Tuesday, 28 December 2010

flooded creeks

The authorities are putting out the message about not crossing flooded creeks a lot on the radio. Perhaps its getting through, I'm not sure. The statistics don't seem to be supporting this.

However yesterday driving back from visiting a mate in the mountain areas west of here we came across a flooded creek which I assume noone would be daft enough to try to cross (although the road closed signs at the top of the road seems to suggest that somone may try.

In an interview on the radio with local advisers the question was asked "what about people driving 4WD vehicles, are they safer"

The answer was a clear no with the added information that most of the vehicles swept away being 4WD vehicles.

People (I suspect) are lulled into some false sence of security by the butch and macho images of their 4WD's bashing about splashing in puddles of mud or even crawling out of creeks.

Often enough these are really shallow or still waters and not moving very fast at all. When creeks flood its not like it seems on the TV Ads, in fact its more like this image of the waters streaming across the road. Note the depth maker ...

that's right, its about 1 meter deep. Here is a video of that water, I pan along with what seems to be the flow of the waters.

Would you attempt to walk that? If you did it would like be about the last thing you do.

Remember, if you can't walk it you can't drive it. Even still you need to be aware of the possibility of the road collapsing under the weight of the vehicle, especially when there is strong flows like this.

I just heard on the radio that a fellow who was rescued from a creek such as this was charged by the Police with "driving without due care and attention" ... he should consider himself lucky to be alive.

Like the radio is saying "don't cross flooded roads"

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

sunset pano

its been a nice day with all the rain of the last week ... the sunset made a nice image


I think I'll use this as my new blog title

populate or perish

The majority of Australians seem to be unaware of this concept: Populate or Perish. It is something from our past and as an underlying precept has driven our planning for immigration for some time.

One wannabe wize wanka regularly writes a column in the Australian and encourages divisive discussions. Typically however he just derides anyone who disagrees with him but pats those on the back who agree with him.

One reader called him out on this and essentially his thought full reply was "talk to the hand"

What a wanka. Jack claims to want to encourage mature dialog but then essentially panders to those who agree with him, derides those who do not; so much for mature discussion.

Essentially many people are defending our migrant and refugee intakes (yes, they are different) by saying we have room, why not bring in more.

Well the population has grown from just under 4 million at around federation, to a little over 20 million now. So in the time since federation our population has grown by something like 5 times.

Now lets look at that for a moment in the light of ABS data.

I took that data from this ABS datacube and graphed it.

I only took the data from about federation (1901) because at that time we stopped being a bunch of colonies and we became Australia

Things were going along at a rate which would see our population hitting about 14 million now (following the rate of growth by the yellow line).

But something happened in about 1946 ... our population really took a high step in growth.

As you can see from the orange line since then we are now growing at a a much faster rate, nearly double. If we had continued as we were in the pre-war growth then we would be in a situation now where we would have the population we did back in the 60's.

The simple truth of this is that in the post war period the government made a determination that we needed to alter our growth to populate or perish. The determination of increasing our population growth by 1% looked innocous to people who don't understand maths, but essentially amounted to doubling our growth rates.

Its a bit like the movie Ember, where a city was built to under ground where people could shelter from a catastrophe for 200 years. Well the plot is that along the line of time the reasons for why they were living there were lost, and the need to get out along with it.

The same is true for us here in Australia right now with the "populate or perish" idea.

We have long ago developed enough population to fulfill the requirements of that report, we have at our disposal technology which helps reduce the needs for manual labour of all things from agriculture mining and defense.

But still the idea seems to remain today even if people have lost any idea of why. For instance you can still find people in the media making observations such as:

Ideally, Australia should absorb even more than 30,000 refugees annually. Our abundant resources and infrastructure could accommodate a vast increase in humanitarian arrivals.

well ... I don't know about you, but in the parts of Australia I live in I do not see abundant resources and infrastructure. Right now we're having floods but it was just the previous year we were under severe water restrictions. Normally I see:
  • congested roads
  • under supplying public transport
  • water restrictions and drought
  • insufficient electrical infrastructure
  • insufficient telecommunications infrastructure
  • housing prices in bezerk growth (essentially fueled by demand which outstrips supply)
  • unemployment as people can not keep pace with the changing nature of jobs and there is no plans to help them skill up (its cheaper to get in skilled migrants)
The current strategy of the media (and their owners) seems to be to whip up sentiments which amount to racism to polarize the population and at the same time feed them messages about how their racism is wrong.

