2007-06-28

28 June 1914

Ferdi becomes the first of millions.

Buy one now



This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Playing around with blogger again

Trying to fix up loose ends. Lots of colour changes and other changes will occur today.

Gordon Cheng on Torture


Linux and American Presidential hopefuls

Slashdot reports:

Douglas Karr has posted an interesting breakdown, complete with bar charts, of the operating systems and server software used by the websites for 23 declared and undeclared presidential candidates. The breakdown shows that there is nearly an equal split between Linux and Windows servers among the whole candidate pool. More interesting, all of the Democratic candidates except for Hillary favor Linux or FreeBSD. 69% of the Republican candidates, in contrast, prefer Windows. Is this preference for OSS or Microsoft a true reflection of differing political philosophies? And, more importantly, will Linux win the next election?"

Zimbabwe cricket continues to suck

From Cricinfo:

A report by the BBC's Mihir Bose claims that Malcolm Speed does not believe Zimbabwe should be allowed to resume playing Test cricket in November, and that there the board's accounts have been "deliberately falsified".

In his BBC blog, Bose writes that he has seen a copy of Speed's confidential report delivered to the ICC board today in which he says: "My personal view, shared by the cricket committee and ICC senior management, is that the game in Zimbabwe and, more widely, the rest of the cricket world, will not be well served by Zimbabwe resuming Test cricket at this stage. It is respectfully suggested that we must find other ways to assist cricketers in Zimbabwe".

Speed's most damning comments concern the controversial forensic audit and raises serious concerns about the governance and financial accountability of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). The observations seem to give a strong endorsement of claims made for several years by stakeholders and administrators inside the country.

The main discrepancy concerns payments totalling $640,350 to "three unknown companies" which the board failed to inform the auditors about. There are also queries relating to a deal with a car company worth $972,000. The board is believed to have imported the vehicles and then sold them to obtain extra local currency in direct contravention of the country's strict foreign-exchange regulations. The issue is further clouded because the board advised the forensic auditors that no cars had been imported or sold.

Bollywood singer dresses in Burqa and enters Mosque

Controversial? Yes. But he is a Muslim and wanted to pray at the Mosque without being recognised by fans. Only in India.

Tensions grow between Poland and Germany

BBC News reports:

German politicians have condemned a computer generated photo of Poland's leaders sucking the German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bare breasts.

Nooooo!!!!

The Spice Girls are reforming! Someone transfer me to a different reality where they do not exist... please!

Headache

A man wakes up with a headache. Doctors later remove a bullet.

Dirty Dam - again

Another "plume" gets into Warragamba dam after massive rainfalls. It'll be 1998 again with Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

2007-06-27

CIA used mafia to try to kill Castro

America is making a left turn

From the New York Times:

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The findings on gay marriage were reminiscent of an exit poll on Election Day 2004: 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters said gay couples should be permitted to legally marry, according to the exit poll.

In the current poll, 62 percent said they would support a universal, government-sponsored national health care insurance program; 47 percent of the general public holds that view. And 30 percent said that “Americans should always welcome new immigrants,” while 24 percent of the general public holds that view.

27 June 1905















The Battleship Potemkin decides to secede from Russia.

Al Qaeda blew up Space Shuttle


This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Secularism in Australia

"No Religion" was reported in the following areas:
Comment:
  • I find Tasmania's high level to be surprising - I always thought it was considered a "conservative" place.
  • NSW is Australia's most religious state. Kudos to Sydney Anglicans maybe?
  • South Australia's non-religious are the state's dominant "religion" (there are less Catholics than non-religious).
  • South Australia also has the highest percentage of Uniting Church people (10.0%).
  • Queensland is more secular than NSW.

2006 Census stats

They're up now. Here's some interesting bits:

  • Catholics have dropped by 3.0% (25.8% in 2006, 26.6% in 2001)
  • Anglicans have dropped by 9.7% (18.7% in 2006, 20.7% in 2001)
  • No Religion has increased by 20.6% (18.7% in 2006, 15.5% in 2001)
  • Uniting Church has dropped by 14.9% (5.7% in 2006, 6.7% in 2001)
  • Presbyterians have dropped by 11.8%: (3.0% in 2006. 3.4% in 2001)

There are now just as many Anglicans as there are people of no religion. That'll be the subject of some interesting sermons in the next few months.

