July 31, 2009

Horse 1021 - White Friday... Friday 31st

Today is Friday 31st of July, which I think should be called White Friday and a day of universal superstition of good luck.

When you think about it, every month of the year contains a 13th day of the month. Since any month can start of any day of the year, then statistically there's a 1 in 7 or 14.258% chance of there being a Friday 13th in any given month.

But only 7 of the 12 months of the year actually have a 31st day of the month in them. A 1 in 7 chance of something that's 7 in 12, gives you a 1 in 12 chance of it happening or only an 8.333% chance of there being a Friday 31st.

Does this mean by inference that because a Friday 31st is only 58.444% as common as Friday 13th, whether or not it should be 71.102% luckier (being the inverse)?

Should I now throw pepper over my right shoulder, let white cats cross my path and start gluing mirrors back together?

I'm still not going to walk under a ladder though. That has nothing to do with luck, that's simply good advice... stuff could fall on your head!

July 29, 2009

Horse 1020 - What the National Anthem Says About Australia

What does a nation's national anthem actually say about the nation? Can you learn anything from it? Do for instance "the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air" imply that the United States likes blowing things up? Is "God defend New Zealand" implying that anyone can just walk in and steal the place? What then for Australia?

Verse 1
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
Does this mean that we're all a bunch of gormless teenagers? We're rejoicing about being young? Surely someone's having a laugh.
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
And we're all lazy bozos who can't be bothered doing work for ourselves. Golden soil? I've seen red, black, brown but not golden.
Our home is girt by sea;
Yay, we're an island... and we didn't fail Year 1 geography.
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
It's a good thing that nature is gifting us things, because we said earlier that we aint working for them.
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Joyful Strains? The anthem openly admits that it's too hard to sing.

Verse 2
When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,
To trace wide oceans o'er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
This is clearly an admission that we don't know our own history. Cook was on a mission to observe the transit of Venus across the sun and then of conquest. To be perfectly honest, Cook didn't exactly deliberately set out to "land" here either, he sort of bumped into it and then tried to go around; even then he had trouble doing it.
Then here he raised Old England's flag,
The standard of the brave;
This is a point from my chair in Pedant Corner. Cook sailed under the Union Flag, not England. England didn't exist by itself as a separate entity from 1707 onwards.
With all her faults we love her still,
Her faults? What of ours? History certainly repeats itself, doesn't it?
"Brittannia rules the wave!"
Only one? Which one? The Mexican Wave? The New Wave? The Royal Wave?
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse 3
Just to prove that we don't even know our own national anthem, the whole thing is 6 verses but most Australians only sort of half know the first, generally don't know the second that's sung (which is the third), and only a very small number know about the existence of the other four.
Beneath our radiant southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
In verse 1 we said that we had wealth for toil. Why are we now toiling in verse 3? Has that wealth now run out?
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
I think that that this is actually a pretty good exposition of what our intended immigration policy was. We've boundless "plains" to share. That's right, the immigrants can have the scabby bits in the middle, we'll keep the edges.
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse 4
While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
Really when does this happen? Only at the Olympic Games and even then only for about the first 3 days when the swimming medals are the first handed out.
We'll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
Now we're getting just plain pompous here. Not to mention that there actually is no Southern Star. Polaris or the North Star doesn't have a Southern Hemisphere equivalent, the Southern Cross points the way to the South Pole, but in the celestial South Pole, it's just blank space.
From England, Scotia, Erin's Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Where's Wales? Actually when you think about it the Union Jack is a composite of the four constituent parts of the UK. The Cross of St George for England, the Cross of St Andrew for Scotland, the Cross of St Patrick for Ireland, and Wales' bit... Jack!
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"

Verse 5
Should foreign foe e'er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Actually when in 1942 this was tested, the radio operators in Darwin didn't believe the warning and we did nothing at all. There was no rousing of arms either, half of the Australian Army was already in North Africa fighting off Rommel.
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean's roll,
Her sons in fair Australia's land
Still keep a British soul.
This was also tested. How Appropriate in an Ashes series:
The Aussies love the English, you might find it quite strange.
'Cos we sent them all down under, with only balls and chains.
And when they see the English, they always shout and scream.
But when they had the chance to vote they voted for the Queen.
In joyful strains the let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"
Indeed. After 5 verses I'd be straining too.

