Posts filed under 'Bizarreness'

Civilian airspace near major airport shutdown for secret reason, and yet people only care about the noise from flight diversions

Sometimes I wonder and worry about how little curiosity people seem to have, and how accepting they are of statements from authorities which say absolutely nothing. What is happening to the west of Los Angeles International Airport right now is a perfect example.

The airspace to the west of LAX, over the ocean, is being shut down at night for some secret military operation. Normally, to limit night over residential areas, flights at night use this airspace, but those night flights are now being diverted over populated areas, so it is understandable that residents are a bit upset about the extra noise but it seems peculiar that the airport and not the military are being made the scapegoat for this anger by being thrust in front of the media to explain the situation while the military keep right out of the public eye.

We clearly understand that neighbors and communities east of the airport will experience noise and we apologize for that,” said Nancy Castles, LAX public relations director.

The military is not saying what exactly is causing the change, and LAX claims it’s also in the dark. Castles said all they know is planes can’t be flying at low altitudes to our west.

(h/t Jory Rand, ABC7 Los Angeles)

Having watched the video of the ABC7 report, I think the airport people know more than they are saying and are probably restricted from saying any more, but that’s a little beside the point. What really intrigues me is how little the residents interviewed by ABC7 seem to care that there is something weird happening a short distance from their homes.

One resident interviewed by ABC7 (seen in the video but not quoted in their article) seemed to be annoyed by the extra noise but not concerned at all about the cause, while another came up with this pearler of a statement which I think is sadly indicative of the attitudes of many when it comes to things done by authorities behind a cloak of secrecy or at least minimal disclosure.

“And plus if it’s a military thing it’s a good thing, that means they’re making it safer for us so I wouldn’t let it bother me,” said Steve Devosion of Inglewood. “I’d be more interested in them not doing something about what’s going on than them doing something about what’s going on.”

Putting aside the fact that the statement is at least partially indecipherable gibberish, it seems to me that Mr. Devosion is saying that if the military or the government is doing something, it must be for the best. What exactly he imagines is going on is beyond me, but his gibberish sentence seems to indicate that he has something other than a practice in mind.

And that is exactly why I don’t understand why people are not more curious about it. If it’s not a practice drill, then what exactly is happening just off the coast that can only be dealt with at night and needs to be kept from prying eyes, and what risk does it potentially pose? Or for that matter what future risk could it be preparing for? And if it is just a practice, why does it need to be in that spot when there are better, more covert, watered areas which could be used and not cause inconvenience to civilians?

Of course I acknowledge that there are some things which should be kept secret, and this could be one of them, but even things which should be kept secret should also be met with some scepticism and inquisitiveness by the public, and yet this seems to be blindly accepted by most of the people who are the most affected by it.

It is just another example of people not applying any critical thought or analysis to a statement by something which has an authoritative status. It seems that this type of blind faith in government and pseudo-government entities (but not the political masters of these entities) is growing in our society, and I must say I am more than a bit concerned that people who refuse to think critically are becoming the majority and are reaching a point where they will vote us all in to some sort of government enslavement (a thing which comes in many forms including the “nanny state”, growing socialist policies and programs, and burdensome extra taxation to fund it all) without ever giving any thought to the consequences because they believed the promise that it was all or their safety or protection.

While I’m on the subject of the unusual things people will accept and the odd things happening near Los Angeles International Airport, have a look at this view over Los Angeles which ABC7 included in their report but didn’t bother to explain.

Odd light formation over Los Angeles, ABC7 News, November 6 2015
Image credit: ABC7 News, Friday November 6, 2015. Click the image for a larger version.

What in the heck is that light formation? Sadly, I dare say most people aren’t interested in finding out.


2 comments November 9th, 2015 at 03:14am

I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often

I saw it a lot when I was in the US last year, especially in the colder northern states where Winter had no intention of letting up, and I did wonder how many cars are stolen because of it. My initial thought was the risk of being shot while stealing a car probably deters most casual opportunistic joyriders, but for some that risk might seem better than the risk of freezing in the elements.

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Car thefts have risen drastically since the first of January in Blue Springs.
“Within the last six days, there have been eight car thefts, five of them between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning,” [Jennifer Dachenhausen, Public Information Officer and Crime Analyst for the Blue Springs Police Department] says. “These cars were all left unattended to warm up, before people headed to work.”

(emphasis added)
(h/t KMBZ Radio, Kansas City)

As I did a bit of driving at night in the cold and snowy bits of the US last year, I probably saw more than my fair share of unattended cars which had been left running. The time which struck me as being most peculiar was seeing about a dozen cars in the carpark of a 24/7 Walmart, with about eight or nine of them running unattended, at about 9pm, in the small town of Fort Dodge, Iowa. It was snowing and there appeared to be more running cars in the carpark than customers in the store, which led me to believe some of the running cars belonged to staff. The carpark was also almost devoid of people and I really doubt that anybody would have noticed if somebody had just hopped in to someone else’s car and driven off.

The article has another peculiar line which caught my attention when I heard it mentioned on KMBZ earlier today.

Since the thefts, two of the cars have been located at two different hotels in the Blue Springs area.

