Sunday, December 31, 2006

Musical meme

Sometime back, a friend visiting from the UK made a comment about my CD collection that got me thinking about how and when I've heard something distinctly different compared with what I was listening to around that time.

Usually friends, television or a good review/recommendation puts you on to a band but occassionally you discover something yourself - I know it's really only the illusion of discovery but it's still exciting to be one of the first of your social circle to be listening to a particular sound and to introduce others.

So this is a music meme, list your five self discoveries in the order of most recent to oldest discoveries with bonus points for official websites and links to videos (official, pirated or dodgy camera-phone concert footage).

My top five self discoveries are:

1. 2003. Meshell Ndegeocello. I first heard Ndegeocello's Peace beyond Passion at a cafe in Newtown, Sydney. This album remains one of my top 10. Stunning voice, incredible bass player with funk-style titrated directly from Bootsy Collins. Check out Leviticus: Faggot

2. 1988. Living Colour. Unbelievably, I was introduced to Living Colour while watching Entertainment Tonight - that tacky US entertainment show of an entirely beige palette. Nonetheless, they previewed a band reputed to be the first Black heavy metal band (I'll let others argue that point). Classic tracks include I want to know (from the Vivid album) and Fight the Fight (from Time's Up). This link is to a live version of Open letter to a landlord.

3. Mid '80s. The The. I first heard the album Infected (really cool people knew the earlier albums Soul Mining if not Burning Blue Soul) and was hooked. Here's a great link to, I think, a recent live gig - about a third of the way through is the very song I first heard, Heartland (lyrics here).

4. Mid '80s. Robbie Robertson. First heard on Radio with Pictures, Karen Hay was the host so it can't have been much after the mid '80s (1986 I think). Somewhere down the crazy river remains one of my favourite tracks.

5. Early '80s. Waterboys. Ok, this is a little outside the rules I set 'cause I stole a video tape from my brother without realising what was on it. I first heard This is the Sea - can't find that but can find A Pagan Place.

The best team one year out

The All Blacks have been the best team in the world most of the last twelve years but have missed out at the World Cup in the '95 final, the '99 quarter final and again at the 2003 quarter final. Just so we don't all start prematurely celebrating, here's a reminder of what happened each time.

  1. First, the dropgoal in '95. Forget the fact that it was extra time.
  2. Next, France knock us of in '99.
  3. Finally, Australia and Mortlock steal a win against all expectation in 2003.
If you want another reminder, there's that little gem of wisdom provided by George Gregan to the All Black forwards in the dying moments of the '03 quarter final, "four more years boys, four more years".

Saturday, December 30, 2006

10 greatest guitar riffs

Browncardigan links to this site that shows you the tab/sheet music for a selection of the 10 greatest guitar riffs - gotta say that, although they were never my cup of tea, Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O Mine is pretty cool.

One for crasster I suspect.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

One day Roger Finch, one day

Ok, so that's got nothing to do with shit but I can't think of a way to introduce yet another browncardigan sourced clip - this one is stop motion animation (a fav of the 'bc' crew).

Some readers may nevertheless wish to suggest where the title of the entry came from... prizes may be available.

Dead-set comic genius

Post-it dance. Dance post-it, dance. Now break, jive, break - Travolta! Now die!

See it here. You guessed, Browncardigan.

Cooler stuff, doubt it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Updating the threads

First up, Rudd's ascention to the leadership has clearly resonanted with the electorate according to this story in today's Australian. Newspoll gives Labor a 10-point lead in primary votes over the Coalition. With a year to run, lots can change and Howard is an expert politician however this at least is some vindication for the leadership spill.

In related developments, Rudd also appears to have had genuine success selecting his front bench. Factions are notoriously powerful in state and federal Labor and frequently put up candidates for no other reason but that they're from this or that faction - tragic indictment on Labor frankly - however Rudd insisted on some new blood including Peter Garrett and appears to have won. Interestingly, Swan - a major backer of Beazley - has retained his shadow Treasurer's responsibility. This decision is being described as both a factional detente and a restoration of an old friendship between Rudd and Swan.

Howard's dog whistle politics are at full volume with the announcement of a revamped citizen test which includes an examination on Australian values and culture and an English language test.

Lastly, on more banal but nevertheless important issues, Sydney cabbies are in the news for charging huge fares, $150 - $200, to take people from Homebush to the city - a 20 minute drive - after the Robbie Williams concert. Sydney cabbies are shockers, many are thugs and thieves, some are flat-out psychos.

Changes introduced last year means that cabbies are not allowed to tout for business (as they were doing here), they must accept passengers/fares regardless of destination and not attempt to negotiate price. Yeah right. Mrs backin15 and I were out late Friday night and had exactly the same experience - cabbie pulls up, turns off his "availabe light", asks where we're going (not too far) and then decides that he's actually off duty. Bastard. Only redeeming feature of cabbies is this blog - Adrian's a top bloke (only wish I could find him when I need him).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Please, please, please give Eddie the job

Eddie Jones wants to coach England; brilliant - if his salary demands are too great, I can think of 4 million people who'll happily chip in to make up the difference.

Winston Peters on Aus Lateline

Just saw Winston on Lateline, ABC's late night news show on the Fiji coup.

He was very good, he seemed a little hesitant in places - very uncharacteristic - but was reasonable, sensible and conciliatory. Diplomatic even. Gwad.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rudd and Gillard new Labor leadership

Kevin Rudd has beaten Kim Beazley to take the top spot in federal Labor. Gillard is his deputy - it's a good balance between the right and left and both present a clear contrast with Howard and Costello. Gillard will be subjected to the same vile rumour Helen Clark has been throughout her career - she strikes me as a very strong, intelligent character. Rudd's apparently not well liked within the party though from the perspective of an interested bystander, I have to say I like him.

In a tragic coincidence, Kim Beazley's brother died this morning.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wellington in a week...

I've got myself invited to a party in Wellington, flights included - great stuff.

There are many things I miss about Wellington, friends particularly and besides catching up with loads of them, here's some of the things I'm looking forward to:
  1. Drink an Arano Feijoa Frenzy
  2. Eat the beef stronganoff from Wishbone
  3. Have a beer at Lovelocks
  4. Have a coffee at Masi (and probably Lido)
  5. Wander about Oriental Parade
  6. Have the chicken curry at Kopi
  7. A drink or two at Concrete (Is Bar Bodega still around?)
  8. Visit Smoke CDs (Slow Boat and Real Groovy too)
  9. See a band (I'd welcome recommendations - bands and venues)
  10. Any chance the Pohutukawa on the Terrace might bloom early?


I like the saying that you only ever regret the things you didn't do, rather than those you did.

I regret not getting on a plane and flying to Sydney in late November 1996 to see the final Crowded House concert. Hard to believe it was ten years ago. Sorry that a reunion isn't possible. Vale Paul Hester.

Thanks TVNZ for this interview with Neil Finn - good to hear a new solo album isn't far away (I could review the launch gig for Tim's latest effort which I attended at the Basement in Sydney a month or so back but I can't bring myself to say what I really thought).

National's health spokesperson in punch-up

Good god. A former GP, now front bench health spokesperson accepting hospitality from British American Tobacco. Serious misjudgement. Being an obnoxious twat and getting smacked on the nose at said corporate shindig... hard to challenge the government when you're sat on your arse!

I'll leave others to speculate as to why he's not pressing charges.

Gotta love Simon Power's involvement: didn't see a thing, didn't think hanging out with a cigarette firm was an issue, wasn't aware his trousers were on backwards...

Movember 3

What is it about blokes and 'tach's?

These two appear to be trying to enter a poor man's mile high club.

Movember 2

Crasster's a creative fella...

Took Mrs backin15 a little while to work out (which I find vaguely disturbing).

Anyway the 'tach is gone now until next year.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Movember ended yesterday so the 'mo goes however, here's photo from the Movember party held at Luna Park in Sydney.

Was damn good fun, particularly the dodgems - you still get in trouble for going the wrong way, but now at least you can tell the attendants to get stuffed and carry-on regardless.

