February 27, 2014

Horse 1628 - We Want Four Letters

- No no no no no no no.
Shall I put that another way?
No no no no no no no no no no.

Dear Ford,
Why oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why?
Love Rollo.

It's pretty well much a given that the Ford FH Falcon will be the last one ever and that once the last of those leaves the factory, it will be the end of an era. However I really think that Ford could have gone out with a bang; out with a really fantastic swan song but have they chosen to? Not really.
Instead, Ford have decided to clothe the FH with the same design cues as the current Fiesta and the next Mondeo. It's all a little bit dull for my liking. The FH will be going out with a whimper instead of the massive multi-colour bang that it should have.

Apart from very minor changes in the platform to accept such things as independent suspension, as opposed to the live rear axle of the first XK Falcon in 1960, the platform is the same. Also, since the XY Falcon in 1970, the block has pretty well much remained the same; floating at about 4L.
With this in mind, I think that it would have made sense to tool up the factory for the very last run of Falcons to make something from their old playbook. To that end, they could have gone out, leaving us in awe.

What are the four most celebrated letters in Australian motoring history?


No really. Although Holden had their A9X and even Ford's Cobra looked the part, nothing stirs the psyche as much as those letters. There are tales of these things changing hands for six-figure sums and one was bought in 2007 for $683,650.
I mean really. All that Ford should have needed to remind then of how they should have styled their last car is this:

- Story. End of.

I'm not suggesting that Ford should have styled the FH like the XY, no, I'm suggesting that Ford should have tooled up their factories to build XY body pressings and build their last Falcon inside them. It's not like it's a difficult task to engineer either.
The platform and drivetrain would be identical to the FG. Even things such as the interior could have been made to fit. The thing is though, it's not like Ford would have been violating copyright or trademarks either because Ford would have been building a Ford.
I bet that had this been announced, they would have pre-filled orders before even one of them reached the body pressing shop. They would have had a similar sort of response to what Holden had in 1998 when they showed off their Monaro concept. It would be massive.

Ford's problem is that they weren't shifting enough units to make the factory viable. I think that half of that is because they were producing uninspiring cars. Let the Yaris brigade buy their whitegoods for motor cars; let Falcon buyers have one just hurrah before the blue oval fades into obscurity.

February 25, 2014

Horse 1627 - I Understand The Audi Q7 Now

It is 8:12am on a Tuesday. The tidal barriers have moved to accommodate the traffic flowing into the city on Military Rd at Neutral Bay. Heading away from the city, some doofus in a Porsche Boxster which I have seen on many occasions (due to his stupid purple personalised number plate) has run into the back of a Toyota Yaris. I can't but feel a sense of schadenfreude about the whole thing because I've seen this Boxster driving through traffic like Fangio on so many mornings... well maybe not like Fangio, perhaps more like Andrea de Cesaris.

Anyway, traffic is blocked up slightly worse than an August head cold and standing next to this bus in traffic is an Audi Q7. I am able to look down on it and it still looks massive. The car is so big that people in the passenger's seat are in another time zone and the people in the back seats haven't got out of bed yet.

Accodring to the badges on the back, this particular Q7 is a 3.0 TDI. At minimum it cost "the owner" $90,500 (because we all know that there's no way in Hades that this car is "owned" by the person driving it but rather a company).
By TDI, my first impression is that they mean TeDIous but even in 3.0L trim, this diesel is generating 550 Nm of torque which is even more than the R8 sports car. I also not that the car weighs 2300kg, so it would be like driving a barge. Admittedly with the 5.9L V12 diesel it generates more than 1000 Nm of torque but it needs to as it weighs 2665kg.

It is when the sun roof opens though that I truly understand what this car is about and who it's for. The man in the driver's seat is wearing a "Captain's Hat".
The only people in the world who should be wearing these things are military and police officers, Russian novelists and people who own yachts who think that they're military officers or Russian novelists. I suspect that this is one of those people.
Although Audi like to think of this as a "full-size luxury crossover SUV", perhaps the term "land yacht" is more appropriate. At 10.2 secs to do 0-100km/h, even the wheezy little Barina scoots faster off the line than one of these.

At $90,500 this is someone who obviously actually had a choice about what sort of car they'd get. The ironic thing is that Dora The Explorer who is playing on the screens in the back for the kiddiwinks, actually goes off road more than this car ever will. This car at $90,500 clearly isn't for someone concerned with performance, or styling for that matter as this thing is hideously ugly. That giant squarish black hole in the front reminds me of the fireplace and the hearth.
This then is for whom and what this car is about. This is for someone who likes to be in control of something that moves slowly like a yacht, is hard to manoeuvre like a yacht and is a poor investment like a yacht and like most people who own yachts, they don't care what anyone else thinks.

February 22, 2014

Horse 1626 - Apology, Reconciliation and Repentance

The following tweet twooshed its way in:
How about an IH (Intelligent Horse - sic.) blog about repentance and reconciliation vs the populist fetish for apologies?

Demanding an apology almost seems to be a spectator sport these days. There isn't a day that goes by that some person or group isn't demanding a public apology for something. There always seems to be someone who feels slighted somewhere.

The following demands for apologies comes from just yesterday's news headlines:
- A leading child abuse charity yesterday demanded that three senior Labour (UK) figures apologise...
- Seven West Media is demanding an apology from the Australian Federal Police...
- A major Canadian Muslim group is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Harper...
- Chris Hannay is demanding an immediate public apology from Premier Campbell Newman and has instructed his solicitor to issue a Concerns Notice under the Defamation Act...

But what's really going on here? Why are people always feeling slighted? Why the need to demand so many apologies? Part of the reason for this, is to do with the fact that we're all oh so human and incredibly flawed.
Throughout this, I'm going to be using the analogy of a crystal sphere. This crystal sphere is how we view ourselves. Delicate, fragile and oh so breakable; so be careful, lest any two spheres come into contact with each other and scratch, or worse, shatter into a million glittering pieces.


The degree of the self-approbation with which every man, upon such occasions, surveys his own conduct, is higher or lower, exactly in proportion to the degree of self-command which is necessary in order to obtain that self-approbation. Where little self-command is necessary, little self-approbation is due. The man who has only scratched his finger, cannot much applaud himself, though he should immediately appear to have forgot this paltry misfortune. The man who has lost his leg by a cannon shot, and who, the moment after, speaks and acts with his usual coolness and tranquillity, as he exerts a much higher degree of self-command, so he naturally feels a much higher degree of self-approbation.
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

Adam Smith who is generally considered to be the father of modern economics with his seminal work 'An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations' (1776) is perhaps less famous for his previous work 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' published 17 years earlier. In that book, he speaks not of the economic consequences of people's actions but of their moral and social impact.
Although the language is a little unfamiliar to a lot of modern readers, in the passage above, Smith is telling us that the degree by which someone views themselves as inherently good or virtuous, depends on their level of self-control and the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Indeed it can be said that for all of us, we mostly view ourselves as nominally good. If you ask most people as to why they think that they should go to heaven for instance, people are likely to answer that they've been a "good person", whatever that means.
Yet humans have an incredible ability for self-delusion. Although we like to view ourselves as inherently good or virtuous, the reality is that probably for most of the time, were likely to be self interested and or outright selfish. Smith even goes onto to say that rational self-interest is the basis upon which economies run.

The problem then is all of us are going about the place, feeling good and virtuous about ourselves; and so called "rational" self-interest isn't. We can very easily feel as though we're made of some precious sphere of crystal and demanding at the very least a statement that someone else feels contrition for disturbing that pretty little sphere, is in some way an attempt to restore our own picture of ourselves.
An apology is after it is said and done, nothing really more than statement of remorse. Often, by demanding an apology, we really don't want a mere statement, we want the other party to feel the same sort of slight that we feel; sometimes to be compensated monetarily for that slight.