Could it be that tourists without their own transport, not wanting to wait in sub-freezing windy and snowy weather for a taxi, opted for a convenient but illegal method of transportation? Given how cold it gets there, I can understand if they did…not that I would endorse it, but I do understand the motivation.

Submitting insurance claims on those thefts must be a very interesting and difficult experience.


2 comments January 7th, 2015 at 05:56pm

If you’re donating to Heritage Foundation with a non-US credit card, do it by phone or PayPal, not on their website

The Heritage Foundation, like most US organisations which can accept tax-deductible donations, is in the last stages of their end-of-year appeal. This is an important time of year for such US organisations as it is the end of the tax year for donation purposes, just like in Australia at the end of June when our tax year ends. Of course, being an Australian, I’m not eligible for any tax rebate for donating to a US organisation.

Like most organisations, Heritage is flooding supporters with email requests for donations, and including a link to the donation form on their website. Unfortunately this form has a bug which causes it to not handle transactions involving non-US credit cards properly. The transaction will succeed, but the page will claim it was declined and advise you to check the address you entered. It wasn’t until the third attempt that I worked this out…so yes, silly me did just give them triple the donation I meant to give.

The good news is that Heritage believe they can reverse the unintended payments…but not until Monday morning their time when some of their senior staff are back on deck, and by then I figure it will cost them extra in fees because my bank will have finished processing the payments, so I won’t bother and instead will just not donate to them for a while. I will call them back on Monday to make sure their senior staff are aware of the issue though.

So, if you’re using a non-US credit card and want to donate to The Heritage Foundation, their website buries a contact number ((800) 546-2843) and a link to a PayPal page (to which I won’t link…if you want to use it, go via the above link to the Heritage website rather than trusting a direct link to PayPal from my site) half way down an FAQ page. If only I’d seen that earlier.

Meanwhile I was also going to donate to Hillsdale College’s end-of-year campaign, but their website doesn’t accept non-US postal addresses (due to the same problems which Heritage have, perhaps?) and they have to be called by phone. Unfortunately they went home before 5PM eastern time, so that will have to wait until next week.

I did, however, donate to the Institute Of Public Affairs‘ end-of-year campaign (although why they have one at the end of the year, apart from it being a nice date, escapes me).

It is nice to start 2015 on a conservative note by supporting these organisations, even if it is requiring more effort than I was expecting.


2 comments January 1st, 2015 at 08:46am

The most secure road in Canberra

Northbourne Avenue, for a brief moment this afternoon, may have been the most secure road in Canberra…

8 Wilson Security cars in a row

Eight Wilson Security cars in high-vis livery. Quite a sight.


October 22nd, 2014 at 05:20pm

911, help! There’s a lady stuck…in a jacket!

An email sent to 2UE’s George and Paul shortly before I left Petaluma, and scheduled to appear here at the start of their show (9am Canberra time, 2pm California time).

Good morning George & Paul.

I realise that you’re not on-air for another four hours or so, but I’m about to embark on an approximately nine-hour drive from Petaluma (a tad north of San Francisco) to Las Vegas and thus might not have a moment to send this to you, although I will listen online, mobile reception pending.

I thought you might like this story which I heard on US radio this morning from the Portland, Oregon area about a truly bizarre 911 call.


Man calls 911 after wife’s zipper gets stuck
BEAVERTON — Each week, Washington County posts bad examples of 911 calls in its “You called 911 for that?” campaign.
The campaign is designed to draw attention to the dangers of non-emergency calls that tie up 911 lines. This week’s call really lives up to the hype.
OPERATOR: 911, Police Fire and Medical.
CALLER: Yeah we got a problem here. My wife is struggling in her jacket and can’t get it off. I want 911 here immediately.
OPERATOR: Is she not breathing?
CALLER: She’s alright, she just can’t get her [expletive] jacket off.
Just in case you were wondering, the fire department responded, rescued the woman and saved the jacket.

KGW Newschannel 8 also have the audio of the 911 call on their website at the above address if you want a bit of a laugh.

Anyhoo, have a great weekend…this country will get to the weekend eventually but for now I’ll enjoy a long Friday road trip.

Temporarily not of Canberra

February 15th, 2014 at 09:05am

The unelected government would like you to spend more time cleaning

I nearly fell off my chair the other night when I heard a radio PSA from the US Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (the massive bureaucratic nightmare that it is) which spent 30 seconds advising listeners that vacuuming the floor of your house is a good idea. Good heavens Uncle Sam’s overbearing cousin…really? I would never have guessed.

But then, when I thought it couldn’t get stranger, Jim Ball brought my attention to this bizarre idea from the gigantic unelected government known as the bureaucrats who seem to wield most of the power in the European Union. They’ve decided to take decisive action on that most pressing issue: overpowered vacuum cleaners.

Under European Commission ‘eco’ rules that will come into force next September, the power of new vacuum cleaners must not exceed 1,600 watts.

That figure will be lowered further to 900 watts by 2017. Current cleaners boast an average of 1,800 watts.
The move angered manufacturers, who say it will do nothing to make cleaners more environmentally friendly and will simply reduce efficiency in the home.
Critics say cleaners satisfying the new rule may use less power, but householders will have to use them for longer so they are likely to use the same amount of electricity in the long run.

