26 December 2007

time man of the year

Brian's selection of time's man of the year awards:

2007 - Vladimir Putin


28 November 2007

a long history of WWII

Britian and France joined the war to free Poland, which had been invaded by Germany an Russia. For a while Germany kicked out the Russians, and then the Russians kicked out Germany. In the end Poland was only freed in 1989. So WWII ended in 1989 even though the fighting ended much earlier.

28 October 2007

short sighted

I have been short sighted for a long time, since I was in my teen years. I watched the interest of laser eye surgery with interest but I have never taken up the option. This is for a few reasons:
  • Initially I was concerned with the long term effects. Although the doctors said that there were no reasons for worry, until the actual experience is gained, there is too much uncertainty and my eyes are important.
  • Wearing corrective glasses has never bothered me.
  • I knew that eyes change continuously over time. So initially I become more and more short sighted. Originally I expected this to occur for a time and then stabilize. But I have found that it did this, then got worse again stabilized again and so on. I think I have been through this for about three cycles. When you get older, the eyes tend to become longer sighted again. This was believed to be caused by the mussels in the eye relaxing and stretching as they become older. This mean that even with the surgery there seems to be good reason to expect to have to wear glasses again.
I was asked the other day about the effect of bifocals on all of this. Do a bit of reading, it would seem that is it a realted effect, but there was not enough knowledge I could find to make a call. Bi focals are requred becuase of a condition called presbyopia. This seems to be a limit the the closet range that you can see. I suppose if you are short sighted then this would be less of an issue. Though recently I have noticed that I am having difficulty focusing at close range with my glasses off. But I do not know the cause of this effect.

I will do some more reading when I have more time and see if I can come up with a better answer on this latter question.

23 October 2007


Well I just watched a documentary on the effect of the Springbok tour of NZ in 1981 (I think) and the immense impact it had on the overall process in South Africa. But it raises many questions and points.
  1. The ANC was a banned organization. How many other organizations that are currently banned will go onto become the party in power in a country? Will it be the Sri Lankan ones? There seem to be so many?
  2. Only South Africa got it right. No one else seems to have. Zimbabwe botched it. Israel is unable to make friends with the PLO and Hammas. Why is this so?
  3. Why is it that governments refuse to listen to the protests of their own people? (Such as the NZ government and sports bodies in trying to stop the protests.) But then again how many of these movements ever bring about good results? Is South Africa a special case that cannot be repeated else where?
  4. Why is it that people in South Africa were so afraid of their own security forces and through that the NZ's were such whimps? What kind of person shoots another for protesting injustice just because they were told to do so. Are the blind? Are the malicious?
  5. If an aeroplane dropped flower bombs like the one in NZ, would it be shot down?
Well that is all for now. There will be many more such comments if I continue down this path. But I am sure that the rest of you are capable of working these out for your selves.

12 October 2007

abandoned houses

The aircraft do not pass directly over my property, but the go quite close. Sometimes there is the brief shadow of an aircraft passing between me and the sun. Down the road is a spot directly under the end of the main runway. Once there were houses. Now there are none. The fences stands abandoned, all that's left. Even the church is derelict.

"abandoned properties" by yewenyi [?]
abandoned properties by yewenyi

08 October 2007

News alert - Gay bomb stolen!

The gay bomb, winner of the annual ig nobles has been stolen. It is rumored to be taken by an group of Australian left wing radicals. Informants advise they are going to bomb the Christian Democratic Party's annual gathering.

06 October 2007

Social Engineering

When I was in Taiwan I was witness to one of the most impressive pieces of social engineering I have ever seen. The Chinese are renown for two things (amongst others) which are a penchant for gambling and a dislike for paper work and government taxes. So I was surprised in Taiwan to discover shop attendants almost forcing me to take the cash register receipt. Even in Australia, if I say bought bottle of water from a food place, they would not bother giving me a receipt. When I returned to my hostel, I asked about this unexpected behavior. It turned out, that the government had a problem. Small businesses would not record their cash flow. surprise! surprise! But they had very cleverly solved the problem. They issued government supplied cash registers. Every receipt is a lotter ticket in a national lottery. Once a month the prizes are drawn and the wining numbers published in a national news paper. As a foreigner I could not win a prize, so just before I left I gave my receipts to some locals I knew who could. I was mightly impressed and I can say that apart from the night food markets, I never ever made a purchase without getting a receipt.

