It's a pity I think, that such an incredibly strong and amazing woman as that mentioned in my previous post should have such a complete wanker for a son. I guess it's true what they say, you can choose your friends...
And who's this "we" Kimosabe? You're American now, remember?
Monday, December 8, 2008
It's a pity I think, that such an incredibly strong and amazing woman as that mentioned in my previous post should have such a complete wanker for a son. I guess it's true what they say, you can choose your friends...
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I just read yet another article about Dame Elizabeth Murdoch. I have but one thing to say...
WHAT A WOMAN!!!
Posted by Plonka at 2:18 AM
Saturday, September 27, 2008
How I long for the halcyon days. Suburban grounds and the sound of the crowd in my ear as I ride my bike around on a Saturday afternoon. Those were the days...
When I was a kid we lived pretty close to a grand old arena called Windy Hill. It wasn't called that because it was sponsored by the Windy Hill Corporation, but because that's where it is; on top of a hill that gets a bit of wind.
We lived so close to it that I could kick a footy around the back yard on a Saturday and pretend that the crowd was screaming for the goal I just kicked. It was fantastic. A kid's dream. We didn't need to listen to the game either (you couldn't watch it on the tele back then), we just watched everyone walking home or back to their cars. If the old lady that lived up the street was crying when she went passed, we knew Essendon had lost and that was that.
In those days it only happened on Saturdays too. They played all the games in one day and they played them in the heartlands where the common folk had cheap and easy access. There was no "Optus Oval" (Princess Park) or "Skilled Stadium" (Kardinia Park) but there was always the MCG, the ground you aspired to play at (except if you were playing Melbourne at home of course), but all the finals were played there because there was no home ground advantage, unless you were Melbourne, but that didn't happen very often.
We used to pack 110,000 in that ground for a grand final. You could take a full Esky and just about everyone, man, woman and child, did. What a stadium and what a day it was (but then so was boxing day in bay 13 for an Ashes game). You think the atmosphere is good these days? Well it isn't bad, but literally 100,000 people screaming "BALL!!!" is truly a sound to behold...
But times change and then business gets involved and a game "evolves", or more to the point, is stolen. Pretty soon the suburban grounds have been left for more salubrious venues, membership costs are prohibitively expensive and only 26,000 of the 90,000 seats available for the grand final, are available to the common folk. There'll be no meat pies and beer in the outer this weekend, but plenty of chardonnay, long macs and an a la carte menu in the corporate box. Back in the day, the only thing that resembled a corporate box was the members pavilion, and nuts to them!
Well, so much for "the common man's game". Just 26,000 seats this year. It's a disgrace! I heard that there were still some available though, for about $1500. The common folk have been shut out by cost and distance, but most of all by business. I call it the "Rollerball" syndrome...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Christians are as christians do. Has that not always been the case? Allow me to draw your attention to the following headline:
On the face of it, you could well be forgiven for thinking that the catholic church might have an issue with abortion. You'd be right too, but I don't really know why that is. I can't even find the word mentioned in the bible, and I've looked long and hard.
Caring for the sick and suffering on the other hand, rates quite a bit of mention in the bible, but there seems to be an issue here on earth. Some new laws may not fit with some religious ideals, or so it seems...
As much as I dislike religion, I have to admit that in the city I live in, there are some extremely good catholic hospitals. It would be a shame to see some of the better maternity facilities in this town close, not to mention much needed emergency services. But he goes on to say; "We might get out of hospitals altogether!" So there. How very christian.
In fairness though, there is a reason...
He said the law would require Catholic doctors and nurses with a conscientious objection to abortion to break the law. "This poses a real threat to the continued existence of Catholic hospitals."
Would it really? I can't imagine that any penalty would constitute more than a fine. Oh yeah... That would cost wouldn't it. How very, very christian...
Posted by Plonka at 11:07 PM
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Once again the subject of eternity and the possibility of experiencing it, with god, has arisen. Once again, I've had to explain that really, I'm not overly interested in it. Why? Well let me take you back, about 35 years back. I was at Sunday school and we were learning about Jericho and it was a day and a lesson that got seriously stuck in my mind. But first, just a little about Jericho itself.
Jericho was and still is an amazing city. It is arguably the oldest inhabited city on earth and back in the day, it had walls so thick they could race chariots on top, or so it was said. Of course the remains of those walls and their foundations would tend to suggest that yes, they were very thick by the day's standard, but one chariot would have been a squeeze let alone a race. Nonetheless, they were massive and impregnable walls with lots and lots of people inside.
Now the valley of Jericho, in which lays the city, is in a region that used to be called Canaan. "Ah well, there's your problem!" I hear you say, and you'd be right. God had given Canaan to the Israelites, despite the fact that there'd been a race there, called "the Canaanites", funnily enough, for well, since before Abraham got there. One could almost say since the beginning even...
I got to wondering why god had to kick the Canaanites out so the Israelites could live there, so I asked. According to my teacher at the time, "because god wants them to" is good enough. But wasn't there somewhere else they could go? Well no, god said they were going to live in Canaan, so they had to. Oh...Ok...
Anyway, to cut a very long story short, one thing leads to another which eventually leads to a whole lot of marching, yelling and let's not forget, the blowing of many trumpets. Eventually god tells them to stop, then the earth shakes and the walls fall down. Then god tells Josh to get the lads in there and make sure they kill everybody, except the prostitute. God even keeps the sun up for a few extra hours so they can make sure they've killed everyone, which they do, which is extremely pleasing to the lord.
I didn't like the story very much, as you can probably tell. So I went home quite confused that day, wondering about some of the other lessons we'd had like "god is love" and "do unto others" and by the end of it, had come firmly to the conclusion that the god of the Old Testament was not "love" and definitely was not the kind to ask his acolytes to "do unto others as they would have done to themselves", otherwise he probably wouldn't have any. Well not for long anyway. I even thought for a while that there might actually be two gods, but then I got to thinking about the "There can be only one!" thing and thought better of it.
But so began my journey from theism to a-theism. I took the long and very winding route via church too (various churches in fact), and many years of study. I was genuinely curious, so I searched high and low to find god. I even became pentecostal (yep, with the AOG) but eventually found no evidence, not even a trace, of either he or his son Jesus.
Along the way, I'd also gained an education and eventually came to the conclusion that there are some simple facts that need to be considered where eternity is concerned:
1. The human body, including the brain and all the other organs and the thoughts and emotions they produce, works by producing and using certain chemicals which it utilises in producing responses via certain chemical reactions.
2. When the chemical reactions stop, so do we.
Simple facts out of the way, I have a couple of question:
1. Is there really any reason then to think that I'll still be able to think, let alone emote once my body stops working? Well no, not really.
2. If there was an afterlife, would I really want to spend it with the vindictive, petulant, two faced megalomaniac that seems to be the god of the Bible, Old and New? Well no, not really.
3. Does any of that stop me from thinking it might be nice? Well no actually. I like the idea of a personal beer volcano.
So no, I don't think there's an afterlife and my reasons for thinking that don't really have much to do with my second question, that's just me being petulant.
Eternal pastures are always greener, but whether they exist in any form other than wistful dreamings is a question that living mortals are simply not qualified to answer, as well as being extremely doubtful, which just doesn't help at all...
Friday, August 29, 2008
Cosmos order proves God exists: Rudd
Now there's a headline and no mistake! Oh, and here's the article. I'm glad Kev's cleared it up for us:
"You can't simply have, in my own judgment, creation simply being a random event because it is so inherently ordered, and the fact that the natural environment is being ordered where it can properly coexist over time."
That it does it via a series of seemingly random yet very specific events doesn't matter because:
"If you were simply reducing that to mathematically probabilities I've got to say it probably wouldn't have happened.