(h/t Lucy Osborne, Daily Mail)

So people will either spend double the amount of time cleaning, reducing productivity, or they’ll live in dirtier homes. Maybe the EU will be able to put together a European version of the EPA’s radio spot…at least people will have something to listen to while they spend those extra hours cleaning then.


January 31st, 2014 at 06:35am

The press release time warp

Today’s Fairfax Radio News national 12pm eastern bulletin had an interesting story about how dogs can help people to de-stress at the end of a busy day. It featured a vet by the name of Dr. David Neck who was talking about how going to the park with your dog can be fun for both you and the dog.

No problems so far, and I have to admit that it wasn’t the content of the story which caught my attention as, seeing as I have dogs, the fact that it can be fun to play with dogs is not news to me. What caught my attention was the name of the vet. Dr. Neck? Really? For some reason there seem to be a lot of medical professionals with body parts in their name. Dr. Andrew Foote (not spelled “foot”, but it’s pronounced “foot”) is a prominent doctor here in Canberra who pops up in the media regularly, and there are others in various news reports around the world. This always seems to catch my attention for some reason and I wanted to check if I had misheard it.

It seems that I heard correctly. Dr. David Neck is a vet in Cottesloe in Western Australia. With that out of the way, I went in search of the story which I had heard in the news…but I couldn’t find it from a Google News search. That’s not uncommon, especially for press releases which are released to the media on a weekend when fewer staff are on-hand in most places and insignificant press releases are more likely to be ignored.

A general search for the story did lead me to something rather odd. It seems to have disappeared from the website recently, but Google cached the website of the Australian Veterinary Association on the 8th of July, which is just short of three weeks ago. At that time, the website carried a press release dated Wednesday, 25 July 2012 which is very familiar.

Media release

Furry friends help humans to de-stress

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

With Lifeline’s Stress Down Day coming up on 27 July, the Australian Veterinarian Association (AVA) is reminding people how important pets are in keeping us healthy and happy.

“Research shows that people who own pets are healthier and happier as they provide a sense of well-being and allow people to feel a part of their community said Dr David Neck, President of the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association, a special interest group of the AVA.

“Those who live in cities and have stressful jobs can really benefit from having a four legged friend to come home to.

“A pet staring up at you when you come home asking for that pat of recognition can help to put everything in perspective.

“I get a real kick out of being greeted by my dog Fonti at the end of a hard day.

“Her affection is boundless. She offers love, companionship and a non-judgemental ear, all for a bit of food and attention.”

For many people one of the best ways to de-stress is through regular moderate exercise, which is exactly the sort of exercise you get interacting with your devoted companion.

“Walking your pet in your neighbourhood gives you a strong appreciation of your environment and gets you out talking to others who are doing the same thing.”

Dr Neck said that like humans, animals need to interact and communicate in order to remain healthy.

“This becomes a win win. Pets need regular exercise, socialisation, a healthy diet and love and attention and they’ll give back four-fold.

“It’s important to ensure you can provide all of these things before getting a pet and choose the right pet to suit your lifestyle.”

It continues after this with various links to websites of the Australian Veterinary Association, and phone numbers for media enquiries…but doesn’t that sound very much like the story which I heard on the radio this afternoon? It is effectively the same story. Dogs are nice. Exercise is beneficial for humans and dogs. Exercising with your dog will help you to de-stress. Dr. Neck has plenty of quotes. It’s the same story!

So, my question is, was the press release re-issued this year? Or did Fairfax Radio News recycle it with a grab of Dr. Neck from last year. I find the latter scenario highly unlikely, but then I also can’t see why roughly the same press release would be issued almost exactly a year after the original press release.

It has been a bit of an odd few days for news reports of insignificant things. Among other things:

The list goes on, but I can only take so many pointless studies at a time before I start to yearn for my tax dollars to be spent on more useful things…and besides which, if we give it a year, a whole new set of studies will tell us the opposite of these studies, and tell us the same things as these studies. I wonder if we will also hear about the benefits of going for a run with the dog in a year from now?


2 comments July 27th, 2013 at 01:15pm

What would the FBI computer say?

I’m in the middle of planning a trip (OK, closer to the start than the middle) to the US at the moment, and it occurs to me that my profile, plus my writings from earlier today, could just mean that a computer somewhere in the FBI or the CIA wants an agent to dig a little deeper.

From the perspective of a computer which has been programmed to look out for key words and phrases, this extract from my blog post about the postal system earlier today might seem a tad suspicious.

I would [..] embed some [..] devices in items I post

Yes, the statement was about tracking devices, and one would hope that an FBI agent would see that and dismiss the computer’s concerns, but I still think the computer would be worried about talk of posting devices and embedding things. The blog post also mentioned ricin, a poisonous substance which was mailed to the US President and a senator today, and so chatter about it would probably be high on the priority list for intelligence-gathering computers.

If I was putting together an automated system which looks out for suspicious activity of the terrorist kind, and was mainly basing it on key words and phrases, I would probably set it up so that after identifying something as potentially suspicious, it would then take another look over it for other, less immediately obvious, suspicious phrases which might indicate a plot or some sort of code. Looking back over that blog post, I listed my postal address in an unusual format:

a post office box at the Dickson post office (1272

And talked about the inside of government buildings:

They finally found it somewhere in the PO


parcels which are [..] stored in the post office’s back rooms


wandering back out to the back rooms

A drug inference could even be drawn from

Nattie did give the letter a good sniff

or possibly an explosives inference if the computer works out that Nattie is a dog.

