Monday, 17 February 2014

Where does a year go, eh?

A year of blogging, I can already hear you saying 'it seems much, much longer than that!'
As this my 52nd week I will finish with a celebratory joke that sums up the essential 'bah, humbug' of my weekly ranting.
However, first, I would like to draw your attention to the screen grab (right).
This is the stats page of my blog, and it shows that about a hundred people a week read my vitriolic prose.
I thank each and every one of you for showing an interest.
Down at the bottom right you can see a rather nifty map showing where the readers come from, and latterly, my north American readership has picked up due to sharing it to some new sites, Reddit, Pinterest, Stumbleupon and Delicious.
The darker green of the US shows that there are more from there these days than home, so I am going to change my writings slightly to accommodate them.
So instead of just saying that Julie Bishop likes murdering children, I will say the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, likes murdering children.
Instead of saying simply "the Abbott government like destroying the environment", I will instead say "the current Australian Federal Government, headed by an ultra-conservative lackwit, Tony Abbott, like destroying the environment", and so on.
Hopefully the accommodating of our overseas readers will not inconvenience those at home or interfere with the free flow of invective that I spew.
And now, since we have some US readers I will take the opportunity to tackle an issue that still bugs me, namely, the Imperial system(?!!) of measurement.
The US of course still famously refuse to institute the Metric System, due to, I guess, an unwillingness to change to something unfamiliar.
This I understand, there is nothing more frightening to humans than change, indeed most of the xenophobia that the current Australian Federal Government headed by an ultra-conservative lackwit, Tony Abbott, display, is due to fear on something different, mostly Muslims, but anyone who isn't white and traces there genetics back to the British Isles, is right in the government sights.
But (as usual) I digress.
So, the Metric System.
I think the world should use the metric system mainly due to my background as a scientist.
We scientists use what's called the System Internationale (SI) for units of measurement.
Under the SI, the unit of time is the second, the unit of weight is the kilogram and the unit of length is the metre.
The US still uses the Imperial system and this has no basis in logic: "and why", I hear you ask, "is that?"
Well, as expected, I'm going to tell you.
The metric system has its basis in logical, worldwidely available standards.
Thus, 1 kilogram, 1,000 grams, is derived from the weight of a cubic centimetre (Editor's note: You yanks can damn well spell centimetre the correct way an' all.) of water.
Water exists everywhere, and so we have a convenient standard for weight.
A metre was originally recorded as "1/10,000,000th of the distance of from the equator to the north Pole".
This had some problems as the North pole moves around a bit due to climactic, gravitational and magnetic reasons.
So it was redefined as: "the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458th of a second".
Not handy on a household level, but for those that can measure it, it gives us a uniform standard for length.
Temperature is recorded in units known as Kelvins, named for an early engineer working in the field, William Kelvin.
0 on the Kelvin scale is absolute zero, -273.15C.
At this point it is so cold that even sub-atomic particles stop moving.
The two common scales in use today are of course Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Celsius is, by a cosmic margin, the more logical, with zero being the freezing point of water, and a hundred being the boiling point.
Fahrenheit, still used in the US, makes no sense with freezing point at 32 degrees and boiling at 212.
It seems our US friends like to stick dogmatically to units that are counter intuitive at best.
Time is thankfully universal and derives from segments of the day, with a second being 1/86400th of a day.
The day itself being worked out by the Greeks and Romans, painstakingly, as they watched the seasons pass and the shadows move across the Colosseum.
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy: "Arrgghhh!
he told me in kilometres!"
OK? So everything to do with the metric system has a logical basis and has easily available standards to get your first measure.
Compare this with the hopelessly misguided Imperial system.
A yard in the Imperial system is apparently the distance from King Henry VIIIth's nose to his fingertip with arm outstretched, a foot was the length of his foot, and in inch, the length of one of his toes.
The pound, the basis of the Imperial weight system, has an uncertain provenance, but stems from Roman times and was some arcane standard now lost to the mists of history.
The abbreviation for pound, "lb", comes from the Roman for scales, libra.
The point being that there is now no logical standard that a pound can be measured by if for some reason we lose it.
(Another Editor's note: I'm not crazy about monarchies of any sort, so the Imperial system has two strikes with me.
Further to that: The yanks hate the British monarchy and had a revolution to break away, you'd think they would have embraced the egalitarian Metric system at the time, just goes to show there's not a lot of logic involved with the Imperial system and it's use.)
The American attitude to the Metric system is best summed up (in my opinion) by Alec Baldwin in 30Rock.
Alec plays arch-republican, Jack Donaghy.
In one episode he attends a conference in Toronto, Canada with his heavily pregnant wife.
Some days before the due date, she begins contracting, and Jack and wife start a major flap as they want their child to be born in the US, so that the kid can be president some day.
Frantically Jack tries to find a way to get back to the US, and his wife asks, "can you drive me back there? How far is it?"
Jack replies: "I don't know, I asked a Canadian the distance, but he told me in kilometres!"
For the record, it's 160k, or 100 miles from Toronto, Canada to the closest point of the US, Buffalo, New York.
So to all my new US readers, glad to have you, but please start using the Metric system and catch up with the rest of the world.
So having raised the blood pressure of everyone stateside I will close this week's epoch marking rant with one of my favourite jokes that could have been written for me.

