Posts filed under 'The Sunday Bits'

The Sunday Bits for February 2, 2014

Good morning and welcome to the 2nd last edition of The Sunday Bits before I depart for the US. The Sunday Bits might go on hiatus during that time, but I’m not sure…I’ll make that decision when I’m over there.

In This Edition
*NT speed limit trial should be a pilot program for the rest of Australia
*I think I’ll give Gary, Indiana a miss
*The US is slightly closer to independence from middle-east oil
*The Commission Of Audit in to the ABC and SBS is long-overdue and very welcome

*NT speed limit trial should be a pilot program for the rest of Australia

The Northern Territory is trialling an open speed limit on a 200km stretch of road. The results should be carefully monitored by other governments.

OPEN speed limits have returned to the Territory after a seven-year hiatus.

Today, a 12-month trial begins to remove speed restrictions on a 200km stretch of road between Barrow Creek and Alice Springs.

The Northern Territory Motoring Council believes the trial could save lives but health experts say lives are at risk and it promotes an unsafe driving culture.
[..]
“When you had long, open road, you put the foot down. When you had hills, blind corners, or if you drove at sunrise or dusk … you slowed down accordingly.

“I find on a lot of the open and long stretches of road it can be difficult to stay awake … driving faster speeds, you find the momentum of the vehicle makes you concentrate harder and helps you stay awake.”

But Mr Palamountain suggested a 150km/h cap could be better than open limits.

He also said there were stretches of Stuart Highway where the 130km/h limit should be reduced to 110km/h, particularly the leg from Darwin to Katherine.

(h/t Zach Hope, NT News)

What the article doesn’t mention is that when open speed limits were abolished, the road toll increased. This has also happened in many other places around the world where an open speed limit has been replaced with a low limit.

This trial should be monitored carefully by other Australian governments as if, as I expect it will, this causes the road toll to reduce, there are many roads around the country which should have their speed limit increased (the Federal and Hume highways, for example) while others might need to have their speed limit reduced a tad until the road is improved.

*I think I’ll give Gary, Indiana a miss

The other week I noted that the town of Gary in Indiana seemed to find its way in to every route I plotted from Fort Dodge, Iowa to South Bend, Indiana. What I didn’t say at the time was that this bothered me greatly and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Now I know.

A terrified mother claims she watched in horror as her demon-possessed 9-year-old son walked backwards up a wall and ceiling. Her claims would be easy to dismiss if a child services case worker and a nurse weren’t reportedly there to witness it all.
[..]
Strangely enough, the scary-sounding incident is outlined in official documents. Further, Gary police Capt. Charles Austin told the Star that he is a “believer” after making several visits to the home and interviewing witnesses. He first thought the family was making stories up as part of a get-rich-quick scheme.

Ammons’ home was “exorcized” by a catholic priest in a number of ceremonies that were reportedly authorized by the Diocese of Gary. The story apparently became so believable that officers with the police department said they were too scared to stay at the house and some city officials wouldn’t even step foot on the property.

(h/t Jason Howerton, The Blaze)

The article goes in to much more detail, and there have been quite a few follow-up article since then.

Well I believe that this is why I felt uncomfortable about Gary, Indiana when it first started popping up in my plans. To be on the safe side, I’ll take the half-hour or more detour to avoid Gary.
Map of a Gary Bypass

I should probably also note that I won’t go through Braidwood at night. Something isn’t right in that place.

*The US is slightly closer to independence from middle-east oil
The most bizarre thing about the US’ dependence of middle-east oil is that they have more than enough domestic oil to be energy-independent and to save a lot of money in the process. One of key parts of this is the Keystone XL pipeline, and it looks like it’s a step closer to going ahead.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle toward approval Friday, a serious blow to environmentalists’ hopes that President Barack Obama will block the controversial project running more than 1,000 miles from Canada through the heart of the U.S.

The State Department reported no major environmental objections to the proposed $7 billion pipeline, which has become a symbol of the political debate over climate change. Republicans and some oil- and gas-producing states in the U.S. – as well as Canada’s minister of natural resources – cheered the report, but it further rankled environmentalists already at odds with Obama and his energy policy.

(h/t Matthew Daly, Associated Press)

Hopefully Obama does something good for a change and approves the pipeline. The possibility of the US exporting oil at a cheaper price than the existing oil suppliers is great for all of us.

*The Commission Of Audit in to the ABC and SBS is long-overdue and very welcome
I was very pleased to hear about the commission of audit this week. I doubt it will go far enough (I support selling the ABC and SBS) but if it can at least help to stamp out the institutional left-wing bias, that will be good.

The ironic thing is, if the ABC and SBS were private organisations, I wouldn’t have a problem with them having a left-wing bias because I wouldn’t be funding it, and yet the ABC’s leftie supporters don’t like the idea of selling it.

Samuel

February 2nd, 2014 at 06:38am

The Sunday Bits for January 26, 2014

Happy Australia Day, and welcome to the first Sunday Bits for 2014.

Australian Flag

If you watched the tennis last night then you probably saw Billie Court sing the national anthem before the match. Normally I am not a fan of the public performances of Advance Australia Fair as it is a beautiful and important song, but most singers are just not capable of performing the song with the respectful gusto which it deserves. In fact I believe that Julie Anthony is almost the only person who has ever done a good live rendition (and excellent recorded version) of it…but last night I was very pleasantly surprised by Billie Court who did an absolutely fantastic job.

Being Australia Day I had hoped to provide you with Billie Court’s rendition of Advance Australia Fair from last night, but I can’t find it. I did, however, find her rendition of it at the cricket a few years ago. The picture quality is a bit dodgy, but the song is excellent.

If I can get my hands on last night’s rendition, I’ll post it for you.

In This Edition
*A change of format
*Best wishes to Ian Ross
*Socialised medicine kills
*Kevin Andrews’ interest in marriage counselling
*Impending deflation
*Aliens running America?
*Upcoming climate change discussion
*Obama administration has been covering up Benghazi from the start
*The war on Christianity is alive and well
*The electric chair is making a comeback

***

A change of format
A quick note before we delve in to more interesting subjects. When I started The Sunday Bits it was supposed to be a quick summary of things which I either couldn’t get to during the week or were interesting but didn’t really deserve their own blog post. Unfortunately I found myself effectively writing a dozen full blog posts in one blog post, and spent over an hour on it. It was unworkable and didn’t really fit the intended purpose. To correct this I have changed the format a tad by introducing a word limit of 1,000 words, with a target of 750-800 words. WordPress (the software behind this site) keeps a word count as I write, so it’s count will be used for this purpose. Due to the room taken up by this note, I’m giving myself a little bit of extra room this week.

***

Best wishes to Ian Ross
I’d like to take a moment to wish former television newsreader Ian Ross all the best after it was revealed yesterday that he has pancreatic cancer and has been told he only has five months to live. Ian was a great credible newsreader on multiple networks. He has opted not to undergo chemotherapy and try alternative treatments. Here’s hoping Ian sees much more than five months in relatively good health.

***

Socialised medicine kills
It might be for the best that Ian Ross is not undergoing chemotherapy, especially as a public patient. A news article today shows something which is plainly obvious.

MORE than 840 people – 16 a week – died waiting for surgery in Victoria in the past year.

The revelation comes as the length of time patients spend on elective surgery waiting lists continues to grow.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws show almost 841 people died on hospital waiting lists in 2012-13, an increase of 246 – or 41 per cent – in three years.

(h/t Peter Mickelburough of the Sunday Herald Sun)

Sadly it’s common sense really. Government-managed systems are ultimately controlled by a finite government budget sourced from finite tax revenues. As such they can only afford to perform a maximum number of operations in a year, which results in rationing and waiting lists. This is a problem which a market-driven (not highly-regulated like here in Australia) private system doesn’t have as competition between insurers and consumers helps to ensure people can be seen quickly. There have been cases of Australians on a surgery waiting list going to the US and ending up in hospital for unrelated treatment, only to have the US hospital treat the waiting list condition there and then (I wish I could find the link I had to such a story) and have it covered by the medical component of their travel insurance, and save Australian taxpayers a motza in the process.

***

Kevin Andrews’ interest in marriage counselling
Earlier this week I expressed my concerns about the federal government’s mooted scheme to hand out $200 marriage counselling vouchers to newlyweds. Larry Pickering has come up with some interesting information about the minister responsible for the scheme:

More concerning is that the holier-than-thou Minister Andrews and his wife also run a Catholic marriage guidance counselling company.
He maintains he has not actively done so since the latest election but his marriage guidance web page tells a different story.
“He is advertising group sessions at $240 per couple”

Hmmm, I do hope this scheme, silly as it is, has more behind it than ministerial self-interest.

***

Impending deflation
I pay to subscribe to a few U.S. talk radio shows, including Coast To Coast AM. Coast specialises in some very odd topics and often the shows are of little interest to me, so I don’t usually listen to the live show, but it usually has a couple of interesting shows each month which I listen to after they’ve aired. Recently it had a very interesting show in which demographic economist Harry Dent explained that he thinks the world’s economy is about to hit a tipping point where the number of newly-retired baby boomers will cause a crash and long-term deflation. He believes the markets will climb until May, and then a large crash and deflation will hit. He doesn’t expect recovery for at least five years.

***

Aliens running America?
Later in that episode a discussion was held about a bizarre revelation from a recent Edward Snowden NSA leak. According to PC Tech Magazine’s summary of the leaked reports, a bunch of tall white aliens are in control of the US government and were also responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany. Worryingly, some other aliens apparently favour Russia and oppose the tall white aliens.

Make of it what you will.

***

Upcoming climate change discussion
In an upcoming edition of Coast To Coast AM which I will be listening to live (many radio stations stream it live if you wish to join me) on Thursday afternoon (Wednesday night/Thursday morning US time), Space historian Robert Zimmerman will be on for the shows first two hours (5pm – 7pm Canberra time) to “discuss the fraud and dishonesty which has permeated the sciences of climate and environmental studies including how scientists at NASA and NOAA have consistently manipulated the temperature records”.

Sounds good.

***

Obama administration has been covering up Benghazi from the start
The Obama administration has to take a lot of the blame for the lethal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. It has tried to deflect blame and cover up the truth. Fox News is one of the few places where the truth has not been in short supply on the subject, but even they’ve had a hard time reporting it. Noel Sheppard at the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters.org website explains the lengths the Obama administration has gone to in an effort to avoid the truth from getting out, including omitting Fox and only Fox from multiple briefings and press conferences, and even trying to get a friend of Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren to silence Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin. Despicable, but typical of Obama and friends.

***

The war on Christianity is alive and well
I read a story the other week (no link, sorry…I didn’t think I’d need to keep the link) where somebody tried to claim that there is no war against Christianity in popular culture and public institutions. They took particular umbrage with Todd Starnes who relentlessly reports on the subject. I wonder then, what that person makes of these stories?
First grader, while telling her class about a family Christmas tradition, as was the task at the time, told she was “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school” and was prevented from telling the class about her family’s tradition of remembering the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
Detroit 8-year-old told he can’t bring a Bible to school after reading it, quietly, in a free-reading period.

There mightn’t be any missiles or bullets, but there is definitely a cultural war happening here.

***

The electric chair is making a comeback
The electric chair is set to become the primary method of death penalty executions in Virginia. Ironically this change in method, which is undoubtedly more painful than lethal injection, is being brought about by the producer of the lethal injection drugs trying to be nicer.

European pharmaceutical companies last year stopped selling the three-drug mix used for injections on ethical grounds, forcing several states, including Virginia, to consider alternative methods to carry out lethal punishment.

(h/t Fox News)

A Democrat is complaining about it being a barbaric way to kill someone (oddly he hasn’t proposed a firing squad which would be as quick, effective and “non-barbaric” as a lethal injection), but I don’t see a problem with it. The electric chair never went away and was always available upon request to death-row inmates…and we should not forget that people on death-row have been convicted of the most barbaric of crimes themselves. It seems fair, in my view, that they receive an unpleasant sentence. It’s certainly a better option than an alternative lethal injection method which was tried in Ohio earlier this month in which it took 26 minutes for the convict to die. The electric chair works, is a real punishment, and gives the family of the victim some comfort in seeing with their own eyes that the assailant is not getting off lightly. I’m all for it.

***

That’s all for today. Have a wonderful Australia Day. I hope your day of celebration is a good one for the anniversary of the fantastic day on which the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove and started the process which eventually created our great nation, and equally I hope your day is not sullied by that annual countdown done by that communist taxpayer-funded radio station.

Samuel

6 comments January 26th, 2014 at 10:01am

The Sunday Bits for April 15, 2012

And a good morning on this quite lovely Canberra morning. It is starting to get a bit colder now, but I have to admit to quite liking the way April and May unfold in Canberra. The leaves change colour, the nights become a bit more nippy, and for those of us who are fortunate enough to be awake in the mid-dawn hours, there are some interesting and patchy fogs which adorn the roads.

On this lovely morning I, taking advantage of the windscreen-mounted position of my phone, took this photo of a couple hot air balloons wafting over Commonwealth Avenue.
Hot air balloons over Commonwealth Avenue

In this edition:
* Bye bye Bob!
* Canberra is a good place for an international airport
* To Japan’s credit, unfounded fear-mongering does not derail nuclear power
* Mike Huckabee will not be VP
* New brain research leading to better reading skills in school kids
* Is Metricon Stadium breaking AFL rules?
* Heidi Harris to announce her new station on Monday

Bye bye Bob!

As you have probably heard by now, Bob Brown is retiring from politics. The current leader of the Greens in federal parliament will quit his post as leader of the party, and also as a Senator. He will be handing the reigns over to current deputy leader Christine Milne.

In some ways it is nice to see Bob go. One less strange person in parliament pushing an abhorrent wheelbarrow of nutty ideas can only be a good thing, except for one small problem. I see the Greens as being left-wing extremists wrapped up in fuzzy feel-good environmental stuff designed to make them look nicer. They use the guise of being worried about the environment to enable them to push all kinds of socialist and Marxist ideas. Bob Brown, to me at least, is more moderate than the likes of Christine Milne or (I get a shudder down my spine from merely mentioning this name) Sarah Hanson-Young.

Bob Brown is patient, and doesn’t seem to mind how long it takes for him to get his way, and in many ways I think this is what has helped the Greens to reach a point of having some influence in politics. The fact that, under Bob Brown, the Greens have very rarely aggressively pushed their underlying ideas, and have instead made sure that their message is carefully wrapped in pleasantries, is one of the main reasons they have managed to attract voters. They have attracted the people who are uninterested in politics and “like the environment and stuff”; the rusted-on Labor voters who couldn’t support various Labor people but knew that a vote for the Greens would result in Labor government; as well as the true lefties who have quite happily understood the underlying message of the Greens, and have agreed to follow Bob’s lead and not make too much noise, because they know that the majority of Australians want no piece of a socialist country.