Further examination of my blog brings up photos of phone towers, electricity substations, and a map of a powerline which feeds a government building.

Yes, an FBI computer would have good reason to think I’m suspicious. And a profiler might be concerned when they learn that my trip to the US is so that I can visit people, most of whom are conservatives (Terrorism center at West Point warns against danger of American limited-government activists and ‘far right’ – The Blaze, January 18), many are Christian, of which some are Catholic (Army training manual labeled Evangelicals and Catholics as religious extremists – Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio, April 5), and I intend on visiting many places in rapid succession, including some important building in Washington D.C. I have also made my disdain for President Obama clear on many occasions (although I think I’ve made it clear, and if I haven’t then I will now, that I do not want him to come to any harm…instead I wanted him to be voted out, and now want him to finish his term and be remembered for being a President with policies which ultimately failed and sparked a need for a serious return to conservative governing principles).

Obviously, this doesn’t add up to anything suspicious, but I can see how, at a time when security services are on edge, the combination of my profile and writings could be enough to make a computer suspicious, and perhaps make security services want to take a closer look at me. Dare I say it, I won’t be surprised if I get pulled aside at Customs in the US next year for a little chat…in fact, I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

All of this reminds me of a story from the start of this year about the FBI scanning emails for certain words and phrases which apparently are common in messages about fraudulent activity. The words and phrases were “gray area”, “coverup”, “nobody will find out”, “do not volunteer information”, “write‑off”, “failed investment”, “off the books”, “they owe it to me”, “not ethical”, and “illegal”.

Glenn Beck had some fun with this on his radio show and jokingly suggested that they (Glenn or one of his co-hosts) should send an email containing all of those words just to confuse an FBI computer. Sure enough, co-host Pat Gray sent the message, and went to some lengths to make some of the phrases fit.

Dear Ahmed,
I’m sitting here gazing up at a cloudy grey area of the sky wondering how to cover up this blemish that I have on my nose. As a dermatologist, I thought you might have an idea of what I could use so nobody will find out that I’ve broken out again like a teenager. If you do not volunteer the information, I’ll probably have to see a specialist.

Up until yesterday, I’ve been using Clearasil on it but I realized that I can write off that failed investment of $4.99 because it didn’t work.

I wasn’t able to use the cream you prescribed for me last week because I put the jar on top of some books at my parents’ house and wouldn’t you know it, I bumped into the table that those books were sitting on and a jar fell off the books and onto the floor and broke.

My parents said that since I loaned them $20 last month, they would be happy to pay for a new prescription because they owe it to me. But I told them I wasn’t sure if it was not ethical to provide the medication again so soon.

Anyway, if you can call me on that, please call in the Walgreens at Fourth and Main as I have found that to get the one on 29th and Main, you have to make an illegal U‑turn at the light, and I don’t want to do that.

Thanks again. Whatever you can do, Dr. Ahmed.

I found it much more amusing when I heard it go to air. The video of it is embedded in the page of the above link, but it’s not working for me. Thankfully I have my own recording of it.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Audio credit: Glenn Beck, Mercury Radio Arts, Premiere Radio Network)


April 18th, 2013 at 01:38pm

The mysteries of the postal system

If there is one thing that intrigues me and fills me with an obsession to “check in on the current status”, it is the postal system, or to be more precise, figuring out how things get from point A to point B within the postal system. Consequently, I like using the tracking services of the various postal agencies, and have discovered some interesting quirks.

One thing which has me bewildered is the inconsistency in tracking between Australia Post and the United States Postal Service. An Australia post representative told me once, when I asked about their tracking service, that it is not meant for real-time tracking, and that not every scan of an item is registered in the tracking system (a “scan” being when the barcode of an item is scanned as it passes through a sorting facility, or is given to a delivery driver, or enters a post office, for example). This is very strange seeing as Australia Post charge more for most of their tracking services, and leads me to the question, is it really a tracking service if it can’t be used for real-time tracking?

An interesting difference can be spotted if you send something from Australia to the United States. Depending on the service you buy from Australia Post, tracking of the item will vary from non-existent to comprehensive up until it leaves Australia, at which point it enters the “not every scan is entered in to the system” phase. Oddly though, any item with a barcode will be tracked in detail by USPS right from the moment it enters the postal system at the Australian end.

Clearly the USPS system is automated and takes pretty much every detail in their system and makes it available for public tracking, whereas Australia Post’s system either requires manual entry, is overly-selective about which details are made publicly available, or a combination of both.

The whole system is very strange, but one thing experience has taught me is that there is no point in paying extra for tracking of items being sent to the US, as USPS will happily provide all of the tracking data free of charge via their website and mobile app.

Of course, one of the reasons I like tracking services is a life-long curiosity about how items travel through the postal system. We’ve all heard letters about the “dead letter office” and items being delivered fifty years late, and I’ve always been curious about how things get through the system. I recall once when Nattie was a much younger dog, I sent her a letter from the post box across the road so that it would travel through the postal system and hopefully pick up the scents of various parts of Canberra, and she would get to smell them on the letter when it arrived. It seemed to work as Nattie did give the letter a good sniff when it arrived.