An apology though, is only a statement. By its nature, it doesn't necessarily restore that which has been damaged. It is an acknowledgement that a crystal sphere has been scratched; that restoration needs to be made. An apology of itself doesn't bring about conciliation. Conciliation may be defined as the process by which a dispute is ended; the actual actions by which bringing peace and harmony are achieved and the action of ending strife.
Someone who has proffered an apology, does automatically get forgiven for the damage they have caused. In some cases, that forgiveness is never forthcoming either. It makes me wonder why in so many public cases why an apology is demanded. If the party demanding an apology has no intent to deliver forgiveness in return, then the apology is as good as useless; it is worthless.


As an accountant, I reconcile accounts all the time. From an accounting perspective, it is the process by which two sets of accounts or records are brought into agreement. When it comes time to hand back someone's final accounts for the year, I'll often work out a reconciling journal entry as at June 30 and this ensures that at July 1, both their accounts and ours are identical.

In dispute resolution terms, the act of Reconciliation is identical. This being 2014, the centenary of the opening of the "Great War" (which really wasn't that great for anyone involved), I find the idea of reconciliation again worth discussing.
In theory the The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to be the reconciliation resolution signed after World War One which hoped to re-establish normal relations between the belligerent nations who had taken part. In practice, the Triple Entente forced Germany to pay repatriations, to accept responsibility and in its own way helped set up the conditions necessary for World War Two to begin. I wonder to what extent the Triple Entente actually had any intent to reconcile to Germany at all.
Economist John Maynard Keynes who was more famous for his 1936 work "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money" wrote a scathing book in 1919 called "The Economic Consequences of the Peace". In it he criticised both the lack of compassion and the punitive tone of The Treaty of Versailles. He argued that the peace was a Carthaginian peace; that is, that the defeated party is crushed utterly.
Again, the Triple Entente and France especially felt quite rightly justified that it had been slighted and rather than extend forgiveness, their actions left Germany quite bitter and angry and definitely unrepentant.

Proper reconciliation requires a genuine commitment to return to state of harmony after a conflict has occurred. The scary thing is that reconciliation requires the slighted party to set aside their claim; to extend forgiveness. True reconciliation between two sides who were formerly enemies requires a forfeiture of claims by the party which has been slighted.


Repentance and Penance bother derive from the Latin word "paenitentia" which in every context I've seen, implies a sense of feeling contrition and regret for an injury cause and reviewing one's actions which caused the injury. I have heard it likened to driving down the motorway, taking an exit and driving back in the direction you came from; I'm not sure how well that analogy works though.
Certainly a properly repentant person will try to avoid performing the action which caused the injury in the first place but that doesn't necessarily mean to try and repay or recompense for the hurt. What happens for instance if a debt incurred is entirely forgiven? To try and repay a forgiven debt, is in some way almost like an insult to the one who extends forgiveness.

Neither is an infliction of self-injury particularly useful either. Firstly it doesn't necessarily do anything to address the actual causes of the first injury and secondly, creating a new self-inflicted injury doesn't of itself provide recompense or repatriation for that injury. If I punch you in the face, how exactly does it help you if I then bang my own head repeatedly against a metal pole?

Repentance might imply an attempt to create something new and work together in future and such a series of actions would definitely help to restore a relationship and achieve the desired rate of harmony and could very well by action proved that proper repentance has occurred but an attempt to repay for the injury caused is again more a state of recompense than repentance. Certainly in the case of Germany in the early 1920s, they were made to pay compensation heavily but their later actions most definitely proved that they were not repentant; why would they be?  Repentance like attempts at Reconciliation and the issuing of an Apology are all futile if the injured party refuses to extend forgiveness.

All three concepts are supported quite heavily throughout the New Testament and it could be very much argued that that was the entire point of Christ's ministry, death and resurrection:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 (NIV)

To be reconciled to God does at very least require an apology and repentance on our part. If an offer of reconciliation is made, it's not necessarily incumbent on the other party to accept that.
In this case, it is God who settled the accounts between us and Him, then calls us to settle our accounts with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.

All that might be good and proper but does it answer the initial question of "repentance and reconciliation vs the populist fetish for apologies"?

If you look at each of the demands from the news headlines, does even a single one of them hand out the possibility of forgiveness? I don't see any evidence of it. Take these two examples:

In a letter written to Seven lawyers, obtained by The Australian Financial Review, the AFP said: "We accept that this statement was incorrect and it should not have been made."
"It is a regrettable error, but it is an innocent word-processing error. The Commissioner and the Australian Federal Police regret any hurt, embarrassment or offence which this error has caused."
Seven had threatened to launch legal action if an apology was not issued by 5pm on Friday, as well as asking the AFP to revoke the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 21st Feb 2014.

A solicitor on Queensland's Gold Coast is taking legal action over Premier Campbell Newman's comments about lawyers and alleged bikies.
Chris Hannay has instructed his solicitor to issue a Concerns Notice under the Defamation Act to Mr Newman and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie.
Mr Hannay is also demanding an immediate public apology and compensation for damage to his reputation and professional standing.
- ABC News, 21st Feb 2014.

I would suggest that the ultimate aim of most demand for public apologies is the payment of cash in compensation for an alleged injury. Would Seven West Media, Chris Hannay, the Canadian Muslim group or the British child abuse charity extend an offer of forgiveness or reconciliation once they'd obtained their public apology? Not a bar of it.

When people demand a public apology, they usually seek a Carthaginian peace; they demand that the other party's little crystal sphere is crushed utterly.

February 21, 2014

Horse 1625 - On Nationhood And Citizenship

Having established that mX doesn't accept the sovereignty of certain countries when even the UN does, that in some cases what constitutes a country is an exceptionally difficult thing to ascertain, I now plunge even further into the murky depths and look at the concept of nationhood.

It turns out that the OED finds the concept of nationhood exceptionally easy to define because they can throw an incredibly large and broad definition at it:
nation - n. 1: a community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, etc., forming a sovereign state or inhabiting a territory.
- Oxford English Dictionary 3rd Ed. (1997)

The problem with such a broad definition is how quickly it dissolves once it is applied in the real world. Are Serbians and Croatians the same nation because they speak pretty well much an identical language? The answer is a very strong 'no'. Do the Kurds form a nation, even though they sweep across parts of  Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey? Again, probably not. Should we include people groups like the First Nations of Canada who are neither Inuits or Métis? What of those people? How about the nations of the United States like the Navajo? How about the Celtic nations? Does Catalunya count as a nation? 

Nations can be born at a single defining point in history too. Abraham Lincoln most famously enunciated this in his Gettysburg Address. 
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
- Abraham Lincoln, 19th Nov 1863

Four score and seven years before 1863 was 1776; and so there was no doubt in his mind (and indeed everyone else's) that that nation started with the signing of a document; at a defined point in history. It's weird though considering that the convention of delegates which met to form the government which oversaw the nation, began meeting in 1774.

Sometimes those points are simply harder to define though. Is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta a nation, even though it probably only has 3 citizens? What about uncontacted tribes? Believe it or not, there are still a few tribes of people who do not have contact with the rest of the the world in any capacity. Often they are in forested areas like the Amazon or Indonesia and the only reason they their existence is known is because they might show up on aerial photography. Are such people their own nation? 

This brings me to the related concept of citizenship which is incredibly easy to define. A citizen is a member of a sovereign state. Usually conferred with citizenship are various rights such as the right to make contracts, hold property, stand for public office, the right to vote, to sue and be sued and to appear in court.

As far back as the city-states in Greece, Citizenship was conferred upon those people who were not slaves. Citizenship in almost every context revolved around the basic charter of a city-state and this concept expanded with the Roman Empire. Being a Roman Subject was a categoric difference between that of a Roman Citizen and it is curious that Paul who was a Roman Citizen, would not have died of crucifixion since even if sentenced to death, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to die on the cross. 

