April 30, 2018

Horse 2405 - Mad Max Carries On Like A Pork Chop But It's Still Danny Ric's Fault

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix which is held on the streets of central Baku, is in my not very well paid opinion, one of the better street circuits out there. It has all of the usual problems with street circuits in that as cars speed through the concrete canyons, they risk biting them and their race comes to an end in an instant. I've always found that something so unforgiving is extremely disappointing because unlike other motor racing fans, I would rather see two hours of intense racing than eight seconds of someone crashing which is followed by the inevitable period of utter boredom.
Sometimes though, you see an incident which is not the fault of the track but the madness of the little grey cells encased in meat; encased in an Arai helmet; encased in a motor car. We saw such an incident yesterday when Daniel Ricciardo ran into the back of Max Verstappen, thus taking out both Red Bulls and causing a double Did Not Finish. From a team manager's perspective, having one car not finish is disappointing, having both cars not finishing is heartbreaking,  and having both cars fail to finish when they caused it is infuriating. Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner was so livid that when Sky Sports foolishly tried to interview him after the incident, he gave the utterly expected "no comment" and stormed off in a huff.

You can say what you like about Max Verstappen moving on or off line because really the difference is only a few feet at most, and whether or not that constitutes a breaking of the rules but as it currently stands, the FIA has not made any ruling in any direction and so without direction from the arbiters, I'm going to have to declare that in my opinion, this is Daniel Ricciardo's fault for failing to avoid an accident.

Even though Verstappen was acting like a total pork chop all afternoon, making stupid moves up the inside and banging wheels with Ricciardo on the exit of turn 1 at one point, I still think that in this example, Daniel Ricciardo is 100% at fault because rather than executing the move and passing through on the inside of a corner, he should have realised that the car in front was going to slow down at some point.
Ricciardo knew full well that Verstappen had been driving like a loon all afternoon and this should have informed his decision making process, when approaching the moving hazard.

If this incident had happened on a normal public road, then a judge would look at this and 99 times out of 100 declare that the car following was at fault for insurance purposes. When driving on a public road with that great unwashed mass of humanity that we call the general public, the directions that a judge will take are that unless there is really convincing evidence that the car in front is somehow negligent, then the fault of the accident falls on the car behind. When driving standards inspectors such as the race stewards look at an incident, then they generally take the opinion that unless an overtaking maneuver has been effected where the car behind has at least pulled up in front of the other cars b-pillar, or in the case of an open cockpit car the rollover hoop, then the same principle applies. It is usually the car which is following which is at fault and in this case, that is Daniel Ricciardo.

The thing is that when you point out the letter of the law and how they are generally applied, people are mostly immune to facts and reason. Already I've had people argue on social media that because Max Verstappen moved "twice" ten he is the one at fault, even though the definition of "moving" already has case examples as set out by the FIA and the definition of "moving" in cases like this is defined by moving significantly and by at least the width of a car. In this case, Max Verstappen has deviated but it still doesn't yet constitute "moving" to defend the line as per the examples proscribed by the FIA.

In the grander scheme of things, you'd have to assume that Christian Horner can not be very happy about his two drivers throwing their multi million dollarpound machines into walls and not getting results. A double DNF which was absolutely caused by a combination of both drivers is worth being infuriated over and I would suspect that he would like to be rid of one of them by the end of the season if it promotes team harmony.
My guess is that with Kimi Raikkonen most likely retiring from Formula One at the end of the season, that Daniel Ricciardo will be eyeing his old seat for 2019 with extreme interest. The 2018 Ferrari looks like it has come on in leaps and bounds since 2018, to the point where it is capable of challenging for and winning races. If Ricciardo is able to secure Kimi's seat in 2019, then I think that Christian Horner would probably let him go, if for no other reason than the current spat between him and Max Verstappen, is untenable.

April 27, 2018

Horse 2404 - Where Have You Gone, Henry? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

The news has been trickling through the internet recently that the Ford Motor Company has taken the somewhat remarkable decision that for its North American market (which for some reason does not include Mexico), when the current round of passenger cars reach the end of their model cycle, they will not be renewed. This means that from about mid 2019, the Ford Fiesta, Focus, Fusion (Mondeo) and Taurus, are all doomed; only the Mustang will survive the chop. If you want a sedan or hatchback in North America from about 2021 and onwards, it will not be a Ford.
After the reorganisation, the North American line up for Ford will exclusively be the Mustang and a range of SUVs and pickup trucks.

- North America might not ever see this. 

Ford Australia have said nothing on this subject (mostly because as a purely import company now, they have the management pull of a mango in a cyclone) but I expect that the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo are probably safe because Australians on the whole tend to buy smaller cars than people in North America and the most hotly contested market segment in Australia is the small to medium car class; closely followed by the small to medium SUV class.

As much as I personally think that the decision is bordering on corporate insanity, I think that an organisation like the Ford Motor Company will have had hordes of accountants and statisticians poring over the sales data for the last decade or so and have come to this decision with extreme care. The reason why I think that this decision is completely nutso is that by withdrawing from what basically has been the mainstay of the motor industry for the past eight decades, Ford has yielded its place. I can only think that they've come to the point where they've realised that the marketplace can not sustain their presence and have shifted their resources to something more profitable.
The problem with this is the annoying question of what happens if petrol prices start to head upwards again and they've been left with a range of highly ornate lumps that they can no longer sell. I suppose that this is the corporate gamble that they've taken and that only time will tell if it pays off.

This is a story which has kind of already played out in miniature in Australia. I know that we aren't exactly congruous to the North American car market but there still might be something instructive here.
Mitsubishi Motors once upon a time dared to knock on the door of the top ten of sales in Australia. From about 2006 though, with the failure of their 380, which was a brilliantly engineered car that was simply too big and too late (had it been released in 1996 if would have sold like gangbusters), Mitsubishi scaled back their lineup, after scrobbling around with the Colt and Mirage, before finally withdrawing the Lancer from sale. I find it almost incredible that the company which was winning World Rally Championships with Tommi Mäkinen, would eventually become the shadow of its former self that it is today. As someone who writes more words than necessary about motor cars (and who would have loved to have been a motoring writer for a newspaper), even I struggle to name a single car in the current Mitsubishi line up outside the Pajero and Triton and neither of those are small cars.
If Mitsubishi is an object lesson on how to drive a car company into the ground, then it seems to me that Ford Motor Company have looked at that lesson and decided to go and do likewise.

Now I say this as something of a Ford fanboy whose heart beats for the Blue Oval, I really don't like this move. Having been weaned on a diet of motor sport since I were a wee lad, I've learnt that Ford as a company can not be trusted and that people win motor races and championships, despite of and in spite of the Ford Motor Company. The Cortina, Escort, Falcon, Sierra, Escort again, Focus, Fiesta, and Falcon again, have all won various championships after the head office withdrew its support and they were being run by third parties.
What this says though is that the underlying machinery of small Ford cars is mostly brilliant. Now whether they've been engineered in Dagenham, Broadmeadows or Cologne, Ford's smaller cars have been banging out brilliance since 1965. I still pine for my little Ka which was fatally wounded by a lady who ran into the back of me in a Toyota Yaris, because I know that it was the funnest car that I've ever owned. It was like they trapped lightning in a bottle.
Ford Motor Company have taken the extraordinary decision that after looking at all the options, they're going to deny the people of North America the chance to buy properly German engineered motor cars that will wear that Blue Oval, forever. I don't know what the people of North America did to deserve such a fate other than not buy enough small excellent motor cars.

My fear is that if Ford Motor Company decides that Australia is a bit like North America, they're going to deny us the chance to buy properly German engineered motor cars in future as well. They've already decided that we aren't good enough to build and engineer our own motor cars but they'll happily take our money.
As someone who will never ever be in the market for an SUV, because in principle I think that each and every one of them is fundamentally stupid and I'm quietly judging everyone who has one, if Ford decide to go that way in Australia, then there is the distinct possibility that I will never own another new Ford ever again.
I don't know how many people are like me in this respect, for whatever reason but that's the gamble which Ford have made in North America. I will admit that as a business, business does what business does but as a cultural touchstone and one of the great automotive tribes, it's like they're turning their back on their own people.

April 24, 2018

Horse 2403 - MK **** - A **** By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As ****

AFC Wimbledon have been charged with a breach of English Football League regulations following their home match against MK Dons on 22 September.
Wimbledon referred to the away side as Milton Keynes or MK, and did not mention them on their programme cover.
The south-west London club are accused of 'breaching Regulation 3' of the EFL's rules, which say no member should "unfairly criticise, disparage, belittle or discredit" any other club in the league.
Wimbledon had also failed to recognise the MK Dons' name in their very first league meeting at Kingsmeadow, which took place in March this year.
- BBC News 20th Dec 2017.

