Monday, 30 December 2013

Would you like some chicken with that fat?

It was while watching the cricket over the preceding months that I became enraged, as usual, with the advertising.
Alcohol at 9.30 in the morning and fat all day.
The cricket goes for seven hours a day, and so these ads saturated, both the airwaves, and subsequently, the consumers' arteries.
My friend Michael put it best when he contacted the takeaway food company in question, KFC, and said,  "If the purpose of showing KFC ads during the cricket Test with such unbelievable frequency was to so antagonise viewers that we will never again buy a piece of KFC, then congratulations. You've achieved it.
KFC did reply to him and say they will take his point on board, and pass on his thoughts to the marketing department, but as any of you who have been reading this will know, that is company speak for 'fuck off'.
Now sadly, these ads clearly work, there is no way on this Earth that these companies would spend the amounts they do if it didn't work, which then leads us to the question of what to do about it?
Well I would suggest that we all take a leaf out of Michael's book, and simply contact KFC at and make your views known.
You might also contact Cricket Australia at

But then people should be allowed to spend their money on what they want, and if they choose to buy KFC then really that is their choice.
However, the ads in question push this product so relentlessly, so torrentially frequently, that the unthinking consumer starts to think that everybody must be eating this stuff, so if I don't there is something wrong with me.
But the US has shown the way.
As can be seen from this story in The Telegraph, California has moved to ban unhealthy foods from the poorer areas of the city in an attempt to reduce obesity rates.
92% of the food establishments in South LA are takeaway fat services, while West LA has a mere 42%.
South LA is a savagely poor area, while West LA, on the coastal side, contains the movie star suburbs of Malibu and Hollywood.
So at this point I thought I better gesture toward being a real journalist and do a bit of research on how healthy or otherwise KFC is.
Actually this Nutrition Calculator was pretty accurate in the end.
So I went to the KFC Australia website and found their nutrition calculator to find out how much fat there is in the stuff, and sure enough, it doesn't work, or it didn't work when I tried it, the picture shows my results.
So I contacted KFC as Michael did earlier and asked if their calculator works or not, and have as yet received no reply.
However, guessing that KFC wants to keep their fat percentage secret, I found another website, the enigmatically titled, and got this result.
I say enigmatic, as I wonder about the 'find the best" part, I thought it was all garbage, but there you go.
Anyway, this website gives the following values for a "Thigh Value Box" of KFC.
41g out of 215 is the fat load, or 19%.
To be fair though to KFC, an ordinary piece of roast chicken is rated as 13% fat, so they are 'only' adding 7% fat to the stuff.
So what's the argument?
Well I think what annoys me most about the onslaught of KFC ads on the cricket is that it shows the Australian cricketers eating it.
For those overseas reading this, cricket is a professional sport in Australia, and the athletes that play it are top of the range fit.
And this is a perennial argument with fatty food ads, which is that they never show fat people in the ads.
Modern cricketers are very fit, gone are the days when guys like Eddie Hemmings and Colin Cowdrey could cut it at the top level, and so to see modern fit cricketers eating this stuff is the height of hypocrisy.
A porky Colin Cowdrey
facing Jeff Thomson.

I remember once as a young man who still ate takeaway garbage and still ate meat going with my friends to KFC in Vancouver, ahead of us at the counter,  was a guy who took up two places in the queue, he was that overweight.
I said as an aside to my friend Todd, "you don't see guys like that in the ads, do you?"
He nodded, and we all went for the lowest calorie option we could find.
And I in no way am, or was, making fun of the obese man in the queue, I have my sights set squarely on KFC for constantly tempting people who are struggling with their weight to eat more of the stuff.
But back to the current day, in the Australian cricket team at the moment is my current sporting hero, Peter Siddle, probably Australia's best known vegan.
Siddle eats twenty odd bananas during a day's play, and seems to function well on it.
Hashim in his logo-less shirt.
 Which therefore makes me wonder how he feels about the team he plays for being sponsored by a company that makes millions putting chickens to death.
There is a precedent here, involving the South African player, Hashim Amla,.
Hashim is a Muslim and the South African team is sponsored by a beer company.
 So Hashim put his beliefs into action and said he didn't want to wear the alcohol company's logo on his shirt.
This caused some consternation among the powers that be in South African cricket and there was talk of fining him for a short while.
But, and here we can dare to hope, reason returned to her throne and Hashim was allowed to play without advertising something that defied his Muslim principles.
And there is another example from America, which is less to so with principle and all to do with money, but is none the less relevant to this debate.
The American basketball team that goes to the Olympics each four years is famously called the Dream Team.
This name comes from fact that for many years pundits would comment along the lines of 'how good would it be if the greatest players in the NBA, Jordan, Ewing, Shaq and the rest were in the same team?'
So the Olympics is the only time we see this lot together and they win every time.
Hashim's team mate Faf Du Plessis,
with the beer company
logo prominent on his right breast.
However, there was  a kerfuffle over advertising, the team is sponsored by Coke, but Shaquille O'Neil was personally sponsored by Pepsi.
Thus after the final they held a press conference and Shaq made sure there was a Pepsi in front of him, in defiance of team orders, and the shit hit the fan big time.
Coke were outraged, Pepsi happy, the team officials running around like headless chooks trying to find a compromise, but how could there be?
Coke said 'No Pepsi'.
Shaq said, 'I'm a Pepsi man.'
It was never sorted out, but I raise the issue because it shows that one person, albeit a super famous one, can make a difference when it comes to taking sponsors on, and therefore so can we.
So we can but hope that here in Australia we may continue to ride the groundswell of complaint lead by Michael above and our sport may one day be broadcast again with, for a start, less ads for KFC and alcohol, and, even more hopefully, none at all.

Consumer watch dogging

And I'll just finish with this little warning.
Like most middle-aged men I have to watch what I eat and so have become an inveterate reader of the ingredient list on the side of any product I buy.
So one day I was in my local outlet of the big two supermarkets when I came across this bottle of salad dressing.
I avoid fatty things, mayo being one, and so was hoping this product would provide me with a change from the vinaigrette dressings I am confined to.

However, one of the ingredients listed in this prduct is Parmesan cheese, so I went down to the dairy section and learned that the lightest Parmesan there was fifty percent fat.
So I contacted the company, Goodman Fielder and asked if this can be true, is there only one per cent fat in this product?
That was on the 12th of December, and I am still waiting for an answer, but given the Australian propensity for fatty foods, I'd avoid it if you're watching your weight.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The best relationship guidance of all.