For the record, I think the three of us raised close to $1,000

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rudd v Beazley

After several weeks of intensifying rumour, Beazley's called a leadership ballot for Monday - Rudd will challenge with Gillard - frankly, I hope they win. Beazley's average and old and will lose to Howard. Rudd may too but at least he's got a chance.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Got em', gone!

After a lengthy but unproductive time at the crease, Brash has been given out LBW; Lying Bumbling Womaniser.

Wow, wikipedia updated already!


I love cricket and have succumbed to the lure of the Ashes. I have to support Australia, both because I live here and because I am pathological about the English... I only wish McGill was playing instead of the f__kwit Warne.

Can't roll a leader when he's high in the polls?

Conventional political wisdom says Brash must survive until the polls turn against National. So too does his former chief of staff, Richard Long, who today said you never change leaders when you're ahead in the polls.

But this only makes sense if you assume that supporters will depart the party in greater numbers than those that might join following a change at the top. Maybe true most of the time, but Brash's leadership has rarely been secure and, this far out from the election, the polls can and will change.

I don't accept the lines coming out of National's various back channels, it's not conventional wisdom saving Brash, it's the inability of caucus to agree a successor. Long must know this in which case he's either trying to buy the National caucus some time or he's trying to encourage Brash to leave before he's inevitably pushed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Icebergs in NZ, hades in Sydney

I'd have paid a considerable sum of money to be somehow transported out of Sydney last night and relocated onto or near this damn iceberg - 35 degrees+ for most of the yesterday and too freak'n hot to sleep over night.

It's mild 38 degrees today.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

C is for cookie

The little one is very keen on being sung too. The Wiggles have been her favourites for a while now however they've recently been displaced by various Sesame St songs (gotta love Youtube). C is for cookie is number one at present but the Manamana song is on a rapid ascent. Yellow submarine is another crowd pleaser - fortunately for me, I think Ringo only sings two or three notes so I can manage a reasoanbly faithful rendition.

... I don't own Revolver... should I have admitted to that?

The half life of kool kredits

Halfpie's been doing all the right things with his daughters. He comments that any kool kredits that accrue however, must be spent within the weekend or else they'll evaporate. A 48 hour half life.

I reckon the half life of kool kredits is age-related, I only hope it extends rather than contracts with each birthday. In my experience, the younger they are, the more transient moods appear - on the up side, any major disappointment can dissipate with 30 mins of the Wiggles but on the downside, 6 hours of energetic playing is no insurance against a moody bedtime!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Get over it Murray

I've never been on the inside of National and so have never understood Murray McCully's influence; frankly, he's always seemed pedestrian to me. This latest outbust hardly convinces me otherwise.

Is Murray keen to align himself with the Monarchists? Why, 'cause National needs more support from rural NZ and old aged pensioners? Perhaps, giving him some credit, he's decided that William's likely to take the throne soon thereby newing the Crown and making it sexy with young women?

National might have some legitimate grievances with the music industry, they appear to have few if any vocal artistic supporters, but I can't see how bagging Dave Dobbyn, who quite frankly would have to be one of the most popular muso's in NZ, is going to help.

National clearly needs to renew the front bench 'cause Murray sounds like the 'narky old man nextdoor, hardly the image that'll attract votes in the major urban centres.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why we may well win the Cup

The All Blacks win over the French on the weekend was one of the most complete games I've seen in years.

Jerry Collins was magnificent as were the other Wellingtonians, So'oialo, Weepu, and Smith (who may have nailed the Centre spot). Jerry's quoted in today's SMH on keeping the French scoreless:

"It's like when you're little, 'last try wins in some cases'. It's a good way to leave Lyon, with a massive defensive effort".

That attitude is what will win us the Cup.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tax incentives: training

Australia's tax system is considerably more complex than NZ, not least of all because of the various deductions available. Earlier in the week, the Australian Financial Review (offline or subcriber only) covered a story suggesting a new deduction, this time for expenditure on accredited training for both employers and individuals.

Some State's favour this approach because it means they don't have to contribute more funding - in NSW, the bill for training 80 percent plus covered by the State, around $1.3 billion, compared with $300 million from the Commonwealth. However this proposal is not without risks, particularly the risk that the tax incentive won't increase training in proportion to its cost - deadweight risk. Also, it may not increase training as much as is required - some NSW experts claim a 2.5 percent per annum increase is needed others, focused on the broader national scenario, say 5 percent.

There are other alternatives, obviously governments could increase funding - in some States this is likely but in others it is not. Income contingent loans are another alternative although politically and practically this is less likely - unless all States' and the Commonwealth agree, any debt/loan scheme is damn near impossible since repayments are best made through the Pay as You Go tax system which is a Commonwealth system.

Whatever the solution, there is a general consensus that training participation rates have to go up to improve workforce participation and prepare for the impact of the aging population.

All sides claim victory - almost

The newly established Fair Pay Commission has made its first determination (reasons for the decisions are here), agreeing to increase minimum wages by around $27 a week. This decision has been curiously welcomed by most parties, unions and the Federal Government particularly, albeit for different reasons.

The ACTU are happy because they'd asked for $30 per week and nearly got there. The Feds are happy because they can claim that their new system is working when its critics, including the ACTU, said it wouldn't.

Employers - well Peter Hendy of ACCI predicts the sky will fall in: pressure on inflation and interest rates and no increase in labour market participation (a more orthodox interpretation is impossible). Heather Ridout of the AiGroup is, as ever, far more sensible however she too notes the risks drawing attention to the likely differential impacts on small to medium enterprises and regional economies. Interestingly, the Commission specifically considered and rejected the option to differentiate the rates for either regions or for industries however, this in part reflects the Commission's mandate to eliminate pay differentials between States over the next three years.

Implementation of Australian VSU

One of the quirks of the current Australian parliament is the power independents and small parties hold in the Senate. Although on paper, Howard has a majority, he's often got some work to do on some bills. Last year, he was forced to do a deal, mainly with the Nats but also with the Dems, to ensure the passage of the VSU legislation including providing funding for student services at regional institutions. How much, oh just a lazy $80M over three years. Sounds a lot but as the NUS point out, the VSU legislation probably costs Students' Associations around $160M per annum. More information on the priorities and process etc is here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Clearly nothing orginal to say...

Tim at Road to Surfdom points out yet another instance of Bush's idiocy.

O'REILLY: Now Brian Ross of ABC said — reported the CIA water boarded Mohammed. That is dunked him in water, tied him down and then that broke him. Is that true?

BUSH: We don't talk about techniques. And the reason we don't talk about techniques is because we don't want the enemy to be able to adjust. We're in a war.

O'REILLY: Is water boarding torture?

BUSH: I don't want to talk about techniques. And — but I do share the American people that we were within the law. And we don't torture. We — I've said all along to the American people we won't torture, but we need to be in a position where we can interrogate these people.

O'REILLY: But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?

BUSH: Well, one thing is that you can rest assured we're not going to talk about the techniques we use in a public forum. No matter how hard you try because I don't want the enemy to be able to adjust their tactics if we capture them on the battlefield.

Full interview here.

Tim wonders if Al Qaeda may in fact be investigating recruiting amphibian terrorist... no wonder George is worried.


Look, I'll admit what is increasingly obvious, anything cool, anything at all cool, I only know about 'cause of browncardigan... It makes me feel so hollow.

New bravia advert here, better than the bouncy-balls in SF, no shit.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Breathing earth

Here's a link to a flash animation tracking births, deaths and CO2 emmissions; China, India and the US head the competition for emmissions. Australia and NZ hardly register, although Australia in fact has the highest emmissions per head of population but is fortunate that slowing land clearances provides carbon sinks.

Hattip: browncardigan (again again).

Album cover wars

Hell I'm not sure which album cover won this particular war, but Ozzy Osboune seemed to do well, eating Weezer and the B52s before consuming his own head - excellent.