In December 2017, AFC Wimbledon were charged by the EFL with a breach of Regulations 3.4 and 3.5 and conduct amounting to misconduct, in respect of its actions towards Milton Keynes Dons.
The charge arose from the League One meeting of the two Clubs at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on 22 September 2017, when the home Club was alleged to have not referred to Milton Keynes Dons in an appropriate manner. 
- English Football League, 17th Apr 2018.

The English Football League decided to press disciplinary action against League One side AFC Wimbledon following their match against the scum franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes after both the scoreboard at the ground and the official match program did what I've just demonstrated and did not referred to the latter club by its proper name, back in September of last year.
I have been following this story with interest because both The Football League and MK have acted appallingly in my heavily biased and not very well thought out opinion.

Given that the only reason that this abomination of a football club exists was because the then management stole the club away from south west London to quite literally the most non descript town in the universe, let alone England, with the approval and blessing of the Football League no less, then what kind of terms would they like AFC Wimbledon to refer to them as? Because the appropriate terms which AFC Wimbledon should refer to the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes include the words ****, ****, ***** and ****. Please insert whatever words your filthy, grotty mind can come up with because even then it still wouldn't be enough.
Milton Keynes **** (the word "Dons" has been replaced here because they have no right to it) is the result of a management decision in 2002 to rip the football club out of South London, where it had been since 1889 and move it to a city in Buckinghamshire, some 59 miles away; which from personal experience, is lifeless and soulless.
Forget spending billions of dollarpounds on a mission to Mars to look at a cold dead rock, simply book a train to Milton Keynes and you can achieve the exact same result.

So why the fuss at all? Football after it is all said and done is only a game, with 22 players, green grass and a football. Of itself, it doesn't really have much empirical value. Football and indeed all sports and games, are entertainment which helps to distract us from the march of time and the inevitable slow walk towards the grave.
Humans are very efficient pattern recognition machines. If you collect enough patterns together, you start to build stories. If you collect stories together, you start to build narrative. If you collect narrative and stories together in a giant collective, you start to build community. A football club is the collective product of a community and if there is anything to be bought and sold, then it is the willingness of people to buy into the grand story which built the community. The story and community which had been written around the old Wimbledon FC was one which had taken 113 years to write.
The only issue with moving Wimbledon FC from south London to Milton Keynes is that although you can move a business, you can not move a community which is very much tied to its sense of place. It doesn't matter that management retained the colours and the name Dons, the thing which could not be bought or sold was that community.

The story of AFC Wimbledon is therefore pretty obvious. After having their football team stolen and sold out from underneath them, the fans reacted by holding trials on Wimbledon Common and out of the ashes of the old story, they began to tell a new one. The story of AFC Wimbledon and their rise through the ranks of the Football Conference, is a glorious one and legend was sealed when Seb Brown saved two penalties against Luton Town FC in 2011, to secure promotion in the playoffs, to the Football League proper.
The story of AFC Wimbledon is the story of a community, rebuilding what had been taken away from them and the return to the model of a football club for its fans and owned by its fans. The team which was moved and which is referred to as "the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes" for good reason, has always been resented by the community which has built itself out of the ashes and hence the reason why when the two team played south London, the match program did not name the MK **** the scoreboard did not them either. I've found it interesting to hear on BBC Southern Counties Radio, chants of "Where were you when you were us?" being sung by AFC Wimbledon fans. Football crowds aren't known for their manners at the best of times but sometimes there have been some exceptionally poignant truths to come out of a many thousand voiced choir at one end of a football ground. In this case, this speaks right to the heart of the issue at hand. If a football club is the result of many stories which are built into a community, then what right does a bunch of monied people have to take that away? You can buy a team but you can not buy the community.

When I heard about the Football League reprimanding AFC Wimbledon for not referring to the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes in their official match program and the scoreboard, my brain blew a 15 amp fuse. I find it simply galling that the Football League, which as the overarching organisation which only derives any sense of legitimacy from the collective of the collective narratives, should side with the franchise in this. I mean, part of the anger is directed at the Football League who oversaw the ripping out of the team from south London to that cold dead rock in the middle of nowhere. To then reprimand AFC Wimbledon for daring to protest the obvious abhorrence of playing against something which shouldn't even by rights exist, is terrible.

In advance of the formal proceedings commencing, the EFL has been in communication with both Clubs and, as a result of the positive dialogue, a decision has been taken to drop the charges against AFC Wimbledon on the proviso that all parties will now enter into discussions using their best endeavours to seek to reach an agreed position between the parties for the future. The decision has been supported by Milton Keynes Dons and The Dons Trust Board. 
- English Football League, 17th Apr 2018.

The only position which I would find acceptable if I was a member of The Dons Trust Board, would be if MK drops the name "Dons", which they have no right to. Furthermore, I think that referring to the franchise as MK and nothing more, was on balance the most respectful thing that could have been done given the circumstances; especially when you consider that the town is already locally abbreviated to as "MK".
Retaining the name "Dons" is a reminder of a past which should have never have happened, a reminder of the corporate decision to rip the club from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, and is stupid considering that the franchise has no connection with the people of Wimbledon or the suburb any more. 
I am glad that the Football League did the obvious thing. I hope that MK **** does likewise.

MK **** being relegated and AFC Wimbledon staying up is both a win for the good of the game and for justice in general.

April 23, 2018

Horse 2402 - Fifty Questions

1. What is your middle name?
Thomas - but I suspect that that's doubtful.

2. What is the last thing you ate?
A Banana. I have no idea what kind of banana; only to say that it came from Aldi.

3. What is the last thing you drank?
Earl Grey tea because I'm as posh as all get out, yo.

4. Where did you last go on holiday?
Does Katoomba count? I think so.

5. If you could be any animal, what would you like to be?
I think I'd like to be a lion. They're the king of the beasts and as previously discussed, I'm as posh as all get out, too.

6. If you had ten minutes left to live, what would you do?
I think I'd spend all of it on the telephone, speaking to my wife. If it really was the end of the world at an instant, I imagine that it would come at the most inconvenient moment.

7. If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?
I'm assuming that my wife can save herself; so I'm saving the cats.

8. If you wanted your last words to be truly memorable, what would they be?
I have buried a million dollars in cash somewhere in a Sydney park. (panic digging would then ensue)

9. If it was 1918, what job do you most want in the world?
A newspaper columnist for the great and powerful Times of London.

10. If it was 2118, what job do you most want in the world?
King of Belgium.

11. If you were given a billion dollars, what would you spend it on?
The Holden factory in Elizabeth. I'd start building Tiger motor cars.

12. What crime of infamy would you most likely to commit?
Extreme fraud by being King of Belgium?

13. What is your biggest weakness?
Delusions of grandeur coupled with no discernible abilities in anything.

14. What is your biggest strength?
Delusions of grandeur coupled with no discernible abilities in anything; which means that I'll attempt things without any inherent skill or talent.

15. If you could have dinner with any world leader, who would it be?
Angela Merkel if she can speak conversational English. I think I'd like to speak to someone sensible.

16. If you could have any mystery from history solved, what would it be?
I want to know who the author of the letter to the Hebrews is. I hope that it's Priscilla.

17. If you could swap places with anyone in history for a day, who would it be?
Steven Gerrard.

18. If you could swap places with anyone in history for a day, what day would it be?
21st of September 2013, so that I could score a goal against Southampton, which would have meant that the league table for that season would have changed and Liverpool would have won the 2013/14 league by a point.

19. You have been found guilty of that crime of infamy and have been sentenced to death. What is your last meal?
A Nutella sandwich laced with cyanide.

20. You are only allowed to drive one car for the rest of your life, what is it?
1979 XC Falcon Coupe Cobra, blue with white stripes.

21. If you could have any address in the world, where is it?
10 Downing Street; in Mr Chicken's old house.

22. If you could instantly learn a new skill, what would it be?
Playing the piano to a concert grade.

23. Imagine that you are leaving high school, what message do you put in the high school year book?
I always have the last trump.

24. If you could change the world and eliminate sickness and death, would you do it?
I would have to say "no" on the basis that the Earth would get crowded, that it wouldn't cure people being nasty and horrible to each other, and that although wisdom generally is earned by elderly, innovation is driven by the young.

25. Would you ban pineapple on pizza?
Okay, this is an asterisk filled nightmare. Pineapple on a pizza is allowed if it is coupled with either ham or bacon; in no other instances is pineapple on a pizza sensible. However, people like what they like and they are allowed to be sincerely wrong. So, no ban.

26. Who is the best wizard?
Sir Stanley Matthews - The Wizard of the Dribble

27. What is the best time of day?
04:17am. If I was to wake up then, then I'm consciously aware that I get to go back to sleep.

28. Winter or Summer?
Summer serves no purpose other than to play cricket in. A country like England has no real summer; because they sensibly banned it.

29. If Trump wins the election, would you move to Canada?
Shh. Cache tes pouvoirs, n'en parle pas. Fais attention, le secret survivra.

30. What is your favourite terrible snack?
Toast with cheese spread and then one of those plastic wrapped processed cheese slices put on top; with the whole thing put under the grill so that the cheese spread turns into a gooey sauce and the processed slice on top browns unnaturally.