Garth from Wayne's World, more
useful than Dr Phil or Joyce Brothers.
It was while I was watching Wayne's World last week that I was reminded of some great relationship advice from Wayne's best friend Garth, 'relationships are not for the timid'.
Many are down on Wayne's World due to its perceived image as a film by bogans for bogans, but this is a completely misguided view.
Kierkegaard is mentioned in the film with a piece of his philosophy to be going on with, and there are many other gems to add to the elevation of this film to masterpiece status.
All of my relationships have been the very epitomy of dysfunction, and I think it is because I made the classic error of..., actually the errors I made are two numerous to write down here,so I'll stick to the topic of Garth's utterance.
It is generally considered that people go into relationships because they don't want to be lonely.
However, many find that they have never been as lonely as they are once they are in a relationship.
Often it is the partner who forms the major source of loneliness, once communication breaks down, then both partners tend to inhabit a house of silence in which both are intensely lonely.
The silence only relieved by increasingly frequent shouting.
Weddings, Parties, Anything probably put this best in their song, Step in, Step out, when they wrote: "we can't find the time for talking, seems we find the time to shout."
And just before I get back to the main point, another point made in, of all places, South Park, is that you have to be comfortable single, before you can start a relationship and expect it to be functional.
When I first read this in a self-help book by Stephanie Dowrick I was downcast, as usual I was terminally depressed at the time, and I just could not conceive a day when I would feel anything other than suicidal, so to read that I would never have a girlfriend until I was happy, made me nearly give up and end it there.
But now I can see the point, if you go into a relationship because you are lonely and unhappy, and expect the relationship to provide you with happiness, then you are putting an inordinate amount of pressure on the other person, making them the provider of your happiness.
The devil's choice, Chris or Saddam?
This is bound to fail, as the other person in the relationship has needs of their own, possibly the same needs for you to make them happy, and so you end up with the very definition of a dysfunctional relationship.
So what of the Devil in South Park?
He has been having a hopelessly one-sided relationship, based largely on hot sex with Saddam Hussein.
After some years he realises that Saddam is treating him like a doormat, and ends the relationship.
The devil then, with the terrifying abyss of loneliness opening beneath his feet, starts a relationship with Chris, who is the opposite of Saddam.
Stable, trustworthy, honest, but unfortunately sex with Chris bores the crap out of him.
So then he has to decide which man he wants.
He walks the slopes of Hell for days unable to make up his mind, until he eventually swallows his pride and confides in God.
God, in a first in history, hands out some good advice, "Have you ever considered being with neither of them, and spending some time with yourself?"
The devil thankfully hears and realises that time alone is what he needs.
And all this from South Park highlights Garth's original point, which is that the devil is timid and scared.
he is too scared to be alone, and so continues with relationships that are dysfunctional, as that is less scary than being alone.
And the same applies to all of us, and depicts the hopelessly paradoxical nature of human relationships, you have to be brave to start a relationship, and you have to be even braver to be on your own.
Then with your confidence growing as you cope with life alone and without substance abuse, you begin to project desirability, and suddenly you begin to attract people to you.
So what's frightening about being in a relationship, why is it not for the timid?
I feel the main reason is that you have to be vulnerable.
In a relationship there is nowhere to hide.
Steve Martin in LA Story: "None of us
recognise the moment love starts,
but we all know when it ends."
And men don't like this at all, maybe women are the same, but I feel that men particularly, and particularly here in Australia with our macho football playing culture, that men just point-blank refuse to be vulnerable.
As soon as you make this unconscious, or conscious, decision to never be vulnerable, communication ceases and the relationship withers and dies.
I might add, lying is the opposite of communication, as Steve Martin discovers in La Story.
We find lying to our partner seductively easy, and it is the death knell of love.
I had this lack of functional communication demonstrated to me most admirably while watching a rugby match in my home town of Bathurst.
I was sitting in the stands and next to me was a group of young women whose boyfriends and husbands were on the field playing.
One of these men was playing halfback for the Bathurst team, and as part of his position he kept up a non-stop series of chattering instructions to the forward pack.
In the stands his girlfriend said to her friends, "You know, he never talks to me at home".
This was said by her in a amused way, but I wanted to turn to her and say, 'get the fuck out of that relationship'.
If your boyfriend doesn't communicate with you, then he is most definitely in the 'I refuse to be vulnerable' camp.
And if he is camping there, your relationship will never flower.
So then I was reminded of even better relationship advice, even better than South Park and Wayne's World, elephants.
The famous 'herd of elephants' is all female.
Great granny leads her female relatives.
Great granny leads the way, grannies, mothers, aunts, daughters  and nieces, all fall in step and they go about the savannah on their business.
The only males in the heard are very young babies and as soon as they reach about one year of age, they leave the embrace of the herd and go out on their own.
The males spend most of their time alone and only show when it's time for sex.
Then a lot of two-tonne bonking goes on, and once the female is pregnant, she kicks the male to the kerb and spends the term of her pregancy with her female relatives.
So both sexes are happy, the males don't have to go to xmas parties with friends of the wife from work, and the females don't have the males messing up the waterhole straight after she has cleaned it.
Everybody wins.
So there you have it, relationship advice from two great shows, and best of all, from the smartest of them all, the elephant.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A shadow rises in the East, and darkness falls upon the land.

