word "bœuf" and the word "pig" will now become "porc".
William has also indicated that he wants to take stock of everything in his newly acquired kingdom and we fear that that day will be a veritable Dooms Day.

May 11, 2018

Horse 2411 - I Review Apples - No 3 - Pink Lady

Pink Lady

Since undertaking my role as self appointed apple reviewer I have only visited one particular greengrocers'shop. i figure that by visiting the produce section of a normal supermarket, I should be able to find a less exotic apple and get more in touch with the people. An apple for the masses in an ordinary run of the mill supermarket is a democratic apple, right?
I went to one of the big chain supermarkets and found the pile which was the biggest. The thing that I found really worrisome was that they have apples in plastic packets of half a dozen and in a world where plastic is already getting into the oceans and killing whales more than a thousand miles off the coast, this is utterly ludicrous to me. I don't care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and bees, please? Anyway, the biggest pile of loose apples was a pile of Pink Lady apples. I thought, that that's the one for me.

Thanks to the film "Grease" I can't get the thought out of my head that a Pink Lady apple is one that hangs around in the car park in apple high school and wants to get a ride with the apples wearing black (Bravo Black - see Horse 2407). As found out, this might not be that far away from the truth, as the Pink Lady isn't all that she appears to be.

Texture - The Pink Lady will not yield easily to your attempts to rip it to pieces. Biting into a Pink Lady is like biting into a raw potato and although every chew is an effort, it is worth it. Admittedly once you start chewing it, it is quite a bit nicer than what you first think but that first bite into it is a doozy.
Of course the Pink Lady is hard. She has a reputation to maintain. She will not yield easily and nor will she be crushed. Although she wants to appear to be cool, she is no pushover.

Taste - Maybe there's a little bit of a hint of flowers, maybe it is a little bit like wattle wafting in on the breeze, it is difficult to say. What is it difficult to say though, is that it is a subtle taste which is there but not overpowering. It doesn't taste particularly watery even though there is juice aplenty either.
While this is a nice tasting apple, its downfall is that it doesn't taste enough of apple. It is a little bit vague. The volume knob of flavour has been turned down on the Pink Lady apple. I imagine that if this was to used in a pie, the flavour would completely disappear. There's a little bit of sweet but not too much, there's practically no sour and there's a little bit of bitter.

Nice -  I can not find any fault with the Pink Lady other than it is a little bit too hard. Niceness is one of those fleeting qualities that might be dependent on how you feel at the time but even if it is, the Pink Lady is still a nice apple. If you were offered many choices of apple, then this would be a good one because you would be assured that it would be nice.
This is despite not having an overly obvious taste. It tastes like apples. An apple that tastes like it is supposed to is inherently a good thing because you know what to expect. Sometimes a thing is nice because it just is and does what it's supposed to.

Value - I can only assume that the Pink Lady is in season or that lots of growers grow them because at $2.19/kg, this is a very good apple for the price. This little example cost me just 45 cents. As far as value for money goes, that's excellent and if this does end up being the cheapest, I'm going to award it the full ten points in the future.
If you are on a budget and want apples to eat as is, without any preparation, then these are a good choice. You can get more than 2 kilos of Pink Lady apples for a fiver and that just seems astonishing to me.
9*/10 - Subject to change.

The Pink Lady is a nice apple if a little bit hard. I would absolutely recommend buying this variety if you want a snack. I am not a gastronomic expert but just the physical science of the thing tells me that this would not be a good apple to put into a pie because the chunks would remain hard.

Final Verdict:
32*/40** - We push into the 30s and straight to the top of the leader board. 80% is a B apple and nothing to be ashamed of

1. 32 Pink Lady**
2. 28 Bravo Black
3. 21 Royal Gala

May 09, 2018

Horse 2410 - Federal Budget 2018 - Yawn

Last night the Appropriation Bill No.1 2018 was presented to the House Of Representatives by Treasurer Scott Morrison. Like the handing down of every Coalition budget since they took office in 2013, this one started off with the Treasurer looking back to the global financial crisis of 2008 and announcing that they were going to fix the mess left behind by Labor. I don't know at what point you can no longer morally blame the previous government for your worries but the Turnbull Government appears to be well on track for doing this for at least the near future.
Mr Morrison then went on to extol the virtues of what the government have achieved, such as a million jobs having been created in the past twelve months and the restoration of the AAA credit rating.

He then outlined a five point plan for the budget as though this was a PowerPoint presentation but without the projector.
- there will be tax relief
- the government will back investment
- it will guarantee services (except one, see below)
- the borders will become more safe and secure
- the government will live within its means
These things are almost cliched to the point of flaggelating a deceased equine and sound like they could have come from a high school civics class. The real meat of the budget began immediately as if it was a jump cut; with no transition at all.

For 2018/19 the budget would remain in deficit to the tune of $14.5bn, returning to surplus in 2020/21 with a projected $11bn, and while these numbers sound absurd, government expenditure still continues to fall to only 24.7% of GDP and tax collected to 23.9% of GDP. What this says to me on principle is that just as the then Treasurer Wayne Swan said in 2012, budgets in Australia are self correcting in the long term, so the calls from the other side (who are now the government) that there was a budget emergency, were then and continue to be proven now, to be not just nonsense but one that has been completed - so a complete nonsense.

In the light of this, I thought that what was to follow was nothing short of barbarian. Having established that the budget was self correcting, Mr Morrison then announced a series of fiddles with the income tax table which does virtually nothing for the vast majority of people but benefits the top 10% of incomes.
Mostly the brackets remain unchanged, with the lower 32.5% rate being shifted from $37,000 to $41,000, with the 37% bracket being pushed from $87,000 to $90,000 for 2018/19 and eventually being shoved all the way out to $120,000 by 2024/25. The top 45% bracket will be pushed from $180,000 to $200,000.
I find the gall of this astonishing because it assumes that future governments will be held to these changes for as many as three election cycles. When this budget itself might very well be the last before the next election¹, this is both presumptuous and rude.

When this was announced, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten looked as though he had swallowed a wasp, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen made a face as though someone had farted, Tanya Plibersek looked as though she was prepared to walk across the table in the middle of the chamber and punch Mr Morrison in the face, and while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was doing his best to look serious, Christopher Pyne was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

There were some annoucements about the amounts that pensioners were allowed to earn before their benefits were affected, with an increase to that limit of $1300. The amount that someone's family could earn before it affected someone's Youth Allowance payments was pushed out by $10,000. The small business write off for assets under $20,000 will continue; which will certainly make many of my clients less anxious.

Then came the announcements for government initiatives which are always designed to illicit cheers from various members of the government's back benches.
- $500m for medical research
- $2.4bn for information technology and space exploration
- $75bn over ten years for road and rail infrastructure
- $1bn for an urban traffic congestion control plan
- The Australian Financial Complaints Office to open on November 1
- $1.6bn for in-home aged care
- $83m for mental health services for the elderly
- $24.5bn for schools (though given that public schools are the responsibility of the states, all of this is earmarked to give to private schools)
- $1.4bn to include more drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- $1.6bn for better Veterans Health outcomes (after almost a decade of yelling by both the DVA and organisations like Legacy and the RSL Association)
- $294m for National Security (but nobody to know what that means)²

The $2.4bn for information technology and space exploration sounds to me like a comprehensive plan to upgrade some of the oldest computer systems in the country (I'm assuming that they'll be at both the ATO and the Department of Finance) but space³ exploration? I can only guess that this means that we'll be building a launch facility which will be rented out to other space agencies because $2.4bn buys you practically nothing in the way of front line space hardware.

