The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Pig of a thing

Does anybody else think that this Swine Flu thing is getting a little out of hand?

My sister in Germany reports that it rates not a barest mention in Berlin.

Friends wtih relatives in Denmark report that it has no visibility in their news.

Those who have been found the have “Swine Flu” are back at school/work within a week. You can be off for that long with a heavy cold. REAL FLU knows you over, shakes, fever, aches. REAL FLU is so bad you can’t get out of bed for 2 or 3 days, and will be sick for about a fortnight.

This all seems like a huge beat-up. Who benefits from this bullshit?

Friday Photo

Todays Friday Photo is brough on a Saturday (again).

The Malls Balls

(click to go full size)

Rundle Mall, in Adelaide, is THE shopping street. And Bert Flugelman’s Big Silver Balls have been a fixture for about 30 years. The sculpture is known, somewhat unkindly, as “The Malls Balls”. Or in my case: Bert’s Balls.

If you look carefully, you’ll see the subject in the reflection… hunt carefully for Borders Books.

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.

Share options and start-ups

Todays Financial Review carries an article whining about the new tax rules on shares options.

A quick summary: The government have changed the tax rules so that shares granted are taxed on receipt, instead of when the shares are eventually sold.

Example (taken directly from the newspaper in another article): Suppose company X has little money and does not want to pay big salaries. So it gives it’s employees share options in the company. The option entitles the person to receive shares at a fixed price at some later date – usually provided certain performance targets are met. The assumption is that the shares will be worth more than is paid for them, and when sold the government gets its slice via capital gains tax and the employee cleans up. This compensates for a lousy salary.

[Just to muddy the waters, examples are being thrown around citing cases where employees receive shares, rather than options, to prove that there will in the long term be less tax paid. Gah. Keep the story consistent, please.]

The particular whinge is for start-ups who want to issue options rather than shares, and do this instead of salary – or in leiu of a larger salary.

The reason the government have changed the rules is simple – it’s a loophole. If an employee is paid in cash, then income tax is paid. If an empl0yee is paid in kind (school fees, house mortgage, etc) then Fringe Benefits tax is paid. So why should the issue of shares or options be any different?

Next… bear with me… Options.

The trouble with options is folk (and especially company directors) think they are somehow magical: they cost the company nothing but give great value to the employee. The ultimate Magic Pudding. The trouble with options is they are a RIGHT to do something at a later time. There is no obligation to exercise the right. (Suppose the share price tanks and is below the price at which the options can be used to buy shares… you’d hardly exercise the options if you could buy cheaper on the open market.) So placing a value on the options is difficult. If the market value rises, the options are worth something. If the market value falls, the options are just a bunch of junk.

So the effect of the changes to the tax law is to make it difficult or expensive to issue options, and doubly so because tax has to be paid up front for something of unknown future value.

Perhaps it’s a good time to get rid of the unscrupulous and immoral practice of issuing options!

If start-up companies REALLY want to give their employees some stake in the company with a future benefit through share sales, they can just fall back on the good old fashioned way. SELL THE EMPLOYEES THE SHARES! This is done all the time. It’s called a Capital Raising.

Furthermore, in a private company, or an unlisted public company – there is no open market, so the share price is whatever the parties agree it should be. There is plenty of scope for selling employees shares at an (agreed) low price. No options. No grant of free shares. No problem. Stop bloody whining.

Friday Photo

Wordpress has a bug which means my attempts to write the Friday Photo in advance are failing miserably.

So Friday Photo today comes on a Saturday.

Today’s is another sequence – today we have the journey to the top of the world. Or more specifically, up Mount Titlis (and don’t giggle – THERE IS A REASON it has that name) in Switzerland.

Todays link is only to the first in a sequence of about 10. Each has a small commentary. Mouse over / find the navigation arrow buttons to move through the pictures. The picture below is about half way through the sequence, when we are at the top of the 10,000 foot mountain.

The Journey Up Mount Titlis

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.

Not good enough

Oh yawn. That time again. Yep, it’s Wednesday, which means its not-enough-day. You get the drill by now. No? Well, go read the link then, and then wallow in 6 months worth of Wednesday displays of what’s allowed in other cities around the world, but is not acceptable in little prudish Adelaide. Well, specifically, Tea Tree Gully council.

So, today, right outside the local Catholic Church round the corner from where we stayed in Paris comes this:

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And what liddle Catholic Church might that have been, you might ask? Why, only this one:

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That’s right – just down from Sacré Coeur. And OK, it was not right next door, it was a couple of stops on the Metro.

But nevertheless, can you ever see this being allowed anywhere in Australia? Let alone Adelaide?!

Piddling Kiddies. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Speed Rabbit Pizza

Saw this place in Paris.

You have to wonder what they were thinking.

dsc_1790

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.

Friday Photo(s)

Today’s Friday Photo comes courtesy of my former work colleague and distant relation (by marriage to a 17th cousin 9th removed, or something like that) David B, who produces Mataro Road wines from Hope Valley in South Australia.

Each year he also usually has an Autumn Jazz-Out-The-Back day – with lunch, wine, and about 4 hours of performance from a local Jazz Group.

So this week – we have – Mataro Road Wines:

Mataro Road

I especially like the reflected colours in the bottles.

And, a few of this years Jazz Day performers:

Peter The Professor

The Big G Sax

Click each to go to full size.