"IMG_3600" by Doug Nienhuis [?]

28 September 2007

Vladimir Putin a gay icon

I just love it. Previously I spoke of Vladimir. To find out that he is a gay icon on ABC raido was just very very cool. Almost hysterical.

"putin_.JPG" by win/win [?]

07 September 2007

Internet snooping

It seems that the plans to provide free public wifi have hit a legal hurdle, they need to know who you are.
Under the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must supply user identifiable information such as IP and MAC addresses to law enforcement.

A very shory history of the fall of France in 1940

Germany invaded France and were surprised to win. The French fought valiantly but were routed and threw in the towel. The British also fought valiantly but ran away with their tails between their legs after a few days. The Americans stood the side lines and said, nothing to do with us.

"Oradour-Sur-Glane" by bloomsday616 [?]

01 September 2007

a loss of confidence...

I have been listening to Dr Karl for some time. He occasionally complains about his slide down the scale of trustworthiness in the ABC surveys. Though he is still very credibly in the top 10. I would suggest that this is the reason why:
What the listeners are seeking is unbiased views of the world. They do not necessarily have to be correct, but they should be biased on good science. However Dr Karl occasionally makes the mistake of towing the line of the ABC. So when he gives a view on some topic that is to do with policy he takes the policy line rather than the good science line, even thought they may end up with the same outcome. This makes him a less trustworthy source of information. We do not want dogma, we want honest science.
I have no surveys or other analysis to back up this hypothesis.

17 August 2007

fears of the internet

Today I was listening to an ABC podcast. They were talking about the phobia of pedophiles infecting the community at the moment and the extreme measures being taken to prevent them. They pointed out that the level of activity is very low and that children, as they have always been, are mostly at risk from their immediate family: fathers, brothers and uncles. It seems that there is much selective blindness is going on. It led me to have the following thoughts:
  1. Many parents actually know next to nothing of the internet. This allows them to easily be led down the path of fear. For instance it is much harder to make the same claims about being afraid of pedophiles driving down the local street as the parents have lived through this themselves as children. What is happening on the internet is new and people are bewildered and afraid.
  2. If you go around saying you are family friendly and thing that families are the best thing in the known universe it is hard to admit that they oft go wrong and sometimes are the worst placed in the universe. When I was a kid, had friends who I reckoned were safer living in the gutter or a garbage bin than at home. So lets blame the internet and ignore the most significant part of the problem. If they were serious they would attack the main problem.
This is not to say I think that the internet needs regulation, there needs to be social structures as anywhere in society. What I think is that it does not need fear mongering.

28 July 2007

the benefit gained from decpit and deception

There is a major driver in the business world toward deceit and a major requirement for honesty and transparency. What we have here is a fundamental conflict that is part of the powerhouse that drives forward the economy and society.

Rambling commentary:
If one is in a car crash, and you know you made a mistake, you are told to lie about your liability. Or at the very least deny by omission. This is to limit the damages you may have to pay. It is also dishonest. The tax department would be very unhappy if you did this to limit your tax liability. So would the police. But it is ok to do it to non-government groups. Maximize your gain. Limit you losses. This is how the business world works. Hidden knowledge is beneficial to the profit statement. Yet this sometimes goes very wrong. For instance when the tobacco industry hid their knowldege of the health effects of tobacco, this can have deadly effects. It is in the benefit of too many people to change the rules. So they deflect the criticism to some bunch of people who are not powerful enough to fight back. For example, I saw a major catholic priest here in Sydney the other day quoted on the front page of a paper to say that we should ignore the problem of bad priests (his problem) and concentrate on another. When in reality we should concentrate on both. It is up to the society to determine what is bad and take appropriate action. But powerful vested interests direct the changes to ares where they are not involved. Another example: the recent slavery issue in China. This is what happens when an authority supresses questioning and say shit like you cannot question what we say and do because you will be considered to be disloyal and persecuted. You need to question and look. Ask the question why. I think the Germans understand only too well the need to question. So there is a force for disclosure, and there is a force saying, do what you are told and maintain deception. Complete disclosure does not work. Complete deception does not work. The trick is to know when which is appropriate and why.
More to come on this topic. It is very simple, yet has very complex results.

