Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Howard and Industrial Reform

I've been meaning to do a piece on this for some time. It is mainly concerned with the Industrial Reform which the Howard government is going to ram through Australian lower house parliament (similar to the US congress) and the Senate as the conservative party takes control of the senate in June.

(Note to Aussie readers, I use the term conservative as if I use the term Liberal party..... things can get confused across borders).

Again, I'm no expert but I'd like to give the impressions of the "little guy' caught in this greater powers-that-be whirlpool.

The Industrial Relations reform will effect me and the people I work with. I am one of the few 17% still belonging to an organized union. Thankfully the combined workforce recently signed a three year EBA (Enterise Bargaining Agreement)..... the workers in the union negotiating a contract between the company and the workers for the next three years. It was a painful and drawn out experience. A "cut and shut" guy was employed by the company to handle negotiations, he almost suceeded in brokering a deal which would have seen a dramatic drop in conditions. But six months in to his employment he mysteriously resigned, throwing doubts into his motivations. The almost signed deal was thrown out and a new one drawn up with an old school manager. Both parties benefitted.

In three years things will not be so rosy for those on the shop floor.

Anyway..... to the Howard/Costello form of Industrial reform. I suppose if you wanted to see where they are going with this, you'd best look at the HR Nicholls Society manifesto.

It states:

Australia is a country in which political life is carried out through debate and argument. The Society's ambition is to bring about, through the processes of debate and argument, urgently needed reform in Australia's industrial relations attitudes, law and institutions, and thus to transform our labour market into a job-creating and wealth-generating engine of growth and prosperity.

Our aims are:

* To promote discussion about the operation of industrial relations in Australia, including the system of determining wages and other conditions of employment.
* To support the reform of Australian industrial relations with the aim of promoting the rule of law in respect of employers and employee organisations alike, the right of individuals to freely contract for the supply and engagement of their labour by mutual agreement, and the necessity for labour relations to be conducted in such a way as to promote economic development in Australia.

Why am I looking at the HR Nicholl's Society manifesto? Well a young lawyer named Peter Costello along with three other industry heavyweights formed the HR Nicholls Society in 1985 at the Country Women's Association hall, in the leafy well to do Melbourne suburb of Toorak. Here to planted the seed which would lead to the dismantling the industrial relations system which no doubt they will achieve some twenty years later.

Peter Costello is now the Australian treasurer.

The Industrial Relations system has seen Australia become one of the more elagitarian societies in the world. The wealth is shared around fairly evenly and most people seem to be on the whole happy with the deal. But for some reason there are those who think is is broken and requires fixing.

Let's read that statement of intent from the HR Nicholls Society again:

Australia is a country in which political life is carried out through debate and argument. The Society's ambition is to bring about, through the processes of debate and argument, urgently needed reform in Australia's industrial relations attitudes, law and institutions, and thus to transform our labour market into a job-creating and wealth-generating engine of growth and prosperity.

In short it is a LIE. The industrial reform debate and argument has already taken place and has been soundly voted out in the Senate which up until June/July was not controlled by the conservative party. The balance of power was held by minority parties. Come June/July when the conservative party no longer has this hindrance, there will be NO DEBATE on this issue when it finally gets to the Senate.

I'd actually like to hear from Johnny the Horse on this one as he owns a small business and employs people.He wrote a terrific piece on the difficulties on employing a CNC machine operator. Skilled operators are short on the ground which again points to "reforms"..... number of apprentices being trained and working at the rather large factory where I

I've been in his situation, getting out of the "self employed" and into the "employed by others" camp. Actually I've worn a few hats in the industrial relations process. I've been a "bruvver" (union member), I've been a young manager at the receiving end of a couple of union threats, I've worked in closed shops, I've worked in non-union workplaces where the owner is paternalistic and sees no need for a union as he "looks after his workers", I've been a business owner and currently am as a Canadian friend decribes "a class traitor" not a manager nor a worker at shop floor level in a rather large company..... I'm more of a NCO or sargeant in the army if you look at the heirachy of things.

What I have observed from both sides of the spectrum is that the employer usually gets the union and workers it deserves. I've seen example of appalling conduct from both sides and have been disillusioned several times. In saying that, I've also worked in organizations where the union/employer relationship has worked rather well. The "pay them peanuts and you get monkeys" philosophy seems to apply which I have also seen.

Anyway it is going to be an interesting exercise as the Howard/Costello govt. dismantles the Industrial Realtions framework under the "mandate to reform". There will be more covered by this blog as the legislation is enacted.

Storefront Montpellier Posted by Hello

C'est non.