What you mightn't know is that the Advance Australia Fair was written by a Scotsman called Peter Dodds McCormick (who went under the pen-name of Amicus). The December 1st 1878 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald called the song "decidedly patriotic" and that it was "likely to become a popular favourite" (I guess the Herald knew what tit was talking about). The song itself was sung at the Federation ceremony on Jan 1, 1901 and at the opening of the Parliament House in Canberra in 1927 but wasn't declared official until 1984.

What's even worse is that a sixth verse which was well known before 1930 seems to have been unceremoniously dropped on the quiet. An anthem if you track the definition of the word comes from the Greek ἀντίφωνα (antiphōna) which means "the opposite voice". The word originally meant a song sung as two parts of a Psalm or other Hymn.

With Christ our head and cornerstone,
we'll build our Nation's might,
Nice sentiments I'm sure, but is that really the case?
Whose way and truth and light alone,
can guide our path aright.
This is entirely true, but if you look at successive governments whose policy it's been to erode things like the Family Law Act, and the Marriages Act quite recently, I really wonder which path the nation is headed down.
Our lives, a sacrifice of love,
reflect our Master's care
95% of the time most Australian's are looking out for number on. Considering that we've been told in the other verses that we're lazy, then making a sacrifice? Perhaps in times of extreme hardship but not generally.
With faces turned to heaven above,
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair

What have we learnt from all this then?
The national anthem itself affirms that Australia is British, that Australians are lazy, that they don't really know their history and that we're as pompous as those we hate in Britain. Also I don't think that it's much of a stretch to declare that because it was written by a Scotsman whilst he was in Scotland, that the song isn't Australian, certainly isn't National, and doesn't really qualify as an anthem under the definition of the word.

No wonder we don't really know it... it speaks so much about us as a nation.

July 27, 2009

Horse 1019 - 11% More Rip-Offedness!

Why bother going on a mission to Mars? It will be smaller by the time we get there.

The size of a Mars Bar has been reduced from 60g to 53g or a decrease of 11.66%, but did the price drop by an according 11.66% to $1.50? Heck No!
Mars Snackfood Australia general manager Peter West said the move was a direct response to Australia's obesity debate and the company's bars had too many calories.
"Big food is an issue - the portion size that people are eating, whether (it's) the muffin you buy, or the cake, or when you go to a restaurant, the size of the plate in front of you," Mr West said. "We want to make sure we sell our portions in the right size."
Mr West said the price of Mars Bars (from $1.70) had not decreased, although some of the company's other brands would be cheaper.

Admittedly complaining about the price of chocolate is rather a foolhardy thing to do, especially when coupled with the fact that this was reported in a Murdoch newspaper but I have several questions here:

When has there ever been an "obesity debate"? I would have thought that simple common sense (which apparently isn't so common anymore) dictates that obesity is caused a surplus of calorie intake. ie More calories consumed than expended. Where's the debate? There's no debate. So what exactly is going on here?

Does Mars Snackfood Australia (the name snackfood should give the game away here) suddenly care about the health and welfare of its customers? Of course not. The real issue can be boiled down into a very few select words from the article:

11 per cent smaller - The price, however, won't change.

The same simple equation which governs obesity also governs profits. Profits is caused a surplus of monetary intake. ie More dollars collected than expended.

We've seen this before. Cadbury reduced the size of their chocolate blocks from 250g to 200g. Once upon a time there were 13 Tim Tams in a packet before it became 12, 11 and now only 9. Coca-Cola have introduced a new 450mL bottle which is set to replace their 600mL. Head and Shoulders reduced their 500mL bottle down to 450mL. Even the standard size of a loaf of bread fell in 1998 from 750g to 680g and for what purpose? Profits.

Yet again we see business gouging the wallets of people and then "sugar coating" it with an emotional excuse. Well guess what Mars? I'm never going to buy another one of your products again. As a riled consumer who votes with my wallet, I'm taking my hard won moneys and spending them on Titan bars at Aldi, so ha and nyah. And just to add insult to injury, I'm adding to my list of companies that I have contempt* for. Ha and double nyah!

