31 January 2007

When All Else Fails, Complain About The Trains


I'll tell you a secret. When bloggers can't think of anything to post about, we have a classified list of fall-back topics which can always be discussed and elicit a response. I can't tell you what they are though, because I'd be taken off the email list.

Well, not really. But Cityrail, honestly, I'm obliged to whinge.
The latest controversy is over on-time running, with claims that on-time running figures are only maintained through station skipping - trains deliberately not stopping at stations they were meant to, in order to keep to the timetable. The response of Cityrail chief executive Vince Graham? That skipping stops is "for the greater good of the rail network".

So, if you're a commuter who's train has missed it's station, forcing you to travel several stops further up the line, then wait thirty minutes for another train back again, you shouldn't feel frustrated and furious. You should feel a smug sense of moral satisfaction, that you've contributed to the greater good of the network!

Fortunately I haven't had much trouble with this, but I've had other problems. According to
the SMH, which I heard with no surprise at all - in fact, an absurd local pride - that the 3:15 from Sydney to Newcastle is Cityrail's single most complained about service, the Central Coast/Newcastle the most complained about line overall. The last time I returned from Sydney, the train picked up so many passengers that by the time we reached Hornsby, people were forced to stand all the way to Woy Woy, a distance of over 40km. Peak hour? No, it was 2pm on Sunday. I've heard even worse stories of peak-hour weekday trains with four cars, people having to stand nearly all the way to Newcastle. That's over two hours. That's too damn far.

But I'm not going to go down the road of blaming the Carr/Iemma government. It's the general culture of smugness, slackness and neglect that's endemic to all public utilities in Australia. Would things really change if the Liberals won the 2007 state election? It would be a bit of a worry if they did. Look who was the
last politician praised for making the trains run efficiently.

29 January 2007

A Hard Act To Swallow


Oh dear, soon we're all going to be drinking sewage!

And I don't just mean in the metaphorical sense that Big Brother will be back on TV soon. The water crisis in Australia has reached such epidemic levels that Queensland is considering adding recycled sewage to the water supply, and other states may follow.

It's hard to get over the "yuck" factor with this. But when you think about it, all tapwater is recycled. Tapwater comes from dams, which are filled by rain and storm water run off. And we can remember from year eight science that rain comes from evaporated water, from crystal clear babbling mountain springs...through to muddy puddles, wet roads and even sewage treatment plants.

But if we can't overcome this objection, what is there to be done? Simple really; two seperate water supply networks. One, the deliciously fresh water we enjoy now, to be pumped into people's houses, and the other for industry, agriculture, horticulture, and everything else. (And while we're at it, what's the need for all the fuss about smoking in pubs? Just have smoking and non-smoking pubs, those wishing to enter smoking pubs just needing to sign a liability waiver. It's so obvious that of course you never hear it mentioned).

It won't happen though. Although the water idea is a simple theory, it's an expensive, long-term solution to implement, and we all know how much politicians hate those. Unless of course, they involve some expensive military toys, like the
Son Of Star Wars project (is there a single American now deceased, who would still be alive today if Son of Star Wars was operational? If there is, would you please send the details on a postcard to John Howard, because I want Australia to have Son Of Star Wars too).

Back in reality though, we'll most likely be drinking recycled water before long. Yeah, I know it's a horrible idea, but I think we're prepared; it really is no worse than the rest of the crap the Howard government has been shoving down our throats for the past eleven years.

24 January 2007

Bush It!


Well, it's been five years since Make The Pie Higher, a poetic tribute to the wit and wisdom of George W. Bush. Such a poem might cause a lesser man to sit up, take note, take elocution lessons. Not our Dubya. Thanks to Slate's Bushisms column, we can all revel in the pearls that roll from this man's tongue. Some highlights from 2006:

"As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself - not here at the hospital, but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch. - After visiting with wounded veterans from the Amputee Care Center of Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 1, 2006

"You took an oath to defend our flag and our freedom, and you kept that oath underseas and under fire." - Addressing war veterans, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2006

"I like my buddies from west Texas. I liked them when I was young, I liked them when I was middle-age, I liked them before I was president, and I like them during president, and I like them after president." - Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 1, 2006

"No question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence. They use violence as a tool to do that." - Washington, D.C., March 22, 2006

"That's George Washington, the first president, of course. The interesting thing about him is that I read three - three or four books about him last year. Isn't that interesting?" - Showing German newspaper reporter Kai Diekmann the Oval Office, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2006

Later in the same conversation:
"Finally, the desk, where we'll have our picture taken in front of is - nine other Presidents used it. This was given to us by Queen Victoria in the 1870s, I think it was. President Roosevelt put the door in so people would not know he was in a wheelchair. John Kennedy put his head out the door."