Hattip: browncardigan (again).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Improving workforce participation

A while back I took issue with Lindsay Mitchell who suggested that beneficiaries were taking it easy and avoiding work at a time when there were jobs all over the place. As evidence for her argument, she reviewed her local paper and reported that there was 100+ job ads. Mitchell's solution was to reduce the minimum wage and benefits to stimulate employment and force beneficiaries into the workforce.

There's a simple logic to Mitchell's approach, particularly if you believe beneficiaries are a lazy bunch, however her argument is in fact quite wrong. A tight labour market may actually present fewer opportunities to beneficiaries, particularly when the vacancies are for skilled labour.

There's a well researched direct correlation between skills and workforce participation and earnings. In Australia, 80% of men with degrees are in fulltime work compared with only 54% of men with no post school qualifications (reference here). Likewise, compared with those who do not complete school, a person with a Certificate III or IV earns 13% more and someone with a degree earns 43% more (reference here). However the beneficiary cohort tends to have lower skills compared with the workforce and therefore cannot easily obtain work. This problem is likely to get worse - most forecasters predict an increase in the demand for skilled workers and, at best, static demand for unskilled. The solution therefore, involves training (amongst other things, simply increasing and improving the supply of skilled labour does not automatically improve productivity, there also needs to be a focus on increasing the demand for and use of skilled labour).

In NSW, very serious consideration is being given to significantly increasing training over the next 25 years to offset the effects of the aging population and avoid declining productivity. Importantly, the focus of training is not simply on school leavers, but also on existing workers, parttime workers and those who are not in the labour force - this last group are expensive to train.

Some of the commentators on the right also propose reducing minimum wages to stimulate demand for employment but a recent report predicts that this will have less impact than alternative approaches. In Australia, a reduction in minimum wages of 5% will likely lead to around 30,000 people joining the workforce but will also lead to a pay cut for around 1.25 million workers.

Mitchell is like too many commentators, on both the right and the left, who appear pursuaded by rhetorical solutions and unwilling, or unable, to give more serious consideration to what is a complex problem requiring a sophisticated solution.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Live blogging of sorts

I should be working, I've set my screen up so that I can work and watch the Netball test... sod it, I want to have a go at live blogging.

Anthems: How come Netball crowds can belt out both the Maori and English versions of the anthem and rugby crowds are so muted throughout the Maori - are women more likely to be bilingual?

Lineups: No surprises that Liz Ellis is playing on Van Dyk. Both are classy players. Von Bertoch sisters both starting for Australia. Vilimaina Davu is such an imposing character.

Halfway through first quarter: Tutaia is the main target in the NZ shooting circle, shooting 5 from 8 but Van Dyk remains the main defensive target. NZ 100 percent success shooting.

First quarter finished: The difference between the two teams is the conversion rate of shots to goals. The defence on Sharelle McMahon is excellent and the pressure on the shooters is forcing errors. NZ up by two goals.

Halftime: Even, twenty a piece. Scarlett and Davu not doing as well containing the Australian shooters in the second quarter. A typically close match. A wonderfully physical encounter but also well refereed. Avellino commenting for ABC - she used to annoy the hell out of me, always complaining to the umpires but just as aggresive as anyone on court. I don't mind it when competitors push the limits, it is the umpires job to manage, but I don't like players who simultaneously complain and offend. I've hardly ever seen Davu say anything during the game, she accepts that she'll get penalised. Of all the players in all sports, Ricky Ponting must be the worst at this. A brilliant batsman, but an average sportsperson.

3rd Quarter: Dalton on for Tutaia - Dalton who's back in the squad after a year or two away - Dalton who's only a year younger than me and 16 years older than Tutaia. Australia with a break of two goals, 26 plays 24.

NZ timeout in the 3rd Quarter: Australia ahead by 5, shooting much more accurate and midcourt patient. NZ using the zone defence but Australia not panicing.

Late in 3rd Quarter. Davu pulls off critical turnover and NZ not out of things with a centre pass to come.

End of 3rd Quarter. NZ trails 33 - 35. Australia has won the last two quarters but NZ staying with them. Davu's played well but Australia's speed across the top of the circle is the difference. So much for my prediction of a win to NZ by 5, this one will go down to the final seconds and will probably be won by a margin of one or two. Defence on Van Dyk is excellent but isn't creating space for Dalton where it was for Tutaia.

Five to go: Dalton's missed two critical shots, Australia has momentum and the scoring advantage. If they win, it's the first series win in in NZ a number of years...

Fulltime: NZ lose by 6. Ruth Aiken's job is at least safe from me. Australia deserved the win. Third in four games. World Championship's will be tight.

ABC does the right thing

ABC have decided to screen the final Netball test between NZ and Australia live at 4.30pm rather than delayed at 11.30pm. I've been astounded that these tests aren't always live - I've not got time to verify the numbers, but I recall reading that Netball is the most widely played sport by women in Australia and yet the tests don't routinely screen live. The fact that Netball tests are always live on television in NZ may say something about limited participation in other codes, however I think it also says something about the prevalence of sexism in Australia. Hockey screens live, why not Netball? Australia is one of the leading countries in both games - what gives? ABC have done the right thing, I only hope they continue to.

TVNZ meantime are streaming it live.

My tip: Kiwis to win by 5 and take out the series. Watch for Temepara George to again dominate the midcourt.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sopranos timeslot moved

There's a little story in today's SMH about the latest season of the Sopranos. The very last sentence of the article reads: "It's a shame Nine has shifted the show to this terrible timeslot, but I suppose we should be grateful it wasn't axed altogether."

I'm guessing that it was poor editing that meant the article didn't mention that Nine are not in fact showing the Sopranos at the usual shitty timeslot, Wednesday's at 11.30pm, but instead at the even shitty timeslot of midnight Monday! Bastards!

When I rang Nine to check why the Sopranos wasn't on tonight, I was told that due to "poor audience interest", the show was moving... nicely on message but what bollocks. The show would be a hell of a lot more popular if it weren't for the crap timing - I realise it needs to be screened after kiddies are in bed but midnight sucks arse!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tough being a parent

I regularly read the blog of Heather Armstrong, Dooce, me and 3,599 others at least. Heather's writing is absorbing, not least of all because it often deals with the challenges of being a parent - challenges I'm acutely aware of. This link takes you to Heather's monthly letter to her daughter, Leta, letter 32. Leta, who is gorgeous, bright and creative, is a lucky girl to have a mother such as Heather.

Every parent must have moments where they wonder about how they're coping and about how their children might be affected when things are a struggle as they are from time to time - God knows I do - I'm going to make sure my wife knows how much I admire her, how much I love her and how grateful I am.

Tribute to loss

An unimaginable loss.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Commonwealth fesses up...

It was not surprising to see another story in today's, Wed 4 October's, press about training and migration. This story at least is based on some more credible information and clearly a more sensible journalist (editor?) has at least found time to link it to Commonwealth policies.

I find the Australian Industry Group's estimate of a 240,000 shortage of skilled workers over the next decade a bit challenging although the NSW training system turns out about this many graduates per annum, close to a third of the national effort, so this figure is not unreasonable.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Training goes offshore too!

Though it hardly deserves the front page, in the news Tuesday morning is a story about TAFE NSW training Chinese nationals offshore - worse still, training them in trades which could lead to domestic jobs going offshore (like Qantas jobs for instance).

The story is frankly thin, full of unsourced quotes from unranked "officials", it is also hardly news. Australian training providers have been very active offshore, universities and TAFE, for ages. Their activities are partly driven by Commonwealth funding policy - policies that have explicitly encouraged training providers to diversify and to develop export education markets to raise commercial revenue and reduce reliance on public funds.