Sure, the Greens have been right there every time the Socialist Alliance has held one of its weekly protests about everything, but they don’t go out of their way to publicise it.

This will change under Christine Milne. Anybody who has watched her whenever one of the non-ABC TV stations has given her a platform will know just how forthright (or would that be forthleft in her case?) she is in her support of anything and everything that Karl Marx would have supported. Equally, Sarah Hanson-Young does her bit to whip up the socialist fringe of the country.

This isn’t to say that Bob Brown didn’t have his moments. His repeated attempts to have the “hate media” (read: anyone in the media with whom he disagreed) silenced were a good example. Bob clearly has an angry streak under the surface, and I suspect that 2UE’s Mike Jeffreys may be correct in his analysis that Bob Brown is a very angry man under the surface, but uses that anger to carefully craft a very controlled outward appearance in the hope of getting his own way eventually. Think about it. It really didn’t matter whether Bob was talking about his love of trees, the carbon dioxide tax, or about the latest story in the “hate media”, his delivery was always the same. A continuous monotone hypnotic boredom-fest. I suspect that he was trying to brainwash people through sheer boredom.

It seems to me that under Christine Milne, the Greens will solidify their core socialist voters by being more strident in their advocacy of Marxist views, but will scare off most people in the process. In the short term, this will create waves, but in the long term it should destroy the party.

All that said, if in three weeks time the Greens decide that the Bob Brown approach is better for them, all they need to do is recruit former Obama propagandist press secretary Robert Gibbs, who had the same entirely uninteresting delivery as Bob Brown, with the added ability to never answer a question which he didn’t want to answer, something which dear old Bob never did quite manage to accomplish.

***

Canberra is a good place for an international airport

In other domestic news of late, the subject of Sydney’s second airport is back on the agenda, with Canberra being touted as an option. I like Canberra as an option, but if it happens, I don’t want it to be considered as “Sydney’s second airport”. Canberra Airport should take international flights, especially given Canberra’s status as the capital city of the country. In fact, part of the reason Sydney airport is so busy is because it’s the connection point for many people who are travelling to Canberra from outside the country.

I would also like to see a residential development occur at Tralee. Canberra Airport’s Stephen Byron is opposed to this because it would be under a flight path, but I don’t see this as an impediment. The airport is already there, and therefore anybody who buys or builds at Tralee would be well-aware that aeroplanes may fly over their house, and should therefore be unable to complain about it.

I see both things as being extremely beneficial to Canberra and surrounds, and while I expect to only ever see one come to fruition, it would be nice to have both.

***

To Japan’s credit, unfounded fear-mongering does not derail nuclear power

You may recall all of the fear-mongering after last year’s Japanese earthquake about the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe, and all of the anti-nuclear activists trying to use it as an excuse to end nuclear power generation around the world. As we know, despite the claims that the death toll would be high and the people who would be afflicted with radiation-related illnesses would number in the many thousands, the fact is nobody, repeat, nobody has died, and a mere 10 people have radiation-related illness.

As such, sanity has prevailed, and Japan are turning some of the nuclear reactors back on.

The Japanese government decided Friday that two nuclear reactors in western Japan are safe to restart, in a major step toward bringing idled plants back online for the first time since last year’s devastating nuclear accident — though local opposition could still prevent a restart.

The decision effectively gives the government thumbs up to a gradual return of nuclear power, after nearly all the country’s 54 reactors — which provided roughly 30 percent of Japan’s electricity — shut down because of damages or for routine maintenance and stayed offline amid concerns about their safety.

(h/t New York Post and The Wall Street Journal)

The Japanese government still needs to convince locals that it’s a good idea, but given how small the fallout has been from the Fukushima plant, especially given the magnitude of the natural disaster which occurred (the earthquake and tsunami), a simple statement of the facts should be enough convince any sensible thinking person that the nuclear power plants are a good and safe option.

***

Mike Huckabee will not be VP

In the wake of Rick Santorum’s unfortunate decision to abandon his run for the Republican Presidential nomination during the week, almost making it certain that Mitt Romney will be the nominee, there was some peculiar speculation that Romney will choose Mike Huckabee as his candidate for Vice President.

Let me tell you right now, that will not happen.

Mike Huckabee, while certainly a plausible person as a candidate, is out of the race for this election cycle. He recently (in the last few weeks), launched a new syndicated talk radio show in conjunction with US radio giant Cumulus Media. The show, which airs at the same time as Rush Limbaugh (the single most listened to talk radio host in the country) has replaced the Limbaugh show on a decent number of Cumulus stations, which is a massive gamble for Cumulus, and is airing on over 180 stations.

Neither Huckabee or Cumulus will be abandoning this show any time soon. Cumulus has way too much riding on this to be suddenly left without a decent show in the midday eastern timeslot, especially seeing as letting Rush go from many of their stations has allowed competitors to air Rush, giving them potentially crushing competition if Huckabee were to walk or flop.

I would rule out Rick Santorum as a VP pick at this stage, but I’m not willing to make a prediction as to who will be Mitt’s running mate if Mitt does get the nomination. What I will say is that it will have to be a solid conservative, because Mitt is not enough of a conservative to enthuse the Republican party’s base.

I just hope some lessons have been learnt from the 2008 campaign. America can not afford another four years of Obama, and another dumb lurch away from the right and to the centre, politically speaking, is the sort of bad idea that could once again see the GOP botch a campaign and give Obama a perfect opportunity to win, despite his terrible polling numbers.

***

New brain research leading to better reading skills in school kids

An interesting story out of Michigan.

New brain research has led educators in New Buffalo to try a different method of teaching kids to read. Instead of teaching just the letters of the alphabet, they are teaching kids to read the sounds in words. It’s having remarkable results. Reporter Ryan Klund from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana, has the story:

If you sit in Ms. Selir’s kindergarten classroom you’ll see something, maybe, you’ve never seen before. Every kindergartener is reading a book and pronouncing words that other five and six-year-olds, usually, would never read.
[..]
“It used to be we just thought it was the 26 letters of the alphabet and that’s it,” said Laura Selir. “But there are 44 sounds the kindergarteners all learn.”

“We now know every child can read if taught the right way,” said Erika Milovich, the Instruction Literary Specialist at New Buffalo Schools.

Milovich helped implement the program in ever grade at the school and said that the results speak for themselves.

On state testing this year New Buffalo improved K-5 reading and writing scores, moving into the top three schools in Berrien County. It was the first time New Buffalo made that mark.

(h/t ABC57 News, and also thanks to Casey Hendrickson who alerted me to this story when he mentioned it on his radio show on 95.3 Michiana’s News Channel on Friday)

It’s only being taught in a handful of schools at the moment, but hopefully that number will rise soon as the results are very promising.

***

Is Metricon Stadium breaking AFL rules?

Last night while watching the AFL, I noticed something strange about the way Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast is putting the vision of the match on the big screens. They appear to be taking the full TV feed rather than a modified version and, consequently, the countdown clock on Seven’s graphics is visible at all times on the big screen.

For those of you not familiar with the way AFL timing works, each quarter runs for 20 minutes of playing time, and events such as the ball going out or someone scoring temporarily disrupt the “playing time”. At the ground, a clock counts up from zero in each quarter and does not stop for these interruptions to playing time, meaning that the players and the crowd can not see how much time is left in the quarter, but instead can see how much real time has elapsed. Most quarters take between 25 and 30 minutes of real time, but can take more or less time.

It is not against the rules for a team runner to pass on a message to players about how long is left in the quarter, and it is common practice for the coaching staff to keep an unofficial record of how much time remains, but it is against the rules for the amount of time remaining in a quarter to be visible.

At many grounds, where a broadcast feed is used on the big screens, the spot on the screen where the time would be shown in normally covered up, however at Metricon Stadium it is not.

I wonder if the AFL have noticed this, and what will be done to fix it?

***

Heidi Harris to announce her new station on Monday

If she’s going to another radio station, anyway.

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I mentioned that Alan Stock had taken over Heidi Harris’ morning drive program on KDWN-AM in Las Vegas, and that there was a rumour going around that Alan’s former station (Heidi’s too, for that matter) KXNT had signed her but not made it public. Well, Heidi has announced that, on Monday, she will be able to make an announcement.

Regardless of where Heidi goes, she has a strong following and will most probably do very well. I wish her all the best, and look forward to her announcement on Monday US time.

***

And that’s all of the Sunday Bits for this week.

Samuel

April 15th, 2012 at 09:48am

The Sunday Bits for April 1, 2012

We have a bumper edition of The Sunday Bits this week, so here we go!

In this edition:
* Is there something in the airline food which is making people go crazy?
* Anna Bligh clearly has no respect for the public
* How long does it take news to travel across a sea?
* That Earth Hour nonsense
* A map of a trip back from the coast
* Kings Hwy roadworks this week
* Rex Hunt’s Fat Lady Singing
* Alan Stock takes over morning drive on KDWN-AM Las Vegas
* Radio Daylight Saving reminders
* Easter Programming Note

Is there something in the airline food which is making people go crazy?
For the second time in about as many weeks, we saw a bizarre incident occur on a flight within the United States in which a member of the flight crew seemed to lose the plot and have a meltdown.

A JetBlue plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, Tuesday after the captain had a ‘medical situation’ while on the plane.

JetBlue 191, which was headed from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas, was forced to make the landing after the pilot reportedly ran up and down the aisles screaming “Say your prayers” after he was locked outside the cockpit, The New York Post reported, citing a passenger.

“Someone next to me said he was saying something about bombs,” recounted the passenger,

Tiffany Lee, 26, to the paper. Another passenger told Fox 5 News that a man wearing a pilot’s uniform ran down the aisle screaming and banging on the cockpit door to let him in.
[..]
David Gonzalez, a former corrections officer who was headed to a security conference in Las Vegas, told Fox News that the pilot tried to break into the cockpit and struggled with the flight attendants and appeared to want to open the plane’s side door.

Gonzalez said the pilot began yelling about Iraq and Iran. After a two minute struggle, Gonzalez said he was able to subdue the pilot. Other passengers then stepped in and tied the pilot, he said.

(h/t Fox News)

There has been a little bit, not much, but a little bit of conjecture as to whether something is contributing to these meltdowns such as something in the water or the food. At the very least, it has to make you think about the possibility of terrorists or other enemy operatives getting in to the airline food preparation business, or the food preparation business in general. If they can make enough people lose the plot, they can create some widespread and difficult to predict or control chaos. One would hope that, even if it isn’t happening, the people charged with protecting us from such things, have already thought about the possibility and have devised ways of protecting us from it.

***

Anna Bligh clearly has no respect for the public
Last weekend, there was an election in Queensland. As expected, the conservative Liberal National Party, led by Campbell Newman, won in a landslide.

Before the election, the then-Premier and then-Labor leader Anna Bligh knew as well as the rest of us that Labor would be annihilated, and knew that she would most likely be unable to retain her position as Labor leader after the election. None the less, she made a commitment to the people of her electorate that, regardless of the outcome, if she won her seat, she would stay on for the full term as the representative of the people of South Brisbane. Consequently, the people of South Brisbane re-elected her, albeit with a reduced margin. They trusted her and bestowed upon her the great honour and responsibility of being an elected member of parliament, there to represent the interests of the people of her electorate.

Despite this, Ms. Bligh didn’t even wait 24 hours to not only do as was expected, resign as Labor leader, but to proverbially slap in the face every single person who voted for her by also resigning her seat in Parliament, displaying a complete contempt for the people who still wanted her to be their representative in parliament.

In a further blow to the people of South Brisbane, and Queensland in general, Ms. Bligh’s resignation is going to cause a by-election, which will cost the taxpayers of Queensland a heap of money. With this level of contempt for the public, is it any wonder that Ms. Bligh led Labor to the biggest defeat that anyone can remember?

It really makes me think that we need to change the laws so that, unless there is a valid medical reason, any politician who resigns their seat and causes a by-election should be forced to pay for the by-election themself, and potentially lose some post-political service entitlements (pension, car etc).

***

How long does it take news to travel across a sea?
I have written about delays in stories from the US reaching Australia before as it is a subject which intrigues me, and sadly it continues to intrigue me as it continues to happen.

You probably heard the story yesterday about the credit card data breach in the United States affecting Visa and Mastercard and others.

Four giant card-payment processors and large U.S. banks that issue debit and credit cards were hit by a data-security breach after third-party services provider Global Payments Inc discovered its systems were compromised by unauthorized access.

It was not immediately clear how many cardholders became victims of the breach, which affected MasterCard Inc, Visa Inc, American Express Co and Discover Financial Services, as well as banks and other franchises that issue cards bearing their logos.
[..]
Individual banks and processors said they had not yet determined the full extent of the breach, but Krebs on Security described it as a “massive” breach that may affect more than 10 million cardholders.

(h/t Fox Business Network)

I first heard about this one just before 1am Canberra time when my phone started going bezerk with alerts, the first one arriving from Fox at about 12:58 and a few others following within a couple minutes. This was big news, even here in Australia, given the fact that a lot of Australians purchase stuff from the US and could be caught up in this security breach. I posted the news to Twitter at 1:18am (I was at work and had some other stuff to deal with at the time, hence my delay):
screenshot of tweet
I kept an eye and ear out for news from Australian sources during the night, but did not spot anything before I went to bed around 3am. It was the wee hours of a Saturday morning, so I can understand and accept this delay, but it’s still unfortunate.

Now, I’m sure that news outlets ran with it during the day, but I was amazed by how Channel Seven covered it online. Seven tend to be pretty decent with pushing breaking big news out on their Twitter feeds, or at least they are during the week…on weekends, not so much. Seven News Sydney and Melbourne ran this tweet at the same time, which was their first and only mention of the story.
screenshot of tweet
4:09pm. More than 15 hours after the story was plastered across all of the American media.

I often think about how easy it would be to break international news in Australia simply by closely monitoring overseas news outlets. I also often think about how stories of great local interest and moderate national interest never make it out of their local market. I’ve written previously about how stories such as a home invasion in Deniliquin gets no coverage outside Deni, but a home invasion in Sydney gets talked about nationally for days.

