The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Manufacturing in Australia

Over the last decade, I’ve worked in an industry that designed and actually made things – real products picked up and held by people, which can make their lives more comfortable.

And during the same time, much of the manufacture of those products, like so much else in this country, was shifted offshore.

The hard brutal truth in the move offshore was that by the time shipping costs and various taxes are taken into account, the offshoring of manufacture pretty much broke even. There is an exception: very high volume products which are highly labour intensive to manufacture will actually bring a one-time cost reduction when made in a country with lower labour costs.

But small to medium volume products don’t really give an actual improvement. Small to Medium means, in this context, volumes up to about 50,000 pieces / year. Below about 5000 pieces / year offshore makers generally won’t even be interested, and even at that low quantity the manufacture is usually done as a favour, as part of a deal where something in much more significant quantity is being made.

Although the offshore labour can be significant cheaper than making in Australia, the labour component of many modern electronic products is around 10% of the total cost of product manufacture. Result: if factory labour costs 1/2 as much in a foreign country, the resulting reduction in cost is about 5%.

In spite of membership of the World Trade Organisation, and the various mealy-mouthed platitudes uttered by pointy-headed economists, many of the foreign countries where products are now manufactured impose various charges – especially on foreign companies. Paying a bonus of 1 months pay is pretty normal. As is paying a county tax, a goods movement tax, a workers health care levy, the list goes on and on. These don’t figure in the headline labour rates (why ruin a good story?), and each is usually quite small – perhaps only 1% or so. But they add up and quickly reduce the benefit of the lower labour rate.

This all begs the question: How come stuff make in China / Vietnam / Malaysia / Cambodia / Thailand is so much cheaper?

The answer, as is often the case, is more complex than just “cheap labour” or the photos you occasionally see of Chinese factory sweat-shops.

In fact, modern foreign factories are frequently modern, with vast amounts of money and new technology thrown at them. Modern process flow-lines require a certain amount of investment – in planning, process worker training, infrastructure. None of this comes cheap.

Modern toolmaking in foreign countries uses the latest equipment for sintering, model-making, spark erosion, and so on. Again, none of this comes cheap.

Modern manufacturing relies on volumes, where economies of scale mean that profit margins can be cut and profit relies on high turnover. Economies of scale in turn mean that suppliers can be pressured to reduce prices or cut margins – again relying on high turnover.

The net effect of all these factors together means that offshore manufacture comes with a number of advantages:

- A lower labour rate reduces cost a little (and this is offset by taxes, charges, etc) making in many cases the labour component cost-neutral;

- Better productivity per worker can be achieved by eliminating batch-process style manufacture, and reducing work-in-progress (and thus having less capital tied up in partly made goods);

- But elimination of batch-process style manufacture requires significant investment in production facilities, equipment, training;

- Higher production rates achieve better pricing from suppliers;

- Investment in tools and technology allows faster production of tooling, at a lower cost (and where using the technology over and over means the investment can be paid off).

When many older Australian factories, set up through the 1950’s to 1980’s, are compared to a modern foreign factory, the difference is stark. The foreign factories are better designed, better lit, better planned, better resourced, and have more capital investment.

Where this really points is to a failure of Australian management, and Australian unions. Collectively they have signed the death-warrant for Australian manufacture. Their culpability comes down to simple factors:

- Excessive focus on short-term profits ($ today, ripped out, can’t be re-invested)

- Inability or unwillingness to try and get better prices from suppliers (Australia in global supply chains is seen as a bit of a back water, is frequently poorly serviced, and nobody wants to move on price);

- An unwillingness to spend on rejigging factories to use newer equipment (management don’t want to think or work hard, or try and justify a few million dollars of new investment);

- Unions who want to dig their heels in about work practices (seems they’d rather have their members out of a job than changing how they work);

- A frequent focus by management on “the bottom line” – that is, on costs. A better focus on the top line (sales, and growing them) is more work, but makes better profits that can be relied upon over longer periods.

THIS is why manufacture is going offshore: Mostly, its a failure of management.

Boo hoo for a bunch of bankers

The recent weekend Financial Review reveals that investment bankers are suffering terribly.

The poor folks are not getting paid quite like they used to, and the bonus pools to be shared are shrinking.

Oh noes! The poor dearies!

The same bunch of clever-dicks who were paid in the millions up until about 2008, for coming up with more obscure and creative ways to “manufacture money” and produce new “financial products” (gee how I detest those terms) are now doing it tough.

About time, methinks.

Give it another few years, though. These things go in cycles, and the wheel of finance will eventually turn again. The biggest mess to be sorted out if the Euro-zone. Once that is sorted, which may be some time, I fully expect to have 25 year old whiz kids earning gazillions, living in swish London apartments, consuming the output of Columbia, and guzzling champers.

In the meantime, I rejoice at the hard times befalling the parasites of society.

Taxing times

The oldest son is now of an age where having a tax file number is pretty much mandatory – when trying for holiday employment this is a kinda obvious thing to have sorted out beforehand. Mind you the chances of actually picking anything up now seems slim.

However this brings me to actually GETTING a tax file number.

Once upon a time (a long time ago…) you called the tax office and they gave you a number and send you a nice form telling you what it is.

Now you need to apply. In order to apply you need a special form. The special form can only be obtained by phoning the document delivery service, or using the internet to order it (whereby you need to create an account, register, blah blah blah). And then the form is posted out.

So far, GETTING THE FORM has been a long and frustrating trial. The first attempt at ordering the form showed (2 weeks later) that it was claimed as shipped. Shame it never arrived. The second attempt saw the form arrive just before Christmas.

Time between trying to get the form and being able to fill it out: just a touch under 4 weeks.

Now the fun beginneth. Having filled out the form, one must lodge it. Doing so requires the production of Identification Documents. These are such things as a Passport, a drivers license, a student ID card, a bank statement and so on. All must be original. Copies – not acceptable. They promise to get these things promptly back to you by registered mail. What does “promptly” mean? If the document delivery service is anything to go by – 2 – 4 weeks should be expected. Suppose one were to send in a drivers license… that would make driving illegal while the license was in the hands of the glorious tax office.

Of course, lodgement need not be via post. One could visit a tax office “shopfront”. So… one asks… where is the nearest such shopfront. Unforunately, the glorious ATO web site shows the shopfront locations as “This document is not available on the ATO web site.”

We think we know where it is, and realistically the only way to get the tax file number processed is to do so in person. Sending in the acceptable document is not really acceptable. Trouble is the ATO won’t tell us where to actually go.

This, and my other dealings with the glorious ATO leave me feeling sullied. A bit like the new CEO of the company I worked for many years ago – after a presentation by him I felt unclean, the desire to have a shower and wash away the bullshit was something I’ll never forget. And dealing with the ATO is similar – every interaction – whether by paperwork (BAS ~shudder~) or by trying to use their web site from hell just leaves me feeling as though I’ve dealt with some incomprehensible monster with 17 heads, 43 tails, and no bloody idea.

The similarities abound, with Arthur Dent’s predicament in The Hitch-hikers Guide to The Universe: The information was in a locked drawer of a filing cabinet in a disused basement behind a door marked “beware of the leopard”. Except Arthur had it easier.

Say no.

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Whining put downs

I’m finally moved to speak (write)…

I’m really really tired of bullshit email sent to the family in-box by well-meaning friends and relatives. It’s nothing more than man-bashing spam. The modern equivalent of the Mere Male column in No Idea magazine.

There seems to be an epidemic of man-bashing. For nigh on 20 years, or more, we’ve had crap like Mere Male – where the females can write about the dumb things their male significant others do. Last I knew there are no such columns in mens magazines – and can you imagine the outcry if there was such a thing?

Then we get disparaging terms like “having a mans look” when trying to find something. I’ve asked, politely, that this no longer be used in our house. I find it offensive to try and categorise men as stupid, unable to find things, uncoordinated, and foolish. This is term that seems to have made it’s appearance in the last year or two. It’s time is over.

I’ve worked mainly with men – such is my profession – and I can report that of the many people I’ve worked with over 20-mumble years, not one has indulged in sly, nasty, stupid disparaging comments about the females in their lives.