More recently, the Council of Australian Governments explicitly agreed to increase offshore training in order to increase and improve skilled migration into Australia. Specifically, Education and Training Ministers agreed to establish:
"A single, pre-migration, off-shore assessment process to meet skilled migration and licensing purposes and be accepted for licensed employment throughout Australia for intending migrants from any country where there are >100 applications per year per assessing body"
Therefore how can anyone be surprised by this? How on earth can the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, be surprised - did he miss the debrief?
"We are now seeing entire workforces imported into Australia working for less than Australian rates of pay and conditions."
Yeah, bit of an overstatement, but then I guess we're only months out from an election a God knows the unions run the public sector, however seriously Minister, your Premier and Cabinet signed off on the COAG resolution!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Corporate espionage

I've always assumed that there's a degree of espionage that occurs in political campaigning; by both the left and right. I assume that the bigger the stakes, the more likely but also the more sophisticated and, possibly, defensible (maybe I mean defended rather than defensible, defended rather than denied?). So, at the risk of becoming a Four Corners junky/flunky/groupie, they've done it again... producing a compelling hour of television during which AMCOR subversives (I don't think the word is misused in this instance) confess to all manner of under-handed tactics in order to maintain their business chipping native forests.

A transcript of the full show will no doubt be posted - I hope Kakariki saw it in Melbourne.

IT, globalisation and immigration

Qantas have announced they'll be sending 300 jobs offshore to India. Their rational is about the limited availability of skilled workers but I'm not at all convinced.

The federal Department of Work and Employment closely tracks* the IT labour market - it is an incredibly volatile market because the industry is so dynamic and globalised - and as at September 2006 reports that though demand has increased this year, it is still considerably lower than in 2000 reflecting changes in the industry as well as the impact of various measures developed to improve the skill base. Also, although forecasts predict stronger growth in demand for IT employment, changes to the skilled migration scheme and a renewed focus on training for skill shortages may be sufficient to fill any gap.

As an aside, some work I did a while ago showed that the NSW training system is incredibly attuned to changes in the IT industry with enrolments closely tracking vacancy trends with very little lag time.

Qantas is relocating these jobs to save on wage costs - exploiting the low wage economy of India compared with the high wages paid in Australia. This is the price of global labour markets, we need to accept it and plan accordingly.

*DEWR tracks skilled vacancies and reports on trends. It's important not to conflate the existence of persistent vacancies with skill shortages. Skilled workers may choose to not apply for work because they can get more money elsewhere or because they don't like the work. Nursing is an example of an industry where there is a labour, not a skill shortage. There are plenty of trained nurses, more than enough to fill reported vacancies, however they choose alternative employment for numerous reasons (see the report Stop Telling Us To Cope on this page).

Friday, September 29, 2006

I am my own wife: review

Since the youngest was born, we've not often been out to theatre despite having frequent access to free tickets. Last night, we went to I am my own wife at the Sydney Opera House. The play is based on the life of Charlotte von Malsdorf who established the Gruenderzeit Museum in East Belin and survived both WWII and life under the Stasi despite being openly a transvestite.

It is a one (wo)man show and is outstanding. The actor, Jefferson Mays, play 8 - 10 characters with remarkable clarity and distinctivness. The set is a brilliant design that transforms from the interior of a small suburban home into a vast chamber overflowing with grandfather clocks, phonographs, and antique furniture. The script is tight despite the complexity of the story and elegantly shifts from Charlotte's present to her time in both Nazi and Stasi controlled Germany. I particularly like that the script didn't solve the ambiguity about Charlotte's involvement with the Stasi, which included being an infomer (apparently 1 in 3 East Beliners were) and allegations that she informed on another collector (and possible lover) leading to his imprisonment.

This play genuinely deserved the standing ovation it received last night and apparently many others.

Though they focus on very different people and stories, this play reminded me of the Gary Henderson's Skin Tight which we saw in Wellington in 96 or 97.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Disappearing military blog

I recently stumbled across the blog of an Australian, Ben Dullroy, serving with the ADF in Iraq which, though I only read a few posts, was pretty interesting reading. I subscribed to the rss feed but didn't check back for a while. On noticing a new post, I was disappointed to discover that the new post simply announced that the blog had been deleted.

The story appears to be that Dullroy was advised against continuing his blog as the ADF had no policy governing military blogs (this being gleaned from another blogger, Mike Fitz, who re-registered the blog name to avoid squatters).

I guess, at one level, this is a pretty extreme form of censorship however, I avoid blogging on issues related to my work because, as a public servant, I realise I have access to information that the public don't (some of which is sensitive and not within my discretion to disclose). I guess Dullroy's blog has the potential to compromise military or civilian safety or could provide a clue about the ADF's strategy. This being the case, the ADF need to update their policies to reflect the potential for near immediate and uncensored publishing... but does this mean no room for personal military blogs? As Mike Fitz notes, consider "how letters from Gallipoli are revered by today’s historians."

Interestingly, comments on the (in)actions of the ADF are mixed with at least one commentator, Colleague in Army, criticising Dullroy's actions stating "You should have known better. It took you four years to get a deployment and you did this". Ouch!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm ok, the Brethren are too

Unsurprisingly, the most conservative leader in the First World does not have a problem with the Exclusive Brethren. Money laundering, child abuse, institutionalised sexism and technophobia... what the hey, they apparently funnel money into Johnny Howard's campaign so live-and-let-live he says:
"I did make the observation that I've met a lot more fanatical people in my life than the Exclusive Brethren. They have a different, a more disciplined, perhaps some would say a more narrow interpretation of the Christian religion than others, but I respect their right to have it."
Sure they do John, however it's not their beliefs that cause concern, it's their actions not only in terms of how they treat their members and ex-members, but also their shadowy forays into politics - how would Howard react if an Imam surreptitiously produced attack advertising targeting the Liberals? I think we know, he'd reconsier their right to be citizens.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I accepted support from Christians...

Yeah so it was just in student politics, WSU in 1993/4, but I've remembered now it in the context of all the brouhaha about the Exclusive Brethren's covert support for National.

In my defence, I only accepted their support 'cause they couldn't support the other candidates, one whom was quite staunchly left wing and the other who was a bit of a boozer and a lad (both were also damn good friends and remain so today). But I did accepted the support of a Born-Again Christian group in Hamilton.

Now I could say things about them that I didn't like, and they certainly did some things that I didn't agree with but (and this might simply be to make myself feel better) I was straight up with them that I supported several of the projects and groups that they opposed (particularly various initiatives designed to reduce homophobic harassment on campus) and they never asked anything of me, so why decry them now? They were also pretty upfront about what they were trying to do and did talk to all three candidates (I was also the only one that had gone to a Catholic school which could just as easily have counted against me).

Some of the people that supported me in 93/94 went on to do things that I actively opposed and I can't say that I didn't expect as much when I was elected. The stakes are lower in student politics of course, however not in every respect - the prejudice that openly gay students dealt with was real and immediate and couldn't be tolerated. That said, I was lucky to have avoided some of the drama encountered on other campuses - the worst situation I faced was when the student calendar ended up with something like 6 images of penises and a representative of the Church objected in the local newspaper.

Tragedy of Cults: Exclusive Brethren

ABC's Four Corners documentary on the Exclusive Brethren disturbingly chronicled four or five cases of families cleft apart by fear, threats of divine retribution, as well as allegations of alcoholism, infidelity, child abuse and illegal financial activities. The documentary didn't deal much with the recent political activity in NZ, Australia and in Canada and elsewhere.

A number of cases of families in NZ and Australia were examined, all of which cohered to the same pattern of abuse where fear, financing and family were used by church leaders against recalcitrant members to first bring them back into line or, failing that, to permanently exclude them from the church and from access to family within the church.

In one case, a member was excluded and offered the rights to a business as a trade for his two sons whom the church wanted to retain. In another, a mother was counselled against leaving to be with her excluded husband and provided with cash as inducements to stay. In a third, a family that left the church was told that God would punish them by taking one of their children - when their eldest son died in his sleep many years later, the parents struggled with the guilt that perhaps God was vengeful afterall?

The documentary also examined the behaviour of the church leaders, including the leader of the Chuch in the '50s, Jim Taylor who entrenched their isolation by banning members from eating or socialising with anyone who wasn't a member of the church. Allegations against Taylor included infidelity and alcoholism, as well as allegations of tax avoidance. A head of the Australian Church in the '80s, Ron Fawkes, claims that he personally illegally transported "tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars in cash" to the US for then leader, James Symington, and that the Exclusive Brethren have hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

A full transcript from the documentary is available here and an online forum can be viewed here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More training but who should pay?