German Wikipedia gets state funding

They want to improve the quality of German Wikipedia articles.

Of course, other people will get ideas about funding Wikipedia writers - like having a full time writer working on Christian articles. Then, of course, I will be poking my tongue out and saying "nyahh nyahh told you so".

Tunguska crater found?

The BBC Reports.

I love the whole Tunguska event - it makes me strangely covet impact events. I worry about me sometimes.

Zimbabwe fights inflation!

La Nina to be announced today

I'm reasonably certain (this time!) that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology will announce today that La Nina weather conditions now exist in the Pacific ocean. Here are some reasons why:

  1. The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is now in positive territory (currently about +12). In order for La Nina to exist, the air pressure in Tahiti must be greater than the air pressure in Darwin (at the moment, the positive SOI figure indicates that this is so).
  2. The water in the Eastern Pacific needs to be considerably cooler than the water in the Western Pacific, which it currently is.
La Nina brings wet winter weather to South Eastern Australia. For the past three weeks, four intense low pressure systems have formed off the East coast of Australia (one of which is active now) and have dumped large amounts of rain.

Update:
The BOM says
Renewed signs of La NiƱa development

2007-06-26

English County Cricket - breeding mediocrity or excellence?

I am an Australian who loves his cricket. As an Australian, I am happy at Australia's consistently high quality of play which has led them to be the top team for the past 12 years.

But as a lover of cricket, I know that unless other cricket playing nations develop high levels of excellence, the game will not survive.

Which is why I present to you Alan Ormrod. This stalwart of English county cricket played 500 (!) games of first class cricket between 1962 and 1985 for Lancashire and Worcestershire. During that time he took 400 catches and scored 23206 runs.

I think it's very important for younger and older cricketers to play with and against one another at first class level. It's all part of the learning and teaching process - the younger ones being taught by the attitudes and skills of the older ones.

But, in Alan Ormrod's case, what he unwittingly taught was mediocrity.

You see, Ormrod scored his runs at the unflattering average of 30.90, and he managed to do this for 23 years. In those years, English cricket moved from arguably the best team in the world into one of the worst. This, of course, was not Ormrod's fault (he never had the opportunity to play Test cricket), but his presence in the county cricket structure allowed him to play with and against future English Test players.

Ormrod, in my opinion, should have played no more than 100 first class games. He just wasn't good enough. I have no idea what the guy is doing these days but he really should never have been able to work as a professional cricketer.

Of course, I need to point out that, if I had played 500 first class games in that period, I would have scored not nearly as many runs as Ormrod did. That, however, is not the point. Yes Alan Ormrod was 14.3 times the cricketer that I could have been, but that does not mean that his 23 year career was somehow brilliant. It was actually worse than mediocre. Batsmen often get dropped for averaging in the 30s for too long.. but Ormrod managed to do it for over two decades.

Ormrod was, of course, not the only less than mediocre player who managed to forge a first class cricketing career in England. Harry Pilling is another one, as is David Smith. Modern players include Mark Hardinges (Gloucestershire) and Steffan Jones (Somerset), bowlers who have hardly set the world on fire.

The point that I am making is that English cricket does itself no favours by employing the services of the mediocre. These players will never play Test cricket and struggle to even make an impact on the first class game. They are, sadly, cannon fodder for the opposition, who are not forced to work hard to resist the lack of talent these players have. Their presence in English county cricket lowers its standard and hinders the development of top class players.

Many English commentators, including former players, are unhappy with the amount of foreign-born players who are now in English county cricket. They are unhappy because these players have taken a place in the team that could have been given to younger English players. Thus English cricket is hindered by the presence of foreigners.

Well, that's a load of garbage.

The fact is that for many decades, mediocre English players have been able to forge a career in cricket despite their lack of talent. Their presence in English county cricket has both kept out younger English players and talented foreigners. Their presence has lowered the standard of county cricket. By contrast, talented foreigners, who would replace these mediocre English players, raise the standard of the first class competition and allow a much better atmosphere for talented young English players to develop in.

At this present moment in time the English cricket team is arguably the second best international team. Also, at this present moment in time, English county cricket has filled up with foreign born players who are increasing the standard of play - some counties boast four non-England qualified players at a time. I think there is a relationship between the increase in foreign players and the better results of the English test team.

