The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Unusual Investment

I’ve found a most peculair investment.

You can buy a barrel of new whiskey from Lark Distillery in Tasmania. It will be kept in a Govt supervised bond store for 4 or 5 years and pay a return of between 9% and 10.5% (depending on how many barrels you buy), compounded per year, when the distillery buys it back.

So there will be capital gains tax to pay at the buy-back time, and a barrel costs $3685.

So what I want to know is, what’s the catch?

Has anybody else heard of this, or done it?

It seems like a fairly good deal but I would not want to get stung if anything goes wrong!

Paralysed with insanity

Think back a bit:

1960: Israeli nuclear facility claimed to be for research and “peaceful purposes”. (Sound familiar?)

1964: Israeli nuclear reactor operational, weapons program starts in secret. (Gosh what a surprise)

1968 (Approx): Israel has nuclear weapons.

1981: Israel bombs nuclear reactor in Iraq to prevent an Iraqi nuclear weapon being created.

1986: US bombs Tripoli (Libya), ostensibly because they don’t like Colonel Gadaffi.

1990: First gulf war – Iraq being silly – and thinking they had US blessing (or so some say).

2003: Second gulf war – searching for Iraqi nuclear & biological weapons, found not to exist.

In the last few years, Korea and Iran, who seem to present far greater threats, have been left to get on with the business of making some very nasty bang-machines.

You have to wonder if the folks in Israel and the USA have been asleep at the wheel.

They have been so busy finding the weapons of mass deception, and planting democracy in the middle east (manic laughter) that something far worse has been slowing building.

You also have to wonder why they don’t just go in there now and bomb to heck out of the nuclear facilities in these counties instead of a long drawn-out process of inflicting sanctions. Imposing sanctions just starves the people of these counties, it has little effect on the leadership. So why not just get it over with?

(Not that I’m particularly in favour of bombing the heck out of things, but there seems to be a huge hypocrisy, or there is something else going on that we don’t know about. Either way, it’s sinister.)

Stupid b*&%$rds banning light bulbs

Oh what a stupid bunch of politicians we have.

Now they will save us by banning plain old light bulbs.

Minister Turnbull, you really should go back to being an Investment *anker. You obviously did that a damn sight better.

So, in 3 years, Minister Bullturn wants to make the sale of incandescent lamps illegal because they don’t meet minimum energy standards.

The only lamps that will be suitable will be compact fluorescent, standard white fluorescent strip lighting, and may (just maybe) some of the, more efficient halogen lamps (which are another story again in terms of power consumption).

Notice anything here? They are all a lot more expensive to to purchase.

Notice anything else? The only type that drop straight in as a replacement for the standard incandescent are the compact fluoro.

I’ve been running about 1/3 of my house on Compact Fluorescent lamps for years. These lamps never live up to the claims (and I only ever buy the more expensive big-name brands). Some observations:

  • The claims for lamp life are not true. They claim usually 5000 hours, or 8000 hours depending on manufacturer. I typically get 3000 to 4000 hours, and this is with turning the lamp on and off once each day, and running it for about 6 hours per day. Rather than trust the hype, I now write the install date on each lamp when it is put in. With the cost of electricity and lamp taken into account, they are still marginally cheaper to run, but it is not a huge saving. It comes in about $1 per lamp per year.
  • When they fail, about 1 in 3 do so spectacularly. This usually comprises a very bright flash, a very loud bang, a large puff of smoke, and requires scraping the person nearby off the floor – once they recover from the shock. I’ve been told that some fail by exploding and showering the room with little bits of glass – and releasing the mercury vapour within.
  • Compact Fluorescent lamps are not well suited to applications where they are frequently switched on and off. Using them for these applications reduces the lamp life, which in turn means they are LESS economic. If less economic because of reduced lamp life, it is not big leap to presume that the extra carbon dioxide released in the manufacture of such a complex product (compared to a standard bulb) will tip the scales the wrong way – releasing MORE carbon dioxide overall – exactly the opposite of the claimed reason for doing all this.
  • Some fittings cannot take Compact Fluorescent lamps. For example, about 1/2 of the fittings in my house have not been changed to CF because the lamps don’t fit. Mr Bullturn, will you pay for new fittings and an electrician to change them over for me? If you won’t, then why should I ? the manufacture of new fittings and disposal of the old, again tips the greenhouse balance the wrong way.
  • Most Compact Fluorescent lamps cannot be dimmed. If you want to dim your lighting, you won’t be able to. There are a couple of brands that claim to be dimmable – but they are not as good as their claims. Some can be dimmed over a limited brightness range – but they can only be dimmed down from full-on – so starting the lamp at a dimmed level does not work!

