October 31, 2014

Horse 1787 - Writing A Novel Again (NaNoWriMo)

The word "journey" bothers me. When you hear people on a reality TV show, they'll often say that the reason why they wanted to go on said show is that they're "on a journey", whatever the heck that means. This ignores the more obvious and gauche fact that they're probably really going on the show to win fame and or possibly fortune.
Let's be perfectly honest here, fame and fortune are probably the real reasons why a lot of people want to go into televised talent competitions; not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that because it beats standing around on a retail counter all day long.

But think for a second of the people who go into the arts, like music, painting, writing, sculpture who will never achieve fame and fortune. What drives them? I suspect that it has more to do with the act of creating something; the very act of playing music, putting brush to canvas or chisel to marble, or wrangling words together so that they form some sort of vaguely coherent order.
For this reason, I'm doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again.

As I said last year in Horse 1579 when I'd come to the end of it, I found that writing a novel was an "entirely unrewarding experience" because I already knew how the story was going to end before I'd finished it. As someone who writes a lot but also reads a lot more, having the ending of the novel spoiled before you've finished it, isn't particularly fun and yet, having gone through the process once, I now know what to expect.
So why do it again, if I didn't like it? Because like musicians, painters and sculptors, I like to write.

On the train heading forth and back across this unwieldy city, I have a lot of time to waste. I can spend that time reading, writing or on those glorious afternoons where the golden rays of the spring and summer sun stream in through the train's windows, I can spend that time sleeping. Whilst everyone else is tapping away, I'll be there furiously scribbling away or daydreaming so that I can continue to scribble away.

Bleeding Gums Murphy taught Lisa Simpson that "music is like a fire in your belly that comes out of your mouth, so you'd better stick an instrument in front of it".  The instrument with which I am most proficient at is a home stereo - I can play that one really well (it even has a helpful button marked "play"). Music is not something that I do well. I can draw comics a bit but they're more the means to an end.
The instrument that I play the best on, is either the ball point pen and exercise book or the US 104 keyboard. From these two places, ideas and thoughts get bashed and work hardened until they form sentences and paragraphs. Look! This is a sentence, just now. This is another. This sentence closes off a paragraph.
If you jam enough words, sentences and paragraphs together, eventually you get something resembling a story. Make it long enough and you have a novel. For someone who has generation more than 2 million words and brought them to heel; so that they form some sort of order, 50,000 words in a month is easy.

Deep down, that's why I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. That fire in my belly wants to come out somewhere and in this case, the instrument I'm sticking in front of it, is a keyboard. Hopefully on 30th November, I'll have something to show for it. 

October 30, 2014

Horse 1786 - The Year And A Day Rule On Homicide

In an old episode of New Tricks on Gem, DS Sandra Pullman mentioned to a chap that they were arresting on suspicion of murder that had he committed the murder just thirteen months earlier then he would have been absolved by the "Year and a Day Rule" which used to exist with respect to murder, manslaughter and aiding and abetting suicide.
I had heard of this rule before from a commercial law class oh so many years ago in relation to concepts like the Statute of Limitations, which then leads on to all sorts of juicy concepts of law like frustration and avoidance of contracts, but never having needed to study criminal law, it remained just an interesting aside. I just assumed that it still was a thing.

The Year And A Day Rule which used to exist was the common law presumption that a death was not a murder or manslaughter etc. if the death occurred more than a year and a day since the act which was alleged to have caused it, took place.

It is really hard to find examples of this existing in Australian law now, as the rule was abolished in New South Wales in 1990, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in 1991, in Queensland in 1992 and finally in Tasmania in 1993.
An idea of how the legislation used to read can be found in the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, where it is still in operation:
Death must be within a year and a day
(1)No one is criminally responsible for the killing of another unless the death takes place within a year and a day after the cause of death.
(2)The period of a year and a day shall be reckoned inclusive of the day on which the last unlawful act contributing to the cause of death took place.
- Section 162, Crimes Act 1961 (NZ)

The reasoning behind both the inclusion of the rule and its final aboliton can be found in the Hansard record which accompanies the The Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996:

The Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996
The rule is a legacy of a time when medical science was so rudimentary that, if there was a substantial lapse of time between injury and death, it was unsafe to pronounce on the question of whether the defendant's conduct or some other event had caused the death. Medical science has now progressed to a point where it is possible accurately to link injury with death even if there is a significant time lapse. Moreover, advances in technology mean that seriously injured patients can be kept alive for long periods. This can have the effect, as in the case of Michael Gibson, of rendering impossible a prosecution for murder simply because of the year and a day rule. One can fully understand the additional distress that this must cause to a victim's family.
The Bill before us provides an opportunity to abolish this outdated rule and prevent such distress in future. 
- Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Bill, Lords Hansard Home Page, 24 Apr 1996

Basically it says that once upon a time, science was good enough to conclusively link acts which occurred more than twelve months before someone had died to that eventual death but now that forensic techniques have improved, that proof is now substantially good enough to be reliable.

It makes me wonder what the underlying meaning was in Edward Lear's poem "The Owl And The Pussy Cat"

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
    How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
    But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
    To the land where the Bong-tree grows
- Edward Lear, The Owl And The Pussycat (1871)

They sailed away, for "a year and a day"? Why? Was this because The Owl And The Pussycat had performed some act which led to death and they didn't want to be charged with murder?


October 29, 2014

Horse 1785 - Bring Back Ties

Twice daily on my travels through the metropolis of Sydney, I pass through the central business district (which itself is something of a misnomer because it's not in the centre and if business means to shift numbers from one screen to another, I'll eat my shares in Hansen Australian Technologies Ltd). As I pass through, I've noticed a subtle change in the way people dress, something which was perfectly normal for most of the 20th century and I'll illustrate this by firstly showing why I don't belong.

My wardrobe is less adventurous than the majority of the office army which twice daily fights its way through the city. I have half a dozen white shirts, black trousers, a few black waistcoats and black suits; most of my hats are also black, save for one which is grey.
The reason for this is perfectly pragmatic. Whites get washed with whites and blacks get washed with blacks and never the twain shall meet. Unlike some strange nationalistic fervour, these colours might run and I fear that happening.
The only real point of colour in my working wardrobe is a series of ties; even then I tend to favour sensible colours and stripes. If I have to meet people in a professional capacity, I don't want to look like a packet of Smarties. However, I am atypical.

As the office army intraunts and exeunts via the vomitoria of underground railway stations and motor omnibuses, I have noticed that the uniform of this army has now become a plethora of pastels. Suits are still grey and black but people now sport shirts of blues, greens, purples and other colours which my protanopic eyes can not see and my EGA mind can not find names for.
The riotous mish-mash which has now arrived upon the gentlemen where once it was just the domain of the ladies, appears to me, to be more at home in the Dulux Weathershield range than an office environment.
As a result of this chaotic kaleidoscope of colour that people are now wearing, the need for the tie has almost entirely been negated. Why bother with that one point of colour if you're already walking about lit up brighter than Trafalgar Square anyway?

Now I know what you're thinking (or if you weren't you're about to because you can't help but think the thing that's written down), what gives me the right to be the self-appointed fashion police if by my own admission, I can't even see half the colours I object to?
Whilst it is true, that I have the fashion sense of a grilled-cheese sandwich which has been hurled into the turbofan of a Rolls-Royce Trent 970 and that asking my opinions on fashion makes about as much sense as placing a custard tart on top of the 378 bus to Bronte and asking its opinions on the merits of the new President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, that's precisely why I'm perfectly placed to offer my opinion. The regular police don't care of the merits of the law, they just make sure that it is enforced and when it comes to the business world, when serious decisions are being made, I don't expect that the people making them should look frivolous.

The tie may have originated when Croatian mercenaries served in the French Army during the Thirty Years' War and may indeed have been little more than a convenient piece of rag to wipe one's nose upon but as a small point of colour, the tie was far nicer to my mind than coloured shirts which are properly meant for after work, Saturdays and Sundays.
Mind you, I also think that we should bring back stovepipe hats, fedoras and whoopee caps; so what would I know anyway?

October 26, 2014

Horse 1784 - What's Wrong With Balotelli?

Since Mario Balotelli's £16 million move from AC Milan to Liverpool, he has increasingly come under pressure in the press for not scoring any goals in the Premier League. As at the time of writing, Liverpool collectively have scored 13 goals from 9 matches and lie 7th in the table, which is the same number of goals as Crystal Palace who lie a lowly 15th. Blame for this drought of goals has been laid at the feet of Balotelli and he is rather unfairly being compared with ex-Liverpool liability Luis Suarez.
The question though, is this blame being apportioned in the right place? I think that the answer is "No". I think that the real reason lies with players like Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno.