To that end, I would love to, if I had the spare time and the funds behind me to make it work, start my own Australian spinoff of the Drudge Report formula. Effectively what I would like to do is start a site, similar to Drudge, and just monitor local, national, and international outlets, and link to the stories of interest, and occasionally run a story of my own when it is of interest. The aim would be to, as Matt Drudge has done, improve the reporting of news by ensuring that stories of interest get proper amounts of coverage. The aim would also be to remove a large portion of the Sydney bias from national media. Alas I have neither the spare time or money to do it, but if ever I get the chance, you can be sure that The Samuel Report will go live.

***

That Earth Hour nonsense
On the subject of how things get reported, that Earth Hour nonsense was on again last night. I’m not going to entirely blame the media outlets for this one because I think a decent portion of the blame has to go to the people who are feeding data to the media, but I have been bemused all morning (since the wee hours) by the fact that news outlets are reporting that Ausgrid have noticed a 10% drop in the power consumption in Sydney’s CBD during Earth Hour. No details about whether this is in comparison to the hour prior, or the same hour the day before, or the same hour last year, or some other random hour, and I actually don’t doubt the accuracy of the numbers…what I find interesting though is that we are hearing about the Sydney CBD.

Why the Sydney CBD and not all of Sydney or all of New South Wales or all of Melbourne?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because the Sydney CBD, whilst partially residential, is predominantly business office blocks. Places which would mostly be unmanned on the weekend and would have a) been using less power as a matter of course on the weekend, and b) wanted to turn off the lights in their corporate headquarters because their PR people think it will earn them brownie points.

Also, less Australians believe that humans are responsible for changes in the climate (this year: 34% believe, 29% don’t, 37% unsure. 2010: 35% believe, 26% don’t, 39% unsure. Source: Galaxy Poll/Institute of Public Affairs) this year than did last year or the year before that, and consequently less people are likely to be involved in Earth Hour (and possibly more people would be involved in Human Achievement Hour or similar and be turning stuff on rather than off), so the figures in areas outside of a busy-during-weekdays CBD would show less of a reduction when compared to previous years, and may even show an increase. That is why CBD figures are being cherry picked for media consumption by the people who want us to believe that Earth Hour was some great success and the rest of us should feel guilty for not taking part in it.

For the record, I was at work this year and was therefore not able to turn stuff on at home for the hour like I have done in previous years, however I was gladly working in a location which requires that much electricity that, if it was running on a generator instead of mains power, it would takes about 90 litres of diesel every hour. I have also drive to and from the coast twice in the last week, so I’ve done my bit to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

***

A map of a trip back from the coast
Speaking of trips to and from the coast, I assure you that they were not for my own benefit (I’m not really a coast person…give me a nice inland town and I’ll be happy. In fact, as one person once said to me “you don’t strike me as the sun ‘n’ surf type”…how right they were), instead they were for the benefit of a family member who was visiting a relative for the week and needed transport to and from said location. On the way back, I decided to use the trip logging facility of the Metroview GPS app on my iPhone to log most of the trip. It produces a Google Earth file which, thankfully, Google Maps can render.


View Larger Map

The file from which this was rendered can be downloaded from here if you’re interested.

Apart from the fact that Metroview seems to have shifted the first bit of the journey way off to the west, the thing seems to work quite well. To explain the colour scheme, green indicates that my speed was under the speed limit, yellow indicates that it was on or slightly above the speed limit and red indicates that it was more than a few KM/H over the limit. I could have been certain that a previous test run of the logged included data about what the speed and time was at each point, but I might have dreamed that. (Update: OK, so it seems that the data is included on most of the pins. Click on them, and it’s there).

***

Kings Hwy roadworks this week
While on my latter trip, I noticed that the variable electronic message boards were warning that, in addition to the current raft of roadworks on the Kings Highway, there will be more roadworks this week which will close the road over the Clyde mountain for significant amounts of time.

This week, from Monday to Wednesday, the Kings Highway will be closed between Braidwood and Batemans Bay between 1pm and 2pm. Detours can be made via Nowra or Bega, but you’d probably be better off just waiting it out because the detours will take a lot longer to traverse than the road closures will take to run their course. Oddly, I can’t find this information on the RTA’s traffic website, so this could all become very peculiar very quickly.

***

Rex Hunt’s Fat Lady Singing
Yesterday I expressed my delight at hearing Rex Hunt doing his “fat lady singing” routine during the AFL Live call of Melbourne V Brisbane when, in the third quarter, it became evident that Melbourne had absolutely no hope of winning. I was particularly pleased by this because the last time I had heard Rex Hunt sing was in 2009 when he was at 3AW. Unfortunately when he was at Triple M he was forced to tone his personality down a lot, and until this year I had not been able to hear him call matches on AFL Live.

I was quite enjoying his work with Sandy Roberts and as soon as I heard Sandy ask Rex if the Fat Lady would be visiting, I had to run a tape over the coverage to capture this Fat Lady appearance. Rex didn’t disappoint…she sang twice!

For your enjoyment, here is the audio, courtesy of Crocmedia AFL Live and the Australian Football League.

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Download MP3
(h/t Crocmedia AFL Live and the Australian Football League. I certainly won’t be making a habit of recording the audio of AFL matches, but this was a special occasion, especially for me).

Dare I say it, but this is how AFL should sound on the radio. Thoroughly enjoyable coverage.

***

Alan Stock takes over morning drive on KDWN-AM Las Vegas
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that Alan Stock has been appointed as the new morning drive (breakfast) host on KDWN-AM in Las Vegas. Alan is a very good host and a very nice man as well. He was my introduction to American talk radio, a story which I will get to in just a moment.

Alan Stock on Hannity, Fox News Channel
(file photo of Alan Stock on “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel)

Alan used to be the host of the morning drive program on KDWN’s chief competitor KXNT and for a time co-hosted this show with Heidi Harris. Heidi left KXNT and became Alan’s rival when she took over the KDWN morning drive slot. Alan regularly outrated her when they were head-to-head (I’m not casting aspersions of Heidi as I happen to like her too) however in 2010 some changes happened in management at KXNT, which resulted in the axing of some local programs and Alan being replaced in mornings by three hours of news. Alan moved to the afternoon drive slot which he hosted until late last year when KXNT decided to replace him. Earlier this year Alan found a new home in a mid-morning slot on KDWN.

At this point in time, while I didn’t say it publicly as some things are better left unsaid, I fully expected that this would result in either Alan joining or replacing Heidi in morning drive. A couple weeks ago, Heidi left KDWN and Alan Stock Highlights replaced her at first. It has now been made official that Alan is Heidi’s replacement. Intriguingly, there is a rumour floating around Vegas that Heidi is being hired by KXNT.

In Sydney it’s 2GB and 2UE who trade hosts intermittently. In Vegas, it’s KXNT and KDWN. Different town; same radio shenanigans.

Anyway, as I said earlier, Alan was my introduction to American talk radio. How it happened was that, in the month or so leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, I became absolutely fed up with the blanket pro-Obama coverage in the Australian media and, seeing as I didn’t think that the full story was being reported locally, I sought out a different viewpoint from a source which I knew would have a different viewpoint, commercial talk radio. It was a Monday night and I was at work. Work was quite slow and so I started flicking through the various stations which were listed in the iTunes directory (CBS had a heap of stations listed back then) and after flicking through a couple, I landed on KXNT and Alan Stock. His voice and passion hooked me in straight away, and I quickly discovered that there was a lot more than I expected that I did not know about Obama, that I needed to know. I knew he was bad news, but I didn’t know how bad he was…of course we’ve all (well, most of us) worked out how bad a President Obama has turned out to be since then.

I tuned in again the next night at 11pm (5am Las Vegas time as we were both in daylight saving at the time) and continued to enjoy what I heard, including the great local news coverage by Kristen Flowers and the KXNT team, and then on the Wednesday night I decided that, while it was quiet at work, I would make a call to Alan and inform him of just how much I hoped the citizens of the US would see sense and vote against Obama. John McCain wasn’t perfect, but he would have been sooo much better than Obama. I recorded that call that night, and here it is for your listening interest.

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So a big congratulations to Alan on his new gig, and a thank you to him for being on that morning when I first tuned in. It was thanks to that first encounter that I stuck with KXNT, made some great friends in Vegas, found some fantastic radio shows and learnt a lot about the US as a result…and I also wouldn’t have received an email in 2010 from a Australian friend asking if it was me that they heard while they were on holiday in Las Vegas. Now that gave me a good chuckle.

***

Radio Daylight Saving reminders
Do you remember this from 2010?

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That was 2GB’s reminder message about the end of daylight saving in 2010. This week just gone I noticed some reminders about daylight saving on 2GB and 2UE and set about recording them. 2GB have not updated their reminder, but have added their current station identification imaging to the end of it.

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And 2UE’s reminder isn’t all that dissimilar.

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I wonder, does this rank up there in the list of mundane things that I’ve alongside the listening to the talking clock when the daylight saving changeover occurred one year, only to discover that the talking clock did not update?

***

Easter programming note
Finally, a quick note about next weekend. Due to the Easter break, the Sunday Bits and the Musician Of The Week award will be taking the week off. Also, so that I can make the Musician Of The Week award occur each week regardless of my work schedule, I will be pre-writing a month of those at a time…not that you should see a difference as they will simply be scheduled to appear at the correct time, which is what happens now anyway when I write them in the morning or afternoon.

Also, this may very well be my longest blog post ever. 3496 words and counting according to WordPress. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing seeing as I do need to get some sleep now and I have just spent three hours and a bit on this blog post, but it’s a record, and that’s something which I will have to try and beat at some stage in the future.

Until next time, tada!

Samuel

2 comments April 1st, 2012 at 09:38am

The Sunday Bits for February 19, 2012

Depending on how I feel after work this afternoon, I have two announcements that I wish to share with you. If not this afternoon, then tomorrow. But right now, two “bits” for you.

***

First up today, proof that being a fast walker is good for you.

The speed someone walks may predict the likelihood of developing dementia later in life, according to researchers in the US.
[..]
Suggestions of a link between slow walking speed and poor health have been made before.

A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2009, said there was a “strong association” between slow walking speed and death from heart attacks and other heart problems. A Journal of the American Medical Association study suggested a link between walking faster over the age of 65 and a longer life.

Dr Erica Camargo, who conducted the latest study at the Boston Medical Centre, said: “While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.”

Brain scans, walking speed and grip strength were recorded for 2,410 people who were, on average, 62 years old.

Results presented at the Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting said that 11 years later, 34 people had developed dementia and 79 had had a stroke.

The researchers said slower walking speeds were linked to a higher risk of dementia and stronger grip with a lower risk of stroke.

(h/t BBC News)

I have always been annoyed by people who walk slowly, or to be more precise, people who walk more slowly than me which, unfortunately for some, includes most people who walk at what would probably be considered a “regular pace”, although it has to be said that an ingrown toenail has slowed my pace a little bit of late.

I have always been a fast walker. Mum, when I was in the early years of primary school, was a slightly faster than normal walker, and I had to move my little legs very quickly in order to keep up. As I grew up and the length of my stride increased, this quick movement continued and as such my walking pace increased.

My primary school held a walkathon once per year as a fundraiser. I always quite enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to walk quickly and demonstrate my fast pace for an extended period of time. In year three I took this quite seriously and for the week leading up to the walkathon I would spend part of my lunch break practicing. I worked out a course which I calculated was approximately a quarter of the length of the Walkathon course (the Walkathon was around the perimeter of the school grounds whereas my course was around a section of the bottom ovals) and would walk around it as quickly as I could for a certain period of time (20 or 30 minutes). After this I would then calculate how many laps of the Walkathon I could complete in the allotted time if I walked at the pace of my practice session.

From memory, I worked out that I could complete nine laps, and this was how many I did complete that year. As years went by, I would usually complete nine or ten laps, and unfortunately if one completed ten laps, one was not permitted to continue.

In high school, there was no Walkathon in year seven, but there was one in year 8 which went around the west basin on Lake Burley Griffin. This was an all-day activity and, of the people who did not cheat by cycling, skating or running (these things were allowed by the teaching staff so as to ensure the attendance and involvement of most students, as large sections of the event were unsupervised and it would have been quite easy for students to walk to Civic if they wanted to) I was the first to complete the course. Unfortunately this course was a bit too long for most students to complete, and probably a bit too public, so in years nine and ten, the Walkathon was held around the bases of Mounts Ainslie and Majura, with an extra activity for the keen runners to run up Mount Majura. This course allowed staff to use shortcuts (which were blocked for students by staff-run checkpoints) which allowed them to more easily keep an eye on students. I continued my track record of fast-walking success in these Walkathons.

Unfortunately, possibly because it was impossible for teachers to actively monitor it, no awards were handed out for the first person to complete the course, or indeed for the first walker to complete the course…but I enjoyed it anyway and, as was usually the case for school sporting events, I ran my own imaginary television and radio coverage of it. I couldn’t really commentate on the Walkathons much as I needed my breaths for walking and not talking, but the other commentators continued in my head (and for the psychologists out there, yes, the radio does talk to me, that’s because it’s talk radio…and yes, it does tell me to do things: to buy stuff mostly).

In more recent times, dog-walking has kept me walking quickly, although Nattie tires quickly these days, so the fast walking doesn’t last long on those any more.

***

Towards the end of 2008, a colleague at 1WAY FM, most-mornings host Alison Goodwill, informed me that she had seen a photo of mine in the Canberra Times. She asked if I was aware of it and if I had been paid for it. On both counts the answer was “no”, but that was OK as most photos on this blog are allowed to be copied if attribution is given…none-the-less, I was curious. Alsion was unable to provide many details about when the photo had been published but did say that it was a picture of mountains, possibly of the Brindabellas. I was confused by this as I could not recall taking a decent photos of the Brindabellas at any time…I did take a photo once which was supposed to be of the Brindabellas but instead became a photo of roads and powerlines, with the Brindabellas off in the distance…I didn’t think it was likely that this photo had been published.

The photo which I didn't think had been published
The photo which I didn’t think had been published in the Canberra Times, from my 2005 blog post Kingswood Journey

Regardless, I was curious, and decided to go and check the Canberra Times archives at the National Library. I had to wait a while for the editions of the Canberra Times from late 2008 to be made available, but a few months later (I think it was in late 2009…I received a phone call from a friend as I was leaving the Library that day, but I don’t recall enough other details about the day other than it being a warm day to be certain) I went to the National Library and searched through a few months worth of the Canberra Times, but could not find any reference to me, or any photo which looked like it could have been taken by me.

It continued to bother me, and I did go back on another occasion for another look, but was once again unable to find anything.