Other concerns:

  • Some machinery, such as a lathe, must be run with an incandescent lamp on it. A fluorescent lamp causes a strobe effect which can make the machine look like it is not running. Using a lathe with only fluorescent lamps can lead to very unpleasant accidents.
  • What about fridges, freezers, and ovens? All applications where incandescent is the only feasible choice.
  • The lamps contain mercury – which is not a very friendly element. It can be recovered, but only if the lamps are not put in the normal recycling collection, or in the garbage. How are they to be collected? How much extra energy will be used to separate, collect, and transport the used lamps?

I detect a massive beat-up, by a federal government that is terrified of losing the next election, and desperately trying to buy the green vote.

Imagine other, more effective things that could be done instead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Ban the sale of all cars with engine capacity > 3 lites. (But this would lead to howls of outrage from the Australian car makers who live in some bizarre time warp and insist on making fuel-guzzlers.)
  • Force new houses to have minimum standards of insulation, and eaves. Why are houses allowed to be built without eaves? (But this would lead to an outcry from the builders and their pressure groups, with much wailing about how the poor first-home buyers would be the ones to suffer.)
  • Start a free government audit of older houses, offering energy conservation advice and subsidies for installing new or better insulation. (Many houses built around 1890 to 1920 have insulation, but it is a fire-trap, because it is sea-weed!)
  • Fund the CSIRO to do some selective breeding of cows and sheep, with the aim of reducing flatulence (seriously). (But this is too visionary and has a long time to come to fruition – we cannot have politicians with a long-term view, can we?)
  • Issue the population with free charcoal pills, to reduce human flatulence (seriously, again). Getting the public to consume pills issued by the Government doesn’t stand a lot of chance of success, though, does it?!

Attacking light bulbs is a cheap and easy target, with the costs of a ban to be borne by householders who (they hope) will be too stupid to understand the impact until it is too late. There is no vocal interest group who can leap up and down about the impact. Joe and Joesephine public won’t know how much this will cost until the election is long gone – and maybe some other government will be taking the blame for it.

Implementation will be up to the States because it seems the Federal Government has no jurisdiction to make such a ban. Next there will be a series of Federal announcements blaming the failure of this wonderful initiative on the vandalous Labor states, who will now begin raising objections about its implementation.

Just wait and see!

——

See Darren’s rant as well.

Johno your time has come

Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the USA, is visiting the wide brown land of Oz. Presumably this is so that our Dear Leader, John Howard, can do some more sucking up.

Methinks JWH, the Deputy Sheriff (yee-hah!) has completely lost the plot:

- Ranting about Kevin Rudd wanting to take Australian troops out of Iraq.

- Inviting that terrible Dick Cheney to Australia – ostensibly to thank us for all we have down to help out the USA. Does that mean to thank us for all the brown-nosing?

Both play to the opposition. The public mood seems to be shifting to the view that Iraq was a dangerous misadventure founded on lies, so now Howard has grabbed two shovels and is digging his grave even faster.

Johno – do you remember how Cheney shot his lawyer? You need to be careful around this guy!

(And for those who think the link above is to a news site… its not. Try it and see!!)

424, only 424!!

Huh.

I rate #424 in the list of the “noisiest bloggers in australia“.

Thought I was doing better than that. Hmph.

Fawlty Towers

The trip to China was made a bit more complicated than usual by Chinese New Year.

Huge numbers have about a week off, and are traveling all over China, or all over the world. Flights out of Hong Kong in the last few days have been full – damn close to standing room only, and hotels are booked out.

Hotels are booked out… this meant that we could not get into either of the places we normally use in Shenzhen – so we ended up in the Luo Hu hotel, where I’m convinced that Fawlty Towers was used as the staff training film.

Let’s summarise the experience:

  • None of the staff could speak more then 5 words of English (but hey – this is China, we can live with that). They understood “Check-in”, “Check-out”, and “Blekfast”. After that… forget it.
  • They issued Blekfast vouchers for the buffet which was supposed to be included in the price. I haven’t seen vouchers used in a hotel for years! 4 vouchers, one for each of 4 mornings. All completely written in Chinese, and stamped with something in red.
  • The Blekfast vouchers turned out to be marked for each day – it was not ok to just present a voucher, it had to be the CORRECT voucher. Why?
  • Blekfast was perhaps better described as Blech-fast. Not much there, and very strange.
  • On the last 2 days, there was no Blekfast at all. No explanation, just no food! Fortunately there was a supermarket and (strange) bakery down the road where we could go to buy something on the way to the office. Come checkout time, the unused vouchers had to be handed back! No discount from the rate for an unused Blekfast, either.
  • This hotel has floor-wardens!! Near the lifts was a small thing like a lectern on each guest floor, and somebody was there to periodically and seemingly at random, button-hole guests and ask questions. Hard when all they speak is Chinese. And they had pads of forms to fill out. And for what purpose? Weird.
  • The hotel phone system was completely broken. It had instructions on how to make an international call, but it did not work. I tried every combination known, and used the correct international access codes, but each time I would get about 1/3 the way through dialing a number and it would break in with some odd recorded message. Phoning home was impossible.
  • After a few days where I could only call from the office and leave messages on the answering machine at home, SWMBO tried to call me at the hotel. They must have found the one person who could speak 10 words of English. This person assured her that I was not staying there!
    • Making up the room was very odd. It seemed to be made up about 3 or 4 times a day. If I came back at the end of a day, and went out again, things would be moved. Not just a bit, like a “turn-down” service. A lot. Things in the bathroom came and went. Stuff was shifted or adjusted. Weird.
    • This hotel has a disco. On floors 2 through 5 (go figure). I was on floor 15, but all night long, every night, from 10 pm to 8 am, was subjected to “doof doof doof”. All night. Every night. And from 10 floors below. And loud enough to get through the ear-plugs I jammed in each night. You have to wonder what sort of concrete was used to build the place.
    • Most hotels take a credit card imprint so they can charge if you do a runner. This place charged an up-front deposit of about 120% of the total stay charge! We are hoping like hell they will refund it as part of the final check-out and charging. It’s a long way to go back if there is a dispute.
    • The sign inside the door. One of the more interesting pieces of Chinglish:
    dscn1498.JPG

    You will all be very pleased to know that I VERY carefully street tripped ticket the yellow handbill defends to fall into trap to cheat!

    But perhaps the most unexpected was the extras supplied in the bathroom:

    dscn1496.JPG

    Yes, thats right: “Miss World Final appointed products”… 2 condoms. And something in a long thin box. Given the couple pictured on the box, I can only hazard a guess at what what it was.

    Back from HK and China (again)… Next job!

    A short post until I get some of the (small number) of photos out of the camera.

    Got back from Hong Kong, and did something clever this time. I made sure I only had a small bag that I could carry on to the plane – so no checked baggage to collect in Melbourne.

    This meant that instead of waiting an hour for baggage to arrive and then joining the massed throng waiting to go through incoming quarantine, I could just walk straight up – I was out of immigration, customs and what-not in under 15 minutes – a record!

    I was then able to go straight to the domestic terminal to get the connecting flight back to Adelaide. When there I found there was a flight that was boarding, and Qantas were able to get me swapped onto that so I did not have to wait an extra hour in Melbourne. Full marks to Qantas for customer service. I had thought there would be no way they would switch me to a flight that was already boarding, but they did. I arrived home at least an hour earlier than expected. Wonderful!

    As usual, I did not get much more than about 45 minutes sleep on the flights, so after close on 24 hours with no sleep, I crashed. Saturday was pretty slow.

    Today has been grape-picking and wine-making day. That means the grapes are picked, and this years red wine is starting. Due to birds and weird weather, the crop is way, way, way down. Instead of a maximum of 30 litres in a good year, this year is likely to be about 8 to 10 litres. The colour looks good, though, and what there is should be loaded with sugar and flavour. Sometime in the next 2 weeks we’ll have an idea of how it is working out. The real test will be about 5 years away, though.

    Checkem Dese Links

    I’ve discovered a few other Adelaide writers, or bloggers, who surprise on the positive side.

    A couple, especially, get notable mentions.

    Mike Fitz (from Brisbane) introduced me to Recap, The Half-hearted Hack – an Adelaide journalist (or so it seems), with a wonderful, witty style. Each post is thoughtful and well written. Oh, how I wish I could write that well! Pop over there now and read about Seth Efrica.

    And somewhere along the way I found Adelaide through my lens. Bob Phillips has a photo each day of something Adelaide, or South Australian. Another case where, oh, how I wish I could take photographs that well! A really expensive good camera would of course be a good start!

    Trawling The Adelaide Index will, I’m sure, uncover a few more gems. One only needs a few more hours in each day.

    (A scheduled-in-advance post brought to you through the wonders of time-travel and technology)

    Reflecting on the nature of evil

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some people in this world who are evil.

    Evil, in the old fashioned sense of having bad in them. Bad which remains and sustains and causes hurt and misery to others.

    Irrespective of the charitable view that everybody has to have at least some good in them, there are a small number of people who simply don’t.

    Unpleasantness in people can take many forms, which we all know only too well: bullying, harassment, persecution, selfishness, manipulation, greed.

    There seems, though, a distinction between unpleasantness and evil. This is, of course, highly subjective.

    For me, the distinction is whether the unpleasantness is sustained and systematic, or whether it comes and goes.

    People who are under pressure will, of course, exhibit undesirable behaviour. So will those who are ignorant, and sometimes those who are poorly educated.

    For most of these, their lives and pressures wax and wane, their bad sides come and go, but by and large they are fairly inoffensive.

    A small number, though, show their badness over and over, unremitting, unrelenting. These, then, are the evil ones.

    A number of examples spring to mind:

    - Andrew R, who took at set against me at high school. Honestly, truly, I never provoked him. He simply decided I was the geeky kid who could be beaten up, spat upon, kicked and jeered at. He was a thoroughly unpleasant young man. I saw him again, years later in a shopping centre and he verbally attacked me, unprovoked! Conclusion: The guy was evil.

    - My former neighbour (yes, liddle bro, I know you are sick of hearing about him – but think for a moment of some of your own neighbours). This man was selfish, stupid, and inflicted himself on everybody around. Asking him to stop on numerous occasions only made him worse. His behaviour could not be explained by ignorance – because he knew exactly what he was doing. Another one who was evil. (Though 18 months later I harbour a small secret schadenfreude about him. More on that another day).

    - Some former managers of various members of the family. Some were control freaks, some were incompetent, some were hypocrites, some made stupid rules for others and behaved differently themselves. Sometimes these people were just ignorant or stupid, but there are one or two who were just downright evil. Can’t be more specific – some of the people concerned might read this or hear about it and get all funny about confidentiality agreements.

    - A few of the religious zealots I’ve come across over the years. Those with beliefs are just fine by me – provided they live by what they expect of others. (And this applies to religion and politics! Just think of the preachers and politicians who go on about family values but can’t keep their dick in their own trousers!)
    A couple of years ago, during difficult circumstances with an employer and some other things going on, SWMBO and I were given some good and simple advice: “Stay away from the evil ones”: You can’t fight them and win, the only way to preserve your sanity is to get away.

    I began thinking about this again today after being shown some old letters of my grandfather’s. It finally explains part of the great family split, and why there is a side of the family that I’ve never met. Of course, what I have seen is one side of a story and passing judgement now on events of 30 to 60 years ago is difficult. But it certainly seems that one member of the family, a long way back, could best be described as evil.

    Where do these rambling thoughts lead?

    Simple, really:

    - Try to be understanding of others, and fair in all you do. That alone will set you apart from the madding crowd.