Mount Doom and the unwinking red eye of Sauron, staring lidlessly from the
dark tower, Barad Dur.
I am having a difficult time at the moment and as the darkness fell around me I was reminded of the shadow of Mordor falling across Middle Earth.
As one of the characters said, "A shadow rises in the east, and darkness falls across the land".
And this I felt was a perfect literary metaphor for depression.
Sometimes you know why you're down, sometimes you don't, but this mysterious dark miasma, rising to blot out your world was a perfect literary rendition of depression.
As usual I ask for you to bear with me as I talk of depression.
I don't want this blog to be self-indulgent, but then I also feel that any more writing done about depression can only help improve treatment of this dread malady.
Perhaps someone reading this will realise that they have more going on than just feeling down, of having the blues.
Or, perhaps more importantly, you the reader will be able to recognise that someone close to you has depression, and may then be able to help.
This is of course the ultimate frustration for a parent, if they feel their child has depression, and are desperate to help, but of course the first thing any child does is hide everything away from their parent.
So the first thing I did was read about J.R.R. Tolkein, who wrote Lord of the Rings, to see if he had depression.
Baboon Spider.
It doesn't say anywhere that he did, but as you're about to see, if anyone deserved to have depression, it was him.
He was born in South Africa in 1892 and had a fairly standard childhood for those such as him whose father was serving in the far flung corners of the British Empire.
He was bitten by a Baboon Spider when young, and although as an adult he said point blank he didn't actually recall the incident, one can't help wondering if it didn't have overtones of Shelob, the giant spider in Lord of the Rings.
Then again, I, for one, am scared of spiders, and so a giant spider that eats humans has every right to be among the most frightening creations in fiction.
Frodo in the grip of Shelob.
I can remember reading Lord of the Rings as an adolescent and when I got to that section I spent that night, and many nights thereafter, pulling the blankets back from the bed to make sure there were no spiders in it.
Aged three, Tolkein returned to England with his mother and siblings for an extended visit, but while they were waiting, his father died in Africa of Rheumatic fever.
His mother, Mabel, a powerful woman, taught him from an early age, and he could read and write, including Latin, fluently from the age of four.
Then when Tolkein was aged eight, his mother converted to catholicism, this in an age when religious bigotry was all-powerful, and so her vehemently protestant family cut off all financial assistance to her.
Then his mother died, aged 34, when Tolkien was twelve, and the guardianship of her sons was assigned to a catholic priest.
He did seem to bring them up well enough and he came to adolescence bearing up against the tribulations of childhood and the loss of both parents.
At 16 he met the love of his life, Edith, but his guardian, the catholic priest, saw her as a distraction from his studies, and so forbade the young Tolkien from seeing, or corresponding with her, till he was 21.
No doubt hoping he would have forgotten her by this time.
A common mistake for adults to make, thinking that teenage loves are not the real thing.
Tolkein however kept this injunction, as the priest warned that if he saw her even once, that his education at the prestigious King Edward's school would be terminated.
But Tolkein was a man with some guts and the ability to plan for the future, so he denied his throbbing loins and stayed away from Edith to get his education, but the day he turned 21 he wrote to Edith and proposed.
She was currently affianced to another man, thinking, like the guardian priest that he would have forgotten about her by now, but he hadn't, and she dissolved her engagement, and married Tolkein.
So we're all set for a happy ending?
Not so, Tolkein and Edith were married in 1916 and barely had the ink dried on the register when he was sent to France to serve in the blood soaked Hell that was the first world war.
He served as a signals officer, and then "luckily" came down with trench fever.
"Luckily", because he was repatriated to England and while recuperating learned almost his entire battalion had been wiped out, his closest friends among them.
He spent the rest of the war shuttling between hospital and light garrison duties and emerged in 1918 alive, but never fully whole as trench fever never really goes away.
His wife Edith of course spent the entire time he was serving in France in a lather of stress, wondering if any knock on the door could be an officer there to tell her her husband had been killed.
So Tolkien had survived spider bite, being orphaned, forcibly removed from the love of his life, then war and most of his friends not returning from the front.
He then finally got to enjoy some time with Edith and the children and was able to begin his writing career and we are all richer for it.
Nowhere does it say he had depression, but that was a different age, and the condition was of course completely unknown.
So it puts my problems into some sort of perspective, but then all our problems loom large to us.
However, this is a point I want to raise, often, particularly here in Australia, we are told we can't complain.
As you know I have constantly referred here in this blog to my own complaining, in a jocular fashion, but there is an undercurrent of appeal there.
Really, I would like to complain a lot more.
So often for many of us, we have something going on and we mention it, and get the "There's thousands of starving children in Africa", or the "Well, in the end, we don't appreciate how lucky we are", response.
Ever had a problem bursting out of your chest like this?
This is shorthand for 'shut up and stop complaining', so we do, and it sets up an awfully, painful, shut-in feeling inside all of us.
So what's the solution?
Well, I have finally learned that you can't just dump all over your friends when you have a problem.
They have issues as well, and often have something bursting out of their chest like the monster in Alien.
So then it is difficult to have a two-way discussion, as both parties are not sure if and when to speak, and if and what to say.
So in the end the only solution, in my opinion, is counselling.
Counselling is great, you get to share your deepest issues with a detached person who won't tell anyone.
BTW: Detached does not mean they don't care, it means roughly that they won't judge you, or, perhaps more importantly, tell anyone.
To illustrate this, I would like to refer to one of my favourite authors Terry Pratchett.
One of his characters, Rincewind, arrives in Pseudopolis, the Discworld's analogue of ancient Greece.
He goes out to dinner and there at the restaurant are the great philosophers of the age, Plato, Socrates, Copernicus, the lot.
He sits at the table for some minutes and takes it all in.
Rincewind learned the value
of someone listening.
The philosophers are shouting non-stop at the tops of their voices, and Rincewind eventually spots a little man sitting opposite him saying nothing.
So he leans across and says, "Can you tell me what's going on? Why are these guys all yelling and shouting over each other?"
The little man nods and says, "That's most interesting."
Rincewind, non-plussed, thinks the little man hasn't heard and repeats his question, "Who are these guys, and why don't they ever shut up?"
The little man nods again, and says, "Really, that's even more interesting, do go on."
So Rincewind gives it up as a bad job, and retires to his seat to wait for a gap in the conversation.
Then as he is sitting there, the little man opposite him starts writing on a piece of paper, then hands it across the table to Rincewind.
It's a bill for listening.
Turns out that the little man has figured out the ultimate niche in the market, everyone in Pseudopolis likes to talk, but no one wants to listen.
And that little piece of thought on the part of the little man shows the need for counsellors in our society.
If I was in charge of the world, and I expect your vote when that election comes along, I would see that there was a counselling station on the corner of every block, in every city on Earth, staffed by people like Paula my therapist.
Then if you are feeling an Alien-like pressure inside your chest, you could pop down to the counselling station and have your boil lanced by your friendly neighbourhood counsellor.
So then the perennial question is do I need counselling?
Well, almost certainly, yes.
I feel that everyone on this Earth could use an extra listening ear, and encourage you to try it.
However, stress is insidious, it creeps up on you, and you invariably don't know how much you are suffering.
I for instance, am in a bad way because of a concatenation of events.
First my dear friend Chris died, then the property on which my tent is got sold, and underlying that is the two years of stress that my business partner has put me through.
We went into business to sell surfboards together, and then after a few months he (This I conjecture), suddenly realised there was a lot of work for not much profit in selling these things, so he abandoned ship and left me with thirty unsaleable surfboards and twenty grand of debt.
The case is coming to court now, and is an almost unbearable stress load on its own, and that overlaying the death of Chris and the uncertainty of my living space.
And this is common to all of us, slowly, insidiously, the little bits of stress build up like the drops of water in the mountains of the Andes that eventually become the Amazon, the largest river on Earth.
When you can't answer a question because you find it difficult to focus, when you have to struggle to attend a crying child, when you find yourself at the wheel of your car and can't immediately recall where you are going, then I strongly suspect that stress has built up in your life and you need to dial 000 and get the Counselling truck on its way to your place with the siren blaring.
So until I get voted in as King of the world and Counselling stations are commonplace, you can access counselling several ways, Lifeline is the best and can be reached on 131114, or you can access counselling with a psychologist through your GP.
This service allows you up to ten sessions through medicare.
Also there is the mental health access line on 1800-011-511.
And so to finish with some humour (I hope).
When I went into rehab I was in bad way.
I was drinking in the morning, sometimes as early as seven a.m, and I looked like a scarecrow, with haunted eyes that would not have been out of place in a schlock horror film.
And the reason I was in this condition was I couldn't access help for my mental illness, I was living on the central coast and I went to see a GP to get help, and he heard my story then said "Well, I'll take you on as a patient, but (Here he changed to a loud yelling voice) ONLY IF YOU WANT TO GET BETTER".
I recoiled as if I had been bitten by a snake, and much later when I was stronger mentally, I wanted to go back to him and say, "do you get anyone who comes in here and asks if you can make them worse?"
Anyway, I went away and through hard searching found the mental health access line mentioned above.
I rang up and was answered by a very nice, and thankfully, very professional nurse, I began the conversation, "Excuse me, do men in white suits still come and take you away? If so, here's my address."
Thankfully, that turned out to be unnecessary, and later that day my brother drove me down to Wyong Hospital and rehab, and then the long journey up through the valley of darkness to being able to write this.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Dennis Rodman had longer honeymoons