When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
- Acts 22: 26-28

This brings me roundly to a very strange thought, can you have a nation without a physical country and is it possible to be a citizen of such a nation? Evidently Paul thought so:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
- Philippians 3:20

Indeed it's easy to make the argument that the Kingdom of God which has a charter, a judiciary, the rule of law, a set of history, a sort of defined starting point, a sovereign, can be classified as a defined community and which claims citizenship status is a Nation.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- US Declaration of Independence, 4th July, 1776

This brings me to a rather strange sort of point. Citizenship of some nations is voluntary. As the United States shows in its Declaration of Independence, the people wished to cease being citizens of the British Empire and instead gave their consent to a new nation. Such a thing happens on every occasion when a people decides that they want their independence; the most recent nation to refuse to give their consent to be governed by one nation and instead form their own, was South Sudan in 2011.
Even if we take the Kingdom of God for instance which holds all the characteristics of a nation but doesn't hold physical territory, it still requires the submission and consent of an individual to be ruled by it. People living outside a particular nation and who do not hold citizenship are free to live by whatever ruleset they find themselves in; that also applies to people who do not hold citizenship of the Kingdom of God.

So what can we make from all of this? Citizenship probably isn't equivalent to Nationality. A Nation is not the same as a Country. A Country is a difficult thing to define anyway.
In summary... I don't know.

February 20, 2014

Horse 1624 - So What Is A Country Anyway?

The word country probably derives from the Latin word "contra" which means to set to against. A contra in accounting for instance, is something which is set against another entry; usually to remove it.
A country then, is probably something which is set up against other countries as distinct from them. This usually implies a sense of centralized government and political geography but even here we run into our first problem.

What is England? The metonym has at times referred to the whole of the United Kingdom and even for the British Empire but England is a thing without its own centralized government. Before 1701 with the Act of Union with Scotland which created the United Kingdom, England had its own government at Westminster but since then it has had to share.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own distinct devolved parliaments and later on this year, Scotland goes to the polls to decide whether it wants to dissolve the Union but England of itself has no distinct parliament. Is England therefore a country?

Somaliland has its own parliament, its own constitution,  political contacts with ten other countries and issues its own currency, the Somaliland Shilling. Nevertheless, Somaliland is not officially recognised by the UN; although it issues its own passports, they are not recognised by any other country in the world, though some countries accept them as accompanying travel documents.
If England has no parliament of its own and is a country, then why is Somaliland which has its own parliament not a country?

The People's Republic of China refuses to accept the claim that the Republic of China (the official name for Taiwan) is a country; likewise the Republic of China (Taiwan) accept the claim that The People's Republic of China is a country. Thanks to this official hostility, only 21 countries maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan and at international events like the Olympics and FIFA football tournaments, the country is referred to as Chinese Taipei and does not fly its official flag.
Taiwan was a founding member of the United Nations but was officially expelled by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 which replaced its membership with that of The People's Republic of China.
Partly because of The People's Republic of China's permanent place on the UN Security Council and their "One-China" policy, all attempts for Taiwan to apply for membership to the UN are pointless as China would simply veto it.
If Taiwan has a distinct parliament, trades with other countries but lack official recognition at the UN, is Taiwan a country?

Taiwan is probably the easiest case to lay out here, though Somaliland is kind of a good candidate for something as close to a country if it isn't one.
Then there's Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and  Transnistria which are recognised by countries which aren't countries. Places like Kosovo, Palestine and South Ossetia, which a which are recognised by some countries which actually are countries and really weird disputes like Israel which isn't recognised as a country by 32 other nations, the two Koreas which refuse to recognise each other and Armenia which has had a long running petty dispute with Pakistan.

Really as far as I can make out, the only real test whether a country is a country or not is whether other countries think that that country is a country or not; parliaments help though.

February 19, 2014

Horse 1623 - mX Doesn't Recognise The Sovereignty Of Several Countries

My Kitchen Rules contestant Kelly has sold down the river her own claim she has visited "more than 42 countries".
She's sold it down the Hutt River in Western Australia, to be more specific.
Kelly, however also lists several disputed European regions and microstates as separate countries, claiming to have visited both Kosovo and Serbia, Monaco and France, Andorra and Spain, and San Marino and Vatican City as well as Italy.
- Jane Watkins, mX, 18th Feb 2014.

Granted that mX isn't known for quality journalism and I don't even think that it's worth picking up; so the only reason that this article came to me because I was handed a clipping and asked to comment.
This article reads like a classic bait and switch, firstly stating the fact that Hutt River Province is not a nation, then listing legitimate nations before making the assertion that there is "dispute" in the sovereignty of the countries listed.
If we are to fact check Jane Watkins' column that My Kitchen Rules contestant Kelly's claim has been "sold down the river", it is worth noting just how much "dispute" there is in the sovereignty of the countries listed.

Monaco is a sovereign country and is a full member of the United Nations and acheived that status in 1993. Monaco's sovereignty was formally recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861.

Monaco is a sovereign country and is a full member of the United Nations and achieved that status in 1993. Andorra achieved its independence from the Kingdom of Aragon in 1278 and has remained a sovereign country ever since.

San Marino
San Marino is a sovereign country and is a full member of the United Nations and achieved that status in 1992.
Tradition holds that Saint Marinus left the island of Arba and fled to Monte Titano whilst being persecuted during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. San Marino cites the founding date of the Republic as 3 September 301. In 1631, its independence was recognized by the Papacy.
During the unification of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi respected the will of San Marino and it remained separate to the new Italian state.

Vatican City
The Vatican City State has a history which is troubled and difficult but finally on 7th June 1929, the dispute of the sovereignty of the Holy See was resolved when Benito Mussolini and Pietro Gasparri signed the Lateran Treaty which formally established the independent state.
Even German troops as they occupied the city of Rome during the Second World War recognised the neutrality of the Vatican City.

Kosovo is the only troubling thing on the list. Although it declared itself an independent state in 2008, officially Serbia doesn't recognise its secession and instead regards it as a "UN-governed entity". Kosovo's independence is however recognised by 108 out of 193 UN member states, including most of the EU and even Australia¹. Kosovo has even applied for membership to the EU and it does not use the Serbian Dinar. Further to this, on 29 June 2009, the Republic of Kosovo became a full member of the World Bank.

All five of these countries use the Euro and four of five of them even have the authority to issue Euro currency.

Okay, Hutt River Province isn't a country but with the possible exception of Kosovo (and even then that exception is only half correct), the rest most certainly are; with full recognition by the United Nations. It seems strange to me that international organisations should recognise the sovereignty of certain countries when mX columnists do not.

¹ http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2008/fa-s034_08.html

February 17, 2014

Horse 1622 - The Death of Print (I think 2016)

Indeed, some believe the globalisation of Australian news will drive the locals out of business and leave us with franchises of international media brands. We hope that’s too pessimistic. 
- ABC Media Watch, 17th Feb 2014

Considering that News Corporation has reported that it sucked $882m from the Australian taxpayer and funneled it back to the parent company, I think it's a safe bet to say that the entire of News Corp Australia is merely a franchise of an international media brand. Certainly Rupert threw away his Australian passport as soon as it was convenient; so I think that it's time to stop the pretense.
Indeed, if the print versions of the dailies in Australia are only being kept alive as Rupert's playthings, what is the bet that they'll last more than a year after he dies?

Somewhere in all of this, the fact that newspapers are businesses is often clouded midst the posturing and pouting which is done. As The News Of The World in the UK showed, if a newspaper ceases to be profitable, then it makes business sense to shut it down.

At some point, a line is crossed where on-line revenues outstrip those from the sale of dead-tree hard copy and according to eMarketer, that line was crossed in the United States in 2012¹.