    - Stay away from the evil ones!

    (A scheduled-in-advance post brought to you through the wonders of time-travel and technology)

    Sniff… sniff… is that an election I smell coming?

    Carbon trading schemes…

    Nuclear power (suddenly fairly quiet)…

    LETS FIX THE RIVER SYSTEMS!!! …

    Suddenly Howards mob are picking off the Oppositions ideas, or grabbing populist notions and running with them.

    Anybody smell an election on the way?

    (A scheduled-in-advance post brought to you through the wonders of time-travel and technology)

    Another hiatus, or two

    It’s been a busy time in the Dump household, so not much posting for the last week.

    That, and during a migration of these wonderous high-quality ramblings from one provider to another, I managed to break the “RSS” feed.

    So dear readers, those of you who use RSS and other similar technological goodies have been getting much wierdness for the last week or two. Embarrassing, really, it looks like an accidental typo when trying to sort out part of the electronical moving from here to there and back again. It’s all fixed now, but clearing your browser cache might be a wise move.

    Not much posting coming up next week either – I’ve been summoned to Hong Kong and China, again, for meetings and such. Leaving Sunday, returning early Saturday. Coming back through that hell-hole known as Melbourne International Airport with the 10 other flights that arrive on a Saturday morning, through an international terminal that has the capacity for 1/2 that. I’m expecting to miss my connecting flight back to Adelaide, again. At least this time it won’t come as a surprise. Oh joy!

    In the meantime, though, I’ll pop on a scheduled post for the middle of the week – to provoke thought, or just to provide general merriment or entertainment.

    Finally, a good one

    About a month ago, I bought a new PC.

    As usual, I did it my way (sing along, now…) by buying a big box full of parts and assembling it myself. I selected the not-quite-top-of-the-range of everything: processor, motherboard, disks, RAM – all the stuff to make it go fast.

    Now, with 2GB of RAM, and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.4 GHz, I finally feel that I have a PC that performs reasonably well.

    I chose the Core 2 E6600. It’s ridiculously expensive but it offers the best compromise between $ and performance from their range. It has loads of on-chip cache to make memory access scream along. Two processors in there (each running at 2.4 GHz) makes for plenty of performance.

    A lot of little things seems to make a difference over the old Pentium 4, also running at 2.4 GHz. Firstly, the memory bus is interleaved so it can switch between accessing two memory blocks (from two sticks of RAM) at the same time, effectively doubling main memory access rates. Probably more importantly is the 4MB of on-chip cache memory (compare with the old P4 with 256 K). That, and a faster hard drive and I think I can finally declare:

    Intel finally have a processor for a desktop PC that’s not too bad. 

    A software developers lot is not a happy one

    Raymond Chen summarises the lot of the software developer so well that I’ll blatantly quote and rip off:

    The ironic thing about fixing a bug, or at least once I mention on this web site that I fixed a particular bug, is that people immediately complain that I didn’t fix some other bug. One school of complaint believes that cosmetic bugs should be fixed first: “You suck. I mean, look at these egregious cosmetic bugs. If you can’t get even those right, then obviously you can’t get the other stuff right either.” The opposite school believes that cosmetic bugs should be fixed last: “You suck. I mean, why are you fixing cosmetic bugs when there are these other bugs!”

    But at least both camps agree on one thing: I suck.I think I’d be better off if I said I didn’t fix any bugs at all.

    Catchin’ a wave!

    Cricket Australia have banned the Mexican Wave!

    Hah!

    Good luck!

    Driving home tonight I had the cricket on, not consciously, if was just on and my mind was only 1/2 on what was on the radio, so I didn’t get around to changing to something else.

    The commentators were saying that today there have been a lot of the crowd starting Mexican waves – a lot more than usual.

    Says something about Australians desire to thumb their noses at authority. :) :)

    Coffee

    This one came in the email today. A bit cutesy, but the sentiments are worth dwelling on for a moment.

    A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

    Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

    When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:

    If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.

    What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

    Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

    Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee.

    “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”

    Live simply.
    Love generously.
    Care deeply.
    Speak kindly.

    The future has a peculiar way of arriving unannounced.

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