14 July 2007

A cunning plan

Today, going through my mail there is a letter from Telstra Corporation offering me a dividend reinvestment scheme. These were all the rage a decade ago. Something must have changes because most have been abandoned. However, going against the trend Telstra is offering the scheme. Why? To get rid of all those (17%) future fund shares by stealth. It is quite a clever scheme. Of course if they did not have all these surplus shares, they would not be implementing this scheme. I will not partake as I am rejigging my finances as I buy a new place to live.
"just a minute" by jæms [?]
just a minute

09 July 2007

pol pot syndrome

Well, this is not really about Pol Pot. But a documentary on his regime caused me to have this though. So I will call it Pol Pot Syndrome.

I have been interested by the whole topic of purges and to what purpose they server. Obviously there is an overtly political one, to remove your competitors. But watching the Pol Pot story I was seeing what was presented by the media as a man who was systematically removing his supporters. So here is a simple hypothesis:

1) You have a world view of how people (or economies) should behave.
2) You implement the theories.
3) The results you expected do not occur.
4) You blame and punish those executing the plan as it could not possibly be the plan that is wrong or those who are the victims for being unworthy or not normal.
5) You repeat steps 2 to 4 over and over.

Obviously this is an extreme case, but one would hope that even the most stubborn people see the way out in the end.

15 June 2007


I was reading an article and was astonished to see the price of NAND ram has fallen to USD $9.26 for 8GB. Wow. So I wandered off to the web to see the retail price. It comes in at a mere $165 AUD for a 8GB USB stick. This seems to be approximately the price, across about three different web sites.

14 June 2007

Chinese Economy II

Previously I discussed the Chinese Economy from the inside. One of the things that is mentioned a fair bit here in Australia is that fact that their economy will soon be bigger that that of the USA. While this is a major milestone, I think it had no great significance. You see, China has approximately 4 times the population. So the Per Capita GDP is quite small. If they caught up on that measure, that would be significant. Anyone who has been to China knows how patchy the economic development is, and just how far they have to go. Also GDP is only one measure. Total wealth is another. There are so many more. And then there is the issue that so much of the existing infrastructure is of such a low quality. I was always amazed that they do such a poor job at plumbing. All of those buildings need a lot of fixing to bring them up to standard of what would be considered good building practice here in Australia. That is not to say that this will not happen, or that it happening is not a good thing, but it will still take quite a long time, even at the break-neck speed that China is growing. What the USA needs to do is keep their eyes on the ball. They have a good track record at this in the last few centuries.

27 April 2007

on Vladimir Putin

Previously I mentioned Boris Yeltsin and the Russian view. However, when I was in Moscow, it was Vladimir Putin who was in power. I have always found Putin creepy and scary. After all, he is a KGB man. But on listening to some speeches by John F Kennedy, I formed a different view. I think that Putin is to the Russians, what Kennedy was to the Americans. Tough they are completely different people, Russia and the USA are completely different societies. In this I mean that he is The Man of the Times.

Russia has always had a desire (I think foolishly) for strong man leaders. Also with the tumult of the fall of the Soviet Union, they are now pissed off and lost in a similar, but by no means the same, manner to what I saw in England in the late 1980's. There is a loss of empire. However, the Russian reaction is different. In this way, Putin is a return to the world they knew in the days of the Soviet Empire. They seek a return to the good times, which were not really good, but what they are seeking is a return to the things they know and hence things that they are comfortable with. In a way it is a returning to the hearth.

In a way this may be necessary for the Russians themselves, even though it represents the two steps back in the of three steps forward two steps back scheme of life. They need to reinvent themselves and the direction they were heading was probably wrong in degree and precision. The Russians need to invent a world that works with the way that they view themselves and their place in the world. I think that the creation of mega industries, while a very soviet thing to do, was a mistake. I know that when in China in the early 1990's there was discussion on how to prevent the creation of such monsters and the Chinese as a result were much more successful at avoiding this mistake. Now Putin finds himself having to destroy these monstrosities. But will it lead them out of the wilderness? This I do not know. I must admit that I was surprised by the British response and their success in digging themselves out of the mire. The have been reinventing themselves and their perception of their place in the world, which is much more in tune with the reality of the situation. Perhaps Putin will turn out to be their equivalent of Margaret Thatcher.