What wasn't announced in Mr Morrison's speech but was ablaze on Twitter less than 10 seconds after the media blackout was lifted, was that there will be an $83m budget cut for the ABC over three years. The budget couches this by saying that the ABC is exempt from the efficiency dividends which are to be imposed on the rest of the government but gives no indication as to how the corporation is supposed to cope with the budget cuts. Sir Keith Murdoch's 86 year war on the ABC continues unabated.

My overall impression of this budget is that virtually nothing changes except that this is about tax cuts. It makes no attempt to reform the tax system as touted before the budget was handed down, it makes no structural attempts to improve the bottom line, and it moves eventually to a simplified two-tier tax bracket system which was suggested by the Henry tax review back in 2010.

Ho hum. Roll over. Yawn and crick.

¹Assuming that the House and Senate election is held together, the latest possible polling date for a double dissolution election is Saturday 4 May 2019. Budget night would be May 9th.
There must be a Senate election before the next term begins on July 1, 2019 but if they are decoupled, then the House election can be held as late as Nov 2 2019.

² Though I'm guessing that it will go to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection so that Mr Dutton can invent even more efficient ways of being cruel to asylum seekers.

May 07, 2018

Horse 2409 - I Review Apples - No 2 - Royal Gala

Royal Gala.

After looking at the most expensive apple in the greengrocers' shop last time, I decided to look at the cheapest apple in the shop this time. I can't think of very many things that you can review which are so cheap.
The Royal Gala apple looks like it had a fun time in a paint shop because instead of looking all dark and broody like the Bravo Black, it looks like a happy wee thing. If I had to suggest what it looked like, I'd say that someone had wrapped up summer inside a tiny little package. I can tell you though, as a self appointed apple reviewer, those summer time fun time looks are very deceptive. The Royal Gala apple writes cheques that it cannot cash and if it wants to use the title of "Royal" then the royal We, are not amused.

Taste - What can I say about the taste of this apple? Can I even find the taste of this apple? Hello? Is there any apple in there? This is an apple whose taste can be summed up with but a single word:
The only thing that I can say about the Royal Gala is that it's kind of dull. It's not very sweet; it's not very tart, it's not very sour, it's not very anything. It is however very watery, but the thing about water is that it doesn't really taste of anything either. The Royal Gala apple tastes like an apple that forgot what an apple tastes like.
The outside of it makes you think that there's an absolute riot going on in there but when you get inside, the Royal Gala is over. This is a murder mystery where there's no murder. This is a scoreless draw where it rained all the time and nobody had any shots on goal at all.
The most disappointing thing about the Royal Gala apple is that it's just not very appley. Or maybe this is ye olde worlde definition of apple which just means that it is a generic fruit.

Texture - As I mentioned, this apple is very juicy. If you bite into it, I advise that you get yourself a raincoat because it is like biting into a hosepipe. The Queensland floods of a few years ago, were probably caused by someone trying to get the juice out of Royal Gala apples. This isn't so much an apple as it is a water delivery system.
It has a satisfying crisp bite but once you bitten through the outer layer it is no more exciting than biting into a raw potato. Maybe this is King Edward's Royal Gala?

Nice - If there was an Olympic standard apple, or an apple with an ISO number, then this is absolutely that apple. I have no strong feelings one way or the other when it comes to this apple. That is it's downfall. It's not offensive, not lovely, not terrible, not wonderful. It's not not nice, it's just meh. 5/10

Value - If the Royal Gala does something well, that thing is being very good value for money. At $3.49/kg, this edition of this apple only cost me 83 cents.
Like wow, wipeout; that's half a pound of apple right there. There's not a lot of things that you can buy that make sense and that cost less than a dollar. You could buy a bread roll, or a chocolate bar, or a really teeny little can of beans: the point is that the things that you can get are usually mostly useless by themselves but you can buy an apple and not look like an idiot. I know from experience that if you buy one apple at the grocery store, people will look at you with a kind of self loathing because they feel shame about the snack that they've just bought.

Final Verdict: 

21/40* - This is a passing grade but only just.
The Royal Gala apple is a budget apple and a good choice if you don't really care about getting something that tastes of much. If you want an apple which is cheap and not much else, then this is the apple for you. If however, you want a really nice knockout apple, then think about another kind.
This is the apple for which the expression "P's make degrees" come from.

1. 28 Bravo Black
2. 21 Royal Gala*

May 05, 2018

Colt 2409.1 - Alternative Universe Donald Trump Worries About Baked Goods

"I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough bun laws, a once very prestigious hospital, right in the middle, is like a war zone for horrible strawberry rounds.

Yes, that's right.

They don't have buns, they have chives and instead there's bread all over the floors of this hospital. They say it's as bad as a military war zone hospital. Chives chives, chives. London hasn't been used to that, they're getting used to it, it's pretty tough."
- Alternative Universe Donald Trump, is worried about there being too many Greggs on the streets of London, 5th May 2018.

May 04, 2018

Horse 2408 - Autumn Finally Arrived - Hooray!

I am convinced that I have been bred through a process of hundreds of years of mostly accidental and rather unselective conditions, to live at the bottom of a peat bog, to live in a climate where double digit Celcius temperatures are a suggestion and not the rule, where it in an unremarkable turn of events it is constantly raining, and where the sunshine is something only seen for a fortnight in any given year.
Instead through historical accident, I live in a country which is three quarters of a mile away from the sun and so we have to hurl ourselves into the ocean at every available opportunity, where the cold is so much of a luxury that people have to spend thousands of dollarpounds just to be able to do find it, and where during the summer the sun blazes on for weeks and it's all you can do to avoid melting into the ground. Thankfully we have co-opted the slowest paced game in the world in the form of cricket to provide the soundtrack. I don't really get sunburnt, I just burst into flames; the truth is that I don't do heat very well.

This year, autumn arrived incredibly late. Now admittedly I don't have the best metric for determining when it comes but if I'm wearing my waistcoat to work and not just shirtsleeves, then as far as I am concerned, autumn has arrived; that point didn't come until Ed Balls Day¹. In previous years, the arrival of autumn came well before the ides of March.
I feel somewhat sad that due to global warming and climate change that autumn is fleeing both further south and shrinking in duration. I'm sure that there are many scientific reasons which are as piddly as the issue of the viability of life on this planet but that's all nebulous and out there somewhere - no, the biggest single concern that I have to do with climate change is that it gives me a smaller window in which to wear hats and coats. From the absolutely selfish perspective of my personal fashion choices, climate change means that I have less of an ability to look like a late Victorian gentleman about the city. Hey Pacific island nations, you might suffer the total flooding of your homes and the disappearance of your country beneath the waves but spare a thought for me because I get less time in which I can comfortably wear a greatcoat outside.

I find it far easier to deal with the cold than the heat. If it is cold, then you can simply put on more layers. Wear a coat; two if you like. If it is hot, then you can't as easily escape it except with expensive machinery.
Call we weird but I prefer the burn that comes from being outside on a cold morning, more than the burn that comes from being outside on a sunny day. It is far harder to get frostbitten than it is sunburnt. I think that ideally, I want to be in a world of about 16°C, which is below most people's tolerance.

I really love that time of year when the mornings are dark and the fog has rolled in, when your sight distances are closed down and when the whole world seems more quiet and calm. If I am to be mugged in the street by a thuggish assailant, then I want it to be done in an artful and beautiful world.
I love how when the fog comes and sits upon everything, that the tobacco stained light from the sodium street lamps is diffused, and how overhead power lines kind of fade into the mist like daubed painting. Although this is Australia where everything including the spiders, the snakes, the wildlife, the dirt and even the trees are actively trying to kill you, the autumn fog kind of looks a little bit like a painting by Constable, except there are acacias and eucalypts instead of spruce and oak trees.
I'm always disappointed when the sunshine does come out and burns off all of the fog. The world is then returned to a state of normality which although is fine, it isn't as pretty.