"So I think there is an intelligent mind at work."(sic)
Actually Kev, for a long time now there have been and indeed there still are, many intelligent minds at work on the problem. Over time and slowly but surely, they're working out how it all really happened and how it all really works. The key here is to have an open mind but who knows, if you can just find a little more funding, then one day someone might just find the answer...
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Well here we are back again after a particularly harrowing, awkward, embarrassing and very dark patch.
Those who used to read regularly will be aware that I got retrenched some time ago. One even asked "Why the silence?" Well now I once again have the means and the access, I can finally explain myself.
It's unfortunate that the bills and mortgage payments don't stop when you lose your job don't you think? That caused a bit of grief and meant that for a short time, I had to let my internet access lapse in order to pay for other things. That was a little embarrassing, so I thought it best to keep my own counsel and save you all my depressed rants.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I just finished my first week in my new job WOO-HOO!!! To add to that, the very week I start, Wayne Swan came through with nice tax return for me, so I'm all back up and running and my mortgage is up to date. A pity really, I was about to receive a foreclosure letter which meant I'd have been able to cash some of my super in and put it into my house. I was a week away from having everything I needed and along comes a job and a tax return. Oh well...
So what am I doing these days? Well some will undoubtedly be pleased to here that I've joined the wonderful world of academia. No, I'm not lecturing in IT, I'm simply the new Problem Manager at Deakin University here in sunny Victoria. The position is reasonably senior and affords me many things like "flex time" and the standard Victorian public service "work life balance" thing. On top of that, they're an excellent and brilliant bunch, very easy to get along with, very helpful and very friendly. I'm based at the Water Front Campus in Geelong (right on the beach) which is a very easy 30 minute commute in a comfy V-Line train from Werribee where I live. What I like most though is the full and unfettered access to the library that I'll have once the paper work is complete...:)
Apologies are due to those that I missed due to a lack of access. I hope to see you all online again soon, but right now I have some catching up to do...
Posted by Plonka at 12:48 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The Age today reports that the U.S. has rationed sales of rice. The world price for rice rose about 68% last year.
In February, The Times reported that the world was only 10 weeks away from running out of wheat. The world price for wheat rose about 92% last year.
In January, The Finacial Post reported that U.S. corn exports will seize up in less than three years. The world price of corn rose about 60% last year.
Here's another one from April 24 that talks about the UN having to make "heartbreaking choices" with its emergency aid because it can no longer afford to buy food for starving nations.
So let's talk a little about the real costs and benefits of biofuels, if any can be said to exist. What are biofuels? Biofuels are those fuels like "biodeisel" or ethanol, that are produced mostly from food plants or disguarded by-products of food plants like used vegetable oil. For the most part we use grains like wheat, corn and rice to make ethanol with the very versatile (not to mention gentically modified) canola being used for oil, mostly.
Ethanol is an excellent energy carrier but produces just as much CO2 as regular unleaded fuel. Biodeisel, distilled from old or new vegetable oil doesn't work quite as well, so you'll need a Deisel engine to burn it properly. Even so, you'll still produce just as much CO2 as you would with deisel fuel, so in that regard at least, there's no real advantage to either of them as "environmentally friendly" fuels. They are however, renewable resources.
The European policy on biofuels dictates that there be 2% ethanol by volume in petrol, rising to 5.75% by 2010 in order to create a disired "crude oil saving". America is considering a similar policy, as is Australia and a myriad other countries around the world and the saving in crude oil is the only reason for it.
As we can see from all those articles though, there's already a serious food shortage brought on mostly by our current minimal insistance on biofuels. But as ethanol percentages rise in fuel, so will the demand for those food products. That means food becomes scarce, prices continue to rise, which of course drives yet more inlfation and the UN will have to choose who will die for lack of food.
Is this really the answer that we're looking for?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"Well now" says Dikkii, "What have we here?" That's as it should be though because normally, if I had a query concerning the scary world of finance, I'd ask Dikkii. It's a simple fact of life that if you want an informed answer, ask someone that knows a thing or two about the subject.
I call myself "Plonka", not because there was a mathematician of that name - I didn't know that when I chose the name - but because I "plonk" along. I tend to waffle on a great deal about things I know very little about with only the tenuous pretext of scant research, usually at Wiki, to back me and I wait for the blogophere to correct me. It's fun, I make friends and learn as I go.
There are however, some things I know with absolute certainty. One of those things, and herein lies the "tip", is that if a man says to you "I can get you a 70% return on investment", your best course of action is to thank him for his time and politely show him the door, the other side of it for preference. On this point, I'm sure Dikkii will agree with me so I feel confident in sharing this advice.
From The Age:
Mr Hoy's company, Chartwell Enterprises, reportedly promised investors returns of up to 70%. Instead, many were left watching in disbelief yesterday as the locks were changed on its offices in Geelong's Ryrie Street.
"In disbelief"... Surely they can't be serious. Someone even scratched the word "liar" into the door of his Jag. Really? I would never have guessed. He also owns a $900,000 Rolls, a luxury ocean cruiser and a $3million sub-penthouse apartment that isn't built yet. But then if you're a con that's trying to lure people, then the greater your advertised return, the better you have to make it look and this guy did it with style and to great effect.
The basic lesson here is "the greater the return, the greater the risk". I learned that at school in "home economics" (*sigh*...I show my age....) many years ago, and it seems to be one of very few things in the financial world that has remained steadfastly constant throughout that time. I may not know what a "good rate" is at the moment but I do know that 70% is laughable. Sure, some have managed to do exceedingly well at times, but a sustained 70%? Well even the great Mr. Buffett would have trouble with that one I think...
Posted by Plonka at 12:05 PM
Friday, April 18, 2008
The reason I'm writing this post is because Dikkii also mentioned that he'd installed Ubuntu on his old machine. Now being a nerd who's particular penchant is making operating systems work for you, not against you, I thought I'd best give it a go too. After all, I've been known to run with Red Hat, Fedora, Suse or even VMS if you count my Alpha. There's been Commodore 64 emulators, AmigaOS, Amithlon, BE OS, QNX and Knoppix on my machine at various stages, so I suppose it's time to see what the fuss is all about. I have a 750gig hard drive now, so space for weird partitions really isn't an issue.
I downloaded Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) for i386 and burned me a CD. Then I partitioned off 105gig, just so I'd have some room to breathe, made a 100gig ext3 partition and a 5gig swap partition (I have 4gig of ram and to much is better than not enough). I then bunged in the CD and proceeded to boot from that and install Ubuntu.
And that's where I began to run into trouble. You see, I have an nVidia 8800GTS 512 G92 video card which is very new and very, very fast, and it seems that the drivers for it aren't entirely up to scratch. To cut a very long story short, I made some very silly decisions and now have 4 different versions of Ubuntu to choose from in my CD rack, but nowhere near as much download left as I normally do at this time of the month.
The best one I've found so far is Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) beta AMD64. It installed a treat and automagically updated the restricted drivers for my card.
So I now have a very snazzy Gnome interface (I didn't like KDE4 very much) and as you can tell, everything works a treat everything works a treat. I'm using a thing called "ScribeFire" as my offline blog editor, as you can see in the pic, so we'll see how it goes for a bit. Other than playing X3 or Call Of Duty, I might be using Ubuntu full time...
Posted by Plonka at 11:09 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2008
"'It's to dark down here, I can't see what I'm doing', as the bishop said to the actress." or "'It doesn't usually leak this much', as the actress said to the bishop."
Sound's familiar doesn't it? Well it probably should too. "...as the actress said to the bishop" and vice versa have been popular idioms in the English language for a long, long time and have provided us with much humour over the years (Benny Hill immediately springs to mind).