Today's Australian Financial Review (offline only) covers the argument over who should pay for increased vocational training. What's unusual about the story is that the argument isn't between the Commonwealth and the States, but instead between the three leading national business organisations.

On the one hand the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argue for income-contingent loans (i.e. individuals should pay more) on the other, the Australian Industry Group, with muted support from the Business Council of Australia, argue that industry, governments, and individuals all need to pony up. As an aside, the Australian Industry Group back up their claim with this excellent research.

Unsurprisingly, I'm in the latter camp although I think it is increasingly difficult for TAFE to argue against fees while at the same time providing more and more higher level qualifications.

It is now a near universal consensus that more training is vital to support continued economic growth (this is a variation on the 2002 federal Treasury's Intergenerational Report), however it is good to see some of the more ludicrous statements challenged in the media.

Poll result sets up difficult times for both parties

The latest poll will certainly please Don Brash but is it good news for National? Hard to argue it isn't, but it does make life difficult for any aspiring alternative leaders.

Brash's leadership remains a live issue, not least of all because he keeps making it one, and therefore every other utterance from senior Nat's will be assessed as for or against a leadership spill. In this light, Rich and Brownlee's comments regarding the Exclusive Brethren are a conscious attempt to distance themselves from Brash (and secure their position post a change). Key's equivocation and English's low profile also suggest continued planning.

But, Brash has just delivered the best poll position the Nat's could hope for - can the National caucus move against a leader who is up in the polls? It'd be a change - Bolger, Shipley, and English were all casualities of consistently bad polls.

I think they can and should move against Brash and do so now. Replacing him now enables them to blame the "dirt" rather than his numerous self inflicted wounds. Replacing him now gives any new team just 8 weeks of Parliamentary, during which they'll enjoy some media honeymoon, followed by the Christmas break. Replacing him now gives the new team long enough to develop their own brand and position before the election.

On the downside however, which leadership team has the talent to lead National for the next two years?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Citizenship test updated White Australia policy

Ok, it's not, not really, but it is a move in that direction, a bit of dog whistle politics designed to appeal to the latent racism of the Australian electorate. You'd expect Labor to challenge the move, and they are, but rather than question the merit or motive of the test, Labor are focused on the timing.

Beazley's line is that it's too late, you know, that it should be administered earlier - perhaps in the foreign departure lounge before they board whatever boat, plane, floation aide they're planning to travel on.
"Why wait until somebody applies for citizenship before making them commit to live as part of our society? I don't see the sense in waiting three years to demand a fair go"
Beazley's not the Opposition, he's simply another pretender to the crown; no less unctuous that Costello, Abbott or Downer.

The other thing that makes me think of the White Australia policy is the coincidence of the citizenship test with the suggestion that frequent flyers ought not be subjected to the same scrutiny as everyone else - not content with the Qantas Lounge, corporate cabs and late boarding, now the business traveller wants to avoid the embarrasment of having your privates check for incendiary devices. This isn't racial profiling, it's the reverse, income preferencing.

The other thing about this that annoys me is that all of this debate is going on at precisely the same time that Howard is easing the process by which skilled workers can come and work in Australia. His rhetoric is almost entirely inconsistent with his actions, not for no good reason either, Howard knows that, particularly in the trades and in manufacturing, there's no more South Africans left in the Republic and Australia will have to source new labour from Asian nations (or worse, NZ).

Ahh sod it, thank god the Soprano's is back on tv, pity it's so damn late - 10.40pm.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brash's leadership at risk

I've blogged plenty on my reservations about Brash's leadership of the National party. I think he's frankly inept and accident prone. I didn't like his election strategy and particularly his comments that Labour supporters weren't "mainstream" New Zealanders - the first time I've noted a kiwi variation on the "unAustralian' epithet common on this side of the Tasman.

That said, politics is a cruel profession and news that is marriage is under threat is just sad. Debate over at kiwiblog, under the horribly ironic heading of Corruption and Morality, is predictably about who is to blame (predictably might be too strong given that I think David had hoped the thread would stay focused on the pledge card). Labour, for seeding the story? NZFirst, for having copies of leaked emails that allegedly contain references to Brash's alleged infidelity? The mole in National for leaking the emails in the first place? Or Brash himself?

I almost don't care. I almost dispair actually. I think an MP's private life should generally be off limits but I suspect this will only get worse before it gets better. Muldoon's treatment of Colin Moyle is probably the high tide mark but Judith Collins allegations against David Benson-Pope were outrageous and cowardly. I also think Brash's comments about Clark's marriage were pathetic. My team are, of course, not innocent - I think the occassional comments about Nick Smith's mental health are gratuitous to say nothing about this current situation.... however that it now seems likely that Brash will be forced out by his own colleagues is almost Shakespearian in its comic tragedy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

World Bank ranks the NZ economy second most business friendly

Well, I've no idea how the right wing blogosphere in NZ will try to discredit it, but NZ has again received a very high ranking as a great place to do business.

The World Bank report, summary here, awards NZ second place overall (last year NZ was first, this time Singapore is) compared with 175 other nations and measured against 10 criteria. NZ achieves the top mark for the registering property and protecting investors criteria and has improved its ranking for paying taxes, enforcing contracts and starting a business. NZ has however, gone down in rankings against licences, employing workers and closing a business.

I'm picking the right will ignore that NZ has ranked in the top two for two years running and will instead decry the negative indicators.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blair really is going... soon

There will be many, on the left and right, who'll be happy to see Blair depart Number 10; I don't share their sense of schadenfreude.

I distinctly remember Blair's 1997 election, it appeared to me as ever increasing towers of red eclipsing a computer generated map of the UK as New Labour swept the decaying Conservatives out of office. At the time, I was working in the NZ Labour Party Research Unit and we were hoping that just as the Conservatives seemed to have dissembled out of office, so too would National in the coming election (they did).

Blair is now political history. The BBC includes authorised comments from Number 10 confirming that he will soon announce his departure date, suggested to be May 2007, leaving the way for Brown to take the reigns (that is if he too isn't fatally tainted by this shambolic situation) with two years left before the next election.

What it will mean is difficult to assess. In NZ, Clark will need to reassure the public that her ally's demise in no way foretells her own. The Nat's will enjoy talking up the prospect that the New Labour movement is coming to an end. Odd really, given that British Labour ain't so far from where, I imagine, many within National would like to be positioned; economically othodox, socially liberal, internationally active. What it'll mean for Bush and the so-called Coalition on the Willing is far more important. As commentators over at roadtosurfdom suggest, with Aznar and Berlusconi gone, will the Shrub be the last surviving member?

The end of an era? Turning of the tide? Hard to know. I'm hopeful that progressive labour-friendly policies remain ascendent in the UK and NZ (they most certainly are not in Australia). I guess comparisons could be made with the Thatcher/Reagan era but they're weak and premature - Blair and Bush's alliance doesn't stretch beyond Iraq and their domestic policies have little in common.

I'm sorry Blair's going, I admire his ability and respect his achievements. I'm entirely unconvinced of the merits of the war in Iraq and wonder if he had his time again, would he still be so supportive of Bush?

Strip show leads to global warming

God awful headline I know but I just couldn't resist it.

The SMH carries a story about strippers being the after dinner entertainment at the Australia New Zealand Climate Change Forum in Canberra. I wonder if Generation XY will run a competition for the best gag? Anyone know if Merepeka Raukawa-Tait was there?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Watching, listening, reading

I've noticed a fewer bloggers regularly report on things they're reading or watching and so on. I guess I've tended to just talk about the issues I'm interested in rather than what I'm doing but I've found it quite interesting to learn what others, who's writing I enjoy, are reading or listening to. So in this spirit.