Give me a world where walking through it leaves you slightly damp, where the grass goes into hibernation and doesn't need to be mowed as often, and where I refuse to accept the concept of object permanence because I don't want objects to continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived. When the fog is thick enough, the world that you can't see, simply refuses to be and with it, all the worry, noise and confusion that comes with that, also simply refuses to be.

¹Ed Balls Day - 28th April. Praise be!

May 03, 2018

Horse 2407 - I Review Apples - No 1 - Bravo Black

There are many magazines in the newsagent which compare a myriad of things; from motor cars, to beauty products, financial services, music and a host of other things as well as the perennial "Choice" magazine which I suppose compares... everything?
I am a chap who would like to compare many motor cars and be paid to write about them for one of those magazines but I highly doubt that that's likely.
If you would like to throw many thousands of dollarpounds in my direction for writing inane drivel, then please contact me. I've read the work of newspaper columnists for years and if anything, I'm overqualified.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have a fascination with the mundane and minor things of the world. In fact only this morning when I was madly hammering numbers into MYOB, my brain was still pondering on the subject of the topology of humans. I think that we're either genus 5 or 6 but I'm not entirely sure but by the same token, I don't want to think particularly hard about taking slices through a human to find out.
At lunch time, I was wandering around the greengrocers' shop and it struck me that just in this one shop, there were seven different varieties of apple. I wasn't about to have some kind of existential crisis and I was never going to freak out over how many choices that I have, but the thought struck me that I both quantitatively and qualitatively know diddly squat about apples. Why have I never put them head to head against each other in some kind of Apple Champions League to determine which is the best apple?
So there and then, I have made the decision, since I buy them anyway, to rate apples against each other to find out which one is best.

Bravo Black

Let's venture out on this journey of Malus adventure by starting with an apple that I'm sure I've never heard of and am unlikely to find in an average supermarket or greengrocer but I might find in an upmarket bodega, apotheke or fancy-pants providore.

As the name Bravo Black suggests, this is a very dark coloured apple. In my mind already, this is the kind of apple that the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves used because it looks shiny and delicious but kind of a little bit evil. This is about as close to a goth apple as I have ever seen.

Taste - like an apple. It's not overly sweet and it's not overly acidic or sour. I'm also finding that the further I go along, the bits which kind of brown a little, aren't offensive either. This apple reminds me of the apples that overhung a fence on my way to primary school but unlike those where they were so acidic that it was like you had bitten into a AA battery, this has enough sweetness to balance that out. I've eaten enough apples in my life to know that this is pretty close to what a stereotypical apple taste is. I can't say anything particularly brilliant or bad about this in any direction - it just is.
Since my cooking skills are pathetic and I view cooking mostly as either a functional pursuit or a science for hungry people where you follow directions, I can not tell you if this would make a good cooking, stewing or cider apple.

Texture - This is a very crisp apple. Every bite comes with the traditional apple crunch noise. Every bite is an effort as you rip into the juicy flesh of the fruit. The bites also come away in distinct fractures which themselves yield their juice without leaving a floury pulp. I can imagine that if you were seven years old and losing a tooth, then this apple would not be advisable for you to eat because it is quite hard and does not yield easily.

Nice - I think that this is a good middle of the road apple. It doesn't try to be weird, there aren't any champagne overtones, nor is it an acquired taste. This is just an apple which if you ate it without any idea of the variety, you would just think of as being an apple.

Value - at $9.99kg I think that this is possibly the most expensive apple that I've ever seen in my life. However, what you get for that price is a very nice apple. I don't really want to sound all pompous here but I'm not sure if it really deserves its Rolls Royce pricetag. I will admit that I did buy it in Mosman which was probably a mistake but even so, I don't think that it is necessarily bad value for money, it's just not great either.

The Bravo Black is a nice but expensive apple. It is let down by the price but intrinsically there's nothing wrong with it at all. This is a solid pass for an apple and I think was a good starting point. I would recommend that you buy a Bravo Black but only if you aren't bothered by the price. I should also say that this particular apple by itself cost $2.10; which gives you an idea that it is a big apple. This was one of the smallest of its cohort on display. Most apples of this variety I expect will cost you more.

Final Verdict:

28/40 - This is a passing grade for this apple. As the only one I've reviewed thus far, it is by default at the top of the class.

1. 28 Bravo Black

May 01, 2018

Horse 2406 - A Short History Of The Red Flag

Then raise the scarlet standard high
Beneath it's folds we'll live and die
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

I suppose that the first logical place to look at where the Red Flag was used was in the French Revolution. Just like the American Revolution which was mostly a taxation, slavery, legislation and representation dispute that got out of hand, the French Revolution was an overthrow of the monarchy which was supposed to install a democratic and secular government as a republic but turned into a militaristic authoritarian regime which kind of ended with Napoleon, it other words it was a taxation, legislation and representation dispute that got seriously out of hand.

Also related to the American Revolution, prize agitator Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, or just plain old "Lafayette"; once he had finised waving Betsy Ross’ bit of rag, America’s favorite fighting Frenchman went home to be commander of the National Guard.
Not long after the abolition of the French monasteries, and during a series of protests in which several marches converged on the Champ de Mars, a full on riot broke out in May of 1790 and the Reg Flag was raised by Lafayette that he was now imposing martial law in  central Paris. So much for an auspicious start.

Once the second half of the nineteenth century rolled on and France and Prussia went to war in yet another case of generational hatred, the Second French Empire fell into a bloddy heap and the Third Republic rose out of the ashes and was immediately met with protests from the National Guards and the Communards.
The publication of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto which had arisen during the 1848 Revolution, Capital which was published in 1861, and the arrival of the  International Workingmen's Association as an organisation in 1864, the Paris Commune in 1871 also flew the Red Flag but like the National Guards and the Communards, was put down.

By now the link between the Red Flag and the economic left was well established, and it became the symbol of communists, socialists and anarchists alike. In fact so dangerous was it seen to be, that when someone threw a dynamite bomb into a workers' march in Chicago's Haymarket district for the Eight-Hour working day on May 4, 1886, this basically saw the end of he Red Flag's use in the United States; hence the reason why the Republican and Democrat parties don't line up with the traditional colours of the left and the right in the rest of the world.
The Red Flag was adopted by many political labour organisations around the world, including the British Labour Party but curiously not the Australian Labor Party.
Of course it goes without saying that the Red Flag was flown by the communists during the mayhem of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and following that revolution although support for socialism grew in the trade union movement around the world, the Red Flag was a bit loathed to be used, in an effort not to be associated with Soviet Communism.

I suspect that the next chapter in the story of the Red Flag will be again in the next series of revolutions, whatever they happen to be because at some point during this new gilded age, when the rewards attributable to capital is outstripping the rewards attributable to real work and when the immediate memory of the Soviet Union has dissipated, will people once again want to rally around a symbol which has more than two centuries of use.

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

April 30, 2018

Horse 2405 - Mad Max Carries On Like A Pork Chop But It's Still Danny Ric's Fault

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix which is held on the streets of central Baku, is in my not very well paid opinion, one of the better street circuits out there. It has all of the usual problems with street circuits in that as cars speed through the concrete canyons, they risk biting them and their race comes to an end in an instant. I've always found that something so unforgiving is extremely disappointing because unlike other motor racing fans, I would rather see two hours of intense racing than eight seconds of someone crashing which is followed by the inevitable period of utter boredom.
Sometimes though, you see an incident which is not the fault of the track but the madness of the little grey cells encased in meat; encased in an Arai helmet; encased in a motor car. We saw such an incident yesterday when Daniel Ricciardo ran into the back of Max Verstappen, thus taking out both Red Bulls and causing a double Did Not Finish. From a team manager's perspective, having one car not finish is disappointing, having both cars not finishing is heartbreaking,  and having both cars fail to finish when they caused it is infuriating. Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner was so livid that when Sky Sports foolishly tried to interview him after the incident, he gave the utterly expected "no comment" and stormed off in a huff.