Then there's the one about the young priest who has to fill in for Father Brian one weekend. He has to take a confession from a prostitute, but having never been exposed to such things before is unsure of what atonement to assign for her sins. As he's pondering this he sees the head alter boy and thinks, "He'll know, he's been around a while" so he asks: "John, what does father Brian give for oral sex?" The boy answers: "A can of Coke and a Mars Bar usually, why?"
The old ones are always the best, aren't they? But I can sit here and type crass priest jokes all day. They'd all be old and I wouldn't run out any time soon. We tell jokes like these because they are things that simply shouldn't happen, shouldn't be allowed to happen and yet somehow seem to happen with monotonous regularity, so we laugh at the hypocrisy. It's pure sarcasm at its most sarcastic.
But how did we become so tolerant of and amused by the concept of sex within the pious ranks of the clergy? We all know that priests are not supposed to indulge in this sort of behaviour, yet at the time these jokes became popular, jokes about the priesthood's lasciviousness were all the rage.
Well it probably has a lot to do with Thomas Aquinas. Back in his day, prostitutes were referred to as "actresses" in the polite vernacular and he advocated prostitution, saying things like; "Suppress prostitution and capricious lusts will overthrow society" and "prostitution in the town is like the cesspool in the palace; remove the cesspool and the palace will become an unclean and evil-smelling place". I can only assume he said such things because the brothels of Southwark, which employed young men as well as young women and "serviced" the clergy free of charge, were owned and controlled by the Bishop of Winchester from as early as the 11th century, a post that Aquinas himself held for a short period. They were also a reasonable source of income too, naturally. Did someone say "MONEY"? Gee, now there's a surprise.
As to the second joke, well it's also a sad fact that sometimes the Bishop's male "employees" were forced to serve as alter boys to atone for their sins before they were sent back to sin again, probably at the behest of a priest. It's been modernised with the advent of "coke and a mars bar" I know, but "ale and a pork bun" used to work just as well back in the day.
As a consequence though, whenever I hear about a clergyman or deeply religious person, whether they be Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Fundamentalist or any of the myriad "denominations" that exist today, being involved in some sort of scandal with an alter boy or prostitute/s, whether they be male or female, it always surprises me that their fellow christians seem to get upset about it. These guys are not doing anything new as far as "church business" is concerned and let's face it, now that they're not the pimps anymore they are at least forced to pay for the services they receive, not like Aquinas and his cronies.
Posted by Plonka at 4:04 PM
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Mat 19:17-19 - "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbour as yourself.'" (My bold)
"Do not give false testimony"... It means "do not tell lies". It's a very simple and straightforward statement, uttered by none other than Jesus himself and written as an instruction from Jesus to those who wish to follow him. "Do not tell lies"... I mention it just so we can all be sure that it is a basic tenet of christianity that really shouldn't be ignored if you purport to be a christian.
With this in mind, let's take a look at question 6 on the Mercy Ministries program FAQ with my bolds and highlights:
6. How much does the program cost?
Mercy Ministries program is provided at NO COST to the young women.
For young women who are eligible for a Centrelink payment (eg. Youth Allowance, Newstart, Pension) we ask that they contribute their payment to Mercy Ministries for the duration of their time in the program. From this payment the young women receive an allowance for weekly shopping for incidentals.
Upon entry into the program a deposit of $200 is required from all young women (whether eligible for Centrelink payment or not), to cover the cost of any impending medical expenses.
It will then be necessary to replenish the deposit to take it back to a balance of $200 for any further medical treatment that may be required.
For young women who are not eligible for Centrelink support, Mercy Ministries does require them to have a sponsor to support weekly shopping for incidentals and medical expenses.
As Mercy Ministries is not a medical facility we work with the young women alongside medical professionals who support Mercy Ministries to access excellent and affordable medical care.
Any remaining part of this deposit will be refunded to the resident on departure from the program.
So is it "no cost" or a $200 deposit with ongoing costs? One of these things must be a lie, so only one question needs to be asked; In ignoring such a basic tenet of christianity, deliberately and in print and expressly for the purpose of attracting desperate young women, does this organisation still have the right to call itself christian? My personal opinion is no, they don't, but I'm interested to hear what you think.
Posted by Plonka at 12:47 AM
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sean the blogonaut F.C.D. Does anymore really need to be said? Personally, I don't think so, but for those of you that aren't aware of the fantastic and altogether unselfish and charitable work that Sean has been dedicating his blog to, then I urge you to read on!
I published a very short article a little while ago and the subject matter got Sean's goat and goaded him into action. I have to say, the man is not only a humanist and a gentleman of the highest order, he's also a veritable research machine.
The article concerned those blackguards at Mercy Ministries who insist on treating dangerous and even life threatening medical and psychological conditions using various religious techniques, which of course only ever works for the religiously affected, not the medically affected.
It's quite obvious however, that some of these girls have been suffering serious medical and/or psychological conditions that god either cannot or simply refuses to repair. These girls need proper care, not derision for making "bad choices" or exorcisms to cast out demons, they need love, understanding and care.
Just three simple things. They are not easy things however, nor are they biblical things. In most cases they are not choices, but biological and psychological issues that require professional and/or well trained help and care. Sometimes god's biology just doesn't work the way it should. Why that should be if we were created by a perfect god, not to mention "in his image" is quite beyond me, but apparently he works in mysterious and contentious ways, not to mention being nasty and altogether vindictive, at times.
So I urge each and every one of you that may peruse this article to get over to Sean's right this minute and support him in his effort. I know he'll appreciate it, but the girls will appreciate it too I think, and it's they that really need some support. Mercy Ministries, after only making things worse for them in the first place, only continues to make things worse by refusing to even apologise, let alone heaping more derision on them in the media. It's shameful, hurtful and vindictive behaviour, not to mention completely UNchristian. So while you are at Sean's, please drop the girls a comment and show your support.
Posted by Plonka at 12:42 PM
Friday, March 28, 2008
Some may be wondering at my quietness. I'll be making the rounds shortly but in the mean time, please accept my apologies. There are however, mitigating circumstances.
Eostre. Yes, we celebrated the autumnal equinox with our usual gusto and flair. That mean lot's of chocolate and a few days of family life, which we enjoyed immensely, thank you.
But every silver lining has its cloud and my cloud is a dark one indeed. Interest rates are not a concern at the moment because a number of us got made redundant. Notice I didn't say "retrenched", that would make sense and would make life a little easier. But I work for EDS which means I now have to endure a 5 week "redeployment plan", which translates in plain English to "the EDS redundancy package avoidance plan". We won't know about any packages for at least 2 weeks.
A package would be nice, but I have a mortgage and a family to feed, so instead of reading blogs for the last week or so, I've been reading job ads. It's making my eyes water, but it's a numbers game in I.T. these days (especially so if you are 43 years old) and to land one, you must apply for many, so that's what I'm doing at the moment.
Posted by Plonka at 9:28 PM
Thursday, March 20, 2008
You may recall my article "Of Atmosphere and Arguments" and my last paragraph:
I'm all for being cautious and responsible but if the net effect of this argument is simply to make my life more expensive, I shall be extremely annoyed.
Well here's the problem:
From The Age 20/02/2008
Commissioned by the Climate Institute, a lobby group, it found Canberra will reap at least $400 million in 2011 and between $7.2 billion and $20.6 billion by 2020 if all businesses that emit greenhouse gases are forced to pay.
Sure, it sounds good, but who's going to foot the bill? Will it be the businesses concerned? Well no. They'll simply pass $400 million in 2011 and between $7.2 billion and $20.6 billion by 2020 on to cash strapped consumers who for the most part, cannot afford it.
