April 29, 2009

Horse 986 - Grubby Head Marks

As a commuter on suburban trains there is something which really puts my hackles, feckles and schmeckles up:

Grubby Head Marks

I understand that in some cases travelling 90 minutes on a cold morning or after a long day would warrant people falling asleep, but why then must people leave their grubby marks from where their heads have been on the windows?
It's bad enough to see someone else's head funk on the window, but when you then try to wipe them away with a tissue, you're left with a streaky mess.

How hard is it people of Sydney either to not fall asleep against the window, or perhaps (and this is my preferred option) to wear a hat? That way all of your product, and disgusting head funk will be kept inside your hat and now smeared all over my view of the countryside.

As the day wears on, I've noticed that the oils from people's heads either sort of squidge down the windows, or if you happen to be in one of those Tangaras where they're trying to snap freeze the population (so that CityRail can cut up the bodies later), that head funk solidifies on the window. Quite frankly if you had a scraper, you could scrape all the head funk off of the window and use it to make macabre candles with.

April 28, 2009

Horse 985 - The End... of Holden?

Holden Australia has been dealt a blow with parent General Motors confirming that it will scrap the Pontiac brand including the Pontiac G8 which is built in the Elizabeth plant near Adelaide.
Sold as the VE Commodore in Australia, Holden arm had planned to export 30,000 of the high performance cars to the US.

The move, part of sweeping cuts contained in GM's second viability plan, will mean the loss of nearly $1 billion in exports for Holden, which had invested $77 million to gear up for the shipments.

That's the end of the line for Holden really isn't it? With virtually all of their export markets gone; with GM teetering closer and closer to the edge of oblivion, I'm wondering just how long it will be before they completely abandon Australia altogether.

Admittedly I'm not actually surprised that GM would look out for its own patch before everyone else's but to be honest I fear generally for the fate of Holden and car manufacturing in Australia. How interesting that I foresaw something to this effect two and a half years ago:
Holden motor company of Australia may have just accidentally taken the first step to committing automotive suicide.

If Holden goes, then all of the related minor parts industries suffer. If they lose their biggest customers, then their profits dry up and ultimately they die as well. Overall the news coming out of America this morning is grim.

Winston Churchill once said: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning". That was then, this unfortunately actually is the end, or at very least the beginning of the end.

April 27, 2009

Horse 984 - Eternal September is not Eternal

Regular subscribers to this blog will have notice that the usual graphic brilliance which accompanies this has been thwarted by the rise of commercialism and downright nastitude; namely GeoCities.

I received the following message the last time I signed into GeoCities:
After careful consideration, Yahoo! has decided to close GeoCities later this year.

OK, this sounds innocent enough, but when you consider that literally everything I had up on the website was missing or deleted there seemed to be a discrepancy between "later this year" and immediately. So with a little investigative fortitude, I decided to inquire as to specifically why such a dastardly deed had been done. The reply I got was thus:

Dear Andrew,
As you are aware GeoCities had decided to remove the facilities of free webspace as of 23rd April, 2009. Your information was decided of not sufficient importance to warrant informing you of its removal. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Hmm, not sufficient importance? Admittedly I can cop that, but it still isn't exactly the nicest thing in the world now is it? It's a bit like kicking out your tenants before you've given them an eviction notice, except that I never actually paid for my website in the first place.

This is systemic throughout the web I note. AOL AOL discontinued newsgroup access through its service in Feb 2005 and Comcast discontinued newsgroup access in Sep 2008. It makes me think of that quote from Dave Fischer in Jan 1994:

"It's moot now. September 1993 will go down in net.history as the September that never ended."

My first exposure to the web was probably around then, so I guess that I was kind of living in Eternal September. Does this now mean that Eternal September has come to a close? Are we now in October 1993?

Who knows? Who Cares? Not GeoCities anyway.

http://www.geocities.com/rollo75 - 1997 - 2009. 12 years old Uninforming the World.

PS: I'm now left with dead links and blank picture frames all over the place. Thanks goes to GeoCities for that.

April 24, 2009

Horse 983 - Watch as the all the Little Bits Smash Up

Oh what fun it is to throw pottery into the air and watch as all the bits come back down to earth and smash into a million tiny pieces.

Vauxhall announced today that VX Racing will not return to the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 2010. The Luton-based manufacturer, the most successful in modern touring car history, will continue to campaign three cars this year, driven by Fabrizio Giovanardi, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan.

Take particular note of the first word in that press release... Vauxhall. It is Vauxhall who are in self destruct mode, as they like the rest of GM plunge ever so closer to Chapter 11, possibly Chapter 7 proceedings. However, Triple 8 themselves seem totally unfazed by it all.

