The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Dry dull boring

Today I had to update a dry technical document (59 pages of description of a communication protocol).

I was adding a section to cover a part we left out.

These documents make riveting reading for the technically minded (ha ha), but I was challenged to write the update in Dr Suess style. So I did:

This ones odd, we use it when
The DCP has stuff to send

The stuff we send means many things
We make it up and give it wings
We send from DCP to GOC
Where it gets taken – for which?, for what?

It’s taken in and crunched about
Then maybe eaten
Or else sent out

This packet is the one we cook
To add the bits we overlooked
The bits we overlooked, you see
Were things we missed while drinking tea

When first we wrote ‘midst arguing
We though we’d covered everything
We mostly did, its nearly right
But what’s left out gives fright at night!

So this one’s here to catch the drips
From engineers, under whips

Fletcherise

My Grandfather was a life-long Fletcheriser.

Mealtimes with him took an hour of more, I’d never known the reason for his strange way of eating. Then suddenly, this, with thanks to World Wide Words, and my father who found it:

Fletcherise:

To chew thoroughly.

The word commemorates “The Great Masticator”, a title that these days might lead to hearers getting the giggles. He was Horace Fletcher, a food faddist of the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth. He advised people to chew each bite of their food 32 times, to eat small amounts, and only to eat when hungry and free from stress or anxiety. Hence this rhyme of the time:

Eat somewhat less but eat it more
Would you be hearty beyond fourscore.
Eat not at all in worried mood
Or suffer harm from best of food.
Don’t gobble your food but “Fletcherize”
Each morsel you eat, if you’d be wise.
Don’t cause your blood pressure e’er to rise
By prizing your menu by its size.

The heyday of Fletcherism was the early 1900s. Time Magazine wrote a retrospective on the craze in 1928, “For a time wealthy mothers counted their children’s jaw beats at the table while ragged micks in the streets threatened to ‘Fletcherize’ their little enemies.” A good example appeared in 1908 in Food Remedies by Florence Daniel: “But whatever is taken must be ‘Fletcherised,’ that is, chewed and chewed and chewed until it is all reduced to liquid.” The word for a while became frequent in writings of all sorts. P G Wodehouse used the term in The Adventures of Sally in 1922 to illustrate the serious nature of a dog fight: “The raffish mongrel was apparently endeavouring to fletcherize a complete stranger of the Sealyham family.”

Fletcherism was taken seriously by many people and had some distinguished adherents; it lasted until the 1930s. Unfortunately, eating meals took much longer than usual and there were complaints that it severely restricted the conversation at dinner parties.

Grandfather took this very seriously, and until his death diligently chewed every mouthful of food the required 32 times. He was never overweight either!

Be Scared, be very very scared

Today’s scare:

“If you vote for Mr Rudd the inflationary consequences will be so severe that a recession is inevitable”

Thus speaketh Mr Liddle John & Mr Costello.

Hmmm.

There are 4 weeks of the election campaign left. What can they use next week?

“If you vote for Mr Rudd he will come and eat your children.”

And the week after? Perhaps Mr Rudd will take away all your women? And after that? Who knows… Perhaps he’s so evil he can single-handedly change the direction of rivers, cause storms, steal all our money, or something similar!

Oh dear.

Better and better

101 Uses For a John Howard just gets better and better.

Check the latest entry: Green Machine.

I’m especially tickled by:

… there is a less dangerous source of power generation based on the principle of the Howard backflip. Once Johnny was hooked up to the generator with the monitor showing a continuous feed of opinion polls, the torque generated by the process of the little guy changing his story could power the planet.

Eventually, cloning and miniaturisation techniques would make possible the mass-production of the internal Howard engine, bringing an inexhaustible supply of energy to all humanity that, as long as the soundproofing was perfect, would be entirely free of toxic emissions.

Resources

Pet hate.

Hate hate hate.

“Resources”: used in companies to refer to their staff.

I really dislike this, though it’s all-pervasive: we don’t have Personnel Departments any more, we have Human Resources. It might sound more high-falutin, but it’s wank-factor 10 (on a scale from 0 to 10), and a move in the wrong direction.

Referring to people as resources is dehumanising. It comes with a connotation that people are interchangeable cogs, you buy them in boxes down at some store.

