Sunday, October 21, 2007


Life is rich, full and busy... I may return to this blog however there's too much to do outside for the moment so here it endth. For fun and laughs I suggest you go here, here or here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What are F-16s good for?

Making your mates feel good?

A very clever friend has reminded me that, in the aftermath of the decision to scrap the air force strike wing, Labour commissioned Derek Quigley to undertake a review options "for New Zealand’s air combat capability assesses the value of that capability in meeting Government’s policy objectives in a fiscally sustainable manner"

The report includes this comment on the value of the F-16s:
  1. The Quigley Review of the F-16 lease agreed in part with the Whineray report, expressing the view that the need to maintain an air combat force seemed to be based on: demonstrating that New Zealand is serious about its own defence; sending a clear message that New Zealand is committed to broader regional and global security; and, importantly, having an operational capability that can be expanded should strategic circumstances deteriorate significantly at some point in the future.
  2. The Quigley review reported that it is questionable whether the New Zealand air combat force would be deployed in direct support of New Zealand Navy or Army contingents in an operational situation. In a submission to the review, the Navy expressed the view that RNZN ships would normally be deployed as part of a larger force with access to layers of defence and support. It saw the provision of air support in these circumstances coming from the air combat assets of a coalition rather than a dedicated New Zealand air combat component. The Army had a similar view about their operational circumstances. Notwithstanding this, both the Navy and Army require training support from the air combat force in order to achieve their operational readiness states.
  3. The air combat force equipped with the A-4 Skyhawk in its current state would be a marginal asset to any multinational coalition, and its operational utility will continue to decline. Should the Government wish to retain an air combat capability with some useful operational utility, then it would have to make a significant investment in new aircraft, more modern weapons, and improved combat systems.
  4. In the absence of a foreseeable military threat, it is unlikely a New Zealand government would use the air combat force to respond to a low level security challenge around New Zealand or the South Pacific.
  5. The air combat force plays a useful role in confidence building in the Asia-Pacific region through its involvement in FPDA activities and bilateral exercises. This is part of the architecture that helps maintain stability in the region. These activities also contribute to our foreign policy objectives. A New Zealand government, however, has not used the air combat force in response to a security challenge in the region for over 25 years. The outlook in Strategic Assessment 2000 makes it difficult to visualise a situation where a government might do so in the foreseeable future.
Emphasis added. For more of Quigley's views on NZ defence matters, check this paper out.

Mitchell on the ABs

This is a great story. Mitchell was, like those before him (Hart, Mains and Wylie and Hart) persona non grata after the 2003 semi-final loss. That he went off and built a team out of nothing (ok out of pots and pots of cash) and has now said he'll not seek another national head-coaching role says something about the bloke (he also advises the ARU against appointing Robbie Deans to head the Wallabies).

Defence matters

Many years ago, as an aspiring student politician, I know that, at some point or other, I said that defence funding should be scrapped to fully fund university education. I hadn't thought it through particularly.

I no longer think that NZ could do without defence funding. We need forces capable of protecting our economic zone and particularly our fisheries, we have regional responsibilities and broader responsibilities to our allies. I do not think however, that our responsibilities to our allies includes having an airforce strike wing and have argued this with David Farrar here.

NZ's military commitments are significant and valued but they are limited. NZ should not attempt to fund the kind of military assets needed to act unilaterally, it should continue to develop a military designed to collaborate in the kinds of UN-sanctioned actions in Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomans, Bosnia etc.

Incidentally, I recently caught up with an acquaintance who's just returned from Iraq. We discussed Australia's engagement in Iraq compared with Afghanistan and also the difference between NZ and Australia's position. He was clear that there was little support within the troops for the Iraqi mission and that as much as possible, Australian forces avoided hot regions and unreasonable risks - this was a sanctioned strategy, not an ad hoc one. He had been to Afghanistan, and many other places besides, and was frustrated that the current political situation meant Australia's small commitment would not be reviewed until after the election...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Howard has nowhere to hide...

I love parliament. For the most part, it isn't all that important however there are events and issues that can only be adequately addressed in parliament. It is a unique forum; the rules and privileges are unparalleled. Unfortunately, so few make responsible use of it.

Lange was the greatest parliamentarian I ever saw first hand. Keating was probably his equal although I never saw him.

This clip, from around 1995 (I think), shows Keating at his best - Howard has nothing. Sadly, there's no one in federal Labor today that could come close to Keating's intensity or intelligence.

hat tip: browncardigan

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Under the Milky Way

Which is the best version? Original? Or the Strawpeople cover (can't find this online)

Immigration Minister wrong

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Andrew's cancellation of Haneef's visa quashed by High Court. Expect an appeal.

Labour Party candidate

A good friend of mine, Grant Robertson, has been nominated as the Labour candidate for Wellington Central. It's likely to be a sought after nomination not least of all because the sitting MP, Marian Hobbs, has done a great job around the electorate as well as leading a team who rebuilt the local party structure. I hope Grant is successful at gaining the nomination and goes on to win the seat. He's a talented, honest and bloody funny bloke who'd make a huge contribution to the NZ Parliament and Labour Caucus.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Strippers Rattle Rudd

Kev's in trouble. How much is hard to tell but news that he visited a New York strip club will surprise many. Kev's a good Christian bloke, so much so that for a time some of his colleagues thought him too much of a prude to lead Labor. Now he's revealed as a bit of bloke who necks a few too many and then ogles the local ladies - well once anyway.

I suspect the fact that he visited a strip bar won't hurt him much, but that he was on official taxpayer business at the time might - Cossie's already making jibes that he'd be far to busy to take such indulgences... plus there's a hint that Kev got a bit too close to some of the dancers...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Children's literacy

I really like the childcare service backin15-junior attends. The childcare workers are caring, diligent, thoughtful, enthusiastic and genuine. More importantly, backin15-junior loves the place. We pay pretty close attention to backin15-junior's development but also don't obsess. We read the reports of the day every day and enjoy the newsletters and updates. All of this preliminary comment is necessary so that the following isn't mis-interpreted.

On the latest newsletter, the literacy program included this little gem!
"Children are developing an understanding of the concept of writing from left to write as well as identifying the letters in their name"

George Gregan

I've looked around in the past for some good footage of Gregan sledging Kelleher at the end of the 2003 quarter final but I've never found it until now (on Nathan Rarere's blog, part of It's here - further reminder of how close we've come and why we can take nothing for granted.


Sydney is obsessed with the property market which makes it all the more strange that it is so incredibly poorly served by real estate agents. Real estate agents are heterogeneous group; many are lazy, unenthusiastic fools whose continued employment is a function of the low entry standards while others make a matzah through diligence and professionalism. My latest experience is unfortunately with the first, and sadly largest, group.

A place, seen only ten days ago, appealed greatly and we clearly indicated our interest by notifying the agent we'd likely bid, obtaining the contract and asking all sorts of questions. We also specifically requested that the agent keep us informed in the event that the vendor received an offer. A week passed during which we made some plans to have building inspections done and talked with our lawyer - we were all ready to make an offer after seeing the place again when we realised it was no longer being advertised. A quick call to the lazy-ass agent confirmed that the place was under offer. Annoyed with his failure to advise us as agreed, but somewhat resigned to missing out, we sent a carefully worded but clearly shitty email to him advising him that he'd both failed in his commitments to us and probably cost his vendor by not seeking our bid.