“It is not the end of Triple Eight though, far from it. We will be back next season, albeit in a different guise, still doing what we do best: Winning races and promoting our partners and sponsors products in the very best possible way."

It's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before to Triple 8. One only needs to look closer to the V8Supercars to realise that Ford Motor Company who were ambivalent towards them are now outright hostile towards them and it would appear vice versa.

According to all internal documents and the website, Triple 8 otherwise known as Team Vodafone apparently no longer run Fords but "Pigs". Nowhere will you find on the website any Ford logos or even a hint of blue.

As far as Triple 8 are concerned, it simply means that they'll have to do what Team Dynamics did and simply engineer a car of their own. Let's be honest here, Triple 8 are smart enough to look at the rules and then decide for themselves which car to engineer and race. TD after all built and ran the Integra DC5 which wasn't even sold by Honda in the UK.

Vauxhall's story is a little different to Ford Australia, Vauxhall as well as Opel are in real trouble to survive. However, I found this in today's Grauniad... yes, that's deliberate.

The Italian car group Fiat could take over General Motors Europe, including UK-based Vauxhall and Germany's Opel, it emerged today. A flurry of media reports suggested that Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne has shown interest in buying GM Europe in talks with German government officials, who said Canada's car-parts supplier Magna is also keen to buy.

How ironic that just four years after FIAT cost General Motors $2 billion to buy and then onsell again, that they're now the ones to "bail them out" as it were.

I wonder where all the bits will fall.

April 20, 2009

Horse 982 - Football Dislike by Maths

Football is about maths.

No really, it is. Sometimes it's about the amazing mental gymnastics you do to decide whether or not your team is likely to stay in the league, win promotion upwards to the next one or Europe or some such or even win the league itself. So them to my problem:

The problem I had at the weekend is that between Man Utd and Everton I can't decide who I dislike more. Perhaps we can resolve this with a series of mathematical postulates.

- Take two numbers x & y, such that x>y
- It follows that x/y > 1 and likewise y/x <>
- If x=y then x/y = 1

What happens if x and y represent my respect for Everton and Man Utd? Let them equal that respectively.

x=0, y=0

Then what?

x/y = ??? I don't know really because 0/0 is undefined.

That's probably a good thing, because in regular time during this FA Cup tie, the score ended up as 0-0. The result of which was a penalty shoot-out which I equally abhor. For the record Everton won the shoot-out 4-2.

Since I can't decide this using mathematics, I had to derive an answer via other means. Before this tie, Manchester Utd had the potential of scoring an unprecedented quintuple. Naturally I'd like to see them fail on every single one of those trophies (which may yet happen), but given the sheer hypocrisy of Sir Alex's rant about Rafa Benitez this week, I thought that that maybe had been the straw that broke the camel's back.

The truth is that I felt sort of sorry for Everton in one of those deep dark corners, and if it came down to it, I'd prefer to see them win trophies than that prize git Sir Alex Ferguson, and as for David Moyes? Well.. he did play for Preston North End (which is up there in terms of sheer yukkitude) but well... er... er... 0/0 is still undefined.

Manchester United may have lost, but Everton is in a Cup Final.

Not good!

Horse 981 - Holden: No Future for You

If I were you, I'd forget about that new Holden. The truth is, it will be rubbish.

I read this news in the Financial Times this morning, but mind you, anything you read about GM within the next sixty days is going to be a useful as if you'd heard it off of a tramp living in Hyde Park.
General Motors is prepared to part with a controlling stake in Opel/Vauxhall for nothing but a pledge to invest directly in a new company formed from its European operations, according to two people familiar with its plans.
According to a person familiar with GM's thinking, an investor will be asked to pay at least €500m ($652m) in equity but the carmaker will realise no financial gain as the money will be injected directly into Opel/ Vauxhall.

Back in Horse 955 I happened to mention 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.

The way I see it, the road forward for Holden is very dark indeed, and they haven't even got replacement bulbs for their headlamps.

The Zeta Platform upon which the Commodore is based was supposed to be the great leap forward for the company. That has been canned.

“The strategy we had a few years ago of basically deriving a whole sweeping global portfolio off the Australian Zeta architecture … frankly, we have had to abandon that dream.” - Bob Lutz, GM CEO (at the moment)

With Ford already losing any plans for the Orion to go anywhere other than Australia and both the Commodore and Falcon flagging in sales in Australia, the future is looking incredibly myopic. Now that GM is looking down the barrel of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US and Opel/Vauxhall almost out of the web, unless Holden finds a way to spin itself out (possibly through the grand RuddCar plan) then Holden will go the way of Mitsubishi in Australia; that happens, then Ford would probably follow suit because the support industries would simply dry up.