Bulls' bad boy Dennis Rodman.
I was a little surprised to learn this week that the Abbott government has been in power for 100 days.
I thought it had been longer, like a thousand years.
To say that the honeymoon has been short is to understate matters, non-existant is perhaps a better way to put it.
Due mostly to us, the Australian voters, not actually voting Abbott in, rather just wanting to ensure that Rudd was definitely out.
Which reminded me of Dennis Rodman, he had a, to say the least, wild personal life, including a marriage to Carmen Electra that had a honeymoon period of hours rather than days.
Dennis Rodman was a member of the eternally famous Chicago Bulls team containing Michael Jordan, and latterly, Australian Luke Longley.
Rodman was rated as the greatest defensive forward ever to play the game, with rebounding, whatever that is, his main skill.
However, like many he was emotionally flawed, and the always-on, high-pressure, goldfish bowl life of an NBA star was simply too much for him.
To say he was an alcoholic is an understatement, Rodman needed a forklift to get his daily supplies in.
Rodman with second
wife Carmen Electra.
His first marriage was to a woman named Annie and that lasted at least two years (sources are unclear) and this was to prove a record for the man.
Following his divorce from her in the early nineties he then went on to marry actress Carmen Electra, and this lasted less time than it took the priest to find a pen to sign the register.
The official time frame was six months, but it's thought they were actually together as man and wife for less than a week.
He then went through a period of rehab and various other things to make money, wrestling, starring in action films with Jean-Claude Van Damme for instance, but they all came to nought and he would up on a reality TV show for celebrities in rehab.
This seemed to work and he managed to maintain sobriety for a sustained period, however it was a all a con, manufactured by the producers of the show and Rodman got back on the turps in a big way and was ejected from a restaurant for "unruly" behaviour the same night the TV show aired.
Likewise in the NBA, was Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
One of the greatest players of all, but partial to the ladies, and frankly addicted to groupies.
Magic (No 32) in action
against the Boston Celtics.
By the time he was tested and it was discovered he was HIV+, in 1991, he was thought to have had sex with over ten thousand women, over a ten year period, an average of three a night.
However, Magic did turn things around and became an activist for HIV/AIDS and was happy to tell his story to other young athletes in the hope of preventing them falling the same way, and as Dennis Rodman, crazed loon though he is, would be a better PM than Tony Abbott, likewise I would like to say that Magic would be a better health administrator than this man (below).
Who is he?
The ultimate faceless man, Peter
Dutton, you're health is in his hands.
Exactly, it's the federal health minister, that some one apparently voted for, Peter Dutton.
I scanned the newsprint but he has hardly rated a mention since his ascension to his lofty perch, which, when I think about it, is probably a good thing as it means he hasn't been doing anything.
Any member of the current government who does nothing is doing the right thing by Australia, less is definitely more.
Which then brings us to the person that puts the rest of the people on this page of loons in the shade, Julie Bishop, the foreign minister.
As you can see in the picture, she radiates madness like an incandescent light bulb, even placing the picture made me shudder.
So who would be better than her as foreign minister?
Julie Bishop, plutonium
is safer to be around.
Well the obvious answer is just about anyone, but the person I would most like to see take over is Charlie Sheen, he at least knows more about underage Asian women than Julie Bishop does.
Since she had taken over we have been in the position of having to frantically extricate ourselves from one damn foreign affair mess after another.
First there was the business with China.
China escalated the tensions over some lifeless rocks in the ocean between China and Japan, by declaring it a no fly zone.
Things could have been safely left to those Asian superpowers to argue about, but then Julie Bishop decided to stick her oar in and pissed off both China and Japan, a diplomatic tour de force if ever there was one.
Here's a tip Julie, watch 'Yes, Minister', if you had you would know that the best thing a Foreign Affairs Minister can do is say nothing for as long as possible.
I know that and I'm just a micro-blogger who mows lawns for a living, so why don't you?
Then there was the business of tapping the phones of the the Indonesian PM and his family, now to be fair that was inherited from the previous Labor government, but when the scat hit the revolving air conditioner I was in dread knowing that we had not just Julie Bishop, but Tony Abbott trying to sort it out.
As a tradie once said when I offered to help on an irrigation job back in the city, "Yeah, that would be good, then we'll have two blokes that don't know what they are doing."
That mess goes on, and I can't help feeling that things will only get sorted out when Both Julie and Tony stop trying to fix it.
And then there is the business with East Timor.
It's Bronwyn Bishop.
Now this was inherited from a previous government, the Howard government, so Tony and Julie have to cop this one on the chin.
Turns out that while Australia was negotiating with nascent sovereign nation East Timor over oil and gas in the Timor Sea, we were bugging their phones to learn their negotiating position before going into formal talks.
So it looks like we Australians have been in the position of bullying a tiny emerging nation to save a few pennies on oil and gas.
And that doesn't make me proud I can tell you.
However despite all of these nutjobs already on this page, the worst is here at the finish.
Her picture popped up when I went o my favourite search engine and typed in 'bishop foreign minister' and got two nutjobs for the price of one.
It's Bronwyn Bishop and she is Speaker of the house.
If ever there was someone whose ob I wished had an opposite title, it's her, can we create a new role, non-Speaker?
If so I would nominate Bronny for it.
A world in which Dennis Rodman is PM, Julie Bishop shuts up, Magic Johnson takes over the health portfolio and Bronwyn Bishop is a non-speaker is one I'd like to live in.

Monday, 2 December 2013

When a female porcupine says 'no', she really means it.

A male goat - do not make love to it.
It began a couple of nights ago as I was washing my garlic crusher.
As I poked the bristles of my washing up brush through the tortuously fine holes of the press, I had the thought, why am I washing the garlic crusher at all when the only thing I use it for is to crush more garlic?
Garlic is supposed to have near miraculous properties for human health, anti-microbial one of them, and so if I never washed it, would it matter?
Would I suffer alarming health effects?
Probably not
Which reminded me of an email that circulated through my inbox some time ago, entitles 'Things That Make you Go hmm'.
One of the 'makes-you-think' along the lines of the 'what is the sound of one hand clapping?', variety was why do we wash towels, if we only use them when we're clean?
A useful one for those who wish to clear their mind of the monkey chatter.
Also in the text however was this truly bizarre piece of legislation from a country in the Mediterranean, I won't name the country as I don't want to bring down howls of racist taunts upon me, but the law says, " In XXXXXXX, If a man is caught having sex with a male animal then the penalty is death - sex with a female animal is ok."The mind truly boggles when one contemplates the country's grey-bearded elders going into
committee to set that one down on parchment.
Did it start as a simple anti-bestiality clause, and the opposition decided to attack the government and so they writers of the bill put in the 'female animals are OK' bit to appease the barnyard lobby?
One can never know.
I did, fleetingly, think of ringing the consulate of the country involved to ask if the statute was still on the books, but I think you can imagine the response from them if someone rang up to ask that question.
A nanny goat, romance allowed
But if one boggles at the need for that law, then one definitely has to wonder what on Earth has been going on down in the southern peninsula of the United States, where we find this law from Florida.
" In Florida having sexual intercourse with a porcupine is illegal."
One can just, JUST, see the way clear for a country to bring in a law stopping one having sex with an animal partner of your choosing, but one definitely has to wonder about the circumstances that lead to the porcupine law being brought in.
Was there an incident?
If so, did the human or the porcupine come off with the most damage?
Even the ancient dad joke gives a perfectly adequate warning: "Q:How do porcupines makes love?
A:Very, very, carefully."
So if a porcupine has to go easy, it beggars belief how a human would achieve the desired outcome.
That then lead me, as a biologist at the very least, and not as a bestial voyeur, to check exactly how porcupines do get down to business, and here it is.
Porcupine love, safe sex means raising her quills.
The picture shows that the female, having decided she is receptive to the male, has raised her quills to allow him to proceed.
Even so the male still has to follow the precepts of the old joke and proceed with extreme caution.
But to be fair every country on Earth has some arcane laws on the books that were justified once upon a time.
Most have been, thankfully, removed once some sense was brought to the argument.
But even then things are not always as clear as they might be, usually once christians get involved.
When I was living in Canada I came across this truly astonishing bit of malarky.
One of my favourite authors whom I encountered whilst there was a Canadian named Paul St Pierre.
Paul wrote wonderful books about life in the backwoods of British Columbia in the middle stages of the twentieth century.
He achieved a unique distinction that I strongly suspect will never be achieved again, which was creating a fictional seat of parliament in one of his stories, then being elected to it.
The electoral commission created a seat in the area he was writing about and called it 'Chilcotin', taking the name that Paul used in his story.
Paul was asked to run for parliament and was elected as the rep for Chilcotin.
Paul was a great rep, as he first and foremost understood how bloody ridiculous the whole thing was.
At one point he showed arithmetically that in his parliament they create some largish numbers of laws each year to continually curtail one activity after another.
At the end of that particular piece of work he pointed out that in his whole time in parliament, they had created something like 2,000 new laws, but had only removed one, the anti-witchcraft law.
And damn right to.
So you can imagine my surprise when a young woman and her partner came to work with me at Greenpeace in Vancouver, and she told me why.
She had previously been a school bus driver, but had been sacked for being a witch.
I reared back in shock.
"You're kidding", I said, disbelief framing my features.
"No, sadly it's true", she replied.
She wasn't a witch, but a pagan, much like the druids of Britain, and some christians got hold of that and started a campaign so that their kids weren't being driven around by a 'satan worshipper'.
So even removing farcical, beyond-belief-ridiculous laws is not simple when the church lobby gets involved.