A guy joins a monastery in the Himalayas.
It's a vow of silence monastery, but every year on mid-summer day each member of the order is allowed to say two words to the abbot.
So the new guy goes about his devotions and then summer comes and it's time to say his first two words.
He joins the line in front of the abbot, seated at his desk with quill poised ready over his parchment.
His turn comes and the abbot says, "Yes, brother, what are your words for this year?"
Our joke's abbot in one of the first two years.

The new guy says, "More food."
The abbot writes it down, and the novitiate goes away and another year passes.
The next year comes and once again the line forms in front of the abbot.
The new guy comes up in turn and is asked for his words, he says, "More blankets."
Once again it is written down with due ceremony and the members of the order pass another year.
Mid-Summer comes again and the new guy comes up for his third utterance, his fifth and sixth words in three years.
He shuffles up to the desk and the abbot looks up at him enquiringly, and the guy says, "More firewood".
At these word the abbot throws down his quill and says with considerable exasperation, "For buddha's sake mate, you've been here three years and all you've done is bloody complain!"


Monday, 10 February 2014

Relax? What's that?

My posts recently have fallen sharply into two halves; ranting at the Abbott government or self-indulgent whining about how hard life is.
Well here these two strands intertwine. (You knew I couldn't go one blog without moaning about the Abbott government, didn't you?)
I guess the pressure began last year when I received notification that the property on which my beloved tent was situated on, had been sold.
There were seven of us on the property and at first we hoped that it would be bought as an investment property and we would all be kept on with our combined rents paying the mortgage.
Sadly it was not to be and on New Year's Day I came bouncing down the dirt track to find a letter left on my porch saying we would have to vacate.
'Nuts', I said with some vehemence.
However, it was a slight improvement as not knowing is worse.
So with letter in hand I went in to the office to write my blog, and as usual moaned about my lot to my work friend Scott.
And just to show that moaning does have it's place, by a lucky coincidence, Scott, who manages an apartment complex, said, "Oh, that's a coincidence, Ruthy is moving out, do you want to take her flat?"
I jumped on the opportunity, and my acceptance was out of my mouth before my tongue got out of the way.
The new flat is great, but pricey, $250 a week, as opposed to $170 a week for the tent.
My beloved, (and very quiet) tent.
However, I was happy enough as Byron Bay has a housing problem like you cannot believe.
Essentially, Byron Bay is a suburb of Sydney.
It may be ten hours drive away, but everything else about Sydney is present, the traffic, the prices, the wankers and the lack of housing leading to steep rents.
But even then there was a complication, I couldn't take possession of my new flat until the 16th, and I had to be out of the tent on the 12th.
This left a four day lag where I was initially thinking of reliving my arrival on this coast by sleeping on the beach for the four days.
I wasn't looking forward to that, and so next time I was in the chemist getting the raft of supplements that keep me rolling, I had a moan to pharmacist Fleur.
Once again moaning got me an answer, Fleur very generously said I could come and crash at her place in Suffolk Park for the in-between period.
Again I was thankful I had learned how to moan.
Grateful though I was (and am) this did create the complication of giving me a two-stage move.
You may have heard the oft quoted stat that moving is as stressful as a death.
Scott thought it was the death of a spouse, I thought it was the death of a cousin, either way, it is pretty upheaving.
And so now I had the added complication of having to move my stuff all over town in sequenced drives to get the permanent stuff to the new place and store it, while keeping my day-to-day stuff, including my gardening equipment, handy at Fleur's to be used.
Then, while I'm planning all this, I got the next major shake up of my nervous system.
My business partner decided to fight the case I brought against him.
So I'll just bring you up to speed with that.
Two years ago I went into business with a friend to sell stand up paddle boards.
However things went very bad, very quickly, and the upshot was that I had to launch legal proceedings against my business partner.
I won't say too much about it, as it is always a dicey area legally, so I'll just say it was dispute over monies owed and possession of stock.
So I worked my way forward like the Ross Glacier, and eventually finally filed the requisite legal papers.
Like the Ross Glacier, I ground my way inexorably forward.
I thought my business partner would just ignore this and then I would get what's called a 'default', or 'no-defence' judgement, but then on the tenth of January, I opened my letter box to discover that he was going to defend the case and had included an angry rant at me in the defence document.
So now I had to go into overdrive with preparing for the court case.
I had to get bank statements, bills of lading, customs declarations, you name it, every piece of paper related to our shared enterprise going back two years.
All the while keeping my gardening business going, preparing to move and still trying to find time to surf.
I consider it a day wasted if I don't surf, so my already busy schedule was going into hyperdrive.
