Sunday, July 30, 2006

Breakfast in the Blue Mountains

I love parrots!

Had a morning visitor at 7am after putting out some Sunflower breakfast was sharing a coffee with an American over the other side of the Pacific whilst "Polly" was having a good feed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Trying this, let me know if it works. There's some old photos and some new ones. The above icon is just a jpeg screen capture and isn't doing the whiz-bang flash deal. But you can click it and go to a photo set.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A lesson in photography

How to take a photo of someone getting a book signed by ex-Prime Misnister Gough Whitlam

How not to take a photo of someone getting a book signed by ex Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Sheesh, I handed my camera to the wrong guy. "I think it took a photo, I'm not sure.", said the long haired bearded guy. Here's the result.

On Tuesday I checked my letter box and found an invitation to a book launch, main speaker Gough Whitlam ex-Prime Minister of Australia. Thought it too good an opportunity to pass up. I thought it would be interesting no only in what Gough had to say but would be interesting to see who else turned up.

So, I rolled up to the New South Wales state parliament ( like the US state congress), passed through security and went to "The Strangers Dining Room". Sitting around in big leather chairs or standing chatting were a Labor party speechwriter or two, a Senate leader, State MP's, ex opposition leaders, an ex-Prime Minister, Presidents of the Federal Labor party..... and as I described to Peter in an e-mail.....some guy from the Blue Mountains.

It was strange, only the night before I had been working night shift in a factory, 12 hours later I had found myself in a room (only in Australia!) with the guys who only 10 years ago had their hands on the joystick that ran Australia. How things have changed.

The book launch was for the book "Coming to the Party -(where next for Labor)" which was an effort by 12 Labor party politicians, policy makers and thinkers to discuss the doldrum the Labor party is in at present, much like the Democrats in the US.

Twelve leading politicians and commentators drawn from across the Party's spectrum, examine post-Latham Labor--analysing its problems and proposing a vision for victory in the 2007 federal election. Many believe the Party can be reformed and democratised, and its message made compelling once again.

Yes, we have the same problem as our brethren over the Pacific, we a have a centre-right party on opposition and a far-right party at the controls. I've seen some discussion in the USA via Scruggs about setting up networks and think tanks to work ourt effective strategy, seems the Aussies have the jump on this one.

This is one American view...... it could apply to Australia just as equally.

What I hope to make apparent on this weblog is that while public demonstrations and legal proceedings might be necessary, they are insufficient tools for reining in social and political misbehavior by the Far Right. Even within the institutional arena, it's the investigative research, education, and organizing--carried out by grassroots groups, individuals, and networks--that in large part makes responsive legislation and legal judgments possible.

The impression sometimes created by protests and court victories is that people don't need to get involved themselves, but can just write a check to some high profile organization and not give it another thought.

The combination of theatric spectacle with a shallow general understanding of social change often overshadows the grassroots work needed to put things right in our country.

It's a paradox that creates tension within the human rights movement, and often prevents development of initiatives like ours.

But what mostly concerns me is the misperception that right-wing paramilitaries are our main problem, rather than the very widespread and entrenched system of exclusion from power and decision-making in this country, and how mainstream this white collar thuggery really is.

Barry Jones who could be described as the "guru" of the party gave a short speech, one point he made that stuck out for me, was an article he cited. The old triangle wealth spread (small amount of wealthy at the top, large amount of poor at the bottom) has given way to a diamond spread of wealth( pointy at both ends).... thus the Labor party has pretty well achieved what they set out to do and in the process made themselves redundant....where next?

Personally I'd hate to see the Australian Labor party ending up like Blair's "New Labour".

Perhaps a "hands across the ocean" approach is a viable option, both oppositions of two VERY hawkish government could put their heads together and come up with an effective cross ocean strategy?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Allons Enfants de la Patrie, le Jour de Gloire Est Arrivé!

Pilgrims lining up for the grotto beside the Gace de Pau in Lourdes.

Monday, July 10, 2006

She's back

Here's a pic of me in the old girl last year. Perhaps travelling over the speed limit? What this picture DOESN'T show is the puff of smoke that was just beginning to rear its ugly head. She's just had a MAJOR engine job done after finding an intolerable oil leak which was spraying oil all over the exhaust. Blue smoke followed me like the hero escaping the bad guys in a bad James Bond movie . It was horrendous.

These early 450SLC s are a great alternative for fans of V8 coupes. Much smoother with some great engineering, pre smog(mines a 74) which means 240+ horsepower at the rear and redline at 6250RPM. Lovely nimble smooth revving motors that come alive when pushed to the upper limits, down low they are good for going into little old lady mode to putter and burble around town. The old ones now are either getting scrapped or restored which means their value is on the up. The good ones have been fairly well looked after by sympathetic owners, the bad ones have been let go by those who can't afford the repairs. Much the same as E-type jags and other classics.