All in all it means that GM as far as Australia is concerned will be an utter waste of time by 2012. No Commodores, I bet that Opel/Vauxhall won't want to give us the Astra anymore so well be stuck with the awful Cruze, no Corsa, no Vectra and worst of all no VXR/OPC versions of them.

Holden Australia's line will be Barina, Cruze, Epica and Captiva, or if you wish Daewoo, Daewoo, Daewoo and Daewoo, or to put that another way, Rubbish, Rubbish, Rubbish and Rubbish.

Well done Holden, as the theme song to M*A*S*H says Suicide is Painless.

April 15, 2009

Justice for the 96

Horse 980 - It was twenty years ago today.

Twenty years ago today during an FA Cup Semi Final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, 96 people died as a result of a crowd crush at Hillsborough. It remains the deadliest football disaster in England and as a result fundamental changes were brought about into the design of football stadia including the introduction of all-seated stadia and the removal of barriers at the front of stands.

Although indeed a disaster, on of the most shocking things was the way that the event was reported by the Murdoch press:

The headlines read:
"Some fans picked pockets of victims"
"Some fans urinated on the brave cops"
"Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life"

Whilst inside they reported:
"drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims"
"police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon"
"a dead girl had been abused"
"Liverpool fans 'were openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead'"

If you'd read that in the newspaper you'd be quite frankly disgusted and quite rightly so except...
it was all made up.

The editor in-chief at The Sun Kelvin MacKenzie, said in 2006 - "I was not sorry then and I'm not sorry now" for the newspaper's coverage.
The subsequent Taylor Report found that every single claim made in The Sun was an abject lie. In fact The Sun did finally issue an apology "without reservation" in a full page opinion piece on 7 July 2004, saying that it had "committed the most terrible mistake in its history", however the Liverpool Echo slammed it, calling it "shabby" and "an attempt, once again, to exploit the Hillsborough dead."

Reaction to the disaster was felt all through the football world. In the European Cup Semi Final between AC Milan and Real Madrid on the 19th, in what was supposed to be a minutes silence, the A.C. Milan fans sang Liverpool's "You'll Never Walk Alone" as a sign of respect.
Even Liverpool's fiercest rivals (and back-handed friends) Everton, laid scarves at the memorial set up at Anfield not long after the event.

The Sun itself still suffers as a result of the article, before 15th April 1989 it had a circulation of just over 200,000 copies daily in Liverpool. Today according to the statistics company ABC, it still fails to get to 12,000 despite only having a selling price of 30p as opposed to 45p in the rest of the country and adjusted for inflation being nearly 40% cheaper today.

Serves them right I say.

The Liverpool Echo ran this today:

Justice for the 96.

April 14, 2009

Horse 979 - NBN, (or why it's a good idea)

In a matter of pure irony, the very protagonists against government ownership for public infrastructure provided quite compelling evidence as to why the private sector either isn't capable, should not be trusted or can't be bothered.

Firstly let's look back at what Telstra had to say in their BACK campaign:
Telstra wants to invest billions of dollars in delivering high-speed broadband across Australia. But backward-looking regulations, which prevent Telstra making a competitive return, are stopping us from building this new infrastructure'

If we take this is as absolute fact rather than opinion, then it should be verifiable. We should be able to see repeatable cases:
a released extract from a January 20 report of the Government's "panel of experts" that found that none of the tenders had submitted a business case that would support Conroy's plan

We can therefore assume since actually building a National Broadband network for whatever reason, either can not or will not be built by private enterprise.

Enter the Government, which has promised an affordable, high-speed broadband at a speed of 100 megabits a second to 90per cent of Australian households via a $43 billion fibre-to-the-household network.

Or as PM Kevin Rudd said to the House of Representatives:
"It will be the roadway of the 21st Century"

Quite a bold plan which even came with a backhanded endorsement from the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull:
But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says we should spend the money wisely.

"If the money was being used to build roads or bridges or ports or water schemes, well then you would see a real benefit from it," he said.

Well, if the National Broadband Network is the "roadway of the 21st Century" then isn't that precisely what the money is being spent on?

Mr Turnbull himself out of the Australian has this to say:
Consider the Cross City Tunnel in Sydney. It cost nearly $1 billion to build; today, after a bankruptcy and its shareholders losing their investment, it is worth a fraction of that. Why? Because the owners' traffic assumptions proved to be wildly optimistic. As they were for the Lane Cove Tunnel and Melbourne's Eastlink. Just as well these were private-sector projects and the capital loss was not borne by the taxpayer.