The unsaid thing about a football match is that there is only one ball. Control possession and even if you have the attacking flair of a depressed badger up front, the opposition can not score against you. You can not score goals if you do not hold and keep the ball.
In 2014/15, Liverpool's forwards have suffered from a fatal lack of supply of useful deliveries. It is all very well to say that the forwards are not scoring goals but without the ball being won and passed to, then how are they even supposed to?

It was amazingly obvious against Hull City and even more so against a classy Real Madrid side, that Liverpool didn't necessarily lose the ball that easily as much as it was never theirs to lose in the first place. Against Real Madrid they constantly defended, 8 yards off the ball which meant that this collection of Galácticos were pretty much free to do as they felt like, most of the time.
Against Hull though, Liverpool could very easily sit just in Hull's half but could procede no further. Hull who never really looked like scored, kept the gates to the final third shut and Liverpool resorted to long range efforts.

Balotelli's problem is that he is being employed as a panacea to cure all of Liverpool's ills. His workrate and distances that he travels according to stats are almost 9km in a match which is quite frankly, extraordinary. He's being asked to bear the weight of the side of his shoulders, when all this Italian stallion wants to do is run free.
Balotelli is currently the victim of a side trading on last years' reputation and although he appears to be working harder than everyone, football needs eleven players to do their job; not just one.
I suspect that if Liverpool moved to a 4-4-2 and dominated the middle of the park instead of looking a little directionless with the current 4-3-3 or even changed to a slightly more attacking mentality at 3-4-3, that Balotelli would be worth as many as 40 goals in a season.

You can't make a Thoroughbred do the work of a Shire horse; nor should they be expected to and yet that's what I suspect is happening. Maybe Brendan Rodgers will find a solution to the issue of replacing Daniel Sturridge who won't return until November due to injury but as yet, this problem has no solution that can be found.

I suspect that if Liverpool does find a way to click together all of the parts then Balotelli's goals will come like a torrent but as it stands, he's grinding away and doing his best with not a lot to work with.
What's wrong with Balotelli? Nothing really. The problem lies with the 9 players on the pitch behind him.

October 24, 2014

Horse 1783 - More Than Just About Piracy On The Digital Seas

Australians who illegally downloaded the movie Dallas Buyers Club may have to cough up cash payments, with the studio behind the Oscar-winning film asking companies to hand over the identities of pirates.
But Australia's second largest ISP, iiNet, who defeated Hollywood in a piracy battle in 2012, says it will put up a fight for its subscribers.
They were asking for settlements of up to $US5000 per offence, or more in some cases. Now they're taking their battle to Australia, applying to the Federal Court that it have iiNet and other local ISPs hand over the identities of the alleged pirates.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd Oct 2014

This post is not about the legalities of downloading movies; nor about the right to privacy but about a third issue which isn't even being discussed amidst this - common carriage.
In a war about the identities of alleged pirates, I think that battleships are being mobilised beyond the horizon.

Uncle Google informs me that the movie Dallas Buyers Club, was made by Focus Features, which is a division of NBCUniversal, which itself is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.
Comcast Corporation is the largest broadcasting and cable company in the world by revenue.

What does it mean in relation to the other players within the Australian internet market such as Optus and Telstra? When you consider that Telstra is itself a 50% shareholder of Foxtel along with News Corp Australia, the waters get muddied very quickly.
Suppose for a second that NBCUniversal wins its case against iiNet. What does that mean for internet in Australia?

If iiNet loses its case, it then becomes responsible for the data which passes through it. If an ISP is by law a responsible gatekeeper, then it can not be by definition a common carrier.
Suddenly, players like Telstra become very interested indeed. If ISPs are not common carriers, then suddenly they get handed all sorts of interesting power. Take the clauses within the rules which govern Australia Post, for instance:

Without limiting subsection (1), the terms and conditions determined by the Board may make provision with respect to:
(a)  the kinds of articles that may be carried by post and the means by which different kinds of articles may be carried; and
(b)  the carriage of letters and other postal articles; and
- Section 32, Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989

5 Right of refusal 
5.1 To the extent permitted by the Act, Australia Post is not a common carrier and reserves the right to refuse to provide postal and related services to any customer or to accept articles of any particular class, character or nature whatsoever at its sole discretion.
- Australia Post, Terms and Conditions
, Part A - General Postal Services, Sep 2014.