Jolted out of his stupor, the agent called later in the day to clarify that the deal wasn't closed and that he'd present our offer to the vendor. Gazump? We offered about one percent more but held little hope - in fact I wondered if the agent wasn't simply covering his arse having been caught napping - sure enough, 24 hours later, the vendor accepted the original offer and we missed out. No gazump.

Moral of the story. You can't trust real estate agents - there's a few who're smart business people but the majority are lazy, unethical and interested only in their immediate commission check. That this group remains in business astounds me but is probably a reflection of the generally low professional standards and the dynamism of the Sydney property market. At the risk of sounding like a regulator, I'd significantly increase the barriers to entry and encourage the professional association to develop training and credentials that led to some market differentiation.

Or what about a variation on ratemyteacher? ratemyagent?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How long's a piece of string...

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have published some economic modeling as part of their scaremongering against Labor. They had to do it really, the Lib's credibility is shot to pieces by continual rate rises giving the lie to their promise to keep interest rates at "record lows". But it's value is very limited - it'll get plenty of media attention and allows them to erect banners around the country claiming that 316,000 jobs are at risk but it's frankly ridiculous.

The study, conducted by Econtech, is premised on comparing a continuation of the Coalition's IR laws with a complete roll-back of all industry reform since 1993 - including the Keating-led Labor government's Industrial Relations Reform Act - this is a false premise and it totally undermines the value of the report. No party, certainly not Labor, propose a restoration of the archaic and inflexibility of the '80s so what is the point of this exercise?

Professional economists clearly do not have sufficiently high professional standards. If they did, they'd attempt a more meaningful exercise and examine the anticipated economic effects of Labor's proposed IR reforms compared with the Coalition's.

I'm not a professional economist, but have worked with them including on a project that estimated the economic value added by TAFE NSW, and I am fully aware of the way in which deprival econometric modeling is done - but I also know that the limit to this approach is the validity of the underlying assumptions. In this instance, the assumptions bare no relation to reality.

Living the reflection

I live a lot in my head and not always so much in the world. It's noisy frankly and I could make a bit more of an effort to re-balance however I suspect I'm too set in my ways.

I never intended, however, that my blog would be provide an outlet for my thinking about me or about things that really matter - though occasionally it has - mainly because I don't have the courage to be that honest.

Interestingly though, the blogs that I particularly enjoy are either those where I get to share-a-rant or those that give real insight into others' world. In the latter category, for those few readers I have, can I recommend a fellow antipodean, Krimsonlake and an American, Heather Armstrong's Dooce. Go read them now.

Stationery porn

That's an "e" not an "a" BTW.

Commonwealth/State politics involves a fair bit of set-piece drama. The Commonwealth's principal tactic is straight out brinkmanship whereas the States employ a little more tactical variation (though nevertheless still trot out "states rights" which is a polite way of saying "see you in court"). It'll be interesting to see how the current standoff over control of the Murray-Darling basin resolves itself.

Coming from Aotearoa, a unicameral and unitary state, I'm ambivalent about federal systems. One the one hand, they provide for, potentially, more direct and responsive government - particularly if you live in Perth or Darwin. On the other hand, there's duplication, inefficiency and inevitable conflict.

Some work I'm doing falls neatly into the "new federalism" debate - the catch-all phrase to describe the current jostle between the federal Liberal/National Coalition and the Labor-States - and means regular appearances at national sub-sub-Committees of the Council of Australian Governments.

Two things strike me about these committees. First, the level of professionalism is particularly high despite the rancor and tension of Australian politics generally and election time specifically. Secondly, the no-expenses spared cornucopia of stationery. My carefully and lovingly developed folder was stationery nirvana - imagine Bill Gates kids' allowance for their school's stationery day - I had three different colours of paper, two different types of divider and three different types of little sticky labels - plastic not paper - each of which had had printed on them the title of the paper to which they referred. It was a thing of beauty that took two people two days to compile for each of the half dozen officials attending the meeting.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kerry O'Brien 3, Cossie 1

Good interviewers are a rare breed. Too many wilt under serious pressure, particularly from politicians, or become shrill and repetitive. O'Brien however is supremely confident and calm. His interview with Costello last night could easily have degenerated - he point blank asked Costello how the electorate could be expected to distinguish truth from lies in Liberal party advertising - but for O'Brien's experience.

If you were scoring the interview, the opening gave you an indication of events to come:
O'BRIEN, Peter Costello, nine straight interest rate increases in the last six years. Five rate increases since the last election. I thought we were supposed to trust you to keep interest rates at a record low?

PETER COSTELLO, TREASURER: Well, let's put it in context. 19 interest rate cuts and 15 interest rate rises, so the fact of the matter is that interest rates are lower today than when the Government was elected, and in those 11 years, not only have interest rates come down, but we've had 11 years of continuous growth and 2.1 million more jobs added. So, the fact that you could actually have interest rates lower today than they were before this period of expansion commenced, and before 2.1 million jobs have added, shows you how far the economy has come.
Well matched, one all I'd say, however O'Brien's questioning wasn't about whether or not Cossie and co. were good economic managers, it was whether or not they were honest - honest about both the faults of Labor and their own abilities. Remember last election's scaremongering about Labor's ability to keep rates down?

I relieved by this questioning, relieved that the government are being held to account for their ridiculous claims. I'll concede they're managing the economy well enough, but spare us all the omnipotent crap. Which is why I particularly enjoyed this exchange from later in the interview:
KERRY O'BRIEN: As it's risen nine times in six years, the Prime Minister today distanced himself from the Liberal Party promise at the last election to keep interest rates at "record lows". Do you also disassociate yourself from that Liberal Party promise at the last election to keep interest rates at record lows?

PETER COSTELLO: Well Kerry, I have no doubt that a vote for the Coalition at the last election was a vote for lower interest rates and a vote for Labor and Latham.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Costello, Mr Costello this is a very simple proposition I'm putting to you, a very simple proposition. Can we trust your promises or not?

PETER COSTELLO: Of course you can because Kerry...

KERRY O'BRIEN: The promise was record low interest rates.

PETER COSTELLO: Ok, you've asked your question, now let me give you the answer. The last election you could have voted for Labor led by Mark Latham or the Coalition led by John Howard and Peter Costello. The fact is if you wanted to vote for lower interest rates, you voted for the Coalition, Costello and Howard. I don't think even Kevin Rudd in his wildest imagination would have said that a vote for the Labor Party and Mark Latham would have had us in the situation we're in now. That's what they we're saying. Mark Latham for Prime Minister and the Labor Party. The vote for the Coalition was the vote for low interest rates, it's proven by comparing the historical record, and it's proven by comparing Australia's position in relation to growth in other countries.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you've left out the word "record low interest rates" Mr Costello, which was what was promised at the last election. So when we see Liberal Party ads making all sorts of claims during this next election campaign, how do we know which ones to believe and which ones not to believe?
Well said that man! Two - one O'Brien.

And finally, O'Brien challenges Cossie to explain the benefit of tax cuts - five in five successive budgets - which merely offset the rising cost of debt? Five tax cuts, but seven rate rises? Cossie's answer is very poor - the tax cuts have not put the government into debt. But Cossie, that's not the point, your books might balance, but do those of the working families on whose good favour you rely for re-election? Three - one O'Brien by my count.

Full transcript and video here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

But how does it know?

Years ago, ten or more, there was an advert for a type of chilly-bin that took the piss out of Australians for being stupid. I don't recall the full script however it included a claim that the chilly-bin kept food warm or cool... the Australian, sitting astride the chilly bin, looked confused... "but how does it know?".