When younger players (whether English or foreign) are exposed to regular, high class, cricket, then they are more likely to succeed at the highest level - Test and One Day cricket. Moreover, if the rules were relaxed even further, and county teams were allowed to hire the services of any cricketer without restriction (even to the theoretical point of having an entirely foreign-born county team), then it would benefit English cricket even further.


© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Patriotism or Nationalism?

The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war. — Sidney J. Harris

Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill and calling for larger spurs and brighter beaks. I fear that nationalism is one of England’s many spurious gifts to the world. — Richard Aldington

From Crooks and Liars.


Courtesy Something Awful, of course.

Rules for Theological Students

Courtesy of Baptist Blogger:

33. Have a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.
34. Smoke a cigar, preferably this one.
35. Peruse every issue of National Geographic, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today. Cull them for sermon illustrations.
36. Ask no more than three questions in class per semester.
37. Completely fill out all professor reviews at the semester’s end. Write substantive comments and honest appraisals of the professor’s performance.
38. Sneak into chapel alone at odd times and preach a sermon to no one.
39. Wear shorts, flipflops, tshirts, and ballcaps to class. There’s plenty of time in ministry to wear suits, ties, and dress shoes.

See all 50 rules here.

26 June 1993

Neil Cameron marries Anna Curtis at St. Paul's Anglican Church, Carlingford.

Even after 14 years and lots of hardships, God has blessed our time together.

Peak Oil and the Christian faith

Sydney Anglican ethicist Andrew Cameron writes and interesting article about Peak Oil and how we as Christians should respond.

Schwarzey on Creation Science

Another storm brewing

From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

A complex low pressure system will develop off the New South Wales coast today then deepen and move to the south coast tonight. The low will lie off the southern NSW coast Wednesday and Thursday before moving slowly to the southeast Friday. Strong to gale force winds and moderate to heavy rain are likely to accompany the low, particularly over the southeast. As the low moves further to the southeast on Friday the wind and showers should ease.

Intelligent Design is "not science"

According to the UK government.

As someone who believes in a six day creation (but who is not a young earther) I actually think this is the right decision to make.

The issue is not about fairness or ideologies, but a basic question of what science consists of. Both creationism and intelligent design result not from scientific inquiry but from a presuppositional faith. You cannot prove either creationism or intelligent design by scientific inquiry.

Science should only be concerned with what can be proved either empirically or through complex theoretical structures.

And that is what science is all about, in all its flawed glory.

Angry Bear discussion on my post about legal issues with America

A very amusing take on my post.

Note: the "fictional country" jibe is an in-joke.

2007-06-25

Coincidence?

Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right — and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq. - Reported at Crooks and Liars.

Misusing the Army

The Army is now being used to help the indigenous communities that are ravaged by abuse and alcoholism.

I'm sorry, but when did the army suddenly become a part of Australia's law enforcement agencies? When did they suddenly become social workers?

I'm all for restoring order in these remote communities (as part of a broad, long-term solution to the issues of course) but the use of the armed forces is, at worst, overkill and, at best, just plain silly.

To have Australian troops with their camo gear, assault rifles, night vision goggles and armoured personnel carriers travelling down the streets of outback Australia, trying to restore order is just plain wrong.

Our troops are trained for war. They are trained to fight and to use deadly force against the enemy. They are not trained as police officers or social workers.

If New Zealand should suddenly attack and take over Montague Island and claim it as their own, I would not expect the Australian government to send teachers and social workers to live and work in New Zealand in order to change the societal norms so that Montague Island could be returned to Australia after decades of New Zealand occupation. No. I would expect a few Frigates to surround the island and for the troops to parachute in and, if necessary, use deadly force to eject the Kiwi invaders.

In the same way, I don't expect Australian troops to perform the jobs of teachers, police officers and social workers.

And sometimes people in the past long for the return of conscription, arguing that what young people need these days is discipline and that time in the army should help straighten out these lazy, rude teenagers. But when has the army suddenly become a school or a prison or just another way of forcing societal change?

The army is there to defend the nation. Nothing more, nothing less. Let's respect their expertise and not expect them to magically make up for what the rest of society should be providing.