Then, while all this was going on I got the email from my mechanic saying my car was due for a service.
I had noticed a few things, mainly that it was making a noise more like a lion with a sore tooth than a quietly purring kitty cat, and so booked my car in as soon as.
My mechanic is at Clunes, about 30k inland from Byron, so even getting the car to, and then picking up the beast is another complication over and above the normal service, so I had to plan that.
I got it all together with an intricate mesh of lifts from friends and the local bus service and showed up when the service was over for another of those meetings with the mechanics we all dread.
This was no exception, Garry and Harvey the two senior mechanics had a tale of medium level woe for me.
The car needed new engine mounts, a new muffler (hence the lion-with-sore-tooth roar), and a more or less complete overhaul of the brakes.
This wasn't unexpected, the car is twenty years old this year, but all the same it always comes as a shock.
But I was happy to have this pre-warning as the opposite is worse, that is, never getting your car serviced, and then getting the full Monty of repairs needed when rego time comes around.
I talked with Garry about it, he made a good point, which was, no one really believes the bill for the car when it comes, and he opined this was because so much of the good work a mechanic does is invisible.
Head gasket is probably the best example.
Two thousand dollars later you get your car back and it looks exactly the same, the part replaced is now buried deep inside the engine which had to be wholly taken apart to fit the said gasket.
I fully agreed with hm and reinforced the argument with an example of my own, to wit, a bad back.
Many of you reading this, being mostly middle-aged, will have experienced this, and the image issue with backs is that the problem is invisible.
If you break your arm, the cast is there for the world to see and so no one quibbles with you about why you can't come to work.
If, however, you ring work and say that you have a bad back, the scepticism is rampant.
Additionally, another issue with backs is their unpredictability, Wednesday you can't work, but then Friday you're back doing a full productive day, only heightening the scepticism.
The lesson seems to be don't show up and do any productive days, but anyway you get the point, back pain is invisible like a mechanic's work.
Mechanics spend a lot of time justifying their bills, which doesn't seem fair.
The best known depiction of trying to save
money by fixing your car yourself.
I might add, Garry also pointed out that one of the reasons you (if you are sensible) pay a mechanic is for safety reasons.
Here in Australia, and many parts of the western world, you are considered less than manly if you can't fix a car.
I have long since learned this lesson: every time I tried to fix my car myself, I ended up a short time later having to have it towed to Garry's to get it fixed properly, now with the towing fee attached. So then, while all these attacks on my equanimity were firing relentless shells at my equanimity, I hear on the radio that the Abbott government is reviewing the disability pension.
For a long time I lived with the grinding poverty of the dole, $225 a week, while trying to run a car for my gardening and pay the rent.
It was a period of my life characterised by fear of ending up back on the streets and checking which tins of canned veges cost three cents less at the supermarket.
Then my case worker with my employment partner, CRS Australia, learned of my difficult childhood and helped me move onto disability pension.
This allowed me to escape the grinding poverty and gain some degree of relaxation.
In this new world order, I was able to fix my car and gardening equipment when needed, and without having to go without food.
In this new space I quit smoking, both pot and tobacco, and of course, best of all for me and society at large, give up drinking for good.
So now they are "reviewing" it, meaning that people like me, with no visible disability, are going to be right in the firing line.
Like the bad back mentioned above, I still face the stigma of being a malingerer, of there being nothing really wrong with me.
That I am just lazy and not prepared to work hard and pay my taxes to Australia and expecting a living to be given to me.
Well all I can say is that, I would happily go back to full-time work if first we can go back in time and remove the terrifying abuse that overshadowed my life for the ten years aged five to 15, and thus come to adulthood with the ability to deal with bosses without fearing being beaten up (my boss invariably becomes my mother or father in my mind, depending on sex).
So we go on, some argue that I should stop attacking the Abbott Government here in my blog, as this is genuinely sticking my head above the parapet,and when they "review" the DSP I'll be the first one "reviewed", AKA, kicked off the disability pension back to the dole, but all I can do in response to that is print here something I read once that is a decent philosophy for life.
I'm not sure if it is a genuine quote from 1938 Germany, but even if not, it is still very powerful.
"When they came for the Jews, I didn't stand up because I'm not Jewish.
When they came for the gays, I didn't stand up because I'm not gay.
When they came for the communists, I didn't stand up because I'm not a communist.
When they came for me, there was no one left to stand up."
Thus, all my petty problems are small compared to the insanity of dumping waste on the barrier reef.
So rich or poor, it's time for us all to stand up.