Ahah Mr Turnbull, you seem to be forgetting that providing public infrastructure is always a losing game. Your concern that it will be "placing a debt on future generations" is equally stupid considering that it will be future generations who will most benefit from it.
Long after the people who spent £4,200,000 ($86,062,967 in 2009 terms), came the people who benefitted from the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We don't for hear Mr Turnbull complaining of the original builders being "wildly optimistic" about that now do we? Besides, who better to pay for the infrastructure than those actually using it? Isn't that surely the ultimate in "user-pays"?
For you see Mr Turnbull, only governments are placed to build infrastructure or to provide services which never make a profit (and in some cases should never be allowed to do so), like the Defence Dept, schools, railways, telecommunications as provided by section 51 of the constitution maybe?

Yet perhaps the best endorsement for a national broadband network onwed by government I've read is this one:
The proposal envisages the role for government to be defining the national interest, helping fund the investment and setting the regulatory rules. This is as it should be.
Not everyone will agree with these views. Given 20 years of allegedly poor decision-making by successive governments about telecommunication policy, some people remain philosophically opposed to any government involvement in commercial activities. Yet only government has the resources to undertake the rebalancing of a strategic industry to create a more open market and probably only a Labor government would have the ideological conviction to go down this path.

I find it curious to read who wrote this article. None other than Ziggy Switkowski, the former CEO of Telstra. How Curious.

My closing remark is that you can't actually call the National Broadband Network the NBN because of a certain TV station in Newcastle. Maybe they should choose a new name, something fitting with the whole Telecommunications thing. How about just shorten Telecommunications to Telecom Australia?

April 07, 2009

Horse 978 - A Waiver of Logic

Perhaps commonsense has finally prevailed with the United States this week announcing a formal end to it's Visa Waiver Programme. Whilst things is going to make things slightly more difficult in terms of actually getting into the country, I think that this is going to put an end to the floods of laughter at US Customs officers. Just take a look at two questions in particular from the famous United States Visa Waiver Programme - Form I-94W

B - Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentance to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities ?

Assuming that you had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, would you be intelligent enough to know what moral turpitude actually is?

Would you actually tell the United States Government that you were intending to engage in anything criminal? Hmm.
Dear United States Government I intend to rob houses, commit flagrant public disorder and attempt to blow up the White House.
It's simply not going to happen is it?

But the question that really amuses me is this:

C - Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved; in any way in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

Let's just assume for a second that you were 18 at the end of 1945. The youngest possible age to have actually been engaged in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies - that would mean that you were born in 1927, and therefore be 82 years old now. Does the US Government really think that an 82 person poses any sort of threat to them?

Also, what happens to those people who are employed by an organisation like ASIO or MI6 and are employed to commit espionage or sabotage? Legally they wouldn't be able to tell you if they were because they'd be subject to their home countries Secret Service Legislation. And again, if you were a terrorist with the intent of committing "terror" within the United States, do they really expect you to tell them "I am a terrorist?"

I wonder if this truly is a case of a government form that having once been created was never ever changed again. Have they printed so many of these as to supply the Dept of Homeland Security until the year 2158? I bet that there's a warehouse in somewhere like Normal, Illinois, that has millions of these things in pallets arranged five stories tall.

Or maybe, just maybe, someone has actually bothered to read a government form for the first time in 30 years and decided that Form I-94W constitutes a crime of logic turpitude.

April 06, 2009

Horse 977 - One equals Ten. Seriously.

After spending the best part of a month hyping up their new "live" sport channel, Network Ten have proved yet again that they are utterly incompotent at showing Formula One. Seriously.

The Malaysian GP was re-scheduled this year to start at 5pm local time which would have been 7pm in Sydney. You'd think that with a dedicated sports channel that they surely be able to get this right but noooooo.

Channel 10 in Sydney didn't have the race scheduled until 11:10pm at night, some 2 hours after the expected end time. What were they showing over on One?

NCAA College Basketball. Seriously.

Admittedly I'm not fond of basketball in the first place, but even I will admit that Formula One would outrate College Basketball in spades. The two teams for those interested (if indeed there is anyone actually interested in Australia) were NCar and Villa (which I'm assuming is not of the Aston kind). Not surprisingly. I gave up and thought I'd tune in Channel 10 at 11:10pm. That was also a waste of time. Seriously.