*Rollo's Contempt List:
News Corporation, Holden and GM (but not Opel or Vauxhall), Chrysler, AIG, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, St George, BMW, Vodafone, Telstra, Fiat, Qantas, Emirates, Optus, Campbell's, Wesfarmers, Microsoft, Caltex, Shell, Mobil, Total, Lion Nathan, Renault, and La Porchetta.

July 23, 2009

Horse 1018 - How Much We Like/Hate Your Club

I have this theory that suggests that the more successful a club is, the more hated that club is likely to be. It usually follows that hate follows success.

So then I have complied a highly non-scientific method of determining how much people are likely to hate any given club, or alternatively, how much people are likely to like any given club if they are a neutral.

To this end I give you The Great Premier League Likability Index:

This handy guide will give you an empirical guide to how much people are going to like your team. By following these handy little instructions, we'll work out scores for the entire premier league.

Supporter Base:
- Add 1 point for every year your club has been in the top flight. Because a club's following is built on how long they survive. It follows that a club with a long standing should generate a loyal following.
- Add 3 points if they have just been promoted. A club which is only newly promoted has a small boost as people tend to look favourably on the newbies.

Snobbery Value:
- Deduct 2 points for every £100m the club is worth. Nobody likes a bunch of rich snobs who think they can buy a title.
- Add 1 point for every thousand seats that the club stadium has under 100,000. Big stadia although can pack more people in, tend not to have supporters from that city.

People Hate Success:
- Deduct 2 points for every piece of silverware that the club has won in the past 20 years.
- Add 1 point for every year that the club has won diddly squat.

Nationalistic Fervour:
- Add 1 point for every English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish (incl. NI) or Australian international in the squad.
- Deduct 1 point for every German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Brazillian, or Argentine international in the squad.

Colour is Important:
- Deduct 5 points if the club plays in Red or Blue at home
- Deduct 3 points if the club plays in White at home
- Add 5 points if the club plays in any other colour at home

If we apply all of these then we get the following values:

221 Stoke City
190 Hull City
141 Burnley
134 Everton
132 Bolton Wanderers
117 Fulham
112 Aston Villa
107 West Ham Utd
104 Wolverhampton
97 Sunderland
94 Birmingham City
92 Manchester City
91 Tottenham
87 Blackburn Rovers
87 Portsmouth
87 Wigan Ath
78 Arsenal
37 Chelsea
33 Liverpool
-55 Manchester Utd

Not surprisingly, Manchester Utd is the most hated of clubs because it is a) the most successful, b) the richest, c) has a massive stadium, from which we conclude that the supporters aren't from Manchester and d) is the least English of football clubs.

What I find interesting is that Aston Villa, Everton, Bolton, Fulham and West Ham which have been bouncing around the doldrums for the past 10 years have a good core of ex-England players but aren't really all that successful with them.

Blackburn, Portsmouth and Wigan are all not very English, but at the same time have between them won a score of trophies.

Stoke City would be a neutral's favourite, mainly because they embody the underdog. They've never won anything, they play out of a tiny stadium and they have a few Scotland players. They'll probably get relegated, but everyone loves willing on the underdog, right?

July 22, 2009

Horse 1017 - If Cats Could Talk

I have been asking several questions as to what goes on inside my cat's head. Obviously the cat is less intelligent than people, but he does display on occasion some quite sophisticated thought patterns and even appears to try to manipulate his owners to get fed.

Among one of the thoughts that I've had (and have had lengthy discussions on) is the question of how does the cat actually think. Being an English speaker, nominally most of my thoughts are composed in English, though I will admit that having learnt elementary Japanese and a small amount of French and Latin, occasionally I will think in those languages as well.

What then of the cat? Is it possible to conduct sophisticated thought without the use of a cognisant language. How do you hang ideas in any framework without a language to tie them altogether? Is this also true for deaf people? If you were born deaf, and never ever heard language, then how would you compose ideas and thoughts?

Then I asked the question "Is there some default language which all people latently have?" Perhaps the answer to this might explain my above conundrum.

Merritt Ruhlen in his book "The Origin of Language" suggest that in fact, all modern languages share a common origin. By using a series of arguments based on reconstruction, the known proto-languages, a series of classification and by testing with known common roots, he's able to build quite a compelling argument for this theory.