- Stolen from eMarketer

What I fine interesting about this, isn't so much the drop off in advertising revenues from print, though Media Watch reports that in Australia it's far more drastic than this, but rather that the total advertising spend across all media continues to rise.
Print then it seems, is going the same way as the CD. People are still buying music and I haven't really heard anything to suggest that sales of music are declining but just like the sale of physical product of music, print almost looks like it has run its course.
Fairfax I think was being a little stubborn by not accepting Gina Rinehart's offer to buy a place on the board. I think that Ms Rinehart might have been the benefactor which ultimately might have saved the business and unless it finds an international suitor, I honestly don't see there being a daily Fairfax newspaper reporting on the next Federal election in 2016.

The Telegraph in the UK (so very very much a biased view against News UK) very loudly trumpted that Rupert "could end up shutting down the entire British newspaper operation to help preserve the rest of his empire". That was back in August last year and still in the wake of The Leveson Inquiry but it still does raise the question.
Rupert Murdoch is not quite 83 years old and 16 years older than his when father, Sir Keith died, leaving him the family company. What I want to know is, would Lachlan Murdoch necessarily want to continue to print newspapers when as a thing, print is increasingly unprofitable? If so, is something like The Australian, only being kept alive because it is Rupert's baby?

That still remains the question for me. Assuming that Fairfax ends up collapsing and after Rupert dies, News Corp Australia decides that print simply isn't worth the effort any more, then where does that leave the media in Australia?
You can blame the rise of the internet for this but a lot of the blame also has to be laid at the people who make the decisions to even decide the sort of mix that goes into the make up of the newspaper.
I'm willing to say that when the Daily Telegraph cost 80c, the quality of the stories in there was better. Back when the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian cost $1.50, the quality of the stories in there was better than today.

Moreover, doesn't it mean that the ABC especially becomes an even more important source of credible news? If click bait produces an endless stream of cats and "news" items like the Daily Mail's sidebar of sleeze and television ceases to bother to produce proper journalism (which increasingly it isn't doing), then it means that the only serious outlets of news are the ABC and SBS.
As for me, my most commonly visited news websites are the BBC, ABC, DW and Xinhua. Curiously, all are state run organisations and more importantly, all of them actually deliver proper news.

That last comment is I think really important. Half the problem with falling revenues from print, means that both the quality and quantity of long-form journalism in Australia has fallen massively off the cliff.
If good quality journalism is to survive, in print or otherwise and the ABC and SBS are privatised or gutted, then thanks to the paywalls which are being erected, we will have in effect created an information class system where only the wealthy and intelligent are served proper journalism.
If that happens, then I will get my news, not from franchises of international media brands but international media brands themselves.

Unlike Media Watch, I don't think that that is pessimistic but the future we actually face. Which will be the last thing to roll off the production line, an Australian built car or an Australian daily newspaper? Time will tell.


February 15, 2014

Horse 1621 - Arsenal v Liverpool (Fifth Round Proper)

"I am sure it is a four-horse race now.They have a big advantage because they don’t play in the Champions League.
If Brendan has a chihuahua it is one that trains a lot and rests a lot. The other dogs, they don’t train a lot because they play a lot and they don’t rest because they play every three days.
Brendan’s chihuahua doesn’t do that. During the week it sleeps, eats and trains a little bit. So I have to say his chihuahua is a privileged one. Next season he will see what it is like to play in two, three, four competitions. This season he has this privilege which gives him a big advantage."
- Jose Mourinho, as quoted by The Daily Mail, 14th Feb 2014.

Quoting the Chelsea manager speaking about the league title chase in reference to an FA Cup fixture might sound a little bonkers but this weekend when Liverpool travel to The Emirates', I think that it's entirely apt.

Looking at the next few fixtures that both Arsenal and Liverpool play over the next few matches, we see that Arsenal play Bayern Munich three days later but that Liverpool's next fixture is Swansea and a whole week away.
Arsenal will probably require a few players to back up for that fixture, whilst Liverpool can treat this FA Cup tie as just another match in the calendar. In that context, Mourinho's comment starts to look apt.
Except not.

In a regular league fixture, points mean prizes. What do points mean? Diddly-squat here. In the FA Cup, if you lose, then you're gone. Out. Finished. Finito. Oblivion.
That's what we hope to see in this match. Two dogs coming out with teeth bared, flowing with spit, one of them a cocky little chihuahua; yapping because it can and the other, still licking its wounds from a kicking last week.

After Liverpool's 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal last week in the league, I had the following exchange on Twitter:
@SamuelJCox - I do hope Arsenal make up for that performance in the FA Cup next week.
@rollo75 - I too hope that Arsenal make up for that performance & that the score is the other way round: Arsenal 1 - Liverpool 5
@SamuelJCox - Haha not what I meant, we'll see though

Liverpool's trip to the Emirates will be one flowing with confidence; knowing that they can do the job and do it easily. Arsenal will be playing with the knowledge of the Champions League in the back of their minds; but still hurting from their thrashing.
Of course it's from this starting point where the two mindsets should be obvious from the outset. Liverpool will need to fire quick and early but Arsenal will want to park the bus in front of goal and slowly work their way into the game.
That's kind of where some of the magic of the FA Cup lies. Different styles coming to play, with the consequences yawning below. Lose and you fall into the abyss, achieving nothing. Win though and you play on for a chance to claim arguably the most famous piece of silverware in football.

And I hope that Skrtel gets his hat-trick this time.

February 13, 2014

Horse 1620 - The 2021 Autumn Olympics

With the Winter Olympics being held this year and the Summer Olympics being held in two years time, if you were to look at the current cycle of Olympic hosts, there are two gaps:
2014 - Winter Olympics - Sochi
2015 - nil
2016 - Summer Olympics - Rio
2017 - nil

The obvious thing would be to fill in the gaps with the other seasons that are missing:
2018 - Winter Olympics - Pyeongchang
2019 - Spring Olympics - ???
2020 - Summer Olympics - Tokyo
2021 - Autumn Olympics - ???

Thus we'd arrive at the novel idea of introducing the Spring Olympics and Autumn Olympics. With two new sets of Olympic Games, there'd have to be a whole suite of new sports to go with them.

For the Spring Olympics you could for instance host:
- Lawnmowing - both Speed and Freestyle
- Cat Herding
- Four Square (Handball)
- Mini Golf
- Chasey (Tiggy, Tag, British Bulldog)
- Wall Ball 
- 100m Slip And Slide
- Castell (Human Tower)
- Aunt Sally
- Topiary - better with Japanese Box
- Cheese Rolling - this so needs to be an Olympic event.
- Brandy
- Billy-Cart Racing
There's twelve sports for a start.

Of course for the Autumn Olympics, there would also need to be season specific sports:
- Leaf Raking - also jumping in piles of leaves
- Hide & Seek - confined to an area the size of the Olympic Village
- Conkers - in various "er" classes, one-er, five-er, nine-er etc.
- Queueing - both the 10m and 4x25m events, both with and without umbrella and suitcase
- Pumpkin Carving
- Tug Of War - preferably the teams should be either side of a muddy ditch.
- Royal Shrovetide Football - also the same area as Hide & Seek
- Rock-Paper-Scissors
- Grass Skiing
- Letterbox Baseball
- Skully
- Le Parkour - also Freerunning
- Welly Wanging (Gumboot throwing) - also Shoefiti and "How Do You Like Your Eggs?"

Sports for inclusion in the Spring Olympics and Autumn Olympics would need to be not so much athletic as they are daft. Games like Go, Chess, MahJohng, Shogi, Monopoly, Risk, Paintball, Capture the Flag, Dodgeball, Rollerball, Potato Sweep, Jeu De Paume, Elimination Prisonball, Korfball, Cycle Polo, etc. should all be up for inclusion.