I’ve also known, or had 2nd hand reports of female dominated workplaces. So much for caring sharing communicating female managers. These people make poor male managers look like saints. But apart from this little rant, I keep quiet – those are battles for others, I have no DIRECT experience. But what I hear makes me sad.

But more than anything I really do get tired of the endless stream of emails espousing the virtues of women – endlessly patient, tending to wounds, being bright and sunny, putting down men or making them look foolish. Perhaps this is some kind of tribalism. Or perhaps I’m a bit idealistic – I’d like us to all just be people, taken as we are, on our merits, judged by our capabilities and out actions.

Silly, sniping, snide, sly, stupid comments, columns, and emailed crap wear thin.

If the equal opportunuty movement want to be taken seriously, stop crapping on about women in the boardroom, and start doing something about the nasty, trivial, carping undermining of half the population. The male half. Thanks. Over-n-out.

Eureka Day

December 3 is Eureka Day.

A day when we should all stop for a moment and celebrate a sacrifice that is little known, and even less understood.

A day when many will fly the Eureka flag, as a sign of remembrance and respect. And as a sign to all levels of government in our country that they should not go too far in removing some pretty basic rights.

And a day when The City Of Tea Tree Gully WILL NOT be flying the Eureka flag, because the councillors voted down a proposal to do so. Council voted the flying down for two reasons:

- It does not meet the state government protocols for flag-flying; and

- The flying of the flag “may divide the community” because it has been used (hijacked) by a few extremist groups.

So, councillors of Tea Tree Gully, perhaps you need reminding of a little history.

Start here: The Eureka Centre in Ballarat has an excellent history, and I quote:

The uprising by the miners and the Government’s attack on their Stockade in December 1854 was Australia’s only armed civil uprising. It was a battle over democracy and fairness and contributed to the spirit of freedom that Australians have come to regard as their birthright.

That spirit of freedom has been eroded, gradually, by a series of governments – with the passing of anti-terror laws, and other laws allowing imprisonment without charge, and trial without access to the evidence.

Our governments, and the elected members need to remember who put them where they are, and what it took to get the society we have. Democracy in Australia was not something that came automatically from Britian. It was built with difficulty, blood, sweat and tears. An important part of the formation of our democratic government was the Ballarat miners rebellion of 1854.

For various reasons, the miners felt that they were being taxed and treated unjustly. They created the Ballarat Reform League, with (amongst other things) the following political aims:

(1) A full and fair representation. [i.e. in parliament]
(2) Manhood suffrage. [in other words - everyone can vote]
(3) No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.
(4) Payment of Members.
(5) Short duration of parliament.

The charter of the Ballarat Reform League begins:

That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws that he is called on to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.

The members of the League burned their miners licenses in an act of defiance of the Government.

At the time, a license had to be provided on demand, something that was not always possible because they were often kept in the miners’ tent, away from the wet and dirty conditions. However any miner found not carrying the license was immediately arrested and fined.

The burning of the miners licenses led, in turn, to the massacre of miners at the Eureka Stockade in a surprise night raid by the Victoria police.

The resulting rampage by the police saw innocent bystanders shot, the wounded being bayoneted, and much needless destruction of miners property.

About 22 miners were either killed immediately or died soon after, and a further 12 were wounded and survived. Casualties on the Government side were 4 killed and 12 wounded.

This is one of only two acts of defiance by Australian people against their government, and is the incident that had the largest impact on shaping our democracy.

Whilst the rebellion was over in 15 minutes, it led DIRECTLY to fundamental changes in Government in the colony of Victoria, and had a significant influence on all Australian Governments.

Some of the things we take for granted came about from, or were hastened by, the efforts of the Ballarat Reform League, and their leader Peter Lalor:

. short terms of parliament
. nobody needs to carry or produce identification papers or other government documentation to police on demand (generally you have 24 hours)
. true representative democracy
. the right to trial, to see and hear your accusers
. limits on powers of police
. fairness in dealing with governments and employers

Peter Lalor, leader of the Ballarat Reform League later became Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Council [Upper House of Parliament].

Today, the Eureka flag has no official status but is still used, over 150 years later, as a symbol of rebellion against Government excesses in Australia. And this week, Ballarat celebrates its position in Australia’s history, on the 155th Anniversary of the uprising.

Shame on you Tea Tree Gully Councillors. Know your country. Know your history.

——————-

Full text of the charter of the Ballarat Reform League.

Spam, management speak, waffle, or just crap?

I received this, in an email the other day:

We’re entering a new age where consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development. Because of this change, our customers are starting to demand the same level of user experience and interactivity from their business applications.

Come to this webinar, sponsored by XXX, to learn how you can add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard. We’ll be using ZZZ, an Eclipse-based reporting system. We’ll multiple ways to “mash” ZZZ into your commercial applications, including how to provide a complete, easily configured view of the enterprise through a dashboard interface.

Now that you have stopped screaming – this DOES contain a certain amount of software technology jargon. And I’ve been in the business since about the time that the dinosaurs started to die out, and I only understand about half of it.

Picking through the waffle here:

- “consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency”

Say what?  Does this refer to MS Word? That’s a consumer application. Or perhaps to Facebook, MySpazz, or (shudder) Twitter? NONE of these things set standards for user interfaces, except perhaps to lower that standard to new depths.

- “by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development”

Sorry, used the leverage word. In other words, everything that follows is meaningless garbage. And when we get to Web application development… is just a case of YAWN. Information Visualisation? Jeez this crap makes my blood boil. What the heck are you going to do? Show addresses and phone numbers in pictures instead of words? Show sales forecasts upside down? Show bank balances in stereo with bells on? People have been drawing charts and making pictures for about 17,000 years. Software lets us do it faster and easier, but New Innovations In Information Visualisation? Spare me FFS.

- “add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard”

Can I poke my eye out with a fork now, please? What the fook does this mean? Add content? What is to be added? Mashups? As in jam a bunch of crap in fast and see what happens? Sorry – you lost me there. External apps (that’s applications, outside of jargon speak). Well….derr….. that’s why we have green screen emulators into older character mode systems, and why we can insert things like web pages and other STUFF into documents, pages, and what not. How is this new?

And dashboard. Oh dear. The 1-page management panacea, specially designed to show everything important at a glance, complete with happy faces and ANGRY faces. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Not to mention the appalling grammar.

Is this what the software industry has descended to?

How sad.

Tips, tips, tips, tips, and more @$%^ tips

Is it me?

Am I going mad, have I just noticed, has it been going on forever?

I’ve just started to notice a vast number of TIPS.

TIPS on how to save money.

TIPS on how to use your time more wisely.

TIPS on better healthy living.

Blah blah blah.

The trend to tips
Gives me the shits
Cos the trouble with tips
Is there’s not time for thinks.

And that about sums it up really. TIPS. The things you have when you don’t want to think something through or take some time for reflection. Gimme some TIPS. Preferably in bullet point form. Keep it short. Use Readers Digest words. Give it me now. And then piss off.

Erk. A world full of no thinking and a bucket of tips. Yuk.  Bring back time for reflection, thinking, and the occasional hint. Tips suck.

Gotta Wonder

A Lemon update…

The other day I took The Lemon for its service and check of the cooling system; where the Nice Men From Holden gave me the price of hoses and so on and said “it will cost X dollars”. But didn’t actually fix anything.

At the time I told them that I’d added a litre of coolant, and that it was dumping rather a lot of coolant on the garage floor. And I wanted it fixed. In spite of all that, they didn’t even really look at it, and didn’t want to try and fix anything – even when I asked them to when they called me at 4:45 pm.

I drove it home from The Nice Men From Holden, and got home with a rather unpleasant smell of hot engine coolant wafting around. Drove The Boy around the next couple of days, work on Friday, blah blah blah.

I seriously wondered if I’d make it home on Friday – the engine temperature was getting awfully high. This morning I added another litre of coolant and did a quick run to a couple of shops. Got home and did the bleedin’ obvious check: HAD A LOOK UNDER THE CAR.