In the last week, I have seen some very interesting and odd detours taken by items which I have sent to people.

A parcel which I sent to Sydney got lost for about a week after the recipient had been advised it was available for pickup from the local post office. The recipient described it to me thus:

What had happened was that they left a card in the box saying there was a parcel at the post office and I hadn’t been expecting one. I went and they couldn’t find it. So I returned the next day and they still couldn’t find it and said they would phone the delivery driver.

Went the next morning before the PO opened and got the people who do the sorting and they couldn’t find it. ……. I got it the following Wednesday. They finally found it somewhere in the PO.

I have a post office box at the Dickson post office (1272 if you want to send me something…no ricin though, I can do without a bunch of people in hazmat suits buzzing around me with detectors and hoses) and often receive parcels which are just a bit too big to fit in the box and are instead stored in the post office’s back rooms. When I hand over the parcel notification card at the counter, it often takes a little while for the post office person to return with my parcel. On a few occasions, they have come back to me to ask again for my PO Box number…this usually results in them muttering “that’s what I thought you said…hmmmmm” and wandering back out to the back rooms with a confused and frustrated look on their face. I don’t know what the sorting procedures are like in there, but they seem a tad chaotic. I do have to give credit to the senior staff member who works there now and used to work at the Civic GPO…I don’t know whether he is the boss or not, but things have certainly improved since he arrived.

Another interesting detour was taken by a parcel I sent to New Jersey last week. It arrived this week, but the route was perplexing.

3 April: Posted from Dickson, ACT
8 April: Processed through International Sort Centre, New York NY
11 April: Processed through sort facility, Bethpage NY
12 April: Processed through sort facility, Federal Way WA (it stayed here overnight and left at some time on the 13th)
14 April: Processed through sort facility, Kearny NJ
15 April: Arrival, Monmouth Junction NJ

For the benefit of those of you not familiar with United States state abbreviations and geography, Washington state (WA) is located on the north-western coast, on the other side of the country from New York and New Jersey which are located next to each other on the east coast. Mapping the journey from the time it entered the US really highlights how absurd the trip was.

US leg of the parcel's trip
Google Maps has labelled the various points of the trip A through E, starting at New York NY and ending at Monmouth Junction NJ. As you can see, Federal Way WA is nowhere near any of the other locations. If the parcel had entered via the international sorting centre in Los Angeles, then it might have made sense to go via Washington state, but I can’t see much logic here, especially once I zoom in on the New York/New Jersey area.

New York/New Jersey legs of the parcel's trip
I should not that I have not plotted exact locations for any of the sorting facilities, so the spots on the map may be slightly out, but still, a trip from A to B to D to E without C would make much more sense. I wonder if someone at the Bethpage facility accidentally put the parcel in the wrong pile? Regardless of how it happened, it’s an expensive mistake for the postal service to make, and at a time when USPS is having fairly serious financial problems, it makes me wonder how much of their financial woes are due to inefficiencies like this.

Going back to my original fascination with how things make their way through the postal system, I would love to embed some tracking devices in items I post, and watch where they go. One day I might just do that. It would be fascinating


April 18th, 2013 at 09:04am

Suspending overweight train drivers today; overweight car drivers tomorrow

National guidelines issued late last year by a federal bureaucratic organisation called the National Transport Commission have concluded that being overweight makes you unfit to to a job which requires a lot of sitting down. That sounds silly enough on its own, but the main concern of the National Transport Commission seems not to be that being overweight increases the risk of heart attacks or diabetes (although they are slightly concerned about that, which on the latter point seems pretty silly seeing as the vast majority of diabetics are very good at managing their condition), but rather that being overweight is likely to make someone fall asleep. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up (unless you’re a federal bureaucrat, it seems).

The Daily Telegraph had a story on this today because the New South Wales government has sadly decided to follow along with the bizarre federal guidelines, and plans to suspend overweight train drivers.

Under changes to national rail safety standards, all safety-critical CityRail workers – including drivers – will now have to keep their body mass index (BMI) under 40 or face being declared temporarily unfit for work.
Drivers with a BMI over 40 are now required to undergo a sleep study while workers with a BMI between 35 and 40 and who have other risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, will also have to undergo further testing before being allowed to return to the job.

(h/t Henry Budd, The Daily Telegraph)

The article goes on to state that being overweight is the leading cause of sleep apnoea…not that there’s a direct connection between the two things, just that there’s an increased chance.

It seems like a pretty flimsy reason to suspend someone from a job which they’ve been doing without a problem. In fact, it sounds like discrimination, and I’d love to see how this policy would stack up against anti-discrimination laws.

At this point you might be thinking I’m making mountains out of molehills and that it’s a sensible idea to ensure that train drivers are able to safely drive trains. When I heard the story, I thought a similar thing but for a different reason. I thought “surely there has to be more to this…surely they wouldn’t suspend drivers just because of their weight, surely there would have to be another factor involved before they would suspend someone”, so I had a closer look at the National Transport Commission’s guidelines, and it turns out that they’re even tougher than the Daily Telegraph article makes them sound.