The Right Of Refusal to carry certain documents, which is allowed at the Board's discretion under the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989, means that if Australia Post for some reason, didn't want to take a particular entity's letters and parcels, they have the legal right to enforce that refusal.

If you then apply the same logic to an ISP, it would then give them an equivalent right of refusal to carry certain particular entity's data, which might be extremely handy given the perpetual war which News Corp has been fighting with the ABC since as far back as the 1930s.

But Anny Slater, of Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers, said the plaintiff would have picked iiNet ahead of Telstra as the "best chance" of success, possibly after studying the 2012 landmark case brought against the Perth-based telco by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. iiNet won that case, but among the documents exposed during the process were case notes that pointed to higher legal hurdles at Telstra and its omission from that legal action.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 24th Oct 2014

Considering that Telstra and News Corp both own 50% of Foxtel, there might very well be an underlying commericial reason why Comcast wouldn't want to take on Telstra in a legal battle. This is classic warfare diplomacy - make peace with your stronger neighbours and isolate and conquer your weaker neighbours. iiNet is a weaker neighbour; they must be isolated and conquered. Fighting against Telstra would be a war of attrition, which neither side wants to engage in.

What else could be behind the scenes here? I wouldn't put it past the current Abbott Government to sell NBN Co to Telstra & Foxtel in a joint venture with Comcast; then what? Comcast and HBO have already exhibited tensions for a while and this manoeuvring by Comcast with respect to iiNet, might just be the first of many shots fired in a very big battle indeed.

October 23, 2014

Horse 1782 - Senator David Leyonhjelm and Spending "Other People's Money"

On Pleasant Crescent there are several blocks of flats. At number 32 Pleasant Crescent is the block called Agincourt. Across the street at number 33 is Beauchamp. Further down the street at number 39 is Cruikshank. Even further down the street at number 46 is Descartes.
All of these block of flats have sinking funds in which the strata holders pay into for the maintenance of their buildings. One day, the strata managers of Agincourt decided that they wanted to reduce costs and so they through a meeting of the Owners' Committee decided to lower their fees. It sounded great for the people who started in the system but for newcomers who joined later, suddenly they found that they had to meet more and more costs for themselves; instead of the building's sinking fund looking after them properly.

As you walk down Pleasant Crescent you stop and think "Sweet Johnny Major!". Before you know it, you've wandered straight into an analogy and into the suburb of Hypothetical (postcode XY22). You should have really realised that after the buildings were named A, B, C and D, shouldn't you?

Which block of flats you prefer to live in, on Pleasant Crescent? All things being equal other than the amount of strata levies that you have to pay for the upkeep of the building. Initially I suspect that you don't want to live in Agincourt. Paying less fees might work for a while but what happens if things really start to breakdown and get old?
What happens for instance if the guttering starts to rust and the tiles need replacing? What about when the lights in the hallways start to go? If there is a break-in down at Cruikshank, would you like for there to be a security guard so that your place doesn't get robbed next? Remember, down at number 46, the people who live in Descartes have started to employ security guards and installed very high steel fences with razor wire. Those residents have also started telling everyone in the street (and very very loudly) that the street just isn't safe any more.

The strata management at Agincourt, have started justifying spending less on maintenance and collecting less in strata fees on the basis that they're spending "Other People's Money"; on the face of it, this sounds prudent and sensible.
What this does do though is shift the question from being purely an economic one and one of mutual benefit to the strata owners, to one of personal responsibility. What happens if a child falls off a seventh story balcony because the railings weren't maintained? Guess what - although that used to be something which the strata managers would have fixed, they now claim that the child deserved to fall because it was up to the owners of that particular flat to look after themselves. Remember personal responsibility? The strata managers do and they enforce it.

Does this analogy sound stupid? What if instead of talking about sinking funds of a strata title building, we look to something larger and talk about taxation in a nation state? What if instead of talking about fixing lights, railings, guttering and tiles, we instead talk about infrastructure, the defence forces and welfare payments?
Are the people who live in a building with its common property and common access really that much in principle any different to the citizenry who live within a Commonwealth? A "Commonwealth" at English Law is a term for a political community founded for the "common good". A similar term might be "Res Publica" from which we derive our word "republic" and means a "public affair".