There is coolant DRIPPING OUT… drip drip drip, about a drip a second. No wonder it pongs.

These IDIOTS at The Nice Men From Holden obviously didn’t even run the damn engine or put the car up on the hoist.

Total F#@$wits.

(For fear of libel suits I won’t mention their names here… anybody who wants to know a Holden dealer to keep well away from can email me.)

One of my colleagues from work put it like this: They probably have service KPI’s to meet – like turn-around time. So they do the smallest amount possible, meeting their performance targets, and fob it all off by saying the customer was informed. He’s probably right. KPI’s – the evil outcome of a misguided attempt to give customer service; which only result in the system being gamed and the customer being screwed.

A Car-full of crap

Today has been a run-around day. I’ve been running The Boy around from here to there and back again. Well, not quite back – he’s getting the bus home after much research of routes, and bus stops, and what not. I’m on standby in case the journey turns to custard. My morning only comprised 2 hours on the road – only another hour to go now.

Along the way I dropped The Lemon in for a service and to get a couple of faults fixed; “The Lemon” being the fond family name for the Holden Astra TS. If something can go wrong with that car, it will.

When I had to fill out the form for the work security guards (yada yada what’s you car make, model, and rego number…) I filled out that its “The Lemon”. I hope the nice security man managed to crack the merest twitch of a smile.

So far, The Lemon has had rear brake disks replaced (TWICE), the air-con compressor replaced, and both rear power windows replaced. The A/C compressor come in at a mere $1000, and you don’t want to know what power windows cost when they cark it. In this case, cark it means “make horrible snap noise”, and after that the window falls down. Jolly cold in winter I tells ya.

So after spending 17 arms and 43 legs, The Lemon has another couple of small faults.

The T-bar automatic shifter has a button that you press in to change from Park to Drive, and so on. The knob pops out, and lands on the floor amongst ones feet, always at the most inopportune time.

And the poor dear is running a bit warm, and seems to be drinking coolant the way a wino slurps down cheap port.

So like I was sayin’,  I dropped it in for a look-see with the doctor today. Who just phoned. They did the service.

Yes, that’s right. They did the service. The T-Bar automatic transmission changer-knobby-thing can’t be repaired by itself, it needs a whole new assembly. $350. They need to order it from Melbourne. So that’s not fixed.

And as for the drinking problem. Well, there are a couple of hoses that are a bit weepy. One is $75. For the hose. The other one is $175. For a !#$% hose. And the expensive hose (that’s that latter, in case you were curious) is a bugger to fit – the trained mechanics take about 2 hours to sort it out.

So the drinking problem is not fixed either. But they advise getting it seen to soon, because if it splits completely it will be kind of catastrophic.

Err… ISN’T THAT WHY I TOOK IT THERE? I’ve been waiting all day for a call to say what it would cost, not expecting a call at the end of the day when it’s too late for them to just get in and do it.

Jeez… how do you get mechanics to actually repair something? Dimwits.

Now The @#$% Lemon needs to go back to the doctor again. This time to a backyard mechanic who will actually do some @#$% work instead of trying for the easy life.

(I think the next car after this one will be another Corolla. They seem to go forever.)

Education Apologists

The other day when driving to work, I was listening to Matt-n-Dave the shit-stirrers on ABC 891. These guys seem to take it as their duty to give a hard time to everyone they interview, but especially politicians.

The other day, they made a passing comment about “Elite private schools” getting a slice of the cash being splashed at schools by the Rudd Federal Government.

The switchboard must have lit like a christmas tree. Of the callers who phoned in to complain, every single one had their hand out for private schools. One chap in particular was quite plain about his feelings and intentions:

“I send my children to a private school so they can get a better class of education…. and I pay my taxes so I should get some of this money being thrown around as well. And I find it objectionable that you refer to private schools as ‘Elite’.”

Fellow clearly didn’t understand the English language, and had an even smaller understanding of Moral Hazard.

It should be pretty clear that if he expects a “better standard of education” then that carries an implicit elitism. So why is he so sensitive?

Curious also that all callers seemed very defensive of “their right” to stick their hands into the taxpayer till. There was not a single defender of public education. All of those who called to whine were not doing so about the preceding interview with the various pollies and public servants, which was about how the money is being used. All hijacked the agenda.

But consider now, something a little more complex. Bear with me here.

Proposition 1: Education of children is compulsory. Our governments have deemed that children are to be educated, and in return that education is provided at no (or, in practice, extremely low) cost.

Proposition 2: Parents have choice and can choose to opt out of the government provided education system. By so doing, they elect a different provider and paywhatever the fees are, consistent with their choice.

When schooling decisions are made whereby a free choice is made to use a different provider, the use of government funds in addition to the private provider’s fee leads to a funding asymmetry. Or, to put it another way, if the private provider were to be funded on a per-head basis by the government in addition to fees, the result is more money per student than in the public system. We won’t even take into account the mandatory contributions to private school building funds. Although the government funding of private education is not at the same dollar-per-head rate as the public schools, the fees + government top-up still leads to the problem: funding asymmetry.

This is a form of Moral Hazard, and we can draw some analogies:

- Should people of private means also be allowed to take the age pension? (They [aid their taxes…)

- Should people who wish to use alternatives to mainstream medicine (pick your favourite example… Iridology, Homeopathy, etc) have those services provided at government expense as part of Medicare? (They paid their taxes…)

One can take these things further, into the realms of silly extremes, but the basis is simlar:

- Should people who work be permitted to collect unemployment benefits? Consider all the whining in recent years about the “cost of moving off welfare” and “welfare to work reforms”, which all involve exactly this issue.  (And remember… they paid their taxes…)

The answers to most of these questions are usually clear – until you find the devil lurking in the detail.

Returning to schooling though, the funding asymmetry becomes blindingly apparent when the private schools are compared to their poor cousins, the state schools. In a country where education is compulsory, the private apologists are obscene in putting their hands in the public trough. Public funding should go to areas of greatest need.

I challenge anyone to pay a visit to Salisbury East, or Elizabeth, or Davoren Park – and then explain why those schools should receive less money because some of it must go to private schools. I likewise challenge anyone to show me a private school that has not had some form of building improvement work done in the last 5 years. The funding asymmetry is in front of all our eyes. Open them.

Zis iz not good enuf

Ello again, mah friendz, it iz zat tahm again when we muzt zelebrate ze naughty bitz zat are all around in ze Europe.

Ziz week we af ze palace of ze Versailles in France. Ze king ere was vey vey powerful and alzo vey vey rich. And ze oppulents iz vey fine to zee.

Ere we af ze zings in one of ze royal apartmennntz.

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Az you can ze, she az no cloze on ze top bitz. In France, iz no big zing. In Australie, in ze Adelaide, in ze Tea Tree Gully council, zis is not ze caze. Zadlie.

Royal nude statues. Good enough for France. Good enough for royalty. Good enugh for 25 million visiting tourists a year. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully. How sad.

It’s Not Good Enough!!!

Today we have things that go BANG!

Yes, cannon. No – not church law (though you’d think so by the attitudes of the prudes) – that’s canon. But instead, ka-boom.

Yep – cannon-that-goes-bang needs handles-for-picking-up-with. And what better for keeping up the morale of the soldiers than adding a few naughty bits:

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Things that go bang with rude bits: Good enough for the French Army. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Bankers, *ankers

A while back I was driving home from work, and onto the radio came some banker. This guy was giving a long and impassioned plea for understanding of bankers, and seeking to justify the huge salaries and the bonus structure of investment bankers of recent years.

The main thrust of his argument:

“Investment Bankers deserve bonuses and being paid lots of  money, because it encourages innovation, and we NEED innovation in banking and finance.”

Riiiiiiight.