If you're an Aussie you'd probably notice a great deal of media hubris around the Corby case. If you're outside this wide brown land it probably hasn't registered a blip.

Similarly if you are in the EU you'd have probably heard the French voted a "non" to the EU constitution and if you reside in "Godzone" you may have read about this on page 10 in the world news section after reading about what Shapelle had for breakfast on page 8.

I was asked on a newsgroup a few weeks ago as an outsider by a French citizen what I knew about the EU constitution vote in France. I admitted that I hadn't heard about it and a quick search through the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that most of the stories about France were either rugby or tourism related.No stories on the French EU vote.

I still don't know much about it but from what I gather it seems to be a vote against the neo-liberal concept of opening up trade and of social and welfare reform. Peter the Other has written a great piece about the vote.

This social/welfare reform actually had already taken place in Australia in the late 80's under the stewardship of the Hawke/Keating government. What has saved Australia isn't the machination of economic tinkering and "free trade" but the resources locked up in the soil. These primary industry resources currently supply China as it experiences a secondary industry boom with the help of a low pegged Yuan against the US greenback.

Anyway here are some of my opinions of the results of that little Keating/ Hawke welfare/social exercise and the subsequent harder lined Howard policy of reform. Take it with a grain of salt and a liberal dose of being no economic and socially aware heavyweight. This is what the French miss out on.

1. No more free tertiary education. The universities were now under the auspices of free trade.Tertiary education had become a privelege not a right. If you pay up front, it is cheaper than opting for the pay later scheme which means the tertiary institutions prefer those with the cheque already signed. Open competition saw the universities vying for overseas full fee paying students. In some cases university places were the result of Daddy writing the cheque, not how well you had done at school.

2. Privatization of the unemployed. The unemployed were no longer the government's problem. Casual recruiting agencies became the new CES (Commonwealth Employment Service). Unemployment figures "dropped" as those who worked four hours a week in a crappy job at a mushroom farm became no longer listed as enemployed.

3. Privatization of the medical system. For some reason a world class FREE medical system was seen as an unecessary expense that could be again farmed out to the private sector. Those from high income brackets were encouraged to join private health funds. The bizarre thing is that if you earned more money, you were actually paying more into the 1.5% medicare levy. In the last series of tax reform, if you earned more than a certain amount and were not in a private health care scheme, you have an extra levy of 1% tacked on, taking the medicare levy up to 2.5%.

Again, this to discourage those earning more from using a once excellent public health care system even though they are paying MORE for it.

Big donations to the current Liberal government from a few of these private health care companies BTW. And their hospitals suck, if you have something really life threatening, you are usually sent to a public hospital anyway.

Privatize the health system and you end up with a basket case like the USA. I was horrified to read a case of a guy in the USA who had broken four fingers at university who didn't seek medical treatment because of health insurance problems. The Australian system is heading this way fast.

3. Privatization of retirement income. Traditionally you paid your taxes, those from the younger generation would support you just as you had supported the older generations. There will be no old aged pension when I get older. Superannuation reform and the reduction of in pocket income was reduced as money was funnelled to the bright lads on Pitt and Collins Streets to gamble with your money on the free money markets. The pension these days is locked up in the value of the house which you will sell and move somewhere cheaper.

4. Reduction in interest rates resulting in a housing price bubble. Interest rates were kept low and a fair whack of the economy was invested into private housing. The resulting demand saw housing prices skyrocket and out of the reaches of the next house buying generation. If you did buy a house it was done using two incomes as the lending criteria. Most of a young couples income goes on the mortgage, that is straight to the banks.

I have been fortunate enough to visit France a couple of times and in some respects it reminds me a lot of Australia, except they don't speak English and everything seems a lot older. There is an underlying work to live not live to work ethos and the newsagents seem to be the most profitable businesses in the small towns, like downunder you actually have to queue up to buy you newspaper.

The "most typically French moment" I suppose was some friends and I being taken on a tour by a French wonderful Frenchman Pierre-Paul who works in a winery and does photography on the side. He took us through a favourite spot of his, in the Gers valley full of sunflower, tobacco and lavender crops. We were examining an ancient fortified chateau in a small village, overhead an Airbus test pilot was stall testing an Airbus jet. The ancient and the modern seem to have a comfortable relationship. Three stocky French policemen piled into a small Citroen just added to the day.

So in some instance France is different and in others it is the same.

Unlike the French, the Australians have allowed the powers to be to get away with handing over the countries safety nets to the banks and private sector. And from what I have seen, in some respects, this is not a good thing. I believe the French have been a lot smarter in this respect.