There were actually two seals that required replacing, the rear main seal and the sump gasket which required the motor being pulled out. I asked the mechanic to check the cams and the head whilst the motor was out. The head was skimmed, all valves were replaced and some newer cams. New valve guides and some rust cut out of the firewall. She goes even more like a rocket with the uprated compression and is blissfully smoke free.

First trip down the mountain was in the wet, I'd forgotten some of the little quirks... mainly old rubber window and door seals which require replacing, there's a lot of wind whistling about. The old solution was to turn the stereo up to drown out the wind, the latest solution is going to involve some rubber replacement, including the rear tyres which not able to handle the newfound power in the wet as they are so solid and hard.

It was at the mechanics for about three months. And when I got it back, smelled like the garage. So I've re-dressed all that gorgeous Nappa leather, given it a good vacuum and sprayed the inside with some Jaguar cologne. (yes it's an opponents brand, but its rather good.....lots of cedar and spruce).

Going to have some happy motoring this Spring. Might even go on another road trip and add to my other blog Benz across oz.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Weasel Words.

Reporting to the Director, Human Capital, you will leverage your background in selection and workforce planning to translate our business strategy into our people strategy to ensure that we have the 'A players' in the right roles with the right skills at the right time.'

Job ad: Manager, Human Capital at to Mike Dominic who says
'This is a job opportunity that seems to just scream, "We don't know what we're doing! Fleece us!"'. Read more of Mike's comments on his blog.

And another.

'You don't need many stores, what you need is a large sophisticated store that gives them a lifestyle emotion.
Retail is changing and we are no longer competing against other stores, but other lifestyle choices such as new cars, boob jobs, jewellery holidays and jet skis. The reason we are doing the large stores is to offer the client the same emotion he is getting from his lifestyle choices in our stores.' Theo Poulakis, joint MD of retailer Harrolds, as quoted in Inside Retailing, April 4 2005.

More corporate-like-speak here at Weaselwords, where the English language is shown to be trashed out of any rational meaning via similarly delightful examples as the above.

I'm still trying to come to terms with the word-of-the-moment metrics.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A bit about the Blue Mountains.

This is why they are called the Blue Mountains.

I've had a few enquiries of late about this place called "The Blue Mountains". The above picture gives an indication why. The Eucalyptus trees evaporate a fair bit of the volatile Eucalyptus oil into the atmosphere, sunlight is refracted through the haze to form a bluish colour. Summer time is usually the best, lots of evaporation and lots of sunlight.

OK, here's a few things about the Blue Mountains that don't usually make the regular pages.

1: It was a fairly fertile ground here for local aboriginals, lots of water, lots of food. A guy I've met from up around the village of Lawson, who is into things spiritual and esoteric , tells me that aboriginals legends mention there being a lot of "serpent energy" around this place. This means trials and tribulations in some instances bust-ups and it seems only a certain type of person lives here. Dunno, most people here seem pretty ordinary. Nevertheless I've been on the "other"(northern) side of Lawson and felt a very strange energy there. I don't believe in these things, but there seems to be something about the place.

2: Another aboriginal story involves the aboriginals steering clear of the Grose Valley region. They detoured right around it. Could have something to do with the reports of Yowies (like a sasquatch) in that area.

3: The Woodford Academy is said to be haunted. Groundmen aren't usually employed there for very long due to "something pushing them off their feet". Freaks them out pretty quickly. Haven't checked this one lately, so will keep an eye on the local employment pages.

4: The road and railway track winds along the ridge of the Blue Mountains ranges, offering some spectacular views along the way. Explorers in old times tried exploring via the rivers, coming to cliffs and waterfalls, then the ridge way was tried with some success.

5: The town of Faulconbridge, near where I live is described as "the most equitable climate in the world" by the World Meteoroligical Organization.

Criteria include:

  • Mild temperature range
  • Rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year
  • High percentage of oxygen in the air
  • Mild humidity range
True enough. I rarely get dew on my car, frosts are unheard of, it rains regularly and doesn't get that hot, that often. The oxygen is unreal! I'll often leave home at a comfortable 8-9 degrees C and get to work in the "flatlands" where it is close to zero in the winter morning. People don't believe me, associating the mountains as "cold".

6: The town of Medlow Bath with the gorgeous Hydro Majestic Hotel was once a haven for Europeans and British seeking out mineral baths for health reasons in the early 20th century. The Europeans also headed mountainward during the hot summer months to cool off. In winter they headed up to experience "real winter" including snow.

7: Yulefest is held in June/July/August up here, Australians enjoying Christmas dinners, sometimes with snow. Apparently, this was started by some Irish.

8: I live on the side of a ridge overlooking an extinct volcano at Sun Valley described by one conservationist thus:

"Sun Valley it is the role of the volcanic diatreme, which is a neck of an extinct volcano, which has produced a deep rich soil supporting the tall Sun Valley Cabbage Gum Forests in the Sun Valley Reserve."