"I was not pleased that Hamas has refused to announce its desire to destroy Israel." - Washington, D.C., May 4, 2006

"I've reminded the prime minister - the American people, Mr. Prime Minister, over the past months that it was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship." - Washington, D.C., June 29, 2006

"One has a stronger hand when there's more people playing your same cards." - Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2006

"You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war President. No President wants to be a war President, but I am one." - Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006

"And truth of the matter is, a lot of reports in Washington are never read by anybody. To show you how important this one is, I read it, and our guest read it." - speaking along with Prime Minister Tony Blair about the Baker-Hamilton Report, Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2006

"Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die." - speaking with reporters on facing the challenges of war, Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2006

"Because of your work, children who once wanted to die are now preparing to live." - speaking at the White House summit on malaria, Dec. 14, 2006

Well, thank goodness those children have made better plans. Anyway, Bushisms give us a chance to play the George W. drinking game. It's pretty simple really. Anytime W. says something, you need a drink.

22 January 2007

Big Day Out Bans The Australian Flag!


Now that I have your attention, the organisers of the Big Day Out have banned the Australian Flag at their festival!

Well, actually,
no they haven't. But that's not how you're going to see it reported.

Following last year's festival, where aggresive punters forced other concert goers to declare their allegiance to the Australian flag, BDO organisers have simply asked people to leave flags at home this year. But that's not as exciting a headline as
Race Hate Flag Ban, is it?

I don't listen to talkback radio - as a regular user of public transport, I already get my fill of idiots blathering nonsense. But I can just imagine the frenzy they must be whipping themselves into over this one. And the conservative bloggers can't be far behind. Hark to their refrain - "IT'S UN-AUSTRALIAN!"

I'm sick of the way that "un-Australian" has been adopted by these people as an insult to slather over whom or whatever they don't agree with. Anyone who dares criticise the way things are done in this country or suggests any change (apart from the strengthening immigration laws) is "un-Australian". There's never any actual debate about what being Australian really means or what Australian values actually are (let alone whether or not "Australian" as they see it is a good thing). And in doing so, they've hijacked the term "Australian", turned it into something all open-minded people should feel vaugely ashamed of.

Am I proud to be Australian? Sure. Do I love this country? You bet. But I'm not proud of intolerance and bigotry being used in the name of protecting it, as is increasingly and depressingly the case these days.

Another thing I can't understand is why the right-wing pundits are so angry these days. Australia is sliding further and further to the right, so why are they so determined to present things as being much worse (from their point of view) than they really are? Oh yes, that's right - fear. They rely on peoples' fears to fuel their bigotry. It's a lot easier to create panic over Muslims, dole bludgers, gays or whomever they pick on, than it is to ask the bigger questions, like where we really should be headed as a nation. Maybe we should put valium in the water supply so everybody can calm down. Well at least the right-wingers are soothing people's nerves about one issue - climate change. Because naturally, they deny that climate change exists.

16 January 2007

Troop Surge


Apparently there's a new drink in Washington D.C. called the "troop surge". It's the same as what you were drinking before, but with 8.5% more mixer you didn't want, and it costs twice the price. The bar tender serves it by throwing it in your face.

Now, what is George W. thinking, sending more troops to Iraq? It reminds me of women of a certain age, who try to "fix" their make up by adding more. That doesn't work, and neither will more troops. Honestly George, if sending more troops is such a good idea, then why is John W. Howard, the "hard man" of the Coalition of the Willing, not on board with this?

Do I have any ideas on how to fix the
catastrofuck in Iraq, you may cynically ask? Well no, but it's not my job to fix it. If the people who's job it is were doing a better one (or at least, not an incompetent, ridiculous, ham-fisted one) we wouldn't be asking these questions. It doesn't help that Iraq was a war without any rationale, pointed to the fact that the official rationale kept changing until the Bush administration gave up. I don't think George Bush knows why he sent troops to Iraq in the first place. However, he was determined to keep them there until he worked it out, but then he just forgot.

12 January 2007

I Don't Understand...


  • ...celebrity relationship break-ups. Whenever a celebrity couple calls it quits, they always release a statement saying that they still love each other and remain the best of friends. If they're so darn friendly, why don't they stay together? I'd like to see a celeb break-up statement saying "Mr. Abs and Miss Tit Lift have ended their relationship after three hate-filled months. Mr Abs will be getting drunk and breaking Miss Tit Lift's windows, whilst she sleeps with Mr Abs' best friend in a quest for petty revenge."