This keeps their eye off the ball of real arguments and keeps them mired in the most basic issues and feeling somehow bad with themselves at feeling this way.

The above author (Mirko Bagaric who apparently is the co-author of Migration and Refugee Law and a former member of the Refugee Review Tribunal)
Australia gives priority to boat arrivals for just one reason: misguided homage to an outdated international legal instrument.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requires countries to give asylum to people within its borders who have a genuine fear of persecution in their country of origin because of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership of a distinct social group.

The convention was drafted with a view to protecting mainly Europeans fleeing after World War II. It is designed to give safe harbour to people who manage to hobble from their country to a bordering country.my underline

The convention was never intended to apply to migrants who roll out a world map and strategically plot which of the 140 countries that have signed the convention they think will best advance their economic prosperity.

So even the advocates of our assistance of refugees understand that there are stark differences between what was formulates in the past (again, just after WW2) and now. This has enormous implications on our intake of refugees.

the present

I would argue that we need to wind back our migration levels right now. We need to take stock of what will happen as the existing recent migrants start to apply for family re-union visas for their family members back in their home land and what the impacts are on our society of the changes.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

blown water main

well for most of the day I've been saying "rain rain go away"

however we've just had the water main blow in our street ... damn it

Its been turned off now, but you can see where it was squirting up under the pavement and out of the ground ... to the right there.


naturally its dug up some of the clay and rock.


and flowing out into the rest of the street ...


seems Perkele is not without a sence of humor...

post scriptum

The guys have started digging (in the rain) to repair the main


after they dug through a half a meter or so of clay they exposed the old main ..


gosh, looks just like the old part which used to cross the creek when I was a kid.

Like seeing an old friend really

Saturday, 18 December 2010

christmas driving

Its coming up to Christmas, and of course that means the usual extra driving (and perhaps drinking). Every year we all hear messages on the media of the road statistics. We become rather immune to it I fear.

I'd like to take this weeks late evening event as a reminder to all out there to take that extra care on the roads and please be here safe and sound well after the silly season is over.

The late evening started a little like a famous Christmas poem:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
When out on the road there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

There was little to be seen at first, just a car on its roof with nothing around. However as we live in the communications age there was no shortage of people calling 000 (no, its not what you think this is Australia and the emergency number is zero zero zero ... remember it and not hollywood).

... and soon enough the street lit up like a Christmas Tree ... naturally the Towies arrived first (in fact we got 6 there before the ambulance or police).

The accident was low speed and seemed to be caused by the car clipping the side of this little car ... you can see its cocked out a little from the road (perhaps you can also spot that the back right hand wheel is at a funny angle ... more in a tic)


and flipping onto its roof!

Hard to grasp how it may have done that, as at first there seems no reason for this to happen.

My theory is (and I haven't interviewed the driver) that when she observed the small black suzuki she swerved and braked at the same time. Combined with the downhill here it was enough to off balance the car and flip it.


(this image was taken after the person had been freed by the ambos and firemen)


There were of course other residents around, so having made sure the person was OK and was being attended to I just stood back and waited while rescue workers did stuff to get the driver out ... I thought I'd wander around and document a few things ...


You may have noticed the odd angle of the back wheel of the Suzuki in the above shot. In this image you can see that the impact to the Suzuki was quite minor, not even breaking a light, but you can see the rear wheel is kicked out better in this shot.


It must have been exactly what was hit by the other car

So with the driver off to hospital (she seemed ok and has returned home with just a sore neck) the car was left in the street like a stuck turtle waiting for the towies to have their turn at it.

So drive carefully this Christmas season, have a good time, but aim to be here and well into the new year.


Monday, 13 December 2010

monster mash

Man I love this album

But it wasn't just the title track which was worth listening to, there were great tracks throughout the album, such as Monster Holiday:

I got it when I was about 10 or so. Brings back memories of growing up

So with Christmas coming up, its a good time to seek out alternatives to "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reinder" for Christmas music
"where is that reindeer with the red nose"

Friday, 10 December 2010

cane toads

These guys were imported to Australia by the government in a (failed) attempt to make a biological control system for the Sugar Cane industry (also built on an imported plant).

The Cane toad is not only an effective breeder but has no natural enemies in Australia. As they are also a poisonous toad handling them can be dangerous.

Most Australians know to kill as many of these creatures as you can (which still won't be enough) as they spread and populate the continent. The image below shows a native python engaged in a typical way of killing its prey before eating it. Sadly it was a cane toad, which as I mentioned above are poisonous.

shortly after this the snake died ... before even trying to eat the toad.