A "dinosaur tree" was discovered in Wollemi Park which is part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

‘Dinosaur tree’ or ‘living fossil’, the Wollemi Pine is certainly one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time.

In September 1994 David Noble, an officer with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, discovered some trees he didn’t quite recognise. In a deep, narrow canyon of the rugged Wollemi National Park, he discovered what we now call Wollemia nobilis or the Wollemi Pine.

The dramatic discovery of an evolutionary line thought to be long extinct is even more remarkable with these tall and striking trees growing only 150 km from Sydney, the largest city in Australia. They were found in the extremely rugged Wollemi National Park, a largely undisturbed wilderness area.

So anyway, there's a little bit of information about my part of the world.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Good Morning

He looks rather serious doesn't he? It's a Kookaburra, the seriousness of this look isn't matched by their call. Their call (laughing) which sounds like this is in stock usage for Hollywood movies that have "jungle sounds" in the background. IMDB users from Australia pick up on this error when a jungle scene in Africa has a Kookaburra in the background. Tarzan movies were notorious for it.

They're careful inquisitive souls, true observers, carefully checking out the scene before eventually taking some sort of bold action. When they finally decide to move, it's lightning fast. A friend's kid lost a pet mouse whilst playing with it outside by a rogue kooka.

I sometimes leave out some chicken bones with some meat left on them for them to forage through which they pick up and bang them on the rail or a tree branch to break them up. They enjoy it now and then.

I can hear a lyrebird down in the valley this morning, haven't got a photo of one yet, they are notoriously shy and very quick..... sometimes too quick to photograph.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

More media woes.

This is why Crikey is along my sidebar. Leaks such as this affadavit on how the media really works, surface from time to time. This was available to subscribers as of last Monday.

The use of the term "team player" when the powers-that-be at Network Nine are shafting Llewellyn and "how much they like him" is true corporate-speak gold.

About an hour ago we got a call from our lawyers to say Channel Nine had dropped its legal action to stop us – and the rest of the media – republishing this affidavit which we sent out to Crikey subscribers on Monday. So if you haven't seen it yet, here's what all the fuss is about:

NEWS Corp. were slow to pick up on this one, printing it in today's Daily Telegraph. Here's a snip which isn't available via crikey due to it being in graphic form. Note, Llewellyn was on $750,000 before the meeting on May 31st.

May 31. New Nine CEO Eddie McGuire summons Llewellyn to his office. Also there is Nine executive director Jeffrey Browne:After some initial conversation about general news and current affairs topics a conversation took place as follows:

Mr McGuire said: "What are we gonna do about Jessica? When should we bone (sack) her? I reckon it should be next week."

By Jessica, McGuire was referring to Jessica Rowe, the presenter of the Today program.

I said: "Are you sure you want to get rid of her?"

Mr Browne said: "She's a laughing stock and if we keep her on air we will be the laughing stock."

I said: "Have you thought through what may happen if she goes? We went to all of that trouble to get her from Ten and they copped the bad publicity and now we'll cop it. Secondly, (Rowe's husband and 60 Minutes reporter) Peter Overton will be really upset and we run the risk of losing him from the network. That might be a real problem, because he might end up at Channel 7."

Mr McGuire said: "Well, maybe we have to take that risk."

McGuire cuts to the chase:

Mr McGuire said: "Now let's talk about you."

Mr Browne said: "This is not going to be a pleasant conversation but you've got to know that you're a gun, a real talent."

Mr McGuire said: "Absolutely."

Mr Browne said: "We've got big plans for you at the network and Eddie and I think you are one of the real talents at Nine. This is therefore a difficult chat, because there is a shit sandwich you're going to be asked to swallow. We want to cut your pay to $400,000 and we want you to consider taking on one of two new positions."

I said: "That's some sh*t sandwich."

McGuire then puts the knife in:

Mr McGuire said: "I want someone else to come in and oversee Nine news."

I said: "Who's that?"

Mr McGuire said: "Garry Linnell, the editor of The Bulletin. I want the two of you to work hand in glove and together you can turn the network around. The excellent work you've done on Beaconsfield and the Packer Special shows me that you are one of the people I need on my team."

Mr Browne said: "You've got to realise Mark that Eddie and I not only like you enormously but we think you are an absolute talent."

Llewellyn is still told to be loyal:

Mr McGuire said: "Look me in the eye because I'm going to give it to you straight. I don't know whether Linnell will be better or worse but I think you are being played out of position. I regard you as a mate and hopefully a friend and I want you to be part of my team. I want you to be making television."

Mr Browne said: "Those who stay loyal even if they got a pay cut, will be rewarded when the good economic times come back to Nine. I can't give you an absolute promise, but I will do my best to make sure you will be looked after and regarded when the good times return. You know what type of man I am and you should trust me on this."

Mr McGuire said: "There might be a bit more in the kick regarding the $400,000, but not much more."