The same innovation in banking and finance gave us:

  • Bankers loaning more than a house is worth to people who can’t meet the paymeants (> 100% of valuation; insufficient income)
  • Bankers packaging mortages and selling them as investments – thus getting the loans off the banks books (called “securitisation” in case you were wondering what that was)
  • Bankers dressing up those packaged mortages by slicing, dicing, and mixing the good, the bad and the ugly to magically make lousy grade investments into high grade investments. Silk purses from sows ears, anyone?
  • Bankers paying themselves bonuses of millions of dollars – to blow it on cocaine, expensive Champagne, and call-girls.
  • Bankers putting in place exciting things like interest-rate swaps, credit-default swaps, and things that supposedly spread risk – and therefore shift the resulting contagion to everyone.
  • Bankers devising such things as Contracts for Difference so you don’t have to buy and sell shares, you can buy and sell pretend shares. The options you have when not having options. Push them to the Mum’s and Dad’s! Yay!
  • Bankers getting into, or pushing companies into, the futures markets with hedging arrangements that periodically send companies broke (think Pasminco, Zinifex, and many many others)
  • Bankers pushing along the trade in options and other derivaties which reached the terrifying levels whereby the VALUE of the underlying securities of the outstanding options exceeded the entire national gross domestic product AND capital values!

These guys created the house of cards.

It fell down.

We all suffer.

Many of these guys lost their jobs last year. Well boo-bloody-hoo. With the salaries you lot got paid, if you had any left that you didn’t snort up your noses, you’ll be on easy street forever. You might not be able to call yourself a *anker any more but if you had any sense at all you’ll be an extremely well-off unemployed.

The rest of us suffer thanks to the actions of “Innovative” Bankers.

Don’t expect any sympathy, and don’t try to justify your bonuses. And don’t try and tell us we need more innovation in banking.

We need banking to be dull, boring, and peopled by guys in cardigans. We don’t need more innovation by a bunch of fast-talking spivs. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place.

And politicians who came from banking backgrounds** should be slinking off into very small dark spaces, and shutting their stupid gobs.

—–

** Our current Leader of Her Majesties Opposition, the Hon Mr Turnbull is an ex-Merchant Banker. Trustworthiness factor = 0.

National Broadband = national censorship

So our Federal Government decided that they will build a new National Broadband Network covering most of the country. When it was election policy it was to cost of about $13 billion.

Now its even bigger, better, and shinier than before – with a price tag of about $43 billion.

In a country of about 20 million people, that means the cost to the taxpayers for this new broadband system will be about $2000 per person, whether used or not. And all for something about 4 or 5 times faster than we can get right now using ADSL2.

Stop and think for a moment. All that money to deliver something that, in large measure, we already have. Sure the current technology is a bit iffy here and there and the coverage is not universal. Sure, it can be ramped up a bit more.

But stop and think a bit more. Why would a government want to duplicate what is already being run by Telstra, Optus, AAPT, and the myriad operators of other telecommunication infrastructure? Sure, Telstra is the elephant in the room – but the other operators are not exactly asleep. when Telstra gouges the prices, others move in to build something with which to compete. That’s the market at work.

Sure, Telstra could be regulated harder. Or have its infrastructure nationalised. Oops – can’t do that. It used to be nationalised before!

Is there some other agenda, perhaps?

This all coming from the same government that wants to censor the internet in Australia, and which has a vast amount of push-back from the ISPs.

Could the government perhaps want to build and control the infrastructure in order to bring the recalcitrant ISP’s into line?

After all – if you control the tubes, you control what goes in and what goes out.

Are they really that desperate to control the message they they would spend this much money on doing so?

Perhaps.

Just imagine…

So Sol and the three amigos are gone from Telstra, and now the chairman of the board as well.

Donald McGauchie was formerly with the National Farmers Federation, and had a lot to do with it’s conspiracy, along with Peter Reith and Chris Corrigan, to overthrow the waterfront unions. The TV series “Bastard Boys” showed all the emoting in glorious detail – though McGauchie’s part was pretty small in that series and Corrigan took a battering.

Interestingly, it turns out he was also a director of James Hardie Industries, back in 2004, about the time they were trying to squirm out of Asbestos liabilities. Strange how the other directors have been tarnished, and McGauchie hasn’t.

After being so cosy with government during the waterfront dispute, he moved on and became chairman of Telstra. He played a major part in getting Trujillo appointed, and had a big part in the strategy of taking on his former mates in the Federal Government.

After 5 years of fighting,  McGauchie has finally got his comeuppance. He’s been pushed off the Telstra board, having made things there go from bad to worse.

Just imagine where Telstra might be with less energy spent fighting.

Imagine a Telstra that:

- Had staff who know what they are doing and want to serve customers

- Had a wholesale division that worked with competitors, instead of against them, to make a bigger pie for all

- Had better and more competitive pricing, encouraging higher take-up and innovation comparable to European telcos

- Worked with the government to deliver better, faster broadband instead of causing a government to spend a stupid amount of money duplicating what Telstra already have

Much, if not all, of this mess can be laid at the feet of McGauchie and Trujillo. Both now gone, with a huge mess left behind. In the case of McGauchie, much like the mess he’s left behind elsewhere.

Good riddance.

Scared, so scared….

Every damn time the news comes on (and the TV news is far, far worse than any other type), we have some new thing to make us scared.

Everything, everything seems to be pushed, written, slanted, spun, whatever, in a way to make us SCARED.

Swine flu – will KILL you.

And if that don’t get you, GLOBAL WARMING WILL KILL YOU. (And before that years ago it was the coming next ice age that would KILL US but you had to be living in the 1970’s to remember that one.)

A year or two ago it was BIRD FLU.

Every day, its the Global Recession, intermixed with TOXIC ASSETS. (Seems to me to be a bit of a mixup here – Assets are usually worth something, so isn’t a toxic asset a contradiction in terms?)

Eat too much fat, it will KILL YOU. Eat too little, that will KILL you as well. Eat too many red vegetables: dead. Too many purple vegetables: dead. And god help you for eating the green shite.

And lets not forget to be scared because the vegetables are not grown the way they used to – evil intensive agriculture means that they are all water (or some other crap) and have no nutrients. Result: DEAD!

Oh – but Chocolate is good for you, but only if its dark chocolate, otherwise (yes, you guess it) dead, dead, dead. Oh but don’t eat too much dark chocolate either, because (yes, you worked it out).

And tonight on the news – we are facing a TSUNAMI OF ALZHIEMERS. Oh please… no! Save me from the marauding hoards of the vague and forgetful, lest I be drowned!!

The news copy writers, and catastrophists are pissing me the heck off. They’ve run out of ways to tell the news, so everything has to be dressed up as some terrible and dire disaster that will cause the sun to fail to rise on the morrow. I’m reminded of a fire-and-brimstone preacher: There shall be no enjoyment! You will DIE for your sins unless you find a way to salvation. These days the way to salvation isn’t spiritual, it’s to be green, mean, debt free, organic, anti-oxidated, highly lubricated, blah blah blah.

Spare me. I’ve had enough of this crap. It’s time to stop watching and listening to the news. That’ll teach ‘em.

Understanding – again

Following the previous post about understanding – a few more comments are worth passing, about people, things, and practices that get my goat.

Open Plan

Lets start with the evils of open plan offices. If ever there was something designed by a lunatic from a fun-factory, it would have to be open-plan.

Small groups, working together in the same space can work fairly well. But putting 20, 40, or 200 people in one big zoo and expecting it to work well is fantasy. All the excuses given about creating team spirit, opening the lines of communication, and so on are bullshit. Some people believe all this stuff, especially architects (another profession, who, with economists, we need less of).

Mainly, managements like open plan because its cheap. Few will actually admit that. What it does, more than anything else, is make a constant undercurrent of noise which is distracting at best, and destructive of thought at worst.

It’s common in open plan offices for some staff to wear headphones or ear-muffs. The high-tech savvy people get noise-cancelling headphones.

It’s likewise common for people to try and work from home to avoid the distractions, or to go find a quiet meeting room somewhere.

And the real dills are the people who use speakerphone in an open plan office. Take the silly mongrels out and shoot them.

How are all these things indicative of a good, productive work place? They aren’t. Indicative of control freak management, cost cutting, and woolly-headed thinking, more like.

Where open plan CAN work, is for groups who need to come up with creative ideas – advertising agencies spring to mind. Chuck a few ideas around, start to finish on a job might be 2 weeks. Here, free flowing discussion is a good thing.