But I liked this bit:
The Climate Institute called for the revenue to be spent on helping the poor, who face rising electricity and petrol prices once the new system arrives in 2010.
Are we really as stupid as that? So stupid that we'd invent a methodology then use the money it generates as a subsidy to make the methodology affordable? It really is the most ridiculous idea. There is absolutely no incentive whatsoever for any business to reduce any emissions. They'll simply pay the fees and pass that cost on to Joe Average who will then go to the government, cap in hand, to get his handout so he can afford to pay the increase.
Donna asked if businesses will be forced to upgrade their equipment to "cleaner" technology:
From yet another article at The Age (21/03/2008)
He said the massive Government revenues flowing from carbon permits — tipped to reach $20 billion a year by 2020 — should be spent helping communities such as the brown coal-rich Latrobe Valley, initially by boosting funding for research into storing greenhouse gases underground.
"Boosting funding for research..." So the answer is no. There's no viable alternative and no viable method of emission reduction yet we're perfectly happy to start charging for it. This is where I get seriously upset. We can't stop making CO2 simply because we need the electricity. It's like a tax on breathing.
Monday, March 17, 2008
People often ask me why I have a problem with religion. I guess the main reason is that the overtly religious are perfectly happy to ruin lives in a futile pursuit of god.
From The Age - 17/03/2008...
A SECRETIVE ministry with direct links to Gloria Jean's Coffees and the Hillsong Church has been deceiving troubled young women into signing over months of their lives to a program that offers scant medical or psychiatric care, instead using Bible studies and exorcisms to treat mental illness........
Naomi Johnson, Rhiannon Canham-Wright and Megan Smith (Megan asked to use an assumed name) went into Mercy Ministries independent young women, and came out broken and suicidal, believing, as Mercy staff had told them repeatedly, that they were possessed by demons and that Satan controlled them.
Only careful psychological and psychiatric care over several years brought them back from the edge....
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The reason for this post is because I've been wanting a new dog or two for a while now and we think we've found "the one", so I'm all exited.
Our old pooch (Harley), was a pure bred Boxer with a serious pedigree who we all loved dearly. She was put down at the ripe old age of 15, due to the fact that she was deaf, blind, riddled with tumours and was no longer enjoying her life. The Melbourne University School Of Veterinary Science is just up the road, so that's where we took her and consequently she, like I hope to be, was lucky enough to be able to donate her body for science.
Anyway, it's taken us a year or two, but we've come to the realisation that we need a new puppy dog. We want two really, another Boxer because they're the best, and a "something else" that no-one's really sure about. It seems to have fallen to me to decide so I've been considering a number of options.
I got to thinking that one pedigreed dog was enough and that the other should really be one from a shelter that needed a chance. So I asked the family what they thought about rescuing a pooch from death row at the Lost Dogs Home instead. This was greeted with exuberance to say the least.
So tonight we went to the web site to see what we have to do to adopt a pooch and we found our pooch. Say hello to Bodie. He's a 2 year old Husky cross, duh, which is unspecified but looks a bit Shepherd to me. He's awful skinny and peeky lookin' and looks like he's done it hard, so our hearts went out to him as soon as we saw him.
When I came and sat down just now there was a note on my desk with his name, animal ID number and Shelter tag no. and the phone number, so I hope the shelter is open tomorrow because it looks like I'm going to get him whether I like it or not...:)
The problem is the disclaimer. The web site makes it clear that someone may have taken him already, or his time may be up at dawn, who knows, but if he is still there I'm going to ask them to hold onto him until I can get there with the kids and ask him if he wants to come home with us. Just look at him, so proud but begging to be loved (not to mention fed), but that's the problem with the lost dog's home, you want to take them all because you know what will happen if no-one wants them...
Posted by Plonka at 2:10 AM
Saturday, March 8, 2008
So how much CO2 is released when a politician farts? As much as when he or she speaks? It's a conundrum and no mistake, but let's just take a little look at the whole environmental thing. I don't like it. It smacks of religion.
Regular readers will be painfully aware that I'm a sceptic. I am sceptical of many things of which this is just one. But I also hope those same readers will attest that I'm perfectly happy to stand corrected if the math proves me wrong.
I've been wanting to vent my frustration at this subject for quite some time so within the spirit of being proven wrong, I thought I'd best dig a little deeper before I opened my big mouth and spilled type and invective all over my blog. Alas, I'm none the wiser but none the less, here I am...
Did you know that man, with everything he does in this world, produces bugger all in the overall carbon emission stakes? Really. We deforest and burn hydrocarbons at unprecedented rates and consequently produce an estimated 26.4 giga tons a year. Now that sounds like a lot but when you consider that just the respiration of plants globally produces an estimated 220gt a year, add 100gt or so for rotting vegetation and dead animals, and it doesn't seem like so much anymore.
Then there's volcanoes. I used to like volcanoes but now I'm not so sure. Stick your probe in a volcanic vent at a new eruption and you will find amazing concentrations of CO2 spewing forth. Check the local atmospheric ground station nearby however, and there's no spike at all in local concentrations of atmospheric CO2. How can this be? Where does it go? Do the rocks reabsorb it? Is it averaged in the atmosphere somehow? Does convection drive it to the troposphere where we don't measure it? We simply don't know, but if even half the concentrations we measure at various ground level vents are mixing with the atmosphere, we're talking thousands's of giga tons, not tens or hundreds, so you see why it's an issue, even if some say it isn't.
Then there's evidence from the Vostok ice core that would tend to suggest that global warming and the resulting "ice age" is cyclical. About every 10,000 to 12,000 years, or so it seems, the earth suffers a short (geologically) but intense period of global warming, followed by rapid cooling that seems to result in a major glaciation (ice age) that lasts for about 10,000 years. Evidence would suggest that this has happened at least four times in the last 100,000 years or so and that the last ice age ended about 11,000 years ago. So could it be a cyclical event we're witnessing? The timing seems about right but once again, we really don't know.
So you can see my problem. It seems to me that we're being extolled to believe something that as yet, has not been entirely proven and that my friends, is what smacks of religion. It's as if we've simply employed Pascal's wager and are just believing because it's better to believe than to take the chance.
But unlike the god of Pascal's wager, these claims are provable, one way or the other, if we get the science right. The math so far suggests that in the context of global emissions, man's activities may account for as little as 0.1% of the total carbon footprint produced at ground level. That really doesn't sound like much, but there is such a thing as "the straw that broke the camel's back". Are we that straw? It wouldn't seem so, but who really knows? The answer unfortunately, just as it is with god, is "no-one knows...yet".
I'm all for being cautious and responsible but if the net effect of this argument is simply to make my life more expensive, I shall be extremely annoyed.
A couple of references I used:
Google "carbon emissions" for a myriad more links and references but 'ware the doomsayers...On both sides...
Friday, March 7, 2008
Hey, I made someone's day! How good's that!?!
Tina, over at Mr Jeb's blog has given me the "You make my day!" award. I'm chuffed. I haven't written anything I'd consider to be of note for ages and I've been playing silly games so much I've barely been commenting, so I think I need to remedy that now.
The rules for this one are a little tricky for me though: "Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on."
I don't have ten blogs bookmarked. I like to keep my list short so I've got time to have a chat, but there are a couple I like so;
Firstly, Dikkii at Dikki's Diatribe is a particular favourite and is always my first stop. He's thought provoking with humour, which is how it should be.
Secondly, there's Pheonix. Regulars may note that she's new here, but we go back a long way on a previous blogging host. I like her take on life, she's a realist and that is also how it should be. She hasn't blogged for a while, so please make her welcome.
I'd also like to award Donna because she makes me think. She hasn't started a blog but she comments and contributes quite a lot.