Kudos for the government in enabling the people to vote on the issue at hand rather than voting their leaders in on other platforms and then sneaking the changes in under a "mandate to reform".

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A rare small victory

This is rather an old story (three weeks these days seems to be old news). On the fifth of May the state in which I live, New South Wales, the state government passed some anti "big brother" legislation which seems to be rare in this age of biometric passports, security cameras,retina scans, e-mail sniffing software and the like.

The NSW state government actually making it illegal for your employer snoop on your e-mail without a court order. Unfortunately the legislation will not be able to deal with other agencies, governments and interested parties who fall outside the "employer" scope.

EMPLOYERS that read workers' private emails may soon risk criminal charges with legal safeguards being introduced today by the NSW government.

NSW will be the first Australian state to outlaw unauthorised spying of employees using technologies including video cameras, email and tracking devices with the introduction of the Workplace Surveillance Bill 2005 to state parliament today.

I notice stateside that six states and 400 communities are not accepting the most insidious piece of Western hemisphere legislation since Germany's Ermächtigungsgesetz (Enabling Act) ie. the Patriot Act. And there are pricks in Washington who think that this top seekret stuff needs a review and are going behind closed doors to draft Patriot Act II and extend the use by dates..

Open and accountable government? I doubt it.

Coincidentally e-mail snooping was mentioned by a few senators and we have been assured that it's all Hokey Dorey, I suppose these Senators in this closed sitting haven't heard of Echelon (which would not be known about if it hadn't been for the New Zealand government blowing the lid on it) or Carnivore which was the FBI's information weapon of choice.

Table of cans.

I work in a beverage factory. The above is a photo I took of an accumulation table from a mezzanine deck..... full of upended cans. The accumulation table acts like a buffer between a slower machine (in this case the packing machines) and a faster machine (the filler) and gets build-ups and emptied depending on the day. The cans are upside down so information can be printed with a high speed ink printer on the bottom. Cans are filled at the rate of 1000 a minute. There's about 5 minute build up in this picture.

A person in the beverage industry would be able to look at this photo and say that with some confidence, a machine was stopped somewhere downstream. Either that or the conveyor speeds have not been programmed correctly. The full thin band across the top indicating a full conveyor is a giveaway.

You can see all sort of random chaos/ close sphere packing arrangements in there. I thought it was a nice geometrical shot.

Has it been 12 days since my last post?

Sorry about that...... I've had a few "things to deal with" (an I'm gonna leave it at that that) over the past week.

I saw that Lucas movie which was OK and have had some rather disconcerting ambient music by Tom Heasley with mainly a tuba as his main instrument of choice playing in the background.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bowl from Hiroshima


.....updating the site via a PDA and an Iridium satellite phone

I’m going to keep updating the site via a PDA and an Iridium satellite phone (using a tweaked version of Wordpress that we’ll be releasing as open source once I’m back in June).

So states a young Brit, Ben Saunders who is off to Greenland to do some mobile blogging with a slew of sponsors. The Blog looks like a product placement for a clothing corporation, some adventure equipment manufacturers and a management resourcing centre whose website has photos of lot's of po-faced young turks looking earnest, serious and busy.

Looks like a good gig, if you can get it. Round up a heap of free stuff, try it out and then advertise the results using your blog. Kinda like the explorer of Buzzagent.

With the ".updating the site via a PDA and an Iridium satellite phone" thing. I was thinking that I could probably do this on my trip across the continent later in the year to attend this car rally, for next to nix and no sponsorship. I downloaded some software for my cell phone which allows you to access the internet and transfer data from PC to phone. There was a little bit of fiddling aound with PC settings to cope with an infra-red link but it seems possible via the desktop.

So I'm going to grab one of the 100's of a cheapy old laptops off of e-bay, load it up with some software, connect to the web via cell phone and hopefully do some mobile blogging in the Australian outback.

I'll need to add an extra 12V adaptor on the old Benz as the current one is smaller than the standard size and perhaps get a phone-to-laptop cable instead of using infra-red which is notoriously slow and requires a rather close line of sight connection. I'll need to find the dial in number of my ISP as I go across the continent.

But it looks technically possible and sounds like it would be kind of fun.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Brian Eno, 10,000 year clocks and Shinto Temples

I decided to check out Brian Eno's website today after receiving my second Eno album "Ambient 4: On Land". The site was to be expected....... eclectic, artistic, minimal and taking you to places unusual. Much like his music which is growing on me.

Brian at work.

The gallery of his portraits is one man's journey in an interesting field showing Eno changing over the years. From a London flower child in the mid 60's to a made up adrogenous being during the Roxy Music/Bowie days playing one of those wonderful VCS3 synths....... Then watching his hair gradually disappear and his appearance today of a middle aged accountant....or a wizened elder in the fashion/artistic industry.