For the professions who need thinking time, and where complex problems need to be solved over a period of a month, a year, or two, its all a disaster. How many university professors work in an open plan office with their PhD students? I’ll tell you: NONE. And for good reason.

Laptops, Lifelines, and Lifestyle

All those people with laptops who pull them out on plains, trains, and during a drive somewhere. Or who think they can do some work in the lounge with the kids running around (”oh, golly, with this I can change the way I live and spend more time with the kids.”).

Yeah right. What utter tosh. If you are some big nob who reads the work of others – maybe. If you have the attention span of a small dead ferret – maybe.

If you have to prepare a presentation, analyse financial accounts, write software, prepare a legal judgement… you won’t be doing it in the lounge with the kids running around. You won’t be doing it on a plane, or in a train. You won’t be doing it using the Blackberry or the 3G-HSPDA-WCDMA-3GSM-blah-blah iPhoneDangled thingy. Because none of those things, toys, or situations let you THINK.

——–

With all the toys, and all the bullshit work environments, all the emphasis on noise and action, it’s a wonder anything gets achieved at all in some workplaces. A triumph of image over substance.

Activity without thinking leads to the death of enterprises. So why are so many trying to do just that?

Understanding

In a brilliant post, here, Raymond Chen makes a nice point about UNDERSTANDING.

By crikey, I can identify with that. (Work colleagues who might read this – I’m generally not referring to you!).

I used to work years ago with guys writing software, who never really knew what they were doing. Their attitude, and they would say it aloud was “Hmm, that didn’t work. I’ll just TRY THIS.” And then furiously bash away at the keyboard some more. It took enormous will power to stop from bashing their fingers off the keyboard and yelling “stop, think!”. Instead I had to patiently sit with these guys and walk them through a process of stopping, thinking, evaluating, considering, looking at their coding – and only then, changing something in a slow an considered way.

I wanted an old fashioned school teachers yard-stick (metre long ruler, these days), to WHACK THE HANDS of those who rush in where anybody should fear to tread.

Programmers who furiously rush in to change things without thinking give the illusion of being terribly active and busy. Busy without thought does not produce results. Thought, then busy, works better.

The rush to action was, I think, motivated by laziness. However, to think first, and then act is even lazier. Another reason I prefer it.

From the what the heck are they thinking files…

She Who Must Be Obeyed bought a nice loaf of dark rye bread.

Spot the two total dipstick marketing statements:

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The first is “Country Grains”. All @$%^$# grains come from the country! Who ever saw a paddock full of wheat or rye in a city? For crying out aloud, save us from this shit. It’s as bad as the yogurt called “Forest Berries”. I think I want to poke my eye out with a fork.

But number 2 is even more stupid. 83% wheat free. Soooooooo, for those who can’t tolerate wheat / gluten, it still has 17% wheat. In other words, IF YOU CAN’T EAT WHEAT, SUCKED IN, YOU STILL CAN’T EAT THIS.

Whoever dreamed up this crap should be taken out and shot.

No, that’s too good for them. Force feed them on 83% crap-free turds for a week (mix real turds with wheaten flour) and see how they like that. Then shoot them.

IDIOTS.

The bread is actually quite nice. Shame about the moron who made the packaging.

The national broadband plan…

… has been changed again.

It seems all the tenders were sufficiently non-compliant that the government has decided to do it themselves.

Oh. Dear.

The government once had a company to do all this, with the technical know-how. Howard flogged it off. It’s called Telstra – aka still the Elephant In The Room.

Mixing technology and politicians is like mixing oil and water… they dont go, all you get is a rainbow sheen of reflected bullshit.

There is no such thing as white chocolate

Some of you (the occasional 3 readers) may have figured out that now and again I write a review for Chocablog.

This has, perhaps naturally, led to questions from colleagues at work – the most contentious being “What do you think of white chocolate?”

Work colleagues can stop reading now – you know the answer, having seen the fits of apoplexy into which the subject makes me descend.

My feelings can be summed up very similarly to Kath, who in her recent TV interview on Today Tonight, remarked “Oh no, it offends me”.

Seeing that, and the lunch table conversations of the last few weeks prompted the desire to write a rant.

Offends, yes. Not only is it horrible, but it’s a cunning marketing ploy to get rid of a waste product – being the excess cocoa butter used in the manufacture of proper chocolate or cocoa powder. Have to do something with that junk that’s left. Animal feed? I know! People feed. Let’s find a good name!

Calling this stuff chocolate at all should be illegal. It is not chocolate, it is a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, and perhaps some milk or milk solids. In other words, it’s FAT and SUGAR, with a bit of white stuff.

Just like Carob is not Chocolate, nor is that white crap chocolate either.

Please, please, stop offending our senses using this clearly wrong name. Calling that muck chocolate amounts to misleading and deceptive conduct. Something the trade practices act does not allow. Grr!

And don’t even mention Top Deck and other such confections used as a means to move more of this muck. Yuk.

Ziz iz not good enuff!

To recall vy zis zeries iz here, go to ziz original post. Or look at any of ze uzzerz in ziz zeriez – you find zem each Wednesday.

Today ve haf ze naughty Madonna – ze original, in ze stone, in ze Paris. Ziz naughty gel, she iz showing all zoze attributes! Zere iz nuzzing original in ze world, no?

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She iz zitting not var vrom ze Eiffel Tow-air, on ze full view of effrybody! Ziz is Ok on France, vere ve like zees zings, but ziz iz NOT OK IN ADELAIDE vere ze zity of Tea Tree Gully vould neffer tolerate zuch smut!

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post. Or look at any of the others in this series – you’ll find them each Wednesday.

We’ve leapt back to Germany for todays Pole Dancer.

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You wondered where Pole Dancing came from – well, we can reveal (geddit?) that todays version is simply a natural evolution of the habit of a couple of hundred years ago of putting women on a pedestal. Naturally, the more money you had, the bigger and more ornate the pedestal. This was a mere 20 metres high, so not only do we have a Pole Dancer on a Pedestal, she has her head in the clouds as well.

Of course, the terrible consequence is that being outdoors and up high, means the Lady in Question is visible to the masses. This leads to Corruption, and their Inevitable Moral Decline. We’d not tolerate this kind of thing here, today.

Pole Dancers. Good enough for Germany. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post. Or I”ll just summarise it – The City of Tea Tree Gully banned a few naked images from their 2008 community art exhibition. One was a naked bust. The sort of thing that’s been done and exhibited in public for hundreds of years.

So each Wednesday until I run out of material, we’re getting a picture from somewhere in the world, of something that would be banned in The City of Tea Tree Gully.

Today’s exciting installment comes courtesy of the Tuillerie Gardens, in Paris. That’s in France.

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You’ll notice that the Lady In Question here is not just a bust – Full Frontal Nudity Including All The Rude Bits are on display here.

Worse – there are families present kicking a ball around ! Surely they must be offended. They don’t LOOK offended, but perhaps they hide it well. Following the Bill Henson photo scandal, I’m sure somebody could ask Kevin Rudd what he thinks. His response would, of course, be predictable. Sickened, he’d be, sickened.

This sort of disgusting stuff should not be allowed. Clearly the citizens of Paris are hardened to this kind of depravity, either that or they have become corrupted by the loose morals that such terrible displays of public nudity will inevitably lead to.

Naked Ladies in Public Parks. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Newspeak and Waffle

Sounds like a slightly shonky Law or Accounting firm:  ”Newspeak and Waffle – Solicitors”. But no, I’m fired up after reading a self-congratulatory article in “The Adelaide Review”.

Back in the days when Christopher Pearson was speech writer for John Howard, and running  ”The Adelaide Review” between long lunch breaks, you would get a regular and balanced diet of long and thought-provoking articles. He’s moved on and “The Adelaide Review” has become a far more lightweight puff-piece. “The Adelaide Purview” might be more appropriate.

Anyhow, I’m just scanning and reading a few articles from editions back in late 2008. Two things struck me.

