October 20, 2014

Horse 1779 - The Silent Generation

I was watching CNN's documentary series "The Sixties" on SBS One, and in particular the episode about the space program and the Apollo missions. One engineer said that:
"My generation is the generation which changed the moon from an object to a place."
That sounded to me like this chap had tickets on himself and (probably quite rightly) wanted to give himself and his generation a giant pat on the back.

It's an interesting thought though. All twelve men who walked on the moon, all of their ground crews, flight engineers, mission controllers, spacecraft fabricators etc. were all members of the Silent Generation.
The Silent Generation precedes the Baby Boom and comprises those people born between 1930 and 1945. This is the generation that was born and grew up during the depression and the Second World War but were too young to have fought in the war - that generation was previous one again, with the imposing name of the Greatest Generation.

Think about this, the epitomes of cool James Dean and Steve McQueen, were both members of Silent Generation and arguably the cultural high-water mark of both the teenager and coolness happened with the film "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955, which came out when the earliest of the Baby Boomers were turning 9 years old.
The civil rights movement, women's liberation, the moon landings, the beginnings of widespread air travel with the Boeing 707 then 747 and even Concorde, were all the doings of the Silent Generation.

It's interesting to think (well at least I think) that practically all of the coolest cars in history were designed, styled and built for the Silent Generation.
The 1959 Mini, 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, 1959 Cadillac de Ville, 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 1954 Jaguar D-Type, 1961 Jaguar E-Type, 1964 Ford Mustang and 1964 Ford Cortina.
I take particular note of those last two because in 1964, the first of the Baby Boomers were turning 18 years old, and although the cars which followed in the 1960s and 1970s were more "modern" and even a few of them were quite cool, it is as though the Silent Generation had closed the door of coolness behind them.

What I find really strange is what happened when the Silent Generation began to assume power. They whole scale destroyed everything. The first of Silent Generation turned 50 in 1980 and under Prime Ministers Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard in Australia and Thatcher and Major in Britain, the trophy cabinet was upturned and all the silverware sold for sixpence and a pocket full of rye.
After living through a period of unprecedented economic growth, the policies which followed were to rip up the road behind them. Curiously, there have been no Silent Generation Presidents of the United States. I don't know what that means exactly but there was a jump from Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 who were all Greatest Generation presidents to Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama who are Baby Boomers.

The comment that "My generation is the generation which changed the moon from an object to a place" may have been true for a short period in history but in December 1972, the place turned back into an object. The door of coolness remains firmly shut.

October 18, 2014

Horse 1778 - Some Remarks on "Paperback Writer"

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Book editors and people who accept manuscripts, will generally have a stock of material called a "slush pile". I have heard it said that some of them will only read through the first few lines of a work and the decide based on that, whether or not the book is worth publishing.

Even the whole process of getting novels to print in an increasingly digital market place is becoming ever so more difficult. I would expect that in most circumstances that Mr McCartney's book would either remain unread, or met with a rejection letter like the ones that a certain beagle may have met with:
"Dear contributor, thank you for submitting your story. We regret that it does not suit our present needs. If it ever does, we’re in trouble."

Many novels meet with rejection letter after rejection letter and so, it can be like repeatedly banging your head against the wall. Have you thought about self-publishing? Thanks to that same digital revolution which has rendered the traditional bookstore a dying breed, self-published books no longer carry that air of desperation that they used to. If this is your first novel (it took you "years to write") then this might be the way to go.

The only Lear that I have heard of was either a pre-Roman Celtic king who may or may not have been legend or the 19th century writer, Edward Lear who was mainly known for his literary nonsense.
The problem with either of these explanations is that neither King Lear or Edward Lear actually wrote any novels; Edward Lear's work was mainly poetry and journal work. Maybe Mr McCartney speaks of some other Lear of otherwise unheralded fame. If so, is Mr McCartney openly admitting plagiarism or theft of work?

It's a dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
Their son is working for the Daily Mail,
It's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

This is vague. Does the dirty man with the dirty story want to be the paperback writer, or does his son who is working for the Daily Mail want to be the paperback writer?

This aside, given the Daily Mail's reputation for generating moral outrage on every single page, or its online version with the now infamous "sidebar of smut", the dirty story is either going to be a tale of intrigue where someone is exposed or it will just be a tawdry story of filth. Could you please elaborate which it is?
If I was the publisher, this would probably end up being the blurb for the back of the book. A description this vague would do well because it doesn't really give the plot away at all but still leaves you with enough of a question to make you think about parting with your money.

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few,
I'll be writing more in a week or two.
I can make it longer if you like the style,
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" chimes in at 989 pages, James Joyce's "Ulysees" is no pushover at 933 pages; both are hefty tomes which even in paperback, if they hit you in the back of the head after being lofted at you, would give you a headache. "A thousand pages" isn't a small novel, it's a mighty epic.

Does it really need to be longer? It sounds on the face of hit that it might be prolifically prosaic and may need to have massive chunks taken out of it. Can you retain the feel of a thousand pages by making it quicker? Would you have a snappier and harder-hitting story with the benefit of an editor and a redraft?

If you really like it you can have the rights,
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it, you can send it here
But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

This is something of a cultural give-away. In the 1960s, maybe writers only really had one manuscript but now all one needs to do is print off copies as demanded,

I'm not sure about promising the rights to a work that easily though. Writers like to retain copyright and arrange contracts later; once the work goes into print. Given though that this is Paul McCartney presumably who has written this book and he was pretty well much at the height of his fame at the time. the claim that "it could make a million for you overnight" might have a fair ring of truth about it. How many of the screaming girls that are seen in newsreels of the day would have snapped up copies of this book? I think that it could have easily passed the 1 million copy mark within a week.

October 17, 2014

Horse 1777 - Wanna Be Lord Mayor Of Sydney? Just Buy The Council

Did anyone else notice this recently? I did... and I'm scared.

The objects of this Bill are:
(d) to provide that if a corporation is the owner, ratepaying lessee or occupier of rateable land
in the City of Sydney, the corporation may nominate 2 natural persons to be enrolled as
electors instead of the corporation.
- City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014

The City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 was introduced by Robert Borsak of the Fishers and Shooters Party into the Legislative Council (upper house) where it passed easily. All it needs now is approval from the lower house and that's it - the doors are open. If you wanted to, you could BUY democracy. I don't mean through bribery either. I mean just buy the necessary requirements so that you'd have a majority of votes in your own right; you can't bribe yourself, can you?

Step 1- Buy 100,000 companies.
Proprietary limited companies can be hard fairly cheaply. Just out of curiosity I asked our company "manufacturer" how much 100,000 companies would cost. Including ASIC registration fees, they said that they'd be happy to do that for $25.5m.

Step 2 - Subdivide An Office.
I rang the City of Sydney Council this morning and they explained that there is no legislated minimum space for office accommodation - so far so good. If our theoretical office space was only 1cm² per company, then the space needed for 100,000 companies is only 10m². The stamp duty of transferring a piece of office space which is only 10m² in size is quite minimal.

Step 3 - Register 100,000 companies as occupiers of rateable land.
Since companies are separate persons at law, then registering them all as occupiers would then entitle you to 200,000 votes in City of Sydney Council elections, which given that there are only currently 165,000 people in the local government area, instantly entitles you to an outright majority by yourself and one other person.