Fast-forward to this year, and a few weeks ago I was archiving the old photo gallery (a blog post is coming about that as I have some technical details about the process which may be of interest…unfortunately it is a blog post which may take me a little bit of time to write and so it may be a few weeks until I can find the time to make it happen) and did a Google search for “photos.samuelgordonstewart.com” as I wanted to find a few direct links to various pages of the photo gallery so that I could test them and correct an issue which I was encountering. When I did that, I found a rather unexpected result on page 2.

Screenshot of Google Image Search results

The one at the bottom of that lot, to be exact.

Screenshot of Google Image Search results

I followed the link, which took me to a Canberra Times online article from the 14th of October, 2008, titled “Body found near Mount Taylor“.

Screenshot of the article on the Canberra Times website

See that photo over on the right?

Screenshot of the photo on the Canberra Times website

When I saw it, I recognised the photo straight away, even though the quality of it on the Canberra Times website is lower than the original photo. The photo in question is this one:

Photo of Mount Taylor

Somewhat ironically, this happens to be the photo directly above the photo I mentioned earlier in the Kingswood Journey blog post from 2005.

Screenshot of the photo in my blog post

Even though I was in the middle of another, somewhat more important task at the time, this excited me so I jotted down the date of the Canberra Times article and went on another trip to the National Library to see if I could find the photo in the paper. It took a little while, but I found the page in question. Page 9 of the October 15, 2008 edition.

The Canberra Times: Page 9, October 15, 2008.

As you can see, my photo is nowhere to be found. In fact, my photo isn’t in there at all. The article is though…it’s a brief story at the bottom of the column at the top-right of the page.

The brief article in The Canberra Times

So, after a tad over three years of mystery, it turns out that my photo was never used in the paper, but was used on the website of the Canberra Times to illustrate a brief story. I was given incorrect information, which is why I was unable to find it originally, and yet strangely was only one photo off in picking the photo which I thought may have been used.

I am quite amazed that photo which I took from a moving bus, and which really isn’t the most wonderful photo in the world, was the best photo that the folks at the Times could find of Mount Taylor at the time. It’s also slightly flattering in a strange way as well.

***

And with the case closed, I bid you a wonderful Sunday!

Samuel

February 19th, 2012 at 06:28am

Some Monday Bits

After a somewhat hectic weekend and a chaotic morning today, I have a few spare minutes before I have to bolt to the airport to catch a plane to Melbourne for tonight’s Andrew Bolt function. So, I have time for a few quick tidbits.

Firstly, Tony Abbott wants a plebiscite on the carbon dioxide tax. It would be a way to ensure that we have an accurate poll on the issue, but I’m not convinced that this government would listen to the results anyway…they would probably just implement the tax and hope that the public forget by the time the next election rolls around. I do support the idea of the plebiscite though. It would cost money, but at least we would have it on record that people either do or do not want the tax. Ultimately, I would like to see a definitive national answer on this issue, regardless of the answer, so that it is there on the record.

The Greens have poo-pooed the idea today, claiming that if we have a plebiscite on this then we should have also had one on each of the wars we have entered. I disagree. The tax would directly affect each and every person in the country and fundamentally change the economic landscape. The wars do not have a direct impact on most people, even if they do have a direct impact on some.

***

Some good news on the industrial relations front around the world. In New South Wales last week, Barry O’Farrell got his IR changes for public servants through the government. These changes would give him, as the boss, direct control over much of the aspects of the conditions of public servants, including their rate of pay. It is about time that the public service gravy train was reigned in, and the boss of the government should have the ability to set wages of government employees, much like the boss of a business should have the ability to set the wages of the business’ employees.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” was passed by the state’s supreme court. The bill, among other things, limits the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees which should help to reign in their problems with excessive public sector wages. While public sector workers should have the right to request more pay or conditions, they shouldn’t be able to cripple every government service in their quest to get their way. Such strikes are not strikes against poor conditions, they are strikes against the public. It’s good to see Scott Walker’s budget pass, and in turn see his state’s budget start to get back on the right track.

***

And with that, I’m out. Flight to catch…toodles!

Samuel

June 20th, 2011 at 01:19pm

The Sunday Bits for June 12, 2011

We’ll start this week’s Sunday Bits on a sombre note. As you probably heard yesterday, rugby league commentator Ray “Rabbits” Warren has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He will undergo surgery after he calls the upcoming State Of Origin match. Here’s hoping for a successful surgery and a swift recovery. Ray’s commentary is not my cup of tea, however there can be no denying that he is the voice of rugby league, and any time he is absent from the airwaves, the sport is poorer for it.

(As an aside, I wonder if the Bacco|007 who wrote the linked article is the Bacco007 who left a few comments on this blog a few years ago?)

***

In other sport related matters, sporting bodies want control over what products betting agencies can sell.

Australia’s major sporting organisations are set to crack down further on spot betting within their sports with a veto on those types of bets to be written into their agreements with sports betting agencies.

The issue of spot or micro betting has been brought to the fore by the NRL betting scandal which has seen former Bulldogs prop Ryan Tandy charged over his alleged involvement in a betting scandal surrounding the first scoring play in an NRL match between the Bulldogs and the Cowboys late last season.
[..]
The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS), chaired by Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, has completed a working paper which will see Australia’s seven major professional sports take co-ordinated action against possible corruption.

The adoption of a ‘right of veto’ in all agreements between individual sports and betting agencies was one of three recommendations submitted to federal sports minister Senator Mark Arbib when COMPSS met with him in Melbourne on Wednesday.
[..]
“The institution of nationally-consistent criminal legislation in relation to sports-betting-related cheating will ensure that illegal betting activities are uniformly punishable nationwide, creating a strong deterrent for such actions.” [James Sutherland said]

(h/t Bren O’Brien, Sportal.com.au)

Now this is something which I wholeheartedly disagree with. This whole thing is a way for sporting bodies to wash their hands of their responsibility to control the actions of their players by heaping the responsibility on to betting agencies, therefore limiting the ability of betting agencies to run their operations as they see fit, and punishing the sport fans by reducing their ability to test their expertise of the game by having a flutter on all manner of aspects of the sports. I’d go as far as to call this anti-competitive, and I’d definitely call the Victorian legislation anti-competitive.

The Victorian legislation, as it stands, requires betting agencies to reach an agreement with a sport before they can offer gambling products based on that sport. This is nuts. The two should have nothing to do with each other. If a betting agency wanted to run a market on how many words I would write on this blog on a given day, they should be free to do it without needing my permission. Betting agencies should be free to run markets on whatever they like, with obvious caveats in their rules preventing people involved in the activity from betting on the activity.

The sporting bodies should have nothing to do with the betting agencies, and should concentrate on running their sports, and controlling the actions of the people involved in the sport. Just as the betting agencies should have rules preventing people involved in the activity from betting on the activity, the sporting bodies should have rules in place which prevent people involved in the sport from betting on the sport under penalty of severance from the sport if the rule is broken.

There is no need for anti-competitive legislation and written agreements between the sports and betting agencies in order for this to happen.

It’s obvious why the sports want this legislation though. They know that without the legislation, the betting agencies would never agree to onerous restrictions on their trade and would simply not bother signing agreements and just continue with their business…and then the sporting bodies might have to take some responsibility for their employees.

***

The bizarre story of the week comes to us courtesy of Casey Hendrickson who points us to an article on MSNBC’s website (I’ll make an exception to the rule and allow the MSNBC link this time) about a man who was cited for disorderly conduct because he paid a bill.

A Utah man has been cited on a charge of disorderly conduct after paying for a disputed medical bill with 2,500 pennies.

The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reports Jason West went to Basin Clinic in Vernal on May 27 prepared to dispute an outstanding $25 bill.

Assistant Vernal Police Chief Keith Campbell says that after asking staff members whether they accepted cash, West dumped 2,500 pennies on the counter and demanded that staff count them.

Campbell says the incident upset staff because pennies were strewn about the counter and floor, and West’s action served “no legitimate purpose.”

Police later issued the 38-year-old West a citation for disorderly conduct. That carries a fine of as much as $140. Or 14,000 pennies.

(h/t Associated Press via MSNBC…that’s why the MSNBC link was allowed through; they didn’t write the article)

If I was in his shoes, I’d contest the citation as it is ridiculous to be fined for paying a bill with legal tender, and just as bizarre for a few coins falling on the floor to be considered “disorderly conduct”. I wonder if the staff at the medical centre have everyone charged with disorderly conduct for dropping coins on the floor? And if they don’t want to count the coins, perhaps they should use one of those wonderful machines which counts coins for them.

***

Speaking of Casey Hendrickson, the word on the street is that he will return to the airwaves in the not-too-distant future. I’ll keep you posted.

***

Completely changing the subject, and the man who has been at the centre of Washington controversy for well over a week for sending pictures of his personal namesake to minors, Anthony Weiner, is now being asked to resign by his Democratic colleagues, which is quite a turnaround considering that up until a day or so back they didn’t seem to see any need for him to step down, which probably says a bit about their own lack of ethics. Weiner, though, isn’t resigning, he’s just taking a leave of absence.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a very rare sane moment, declared that “The behavior he [Weiner] has exhibited is indefensible and Representative Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable”. Here’s hoping that he does resign, and somebody decent takes his place.

***

It was quite amusing a bit over a month ago, before Andrew Bolt‘s Sunday political television show “The Bolt Report” started airing, to see people predominantly of the left declaring that Bolt’s show was a failure, that it was doomed, and that nobody is interested in the rantings of a right-wing extremist, especially one who doesn’t believe in man-made global warming and the “need” for a carbon dioxide tax. A number of the comparisons I saw at the time were with Glenn Beck‘s show on the FOX News Channel which had coincidentally had its end announced around that time. The claims were along the lines of “see, it’s been tried, the ratings didn’t support it, nobody was interested, and Beck was fired…therefore the Bolt show is doomed”.

This, of course, flied in the face of the facts that:
1) Glenn Beck was not fired, but decided to leave FOX and take his show online, something which will undoubtedly cost him a truckload of cash in the short term, but something which he obviously thinks will make him a lot more money in the long term than he would have otherwise made at FOX. Beck has a good track record of making money out of media endeavours, so this will probably go well for him as well.
2) Beck remains a FOX News contributor and will continue to produce occasional programs for them. FOX would not be doing this if he didn’t rate.
3) Beck was outrating the rest of the cable news channels in the 5pm timeslot by a long way.
4) Despite a concerted effort by left-wing criminal front group (they are, their legal tax status prevents them from being partisan, but they are unashamedly left-wing) Media Matters For America to make advertisers boycott Glenn Beck’s show, he still managed to attract many advertisers. It was funny to see people try this tactic after the first week of Bolt’s show.

So, a month or so down the line, we should probably check how all of this has turned out. Were the cries of “Bolt’s show is doomed because nobody will want to watch it” correct? Ummm, no, in fact they couldn’t have been more wrong. The Bolt Report is outrating both of the other free-to-air Sunday political shows (Insiders and Meet The Press), coming pretty close to outrating them combined on a couple occasions.

Bolt Report vs Insiders vs Meet The Press May 8 - June 5
(h/t Australian Conservative and Oztam ratings)

Congratulations Andrew. Now if only we could get Southern Cross Ten to move (or drop, I don’t really care which) their music programming out of the way for the 10am edition of your show so that I can watch it live and don’t have to tape the 4:30pm replay and watch it after the football.

***

Speaking of Andrew Bolt, he’ll be the keynote speaker at the Institute of Public Affairs’ Freedom of Speech in Australia event on the 20th of June in Melbourne. The evening includes a video message from the great Mark Steyn and a few other speakers.

I’m flying down to Melbourne for the event and will be coming back the next day. Registrations for the night appear to still be open if you want to book your place (they’ll all be gone soon though). If you’re going to be there, feel free to say hello.

***

The IPA has also announced the dates for Chezch Republic President Vaclav Klaus’ speeches. Perth on the 22nd of July, Sydney on the 25th of July, Melbourne on the 28th of July, and Brisbane on the 1st of August.

I’m hoping to get to one of these (preferably Sydney) but I can’t be sure of my availability just yet.

***

And finally for today, something related to both Andrew Bolt and the topic about which Mr. Klaus will be speaking, the nonsense of man-made global warming. In case you missed it the other week, Andrew’s excellent interview with Professor Bob Carter about this dangerous nonsense.

And that’s all of the bits for this Sunday. Have a great day and a wonderful Queen’s Birthday tomorrow.

Samuel

June 12th, 2011 at 08:53am

The Sunday Bits for Sunday June 5, 2011

Good Sunday Morning. Plenty to get through this morning, so we’ll dive straight in.

A little while after I posted many details on the fact that the US economy is in serious trouble, more evidence of this came to light.

The US government’s jobs report showed hiring by US companies slowed markedly in May, while the unemployment rate kept rising.

Non-farm payrolls rose by 54,000 last month as the private sector posted the smallest job gain in nearly a year, according to the Labour Department. The jobless rate, which is obtained from a separate household survey, unexpectedly rose to 9.1 per cent in May.
[..]
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 97.29 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 12151.26, led lower by Alcoa, which dropped US28 cents (1.7 per cent) to $US15.92. The blue-chip index has dropped 5.1 per cent during its five-week losing skid and closed today at its lowest level since March 23.

(h/t Steven Russolillo, Dow Jones Newswires, via The Australian)

The fact is, the US economy was never in recovery despite what the Obama administration would have you believe. It had a decent period of stability on the back of over-the-top government spending, but it never entered a recovery, and as was always going to happen, the government’s crippling debt is now an even bigger problem than the original economic woes were. If there ever was any doubt (I’d say that there wasn’t, but it’s an arguable point), it’s gone now, Obama owns this recession and seemingly has very little idea of how to fix it.

***

On a similar note, another market isn’t doing so well. The carbon trading market.

THE World Bank has revealed the global market for trading in carbon permits has stalled, just weeks out from the federal government’s release of its detailed plans to shift to an emissions trading scheme.
[..]
The value of the primary Clean Development Mechanism market fell by double digits for the third year in a row, ending lower than it was in 2005.

(h/t Graham Lloyd and Siobhain Ryan from The Australian)

Even the bankers can’t work out how to make a quid out of this crazy scheme. It seems that trading in fresh air just isn’t lucrative, so what makes Ms. Gillard and friends think that taxing the air will be any more successful?

***

In the news today we have a rather interesting story which seems like a good idea…and like many good ideas these days, somebody in the media has decided to label it as “radical”.

CHILDREN as young as 12 would be allowed to drive under a radical road-safety training proposal to be put to the State Government this week.

That opening line sounds crazy, but if we dig a little deeper, we find that it’s misleading.