Firstly, the series of articles by the “Design” fraternity. This encompasses architecture, interior design, furniture design, and so on. This mob have hijacked and devalued the term “design”. Once a wide-ranging verb (design, a creative act, generally associated with engineering and building of structures, including creation, calculation, verification) the word has now become a noun when applied to the softer how-things-look disciplines. For example, you can design a bridge – which is more than drawing a picture, it requires material selection, and a lot of calculation of loads, stresses, and so on. You can design an electronic whatsit, which involves component selection, and a lot of calculation of currents, voltages, waveforms, timing analysis, and so on and on. But now we have “Design” as a collective which make interiors look nice, draw advertising brochures and so on. Yes they are related. No, “Design” is not ONLY limited to the disciplines who plug it so hard as being their profession. Is it any wonder English is so confusing?

Secondly, though, and worse, is an article about the update to the Adelaide Zoo. I had to read this drivel 3 times and interpret it before I could understand what it meant. It started quite well: the Zoo is getting some giant Pandas and doing an upgrade as well as building a suitable enclosure. Then the article descended into bureaucratic Newspeak, before finally coming back to sanity.

Here are a few of the bits in the middle,  some names are removed to protect the innocent.

Aligned with the South Australian Strategic Plan, Adelaide Zoo embraces cross-institutional and cultural fusion, engaging with the wider urban environment through its unique parkland setting and benefiting the community through significant education, research and conservation practices.

The strategic plan bit just sounds like waffle. Oh-oh, we have FUSION. One point earned in bullshit-bingo. Essentially I think this means: “The zoo tries to be inclusive. It’s in the parklands and we think that’s good. It helps with education, research and conservation.”

XXX has partnered with the Zoo to deliver the project , providing an unrivalled zoo experience through its unique design solutions and innovation. With only seven other zoos in the world accommodating giant Pandas, this is a unique opportunity for Adelaide to showcase the best in zoo design, within sustainable parameters.

Partnered? Really? So XXX is sharing the risks? I don’t think so, last I heard they are an firm of architects. You know, the folk you put on a contract. They take the money, deliver the building design and move on. They don’t take a share of the revenues or share in the losses of the enterprise. Not partners. Contractors. That’s two points in bullshit-bingo.

“Unrivalled zoo experience”. Er, what does this mean? And through unique design solutions and innovation? Pardon? Meaningless waffle. That’s three points in bullshit-bingo.

“within sustainable parameters”. What parameters? How is sustainable defined? Sustaining what? Perhaps the pillars have to sustain the roof? That’d work! That’s four points in bullshit-bingo.

… (more stuff) … The Zoo and XXX undertook a study tour to the United States in December 2007, visiting four giant panda exhibits with a focus on animal husbandry, behind the scenes holding facilities and exhibit design requirements. The tour identified that the unique breeding and behavioural habits of the pandas would require a compelling exhibit that would tell an active story. The Adelaide Zoo exhibit aims to deliver an emotional experience that encourages visitors to leave with conservation in mind and with the tools to participate in further conservation action.

Oh for crying out aloud, spare me. I want to poke my eye out with a fork, it’s more fun than reading this drivel.

So, the architect and zoo staff had a jolly, then waffled on about it. What on earth does a “compelling exhibit mean”? Does the compulsion mean that attendance will be mandatory – perhaps a prison sentence for non-attendance ? “Compelling.” That’s five points in bullshit-bingo. But it gets worse. “Tell an active story”. What? Pure padding. Words to fill the page. That’s six points in bullshit-bingo.

But just when you though things could get no worse, we have “an emotional experience” that gives the visitors “tools”. Do they leave with a spanner? Or a screwdriver?

Where is that fork? My eyes are itching to feel it. That’s seven AND eight points in bullshit-bingo.

But wait, there’s more:

A key design principle has been to encourage an emotive connection between humans and animals…

There’s more, but I’m tired of this shit. I’ve now made nine points in bullshit bingo, and this in only a half-column of the article.

The only thing missing is that they didn’t deconstruct the zoo and rebuild it using a paradigm shift, inspired by right-sizing the nuances after getting in touch with their inner feelings.

AAARRRRGGGHHH.

Come on self-congratulators, you can do better than drivel like this. Oh, sorry. Come on “Designers” – you can do better. Can’t you?

You’ll love @#$^@#

No I damn well won’t.

T’other half went to a Coles supermarket the other day (somewhere we don’t normally go… when you own a few Woolworths shares bought in 1989, you shop at woolies… what goes around, comes around).

ANYHOW… suddenly there have appeared on the kitchen bench a few bottles of  You’ll Love Coles WATER.

Buying bottled water at the best of times makes makes my blood boil. Bottled water might be Ok in a country where the tap water is bad, in Australia it is just a sign of excessive affluence. In Adelaide, maybe there is a vague excuse, the tap water DOES taste like crap. (Seeing as it comes from the Murray, and IS the effluent discharged by NSW and Victoria, and every country town along the way, this is hardly surprising.) But even in Adelaide, the tap water tastes a whole lot better if you fill a jug and let it stand 24 hours.

Anyhow, the rest of the family had been out walking and must have needed a drink. Normally, we’d buy a bottle of anything maybe a couple of times a year, keep the bottle and refill it from the rainwater tank. So they must have been caught short and had to buy some. Sigh.

ANYHOW… looking at the bottles, I’m struck by 2 things.

The first is the picture of “Elysha” who supposedly drinks 2 litres per day. Presumably of “You’ll love Coles” water. Clearly Elysha is a dimwit and pillock, firstly for a bizarrely spelled name, and secondly for spending 1/2 a kings ransom on Coles Bottled Water! Gag. Some marketing type should be shot for that.

And the second is that I would never, ever, knowingly buy anything branded “You’ll Love Coles”. I know it might be the house brand. But its naff. How condescending. How positively gag-retch-chuck making. “You’ll Love Coles” screams B.. O.. G..A..N.. from a thousand paces. Blerk. No wonder Coles have been struggling for years if this is the best they can do. For that one as well, some marketing type should be shot.

I won’t love Coles. Ever. And telling me I will makes me more determined than ever not to. Sod Off.

Grr B#$%&y introspective narrow minded F@#$ers

OK kiddies, settle yourselves down for a good old-fashioned rant.

Grab yourself a cuppa, this might take a while.

Greenhouse -> Climate Change + Drought = Proof !!

Have you noticied how we’ve all morphed from the geek-term “Greenhouse Effect” to slightly less geeky “Global Warming”, to the now politically correct, ungeeky “Climate Change”?

All this presupposes that the theories, and the data upon which they are based, are both accurate and correct.

STOP SCREAMING. Those who say “look at the current Australian drought” need to take a big dose of Mogodon and loosen up. The current Australian drought proves nothing, one way or the other. Australia has, according to the historical record, been through about a 50 year period of unusually HIGH rainfall, and now seems to be moving back to something more normal. Ask your parents or grandparents how much it used to rain in the 1930’s.

I’m pissed off that we have patronising people saying “look at what we are living through” as if this is proof. The proof will be found in another 50 to 100 years, not now. Get a grip. It’s a THEORY. According to the scientific method, you propose a theory, then you must find evidence both FOR and AGAINST. A Theory is rarely proved and easily disproved. Proof is not 1 or 2 years of lack rain. Proof is data over a long, long period. We have insufficient data to prove anything one way or the other.

Back in the 1950’s, every time there was a dry year, or a wet year, or the wind blew unusually strongly from the North-East, the blame was “the BOMB”. The A-bomb, that is. Young folks, go ask your parents. Say “The Bomb” and get them to tell you what it was all about.

We all love to blame something or someone for our ills. If a big nasty conspiracy is involved it’s even better. Time to take a reality check guys.

DON’T GET ME WRONG: This is not an excuse to buy V8 cars and leave all the lights on. Keep reading.

Local Government

We have the unedifying spectacle of various arms of government moving beyond hysterical hand-wringing about climate change, and now starting to impose charges and levies. Some local councils (not in Adelaide, yet, that I know of) are now imposing climate change charges.

Local government! These guys are supposed to collect your garbage!