At 11:10 I switched on Channel 10 expecting to see the opening titles of the Formula One broadcast. Instead I found some guy getting his head sliced open with a hacksaw on some show called Dexter or some such, so I switched over to One. What were they showing over on One?

More NCAA College Basketball. Seriously.

This time it was UConn and Mich, again as before I'm convinced as before that at 11:10pm at night, Formula One would outrate College Basketball in spades.

Between flicking between One and Ten for more than half an hour, I gave up there as well and found comprehensive results of the Grand Prix on Channel 7's late news, with highlights. How is this possible? Why is it that I've found out the complete results of the GP on a channel that wasn't even showing it?

Eventually Channel 10 started their GP broadcast at 11:45pm with the race itself at 11:55pm. By this stage One had shut up shop for the night or something because all they had to show for themselves was their logo.

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Conversely, Channel 10 by any other name still stinks. Seriously.

April 03, 2009

Horse 976 - Hell's Bank Notes

A$1 = H$1,396,258,145,748,515,125,269,147,239,972,778,225.26

In classic Taoism, people believe that souls in the afterlife need to pay for or atone for their time on earth and so by burning money, this is provided for them. Curiously in both Cantonese and Mandarin there is only one word for the afterlife, so when Christian missionaries originally warned them that as a consequence of sin, that people will go to hell, the Chinese thought that Hell was the proper English term for the afterlife.

There are a few things that can be drawn out of this, the most obvious can be found at Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Few would argue against the idea that a worker deserves his wages. It is pretty obvious that what you work for you should be entitled to. I think therefore that one of the saddest but yet most profound truths in the world is that Sin is a paymaster and most certainly pays wages.

The idea of printing money to pay for a soul in the afterlife I think is well... silly. How much money do we logically need to print? Even simple logic tells you that if you start printing off currency, then the currency hyper-inflates as is the case in Zimbabwe (or possibly current economic policy in both Australia and the USA)

Even if the policy did work and you weren't inflating the currency, do you really think that either the Jade Emperor or his counterpart Yanluo, Duke of Hell, would accept mere money as payment for a human soul?

Logically it would follow that the only way that you could pay a penalty for sins committed would either to gain what you've worked for, that is death, or possibly if you could find someone else to blame, get them to die for you.

That idea in itself is pretty crazy. It could be possible that you might find someone who'd be willing to die for a "good" person, but would anyone be prepared to die in place of a sinner? Since all have sinned, then that'd leave the whole entire of humanity pretty well much in a hopeless and quite pathetic state considering it all.

Perhaps there is something to be said for Hell Bank Notes after all. Contained in them is the utter futility that people think that they might actually be able to pay off God.

But the gift of God is eternal life?

Gift maybe, but as with any gift of an import it cost something to buy that gift. God does give to those who turn from sin, eternal life. It is His gift, conditioned on refusing to be on the payroll of sin anymore, but ironically through Christ actually collecting the wages of sin, which is death.

April 02, 2009

Horse 9 - Alan Sheeearer!!!

No, that's not a misprint, what should have been Horse 975 will simply numbered Horse 9 for the simple reason that the legend Alan Shearer has taken the post of Newcastle Manager.

"I love this club and I believe I can help it"

That pretty well much states the point. When Shearer takes over this club will be facing a job staving off relegation, but the thing is that even if Newcastle do get relegated, are they likely to sack the man? I think not.

If anything, the first squad under him as a manager is likely to be galvanised in a way that we have never seen since the days of Kevin Keegan at Liverpool. Shearer on Tyneside hold a very special position indeed.

I thought that it may have been some sort of April Fool's Day joke, but it seems that this isn't the case with the BBC, the Independant, the Times, and even the Evening Chronicle of Newcastle reporting the story.

These here be strange times.

April 01, 2009

Horse 974 - BMW's new Badge Washing Technology

BMW announced today that it is going to start fitting to it's cars, starting with the 7-Series, a little washer that will wash the badge.

At last, finally a car company brings out a technology that is part way useful. Ok, so it isn't exactly the most world changing of technologies, but how often have you come back from doing the shopping to find that it's been raining, or driving through dust and/or mud to find that there's dirt and grime all over the badge.

Now obviously BMW have a reputation to uphold, because it's not all that likely that you'd find this sort of thing on a Mitsubishi Colt for instance. BMW are trying to compete with Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Porsche and Cadillac for the prestige market. Equipment like this although it doesn't really add to the performance of the vehicle, screams more about status in the same way as wipers for the headlights do.

So I say good on BMW for finding solutions to problems that people didn't even know they had. Stuff like this makes the world a better place.

The advert is reproduced below: