The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

American express… why?

I received yet another unsolicted offer for a credit card yesterday.

Today’s turn is from American Express, where by their amazing good graces I’ve been “pre-approved” for a Gold Card with a A$50,000 limit, and no annual fees, ever.

It looks vaguely tempting – the intersest rate is lower than the card I have at the moment.

Then… thinking… but I don’t pay any interest on my current card because I pay it off in full every month anyhow. And I don’t pay fees on it. And it only has a small credit limit ($2K?) to force me to stay disciplined.

What on earth would I want a credit card with a $50K limit for?

If I were stupid enough to spend that much, there is no magic puddling to pay it off, I’d still be a wage slave for years, even with their 12% interest rate.

I guess these things are attractive to some people, but I think I’ll keep going the boring old-fashioned way and just save up for the (few) things I want rather than using credit.

But that brings up the next questions:

How do these people know my address?

Where did they get it from?

How do they get some idea of my salary to offer me a “pre-approved” card?

How do I make them go away forever?

Hooray for women with brains

I’ve spent today working from home, trying to solve a particularly thorny technical problem.

If it works it will deliver a significant improvement in capability and features for one of the products made at Clipsal.

I spent most of the day poking around in the murkier depths of hash functions… not making a lot of progress but with some ideas that had merit.

SWMBO interrupted me for an afternoon tea break, so I explained the problem I was trying to solve. She promptly suggested a couple of things I’d not even considered… 2 more hours thinking about it and hashing is out the window… a much simpler approach now.

Thanks t’other half – I’d have spent a long time getting nowhere without your ideas to drive me in significantly different direction – simpler, and much more likely to do what’s needed!

—–

There are some benefits when the wife / partner / whatever has a similar education and has worked in related fields – its very easy to get into a technical discussion (at home!) that leads to all manner of new ideas… But now she wants to go on the payroll. That might be a more difficult ask.

Feeling bored? Get a Llama

My kids found this and really like it.

It’s very silly: The Llama song… needs sound.

Two blue belts

The other evening the two Mr Beans (ie Mr Dump the younger, and Mr Dump the ender) moved up to Blue Belt in the local Kung Fu class.

Normally I see them at home, running around, being silly, taunting each other, and so on. During the grading (test) and presentation, they were completely different: focussed, nervous, disciplined, practised, and very serious. They both did extremely well, and I’m very proud of both of them.

Photographs are not permitted during the grading, but the presentation is OK. So:

Mr B the younger receives his Blue Belt:

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Mr B the elder hands in his white before receiving the blue:

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And the two of them, with Jim (Sifu) on the left, and Mick:

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Smells in heaven

If heaven is where everything is perfect (though forget the angels strumming harps… BORING…) what would the smells be?

Here is my list:

  • Freshly ground, freshly roasted coffee. Why does ground coffee SMELL so divine? So much better than drinking it. And infinitely better than that instant muck that calls itself coffee
  • Baking bread… still hot… Self explanatory this one! Or baking cinnamon buns… Mmmmmm….
  • Crushed lime leaves – try it sometime
  • Lamb roasting in a kettle BBQ – the aroma wafting on a gentle breeze
  • A big gutsy red wine
  • Freshly cut grass
  • That smell after a summer rain-storm (what is that smell called?)

There must be more. Add your favourites as comments!

Going back

Should you ever go back to things in the past?

Dunno, but yesterday I was in the area, and went back to where I first started full-time work, back at the end of 1985.

My first full-time position (apart from some peculiar programming jobs in my Uni holidays) was at the Defence Research Centre, Salisbury. I worked in the Control and Instrumentation Systems Group.

The Defence Research Centre was located in a former World War 2 ammunication factory – which occupied some huge area (100 acres or so?) to the north of Adelaide. The factory was shut down at the end of the war, and lay idle for a few years before being converted to laboratories, offices, and so on to support the British Joint Project at Woomera in the 1950’s.

To built the ammunition factory, the Government of the day compulsorily acquired the land, and commandeered the brick supply. If bricklayers wanted work, there was only one place they could go. My father grew up in Salisbury during the war, and remembers the hive of activity while the factory was being built.

There were hundreds of buildings, built of red brick, some large, some small. Almost all had a very simple roof, and immensely thick walls. Most were surrounded by earth mounds – the idea being that an explosion in an ammunition factory is not a good thing, so the thick walls, fragile roof, and earth mounds direct the BANG upward rather than outward and prevent the damage from spreading.

Conversion to offices and so on was done on the cheap – the buildings had moderately modern lighting, and simple timber frame partitioning added to what had been large rooms. It was cheap, tacky, and it showed. The place sure had character.

Now, there is almost nothing left. Our government has flogged the site off as an industrial park, and a piece of our industrial heritage has gone under the bulldozers. The security fences and guard dogs are long gone, anybody can go there now.

Of the buildings I worked in, only one remains. This has been completely stripped – there is only a shell, the internal (brick) walls, and the roof – oh, and about 20,000 pidgeons. The places I used to work are 20 cm deep in pidgeon poo. The other buildings are gone, and barriers show that the last one will soon be gone as well.

On a cold, windy day, I walked around building 27 TSAS (yes, they all had numbers), and tried to remember what was like back in 1985 & 86. The other buildings I worked in (26, 35, 42, 43 TSAS) have all gone. Not a trace remains. Even the gum trees we planted outside those buildings have been ripped out.

Am I sad? A little. It was a fairly crappy site. We had a lot of fun there though, rigging Tex’s office with stunts each Christmas, designing some strange electronic thingies, and writing some pretty flash code for the microprocessors of the day.

The new buildings show that industry is important, employs a lot of people, and does give the area a new lease on life. Returning it to farmland would have been nicer – but a romantic dream.

The old buildings and site had soul and character, but it was run-down and crummy. Maybe this is a move for the better – but its hard to be sure.

Characterising our Federal Pollies (chapter 2)

Continuing with the Federal Pollies and their categories, it’s time for the Labor Party to have their turn.

As a reminder, here are the categories they get lumped into:

  • Evil
  • Bumbling Fool
  • Means Well
  • Good Guy

Sadly, Opposition politicians do not actually have to do anything, and as a consequence we judge them less harshly. True colours only appear once they are elected to Government, so the assessments here need to be read in this context.

Anyhow, like the Liberals, we should start with the Opposition Leader and see where the road takes us, so here goes…

Kym Beazley

Big Kym, also known as Bomber, or The Blimp appeared in the public eye as Defence Minster many years ago. At the time he was known as the Minister for Toys, mainly because he kept buying more stuff for the Australian Defence Force to put in their toybox. Always buying on the cheap, the second-hand toys had seen much service in somebody else’s sand-pit, and desperately needed a bit of rust cut out and a comprehensive re-spray.

Kymbo’s position as ALP leader has been like a torrid romance – on again, then off again, then on again. Best known for a big laugh and forgetting the names of members of his own party, Kym has to be:

Bumbling Fool.

Stephen Conroy

The shadow Minister for Communications only appears in public to whine about media policy (no change, no change!). The remainder of the time his reputation is as a back-room power broker and head kicker – keeping the minions in line and feeding occasional tid-bits to the Bomber.

Too cunning to have a high public profile, his machinations disqualify him from being a Good Guy, or Means Well. The same cunning rules out Bumbling Fool, which only leaves: Evil.

Wayne Swan

Wayne who? This name bobs up every now and again, then like a dodgy Portuguese cork, disappears… One wonders he does the same thing those dodgy corks do to wine… does he make the party go a bit off? Some say he is a party power broker – but with the public profile of my next door neighbours great aunt Nellie, it’s hard to tell.
In the absence of anything to distinguish him one way or the other, we’ll have to settle on Bumbling Fool.

Julia Gillard

I’m told Julia was into Student Politics when at University – this clearly makes her the kind of person the Liberals want to abolish by raising HECS and imposing voluntary student unionism. Unfortunately, the lack of any experience in doing any job other than politics shows in the occasional somewhat naive utterances of Our Jules.

A voice like a bandsaw does not help, and if Julia wants to be taken seriously she desperately needs to do a Maggo Thatcher and take voice coaching lessons.

Hard to tell where she should be placed – the Student Politician thing counts several points against her. On balance, she seems to be a Means Well.

Kevin Rudd

Every group has a media tart – that’s the one in the protest rally who will speak to the newspapers, and the one in the family who does the silly faces in the group photos. In the ALP’s case, the media tart is Kevin Rudd.

Witty, erudite and articulate, Kevin appears to either bask in the glow of television stardom, or his ambition to topple The Bomber drives him to these extremes. Just watch out Kevin – The Bomber is a heavy beast, prone to falling unpredictably. When toppling him from his perch, you might get squashed in the fall!

Kevins position on anything is simple: he has one – it’s in front of a camera! If Kevin holds principles and deeply held views, it’s not yet apparent.

On our 4 step scale, Kevin does not yet appear to be Evil, and he’s not a Good Guy either. Too cunning to be a Bumbling Fool, Kevin must be a Means Well, but being such an enigma, this assessment is subject to revision at any time without notice. The possibility of his being Evil is latent and may appear at any time.

Simon Crean

Oh dear, poor Simon has been recycled. Like most junk found in a jumble sale, recycling pieces of cloth and toilet roll centres into gee-gaws gives a result that looks like pieces of cloth and toilet roll centres. In Simons case, a fairly ineffectual trade unionist has been turned into a politician who looks like a fairly ineffectual trade unionist.

Sadly, the use-by on Simons packaging was some time ago, and the contents are now past their best. Bumbling Fool.

Martin Ferguson

From the same stable as Simon Crean, Martin is wheeled out periodically to carefully articulate the party line in his own special way. This broken down nag desperately needs to be put out to pasture, cavorting amongst the apple trees and getting a bit of wind in his mane.

If Martin has any genuine beliefs or opinions, they were jammed up many years ago by the party machine. Bumbling Fool.

Jennie George

Oh my god! Another superannuated leader of the ACTU! Jennie, Simon and Martin must have right splendid time getting together for drinkies in the parliamentary bar and reminiscing about old times.

A clear case of being in the right electorate, and having little to offer. Not smart enough for any other category means: Bumbling Fool.

Peter Garrett

After many years buring the Midnight Oil, ranting about injustice and how the Generals talk, Peter gave his nut a special polishing and became Mark Latham’s star recruit to the Labor cause.

Another one with a social conscience who wants to change the world, Peter has not yet realised that the social engineers of the Labor Party belong in a museum with their pals T.Rex, AC/DC, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles.

Not standing for anything much, apart from changing the world, it’s hard to categorise Peter. Ambition pretty much rules out Good Guy, and there is not yet enough evidence for Evil. I’m not convinced that he’s a Means Well, so that leaves Bumbling Fool.

——————

Unfortunately, there are many other members of the ALP in the Federal Parliament, all so forgettable that even though I can find the names, I cannot think of who they are, what they have done, or what they stand for.

No wonder they cannot get elected!

Characterising our Federal Pollies (chapter 1)

I decided it is time to lump our Federal Pollies into categories.

What categories might be appropriate, I hear you cry!

I’ve decided on these:

  • Evil
  • Bumbling Fool
  • Means Well
  • Good Guy

So, lets begin the fun with the Prime Monster and then pick off a few more…

John Howard

Like the Energiser Bunny, he goes and goes, but this is no way to fit him into our categories. So instead, lets look at his actions:

Think gun buy-back (a long time ago – probably makes him a Means Well).

Think US Free Trade Agreement – with the benefits all flowing to the US, and competition for the Australian blood products market being required under the FTA. But US blood is not donated by volunteers, it’s paid for – so there are plenty of junkies selling blood to pay for their next hit. One of the many unintended consequences.

Think getting the wide brown land of Oz into Iraq.

I’m not sure… its a toss up between Evil, and Bumbling Fool.

Alexander Downer

Our glorious foreign minister, makes me ashamed to be a South Australian. He of the fish-net tights and plum in the mouth. Seems to be great for spouting the party line, and never has an original thought of his own.

Clearly a stand-out Bumbling Fool.

Peter Costello

The smirk gives the game away. He’s smarter than everybody else, and he knows it. Trouble is, he can’t hide it either. Rides on the back of economic reforms made by the previous Labor government, and claims all the credit as his own.

Is he the real power behind the Howard throne, or does he just think he is?

A toss up between Evil, and Means Well. Maybe even both at once!

Tony Abbott

A thoroughly nasty piece of works, a former boxer and failed monk. Wants to bash the c*&p out of anybody who disagrees with him, dishes out the dirt and comes up smelling of turds when his past indiscretions make their ugly appearance.

No doubt with this one: Evil.

Brendan Nelson

Another former Adelaide boy (what is it about South Australians on the Federal scene – so many are complete tossers). A former member of the Labor party, decided to get with the strength, pull out the ear-ring, and go feral… er… Liberal.

Ambitious beyond reason, he’s climbing the ladder of power and success, over the bleeding bodies of those who failed on the way up. Not satisfied with climbing, he’s gouging out their entrails and eating them as he goes.

Having screwed up education, he’s now been given bigger toys to play with in defence.

Again, no doubt: Evil.

Mark Vaile

Minister for trade, from the country bumpkin branch of the Liberal party – otherwise known as the National Party (yee hah!). Helped to negotiate that FTA, generally stumbles around the place wondering what’s going on. Should have stayed on the farm.

Bumbling Fool.

Nick Minchin

Minister of Finance and flogging off public assets, Nick is a member of the “drys”. That’s economic dry policy, otherwise known as the flog-it-to-the-private-sector-at-any-cost faction.

Nick is a slick talker, and could sell sand to the Arabs. Watch out for his hidden land mines though. This guy takes no prisoners.

Pure, unadulterated Evil.

Philip Ruddock

Attorney General, the chief law officer in the land. Having died during office as Immigration Minister, he has been promoted to greater things.

The chief architect of the new anti-terror and sedition laws (don’t worry if its a bit extreme, we’ll sort that out later), he is naturally unaffected, being dead already.

When he was alive he was Evil. Now that he’s dead & Attorney General, he’s still Evil.

Amanda Vanstone

Minister for Immigration, locking people up, and joint minister of being overweight (sharing this portfolio with Kym Beazley). She does as she is told by the great masters, and looks uncomfortable while doing it. Has a thankless job.

Means Well, but is pushed into being Evil.

Mal Brough

Mal sprang from nowhere to become minister of Aboriginal crises, and seems to be running around throwing Political Correctness to the wolves. A refreshing change from the social engineers and do-gooders of the past. Generally lands on his feet – but occasionally ends up with turds on his toes.

Definitely Means Well, and time will tell, he might even be a Good Guy.

Kevin Andrews

Since being made Minister for Sacking the Workforce, and part time Minister for religious fervour, Kevin has distinguished himself by coming out of his cave only for long enough to tear apart a hundred years of industrial relations law.

Determined to take Australia back to the 1850′,s Kevin still has not worked out why the miners rebelled at the Eureka Stockade. Desperately needs to bone up on his Australian History.

Simple this one: Evil.

Malcolm Turnbull

A former banker and multi-gazillionaire, Malcolm decided that being part of a government that puts more in the pockets of the rich was the next career move. After all, when you have more money than you can spend, who needs to work for a living. Instead, how about making others live for a-working!

His speaking appearances during the Great Australian Republican Mass-Debate had to be seen to be believed. Unable to give a coherent argument, he used emotion and invective to try and demolish his opponents. Looked then like an arrogant, bombastic clown, yet somehow he made a zillion bucks. How?

Probably a Bumbling Fool, but quite possibly Evil beyond belief.

Wilson Tuckey

A dipstick beyond compare, Wilson comes from somewhere way out in Western Australia. Too much sun has cooked his brain, and little of sense has come out of his mouth since about 1972.

Too stupid to be Evil, he’s just a Bumbling Fool.

Bronwyn Bishop

Bronnie first came to prominence for her vitriolic attacks on a former commissioner of taxation. Thought then to be Prime Monistorial material due to her ability to reduce grown men to tears, Bronnie has since faded into mild obscurity.

Like Dame Nellie Melba, she insists on making just one last comeback appearance – usually about every 6 to 12 months.

Sadly, Bronnie has not figured out that by acting the hideous carbuncle, she only makes herself look silly. There is no way that she Means Well, and she could never be a Good Guy. Too calculating and nasty to be a Bumbling Fool, means that by elimination, Bronnie has to be Evil.

————

For the next exciting instalment, we tackle… the Labor party!

Bush’s Clock

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him.

He asked, “What are all those clocks?”

St. Peter answered, “Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move.”

“Oh ,” said the man, “whose clock is that?”

“That’s Mother Teresa’s. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.”

“Incredible,” said the man. “And whose clock is that one?”

St. Peter responded, “That’s Abraham Lincoln’s clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life.”

“Where’s President Bush’s clock?” asked the man.

“Bush’s clock is in Jesus’ office. He’s using it as a ceiling fan.

The Rude Guy

The Rude Guy has some interesting things to say…

Especially this, from episode #2:

And…Does George W. Bush have the reverse Midas’ Touch? Does everything he touches turn to shit? That would explain something…Here’s a man who ruined every enterprise he ever put his hands on, and then was allowed to become CEO of the biggest business in the world. The United States Government. He plundered the Treasury so he could plunder Iraq, and presided over the most corrupt administration in U.S. history. Will he be remembered as the worst president of all time? More inept and corrupt than Richard Nixon?…I certainly hope so.

I’d like to drop all three of them out of a plane over Papua New Guinea with a pocketknife and a book of matches, and see how well their vengeful God and their Social Darwinian, every-man-for-himself philosophy, fare out there, in the real jungle.

And this:

If you don’t understand that corporations are MORE corrupt, MORE inefficient, MORE wasteful, and much much MORE irresponsible, and heedless of human needs, than government is, you can easily be backed into a corner that ends on an absurd half-truth like…well, everyone knows that government is inefficient.

This guy has some very challenging views – and about time for some of the conventional dogma of our times to be challenged. Seems like a bit of a lefty – but that’s also no bad thing.

Hey little John… perhaps you should listen… oh no – I forgot, Little John is too busy right now with use #17.

101 uses for a John Howard

Check this out: 101 uses for a John Howard. Keep going back though, or sign up for their email notification. A new one comes out regularly.

I especially like #1, and this comment:

he’s been taking the piss for years – now’s your chance to give some back. Anyway, most Tory politicians would pay good money for this sort of thing

You have to read it for the comment to make sense!

The Lindeman Pics

An assortment of photos from the Lindeman Island work conference trip…

The view from my room… looking toward the beach… not bad, eh!

And this one, from the room door: looking at the boardwalk that heads up the hill:

From the pool, looking back:

Onthe sunset cruise:

This lot put a show on every night… a few pirates in town the other evening:

My colleague Darren doing a few magic tricks at the bar:

These wierd turkey things wandering around all over the place:

Pool:

Beach… and boats… and nice warm day (in July!):

When you arrive, this is what greets you:

Arrive and depart on this… does 20-something knots and cuts through the waves like you would not believe:

Well done, little brother

Little brothers entry in the Archibald is on display in Melbourne:

(click to see larger size)

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Might not have made it to the judging for the real thing, but a public display in the Crown Towers is a fair consolation prize.

Back from the Conference

So how was paradise?

OK, it was at Club Med, Lindeman Island. Thats in the Whitsunday Islands, near Mackay, Queensland.

A l..o..n..g.. trip to get there. I left home in Adelaide at 5am, and got off the boat on the Lindeman jetty at 5pm. Strangely enough… tired and cranky, with a headache.

Friday was cool and grey – lots of time in that conference room, and stomping up and down the 6.5 million stairs from the beach level to the conference venue. It got easier each time.

Saturday – warm & sunny. Again, lots of time in the conference room, so not much playing about in the sun.

The whole time was warm enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt, even when leaving the bar at midnight. Sure makes change to the damn cold Adelaide winter.

Coming home on Sunday was another long one – just not as bad as Thursday. Still a 10pm arrival home.

General impressions:

  • not a bad place! If going for only 2 full days, the travel does not make it worthwhile, but it’s certainly a nice place to visit (especially in winter when its so damn cold here). A little run-down, but adaequate. The idea of all-inclusive pricing is a good one – you can eat and drink pretty much what you like, when you like without needing to keep forking out more money.
  • Mobile phone coverage is patchy at best. It’s NICE to be hard to contact!
  • The place is very well set up for children, with plenty for them to do. Even very small children are well looked after, and in a lot of cases the staff will take children for activities and leave parents to get on with something else.
  • Good food, and plenty of it.
  • Friendly staff who go the extra mile to help out.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Photos coming soon – just as soon as i extract them from the camera, load them up, and fiddle them around a little.

And yes – they have palm trees!

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