This highlights why these creatures are deadly to Australian wildlife and are quite a massive threat to our ecosystem.

Australians employ all manner of methods for killing them. Clubbing, spearing, burning ... the list of horror goes on.

Rather than condone creating suffering I prefer to kill the toads I find by putting them in a plastic bag and putting them into the freezer. There they quietly go to sleep and well after they are unconscious the freezing process kills them.

You can then take them out of the freezer and put the bag in the bin.

Just be sure to label them clearly, as you don't want to be looking for some chicken for dinner and thaw out a cane toad by mistake ;-)

photo info
The above photo was taken with my EOS system and 35mm film. I used my TS-E 90mm (my favourite lens) to allow me to keep DoF along the snake and keep the aperture open more to maintain shallow depth of field. If you look carefully you can see that the plane of focus goes from the bottom left corner, up through the snake, and out to the mid right. Only a 4x5 field camera would enable better control over the focal plane than this. Gosh I liked that lens, but as I transited to digital I sold the TS-E lenses as they just didn't translate to smaller sensors well. Perhaps I'll get some again if I go for a 5D or other full frame camera.

Who knows...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

my pennytel experience (cont)

Just thought I'd further my experience with Pennytel which I blogged about earlier.

To set the scene, I've been using their PennySIM product as my mobile phone provider since April when we came back from Finland. I picked them because they were:
  • prepaid
  • cheap
  • carried by Optus
  • cheap

They have definitely met all my expectations and perhaps exceeded them. Just used normally, the gig is that you pay 16c per minute and 8c call connection fee. This is heaps cheaper than Virgin, Optus, Telstra ... blah blah who typically charge 90c per minute and about 35c call connection fee (it varies)

The other guys usually make it almost impossible to determine what your real costs are by smoke and mirrors tricks like giving you $300 worth of calls for $30; so called call caps at $49 and all manner of recharge bonuses. You have to read the fine print on the actual costs (if you can find them) but more or less you should just be comfortable they're giving you the best deal for the $$ you pay.

you trust them ... right?

So based on a gut feel I took the leap and joined PennyTel instead; that was well over 6 months ago.

So I thought it was time to add to that earlier post I thought I'd present my experience as at November.

In the figure below (for November) my wife and I made 105 calls (we have two phones on the account) which went for a total duration of 421 minutes. Essentially I was on the phone for 7 hours (and it is mainly me too as I used 310 minutes of that).

The cost for that appears to be $19.27, which at first glance is bloody cheap (4c / minute actually), but this is not the complete picture, as my call costs are offset masked by my use of their "Smart Dial" system. These calls do not appear on the charging for the Optus side of things. Just to remind, the Smart Dial allows me to allocate numbers which I'll call frequently to be charged at a lower rate ... so you need to access that in another screen.

So lets have a look at that:

definitely I've been using that system well, with 28 calls (about a third) and nearly 4 hours (about half the time) adding up to a further $16.37 of calls. These calls average out to a charge of 7c per minute, which isn't bad. It starts to look even better when you consider that in there are calls to Finland mobile numbers and calls to Australian mobile numbers.

There is an monthly basic fee for being part of the system, which is $8 ... because I have two phones (my wife and I) the amount of $16 needs to be added to the total. So all up the total cost for my calls was $19.27 (regular Optus) + $16.37 (smartDial) + $16 (access) = $51.64 for 421 minutes of blabbering.

That's an overall cost of 12c per minute calling and includes factoring in the call connection fees and service charge amid it all.

Since there are two phones on this service that means my wife and my phone bill is $25.82 per month each.

Just how much cheaper it can be (or not be depending) depends on how you call and the price of the call connection fee.

If you make lots of short calls then the expensive 35c call connection fee eats up a big slice of your call cost. So in a quick 30 second call (can you make one?) it will be half the cost.

If you talk for longer then the percentage that the call connection fee counts of your call cost drops. But your call cost overall gets big. A one minute call with a SIM from PennyTel works out to be 24c while a 1 min call with say Optus or Telstra works out to be $1.28

Bump that up to 10 minutes and the cost becomes $9.38 (of which 38c didn't hurt as much). Even so you can see the differences between PennyTel and Others really starts to rack out.

So then the $300 worth of calls for $30 starts to bring them down in price to match PennyTel. A 15 minute call will cost you $13 so if you talk about this amount of time then you'll get about 30 calls for your $300 worth of value.