Turning off gravity

Some bright spark at work pointed this out, and I thought it worth posting here just for the heck of it.

http://steveblank.com/2009/05/13/gravity-will-be-turned-off/

Not good enuf

After a break of a couple of weeks, it’s time for the naughty bits to make a come-back. Pun! Geddit! Oops. Bad. Bad pun. Must not have fun about naughty bits in the not-good-enough segment.

So, why are we here? To recap: The prudes in the local council – The City of Tea Tree Gully, banned a couple of nudes from the 2008 council art exhibition. Can’t have Tits in Tea Tree Gully. Wonder about the little birdies. They’re called tits, aren’t they? Must be called something else hereabouts. Can’t use names that might incite the natives to naughtiness and depravity, can we?

So each Wednesday, we’ve had a photo of (shudder) Naughty Bits from somewhere in Europe, and today I’ve got back into the swing. Plenty more pics to come yet!

So, todays nasty, depraved, naughty picture comes from the seat of European deravity: Paris. Worse, worse!!! From a place visited by millions!!!

Horrors  - the Arc De Triomphe, slap bang in the middle of Paris – a grand monument, right at the end of the Champs-Élysées, contains pornography! On public display!! Oh shock. Cover your eyes!  How could they do this:

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Dangly bits. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

And another thing

I didn’t watch the Budget speech.

So much has been strategically leaked to the press in the last week that we must know it all anyhow.

I seriously hope a few things will be changed:

- Age discrimination in tax rates. Why is it that people over a certain age can have a take-home pay of over $65K per year and pay zero tax? Us working mugs subsidise this. Thanks Mr Costello for that one – buying off the grey vote. Needs to be undone.

- A new higher tax rate for the ridiculously high income earners. Perhaps a new marginal rate of say 55% cutting in a about $500K.  And then a rate of 65% cutting in at about $1M. This will be a big disincentive to offering stratospheric salaries to all those CEOs whose pay has gone ballistic over the last few years.

- I don’t really care much about the Medicare safety net. But the private health insurance rebate (much hated by the socialised medicine lobby groups) should stay UNTIL the government can get the cost of health care rises to equal inflation. Seeing as much of the cost of health care is payingthe health professionals, this means containing the incomes of the medical profession.

- It would be nice to see the first-home-owners-bribe getting a phased reduction. Maybe not elimination – I can’t ask for that, this would be hypocrisy. After all, I benefited from a simialr grant back in 1987. Mine was for $1000, mind. So paring back the current grants of something crazy like $25K would be a good move.

- Some of the defence spending (which is all money going overseas) is just crazy. Defence has had above-everyone-else budget increases for years. Time for a bit of a look at where all those dollars go.

- There’s much ado about middle class welfare. Perhaps a little surgery in the land of upper class welfare would be a good thing, too.

Unerringly unblurring

We found some articles in a photography magazine about software that can remove blur from photos – to handle either motion blur or when you didn’t quite get the focus right.

Two of these are freeware, one needs a small payment.

So far, 2 of the 3 programs have had a test run with very mixed results.

The one you pay for has done an outstanding job on one of 3 test photos (and been completely terrible on the other 2). Of course, the best results were on the very first image tried – leading to elation and thoughts of “oh wow this is great lets rush off and try and fix lots of others and gee this is good and I better tell everybody about it and…”. Then the let down when it did a terrible job on the next few tried. And it has the user interface from hell.

One of these programs that is free seems to be immensely powerful, with all the functions of Photoshop, and all sorts of goodies. But, there is no help, and little to tell you what to do. A hackers paradise, but painful, oh so painful, to try and figure out what it does. Results so far, on the test photos, have not been enough to warrant further consideration. This could be that those photos just can’t be rescued, or it could be finger-trouble, not knowing how to drive it.

And program #3 is a java program – which has until now been a disencentive to try it. Perhaps it’s worth a go anyhow. Just have to make sure Java is installed first.

These things… they are meant to be easy. Oh bliss! Far, far from it.

—–

EDIT: Well the Java program aint all that flash either. It’s slow, the user interface is terrible (a standout worst of the three), and it’s clunky to start it up.

On the plus side, a lot more fiddling with the free-program-that-has-no-help does seem to be yielding results – another photo so far has been refocussed quite well with it. Still a pig to drive though.

Recommendations so far:

Focus Magic: Costs US$45, works well for some things. Easy to drive until you want to tweak and then does not have keyboard accelerators. 4 million mouse clicks is not nice.

Image Analyser: Free. Good for geeks. Needs lots of searching on-line to find how to use it. Seems to be immensely powerful. Test / Preview modes don’t seem to work very well.

Unsharp: Free. Needs java. Slow. Awful user interface. Works better on defined size square images. Other sizes cause conniptions and make it run slower.

So far I’m leaning toward Image Analyser (and a lot of fiddling… refocussing photos is very time consuming).

Up the mighty revolution

Excellent article about newspapers and the internet revolution. Give yourself 15 minutes to read it. Worth the effort.

Friday Photo

Todays Friday photo is a cult phenomenon. Russells Pizza at Willunga. Open only 2 or 3 nights a week, and book in advance (or BYO table). Want a candle? No worries, it comes in a jam tin. Cutlery? Hmmm… Pizzas? Divine!

Russell's Pizza

Click to go to full size.

And the previous photo (click the “Previous” label after after following the photo above) is also at Russell’s.

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.

Friday Photo

Todays Friday photo is a bit late. It’s appearing on Saturday.

Water

Seems appropriate seeing as we now finally have some rain.

Click to go to full size.

Dr Grumpy

Quite by accident, I discovered Dr Grumpy.

Go read. He’s a hoot.

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