February 24, 2009

Horse 962 - Chatswood to Epping via Cut and Paste

Last night being the first night of operation of the Epping-Chatswood Rail Link (what a stupid name, I would have called it the Macquarie Line), I had the fortune to travel with the present Lady Rollo along said route, and although I must say that I am pleased that the line has been built and also that I can see the immense utility of the line, I very much think that the project is one where function has over taken form entirely.

The line itself has been quite masterfully built. Rather than a standard cut and cover method of building a train line, it was built using a great shield method of construction and cuts through Macquarie Sandstone, so technically is quite excellent.

There en lies a problem. Because the line is entirely underground, there are no reference points out of the windows for the passengers. This poses the rather moot question of knowing where you are. The stations themselves are all island types (with the platforms in the middle) and hence when you're at platform level, all three stations are pretty well much identical. A casual glance out of the window if you couldn't actually see the station sign to read the name, would give you no indication whatsoever of where the heck you are.

Speaking as a patron of the railways and quite an experience traveler who happens to fall asleep on the train quite a lot, it would be very easy indeed for someone who still being quite bleary-eyed to miss their station and end up somewhere unexpected. Sure at the moment whilst there are only five stations, that isn't a problem, but it could be in the future when it is integrated into the Northern Line.

I hope that this lesson is learnt before the construction of the North-West Metro or as I think it should be called the "If-And-When Line", because having 90 minutes of identical stations just might deposit the unsuspecting commuter in Woop Woop West.

February 23, 2009

Horse 961 - Super Powers

As an illustration in church last night we were asked about our favourite super heroes. Now I must confess that I never really saw the point of someone who wears their underpants on the outside then expecting me to take them seriously. Honestly, if I saw Spiderman coming down the street I'd either think that he was an Olympic Cyclist who'd lost his bicycle (because there's simply no other excuse for all that lycra) or more likely that he was both a mental patient and/or a pratt.

Superman for instance fights for "Truth, Justice and the American Way". Is this truth and justice as represented by the American in similar terms to what we saw at Guantanamo Bay? I don't really want that sort of truth or justice thank you. Perhaps we should look at the example of some other super hero, say... Batman.

Batman's superpower is... cash. The sad truth is that despite the impossibly cool ugly car, the stupid get up, Batman is little more than a rich idiot with no day job. Admittedly he's head of Wayne Industries which under any other circumstances would have made him a corporate executive and thus the bad guy, but somehow we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he lost his parents despite the fact that 90% of all angsty characters in film suffer the same fate.
Hint: If you're in a film, don't be a parent because you'll be killed off for the reasons of dramatic tension.

If I was to be a super hero then I should think that I'd want my own superpower... the Soviet Union perhaps? Well it was a super power and to be fair Leonid Brezhnev was awarded the honour of the Hero of the Soviet Union four times. That has to count for something, right? If not, than at least it could be said that Brezhnev had some of the best eyebrows the world has ever seen.

Gotta love those eyebrows.

In Soviet Russia, the Party finds YOU!

February 20, 2009

Horse 960 - Some Say...

... that he once lost a canoe on a beach in the northeast.

... that he knows two facts about ducks... and they're both wrong.

... that his knees are hydraulic.

... that he is banned in the city of Chester.

... that he thinks that the credit crunch is some sort of breakfast cereal.

... that it's impossible for him to wear socks.

... his skin has the texture of a dolphin's.

... that his ear wax tastes like Turkish Delight.

... that he once punched a horse to the ground.

... that his tears are adhesive.

... that if he caught fire, he'd burn for 1000 days.

... that is heart is in upside-down.

... that he once gave a microwave oven to a tramp.

... that he's a CIA experiment that went wrong.

... that he isn't machine washable.

... that all his potted plants are called Steve.

... that he appears on high valued stamps in Sweden...

... all we know, is that he's called The Stig.

... and that he actually does appear on high valued stamps in Sweden.