The only previous image of Eno I can remember was the Rocky Horror Show type image of a strange looking guy with rather long blonde or white hair and bald on top. I think this was from a documentary on Daniel Lanois who appears on the current album as a engineer in 82 which would have made it one of Lanois' first major albums.

Whilst surfing Eno's site, there's a link to the 10,000 year clock website which he had the privilege to visit in the making and now sits on the foundation board.

(This is a great site which I'll probably add to the sidebar, it appeals to the mechanical geek in me). The clock, website and subsequent foundation is the brainchild of a guy called Daniel Hillis, a computer engineer (looking frighteningly like Microsoft headkicker Steve Ballmer) who built a clock which he hopes will run for 10,000 years. It is no ordinary clock having a "mechanical binary" system driving it. Here's a semi-closeup of the mechanicals including a gorgeous piece of mechanical engineering which is the camshaft (that big wiggly brass bit) operating the solar clock for the next 10,000 years. Assuming mother Earth stays in orbit!

The reasons for this clock are as Hillis states:

When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.

In another section Hillis describes how an oak beam in an Oxford building was replaced by an oak grown in the 14th century by the very builder who foresaw the oak having to be replaced some 700 years later. This is the sort of foresight he is trying to realise.

From the 1000 year old clock website there is a link to the curious Myst-like Ise Shinto Shrine in Japan. This is replaced every 20 years.

This Shinto shrine at Ise named Jingu Shrine is rebuilt every twenty years. Its first incarnation was in 04 C.E. This type of design, which utilises ephemeral materials while capitalizing on the human element, is a great inspiration for The Long Now Foundation. This object has done something which Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids have not; it aided the survival of its institution.

The shrine website descibes thr process although I couldn't find any references what happened to the old shrine.

Adjacent to the present Goshoden is an open area of the same size. The new Goshoden will be built in this open area. The thinking behind the reconstruction is; just as the rice crops retain their form year after year, the buildings will retain their form eternally by reconstruction. Also, the faithful can expect new blessings from the revitalized gods in their new quarters.
Various theories exist on why the Ise shrine is rebuilt every 20 years. Whichever may be the case, it is rebuilt within a suitable time span in a persons life.

It also has a little Japanese tour of the various ceremonies as the new shrine is being built. Just click the Japanese characters next to the sign to the right of the sign on the website that looks like this.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Something to read...............

I found this t the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney. It was written by Simon Longstaff in 1996. It is more directed towards coporate governance but can be applied to the mass media, government policy, vox pouli etc.

What is pertinent to today, is how the Machiavellian "fear factor" seems to label "bad guys" such as "terrorists", "illegal immigrants" and "insurgents" thus allowing dubious legislation, executive orders and "legitimate actions"under the radar; playing on that very fear. Everyone comes under these new rules to protect us and if we are innocent then no harm will be done to us. Subservience of the majority to protect from a very small minority seems to be the norm. This seems to give rise to very broad and draconian laws.

The "bad apple" view of humanity by Robespierre can be used to describe such fuzzy subgroups such as "immigrants" (dropping the illegal bit),"youth", "Iraqi wardens" or "entrepeneurs" with a few breaking the rules and spoiling perception of the publics opinion of the whole. The bad apples are marginalised, reformed and in some cases eliminated. Isolation of that small minority from the majority seems to be the norm. Laws which arise from this seem to be very specific for specific crimes against society (this in some cases can be abused).

Lastly, the essentially good and virtuous (but flawed with selfishness) view of humanity is espoused by Rousseau, which seems to be how one views oneself and the general group one is in.
Inclusiveness is the norm in this case. No laws would be required in this instance as humanity would rely on such feel-good concepts as morality, compassion, ethics and virtue. Perhaps this would come under the field of common laws?

One hopes for the humanity of Rousseau, realises the world of Robespierre and can see the methods of Machiavelli in action with these dreadful "clamping down" bills.

Anyway the article is here, Longstaff articulates the subject much better than I.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What has Moff done to his blog?

Here is the source code from his blog


This is not a Good Thing!

Perhaps he has been fiddling with the Blogspot black magic code?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

So when is the US getting out of Iraq?

Not for a l-o-o-o-o-ng while yet if we look at this Congresional Research Service report via the Federation of Scientists.