Under the CAMS plan, schoolchildren would be given up to four practical lessons each year from age 12. CAMS will explore the idea of using dirt tracks or paddocks for lessons, which would include driving along a skid pan.

CAMS president Andrew Papadopoulos – who taught his own children to drive at age 12 – said the existing school driving courses needed to include a much greater practical component.

He said waiting until students were 17 or 18 to teach them driving skills was too late, because many young people had already developed attitudes towards driving by that age.

“This is about instilling the right attitude to driving in kids early,” he said.

(h/t Linda Silmalis, The Sunday Telegraph)

If, as the opening line suggest, this idea was about letting twelve-year-olds loose on the roads, then I’d agree that it’s “radical” and alarming, but the actual idea is an incredibly good idea. Our current system puts kids (they’re under 18, they’re kids, even if the ACT government disagrees and thinks 12-17 is “young person” and not “child”) in a position where driving is a novelty to them, and generally a fun thing rather than a serious thing. The problems tend to be attitudinal ones more than capability ones.

This idea would change the attitudes of kids before they are old enough to drive on the open road by taking them through practical sessions which would imprint the fact that driving is a serious activity.

If it were up to me, I’d be implementing this idea immediately. I also have ideas to overhaul the driver’s licence system in a way which would make the process of getting a licence similar to the current arrangements for motorbike licences, with an emphasis on solo learning under limited demerit points. People who could successfully graduate from such a system would then go straight on to a full licence, while people who fail either by racking up too many demerit points or by failing assessments would be forced through a logbook system for basic skills before they could graduate back to the solo-learning system.

I believe that one of the great flaws of our current system is that it teaches reliance on a passenger rather than on one’s own judgement, and considering that the vast majority of driving is done on one’s own, it is important for people to learn on their own…and people who are incapable of that simply shouldn’t be on the road. Of course another thing I would do is get rid of the crazy system which is in place in New South Wales where artificial speed limits are imposed on L and P platers which prevent people from learning to overtake, prevent them from learning to handle a vehicle at highway speeds, and provide a slow-moving hazard for the rest of us.

Anyway, my plan could probably be legitimately considered “radical”. The plan from CAMS on the other hand should not be considered radical, and should be implemented immediately, and it’s good to see the O’Farrell government taking it seriously.

***

Also in New South Wales, and the sideshow this week has been centred around filibusters, not that I can work out why this has caused so much excitement.

The basic story is that the O’Farrell government introduced a bill which would give the Premier the ability to set wages for public servants, something which sounds like a sensible idea for a boss to be able to do. The Greens and Labor, predictably, didn’t like the idea and so tried to block it with a filibuster and a deluge of amendments. Nothing out of the ordinary here, this is a regular tactic in politics and is permitted under the rules of parliament, even if it’s not a regular occurrence in Australian governments. Then, after a few days of this, the Liberal/National coalition used their majority to, as is allowed under the rules of parliament, break the filibuster and restrict debate on the deluge of amendments.

The bill passed the lower house yesterday, and will pass the upper house soon.

Yet, incredibly, this has all sparked outrage from both sides of politics. On the right, there was outrage about the Greens babbling on and on for hours and hours and hours, with individual members setting new records for the amount of time a person has spoken in the New South Wales parliament, and now on the left there is outrage over the government using their massive majority to break the filibuster and pass the bill. Both sets of outrage are ill-considered. It could just be that, due to the rarity of these events in Australian parliaments, people think there is something wrong with the events, but it’s more likely that people are just using the opportunity to make their points on the bill rather than the actual events which have occurred in the parliament.

Either way, I think the simple solution here is to say “move along, nothing to see here” as the political machine just moves through its regular processes.

***

Of course there was also a sideshow in federal politics this week involving cat noises. While it was dumb of Senator David Bushby to meow at Senator Penny Wong, at least he had the grace to apologise for it afterwards. We’re still waiting for the apologies from Ms. Wong’s colleagues for the similarly sexist comments which are shouted at Julie Bishop during every session of parliament.

***

Back to the New South Wales parliament, and Queen Princess Clover is AWOL.

FOUR overstretched and stressed-out State MPs will quit their second jobs as mayors, declaring they can’t cope with the workload of both positions.

But the most prominent double-dipping MP – Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – refuses to concede there is a problem despite missing every day of parliament last week while on a mayoral junket to Brazil and New York City.

In fact, while parliament was open for business yesterday continuing its marathon session about public sector pay, Ms Moore was tweeting from New York City, where she was checking out bike lanes.

Ms Moore, who has missed 25 per cent of parliamentary sittings since Barry O’Farrell took office, is tightly holding her grip as the Lord Mayor and the MP for Sydney despite politician mayors from all sides of politics admitting it can’t be done.
[..]
Ms Moore, who pulls two six-figure salaries, has three offices and two distinct sets of advisers and staff for each position despite insisting there is overlap in the positions.

(h/t Linda Silmalis, The Sunday Telegraph)

It should be illegal to hold political office in multiple governments. It’s illegal to be a public servant and hold a political office, and the conflicts of interest there are similar to the conflicts of interest in holding multiple political offices.

In Clover’s case, it’s beyond me why she needs to inspect bicycle lanes in New York City when she has already plastered the darn things all over Sydney. And the climate change summit in Brazil…catch a plane to that one did we Clover? Wouldn’t a teleconference have been less carbon dioxide intensive? And how exactly are you being an effective member of the New South Wales Parliament if you’re absent a quarter of the time?

Beyond Clover, we’ve seen similar issues with politicians missing votes in the federal parliament. Here’s a thought, perhaps the rule should be that in order to get paid, the politicians have to turn up to the parliament. If you don’t turn up, your pay is docked…just like it would be in the private sector.

***

The AAMI building in Fyshwick
In business news, AAMI Insurance is set to close all of its branches, moving all of its customer service to the phone and online.

Spokesman Reuben Aitchison says the branches these days contribute just two per cent to the business and transactions of the Suncorp-owned company, while there has been a significant growth in business through the Internet.

He says the insurer will now concentrate on providing telephone and online services, and hopes to employ half of about 100 affected staff in call centres.

(h/t Australian Associated Press via The Herald Sun)

Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. If the branches, which are retail outlets anyway and not really able to manage insurance claims, are costing more to run than they are bringing in, then effectively my premiums are subsidising the branches, and I would much rather see AAMI’s running costs reduced than to see my premiums go up. I have no problem with their telephone and online customer service, in fact I have nothing but praise for it. If people really want to sit across a desk from an employee of their insurer, then they can go and pay some other insurance agency the extra money to make it happen.

(Image: AAMI’s Fyshwick building at a tad after 5am yesterday morning).

***

As a general rule, I find that most reasonable people like to help other people. A decent proportion of people are nice enough to want to go out of their way to help people that they don’t know, and are often willing to pay more for a product if they think it will provide a better deal for the person who produced the product. Unfortunately, as a result, these people tend to open themselves up to charlatans who have no qualms with pretending that an expensive product is helping someone, when in fact it isn’t.

For a very long time I have suspected that the “Fair Trade Coffee” market was a scam which was, at best, not helping farmers, and at worst, making their lives worse. Until recently, this was just a suspicion which lacked proof. Now though, proof exists.

That fair-trade cup of coffee we savour may not only fail to ease the lot of poor farmers, it may actually help to impoverish them, according to a study out recently from Germany’s University of Hohenheim.

The study, which followed hundreds of Nicaraguan coffee farmers over a decade, concluded that farmers producing for the fair-trade market “are more often found below the absolute poverty line than conventional producers.

“Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers.”

(h/t Lawrence Solomon, National Post, and additional h/t to Casey Hendrickson who alerted me to the story some time back)

Have a read of the article. Lawrence, its author, is very well versed in the coffee trade and goes in to some detail about how much of a scam the whole fair trade coffee thing is, and how it discriminates against the poorest of farmers. The highlight of which, for me at least, is:

It discriminates against the very poorest of the world’s coffee farmers, most of whom are African, by requiring them to pay high certification fees. These fees -one of the factors that the German study cites as contributing to the farmers’ impoverishment -are especially perverse, given that the majority of Third World farmers are not only too poor to pay the certification fees, they’re also too poor to pay for the fertilizers and the pesticides that would disqualify coffee as certified organic.

Their coffee is organic by default, but because the farmers can’t provide the fees that certification agencies demand to fly down and check on their operations, the farmers lose out on the premium prices that can be fetched by certified coffee.

To add to the perversity, it’s an open secret that the certification process is lax and almost impossible to police, making it little more than a high-priced honour system. Although the certification associations have done their best to tighten flaws in the system, farmers and middlemen who want to get around the system inevitably do, bagging unearned profits. Those who remain scrupulous and follow the onerous and costly regulations -another source of inefficiency the German study notes in its analysis -lose out.

I won’t repeat the whole thing here, although I do implore you to read it. Lawrence Solomon’s work here is exemplary.

***

In domestic media news, Derryn Hinch continues to fight his decades-long battle for the right to name sex offenders who prey on children, despite the fact that it could very easily see him spend his final days in a jail cell.

3AW drive time host Derryn Hinch has been found guilty this afternoon of breaching suppression orders relating to the naming of two sex offenders.

AAP reports that the journalist is facing the possibility of up to five years in prison, after Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg ruled he had breached suppression orders four times on his website and at a public rally. A fifth charge was dismissed.
[..]
Hinch remains defiant over his decision to name those guilty of sexual offences towards children.

“I still feel the same way I always have… people have a right to know,” he said outside the court.

“I know what I have done. I am not sorry for what I have done. It is a good cause and the law is a bad law.

“I don’t like getting convictions. There are always risks in doing the sort of work that I do and you pay for it.”

(h/t “Big Dan”, Mediaspy)

I happen to agree with Derryn on this one. I am of the belief that people who commit sexual offences against children are sick, vile people who are beyond help. I think they should rot in jail for life or face the death penalty, however in lieu of such laws, we should have the right to know exactly who these people are. The existing laws are wrong.

I hope that Derryn doesn’t have to spend his final days in prison, although if he does, then I have to admire his courage and his convictions (moral, that is, not legal).

***

To sport, and you may have noticed that I gave up on the footy tipping again. Truth is, I’m pretty hopeless at it, and I’ll gladly accept it and move on. I just can’t see the point in continually tipping with less than 50% accuracy.

That said, I am still a fervent fan of the Bulldogs in both the NRL and AFL. Alas that means this weekend has been a pretty poor one.

Watching David Smorgon’s (AFL Bulldogs’ President) body language yesterday, I got the distinct impression that he had a heavy heart from a difficult decision, and as such, I believe that Rodney Eade’s days as coach are very limited and he will not see out the season. This is a shame, because I think Rodney is doing a good job, and it’s the players which are letting him down. Just watching Rodney’s pure frustration in the box each week makes that obvious to me.

As far as I can see, the Dogs had a great chance at winning the Grand Final last year with a team which could not physically last beyond the year. The chance was squandered by the powers that be when they sacked Jason Akermanis. Jason provided the team with the extra option on the field that they needed, and were never able to fill once he left. Rodney Eade tried to work around the loss, but it simply wasn’t possible.

This year, be it through injury or an aging lineup, the situation is worse.

I strongly believe that Rodney could build up a great team within a few years if given the chance with some new talent in the side, and that this is our best shot at a flag in the coming years. A rebuilding phase is needed, but sacking Rodney is a bad idea at this time. I do hope that I misread David Smorgon yesterday.

In the rugby league’s version of the Bulldogs, it is reported today that coach Kevin Moore has lost the support of the board. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve never been a big fan of Kevin Moore as a coach, and I don’t credit him with much of the success the club had in 2009 as I see a lot of that as being the result of board decisions and good players rather the coaching decisions. Kevin is one coach who I won’t miss should he happen to leave.

***

Some audio for you this morning which will touch the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.

Mark Levin, a great radio host and constitutional lawyer in America (we’ve discussed his work here previously), is a dog lover. Sadly his best friend, the lovely dog Pepsi passed away a couple weeks ago. Mark took a week off to mourn the loss and spend the time with his devastated family. I was very saddened when I heard about the loss (Mark mentioned it on Facebook before disappearing for a week) and sent a card to Mark which apparently arrived on Friday. Many thanks to the nice people in Landmark Legal Foundation’s Virginia office for passing the card on to Mark.

When Mark returned to work on Tuesday, he devoted some of his show to explaining what had happened, and just how much Pepsi meant to him. I cried when I heard it, and I gave Nattie a really big hug when I got home. The audio moved me so much that I have to share it with you, with thanks to Citadel Radio for the audio.

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Mark Levin's dogs Pepsi, Griffen and Sprite

Mark, whose two other dogs Sprite and Griffen were shelter dogs whom he and his family rescued, is very passionate about rescuing dogs which have been abandoned. To that end, he and his family have set up a special fund, “Pepsi, Griffen & Sprite’s Legacy Gift” to help dogs who have been abandoned for one reason or another. All proceeds of the fund go to the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation who provide dental services, surgery, heartworm treatments, diagnostic testing and more for dogs who would otherwise be overlooked in crowded shelters. I know that Mark contributes greatly to the fund, so I simply ask that if you are at all interested in helping out and can spare a few dollars, please consider donating. I know that you will make a dog somewhere very happy if you do.

***

And that’s it for this week’s rather large Sunday Bits (3,500 words or thereabouts). I visited the Captains Flat weather radar during the week, so you can look forward to some photos from that trip soon.

Until next time, tada.

Samuel

June 5th, 2011 at 09:49am

The Sunday Bits for February 6, 2011

And just for a change, it’s happening on a Sunday (can you tell that I don’t have to work today?). To start with today, some happenings in the media.

***

2UE's 2011 lineup
(image credit: Radio 2UE/Fairfax)

2UE’s new lineup starts tomorrow. To be fair, most (all?) of the new lineup is already on air, so perhaps its really the relaunch which happens tomorrow, apparently complete with new station imaging. The highlight of the relaunch for me is that Jason Morrison will be the new breakfast host. It’s a tough gig, what with the AM dial being dominated by Alan Jones and the FM dial being dominated by (albeit with less listeners than Alan) Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O, but if anyone can pull it off, I expect that it would be Jason as he was more than capable of increasing Alan’s ratings when he filled in for him a number of times.

The real question for both Jason’s new show and the station overall is whether people will make the switch. I suspect that they might, but it will be a matter of patience. I’d rate the chances of the relaunch being successful as higher than Channel Ten’s new news offering attracting a half-decent audience…actually I think the new lineup is a viable alternative to 2GB, but much like Seven News had to wait for Brian Henderson to retire back when Brian Henderson was anchoring Nine News, I think 2UE will need to wait for Alan Jones to retire, which probably makes now a good time to build a viable alternative.