If you try to make shorter calls (say 3 minutes) you'll get more calls, about 97 calls. but then the call connection fee is a bigger portion of that so you don't get as many minutes for your $300. To put a figure on that you'll get 291 minutes with lots of short calls vs 450 minutes when making longer calls.

Of course when making shorter calls you run a greater risk of going over the 30 second bracket and costing yourself more when you hang up leaving unused time. But then you have to cough up money as a basic amount (like the $49 cap plans) where if you don't use the $49 you'll still have to pay it meaning that the calls you made just cost you more.

So for me it works well. I can make lots of short calls (~2minute) and pay about 40c per call (to a mobile or just a few cents to a landline on my smart dial) or I can make longer calls and pay $2 for that compared to $11 using the "others".

Of course if I really milked the other system I could spend about the same, but in contrast if I don't use my phone much it doesn't cost me much (like $8 per month) and when I do use it heavily then its still a little cheaper than the others.


Unlike what you may read on Whirlpool I've had no issues, no problems and no hassles. When ever I've contacted support (such as how to work out other cunning bits) my email is answered within that business day and resolved within 24H.

So if you're just after a basic phone that works as a phone and you don't want to sign up to a high price plan to get a free funky phone ... all I can say is "Its been working well for me".

Have a look at your calling habits and see if you can't find yourself either ahead $100 a year or just getting better mileage out of your mobile for the same money.

Friday, 3 December 2010

that1guy - on the Gold Coast

last night we went off to a small club in Miami (Gold Coast) to watch "that 1 guy". I was first introduced to him by a friend in about 2004, with this clip:

and assumed (wrongly) that I'd never get to see him live. His more modern stuff shows the development of his instrument and his style ..

speaking of his style, think Frank Zappa combined with a little electronic stuff and a touch of Tom Waits ... but like all good performance artists he's much better in the flesh than on the small screen.

P1100506The gig was a cosy little place which was enabled a laid back attitude where we could just get in and sit right up close to the action of the musician on stage.

You can see this 'trademark' instrument at the end of the bar up on the stage there.

We sat right down there on the last couch on the right.

Great view, great feeling of engagement with the performance and man was it loud!!

P1100628As you can see from this stack there was not any lack of PA volume. This shot from just in behind the stage looking forward.

But That 1 Guy is the kind of act where you want to get personal and involved (not back 200M and using the binoculars like big name acts).

In an era of canned music its really refreshing to have live music which engages you even if its only one a one man band.

In the end however its not a problem that he's up there alone because he's a good performer, I don't think I felt like "what time is it" for the entire act.

This is how it looked from where we sat ...


and while it was quiet at first the floor filled up with people dancing and bopping around after they'd all had enough to drink ..


You may notice from the clips that he likes his shoes, and this night he had some really cool aluminum aligator skin shoes on


and you can see the pedals here he uses to activate drums, change sequencer tracks and control some of his digital recordings for "backing".

And he really gets into it ...


variously playing the strings on the pipe like a guitar


or bowing it ...


and naturally attracts one "drunken love chick" who he tried really hard not to encourage, but not ignore either


poor bastard...

I really liked the hand puppet bit for adding some character to the sounds of one of the acts ...


compared to his earlier stuff his "pipe" is really developing ... this one is looking very engineered and space age ...

so if you get the chance, go along and see "That 1 Guy"

the pipe


The show started with a fellow called "Mr Percival" he's a vocal only guy who (like Bobby McFerrin) uses digital pedal controlled recording loops and sequencers to give his stuff extra depth. This is him:


In case you may like to see a slideshow of the performance ... here it is courtesy of my flickr account

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Eric the fruit bat

We have a smallish peach tree in the back yard, which we'd like to get a taste ofthe fruit from this year.

However the local birds (Currawongs) seem to be doing their best at pecking them well before they're ripe.

So we put some bird netting over the tree to hopefully reduce the losses.

Today late in the arvo I was looking out at the tree and noticed some bundle of black rolling around in the netting ... yep a fruit bat had made its way into the netting and gotten caught up.

so armed with the scissors and a ladder my wife and I carefully cut him (or her) out.

The poor creature looked so shagged from the struggle we thought that a local cat might get it. So we rummaged about for a box and brought it inside for a bit of recuperation.