The idea is consistent with the rest of science. If you create orders and super-families Eurasiatic (Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Eskimo/Aleut), Dene-Caucasian (Basque, Caucasian, Sino-Tibetan, Na-Dene), and Amerind (Native American languages from the US to South America), and then compare these to the isolated groups of Dravidian etc Austronesian etc, then by extrapolation, it all leads back to only one language.

Take a simple word such as aq'wa (water). It appears in what seemingly looks like totally unrelated languages all over the world. How is it possible for instance that Indo-European languages share more in common with Eskimo/Aleut languages than Semitic languages which immediately neighbour it?

There is a relatively simple way to describe what's going on though:

"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech." - Genesis 11:1

"The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel (confusion) — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world." Genesis 11:6-9

If science seemingly confers with the Bible that there was indeed only one root language, does this mean that this is a set of default settings? Do deaf people have this language as some sort of default?

What about my cat? In Genesis 3:1 we read this:
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?""
My cat is certainly crafty, but what I find conspicuous by its absence is the issue that Eve throughout this discussion isn't surprised that the serpent could talk. Was it a commonplace thing to do before the fall? Does my cat still have the default pre-Babel language locked inside his head?

It's an interesting question. Of less interest is what the cat would actually say if he could talk. I'm 99% sure of what that would be.

Feed me.

July 17, 2009

Horse 1016 - Permanent War Economy

"Apart from that I believe the same mentality still exists today, I don't want to dwell on something that happened in the past & which I can do nothing about. It's just too depressing." - Warwick Reynolds, 15th Jun 2009
The above comment was made in reference to the utterly hideous amount of money spent by the US Government on its military; it does of course raise the big super ultimate question of... "Why?" The answer I fear, is one of hopelessly entangled, misplaced and dangerous ideology.

I take you back to 1944 and a fellow called Ed Sard, who predicted that after WW2, that the USA would "retain the character of a war economy even in peace time." The idea being that a "permanent war economy" would keep military spending high, and thus keep demand levels sufficiently high enough to avoid a repeat performance of the Depresssion which really had only been stopped by the outbreak of the war.

The reasoning behind this is surprisingly sound. Basic economic theory states that the level of income in the economy is dictated by "all inputs less all outputs" or:

Income = (Consumer Spending + Investment Spending + Government Spending + Receipts on Exports) minus (Savings + Taxation + Payments for Imports)

Income = (C+I+G+X) - (S+T+M)

By increasing the amount of Government Spending, you increase the amount of money being pushed into economy, and therefore incomes over time should increase.

Or to put it another way, in economic lulls or recessions, when C and I fall through consumer and business sentiment becoming pessimistic, G should either rise or stay large enough to keep the economy ticking over.

For Financial Year 2009 the estimated cost of base expenses for the Dept of Defense is $697bn which sounds like a huge amount of money but actually only represents about 3%-4% of GDP. This from an historical high of 38% in 1944 and even during the height of the Vietnam War where it still didn't hit 10%.

During the Depression when Consumer Spending shriveled up because people were unemployed, and Investment Spending also withered away, countries like Britain and the US didn't really recover until the outbreak of war when instantly, Government Spending was raised massively to put fighting men and munitions on the front line.

Quite truthfully, if you applied pre-1941 policies to the US budget; including, then four Neutrality Acts and the stated policy from 1918-1939 of "United States Non-Interventionism" then there hasn't been any logical enemies for the US when you consider that apart from the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Guam, there hasn't been a single act of war on US soil*.
Not only does the "same mentality still exist today" but it's actually ingrained policy. The real irony is that the United States which prides itself on being the shining light of capitalism, is in reality by operation of its budget, operating a part command economy, which in effect is subsidised by the Government. How's that for a leftist policy, eh?

As a result of the war, United States Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson (former CEO of General Motors), saw increased productivity during WW2 as the perfect justification for a permanent war economy; even Eisenhower in his farewell address made mention of the "military-industrial complex" which is in effect an Iron Triangle.
Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together. - Dwight D Eisenhower

The real question left totally unanswered by all of this, isn't why spending billions of dollars is a good idea, but why in particular it should be spent on the military. To this I don't have an honest answer. Personally one of the most ridiculous things I found about America was seeing this sticker or stickers like it on people's cars:

For some absurd reason, it has been drilled into Americans through that most highly dubious of notions "patriotism", that somehow it's unpatriotic not to "support the troops" whatever the heck that means, and considering that every single taxpayer has in fact been doing so since 1775.