Watching: we recently finished watching the first series of Love My Way. Outstanding television drama with excellent acting and compelling story lines. I'll not spoil it by talking about the plot but I will we cried intensely during the last few episodes. I genuinely don't think I've cried that much in years.

Reading: Cocaine: An Unathorized Biography by Dominic Streatfeild. I have read a lot of books about drug culture, including Marching Powder by Rusty Young which I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommend, this is a bit different. Its biographical in so far as it examines Cocaine's pharmacology, its history, its economy and, of course, its use. Streatfeild's writing is also very good.

Listening: Modern Times by Bob Dylan. Still unbelievably good despite being in his 60s. This album reminds me of Paolo Conte, JJ Cale and Tom Petty. I'll not speculate as to who has influenced who.

Bush assassinated: documentary

Those Brits sure now how to get a laugh. Apparently, More4, a digital channel in the UK is going to screen a mock documentary that deals with the fictional assassination of President Bush. According to the Guardian:
The drama takes the form of a fictional documentary looking back at the assassination of Mr Bush in October 2007, after he has delivered a speech to business leaders in Chicago. When Mr Bush arrives in the city he is confronted by a massive demonstration against the Iraq war and is gunned down by a sniper as he leaves the venue. The hunt for Mr Bush's killer focuses on a Syrian-born man, Jamal Abu Zikri.
Hat tip: browncardigan

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can I please be a stay at home Dad

It's Fathers' Day soon, my youngest won't care, she's unconvinced by the Gregorian Calendar let alone its Hallmark variations. I'll be at home as it's Sunday and I'm strictly Monday through Friday - actually, I don't work on Friday, I have the youngest at home (one of the very few saving graces of the public service).

I'd like to be home everyday, I'd like to be a fulltime stay at home day however there's a few things stopping me not least of all youngest's enjoyment of childcare. Money's another, career too.

Still, on Fathers' Day I'm going to pretend that I'm a stay at home Dad; I'll do the dishes, hang out the washing from the night before and fold the washing that's dry, I'll cook some stuff that can be frozen and quickly reheated for children's dinners, I'll shop for various things not available through the online grocer, I'll hang out, fold, wash and hang out again... obviously I'll sing a few dozen of the Wiggles greatest hits along the way... but most of all, most of all I'll play with youngest, we'll go to the park, ride the slippery dip, consume sand, drench ourselves in the misfiring bubbler, lose a shoe and have a ball.

Would I really do this every day, instead of whateverthefuckitisIreallydo; you betcha!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Select Committe explores expanding CER

Labour's Dianne Yates is chairing a Select Committee considering widening the CER arrangement with Australia. Anyone who's read Templeton's All Honourable Men will know the interesting history of CER including the fact that Muldoon was entirely unconvinced for a number of years before finally agreeing to sign up. I only hope Yates takes the advice of her officials, is well supported by other members of the Committee and receives informed submissions.

Tracey Nelson: Rugby's answer to Robert Fisk

There are many sports journalists I regularly read and whose expertise I admire. Tracey Nelson, of the haka website, is near the top of the pack because unlike most others, her commentary is grounded on a thorough and complete empirical analysis of the game. Her latest online analysis, of the last Bledisloe, is here and I hope she's going to post an analysis of the more recent game against the Boks (Tracey if you stumble across this humble blog, please include the stats on the kicks in game)

Note the penalty count for the game, Australia incurred 16 (5 of which resulted in advantage to the All Blacks including one advantage that lead to a try) compared with 4 incurred by the All Blacks. I guess that reinforces Helen Clark's view from the stand?

Nelson's view, which you'll struggle to argue with based on her analysis, is that although the Wallabies were playing outside the laws of the game, all three match referees have to take the blame for not control of the game in the first place.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Congestion II: The Chuggers

It's pretty much a safe bet nowadays that any lunchtime stroll around downtown Sydney will involve dozens of chuggers extolling you to donate to their cause du jour. I have no problem with charity and regularly contribute to several, however I do object to every other English backpacker subsidising their pill popping, partying and Bondi beach bonk-fest with a cut from my donations.

I accept that the time of the charity volunteer is largely over, and that professionals now generate more funding for charities but still, can't I eat my barely warm rushed lunch without having to deal with another young Londoner with third degree sun burn asking me to sign on for planned giving?

Interestingly, I watched young school kids today raising money for Legacy week - I wonder if they'll part fund their UK OE by harassing uptight bankers in the City? Could chugging now be a career option/accoutrement?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Everything has been hectic this month, not least of all work, and this has crowded out any time I might have had to blog.

Speaking of work, although this blog is entirely a personal distraction, I recently attempted to make use of blogs professionally. I was interested to see if blog commentary differed greatly from the MSM take on a project I've been managing. Two blogs, and, picked up on the story (which got good MSM coverage) and although the discussion is limited, it is very helpful becuase it is (a) more technically focused and (b) it is consistent with some internal feedback. I think blogs will be an increasingly useful and effective channel for public policy debate and formation in the very short term (although I don't think many government agencies will rush to use them as they are far less easily manipulated).

I'll blog some more on the project and report later.

On less pointy-headed issues, the family have decided to travel to France with friends to see a some of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. We've not bothered to try to see the All Blacks and have instead decided to purchase tickets to games in cities we want to visit and so we're off to the South of France (Montpellier for the games). I'm really pleased that one of the games we've got tickets for is Manu Samoa vs a qualifier.

Great to see the All Blacks win the Tri Nations and the Bledisloe. I've enjoyed all the games so far including the win against Australia in Auckland. I was particularly moved by the genuine affection and respect the crowd displayed on the occassion of the death of Te Arikinui and was particularly pleased by McCaw's comments on behalf of the team.

Clark's comments on the Tuqiri's tackle got lots of media attention here. Bottom line, Tuqiri's tackle was very very poor, not malicious in my opinion, but very poorly executed and deserving of the suspension. Phil Waugh on the other hand, his play on McCaw was clearly intended to injure and he is damn lucky to have avoided being punished.

Still on rugby, Sydney will not host a Bledisloe again next year which might have annoyed me but for the prospect of seeing them play at the MCG.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Howard withdraws migration Bill

Howard's no fool. Rather than suffer the sight of Liberal Senator's crossing the floor to defeat him, he's decided to pull the controversial migration Bill.

It is good to see a healthy democracy functioning well; remember this is the first time this government has had control of both Houses.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lange's memorial service

I'm surprised a year has passed since David Lange died. It doesn't seem that long. Reading news of his rapidily deteriorating health was very hard and his death felt like that of a family member's. I'd have like to have been at today's memorial service.

I grew up in and around David's electorate, lived there until 1996 or 97. My late grandfather stood against him as a candidate for 1977 Mangere by-election. I also met David a number of times.

On one occassion I met David, around 1993/94, he and my grandfather were at odds about local government politics. My grandfather was in fact threatening to sue David for comments he'd made about my grandfather's eligibility for the Manukau City Council. I was about to graduate from Law school and for just one moment, I wondered whether I should make the obvious joke about potentially representing my grandfather... I didn't; one dispute in the family seemed more than enough.

Howard's migration Bill in trouble

Steve Fielding, the Family First Senator has said he'll vote against the Howard government's Bill to allow migrants to be processed offshore. Fielding has previously said he'd wait and listen to the debates in both Houses, however in an interview with Nine Network today, Fielding has said he'll vote against the Bill.

Fielding says:
"What I don't understand is, here we are in Australia saying let's be fair and reasonable but we're not prepared to play by the rules. That's not on. I don't understand where you can have a situation where all of a sudden Australia would say that we're not going to play by the rules. That's not Australian. It's not fair."
With Barnaby Joyce saying his support requires amendments to the Bill, Howard's in a precarious position with a majority of just one and expectation that some Liberal Senators may abstain or vote against the Bill.

Road to Surfdom has a very useful overview of the issues, positions and possible outcomes here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Finally, a real Liberal or three

Congratulations to Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent and Judi Moylan.

These three members of the Australian House of Representatives and Liberal backbenchers have opposed the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill despite not having the numbers to block it from being referred to the Senate.