On pages 117 and 118 of the “National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers October 2012” there is an explanation of signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea which, if present, warrant further investigation. That’s fair enough, but then it goes on:

The presence of the following risk factors should also increase the suspicion of sleep apnoea, even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness:
• a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40
• a BMI ≥ 35 and either
− diabetes type 2; or
− high blood pressure requiring 2 or more medications for control.
BMI should therefore be calculated routinely as part of the periodic health assessment for Safety Critical Workers (refer to Figure 22). Sleep apnoea may be present without the above features; however, the standard identifies these risk factors as a basis for further investigation and classification as Fit for Duty Subject to Review (refer to Table 17).

Note the phrase “even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness”…effectively what this is saying is that, even if a person shows absolutely no signs of dozing off while working, if they are overweight, they have to be subjected to an entirely unwarranted sleep apnoea risk assessment and suspended from duty until the risk assessment is carried out. Given that NSW rail systems are run by government-owned corporations, this means that taxpayer dollars have to be spent on:
1) The wages of an unnecessarily suspended train driver and the wages of someone covering their shifts
2) The medical people who are engaged to carry out these assessments (which in this case involves keeping a train driver in a medical facility overnight to watch them sleep)
3) The countless bureaucrats who have to administer this whole scheme

All because a train driver is overweight.

If that’s not bad enough, the guidelines continue by declaring that people who are overweight are just as dangerous as:

• those who experience moderate to severe excessive daytime sleepiness (ESS score of 16–24)
(see below)
• those with a history of frequent self-reported sleepiness while driving or working
• those for whom work performance reports indicate excessive sleepiness
• those who have had a motor vehicle crash or other incident caused by inattention or sleepiness.
Workers with these high-risk features have a significantly increased risk of sleepiness-related incidents.
They should be referred to a sleep disorders specialist to assess if sleep apnoea or another medical condition is causing their excessive daytime sleepiness. These workers should be classed as Temporarily Unfit for Duty until the disorder is investigated, treated effectively and fitness for duty status determined.

I accept that being overweight does make people more likely to have various medical conditions, but I absolutely reject the idea that just because someone is overweight they should be immediately suspected of having all of these conditions until they cane prove that they don’t, or that they should be labelled as being as dangerous as people who actually show some symptoms of a problem.

It bothers me that train drivers are being subjected to this nonsense, and it bothers me that dozens of government bureaucrats who comes up with, and will have to enforce, these silly guidelines.

But what bothers me the most is the next logical step. If train drivers, who drive vehicles which can only travel on very narrow passageways called train tracks and are therefore at a relatively low-risk of maiming or killing members of the general public when compared to other forms of transport which can go virtually anywhere, are subject to these guidelines, how long will it be before these guidelines are expanded to cover drivers of other vehicles, such as cars, which are certainly much more likely to be involved in a serious collision if the driver suffers some sort of medical problem while driving?

First they came for the train drivers…I might not be a train driver, but I won’t stay silent as this is an illogical decision, and it’s very likely that it will have consequences for the rest of the population if people don’t make a noise about it. I shudder to think of the economic impacts if road authorities decide to take overweight drivers off the road until they can prove that they don’t have a medical problem.

This, in my view, is one situation where the presumption of innocence until guilt can be proven is being subverted, and the ramifications could be a serious and unwarranted reduction in freedom and liberty for everyone, not just train drivers.


February 13th, 2013 at 09:18am

What could the National Broadband Network possibly have to do with multiculturalism?

For one reason or another, the National Broadband Network Company has a stall at Canberra’s Multicultural Festival.

What, I ask you, could NBN Co possibly have to do with multicultural issues? Certainly nothing which justifies the expense of taxpayer funds.


How very bizarre.

Update: Quick footnote. There’s a police recruitment stand at the multicultural festival too. I think that is equally out of place and inappropriate. End Update


2 comments February 9th, 2013 at 10:32am

ACT Labor are so out of touch, they can’t even identify Gungahlin

These pamphlets were dropped in letter boxes all over Braddon today.

Pamphlet in a letterbox on Donaldson St, Braddon

The only problem is that these start with “Dear Gungahlin Residents” and Braddon is nowhere near Gungahlin.

Braddon is a suburb of the inner-north, whereas Gungahlin as a suburb and as a town centre is much further north. Here, from my phone, is a quick map of the distance between the two, with the gap south and east of Mitchell being the approximate dividing line between the two town centres.


It’s rather concerning, but not surprising, that Canberra’s out-of-touch Labor government can’t even figure out where bits of Canberra are any more.

Update 5:42pm: ACT Labor have been in touch on Twitter to advise that they’re investigating what went wrong:
Hi @Samuel_SGS Some newsletters have been incorrectly delivered. Talking now with paid delivers trying to find out how this error occurred.

Hi @Samuel_SGS Some newsletters have been incorrectly delivered. Talking now with paid delivers trying to find out how this error occurred.

That will be an interesting discussion, I’m sure. If I was them, I’d be demanding a refund and/or free delivery of the correct material. They might also want to check the deliveries in Reid, as I have since discovered that Reid has received the same “Dear Gungahlin Residents” material.