I think that it should also be incumbent on the IOC to award the Spring and Autumn Olympics to nations who have never hosted anything before and that the IOC should pay for the running of them. The fields for a sport like Hide & Seek or Royal Shrovetide Football for instance, don't need to be flash; in fact it's better if they aren't.
Who wouldn't like to the the Spring Olympics of 2019 in a place like Cotonou? Or the 2021 Autumn Olympics in Bishkek? The Olympic Motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius is all very well but what of Amicis, Felicior, Simul? (Friendship, Happiness, Togetherness)

The Olympic Creed states that:
The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.
Fighting is one thing, it's quite another to give back; it's not like the IOC isn't already awash with cash for essentially doing diddly-squat.
Besides which, I really want to see Cheese Rolling at the 2025 Olympics in Riga.

February 12, 2014

Horse 1619 - The Bunnies Have Nice Things, Why Can't We?

I was walking through the bookstore during the week (there's one across the street from where I work; so I'm in there probably 3 or 4 times a week, and it backs onto an arcade; so is a nice thoroughfare) and I found one of these in a set with a 1950's style caravan.

- This car is made from Cute and Squee!

Did you notice it too?

The point being that as we drive around in the 21st Century, cars are styled with influence of the wind tunnel and by people whom I suspect have never been near the old tools such as clay and chisels.
Cars used to be sculpted by people who were artists. The original sketch for the utilitarianian Mini was scribbled on the back of a napkin by Alec Issigonis and so was the original VW Kombi van by Ben Pon. Jaguar famously adopted a droop tail after one of their full size clay models melted in the heat.
In contrast, I look about the cars on the road and am so very uninspired. The Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla; heck even the Audi range just makes me despair.

This isn't so much my wish or a pine for the things for yore because quite frankly the Morris Minor 1000 Traveller even with the larger 1098cc A-series inline-four could still only put out a paltry 36kW, but rather, that since cars are now made of plastic and have the ability to look like anything that the stylists choose, they why not make something nice?
That wide sort of grille is not common place amongst cars on the road. The Ford Fiesta, Mazda 3, Audi A4, Hyundai i30, Peugeot 308, the list goes on, all go about the road looking like some sort of bottom feeding vaccum fish.

The thing is though, that if car makers wanted to, we can have nice things.

- This car is made of GRRR and Squee!

Los Angeles independent manufacturer Icon builds this truck which kind of resembles a Chevrolet 3100-series from the 1950s. It comes with a 5.3L V8 and throws out 315bhp which can be uprated to 435bhp with a supercharger kit.
It does however come with a price tag of more than US$200,000 which seems excessive to me. Admittedly it is hand-built but that still doesn't make it any more accessible to Joe Blow, Joe Doakes, Joe Sixpack or Johnny Q Public.

Please please please automakers, please employ people who work with clay again. Please employ stylists and artists who work with pencils and pens.
I make mention of this because famously, the initial sketches for the Mini were scribbled on a table napkin at lunchtime by BMC designer Alec Issigonis. I'll leave a copy of some of the later sketches here for all to see and again ask the question:
If the bunnies can have nice things, why can't we?

- The Mini was made from the most Squee of any car ever. Even the sketches are pure Squee!

February 11, 2014

Horse 1618 - A Picture Paints a Thousand Words - Which Thousand Words Does It Paint?

Not sure how to break the news to this person...
 — StuffJournalistsLike (@JournalistsLike) February 10, 2014

There are so many weird things about this that is worth an entire post.

1. Context is important.
From a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco
- The Atlantic, circa Apr 2008

The internet is such a fast moving place that images, quotes and even videos, can be lifted, copied, taken out of context, reappropriated, malappropriated, recycled and mashed without any regard for the original context that they came from.

I'm guessing that when the Twitter user StuffJournalistsLike found the picture, they thought that it fit in well with the current protests surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi in Russia. This photo presumably came from a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco in 2008; actually protesting against the Beijing Summer Olympics.

2. Would we have allowed Nazi Germany to host the Olympics?
Maybe the person who made the placard was fully aware that the 1936 Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. What if this is a case of emphasis not being conveyed on the sign? Suppose it's saying that "we" wouldn't have allowed Nazi Germany to host the Olympics but "you", that is the people in charge, did.
What if this protester is questioning why nothing was done to stop China from hosting the Olympics and is trying to hold them accountable? If "we" could have done something, then why didn't "you" on our behalf?

3. Who did allow Nazi Germany to host the Olympics anyway?
Now there's a question.
The IOC met in Barcelona on 26th April 1931 to decide where the Games of the XI Olympiad were to be held. In 1931, Germany was still in the period known as the Weimar Republic. Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933 and the enabling act was two months later. All of this happened not quite two years after the IOC had met in Barcelona.
Arguably the entity which hosted the Olympics in 1936 was a very very different place than the one which had been awarded the games in 1931. How pray tell would the IOC had have known that? I have even read that the IOC had had private meetings to try and strip the games from Germany but that assurances were given that Jewish athletes from both Israel and the United States would be left alone.

So what to make of all of this?
I think that it was graphic designer Frederick R. Barnard when speaking about the effectiveness of pictures in advertising, who said that "a picture paints a thousand words". The problem is when those thousand words are confused, garbled and vague. It's even worse when one person reads a completely different set of thousand words into a picture than the next person.

In response to StuffJournalistsLike's comment "Not sure how to break the news to this person"? What news? Do they need to break news to you? And, how do you break the news to someone four years in the past?

February 10, 2014

Horse 1617 - Why I Love Legalism

Legalism is usually defined as emphasizing the letter of law at the expense of the spirit of the law; that is, making sure that one complies with every iota and tiddle contained therein and yet still missing the point of what the law was intended to do.
For The Sermon on The Mount though, it is usually argued that Jesus spins this on its head and argues for the spirit of the law because in doing so, he doesn't abolish the Law or the teaching of the Prophets but rather, came to fulfill them.
Yet if I read through some parts of the sermon, we find something a little odd.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5: 38-48

Ah yes. The principle of exact retribution. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Specifically this suggests that the damage which should be inflicted upon someone as punishment, should be limited to extent of the injury of the other party and no more.
If you carefully read though one particular citation of this principle in Mosaic Law, in Deuteronomy 19 this principle is headed with a specific caveat:
the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation...
- Deuteronomy 19:17-18 (part)

The actual authority in administering this exact retribution always appears to lie with the judges. In other words, just because someone has injured you, you do not automatically claim the right to claim recompense. Equity is always metered by someone in authority.

In the second paragraph of the section I've copied from Matthew, Jesus cites that it was said that one should 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. Again, if you read through Mosaic law, we find that:
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
- Leviticus 19:18.

The directive in this case is to not seek revenge or bear a grudge. Again, this would imply that the authority which exists to make good on an injury, lies elsewhere; the proper place to have a grudge properly resolved is with judges. It could also be implied that the ultimate authority to make good on an injury, rests with God himself. That would also be consistent with the law.

The reason why I point all this out is actually a pretty interesting sort of way to view the gospel itself. It kind of acts as a framing point through which to view both who the injured parties are and the one who has the authority to make good on that injury.
Jesus is the one who delivers the sermon but later on would seek to rectify the problem of sin as an injured party by not exacting retribution, which he otherwise would have been perfectly entitled to but quite the opposite.
In this case, the judge himself who logically through making a thorough investigation and pass judgement, not only turned the other cheek, walked two miles and who would in time pray for those who persecuted him, even whilst nailed to a Roman cross. If the penalty of sin is death, then exact retribution requires that that penalty be paid by the party who has caused the injury - us; yet that doesn't happen.
Jesus as part of the Godhead, has the right to claim recompense from us; yet does not. As the judge, he also has the right to administering exact retribution; yet doesn't demand payment from us but pays it himself.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? Die for them even? This is a case of a perfect judge, administering perfect justice and then exacting perfect recompense, from himself. That there is kind of mind blowing.