The Bill will enable asylum seakers to be processed offshore rather than in Australia thereby denying them access to the Australian legal system.

How'd you make a duck into a soul singer?

Put him in the oven until his (he is) Bill Withers.

Hat tip: Spicks and Specks guest and Mental and Anything lead singer Martin Plaza.

Terrorist cricketers, not!

Dean Jones, former Australian cricketer, has been sacked from his job as a commentator after refering to South Africa's Hashim Amla as a "terrorist". Jones, a commentator for the Dubai based 10 network, was commenting on the South African v Sri Lanka series when he said "The terrorist has got another wicket". He has issued an apology and apparently spoke with Amla after the game.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Joke of the day

Great joke from confabulation.

A teacher is explaining biology to her 4th grade students. "Human beings are the only animals that stutter", she says.

A little girl raises her hand. "I had a kitty-cat who stuttered", she volunteered.

The teacher, knowing how precious some of these stories could become, asked the girl to describe the incident.

"Well", she began, "I was in the back yard with my kitty and the rottweiler who lives next door got a running start and before we knew it, he jumped over the fence into our yard!"

"That must've been scary", said the teacher.

"It sure was", said the little girl. "My kitty went 'Fffff, Fffff,Fffff' … and before he could say "Fuck," the rottweiler ate him!"

Monday, August 07, 2006

Power walking pop by Ok Go

Ana at Spareroom has put me on to Ok Go, a four piece with a thing for treadmills. Check it out their video from YouTube.

Goddam, I'm a lowly insect

TTLB have upgraded my status (again), initially from insignificant microbe to wiggly worm (skipping multicellular microoganisam altogether, quel scandale) and now to lowly insect. If only I knew how or why, I'd give appropriate thanks.

I'm not sure what happened but I note that all my in-bound and out-bound links are showing up too. It's little moments like this that keep bloglife interesting.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Optical illusion

browncardigan again - No dolphins or cows though, what gives?

Check out this clever optical illusion; if someone can explain how it works, that'd be cool.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Annoying questions you can't answer

Even more annoying than having the latest Shakiraguilera song stuck in your head (what are you doing listening to FM anyway?) is the inability to recall a song that you know you know, or at least ought to know from your youth (you almost certainly were listening to new FM).

It's annoying on two fronts. First, you can't remember it. Second, what if you're wrong? How will you ever know? Confirming that something doesn't exist is a whole lot harder than confirming that it does.

That said, I'd like to help out Cheezy, a Brit-blogger with an interest in kiwiana. Cheezy recalls a song, Buzz Off, about which he thinks he knows a few things but can not yet confirm it's existence.

He knows it was sung by a Maori duo and that it ended with the line "buzz off". He thinks it was around about 1982 and was on a talent show of some sort (now they were tragic). What Cheezy wants, and what I now want too, is to recall the details and lyrics thereby restoring his/my claim to kiwiana pop-culture expertise.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rates up as predicted

The Reserve Bank of Australia have this morning announced the third cash rate rise since the re-election of the Howard government. The cash rate is now 0.75 basis points higher than it was at the 2004 federal election.

Hardly what voters expected when Howard assured them of his government's credentials as managers of the economy. One of two things must therefore be true, they aren't great managers, or the limits of their managerial control was overstated for effect.

It's mostly the latter. Government's tend to overstate their influence over the day to day peformance of a largely deregulated and globalised economy and this situation exemplifies the risks.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Spam flowers

Crasster has found this incredible imagery of spam somehow transformed into the most beautiful flowers. Buggered if I know how it works, what the hell is ASCII anyway, nor do I understand where he finds this stuff?

Monday, July 31, 2006

101 uses for a John Howard

He has to go some time! 101 uses for a John Howard make some suggestions for John and Janette after the Lodge; #27 Dog Whistle.

Rampant political cross dressing

Could it be true that the traditional divisions between left and right, between capitalist and socialist, between conservative and progressive are no longer relevant? Blair says so. Sure seems that way in many places. Hell, we'll have to invent new names to call each other!

How can this continue?

There simply can't be an absolute right or absolute wrong in the current Israeli/Hezbollah fighting. That said, if half of the media coverage of the killing of UN observers and of the 50+ civilians at Qana is right, then I only hope that the temporary halt to Israeli airstrikes is extended.

Over at Larvatus Prodeo, weathergirl quotes some of the most offensive comments about the conflict from around the blogs. Warning, this link contains images that will disturb (and may not be work safe).

Long John Howard

It is all but confirmed that John Howard will not stand aside for Peter Costello to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party or the Prime Ministership. Almost every media outlet in Australia is reporting leaks of a letter Howard sent to senior Libs advising them of his decision. Fairfax are reporting that he'll hold a press conference later today, Monday 31 July.

This will largely put to rest the leadership debate until the 2007 federal election when Labor are sure to revive it and hope to gain some advantage by suggesting Howard won't serve out the term if elected. In a tight race, that will sway some voters but will it be enough? I guess Howard and his supporters think the answer is no; or at least not as many who'd vote Labor if Costello was leader.

Costello must now wonder whether his pre-emptive strike (sanctioned or otherwise) was worth it. At least one commentator, Gerard Henderson (who is close to Howard), speculated that the recent confirmation of a leadership deal between Howard and Costello would likely delay Howard's retirement as Howard would not be chased from office.

If Howard wins a fifth term in government he'll certainly go down in the history books and may even surpass Menzies as the longest serving PM. If he loses, any legacy he'd hoped to secure will be soured.

Interestingly, Howard's last campaign was based on the claim of superior economic management compared with Labor - will this still be true if the Fed Reserve put up the cash rate as expected on Wednesday? A third rate rise in this term of government?

Labor are predictably saying they're happy though I suspect they'd rather the less popular Costello was leading the party in 07.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bananas drive up Australian CPI

Echoing Paul Keating's famous line about Australia becoming a banana republic, the soaring costs of the fruit have directly contributed to increases in the June quarter CPI figures released today. The Treasurer announced a 1.6% quarterly increase but still talked down the prospect of an August increase in the cash rate (yeah right).

Fruit, particularly bananas, contributed 52% of the increase, and fuel 11.2%.

The price hike on bananas is down to cyclones in Queensland in March this year which devastated production. In 2005, Australia produced 20 million plus cartons of bananas, something like 270 000 tonnes, worth AU$320-350 million but this is less than half of one percent of total bananas grown worldwide... (crasster links to this report on the global trade of bananas).

So you'd think that even in domestic production was down, imports should be reasonably priced? Maybe you could still buy a 'nana for under a dollar; fuhgeddaboutit. More like $2.16 each (Coles online Wed 26th).

Why so damned expensive? Australia bans all banana imports on the basis of the risk of "infestation". Bollocks. It is one of the many dubious non-tarriff trade protections applied to agricultural products by federal Liberal/National coalition government as a sinicure for their supporters.

So when your mortgage payments go up in August, remember that it's for a good cause; it's keeping uncompetitive Liberal/National party donors in business.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dave Dobbyn live in Sydney

Dave Dobbyn is a remarkably loveable character, a doyen of NZ music, and a fantastically talented muso - still able to rock out at nearly 50!

With family and friends, and lots of other ex-pats, I saw him last night at a great venue in Newtown, Sydney called the Vanguard. Opening with Whaling and closing with Loyal, he played all the favourites as well as stuff from his new album. Highlights for me included Be Mine Tonight, Beside You, Just Add Water, Language and The Lap of the Gods (Dave advises there's only one). Enough to make you want to be home.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Don's superb speech secures spot

Don's speech to the National party conference contained some fantastic lines. Seriously! There are five that really stood out:
  1. When he said that Cullen was the better Minister of Finance. You didn't hear it? Sorry, but surely that's what he meant when he said "if National wants to win next time we have to think of something .... like abolishing GST on petrol."
  2. No? Ok but what about the quote from Boetcker, you cannot establish sound security on borrowed money, that's got to be a rejection of Key's plan to borrow to fund tax cuts surely?
  3. And the English slap-down. You know, remember when English was leader? That's a bit harder I agree, only a very few of you remember that, only perhaps 27 of you?
  4. Then the "bring it on" line. Don was channelling Francis Urquhart with his comment that "A leader is not intimidated by the fact that others will one day have the ability and drive to assume the top mantle." Don't look now Don...
  5. Finally, it's good to see that he's moved on from Orewa with the other Boetcker quote, the one that goes "you cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting [race] hatred".
Great stuff Don.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Don Brash: rappa, sk8tr, hipsta

When was Don's last good media story? Not the walk-the-plank thing, not when he called a press conference to denounce a leaked email but didn't have the damn thing, not the Exclusive Bretherens, not the gone by lunchtime thing either... Nevermind, he's hip now, all is fine.