If the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 passes and makes it into law, then it's entirely possible to just outright buy every single seat on the council for less than $30m. $30m is chicken feed to some of the bigger corporations which live within the local government area of the City of Sydney.
Admittedly this bill amends the City of Sydney Act 1988; so would only extend to the council elections for the City of Sydney itself but there isn't any real reason why it could be expanded to other councils, or even state or federal parliament.

Okay, this is hyperbole and probably won't happen but if you were a property owning corporation like Shopping Centres Australasia, AMP, Knight Frank, Lend-Lease etc. it would be seriously worth considering. If you wanted a 70 storey office block somewhere, why would the council object to it if you owned an outright majority of votes in council elections? You just just nominate every single councillor.

The underlying reason why this insipid piece of legislation was even brought before the house I suspect, is that secretly a group of people wanted the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, Clover Moore, who is an independent, gone.
I think that Robert Borsak was probably put up to it by someone else because I can not possibly see any reason why someone from the Fishers and Shooters Party would want to enact legislation like this - it's not like there are any wild deer running through the Pitt Street mall which need to be culled. Maybe there's some sort of metaphor here in that Mr Borsak just wants to take aim and pick off Clover Moore.

I personally hate the fact that non-corporeal persons would get any vote in a democracy, much less two. Owners of companies already get their say at the ballot box, so why should they deserve another? It complete destroys the notion of "One Person, One Vote" and although having a vote might be almost passée to us, a shade over a hundred years ago, people picketed and marched in the streets for the franchise.

The City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 is a bill which actively seeks to disenfranchise people by diluting their voting power. If I can show fairly easily how one can simply buy all the necessary votes to take every seat on the council and take the position of the Lord Mayor; without much effort, then this stomps democracy into the ground.
Democracy - it was fun whilst it lasted.

October 16, 2014

Horse 1776 - iWatch?

Apple Watch is everything we think a watch should be. And it's available in three distinctive collections.
- via the Apple Store Website

I usually don't do tech reviews on this blog (because I know next to nothing about the latest iDevice 320GHz with IEEE 802.11 and 32-bit cheese waffle - hmm yummy) but if there's one piece of technology that I know loads about, it's watches.

What's everything that I think a watch should be?
Reliable at telling time - that's it.

One of the things which I'll love about an Apple Watch is that because it will have GPS and be able to search for the local telephone networks for the time; that is a plus. The time would always be correct for whatever time zone you happen to be in; where ever you are in the world. In that respect, the Apple Watch would leave my old watch in the digital dust, however the opening word of my criteria is highly important - reliable. Can an Apple Watch ever be as reliable as I demand?

I have a Seiko watch which I bought back in 1997. Since then I've only needed a few batteries to keep it running and despite the fact that it isn't waterproof any more, it still keeps time accurately enough that if I set it either to or from daylight savings time, it will be within one or two seconds of the pips on the radio several months later.
For me to spend several hundred dollars on a watch, it would have to be at least as good as that. There are very few electrical devices which have been produced since about 1980 which will even last 17 years.
The abuse that my watch has had to endure in that time frame must have been immense. It has several scratches and a very nice chip in the glass, near the nine minute baton. I feel kind of an attachment to my existing watch and so a new one would have to meet the second criteria, which is really a retelling on the first one. Reliability in that respect would mean that the product is physically tough enough to survive the rigours of life.

One of the things that would really get my goat, is having to recharge an Apple Watch every night. My mobile phone will semi-regularly whinge at me that it wants its batteries recharged and that's kind of annoying. I think that in the 17 years that I've had my Seiko, I've needed maybe three replacement batteries? What ever the number actually is, the inaudible and noiseless foot of time has stolen by, ere we cannae effect it.

On the plus side, I've gradually found the usefulness of having a camera in a phone but a camera isn't the reason that I have a phone. Yes, that's trite but it does illustrate a point - the biggest problem that an Apple Watch faces is that people already have iPhones.
Apple is touting a service Apple Pay as their "killer app" which will bring the Apple Watch into consumers' minds but the problem with that is that Apple Pay will work just as well on an iDevice. What incentive is there for them to buy it? Maybe the Apple Watch is for people like me who'd like to ditch their phone altogether but until you can make telephone calls on an Apple Watch, there's little point.

When my Seiko does finally expire and die, the most obvious replacement for it would be another Seiko. The Grand Seiko 9F looks fairly similar to the Seiko that's been sitting on my wrist since 1997. To knock that sort of style off my wrist would have to mean that the Apple Watch is pretty stellar because everything that I think a watch should be, I already have.

October 15, 2014

First 100 Brady Numbers


A proper explanation is here:

Horse 1775 - A Crime Of Wide Stance

There is a crime being perpetrated by one half of the population virtually every single day and it is horrible and heinous. It is so horribly hostile that it should be considered for inclusion in the Crimes Act 1914 or if not, ASIO or the AFP should be given powers to detain and hold people indefinitely who continue to commit it.
Before I betray the side of the gender divide which I'm a member of, I'd like to say that I admit that I am a Judas sheep; I am leading us all towards the slaughter and I'm quite unrepentant about this, if it improves society.

In Sydney where we sit two and three abreast on trains and on buses, the issue isn't quite so bad as London's tube or New York's subway but still, there really is no excuse for this crime at all.
I refer to the crime of sitting with one's legs spread wide apart.

In days of yore, when ladies wore dresses and skirts, they acquired a skill and etiquette demanded that they sit with their knees together for fear of exposing their smalls to the world.
In contrast, there are some men who appear to have an unfulfilled desire and urge to sit atop some steed or possibly a motorbike and have never picked up on this skill. I've seen some chaps on their train with their legs so wide apart, it is almost as though they think that they are like some precarious tower which might fall over at any moment. That might be acceptable if your name is Alexandre Gustave Eiffel but not if you're Barry McBarry living in Guildford.

I imagine that the reasons put up as an excuse for this is that men-folk think that they're trying to protect or ventilate some special equipment but isn't this mere vanity?
It's kind of bad having to sit next to such people and seeing as though I'm a somewhat slender chap, I find it annoying to be forced to surrender what little space I occupy. It's worse when you're between two such people or jammed up against the side of the train; possibly being stabbed by someone's keys or marinated in sweat.
Before you accuse me of suffering from haphephobia (the fear of being touched), does anyone even care about other people's personal space any more? Seats on trains and buses are helpfully delineated and so there really shouldn't be any excuse for crossing over into someone else's private country amidst the teeming masses.

Nor am I suggesting that people are as fragile as bone china or fine pottery and that if we brush against each other, we risk damaging some metaphorical glaze but likewise, the violation of other people's territory however temporary isn't good.
Even in the supermarket when our groceries have finished being placed onto the conveyor belt at the checkout, there is a great deal of satisfaction in slamming down that plastic divider between our stuff and the next person's. It is exactly the same as when Farmer Giles yells "Get off my land!".

This issue becomes even worse over the next coming months as Sydney has days on which the mercury decides to head so far north that it ends up on the wrong side of 40° and trouser hems ascend. The view of ten-thousand pasty knees and hairy legs are bad enough without men-folk also taking up unnecessary space and trying to simultaneously put one foot in Darwin and the other in Dandenong.
Knees together chaps. How hard can it be?