How does my iPod know? Know when I'm most susceptible to the calls of home? Walking back home today, my iPod queued-up the Muttonbirds You Will Return (where the f**k is McGlashan getting strong strong coffee from, not bloody Sydney mate) followed by Dave Dobbyn's Loyal... I almost cried... but then, as if to ensure I understood, Greg Johnson's Don't Wait Another Day and Shihad's Home Again... I shit-you-not!

I'm particularly susceptible because Mrs backin15 and I are once again looking to buy and, quite apart from the fear associated with Sydney-sized debt, I'm struggling with where I want to be? NZ or Australia? Home or this foreign land I quite like?

Either way, I'm not watching any significant Rugby World Cup games with Australians. It's not like they're unpleasant or particularly unreasonable... it's just that I may wish to be and I don't want to feel in any way restricted if, for example, I need to question George Smith's technique, moral fibre or parentage. I also want to be surrounded by fellow kiwis, rugby tragics and hopeless optimists. I want to feel the camaraderie and warmth of fellow devotees and need to know that they too experienced the devastation of '91, '95, '99 and 2003. I don't want to have to hear how good Gregan, Larkham, Giteau are. I don't care if Sharpe's a top bloke or that Staniforth's a try magnet. I want to be enveloped by blackness, by flattened vowels and a shared belief in Richie McCaw's virtue. I don't even want to have a token Australian to mock and bait. I want to drink DB, eat Rashuns and Pixie Caramels and hear only Keith Quinn, Murray Mexted and Grant Fox calling the game.

And at the end, when we've won and William Webb Ellis is held aloft and we are all drunk on relief and exaltation, I want to to be hear...
Ringa pakia
Uma tiraha!
Turi whatia!
Hope whai ake!
Waewae takahia kia kino!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Chronicle of a death foretold

The demise of Howard has been predicted more times than rain on the West Coast. Still, he hangs in there as desperately as does George Gregan. But this must surely be his end? Poll after poll show the Liberal's losing ground despite all manner of dodgy politics including the entirely predictable union smears. Now facing renewed leadership tensions triggered by the release of a new biography, Howard's days are numbered with some even suggesting he might not be leader at the election.

Australian politics is a mess. The detention of Mohamed Haneef appears a gross breach of basic human rights and each day's news reveals deeper and deeper flaws in the case against him - the latest that his diary was tampered with by the Police. And on the eve of APEC, Sydneysiders are being urged to pack up essentials into a "go-bag" in the case of an emergency - this isn't stupid, but the timing suggests a degree of hysteria. Interestingly, BBC World service interviewed random Sydneysiders in a local shopping mall, asking them what they'd pack? Not surprisingly a number suggested beer. Aren't the colonials cute?

And now today's news that NSW Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, wants the power to take DNA samples from anyone arrested, regardless of their offence, for storage in a DNA database. This is, of course, obscene. The presumption of innocence cannot be said to be meaningful if, on being arrested and regardless of whether you are tried or convicted of a crime, your DNA is stored for cross referencing against future crimes. Moroney appears to be putting his hand up for even earlier retirement.

Thankfully sanity prevailed on the weekend with both the All Blacks and Silver Ferns beating their trans-Tasman rivals. Sadly, even if you have pay-TV, you won't see the final game in the Netball series as, yet again, ABC have decided against showing the decider live...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Crowdies interview

Andrew Denton's Enough Rope is easily one of best interview shows I've seen. He manages to get interviews with the best and brightest e.g. Clinton, Geldoff, Bono, Al Gore, Salam Pax, and even Parky himself (a full list is here) as well also hosting compelling interviews with everyday people including cabbies, driving instructors, removalists.

His interview last night with Neil Finn and Nick Seymour was typical; they were relaxed and open to his inquiries and he was informed and able to explore issues in an interesting and, occasionally new, way. Highlights are available online here.

The show that stands out for me is his interview with Richard E Grant. It's particularly good not just because Richard E Grant is clearly very bright and has had a fascinating life, but also because he clearly liked Denton and, wary of Denton's reputation for having done very good research, had done his own and was able to turn the tables on Denton and pick up on the interesting parallels in their lives. This interview is also online here.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Phone a friend

For decades, NZers have known that South African referees are biased, shonky and corrupt. Touring sides have endless stories about dodgy refs awarding dubious penalties for random (and sometimes phantom) infractions... right?

So how can this site be explained?

Surely a Tui ad?

The loss over here has probably damaged their psyche already, particularly in a World Cup year," Larkham said today after marking his 100th Test with two try assists against South Africa. "They've probably got doubts in a World Cup year anyway with the way the last three World Cups have gone.

The Wallabies beat a second-string 'bok side and suddenly they're on top - a classically Australian attitude. It'll be interesting to see how they're feeling after the Eden Park test. Larkham is, howver, playing Australia's main off-field card; the All Blacks are chokers who'll fumble at the final hurdle - in the likely trans-Tasman quarter final. I doubt it, but by losing at the MCG, NZ are now coping the inevitable. Still, it's the game on 20 October that matters most...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

Apparently the Flight of the Conchords are well cool. Don't take it from me or HBO even, take it from browncardigan.

They're a bit like Crowded House really, great but even greater now that someone else thinks so too! I remember when they were regulars around Wellington and generally thought of as pretty cool and pretty funny but nowhere near as cool or funny as we all think they are now... now, since the BBC series and the HBO gig...

Will Tripod feel the same? Somewhat coincidentally, they're touring NZ.


Oh how sweet... they want to reduce your stress levels whilst increasing your energy levels and improving performance whereas I just want you to buy another round...

WTF file extensions...

Cheezy's apparently a .* (no idea frankly) and I'm...

You are .dll You are dynamic.  You are constantly in danger of bringing down the house, because you don't play well with others.
Which File Extension are You?

My Dad once said...

...always, always, always give to the Salvos. Odd thing for him to say really since he was a committed agnostic. But, he was/is a humanist and recognised the unrivaled good work they do. He's a "give alms to all those that ask..." kinda bloke.

But what's a good cause? If you're charitably-minded, how do you ensure you're not salving only your guilt? Planned giving? Giving in to the chuggers who interrupt your lunch with their Bondi-burned brit-patois? Dishing out your credit card details to the 7 o'clock call centre? Not sure frankly. Still, I figure getup is a good cause and particularly the latest campaign to fund a primetime ad allowing Louise Barry, an Australian survivor of the 2005 London bombing, to ask John Howard (again) why Australia is in Iraq...
"Mr Howard, do you think that these things keep happening, at least in part, because of our involvement in the war in Iraq? The situation clearly isn't getting any better. And I don't want what happenedd to me to happen to any more Australians on anyone else for that matter. Prime Minister, please, it's your responsibility to get us out. That would make me feel a whole lots safer."

Young pretenders...

This is not a comment on the Wallabies, John Key or Kevin Rudd; it's about Christine Aguilera and the rest of the woohoohoos who lay claim to R&B or jazz bona fides.

Unlike Amy Winehouse, what is offensive about the woohoohoos is their inability to see the lyrics as the focus of any given song but instead see them as jumping off points for vocal gymnastics. Aguilera's treatment of Lennon's 'Mother' (on the latest Make Some Noise compilation) is awful compared with the brilliant Amy Winehouse's, uniquely updated, version of Me and Mr Jones.