What the heck are they doing imposing climate change charges? And what will they do with the money? Buy a bigger car for the Mayor?

These mad bastards should be taken out and shot. This is lunacy. The difference that local government can make is SOD ALL. See more below. The difference Australian can make is ZIP, and local government is ZIP SQUARED.

Again, get a bloody grip.

China

In Australia we have posturing and harping by our politicians, on the 2 major sides, and the usual bullshit from the minor parties and interest groups.

The Chinese are building 200 new airports. RIGHT NOW. That makes the airports, air traffic, and flights in Australia look like a minnow against a shark.

The Chinese bring on line new electricity generation equal to the ENTIRE Australian generation capacity, EVERY 9 months.

While we fiddle, Rome is burning, literally, but in China. The Chinese don’t give a flying F#$@ about any of our hand-wringing, they just get on with building stuff to make a better life for their people.

In the meantime, we argue, and waste hot-air on stupid things like whether the government car fleet should change from a Statesman to a Toyota Prius, or Hybrid Camry!

For crying out aloud, the change of government cars in the fleet won’t make a blind bit of difference in the long run to ANYTHING when there are other counties in the world adding emissions at the rate of THOUSANDS of Statesman cars per day!

Again, start looking past the end of your nose, Australia, what you do makes miniscule difference. It’s so small as to be insignificant. Making the guy in the street pay for a few rich people’s pious indulgence is patronising, rude, and totally worthless. We deserve better.

Australia cutting emissions in any form is roughly equivalent to zipping down to your local jetty and pissing off the end of it, then trying to measure the rise in sea level as a consequence. Australia cutting emissions by changing a few government cars to imported hybrids is equivalent to zipping down to that same jetty and tossing half a thimble-full of pee in the ocean, then measuring.

Petrol Prices

Oil prices rose. So petrol prices rose. Oil is a declining resource. Maybe we’ve hit “peak oil”, maybe not. Finding new oil is increasingly difficult and expensive, so the case for peak-oil is looking better with each passing day. In that case, it’s natural for the price to rise. This is basic, basic economics.

And rise the price damn well should. Oil has always been priced for the here-and-now, basically the cost of extraction + a profit margin.

Oil has never been priced as a one-off opportunity for the people of the planet, if it had, it would have been priced far higher from the very early days, on the grounds that it should last mankind forever. But that’s not how capitalism works. Dollars today and stuff the future!

Oil has so many benefits: in production of energy, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and fertiliser. It is completely undervalued and because of the low price we abuse it to create motor sport (!), and make stupid things like cheap kids toys (all crap, all break easily, all made in low cost countries) and plastic shopping bags! Madness!

In the face of rising oil prices, we have dickheads like Brendon Nelson, Leader of Her Majesties Opposition, finally finding a way of rattling the new government by promising to cut petrol taxes by $0.05 / litre. HE IS NOT EVEN IN GOVERNMENT. IT’S STUPID! When petrol prices are $1.60 / litre, that 5 cents means NOTHING. It’s maybe $1 in a $50 tankful, unless of course you are foolish enough to drive one of those 4WD monsters, in which case it might be $5. But tough – your lifestyle choice, don’t complain!

Brendon Nelson is twitching the hip-pocket nerve as hard as he can go, on something that is symbolic and meaningless, as well as foolish. Reducing petrol prices leads to increases in emissions and worsens climate change, something he now believes in after the demise of his former glorious leader! Mixed messages anybody?

Reducing taxes and thus prices encourages MORE consumption of a precious and declining resource. It also sends all the wrong signals about the level of control a government has about world prices for commodities. And it reduces government revenue, which just means that taxes elsewhere rise to compensate. Petrol tax is a GOOD TAX. It taxes consumption! Spend less, pay less tax! (Income taxes on the other hand, are EVIL TAXES).

Banning The Bulb

Next on the list for the feel-good wankers is the move to ban the incandescent light-bulb. We get non-technical conservationists say completely stupid things like “the technology is 100 years old, its time for it to go”.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiighhhhhht ?!

And replaced by what? The only currently viable replacement (barring going back to candles) is the Compact Fluorescent lamp.

We have a Federal Government department pushing down this road as hard as they can possibly go. There are no quality standards for CF lamps, so these guys have written one. It’s on path to becoming an international standard and might get there in about another 2 years. In the meantime, they will try and impose an interim standard which might get up about the time of ban-the-bulb if we get lucky. Can anybody else see cart before horse here?

And why the heck does the Australian Government have 4000 CF lamps on test IN BEIJING? Why can’t they test them in Australia? They were all bought in Australia. And why does the standard and test regime not take into account things like the switching cycles used in toilets, pantries, bathrooms and so on? One or two switching cycles per day is not the normal cycle for a dunny-lamp.

The CF lamp contains mercury. About 5 mg in each lamp. Mercury is a toxin. So we will have to put oodles of that in every household. Clever. The public servants claim that the mercury level is very low, and burning coal puts mercury into the atmosphere, using CF lamps results in a NET reduction. Maybe. But power stations are not in every home. The CF lamps will be. How many will get broken? And what about the concentration in the waste dumps?

CF lamps also screw up the mains supply, they have a couple of very undesirable properties: Bad Power Factor, and Harmonics. Only the folks in the power authorities understand the consequences, certainly not the simpletons in government or the conservation movement. Bad Power factor means the power utilities have the spend a pot of dough adding new equipment to the electricity systems to correct for it. Which WE pay for. And harmonics… well they just screw up the operation of other equipment and cause radiated electro-magnetic noise.

Some realities of the CF lamp:

  • To extract and recover the mercury safely you need a separate waste collection system. Putting dead CF lamps in general landfill waste is polluting. The cost of a separate waste collection system is huge. But it’s not part of the picture because A DIFFERENT GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT LOOKS AFTER THAT STUFF. And is a separate waste system was in place, how much would it be used? Don’t count the wealthy inner-city dwellers with a social conscience, include the single mums and deadbeats in the outer suburban fringes where the living is cheap. Where will the dead CF lamps go? Bleeding obvious, that one.
  • There are currently no standards for construction and performance of a CF lamp. These are supposed to be coming. But the standards don’t include catastrophic failure! Some fail in spectacular ways. I’ve had one explode with a huge flash, a loud bang and big puff of smoke. What’s in the smoke? Will it harm my health? NOBODY KNOWS. A colleague of mine has had one explode, where the explosion was severe enough to break the lamp, and the fitting, and leave a shower of broken glass all over the floor. AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR US? A quick poll the other night at the presentation about this showed 6 other people have had them explode – in the last few months. Once upon a time this never happened. As the CF lamp has got cheaper, the explosions have become more frequent.
  • The touted lifetimes are generally bullshit. I’ve been using CF lamps for 15 years, and I write the installation date on the base each time I fit one. THEY STILL SAVE ME MONEY, but the 5000 to 8000 hour lifetime is optimistic at best and lies at worst. The standards MIGHT result in honesty of the claimed lifetimes. We’ll see.
  • CF lamps have a warm-up time, this is typically 1 to 5 minutes or thereabouts. When first turned on the light output is dramatically lower than a few minutes later.
  • CF lamp lifetime drops significantly with switching, so places where they are switched frequently like stairwells, bathrooms, toilets, pantries will see dramatically shorter life. That means the effective cost is higher. The damn lamps are already costing $7. In most houses about 1/3 of the places where lighting is used are switched frequently and are unsuitable for CF lamps.
  • You can’t use a CF lamp as the light in your fridge, oven or microwave.
  • Depending on who you talk to… when a total energy balance is done, including the energy and environmental costs used in manufacture, shipping, use, and disposal, the CF lamp actually comes in about equivalent to the supposedly evil and obsolete incandescent. The government people claim this is not that case. Who do we believe?

These people, from the Government, sent to help us, say that the early problems with CF lamps in particular the warm-up time and lifetime are solved problems – not an issue. I REALLY DO NOT LIKE BEING LIED TO. The CF lamps I bought 2 weeks ago still take 2 minutes to reach full light output.