October 14, 2014

Horse 1408a - A Letter to Boring Boring Adelaide

Dear Adelaide,

In a strange sort of way, I take a degree of perverse pleasure from the knowledge that the folks from the "Another Boring Thursday Night In Adelaide" podcast¹ have deemed me worthy enough to have my visa revoked by the Adelaide Visa Council in their latest episode². I've even made their list of rejected visas³.
For me it's akin to the Hobbits of The Shire, writing to the High-Consulate of Mordor. Adelaide is a bit like The Shire in that it's a little removed from the happenings elsewhere but I suppose that since Adelaide City Council does provide free Wi-Fi, they are aware that there is a world outside.

On behalf of the people of Sydney, I accept this award. In return we do not revoke your visa but instead allow free passage to our city or even to migrate here.
We'd welcome you to our mechanical zoo, where we know nothing about fashion or culture but "isn't the harbour pretty?". We welcome you with open arms and wish you well, as we would all refugees escaping hardship, or the ceaseless and silent drudgery of ennui.

We would warn you though that you may suffer from the effects of jet-lag and or possibly time-travel sickness. I once took a train from Womma Railway Station (which confusingly isn't in a suburb called Womma) to the city one evening, and an announcement came over the speakers which said that the train would arrive at 1938. That was odd because when I got to Adelaide Railway Station, it looked more like the mid-1970s.

Love, Rollo.

PS:If you do come to Sydney, please bring Sherrins - people here need education. Although we have two pretend football teams here (the Swans and Giants), most of the people here seem to be obsessed with some form of organised barbarism with involves throwing a ball sideways and running into each other. I haven't worked out what the point of this is, or indeed if there is one.


Addenda: The post which started all of this:

Horse 1774 - I Wanna Know About Ununennium (119)

Back in Horse 1684 I asked what chemical elements 117 and 118 should be Called. In this post, allow me to speculate messily about the place and ask questions about something which I know very little about indeed.

Chemical element 119 which is either currently known as eka-Francium or more correctly Ununennium does not yet exist. It lies pretty close to what is predicted to be in a so-called island of stability, where the predicted number of protons and neutrons which inhabit the nucleus produce something which has far longer half lives than lighter elements. Many transuranium elements such as Livermorium (116) have half-lives measured ony in milliseconds and this island of stability it is hoped, will produce bigger elements that least hang around long enough to attempt to study.
Just assuming for a second (or possibly shorter depending on the half-life), what happens in a world where things don't spontaneously fall to bits? I wonder about the working chemistry of very big things. Does it work the same way?

Presumably, Ununennium has an electron configuration of 2, 8, 18, 32, 32, 18, 8, 1, and that outermost electron because it is so very very far away from the nucleus, would make it very easy to give up in a chemical reaction. A +1 oxidation state like all the other alkali metals (group 1) would make it quite acquiescent to form salts with halogens for instance.

I don't know if chemicals like UueF or UueCl (Ununennium Floride, Ununennium Chloride) which presumably would display ionic bonding, because the Ununennium is so massive (maybe more than 160 pm in radius) would also be polar because of so many electrons hanging about the Ununennium nucleus.
Would it also be valid for Ununennium Nitrate (UueNO3)?

Richard Feynman using the relativistic Dirac equation and the Bohr model suggests that at anything beyond element 137 (Untriseptium - Uts) that electrons would have to exceed the speed of light. Mind you, John Wheeler's one-electron universe guess, which suggested that one electron skips through time and space kind of bends the rules somewhat.
If you were to drop down Group one of the periodic table to element 165 (Unhexpentium - Uhp) could you also get supermassive salts like UhpF, UhpCl or UhpNO3? Could you have something weird like Ununennium Peroxide (Uue2O2)?

From what I've seen of the existing Group 1 metals (Lithium, Sodium, Potassium etc) they're all pretty reactive and also quite malleable. Superman might have been able to bend steel in his bare hands but even I could bend a bar of Sodium in mine. I bet that you could (if you were somehow able to make a nice big chunk of the stuff), slice a piece of Ununennium in two wit' bread knife.

Please leave some comments, I wanna know stuff. I'm sure that if you send me something about Ununennium, you're bound to get a reaction.

October 13, 2014

Horse 1773 - The Tax Implications Of Owning A Death Star

One of our clients is a very successful businessman and owns an expensive sports car (you know who you are). He'd removed the badges from it and replaced them with the badge of the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars.
He was putting questions to us about the most cost effective way to keep certain assets, whether to buy, lease or hire purchase them and the question came up about some massive theoretical asset - it isn't very hard to guess which one either.

What would the taxation implications be for the Death Star?
Initially, I think probably none.

The real problem that I have with the question of the tax implications of a DS-1 Orbital Battle Station (to use its proper name, thank you very much) isn't to do with depreciation or capital gains tax but the general principle of deductibility laid out in Section 8 of the Tax Act:

You can deduct from your assessable income any loss or outgoing to the extent that:
(a) it is incurred in gaining or producing your assessable income; or
(b) it is necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of gaining or producing your assessable income.
- Section 8, Income Tax Assessment Act 1997

In order to claim any deductions relating to the operation of your "Death Star", I would argue that it has to be employed in a business operation of some sort and that that business operation is for the purpose of gaining or producing income. Considering that the purpose of the Death Star is to do death, it might be hard to show that you were engaged in a business which does that. I don't know though, is there a viable market for hitmen for hire?
Various occupation codes can be found for military personnel but the military and mercenary forces aren't included as industry codes to go into a company tax return. The nearest thing I can up with is 48100 which is for "Ship charter, lease or rental" but that assumes that one can lease the Death Star to do death.

Then there's the problem that I'm not entirely sure that if you held an DS-1 Orbital Battle Station as an asset for some mercenary force, who you'd be able to use it against. Using it against targets in Australia night be construed as an act of treason because the giant turbolaser would blow up the entire earth and assuming that you did manage to find someone who wanted to hire it, you might run foul of the The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 when it passes into law or even the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Whilst section 8 does allow deductions against income from illegal activities, the whole question does become fraught with complications really quickly.

Could you write it off as a depreciable asset?
The answer to this is "probably not". The reasons though aren't all that straight forward.

Okay, we already know that Tax deductions can be claimed for depreciable assets, and certain capital works; so it would then become a matter of knowing a few things about the asset. Knowing the purchase cost and the written down book value would be helpful for a start. That might be rather expensive though.

Writers at the economics blog Centives calculated that just buying enough steel to make a Death Star would cost $852 quadrillion (that's 852 with with 15 zeroes after it) -- roughly 13,000 times the world's gross domestic product – and, at current rates of steel production, would not be ready for more than 833,000 years.
- International Business Times, 14th Jan 2013

Once you have worked out your cost base though, the answer is surprisingly simple. The ATO advises that if there is an asset which exists which is not on their lists, then looking for something that's roughly equivalent is a reasonable assumption.

A DS-1 Orbital Battle Station because it is movable and carries many people, would probably be classified by the ATO as some sort of vehicle and I don't think that's unreasonable. If you had a commercial operation which used space shuttles put satellites into orbit, then that would most certainly be classified as a vehicle.
The ATO lists passenger aircraft, big lorries, railway trains and ships as all having an effective life of 30 years; so it's to reasonable assume that an Orbital Battle Station would probably also have an effective life of 30 years.