Now I ask the question: How would we feel if in a nation which likes to call itself a Commonwealth, that someone starts speaking of spending "Other People's Money"? I find this term to be something of doublespeak. If people start to frame political discourse like this, how does that change the nature of political discourse?

Consider this:
If I were to ask everyone in this chamber to turn out their wallets and purses and give me a third of the money in their possession, I imagine there would be some disquiet. If I were to tell you that the reason for taking your money is that I know better than you what you should do with it, I would expect there would be some resentment. What is more, if I explained to you that if you refuse to give me the money, you could go to jail, I expect there might even be some anger.

Imagine that I decided the large pile of cash you were forced to give me was not nearly enough, so I went out and borrowed more, with the cost of the interest to come out of your pile and the debt left hanging over you and your children. Then imagine that I started spending it foolishly on things you do not want. It would be natural to feel outraged. In fact, you should be outraged. It is something most of us would recognise as common theft. Not only that, it would constitute authoritarian, incompetent, irrational, vain, patronising and delusional behaviour on my part. But that is exactly what the Australian government does to the Australian public, no matter who sits on which side of the chamber. Many people would call it stealing, but in this place we just call it another day at the office.
- Senator David Leyonhjelm, 23rd Sep 2014.

What is Senator David Leyonhjelm saying here? Does he believe in the concepts of nationhood or the principles of community? When he talks about spending money "foolishly on things you do not want" what does he mean exactly? What does he think about the example of a child who falls over a railing because the strata managers of the building also didn't want to spend "Other People's Money"? Is he suggesting that when people happen to suffer because of economic hardship that they deserve to? 

Helpfully Senator David Leyonhjelm said other things in this speech which betray his beliefs. 
Far too much of our political debate is restricted to the question of how to spend OPM or, if you like, who is the better dealer in OPM. This is the wrong question to ask because, as Milton Friedman taught us, it is the very nature of the spending that is the problem. A much better question to ask is this: why don't we just let people spend more of their own money?
- Senator David Leyonhjelm, 23rd Sep 2014.

Let's ask Milton Friedman shall we? In Milton Friedman's 1962 book "Capitalism and Freedom", which was set in a time where the United States was undertaking the biggest public works program in history with the "Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways" (and thus the biggest ever dealing on "OPM", he actually called for a negative income tax for people below a certain level of income. Isn't that in effect what transfer and welfare payments actually are?

Maybe Senator David Leyonhjelm has a different view of spending Other People's Money. Maybe he's a student of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:
And Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them.
- Margaret Thatcher, This Week, 5th Sep 1976

Ms Thatcher would not only go on to "run out of other people's money", she also went on to sell "other people's stuff". We saw the same sort of thing going on in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. We're also seeing it again with the sell-off of Medibank Private, which is a profitable business, which the current government doesn't feel belongs in the common property but rather under the auspices of personal responsibility, should go to those who can most afford to buy it. The revenues which it could have raised (along with a whole host of former government businesses) no longer defray the costs of running government and this make it even more structurally dependent on taxation. 

The reason that this can be constantly foisted upon the commonwealth is that the public's itching ears and sullen eyes are too dull too comprehend what's going on; thanks to progressively defunding education, they're also progressively too stupid. 
Again, on the face of it (like Janus) it sounds as though and is meant to sound as though governments are somehow ridiculously wasteful. I have worked in government and I can tell you first hand that every single government office that I've ever worked in at both state and federal level was so hideously understaffed, that the staff who were there, worked many hours beyond their allotted time and because they were salaried, never even got paid $1 for it. I worked beyond midnight on a few evenings whilst working for the Commonwealth Law and though it easier to go to sleep in the offices than to go home, only to come back at 08:30 the next morning. 

With the rod of personal responsibility, the strata managers of the nation (ie our politicians) can and do beat the people of the nation even harder. Not only that, when it comes to the poor and the old, this discussion is being reframed, so that they actually deserve to be punished.
Tell me, why is it that "dole bludgers" are painted as Public Enemy No.1? Who is really doing the bludging here?
The 90-page look at the the tax contributions of the S&P/ASX 200 between 2004 and 2013 – the first research of its kind attempted – claims up to $80 billion was foregone by the taxman over that period; a sum of money that could all but wipe out the government's past two budget deficits.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 29th Sep 2014.