Anyway, thanks Tina, you're a gem...:)
Pheonix has awarded me right back with this one, and it's made me think. If someone else had awarded me this I'd have been over to Tina's to pass it on. Tina is another one that's thought provoking with humour and often makes my day, especially with the old news snippets from her local paper. So, as it's not against the rules to nominate someone who's already been nominated. I'm adding Tina fcd at Mr. Jeb's blog to my list.
Posted by Plonka at 3:51 AM
Friday, February 29, 2008
I don't know, why are games so damned addictive? I mean it's just a silly game. I'm not likely to achieve anything by playing it all day, except to be able to say that I'm good at it, and what possible good will that really do me in the long run?
Trouble is that I finally got a machine that's good enough to do X3 Reunion justice and I've owned every game in this series, so I've been playing. I'm going to continue to play too...:)
So why didn't I do a real post? Well, I've taken a break from playing silly games so I can go and watch one being played instead. I'm off to the cricket today to watch Australia whop Sri Lanka.
I'll be catching up on the weekend, so I hope there's lots of goodies for me to read.
Posted by Plonka at 11:13 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Damn, just when I'm working more shifts than I can reasonably be asked to work, as well as recovering from painful "day procedures", Dikkii over at Dikkii's Diatribe goes and tags me. Not to worry, I dig these things...:)
It's an oldie but a goodie, as they say and I have a sneaking suspicion that Dikkii is suspecting something interesting, so I'll try not to disappoint him.
To the rulze:
1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.
Ok, well there are three open on my desk at various stages. They are all by Richard Dawkins and they are: "The Ancestors Tale", "The Blind Watchmaker" & "Climbing Mount Improbable" with the last two being in the easiest reach. So, to the watchmaker I think:
Cows and peas differ from each other in only two characters out of these 306 (the histone H4 gene is 306 characters long). We don't know exactly how long ago the common ancestor the common ancestor of cows and peas lived, but fossil evidence suggests that it was somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 million years ago. Call it 1.5 billion years ago.
So there you go...
Now, 5 people? Damn! I've been so slack lately I doubt I'll get a response to this, let alone a response to a tag, but here goes.
Donna, Sean The Blogonaught and anyone else that wants to have a go...
Posted by Plonka at 8:56 PM
Saturday, February 16, 2008
From The Age 16/02/08
POLICE union heavyweight Paul Mullett will walk away from his position as union secretary with a golden handshake worth almost $1.7 million.
Umm, excuse me? For those of you unfamiliar with Australian, or even Victorian politics, this man was once a working policeman. For the last 20 years however, he's been "on secondment" from the force to the police union or "The Police Association", to use it's correct name.
He enjoyed a rather meteoric rise and became secretary almost 15 years ago. Throughout his time as an active member of the force and as secretary of the union, he has been dogged by accusations of bullying and misconduct, but despite all that, he's managed to remain in the top job, at $200,000 a year, ever since he gained it.
Recently however, the "OPI" or "Office of Police Integrity" ran an inquiry into police corruption. This caused two highly place individuals to resign after giving evidence concerning some of their taped phone conversations that also concerned Paul Mullett. Consequently Mr. Mullett stands accused of and will be charged with corruption for undermining a police murder investigation.
Now he's going to get a $1.68 million hand shake, which is more than double the super he'd have gotten had he resigned as a Senior-Sergeant, which is the actual rank that he holds, and after earning nearly three times the wage of the average snr-sgt for a very long time.
I don't know about you, but I think I can see an injustice in progress here...
Posted by Plonka at 2:12 PM
Thursday, February 7, 2008
There's another meme floating around. Tom at Dubito Ergo Sum thought this might be fun and because I think he might be right, I'm going to have a poke at it myself
To the rulze:
1. List at least four things you'd do as God
2. Assume you are omnipotent and that anything you do will work out fine with the laws of physics just as they are
Ok then, let's have some fun.
1. Smite the Pope making it obvious it was me, but giving no reason for it other than "He had it coming!"
2. Create an extremely powerful, extremely efficient, extremely abundant, extremely cheap and extremely easy to harness energy source.
3. Make said energy source available to anyone and everyone, all at the same time so that no-one can claim a copyright or a royalty.
4. Kick back and enjoy the show.
Tea anyone? Popcorn?
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Well folks, wish me luck. I'm off today to have a "day procedure" performed which will require the auspices of a general anesthetic. I'll be back in a couple of days, once I wake up enough to write something.......
Posted by Plonka at 11:53 AM
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Making a wish when you blow out the birthday candles on your cake (which I shall be doing this evening..:)) is a very old tradition. The reason for the tradition is that it was once believed that the smoke rising from the extinguished candles would carry your wish to heaven where god, in his infinite mercy, would grant it. I guess it’s as sound a theory as any where god is concerned, but is god really any more than a wish himself?
In Roman times, gods were those you prayed to in order to make your life on earth better and for the most part, there was no belief in life after death. The Druids on the other hand, believed in various forms of reincarnation. In fact Julius Caesar, having had to make three attempts to get a foothold in England wrote: “Their Druids teach that the soul is not extinguished upon death, but passes to another. In this way, the fear of death is removed and they are moved to uncommon feats and fight with ferocity unmatched!”
I find it interesting to note Caesar’s comment here. This was a man with singular experience in conquering foreign peoples and cultures, yet it’s not until Britain, which is quite late on his list of major conquests, that he finds “eternal life for everyone” as a religious concept. Obviously not a common phenomena in that part of the world at that time.
But be that as it may, it seems that throughout history gods have served their purpose by serving as sources of hope. On the one hand, you’d pray and hope for good fortune and a longer, more comfortable life while on the other, you’d pray and hope for a glorious death in battle which would help to speed your soul on its way to some variation of a “hall of ancestors” where it will join the eternal party, or on its way to another host where it could fulfil its “destiny”. Either way though, it’s little more than hope.
Christianity is fairly new when it comes to being a religion. For thousands of years, the ancient gods and ancestors reigned supreme in the spiritual world, each offering their own forms of solace and hope. The old ways however, are nearly always replaced with something new and completely different and that’s where Yahweh, Jesus and Mohammed really make their mark.
The jewish, christian and muslim god offers all of these things in one package. With this god, it is possible to hope for a long and prosperous life while at the same time hoping for a glorious death in battle, without any thought at all to the contradiction implied there. He’s a veritable well spring of hope which has been used to great effect over the years. Churchill and Hitler both used god and Jesus to extol their troops to ever greater feats of “valour” and even today, we’re told that god is a reason for killing civilians in the Middle East while he seems to be the sole reason why young muslim men and women continue to explode in public places.
But as much as anyone can believe in a god, no-one can actually be sure in fact. Because of that condition, Pascal famously wagered that it’s better to believe and live in hope than to not believe and take the chance, but what is hope if it isn’t a wish? I may wish for something better after this life, just as a ruler may wish for a means of control. It’s unfortunate that god has seen fit to grant both our wishes in one fell swoop with the advent of his religion.
So it seems we’ve wished for ourselves, a god of such unerring magnitude that he can create a universe out of nothing, yet is deaf, blind, wholly indifferent and completely impotent when disasters and injustices are perpetrated upon the peoples of his world, and that our wish has been sorely granted. It’s a sad fact too that the granting of that wish has only served to make matters worse.
Bad people prosper and good people suffer and that’s how it’s always been. It would be nice to think that those who prey on others, or on society, will get what they deserve in the next life, but that belief and attitude, as well as breeding apathy is extremely counterproductive; If I’m happy to die because I’m going to go to heaven, then I’m just as happy to let you kill me because I know you won’t.
David Hume, an eighteenth century philosopher posed the following problem which as far as I know, has never been satisfactorily resolved. He enquired about God:
“Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
So “Whence then is evil?” The same place as god I’m afraid. Lounging luxuriously in the hopes, dreams and wishes of men.