Aguilera seems to think of lyrics as awkward corners; annoying interruptions to be carefully navigated before the real deal; the straights, where the throttle is let-out, diaphragm expanded and full noise, full volume, full whohoohoohoohoohoo...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'll pay that...

The MCG is a spectacular venue; it is, in fact, the best I've attended in terms of atmosphere. On the weekend however it was not a good place to be as the All Blacks didn't close-out a game they should have and Wallaby supporters are a pretty vocal bunch (particularly when they've won against all odds).

What went wrong? Nothing irredeemable frankly. Yes McAlister missed a tackle or two and so to did McCaw and Jack but our scrum dominated, their lineout was not so flash and, whereas that game is possibly a high-point for the Wallabies, it's most certainly is not for us.

I like the fact that Henry's not panicking and that perhaps it was 'the loss we needed to have'. Either way, the All Blacks should perform well in the next two games. It'd be great to see a settled 15*/22** with maybe only some experimentation around the centre pairing (a game each for Toeava and Smith) and the other lock.

* Carter's not up to his best and that's good. Carter's the best five eighth in the world and needs to peak in the final few games in October, not now.

** Buggered if I know who the best reserves are. Is Mealamu the reserve or is Oliver (depends on the opposition I suspect), is Flavell best off the bench as lock/blindside cover or is Thorne? What about Nonu - better than McAlister at 13, but not 12; better as a back up three-quarter but what about McDonald, Howlett, Sivivatu...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The last time we played at the MCG...

...was almost ten years ago in 1998 and we we lost 24 - 16; Matt Burke scored 22 points himself (but he's in Newcastle now). Quite possibly, as many as four players from that game may take the paddock next Saturday - Oliver for the ABs and Gregan, Larkham and possibly Finegan for the Wallabies. Tells you something that...

The MCG holds a massive 100,000 people - I've been there twice, once on a tour and the second time for last year's Commonwealth Games. Nothing will compare with next Saturday. Next Saturday I expect the All Blacks will win; they'll be tired, combinations will be a little loose and form still building plus the Wallabies will be buoyed by a close loss to the Africans. Nevertheless, across all fifteen players, there's only a couple of Wallabies that can hope to match their opposite (Giteau, Larkham and maybe Sharpe) meaning that if the ABs play to their potential, they should win. I'm tipping at 10 - 15 point victory...

But how many times have Kiwi supporters felt this confident over the last twenty years? Phil Kearns has said that if there was a rugby world cup every year for the next thousand years, the All Blacks would be favourites... Is this year any different? I was pretty bloody certain we'd win in 2003 even after Tana's injury, even after the wobbles against the Welsh... but there I was, surrounded by Aussies, mostly as surprised as I was actually, watching Gregan lauding it over the defeated AB pack - "four more years boys, four more years..."

So this weekend, as confident and vocal as I'll be, somewhere slightly above the pit of my stomach, me and thousands of other All Black supporters will be wishing for a big win, huge win, massive thrashing of epic proportions... 'cause that's a really good predictor of what'll happen in the Cup right?

Friday, June 15, 2007


I was up in the north-end last week for a few days, one day longer than intended thanks to my inability to read an itinerary (a 24-hour one), and had a chance to visit the parliament and learn about the bombing in WW II.

I was somewhat surprised to see a frigate patrolling the inner-harbour but it could easily have been for exercises rather than for duty. I've also been reading Peter FitzSimon's book on the Kakoda Track recently, which I'd recommend, which includes mention of the bombing of Darwin which claimed 243 lives. Check out the shrapnel...

I took a photo of the 1962 Remonstance; effectively a petition of Territorian representatives to the Australian Government for more independence (the Australian Constitution provides Territories the ability to self-govern but it is contingent upon Commonwealth law not the Constitution which means the power can be revoked).

It's an interesting place, small - very small in fact, only just over 110,000 people living in just a few population centres (Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine) and quite different from any of the other capital cities I've visited (all but Perth) not least of all because of the large urban Aboriginal population. I'm only sorry that I didn't get more time to look around...


Good to see that the ANZAC bridge in Sydney, which flies both flags, will soon have statues of both Australian and NZ soldiers. I regularly drive over the bridge and have often wondered why there's no NZ soldier alongside the statue of the digger.

This will soon be fixed as Clark's visit with Morris Iemma included an announcement that a new statue has been commissioned from the sculptor who crafted the existing statue.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Where will it end...

The Stellenbosch trial is designed to speed up the game of rugby. The new rules strip away the complexity and encourage an attacking, open style of play. Many of rugby's pointy-heads agree; too many rules, inconsistent interpretation = confusion and defensiveness. Certainly, I don't like the prospect of a return to penalties as the deciding factor in any test match but neither do would I like to see Test matches become extended 7's tournaments.

Planet-rugby reports the Australian coach, John Connelly, as saying the new rules favour NZ because they encourage non-stop rugby with few set pieces (Connelly isn't quoted saying this however). Again, I hope not as I thoroughly enjoy close matches where scrums and lineouts are attacking opportunities. Besides which, with Carl Hayman in the side, the NZ scrum is as intimidating as Dan Carter with the ball in hand.

Then again, last night's wins by the All Blacks and Wallabies were simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating. Yes there were lots of exciting open play, but neither the Welsh nor the French were competitive. This was, however, primarily a function of the farcical mid-year tours, a point made by Sean Fitzpatrick but I found myself switching to the Swans v Essendon game... which was anything but one-sided. AFL is generally competitive not least of all because of the draft system that means the lowest ranked team has the first pick of the new crop of talent. This ensures no one team dominates over a long period of time.

Would I want this in international rugby, hell no! I don't care if NZ win each and every World Cup game by two penalties to one... so long as we win.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Are you guys listening, this is the sound of rushing regulation... frankly, I'm not opposed to it, there's a limited number of scrupulous professionals and a glut of charlatans... self-regulation can't work when the entry test is so low... they should have fixed it years ago, I remember when they were thinking about it but decided it was too hard, circa 1998/99.

Time to reign them in, the professional body (that's a stretch) has failed to provide consumers with anything close to adequate protection.

Waiting for the Sopranos...

I don't want to know what happens in the final season of the Sopranos until I can watch it for myself but odds are it'll be news long before series seven even starts on Australian television (and then it'll be shifted around to be screened at a shitty time). I've thought about the bittorrent option but so far, based on a brief look around, the new episodes aren't available... Anyone know of any other options, HBO on-demand is only available to subscribers (US-based)?

Here's a pretty cool YouTube overview of the first 6 series.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graded assessment - NCEA fix-up

Social policy is always a compromise between the ideal and the practical. Adding grading to NCEA is really just raising the bar for what is considered competent however it has symbolic value that can't be ignored. Standard based assessment has never been well accepted in schools, despite being accepted elsewhere, and various implementation errors have further compromised its position. Whether this latest compromise will be sufficient to avoid major reform is unclear but National's criticisms aren't a substitute for an alternative policy (remembering it was under Lockwood Smith that standard based assessment really got going).

I have a clear memory of School Certificate. An examination designed for a time where unskilled work was plentiful and sustainable, it is neither now. However, suggesting that a university education is the only pathway is ludicrous. Leaving school with no qualifications almost guarantees unemployment and an increasing number of jobs, in the Australian labour market at least, require a vocational qualification not a degree. Therefore, whatever system applies it must give students options that improve tertiary enrolments and completions as well as improving school-to-work transitions.