If you have worked out your cost base and the effective life of the asset, then you can either use the Prime Cost or Diminishing Value method to work out what amount of depreciation expense is appropriate.

What about Capital Gains Tax?
The thing is that Capital Gains Tax also doesn't actually apply to depreciating assets used solely for taxable purposes, such as business equipment or fittings in a rental property.
Also, Capital Gains Tax only came into effect on 20th September 1985, and because the opening crawl of Star Wars which came out in 1977 states: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." it is safe to assume that the asset existed before 20th September 1985 and is therefore CGT-exempt anyway.

So there you go. You have an asset which it's difficult to prove exists in an income producing capacity, which might be depreciable and probably isn't subject to tax on capital gains.
It would actually be easier to try and depreciate the USS Enterprise which you could claim was on a 5 year mission to acquire mining rights and mining information, in boldly going where no one has gone before.

Forget trying to depreciate a TARDIS. That device can't even be reliably tied down to any given calendar year and so would probably fail a standard 183-day residency test.

Additional Addenda:
Daleks would be incredibly useful for a firm like Flick Anticimex and other pest control businesses. They wouldn't just rid properties of pests like rats, roaches and roos, they'd...

October 12, 2014

Horse 1772a - Ford Drives Off Into The Sunset - But Does It Win?

After being excluded from final qualifying, Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris have taken their works Falcon to victory in the Bathurst 1000. Having started in dead last, 26th of 26, they only led a single lap of the 1000km torture test, which saw Red Bull Racing's Jamie Whincup surrender the lead after being short of fuel and having to conserve just to make it home.
This was the first win for both Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris and Ford Performance Racing have scored back-to-back victories with Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards having won it last year.

I commented in Ford's waning commitment to motorsport in Horse 1772 and I especially saw the irony in this advert which ran on Channel 7 late in the race:

Further details are here:

We’re so confident that you’ll prefer a Ford that we’re willing to bet $200 on it. Test Drive any Ford (excluding FPV) and, if you then decide to buy a new competitor car, we’ll give you $200*. But if you choose the Ford – as we’re sure you will – you’ll get a $500 bonus off the purchase price.
- Ford Australia, Test Drive Challenge website.

What a slap in the face for Ford Performance Racing. Ford have decided to defund the team who has just won the biggest motorsport prize in Australia (Yes, Bathurst is bigger than the championship) and just after they'd won, they've paid for an advert dancing on the embers of the Australian car industry.
The Ford Ranger which we'll get in Australia is built in Rayong, Thailand.

I wonder, will Ford Australia be willing to give what will be ex-Ford Performance Racing $200 for test driving a Falcon? Will FPR even be driving Falcons in 2015?

"I want you to make up your own mind... " That line sort of seems hollow now.

October 11, 2014

Horse 1772 - Not For The First Time, Ford Drives Off Into The Sunset

If you'd seen the back page of the Daily Telegraph yesterday, you would have seen this:

Bathurst 1000 2014: Ford to be killed off V8 Supercars circuit at end of 2015, ending iconic rivalry with Holden.
FORD is dead according to high level V8 Supercars officials with Australia’s greatest sporting rivalry to be killed off by the end of next year.
In a Bathurst bombshell delivered on the week the last GT Falcon was built, The Daily Telegraph can reveal Ford are set to axe V8 Supercars from their $60 million sponsorship war chest in a move that will end iconic Ford v Holden Mount Panorama racing war.

With the Falcon already dead and waiting to be buried, V8 officials have been told Ford will officially quit the sport at the end of the year and will not renew a multi-million dollar year deal with reigning Bathurst champions Ford Performance Racing (FPR).
- James Phelps, (Exclusive) Herald-Sun, 10th Oct 2014

Later on Phelps goes on to say that:
The Daily Telegraph has been told six Ford Falcons have been confirmed to race in next year’s series with both FPR and Penske-DJR to hit the grid with the new FGX that will not be funded by Ford.

But there's some really strange photographs throughout the piece including Dick Johnson's 1981 Tru-Blu Falcon and Marcos Ambrose's 2001 Pirtek Falcon; neither of which carried any backing from the Ford factory.
Here underlies one of the strangest tales of Australian motorsport, the fact that Ford as a manufacturer comes and goes as it pleases.

The Ford Works Team began in 1962 and ran various makes including the Zephyr, Cortina and Falcon. Ford's official end of their works team came in 1973 when they left their then favourite son Allan Moffat, in the lurch; who set up his own racing team.

Ford again kind of came to the party in 1977 and 1978 maybe? This a relationship that I don't really understand and is kind of hard to research more than three and a half decades later - between Ford and Allan Moffat Racing. The official entrants lists state "Moffat Ford Dealers" and I don't know whether that implies if Allan Moffat Racing had backing from the factory or a dealer network.
For 1979 Moffat's effort was weakened and by 1981, Allan Moffat Racing had become the factory team for Mazda.

Ford's official involvement in motorsport went totally cold from 1980 right through the era when Dick Johnson Racing ran Falcons, Mustangs and then Sierras, until the change to V8 regulations in 1993, when they threw some support behind Dick Johnson Racing.

Ford through its financial services arm Ford Credit, sponsored Glenn Seton Racing from 1996 and then officially partnered with Tickford Vehicle Engineering in 1999. This wouldn't last and in 2002 Ford backed Gibson Motorsport and at the end of the year, with British motorsport firm Prodive, bought out Glenn Seton's team to form Ford Performance Racing, which is what exists today; soon to be defunded later this year.

Get all that?

Ford have come and gone, depending on which way the wind blows, unlike Holden who have directly funded a motorsport team with a gap of about two years from late 1986 to mid 1988, ever since 1969.

Even on the world's stage, Ford are a capricious creature. Cosworth Engineering which produced the most successful engine in Formula One and derived from a Ford engine; had an on again - off again relationship with Ford who were keen to put their name on it, when it was expedient for marketing purposes.
Ford's rally commitments have ranged from full-backing to non-existent and they displayed outright anger and contempt for Ferrari when Enzo Ferrari refused to sell them his company. They retaliated by throwing money at Lola Cars and engineer John Wyer to produce the Ford GT40 and kept on throwing money at the project until it won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1966; by which time, Ferrari had lost interest and given up.

I would argue that is precisely because Ford are ambivalent most of the time that they have a vocal supporter base. When you consider that between 1973 and 2013, all of the drivers who won the Bathurst 1000* did so without direct backing from the factory, Ford drivers are seen as having to fight harder.

I would expect in future, that there probably will continue to be Fords in Australian motor racing; it's just that Ford has reverted to type and Henry's lads are left floundering again.

*a list which includes John Goss, Kevin Bartlett, Dick Johnson, John Bowe, Tony Longhurst, Tomas Mezera, Jason Bright, Steven Richards, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.

October 10, 2014

Horse 1771 - What's In A Name? Cadillac CT6?

Sign up for updates on the CT6 as they become available.
The Cadillac CT6 takes a new approach to prestige luxury. This top-of-range sedan emphasizes a dynamic driving experience and advanced technology. So ready your imagination as we prepare to reveal what’s around the corner.
- Cadillac Website as at 9th Oct 2014.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!
What're'y'doin' man?