With all of that as a qualification, I'll now cite why I love legalism.  Legalism is best fulfilled when you realise that the law is best handled by a judge.
Justice is not mine to administer. Revenge or a grudge is not something that I should or even need to pursue. It's easier to study the law, even taking note of where I fail at keeping it and have faith that the one who administers it, who has the authority to seek recompense, has the mercy and competence to do the job with mercy.
Knowing that the authority is used justly and properly, actually enables one free to live more within the spirit of the law and I know that that might sound daft but isn't that how the law is best fulfilled anyway?
It's comforting to know that a competent judge is in charge.

Legalism is formally the approach taken to analyse legal questions via logical and or deductive reasoning.
The word legalism is never used once in the bible at all. The Greek word nomos or nomon or even nomou, although does mean "law" or "custom", is never used in the context of "works"; that word is ergon.

February 09, 2014

Horse 1616 - 2017 V8 Supercars Championship. Focus? Please?

This... seriously.

- Such cool. Much excite. Very Squee! Wow.

I admit that not quite a fortnight ago (Horse 1603), I speculated about what sorts of cars could be used to replace the Commodores and Falcons in 2017 once they're now longer in production. I must admit that after watching the Bathurst 12 Hour, which was won by Craig Lowndes, John Bowe, Mika Salo and Peter Edwards in a Ferrari 458 after being chased right the way to the wire by a couple of Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s and a McLaren MP4-12C behind them, it was a V8 Ford Focus that kind of stole a chunk of my attention.
Just look at it. Its massive front air dam, its massive rear wing, the burble of a V8 somehow shoehorned under the bonnet. It's just marvellous. It makes me wonder whether or not the DTM and Japan's Super GT are throwing away something a little special.

The DTM is set to ditch V8 engines in favour of two-litre turbos within three seasons as part its drive to become a global formula. The series has set a target of 2016 to go down the same route as Super GT in Japan, which next year will adopt small-capacity, direct-injection four-cylinder turbos for its GT500 class. ... Hans-Werner Aufrecht, chairman of the DTM-organising ITR, told AUTOSPORT: "We want two-litre turbos in Europe and America, no question. We want the same regulations everywhere. - Autosport, 3rd May 2013.

Hans-Werner Aufrecht, chairman of the DTM-organising ITR, told AUTOSPORT: "We want two-litre turbos in Europe and America, no question. We want the same regulations everywhere.
- Autosport, 27th Jan 2014.

I suppose that if Australia wanted to adopt the DTM/Super GT regulations then that would be fine but the COtF regulations of the V8Supercars already allow for a far less expensive car to be built and one which has common componentry. A Focus is perhaps more in line with what a DTM car would look like but as a V8Supercar, the cars which ran in today's Bathurst 24hr, even if they had no real shot at winning, still oozed fifteen different kinds of cool.
I can't really predict what the 2017 V8Supercar series will look like but a Cruze, Focus, C-Class, Pulsar, S40, 3, Cerato showdown would be equally as neat as the other situation I envisaged. There is one thing I will say though...

...keep the V8 rumble. It makes one feel happy inside.

February 08, 2014

Horse 1615 - How To Lead "Independent Thinking", One City At A Time

In the 21st Century especially and thanks in part to the internet, people are more easily able to form groups online and listen and contribute to discussions which more closely line up with their own beliefs and values. This is true across all sorts of lines be they to do with interests or vocations, religious grounds and social groupings and it also holds true for economic beliefs.
Never before has it been so easy to yell into an echo chamber of like minded political opinion, creating feedback loops and come away thinking that your side of the argument in correct.
What happens though if one of those echo chambers happens to be something the size of a city? In Australia, this experiment is currently being carried out in three cities and one of just happens to be Canberra.

Canberra is a strange city in Australia. On many days if you walk around the city centre, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a weekend, even if it was Tuesday.
Canberra's Central Business District (2601) or even Braddon (2612) to the north can often appear to be lifeless and sterile and entirely devoid of people. On some days, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, probably has more chance of finding something breathing, than you'll find on Canberra's streets.
The seat of government lies in Capital Hill (2600) and what's even weirder is that the suburb is more or less completely circular (being bound by Capital Circle) and I think might be the only phyiscal suburb in Australia with no actual residents.
Dorothy Parker's commentary of Los Angeles was sporked presumably by Sir Robert Menzies:
A cemetery with lights, the ruin of a good sheep station and six suburbs in search of a city.
I can not find a reliable citation of this though.

The big echo chamber on the hill really only has two daily newspapers. The Canberra Times, owned by Fairfax Media, which was downgraded from a metropolitan daily to a community newspaper but still publishes daily and it gets News Corp's The Australian.
Now I say all of this by way of background because really the only newspaper in Canberra of any editorial clout is The Australian. The Canberra Times which is a community newspaper spends far more time in looking at local news than it does what's going on in 2600. The Canberra Times is more likely to report on kids from the local primary school or people pointing at things and looking grumpy (check your local newspaper and you'll see what I mean), than serious political analysis. This leaves The Australian in the default position as the serious newspaper which Canberra reads.

The Australian says of itself that:
Since its launch in 1964 The Australian’s aim has been to lead the independent thinking, essential for the further advancement of our country and the Australian business environment.
The Australian caters to the needs of an influential and educated audience. It breaks stories, challenges governments and links the complex web of events and impacts across the country every day. 
The Australian is the news brand with exclusive access to Australia’s wealthy and powerful.
- News Corp Australia website, as at 5th Feb 2014.

Because Canberra has basically no logical competitor to The Australian, people in Canberra can be tempted to think that what's printed in there is how the nation thinks.
Since February 1st, The Australian has devoted 6 editorials purely to attacking the ABC, has run 73 letters, 51 of them attacking the ABC and yet it would have you believe that it is leading 'independent thinking'. Really I think that it tries to set the nation's agenda on behalf of 'Australia’s wealthy and powerful' though.

The real problem is when politicians get into Canberra, they are one step removed from the constituents that they represent. No longer are they reading things like the The Courier in Ballarat, the Eden Magnet or even larger newspapers like the West Australian or The Age. Having said that, if they came from South Australia or Brisbane, then the Adelaide Advertiser and the Courier-Mail already would have clouded their thinking anyway, since in those markets, News Corp also produces the only daily newspaper, with there being no physical Fairfax paper in competition.
I wonder how much of the attack of the ABC that is going on at the moment is because News Corp directs it.

"Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it," 
- James Murdoch,  MacTaggart Lecture, 28th Aug 2009

"BBC massive taxpayer funded mouthpiece for tiny circulation leftist Guardian.  Meanwhile print media about to be gagged to protect toffs."
- Rupert Murdoch, via Twitter, 7th Oct 2013

James Murdoch does make an interesting point, it is "incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet" especially when there's "free, state-sponsored news on the market". I'm personally, obviously proof that independent journalism can not flourish on the internet; I mean just look at this very blog - 17 years and I've only had just over a million hits in that time.
The very existence of organisations like the BBC, the ABC, PBS, NHK etc. is an anathema to News Corp. They eat into potential profits. Dare I suggest that private journalists also eat into profits. Greg Jericho who runs Grog's Gamut was labelled by the Australian as a  "controversial political blogger" because he dared to stand up and write things which may have annoyed News Corp.
I'm almost half willing to bet that people at The Australian have even hacked phones in Australia but that's only pure speculation.

In the case of the city of Canberra though I wonder just how much "independent thinking" has been lead by The Australian as it claims. It sounds more like a case of continual brainwashing; say something sufficiently enough times and it becomes true.
It all sounds suspiciously like the words of someone else charged with the task of "Public Enlightenment":
"follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous"
- Joseph Goebbels, Die Zeit ohne Beispiel, 12 Jan 1941

February 07, 2014

Horse 1614 - 25 Questions From Songs Answered

1. So I wake in the morning and I step outside and I take deep breath and I get real high and I scream from the top of my lungs 'What's goin' on'?
- 4 Non Blondes
I'll tell you what's going on. You are waking up the neighbours in the early morning. We would like to go back to sleep. That's what's going on.

2. Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
- Avril Lavigne
Because people try to evade existing legislation and so legislation is always written after the fact. People are always trying to game the system, which invariably leads to more complication with time as new legislation is written.

3. Who Are you? Who? Who?
- The Who
Er... Rollo?

4. Do you remember when we used to sing 'Sha la la la la la la'?
- Van Morrison
Nope. Come to think of it, I don't think that I ever did sing 'Sha la la la la la la'.

5. How can you just leave me standing alone in a world so cold?
- Prince
I think that you must have puked in the taxicab, Prince.

6. Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above? 
- Don Mclean
'No' to the first part and 'Yes' to the second.

7. Should I stay or should I go?
- The Clash
You should stay... inside.
If there's been a nuclear error and London is calling out, then presumably it's not safe to go outside.

8. Do you know the way to San Jose?
- Dionne Warwick
Not personally, however but Tony Christie can show you the way to Amarillo if that helps and The Easybeats can show you the way to St Louis.

9. Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?
- The Beatles
We can answer this through the lens of history now, Paul. Jane Asher did not need or feed you when you were 64.

10. Why does it always rain on me, is it because I lied when I was 17?
- Travis
No Fran Healy, it's because you live in Scotland. It's a rainy sort of place.

11. And I wonder, still I wonder, who stopped the rain?
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
Well according to Fran Healy of Travis, it always rains on him. Perhaps you should hang out with him for a bit.
Upon failing that, the fact that the rain has stopped can probably attributed to global warming and if that's caused by man, then all of us did.

12. Oh Baby, Baby, how was I supposed to know that something wasn't right here?
- Britney Spears
You used Google Maps Britney. The thing wasn't 'right here' but two blocks down the street.

13. Who needs a house out in Hackensack? Is that all you get for your money?
- Billy Joel
You don't have to live in Hackensack, you could move to somewhere cheaper. Yes, that's all you get for your money because the property market is pretty tight.

14. So I look in your direction, but you pay me no attention, do you?
- Coldplay
What did you say? Sorry, I wasn't paying attention.

15. Why do you build me up Buttercup, baby, just to let me down and mess me around?
- The Foundations
Buttercup is the Powerpuff Girl who is 'spice' (Bubbles is 'sugar' and Blossom is 'everything nice'. Buttercup is the one with the shortest temper and is frequently mean.

16. Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir?
- Lady Marmalade
Non je ne veux pas. Allez-vous avant que je téléphone à la police!

17. Why don't the newscasters cry when they read about people who die?
- Jack Johnson
I'm afraid that if they did, then the average news bulletin might be about four and a half hours long.

18. Can I get a witness?
- Marvin Gaye
No. You can not. No-one was there when the crime was perpetrated and there's also no-one to corroborate your alibi.

19. Does anybody really know what time it is?
- Chicago
I do. I have the time of 8 o'clock written down on a piece of paper and if it is 8 o'clock then I can show it to them. If someone asks me the time and it isn't eight o'clock, I don't show it to them.

20. How many roads must a man walk down before we can call him a man?
- Bob Dylan
Twenty-eight. I checked. It's Twenty-eight.

21. Is there life on Mars? 
- David Bowie
Not that we've seen so far. The Curiosity rover is on Mars right now and it too, hasn't found any yet.

22. How come you don't call me anymore? 
- Alicia Keys
What do you mean 'anymore'? I never called you in the first place.

23. Do you love me now that I can dance?
- The Contours
No. You're still a pretty unkind person. Just learning how to dance isn't going to change people's opinion.

24. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you're happy now, oooooh?
- Michelle Branch
Yes I can. I am happy now.

25. War (huh), what is it good for? 
- Edwin Starr

February 06, 2014

Horse 1613 - Why I Will Not Use Opal Card

- Looks cool but there's no real incentive for me to use it.

Transport for NSW's Opal Card is currently being installed across the Sydney Transport network. I though, will resist it's use at every single opportunity.

Customers using the Opal card will tap on at a card reader at the start of their trip and tap off at the end. The electronic ticketing system will automatically calculate the fare and deduct it from the value stored on your Opal card.
Transport for NSW website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.¹

Currently when I use my MyMulti3 ticket, I use it to get on the train at one station, get off the train at Town Hall and change for an M30 bus. In the afternoon coming home, sometimes I will use any of a multitude of buses which crawl down Military Rd, change for a train to either Blacktown or Marayong and/or take another bus from Marayong.

The first problem is that Blacktown Station in particular has platforms 1&2 physically separated from platforms 3-7. Does changing trains constitute a break in journey? It certainly would not if you happened to change trains at any other station provided you didn't pass the barriers; yet at Blacktown, you're forced to.

The second problem that I have is that with a MyMulti3 ticket, I currently pay $63. This entitles me to use any particular mode of transport I like. I have several options to get both home and to work and can even use it on the weekends. Also, I frequently 'abuse' the system by taking short bus trips either from my office to the bank and or to Neutral Bay at lunchtime because those journeys are effectively free.
With Opal card though, I would have two fares deducted to get to and from work, those other journeys would also count and be deducted. On top of that, Opal card would not actually commute my fare. 
Under Opal card, the trip is counted as two single train and two single bus journeys. 
$6.80 - T1 Train - Marayong to Town Hall
$4.60 - M30 Bus - Town Hall to Mosman
$4.60 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Town Hall
$6.80 - T1 Train - Wynyard to Marayong 
Total per day: $22.80
Total per week: $114.00

Under Opal card, my weekly commute increases a whopping 81%. I checked the Opal Car website and it and it tells me that:

How do I load my weekly train or MyMulti ticket onto my Opal card?
You don’t. By using the value on your Opal card, you can take advantage of the Weekly Travel Reward. This means you can travel for free after 8 paid journeys in a week, and this will be cheaper than a MyTrain Weekly ticket.
- Opal Card website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.²

What constitues 8 paid journeys? Do buses count? I'll reach 8 paid journeys in some cases within two days. And if MyMulti ceases to exist then the claim that "this will be cheaper than a MyTrain Weekly ticket" is completely false.

The Transport for NSW website is not a whole heap more helpful:
The Opal card is introducing a new era of convenience and provides the following fare incentives:
A reward providing free travel after eight paid journeys in a week*
A $2.50 daily cap on Sunday
A daily cap of $15.00 from Monday to Saturday
* The Opal week runs from Monday to Sunday for the purpose of fare calculation
- Transport for NSW website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.³

Assuming that there is a daily cap of $15, then for 5 days, I'd still be paying $75 instead of $63 but that's still a 19% fare increase.

Opal Card could very well be the best system in the world but the truth is that an effective fare increase is not something I enjoy. For people who have to make interchanges, like myself, Opal Card actually incentivises travel by car. If the break even point increases from $63 to $75 per week, then it actually becomes significantly cheaper to drive than to take public transport.

As far as I'm concerned though, for me to use Opal Card would be an actual waste of money and I promise to refuse to use it. I only hope that the Minister is listening.

February 05, 2014

Horse 1612 - What is... A-Z?

Following the success of Why do... A-Z (Horse 1530), I thought I'd play again.

The rules are simple. I enter in the words "What is" followed by the various letters of the alphabet into the Google search engine. It then auto-fills in the rest and I answer the question. Sounds simple? Off we go!

What is All-purpose flour?
All purpose flour is one of those Americanisms which confuses the rest of the world. It's called that to distinguish it from self-raising flour and or whole-wheat flour.
I think that calling it "all purpose" in the absolute sense is a little bit of a stretch though. I wouldn't necessarily use it to build bricks out of, or as gunpowder, or as the basis for ink in a fountain pen but it's pretty good for the purposes that flour is used for.

What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency and a peer-to-peer payment system. To be honest I find the idea of a virtual currency no more odd than the old system which eventually became the Euro and in fact predated it by almost 3 years.