Friday, February 1, 2008
I refer of course to tithing, the practice of which is an integral part of the Abrahamic tradition, being as it was, part of the covenant that Abraham made with God. As such, it is widely believed that Christians should tithe, but is that really the case?
Yes, it’s time for another bible lesson from an atheist. Go figure! The subject came up in a conversation I was having with Donna when she said something else that made me think:
Tithing is great, but I don't think God expects the single mom with 3 kids to feed, to fork over 1/10 of HER paycheck if she can't afford the basic necessities!
It made me think about the difference between the old and the new; the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The reason these four things exist is because Jesus brought with him, a new covenant that made the old obsolete. Consequently, we have the writings of Abrahamic/Judaic Rabbi which make up the old testament and the writings of the “apostles” and others that make up the new. In the collection of books that are the old testament, Abraham’s covenant is formalised and Deut 14:22 and Lev 27:30 leave no doubt that an Israelite should tithe 10% of all that grows in his field to the Levites (the keepers of the tithe) who in turn must tithe one tenth of what they receive to God. The rest of the tithe goes to feeding the temple, keeping it ship-shape and keeping stores for use in times of hardship. Just as Joseph did for Pharaoh, it was the job of the temple to have a contingency for drought, famine and/or any other pestilence that might befall the land.
Now when Jesus comes, he breaks the old covenant. At the ninth hour, the curtain of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom (Mat 27:51) and never again will the spirit of God descend upon the Ark of the Covenant. The old covenant is broken for all time. No more burnt offerings, no more sacrifices, no more sleeping with your brother’s wife if he should die childless and no more tithing.
Galatians 3:23-25; Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. And there is much more in the new testament that teaches us how and why New Covenant believers are free from the old law, Romans 3:28, Hebrews 7:20-22, Hebrews 8:6-7 to name just a few.
So you see, tithing for a christian, although charitable and acceptable, is not strictly necessary. Yes, there is a lot of mention of it in the new testament, but if you actually read the texts, it’s always Jesus telling the Pharisees how they’re neglecting the law. If you continue to read, you will also see that annoying the Pharisees with points of law was a favourite pastime of Jesus and it ended up getting him into a lot of trouble. There is however, NO direct claim that any “New Covenant” believer needs to tithe. Charity is good, of that there’s no doubt, but charity also needs to be affordable. As Donna said, there’s no point giving it away until the only way to survive is on the charity of others. Somehow it seems to me to defeat the purpose.
So if your priest or pastor should ask you why you don't tithe, look him in the eye and tell him it's because he doesn't make burnt offerings.
Dr. Russel Kelly has written a book on the subject and it was also the subject his thesis:
Should The Church Teach Tithing
And here's his summary of the book. It's worth a read, if you have the time: Russkellyphd
and here's some web recourses:
NoMoreTithing.org or TithingDebate.com.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I was cruising around at Sean the Blogonaught’s today and came across an interesting discussion concerning the separatist and insular nature of certain christian denominations. I found the following comments interesting because they made me think and question.
First, the comments:
that's the old fundamentalist @ their "best". If you don't go along with what THEY want, you're less holy, less "good", less everything than they are. – This one made me think.
...if you tell someone "No.", that means NO. If they continue to ask/nag/ force you to do "whatever", then they are trying to CONTROL you – and this one made me question.
Here’s what the first one made me think: “well that’s the old moderate christian at their ‘best’. If you don’t go along with what they want, you’re less holy, less good, less everything than they are.”
And here’s what the second one made me ask: “But isn’t that what ALL religion seeks to do?”
Now chuffed as I was at my witty repartee, I used those words only to make a point, not to poke fun at the commenter. The point is that this is not a phenomenon confined to the fundamentalist movement alone. It’s just that it happens to also be a point that this particular comment illustrates quite beautifully, especially considering that the commenter seems to be a caring, intelligent person that thinks quite deeply about the religion they’ve chosen and is prepared to question it. But this example shows perfectly, the effect that religion has, even on the most reasonable of people.
The first thing a religion such as Christianity seeks to do is to control the thoughts and actions of its congregation. There are rules, precepts, concepts and symbols that all denominations and believers have in common everywhere: Jesus, the Sabbath, the breaking of bread, prayer, charity, etc, and there are denominational traditions, trappings, dogmas and teachings: speaking in tongues, the transfiguration, etc and for each denomination, the rest are all quite wrong.
In this way a religion or denomination can separate its congregation from everyone else and stand alone and righteous. But in every instance, whether it be inter-denominational or inter-religious, there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to worship, observe, believe or otherwise pay homage, and in every instance also, the result is that “we will go to heaven and you will not”.
This is the condition of religion and it cannot be avoided. Even the most reasonable and moderate of believers know deep down inside that they are right and I am wrong. No justification other than the bible, Talmud or Koran is required for someone that seriously believes that any of what is written there is true. This attitude seems to infect all people of all faiths, albeit in varying degrees from extremely tolerant to extremely violent, and moderate practitioners of religion are no less guilty of it than are the extreme, they just choose to opine in a more congenial manner, that’s all.
But really, when all is said and done, it comes down to control. If a religion does its job, conditioning its congregation to believe that its God is the only true God, then men and women who are “Inspired by God” can continue to control the hearts and minds of those who subscribe to that faith with consummate ease and impunity. All a “man of God” need say is: “we must do it for God” and millions will flock to do his bidding, and that is what makes religion such a frighteningly dangerous beast.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Seneca because it’s as true today as it ever was:
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
Posted by Plonka at 6:55 PM
Thursday, January 24, 2008
From The Age:
The Reserve Bank is expected to respond within a fortnight by raising official interest rates by 0.25 of a percentage point, adding $50 a month to repayments on an average $250,000 home loan.
So here we go again. Inflation is up and the global economy is stuffed, so once again it's time for Mr. Average to foot the bill. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a direct correlation between tax cuts and interest rate rises? And why do banks always have to make $4+ billion? Why can't they just make $1billion? It's still a hell of a profit.
Then I read this:
But they believe an increase is less likely if global sharemarkets resume the falls of recent days.
Now I thought that market crashes were bad. I mean back in the 80's we had people literally jumping out of windows and interest rates that were well over 10%. But being a mortgagee that is not a shareholder, except where I'm forced to be thanks to the advent of compulsory superanuation, it seems perhaps that this is not such a bad thing after all.
But I think Tim Colebatch sums it up quite well in this artice when he says:
And you can see why. Our financial system for decades placed a premium on safety: the system might have been low-yield, but it was secure and transparent. But in the 1990s and 2000s, financial institutions have put a premium on profits: the system is now high-yield, insecure and so opaque that no one knows who owes what.
"financial institutions have put a premium on profits". He puts it so eloquently doesn't he. What he really means to say is "financial institutions are greedy bastards that don't give a rats arse about you or your house, so long as they can squeeze a profit out of you."
But don't worry to much. Financial institutions will continue to make their obscene profits. They have to, "the shareholders demand it!" And besides, now that they've shifted the cost of their silly mistakes to Mr. Average, and now that they've got 3 million Mr. Averages to give them an extra $50 a month (do the math) whenever they cock it up, they're not likely to ever make a loss themselves, are they? A "downturn" (maybe only $3.9billion) is about as bad as it gets these days...
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It’s a difficult thing to define. But although it’s difficult to articulate just exactly what “the spirit of cricket” is, we all seem to know when that spirit is lacking. Hence the term "It's just not circket", I guess.