You can say what you like about Max Verstappen moving on or off line because really the difference is only a few feet at most, and whether or not that constitutes a breaking of the rules but as it currently stands, the FIA has not made any ruling in any direction and so without direction from the arbiters, I'm going to have to declare that in my opinion, this is Daniel Ricciardo's fault for failing to avoid an accident.

Even though Verstappen was acting like a total pork chop all afternoon, making stupid moves up the inside and banging wheels with Ricciardo on the exit of turn 1 at one point, I still think that in this example, Daniel Ricciardo is 100% at fault because rather than executing the move and passing through on the inside of a corner, he should have realised that the car in front was going to slow down at some point.
Ricciardo knew full well that Verstappen had been driving like a loon all afternoon and this should have informed his decision making process, when approaching the moving hazard.

If this incident had happened on a normal public road, then a judge would look at this and 99 times out of 100 declare that the car following was at fault for insurance purposes. When driving on a public road with that great unwashed mass of humanity that we call the general public, the directions that a judge will take are that unless there is really convincing evidence that the car in front is somehow negligent, then the fault of the accident falls on the car behind. When driving standards inspectors such as the race stewards look at an incident, then they generally take the opinion that unless an overtaking maneuver has been effected where the car behind has at least pulled up in front of the other cars b-pillar, or in the case of an open cockpit car the rollover hoop, then the same principle applies. It is usually the car which is following which is at fault and in this case, that is Daniel Ricciardo.

The thing is that when you point out the letter of the law and how they are generally applied, people are mostly immune to facts and reason. Already I've had people argue on social media that because Max Verstappen moved "twice" ten he is the one at fault, even though the definition of "moving" already has case examples as set out by the FIA and the definition of "moving" in cases like this is defined by moving significantly and by at least the width of a car. In this case, Max Verstappen has deviated but it still doesn't yet constitute "moving" to defend the line as per the examples proscribed by the FIA.

In the grander scheme of things, you'd have to assume that Christian Horner can not be very happy about his two drivers throwing their multi million dollarpound machines into walls and not getting results. A double DNF which was absolutely caused by a combination of both drivers is worth being infuriated over and I would suspect that he would like to be rid of one of them by the end of the season if it promotes team harmony.
My guess is that with Kimi Raikkonen most likely retiring from Formula One at the end of the season, that Daniel Ricciardo will be eyeing his old seat for 2019 with extreme interest. The 2018 Ferrari looks like it has come on in leaps and bounds since 2018, to the point where it is capable of challenging for and winning races. If Ricciardo is able to secure Kimi's seat in 2019, then I think that Christian Horner would probably let him go, if for no other reason than the current spat between him and Max Verstappen, is untenable.

April 27, 2018

Horse 2404 - Where Have You Gone, Henry? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

The news has been trickling through the internet recently that the Ford Motor Company has taken the somewhat remarkable decision that for its North American market (which for some reason does not include Mexico), when the current round of passenger cars reach the end of their model cycle, they will not be renewed. This means that from about mid 2019, the Ford Fiesta, Focus, Fusion (Mondeo) and Taurus, are all doomed; only the Mustang will survive the chop. If you want a sedan or hatchback in North America from about 2021 and onwards, it will not be a Ford.
After the reorganisation, the North American line up for Ford will exclusively be the Mustang and a range of SUVs and pickup trucks.

- North America might not ever see this. 

Ford Australia have said nothing on this subject (mostly because as a purely import company now, they have the management pull of a mango in a cyclone) but I expect that the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo are probably safe because Australians on the whole tend to buy smaller cars than people in North America and the most hotly contested market segment in Australia is the small to medium car class; closely followed by the small to medium SUV class.

As much as I personally think that the decision is bordering on corporate insanity, I think that an organisation like the Ford Motor Company will have had hordes of accountants and statisticians poring over the sales data for the last decade or so and have come to this decision with extreme care. The reason why I think that this decision is completely nutso is that by withdrawing from what basically has been the mainstay of the motor industry for the past eight decades, Ford has yielded its place. I can only think that they've come to the point where they've realised that the marketplace can not sustain their presence and have shifted their resources to something more profitable.
The problem with this is the annoying question of what happens if petrol prices start to head upwards again and they've been left with a range of highly ornate lumps that they can no longer sell. I suppose that this is the corporate gamble that they've taken and that only time will tell if it pays off.

This is a story which has kind of already played out in miniature in Australia. I know that we aren't exactly congruous to the North American car market but there still might be something instructive here.
Mitsubishi Motors once upon a time dared to knock on the door of the top ten of sales in Australia. From about 2006 though, with the failure of their 380, which was a brilliantly engineered car that was simply too big and too late (had it been released in 1996 if would have sold like gangbusters), Mitsubishi scaled back their lineup, after scrobbling around with the Colt and Mirage, before finally withdrawing the Lancer from sale. I find it almost incredible that the company which was winning World Rally Championships with Tommi Mäkinen, would eventually become the shadow of its former self that it is today. As someone who writes more words than necessary about motor cars (and who would have loved to have been a motoring writer for a newspaper), even I struggle to name a single car in the current Mitsubishi line up outside the Pajero and Triton and neither of those are small cars.
If Mitsubishi is an object lesson on how to drive a car company into the ground, then it seems to me that Ford Motor Company have looked at that lesson and decided to go and do likewise.

Now I say this as something of a Ford fanboy whose heart beats for the Blue Oval, I really don't like this move. Having been weaned on a diet of motor sport since I were a wee lad, I've learnt that Ford as a company can not be trusted and that people win motor races and championships, despite of and in spite of the Ford Motor Company. The Cortina, Escort, Falcon, Sierra, Escort again, Focus, Fiesta, and Falcon again, have all won various championships after the head office withdrew its support and they were being run by third parties.
What this says though is that the underlying machinery of small Ford cars is mostly brilliant. Now whether they've been engineered in Dagenham, Broadmeadows or Cologne, Ford's smaller cars have been banging out brilliance since 1965. I still pine for my little Ka which was fatally wounded by a lady who ran into the back of me in a Toyota Yaris, because I know that it was the funnest car that I've ever owned. It was like they trapped lightning in a bottle.
Ford Motor Company have taken the extraordinary decision that after looking at all the options, they're going to deny the people of North America the chance to buy properly German engineered motor cars that will wear that Blue Oval, forever. I don't know what the people of North America did to deserve such a fate other than not buy enough small excellent motor cars.

My fear is that if Ford Motor Company decides that Australia is a bit like North America, they're going to deny us the chance to buy properly German engineered motor cars in future as well. They've already decided that we aren't good enough to build and engineer our own motor cars but they'll happily take our money.
As someone who will never ever be in the market for an SUV, because in principle I think that each and every one of them is fundamentally stupid and I'm quietly judging everyone who has one, if Ford decide to go that way in Australia, then there is the distinct possibility that I will never own another new Ford ever again.
I don't know how many people are like me in this respect, for whatever reason but that's the gamble which Ford have made in North America. I will admit that as a business, business does what business does but as a cultural touchstone and one of the great automotive tribes, it's like they're turning their back on their own people.