31. What is the one movie that you would watch over and over again?
Probably "The Great Escape". If I knew every line of that film, I would be even more insufferable than now.

32. Have you seen Star Wars?
Not only have I seen Star Wars but I would compete for The Empire in the Olympic Games if I could, just so I could hear the anthem for winning a gold medal in a rubbish sport.

33. When were you the most scared?
I fell out of a boat once and I can't swim. That was like having liquid death surround me.

34. Can you live without your phone?
I don't have a smart phone; so I'm not tempted to look at it very often.

35. What's a thing from your generation that the kids of tomorrow won't understand?
Putting a pencil in the hole of a cassette to fast forward and rewind it.

36. If you were bitten by a radioactive spider, what superpower would you have?
That would make me Spiderman. I don't think that this question intended to be a comprehension question though. I think I want Batman's superpower of just having a pile of money but I don't think I'd be as dark and brooding as him and instead of being a one man vigilante, I would actually improve Gotham's infrastructure to quell crime.

37. Cats or Dogs?
Dogs are lovable idiots. Dogs are like having a friend who always wants to do things with you. Cats are infinitely selfish. You are friends with a cat on their terms alone. I prefer having an independent actor around. It's cats.

38. Is the enemy of your enemy, your friend?
Not necessarily. They could very well be another enemy.

39. Would you always support your country, even if it was wrong?
My country has done and continues to do evil things. I don't support some of its actions, as it is now.

40. What would your graffiti tag be?
That RX character for medicines.

41. Do you want to build a snowman?
No thanks, I think I'd rather die.
I hear it coming through the floor,
I want to close the door.
I hope it goes away!
It used to be so funny,
And now it's not;
This is the reason why.
Do I want to build a snowman?
I don't want to build a snowman.
Okay, bye.

42. If you could ask the President any one question, what would it be?
At this current moment in time, the one question that I'd want to ask is the one that constitutes perjury and therefore grounds for impeachment.

43. What pun named restaurant would you like to open that gets less funny every time you say it?
Get It India

44. Is the problem of poverty solvable?
No; because the basic underlying problem of infinite human selfishness isn't solvable.

45. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
More than likely in Rome.

46. What is your favourite kind of chicken?
I like my home town hero, the Australorp.

47. Who needs to be quiet for a while?
Kelly O'Dwyer. Seriously, that performance on Insiders was woeful.

48. Who needs to speak up more?
Sally McManus?

49. What do you want to be most remembered for?
I don't. I remember that song which said that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away." I would just like to just fade away.

50. Who is most likely to answer these 50 questions next?
I have no idea.

Tag 6 people and pass this on.

April 18, 2018

Horse 2401 - Thirteen Rules For Roadtrips.

I'm pretty sure that if many of us were given lots of free and untied dollarpounds at our disposal to do with whatever we like, we would spend them on travel and I'm no exception. Of course being the kind of person who likes to be in control of machinery, I would prefer to be driving as my main form of travel as much as I could, rather than being on a plane for hours. Sure, being on a bus, train, ferry, or aeroplane, are fun, they're all passive activities and when it comes to plane travel especially, because there's nothing to look at for extended periods of time, the wonder of literally flying through the air in a metal tube at hundreds of miles an hour, wears off pretty quickly.
Granted that you do get to arrive in exotic places but it's all too much like being confined inside during a wet weekend.
So when I was asked to write the rules for how to do a road trip by a client of mine, whose son had just turned 18 and acquired his P-Plates, I felt like this was well within the realm of my expertise because everyone respects the privileged views of a straight white middle aged man, who they don't know. There's nothing weird or creepy about that except for everything about it.

There are those who would say that going on a roadtrip is almost something of a rite of passage and that once you do manage to acquire the means of mobility, you turn the key and open the door to a new journey of life. To some degree that's true but for me, who has always been obsessed with motor cars even as a small child, it wasn't so much a rite of passage but rather the fulfillment of a need. In the broadest sense, I look at the future of self driving cars with despair and should it come to it, I promise to defy the future and build my own not self driving car. Why should the robots steal my joy?

Speaking from personal experience, the very first thing that I always want to do whenever I get a new car is to immediately put 5000km on the odometer. I really love being behind the wheel watching as the miles are eaten up, as the landscape rises and falls, as that ribbon of black top wends and weaves its way through the hills and mountains, and I love that you get to share the experience with someone else or if you are by yourself, you get many hours to run around inside your own mind.
A roadtrip is the mechanical embodiment of my personal want to run and run and run, even if the seasons of life and its circumstances condemn me from doing so. A friend of mine who has now passed away, absolutely rued and hated the day that he lost his driver's licence because of medical reasons and I understand that entirely. It would be like hacking ones legs off with a chainsaw.

These aren't so much as the rules for roadtrips but general suggestions. It of course should be the domain of youth to tell the old exactly where to go and how to get there, while they still know everything; so I fully expect to be told to get lost.

1. Maps
Unless you are one of those people who likes the solitude of just being at one with the machine, there will be at least one other person in the car. It is the duty of the person in the navigator's seat to know where you are in the world. This might involve Google maps or some other electronic map thing, or if you are old fashioned it might mean a dead tree paper one. Either way, if the navigator is lost, then the driver has to juggle something else in their head, along with the decreasing closing distance to the truck up ahead as well as the moving chess game with everything else on the road.
It definitely helps if you do a fair amount of research first though and at very least try to memorise a basic outline of the highways and main road that you intend to drive on. In Australia we don't have a whole heap of choices because between the major cities there usually are no more than two roads to choose from.

2. Drinks
Coffee and Energy Drinks that taste like nothing remotely natural at all are acceptable if you are one of those people who needs to be constantly caffeinated. However, nobody and I repeat nobody, needs to bring a 2L bottle of anything and neither do they need a slurpee or other drink from a petrol station which is so massive that you can fit your head inside. Motorways especially are long stretches of 110km/h road where they are very few opportunities to stop. If you drink a lot then you can expect to pee a lot and nothing is as annoying as having to stop for a pee break if you otherwise didn't have to. If you are on one of those meandering roads with lots of little towns then please disregard this.
Visit every road house, cafe and rest stop that you come across, and take pee breaks everywhere.
Also, it's worth remembering that if you have a very big cup of sugary pee inducing drink, if you have to stop suddenly, the laws of physics will conspire against you and send both the cup and the liquid flying. Mountain Dew is lovely but not when you have 650mL of the stuff all over you and inside your clothes because it gets uncomfortably sticky.

3. Snacks
I love a good bar. Chocolate, cereal, muesli, heck even a sausage roll or a frankfurt could be called a bar under the loosest of definitions. Things like potato crisps are messy so avoid those, nuts are all right but fiddly, and things that are harder to eat such as a pie or a burger should really only be eaten when the car is stopped. Sandwiches are in the borderlands in this argument.
Also, don't be so precious about the state of mess in the car. This is an unavoidable fact of life. I can guarantee that you will find a wrapper for a Mintie several months and maybe even years after a road trip. If you intend to eat a sausage roll or a pie in the car (because why wouldn't you?) then you should expect to find pastry crumbs forever.

4. Stereo
There is almost always a dispute about the music on the car's stereo so please develop good compromise and negotiation skills. You might really like The Ugly Banshees¹ but nobody else in the car might not be into 16 minute stretches of unorganised prog rock. Comedy programs which you can download from the internet generally go down well; as do geeky brainy things if you are that kind of person. Quite often, the music that you play in the car ends up being the soundtrack for that moment in time.
If music is not your thing, then the long slow breath of cricket becomes the soundtrack of a thousand summers, the siren of the third quarter of an Australian Rules match is yet another chapter of a grand story, and the weird patter of faintly glimmering local radio stations fades in and out as you travel across the land.

5. Danger
Sometimes you will get into a situation which is not fun. The weather can turn nasty in a hurry in some places and this can lead to hostility and angst. Turn the music down. The driver's brain has more important things to do than worry about what Celia K² thinks about the boyfriend that she's either dumped or just picked up (which given the quality of a lot of modern music, she will repeat maybe 60 times in three minutes) Sometimes if you're in particularly heavy rain, then all that you have to work with is the lane markers and the lights of the car in front. In particularly bad rain or fog, sometimes the only thing preventing you from being a smacked in the rear end at 70mph, is you following the thing in front at 70mph. Driving in bad weather conditions is a game of mutual trust between people who can't actually see each other; in fast moving metal boxes with the potential to kill everyone.

6. Itinerary
Don't make one that's so set in stone that it's a whip for your own back. I like the idea of just kind of wandering around the place; stopping at cool things because they're cool. If you're on a road trip, then from the outset you're already on holiday; so you may as well look at the snowman made of tyres, or the sign that vaguely looks rude, or that antique shop, or that lookout over that scenic view which will almost invariably always be disappointing.
The best advice for planning an itinerary is to say that you'll be somewhere on a particular day because any smaller chunk of time like an hour is simply impossible to stick to. If you're travelling for a multiple of hours in a day that extends into double digits, then that's all you are doing that day; that's just the way it is.