And all of that leads ever so appositely to the current ridiculous carry-on in Canberra about the Gonski Education Review.
You may have read elsewhere of my life as a teacher and this furore reminded me of something my friend Morsch said during our teacher training.
The Greiner government was in place then, in 1991, and they released their education policy while we were studying, it was called 'Excellence and Equity'.
Almost everyone at the teachers' college, trainee or trainer, began to read it and swoop around wondering what it portended for their new lives in the education sector.
I idly contemplated whether I should do the same, but already had the 'Bart Simpson' attitude to school, which was don't read anything I don't have to.
And this was then affirmed by Morsch whom I asked about this policy, "Should we read this Morsch?", I said.
His response was, "Nah, it'll just be more you've got to forget in a few years when the government changes."
As events turned out, Morsch was dead right, some years later the Carr government came in and everything changed.
So, Gonski.
The Gonski team did an exhaustive study of education in Australia and produced a their document.
The major feature was an increase in funding for disadvantaged schools.
Christopher Pyne the Education Minister then had one of his staffers read it to him, (I'm pretty sure he can't read), and learned what the paper was about.
Then Pyne went in to see Tony Abbott and said in horrified tones, "Gonski wants to give money to girls, indigenous and ethnic students!"
The Abbott government, like the Howard government before, only cares that white boys from Sydney's lower north shore get to go to Sydney Uni, so he, Abbott, was likewise horrified, and so said to Pyne, "Put a stop to this at once."
So Pyne then went out and announced they were 'changing' the policy, 'to be fairer'.
Now normally that would have been the end of it and Syndey's exclusive private schools would have gone on getting the lion's share of government funding.
But then, apparently long after everyone else, Pyne realised that two states, NSW and Victoria, both with Liberal governments, had already signed up for Gonski.
So now the federal government was in a cleft stick, if NSW and Vic had both had labour governments that would have been the end of the matter, but since they were on 'our' side, as Pyne would have it, he then had to add another backflip to his recent acrobatics, and add $1.2 billion to the Gonski bag, to try to keep NSW and Victoria sweet.
The upshot of all this has been that after many sleepless nights of round-the-clock work, Pyne's staffers have produced a new policy that is identical to the original Gonski review.
And all of that occurred because the new federal government don't have any policies, they seem to think that just undoing everything Labor did is a way to govern.
John  Howard for instance famously said, "Our job is to have a go at the Labor party."
No John, you're job was to govern.
Pity you didn't do it.
Make no mistake, John Howard is still pulling the strings, he tells Tony Abbott what to do, and Tony Abbott does it.
So much for democracy.
So to close with a picture series.
Justly venerated Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was in Australia this week and members of the Abbott government used her visit to display a staggering level of hypocrisy.
The Howard and Abbott governments did nothing, that is NOTHING, to help her achieve democracy, or even get out of house arrest, while they were in power, yet the moment she arrives, they took the chance to be photographed with her.
The reason this fries my canoles is to do with the ABC and the Indonesian spy scandal.
Why? Well, it's like this.
The fact that Australia was tapping the Indonesian leaders phone came originally from documents released by arch whistle blower, Edward Snowden.
These documents were capacious, and only the ABC really bothered to sift through them, eventually they discovered the phone tapping story and once researched, released it.
Then Andrew Bolt and a horde of other brain dead right wingers came out accusing the ABC of sitting on the story, and only releasing it after the election to embarrass the Abbott government.
So by the same token, Tony Abbott and the rest of his government, should have allowed the various Labor foreign ministers, and various human rights groups, Amnesty International, among them, to meet her instead.
But then a politician giving up a chance of publicity is about as likely as Chistopher Pyne learning to read.
Aung meets with Tony Abbott and Bronwyn
Bishop, hasn't she suffered enough?


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Well, why'd you bloody ask then?

This is the fourth time I have started this post, which is not like me, but I am finding it difficult to maintain a particular thread of discourse.
One of the things about being a professional writer, which I am only in the very loosest sense, is that you have to develop control.
You get to a sticky point, and the natural urge is just to give up and say 'it's all too hard' and go and do something else.
Anyone seeing the finished product has no idea of all this background angst that went into completing it.
So what's wrong with me this week?
I have been having  a difficult time with business issues and my house now on the market, with possible consequence of having to move, and this uncertainty makes it hard to concentrate.
No one is forcing me to write this blog, but I do it for my own reasons, mainly having somewhere to moan, and Wednesday is the day.
So I am going to attempt to stick at it.
So what's with the title?
This stems from someone I know asking me how I was.
Now this is a perennially thorny issue for anyone with chronic depression.
The genuine answer is usually "not good", but I have long since learned not to say this, because no one really wants to hear it.
Also, most people are busy with their own lives and problems to listen.
I understand that as well, which is why I go to counselling with Paula, she being paid to listen to me moan.
But therefore, what do I want people to ask?
I know it's a reflex more than anything else to ask how someone is, but I think I'd prefer people to just say 'hello', rather than 'how are you doing?', if they're not prepared to listen to the answer.
And then if someone does ask how I am, and I give the "fine, thanks" answer, it leaves me feeling terribly alone, unable to express my true feelings.
It kind of reminds me of one of Ben Elton's books Stark.
The female lead, Rachel, was saying she didn't like being referred to as someone's 'lady', she goes on:
"In the end Rachel began to think she would honestly prefer to be known as someone's casual fuck, than their lady."
And I kind of feel the same here.
But then the next part of the problem is that I do unbend, against my better judgement, and say "I'm not doing so well", I usually get asked "why?", and this opens a whole other Pandora's box, because when I say why it is that I'm feeling like this, the advice starts.
And man, does this make me mad.
I urge the entire sentient world to take a leaf out of my therapist Paula's book, and never give any advice.
I once had to explain to my brother that therapists, if they know what they are doing, never give advice.
He thought that I went in and lay on the couch, and the therapist then told me what to do, avoid him and my father in that particular case.
But this was of course completely untrue, I was avoiding my father for the usual reasons, and I was avoiding my brother because he agreed with my father.
So in the end this leaves me kind of out of options I can tell you.
I don't want anyone to ask how I am if they aren't going to listen to the answer and, clearly, I don't want any more advice.
As I once had to explain to my brother, by giving advice you are basically saying you know more about life than the receiver of said advice.
I might add that one of the bits of my philosophy that I have developed is this: "advice is the opposite of money, people will give without stinting, but refuse to take a cent".
So no more advice please, unless your prepared for me to tell you what's wrong with your life.
Mind you, I really have a chicken and the egg paradox going here, because the people I am most mad at don't read this blog, so who am I yelling at?
Not you, that's for sure.
So let's move on to another topic, mainly so I have a photo to go with the blog, vegetarian's aren't soft.
Why's this matter?
It doesn't really, but I remember when one of the Australian cricketers, Peter Siddle announced he was a vegetarian, in fact a vegan.
There was some controversy with many saying that you can't play professional sport if you don't eat meat.
Well that's rubbish.
I have been a vegetarian for some years now and feel fine.
I did have low iron recently when I went for my annual checkup, but I saw pharmacist Fleur and she gave me some iron supplements, they taste like a rusty gate (joke), but they have certainly been doing the job.
If I had a big day of energy expenditure, gardening, cycling, gym and surf, I would often be very tired around six in the evening, and have to work hard to stay awake till ten so I could sleep through the night.
But since I've started taking the iron pills, I haven't had a problem.
And I might add, I became a vegetarian once I began doing autopsies on sea turtles down at Seabird Rescue.
I can assure you once you've followed the scalpel inside the green liquid contents of a long dead turtle, you'll never touch meat again.
Promise you that.
So I'll close with this picture of the world's most dangerous vegetarian.
If you're willing to go up and stab your finger in his chest and tell him he's soft, then I'll start eating meat again.
Cape Buffalo, even the flies steer clear.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Showers contracting to the north-east corner