25 April 2007

Boris Yeltsin

Just a short note: Boris Yeltsin died. One of the things that I found surprising when traveling in Russia is just how much the Russians love the fellow. In fact, the view of Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev in Russian and in Australia are opposites. In Russia, Gorbachev is seen as a traitor to the Russians, he is the man who oversaw the downfall of the USSR. He brought about misery, suffering and a loss of pride. Yeltsin is seen as the man who oversaw a new beginning in a land devoid of hope and pride. I often wonder how the two views of the two men can be so diametrically opposed. Also I wonder about the media outlets that manage to create such appearances. Is one view correct? I wonder. In science they say that if there are multiple, and very different theories then the multiple theories are usually all wrong. This is because a correct theory will prove itself to be reliable in the longer term and the incorrect theories will generate incorrect predictions. However, in this case, I suspect that it is simply the opposite sides of the same coin.

on ANZAC day, asians and the RSL

A little rambling commentary as it is ANZAC day today.

My grandfather was a fitter and turner in the RAAF in WWII. He is considered a hero. My father lived as a child in Ipoh during the Japanese occupation. The assistance of these people against the Japanese occupiers is completely unrecognized and he is instead one of those Chinese people who came to this country. I still always think of Bruce Ruxton when I think of the RSL and ANZAC day. Which is of and in itself probably biased. But you see, I lived in Melbourne. I remember how much they Asians immigration. After all, how can you hate those people over there if that nice fellow Hong from down the street is one of them. I know that I have both Malaysia and Australian parentage. I despise the fact that one side is considered heroes and the other maligned.

But on the RSL. One of the strange things about NSW (and Queensland, but here I speak of my experience in NSW) is the existence of RSL clubs with drinking and gambling. The clubs originally started at the end of WWI. I know from my grandparents that there was some bitterness in Australia at the end of the war (WWII) about the treatment of service people. The government, as it always does, wanted to limit the vast amount of money it was already spending on the war. So it came up with a bunch of schemes like the soldier settlement scheme my grandfather was part of. It seems to me that the RSL clubs are another non monetary method of reward. If you are a returned soldier you can have some special privileges in return for potentially putting your life on the line in combat. It also works as a self help group for a government than cannot or does not want to afford the medical cost of the mental effects of the war by creating self help groups. What I do not understand is why in QLD and NSW the clubs went on to become over-sized pubs.

Of course these wars (WWI and WWII) were a long time ago. And the conflicts since then have been mercifully smaller. As a result, these clubs are now a bit anachronistic and in a few generations hopefully we will have no wars and people will wonder why they exist. Society always contains this type of flotsam and jetsam in it's psyche. The clubs mean while start to branch out into new fields of endeavor to keep their clients. For example some around here run singles nights.

ANZAC day is also a hang over from WWI. It has done an amazing job of reinventing itself, but I suspect that much of the original significance about a country finally realizing the brit's are a bunch of self interested gits and that it should go on it's own way are mostly lost in the fog of time. In fact I know it is lost, because we choose not to realize, that at the end of the day, the prime driver of USA policy is self interest. Or perhaps we are wise enough to know a good thing and to ignore the downsides. Now ANZAC day is all about pomp and ceremony (which interests me not) and that surprisingly easy task of killing people to protect yourself seem like a noble thing to do. I do not think that it is noble, but I accept that it is sometimes necessary. Better to kill than be killed. Better to conquer than to be conquered. Even better to live in peace, but.

11 April 2007

international days

While having a hot chocolate at McDonald's on the weekend (I cannae believe that I said that laddie!), we were discussing the fact that the international years are very limited in their scope. Here are some new suggestions:
  • International year of the bogun.
  • International year of the westie (well we were out past Blacktown).
  • International year of the aspiring middle class.

25 March 2007

On Drugs...

Having lived the first few years of my life in a hospital and having a GP for at father, I have always been dismayed by the plain randomness of the attitude in society towards drugs (and to me aspirin counts as a drug). Living in this environment I have always had a healthy appreciation for only taking drugs when really necessary and have seen first hand some of the side effects of various drugs (such as Thalidomide). This site probably describes better than I can what I think the approach to drugs should be: The drug classification system in the UK is not "fit for purpose" and should be scrapped, scientists have said.

At the moment I am taking Aspirin and Telmisartan for high blood pressure and Simvastatin to control my hypercholesterolemia.