End Update


October 3rd, 2012 at 04:52pm

Nice Korea and Naughty Korea

Apparently in the last few days the freebie News Limited newspaper in the capital cities, MX, decided to rename the Koreas, calling North Korea “Naughty Korea” and South Korea “Nice Korea”. This angered the North Koreans which made noises about MX’s actions being against the spirit of the Olympics (because, as we all know, North Korea are the world authority on all of the peaceful sentiments of the Olympics) which in turn caused MX to run a paper with the headline “North Korea launches missive (yes, missive)”. That missive is one of the more amusing official statements I have ever read.

The Australian newspaper Brisbane Metro behaved so sordid as to describe the DPRK as “Naughty Korea” when carrying the news of London Olympics standings.

This is a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicizing sports.

Media are obliged to lead the public in today’s highly-civilized world where mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level. Brisbane Metro deserves criticism for what it has done.

The paper behaved so foolish as to use the London Olympics that has caught the world interest for degrading itself.

The paper hardly known in the world must have thought of making its existence known to the world by joining other media in reporting the Olympic news.

Then it should have presented its right appearance to the world.

Editors of the paper were so incompetent as to tarnish the reputation of the paper by themselves by producing the article like that.

There is a saying “A straw may show which way the wind blows”. A single article may exhibit the level of the paper.

Many people were unanimous in denouncing the small paper for defaming the mental and moral aspects of the players of the DPRK who earned recognition from several appreciative world famous media.

Even hostile forces toward the DPRK heaped praises on its players’ successful performance at the London Olympics, saying that “Korea whirlwind” sweeps the world.

The Australian paper cooked up the way of moneymaking, challenging the authority of the dignified sovereign state. The paper deserves a trifle sum of dirty money.

As already known, it was reported that a lot of petty thieves sneaked into the London Olympics together with tourists. Players fight to the finish in the stadium, but those petty thieves demonstrate their “skills” outside the stadium.

The paper Brisbane Metro is little different from those petty thieves. In a word, the paper discredited itself. How pitiful it is.

The Brisbane Metro will remain as a symbol of rogue paper for its misdeed to be cursed long in Olympic history. The infamy is the self-product of the naughty paper Brisbane Metro which dared challenge the spirit of Olympic, common desire and unanimous will of mankind.

(h/t News Limited)

MX were having a bit of fun…probably not as much fun as I have been having while reading the peculiar missive from North Korea. MX’s altered medal tally may have been in bad taste, although I personally think it was quite amusing. In fact, I think the names should stick. From now on, I intend on adopting MX’s names for the Koreas, referring to the North and South as “Naughty” and “Nice” respectively.

Now, let’s see if I get a personal message from Pyongyang describing me as “most sordid” and “cursed long in Olympic history”.


1 comment August 8th, 2012 at 10:00pm

The government underwear inspector…has it really come to this?

Perhaps I’m just shocked by this because it’s coming from a government which I generally think are doing a good job, and so an occasional disagreement has more of an impact than an ongoing series of disagreements (when was the last time I launched a tirade against the ACT Government…I’m just so used to disagreeing with them that it hardly seems worth the effort to spend multiple hours per week reinforcing the fact), but this one really gave me a shock this morning.

The New South Wales Government has proposed the banning of a number of things on people’s own apartment balconies including smoking and, wait for it, drying underwear! Apart from the obvious fire hazard of forcing both activities indoors, and the potential of having smoke waft through air conditioning between apartments if people smoke indoors, I can’t help but worry about the seemingly unnecessary intrusion in to the goings-ons in private property by the state. What worries me even more is that people are seemingly willing to cede authority over what happens in private dwellings to the state, rather than dealing with it themselves or through existing means.

SMOKERS could be banned from lighting up on their own balconies under proposed changes to NSW strata laws.

Thousands of submissions were made in the first public consultations on a sweeping review of laws governing strata schemes, and were dominated by complaints about smoking.

Residents also wanted to ban balcony barbecues and the keeping of snakes “given their propensity to escape”. But they asked to be allowed to dry clothes on balconies “except underwear, which should be dried on racks out of sight”.

A report to the government, to be used to create a discussion paper, said smoking “was a significant bone of contention”. “The overwhelming majority of correspondents strongly objected to being subjected to second-hand smoke in strata buildings and demanded smoking be banned from communal areas and open air balconies,” the Global Access Partners strata laws online consultation report said.

(h/t Vikki Campion of The Daily Telegraph)

The snake one I understand, but we already have laws about how domestic animals have to be kept. We can amend those if necessary, but it’s silly to legislate about such a thing in unrelated legislation about management of apartment buildings.

The smoking one I find bizarre. I live in a unit, and occasionally I receive wafting smoke from my neighbours, but if you are going to live in an apartment then you are surely accepting that you are living in close proximity to other people and, as such, will be less immune to the activities of these people. It’s a situation which calls for a bit of common courtesy, not government legislation and intrusion.

In my case, a quick word with the neighbours resulted in an understanding that they would make an effort to prevent smoke from drifting towards my place, although it was understood and accepted that it would not always be possible. To the same extent, I make an effort to prevent the two doggies from making too much noise. Obviously they’re going to bark when they’re concerned about noises or when they’re chasing a ball, but I try to limit such barking when there is no threat to the security of the property, and by limiting their playtime outside of daylight hours. It’s just common sense that when you live in close proximity to your neighbour, that you need to be mindful of what effect you are having on them.