These menacing clouds moved in over Byron on Thursday last week, by Saturday the hail came.
The title of this post was an oft repeated ending to the weather segment on ABC news by Mike Bailey, the ABC's venerable weatherman.
If there was any rain happening in NSW, Mike would invariably end the weather with this statement, showing on the map the clouds arrowing in on Byron Bay.
As a boy growing up in dry old Bathurst, it didn't mean much to me.
But when I moved to the said north-east corner and I really began to understand what he meant.
Byron Bay, as is well known, is the Eastern most point of the Australian mainland, and as such acts as a snag to any cloud going past.
Once snagged by the steep slopes of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), or the lighthouse cliffs, the clouds would give up the struggle to sail free over the Pacific ocean and dump their pregnant loads of water on our coastal living heads.
I remember five or so years ago listening to the Country Hour on ABC radio as I drove and the weather guy there was saying that 96% of NSW is in drought, or drought affected, I knew without research where the four percent that wasn't was.
The Rainbow region, as it is colloquially known, is known, regionally as the Northern Rivers, and that is an apt term.
And those rivers have to be fed by something and that something is the relentless procession of clouds hooked down by the coastal cliffs.
Norman Maclean, who wrote "A River Runs Through It", said, "I am haunted by waters".
I never quite felt that, but I was always fascinated by large bodies of water, and I think this is due to the dryness of Bathurst in the eighties.
The Macquarie River - a rare photo, there's water in it.
In this period I went on holidays, with my brother and mother, up to the north coast.
It was a life changing experience for me.
I remember looking out the windows of the car at this strange green stuff growing everywhere.
I had never seen such a lush verdant landscape before.
In retrospect, it was the moment I began planning my escape from Bathurst.
Some of you reading this still live there and that's fine, but it wasn't for me.
As a small boy of nine staring in fascinated wonder out the car window at a landscape that was more green than brown the whole desire to escape Bathurst burgeoned within me and, in the end, came down to one moment.
We crossed a small waterway called Salt Pan Creek and I looked down through the bridge stanchions and marvelled, "THAT'S A CREEK!"
It was wider and deeper than the hapless MacQuarie River of Bathurst by a considerable margin, and up here it was only a creek.
So if Salt Pan Creek was amazing, the Maclean River at Grafton was a religious experience.
The Maclean river - "There's Boats on it!"
Not the death shoe for a giant
mafia informant, but a measure
of Tully's rainfall.
This mighty watercourse was so big that a) boats could go up and down it, and b) you could fish in it.
Neither was possible on the Macquarie.
So with all this water up here, we have had our own way of life more or less thrust upon us.
Lismore, for instance, is the most flood affected town in Australia.
It doesn't get the most rain, that title is held by a clear margin by Tully in North Queensland, famously demonstrated by this concrete gumboot.
The gumboot stands 7.9m high and represents the rainfall in Tully in 1950, of 7900mm.
Additionally, Tully once got 1140mm (45 inches) of rain in one day.
To try to put that into context, Bathurst, for instance, has an annual rainfall in January of 68mm (2.7in) and Tully got twenty times that in a day.
Flooding in Lismore? - Take your pick.
So back to Lismore, whilst not in the Tully class for sheer volume of moisture arriving from the heavens at terminal velocity, it has a lot of issues with floods.
This is mostly due to the geography of the place, sitting as it does at the base of the caldera of the now extinct volcano, Wollumbin, the water comes down and then follows inexorably a circuitous path down to the low point, and that term is exact, believe me, of the area, Lismore.
So much is flooding a way of life for the residents up here that when I went onto my search engine to bring up some pictures of flooding in Lismore, I was spoiled for choice.
Lismore, as you can see below, had flood issues in 2010 through 2013, and every other damn year, but the menu dropped off the bottom of my screen at this point.
The Lismore floods of 1974,
the town is in there somewhere.
So much so, that when I looked I had to think hard about the flooding of this year, it was so "minor" that it escaped my memory.
Minor flooding in Lismore means the Wilson river only rose five metres.
The two worst years for flooding in Lismore were 1954 and 1974.


Global Warming

Which brings me, almost eternally, to global warming, and its immediate consequences.
Every year that goes by without us reducing our fossil fuel burning, the flooding is going to get worse.
Now this perennially complex issue is one difficult to describe, but a common technique used by right wing news organs was to finish a story about global warming with a two second sound grab from some crusty oldster, who would turn to the camera and say "I've never been so cold in my life."
This grab would be incredibly powerful and people would come away from the story with the feeling that it's all Ok, and if there are any consequences, they will not be visited upon us for hundreds of years.
Sadly not so, and the first symptoms of this global convulsion will be Extreme Weather Events (EWEs).
These will take many forms, normally temperate cities will have summer temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius for two weeks on end, dropping to 35 degrees (maybe) at night.
Cyclones will lash the coasts for not three days, but ten.
Cold snaps will snap colder, and deeper.
Scouring winds will pour out of the deserts and blow for days on end.

Already these events are playing havoc with insurance premiums, with the government being increasingly called upon to underwrite the repair bill.
Said governments are already becoming increasingly reluctant to do so, yet to obviate the need for paying out for repairs, they are unwilling to close a coal mine to stop the damage occurring in the first damn place.
Maybe those loonies who stood on street corners in sack cloth and ashes shouting "the end is nigh" will finally be proved right.