February 19, 2009

Horse 959 - The All New Holden "Bagman"

Today's Age and presumably the Sydney Morning Herald had this say say about the impending closure of Holden's Port Melbourne plant.

HOLDEN is poised to rush the closure of its Port Melbourne four-cylinder engine plant in a bid to help its US parent fight off bankruptcy.
The closure, originally announced for late this year and affecting 530 workers, could happen as early as next month as US-based General Motors shares the pain of its near-collapse with its overseas subsidiaries.

I find this scandalous. This is the same company that won $179 million from the Federal Government to a new four cylinder car. Forgive my apparent breakdown in logic here, but you can't actually build something, in a factory that has been closed can you?

Admittedly the article below is talking about the Adelaide Plant, but it should be worth noting that the Port Melbourne plant would have supplied the engines for the expansion of the Adelaide plant. It would make perfect sense to build the four cylinder engine in its existing Port Melbourne facility considering that's what it already does, and then deliver the engines to Adelaide where they would be then fitted to the new car, or else we're talking about duplication or services.

HOLDEN has announced it will use $179 million in government funding to build a new four-cylinder car at its Adelaide plant.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today announced the Federal Government will invest $149 million over three years and the State Government will provide a further $30 million to enable the production of a front-drive vehicle fuelled by diesel and petrol, AdelaideNow reports.

It seems to me that the conclusion that I draw, is similar in principle to a director of the Institute of Public Affairs, Tim Wilson. Who said:
"It is wrong to use Australia's public purse to bail out a foreign company. This is an American company profiteering off Australian taxpayers, We're underwriting a failed US business just to keep a few jobs back in Australia."

Second to this, it would seem that we're not even doing that! On ABC1's news bulletin last night they reported that GM worldwide was cutting 47,000 jobs and that 26,000 of them would be outside of the USA.

The Federal Government says there will be job losses at Holden in Australia, but it is confident the car company will remain viable. Yesterday Holden's parent company General Motors announced it would cut 47,000 jobs worldwide in the next year, with 26,000 of them to go outside the US.

Why in blue blazes then are we throwing $179 million at a car company who isn't going to produce cars? This is little more than a protection racket if you ask me. GM in North America has recently trumped up and asked for yet another $16bn odd from the US Government and it appears as though the same tactics are being employed here.

Holden you are a "Bagman". You are effectively becoming an agent to rip the taxes off of Australians. The Ancient Roman term for this in Latin was "tribulum", or in modern parlance a "tribute" but the principle is still the same. In modern Italian we might call this the "pizzo", though instead of the Mafia we have something far bigger.

To Holden, I hope you die quickly. I for one do not like paying for NOTHING.

February 12, 2009

Horse 958 - Giant Horse

This from the BBC:

A giant white horse has been chosen as a new £2m art commission for south east England dubbed "Angel of the South". The design, by former Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger, was selected from a three-strong shortlist as part of the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project.
His design for the public art commission will see a horse standing on all four hooves at 33 times life-size. Once built, it will dominate the north Kent landscape, standing as high as Nelson's Column at about 164ft (50m).

I find this story quite worrying and it's not just because £2 million is going to be spent on something this frivolous but of the terrible horror that is about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting British public; and that is the brute force of Greeks.

Greeks, you ask? If history has taught us anything, it's that if you see a giant horse outside, then it's probably not a good idea to bring it in, especially if your name happens to be Troy. Of course the Trojan Horse wasn't actually a Trojan Horse, it was in fact Greek. Though I suppose that it was intended as a gift, so at that point title would have passed, so on second thought in the end it actually was a Trojan Horse albeit one full of Greeks.

That is of course if the thing existed in the first place. The so called Trojan Horse could have very easily been a covered battering ram, much the same way as a clothes horse isn't really a horse as such. The story itself was recorded by the poet Virgil in his Aeneid, in which the character Laocoön says: Equo ne credite, Teucri. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. Which when translated means: Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bringing gifts. This is the origin of the modern adage Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Virgil was of course one of Rome's greatest poets and wrote in Latin. This makes sense condsering that we can almost certainly rule out the Greeks suggesting bewaring of themselves, if one can use such a participle, bewaring.