It therefore makes perfect sense to me in principle why $697bn is spent on the military when 46 million Americans have access to zero healthcare, and 37 million people live below the poverty line. Poor and sick people don't have political power to move government, nor do they have the ear of politicians or the president, whereas people in business and the military do. You could call it institutionalised apathy for the poor and sick, but surely that's common in any oligarchy?

"What I was even more surprised and disappointed by was how he knew full well that this was a colossal waste of money - that there were things on earth of far greater importance"
- BJD, 15th July, 2009

Sadly, I'm not at all surprised with the colossal waste of money, I've long held the opinion that spending billions of dollars on the instruments to kill people (let's be totally honest about this), is fundamentally wrong and stupid.
The moon program was one component of the space program** which itself employs the very same aerospace companies responsible for building both the aeroplanes which drop bombs on people, and building other aeroplanes to carry people overseas. Those companies don't care where their profits come from.

A far wiser man than me once said: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It should therefore be fairly obvious where the heart of the US Government actually is. It's either in the perennial subsidy of the war machine, or operating the war machine itself, both of which are consistent with the idea of said "permanent war economy".

*Say what you will about 11 Sep 2001, it was never an act of war. It was a series of terrorist attacks by a non-sovereign entity.

Much of the NASA budget is directly military. These programs are usually classified. In addition, much of NASA's work is "dual-use," with military applications closer at hand and more powerfully directing NASA's activities than civilian mission components. For the purposes of this table we assume that 50% of NASA outlays are military.
- US Budgetary Papers, FY 2008, Note 3

July 15, 2009

Horse 1015 - Beating the Soviets

Ever wondered why the manned space programme took a back seat after the US got to the moon?
Cos the point of going to the moon - was ONLY to beat the Soviets.
Nothing more.
- BJD, July 14, 2009

I say, Thank you Mr Kennedy.

I've read through my esteemed colleague BJD's post and the corresponding comments about the theory that the only reason why America went to the moon was to beat the Soviets; whilst I agree both in principle and fact, I suspect that Kennedy's reasons for placing a man on the moon were bound up ultimately in a much bigger fear - namely the diversion from what could have been a nuclear war.

When the bleeping tin ball Sputnik was launched on October 4, 1957, it was done so using the R-7 launch vehicle which was designed initially to carry nuclear warheads. Did this send waves of fear through the US Defence Dept? You bet.

"It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space.... It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency.... NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology."
- National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Director, Hugh Dryden, 14 January 1958.

Personally I think that the only reason why a civilian agency was even mooted was to make the proposal palatable to the US Congress. Suddenly it was possible to land a nuclear warhead on any point on the planet, and so it was very much "spare underpants time" in the Pentagon.

So what does this have to do with putting a man on the moon? Kennedy I think was very much scared about the possibility that the Soviets intended to do nasty things to the USA.

Less than three months after Kennedy assumed the Presidency in April 1961, he ordered the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in Communist Cuba. US-trained force of Cuban exiles were to invade southern Cuba with support from US government armed forces to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The Cubans themselves were backed by the Soviets.

In September of 1962, Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place nuclear missiles in Cuba; these facilities were discovered by U-2 Spy Planes, and by about October 8 the world probably came very very close to nuclear war. The only reason that the Cuban Missile Crisis came to and end was to do with a no-invasion agreement brokered by the United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, Kennedy and Khrushchev on October 28, 1962.

"It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."
- John F Kennedy, October 22 1962.

Is it little wonder therefore that Kennedy wanted to engage the USA and the Soviet Union in a race to the moon whatever the cost? "Fantastic expenditures which wreck the budget"? Kennedy himself said that only justification for it was to beat them [The Soviets]. I also think that "beating the Soviets" given the events that immediately preceded the quote of November 21 1962 was inexorably bound up with "defense, the top priority of the United States government"

Money after all is said and done is merely a tool. By committing monies untold and fantastic, I think that Kennedy probably saved maybe 100 million people's lives. If nuclear war actually had broken out, then I shudder to think what would have happened.