Look at the numbers in the bottom table. The Dept of Defence is looking at spending more than twice the amount (US$672 million) in Iraq in 2005 on construction, compared to the amount spent on construction in for the combined years 2001-2004 (US$304 million). This is a substantial investment and strengthening of military infrastructure which points to the US armed forces not getting out of Iraq for some time yet. They're there for the long haul folks despite the Iraqi's new found independence.

And this isn't counting the cost of civilian reconstruction and operational costs whilst over there, this is merely building stuff so the armed forces can stay.

Afghanistan seems to be the "forgotten about"" country of occupation.

The report states:

In the FY2005 Supplemental, DOD is requesting $1.0 billion for military construction to support Afghanistan and Iraq either in-country or in surrounding countries. That amount compares to the $912 million in funding for military construction for those purposes in previous supplementals since the 9/11 attacks.

Since that time, Congress has also provided DOD with additional flexibility to initiate
military construction projects – without advance authorization – in order for DOD to move more quickly to meet wartime needs. At the same time, the committees have voiced concerns about insufficient or lack of information from DOD about the use of funds for construction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and the whether all projects rejected qualify as emergency spending.

Here is the table in rough form(take a look at the report with HTML blogger justification issues. can't cope.)

Table 1. Supplemental Funds for Military Construction By Mission,
FY2001-FY2005 Request
(in millions of dollars )

Mission..... ....FY01-FY04.... FY05.. Request Total
Afghanistan ......... 120.5................ 231.1........351.6
Iraq .......................304.6.................672.6........977.2
Both overseas ..... 284.5 ................. 67.4........351.9
Both in USA .........104.1............. .. 289.4........393.5
Other unspecified ..98.6...................68.6....... 167.2
Total: Afg. & Iraq 912.3 ............ 1,329.0 .. 2,241.3
Other US...............176.5................... 70.0 ..... 246.5
TOTAL ............. 1,088.8 ............ 1,399.0... 2,487.8

The landlord agent cometh..........

Every six months I get the landlords agent doing an inspection of the Blue Mountains pad.. It's a lot like having your Mum around to visit, everything has to be spic and span, in order and ship shape. Stuff that I should be doing gets done a couple of days before the agent arrives. Not that I'm untidy or dirty, it's more a case of "man tidiness" where you can get away with some crud around the joint and not be bothered by the whole fingermarks on the refrigerator deal.

As long as it is functional, doesn't smell and poses no immediate danger to personal and public health, it's cool in my books.

I used to give the place a real good once over when my girlfriend used to visit but alas we are no longer. So the joint misses out on the "detailing" until the agent arrives. This includes the garden which necessitates hiring a rather brutal but effective Honda 4 stroke weed whacker from up the road every six months.

Stuff I found out today.

1 Bic razor blade covers near the bathroom bin. I found a family of them in the corner. Either they decided to go forth and multiply or I am a lousy shot.

2. Cobwebs do not dissolve. Add to this, the cobweb sweeper which I bought for the last inspection could not be found. It eventually was located on the balcony with severe sun-fading. Living in a National Park has the advantages and disadvantages of natural living. An entire micro ecosystem and I co-exist within the walls. The only thing that gets shooed outside is really big spiders and ants which are kept away by keeping the kichen clean.

3. Three tomato plants which I had given up over summer had decided the lack of attention is what required to bear fruit. I now have some excellent Italian tomatoes which will make a great pasta sauce tonight, an oregano bush had gone feral too which will also make a good accompaniment. Alas the tortellini bush had died.

4. The semi unused room with car interiors and the ironing board in it. The iron was still ON from the last time I ironed a shirt about three weeks ago (I think). Cotton clothes that don't need ironing DO have their disadvantages. Leaving stuff on such as stoves and irons was one of the things that used to freak my ex-wife out. So now I can say I have bench tested the safety aspect of a Sunbeam iron over three weeks and it comes through with flying colours. No harm was done......can't wait to see the next power bill.

5 The black cat had been sick at some stage and decided to barf over the carpet in another spare room which I rarely visit. I could go into gory details but the remedy was suprisingly simple and effective.

6 Dead bugs and moths tend to stand out on smooth, white stuff such as baths, handbasins etc and get hidden by more neutral items such as carpet.

7 Dropped cigarette ash is a bastard to get out of carpet.

8 Indian incense sticks not only balance the chakras but mask cigarette smoke rather well.

Anyway the inspection went without a hitch, the agent is pretty cool and seems to have more sympathy for me than the landlord. She's a fellow JJJ devotee and we talked about music and such things for a while before a quick whisk around the pad which she described as "Same as last time."(if only she knew)..... Over in about 5 minutes flat.

I'll see her again in a few months.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Loose Poodle has a scoop!


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Blogging without frontiers.