As an aside, how come I'm forced by law to hand over almost 10% of my salary package to financial institutions who then cream off 2% for doing nothing? All superannuation has to try and beat the market and that's patently impossible as everyone can not beat everyone else; not only that but they have to beat the market by at least 2% in order to make the system worthwhile.
What happens if you are a woman who decides to have children? During the time that you're not working, you're not putting any money into superannuation at all; that has a multiplied effect over 40 or 50 years. That says to me that half the population are being beaten with the rod of personal responsibility harder than others. I'll even go on to suggest that I think that superannuation by operation is inherently sexist.

Speaking of the financial system generally though, banks and other financial institutions only reduce the frictional costs of doing business (and even then, I'm not sure that they even do that any more). Since all payments for borrowings have to be paid back with real work, doesn't this suggest that the entire financial system is basically creaming the top off of "other people's money"? Why is it then that the financial system is seen as virtuous, whilst apparently as Senator David Leyonhjelm sees it, governments are wicked? Who is it that actually maintains and builds common property?

When you think about it, EVERY great institute, every scientific discovery, virtually every endeavour has been the result of a collectivist structure, supporting them in some way. We call these entities, companies, corporations, partnerships, joint ventures, clubs, teams, nations, states, churches, families even. So don't talk about so-called "personal responsibility" because really, in almost every endeavour worth anything great, there has been some "commonwealth" which it sprang from.
Where "personal responsibility" does only extend as far as one's own hands, as far as one's own wallet and as far as one's own desires and motives, then greed comes on his merry way and that despite what a certain movie might have said, is bad for the majority of people.

When Senator David Leyonhjelm speaks of  not spending "other people's money", would he be generous enough to hand back his salary of $195,130 a year? What if we the Commonwealth all decided that Senator David Leyonhjelm was something that we "do not want"? Why would he under his own conditions feel outraged? 

On Pleasant Crescent there are several blocks of flats. Unfortunately too many strata managers who don't actually live in Pleasant Crescent, see strata fees as wasting "other people's money"; so they argue that it should not be spent on the maintenance of the building; nor should it be charged to the residents.
When there's a fire due to bad electrics, or people start dying because the railings are rusted though, then what?

Certitude leads to violence. This is a proposition that has an easy application and a difficult one. The easy application is to ideologues, dogmatists, and bullies--people who think that their rightness justifies them in imposing on anyone who does not happen to subscribe to their particular ideology, dogma or notion of turf. If the conviction of rightness is powerful enough, resistance to it will be met, sooner or later by force. There are people like this in every sphere of life, and it is natural to feel that the world would be a better place without them!
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Perhaps Oliver Wendell Holmes was on to something. I rather like his more famous statement about "other people's money".

I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

October 22, 2014

Horse 1781 - Thoughts Whilst Supervising An HSC Mathematics Examination

"Bring a book," they said. "It will be a long and dull time," they said. Yet here am I in an NSW HSC Extension 2 Mathematics examination and scribbling furiously, having a wonderful time. Obviously, I'm not actually taking the HSC Extension 2 Mathematics examination, I'm here as a supervisor. Though, after looking at the paper, I'm kind of feeling a little bit nostalgic. Integration, conic sections, polynomials, complex numbers - ah. It all looks like fun.
This afternoon is the exam for Mathematics General 2 which looks like it has things like geometry and algebra in. To be fair, those things are far more useful in the real world; so I don't look down on the with disdain as once I might have done.

I peer over this group who don't have any school uniforms and it looks as though the late 1980s has called and wants its clothes back. There's more fluorescent colours here than a road construction crew in hi-vis jackets, in a rave party at Trafalgar Square. This lot weren't around when this sort of thing was fashionable the first time and haven't yet learnt that it looks as hideous now as it did then. That sort of thing obviously must be learnt first-hand. "Retro" is always runs 23 years behind and this lot are literally (as in literally; not metaphorically; I do know the difference) half my age, which would make them about 18.
I note that these kids still think that everything is "awesome" which shows that language appears to be moving slower than I thought it did. I do not think that this display of eye-bleed, saccharin pastels is even remotely "cool" but then again, I'm officially "old" and therefore invisible to these people. Even at the age of 18, I thought that the wardrobe of Poirot was perfectly sensible; here am I, clad in a black waistcoat, suit, tie and bowler hat.