July 13, 2009

Horse 1014 - Their Finest Hour

"...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour."
- Sir Winston Churchill

One of the many things I constantly find of forums and the like, is the ill-conceived notion that Britain was unable to defend itself in WW2. Or perhaps more succinctly (and usually as an exact quote) "we saved your ass in WW2". I don't doubt the contribution that the US made in turning the tide of the war, but the theory that the USA "saved" Britain from Nazi Germany is materially nonsense when you look at the events in sequence.

The Battle of Britain which began on the 10th of July 1940, was really as a result of a serious of hideous defeats and pullouts by the British. France had surrendered on June 22, and this more or less led to what Hitler had wanted, his "Fortress Europe", however one thing stood in his way... England. As the order from Hitler himself said:

"Since England, despite its militarily hopeless situation, still has not shown any signs of being prepared to negotiate, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England and, if necessary, carry it out. The objective of this operation is to eliminate the English home country as a base for the continuation of the war against Germany..."
- Adolf Hitler

Now whilst I don't intend to look at the actual air battle itself (which is the subject of making many books to which there is no end, and much study wearies the body) the key dates are worth noting.

The Battle of Britain ran from 10 Jul 1940 to 31 Oct 1940. The United States itself had a series of Neutrality Acts which prevented US troops or citizens from fighting in overseas conflicts.
The counter-claim always invariably put forward is "what about Lend-Lease?", again, what about it? Lend-Lease didn't come into existence until the Lend-Lease Act of 11 March 1941, some 5 months after the Battle of Britain. How can a program possibly help or even save anyone's "ass" after the event?

The truth is that when Britain was standing on its own against the German War Machine, it was doing precisely that. This fortress built by nature for herself, against infection and the hand of war, this blessed plot, this realm, this land, this England, stood firm; nobody "saved" it but England herself.

July 08, 2009

Horse 1013 - The People's Bank

THE growing power of the Big Four banks has been targeted by a coalition of six influential economists, who have petitioned the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to set up an inquiry into Australia's financial system.
They have suggested the Government set up a "basic bank" so Australians can deposit money with Australia Post and have it managed by the Future Fund.

The so-called people's bank would be similar to New Zealand's successful Kiwibank, which was set up to break the dominance of the Australian-owned majors.

What a top idea! It's just a pity that it's so fundamentally flawed.

The whole concept of a bank set up by the people is far from a new idea. Virtually every building society, be it St George, IMB, The Rock & Hume were all set up by member; for members.
Bendigo Bank was set up as a series of "Community Banks", wherein the capital to set up the bank came from the initial pledgeholders, who then became shareholders.

The problem therefore is not the concept itself, which of itself is sensible and prudent, but the whole question of trustworthiness of the management of this new bank.

It's blatantly obvious that this new bank requires prudent management. If it is the Federal Government in charge, then there is nothing to stop the Government if it was going through dour times, from selling it. Remember that the Federal Government did once own a bank of its own and thanks to the guttersnipery of the then Keating Government, between 1991 and 1996 it was privatised. To be honest, the Labor and Liberal Parties have both shown that they're about as trustworthy as either Chairman Mao or Fuhrer Hitler.*

There's the rub. If "the people's bank" was to be set up and be managed by the Future Fund, which itself came about because of the sale of supposedly "the people's telecom" Telstra, then in say 2013 when the economy is really in economic kaka, then it too will be sold into private hands - so much for "the people's bank"

Or perhaps are these merely machinations or a governmental leak surrounding RuddBank?

*who started the "People's Republic" and the "People's Car"

July 06, 2009

Horse 1012 - Help, There's An Emergency Going On

I think that as far as I'm concerned, my football season has been ended due to injury.

The incident happened in the second half, after I brought a potential scorer on top of me. I think that I won the ball but with a mass of bodies littered about the six-yard box, who knows? I took out his feet and he came crashing in over the top of me, so it was entirely my fault but did he score? No - mission accomplished.