7. Restaurant
Never ever stop at a chain restaurant unless it's absolutely necessary. Always eat at the weirdest looking places, the crappiest looking Chinese restaurant (because they're always the tastiest), the darkest and most homeliest looking pub. Even if you happen to eat the most inedible thing in the world, that in itself becomes the story.
If it is any later than about 5 in the afternoon, you should start to think about dinner. If you press on and on too long, then that window of opportunity will close and all that will be left will be chain restaurants and kebab shops but only in the major cities. There are no late night kebab shops out in West Woop Woop.

8. Photographs
I am not necessarily inclined to want to take a bunch of photographs because experience has taught me that if you're wrapped up in worrying about taking photographs, then you miss out on the holiday itself. I'm also not one for taking a bunch of selfies either because everyone who knows me also knows what I look like.
If you are the sort of person who wants to take photographs everywhere, then photos with a person in front of the thing as though they are standing at attention and saying "I am here" tend to be dull. The best photographs on holidays and especially road trips are the ones that people don't expect to be taken or where the intent is to look goofy.
Also, always take photographs of road signs that happen to be significant. Crossing a border into another state or country is always neat.
Photographs of signs that move into the realm of punnery are also acceptable.

9. Market Day
It will happen on a road trip that occasionally you will drive into a town that has had its main street shut down because of the street markets, or perhaps you will find them because you have chosen to seek it out. Every market in existence will have someone selling jams, someone selling jewellery, a clothing seller, food vendors of questionable products, and people claiming to sell you some wonder product. After visiting about three markets you will realise that every single street market is broadly replaceable with every other street market and that all of them are essentially selling tat. I was once in a small country town that openly called it the Tat Fair. You will be disappointed, if you choose to spend your money, it will be disappointing because any and all merchandise will be overpriced. Get used to it.

10. Conversation
I'm assuming that you are going on a road trip with people that you like and have chosen to hang out with. Finding topics of conversation shouldn't be a problem but with any social interaction, the potential to hate each other because you're in close proximity is massive.
Forgive people as quickly as possible.

11. Lane Changing
If you are on the motorway, highway, autobahn, interstate, autostrada etc. Then changing lanes is sometimes a logistical nightmare. You should nominally have committed to changing lanes well before the maneuver is ever made and the 2km marker is generally a pretty good time to think about it.
Wait until you can see at least both headlights of the thing that you're going to move in front of. A big thing needs time and space to pull up in due to the First Law of Motion. It's also not nice to the truck driver, who by the way already thinks that you are a wee little tiddler even if you are driving a two tonne SUV, to steal their braking space.
This is said not so much as kindly advice but as self-preservation. It is even more critical if you are driving in a country where they drive on the other side of the road because your brain isn't wired up with the usual instincts to be that spatially aware. The motorway is a 70mph game of potentially moving death on many sides.

12. Breakdowns
This almost should go without saying but seeing as the capacity for human stupidity is infinite, then I need to spell this out.
Get Breakdown coverage.

If you're not already covered by the RAC, The AA, NRMA, Green Flag, or some other breakdown coverage organisation, then get this before you leave. Batteries will suddenly decide to fail, sensors and electrics will instantly terminate themselves, the engine management computer will commit a divide by zero error, and if you're Australia, the chances of encountering a kangaroo or an emu with a death wish only increases with the number of miles that pass; according to the law of large numbers. I was once camping overnight at a place and a wombat took exception to the fact that we had inadvertently parked the car in its usual desire trail; so it decided to go all Bruce Wombat Lee on one of the car's tyres.
We also joked about making a documentary series called Patto's World Of Breakdowns³ in which we'd go on a world tour of all the places that my mate Patto broke down in his '89 Laser.

13. Local Newspaper
Okay, I know that mostly the local newspaper is full of stories about angry people pointing at things and local action groups where people have been photographed wearing t-shirts that they've hastily thrown over the top of their regular clothes but here me out. The local newspaper is the curmudgeonly beating heart of a small town. It will report that the Coodabean Champions lost 7.11.53 to the Kickastikalong Tigers 12.9.81, that the Brinyagrogalong Park now has a new playset for the children, and that Kylie O'Bogan of class 6E has won a maths olympiad and is off to the big smoke to compete in a national competition which literally nobody in the town except for her mum, Kylie O'Bogan, but pay attention. The local newspaper has just enough information for the careful observer, not to look like a total frou-frou. If you are at the Imperial Hotel and sampling the local nectar, you will be looked on with suspicion.

Take heed of my ramblings oh young 'un, or don't. Wisdom is won by the wise through experience and can never be inherited. Always assume that you know better than the rest of the world while you are young, so that you will attempt the stupid and the daft because at  the end of it all, roadtrips are mostly about accumulating stories and the best stories come about almost by accident.
Plan nothing but plan to have a plan about planning nothing.

¹There isn't a band called The Ugly Banshees but it would be cool if there was.
²There also isn't an artist called Celia K. Her new synth pop album called "Celia K's Disease" also doesn't exist; if did, it would be quite irritating to my ears. Dance music in nightclubs has changed in the last five years or so and is less adventurous than it was.
³Patto isn't his real name. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. Also, to the people of Mildura who woke up that morning in 1997, that fire hydrant which had "fallen over" and was flooding the high street, was absolutely not the result of an '89 Laser rolling down the hill because the handbrake was faulty. 

April 17, 2018

Horse 2400 - Prelude to Armageddon - A Tournament Of Lies?

If you were to listen to the BBC World Service, you'd get the sense that the ongoing conflict in Syria is a series of tragic events, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians. The Syrian Civil War is far from civil and is a complex web of multiple nastiness by many actors.
If you were to listen to Fox News though, or that insane ranty shoutbox called InfoWars (which someone directed me to look at before I wrote this), you'd get the impression that the conflict in Syria is the opening prelude to the beginning of Armageddon. In this strange strange worldview, Syria and Russia are joining forces before they march on Israel and only America is capable of saving Israel. Everything is going to get immediately worse, Putin is the Great Satan, the world is going to worship him and only America can truly see what's going on.
The only thing that I could think of after watching this kind of stuff was...

Team by team, reporters baffled, Trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then,
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group
But it'll do, save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the Right, right?
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light;
Feeling pretty psyched
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Now that we've had some earthquakes, birds and snakes and aeroplanes, and I have dreamt about knives, Continental (cup-a-soup), the drift divide and mountains all in a line, the conditions for REM's song "The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" have been met and now we can start worrying ourselves into a state of panic.

Unlike in 1962 when Kennedy and Kruschev were engaged in a geopolitical game of waving banners all over the place, with the threat of nuclear war, today's leaders are even more insane than that. Vladimir Putin looks like something out of a 1960s advertisement for cigarettes and is frequently photographed with no shirt on, Donald J Trump is a previously bankrupted property developer turned reality TV star who still hasn't worked out that the Presidency is not a reality TV show, Bashar Assad is a nutbag who may or may not have gassed his own people, and other bit part players such as Kim Jong Un, Emmanuel Macron, Teresa May and our own Malcolm Turnbull, are all either overwhelmed, or just plain barbarous. Donald Trump who launched missiles at sites in Syria after supposed chemical attacks by Assad upon his own people (the first casualty of war is truth), has attracted the ire of Russia; which may or may not be a thing.
Putin as far as I'm aware has said nothing but RT is chalking this up as a case of unwarranted American aggression.
I'm afraid that there are so many layers of nastiness to all of this that I don't really understand most of what's going on other than to say that whatever happens, as an Australian citizen, my government will back up the United States to the hilt; no matter how I'll conceived and half baked the plans are (if indeed there are any).
Considering that Russia was seen by many futurologists as either the great Gog or Magog coming out of the north of Israel, and that Syria is also to the north of Israel, and the United States basically has an open cheque policy on Israel to fund whatever ill conceived and half baked plans that it might have (Israel is hardly an innocent party to a lot of the antagonism directed at it), then I'm half tempted to consider the idea of Armageddon.

Armageddon, or Tel Maggido, is basically a boring plains land in the north of the modern state of Israel. You can find it on Google maps if you like.
Because the Bible became a common cultural touchstone across the western world, then the Battle of Armageddon quite apart from any spiritual connotations that it might have, is a placeholder for the battle at the end of the world. I find it both interesting and downright terrifying that in the space of a weekend, I've heard the name Armageddon bandied about as if America's dropping of bombs upon Syria is somehow righteous.
Forgive my incredulity at this point but I very much doubt that Donald Trump is the saviour of anything, I doubt that Vladimir Putin is the Antichrist, and although I've seen the bombs rain down on Damascus I have my doubts on the validity of Bashar Assad having used chemical weapons on his own people. It could be completely true but having lived through the Second Gulf War which was started on the basis of intelligence which was later found to be made up, it really wouldn't surprise me to learn that the intelligence here was also dodgy. When you have someone as volatile as Donald Trump in charge, who might be facing his own troubles relating to his own presidency, then please forgive my caution in believing what's been put in front of me.
I also don't want to dismiss the thoughts that Putin or Assad are terrible either. Assad could very well have used chemical weapons against his own people and the nation of Syria itself is racked with about a dozen pro and anti government supporting factions, as well as ISIS still running around causing its own mayhem and destruction. The problem that I have is that between the sources on the ground being confused and the ability of news reporting outlets to be equally as confused, then truth is an incredibly murky thing to look at, let alone see through.