There is one other highlight for me. John Stanley will be hosting a weekend breakfast program (I can think of one person who will be sending me an abusive email after those two sentences, but do please hear me out before you send that email). I have long bemoaned the lack of news/talk programming in the breakfast hours on weekend radio. Hopefully this is the start of a wider shift in that direction among talk stations. The gardening shows are fine as a genre, but they really don’t need to be on every single station. (Now you can send that abusive email…and you gardening show enthusiasts can join in on the action)

I also note that Trevor Long has made the move to 2UE and will have a segment on Tim Webster’s weekend afternoon show (which looks set to be much like his weekday show was, just without the news-based content…Tim’s show is more suitable for the weekend than the weekdays, so good luck to him, although I can’t forgive the station for dropping Clive Robertson in favour of Tim Webster). This, and the fact that The C Team’s website has gone in to a holding pattern, indicates to me that they’ve split for now. This is a shame, but it will be great to have an hour of Trevor talking about technology again.

***

Over at Channel Seven, speculation that Larry Emdur was about to split for his former station of Channel Nine have been quashed today, with The Sunday Herald Sun reporting that Larry has signed an $800,000 per year contract with Seven.

TELEVISION’S first wage war after the global financial crisis is set to erupt after game show and morning television host Larry Emdur re-signed with Channel 7 on a deal worth well in excess of $800,000 a year.

The new contract stops the popular The Morning Show co-host from defecting to rival Channel 9. It is expected to put pressure on TV executives to bump up salaries for other top-line on-air talent.

Emdur, 46, is now in the same pay bracket as stars including Sunrise host David Koch, A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw and The X Factor judge Kyle Sandilands.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands Emdur’s contract includes continuing his The Morning Show co-host duties with Kylie Gillies.
[..]
[Seven] refused to discuss details of Emdur’s new contract.

(h/t Richard Clune, The Sunday Herald Sun)

This pleases me greatly. I’m not a big fan of The Morning Show, but Larry does have great on-air chemistry with Kylie Gillies and the two do make the show quite watchable. Larry has also proved himself to be very capable of anchoring serious news coverage, as evidenced during the recent Queensland floods and various political happenings such as the day that Julia Gillard called the election or the day that she took over as Labor leader (or was Sunrise extended that day? I don’t remember which show was on when that happened any more). I would expect that he will be required to do more work now that he is being paid more, so hopefully this includes a bigger role in news coverage…or perhaps Seven can take up my idea of having Wheel Of Fortune as a part of The Morning Show, with contestants being plucked at random from outside the Martin Place studios and the infomercial products being given away as prizes.

I’ve always liked Larry as a game show host, but his recent versatility has really impressed me. He also never fails to entertain me. He had a couple rather funny moments this week, so if you’re looking for a laugh, here they are.

And as evidenced in that last video, Larry now has a dog (or as I would contend, a dog now has Larry)…congratulations Larry, I’m really happy for you…and trust me when I tell you that the dog not only knows that you’re getting a payrise, but now owns part of that payrise (in addition to your house which it took ownership of the other day in a convenient arrangement where you pay all of the bills). Really though, you’ll be very happy, dogs are great. I wish you lots of happiness.

***

Still in Sydney and the soap opera of the New South Wales Labor Government continues, with Kristina Keneally (to my Las Vegas friends…what the heck did we do to deserve this woman? Can’t you take her back?) today deciding that her best chance at deluding convincing people that they really should vote for her and her utterly abysmal and disastrous failure of a government wonderful team of merry clowns and circus acts is by apologising. Kevin Rudd apologised once and it worked really well for him…he didn’t even get to face the next election as party leader…maybe this is Kristina’s way of getting ousted in one of New South Wales Labor’s regular leader rotations so that she doesn’t get the blame when they lose.

A desperate Kristina Keneally will say ”sorry” to NSW voters for her government letting them down.

The Premier will issue the blanket apology in Labor’s first commercial of the election campaign, to be aired across all TV networks for three days from tonight.

But even Labor elder Bob Hawke has conceded the party would not win the election and would be foolish to believe it could, according to an ABC report.
[..]

”It’s difficult to admit mistakes, especially when you’re the Premier,” Ms Keneally begins in a piece to camera. ”But I understand the government was too focused on itself and not focused enough on you. It went off-track and I am sorry.”
[..]
The final part of the advertisement introduces what will be Labor’s pitch to the electorate: a ”law” to ”ease the pressure on household budgets”.

(h/t Heath Aston, The Sun Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald)

Hmmm, a law to keep costs down. Sounds like government interference in the private market to me…and with this government’s track record of making bigger and bigger messes between their episodes of soap opera drama (which Kristina is apologising for), what makes her think the people of New South Wales want her government to be more involved in their daily lives? It sounds to me as if she is apologising for her government’s involvement in one breath, and promising more of it in the next.

Bring on March 26, and bring on Barry O’Farrell as the new Premier!

***

Over in the US, reckless spending and reckless government involvement in the economy and in particular health care is the subject of the Republican’s Weekly Address, delivered this week by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Keep an ear out for the subtle but effective dig at the Obama administration’s bizarre use of the word “investment” instead of “spending” in recent weeks.

***

Elsewhere in the states, erstwhile talk radio host Heather Kydd launched her blog this week, cleverly titled “I Kydd You Not”. Well worth a read, and I’ll be adding it to my regular reading list. http://kyddyounot.blogspot.com/

I see that Heather has listed herself as a “former radio host”. Well, this blog thing is great, but I hope that the “former” doesn’t stay in her bio for long.

***

I suppose I should address the situation in Egypt. It’s hard to know which side to support in this. On the one hand a decent proportion of Egyptians seem to want President Hosni Mubarak to step down, and it is their country and democracy is a good thing, but on the other hand Hosni Mubarak is a good ally, and we’d have no hope of either democracy in Egypt or security for our friends in Israel if the Muslim Brotherhood take over in Egypt, a prospect which is alarmingly likely.

The country has reached a good compromise position a few days ago. Hosni Mubarak agreed to not run at the next election. Now if the aim is to get him out of power and to democratically elect someone else, this should be enough, but the protests have continued and Hosni Mubarak’s entire government has quit, Mubarak excluded. This still doesn’t seem to be enough for the protesters, which makes me wonder about their real intentions and the likelihood that the continuation of the protests is being fuelled by the Muslim Brotherhood who would, if given the chance, implement a murderous regime under Shariah Law. (h/t Jim Ball for the link to the article from the Centre For Security Policy)

It has also been interesting to watch the mainstream media refer to Hosni Mubarak’s administration as a “regime” with all of the negative connotations that go with the word. It’s clear what side they’re on, but if this continues and Egypt completely destabilises and collapses in to complete chaos or a real dictatorship (Mubarak’s administration is corrupt and overbearing, but does not qualify as a real dictatorship), will the mainstream media own up to their role in urging it on and accept the guilt which follows? No, I didn’t think so.

My stance on Egypt’s current turmoil is simple. Hosni Mubarak has agreed to step down at the next election in September. At worst, this should be allowed to play out. At best, the election should happen sooner depending on the government’s ability to set up an election at short notice. As much as I would love to be able to say that external governments (the U.S. in particular, but definitely not the U.N.) should help out with setting up the election if requested, I can’t suggest that as the only thing this will cause is allegations of corruption from the losing side.

Continued violence and unrest indicates to me that the protests are being fuelled by undesirable elements that are using the anti-Mubarak angst to achieve their own ends, and I guarantee you that those ends are entirely unhelpful and potentially dangerous to us here in Australia and other western countries.

***

Finally, I joined the iPhone revolution this week. Why did I do this when I have previously refused on the grounds that I don’t really want to be THAT connected (a funny stance for somebody who had to defend his stance on the iPhone being “revolutionary” when it was first announced), and that my existing phone was more than sufficient for my (minuscule) calling and texting needs? Well, of my old Nokia with the monochrome green display, this was perfectly true, but it was stolen and has not been recovered (and to be honest, I had further evidence about the theft which the police were not remotely interested in receiving).

After going without a phone for a couple months (it was a nice break) I bought a cheap slightly more modern Nokia. Alas its battery life is pretty awful, something which I attribute partially to the fact that I work in an environment where mobile reception is patchy at best and the phone spends a lot of time searching for a mobile signal. I also use almost none of my phone credit each month, so it seems like a waste of money.

With the iPhone, I can justify a poor battery life (at least the phone will be doing something worth of poor battery life) and will take the place of my iPod, being charged in the car, which should alleviate battery problems. I also have some chance of making some use of my monthly data and call allowances from my minimum spend, making it less of a waste of money each month (this morning, for example, on my wee-hours-drive-because-I-couldn’t-sleep, I streamed a couple hours of Rush Limbaugh‘s archived Friday show)…and I can stream the Fox News Channel…I’m sold!

One other thing which occurred to me is an idea for a video podcast (no, I’m not going to call it a “vodcast”, silly word that it is) where I will intermittently rattle off some thoughts while I’m on the road. I did a test run yesterday which proved the viability of the idea, a frame of which, shot while I was going through the Parliament House tunnel, is below.

Samuel, February 2011

Oh, and I reinstalled Gimp recently, so I can now save PNG image files once again, something which I haven’t been able to do since the capability somehow broke some time back on my laptop and I only just got around to fixing it. This makes probably little or no difference to you, and maybe I should have held it over as useless information, but I have something else lined up for that this week.

Samuel

February 6th, 2011 at 09:00am

The Sunday Bits for January 23, 2011

Another small set for this weekend.

First off, do you have trouble remembering what you read on this page? If you do, then it might help if I use an archaic font.

A study by Princeton University found that a significant number of those tested could recall more information when it was presented in unusual typefaces rarely used in textbooks.

The research suggests that introducing ‘disfluency’ – by making information superficially harder to understand – deepens the process of learning and encourages better retention.

The psychologists said information which has to be actively generated rather than ‘passively acquired’ from simple text is remembered longer and more accurately.

The study raises questions over how much fonts like Times New Roman and Arial, which are used in the majority of academic books, help readers revise for tests.

American author and psychologist Jonah Lehrer had written about the idea of disfluency in his Wired.com blog before the research was published.
[..]
He said the study showed the whole history of typography was had missed the point when it comes to learning.

Mr Lehrer said: ‘It has been a movement towards easy to read fonts. We assume that anything which makes it easier to see the content is a good thing.

‘This is especially the case in classrooms where teachers assume legibility makes it easier for kids to learn and remember information.

‘That turns out to be exactly backwards.

‘Disfluent fonts, the ones people tend to laugh off, fonts that are comically ugly, they tend to be the best for learning and for memory.’

‘When we see a font that is easy to read we’re able to process that in a mindless way, but when we see an unfamiliar font, one full of weird squiggles, we have to work a little bit harder.

‘That extra effort is a signal to the brain that this might be something worth remembering.’

(h/t: The Daily Mail)

This points to a wider disconnect in logic in the education system if, on the one hand, clear text in textbooks is a generally accepted method of revision for exams, while on the other hand making students copy down notes from overhead projectors, blackboards or whiteboards makes the students more likely to remember the notes than if they had simply read them from a book. The latter option forces students to process the information and be more likely to remember the information, much like the archaic text favoured by the study.

My personal experience matches the study as well. I found that revising from textbooks was a waste of my time as it didn’t enhance my knowledge of subjects in the slightest, and I did just fine without the revision. I also found it incredibly difficult to learn anything in a class which was based entirely on reading from a very legible text. It was much easier to absorb the information if I read it aloud…but this was not possible in that classroom, so I failed the class.

***

There are perfectly good reasons for not allowing pets to sleep on your bed, although we seem to have another reason to add to the list now.

Most U.S. households have pets, and more than half of those cats and dogs are allowed to sleep in their owner’s beds, Drs. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ben Sun, chief veterinarian for California’s Department of Health, say in a study to be published in next month’s issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors, both experts in zoonoses, which are diseases or infections transmitted from animals to humans, reported that “the risk for transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing or licking is real and has even been documented for life-threatening infections such as plague, internal parasites” and other serious diseases.

(h/t Andrew Schneider — AOL News)

When it comes to dogs, it is quite destructive to the social order to allow them to regularly sleep with you. The hierarchy of dogs is such that the leader of the pack picks the most desirable sleeping spot, the next dog in line picks the next most desirable spot and so on. Allowing your dog to sleep with you elevates them to your level in the hierarchy, undermining your authority.

Inviting your dog on to your bed is acceptable, as a treat, but most definitely not as a regular “you are welcome here whenever you like” occurrence.

***

John Laws and 2SM have now publicly confirmed what we have all known for weeks, and what 2SM have had up on their website for at least the last two weeks. John Laws is back, and will be hosting the morning show on 2SM and network stations from January 31.

But Laws has only agreed to front a 9am-noon show on the Sydney and regional network of more than 70 stations – including non-Caralis ones in Alice Springs, Tasmania and Katherine – for an indeterminate time and has not locked a long-term deal.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be back on air but I can’t wait to be talking to Australians around the country again,” he said.

(h/t Sydney Confidential — The Daily Telegraph)

The number of stations is debatable as a lot of that “more than 70” appears to be transmitter sites rather than actual stations, but it will be good to have Lawsie back on the air regardless. I doubt that he’ll make much of a dent in the Sydney market (will 2SM even re-enter the ratings?) but I don’t think that’s the point. Lawsie is bored with retirement and wants to get back to doing what he loves. He, the industry, and his audience are lucky that he is able to do so.

***

Speaking of which, I noticed that when Jason Morrison was on Seven’s Sunrise the other day, David Koch went along with notion that Jason is currently unemployed and looking for work. Whilst this might be true technically, we all know that the reason he hasn’t signed the 2UE contract yet is that he is still under contract with 2GB and will be presenting the 2UE breakfast show just as soon as the contracts allow. It was nice of Kochie to wish Jason all the best with the job hunt though…I suppose it’s one wish that can easily be foreseen to come to fruition.

***

That’s all for this week. See you next week!

Samuel

January 23rd, 2011 at 05:52pm

The (not late if you’re in Western Australia) Sunday Bits for January 16, 2011

Alas I am not in Western Australia, so I am late for what is a rather short Sunday Bits this week.