Adam Shostack in the States has an article on his blog Emergent Chaos about the current "Anonymous Blogging Roundtable" held recently in Tennesee focussing on countries you can get locked up for blogging as well as some "within the borders" censorship issues.

Adam may be wondering why he is getting no comments, it's because they aren't working. Tried a couple of times with blank results.

Anyway Adam writes:

I think the roundtable went well. Mark Glasser started us off with a review of the state of the world, with China having 67 bloggers in jail, Bahrain requiring bloggers to register, Cuba having a black market in email accounts with one costing $240, out of an average annual income of $1700.

We talked a lot about technology, and less than I would have liked about what holds people back from blogging. Hossein Derakhshan had some great input both at the panel and afterwards about the need for a variety of reading tools...Reporters Sans Frontiers has a list of issues country by country. (I'm in his "Building a bloggosphere" talk now, and he again mentioned that his blog has more readers via email than web or RSS, and that he evades blocks by buying new domains.)

I first came across the Reporters Sans Frontiers website via Adam's blog, it makes for some depressive reading given the relatively freer nature of blogging and reporting in the west (or so we think).

Take note of the CBS Iraqi national being held in Iraq by the USA for a month now with no evidence against him. There seems to be much less hue and cry going out for Abdel Amir Hussein than Aussie engineer Douglas Wood who seems to have had some exposure and knowledge of the workings of Bechtel subcontracting work. I suppose someone has to rebuild and profit from all that stuff has been bombed liberated that seemed to be working before.

Grogblogging II

Forty bloogers having thoughts in their head what to write about the next day....... I'm taking the easy way out and writing about Grogblogging II.

This morning My Bloody Valentine's Loveless album plays in the background with "Sometimes" and "Soon" in constant rotation. The fuzzy opiumesque (is there such a word?) melodies wash over the-open-minds state of mind. Not from an excess of alcohol but more from a lack of sleep, I started work yesterday at 5am did a thirteen hour shift in the Western Suburbs, drove into Sydney for a few hours and then back home about 100km to the Blue Mountains. Home at about 2am.

Last night I went to "Grogblogging II ® " meeting a few fellow Sydneyside bloggers plus a carload of lads up from Warrigul or Warrieton or Warmingwood or something....... lets just say country Victoria. The aim was to meet a few Aussies face to face and find out a little bit about what was happening in my own backyard, get a few links and discuss things blog.

The above photo is the mission accomplished photo. After a rather nervous and timid start, the links and introductions were flowing almost as liberally as the jugs of beer. Links were hastily scribbled on the closest Club Keno forms.

Young Misha and Bourbonbird were tagging anything and everything (including my cigarettes) with nametags which seem to stick to everthing except clothes, they were later joined by the lovely Tokenwoman (who I've just found out flew down from Brisvegas) and talked things girly . The Bed and Breakfast Man (along with his understanding wife) who felt old but was younger than me at a spritely 36 and I discussed things musical.

From left to right Misha, Bourbonbird, The Bed and Breakfast Man and his significant other!

Dave Matt (Thanks Flashman) from NSW blog of the year DARPISM was there spending his winnings on jugs. Tim Lambert who is quite well known in the world of NSW blogging had to put up with the indignity of making him spell his name about 6 or 7 times. Flashman was cool. I met Dave from Auburn who visited my blog a few days ago and we made notes on things Hollywood before he was whisked away to some intense conversation at the bar. Uber Metro chic Canadian Philip Gomes (.....don't call me American......"but can I call you Phil?") was another who dragged along his S.O.. Spleenie and Glen Fuller were hustling at the pool table "for the love of the game" and generating a heap of laughs.

Not knowing anyone and having some not knowing me begged the question, "What do you blog about." If you've popped on by you'll now know.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Senator Andrew Bartlett

This spun me out a bit. An Aussie Senator with his own blog. Is there anyonedoing this on either side in the US without the interference of spin doctors, media, gatekeepers, advisors and various other hangers on...... "mediating" between the dude in the Senate and the unwashed masses? There again how many Senators are able to use a computer without "dictating" actually how many even know how to switch the damn thing on?

It's a regular blog with comments welcomed.

Senator Andrew Bartlett

Note: Oz Democrats are not the same as US Democrats and Oz Liberals are on the right side of the scale and are actually conservatives. Confused? So is the electorate.

Auburn Japanese Gardens

On my way home back from the trip to Ivan's Butchery, I stopped off at one of Sydney's best kept secrets in the suburb of Auburn. Auburn is an unusual suburb having a with approximately 25% of the annual migrant intake making it their first stop of residence, walk down the main street and it feel like you could be in a suburb of Shanghai in some parts and Instanbul in others.Strangely, the local municipal council remains mainly anglo/celtic. I used to live there and loved the melting pot of culture and especially food when I went to the main shopping drag.