April 24, 2018

Horse 2403 - MK **** - A **** By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As ****
AFC Wimbledon have been charged with a breach of English Football League regulations following their home match against MK Dons on 22 September.
Wimbledon referred to the away side as Milton Keynes or MK, and did not mention them on their programme cover.
The south-west London club are accused of 'breaching Regulation 3' of the EFL's rules, which say no member should "unfairly criticise, disparage, belittle or discredit" any other club in the league.
Wimbledon had also failed to recognise the MK Dons' name in their very first league meeting at Kingsmeadow, which took place in March this year.
- BBC News 20th Dec 2017.
In December 2017, AFC Wimbledon were charged by the EFL with a breach of Regulations 3.4 and 3.5 and conduct amounting to misconduct, in respect of its actions towards Milton Keynes Dons.
The charge arose from the League One meeting of the two Clubs at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on 22 September 2017, when the home Club was alleged to have not referred to Milton Keynes Dons in an appropriate manner. 
- English Football League, 17th Apr 2018.

The English Football League decided to press disciplinary action against League One side AFC Wimbledon following their match against the scum franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes after both the scoreboard at the ground and the official match program did what I've just demonstrated and did not referred to the latter club by its proper name, back in September of last year.
I have been following this story with interest because both The Football League and MK have acted appallingly in my heavily biased and not very well thought out opinion.

Given that the only reason that this abomination of a football club exists was because the then management stole the club away from south west London to quite literally the most non descript town in the universe, let alone England, with the approval and blessing of the Football League no less, then what kind of terms would they like AFC Wimbledon to refer to them as? Because the appropriate terms which AFC Wimbledon should refer to the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes include the words ****, ****, ***** and ****. Please insert whatever words your filthy, grotty mind can come up with because even then it still wouldn't be enough.
Milton Keynes **** (the word "Dons" has been replaced here because they have no right to it) is the result of a management decision in 2002 to rip the football club out of South London, where it had been since 1889 and move it to a city in Buckinghamshire, some 59 miles away; which from personal experience, is lifeless and soulless.
Forget spending billions of dollarpounds on a mission to Mars to look at a cold dead rock, simply book a train to Milton Keynes and you can achieve the exact same result.

So why the fuss at all? Football after it is all said and done is only a game, with 22 players, green grass and a football. Of itself, it doesn't really have much empirical value. Football and indeed all sports and games, are entertainment which helps to distract us from the march of time and the inevitable slow walk towards the grave.
Humans are very efficient pattern recognition machines. If you collect enough patterns together, you start to build stories. If you collect stories together, you start to build narrative. If you collect narrative and stories together in a giant collective, you start to build community. A football club is the collective product of a community and if there is anything to be bought and sold, then it is the willingness of people to buy into the grand story which built the community. The story and community which had been written around the old Wimbledon FC was one which had taken 113 years to write.
The only issue with moving Wimbledon FC from south London to Milton Keynes is that although you can move a business, you can not move a community which is very much tied to its sense of place. It doesn't matter that management retained the colours and the name Dons, the thing which could not be bought or sold was that community.

The story of AFC Wimbledon is therefore pretty obvious. After having their football team stolen and sold out from underneath them, the fans reacted by holding trials on Wimbledon Common and out of the ashes of the old story, they began to tell a new one. The story of AFC Wimbledon and their rise through the ranks of the Football Conference, is a glorious one and legend was sealed when Seb Brown saved two penalties against Luton Town FC in 2011, to secure promotion in the playoffs, to the Football League proper.
The story of AFC Wimbledon is the story of a community, rebuilding what had been taken away from them and the return to the model of a football club for its fans and owned by its fans. The team which was moved and which is referred to as "the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes" for good reason, has always been resented by the community which has built itself out of the ashes and hence the reason why when the two team played south London, the match program did not name the MK **** the scoreboard did not them either. I've found it interesting to hear on BBC Southern Counties Radio, chants of "Where were you when you were us?" being sung by AFC Wimbledon fans. Football crowds aren't known for their manners at the best of times but sometimes there have been some exceptionally poignant truths to come out of a many thousand voiced choir at one end of a football ground. In this case, this speaks right to the heart of the issue at hand. If a football club is the result of many stories which are built into a community, then what right does a bunch of monied people have to take that away? You can buy a team but you can not buy the community.

When I heard about the Football League reprimanding AFC Wimbledon for not referring to the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes in their official match program and the scoreboard, my brain blew a 15 amp fuse. I find it simply galling that the Football League, which as the overarching organisation which only derives any sense of legitimacy from the collective of the collective narratives, should side with the franchise in this. I mean, part of the anger is directed at the Football League who oversaw the ripping out of the team from south London to that cold dead rock in the middle of nowhere. To then reprimand AFC Wimbledon for daring to protest the obvious abhorrence of playing against something which shouldn't even by rights exist, is terrible.
In advance of the formal proceedings commencing, the EFL has been in communication with both Clubs and, as a result of the positive dialogue, a decision has been taken to drop the charges against AFC Wimbledon on the proviso that all parties will now enter into discussions using their best endeavours to seek to reach an agreed position between the parties for the future. The decision has been supported by Milton Keynes Dons and The Dons Trust Board. 
- English Football League, 17th Apr 2018.

The only position which I would find acceptable if I was a member of The Dons Trust Board, would be if MK drops the name "Dons", which they have no right to. Furthermore, I think that referring to the franchise as MK and nothing more, was on balance the most respectful thing that could have been done given the circumstances; especially when you consider that the town is already locally abbreviated to as "MK".
Retaining the name "Dons" is a reminder of a past which should have never have happened, a reminder of the corporate decision to rip the club from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, and is stupid considering that the franchise has no connection with the people of Wimbledon or the suburb any more. 
I am glad that the Football League did the obvious thing. I hope that MK **** does likewise.

MK **** being relegated and AFC Wimbledon staying up is both a win for the good of the game and for justice in general.

April 23, 2018

Horse 2402 - Fifty Questions

1. What is your middle name?
Thomas - but I suspect that that's doubtful.

2. What is the last thing you ate?
A Banana. I have no idea what kind of banana; only to say that it came from Aldi.

3. What is the last thing you drank?
Earl Grey tea because I'm as posh as all get out, yo.

4. Where did you last go on holiday?
Does Katoomba count? I think so.

5. If you could be any animal, what would you like to be?
I think I'd like to be a lion. They're the king of the beasts and as previously discussed, I'm as posh as all get out, too.

6. If you had ten minutes left to live, what would you do?
I think I'd spend all of it on the telephone, speaking to my wife. If it really was the end of the world at an instant, I imagine that it would come at the most inconvenient moment.

7. If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?
I'm assuming that my wife can save herself; so I'm saving the cats.

8. If you wanted your last words to be truly memorable, what would they be?
I have buried a million dollars in cash somewhere in a Sydney park. (panic digging would then ensue)

9. If it was 1918, what job do you most want in the world?
A newspaper columnist for the great and powerful Times of London.

10. If it was 2118, what job do you most want in the world?
King of Belgium.

11. If you were given a billion dollars, what would you spend it on?
The Holden factory in Elizabeth. I'd start building Tiger motor cars.

12. What crime of infamy would you most likely to commit?
Extreme fraud by being King of Belgium?

13. What is your biggest weakness?
Delusions of grandeur coupled with no discernible abilities in anything.

14. What is your biggest strength?
Delusions of grandeur coupled with no discernible abilities in anything; which means that I'll attempt things without any inherent skill or talent.

15. If you could have dinner with any world leader, who would it be?
Angela Merkel if she can speak conversational English. I think I'd like to speak to someone sensible.