That said, most of NZ's future workforce is already employed and an increasing number of them are more than happy with standards-based assessment...

End to the phony war

I'm pretty pleased with the All Blacks side to face France in the first test. It balances the need for a good win with the need to develop cover for the RWC. Thrashing the French is important both because this team needs momentum and because the French are highlighly likely to be in the finals.

I've just finished reading Spiro Zavos's book Watching the Rugby World Cup, which I'd recommend for its detailed preview of the Cup including the chapter on who'll win and why. Zavos is firstly a good writer then an excellent analyst of rugby. I didn't know he'd won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship early in his career.

Apparently, in the history of French rugby, winning at home is far more important than winning at home; winning in defence of your home town and within earshot of the chiming of your local church. This means, if NZ face France in the finals, we need to have beaten them resoundingly and often in the lead-up to withstand their inevitable fanatacism at home.

Zavos suggests the winning team will have some or all of the following attributes; a brilliant five eighth, a dominant pack, an inspirational leader and momentum through the tournament. The All Blacks have these elements, my only fear is that they've fallen too often at the penultimate test and will again, likely, face the Wallabies in the semis. The Wallabies are one of only a very few sides to be able to play significantly better during the tournament than at any point previously. Therefore, I hope the All Blacks crack 40 points against the French and the Wallabies continue to struggle with the Welsh... either way, I'll be listening to the alternative rugby commentary of Jedi and his mates come Saturday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Boarding late, no struggle for overhead locker space, somewhere to hang your jacket, meal options and frequent refills and quick exit to the obscenely large taxi queue .... Business Class is nice.

Labor party supply chain management

In the era of out-sourcing, contract labour, fragmented supply chains, and flexible industrial relations, federal Labor has decided against reinstating compulsory student unionism if it wins the federal election. Quell horreur!

David Farrar and his NZ VSMers will be very impressed and, no doubt, on the hunt for a National or Act backbencher to front a NZ campaign for the 2008 general election.

Interestingly, Australia Student Unions are linked to parliamentary parties far more strongly than in NZ. Despite the ranting of the VSM movement in NZ, there isn't the cross over between campus and parliament in NZ that there is here. Sure there's a few on both sides of the house who're former presidents, and more than a few staff too, but I can only think of two recent senior student politicians who're high up in NZ Labour. Compared with Australia, where it seems every other recent parliamentarian (either state or federal) is either an ex-staffer or an ex-student pollie. For Australian Labor, losing the strong link to the universities will impact on their recruitment, possibly not a bad thing?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sins of the son

"...for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth of them that hate me."
I wonder if the reverse is true? Are the sins of the son visited on their fathers? I'm sure all parents retain a sense of responsibility for their kids long after they're old enough to buy houses, start business, live and work abroad. I wonder then, how Terry Hicks feels about his son's misdeeds?

I know little of Hicks early life. Wikipedia tells us he struggled as a teenager, possibly because his parent's marriage broke up when he was ten, but equally likely not. My own parents split when I was 13, not significantly older than Hicks, and my failings are most certainly disconnected from that event. Regardless, Terry must struggle with the fact that his son is, whatever else, very misguided.

Is it any different from the parents of any other person with a criminal record. Frankly, yes. Though we'll not know if Hicks committed murder, it is likely people died, if not at his hands, then at the hands of his compatriots.

Terry's only ever argued that David's been ill-treated by the US military commission. He's never claimed his son's innocence. I get the impression Terry Hicks has never, and will never, understand his son's actions, but he has remained committed to his son despite the circumstances and despite being up against not only the US government, but also his own. At least Schapelle Corby's parents had some support in their endeavours.

Terry Hicks seems like a decent man to me. He's very much the Aussie battler Howard claims to represent. He has been through hell over at least the last five years, and if David Hicks can't sell his book, I'll sure as hell buy his father's.

All things rugby

The rugby year starts on June 2, but already I'm distracted by replays, highlights, commentary and trivia. Here's a clip of a new young bloke in the Wallabies (plus some footage of one of the blokes to have struggled this year).

Thanks to the rugbydump.

France v NZ: deconstruction

Courtesy of the very clever chaps at, this little clip explains the difference between All Black and French rugby tactics. Want some more? Professor Thian's exposition of the forthcoming Iveco series is here.

Someone give John Clarke a call, I think I've found his long-lost son.

Hicks is back...

... in Australia to serve the remaining 9 months of his sentence. He'll return to a public life, of sorts, not long after the federal election, likely to be in November, however his case will certainly be a factor during the election.

As I've said previously, I'm not at all sympathetic to those who see Hicks as exclusively a maytr. He was, almost certainly, a mercenary. However, I'm entirely unconvinced by the case against him and no more convinced by his guilty plea - afterall some of the actions he admitted where not crimes at the time he apparently committed them.

What significance his return has on the election is unclear - Howard may hope to have somewhat diffused the impact by having him back but this could backfire. Rudd won't be camping out in Adelaide, but the Greens and some Dems will and Howard will still have to defend at least one or two of his various positions...

The Hicks who'll have the biggest influence on this year's election is not David, it's his eminently belieavable and reasonable father, Terry.

Keeping up appearances

Lazy as it seems, I'm posting a brief list of preoccupationa in-lieu of a more informative or engaging post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ponying up...

Having yesterday criticised Howard's government for its disengenuous politics regarding the, now-cancelled, cricket tour of Zimbabwe, I should at least note that AusAid have increased funding to Zimbabwe.

I still wonder whether the decision to intervene would have occurred were it not for the proximity of the federal election, however this additional funding is significant. Interestingly, although the DFAT release claims Australia funding around $6 million (AUD) in 06/07, the UN's reliefweb database records only $3M (AUD), only $500,000 of which has in fact been paid.

By contrast, NZ's contribution in the same period was nil although I suspect this is incorrect having looked at NZ Aid's Fact Sheet on aid funding for Africa (perhaps this is a quirk of the reporting and Australian funding is direct whereas NZ's funding is via international bodies such as Unicef?).

Its worth having a look at norightturn's comments on Zimbabwe which, amongst other things, deals with the NZ parliament's equivocation about the 2005 Cricket NZ tour.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Right thing for the wrong reason...

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
John Howard is no St Thomas, not even close, but he is a clever tactician and his decision to come heavy with the Australian cricket team will serve him well. He's a well known cricket tragic and even Punter's said a polite thanks.

Most will agree that touring Zimbabwe now is straight out crazy (enter Sekai Holland as the first tempter) surely at the bottom of every professional cricketers wish list, but no-one should be fooled into thinking this isn't purely political.

But so what really, the focus should be on ending Mugabe's regime, not on Howard nor on cricket. However, I expect no greater effort will be made in Africa, Australia's foreign policy is too heavily focused on the Middle East. However, it does put into stark contrast the NZ government's unwillingness to intervene only a few years ago - a point well made by Keith Locke

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Up goddammit

My plan was to listen to the first 10 overs and then go to bed in order to get up early enough to hear the final 10 overs however this plan has failed. First there was a couple of quick wickets and the prospect of an early dismissal/quick win and then there was a prolonged coughing fit of backin15-junior.

Now I'm up, munchy and alert - not so much so that a fifth of bourbon wouldn't suffice but for the fact I've not got one/any...