It didn't seem comfortable with the box so I cut a couple of holes in the sides and pushed a bit of wooden dowel through ... give it something to hang from ...

it seemed more comfortable, so we thought we'd give it some food and drink to help it recuperate from the struggle. He didn't seem so keen on the apple slice (although he kept licking it) so I thought about some (recently home made) strawberry nectar mixed with water. Some sugars and water ... seemed to be a hit as he drank from the end of the syringe as if he was born to the job...

after a hour or so I took him out and placed the box near another tree, and he climbed out and into the tree.

An hour or so later on and I heard the rustle of him moving off and getting back to life again.

One more wrong righted

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

bad decisions - failure to invest in people

Its been interesting to see the unfolding of the Queensland Health Payroll debacle. I read today that some $200 million (yes, thats $200,000,000) will be required to "fix" the system. Assuming that does the trick.

As one who has been a developer for some decades I find it interesting to see how large government institutions have been increasingly divesting themselves of any internal skills or experience in IT and outsourcing everything. Once upon a time organisations had both process knowledge as well as technical knowledge and built systems which worked well and functioned. These were often done in house at low cost.

Back in those days management would whine like a fully functional jet engine at the thought of hiring 3 more programmers at $30,000 to complete large tasks. Looking at the numbers above you'd get a team of over six thousand developers (not just 3) for the same money.

Ok, that's maybe simplistic ... lets say you'd need to have them for 3 years (how long has the QLD Health debacle been in the planning?), say there is an admin overhead of 100% (meaning you'd have to pay double) and put it in todays dollars (about 50,000 per annum for a developer).

So 3 x $50,000 x 2 = $300,000 ... or six hundred teams for the same price.

Why has noone realised that expensive consultants who own expensive downtown buildings and get paid high salaries can't be saving you money when they're getting rid of low paid employees.

But no ... its more cost effective to outsource it or is it ...

At last the ABC reports that the Government has broken off from this supplier:

"Corptech, on behalf of the Government, has terminated its relationship with IBM," he said.

but where to now?

Try and find experienced IT staff who have a long history with an organisation, people who get to develop stuff; not just patch packages like "SAP or People soft" or have to work with "pre made" stuff which does not suite the task and gets nails hammered through it to "fit".

I've been saying for some time, if there's a skills shortage in Australia it seems to be focused around upper management who decide its not worth investing in a good team.

Monday, 22 November 2010

addicted to cars

Cars are great tools, but we seem to have (in the last 30 years) wanted to just jump in our car and go where we want without thinking.

I started riding my bicycle to work back in about 1997 (about 17km each way) and found that not only was I getting healthier but I found much more money in my wallet at the end of each week!

However I'm in the minority in Australia ... and its a shrinking one too. Enough car drivers are just insane in their attitude in this area. Ask any cyclist and you'll hear stories of near death experiences.

Ask the average car driver who hates bicycles and you'll hear more simple whinges like "they touched my car" (leaving no marks) "they held me up" (for no more than 10 seconds till the next red light) or "roads are made for cars".

Essentially its just dribble to justify their irrational hate.

I'm glad to see the publication of these findings which indicate that:

Drivers were at fault in 87 per cent of incidents with cyclists and most did not realise they had behaved in a reckless or unsafe manner, according to the Monash University Accident Research Centre and The Amy Gillett Foundation.

Its interesting to read some of the methods and findings:

The three-year study into cyclist safety on the roads used mounted video camera footage, as well as helmet-mounted cameras worn by cyclists, to determine the main causes of road accidents between cyclists and motorists.

Fifty-four events were recorded; including two collisions, six near-collisions and 46 other incidents.

The helmet camera study found that of the 54 incidents recorded, more than 88 per cent of cyclists travelled in a safe and legal way.

Conversely, drivers changing lanes and turning left without indicating or looking were the cause of more than 70 per cent of the incidents, Amy Gillett Foundation chief executive officer Tracey Gaudry said.

“We believe there is a strong argument to introduce a road rule that prescribes a safe passing distance (at least one metre), as well as further educating drivers that they need to indicate at least five seconds before changing lanes,” she said.

After 2000 I started living overseas, in places like Japan, Korea, India and Finland. All these places have an active and functional cyclist population and car drivers who are tolerant of this.

These days I'm back in Australia I've been forced to give up or get injuries.

So, what do we do about it?

I'd love to suggest we force drivers to use bicycles, but we've really started to make our cities in such a way as to totally preclude bicycle transport. We now live too far from work and its almost impossible to use a combination of public transport and bicycle.