There's a Japanese garden planned in the early 70's by one of the town planners. It is beautifully maintained and can be very quiet during the week. This used to be about 4 blocks from my house, I have since moved but still enjoy the tranquility of the place when I am in the area.

I took a heap of pics on my camera phone but the low res shots and my current ability to touch up with my defunct photoshop made me pick the best of a bad bunch.

Mothers Day

I'm off to get Mum a present for Mother's Day today. I'll leave you with a synopsis on the mother archetype by Jung from this website regarding "the great mother" in the meantime.

This is the mother-love which is one of the most moving and unforgettable memories of our lives, the mysterious root of all growth and change; the love that means homecoming, shelter, and the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Intimately known and yet strange like Nature, lovingly tender and yet cruel like fate, joyous and untiring giver of life--mater dolorosa and mute implacable portal that closes upon the dead. Mother is mother-love, my experience and my secret. Why risk saying too much, too much that is false and inadequate and beside the point, about that human being who was our mother, the accidental carrier of that great experience which includes herself and myself and all mankind, and indeed the whole of created nature, the experience of life whose children we are? The attempt to say these things has always been made, and probably always will be; but a sensitive person cannot in all fairness load that enormous burden of meaning, responsibility, duty, heaven and hell, on to the shoulders of one frail and fallible human being--so deserving of love, indulgence, understanding, and forgiveness--who was our mother. He knows that the mother carries for us that inborn image of the mater natura and mater spiritualis, of the totality of life of which we are a small and helpless part. (Jung, 1969, p. 26)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Carnivores delight.

Today I decided to re-visit an old time favourite butcher of mine, in the Sydney suburb of Chester Hill. It is set up in a one-time smallish supermarket which went bust or relocated. I think the owner is Croatian as a lot of the groceries he sells seem to be from that part of the world.

Europeans from all across Sydney make a pilgrimage to this shop. Being a native of South Australia with a German tinged heritage, it reminds me of home too.

You walk into the shop and the first thing that hits you is the smell of smoked meat. You don't know what you want to buy but you want to get some of that scent! The second thing to hit you is the sight of rows and rows of orange and brown coloured smoked hams, speck, sausages and wursts hanging from rails around the entire perimeter of the store. This is no ordinary butcher.

Then there are other things that hit you in his store. The little old European ladies stocking up on all sorts of goods "just like we used to get at home". A mind boggling variety of brandnames, sweets and biscuits I've never seen before including about a half dozen varieties of sauerkraut. The young first generation Australian couple deciding which to go for the Kranskies or the smoked frankfurts. The enormous varieties of sausages and wursts in the display case. The patient and efficient central European lady serving me as I tried to decide what to order.

I eventually walked out with a couple of bags of smoked goods, a jar of good Polish sauerkraut and a lovely "hollow" sounding white Vienna loaf.

I just fried up some short cut bacon and it was the best I've ever tasted since my grandmother's home cured stuff. The black cat approves too!

A case where advancing technology sucks.

I decided to go for the poor man's upgrade after going through some abysmal lag as my 256meg of memory struggled with my generation-X-short-attention-span-multi-tasking type of activity.
The main thing that was killing the 256Mb was an old 4.0 version of Photoshop circa 1997 combined with Windows Media and my firewall (which is a memory PIG). Yeah, I know the Photoshop is a stone aged piece of esoterica but it was effective and helped me create some good results. It was pretty easy to use too.

So I bought the new card off e-bay and slotted it in. Boot-up was heaps quicker. Then I tried Photoshop.

Error message: There is not enough memory (RAM) to launch Photoshop.

What the?

A quick look at system status confirmed the card was doing its job. A quick look around google confirmed ye olde version of Fotoshoppe was not up to the task of memory greater than 256k, going into endless loops, buffer overruns or something. DAMN!

Some fiddling with virtual memory and configuration settings as per geeks instructions also gave no joy. Only solution upgrade or remove the extra memory. Looks like one upgrade requires another upgrade.

Last hardware upgrade saw a similar thing occur. I ended up upgrading to XP, getting a bigger hard-drive to cope with the Windows bloatware and a new power source. The box I have now is a bit like Paddy's axe (ten handles and four heads but it's still the same axe). It has had two different cases, three hard-drives, umpteen mice, a few keyboards, two monitors, two motherboards, three sets of speakers, three power systems, four or five floppy drives, infinite windows upgrades and yet it's still the same box I had in 1995.

