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Showing posts from December, 2015

A Teachable Moment

A belated Merry Christmas everyone. Like many of you I've been eating, drinking and spending time with family, including my 60ish, conservative leaning, Liberal voting, talkback radio listening father. Now, he knows I'm a massive lefty, so keeps most of his views quiet when I'm around (and certainly I like to avoid political arguments at Christmas, in front of Mr G) .

Nonetheless, in a discussion over coffee and cake about the changing face of Sydney, Dad did mention that he finds the full face burqa confronting.

And as a straight white middle aged man, he's probably never been confronted by anything in public.

So I said "it's interesting that you find yourself confronted by someone in public, because as women, we are aware of risk and danger when we go out in public all the time, constantly, every single time. Because the risk of something happening is real, and that's why you don't sit next to the lone man on the bus, or cross the street when you see a …

My Tempestuous Relationship With Opal

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So the Opal card system turned three this week. And it doesn't look a day over what do you mean the bloody Opal reader isn't working.

I have a love-hate relationship with Opal. God knows Sydney was long overdue for an automated ticketing system - it was first proposed to have one in place for the 2000 Olympics, but the final product wasn't implemented until 12 years later - and the Byzantine array of weeklies, monthlies, travel tens and excursions needed fixing. Now there's just one reusable card for everything, tap on, tap off, what could be easier and you don't even have to talk to anyone. Tremendous, right?

But there are some...issues. The system is infamous for the number of non-functioning readers. Sometimes this means a free journey (though that can be frustrating itself when you're trying to get reward, on which more shortly). But more often, because you can't tap off, a non-functioning reader means you get slugged the default maximum fare for the tr…

RIP Scott Weiland

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When yet another of the idols of your youth has died, and yet another little bit of you has died with them. It's a bit weird, cause we all saw this coming for twenty years, we've seen several sources proclaiming his death from reputable sources, and it turns out to not be true. And now it is true, and it may not be a surprise but it's still a shock, and it still fucking hurts.

Death thou shalt die; you think you have our measure but you don't. 

No Australian Gun massacres? Not Quite

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Following this week's (this week's! How we mark these things now) gun massacre in the United States, the usual response swings into place, so rehearsed by now it might as well be scripted. Footage of terrified victims being evacuated, local officials giving statements; President Obama addresses the nation looking grave; and the issue of gun control is raised again. The pro gun lobby will argue that the problem here is mental illness, not access to guns (although in this latest shooting, given the perpetrators were Muslim, it is of course being labelled terrorism); gun control advocates will favour reigning in America's absurd appetite for firearms, pointing to the Australian example, where following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, a guns buy back was enacted, tough new guns laws enforced, and there have been no mass shootings since.

I'm not an American and have stopped trying to get involved in their gun control debates; Lord knows, there's enough frustrating and …

Why I'm Really A Lefty

I've heard gay people explain how they knew they were gay when they were six; before they even knew what gay was.

 Well, I knew I was a socialist at six before I knew what socialism was, or really anything about politics. Visiting Sydney's home of waterfront mansions, Palm Beach, with my parents I overheard them talking wistfully about "how the other half live". I knew that you got money from work, so I didn't understand - my father worked two jobs, he would be away from home working for weeks at a time, how could you do all that work and not be rich? Were there other ways to get rich? It didn't seem very fair.

 My knowledge of political economy has expanded somewhat from there, but my basic political philosophy remains the same. If you work hard, and are a good person, then barring calamity nothing bad should happen to you. If you are unable to work for whatever reason, those who do enjoy that good fortune, through taxes, should allow you to live a life of mod…

Newcastle off the Rails

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I've been at times a bit rough on my fellow Novocastrians (I will always consider myself one even though I don't live there right now). I've long stated Newcastle's city motto should be "getting all worked up over nothing". Goodness me, how they love to argue! Give them any issue - entry fees into swimming pools, say, or whether some trees should be removed - and they will fight to the death, on twitter and the comments section of the Newcastle Herald, with personal insults and accusations of bias, until you get the impression it's the argument that's the point here, not the issue at hand.

However, there is one area where Novocastrians could be justified in getting a little crazy, and that's the matter of public transport. To background: in December 2014, the heavy rail line that branched off the main Northern line into the centre of Newcastle's CBD was closed. The closure came after many years of debate, which people expressed weariness of; th…