In a (heated) conversation about this at a previous employer, a project manager told me to pull my head in, with the explanation:

When we refer to resources to get a project done, we mean everything. We mean the people, the computers, the desks, chairs, software tools, and so on. It’s the whole lot.

This, frankly, is bullshit.

Computers, desks, chairs, and so on – tangible assets, can be obtained quickly and relatively easily. You can get all that stuff in a week, or less if you try hard.

Getting the right people to do the right job, at the right time is where creative and project work (and much other work) always suffers. Getting the right people can take weeks at best, months or even years at worst. And getting them interested and motivated to do what’s needed! Harrumph!

We all know, usually from bitter experience, that employing the wrong people usually produces a worse outcome than employing nobody.

We know the importance of having the right people.

So why the pretence?

Why do managers insist on the illusion that people are just interchangeable lumps, to be shuffled around as conditions permit? Why are people called resources?

People are people, they have talents – or lack thereof. The have strengths and weaknesses – and part of management is to use their strengths and make allowance for, or steer around, the weaknesses. They have a life outside work, they have families, they have feelings.

Treating people as numbers is not good for the people, and it’s not good for the managers of those people.

I’ve been preaching this at work (current work – not old work referred to above), the message is gradually sinking in, but getting old habits broken is difficult.

If we are to take this seriously, though, there are only two approaches possible:

1) Be specific. If you need desks and chairs, say so. If you need people, say so. And say what sort of person you want: What you want them to do. What sort of personality you want. What sort of experience you need. Don’t treat them as numbers.

- OR -

2) Drop the bullshit, don’t call people people, don’t call them resources either. Be completely up front about your purpose and intent. Refer to them as Carbon-Based Work Units.

You’ll find a low acceptance in the workplace for calling your staff CBWUs.

Try this at your workplace some time – next time some twit refers to Resources (meaning people), correct them: “sorry, not resources, CBWU’s”. Then explain. 1 in 10 will understand what you are getting at.

Help spread the word!

Together we can destroy the scourge of referring to people as resources!

Howards (History) Way

His Royal Highness, Prince Howard of Canberra wants all schools to teach Australian History, with an officially sanctioned curriculum.

I’ll bet this bit won’t be taught.

1931 / 1932 – The Great Depression.

Have a guess, readers, which countries had the highest unemployment during the Great Depression?

HANDS UP all those who guessed Germany (highest) and Australia (second highest)?

And which country had armed militias prepared to overthrow their elected governments during this period?

Yep – Australia again.

One of the more interesting – and lesser known – parts of Australia’s history is that during the 1914-1918 First World War, Australia agreed to help out the British Empire by supplying troops for use as English canon fodder.

However, Australia may have supplied the troops, but it was also required to pay them (their wages), pay for uniforms, pay for ammunition, pay for transport, pay for billeting, and on and on.

The money for all this was not available to the young Australian nation, so it was BORROWED – from English bankers. At the end of the war, Australia owed £350 million.

By about 1931, during the depression, the Australian war debt was £90 million (about $6.3 billion in todays terms). At the same time that the British had persuaded the USA to grant interest rate concessions on their war debts, they refused any such concessions for Australia.

The interest being paid by Australia was an unbelievable £36 million ($2.5 billion) per year!!

At that time the Federal Government had very limited revenue raising ability, this money was paid by the states.

The amount of interest being paid on war debts was crippling to Australia and led to massive political ramifications, including all state government policies being dictated by the British banker Sir Otto Niemeyer. This policy was for severe austerity measures, which in turn exacerbated the already large unemployment.

Consequences of the austerity measures included riots in Adelaide (the Beef Riot), Perth (Treasury Building Riot), Cairns (Bloody Sunday riots), and Sydney (Glebe and Newtown riots).

Only one politician was prepared to challenge the financial measures being imposed by the British – Jack Lang, Premier of New South Wales. Whilst he was denouncing the measures, and threatening (and later carrying through with the threat) to refuse to meet the interest payment, there was a young, aspiring Victorian politician who felt differently:

“If Australia is to surmount her troubles by the abandonment of traditional standards of honesty, justice and fair play, it would be far better for Australia that every citizen within her boundaries should die of starvation during the next few months.”