Hat tip: Keith Ng

I love the Big Lebowski

But this is not work safe... not where I work anyway.

The Big Lebowski: the really f**king short version

Hat tip: browncardigan

Thanks too to Dave and Andrea...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hoff vs MacGyver

Mellie at Randomcontributionz blogs about who would be the most expensive to insure; Michael Knight, Mitch Buchannon or MacGyver?. NZ's Accident Compensation Corporation ponders the big issues.
  • Mitch's dickstickers are a risk
  • KITT's turbo boost risks head and neck injuries
  • but then again MacGyver works without safety equipment and who knows who is underwriting Phoenix Foundation (perhaps they self insure)?
I wonder how long it will take for the less hmourous trolls to howl about the public service wasting tax payers' dollars?

8 changes to All Blacks squad

Henry's saying it's simply part of the rotation policy, the SMH are focusing on the fact that Reuben Thorne's back in the run on side (and I can't resist saying I told you so), NZ paper's are saying it's slap in the face to a Bok team thrashed by Australia, likewise the UK press.

It makes sense however, if Henry is committed to developing two full squads for the '07 World Cup, and given last week's result.

As an aside, Jake White's criticism of Paul Honnis is ridiculous; even if a few decisions went against the Boks, Honnis was excellent on the day and is clearly one of the best referees on the international circuit. A point well made by Spiro Zavos. I did like Honnis's comment that he must be "the scapegoat of the week".

Update on the Riewoldt "gay slur"

Earlier I blogged on a stupid comment Nick Riewoldt made on radio. Since he has apologised, not to everyone's satisfaction, but I tend to believe he genuinely regrets the comment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Last to know

My buddy Chris tells me this is a tricky song to play, something about the first stroke (is it up, rather than down, or down, rather than up...), anyways it's one of Neil Finn's finest; last to know and my little girl likes it too!

Muriel Newman should be a talkback host

Grabthar's hammer does a 'number' (a poor pun I know) on Muriel Newman's latest missive. Newman said:
"At the heart of the child-abuse problem is a dependency culture that Maori have embraced."
Another candidate for voxidieological.

NSW State Liberal's corrupt, right wing, uber conservative Christians...

Hardly surprising I know but ABC's episode of Four Corners last night, The Right Stuff, interviewed a stack of former Liberal Party office holders, parliamentarians, as well as a number of members all of whom confirm branch stacking, petty thuggery, and vote rigging.

The alleged goal is to convert the Liberals into a ultra-conservative Christian party, primarily through careful preselection of candidates; it has already cost one Leader his job - former Leader John Brogdon claims he was brought down by an increasingly powerful faction led by David Clarke.

Former federal Liberal Leader, Dr John Hewson says: "It's the hardline right religious element that you should worry about, in my view, 'cause they have no concept of the broader realities in the electorate."

There's even the spectre of Opus Dei... A full transcript is online.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rebalance: sport, sport, more sport

  1. I'm nervous about the Boks on the weekend, Henry's right to say they can't have two shockers in a row...
  2. Swannies miss out in the last few minutes against the Eagles making two loses in a row, they're still in the top eight (yeah and what was Nick Davis thinking?)
  3. In an interview on 702, Liz Ellis tells of having severe asthma as a child however she still went on to be an elite athlete (I like Liz, but I have to point out that the Silver Ferns, have won won all of their recent encounters against Australia and long may it continue)
  4. Have you seen the footage of Ali Williams 'tackling' George Greegan; priceless (thanks Russell Brown).
  5. Brendon McCullum belts 160 for Glamorgan.
  6. Really must get that bub some baby beige.
  7. Oh dear, The Chaser's in trouble for their parody of Bulldog's fans; a little too close to the truth perhaps?
  8. Michael Campbell launches a new charitable foundation.
  9. I think Mauger will go on to be one of the best second five eighths of all time, John Schuster was one my favourites (the 1987) but is Warwick Taylor still the benchmark?
  10. It's worth remembering that Buck Shelford never lost a game as captain of the All Blacks; 14 tests in four years.

Astroturfing defined

I've been out of the PR/lobbying scene for a while so perhaps "astroturfing" is common parlance, but I'd not heard it until I read this blog by Corporate Engagement.

Astroturfing, a play on the phrase grassroots, is defined as in Wikipedia as:
"a form of propaganda... techniques usually consist of a few people discreetly posing as mass numbers of activists advocating a specific cause. Supporters or employees will manipulate the degree of interest through letters to the editor, e-mails, blog posts, crossposts, trackback, etc."
Not a new tactic, just a new name? Every other political campaign includes an element of orchestrated spontineity; it backfired spectacularly on the National Party Research Unit at the live leaders debate out at Avalon last year.

Another own goal

Cactus Kate points out the ridiculousness of National's latest attempt at scandal. Their wastebuster's website, a list of the most banal examples of government's spending imaginable, was itself funded by taxpayer dollars. The story, rather than being on government expenditure, is now about how stupid National are, or as Cactus Kate puts it, "rank amateurs".

Recalling the Shipley coup

Around the time Shipley was looking her most vulnerable as leader of the National party, mid-2001, I caught up with Colin James on entirely unrelated issues but ended up discussing the prospects of an English coup.

English seemed reluctant to move against Shipley and the media were speculating as to why. James, with his typical perspicacity, suggested that English would want to wait; that he'd move only when he though he could sustain any momentum generated by the change through to the election in 2002. However, James thought English might be forced to act earlier by a caucus anxious to avoid a rout. He was right on both fronts though the routing still occurred.

This is precisely the position Key and English find themselves in now. Brash must go, but when? The polls appear to be turning against Brash, but two years out from an election is probably too far for Key (and he's smart enough to know it) and English won't want to repeat the experience of 2002. So where too from here? Perhaps Brash will do a Captain Oates and force the issue?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Redletter has the bilefile, an irregular round up of the most bilious of comments from around NZ's blogs, I think I'll start a complementary list tracking the most inane and/or ludicrously ideological commentary; I'll call it voxideological.

My first award must go to Lindsay Mitchell. With a few weeks left in July can Lindsay add to her already impressive list of scandals and abuses? She's wacked welfarism, polaxed prisons, trashed teenage pregancy, dumped on the DPB, flayed father-less-families, stuck it to school exams but championed corporatising school lunches, monstered Maori gambling, beat back breast feeding zealots, attacked addicts for having families, and finally, slapped Sir Bob Geldof back into his box for daring to suggest government might increase their foreign aid.

Ena Sharples would be proud!

Friday, July 14, 2006

What any father might wish for their child

Maia has blogged about her concerns for how a friend's baby boy will grow up. She's copped a fair bit of flack for some of her comments, but it got me thinking about what I'd wish for my girls. This is no definitive list, but it's my top of mind top five (with apologies to Nick Hornby)...
  1. Love. I hope they continue to enjoy the love of a large and diverse family complete with aunties, uncles, friends, mentors & odd, inexplicable others.
  2. Health. I hope my girls enjoy rude good health.
  3. Humour. The world is divided into net energy consumers and net energy producers, all the funny people I know are producers.
  4. Courage. The courage of Katherine Mansfield, please not Ed Hiliary, who once said "I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened".
  5. Luck. A little good fortune goes a long way as said John Bradford.