How can we go back? Well probably we can't ... so where should we go forward to?

Greater reliance on cars, greater traffic congestion (another tunnel anyone) and greater costs for transport ...

looks like we've painted ourselves into a corner doesn't it

Sunday, 21 November 2010

dads back yard

Dad called me today to say there was a family of Tawny Frogmouths just recently out of the nest in the back yard. So I pulled out my trusty FD 300mm f4 and my G1 and toddled over.

They're commonly thought of as Owls, but they are in fact not. They are related to the Nightjar family.

They are nocturnal, so there isn't much activity by day ..


just keeping still

and keeping an eye on photographers


But this is the "classic" pose for the Tawny.


I must say I'm quite pleased with my existing image making tools. The G1 does well with adapted lenses in this sort of work

People today confuse me ... they want to spend thousands on cameras and lenses which more often not fail to do any better than this. They often fail to see the worth in learning a little about their craft and equipment. These were taken with a lens made in 1970.

G1 with 300mm f4

I just use a monopod to stabilise it and this wonderful optic can get images which are as sharp as you could ask for. This is a 100% sample from the keeping still image above (click it to load the full image).

enough detail to make a very good looking 50cm high print of the little guy

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

utilisation rate

I just read that the Australian is complaining that Migrants are under-utilized in Australia.
Taxi driver Jagdeep Singh, with a BSc and MA from Punjab University, outside his home in Algester, Brisbane, yesterday.

Well bully for him ... there is far less discussion on how many native born Australians are in the same situation.

I can speak from personal experience that I am not working in the area I spent years of hard work training to be in.

Personally I'm very happy to have a job and income.

Perhaps the real issue is to understand why we have so many migrants here (presumably encouraged here under skilled migration under John Howard) while at the same time having housing shortages due to high population growth (fueled by migration) and under-employment of Skilled Australians.

as the old slogan used to say "Wake Up Australia"

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Aussie culture - what is it?

We often too and fro about this issue, what is Australian culture. While its hard to put down in a bullet point list I would say the beach and the surf would be part of it.

This weekend gone a member of a group of 4 died here on the coast going swimming in the evening. I also heard on the radio that increasingly children are not learning to swim. This is a tragedy, especially so when you consider how easy it is to teach kids to swim.

The latest figures (according to a report by the Royal Life Saving) is that 56% of drownings were children.

One of my earliest memories in my life was learning to swim, which we did at Kindy. Naturally (living in Southport) my family got into Nippers.

Nippers are a great way to get kids into fun safety and sporting events all at the same time.

The above scene is a typical nippers day morning on the beach, with a beach race about to start.

Beaches, family, kids and fun ... surely this is part of Australian culture.

It seems unreal to me that people who would be drawn to the beach would not have the basics of safety such as being able to swim even 50 meters.

Australia has had a vast influx of migrants from locations of the world who do not have a beach culture. It is no surprise that these people are not engaging in things in the same way. Perhaps have come from an urbanized area or a place with no swimming.

But what ever your past has been if you like the beach, and you value your kids ... please teach them to swim.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

why the US Dollar

Anyone with a passing interest in finance (seems to be more people today) will notice (perhaps) that we always use the US Dollar in comparisons.

It would seem to be the basis of all comparisons. There is some historical reason for this, but in a nustshell it essentially boils down to the USA being the last big boy standing after the all out brawls of WW1 and WW2 were over.

The USA could step in and say we hold the cards. Its a simplification but more or less supported by a number of views. Have a quick look at the history of the Bretton Woods Agreement at Wikipedia here, but a quick potted history from wikipedia is:

Preparing to rebuild the international economic system as World War II was still raging, 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, for the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. The delegates deliberated upon and signed the Bretton Woods Agreements during the first three weeks of July 1944.

Setting up a system of rules, institutions, and procedures to regulate the international monetary system, the planners at Bretton Woods established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which today is part of the World Bank Group. These organizations became operational in 1945 after a sufficient number of countries had ratified the agreement.
Well anyway ... it was all going well for them till the USA itself (embroiled in a costly campaign in Vietnam) pulled out the main pin with the Nixon Shock of removing Gold from being the governing commodity for the US currency.

So apart from habits (and they really do die hard) there is really little to tie us to use the USD as a currency comparator.

Back when I first went to the USA the price of the US dollar was actually less than the Australian dollar. For one reason or another the Aussie was floated by Paul Keating in 1983 and we have been gradually working out it worth since then.