Although having made that point, it's still a good idea to beware of wasting £2 millon of public money on such a stupid project, thought it's probably a tad more sensible than the skyscraper made of popsicle sticks, or the fifty-foot magnifying glass or the escalator to nowhere.

Just where do you get a nine foot sugar lump for the horsie from?

February 11, 2009

Horse 957 - Built to keep the Rabbits Out

I didn't write the following, but it is indeed priceless. The story is reproduced in full:

The most famous of the Chinese Emperors of the Mung Dynasty. Emperor Nasi Goreng's legendary rule lasted for 100 years "as long as it takes to pickle an egg", though sinologists agree it was nearer in fact to a 60 year reign. His reign was famous for the development of Chinese cooking and the expansion of the rice and noodle houses that served the needs of the burgeoning traveling middle class who had begun to take fashionable pilgrimages to bathe in the health giving waters of the Big Pond (now known as the South China Sea).

More importantly he began the construction of the Great Wall of China (the only man made structure visible from space)

Little is known of the Emperor's early life. Born to the 4th wife (the beautiful Tel Stra) of the Emperor Mee Goreng, his childhood was spent in a secluded palace on the shores of the Big Pond. He was not expected to inherit the throne and is supposed to have devoted his time to the refinement of traditional dishes of Chinese Cuisine - wishing thus to win the people's ovation and fame forever. On the unexpected deaths of the 17 older brothers during the mysterious summer illnesses of 1225 (now believed to be caused by a rare virus passed on by reading contaminated correspondence) he was summoned to Peking and accompanied by his favourite duck, crowned the unexpected emperor of all China.

The visit of Marco Polo to China in 1275 had opened the country to a new scourge, Giant Angora Rabbits. Originally given as a gift to the court of the preceding Emporer Mee-Goreng the rabbits were adopted as accessories by the fashionable followers of the Imperial court, who carried them in small handbags, or displayed them on the roofs of their traveling litters. Soon a fashion for pet goldfish replaced the fashion for bunnies and, not wishing to kill an animal so obviously sacred to the visiting Polos they (the rabbits) were released into the Western Deserts where they bred to plague proportions.

Soon the depredations of thousands of starving Angoras were threatening the rice crop and after unsuccessful attempts to control the scourge with compulsory rabbit stews (Immortalised in the poem "My other Chinese Cook" by James Brunton Stephens) the Emperor decreed the building of the greatest wall ever known to mankind.

The emperor enjoyed good health for most of his reign but in 1289 he became ill after a particularly large meal of Rabbit pie. His doctors were divided as to whether he was struck down with dyspepsia or Mixam-it-osis. Even lowering him in the waters of the Big Pond, supported by a broad band of imperial silk failed to arrest the course of the illness and within a year he was dead. After the customary 6 years of compulsory mourning he was buried beneath the great wall at Dai-Lup where to this day pilgrims visit to pray fruitlessly for a speedy recovery from illnesses. He was succeeded by his son Pisan Goreng (1290-1303).

February 10, 2009

Horse 956 - In which Top Gear Australia hires a trumpet player and I blow my own


It is perhaps not uncommon knowledge that one of the hosts of Top Gear Australia, Charlie Cox, has upped sticks and will be more than likely replaced by trumpet player James Morrison. Now I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing but just on the quiet I can think of a person who might be better suited to the job...


In many respects I really am the best person to be on a program such as this: in terms of technical knowledge I know more than Clarkson whom it appear only vaguely knows what "torques" and "horsepowers" are, I seem to be as annoying as Hammond and I'm more fearless than May. One thing that seems perfectly self-evident to me about this sort of job is that one needs to have a modicum of journalism skills and as far as that goes, well what numbered Horse are we up to now? Nine-Hundred and Something?