If people living in an apartment complex can not reach an agreement, then there is a body corporate to whom they can take their disagreement for judgement. Through this process, people retain the right to decide on what is and is not allowed on their property by virtue of the fact that they have an ownership stake in the management of the complex by the body corporate and can vote against a manager or a decision if necessary. Ultimately living in an apartment complex does provide less freedom than living in a property which does not share walls with neighbours, but that is a choice made by people when they decide to live in an apartment instead of a house. This freedom however, should not be further curbed by governments making blanket decisions about all apartment complexes instead of allowing residents and owners to make decisions which suit their own needs.

As for the other idea which was floated of banning the outdoor drying of underwear. Why? What possible reason could people have to be offended by underwear? And why should somebody be forced to pay more to dry their underwear indoors in a dryer or near a heater (which the Fire Brigade regularly tells us is a bad idea) when they can do it for free in the sunshine on their balcony? If somebody has offensive messages on their underwear, then this is something which can be taken up with them or the body corporate, but is not something which requires legislation. I am of the view that underwear should be worn and not seen (I think that underwear visible above or outside pants while being worn in unsightly, but I don’t want to legislate against it, and oppose such legislation in places where it has been introduced), but even I accept that in order for it to be cleaned, it has to be seen. And what about the underwear which is sold in shops? Are we going to put it in locked cabinets like we have with cigarettes?

And how in the heck are we going to enforce it? Are we going to have government-employed building inspectors checking balconies for underwear? Who’s going to pay for that, and what good will come of it? Taxpayers, and none…only a further diminution of freedom.

If we are going to try and prevent inter-apartment offence, then I don’t think that we will stop at underwear, especially if the underwear and smoking ideas are being touted primarily for the “benefit” of young minds and bodies. I can see this progressing to bans on televisions displaying M rated (and higher) material near windows in case a youngster is prying. Perhaps even curtains could be regulated, as we wouldn’t want curtains bearing the Collingwood Football Club’s logo to offend a West Coast supporter, or vice-versa, would we?

Fair dinkum! For a country which allegedly likes freedom and a fair go, we certainly don’t seem to embrace it when we think it would be easier to just get the government to do the thinking for us.


May 16th, 2012 at 09:26am

White House Easter Egg Roll: First Lady’s unhealthy menu, and Obama punishes kids for his success

I’ve been flicking through some of the coverage of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, and while it looks like there was some fun to be had, and most of the coverage was positive, there were a few peculiar occurrences which have been glossed over by most of the media.

My favourite one is an event which seems to have been ignored by almost all of the US media. I know that talk radio gave it a mention, but other than that, I can’t find a single instance of this being covered by the American media…in fact, I’ve had to track the story down in the British press. Before I explain that though, some words from First Lady Michelle Obama at the Easter Egg Roll, courtesy of USA Today:

Over at the “Kids Kitchen,” Mrs. Obama joined “Top Chef Masters” winner Marcus Samuelson and the Today show’s Al Roker to help make shrimp and vegetable tacos.

The first lady discussed the importance of vegetables, telling parents: “If we have (too many) fried chicken and the carb-heavy dinners, the kind we all love, we’re not setting our kids up for success. Veggies aren’t really a choice. We think they are, but they’re not.”

(h/t USA Today)

This was part of the theme for the day, and is an ongoing theme of Mrs. Obama who has an insatiable appetite for talking about vegetables. And yet, as Britain’s Daily Mail reports, the menu on offer could not have been more at odds with Mrs. Obama’s message.

The Obamas welcomed thousands of children and their parents on to the South Lawn this morning to feast on a brunch menu that included waffles, French toast and slurpees.

Later in the day, visitors were offered choices of cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, hot dog and curly fries, egg salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll menu (h/t Daily Mail)

(h/t Daily Mail)

I particularly like the Obama Burger. Full of everything Mrs. Obama detests, and yet it still bares her name. The token fruit cup or salad at the end of the burger is amusing, but nothing more than a token gesture to allow Press Secretary Jay Carney to say that “healthy options were available” if anybody bothers to ask him about it.

Away from the menu, the Ego In Chief had his face plastered on the basketballs which were being used for the hoop shooting competition. Keith Koffler, among others, has published a photo of ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper holding the basketball.

The Obama Basketball

I would probably refuse to play with a basketball with Obama’s face on it, as I would regard having to see his face for that period of time as some sort of cruel and unusual punishment…interestingly, I may have been right, the ball was used as an instrument of torture, just in a different way to how I would have expected. Back to USA Today for details:

Obama, meanwhile, visited the White House basketball court, half of which was being used for tennis lessons that featured legendary player Chris Evert.

The hoops end featured “Shoot for Strength,” where each shot made by Obama or a guest professional player meant three push-ups for nearby children.

(h/t USA Today)

So, Obama has a victory, and everyone else gets punished for it and has to pay. Sounds like an appropriate analogy for his presidency really.


April 10th, 2012 at 08:19pm

Previous Posts


November 2015
« Apr    

Posts by Month

Posts by Category

Search Blog or Web


Ads By Google

Blix Theme by Sebastian Schmieg and modified for Samuel's Blog by Samuel Gordon-Stewart.
Printing CSS with the help of Martin Pot's guide to Web Page Printability With CSS.
Icons by Kevin Potts.
Powered by WordPress.
Log in