Now I'm not usually the sort of person to complain about this sort of thing, but it seems to me that human knees probably could have been designed a little better. Basically human knees unlike hips which are a sensible ball and socket affair, are two bits of bone, held together with elastic bands called ligaments, and a patella or "kneecap" acting as a... knee cap. In all seriousness, a ball and socket joint would have been more

The two ligaments I've torn are the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). These two are the lacky bands which control twist in the lower leg. This sort of injury is usually the domain of skiers, tennis players, netballers and Chubby Checker who also twist a lot.

The other major injury I've sustained are the Scaphoid, Capitate, Trapezoid and Trapezium Carpals which may or may not have been smashed. My wrist is currently in a cast as I type this, which is somewhat annoying. The only real upside is that I can sort of look a bit like Dr Zoidberg if I hold my right arm in the air... which aint much of an upside in all honesty.

Still, I can't be accused of not being committed to a tackle. If anything by playing on I showed heart and ticker... and stupidity.

July 02, 2009

Horse 1011 - I Officially Hate Music

I don't know if this is an unintended consequence, but I've found that in the days that followed (including this morning) I can't listen to music of any sort on the radio and any enjoyment I would have got from it has been drained to the point of zero.

1 year ago today in the name of changing what went into my mind, I put a sledgehammer through my iPod and threw out all my CDs and between 80%-90% of my DVDs and comic books. So then one year on what are the results?


No seriously, that's it. I actually find myself hating music, in anything, hidden as the background in television programs, in adverts, in shopping centres, and especially on the radio.
In the car, any music is met with a swift "shut up!" on my part before either the station is switched, or the whole radio is given the flick entirely.

At first this was because of a deliberate effort to do so, but now it's more through sheer annoyance, not only at the sounds but at the very concept itself.

There are of course two great points of irony here:

The first of which is that the CD single as from today is no longer on sale in Australia. There are no singles in CD format that can be bought from any outlet in the country... mind you, you'd actually be pushed to find a new music outlet these days.

The second is that I'm involved in the music ministry at church. For this I adopt an entirely different attitude. Behind the VDP or the sound desk, one doesn't actually need to listen to music for enjoyment purposes. My purpose there is for the rest of the congregation. So as far as I'm concerned, if they're getting something out of it, then that's good, but as for my own devices, well... it's not about me is it?

Of course, I don't necessarily mean to rag on musicians who I must admit have more talent and skill than I posess. It's just that with the radio off, and with constantly annoyed by music, I can't appreciate that talent or skill, and already have no desire to listen to their output.

July 01, 2009

Horse 1010 - We've Finally Crossed the Digital Divide


Today being July 1 is the first official day of digital radio in AUstralia. Never mind the fact that ABC DiG, ABC Classic, SBS Radio 1 and SBS Radio 2 have already been in operation for three years, also we'll conveniently ignore the fact that Britain has already had digital radio for 10 years, and worse XM and Sirius Satellite Radio already meant that you could have been listening to digital radio from another country for 6 years.

In 2003 I was listening to the whole spectrum of radio stations in the UK in a Vauxhall Corsa - a Corsa! That car was sold here as a Barina for goodness sake. GM's cheapest car in its lineup already had had digital radio as standard as early as 6 years ago.

Whilst radio stations are congratulating themselves on how well they've adopted "new technology" bear in mind that the radio stations themselves spent a great deal of time putting in submissions as to why they couldn't adopt it; mainly on the grounds of cost.

Australians always seem to get everything last. Despite what tech-strong companies tell you, they're more content to bicker over standards for a commercial advantage than actually provide the customer with new technology.

Let's see just how bad we've been, shall we?

Radio - 4 years
8MK Detroit - 1920
3AR Melbourne - 1924

TV - 21 years
NWDR Berlin - 1935
GTV 9 Melbourne 1956

FM Radio - 35 years
RCA NYC - 1940
2JJ - 1975

Colour TV - either 21 or 8 years
NBC - 1954 (NTSC)
BBC2 - 1967 (PAL)
ABC - 1975

Internet - 2 years
MCI Mail - 1988 (open to commercial use)
OTC - 1990

3G Mobile - 2 years
NTT DoCoMo - 2001
3 Mobile - 2003

On the face of it, we should be getting quicker with our adoption of new technologies. As the world gets ever more connected, then those technologies should equally pass around the world on a more or less equal timeframe. Why then have we spent the best part of 8 years dithering about the adoption of standards, when the parts of the industrial world are already ahead of us?