***

Starting at midday, 2CC will be broadcasting Chris Smith’s afternoon show, on relay from 2GB Sydney. Chris Smith will replace 2UE’s Mike Smith afternoon show on 2CC, which in turn (on 2UE anyway) replaces the Tim Webster afternoon show.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it was time for Tim to go…it probably had been for a year or two. I liked Tim’s show in its first year, but after that 2UE tried their hardest to turn it in to an endless parade of lifestyle segments and killed off any interest that I had in the show. I did continue to listen intermittently to the news-based segments, but even that was hard when Tim kept bringing on people who wanted to explain that we’re all doomed because of global warming, and it’s all our fault. It became even harder when Tim suddenly and without warning changed his mind one afternoon and became outraged about the carbon tax. As nice as it was for Tim to espouse a sensible opinion on the subject, as he never explained the backflip and even went so far as to pretend that there wasn’t one, I could never believe that he meant what he was saying. As such, I gave up listening completely.

Alas Tim moves to weekend afternoons, replacing Clive Robertson. I can’t describe how annoying this is without screaming.

But back to the two Smiths. Either would be better than the Webster show, however I do rate Michael Smith more highly than Chris Smith. That said, in Sydney I doubt that Michael will put a noticeable dent in Chris’ ratings. Chris has the Alan Jones and Ray Hadley ratings as a lead-in, so I doubt that he’ll lose any significant ground, but I will give plenty of credit to 2UE for building a viable alternative lineup. Jason Morrison (ex 2GB and to be confirmed), David Oldfield, Michael Smith, Paul Murray, The Two Murrays, Stuart Bocking and Mike Jeffreys, is at the very least a lineup which has a chance, unlike last year’s lineup.

As for 2CC, well I suppose it makes sense for them seeing as they’re already running 2GB programming between 9 and noon, and it will at least mean that, finally, 2GB’s on-air claim that they have network stations other than MTR (which doesn’t count seeing as it’s 2GB’s Melbourne outpost) on shows other than Ray Hadley and Weekend Detention will have some truth to it. The real question now is whether 2GB’s evening and overnight lineup could be the next thing to appear on 2CC’s lineup.

***

Padders over at The Right Aussie filmed a couple car trips and sped them up quite significantly. The results are quite enjoyable.

It reminds me of a plan I had back when the initial GDE construction was completed, to film a journey from the far end of Gungahlin Drive to Tharwa, which is of course now one very long road with multiple names. I might do that when the current GDE works are completed.

***

You might want to mark May 21 in your diary and make sure that you have your affairs in order by then, because that has been confirmed as the date on which the world will end…or at least, when it will start to end. The true end is another five months away.

2011 AD – On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation).

Somehow I think the burning in the fire will come as a relief to many after the five months of torture.

On Judgment Day, May 21st, 2011, this 5-month period of horrible torment will begin for all the inhabitants of the earth. It will be on May 21st that God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves. Earthquakes will ravage the whole world as the earth will no longer conceal its dead (Isaiah 26:21). People who died as saved individuals will experience the resurrection of their bodies and immediately leave this world to forever be with the Lord. Those who died unsaved will be raised up as well, but only to have their lifeless bodies scattered about the face of all the earth. Death will be everywhere.

Yes, the zombie apocalypse is upon us. And you thought it would never happen…

***

That’ll do it for this week. More Sunday Bits next week, hopefully on Sunday.

Samuel

January 17th, 2011 at 02:20am

The Sunday Bits for January 9, 2011

I see that Vodafone have made it in to the news for the wrong reasons again. The last time around I didn’t really care as that was due to people complaining about data throughput and call quality…I don’t use Vodafone for data and have no problem with my call quality so it didn’t really affect me. Today’s story on the other hand:

THE personal details of millions of Vodafone customers have been available on the web in what is described as an “unbelievable” lapse in security by the mobile phone giant.

The details include names, home addresses, driver’s licence numbers and credit card details.
[..]
The personal details, accessible from any computer because they are kept on an Internet site rather than Vodafone’s internal system, include numbers dialled or texted, plus the time and location of calls or texts.
[..]
“The fact you can look up anybody as easily as that seems to be a gross breach of privacy and resulting in an almost negligent exposure to criminal activity,” said Professor Fraser, who is also head of the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network.

A Vodafone spokesman said on Saturday the company has ordered an immediate investigation and review of its security.

Vodafone retailers say each store has a system username and password, and access is shared among staff and changed every three months.

Full access means you can look up a customer’s bills and make alterations to accounts.

Vodafone got my name wrong when I signed up with them years ago and they’ve never fixed it. About the only bit of sensitive data they have about me is my credit card number and I’ll be watching the account activity there with my usual vigour, but otherwise my call and SMS details will make for fairly boring reading. I’ve made two calls in the last week…they were both to work. I have sent zero text messages. Yes, my phone usage is exciting.

As for the security side of things, I’m not surprised that the retailer/dealer portal is available over the internet, but I am surprised that it’s not protected by either an IP block disallowing access to IP addresses which don’t belong to dealers/retailers, or by a VPN whereby the only way to access it would be through an encrypted VPN connection. I’m also a tad surprised that logins are store-based and not user-based. A system which grants that much access to customer data should be user-based so that each user can be individually tracked should the need arise.

I’m not in the least bit surprised that the portal grants access to the entire customer base’s details. Back when I worked for a Telstra contractor in a Telstra call centre, I could pull up the details of any Telstra customer based on as little as their phone number or Bigpond email address. It was essential for my job that I was able to do this. It is not surprising that Vodafone retail stores have such access to Vodafone customer data…how else do people expect them to do their job?

This story isn’t as earth-shattering as the Fairfax papers would have us believe.

***

From the “People who should be banned from having more children” department comes this abomination:

A COUPLE so desperate for a baby girl that they terminated twin boys are fighting to choose the sex of their next child.

The couple, who have three sons and still grieve for a daughter they lost soon after birth, are going to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to win the right to select sex by IVF treatment.

They say they want the opportunity to have the baby daughter they were tragically denied.

An independent panel, known as the Patient Review Panel, recently rejected the couple’s bid to choose the sex of their next child using IVF.

They have gone to VCAT in a bid to have that decision overturned.
[..]
The couple said it had been a traumatic decision to make but they could not continue to have unlimited numbers of children.

If their test case fails, they say they will go to the US to conceive a girl.

So they aborted perfectly healthy twins because they didn’t like the sex of the babies, and now they want to make a designer baby. These people are nuts, and if they think the US will make it easier for them, well I suggest that they go over there and enjoy an even bigger public outcry.

Forget for a moment that what these people are doing is illegal (it’s illegal to select the sex of a child in Victoria unless for the legitimate health reasons of the child), what they have done and continue to do is, as far as I’m concerned, morally reprehensible. Aborting a child for this reason is downright wrong…I generally disagree with abortion at the best of times, but then wanting to have further children AND select their sex. Sorry, but these people shouldn’t be allowed to have children…they are sick and twisted people, end of story.

***

Unlike Gerry Harvey, Westfield are taking the right approach to combating the exodus of consumers to online retailers…they’re taking their shopping centre enterprise online!

Shopping centre giant Westfield has launched the nation’s first virtual mall, grouping its “bricks and mortar” tenants into a one-stop website, The Australian reported.

And in an effort to reconnect with tech-savvy shoppers, it has hired an online “insider” to infiltrate the internet.

Alyce Cowell, a 23-year-old fashion stylist and journalist, won an online contest for the $100,000 job to tweet, blog and use Facebook to tell “shopping-engaged females” about her shopping trips and tips.

“Shoppers trust the advice from other shoppers,” she said yesterday of her cyber-marketing strategy. “The benefit of researching online before heading out to the shops is that customers can be much more savvy.”

See, this is how you compete. You do something to make your product competitive, and you do something to make sure people know about your product. Gerry should learn a thing or two from this…perhaps if he allowed people to buy products from the Harvey Norman website he wouldn’t be trying to make people pay more tax because they don’t flock to his stores whenever he gets a free run on Today Tonight. Perhaps…as long as Gerry doesn’t start tweeting about his shopping trips and how a lovely sales rep named Brad treated him politely and gave him a good deal at the Woden store…I think that would be more than anyone could bear.

***

Need a reminder about what we’re at war with? It’s the people who want to replace our way of life with this:

Al-Qaida-linked militants in war-torn southern Somalia have banned unrelated men and women from shaking hands, speaking or walking together in public, residents said Saturday. People who break the rules could be imprisoned, whipped or even executed.

The insurgents already have banned women from working in public, leaving many mothers with a terrible choice: risk execution by going to sell some tea or vegetables in the marketplace, or stay safely at home and watch the children slowly starve.

You’d think that the “compassionate left” would be for the war and against this type of denial of basic human rights…but no, they want an open borders policy so that the crazies can come in and take over.

***

And the human interest story of the week. Love is a painkiller.

A Stanford University study led by Sean Mackey discovered love stimulated the dopamine-oriented centres of the brain linked to reward and craving.reported the Sunday Herald Sun.

This is the reason why falling in love can trigger a sense of euphoria and an emotional high.

In the study, the brains of 15 student volunteers, who Dr Mackey described as being wildly in love, were observed via a functional magnetic resonance imaging, a brain scan, as they were exposed to mild pain via a heated device in their hand.

The subjects were alternately shown images of their loved ones, then an attractive friend and finally asked to perform a mental skills test to distract themselves from the pain.

They had greater resistance to pain when looking at the picture of their partner and researchers speculate that is because the brain releases natural painkillers in the first stage of new love.
[..]
Dr Mackey said other pleasurable activities, such as listening to music or reading a book, could also aid pain relief.

This does lead me to the question of whether a broken heart, which is a pain of a different type, can be lessened by falling in love with someone else? Somehow, at least at first, I doubt it. And then for those of us, like me, who quite gladly avoid relationships like the plague, it’s nice to know that the next time I get a papercut while reading a book, the pain will go away if I just keep reading…allegedly…hmmm, I think I’ll stick to the panadol.

Samuel

January 9th, 2011 at 09:06am

The Sunday Bits for November 7, 2010

A happy Sunday to you. We only have a few bits for the Sunday Bits this week…first though, a programming note.

I have received an email about the election results graphic which is at the top of the page, specifically asking how much longer it will be there. I will probably take it down at the end of the day even though there is still a little bit of counting to go. We know what the general result is, and there’s no real point in keeping the graphic up there consuming a rather large bit of screen real estate for another few weeks while legal challenges take place to decide races. If you want to see the graphic, and the district-by-district breakdown, check out the Fox News Map.

***

Moving on, but continuing the mid-term theme, guess which news station won the ratings on election night. FOX News of course!

Not only did FOX significantly outrate both CNN and MSNBC, but between 10pm and 11pm (I assume Eastern time) they (remembering that they’re a subscription cable channel) outrated the three big free-to-air networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.

The cable network averaged 6.957 million viewers between 8:00pm and 11:00pm, far ahead of CNN on 2.423 million and MSNBC on 1.945 million.
[..]
Across the total election coverage period between 6:00pm and 2:00am, Fox News averaged 5.302 million viewers; CNN registered an audience of 1.789 million, while MSNBC averaged 1.544 million.

The Baltimore Sun adds that:

FOX News beat MSNBC and CNN combined during every hour in total viewers and 25-54. Tuesday’s performance was also amongt FOX News Channel’s top ten telecasts in the channel’s ratings history in total viewers. Furthermore, Tuesday marked FNC’s highest primetime delivery since the Presidential Election in 2008. All of this, according to Nielsen:

*FOX News Channel peaked with 7,167,000 viewers between 9-10PM
Meanwhile, CNN peaked with 2,592,000 viewers between 10-11PM
And MSNBC peaked with 2,040,000 viewers between 10-11PM

***

And to round-out the mid-term stuff, there’s some strange stuff being circulated by kooks like Media Matters For America (strange people who, rather than insisting that media should be balanced, insist loudly that media should have a strong left-wing bias…and are just too nuts for me to be bothered giving them a link) about Rasmussen Reports’ polling. Rasmussen was the most accurate of the polling organisations for the 2008 elections using their own unique polling formula, and as such is regularly contracted by media organisations (including FOX News, which is probably why MMFA hate them) to conduct polls. Media Matters are claiming that Rasmussen significantly over-represented the Republican vote in their polling when compared to the results of the election.

Really? OK well, if they’re over-representing the Republican vote in a statistically significant number of races, then their overall prediction should be massively over-representing the Republican seat gain in the House.

The Rasmussen prediction was a Republican gain of at least 60 seats.

The result: Republicans went from 178 seats to (at the moment) 239 seats, a gain of 61 seats.

OK, maybe they got the Senate wrong…ummm, nope, they didn’t.

Rasmussen Reports projected 48 seats for the Democrats and 45 for the Republicans. We also listed seven Toss-Ups – California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia – in the final Rasmussen Reports Senate Balance of Power rankings.

The two parties split those seven Toss-Up races, which is what you’d expect. Four were won by Democrats, two by Republicans, and one (Washington) remains too close to call.

On current trends, the Senate should end up D 53 – 47 R which, is pretty darn close to the above (assuming the toss-ups are considered “as predicted) D 52 – 47 R with one left over.

The rest of Rasmussen’s track record can be reviewed at the above link, but suffice to say, the complaints are a crock.

***

On to domestic matters and The Australian had an exclusive story on Thursday exposing government documents which revealed what many of us have suspected and even concluded in our analysis of the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network: That the government needs to legislatively cripple Telstra in order for this new business to have even the slightest chance of success.

THE Gillard government must urgently pass legislation to smash apart Telstra’s near-monopoly position for the implementation of the $43bn NBN to proceed.

This has been revealed by previously secret documents.
[..]
Slabs of the documents released by Senator Conroy’s department [to The Australian in response to a Freedom of Information request] were blacked out. The documents would have gone to the minister soon after the election but there was no date on those released.

The briefing paper stresses the urgency of acting swiftly on the NBN. The government has been told that the laws to structurally separate Telstra must be passed during the spring sitting of parliament, due to finish on November 25.

The fact that Telstra has made a deal with NBN Co. which would see them receive billions of dollars (undoubtedly funded by new government debts) by agreeing to the split, is irrelevant. And if it’s not irrelevant, it’s bordering on bribery.

The point is that Telstra is a private business. It is owned by shareholders. The Federal Government once owned the whole thing but now only owns 10.9% of it. Given that, the government really is in no position to dictate to the company how it should operate, so the fact that they are willing to use legislation to interfere with the operations of a private business in order to help out a $43 billion gamble in a new mostly government-funded competitor to the business which they are legislatively hampering, is at best a disgrace, and at worst a deliberate and abominable attack on the private sector and, amongst others, the superannuation accounts which rely on the private sector…and therefore an attack on the taxpaying citizens who rely on those superannuation accounts.