18 years ago I was in an examination hall like this, and answering similar sorts of questions. Looking back, I feel a little sorry for the poor saps who had to mark my papers because as my History teacher Mr Menkes once noted, my handwriting "looked as though a chicken had thrown up all over the paper". Those markers probably consulted the Rosetta Stone to decipher my hieroglyphs. Remarks like that stay with you forever.
18 years ago in those heady days of yore, back in 1996, John Howard had become Prime Minister earlier in the year, and Oasis, Blur and Pulp were fighting it out on the music charts. The kids today have One Direction, Five Seconds Of Summer etc. (this is my attempt to look "hip" and relevant - i reality I have no idea who these bands are).
I would later go on to own the Ford Ka which debuted at the Paris Motor Show that year and to this date, it is still the only car I've even owned which cornered pretty well much flat at 80mph. Today you can get a Toyota Yaris which looks like it has a soup-strainer moustache and is about as much fun to drive as a fridge.

In HSC English, I didn't like the proscribed texts we'd been given, which included "Looking For Alibrandi" by Melina Marchetta (1992) but thanks to George Orwell's "1984" (1949) and Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" (1960) I found the English papers relatively easy. Also, we hadn't been given the works of The Bard in the final year, but again I ended up writing essays about "Hamlet". Hamlet by the way, is a very tasty Hero Sandwich - A large Danish Ham on wry.

The world has changed considerably in the 18 years that these students have been alive. The internet has turned into a proper thing, whereas by by the time that I was their age, two Germanys and the Soviet Union have stopped being things. The War on Terror has replaced The War on Communism but somehow, we still find ourselves back in Afghanistan bombing brown people and it is as barbaric today as it was then.
Liverpool has not won the league, England has not won the World Cup but Blackpool have at least made it into the Premier League for a bit. It is amazing how much things change, how some things stay the same. I myself am officially old, after moving through the listernership of Radio 1, then Radio 2 and now Radio 4 (no-one listens to Radio 3).

I can't help but feel that most of the kids of the generation seated before me, taking this Extension 2 Mathematics examination, will have a harder time in life than I will, except for this lot seated here. Out in the car park I've seen red P-plates of 4-series BMWs, a full set of Hello Kitty seat covers on a Toyota 86GT and not one, not two but five Audi R8s. If you compare that with the Toyota Coronas, Nissan Bluebirds, Commodores, Falcons and Geminis that sat in our high school car park, it paints an interesting story.
When this lot go to university next year, more of them will study things like law and finance than the students of 18 years ago, as the economy has been successfully redesigned to reward people who move numbers from one screen to another, rather than people who design, make and build stuff.
More of the jobs that they would have done will be exported to places like Malaysia, Thailand and India and in 18 years time, it could very well be possible that African countries could very well be the next Lion and Tiger economies. Automation will probably advance at a rapidly increasing rate, with even jobs like forklift drivers and bus drivers finding themselves replaced by self-driving things, the same way that the motor car and the traction engine did for the horse and ox a hundred years ago.

I estimate that most of what they have learnt over the last six years will have been nominally useless. School in principle is about trying to educate and make people ready for the unfriendly workforce. In In practice, things like the sciences will be mostly totally useless in an office environment and the humanities like history and geography are merely interesting diversions. Even today, I find economics, history and the sciences interesting but I suspect that they're mainly just entertainment. Mostly what I do is repetitive arithmetic and fitting numbers into boxes. Those skills could have been taught with six years of learning to fill in forms and doing Sudoku.
I do find it galling that so-called "English" classes are mainly filled with literature studies rather than grammar. I doubt whether most school leavers can explain what the subject or predicate is in a sentence or on a more basic level, how to spell properly. How many people can explain the difference between "who's" and "whose" for instance? This is even worse when people go into disciplines such as Law where you'd think that a half-decent command of the language would be essential but apparently not if the quality of letters, emails and even official documents presented in court proceedings is anything to go by.

For many of these students, these few hours spent in the crucible of examination rooms might very well be the last time they see each other. Despite the gushing of tears and promises that are made, people's lives change. For some students though, the past six years might have been a living nightmare and so they'll finally get a chance to escape. The code of the schoolyard dictates you should never tattle, you should always make fun of those different from you, never say anything unless you're sure everyone feel exactly the same way you do and if you're on the end of it all, accept it quietly.
Unlike the sentiments of Vitamin C's song "Graduation", most will not probably "still be, friends forever" though they might still have the clichéd and oft-repeated strains of Pachelbel's Kanon und Gigue in D running around their heads for years. Presumably this generation though have the all seeing eyes of Facebook and Google; thus ensuring that they'll still know tales of people that they met decades ago.