Global Dimming

Then there's global dimming.
What's this?
Global dimming was a phenomenon first brought to light in the wake of 9/11.
After the planes hit the towers, an immediate halt was brought to all flights in North America, while the whole mess was sorted out.
And in this flight hiatus, a climate scientist then got some data no one expected.
He had climate stations set up across the continent, from Alaska to Florida, and in the three days of no flights, the average temperature of the continent went up by one degree.
I know it doesn't sound much, but one degree in three days is an awful lot.
Turns out that the aircraft vapour trails were reflecting massive amounts of heat away from the Earth.
So we have set up this awfully uneasy system, if flights stop again, for any reason, the volcanic explosion in Iceland was one good example, the temperature of the planet could rise faster than anyone ever supposed.
What can we do about it?
Simply turning off a light or two, if done in every building in the country, could solve the problem.
Else, Lismore will lose its unwanted title of 'flood capital' of Australia, and anytown, Australia, will begin vying for the title.
So in closing I'll refer to a novel I read by John Wyndham, The Kraken Wakes.
It's a science fiction novel about creatures from Jupiter who colonise the Earth.
Due to the almighty pressures of the gas giant, the only place they can survive on Earth is in the very deepest parts of the ocean, where the pressures are comparable to their home planet.
A conflict begins between us and them, and the creatures of the deep move atomic reactors under the poles and begin melting the ice, to cover the planet with more water.
As the water levels rise, a slow, but ever increasing panic begins and people begin fleeing the ocean shores for higher ground.
At one point a character is watching the building of levy banks to protect the city of London.
Another character asks, "Is this going to work?"
To which the first character says, "No".
So he is asked, "Well what can we do about it?"
His response applies to us if we don't start turning off some lights and shutting coal mines, and is:
"Find a hilltop and fortify it."



Tuesday, 12 November 2013

There is no news today - except how F%*^ing bad Independence Day was

"What are you looking at? And can you turn off that
torch while I'm trying to sleep", her look said.
The title of this post has been bandied about by many since the dawn of newspapers, but most recently mentioned by Warren Ryan, ABC radio's senior rugby league analyst.
I mention this because as I came into the office earlier in the week to begin this week's post, it occurred to me that I had nothing to write about, and thus, should I say that, and not produce a post this week?
But then those that know me well will tell you that they have difficulty recalling any time when I didn't have anything to say.
Scott, here at work, is a good example, he couldn't begin to enumerate the amount of times I have gone into his nacelle and said "just briefly I want to tell you this...", and have still been there, bending his ear, an hour later. 
But then last night as I was watching TV, the roof of my tent began rolling like waves on the ocean and I realised that the possum was back.
Why is she news?
Well, she's not, it's just that now I have to go into lock down mode every night to stop her waking me up.
When you live with animals, as I do, you have to go into virtual spring clean mode every night when preparing for bed, as any food left out will send out the signal to the assorted wildlife that make their home with me that, the smorgasbord is open for business.
A single banana peel for instance, left out where it's smell can permeate, will start a range war between the possum and the rat, over who gets to eat it.
Which kind of leads us where I wanted to go, which is, this week's philosophy: nothing is all good, or all bad.
What has this possum got to do then with that?
Well, there have been nights in the past where I wanted to kill that bloody animal, usually for waking me up at three am, most famously when she put her paw on my electric jug, which began boiling, frightening her, and waking me.
But her presence keeps the rats in check, I'm not exactly sure how, but there is no denying that when she is on patrol, the rats go elsewhere.
So in general I just live with her nocturnal perambulations.
So if we follow the same philosophy, then there must be something good about John Howard.
Those who read last week's blog will know I spent the whole time railing against the man, mainly for his advocating the use of nuclear power.
So I had a hard think, and am having difficulty coming up with anything, and so I'll put it out to you reading this.
If anyone can come up with something good about John Howard, please say, you can fill in the comment section below.

Independence Day

I wouldn't go to work with this hanging over my town.
Some time ago I had a rant about 'The Bodyguard', with Whitney and Kevin overacting to a level hard to believe.
At the end I mentioned two other films that I considered too appalling for words, saying I would get back to them one day, well that day has arrived.
I still resent the two hours of my life wasted, literally, as you'll soon read, watching Independence Day, but I was drawn into it like this.
Some of my engineer mates said that they had heard the special effects were great, so why didn't we all go see it.
I agreed, and we headed down to the cinema complex in George st, Sydney.
We snuck into "Hooter Alley", as named by my friend Daz, and smoked a joint before we went in, then took our seats and waited for the actinic light show.
However, within a vanishingly short space of time I was already furious with the damn movie, even stoned I was tearing big, huge, staggeringly large holes in the plot.
So poor was this laughable excuse for a plot, that I couldn't enjoy the special effects.
Many would say, "suspend your disbelief, and enjoy it", but as a hard nosed character, I simply can't do this, and quite frankly, feel that the producers of the film should give me, for my $15, good special effects and a plot that works.
So what was wrong with it?
Well that is a genuine "where do we start?" question.
Perhaps the best point to begin is a point raised by my friend Lloyd.
The hero of the film is Will Smith, and his wife is a stripper.
Will works for NASA, so I would have thought she didn't have to go to work for monetary reasons, so I'm guessing that her job was a thinly veiled, both literal and metaphoric, excuse to get a near naked woman on the screen.
Anyway, the Stilettan Armourfiends of Stitterax arrive en masse in their giant spaceships which they park above all the major cites of the Earth.
They've blown up the White house, for no discernible reason, yet Will's wife still goes to work.
She is next seen gyrating up and down a pole in some seedy bar in east LA.
Now I've taken some sickies in my time, but even I, a bullshit artist par excellence, would have thought that, "I'm not coming to work today because there are giant space ships all over the place", would have sufficed.
Sometime later for reasons that escape me, and the script writers apparently, said wife has to run into a tunnel under a freeway.
The 'fiends are coming, and she spys a metal door, deadlocked, with a large padlock on it.
In need of quick safety, she opens it with one kick and she's inside.
My first thought was that I would call the LA highways department and say that they need to strengthen their doors if a single kick can open it, but we'll move on.
The Stilletans lay down a napalm-like strafe of goodness knows what alien chemical weapons, and an enormous firestorm goes down the tunnel.
Some time later the firestorm clears and then she emerges from her hidey-hole in rude good health.
Sorry, but a firestorm of that nature would have sucked all the oxygen for miles around into the conflagration, so she would have died of either heat, or suffocation, and would have welded the door firmly shut.
But then she had high billing in the credits, and so this was enough to protect her.
Then there's Jeff Goldblum, who is an actor I had previously respected.
He plays a computer guy and in despair at the inability of the Earth military to penetrate the Aliens force field around their ships, get loaded on scotch in his office.
Then his father comes in to find him lying on the floor near dead from drink and gives him an idea to defeat the force field, load a computer virus onto the alien computer network.
So Jeff jumps off the floor as if he hasn't had a drink in a year, and writes a super-complex computer virus for an alien computer system in less than two hours.
Done to explain this bit of the "plot".
Oh, please.
Then Jeff and Will get in an alien spaceship that has been lying around at Roswell for the past fifty years, without a service I might add, and fly up to the alien mothership to load the virus.
And before you can say 'knife', they have flown up, docked, connected with the network, loaded the virus and they're away.
Jeff even had time to write this "what's going on" screen widget.
Meanwhile back on Earth, we can't even get the computer in the admin office to print.
Finally, mercifully for you, the reader, we come to the climactic battle scene, even here I was chewing big lumps out of the arm of my movie chair.
Why did they have to fly up in jet fighters?
Don't they have thousands of millimetrically targeted missiles in silos in Nevada that can hit a city block in Moscow with a deviation of less than five metres?
Apparently not, and so Bill Pullman (the president), Will and  Randy Quaid, as usual for reasons not adequately explained, fly up in jet fighters and destroy the Armourfiends once and for all.
Again it wasn't adequately explored how many deaths occurred when horizon engulfing torrents of destroyed alien ship debris rained down across LA, but there you go.
Bill couldn't hit a suburb-sized alien ship
from the ground.
But even then among the things I couldn't believe about this film was that some large quantities of morons gave it a collective rating of 6.8/10 on the international movie database (IMDB).
The only part of that rating I would have agreed with was the ".8", and that I would consider generous.
It's been a long time since the film came out but I nearly gave birth while doing the research for this rant to discover that they are making a sequel.
I wonder if Bill will have improved his aim in this new one, and can hit a flying saucer the size of Sydney Harbour from the ground?