This address by Robert Gordon Menzies was greeted by rousing applause – such were the polarised times!

While political feelings were heated, shadowy groups were preparing to overthrow the governments of New South Wales and Victoria. In New South Wales, the New Guard was led by Eric Campbell, and at one time boasted over 100,000 members – prepared to remove the Labor government of the day. A similar group in Victoria was much less well known, and called the White Army. The best, most publicly known of the exploits of the New Guard was the slashing of the ribbon by Francis de Groot at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Such were the times of the Great Depression: Riots, 700,000 unemployed (and adding at the the rate of 5000 per week), massive political unrest, private armies, and a politician who would rather see the people starved than fight payment of usurious interest to Britain.

Will this be taught in the Australian history curriculum?

—————————–

References and further reading:

“1932″, Gerald Stone, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2006. (A cracking good read).

“Working for dole – Commonwealth relief during the Great Depression”, Don Fraser (National Archives)

“Riot acts – The history of Australian Rioting”, David Lowe, 1993, pp 16-18.

Australias WW1 debt to Britain, in 1931, in answer to a question in the Senate was £79,724,220 (National Archives).

The Australian newspaper, Peter Lalor Blog (Sword Point article, comments): “Feel free to call me Peter, Pete, or even mate. Feel free to explain to me why the UK never fully repaid its war debt to the USA but Britain demanded Australia pay it back. Also explain to me why it took the same country 60 years to pay off its WWII debt but never gave Australia such latitude.”

“The Centenary of Treasury 1901-2001, An Informal History”, Highlights (Part 3), Commonwealth of Australia, 2001: “Significant economic instability followed the end of the war. Australia emerged from the war weakened by the loss of the maimed and dead and by the monstrous burden of a £350,000,000 war debt…”

Three main points of the Lang Plan (from: http://www.alor.org/Library/Commonwealthbank.htm):
1. That until Great Britain agreed to fund Australia’s overseas debt in the same manner as America funded that of Great Britain, no further interest upon her overseas debt should be paid by Australia.
2. That the interest rate on this debt should be reduced to 3%, and that all interest rates on private finance should be correspondingly reduced.
3. That the existing system of currency be altered from a nominal gold standard to one more suited to modern conditions, preferably the goods standard.

This policy was greeted with a howl of mingled rage and fear from private banks, the insurance companies and the bond­holders in general. The press denounced Lang in the most unbridled terms, as a swindler and a thief, whose proper place was gaol. It published ‘scare headings’ such as ‘Lang will confiscate Savings Bank deposits’, ‘Lang will smash your bank and seize your savings’, while politicians vied with each other in prophesying the bank’s ruin in every newspaper – one Federal Member publicly stated that he gave the bank four days to run (Hansard, Vol. 128. P. 1087/8, 1181).

Malcolm you old lefty!

Malcolm Fraser should have been a member of the Labor Party.

Over at Australians All, he has written a short article which I’m blatantly stealing and quoting in full in order to make sure i’m not savaged by links going bad in future (The emphasis, though, is mine):

Judith Brett, professor of Politics at La Trobe University, has compared the way Robert Menzies dealt with the perceived threat of communism to the way John Howard has and is dealing with terrorism. “The big moral question though for any historical judgement of John Howard is his handling of asylum seekers and the war on terror,” she wrote. “Did he manipulate fear, racism and xenophobia to win the 2001 election? Has he over reacted to the threat of Islamic terrorism by introducing draconian legislation which breaches fundamental principles of civil liberties?”

These questions go to the very heart of the current debate about Australian values. No government has spoken more of what it calls Australian values than the current one, but the government has implied that those values are unique to Australia and that some people don’t adhere to or accept them. So often it seems to glorify the outcome of war.

It is a good thing that more and more young Australians recognise Anzac Day and give thanks for the courage, the heroism, the mateship of Australians and others who fought at Anzac Cove. It is a good thing to remember all those who fought for freedom and liberty. It is questionable though whether this relatively new found sense of nationalism carries with it only “good” for the future of Australian society.

The great Australian icon of Anzac was born out of a political decision by a British cabinet minister that was unrealistic, that cost thousands of lives and had no chance of success. As we remember the heroism of those fighting Australians, we should also remember the futility and terror of war. Especially we should always let the Anzac story remind us that ordinary people can be sacrificed by political decisions which are sometimes unforgivably wrong. Do we use that experience to caution us against leaders who campaign using fear of the unknown, to magnify a danger out of all proportion?