16. If you could have any mystery from history solved, what would it be?
I want to know who the author of the letter to the Hebrews is. I hope that it's Priscilla.

17. If you could swap places with anyone in history for a day, who would it be?
Steven Gerrard.

18. If you could swap places with anyone in history for a day, what day would it be?
21st of September 2013, so that I could score a goal against Southampton, which would have meant that the league table for that season would have changed and Liverpool would have won the 2013/14 league by a point.

19. You have been found guilty of that crime of infamy and have been sentenced to death. What is your last meal?
A Nutella sandwich laced with cyanide.

20. You are only allowed to drive one car for the rest of your life, what is it?
1979 XC Falcon Coupe Cobra, blue with white stripes.

21. If you could have any address in the world, where is it?
10 Downing Street; in Mr Chicken's old house.

22. If you could instantly learn a new skill, what would it be?
Playing the piano to a concert grade.

23. Imagine that you are leaving high school, what message do you put in the high school year book?
I always have the last trump.

24. If you could change the world and eliminate sickness and death, would you do it?
I would have to say "no" on the basis that the Earth would get crowded, that it wouldn't cure people being nasty and horrible to each other, and that although wisdom generally is earned by elderly, innovation is driven by the young.

25. Would you ban pineapple on pizza?
Okay, this is an asterisk filled nightmare. Pineapple on a pizza is allowed if it is coupled with either ham or bacon; in no other instances is pineapple on a pizza sensible. However, people like what they like and they are allowed to be sincerely wrong. So, no ban.

26. Who is the best wizard?
Sir Stanley Matthews - The Wizard of the Dribble

27. What is the best time of day?
04:17am. If I was to wake up then, then I'm consciously aware that I get to go back to sleep.

28. Winter or Summer?
Summer serves no purpose other than to play cricket in. A country like England has no real summer; because they sensibly banned it.

29. If Trump wins the election, would you move to Canada?
Shh. Cache tes pouvoirs, n'en parle pas. Fais attention, le secret survivra.

30. What is your favourite terrible snack?
Toast with cheese spread and then one of those plastic wrapped processed cheese slices put on top; with the whole thing put under the grill so that the cheese spread turns into a gooey sauce and the processed slice on top browns unnaturally.

31. What is the one movie that you would watch over and over again?
Probably "The Great Escape". If I knew every line of that film, I would be even more insufferable than now.

32. Have you seen Star Wars?
Not only have I seen Star Wars but I would compete for The Empire in the Olympic Games if I could, just so I could hear the anthem for winning a gold medal in a rubbish sport.

33. When were you the most scared?
I fell out of a boat once and I can't swim. That was like having liquid death surround me.

34. Can you live without your phone?
I don't have a smart phone; so I'm not tempted to look at it very often.

35. What's a thing from your generation that the kids of tomorrow won't understand?
Putting a pencil in the hole of a cassette to fast forward and rewind it.

36. If you were bitten by a radioactive spider, what superpower would you have?
That would make me Spiderman. I don't think that this question intended to be a comprehension question though. I think I want Batman's superpower of just having a pile of money but I don't think I'd be as dark and brooding as him and instead of being a one man vigilante, I would actually improve Gotham's infrastructure to quell crime.

37. Cats or Dogs?
Dogs are lovable idiots. Dogs are like having a friend who always wants to do things with you. Cats are infinitely selfish. You are friends with a cat on their terms alone. I prefer having an independent actor around. It's cats.

38. Is the enemy of your enemy, your friend?
Not necessarily. They could very well be another enemy.

39. Would you always support your country, even if it was wrong?
My country has done and continues to do evil things. I don't support some of its actions, as it is now.

40. What would your graffiti tag be?
That RX character for medicines.

41. Do you want to build a snowman?
No thanks, I think I'd rather die.
I hear it coming through the floor,
I want to close the door.
I hope it goes away!
It used to be so funny,
And now it's not;
This is the reason why.
Do I want to build a snowman?
I don't want to build a snowman.
Okay, bye.

42. If you could ask the President any one question, what would it be?
At this current moment in time, the one question that I'd want to ask is the one that constitutes perjury and therefore grounds for impeachment.

43. What pun named restaurant would you like to open that gets less funny every time you say it?
Get It India

44. Is the problem of poverty solvable?
No; because the basic underlying problem of infinite human selfishness isn't solvable.

45. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
More than likely in Rome.

46. What is your favourite kind of chicken?
I like my home town hero, the Australorp.

47. Who needs to be quiet for a while?
Kelly O'Dwyer. Seriously, that performance on Insiders was woeful.

48. Who needs to speak up more?
Sally McManus?

49. What do you want to be most remembered for?
I don't. I remember that song which said that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away." I would just like to just fade away.

50. Who is most likely to answer these 50 questions next?
I have no idea.

Tag 6 people and pass this on.

April 18, 2018

Horse 2401 - Thirteen Rules For Roadtrips.

I'm pretty sure that if many of us were given lots of free and untied dollarpounds at our disposal to do with whatever we like, we would spend them on travel and I'm no exception. Of course being the kind of person who likes to be in control of machinery, I would prefer to be driving as my main form of travel as much as I could, rather than being on a plane for hours. Sure, being on a bus, train, ferry, or aeroplane, are fun, they're all passive activities and when it comes to plane travel especially, because there's nothing to look at for extended periods of time, the wonder of literally flying through the air in a metal tube at hundreds of miles an hour, wears off pretty quickly.
Granted that you do get to arrive in exotic places but it's all too much like being confined inside during a wet weekend.
So when I was asked to write the rules for how to do a road trip by a client of mine, whose son had just turned 18 and acquired his P-Plates, I felt like this was well within the realm of my expertise because everyone respects the privileged views of a straight white middle aged man, who they don't know. There's nothing weird or creepy about that except for everything about it.

There are those who would say that going on a roadtrip is almost something of a rite of passage and that once you do manage to acquire the means of mobility, you turn the key and open the door to a new journey of life. To some degree that's true but for me, who has always been obsessed with motor cars even as a small child, it wasn't so much a rite of passage but rather the fulfillment of a need. In the broadest sense, I look at the future of self driving cars with despair and should it come to it, I promise to defy the future and build my own not self driving car. Why should the robots steal my joy?

Speaking from personal experience, the very first thing that I always want to do whenever I get a new car is to immediately put 5000km on the odometer. I really love being behind the wheel watching as the miles are eaten up, as the landscape rises and falls, as that ribbon of black top wends and weaves its way through the hills and mountains, and I love that you get to share the experience with someone else or if you are by yourself, you get many hours to run around inside your own mind.
A roadtrip is the mechanical embodiment of my personal want to run and run and run, even if the seasons of life and its circumstances condemn me from doing so. A friend of mine who has now passed away, absolutely rued and hated the day that he lost his driver's licence because of medical reasons and I understand that entirely. It would be like hacking ones legs off with a chainsaw.

These aren't so much as the rules for roadtrips but general suggestions. It of course should be the domain of youth to tell the old exactly where to go and how to get there, while they still know everything; so I fully expect to be told to get lost.

1. Maps
Unless you are one of those people who likes the solitude of just being at one with the machine, there will be at least one other person in the car. It is the duty of the person in the navigator's seat to know where you are in the world. This might involve Google maps or some other electronic map thing, or if you are old fashioned it might mean a dead tree paper one. Either way, if the navigator is lost, then the driver has to juggle something else in their head, along with the decreasing closing distance to the truck up ahead as well as the moving chess game with everything else on the road.
It definitely helps if you do a fair amount of research first though and at very least try to memorise a basic outline of the highways and main road that you intend to drive on. In Australia we don't have a whole heap of choices because between the major cities there usually are no more than two roads to choose from.