One of the obvious things about appearing on television is that the medium is about communicating something. It is perfectly reasonable to ask whether or not I can communicate anything, but I should think that because I've spent time either at the front of lecture halls at uni or perhaps in front of children giving small talks, that television can't be all that different. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I if nothing else am enthusiastic for what I might want to say.

Of course there is the general question about the wisdom letting me loose on television in the first place and to an unsuspecting Australia public. Let me assure you that if I was allowed on television, then the world will have changed forever. I can see Logies and OAMs and possibly the invitation to be the first President of an Australian Republic, because the people out there in TV land would loev me so much that they simply couldn't contain it any longer. Then again I could be just spouting rubbish...

... but it would be a different kind of rubbish!

February 09, 2009

Horse 955 - Holden and One Step to Stupidity

Three days before Christmas last year, Holden announced they've been given a giant wad-o-cash to "develop" a new small car for Australia. I supposed that it's likely to be the Astra version I (I as in after H, not 1) and they released an official sketch.

Jalopnik reports that test versions have been seen in both the Austrian Alps, and other reports have seen the car at the Nuburgring, highly camouflaged - just follow the links.


Me being the little snoop that I am, managed to scab a couple of pictures from Auto Express in the UK:

I conceed that this is a very big guess, but Auto Express' sketch does employ some of the styling features which have already been employed in the Insignia and the press releases coming out of Opel.

There is however a snag to all of this. Due to the Global Financial Crisis, Opel and Vauxhall are trying to cut themselves loose from GM in America. If that were to happen then not only does Holden lose potential export markets for the car, but it's just possible that the whole project as far as Australia is concerned never eventuates: at least as far as the Astra is concerned.

If Opel and Vauxhall leave GM, then Holden is left in the same group as Geely, Daewoo and GM North America and without access to European technology and design work. Holden themselves already decided to drop the Vectra from their lineup which proved to be really stupid as its replacement, the Insignia won European Car of the Year for 2008. They also shot themselves in the head by replacing the Opel Corsa with the Daewoo Kalos (both of which carried the Barina nameplate) and in doing so replaced a 4-Star safety rated car with a 2-Star safety rated car and a corresponding drop in sales. What happens then if they accidentally do not have access to the car which they've been given wad-o-cash for?

Currently Holden sell the Daewoo Lacetti under the name plate Viva. Most folk might actually recognise it as the Chevrolet Lacetti which itself features in Top Gear's "Star in a reasonably priced car" segment in the UK version (which is still better that Top Gear Australia). The Lacetti itself is expected to be replaced by the Chevrolet Cruze.

What I greatly fear is that Holden who have a proven history now with replacing fairly good European cars with rubbish Korean ones, will be buying American developed Korean rubbish and then building it in Australia. I have seen first hand the quality of American cars on American roads and quite frankly I was left totally underwhelmed. Should Holden choose to go down this path then I actually expect that by 2015, there will be no Holdens produced in Australia at all and it will have been their own fault.

I believe someone else had something interesting to say to Holden:
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The red pill in this case, could very well be the first step into oblivion; and just to remind you, Holden will be taking $149 million in taxpayers funds to go there.

February 05, 2009

Horse 954 - Nadal es un Pollo Gigante

There is a Spanish Restaurant not too far away from where I work. Amongst the overpriced specials probably involving juz, rocket, tofu and torremolinos and other assorted faux and erzats Spanish words was the menu item: Nadal es un Pollo Gigante.

Now my Spanish to be honest is only slightly better than my Polish (Kiedy, Po Co, Witaj and Usta - being "when?" "what for?" "hello" and "lips" - like Larry the Cucumber I know four words in Polish) but I'm pretty sure that Nadal es un Pollo Gigante means "Nadal is a Giant Chicken". I could of course be totally wrong about this but consdering that Pollo is also the Italian word for chicken and I can't think of what else Gigante could be for other than Giant, I'm assuming I'm right.

In which case: Why is Nadal a Giant Chicken? Is it being used in the perjorative? If so, then I still don't understand as Nadal showed quite stoic and strong qualities in the Australian Open final to beat Federer in five sets. Are they perhaps using it as some sort of mascot type thing? Again I am confused as the common chicken Gallus Gallus is the national emblem of France and not Spain.

I suppose that the only thing that Nadal es un Pollo Gigante could mean is that he literally looks like a Giant Chicken. Maybe I'm just ignorant but I can't say I ever noticed this before. I mean if you look at the picture below, there's no evidence at all that he looks like a Giant Chicken.

PS: Most of this story is a fib - except the fact that I think that Nadal es un Pollo Gigante

February 04, 2009

Horse 953 - Jesus: The Untold Years

The question cropped up recently as to what it would have been like to either be or grow up around Jesus, while he was a boy and into adulthood. In fact the Bible itself offers not a whole heap of answers on this at all.

We know from scripture that Jesus had four brothers; these being: James, Joses, Simon, and Jude. We also know that he had a sister called Salome and one other sister who remains unnamed by scripture (that is to say that she had a name but we don't know what it was, though I'd like to think that it was Elizabeth).

It's reasonable to assume that Joseph, Mary and the seven kids probably led a pretty normal sort of life in Nazareth. Joseph was a chippy by trade and one would assume that the five boys learnt their trade in carpentry as well. But what of their home life?

I grew up in a home with only a sister and I can tell you that things got pretty heated at times. It is normal that children fight and being a house with seven kids in it, it would sometimes be a noisy place. Though Jesus himself would have been very different since he never sinned once, not ever.

I bet Joseph's thinking "One of those darn kids broke my hammer, now who was it? Probably not Jesus 'cause that kid never does nothin' wrong... Joses! Get your sorry butt over here right now!"

"It's time for you to go and study now Jude"
"But muuuuuum" (and I have both heard and done this many times) "Muuuuuum, the Torah is boooring!"
"Why can't you be a good boy and study like your brother Jesus?"


"Dad, Salome and Simon are saying sware words"
"Are you telling porkies?"
"No dad."
"Hmm.... No, you're not, are you? You never do, do you?"

Here was a boy who whilst working in His dad's shed, never used His own name in vain when He hit His thumb with the hammer. He never short changed His customers when he worked in the shop. By the same token He never told a lie to protect His mates either.

I think that it would have been obvious that Jesus was different to other children. He wouldn't have shared a lot of traits that make kids so unbearable.

February 02, 2009

Horse 952 - We Don't Know What We're Doing

I find it sooooo encouraging that the people who attended the World Economic Forum found "no answers" to the Global Financial and Economic Crisis currently going on. There is a lot to be said about the competence of people who have been sent to these sorts of things when the best that they can acheive are remarks like: "we don't know what to do, only that we need to do something and we need to do it fast". Um yeah. That'll Play.

It seems to me that the same people who got us into this mess are the same people who are expected to get us out of it. If you look at the bald facts, it was in theory an abundance of liquidity that caused this thing and Governments have been asked to "bail out" companies by an injection of... more liquidity. It has been likened to giving a heroin addict a shot of heroin to cure them of their heroin addiction.

All up, employees of Wall Street securities firms received $18.4 billion in bonuses last year. Merrill Lynch is currently being investigated for making between $3 billion and $4 billion in bonus payments in late December, days before the securities firm was acquired by Bank of America. Merrill Lynch lost $15.3 billion in the fourth quarter. It's little wonder when President Barack Obama wrote off the shebang as "shameful".

I'm not an executive of a billion dollar company, but even I can describe what's been happening. Furthermore I can do it in one word. Greed. And it is not as we were told in the 80s good either. If I can see that then how come the people at World Economic Forum found "no answers"? Are they members of companies now putting out their hands for bailouts? Isn't this just greed all over again?

The World Economic Forum was in Davos, but I reckon that they should have asked Davros.

I bet that he would have EXTERMINATED the Economic Crisis in no time