Bondy's just knocked over Silva LBW ... hang about Cricinfo is reporting an inside edge:
34.3 Bond to Silva, OUT, unlucky! Bond switches to a fuller length, gets it to angle in from outside off stump, Silva gets stuck deep in the crease, jabs the bat down onto it, gets a relatively thick inside-edge back onto the pads - an awkward noise, if ever there was one - and after a couple of seconds Koertzen raises the finger. Unfortunate decision for Silva
Oh well...

Bring on Australia and yet another sleepless night... practice for the Rugby World Cup perhaps?

67 for 2

After 13.2 overs, NZ has Sri Lanka two down for a respectable 67 - 5 an over. The two dangermen are out, Jayasuryia and Sangakara. I might now retire for the night/morning in the expectation/hope we'll win this...

Radiosport and baggygreen have kept me fixated on the game... and Vettori strikes, Tharanga's gone bowled. This must be the break-through. NZ must bowl the Sri Lankan's out for no more than 250.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Glamour boys

Hamish McDouall's post over at publicaddress has got me thinking about what makes a balanced team. You need a couple of dead-set stars, you need a solid group of players who don't get injured and seldom have an off-day, you need consistent selection policy, confidence and form, excellent leadership and a Plan B.

To the extent that he's following my advice, Fleming probably thinks his team exhibits these characteristics and a few more besides. In him, Bond and Vettori NZ cricket has a clutch of players who are at or near the top of their class. Fleming is clearly one of the best captains of the last 5 years and, when he's playing well, he is dominating and elegant, capable of playing all around the park. Bond and Vettori deserve to be second and eighth best bowlers in One Day Internationals. In Oram, McCullum, Styris we have three players who are never intimidated but perhaps a little too injury prone (McCullum excepted). Bracewell's selections have been predictable, perhaps not Tuffey however, and form and confidence are high - particularly for the likes of McMillen and Ross Taylor.

I'm not so sure about whether or not they have a Plan B* however and possibly this explains the loss to Sri Lanka - now a run of four in a row - NZ need to revisit their strategy for Sri Lanka else win or lose tonight, they'll not progress to the final.

*I remember watching NZ play Wales in the 2002 Rugby World Cup where it was clear NZ did not have a back-up plan and Wales almost pulled off an upset win (interestingly, it seemed to me that Justin Marshall took over leadership of the team just after the second half started and Wales scored a try...).

Don't do it John...

Don't coach Pakistan! Why move to Lahore and have to deal with the endemic fraud of cricket on the sub-continent when you could instead take-over England (with its endemic pomposity)?

I'm looking forward to tonight's clash with Australia. Australia will think that the 3-nil loss in NZ doesn't matter since so many of their stars were unavailable and, with both Oram's unavailability and Watson being back, it's a game between very different sides however NZ must feel confident nonetheless. Both teams have form with bat and ball, both are confident.

I've read that the toss has been very important in some of the games with conditions greatly affecting bowling - it'd be a pity if that was the case tonight (unless we were the beneficiaries) however either way NZ can afford no wayward bowling and must not lose earlier wickets - watching England beat Australia in the tri-series, it was obvious that Ponting's team don't have many back-up options (why would you if you were almost always successful with plan A?) and make uncharacteristic errors when under sustained pressure (another reason why the loss of Oram is a real disappointment).

Barrack with your heart but bet the odds...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eyes on the undercard

In keeping with sporting metaphors, in the fight for the Lodge, keep your eyes on the undercard match-up between Peter Garrett and Malcolm Turnbull.

Rudd and Howard's fight will be oh-so-cautious. Both will keep their distance, preferring the staged and heavily refereed engagements over anything bare-knuckled. Control of the ring is their objective and already Rudd seems to have the upper-hand as Howard's distracted by the constant movements in his corner. Garrett and Turnbull on the other hand are willing and eager - both are used to media attention and used to winning. They'll wade in, confident of their training and tactics and not in the least bit wary of their opponent.

But it's not just the protagonists that make this an interesting match-up, it's also the issue; sustainability. Five rate rises since the last election and doubts about AWAs have the Howard-government on the backfoot. The Liberal party's moves on water, on clean-coal and on carbon sinks are all designed to bloster their bona fides on sustainability without the need for compromise. Howard's constant message on Kyoto has been it'd costs Australian jobs and therefore he'll not sign - Turnbull will struggle with this (witness the disagreement with Stern) Labor's policy is to ratify Kyoto, but this presents problems in a number of key seats where there's a risk of job-losses (remember Latham's* ham-fisted management of forestry policy cost them two Tasmanian seats).

This election will be compelling. It'll go to the judges for sure; expect no knock-out punch this time, no Tampa nor interest rate scaremongering. This will be a close points decision and in the early rounds at least, I've got the ALP ahead.

*Thinking about Latham's post-election meltdown, I'm reminded of Oliver McCall's breakdown in his 1997 fight with Lennox Lewis. Bonus points for other obvious comparisons (no points for rope-a-dope, it's too obvious).

Monday, April 02, 2007

So un-hip it's a wonder your bum doesn't fall off...

Somehow I've managed to avoid being an Arthur Dent in this MotherJones guide to all that's hip in music... fortunately I'm in love Arcade Fire (and quite like Peter Bjorn and John).

Hat tip: whoar

Martin Luther King's Beyond Vietnam speech

In 1967 Martin Luther King gave his Beyond Vietnam speech - I remember studying it as part of some high school course though I don't recall why. I've not thought of it since, but tonight as I gave my father a lift across town, I heard it on the radio - I don't think I've ever heard it before. King's rhetorical style is compelling; he is lyrical and passionate but somehow restrained and calm.

The full text of the speech is here but there's one part that struck me tonight, the part that spoke of the American malady. King could be speaking of current events, his prescience is profound.

First he implores the US to cease its aggression in Vietnam saying:
"If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative that to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people."
Later he states that there Vietnam is a tragic symptom of an American malady, that if the lessons of the 60s aren't learned, the mistakes will be made again and again. He says:
"The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organising "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy..."
King urges us to protest, however we feel we might saying "Every man of man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that suits his convictions, but we must all protest".

Thinking about the debate about the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror, it is impossible not to see the parallels with Vietnam and to wonder what might have been had the advice of King been heeded.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Milestone (of sorts)

I've blogged for a year now, 268 posts, I suspect that puts me in the 90 percentile? I imagine most bloggers quickly lose interest as either their audience or their spare time diminishes. For me its a bit of both. Good blogging is not something that can be done quickly. The best bloggers are good writers and good writing is time consuming.

In this last year, the single most challenging blog post I've read was written by krimsonlake (earlier blog posts no longer appear). Her post about the banality and frustration of life on a benefit was the perfect antidote to the likes of Lindsay Mitchell. It was honest and simple and it was searingly authentic.

I now content myself with a clutch of regular reads, publicaddress, NRT, span, mainlypolitics and the always amusing grabthar and spareroom, plus a few others mainly through their feeds. I still regularly check for when waiterrant, browncardigan, and cheezy have posted new stuff too.

I hope to be able to blog a little more frequently after last months hiatus - regular trips to Canberra mean early starts and later nights (I spent 38 mins waiting for a taxi at Sydney airport last Wednesday night, that's almost exactly how long I was in the bloody air getting there)...

If I could choose just a few posts of my own that I enjoyed writing it would be this little series on migration.