Cadillac has had an image problem for a while now. The brand is perceived as either being driven by old people or by people who think that the terms "SUV" and "bling" are things worth pursuing.
Their current model line-up apart from the Escalade, has the model names of (and I'm seriously not making this up): ATS, ELR, CTS, XTS and SRX. Cadillac appears to be suffering some sort of TLA (Three Letter Acronym) disease. They may as well have introduced such model names as KFC, BBQ, ATM or LOL.
Cadillac in their wisdom have decided to head down the path taken by Audi and simply call all their cars CT-something, where the something gets bigger with the size of the car.
That's fine I suppose but is it and should it be a Cadillac thing?

If you look at that golden period of American motoring, for a time Cadillac outshone even Rolls-Royce and it did so, not by being the best built or the best engineered but by employing style and utter gaudiness.
Cadillac built its reputation with models like the Eldorado and Seville. Names like this exude a big brash sort of class; the sort of class that you can just sort of feel oozing out of the seats - either that or I can feel my pen leaking.

Companies like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz can get away with naming cars A5, 320 and S320 because we all know that deep down, these cars are made by technocrats and engineers, boffins and accountants.
When Volkswagen Group took over Lamborghini for instance, they improved the reliability of Lamborghini's cars no end but they also polished out all the rawness. The Gallardo and Murciélago aren't actively trying to kill you at every opportunity and that's what's so hideously wrong with them. Lamborghini's identity should be one of borderline-insanity and the same goes with Cadillac. Cadillac should be ostentatious and garish. Cadillac should be rock and roll, jazz and yes I will admit, the "bling" crowd have it so very very right.

More generally, people in the real world want style, panache and aplomb. They want to drive cars named Amarillo, Commodore, Super Snipe, Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust and Geoff because these names evoke something.
A car after all is a only mechanical box that goes from one place to another. You can choose to take all the romance out of it if you like, but I still want a car with a name like "Tiger Slashmaster XX500" because it's fun to say and people instantly know what it is. A "Les Blue Somptueux" would evoke the mental image of Gitanes wrapped in a Gauloises inside an éclair, somewhere near Saint-Tropez and complaining about l'actualité la bête found in Le Monde.

Cadillac needs names that yell "I am American, look at me". Cadillac should be the automotive embodiment of Stars and Stripes, Eagles and 1776 displayed on four wheels.
There needs to be a Cadillac San Clemente or Cadillac Manhattan. Name them after warships and have a Cadillac Enterprise or a Cadillac Independence; a Cadillac  Lapis Lazuli wouldn't be out of place either.
I'm sorry but the names "Croque-monsieur" or "Prima Colazione" sound far classier than "CT6"

"CT6" sounds like the model number for a particular brand of CT-scanning machine; not a flagship luxury car brand.

October 09, 2014

Horse 1770 - Fragments

Going forth and back on the trains and buses of this metropolis that 4½ million people call home, I'm usually scribbling away in an exercise book; writing things. A lot of those things become blog posts, some may eventually become passages in a novel and still others hang like dead possums and sneakers on the electricity lines.
Unlike Henry David Thoreau's description of a black fly in The Maine Woods (1862), these fragments are not "small but perfectly formed" - they're mangled.


I don't know exactly how far down you'd need to go but I assume that the further and deeper down you went, at some point, the density of the Sun must reach 1000kg/m³, which is roughly the same as water at about 4°C.
If this be true, then provided you could somehow build a non-melty ship and crewed it with a non-melty crew who could withstand the temperature, then it would be possible to sail said ship ON the Sun. Of course, it'd be advisable to go at night; so it wouldn't be so hot.


Hockey's budget isn't really that much different from previous governments' in all honesty; it can't be and it also can't not be. This means that trying to declare a "budget emergency" when the figures that you've just published declare otherwise, just looks plain silly.
Anyway, Government deficits by definition are when government spending outstrips revenues collected. This means that by definition, more money is being injected into the economy, which is expansionary with respect to aggregate demand. Business loves this because it means that their customer base is still inclined to want to buy stuff; buying stuff and services is the engine room of the economy.


Clearly as the above set of equations demonstrate (because no-one really wants to see a bunch of futile drawings), there just aren't enough nodes for the number of pathways to make the solution to the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem, even solvable.
Admittedly that didn't stop The Soviet Air Force from changing the problem drastically in 1941 when they bombed the place to a smouldering pile of rubble; the RAF didn't help either. Only two of the bridges that were around in Euler's day still exist and so the modern day solution is so simple as not to be worth considering.


The thing is though that neither CHEP nor their lessees really have a clue as to the whereabouts of all of the pallets under lease - as a business model, to make people pay rent for something that they don't know where it is, is pure spun genius. It is estimated that between 20%-25% of all of CHEP's rental income comes from the lease of missing pallets and the reason that people continue to pay is that it's cheaper to do so than to actually pay out the terms of the lease for the pallets.


I'm not even sure what the X4 is; nor what it's for; nor who the expected market is; nor why it is. The ground clearance appears to be less than that of a normal 3-series and as far as boot space goes, you're probably better off buying an X5. An X5 has a more sensible tailgate door.
It's not even particularly attractive either. If you want a pretty BMW, get a 4-series; get a 1-series even.
The X4 therefore fails into the same cast of cars as the X6, which have no discernible purpose whatsoever.


I still maintain that Hockey is the best man for the Premiership that the Coalition has - either him or Malcolm Turnbull. Hockey, Turnbull and Wayne Swan (who I think is still the best person for the post of Treasurer on either side of the House) are probably part of Team Sensible. Hockey is in a bad place as Treasurer because I don't think that he's either the best person for the job or carries enough political force to be able to change his minders minds.

If Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke were logically one generation and Keating and Howard were the next, then we should have had Kim Beasley and Peter Costello squaring off against each other but that never happened. Instead we got Rudd and Abbott who formed Team Vindictive with the technocrats like Swan and Gillard and Vaile forced to the margins.


The rate of fall of price of electronics is so quick now that surely it must be possible now to produce a smart phone with access to the internet for less than the price of a bag of rice. Okay, this sounds trivial but it means that if WiFi or access to the internet became widespread in places like Gabon, Burkina Faso or Chad, if a famine broke out, it means that for the first time, those people can actually complain to the rest of the world before humanitarian aid reached them. How good would that be?
It would just be ace to give voices to those who are currently voiceless. NGOs and Aid Organisations currently have to spend amazing amounts of time forging networks. Just imagine the speed with which that could be done in future.

October 08, 2014

Horse 1769 - Corporate Franchise 2 - Proper Heart and Soul 3

MK Dons 2 - AFC Wimbledon 3
Powell 2' (1-0)
Azeez 26′ (1-1)
Afobe 40′ (2-1)
Rigg 68′ (2-2)
Akinfenwa 80′ (2-3)

I have written blog posts in the past about various national football teams, club sides like Liverpoolm Blackpool and Sydney FC but never have I written a post about a side which I don't necessarily follow, until now.
The Football League Trophy isn't particularly the most glamorous trophy in football (though Blackpool have won it twice) and is only usually open to the lower two tiers in the football league.
Given all of this, why even comment about a round of 32 match in a second rate trophy? Because this fixture in particular strikes to the very heart of what it means to be a football fan.