Assuming that Assad did use chemical weapons on his own people, then I guess that Trump ordering airstrikes along with co-ordinated help from France and Britain, is trying in part to draw a line somewhere in this conflict. Nobody in the west wants to be drawn into yet another protracted conflict with no answer and where it is difficult to tell who is on what side anyway. When you have multiple sides in an argument and most of them are wrong, you don't really want to step in and correct anyone. By ordering airstrikes, Trump has drawn that line in such a place as to say that his administration will not tolerate this particular kind of evil but doesn't want to deal with the rest of it. This is like smacking the odd hornet with a rolled up newspaper but leaving the nest alone.

Returning to the metaphor of Armageddon though, although I don't think that the latest round of airstrikes will result in anything other than banner waving and sabre rattling from western powers, I do think that for the people who live in Syria, you may as well call it Armageddon. When a bomb falls out of the sky, who cares what the motivation of the state who dropped it was? The destruction of your house, your possessions, and people who are nearest and dearest to you, basically is the end of the world. I don't really know if airstrikes in retaliation against chemical attacks is either justified or warranted, if it's based on completely real or made up information, but I do know that even if it was justified according to a set of objectives, I absolutely refuse to accept that it was in any way righteous.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the only voice that I've heard who I agree with was Jeremy Corbyn who demanded that Theresa May put up a defence as to why the RAF joined military strikes in Syria without first consulting parliament. Corbyn who seems actually concerned with the plight of the poor people who've had their houses and lives to pieces, quite rightly questioned the legitimacy of Syria strikes and told the the House of Commons* that Theresa May is accountable to the UK parliament, 'not the whims of the US president'.

Last night’s UN Security Council’s resolution must be a first step towards a comprehensive political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which is essential to defeating the threat from Isis.
Labour will consider any proposals the government brings forward, including its response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report opposing British air strikes in Syria
- Jeremy Corbyn’s statement on the United Nations involvement in the Syria crisis, 16th Apr 2018

That's where the real tragedy of all of this is. While we're all busy beating the war drums, during the ongoing conflict in Syria, it may as well be Armageddon because if the end of the world happens at the end of the world or next week, what's the difference? Meanwhile the tragic irony of this is that I think that people would prefer to be in Armageddon at the moment. Armageddon is a boring mound overlooking peaceful plains as far as the eye can see.



April 16, 2018

Horse 2399 - The League Has Been Won; So Why Do We Need A Finals Series?

The bell curve for the number of goals scored by a team in football is heavily skewed. Teams are incredibly likely to score either zero or one goals and the number progressively dies off until you get the very rare examples. Until the weekend, no team had ever scored 8 goals in an A-League match and likewise there had also never been a game with a total of 10 goals in it.
To say that there was a gulf in class between Newcastle and the Central Coast is an understatement. A friend of mine stopped watching after the Jets put in their third goal and I only started listening to the match on the radio when there was five on the scoreboard, but I had no idea that three more would be added to the tally. Newcastle seemingly made passes at will, stole the ball as though it was always theirs and had more shots than an archer at Agincourt. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how the Central Coast Mariners managed to get the ball at all; much less score twice in a match which was mostly one way traffic.

The tearing asunder of the Central Coast Mariners illustrates perfectly, one of the defects of the A-League as it stands. It isn't that the Central Coast Mariners are bad because every league will have teams that are better than others but that if you look at the other end of the A-League table, you find the story reversed almost exactly.
The Central Coast Mariners who will remain nailed to the bottom of the A-League table are 13 points behind the team in 6th place, the Brisbane Roar. Up at the very top of the A-League table are Sydney FC who are 14 points ahead of Newcastle in 2nd place. This is the utterly maddening thing, the team in 6th who are closer in the number of points to the team which is not only dead last but so much of a donkey of a side that they can have eight goals knocked past them, still has a chance at winning the A-League because of the finals system which disregards the league results entirely.
I have never been convinced as to what the benefit of a finals system actually is, much less why it is absolutely imperative that we have them in Australia. If Sydney FC have comprehensively beaten all and sundry and this is evidenced by the league table, then why should the team in 6th who hasn't pulled a smaller gap from themselves and dead last, be able to steal away the title of champions from the team on top who has empirically demonstrated through the results, that it is the best. If anyone other than Sydney FC wins the A-League, I will be thoroughly miffed at the stupidity of the finals system.

I really really hate the term "Minor Premiership". If you've played every other team multiple times and on balance have won, then you should be crowned champions. In most football championships around the world, you have a league and a knockout cup for a reason. In a motor racing championship, you have a points tally based on the positions from every race and at the end, the one who has the most points wins.
The reason why you get playoffs seasons in the United States especially and at major tournaments like the World Cup or the European Champions League, is that you have multiple groups which all play for the right to enter the finals system. The United States in particular has various divisions and/or conferences which are usually organised by regions; which is why in say American Football, the Superbowl is the championship game between the AFC Champions and NFC Champions.
The A-League in stark contrast, does this idiotic thing which we always want to do in Australia, which is play out the league and then have a playoffs system, not against another conference or division but against itself. I mean if we apply logic properly, then by rights Sydney FC which has won the league should be playing Sydney FC for the A-League Championship because it won the league. Anything else is stupid.

I still to this day think that the greatest game of football was the very last game of the season between Arsenal and Liverpool in 1989. The match had been delayed because of the immediate crisis following the Hillsborough disaster and so it was played after the FA Cup that year. The result of Arsenal 2 - Liverpool 0, gave Arsenal the title of First Division Champions, not because they had beaten Liverpool once, but because at the end of the season, they had amassed an equal number of points and not even because they had a better goal difference but because they had scored more goals in the season. Arsenal and Liverpool ended on the same number of points and it would have been utter stupidity to have a finals series after that.
The argument which will inevitably follow is that the A-League only has ten teams but that's not really an argument for anything. The AFL has 18 teams and also goes through the stupidity of a finals series, as does the NFL, which is equally stupid for doing so. If you have a smaller number of teams, then simply play everyone both home and away twice. If that's what they do in Scotland and it works very well, then what's so heinous about doing it here? What's the need for a finals series at all?

Just award Sydney the Premier's Plate and be done with it. We have a champion; everyone has played everyone else thrice; everything else is nonsense.

April 14, 2018

Horse 2398 - My Name Is Rollo, And I Am A 62 Year Old Woman... Apparently

Your tastes match most closely with the upper classes
Your cultural tastes are most similar to an upper class woman, aged 60+ with a postgraduate education.
- ABC News, 13th Apr 2018

According the Australian Cultural Fields project and this funky little quiz from the ABC, my tastes mean that I am probably a 60 year old woman with a postgraduate education and in the upper classes.
I find that somewhat amusing given that I'm actually a 39 year old man living in the heart of the bogan Western Suburbs of Sydney, and spent part of this week watching the Japanese Super GT championship on YouTube. Of course, I did also happen to watch Scandi crime drama, listen to the AFL and English League One football on the radio and play the cigar box guitar; so I don't know what any of that says either.
I think that it's supposed to mean that I am dead posh lyke, or at least that's what the ABC thinks.

New research from the Australian Cultural Fields project — one of the most detailed investigations into how cultural tastes and lifestyles connect with privilege in Australia — sheds light on what that might be.
The findings, to be published later this year, reveal how strongly our cultural tastes — such as the books we read, the music we like, the TV shows we watch, and so on — align with characteristics like class, education, age and gender.
- ABC News, 13th Apr 2018

I have long since accepted that I am something of a cultural oddity. I have also long since accepted that I am a chronological aberration as I much prefer listening to the radio than I do watching television. I make no secrets of the fact that I like ABC RN (which should return to calling itself Radio National), BBC Radio 4, NPR as well as various podcasts from places as varied as Maximum Fun, Politico, Radiotopia and independent offerings.

I have no idea how the Australian Cultural Fields project was compiled but I bet that if they've distilled this into these few questions, they have very good reason to. Ultimately any cultural project that looks into the connections between how culture is received and what kind of culture is received, is going to relate to class and education, simply because those things have to do with exposure. And as someone who commutes from very close to Sydney's poorest suburb to the 7th richest suburb in the country, I can tell you that there are very much widening class divisions in society as I observe them.
However, none of this explains why the ABC thinks that I am probably a 60 year old woman.