What is Copha?
I think that copha is the solid form of hydrogenated coconut oil and is useful for cooking things, though in all honesty, I've only ever used it to make Chocolate Crackles, White Christmases and Corn Flake Treats.

What is Doge?
Such meme. Very current. Many laugh. So dog. Wow.

What is Elf On The Shelf?
Elf is a French petrochemical country and a chain of petrol stations that you see all over France. I remember Elf on such Formula One cars as Jackie Stewart's Tyrell and a series of Renaults in the early turbo era.
No, wait. "The Elf On The Shelf" is apparently a children's picture book which was published in 2005. Drat. If that's what children get to read these days then quite frankly, I'm grateful that I read stuff like Autosport and had proper heroes like Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Niki Lauda.

What is Fungi?
I can tell you that Fungi aren't plants as they do not of their own accord turn sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and sugars. Fungi have cell walls that contain chitin instead of cellulose and I suppose that the Fungi Kingdom contains yeasts and moulds too.

What is Gluten?
I think that Gluten is a protein composite which is composed of two proteins and a starch. To be honest, I didn't do Biology in school and so I'm really clutching at straws here.

What is Halloween?
Halloween is a contraction of Hallows' Eve and is the day before All Saints Day and technically is the day when the Mass is to be said and the lives of all those who do not have specific saints days are to be celebrated; especially those who died in the twelve months previous.
These days it has degenerated into a corporate sales day and an excuse for children to scab sweets off of the rest of the community.

What is i?
In mathematics, i is defined as the square root of minus one. It is called "imaginary" because no real number squared can produce a negative number.

What is Jupiter made of?
Jupiter is mainly made of hydrogen and helium and spectral analysis has revealed that water and even ammonia exist in trace amounts in the atmosphere.
Jupiter is essentially a failed star, which is a good thing because if it was not, we'd probably all burn to a crisp.

What is Kale?
Kale is a variety of cabbage and unlike most varieties, the central leaves do not form a head. Kale tastes sweeter than most kinds of cabbage and works excellently in coleslaw.

What is My tax file number?
Your tax file number is a nine digit number, which is used to report income, losses, credits and debits to the Australian Taxation Office. You should quote it to financial institutions and your employers. They will use this to withhold tax on your earnings for you.
Oh, what is my Tax File Number? It's 362 XXX XXX... don't publish this on the internet.

What is Normal Blood Pressure?
Normal is 90/50 to 120/90? Am I right?

What is Odd?
Odd is not even. Odd is a quantity when divided in twain, does not come out in two equal parts.
Odd is something which is out of the ordinary and or unexpected.

What is Poetry?
Poetry is the art of arranging words into sets to produce something which has a pleasing sound; usually along the lines of rhyming and or metre. Good poetry implies a craft and a degree of smithing so that the final product is linguistically of value.

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa appears to be a member of the goosefoot family of plants (I don't really know what they are) and appears to be a cereal of some sort. I tend to think that with things like this which are trendy that either the foodies will go mad for it or firms like Chemist Warehouse will develop some extract from it and claim that it's a 'superfood' like Acai or Krill Oil.

What is Rum made from?
Sugar cane. Rum is basically the feremented drink made from the distillation of sugar cane byproducts like molasses and sugarcane juice. It is typically fermented in oak barrels (Canadian Oak is what the Bundaberg Rum Factory uses) and can be either double or triple distilled before being 'married' with water.

What is SETI?
SETI or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is basically the search for aliens on other worlds. I suspect that aliens fall into 3 categories.
1. Aliens that are less intelligent than us; so we won't find them.
2. Aliens that about as intelligent as us; so we won't find them.
3. Aliens that are more intelligent than us; and they've already decided that we're not worth bothering with; so we won't find them.

What is The meaning of life?
Believe it or not, the meaning of life is spelled out in ludicrously simple detail in the bible:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
- Ecclesiastes 12:13

What are those commandments? Well, again, they're also spelled out in ludicrously simple detail:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Matthew 22:37-40

Fear God, Love God; Love People. Simples!

What is Umami?
Umami is the fifth taste along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It wasn't really discovered until about 1908 when a Japanese professor, Kikunae Ikeda, realised that a pleasant savoury sort of taste was different to the other four tastes. The word umami comes from umai うまい "delicious" and mi 味 "taste".

What is Voltage?
Voltage is the difference in potential energy between two parts of an electric circuit. It is named after Alessandro Volta who invented the first working battery.

What is Wordpress?
Wordpress is a blogging/content management/publishing platform which is useful in hosting blogs and other websitical things.

What is XO sauce?
XO sauce is a chinese sauce which is usually very spicy and has a hint of seafood flavours about it. The term XO probably comes from the classification of Cognac, XO in this case stand for eXtra Old.

What is Yolo?
YOLO is an acronym which stands for You Only Live Once. YOLO is either used as an excuse to engage in idiotic behaviour or used with a sense of irony to denote something benign.

What is Zen?
Zen is a school of Buddhism which tends to focus more on meditation and self enlightenment rather than doctrinal or scriptural study. The word "Zen" is handy in Scrabble late in the game when space is at a premium because both the 'e' and 'n' are common; experienced Scrabble players are more inclined to use 'ize' earlier on though as the 'z' is worth 10 points.

What is þis?
þis is a þorn. þe þorn was replaced by 'th' in modern English but I þink þat þorn is a more useful meþod of representing þis particular dipþong.

What is Cookie Monster?
Cookie Monster is the 28th and best letter of the alphabet.

February 04, 2014

Horse 1611 - 10 Points to Oblivion And The Six-Point Fixture In The Same Match!

WARNING: Maths Ahead!

Long time readers will note that I write Liverpool's season off as a non-event once they fall behind 10 points of the league leaders. The earliest that I've written the season off is in September and the latest that I ever wrote the season off was in the 91st minute of the very last game of the year*; in that match Liverpool hosted Arsenal and it's fitting that to write off the 2013/14 season (or not) should also occur when these two sides meet.
To explain why a particular fixture is called a "six-pointer" when there are only 3 points on offer for a league match, requires some maths.

The league currently stands thus:
1. Arsenal - 55
2. Man City - 53
3. Chelsea - 53
4. Liverpool - 47
All have played 24 matches and I'm going to discard Man City and Chelsea as irrelevant to this discussion, and disregard goal difference as well.

Assuming Arsenal wins. They pick up 3 points and Liverpool do not. The league table after 25 matches reads:
1. Arsenal - 58
4. Liverpool - 47
Arsenal would then be 11 points clear of Liverpool, and Liverpool's season is as good as dead for the 24th year in succession.

If Liverpool wins though, they pick up 3 points and Arsenal do not.  The league table after 25 matches reads:
1. Arsenal - 55
4. Liverpool - 50
Instead of Arsenal being 11 points clear of Liverpool, they would only be 5 points clear. Since 11 - 5 = 6, then it becomes obvious as to why such things are called six-point fixtures.

A draw of course means that relative to each other, the gap remains fixed. If either Man City or Chelsea or even both win in such a scenario, then we'd have a new league leader and Liverpool would be 9 points behind them; which is still dire but not quite so dire to write the season off entirely... yet.

Of course Liverpool would probably still be fighting for a European Champions League or Europa League spot but in all honesty, I don't really care about those. I would rather see Liverpool win the league and those things come as an added bonus.

I really hope that Arsenal implode here. The problem is that Özil keeps on supplying Giroud and Ramsey with goal fodder. I'm willing to bet that it's not Lionel Messi but Mesut Özil who is actually the best player in the world at the moment and that he'll be instrumental in bringing the World Cup back to Germany. Hopefully, Touré and Johnson can cancel them out.

*This single fixture I regard as the most important in the history of league football in England; even though Liverpool lost the league with it.
This single match unlocked the potential of television, brought football back into the civilised world after the events of Hillsborough and was probably instrumental in the creation of the Premier League.