Take Jardine for instance. He and in particular Harold Larwood, did nothing outside the rules of the game during the “Bodyline” series. Jardine’s idea was to bowl a fast short length delivery that targeted the body and not the stumps. He also stacked the field on the leg side so that any attempt to fend the ball off would result in the batsman being caught. A perfectly legal delivery and field, but at the time none of Jardine’s “chums” at the Marylebone CC would do it because it “wasn’t within the spirit of the game”. Larwood however, was a poor Yorkshire coal miner who did what the “gentleman” told him to do if he wanted to keep his position in the team.
The tactic, when it was employed against Australia in the summer of 1932-33 against the Australian batsmen, and in particular Don Bradman himself, shocked not only the Australians, but the British as well. One man was knocked unconscious, one ended up with a fractured skull (Bert Oldfield - that's him after the offending ball in the image above, although he always maintained it was his own poor footwork that caused it) and plenty of others took some very nasty blows. Bill Woodfull, hit a number of times and once over his heart that nearly felled him (that's him after the offending ball in the image below), was reported to have said to the English manager, “Plum” Warner when he came to the Australian dressing rooms to apologise, “I don’t want to see you Mr. Warner. There are two sides out there. One is trying to play cricket, one is not. The game is too good to be spoilt. It is time some people got out of it.” Harsh words indeed, for their day.
So what is it about the game and in particular, how it’s played, that gets people so riled up. Sportsmanship, honour, integrity, it’s all those things and more. In short, it is a game that “is too good to be spoilt,” as Mr. Woodfull said, all those years ago. The concept of “sportsmanship” is so integral to the game in fact that back in 1933, the chiefs of the MCC were called to Downing street to explain themselves, an event which overshadowed Hitler’s dissolution of the Reichstag in the London papers, and Canberra took the Australian Board of Control to task over its accusations of “unsportsmanlike behaviour”, which actually threatened international relations with England. As Allen said at the time, “Nobody calls an Englishman unsporting and gets away with it.”
I bring all this up because recently, or so it seems, the Australian cricket team has been guilty of unsportsmanlike behaviour itself. Worse than that, it was our captain that made the worst exhibition of it that I’ve ever seen in an Australian cricket team.
Dismissed, he stood his ground and was given not out, then spat the dummy when he was given out erroneously, some 30 runs later. Not only did he throw a tantrum on the field which continued into the dressing room long after his dismissal, he and others indulged themselves in an appalling display, saying “UP YOURS” to all and sundry when they finally won the game with just 9 minutes to spare. Then to add insult to injury, he didn’t bother to shake the hand of the opposing captain at the end of the game. It’s unfortunate that his shame for that action reflects on the nation as a whole, but that’s the nature of cricket in this country. He’s not THE captain, he’s OUR Captain.
For that by itself, Ponting should be censured, suffer at least a one match (Test) suspension and be fined. There is no other gesture, on the field or off, that more embodies “the spirit of the game”, win lose or draw. It was good enough for Bradman to shake Jardine’s hand after all and it is England, not India, that is our arch nemesis (with New Zealand a very close second) in this sport.
I also think that Symonds is quite wrong when he says that you get good decisions and bad decisions, it all works out in the end so stand your ground. That’s all very well and good for the pyjama game (one day and 20twenty) but what he should do during a test is cop the bad decisions on the chin, umpires are only human after all, and walk when he knows he is out. That would be the honourable thing to do and the only way in which to gain an honourable victory, or to be defeated with honour, is to play with honour.
This is what we failed to do in the last test I think, so let’s see if we can put our differences aside and finish playing this series in the spirit the game is meant to be played. I for one shall be seriously annoyed if India go home and I don’t get to see Ganguly, Laxman or Tendulkar bat again this season.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
I was arguing with a friend about this just the other day. The argument concerned the cost of water and in particular, recycled water.
A 25,000 litre truck can be filled with recycled water for about $25. If I wanted that water to be delivered to my house, it’ll cost me in excess of $2000. I know this because I watched a short article not long ago about a water carter and it seems to be true enough with my enquiry to fill a 1000lt tank resulting in a cost estimate of about $100. When they asked him why he charged so much for the water, he said “People pay it if they want the water” which translates to “because I can”. At that point I wanted to take a gun and shoot the fool.
I mentioned this to my mate and he said “So what’s wrong with that?” I tried to point out that it offers a disincentive to which he said “Bullshit!”. I damn near fell off my bike, but you can’t argue with that kind of logic, so I didn’t.
The markup here is about 8000%. That, in anyone’s language (except my mate’s) is profiteering on a grandiose scale, and he can do it because there are no laws to prevent it. The thing that really irked me about this bloke was that he was quite happy to charge up to $3000 for 25,000 litres of recycled water to fill a pool, but was prepared to drop it to $2500 if you are trying to grow food or own a business that needs it and don’t have a tap yet. Big hearted of him I thought.
Not long after, my brother in law was around for a barby and told the story of his mate. This bloke had recently had an 85,000 litre pool installed. Of course, he didn’t have the $8000 needed to do the right thing and fill it with recycled water, so he rang the water company and told them an engineer had just told him he had to fill the pool or it would collapse, but he couldn’t afford the recycled water. So without so much as a “can we see the engineer’s report please”, they told him to turn the tap on. $80 later he had an 85,000 litre pool full of beautiful, clear, sparkling, pristine drinking water.
Now in a state that’s having serious water issues, with stage 3a water restrictions in force, which means we not allowed to fill pools, no matter the size, we can’t water lawns or gardens at all, trees can only have a bucket twice a week, etc, I think that deceiving the water company like that is probably a bit rude, so shame on him. But double shame on the carter for making it prohibitively expensive NOT to deceive the water company.
But once again, this is the problem and the result of our “profit at all costs!” society. Profits soar as prices rise and the economy booms and we have good times. Then slowly it creeps up, because in the final analysis, one man’s gain is another man’s loss, and then it hits and a wave of home buyers go bust. Usually it’s because they’ve over extended themselves, but where was the check to make sure they didn’t, or the check to stop the unscrupulous mortgage broker? Well they’ve been removed because they interfere with profit.
We seem to talk a lot about silly people buying things they can’t afford and somehow manage to almost completely avoid talking about the smart people who convinced them to do it and these days, that's business. It no longer has anything to do with the usefulness or value of a product, but everything to do with whether you and I can be convinced to buy it. Why we do that I don’t know. It seems all ass about to me but then I’m not profit driven, except where my employer is concerned and that’s only because I’ve seen the workplace change so drastically over the years. There was a time I was treated like a person, now I’m treated like a commodity so I’ll do my best to act like one.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The NAB recently announced that it would raise its mortgage rate by 0.12% with business to pay an extra 0.15%. Why did this happen? Did the Reserve Bank raise official interest rates? No. They’ve cited “higher funding costs” as the reason.
Last year, the NAB made $4.4 billion in cash earnings. Lending increased to $394.7 billion and deposits to $268.4 billion. Ok then, that 4.4 is pure cash earnings, separate from “assets”, which according to that statement are clawing their way back from record lows and “cash earnings” are interest generated. The bank sells money and reaps the profit via interest charged. It’s a simple equation really. So I’d like to know how the market influences that particular figure. It doesn’t seem to me that it can, so I’m inclined to say that it’s more likely that if the banks do well then the market MUST do well, not the other way around.
So it seems to me that this is purely an exercise in profit garnering. No-one’s bothered to mention how much funding costs have risen or whether it would cause significant losses if they didn’t raise rates, and considering that the NAB has a record of high “cash earning” results along with being first to raise interest rates, I’m of the opinion that they could probably have waited for quite a while before it caused the bank any real problem. The problem is though that the banks and I have a different idea as to what constitutes a loss.