To get to this specific area of demographics, the questions take a turn of a literary nature. The truth is that ever since the dawn of the novel in the 1810s, ladies have always been more culturally engaged with books. Maybe this has to do with the fact that booksellers have long realised than men have shorter attention spans on the whole, which means that novelists are more likely to write books for women; maybe this has to do with the fact that women's brains are on the whole more capable and efficient at dealing with nuances of language because they spend more time talking to each other and children, than men are ever likely to; maybe it has to do with the fact that they spend more time reading because men are more likely to spend their leisure time doing and watching more idiotic things. Whatever the case, the truth is that at literary festivals you are more likely to find women in attendance, and I can say this with complete obliviousness to facts and truth because I like most men, have never been to a literary festival.

Of course it could be that with improving sorting algorithms, that mining data for key points that will give you the ability to determine differences, is just so much easier than it used to be. We don't really know what the initial set of questions was in the original sample survey but the fact that they've been able to produce a predictive questionnaire says that they expect that past results are indicative of future ones; that goes right to the very heart of analysis and prediction.

I also think that this might have been more difficult in days gone past as well. Before the internet, we only had a few television channels and the costs of producing media such as television, radio and print, were prohibitive to the average person. Although we had fewer choices, it meant that we were kind of closer together when it came to the media that we consumed. People still split into tribes based on culture and class but more of us were watching the same television programs at the same time. Today where the barriers to entry to produce media are far lower, the democratisation of production has meant that we have become more fragmented in the cultural experiences that we're likely to encounter.

I also find it interesting that this article talks about things like art galleries and museums and libraries being free and open to all but neglects to make the point that much that the basic problem of getting to these places in the first place is an issue. I think that I live probably 40km away from the city, which means that if something is on at say The Art Gallery of New South Wales, i would have to make a whole day of it; whereas someone living in Newtown has only to travel five stops.
It also draws the correlation that if you are a bright young thing, you're more likely to be going out to various cultural events. I don't know how many +60 year old ladies are going to see Nicky Minaj at the Qudos Arena but I wager that it can't be many.

Also, that this appears on the ABC's website is itself a self-selecting kind of process. Older people are more likely to engage with print media and long form journalism and this article is well beyond the standard 1000 words of a normal editorial piece. It takes time to engage with a long piece of writing and because the act of reading itself is more likely to be done by the middle and upper classes, reading something on the ABC's website is also more likely to be done by the middle and upper classes. I am also self-aware of my own internal biases here and again, I have been part of that same self-selection process and live in my own self curated media bubble; which is why I came across this, as did so many people in my participation part of the giant media cloud.

Of course maybe this is a warning that maybe I really am like an old woman. I do know that my joints frequently hurt me and that I like to wear coats and hats. Maybe I aught to learn how to knit; so that way I can knit covers for ICBMs because if I my cultural tastes really are most similar to an upper class woman, aged 60+ with a postgraduate education, then I hope that she's an upper class woman, aged 60+ with a postgraduate degree in Nuclear Physics.

April 13, 2018

Horse 2397 - I Want Spicy Food - Make Me Bleed!

As part of the non specific breeding program to produce a race of super warriors who conquered the world through pomposity, posh accents, tea time, the best language in the world and cricket, I was bred into the embers of what was once an empire, who stole countries through the cunning use of flags. As such, I have been specifically genetically engineered to live at the bottom of a mine, to live in a land where sunshine is a kind of vague idea that happens for a fortnight a year (I don't get a tan, I spontaneously burst into flames), and to drink copious amounts of somewhat vile tasting fermented vegetable products.
More than a century and a half ago, the British claimed India which was a heck of a lot smarter than America putting a man on the moon because you can get spicy food and tea from India but the only thing that you get from landing on the moon is creating a diversionary tactic so that two superpowers locked in a very peculiar geopolitical dance don't accidentally blow up the world with nuclear weapons. Somewhere down the line, the genetic ability to eat spicy food was passed through the gene chain to me; and as such, I quite enjoy blasting my four functioning taste buds with spicy food which comes with warning labels and where it is rated in millions of Scoville units.

Yesterday, my boss took one bite of a curry pie from a local pie shop in Mosman, asked me if I wanted the rest and so, I cut out the bitten bit and had the remainder of a very nice pie. This is somewhat remarkable in Mosman because this is the suburb which is its own local government area and has no cheap and nasty fast food chain restaurants within its borders. Sorry Ronald, your big red flappy shows aren't welcome here. Sorry Colonel Sanders, the only place that you'd be allowed would be Mosman RSL where you're going to find actual army Colonels. Sorry Jabba the Hutt, neither you nor your brother, Pizza, would be allowed to pedal your particular brand of Italian flat bread here. Domino's? Only in the Seniors' Centre and even then, of the Double-9 variety.
As for the rest of Mosman and the hope that there might be spicy food somewhere? Forget it. The kebab shop in Mosman doesn't have kebab sauce. What kind of suburb is this?

To be fair, I don't know what kind of sauces that the burger joints that charge more than $15 for a burger use because I'd rather not spend that kind of money on a glorified sandwich. I'm especially not spending $18 for smashed avocado on toast. Y'all can laugh about that if you like but when the ingredients cost $1.29 per sandwich and you're being charged a markup of 1295%, someone is hosting an art show by Mickey Bliss. In case you're interested, I did the maths and to build a house out of avocado toast which was seven layers thick (and thus using avocado as mortar, it would cost roughly $177,000 to build the average one story 3-bedroom house.
I do know that as I walk around IGA, Aldi and Harris Farm Markets, there is nothing by way of spicy food to be found anywhere. None of the noodle packets are of anything hotter than Beef, and probably the hottest sauces are either sweet chilli or French mustard. Shopping in Mosman for anything spicy or interesting is like walking around on the moon, looking for a telephone box - it ain't happening and it can't be found.

I want spicy food. I want it to be so hot that it comes with a warning label from the Department of Health and Human Services. I want to be keeled over on the floor with blood pouring out of every conceivable orephus because it's so hot. I want to breathe fire that makes my lacrimal ducts appeal to the UN's Court of Arbitration on Human Rights because it's cruel and unusual punishment. I want to fart fire and brimstone and be declared a disaster area an have the Hazmat Squad arrive because it's so hot.
Instead I get a world where I'm completely surrounded by Chicken and Beef flavour, where Barbecue Sauce is the only alternative to Tomato Sauce, and where I feel like a criminal when I smuggle in kebab sauce into Mosman and pass across its borders. Entering Mosman is like entering a separate country except there's no passport control (but there would be if it was legal; just to keep out the poor people in case an epidemic of poverty should break out) and entering the 1950s. This is a land where quinoa and rocket are considered as foods but where coriander is not.

On my way to work every day, I look out of the window and see places like Pendle Hill, Harris Park, Granville, Auburn and Flemington and see that very same United Nations of colours and spices which motivated the race of super warriors who conquered the world through pomposity, posh accents, tea time, the best language in the world and cricket, to go out and bring back all the spices and chilli that they could find. It has been said that dishes like Vindaloo were invented as a joke to make the English look foolish as they doubled over on the floor in the foetal position from the hotness of the food. I arrive in Mosman every day and see a range of spice and hotness that barely registers on the scale; catering for an audience who thinks that spaghetti is pretty neat (and only comes in a can) and which is completely devoid of fire and fury.

And as for that pie? I checked that too. $9.50. Seriously. It's enough to make you wish that you were living at the bottom of a mine, or been blown up with nuclear weapons. At least then you'd know that there was hotness.

April 11, 2018

Horse 2396 - The ABC And The Filing Cabinets

As something of a political junkie, I follow politics in the same way that I like to follow Manchester United and Chelsea; I don't like any of the players in the game and wish that they'd all lose. Sometimes, following politics very closely, means that you can get to report on news before the major news outlets do and this morning at the Senate Estimates Hearings was one of those cases because I heard it all live.

Here's what we know. Michael McKinnon at the ABC met with someone who has only ever been known as "the Bushie" who reported that he went to a second-hand auction house in Canberra late last year to buy some filing cabinets and when he got them, they were full of uncleared documents.

The ABC has repeatedly refused to spell out what steps that it has taken to verify the truthfulness of the Bushie's story; nor whether or not the statements that he got the filing cabinets from the second-hand auction house, were true. The ABC quite rightly defends the confidentiality of its sources, claiming that journalists have the responsibility to maintain the anonymity of their sources if a fair and free press is to remain fair and free.

The actual documents in question come from quite a number of government departments, specifically named was Penny Wong's office while she Minister for Finance and Deregulation, dating forward through the hand over to Mathias Cormann; as well as other government departments in the following Abbott and Turnbull Governments.

Mostly the documents were of procedural and routine correspondence but the fact that they had escaped into the wild without government clearance, was of a sufficient threat to national security and required ASIO to enter Parliament House to retrieve them from the ABC's offices. security and required ASIO to enter Parliament House to retrieve them.