2. Drinks
Coffee and Energy Drinks that taste like nothing remotely natural at all are acceptable if you are one of those people who needs to be constantly caffeinated. However, nobody and I repeat nobody, needs to bring a 2L bottle of anything and neither do they need a slurpee or other drink from a petrol station which is so massive that you can fit your head inside. Motorways especially are long stretches of 110km/h road where they are very few opportunities to stop. If you drink a lot then you can expect to pee a lot and nothing is as annoying as having to stop for a pee break if you otherwise didn't have to. If you are on one of those meandering roads with lots of little towns then please disregard this.
Visit every road house, cafe and rest stop that you come across, and take pee breaks everywhere.
Also, it's worth remembering that if you have a very big cup of sugary pee inducing drink, if you have to stop suddenly, the laws of physics will conspire against you and send both the cup and the liquid flying. Mountain Dew is lovely but not when you have 650mL of the stuff all over you and inside your clothes because it gets uncomfortably sticky.

3. Snacks
I love a good bar. Chocolate, cereal, muesli, heck even a sausage roll or a frankfurt could be called a bar under the loosest of definitions. Things like potato crisps are messy so avoid those, nuts are all right but fiddly, and things that are harder to eat such as a pie or a burger should really only be eaten when the car is stopped. Sandwiches are in the borderlands in this argument.
Also, don't be so precious about the state of mess in the car. This is an unavoidable fact of life. I can guarantee that you will find a wrapper for a Mintie several months and maybe even years after a road trip. If you intend to eat a sausage roll or a pie in the car (because why wouldn't you?) then you should expect to find pastry crumbs forever.

4. Stereo
There is almost always a dispute about the music on the car's stereo so please develop good compromise and negotiation skills. You might really like The Ugly Banshees¹ but nobody else in the car might not be into 16 minute stretches of unorganised prog rock. Comedy programs which you can download from the internet generally go down well; as do geeky brainy things if you are that kind of person. Quite often, the music that you play in the car ends up being the soundtrack for that moment in time.
If music is not your thing, then the long slow breath of cricket becomes the soundtrack of a thousand summers, the siren of the third quarter of an Australian Rules match is yet another chapter of a grand story, and the weird patter of faintly glimmering local radio stations fades in and out as you travel across the land.

5. Danger
Sometimes you will get into a situation which is not fun. The weather can turn nasty in a hurry in some places and this can lead to hostility and angst. Turn the music down. The driver's brain has more important things to do than worry about what Celia K² thinks about the boyfriend that she's either dumped or just picked up (which given the quality of a lot of modern music, she will repeat maybe 60 times in three minutes) Sometimes if you're in particularly heavy rain, then all that you have to work with is the lane markers and the lights of the car in front. In particularly bad rain or fog, sometimes the only thing preventing you from being a smacked in the rear end at 70mph, is you following the thing in front at 70mph. Driving in bad weather conditions is a game of mutual trust between people who can't actually see each other; in fast moving metal boxes with the potential to kill everyone.

6. Itinerary
Don't make one that's so set in stone that it's a whip for your own back. I like the idea of just kind of wandering around the place; stopping at cool things because they're cool. If you're on a road trip, then from the outset you're already on holiday; so you may as well look at the snowman made of tyres, or the sign that vaguely looks rude, or that antique shop, or that lookout over that scenic view which will almost invariably always be disappointing.
The best advice for planning an itinerary is to say that you'll be somewhere on a particular day because any smaller chunk of time like an hour is simply impossible to stick to. If you're travelling for a multiple of hours in a day that extends into double digits, then that's all you are doing that day; that's just the way it is.

7. Restaurant
Never ever stop at a chain restaurant unless it's absolutely necessary. Always eat at the weirdest looking places, the crappiest looking Chinese restaurant (because they're always the tastiest), the darkest and most homeliest looking pub. Even if you happen to eat the most inedible thing in the world, that in itself becomes the story.
If it is any later than about 5 in the afternoon, you should start to think about dinner. If you press on and on too long, then that window of opportunity will close and all that will be left will be chain restaurants and kebab shops but only in the major cities. There are no late night kebab shops out in West Woop Woop.

8. Photographs
I am not necessarily inclined to want to take a bunch of photographs because experience has taught me that if you're wrapped up in worrying about taking photographs, then you miss out on the holiday itself. I'm also not one for taking a bunch of selfies either because everyone who knows me also knows what I look like.
If you are the sort of person who wants to take photographs everywhere, then photos with a person in front of the thing as though they are standing at attention and saying "I am here" tend to be dull. The best photographs on holidays and especially road trips are the ones that people don't expect to be taken or where the intent is to look goofy.
Also, always take photographs of road signs that happen to be significant. Crossing a border into another state or country is always neat.
Photographs of signs that move into the realm of punnery are also acceptable.

9. Market Day
It will happen on a road trip that occasionally you will drive into a town that has had its main street shut down because of the street markets, or perhaps you will find them because you have chosen to seek it out. Every market in existence will have someone selling jams, someone selling jewellery, a clothing seller, food vendors of questionable products, and people claiming to sell you some wonder product. After visiting about three markets you will realise that every single street market is broadly replaceable with every other street market and that all of them are essentially selling tat. I was once in a small country town that openly called it the Tat Fair. You will be disappointed, if you choose to spend your money, it will be disappointing because any and all merchandise will be overpriced. Get used to it.

10. Conversation
I'm assuming that you are going on a road trip with people that you like and have chosen to hang out with. Finding topics of conversation shouldn't be a problem but with any social interaction, the potential to hate each other because you're in close proximity is massive.
Forgive people as quickly as possible.

11. Lane Changing
If you are on the motorway, highway, autobahn, interstate, autostrada etc. Then changing lanes is sometimes a logistical nightmare. You should nominally have committed to changing lanes well before the maneuver is ever made and the 2km marker is generally a pretty good time to think about it.
Wait until you can see at least both headlights of the thing that you're going to move in front of. A big thing needs time and space to pull up in due to the First Law of Motion. It's also not nice to the truck driver, who by the way already thinks that you are a wee little tiddler even if you are driving a two tonne SUV, to steal their braking space.
This is said not so much as kindly advice but as self-preservation. It is even more critical if you are driving in a country where they drive on the other side of the road because your brain isn't wired up with the usual instincts to be that spatially aware. The motorway is a 70mph game of potentially moving death on many sides.

12. Breakdowns
This almost should go without saying but seeing as the capacity for human stupidity is infinite, then I need to spell this out.
Get Breakdown coverage.

If you're not already covered by the RAC, The AA, NRMA, Green Flag, or some other breakdown coverage organisation, then get this before you leave. Batteries will suddenly decide to fail, sensors and electrics will instantly terminate themselves, the engine management computer will commit a divide by zero error, and if you're Australia, the chances of encountering a kangaroo or an emu with a death wish only increases with the number of miles that pass; according to the law of large numbers. I was once camping overnight at a place and a wombat took exception to the fact that we had inadvertently parked the car in its usual desire trail; so it decided to go all Bruce Wombat Lee on one of the car's tyres.
We also joked about making a documentary series called Patto's World Of Breakdowns³ in which we'd go on a world tour of all the places that my mate Patto broke down in his '89 Laser.

13. Local Newspaper
Okay, I know that mostly the local newspaper is full of stories about angry people pointing at things and local action groups where people have been photographed wearing t-shirts that they've hastily thrown over the top of their regular clothes but here me out. The local newspaper is the curmudgeonly beating heart of a small town. It will report that the Coodabean Champions lost 7.11.53 to the Kickastikalong Tigers 12.9.81, that the Brinyagrogalong Park now has a new playset for the children, and that Kylie O'Bogan of class 6E has won a maths olympiad and is off to the big smoke to compete in a national competition which literally nobody in the town except for her mum, Kylie O'Bogan, but pay attention. The local newspaper has just enough information for the careful observer, not to look like a total frou-frou. If you are at the Imperial Hotel and sampling the local nectar, you will be looked on with suspicion.