I was speaking only the other day to somebody who suggested that a nation cannot be truly a nation unless it has been bloodied in war. We must hope to build a world better than that. We need to guard against those who seem to use, even glorify, heroism as a means of upholding those same values in a new war. There is nothing about the Anzac legend that suggests Australians should forgo any of their basic rights as human beings because of the War on Terrorism.

Extreme action by any government needs to be questioned with great severity. One of the tragedies of Australia in recent years is that a weak opposition has failed to question, and has often supported, government decisions which many argue are misguided and wrong.

How many of us give due thought to the fact that once a government accepts that the Rule of Law and due process under the law is broken in relation to any one individual or to a small group of people, then the Rule of Law, effectively, does not apply to any citizen of that country. Unless such a government is hauled back, as it can be in the United States by their Bill of Rights, by a political opposition that is vigorous or by public opinion, that breach in the Rule of Law tends to grow larger as every moment passes. Four hundred years ago evidence taken under torture was outlawed in British courts. Now it is accepted by the United States and implicitly by the Australian Government. Is this an advance, or is a step backwards into a darker age?

Too many of us seem prepared to accept that the Rule of Law need not apply to people who are different. If it does not apply to every person without exception, it cannot be guaranteed to protect any person from the arbitrary exercise of power by government. It is not possible to exempt any person, for reason of background, of origin, of race, or circumstance. You can’t legislate retrospectively to make a person, doing something lawful at the time, guilty after the event.

The Rule of Law is indeed the most precious aspect of our democracy and it is the only protection that average people have against arbitrary and excessive use of power by government.

In other exciting news!!!

I had to visit the local GP a few days ago… routine thingy, nothing important.

He looked at his records. Conversation ensued:

Him: “I told you before that you had to get a cholesterol test done, and you haven’t been back for it yet”

Me: “Er… yes… (long pause) I keep forgetting.”

Him: “Yes, you do, don’t you. The form I have for this test is dated May 2005!”

Me: “Oops”

Him: “Do it soon. I’m here early in the mornings, why don’t you come before work some time?”

Me: “How about I leave it until my (mumble)th birthday, a nice present!”

Him: “No, that’s 6 years away, nice try but too long.”

Me: “Drat! Foiled again!”**

So today I was up at the crack of dawn, and standing in the doctors office at 7:45 am having blood sucked out. What fun!

I’ve been on a strict cholesterol controlling diet of dark chocolate and red wine, so I figure there won’t be any problems. :)

——-

** = a certain amount of artistic license used in this line

Why no election called yet?

So why, oh why, has the turd-who-cannot-be-flushed not called the election yet?

I’ll hazard a guess at the answer:

He’s spending about $5 million a week of OUR money on advertising.

While he’s spending OUR money on advertising workplace IR laws being OK, better super, tough on drugs, blah blah blah, he can claim that it is all legitimate because it’s about government programs.

The moment he calls the election, the Liberal Party will have to pay for anything the remotely smells of advertising the policies or benefits of the party, and the libs are skint.

So, he holds on, spending OUR money at the rate of about a million bucks per working day, in the vain hope that some of the message will stick.

Well, John, I hope the public are not so gullible.

Sooner or later you’ll get flushed! All turds go, sooner or later. Some just need more work than others.

What purpose the cat’s tail?

Have you ever noticed that cats like to stay warm?

Years ago, when my brother and sister were about 5 or 6, I convinced them that cats store sunlight in their tails, where they can use it later to stay warm when there is no sun around.

I’ve tried the same on my kids – it worked for a while. Now it’s just a case of Dad Being Silly Again :)

Mr Google, why are you punishing me?

I’ve been de-indexed by Mr Google!

For about the last 2.5 years, one of my number one page views was the recipe for creamy garlic prawns (which incidentally we did again last weekend and gee it’s good).

But in August the traffic coming here, and the searches, dropped like a stone and has not been the same since.

There is now no record at all of this site in Google. Goodness knows why – perhaps I offended them somehow!

A play with their webmaster tools is less than informative.

One wonders.

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