These same folks from the government showed the components of domestic energy consumption. Lighting shows a growth of about 25% over about the 40 years beginning 1980. On the other hand, the REALLY BIG consumers are Televisions (growth of about 400%) and Swimming Pools (about 300%). Tackling the backyard pool and the plasma TV will deliver huge bang for buck. Instead, a vast effort is going into something with only a small impact.

Banning of the bulb will make a few pollies and greenies feel better but actually make little difference to anything. Any effect will be small, and the pollution of waste sites by mercury may actually cause serious long term problems that will only be found in the next one or two hundred years.

There is hope on the horizon: the white LED is currently frightfully expensive, but does promise higher efficiency of conversion of electricity to light, and a lifetime about 10x that of the CF lamp. This is a technology in its infancy, which still has many problems to solve. But in the long run, the CF lamp is a lame duck.

If our government was serious, it would not even try to ban the incandescent lamp. It would instead apply a tax to make incandescent lamps cost about $4 to $5 each, comparable to a CF. Then, you would use whatever was most suited to the application: incandescent for frequent switching and instant-on. CF’s for places that are turned on and left on. The market would sort it out.

BUT FOLKS IF YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT USE A CF IN SOME APPLICATIONS THEN GO BUY A STACK OF EVIL INCANDESCENT LAMPS NOW, cos soon you won’t be able to get them at all. I’ve got a cupboard full, and I’m buying more every chance I get.

Weaning Ourselves Off Oil and Changing The Character Of Our Cities

This one really gets on my nerves. It’s been brought about by the high price of oil, so more people are using public transport (fine, good thing).

We have pronouncements now from patronising twerps in the conservation movement saying stupid things like “we must wean ourselves off oil” (ok, fair enough, to a point. Kill the Hummers through high fuel prices and I’m won over), and “We must redesign our cities for public transport”.

Well…. On this point… How? And who pays?

This kind of pronouncement is stupid in the extreme. How are we to re-design the cities AND SUBURBS in which millions of people live? The houses are there, the roads are there, the services are buried under the ground. How are we to make these places more suited to walking, public transport, and less use of the car?

Have any of the people who say this crap looked around the outer suburbs? Have they ever been to Golden Grove (in Adelaide), or Melton or Thomastown (in Melbourne), or Seven Hills or the Western Suburbs of Sydney? These places are so far out in the sticks its not funny. And the masters of the universe who plan these places don’t believe in streets that make walking easy. Instead we have the maze of twisty passages. But it looks nice.

The only way to really REDESIGN our cities for public transport is to use an atomic bomb to wipe the slate clean and start again.

These conservationists must have come from the same primeval swamp as a well-known Adelaide property developer and home builder, who believes that all development and planning controls should be scrapped to allow unfettered house building where he and his cronies see fit. Except in the hills, where he lives. Cos that’s special.

Means testing the solar energy rebate

I’ve ranted about this before. Solar energy is expensive. Very expensive. If the government seriously wants to have renewable energy being used it has to be produced.

In the absence of simply making everybody pay more for power via a tax or a ban on the burning of coal, the only other way to influence a market economy is by subsidy or rebate. The solar cell rebate did not ever cover the total cost of installation, so the only people who were installing solar power were the rich people with a social conscience. Using the rich people, plus a government subsidy has the effect of transferring the wealth of the rich to everybody else!

So what does this dumb-arse government do? They slap a means test on the rebate so now the only people who will get help with installing solar power are those who cannot afford to do so. There is something bizarrely Pythonesque about this.

Strangely enough, the forward order books for solar power have dropped 90%!

And the idiots in this government argue that the means test will result in an INCREASE in the installations of solar power! I’m sure they will next argue that black is white! MORONS!

So what REALLY gets my goat then?

It should be obvious… Dumb crap from by people who don’t THINK.

For the benefit of future generations we should consume less. Less oil. Less food. Less electricity. Within reason. Whether or not this has an affect on the climate will be proven sometime in the next 50 to 100 years. In the meantime we don’t need to be greedy.

Prices for things like oil should rise to reflect their long-term worth. In the meantime is we want to use renewable energy we need to pay for it. Using the rich and the government is as good a way as any. Using the poor is implausible and foolish.

In the future, some of our cities will seriously suck, having been built around the car. Adding or improving public transport will be difficult or frightfully expensive. Idiots telling us to redesign our cities don’t help because they are not proposing a solution, just spouting ignorant motherhood.

Stupid moves to save by tokenism – like hybrid cars and banning the bulb – will have no effect at all on the planet or the climate. Serious saving, well-considered, for good, well-thought-out reasons is fine, but tokenistic dictates from some idiot in Canberra (previously a Merchant Wanker, and now a former rock singer) are paternalistic, demeaning, transparent political games which have great cost and no appreciable effect.

AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

No, no, no, Mr Jones (warning: Spoilers)

Went with a small group from SWMBO’s work the other day to see the latest Indiana Jones movie.

Aside from the usual thrills, spills, and adventure, this one was silly.

Here’s a list of the really apparent sillinesses, in a very rough order of silliness, except when the orders not in order cos it gets in the way of a good rant:

  1. Mr Jones DID NOT need to meet ET. That was SILLY.
  2. And If Mr Jones DID meet ET, Mr ET DID NOT need to have a bloody great big flying SAUCER ! That was SILLY.
  3. Mr Jones was finding ET brains in a giant US military warehouse full of valuable stuff, in the desert, near where an atomic bomb is being let off. It’s so dangerous that the area is closed off (fair enough) BUT WHY HAVE A WAREHOUSE THERE FULL OF VALUABLE STUFF ?? A WAREHOUSE OF VALUABLE STUFF IN THE FALL-OUT ZONE OF AN A-BOMB IS SILLY.
  4. Mr Jones FALLs through a whole bunch of stuff and lands on a rocket motor sitting on a test track. When fired, the rocket test rig runs on rails out of the building and roars off outside. WHY would anybody do an indoor start and an outdoor finish for a rocket motor test? SILLY. Rocket motors are tested TETHERED to the group with huge great hooks.
  5. But equally, how could he fall from ground level, down, into stuff, and still end up at ground level? That was SILLY.
  6. Then the control panels for the rocket motor test had big countdown timers made from red LEDs. The film was set in 1957. The LED had not been invented. They should have used Nixie Tubes. Using LEDs was SILLY and OFFENSIVE because it was simply historically inaccurate.
  7. The lead lined refrigerator was SILLY.
  8. The flight in the lead line refrigerator was REALLY SILLY though we could all see that one coming.
  9. Falling down the waterfalls and surviving the fall… that was SILLY.
  10. The monster ants picking the evil dude up and carrying him away, that was so SILLY I was laughing out loud at it.

All in all, I spose it was OK, but this time, Mr Lucas and Mr Speilberg really have excelled themselves in silliness. All the other Indiana Jones films have been implausible, but this one takes the cake for totally reckless silly implausibility.

RATINGS

For SILLINESS: 9 / 10 (on a scale of higher = more silly)

For an Adventure Ripping Yarn: 7 / 10 (on a scale of higher = a better yarn)

Some other others were better.

Speeling, wot spealing?

One of those things that really gets up the ole hooter is poor spelling, especially from people who should know better.

Todays pet peeves:

DRAW – When used in the context of a fing ya put ya stuff in.

It’s not a DRAW, it’s a DRAWER, even if it is pronounced the same.

DRAW is something ya do wif a pencil on a bit o paper.

DRAWER is the aforementioned fing-fer-puttin-stuff-inta. Or, ever more archaic, it’s ya Grandmas underwear (or perhaps they are Bloomers).

And…

LOOSE - when used in the context of You Win I Loose.

It’s not LOOSE, it’s LOSE.

LOOSE implies you are somewhat promiscuous, or (at the stretch of a having a couple of screws loose) have a couple of kangaroos runnin’ around in yer top paddock.

LOSE on the other hand is what happens when you misplace something, or when you don’t win some game, contest or competition.

In this case, the excuse of phonetic spelling loses points because LOOSE is pronounced like NOOSE, and LOSE is pronounced like OOZE.

More effort required chaps! Savvy?

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