For its part, the ABC correctly reported that there was a breach of national security, took diligence and due in the reporting of just 9 stories on the subject, kept them in secure storage at unnamed premises in the organisation, and then when asked by ASIO to hand the documents back, did so entirely voluntarily.

No questions in the Senate Estimates Hearings probed into the nature of how the cabinets in question actually ended up in the second-hand auction house in Canberra late last year, in the first place; neither were there any questions asked about who the Abbott/Turnbull Government officers were who should have been responsible for the disposal of either the cabinets or the documents.

As far as I can tell, the ABC looked remarkably diligent and sensitive with the information that it had received and as the nature of the vast bulk of the documents is still unknown to the public, they have acted with higher regard for security than the government department who was reponsible for looking after them in the first place; yet some how the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz, has been trying to make the ABC look weak in all of this. Furthermore, the ABC sat on the documents for four months before it even indicated that it had them; as the nature of what was in front of them was vetted by the legal department.

April 10, 2018

Horse 2395 - Lost 30 Newspolls? I Look Into The Election Prophecy Steel Can

"The only poll that matters is the one put to the Australian people."
- Every cliché speaker, 9th Apr 2018

I heard variations on that at least a dozen times yesterday, after the news had been splashed over just about every daily in the country, that the Turnbull Government had lost the 30th Newspoll in a row, for the title of preferred government and preferred Prime Minister. Naturally the Fairfax newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age thought that this was objective news, the News Ltd tabloids ran attack pieces on Bill Shorten and trying to make the case that it could be worse, and Uncy Rupey's own little doyenne of The Australian ran several stories making the case that Malcolm Turnbull should be fired and that the Coalition was in danger of losing the next election.
So I in my noggin, tried to game out when that next election will be called, and like almost every prediction that I've made over the years, I expect that it will be completely wrong. As a political prophet I am as good as that dude on the 13th of March who told Caesar that he would have a long and glorious life, and then on the 16th claimed that I was wrong but was in the right spirit by saying that he would be remembered for a long and glorious time.
I don't have a crystal ball of prophecy but a steel can of prophecy which is frequently full of mud.

Assuming that the election was held tomorrow, the 9% gap in the Two Party Preferred stats, would translate to an 1% swing and a result of Labor on 77 seats (which is a majority of 2) and the Coalition on 69. Clearly this is terrible for the government and so they wouldn't call an election for a while.
By my reckoning, the earliest that a normal simultaneous Half-Senate and House Of Representatives election can be held is on the 4th of August 2018 and likewise the absolute latest that it could be held is the 18th of May 2019.
If I was Mr Turnbull, I would kick that can as far down the road as I possibly could but that means that you run into an instant problem. The write for the last possible date would have to be presented to the Governor General in the we ending the 13th of April 2019. As the writs are the instruments which request the Governor General to dissolve parliament, parliament would not be sitting during that most special of Tuesdays in May when the budget is handed down. A May election would become by default an election for the Federal Budget. If the Budget was to be handed down in April (which is acceptable because the Constitution makes no specific regulations on specific matters of supply) then the risk is that the if power changes hands, then the next government could sweep aside the previous one. If no budget was handed down, then you risk losing the power of the purse to the enemy which would be backed up by mandate, by virtue of there literally just being a de facto election on the matter.
A sneaky government would send the Australian people to a Half-Senate election in April 2019 and continue to kick the can down the road to the very last possible date of 2nd of November 2019. That way the Coalition would retain the power of the 2019 budget, take its chances with whatever Senate that resulted, and hopefully wait for the storms of the winds of Newspoll to pass.

I personally think that there will be no election in 2018 because the Coalition is hoping that their friends at News Ltd do a sufficiently good enough hatchet job on the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the meantime that they can ride out the storm of unfavourable Newspolls and then claim some sort of moral victory by declaring that it has been strong and stable amidst the storms of public opinion.
Even if there is a swing of 0.3% towards Labor on current results as of today, the Coalition would still retain government because a Federal Election is really 150 by-elections which are held at the same time and an overall swing might not necessarily produce a general result - there are a few notoriously sticky seats.

My inkling is that there will most likely be a May 18 2019 election, with the Appropriation Bill No.1 having been presented to the House in April. Precedent for this exists with the 1954 election that returned Menzies to power, although a Royal Tour and the end of the Petrov Affair also helped. That and the fact that Doc Evett couldn't fight his way out of a wet election paper bag, which was open at the top and had giant rips in the side. Of course if there is an uptick in public opinion and the streak of unfavourable Newspolls is broken, then we might see an earlier election but I doubt it.

I daren't make any prediction about who would win the next election because I have nowhere near enough data to determine trend lines towards an unknown date. That's like asking me to look into my steel can of prophecy which is filled with mud, when I don't even know how far down the road it will be kicked. I can say for certain though, that when it is kicked, mud will splatter in all directions; so if you are wearing your favourite team's jersey before the kicking and mud splattering starts, it will get dirty.

April 09, 2018

Horse 2394 - I Really Like Borobi

The Commonwealth Games of 2018 on the Gold Coast are among the least anticipated in history. I love the Commonwealth Games though because there's a chance for the smaller countries at the Olympic Games to actually have a chance at winning something for a change; instead of the United States, China and Russia winning everything. Of course that does mean that Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand win everything but that's somehow trading one set of dullness with another.
What the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games does mean is that we get to add another member to the City of Mascots; which I'm convinced is one of the bigger towns on the Island Of Misfit Toys because almost every mascot is either boring or ugly.
However, among the trail of mascot misfits like Kobi, Izzy, Wenlock and Mandeville, and whatever Kingsley the Partick Thistle mascot is supposed to be¹, there are some brilliant ones. Here are 10.

1966 - World Cup Willie
Everything that I've found thus far seems to indicate that World Cup Willie is probably the first mascot for a cultural or sporting event. The first Olympic Games mascot was Waldi the daschund for the 1972 games in Munich, but as for anything prior to 1966, I can't find it.
Willie is so obviously a product of the 1960s when television was still mostly black and white, and when the radio and print media still ruled the world. From a design perspective, Willie in black and white would look perfect at the bottom of a newspaper page or as part of the banner graphic at the top. He also appeared on programmes and flyers, which apart from the kind of coloured paper that they would have been on, where all still black on white.
There is an error though, which is haven't heard able to determine whether or not it was deliberate. Willie is wearing a Union Jack waistcoat, which makes him look very very British. There's nothing wrong with that unless you realise that the 1966 World Cup for football was held in England and not Britain. The Home Countries have always been separate when it comes to football and even though there are outliers where individual clubs might cross border, the national teams and national Football Associations most certainly do not. The 1966 World Cup was staged by the English FA; which makes Willie's Union Jack waistcoat look kind of odd. If you look around, you will find that there are corrected versions of him in the cross of St George but these are all after the event.
It's also worth noting that although the practice of flying flags at sporting events isn't new, that particularly English display by fans abroad of defacing the Union Jack and the cross of St George with words across them centre, started in 1966; so Willie wearing the Union Jack with the words "World Cup" emblazoned upon it, is kind of prophetic.

1982 - Matilda
The continual question surrounding the Commonwealth Games is why it needs to exist, long after the British Empire has faded and died. Indeed the concept of the British Commonwealth itself is sort of a bit naff these days and the only reason that it seems to exist now, is for the Commonwealth Games.
This question isn't new. In 1982 we were asking the question of what the point of the Commonwealth Games was and having seen the success of Mischa the bear at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and the Cold War running hot, the organisers in Brisbane laid down the biggest political message that they could by having the biggest mascot that they could.
It was the giant Matilda who waltzed her way into the stadium in Brisbane that gave the Commonwealth Games the moniker of"The Friendly Games". She came in winking and smiling and from that point, the main message of the Commonwealth Games shifted from one of the dying remnants of empire to one of friendship in the Commonwealth (which we still don't have a good story for).
You can still go and look at Matilda. She is permanently behind the Matilda Service Station at Kybong².

1988 - Hodori
With the Cold War still in full swing and Moscow and Los Angeles both having hosted the Olympic Games in an act of civil sabre rattling but with a flag tied on the end, the 1988 Olympic Games served as another other major reason why a country wants to host the Olympics of the World Cup - the announcement that they have arrived.
In the late 1950s, the two Koreas were among the poorest countries in the world, after having just fought a war in that curious geopolitical dance of ideologies. A generation later, the 1988 Olympic Games saw South Korea show that they were no longer a developing nation but a full on proper first world country. Hodori was the embodiment that this Asian Tiger was making its debut on the world stage and the execution of the 1988 Olympic Games, was the proof.
Hodori is a perfectly normal mascot and completely unlike the horrorshows of the next two Olympics. He's not particularly a brave or striking design but he is good and it's good to be good.