I still don't own an iPod.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ARU muddle

There's a strongly held view in Australia that the Australian Rugby Union have seriously lost their way. This is the same view that holds that John O'Neil is the saviour - he's always seemed a prat to me. Regardless, current CEO Gary Flowers is no fool. He was one of the group that forged the professional framework including the tri-nations. That said, this is bollocks. Gary, mind-games are a valid form of gamesmanship, but mate, seriously mate, this latest attempt, you know, when all but the Force are at the wrong end of the Super 14 and the Wallabies appear like a bunch of aged journeymen... mate, it's shite. Best you give it a rest.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rudd's race

Watching Kevin Rudd, I'm reminded of the legend of Jack Lovelock; particularly his win at the Berlin Olympics. Lovelock was one of NZ's greatest ever athletes and an Olympic gold medalist. He was part of a select group of runners, stars during the '20s and '30s, who purused the dream of a sub-4 minute mile.

What's all this got to do with Kevin Rudd? Lovelock's race tactics might be just the thing for Rudd.

The "Lovelock kick", the unexpected but decisive break, is what won Lovelock gold in Berlin in '36 (David Robertson's short film is a brilliant dramatisation of Lovelock's training regime). It's about knowing your opposition well enough to know when they're attending to their own race and not paying attention to yours. It's also about having the stamina to break when you're ready and also about being able keep up if they go first.

Rudd's in this race, much more so than the last couple of Labor leaders and his position and strategy appear much more robust. He's overcome the initial wrestle for position, he'd copped a few elbows but he's still got form, a good position and appears calm under pressure. His current lead will undoubtedly reduce in the run-up to the election so he needs to focus on when to make his decisive break.

Howard race tactics already appear all too familiar but I can't see any mileage on interest rates, none either in Iraq, and possibly not even in migration. On IR, the government is very vulnerable.

Watching Howard on the 7.30 report last night, it was clear he was behind - the Santoro scandal blunted any advantage the he'd hoped to gain through his negative campaigning.

So where too next? Rudd has to be thinking "who cares, I'll make my move when I'm ready and if he moves first, I'll run him down".

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mr. Sylvester McMonkey McBean

I've never been particularly fond of Canberra. It feels vaguely sterile, perhaps because it is a city by design (Walter Burley Griffin in fact) rather than evolution? It is a town populated almost exclusively by public servants and, being a public servant myself, I'm somewhat happy about that (it at least means the profile of amenities suits my lifestyle and I'm not talking about Fyshwick). I'm down there a bit at the moment (and will be for the next six months or so) on a project for the Commonwealth.

Security is big in Canberra, which makes sense as the Australian capital, however I've been surprised by how much more security conscious Commonwealth agencies are compared with State. I used to work directly next to the building where State Ministers have their offices - a target of sorts I guess (not wanting to sound particularly paranoid) - and yet our security wasn't particularly zealous, nor did it seem were other State agencies. Canberra however is the land of star-belly sneetches; almost every single one of the city's workers wears a photo ID, so much so that you needn't wear a McDonald's uniform - if you don't have a photo ID you must work in FMCG simple as that (cautionary tale, returning to Sydney wearing your photo ID is-not-on... I know this thanks to a Tori Spelling-lookalike who advised me of this potential fashion faux pas).

So anyway, for the next six months I work for the Commonwealth, I am one-of-them (the rivalry between States and the Commonwealth can be significant). I'd like to say I'm a schizophrenic policy mercenary but working for both Liberal and Labor governments has so far been surprisingly easy because, basically, all sensible public servants accept that politics is for their Ministers, not for them.

Oh and Mr Sylvester McMonkey McBean... both parts of his little scam can be seen here and here.

Howard's end?

Scandal, disaster, death and deception. Australian politics has it all at the moment, you'd never guess election season had begun.

Howard's on the back-foot on many fronts, but it's the misbehaviour of his Ministers that'll be most frustrating him. First it was three Queensland members, including one Minister, under investigation for allegedly misusing allowances now two Minister's have been forced to resign for dubious dealings. Ian Campbell's resignation was convenient; sure he'd met with disgraced former WA Premier, Burke, but only as part of a delegation, whereas Kevin Rudd had dined with Burke. Sadly for Johnny, Rudd's popularity has only increased and now a third Minister has been forced to resign, this time for failing to properly disclose his investments.

Perhaps its the problems at home that led him to speculate about increasing Australian troops in Afghanistan?

NSW voters get their chance next week and appear odds-on to re-elect Labor for a fourth term. The Liberal leader has all but conceded defeat in the hope he'll pick up a few more votes but I can't see it. Iemma's played the cleanskin well. After the 24th, he'll likely lead the largest party in parliament , but with train failures, cover-ups, and even feral senior civil servants, he's going to have to deal with an expanded number of independents as well as the radicals such as the fanatical Fred Nile. Fred's called for a moratorium on muslim immigration - always the moderate - fortunately states' exercise no power over immigration thus enabling both Lib and Labor leaders to sidestep this controversy.

On less banal matters, the plane crash that claimed five Australian lives hit home for me this week. I was in Canberra and attended a lunch at the National Press Club. It wasn't until the MC reminded us that a several of the Australian victims were regulars at the Club that I really thought about the tragedy. Many who lunched around me knew and worked with some of the people who'd been on the flight and were clearly distressed by their passing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

International man of mystery...


create your own here

Chippy's bought my attention to this little personalisable map to allow me to reveal my complete unworldlyness.

I've visited a measily 4% of the world's countries. If Mrsbackin15 creates her own, I suspect she'd have visited well over 50% (and before anyone asks, I know what she sees in me).

I take some solace from having lived in four cities in NZ and one in Australia during my adult life. I'd like to add to that number, particularly if somehow I can land a flash job in Barcelona.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

So many things

Life's been busy; change of jobs, parent stuff, family stuff, other stuff... conspired to keep me away from blogging.

The new job's interesting. Commonwealth government means great IT support and lots of blokes in cardigans (with facial hair of dubious fashionable value). There'll be a bit of inter-state travel which is both appealing (overnight's in hotels with the latest shitty blockbuster DVDs) and shitty (overnights where Mrsbackin15 has to finish early and do the dreaded breakfast-dropoff-pickup-dinner-sleep-breakfast routine).

Parent-stuff... some little treasure's a biter.

Family-stuff... Already there's bids for Christmas '07.

Other-stuff... house-hunting in Sydney...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The storm's coming

The temperature's dropping out at at the Sydney airport, 8 kms away from home, which suggests the forecast storm is not far away; thank Christ!

It's been in the 30's most of today. Last night was unbearable. At midnight, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the apparent temperature (explanation here), was 27.6 degrees.

My capacity to lead a carbon-neutral life is severely diminish by my love affair with airconditioning...

Friday, March 02, 2007

WTF is John Mitchell on about?

Mitchell's Force and playing the 'Tahs tonight, should be an average game between two ordinary sides where one or two talented players dominate. The Force will target new Five Eighth Beale; fair enough he is (a) young, (b) inexperienced and (c) the bloody Five Eighth for crying out loud. So what the hell is this comment about:

"When you are gifted and instinctive like Kurtley [Beale] you can tend to premeditate what's in your mind as opposed to indentifying what's in front of you," he said. "And when you are challenged by defensive teams in your career those gifted players sometimes don't take the opportunity that the opposition presents. That is probably going to be the biggest growth curve for Kurtley."

I think his point is that rather than responding to what's in front of you, some players determine what they're going to do regardless of the defensive pattern which can get them into trouble... Could he have said it more simply?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I want to go home...

How ridiculously cliched; half a dozen tracks by the Finns, McGlashin, Che Fu and even Shihad and here I am looking up airfares and jobs... I was worse after Dave Dobbyn's gig... this wasn't it but it's nice nonetheless...