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Monday, 3 February 2014

Dumping on the The Great Barrier Reef is a literal and metaphoric exactitude

Lady Musgrave Island on the Reef. Can you possibly imagine dumping three million cubes of industrial waste here?
I spoke with my friend Antony on the weekend and he was apoplectic with rage about the decision taken to
dump 3 million cubic metres of spoil (another exactitude) on the Barrier Reef.
During the conversation I, and I was already spitting chips, got angrier myself.
As I've said before in this space, even I, who claim to being a writer, cannot possibly hope to encompass the magnitude of this appalling act of desecration.
A Greenpeace spokesperson pointed out that it was like "dumping trash into the Grand Canyon", clearly the yanks wouldn't stand for this, and so why should we?
So where does the blame lie? (Please note 'lie' is accurate in both senses of the word, another exactitude)
Well the major source of evil is Minister for Destroying the Environment, Greg Hunt.
He gave the OK in devious political fashion.
The actual go-ahead was given by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, this is a Federal Government organisation and as such lies under the purview of Greg Hunt.
Now he didn't actually sign the papers for the dumping, but instead made it clear to the civil servants doing the "scientific" review, that this was to go ahead.
The price of refusal would be that funding would be withdrawn from the Authority and everyone would be out of a job.
What's more, this tactic, withdrawing funding, is the current favourite with the Abbott government.
It started with the scrapping of the Climate Commission.
Tim Flannery, the high profile head of this organisation, then formed a private group to do the same job.
He then asked those concerned about climate change to contribute if they believed there was a problem, and within a short space of time they had a million dollars in the coffers to keep fighting for the planet.
Then the Abbott government looked around and realised that the next major organisation that were standing in their way was the Environmental Defender's Office.
So guess what happened next? (see picture right)
So with these two groups out of the way, Abbott and his eco-vandals were now set to approve the decision to dump 3 million cubic metres of industrial spoil on the reef.
However the issue is not over, by a long shot, and I encourage you to do anything, no matter how minor to make your voice heard.
GetUp! are driving the opposition to this reef dumping desecration and you can sign a petition, or contribute to the fund to go to court and have this stopped.
The page describing this is pictured and the link to this page is:

Of course the other major organisation that the Abbott dictatorship see as standing in their way is the ABC, our national broadcaster, and some of you may have seen my exchange with Senator Ian Macdonald.
This Macdonald was one who lead the charge, accusing the ABC of only reporting stories negative to the Federal Government.
He spouted a lot of his biased rhetoric but I'll just put in this quote here:
"Thanks Lock - appreciate that one intelligent person (obviously you ) listens to what I say and that the more than a milion Queenslanders who voted for me are "idiots" . I am proud to be with them! and by the way my comments on the ABC say they lack "balance" and editoralise their own personal views. Rarely do they just report 'facts' these days, regretably. But i appreciate your feedback."

I'd like you to note the words "regretably" and "milion", both misspelled, they should be regrettably and million, I don't wish to be holier than though here Ian, but if you're going to attack the ABC for bad journalism, you should at least learn how to spell before you do it.
But for those like me who were enraged by this unwarranted attack on the ABC by the Abbott government, don't fret.
Tomorrow the ABC will report the news the way it did yesterday, and the way it did today.
Accurately, fairly and in an unbiased fashion.
Every time a Liberal government gets into power they launch an inquiry into bias at the ABC, there are three I can think of off the top of my head, and none of these three ever found any evidence of bias.
So the ABC will be here tomorrow, but only as long as we stay on our toes.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and in the current instance the price of freedom of our national broadcaster is that we maintain eternal vigilance over the Abbott Government.
I will close with some pictures of the Reef, nothing I can write can convey how much we have to lose if we allow this dumping to go forward.