I bet that in 18 years time, Liverpool will still have not won the league, England will still have not won the World Cup and that Blackpool will still be bouncing around like a mad thing. I also bet that in 2038 that there'll be the equivalent on 4-series BMWs and Audi R8s parked in the car park.
Will those students still be taking an examination on integration, conic sections, polynomials and complex numbers? I hope so. It will still look like fun.

October 21, 2014

Horse 1780 - Australia's Prime Ministers - No 10 - Joseph Lyons

X - Joseph Lyons

Joseph Lyons was one of eight children, whose father had lost the family's bakery business due to ill-health. Young Joseph went to work in a printer's shop at the age of 9 but was able to resume his education thanks to his two aunts.
He would eventually become a teacher and as a member of the teacher's union, joined the Labor Party in Tasmania.

He became a state member of parliament and became Treasurer and Minister for Education where he oversaw the abolition of state school fees and the setting up of many state high schools.
He would stay on through several terms of the Tasmanian state parliament and would eventually become Leader of the Opposition and then Premier of Tasmania. His state government lost the 1928 election and so he became a candidate for federal parliament in 1929; easily winning the seat of Wilmot in the Scullin Government's landslide victory.

Previous PM James Scullin's government was barely a fortnight old when the Wall Street Crash of 1929 blew apart any chance it had at normality.
Following a revolt after Scullin had reappointed Treasurer Ted Theodore, Lyons was one of six Labor MPs who defected to join the Nationalists to form the United Australia Party.
Lyons was appointed as leader of the new party as it was hoped that voters would follow him to win working-class voters. Whilst techically not defeated in an explicit  motion of no confidence, Scullin called an election after the loss in  a motion to adjourn debate.

The 1931 election saw the UAP take 34 seats which was 3 seats short of a majority and so it formed a coalition with the Country Party, which took it to 50 of 75. The 1934 election saw the coalition win 42 of 75 seats and in the 1937 election in won 44 or 75 seats.

What makes Lyon's governments interesting is that during the depression, he was able to convince unions to agree to lowering of wages for workers and despite the compaints from the Country Party, continued to impose heavy tarrifs to protect local industry.

In 1932 the NSW Premier Jack Lang refused to pay interest payments on debts that the state of NSW had accrued. In danger of defaulting, Lyons as Treasurer, stepped in and paid the debts, then passed the Financial Agreement Enforcement Act (1932). Ultimately this would lead to the Income Tax Assessment Act (1936) and the eventual surrender of the states to collect income tax revenues in their own right in 1942.

With the rise of facist governments in Germany and Italy and the beginning of Japanese belligerence, the period towards the end of the Lyons government was one of increasing overseas tension and former PM Billy Hughes was brought back into the cabinet, along with former PM Stanley Bruce who was made "Minister Without Portfolio in London". Australia in theory achieved some degree of autonomy with the passing of the Statute of Westminster 1931 but wouldn't adopt the provisions until 1942.

Lyons' government was also able to pass through a national unemployment insurance scheme, much to the annoyance of the Country Party who forced the government to repeal some sections of the act. This caused the Attorney-General and Minister for Industry, Robert Menzies to resign both posts over the issue.

On 7th April 1939, Joseph Lyons died unexpectedly of a heart attack and Sir Earle Page was appointed as interim Prime Minister. Lyons is to date the only person to have been Leader of the Opposition at both state and federal level and a State Premier and Prime Minister.

October 20, 2014

Horse 1779 - The Silent Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 18, 2014

Horse 1778 - Some Remarks on "Paperback Writer"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2014

Horse 1776 - iWatch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 15, 2014

First 100 Brady Numbers


A proper explanation is here:

Horse 1775 - A Crime Of Wide Stance

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 14, 2014

Horse 1408a - A Letter to Boring Boring Adelaide

Dear Adelaide,

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

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

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

Love, Rollo.

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


Addenda: The post which started all of this:

Horse 1774 - I Wanna Know About Ununennium (119)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2014

Horse 1773 - The Tax Implications Of Owning A Death Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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