I know the bags under my eyes probably won't go away. They're not temporary, I'll not recover the sleep I've lost. I've realised this is a small but significant badge; perhaps I'll sleep when she's 3? But Don, Don you've aged mate. You taught me trumpet (WTF is a sousaphone?) and that moment when I told my big brother than my music teacher was the lead singer for Blam Blam Blam...

Ahhh fuckit, you're still lyrically, stylistically, fashionably cool.

And Don, the gig you did at the old theatre in Wellington, the gig for the opening night of Jackson's Frighteners, fantastic.

Downtown train

It's bedtime and I was thinking about who I'd like to sing me to sleep; Tom Waits or JJ Cale?

You think I should've had a woman? Whatever...

Here Tom Waits sings a lullaby. Here JJ Cale does too. Can anyone find the Waterboys doing A Man is in Love?

mo' better blues

I've linked to this before, I'll link to it again.

'mo better blues.

Branford Marsalis trio from the Spike Lee movie featuring the late Kenny Kirkland.

Night all.

Continuing the theme

When I was about 16 I decided to replace some of my Father's jazz favourites with Cds. He'd very carefully looked after his vinyl for years but it was time. Marbecks was the authoritative place to go in Auckland and I wandered into their Queen St jazz shop and rather pretentiously approached the counter with my unbelievably cool question...

"Do you have any Ahmad Jamal, maybe Live at the Pershing?

...... blink

......... blink.....

............ supressed derisory snort...

"Have you looked in the Ahmad Jamal section?"


I've recovered from that point and I've now taken my Father to see Ahmad Jamal at the Sydney Opera House (with Mrs backin15 and my stepmother in 2005). It was one of the best performances I've ever seen but more importantly it was thanks. Thanks to the artist but also thanks to my Father for the introduction.

For your pleasure: Surrey with a Fringe.

How to make my Dad check out my blog

Joe Morello's definitive moment. Paul Desmond was there too.

I regret, seriously regret, giving up playing music to do six subjects at School Cert. It was a significant error of judgement. I was about a year away from making the transition from awkward little guy on the bus with extra bag to the man-with-the-saxaphone-plan... I perhaps would have been the first in Mangere but...

The Purdie shuffle

I was watching a doco about Steely Dan recently which included footage of Bernie Purdie and his famous Purdie shuffle... see if you can play along...

Forget Iran's enrichment program, it's the Frat parties you've gotta watch

He started it!

Why don't light saber's come in non-fluorescent colours?

Pulp Fiction meets Ralph Hotere

You know, that headline's not quite right but there's something there yeah? Maybe McCahon? Hmmm, didn't do nearly enough Art History.

Here's the link.

Hat tip: Cleverblogname.

Kiwi comes good (again and again and again)

There are so many Kiwi's living in Australia, I suspect we're quietly taking over.

Successful Kiwi's are offered a form of citizens' citizenship; the "hail jolly fellow well met" type that entitles you to a beer at every pub provided you can name the last time the Wallabies beat the 'Blacks in the dying minutes of a game that really matter mate... (oh and was it really '87 when you last won the Cup?). Russ has it (but not the official variety), Neil and Tim too, and so does Alan Brough. Alan's success has been a quiet one. He's been around for long enough, everyone assumes he's an Aussie and when they find out he's from the western island they're so surprised they can't be arsed even making the usual jokes.

Alan was a contemporary kindy inmate with Mrs backin15 in Hawera (that's Harwara to the locals) in the '70s. Now he's part of the ABC power-trio that are Spicks and Specks, the greatest television show evah!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The fall and rise of Andrew Walker

Dual international, Andrew Walker is on the verge of signing for the Queensland Reds having spent two years banned from league and union and 6 months playing in France.

I distinctly remember his debut for the Wallabies, he came on as a late replacement in the game of the century. He only played 7 tests for the Wallabies before he ran into trouble as a result of an addiction to alcohol. Eventually, he left the Brumbies to rejoin the NRL playing for Manly however he ran into more trouble eventually being banned for testing positive for cocaine.

I read an article about him a year or so back in which he and his wife talked about his struggle with addiction and his attempts to straighten up (including by starting a lawn mowing business). Personally, I'm really pleased for the guy - unlike Wendall Sailor, who comes across as a deluded baffoon, Walker has always seemed pretty frank about his problems. I doubt he'll get close to international selection but it'd be great to see him in the Super 14.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Voldemort's new plan for Harry

Unable to knock him off in the movies, Voldemort's got Harry hooked on drugs.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nice Dick 2

The press coverage of Cheney's visit has been limited as has the blogosphere's. Small protests have been held in and around the city and we're continually buzzed by Blackhawk helicopters, using the visit as a training exercise for the forthcoming APEC meeting.

I doubt Howard will benefit from Cheney's visit. Cheney's praise for Australia's efforts sounds simply desparate; the thanks you offer a friend who you know is only on your team 'cause they weren't picked by the other side (and who you suspect might be about to fake an injury...). Worse still, the decision to send an additional 70 troops has been overshadowed by the reduction in the UK forces and crumbling of the Coalition of the Willing.

The real interest is in watching how Rudd plays his part. He's clearly not going to concede foreign policy to the Government and he has good reason to feel like he has Howard's measure - not least of all because he has overtaken Howard as preferred PM. I particularly like this comment from Polemica:
"Intelligent people have long since made up their mind on Iraq and the valour of the current United States administration. If you haven’t yet decided the war in Iraq was wrong-headed and morally reprehensible in consequence, you are not likely to. What is important now is whether or not the alternative government in this country can successfully impress itself upon the electorate as retrospective salve to the mistakes made by the conservatives."

Wireless wok-network

Hillary's Everest, Rutherford's atom, Bluebird's rashuns and now Oamaru's wok-network... NZ at the forefront of innovation (or is that adaptation) again.

Hat tip:

Lindsay Knight's timely warning

Lindsay Knight's comparison of the All Blacks with the Australian cricket team is a timely warning.

Having watched the Ashes closely, I was amazed to see the Aussie's fall away so badly - even accounting for the fact that a number of players were missing from the side that toured NZ. NZ rugby has depth the equal of Australia's cricketing community, but take McCaw and Carter out of the starting XV and we might be as vulnerable as Hussey's team was in the Chappell/Hadlee.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nice Dick

VP Cheney's in Sydney. Drumming up support for his pyramid-war scheme no doubt; Howard's a starter, Cossie too. Anyhoo, Dick's secruity means my block's a security risk... no one can get in or out for meetings without endless traffic and who can be arsed... Great stuff, picked up my youngest and had the afternoon off. Cheers Dick!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The case for and against David Hicks

SBS has posted the highlights from the Insight debate regarding the detention of David Hicks (a full transcript is here). This debate includes both prosecuting and defense counsel, as well as his family and the Australian AG, Ruddock. Watching Terry Hicks struggle to calmly respond to the mock concern of Ruddock is quite something.

The Australian government has grossly misjudged this situation.

Over at RoadtoSurfdom there's an excellent summary and analysis of the debate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

3 nil, 3 nil, 3 nil...

A few years back, Ms backin15 and I travelled up to BrisVegas to see the decider in the last Chappell/Hadlee series... weather meant the game never started and the trophy was not awarded as the series was tied (we went to the Australian Zoo instead).

I'm fully reconciled now.

Macca deserves the man-of-the-series award.