For the last number of years however the USD has been falling against with AUD, the US Sub-prime crisis seems to have shown a significant fall in the USD (seen as the spike below)

... that more or less has settled out and we're back to the regular fall in value we've seen over the last 5 or so years.

The EURO on the other hand has been more resilient to the USD issues. Tere have been some fluctuations up and down as the exposure to high US Dollar exposure was worked out (as well as some internal crises such as Greece).

Over all however the US Dollar has fallen from 85 EURO cents in the end of 2005 to be about 72c now. Representing a long term failure.
So when comparing the Australian Dollar to the EURO we see a more steady and even happening. The value has moved up from being worth 60 cents in 2005 to about 71cents.

To some extent I have felt that in the period from 2002 to 2008 the Aussie was undervalued. The market had not see the or understood commodity boom with China and the confusion of the sub prime crash in and around 2008 led to international uncertainty, but now we seem to be steadily moving away from these problems and being seen as we are (for what we are worth).

Good as Gold?

The use of Gold as a standard to determine currency has a long history, in fact its more illuminating when and why we have moved away from it. For example from this article we see the following points:
Governments faced with high levels of expenditure, but with limited sources of tax revenue, suspended convertibility of currency into gold on a number of occasions in the 19th century.

the US government did so during the US Civil War

As in previous major wars under the gold standard, the British government suspended the convertibility of Bank of England notes to gold in 1914 to fund military operations during World War I

When you look at the increase in value of Gold against the US Dollar it looks like its gone bezerk. The interesting thing however is when you compare it .

In the graph below (sourced from http://www.goldprice.org) I have altered the scales on the EURO by scaling the height of the graph. Both started from being worth about the same (4oo currency units)...

while the US has risen to being around 1500 currency units (dollars) the Euro is only fetching 1100.

So the moral of this post is that if you're wondering about how well you're doing, don't compare yourself to the US Dollar anymore. Because its falling, if you're on parity then you're falling too.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

we used to do it

but now we don't ...
The Japanese were encouraged to broaden into it by the Americans after WW2.


It was only in 1962 that we closed the whaling at Tangalooma.

Which may seem like a long time ago to kiddies, but to people over 40 its within their lifetime.

Placed on the other side of Moreton Island its often only thought of by the local people as a resort, but it of course has a history which few know and fewer seem to consider today.

I am not wishing to defend whaling at all in the modern world. It is in my opinion an anachronism, something we once did but which has little or no relevance to us anymore.

There is no place for blame, it is pointless to say negative things about what we did in the past. But the future is a different thing. I don't wish to force anyone to give up their traditional practices, but the modern approach to whaling has little resemblance to that.

The picture below was taken at Tangalooma in about 1960, it shows two whales Humpback whales tied up at the bow of whale chaser. You can see on the deck the canon which fires the explosive tipped harpoon as well as a little rigging.

Today whaling is almost the iconic representation of over fishing, unsustainable practice and humans not being willing to change as our world changes (or as we create a new world).

Personally I would like to see the practice halted as it really provides little which can not be substituted with other items. We no longer need it for food and whale sourced oils are perhaps fully replaced by synthetics.

I think that its time to change ...

the Indigenous Gap

Various people in are often going on about the "gap" between Indigenous Australia and the rest of Australia, the latest referendum by the Government is intended to bring this recognition to the constitution.

As a non-indigenous but (depending on the branch you follow) 5th generation Australian I would ask if this "gap" is not in some ways of the Indigenous Communitys own making.

While there is totally no doubt in my mind that through history various Colonial and Post Federation (but still perhaps Colonial in thinking) governments have done much wrong (such as unpaid wages) to the Indigenous Community, it should be pointed out that the rest of the country gets its fair share of being ripped off too.

To me the main source of "gap" seems to be leveled at indicators such as health (mental and physical) and life expectancy. There is little doubt that these indicators do indeed show a large difference between the people who call themselves Aboriginal and those who do not.

As I see it, this would seem to be something which is exactly created by the life choices that Aboriginal people make. The places they choose to live in and the lifestyles they choose to lead.

A case in point was the recent rampaging community that spilled out of Yuendumu over into South Australia. The violence was about payback for killings, something which is variously illegal, condemned and the source of all the strife in the middle east.

It seems that the first death (which started the bloody vengance) was sparked by claims that a fella who died of cancer was in fact killed by another "witch doctor" who cast a spell on him.

yeah, right. Pull the other one, that plays Jingle bells.