Wimbledon FC began in 1889 and had bounced around amateur and semi-professional non-League football until it was elected to the football league in 1977. Just nine years later, they found themselves in the top tier of English football.

In 1988, with a side that included the likes of John Fashanu, Dennis Wise and hard man Vinnie Jones, Wimbledon found themselves in the unlikely position of playing in an FA Cup Final against the then greatest club in English history, Liverpool. Only just the week before, Liverpool had closed out the 1987/88 league title, nine points clear over Manchester United and were looking on track to claim "The Double".
Wembley Stadium was stunned into silence before half-time when on the end of a Dennis Wise free kick, Lawrie Sanchez's header passed by Bruce Grobbelaar and even though Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Wimbledon's keeper Dave Beasant became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FC Cup Final.
The media had dubbed Wimbledon the "Crazy Gang" and you'd think that this sort of thing should have gone into legend, but no.

Wimbledon FC sort of went into a decline for several seasons and in 1991 after the implications of the Taylor Report meant that their previous ground at Plough Lane, no longer meant safety requirements, they entered into a ground sharing arrangement with Crystal Palace FC and started to play matches at Selhurst Park.
A series of owners found that upgrading Plough Lane was infeasible and so in 2002 a group led by led by Peter Winkelman, gained permission to move the club 56 miles away to the town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

Naturally this caused a dispute between the owners of the club who thought that they could simply up sticks and shift a football club and the supporters of said club, who decided to withdraw their support and set up their own phoenix club, which was owned and backed by the supporters. AFC Wimbledon claimed the moral right to succession of the old Wimbledon FC; this exacerbated when Winkelman changed the club's name, badge and colours of the shifted club to MK Dons.
In consequence, the supporters of AFC Wimbledon deride MK Dons as "Franchise FC" and even the Wimbledon Guardian newspaper has run a campaign since 2012 for MK Dons to "drop the Dons" from their name.

AFC Wimbledon themselves have had a stellar rise through non-league football, with an unprecedented 78 game unbeaten streak at one stage and then in May 2011, became the youngest ever club to be admitted into the football league when in a play-off; after a scoreless draw, Seb Brown heroically saved two penalties to achieve what the old Wimbledon FC had done 34 years earlier.

All of this begs the question of can you simply buy a club and move it? Who should a football club actually belong to anyway? Should it be subject to the commercial whims of business people? Remember, the chairman or a board might be there for only a few seasons, whilst as the old Wimbledon FC proves, a club might exist longer than peoples entire life.
This is why I find the story of AFC Wimbledon so fascinating. Here we have a club which is owned by its fans, which rose up out of the ashes of a terrible and horrible series of corporate decisions and which this morning has gone one step to answer that question of who should own a club.

I find it fitting that the player dubbed "the world's strongest footballer" Adebayo Akinfenwa, smuggled one away to finally stitch up a win against Franchise FC, with less than ten minutes of regular time because I think that this is an apt metaphor. Is heart and soul stronger than the scream of so many dollarpounds?
Tonight, that answer is "yes". You can't buy history.

Sky Sports provides some nice video: http://www1.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/football/9508469/afc-make-footballing-history

October 07, 2014

Horse 1768 - Why I Will Now Use Opal Card

Back in Horse 1613 I laid out my case on "Why I Will Not Use Opal Card". I would officially like to retract my statement and officially apologise to Opal. Whilst it was true that those calculations were accurate as at 6th February, they don't hold true now.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
- John Maynard Keynes, 1940 maybe... we just don't know.

- Looks cool and there is a real incentive for me to use it - now.

The Opal Card charging system it appears, seems to be based upon a fairly simple charge regieme when it comes to trains:
Yet when it comes to buses, the charging system appears to be based upon the  straight line distance between to points.

I've thought about this and have tried to find some exceptionally cheap bus fares. I've found some bus stops which are only a few hundred metres apart, for which I'm charged less than a dollar but this morning I found a 1c bus trip. ONE CENT!

The 236 bus which goes from Spit Junction to Mosman South Wharf, actually starts in Clifford St Mosman, where it then turns left onto Spit Rd and then left again onto Military Rd. The actual straight line distance between the two stops is 43 metres. Opal obviously recognises the idiocy of this and charges $0.01* for the journey.
So why do it? Opal charges a maximum of eight journeys in a week and so if you can make some journeys which cost only a few cents, then your total bill for the week between Monday and Sunday will be lowered.
Incidentally, Opal recognises that London's Oyster card and Melbourne's Myki are things but doesn't know what to do about them, they just read a zero balance.

This does I suppose bring up the ethical question of whether or not people should game the system; this is further clouded by the Minister for Transport herself, saying:

"I want people to beat the system. I want people to find the savings because they are there to be had."
- Gladys Berejiklian, as quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8th Sep 2014.

This is a curiosity. The system actually punishes laziness and rewards diligence. If the intent is to reward those who make an effort to ride public transport more often, then maybe it is actually a good thing? Should laziness, wastefulness and profligacy be punished?

Is finding a more efficient solution immoral and is the market truly amoral?
An unstated benefit of the Opal System to Transport for NSW is that they no longer need to employ as many station staff and ticket sellers because it is cheaper to keep a silver electric bollard operating for a year than to pay a real person's wage. Some of these "savings" invariably translate to higher wages for management. Is that fair?
Also, because Opal is a pre-paid system, then they now have a giant collection of funds which they can put on the short-term money market. Someone in a suit and tie, is then free to make money by moving numbers from one screen to another. Is that fair?

I suspect though, that trying deliberate play the Opal game for 1c fares, whilst it might be fun to do, is just impractical. Even if I just ride what ever and when ever, then most I'd pay is $60 in a week and that's still $3 cheaper than the old MyMulti3 which I could abuse the opal out of.

Due to "swedish rounding" where cash is involved, amounts ending in 1c and 2c get rounded down to 0c. If you go to a supermarket and ask for 2c of ham and then take that to the checkout, it will be rounded down to 0c - FREE HAM! But only a very small amount of free ham.

October 06, 2014

Horse 1767 - The Grand Movie & TV Theory

There exists a grand theory about Pixar movies that they all exist within the same universe. It is gloriously bizarre and complex but thankfully, there a short film which explains it all.
(Link: http://mentalfloss.com/article/59215/pixar-theory-illustrated) Evidence for this includes the firm Dinoco which appears in both Toy Story and Cars and there are even other hunts such as Rapunzel from Tangled who happens to appear as a guest in a party in Frozen.

What if this was the case not just for Pixar films, but for all of them? What if the Pixar theory is actually only just one aspect of a giant Grand Movie & TV Theory for Everything?
We know that Hercule Poirot must have existed in the same universe as Jane Marple because they both have met Tommy & Tuppence, who incidentally also solve their own crimes.
Little green ball of clay Gumby could as the theme song goes "walk into any book" and so I'm not sure what that says but it is interesting.

If we take it as true that all movies, television shows, radio shows and the entire of literature all exist in the same universe, then this has some truly strange consequences.