1992 - Gatto Cristofora
World Expositions are strange things. From the Great Exposition of 1851 in London, to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, to the World's Fair of 1939 in New York, they are a showcase of the world's best and newest stuff. There was one in Brisbane in 1988 and by the time the L'Esposizione Internazionale Specializzata Genova of 1992 happened, they were old hat.
Gatto Cristofora is dressed like Christopher Columbus and while Italia '90 gave us a horrible logo and no mascot, this cat is just brilliant.

1998 - Footix
The Gallic rooster is one of the oldest puns that exists. This is like the Polish/polish question in English except that in Latin where there was mostly no lower case letters, gallus (rooster) and gallus (Gauls) are homonyms.
Footix was everywhere in France; he even had a tamagotchi type toy in which you had to keep him moving or else he'd die.
The Gallic rooster in blue, not only symbolised France and the French football team but stamped the tournament with a very strong brand of professionalism. With trading cards, enamel pins, plastic figurines in McDonald's happy meals; Footix was everywhere. It probably also helped that the official theme song of "La Copa de la Vida" by Ricky Martin was also very good and that France also won the World Cup.

2000 - Fatso
The official Olympic Games mascots of Syd, Mille and Olly were ubiquitous in Sydney in the immediately preceding months before the 2000 Olympics. I don't know what possessed Channel 7 to allow Roy and HG Nelson to hijack the Olympics but as part of The Dream which was a late night interview show, Fatso The Fat-Arsed Wombat stole the limelight from the official mascots. "The Battlers' Prince" was smuggled onto podium ceremonies, seen at various events and became so much a part of the 2000 Olympic Games that he got his own memorial pole at the Olympic Stadium along with a little Kylie Minogue.
Fatso proves that although the official propaganda for an event might very well be adequate (because there's nothing actually wrong with Syd, Millie and Olly), a mascot needs to be given a character of its own. As well as being pattern recognition machine, humans are story telling machines. If the graphics are perfectly fine but the story isn't, then you can't sell the characters. Fatso was given a subversive and cheeky story and for that reason, he has lived on as the memory of the event but Syd, Millie and Olly have not.

2010 - Zakumi
I think that Zakumi is a leopard whose colours of green and yellow, are for his native South Africa. His name means "ten" in one of the tribal languages of the rainbow nation and I have to say that he is very cute.
However, Zakumi is completely brilliant because of how he was used in the run up to the 2010 World Cup. Zakumi had his own comic strip that appeared in daily newspapers for several months and he even had a Saturday morning cartoon on television (which I've only ever been able to find in Polish for some bizarre reason). Because of this, Zakumi was given a personality and a world to live in, which means that he is possibly the only completely fleshed out character as opposed to just being a graphic device.

2015 - Nutmeg
This is the second wombat in this line up and I don't know if that says that I have a secret love for wombats but we'll let that slide. Nutmeg was given a set of reds, yellows and browns to give him a kind of indigenous look about him and his name comes from that rhyming slang description in football when you kick the ball between someone's legs. History isn't going to look kindly at Nutmeg because all the still shots of him make him look like a doofus. Yet strangely, it was his nuggety doofusness and clumsiness which makes him so endearing.
Nutmeg didn't really appear in the newspaper or get much in the way of merchandise but the place where he did his best work was on the little interstitial graphics during the broadcast of the 2015 AFC Championship for football. He'd be running around whenever the pull through messages at the bottom of the screen for substitutions and infringements took place. Occasionally he would be on the swipe through for the change of camera views for replays and he'd even appear at the top left of the screen when the score would change.
As a piece of flash animation, Nutmeg was part of the overall graphics language of the 2015 Asian Cup. He was a doofus who would be falling over, or having a goal celebration or doing a trick with the football and doing it all with enthusiasm. It's just that nobody seems to remember the spinny slidy graphics that much.

2018 - Soohorang
Soohorang appeared front and centre during the Winter Olympic broadcast. He had interstitial animations for every sport and they also gave him something of a back story, as the cousin of Hodori from the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul.
As a CGI mascot for the most tech-centric Olympics ever, Soohorang just worked really well. As an integral part of the broadcast, Soohorang gave the audience a distinct sense of a particular place and time. It also helps that he was really cute and really happy.

2018 - Borobi
There has been something of a controversy surrounding his name because some indigenous groups have objected to his name which means "Koala" in the local Yugambeh language (which actually means that his name is "Koala the Koala"), despite several years of consultation. He is a blue koala because he is supposed to represent the blue sea which the Gold Coast lies next to. I think that he's a pretty good mascot in all honesty. I've seen little Borobis on the podium at the medal ceremonies and importantly right off the starting blocks, he looks well designed.
I've seen graphics of him during the television coverage doing the sport on display (which now is something of a requirement for mascots), and he's appeared in the Courier-Mail as part of the official propaganda for the Commonwealth Games.
Yes, we have a koala for an event in Australia but there's nothing wrong with that. Yes, he is kind of everywhere but that's the point. In fact, most of the criticism that I've heard about Boribi relates to him being a successful mascot. A mascot is supposed to be an integral part of an event and as he fits very well as part of the overall colour scheme and look of the games, Borobi has certainly been part of the marketing for this.

I like Borobi. He's one of the better mascots for an event that we've had over the years. I just wish that they'd given him a comic strip to go in the newspaper. It would have been cool.

¹No really, Kingsley the Partick Thistle mascot is awful.
²Matilda watches people as they buy petrol.

April 06, 2018

Horse 2393 - The Rise Of Unfriendly Furniture

There is a new kind of terrible scourge plaguing our civic environment. I have noticed its creep all the more over the last few months as it progressively invades more and more public space. That scourge upon our public space is none other than unfriendly furniture.
I don't know what goblin in an office somewhere decided that this was a good idea but I've seen it in bus stops and train stations, in town squares, in alcoves and doorways and even in public parks.

The idea in principle is pretty obvious. Unfriendly furniture is usually installed in places where people are expected to wait for things but where the authority in charge, doesn't want them to hang around for a long time. It's ostensibly to stop vagrants from vagrantising, to stop bums from bumming around, and to get homeless people to be homeless somewhere else, but all it does for the rest of us is to make spaces where you might already be bored in, or might want to enjoy, just that little bit more annoying.

- A "normal" bench at a railway station (now removed)

- A "unfriendly" replacement  bench

A public bench is a thing of great beauty. All you might see is somewhere to sit but what I see is a chance for a weary traveller to pause, a place for someone in a public park to stop and draw deeply from the well of serenity, and maybe even a place that someone might engage in that glorious pastime of having a nap.
It is the latter of those things that civic planners and people at the council begin to foam at the mouth at, which makes the veins in their temples start to visibly pulsate, and which sends those would be Napoleons who have doctorates from the University of Bureaucracy with majors in Clipboardology and minors in Red Pen and Nerd Voice, to their superiors to voice their indignation and outrage. How dare people have a nap in a public place! How dare anyone spend a second longer somewhere than they absolutely need to!

I understand that vagrancy might be something of an issue if you're concerned about keeping the ugly parts of society well out of sight because you are anaemic and allergic to reality, and I can understand that the people who hold the power to vote councillors in and more importantly out of office have concerns about their properly values as though a vague concept (which doesn't actually matter until that property is realised in value) is a modern day idol which has to be worshipped but at places like railway stations where travellers might be taking luggage with them, or be stuck still for extended periods of time, it is madness.

At places like Wynyard where you have narrow spaces between the edge of the platform and the walls of the station, those leaning benches make sense. When things that serve a purpose are thoughtfully placed where they serve that purpose elegantly, then they positively sing a symphony into the world. However, when you have those same leaning benches in a place where you might be waiting somewhere for half an hour and beyond, then the symphony that they are singing is more dissonant than forty-six cats yelling in an empty warehouse.

Unfriendly furniture by design is supposed to be slightly uncomfortable. That means that for the purpose as intended, it does a good job. That purpose when deployed in almost every circumstance, is nothing short of monstrous.
If you have a bench with metal armrests in the middle of it, to separate it into several seats, then you can not sprawl out over it. Forget trying to snuggle up to someone special in the park because a man with a clipboard (and yes, I am accusing men at the council because I can practically guarantee that no woman would ever be that much of a total knave to do this) has taken his big red pen and ruled through any possibility of that. Also, at the minimal payout of preventing vagrants from sleeping on a park bench at night, the expense paid is that people during the day can't have a kip in the sunshine on that bench either. In a world where everyone is expected to run at nineteen to the dozen all the time; fuelled by caffeine, then the chance to take a "power nap" has also been ruled through by the man with the red pen. I don't know what kind of twisted misanthrope would want to wish this on society but apparently they inhabit rooms in council offices (presumably with the lights turned off supposedly to save electricity but in reality it's because they're all bureaucracy goblins whose eyes can't handle the light).

I can tolerate the passive aggressive nature of metal benches which are always cold to the touch because of the durability of the object, but I don't like the aggressive passive nature of unfriendly furniture that is by design to be antagonistic. It is snarky knavery masquerading as civic provision. Unfriendly furniture can only be the invention of unfriendly people who want to deliberately be unfriendly to society.