The only original piece of equipment is a hardy inboard modem labelled by XP as a "Generic HCF Modem" which is obsolete but used as a backup if broadband goes down.

My own piece of punditry

pundit: By extension, the term pundit is also used to refer to individuals that express opinions in the media without necessarily being a recognized expert on a particular subject matter. Pundits are often accused of being politically biased and for using informal logic in fallacious ways; in this sense, the term is also used as a term of disparagement

That's me!!!!!!

Sleepybomb at The Wreckroom has a policy on his blog. " politics, (or religion)." which in effect adds to his music rich site. Occasionally he'll as we say downunder "get the shits" break this rule and do a small rant on the state of things in the USA. But it doesn't occur that often. His spirituality can be found in his love of music.

The "no politics or religion" rule is also a given in Aussie pubs, polarization of opinion with a few beers under the belt can lead to sometimes heated arguments and friend ship (or mateship) lost. It is not a good thing. So there are a few unsaid pub rules, politics& religion are not mentionied, if you're in a "shout" you shouldn't back out, etc etc.

I don't have Sleepybombs "no politics no religion" policy but there again I don't have an as rich knowledge, enthusiasm and experience of things musical. Politics I know a little about and mainstream religion even less. I remember a great quote from a mailing list I was once on, "Religion is the politics of spirituality." which I tend to agree with.

Here are some observations from an outsider in the church and state situation in the USA, it could be considered punditry but it is a feeling I get when cruising the blogosphere and the net.

I am constantly reading about the fundamental right and it's creeping influence on US political policy and opinion. Not even the judiciary or Wal-Mart is safe. This is a bizarre concept to me downunder and I would say could apply to the British too. It seems to be a case of opinioned morality coming down from those on high and being accepted by those dumb enough not to see through some of agendas. There doesn't seem to be much going the other way (from the bottom up), except for money. It seems as those who practice these "right religions" are paying for people to form their opinions. As one Aussie workmate described an observation he made about the USA population in general, 'I'll take your money off you and make you feel good about it." Those who run the fundamental churches seem to have mastered this, "tything" up to 15%.

The thing is, the US fundamental right seems to be influencing and impacting the globe, as USA domestic policy shapes US foreign policy. So we feel the effects and see some results of this moral crusading over here. Thankfully there are those within the US who DO see through this creeping fascism under the guise of morality and are fighting a desperate battle against this well organized,supported and planned movement. The progressives seem to be growing a spine against the regressives, who seem to be basing their policies on wedge politics. It seems to be a terrific (almost unwinnable) struggle.

Australia and the USA are similar in being relatively young western countries. The difference being is that we somehow have managed to escape the clutches of the mind numbing moral influencing of the fundamental right from within. For example, a fundy influenced politician tried to recently pass some sort of "abortion legislation", politicians quickly managed to shut it down and get it off the agenda as it would have required a "conscience vote". Conscience votes are divisive in an electorate. If Prime Minister Howard mentions God or "God bless Australia" there would be embarrassed silence or laughter or jeering. Sometimes I think he'd like to include God in his speeches but he's been around long enough to realise it would not be a good move. God seems to be left out of Aussie politics by choice although he/she does get the occasional mention, the electorate seem to be more focussed on mortgage interest rates than God.

Again there are exceptions such as the debate on gay marriages but on the whole Aussie politics is ungodly.

Yesterday I read an article which described Australians leaving the church in droves. It seems a valid observation. There a few exceptions, young people seem to be joining the Hillsong Pentecostal church at Bella Vista which as I read it is not a church but more of a "christian musical corporation". It is the fastest growing Australian church but IMHO is could be better descibed as the fastest growing Sunday entertainment venue. To put in perspective, just as many people attend the Ettamogah pub and the Mean Fiddler up the road on a Sunday. So Hillsong seems to be competing for an entertainment dollar more than a religous dollar.

So how do those "leaving the church in droves" downunder celebrate their Sunday? Sunday drives, Sunday barbeques, family picnics, gardening, a couple of bottles of nice Aussie red wine over a long lunch, sporting gatherings...... that sort of thing. Interacting and enjoying the company and ideas of others without relying too much on the big invisible guy in the sky. Yes, there are still church goers but their number seems to shrinking, there seems to be those who need their spirituality organized by someone else.

Nevertheless, there is still the influence of the fundamental right from "without" as Australia takes the role of smallest brother to the USA and UK. Our foreign policy seems to have taken the form of that from the US.

I like others would like to see that change, both from action from those within the US and a action over here as well.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Bloody hell Posted by Hello