At present anyone who applies for a job in Government (local, State or Federal) will know that there is actually positive discrimination towards Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders built into the application process. In other words the system actually stacks against non-indigenous people.

Even Noel Pearson has made statements that recognize the comprehensive failure of the Indigenous community to even properly raise and care for their own.

I would argue that if Aboriginal People joined the modern world, and lived as the rest of us do that this gap would disappear.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone in the community who can clearly make a case to me that there remains any significant gap which is not in the favor of Indigenous peoples that is not contributed to by them.

Time moves on ... I know its hard to change values, and there are certainly many existing values within mainstream society in Australia which need changing. However as I see it we stand to gain more as a society by coming together and working towards a future together than by working on perpetuation of division. I can not see anything in "Indigenous Recognition" which does anything other than perpetuate that division.

Can you?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

after years of struggle

Since the crew of the Bounty were resettled to Norfolk Island it has been largely an independent territory, but things are changing. Recent issues of over spending and acquiring a debt greater than it can manage have pushed the Norfolk Island governing body into accepting a greater amount of Australian Commonwealth control.

It may seem insignificant, but Australia should look carefully at this "take over" and consider what lessons can be learnt with respect to our own overseas debt, sell offs to international stake holders, international ownership of many (if not most) of our food production (and lets not forget the wine stan).

What if we suddenly can't service our debt?

More bases to the USA?

Mines sold to China?

were will we get our income then? Tourism?

Great! Australia, the dumb blond of the world turns to selling herself to customers. Say isn't that close to a definition of prostitution?

Friday, 5 November 2010

water woes

How long have we been debating the Murray Darling area and its water troubles? The area and its issues are not simply symbolic of the problems of the entire country they truly reflect well most of the issues.

I would guess that only overseas readers are unaware of the issues here and that they have gone on for decades. The calls from environmental interests in this issue have gone from prediction of problems, identification of problems, identification of impending crisis to finally crisis.

Its only the once in 30 or so years massive La NiƱa swing which has saved the day (but only for this or next year).

Today I see that people are starting to identify that the Government being involvement is going to hinder solution to this problem.

Folks even printed out on the lightest weight paper, there is a ton of material on this issue and almost all of it is in agreement:
  • water is being over used
  • the environment is being massively degraded
  • there are threats from sulfate soils being exposed to air
  • a few high water crop growers are consuming the majority of the water
  • the highest use water users are unwilling to pay more for their water
Center to this issue is the fundamental issue that the various State Government Water and Irrigation acts are to blame as well as the Tokenistic historically Colonial governments.

I fully appreciate the local people being up in arms about the "solution" to the issues, but as they say:
  • there has been little or no consultation with the community
  • the responce is simply that of an unfeeling bureaucratic machine.
Like the article mentions:

The result will be a monolith incapable of timely and opportunistic response to changing localised weather conditions.

It will be staffed by federal bureaucrats trying to co-ordinate with state officials with the operational responsibilities, all reporting to politicians eager to secure short-term political mileage that does not necessarily correspond to long-term environmental improvement.

The environmental bang for the taxpayer buck is likely to be significantly muffled by the bureaucratic padding provided by the CEWH.

In reality this problem can only be solved by us ... we need to start to understand the problem at a public level and then tell our politicians what to do.

If we don't do this, then they will simply rule us. But unlike a benevolent Dictator or Monarch this is not a person, but a machine.

Currently that machine is mainly being used by the inept and incompetent to make money for themselves. Don't think so? Well just look at the level of "debate" happening in any area of politics (especially Federal) right now.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

perception isn't reality (again)

Its interesting to find that while the demographic which reads the Herald Sun feels that its family growth driving population:
One in three Australians believe families should be limited to having no more than two children, according to a poll on population growth.

The poll from the Australian National University showed a third of the population favoured a two child limit, while half said families should not have more than three children.

Most Australians believe the country should remain at its current or lower population levels, though 83 percent believe more skilled migrants should be allowed in, the Herald Sun reported.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (reported by the ABC) suggest that the reality is that its migration.

Looking at data from this page we can find a table showing migration and other forms of population growth. I'll edit this down to show the difference between 1990 and 2009

Looking at this table you can see that Net Overseas Migration has gone from 49% of our population growth to 65% of our population growth.

Now ... my question is "why do we have such an enormous amount of migration growth even back in 1989?"

"skill shortage" would only cut mustard for me if we had zero unemployment.

and calls for smaller familys .. p-llease!