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Isn't it time that John Howard shut up?

I particularly like this link to the ABC story as it covers his face.
I was going about my business this morning when John Howard came on the radio and I nearly choked on my breakfast.
Enraged, I spat a mouthful across my tent and bespattered the screen of my TV with flakes of cereal.
And it was the subject matter that incensed me to the nth degree and beyond.
He was propounding the case for nuclear power.
I don't know what it takes to get people like John Howard to understand that nuclear power is not a viable, scratch that, not an option period.
And this speech by the former PM is in the aftermath of Fukushima, where the incidence of thymus cancer is rocketing according to the Guardian newspaper of Britain:

Corbett Report: Thyroid cancers skyrocketing right now in Fukushima — Guardian: “The issue is bound to escalate further” (VIDEO)

So I'll just add my microscopic voice to the debate.
And I might add, I am a scientist, unlike John Howard, who is, how did you know I was going to say this, a lawyer.
Now I am the first to admit that my marks at uni were hardly distinguished, but I still claim to know more about nuclear power than John Howard.
So here we go.
Nuclear power is not an option because it's ultimate premise is that it only can function if you believe in the perfect machine.
None is, my constant references to paying for car repairs is testament to this, so nuclear power is only an option of we believe that no power station will ever go wrong.
The various engineers involved told us after Chernobyl that the type of reactor built in the Ukraine will no longer be used.
New reactors with a much higher safety margin will be now used, and the engineers therefore claimed there will never be another Chernobyl.
And so these new, "safer" reactors were built around the world.
One of those places was Fukushima.
In the truest sense of the word, the engineers are right, the new reactors are safer than the one at Chernobyl, but the problem with Fukushima was that it wasn't the reactor itself that had the problem, it was the place it was built, AKA, in Japan, on the shores of the pacific, in one of the most geologically active areas of the planet.
Tokyo itself is built on the junction of three tectonic plates, in comparison California, earthquake central, is "only" on two.
Since Fukushima there have been endless stories about the wisdom(!) of building a nuclear power station there, and the responses from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) who built it were a constant succession of "we considered all the risks involved".
I don't think you did.
One would think that a Tsunami would have been something considered in Japan, for any building construction, let alone a nuke power station.
So then one might say, "well can we build a new safer reactor in a geologic dead zone, where there is no danger of earthquake or Tsunami?"
The best known geologic dead zone on Earth is Australia, so is it safe to build a reactor here?
Well, perhaps one should ask the residents of Newcastle who lived through the quake that rocked that city in a "geologic dead zone".
One building after the Newcastle quake,
would a nuke station survive in better shape?
The inherent nature of the shifting Earth is such that even today with all our much-vaunted equipment, there is still no way to accurately predict an earthquake.
So the answer is 'NO', there is nowhere on Earth where you can build a nuclear power station and 'know' it is safe from earthquake.
In closing the Fukushima section I will say that since that horrendous day I have been scanning the news waiting for the Japanese government to announce that they are decommissioning all their other reactors, but they are not doing it.
Seems that the risk in money and death of their citizens is worth it.
Moving on, earthquakes are only one of the potential threats.
Simple faulty equipment is another.
Is John Howard seriously saying that every pipe, every duct, every piece of shielding, every fan, every pump, every brick, every tile, every power supply source is 100% fail proof?
If he is, I'd like to live in a house built by those materials.
That kind of reminds me of the piece done by a stand up comic, I think Sienfeld, who said, "Since the black box always survives every aircrash, why don't they build the whole plane out of the material that they make the black box out of?"
Too expensive I'd warrant.
Which leads me neatly to price of nuclear power.
John Howard this morning was going on with some hopelessly, convoluted gobbledegook about nuclear being cheaper than renewables.
Rubbish, John.
That is serious, serious, tauro-scatology.
TEPCO are decidedly cagey about saying what it cost to build Fukushima, but a new plant in Flamanville, France, of the same design as Fukushima, cost $8 billion Euros, or $A11.5 billion.
How many solar panels, and wind turbines could Australia buy with $11.5 bill?
A lot.
Of course all of the above figures do not take into account the cost of the Fukushima cleanup.
This is of course a wildly varying figure, but the same page that told me of Flamanville estimates $A82 billion.
And this of course doesn't, and can't, count the ongoing costs of health treatment and most importantly, the human cost of death, which is unquantifiable.
The Economonitor lists Chernobyl as costing $975 million to clean up, and took 14 years, but again this figure is unable to fully cost health issues which may go on for years.
So next time you here someone say nuclear power costs 'x' per kilowatt of power produced, ask if they have factored in the costs of cleaning up Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Which then leads me to a point well made by my colleague at Greenpeace in Vancouver, James Pratt, who is anything but his surname.
James pointed out that everytime you here someone saying that a nuclear power station will produce power at 'x' cents per kilowatt, they invariably fail to add in the eventual cost of decommissioning the thing.
This is always infinitely more than it cost to build, since it involves safe(!) storage of radioactive materials for decades, if not centuries.
My colleague at my current work, Scott, played Devil's Advocate, a term stunningly accurate when arguing for nuclear power, and said, "but isn't global warming worse? Wouldn't it be better to have a few nuclear power stations, so the risk is concentrated in a few places, rather than the all-encompassing global warming threat from burning coal?"
Well, that's wrong too.
You can' t escape physics, and the heat inside a nuclear reactor is intense.
This heat has to be dissipated, usually by seawater, and this obviates any supposed global warming reducing effect of not releasing Carbon Dioxide.
I cannot find any source to tell me how much heat is added to global warming by nuclear power stations, but I can assure you that all over the world where reactors are cooled by seawater, the area around the plant shows thermal plumes.
We better hope that Polar
Bears can jump puddles.
Pack ice reduction - are nukes a factor?

So any gains in the global warming issue are minimal.
I might add the area where this is most grossly demonstrated is the arctic, where recently it was reported that the pack ice had reduced from 180 million square kilometres, down to four, an approx forty fold decrease.
Where does the warm water that is doing this come from?
Europe and North America, where a large number of nuclear power stations are situated.
Again, as Scott accurately points out, can we be sure that the heat emitted by a nuke is a significant factor?
No, we can't, and once again that is a huge part of the problem, things un-, or inaccurately accounted for.
So there you have it, no nukes, they solve nothing, they certainly don't help reduce global warming.
And finally, John Howard, not only did your government get voted out, but you got voted out of your own seat.
Even the staunchly liberal voters of Sydney's lower north shore couldn't stomach you for a second longer.
So, fair's fair, democracy has spoken, retire gracefully, and shut up.