To me, a loss means I didn’t make a profit, period. To a bank, $4.3 billion in cash profit instead of $4.4 billion in cash profit means they’ve made a loss and that they must do something about it because the shareholders will demand it. This ridiculous idea isn’t exclusive to banks either. I was first introduced to it when I worked for an asset management firm when during one quarter, we made a massive company record of $110 million and in the next we only made the standard $90 million. In response, our budgets were slashed, required upgrades had to be put on hold and the mailroom lost a staff member. Now to me, that’s laughable. It wasn’t like we didn’t make a hugely massive and disgusting profit or anything. I did manage to get some value out of it though when I was working on the CEO’s PC one day. He snidely complained about the performance so I pointed out that it wasn’t my idea to slash our budget. I also pointed out that his PC needed to take a lower priority because it’s the traders and fund managers that are actually making the money, so they should come first in a profit oriented firm, yes? Guess what? They had to wait so Maurice could have his new PC, laptop and phone, all paid for out of our (IT’s) budget with no expense at all, not even responsibility for the ongoing phone bill, falling to Maurice himself. Laughable in the extreme.
Shareholders are another problem. They always complain and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think it’s because most of them have nothing better to do. But I don’t own any shares at all except what my super fund may own, and that will most likely be largely eaten by fees and taxes by the time I get it anyway, so I don’t really give a toss about that. What I do care about is that my bank will soon follow with their 0.12%. Yes, I’ll still be able to make the payments so it doesn’t concern me too much. But that extra $20 a month has added up to quite a bit over the last 12 months or so. On top of that, energy has just risen by 17%, public transport by about 3%, then there’s petrol, meat, milk, veggies, etc. Herein lies the real problem and is exactly what big business and business oriented government has seriously dropped the ball on. Over time, the checks and balances that prevented profiteering have been eroded and because of it, we’ve created our own version of a “working poor”.
I’m not doing to badly, but… I don’t get CPI increases and EDS is extremely poor at giving anyone except management (above the middle level) the “performance based” increases they promise, unless you get promoted. I’ve had one promotion that netted me very little, so for the last 6 years my wage has pretty much remained static. This practice is perfectly legal and works well as a cost reducer over time. They don’t have to lay anyone off if they can save the price of a wage over the period of a year or two as job market values rise with the CPI. So people leave to find better compensation and EDS continually have their little think tanks to try and work out why they have such a high staff turnover. No, they never manage to find the answer, I kid you not.
Yet prices rise and interest rates rise and I’m already at the point where I rarely manage to save. I don’t know how long it will be, but I can see that there will come a time, probably sooner rather than later, when I will reach the point of no return and will need to find better pay. No, not a better job, just better pay. I don’t care about the job or “career” anymore, only the money I can make, that’s the corporate attitude, isn’t it? My job has a “market value” and I’m expected to make my company a profit. In that case, my skills and services are sold to the highest bidder with the best conditions. Consequently, I’m no longer and never again will be loyal to the company I work for, only ever to the pay packet they see fit to give me.
The underlying problem to all this as I see it, is that our society has simply become to profit driven. The shareholders always demand that this year’s profit is better than last year’s so companies and corporations must find a way to show an increase. Lay people off, skimp on safety and services, close the crèche, increase the profit margins and in short, generally help inflation along and make it difficult for me.
It’s time to wake up to the fact that higher profits and lower wages don't mix well. You need to pick one or the other. Higher profits mean more expensive products while lower wages mean more expensive products become unaffordable, which in turn effects profits. See the problem? The wheel turns and one man’s gain is another man’s loss and in the final analysis, that simple fact cannot be avoided, only put off for a while.
You know, when I started in the work force as a salesman all those years ago, the standard markup was 30%. That bought the stock, paid the rent and wages and made Ben Douglas (Douglas Hi-Fi) a multi millionaire with just 2 shops. These days the average markup is anywhere between 50 and 80% and in the case of slower moving items, 100% or more. That much profit isn’t really necessary and excuses like “because I can get away with” or “because the shareholders demand it” simply aren’t good enough…
Friday, January 4, 2008
I’m going to rant about the obesity “problem” that we’re told we have. So first I’d best apologise up front to anyone reading this that has one of the very few genuine medical conditions that may cause clinical obesity. No, an addiction (if you can call it that) to eating doesn’t count!
It’s true, I used to be fat. I wouldn’t have called myself obese, but measured by today’s standards I would have been, and quite seriously so. I didn’t really want to lose the weight, l didn’t consider myself to be unhealthily fat after all and besides, I was lazy. But I did and there was a very good reason for it.
Back in the day, there were no anti discrimination laws concerning fat lard-asses like I was, so most places I went, I copped it. Sometimes I copped it pretty hard, but the fact of the matter was that I was a fat lard-ass, so I also copped it sweet. Eventually however, I got sick of being called “lard-ass” and worse so I lost a bit of weight. About 4 stone in fact. I’ll let the whipper-snappers out there work out what that is in kilos, I don’t care because I don’t know how much a kilo weighs. I do know however, what an ounce weighs in my hand and that there’s 16 of them in a pound, 14 of which you’ll need to make a stone. So there! Oh yeah, my misspent youth taught me that there’s 28 grams to an ounce. That should help.
Anyway, I digress
From The Age:
OVERWEIGHT people should be rewarded by private health funds with frequent flyer points and gym vouchers if they successfully undertake a monitored diet and exercise program, a leading health economist has said.
A health economist? What the hell is that? Someone that’s fat, unhealthy and suitably embarrassed? Alas no, it’s just a glorified insurance salesman, which is a pity really, it’s a catchy title.
But what I’d really like to know is why the lard asses of this world should be offered any incentive other than a sound beating with a stout stick, metaphorical or otherwise. It worked for me and it worked good. I lost the weight in my 20’s and am now in my 40’s, still slim and still able to ride my push bike 100 miles (160km. I know that one because my odometer does both…:)) or more if I feel like it.
But wait, there’s more:
In Britain, health insurers have reportedly slashed premiums, offering discounts of up to 75% for members who go to the gym and watch their weight.
75% eh? Not bad. Hopefully they’ll do the same over here. I’ll watch my weight all the way to a 75% discount, even if I have to go to a gym to do it, mark my words. It ain’t that bad being fat and I love to eat!
Australian legislation prohibits using premiums to discriminate in this way under the community rating system, but health funds could still provide incentives, Paul Gross, director of the Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment, said yesterday.
Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment? Damn! This get’s more complicated the more I read. Which technology needs to be assessed for fat? Kitchen technology? I guess there are some pretty wiz-bang appliances out there these days and you might do yourself an injury.
But there goes my cheap insurance. A gym membership I can live without but if I was big enough to have to buy two tickets, then I guess the points might come in handy.
But seriously, all this is complete bullshit because as I said, the only incentive needed here is the stout stick of public disapproval. Remove the fat clause from the anti-discrimination laws and make it legal once again to insult fat people in various and amusing ways, just for being the gluttons that they are and that I was. Or perhaps we should think about NOT offering them health insurance. Offering someone an incentive like that just doesn’t work. I’d fatten myself all the way to my 75% discount and stay there so I could keep it. It’s easy for me, I have a slow metabolism. More exercise just means more food and even though I can’t find any info about when they stop the incentive I reckon I could keep my 75% discount for life, no worries.
And no. I didn’t have a thyroid problem or any other medical issue that caused it and neither do the vast majority of fat people out there. But if you are seriously overweight, and my 4 stone was enough to cause it, then it’ll be adult onset diabetes for you unless you do something about it. When that happens, as it will, you’ll either have to observe a very strict diet or inject insulin daily, you’ll slowly lose your eyesight, your feet will turn numb and eventually become useless, leaving you in a wheelchair, your organs will slowly fail, one by one and you will die a young and very uncomfortable death. I ask you, do you really need any other incentive than that?