Take heed of my ramblings oh young 'un, or don't. Wisdom is won by the wise through experience and can never be inherited. Always assume that you know better than the rest of the world while you are young, so that you will attempt the stupid and the daft because at  the end of it all, roadtrips are mostly about accumulating stories and the best stories come about almost by accident.
Plan nothing but plan to have a plan about planning nothing.

¹There isn't a band called The Ugly Banshees but it would be cool if there was.
²There also isn't an artist called Celia K. Her new synth pop album called "Celia K's Disease" also doesn't exist; if did, it would be quite irritating to my ears. Dance music in nightclubs has changed in the last five years or so and is less adventurous than it was.
³Patto isn't his real name. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. Also, to the people of Mildura who woke up that morning in 1997, that fire hydrant which had "fallen over" and was flooding the high street, was absolutely not the result of an '89 Laser rolling down the hill because the handbrake was faulty. 

April 17, 2018

Horse 2400 - Prelude to Armageddon - A Tournament Of Lies?

If you were to listen to the BBC World Service, you'd get the sense that the ongoing conflict in Syria is a series of tragic events, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians. The Syrian Civil War is far from civil and is a complex web of multiple nastiness by many actors.
If you were to listen to Fox News though, or that insane ranty shoutbox called InfoWars (which someone directed me to look at before I wrote this), you'd get the impression that the conflict in Syria is the opening prelude to the beginning of Armageddon. In this strange strange worldview, Syria and Russia are joining forces before they march on Israel and only America is capable of saving Israel. Everything is going to get immediately worse, Putin is the Great Satan, the world is going to worship him and only America can truly see what's going on.
The only thing that I could think of after watching this kind of stuff was...

Team by team, reporters baffled, Trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then,
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group
But it'll do, save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the Right, right?
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light;
Feeling pretty psyched
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Now that we've had some earthquakes, birds and snakes and aeroplanes, and I have dreamt about knives, Continental (cup-a-soup), the drift divide and mountains all in a line, the conditions for REM's song "The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" have been met and now we can start worrying ourselves into a state of panic.

Unlike in 1962 when Kennedy and Kruschev were engaged in a geopolitical game of waving banners all over the place, with the threat of nuclear war, today's leaders are even more insane than that. Vladimir Putin looks like something out of a 1960s advertisement for cigarettes and is frequently photographed with no shirt on, Donald J Trump is a previously bankrupted property developer turned reality TV star who still hasn't worked out that the Presidency is not a reality TV show, Bashar Assad is a nutbag who may or may not have gassed his own people, and other bit part players such as Kim Jong Un, Emmanuel Macron, Teresa May and our own Malcolm Turnbull, are all either overwhelmed, or just plain barbarous. Donald Trump who launched missiles at sites in Syria after supposed chemical attacks by Assad upon his own people (the first casualty of war is truth), has attracted the ire of Russia; which may or may not be a thing.
Putin as far as I'm aware has said nothing but RT is chalking this up as a case of unwarranted American aggression.
I'm afraid that there are so many layers of nastiness to all of this that I don't really understand most of what's going on other than to say that whatever happens, as an Australian citizen, my government will back up the United States to the hilt; no matter how I'll conceived and half baked the plans are (if indeed there are any).
Considering that Russia was seen by many futurologists as either the great Gog or Magog coming out of the north of Israel, and that Syria is also to the north of Israel, and the United States basically has an open cheque policy on Israel to fund whatever ill conceived and half baked plans that it might have (Israel is hardly an innocent party to a lot of the antagonism directed at it), then I'm half tempted to consider the idea of Armageddon.

Armageddon, or Tel Maggido, is basically a boring plains land in the north of the modern state of Israel. You can find it on Google maps if you like.
Because the Bible became a common cultural touchstone across the western world, then the Battle of Armageddon quite apart from any spiritual connotations that it might have, is a placeholder for the battle at the end of the world. I find it both interesting and downright terrifying that in the space of a weekend, I've heard the name Armageddon bandied about as if America's dropping of bombs upon Syria is somehow righteous.
Forgive my incredulity at this point but I very much doubt that Donald Trump is the saviour of anything, I doubt that Vladimir Putin is the Antichrist, and although I've seen the bombs rain down on Damascus I have my doubts on the validity of Bashar Assad having used chemical weapons on his own people. It could be completely true but having lived through the Second Gulf War which was started on the basis of intelligence which was later found to be made up, it really wouldn't surprise me to learn that the intelligence here was also dodgy. When you have someone as volatile as Donald Trump in charge, who might be facing his own troubles relating to his own presidency, then please forgive my caution in believing what's been put in front of me.
I also don't want to dismiss the thoughts that Putin or Assad are terrible either. Assad could very well have used chemical weapons against his own people and the nation of Syria itself is racked with about a dozen pro and anti government supporting factions, as well as ISIS still running around causing its own mayhem and destruction. The problem that I have is that between the sources on the ground being confused and the ability of news reporting outlets to be equally as confused, then truth is an incredibly murky thing to look at, let alone see through.

Assuming that Assad did use chemical weapons on his own people, then I guess that Trump ordering airstrikes along with co-ordinated help from France and Britain, is trying in part to draw a line somewhere in this conflict. Nobody in the west wants to be drawn into yet another protracted conflict with no answer and where it is difficult to tell who is on what side anyway. When you have multiple sides in an argument and most of them are wrong, you don't really want to step in and correct anyone. By ordering airstrikes, Trump has drawn that line in such a place as to say that his administration will not tolerate this particular kind of evil but doesn't want to deal with the rest of it. This is like smacking the odd hornet with a rolled up newspaper but leaving the nest alone.

Returning to the metaphor of Armageddon though, although I don't think that the latest round of airstrikes will result in anything other than banner waving and sabre rattling from western powers, I do think that for the people who live in Syria, you may as well call it Armageddon. When a bomb falls out of the sky, who cares what the motivation of the state who dropped it was? The destruction of your house, your possessions, and people who are nearest and dearest to you, basically is the end of the world. I don't really know if airstrikes in retaliation against chemical attacks is either justified or warranted, if it's based on completely real or made up information, but I do know that even if it was justified according to a set of objectives, I absolutely refuse to accept that it was in any way righteous.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the only voice that I've heard who I agree with was Jeremy Corbyn who demanded that Theresa May put up a defence as to why the RAF joined military strikes in Syria without first consulting parliament. Corbyn who seems actually concerned with the plight of the poor people who've had their houses and lives to pieces, quite rightly questioned the legitimacy of Syria strikes and told the the House of Commons* that Theresa May is accountable to the UK parliament, 'not the whims of the US president'.
Last night’s UN Security Council’s resolution must be a first step towards a comprehensive political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is essential to defeating the threat from Isis.
Labour will consider any proposals the government brings forward, including its response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report opposing British air strikes in Syria
- Jeremy Corbyn’s statement on the United Nations involvement in the Syria crisis, 16th Apr 2018

That's where the real tragedy of all of this is. While we're all busy beating the war drums, during the ongoing conflict in Syria, it may as well be Armageddon because if the end of the world happens at the end of the world or next week, what's the difference? Meanwhile the tragic irony of this is that I think that people would prefer to be in Armageddon at the moment. Armageddon is a boring mound overlooking peaceful plains as far as the eye can see.