Quite frankly, I find this whole effort to re-nationalise the telecommunications industry disturbing.

Among other problems highlighted in the documents, The Australian notes that:

The documents also highlight the massive funding task to roll out the network, confirming that the government would provide $26bn in equity funding. This is likely to be largely done through commonwealth-issued debt, leading to interest costs that would have a “negative impact on the budget bottom line”, the briefing states.
[..]
The documents suggest a tension between boosting competition and making the roll-out cost effective. Many telcos are threatening to seek compensation if the plan leaves their assets “stranded”.

So not only is the government spending billions of dollars which it doesn’t even have, it is quite possibly putting itself in a position to repeat the mistakes of the New South Wales government whereby they are having to pay millions of dollars per year in penalties to private companies involved in the M5 Motorway because things didn’t quite work out as the government had hoped…in this case we’re looking at a situation where the Federal Government or the NBN Co. may have to pay penalties to private telcos which assist in the NBN if they don’t get as much co-operation as they might like, which is quite possible if the NBN Co. decides that retail is more profitable than wholesale.

Oh, and did I mention that the mandatory back-up batteries for the National White Elephant Broadband Network are going to cost between $90 million and $150 million per year to replace as they reach the end of their useful lives? No? Oh, well The Australian did. Why are they the only major news outlet which seems remotely interested in exposing this white elephant for the farce it truly is?

Anyway, I digress. Between two and four million acid batteries will be disposed of annually under the scheme. And there I was, living under the impression that this government was concerned about the environment or something…

Realistically this whole thing should be left to the private sector. Sure, it would take longer and probably wouldn’t put fibre in as many places, but to the same extent it would be reacting to demand (or likely demand) and would be capitalising on new and emerging technologies as the evolve, rather than the government’s model of locking itself in to the assumption that fibre will be the absolute best option in five or ten years from now…a model which is highly likely to result in an expensive white elephant.

***

And finally, one I’ve been hanging on to for a while. Back in High School, PE (Physical Education, or “sport” for the most part) was not really my favourite subject and I had a bit of a habit of getting under the skin of my teachers. One of the regular annual units in PE was athletics, which usually involved my hated 400 metre run and sometimes an 800 metre run, and even worse a cross country jog over a much larger distance, all of which exhausted me. To make matters worse, it was deemed compulsory that students had to stretch before exercise to prevent injury, something which I contended was utterly useless and which I often refused to participate in.

I got in to an argument with my teacher, Todd Brazier, about this one day. I cited an article from (if memory serves) The Sun Herald on the subject. Mr. Brazier said that if I could show him the article and accompany it with a parental note, then he wouldn’t make me do the stretches, however it had to be both as the note or the article on their own wouldn’t cut it, and he gave me the whole “responsible teacher doesn’t want to be sued” lecture. Funnily enough, I got that lecture from a number of teachers in my high school years.

Anyway, the article had been in the paper a few weeks beforehand and had since been discarded, so I couldn’t show the article to Mr. Brazier, which was a pity because, as obnoxious and annoying as I may have been, I was right…and a study released in August by US Track and Field (the governing body for the sport in that country) backs me up.

The study, one of the largest of its kind, involved almost 1,400 runners, from age 13 to past 60, who were assigned randomly to two groups. The first group did not stretch before their runs, while otherwise maintaining their normal workout routine: the same mileage, warm-up (minus any stretching) and so on. The second group stretched, having received photographs and specific instructions for a series of simple, traditional poses, like leaning over and touching toes, that focused on the calf, hamstring and quadriceps muscles. The volunteers were told to hold each stretch for 20 seconds, a technique known as static stretching. The entire routine required three to five minutes and was to be completed immediately before a run.

The volunteers followed their assigned regimens for three months. Predictably, since running, as a sport, has a high injury rate, quite a few became injured during the three months. About 16 percent of the group that didn’t stretch were hobbled badly enough to miss training for at least three days (the researchers’ definition of a running injury), while about 16 percent of the group that did stretch were laid up for the same amount of time. The percentages, in other words, were virtually identical. Static stretching had proved to be a wash in terms of protecting against injury. It “neither prevented nor induced injury when compared with not stretching before running,” the study’s authors concluded.

There you have it, stretching before exercise is a futile waste of time, although I suppose it could count as further exercise and be of some help if you’re on a weight-loss kick, but seeing as I weighed 30kg at the age of 14 (which is when I believe this encounter occurred), I certainly didn’t need to lose any weight. The average weight for that age is somewhere between 50 and 60kg, apparently.

And yes, if you’re wondering, I am mentioning Todd Brazier’s name so that, one day when he’s googling himself, I can finally settle the score…not that I hold a grudge or anything, far from it, I actually admire the man and thank him for putting up with me and especially for allowing me to use the laundry instead of the communal changeroom…I think I would have gone postal if I’d been forced to continue to use that changeroom and deal with the ever-present bullying.

I digress, yet again. Hey Mr. Brazier, here’s the article and uh, as I’m over 18 now I assume you don’t need a note from my parents. Hope you’re well and that teenagers haven’t driven you nuts.

And with that, I’ll end what I thought would be a short Sunday Bits.

Samuel

November 7th, 2010 at 03:15am

The Sunday Bits for April 25, 2010

Apologies for the lack of a Sunday Bits segment last week (and the week before?). Once again it’s been pretty hectic around here. Amongst other things, I’m starting a new job on Tuesday…as if I’m not busy enough already! This job will involve a lot of shift work, so it looks like my body clock can go back to gladly not having the faintest clue whether its coming or going.

I note with some pleasure that my good friend and former 1WAY FM colleague Lynn Nerdal, who left 1WAY FM around the same time as I did, has found herself a new home on the radio dial, 96.7 QBN FM on Sunday afternoons between 3pm and 6pm…when the local AFL coverage doesn’t take over bits of her show anyway.

Lynn makes for great company on the radio and I thoroughly enjoyed co-hosting with her on a number of occasions. I missed her first show last week, but will be sure to tune in to at least some of it this week.

I also note with some pleasure that 91.9 and 94.3 1WAY FM are broadcasting Sheridan Voysey’s Open House program again on Saturday Sunday (edit: oops, brain snap there…you’d think I’d remember the day seeing as I drew great pleasure from working on a show which is in competition with Sharyn’s Psychic Boredom on 2UE) nights between 8pm and 11pm.

When I left 1WAY FM in late March, unfortunately they were not able to immediately fill my position as panel operator/weather presenter for Open House on Sunday night despite me giving five weeks of notice, and so for about a month, they replaced Open House with music. Thankfully they have been able to find somebody else to sit in the studio on Sunday night, and Sheridan Voysey’s wonderful program is now back on the air in Canberra.

To the Open House fans in Canberra, I apologise. As I’ve said before, I was simply unable to maintain finishing up late on Sunday night and backing up to work at 9am the next day. My body simply couldn’t take it any more. I was pushing it with the five weeks of notice that I did provide to the station.

On that note, I empathise with 2GB’s Ray Hadley who is currently working seven day per week and, understandably, wants a day off.

The logical choice to me is Saturday. Ray’s only role on Saturday is to head the five hours of self-described gibbering that is Weekend Detention. He could safely leave this in the hands of “The C Team” (asking B-teamer Andrew Moore to do it would be pushing Andrew a bit too much), which would allow him to still host the show and call the football on Sunday.

The changes keep on coming over at 2UE where Program Director Greg Byrnes has resigned, leaving to take up a senior position over at Sky News. I doubt that with a new program director, the changes at 2UE are likely to slow down…if anything I expect them to increase as the station tries to claw back some ratings points from 2GB.

The Rudd government’s bizarre proposed mandatory internet filter is on the back-burner, and might not see the light of day before the federal election. And on the off-chance that it does re-appear before then, never fear, for the trivial task of bypassing it will not be punishable.

Whilst this is great news, it does make one wonder what the Rudd government’s definition of “mandatory” is, and what other of their words fit in to the “my words mean what I want them to mean” category?

It seems that the policy surrounding what constitutes a death which counts toward the road toll has changed as suicides are apparently no longer counted. A few weeks back, somebody apparently deliberately ploughed in to a concrete wall at Parliament House in the wee hours of the morning. According to Police:

The incident is being treated as a deliberate act and will not be recorded as an ACT road fatality.

I can think of at least two other deliberate crashes in recent times which did count towards the ACT road toll, so when did this policy change, and why? Surely any death through the use or misuse (and I’m sure that we can agree that you need to misuse a motor vehicle in order to deliberately kill yourself with it) of a motor vehicle on a public road should count towards the road toll. Why do I get the feeling that, given our already higher than usual road toll so far this year, somebody in authority has just said “we can probably get away with not counting this one, that’ll help keep the road toll number down”.

What’s that saying? “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”?

On a related note, I see that Google is now censoring suicide searches by adding extra information about helplines. I know from experience that searches for information on suicide are already heavily stacked in favour of suicide prevention. Do we really need to alter the search results further to the point where we’re effectively applying censorship? It just seems like an odd stance for a company which is opposed to Rudd’s proposed internet filter.

It seems that the New South Wales government does not believe in the freedom of the press. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of the Environment, has a curious policy titled “Filming and Photography Policy” which controls who can take photos and film in national parks, and how much they have to pay to do so.

Part ten, after announcing that the news and current affairs media do not have to pay for access, declares:

All news and current affairs filming, including matters which relate to a particular incident, such as a bush fire, must be referred to the Public Affairs Division on (02) 9995.5295 in the first instance. Incident related information will then be referred to the nominated Incident Controller by the Public Affairs Division. The Regional Manager must be notified of any intention to film/photograph for news and current affairs by the Public Affairs Division and give consent for the carrying out of such filming.

So, how do you rate the chances of 60 Minutes being given consent to film in a national park for the purpose of a story about mismanagement of national parks creating fire hazards?

I was astonished this week to read that a third of American mobile phone owning teenagers send 100 text messages per day. I just can’t get my head around this. It has been weeks since I last sent a text message and even longer since I received one from a human (I receive them from robots for work-related reasons all the time).

To each their own I suppose, but I would much rather use email instead of SMS for most text-based communication. I’m curious though, I don’t send or receive 100 emails per day…what could people possibly be discussing which requires 100 text messages to be sent per person per day?

Finally, it is ANZAC Day, may we all remember and have the utmost respect for those who have, and those that would, lay down their lives so that we may remain a free country. Many brave people have laid down their lives for us, and many more are risking their lives for us as you read this now. To them, we should be eternally grateful.

It’s interesting the ways in which we end up reflecting on the sacrifices of our soldiers. For me over the last week it really came about when I was appalled to hear that a friend intended on going clubbing on ANZAC Day. That was a knee-jerk reaction, and it was a wrong reaction, but it got me thinking about what ANZAC Day really means. I later apologised to the friend in question as, after some thought, it occurred to me that our soldiers have laid down their lives so that we may live in a free country and accordingly so that we may choose how to spend our days.

The morning of ANZAC Day, especially the dawn, is sacred and nothing will ever change my view on that, but we are privileged to be in a country where we are free to spend our time as we please. Regardless of whether you choose to observe ANZAC Day, as long as you do not actively show disrespect or contempt for our soldiers, past and present, I have no problem with how you choose to spend today, and neither should anybody else.

I do, however, ask you to remember the sacrifices of our soldiers, and spare a thought for the families of our military personnel on this 95th anniversary of the ill-fated landing at Gallipoli. Lest we forget.

Samuel

5 comments April 25th, 2010 at 07:12am

The Sunday Bits for April 4, 2010

The name isn’t original (it was the original name of the Mike Jeffreys highlights package of a Sunday morning on 2CC) but I intend on using it anyway as it is an appropriate name. Basically my plan is that whatever I don’t get around to writing about during the week but still want to mention, can be posted as a brief story in a collection of stories on a Sunday.

In a way, it’s cheating, as it means that I really don’t have to think too hard on a Sunday as I can write most of this during the week.

***

The Bureau of Meteorology’s national weather radar service has apparently recorded some peculiar patterns such as spirals and doughnuts, causing conspiracy websites to go in to meltdown. The Bureau are blaming “occasional interference to the radar data” but are refusing to comment on the matter.

Sorry BOM, but until you at least attempt to explain what could cause the interference, I’m with the conspiracy buffs…there is more to this story.

***

FlashForward’s ratings have hit a new low, continuing a general downward trend. In a way I’m pleased about this. I love the show, but as I said from the outset, it’s not a show which can viably stretch its storyline beyond one season.

***

On the subject of ratings, 2GB’s Alan Jones and Ray Hadley both recorded their 50th consecutive ratings victory, spearheading 2GB’s continued dominance of Sydney’s airwaves. It was 2GB’s 48th consecutive win. Every single one of 2GB’s weekday shifts rakes in double digit ratings, with all but Jason Morrison’s show taking out overall first spot. Jason is in third spot on 11.3% behind the Hamish and Andy juggernaut (I seriously don’t get Hamish and Andy…I know that a lot of people do and I congratulate them on their success, but I just don’t find the show funny) and the ABC’s Richard Glover.

***

There are two misconceptions in this world which never cease to amaze me. “Conservative = authoritarian” and “gay = left wing”. Both, while possible and in a number of cases, actual, are not necessarily true. President of “Right Pride“, an organisation representing conservative gay people, Mark Ciavola, appeared on KXNT’s Morning Source with Alan Stock to set the record straight. Mark’s motto? “Less Taxes. More Dead Terrorists!”

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***

You’re a pastor at a church, attendance is falling, and you want to bring people in to share the Easter message. What do you do? How about giving away over $2 million in prizes to people who attend your Easter services? That’s precisely what a church in Texas is doing and, apparently it’s working. The question is though, will the people come back next week?

***

2CC and 2CA swapped breakfast hosts for half an hour on April 1. I was asleep and missed it (I got up at 8:30am Thursday and have been awake for all but 12 hours since). Apparently it confused a lot of people. Their news also ran a story about the service station in Campbell re-opening and selling fuel at something like $1.10 per litre. It’s that sort of within-the-realms-of-possibility April Fools story which makes so many radio April Fools Day news stories so much more believable than nonsense like Google’s vowel outage.

***

And finally, daylight saving has ended. I’m disappointed because I like the dark mornings, but I suppose that with the sun rising about about 7am in daylight saving time as it is, if we left it in place we’d be having peak hour in the dark by the time winter rolls around. Hmmm, if Kevin Rudd did that, the mechanics would be the beneficiaries, and would probably have to put massive grammatically incorrect electoral advertising useful and informative signs in front of their buildings.

Happy Easter everybody.

Samuel

April 4th, 2010 at 10:01am


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