In "Wasps' Nest" which was an episode of the long running ITV series of Poirot, we see none other than the Twelfth Doctor. Yes, yes, I know that it could mean that it just happens to be the same actor playing both roles but that's just plain silly. It makes far more sense if our time and space travelling Time Lord goes back in time to the 1930s. He's even using his sonic screwdriver, How can it not be?
It also means to suggest that Malcolm Tucker from the BBC series "The Thick of It*" is also the Twelfth Doctor. That would at least explain what he's doing when he's not flitting about with Clara.
Come to think of it, it also makes sense that Clara Oswald and Danny Pink like each other because they met each other in "Emmerdale".

It also means that "Blackpool" and "Cassanova" are actually Tenth Doctor stories and that "1984" and "Alien" are actually stories which belong to the Eighth Doctor as War Doctor. "Withnail & I" is also an Eighth Doctor story which is his jaunt with The Great Intelligence.
"Father Brown" is the continuing tale of what happened to Rory Williams' dad Brian, after losing both his son and daughter in law.

"Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" is a sordid tale which happens before both the "Lord Of The Rings Trilogy" and "The Pirates Of The Caribbean". Saruman really really really hates chocolate and when out to destroy its source - Middle Earth; meanwhile, Willy Wonka in order to avoid prosecution for enslaving and entire people, assumed the alias of Jack Sparrow and took to a life of piracy.
Equally, "The Hunt For Red October", "Dr. No" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" are not three unconnected stories but the tale of a Time Lord called Sean Connery who fails to hide his identity.

John Watson in "Sherlock" isn't particularly worried about very much because he's already been through time and space in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the only possible way to explain Sherlock's powers of deduction is that he actually is Stephen Hawking; of course being a mathematical genius is the only way he could have survived the mental arithmetical required for seven dimensional calculations necessary to fly the USS Vengeance under his other alias Commander John Harrison.
Did Nina Proudman from "Offspring" go on to become State Premier in the series "Party Tricks"? Again, like so many of the things I've mentioned in this piece, I haven't seen most of them and so there's probably a great many holes in the theory.

Still, the maxim that there are only seven stories in fiction makes me suspicious that all stories must exist in the same universe and the fact that the same plots keep on cropping up again and again, lend credence to the theory even if it is daft, it is more or less possible.

October 05, 2014

Horse 1766 - Three Sonnets

Ode to iOS and Silverlight

Oh what on earth is going on today?
I see the masses, sitting on the trains;
And how I wish they'd all just go away,
To leave me here alone inside my brain.

I see them all a-tapping on their phone,
They're staring down and most of them look sad,
Connected and yet how so all alone,
So busy and distractedly, so mad.

Yet maybe in this world there is some hope,
A place of solace and of calm respite.
Removed from the banal kaleidoscope,
Of saccharin and seven inch back light.

A place to sleep; a place to run and hide;
Forgotten place, we used to call "outside".

A Failed Oil Change In the Rain

The rain it dripped upon my face that day,
Across my brow and in my eyes it ran,
The rain it seemd would never go away,
Betwixt with oil; into the drainage pan.

But oh the sump, you see, it would not budge,
Not even by the levered force of men.
The seal had cracked; alas I drew a sludge:
"Apprentices with rattle guns again!"

Cold and defeated in the rain I lay,
Annoyed that I could not complete my task,
Incompetence arrived and came to stay,
My indignation was no simple mask.

Mechanics shops, why are you such a bore?
A scheme to take my car to you once more?

$6.66 Fare Deducted

On bus and train, round Sydney on Opal,
I didn't think that it was very fair,
My credit draining really was quite foul,
When beeping bandits stole away my fare.

Hist; hark! The happy bandits make a fuss,
Declare your fare - they always seem to know,
When getting on or off the train or bus,
They should have come at least ten years ago.

And now they know where all of us have been,
The sheep within a large surveillance state,
It's not like all of this was that unseen,
Compliant masses all just think it's "great".

Is Opal Card a beast? I cannot tell.
Or just a step along the road to hell?

October 04, 2014

Horse 1765 - The XXIV Winter Olympic Games - Don't Worry :D

Winter Olympics: What now for 2022 after Norway pulls out?
And then there were two.
Norway's decision to pull out of the bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Oslo leaves the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with only Almaty in Kazakhstan and Beijing in China to choose from when it meets next year.
Many will see that as not much of a choice at all.
- BBC News, 2nd Oct 2014

What now for 2022 after Norway pulls out? What now?! "What now?", they ask. Clearly whoever is at the BBC lack imagination; lacks foresight; lacks vision; lacks a sense of purpose.

When you think of the truly great cities of the world, what do you think of? Paris? New York? London? Tokyo? No... there's only one that you need think of; only one city who should step up and be counted on the world's stage. There is one city that the world doesn't know that it wants; doesn't know that it deserves; doesn't know that it truly needs to host the The XXIV Olympic Winter Games and that city is...



No snow? Don't worry - climate change and technology will soon sort that out.
No mountains? Don't worry - cities like Sydney and Melbourne create so much rubbish that we'll be able to build some in quick time.
Biathlon? Don't worry - we've got roos, emus and feral pigs which provide plenty of targets.
Athletes' Village? Don't worry - there's a Big 4 Caravan Park right there on the Newell Highway.
Bobsled Track? Don't worry - with a bit of modification, Dubbo Greyhound Racing Track could easily do the job.
Ice Skating? Don't worry - Winter Magic Ice Skating Rink can hold the hockey and the figure skating and for speed skating and the like, there's plenty of carparks around town that we could put some linoleum on.

This is Australia - if we have a few problems that need to be ironed out, we'll sort them out. This is the nation which invented Wi-Fi, Dual Flush Toilets, the Flame Ionisation Detector and wool clothing with a permanent crease. We also invented the inflatable aircraft escape slide and so if worst comes to worst, we could even build the whole of the Winter Olympic Games out of inflatables and bouncy castles - that'll make the downhill moguls interesting but just think of the ski-jump!

If all of this sounds like a daft idea, remember this is Australia; the same country in which you can eat both animals on the coat of arms; the same country which put its national capital in the middle of nowhere and in a place so unpleasant that sending politicians there is like some strange exile; and the same country which chose green and gold for its national sporting colours, which makes us look like refugees from the Emerald City. Ha Ha Ha, Ho Ho Ho and a couple of tra la la's, that's how we laugh the day away in the Merry Old Land of Oz!

What now for 2022 after Norway pulls out? Don't worry! Even if we don't have all the answers right now, it'll be the most memorable Winter Olympic Games of all time.

October 03, 2014

Horse 1764 - Ban The Burqa?

First the Prime Minister’s chief political advisor Peta Credlin, said that she supported a ban on the burqa in Parliament House, and then the Prime Minister Tony Abbott himself said that he supported banning the burqa from Parliament House on security grounds and even wishes the burqa was not worn in Australia.

Before I lay out my opinion on this, I first need to preface this by stating that I am a Christian and that that has very serious implications on this subject and seriously affects my world view.

What do I think of the burqa? I’m fine with it.

I will concede that there are safety and security concerns surrounding the wearing of the burqa and niqab in certain aspects of society.
At airports and other high security entry points, where there is a need for identification of people, I totally agree that a measured approach should be taken, to ensure the safety and security of people.
Even when it comes to driving a motor car, where the need to be aware of other road users is critical to safety, that the burqa or niqab might pose a danger to one’s ability to drive a car and consequently other people.
As for the security of Parliament House? Are they joking?