  • ...electric staplers. How much stapling are you doing that you need an electical appliance to do it for you? If the answer is "enough", may I suggest you get a hobby.

  • ...why a person would drive to the gym to use the treadmill.

  • ...how or why a person with even sub-normal intelligence would send off a resume with an email address such as sexy169@isp.com. This is no urban legend; I recently sorted through some resumes sent in to my company and at least 25% of them had a completely unacceptable email address. Which brings me to my second misunderstanding - how is it that these people are not all unemployed hobos?

  • ...how the tasks of nearly every job on the planet can be neatly fitted in between the hours of 9am and 5pm, with no more or less time required. Obviously it can't be true. There must be a lot of time going to waste there, so why can't we all stop kidding ourselves?

  • ...why old ladies will sit at a bus stop for fifteen minutes and then only begin to fumble around for their money when buying their tickets, as though it never occurred to them that they would be expected to pay.

  • ...why people give teddy bears and teddy bear-adorned clothing to small children. Ducks and chicks are understandable, they are kind of cute. But bears are savage, bad-tempered beasts who smell. Are people saying they subconciously feel that way about small children?

  • ...just why I haven't been fired yet. I guess the company understands the 9 to 5 thing.
  • 09 January 2007

    And They Say Politicians Don't Do Anything


    Well, as we gear up for a long, long election year, I'm keeping an eye on the Rudd-Gillard Opposition leadership team, and whether they're responding to the heartfelt request I made of them when they took control of federal Labor. The latest poll results are looking good. Of course, it's unwise to put much faith in poll results this far out from the election (what were Mark Latham's poll results at this stage three years ago?), but a good result is preferable to the alternative. According to the latest Morgan poll, 64% of voters approve of the job Kevin Rudd is doing as opposition leader (as opposed to 56% who approve of the job John Howard is doing as Prime Minister) although Howard retains his status as preferred PM.

    But wait. What has Rudd actually done lately? Nothing really. It's not his fault. Howard hasn't done anything lately either. No one has. Parliament is on its long summer recess at the moment (let me be an MP one day, please!) and there's not a lot of politics going on. What are the voters basing their judgements on?

    Not much, really. Oh, occasionally a poltician will make a statement that stays in people's minds and sways their judgements, such as John Howard's infamous "We decide who comes to this country..." soundbite. But for the most part the voters already have a pretty firm idea of who they're going to vote for; the only things that will sway them from week-to-week are the important issues like who has better hair, and the politicians are just wasting their time banging on in parliament week after week.

    *****

    A little closer to home, I recieved an introductory, addressed form letter the other day from the MP, letting me know that the electoral boundaries have changed (yet again) and she is now my local federal member. The letter outlined Labor policies, and concluded by saying if there's anything she can do for me, to please contact her office.

    How nice, you think. But here's the thing. Changing boundaries aside, I've handed out how-to-vote cards for this woman at the 1998, 2001 and 2004 federal elections, and have received a form thank you letter each time.

    So yes, Ms Hall, there is something you can do for me. Start by remembering my name! Anyway, I think I'll be having a nice lie-in on Election Day '07. I may be a sucker for rejection, but this is ridiculous.

    08 January 2007

    No More Miss Nice Nico


    How can I be back at work already? I was only on holidays for a minute!

    Though it's not like I actually went anywhere or did anything. I consumed a small ocean worth of alcohol and watched a mind-numbing, butt-wearying amount of pay TV. That's all. It was a proud moment for Australia when John Howard was quoted on the Fox news bar as saying that Saddam's execution was a "great victory for Iraq", though it does prove that the man is at least going insane (Now, now little Johnny! You're supposed to be against the death penalty!)

    And we saw in 2007 at the World's Biggest Custard Pie Fight. (Thank you for coming. For everyone else, I could explain, but I think I'd just rather leave this hanging there).

    Nonetheless, the big story for 2007, at least around this end, will of course be the state election in March, and the Federal election, which will be in October. Or November. Unless it's in September. Unless I'm wrong, and it will be some other date.
    But I've decided I'm not going to be a namby-pamby, "You may have a point there" leftist anymore. The only way the left is going to drag itself out of theis topor is if we fight the conservatives with their own weapons: fury and mistruths. I plan on doing my bit. I Am A Furious Leftist.