The general public isn’t allowed on the floor of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. To even get down there you will have needed to pass through several layers of security. For a Member of Parliament to actually make it to the floor of either chamber, they will have been required to identify themselves on a number of occasions. There are even parliamentary procedures in place to deal with so-called “strangers”; this even extends to the Governor-General and even the Queen.
In the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 2003, Kirstie Marshall was ejected from the floor of the Lower House chamber for breastfeeding her 11-day-old baby. They were ejected from the chamber on the grounds that the baby was a “stranger” and that she had violated standing orders.
For a person to be even wearing a burqa or niqab on the floor of either chamber, they would first have to be either a Member of Parliament or a member of staff. When it comes to the wearing of headgear in parliament, there are no standing orders either way; not even the British practice of placing a sheet of paper on their head so as to avoid conspicuousness when speaking out of turn applies.
What do I think of the burqa on the floor of the chambers? I’m fine with it.

The general public when they do arrive at Parliament House already pass through some pretty stringent sort of security procedures. I’ve seen people remove wallets, belts and boots etc. Security procedures within Parliament House are already quite tight and as such, I don’t think they need to be improved.

Moreover, Section 116 of the Constitution states that:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
- Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia (1900)

Banning the burqa from Parliament House would more than likely be challenged upon the grounds of Section 116 of the Constitution. Imposing such a ban is misguided at best and futile to try and defend.

What do I think of the hajib, burqa and niqab generally; in the wider conext of society? I’m fine with them.
The hajib still allows people to see someone’s face and that’s incredibly useful in terms of communicating effectively. I think that the burqa and niqab very much inhibit this abilty.
I personally find it confronting to speak to someone who is wearing a burqa or niqab but then again I suppose that I am a white male aged between 18–45 which is probably the most badly behaved demographic in society and I can understand that speaking to me might be equally as confronting.
I’m not even offended by the burqa or niqab; but it should be pointed out that the right not to be offended doesn’t actually exist.

As far as religious concerns go, then you might expect that as a Christian I would be dead against the burqa and niqab but you’d be wrong. I’m fine with them.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians does mention covering the head in church meetings but that has more to do with the idea of propriety in worship. This isn’t posed as a security issue; nor is is posed as an issue to do with identity. Elsewhere, Christ explained that the way that everyone recognize that people are his disciples is that they see the love we have for each other. It also comes closely after the issue of food sacrificed to idols and so I think that that speaks more about cultural sensitivity and about submission to authority.

Admittedly in Australia we don’t really see a lot of Mennonite or Amish people but what would the parliament have to say about them? What about the Orthodox churches? Suppose an Armenian or Greek Orthodox lady came to Parliament House with a head covering, then what? What about a nun? How would Parliament House deal with a modern day Mary Seacole or Florence Nightingale?

The Quran also speaks about “modesty of dress” in several Suras but that is interpreted differently across the Islamic world. The hajib, burqa and niqab then becomes something of a public display of faith but I argue that it would take a higher degree of courage to make that display of faith than the average Christian does in displaying theirs.
In that respect, I’d rather deal with an Islamic lady who understands what it means to profess and live out their faith than an evangelistic atheist who is only interested in personal attack and feels licensed to do so.
If anything, Christians should make efforts to defend the freedom of their Islamic neighbours in society, to make public displays of faith; just as we’d wish that they’d do likewise in defending ours.

More generally there are places for vigorous discussions on matters of faith but I’d hope that a greater challenge exists that all people irrespective of whether they happen to profess faith or not, try to peaceable lives with each other and in harmony. Mr Abbott as a former student of St Patrick’s seminary and who trained to enter the priesthood, should have been aware of that.
As Prime Minister and if the security of the nation is one of the highest callings of government, then making inflammatory statements isn't particularly advisable. I would hope that Parliament House as the executive office of The Commonwealth doesn't impose any religious observance, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion within its grounds. I think that the moment that we allow parliaments and governments to dictate what is and isn't acceptable in the name of religion, we tread very dangerously indeed. When governments choose to make religion silent and invisible, harm is done; there are plenty of examples throughout last century of this.
I think that if we've got it in us, we should get along with everybody.
What do I think of the burqa? I'm fine with it.
What do I think of a ban on the burqa? I'm not fine with it.

October 02, 2014

Horse 1763 - I'm Not Comedy Material

At the end of one of those somewhat dull meetings where numbers begin to dance around the paper as though they were in some sort of macabre tea-cup ride at a funfair, one of our clients at the end of the meeting asked me "You're pretty funny, have you thought about going into comedy?" to which I politely explained that comedy wasn't for me and that I was best suited to other things,

Of course maybe when I was much much younger, the thought must have crossed my mind at some point and the conclusion which I reached was that it was a totally mad idea.
I don't know if comedy is one of those things which people just sort of happen to fall into or whether or not it is innate but the truth is that I will never be a comedian.

Comedy, including truly bad and unfunny comedy, requires the writer or creator to observe the world, zero in on some aspect of it and highlight this by taking it to the point of caricature or absurdity. Comedy and indeed all humour comes from a few base elements which I think can be squared off into the elements of sarcasm, stupidity, surrealism and some basic character flaw like vanity or some such. Comedy requires the writer or creator to take that observation and reflect it back to people through the audience in some unexpected manner, which they find either amusing of in the case of black humour, discomforting.
The comedian must apply that filer and make the reflection something which the audience is prepared to be amused by; this is where and why, I will never be a comedian.

It has been painfully obvious to me for a very very long time, that I see the world fundamentally differently to most people. Either what most people find amusing I find quite unfunny or vice versa. If what I find funny is different to most people then logically for me to be a comedian would mean that I'd have to start writing material which I find unfunny. Can such a thing be learned?
I think that although I possess the ability to observe the world (at least I hope so - more than 1700 blog posts might prove otherwise), I don't think that that particularly translates into the ability of innate skill to be able to write comedy.

There is also the issue of delivery as well. A good comedian is a bit like the lead singer in a rock band, except there is no rock band and the only instruments are the microphone and the comedian's own voice; to be honest, I have a voice which is nasally and squeaky. Everyone thinks that they sound different when they hear themselves on a recording and I already think that my normal speaking voice is a bit like a depressed starling. It is horrible and certainly not worthy of inflicting upon a crowd who wants to be entertained.
To wit, I excel at the PlayStation video game series Singstar because I can hold a note and reproduce a tone technically quite well, however the colour and timbre of my voice is such that glasses have voluntarily thrown themselves out of sixth-story windows just to escape.

The truly great comedians and actors also either develop or just naturally posses a great stage presence; they seem to fill the stage and space they stand upon. I don't think that I do that very well. I've spoken in public a fair bit over the years and whilst I might be all right at it, it isn't necessarily confidence as much as determination and bravado that gets me over the line. To walk under the proscenium arch and to stand on painted tape is not something I savour. I suspect that there is a grain of truth in the adage that if you speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.

So don't expect me to go into comedy soon; even if you think I'm mildly amusing. There are people in the world who do that; they do it far better than I ever could; the best of them (or the lucky ones) get to stand before an audience of thousands or perhaps go on television (or on BBC Radio 4); I'm just not one of those people.