Craig Schwarze is angry

...about the situation that Indigenous Australians are currently in (here and here).

Even though Craig and I disagree with Howard's solution to this problem, Craig truly does care about these people and wants real, lasting change.

What would Howard do if Australia was in a water crisis?

Would he send in the troops to attack catchment areas and take over Warragamba Dam?

25 June 1976





Another one from Something Awful.

Shane Warne - The Musical

Casey Stoner Wins Again

2007-06-24

Trescothick on Depression

England batsman Marcus Trescothick about his depression:

"I believe the turning point for me was when I finally came clean about my problems. It wasn't easy, but being open and honest with the public was the best thing I could have done and it began the process of me being open and honest with myself," he said.

"I have learned techniques to help me cope with what has happened and to make sure that if the problems come back I know exactly how to deal with them. There are certain things, certain procedures, I'll probably have to do for the rest of my life.

"It is not a question of saying 'I'm cured' but at least I'm forewarned now. And maybe, after going to hell and back, I can help someone else avoid the journey."

More legal issues with America

The SMH is reporting that a US Navy sailor has been arrested by Australian officials for "grooming" a teenage Australian girl online. He was arrested after his ship docked in Rockhampton.

As I pointed out the other day, there is an increasing US-centric attitude to our legal system. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the US Navy is now demanding the sailor's release into their own custody to deal with him as they choose.

I find this intolerable.

First of all, an Australian citizen commits a crime over the internet and is arrested and sent to the US for trial, even though he didn't set foot in America. On the other hand, a US citizen commits a crime over the internet and is arrested as soon as enters Australia - and the US argues that he should be on trial in the US.

So - if an Australian commits a crime over the internet that is punishable in America, he should be sent to America to be put on trial and imprisoned. But if an American commits a crime over the internet that is punishable in Australia... well he should be put on trial and imprisoned in America as well.

Australia is not the 51st state. We are not America. If an American commits a crime here we arrest him and throw him into jail. If America can't handle it then boo hoo.

America should butt out of our legal process. Thanks to Dubya and Johnny, they will continue to interfere in the sovereignty of Australia and other nations.

Perhaps its time we in the rest of the world began to interfere with America's sovereignty.

2007-06-23

Housekeeping

I've now replaced all those internal links with links to blog topics. I've also been going back to August 2006 and giving older posts a lot of topic names.

The Economist hints at Peak Oil?

23 June 1993

Microsoft Woes

Australian hacker jailed in US

I have a problem with this.

The first time this guy actually entered the United States was after he was arrested for the crime. He broke a US law whilst in Australia, but because of the reciprocal arrangement we have with the US, he gets to be extradited and jailed there.

What other laws are in effect?

As many of you know, I am not backward in coming forward over my attitudes towards George Bush. If I begin to go a bit crazy and declare on this blog that I am plotting to kill the US president, will I be arrested by the FBI and jailed in the US? I'm not in the US. Why should US laws apply to me?

If this guy has broken applicable Australian laws then let him rot in an Australian jail.

Pasha Bulker pictures

The kids and I went off this morning to see the Pasha Bulker stranded on Nobby's Beach. Click on "Read more..." to see the pics.



Zp6230011



The ship is quite large. All the photos you see do not do it justice. It really dominates the beach area. People were lining up everywhere taking photos - even though it had been there for a few weeks.



Zp6230013



As we were watching, a helicopter came along with something attached to it. Aiden joked that the helicopter was probably trying to fly the ship away. I took this picture above the safety railing, hence the bad angle of the shot.



Zp6230014



I was really surprised at the low speed of the helicopter rotor blades. Here the "thing" is lowered onto the deck of the Pasha Bulker for the workmen on board to get. Later, the helicopter flew around backwards... for what reason I don't know, but Aiden liked it.



Zp6230024



We celebrated our visit to the Pasha with a visit to Hungry Jacks. Here Lillian is waiting for another order.





2007-06-22

Maddox Wisdom





Maddox will kill me for posting this. Oh well, it might get him to update his freaking website.

Southern Baptist Education

Another pearl from Baptist Blogger.

...maybe we’re supposed to expect that a homeschooled boy with a Bible college undergraduate, a seminary degree in counseling, and a doctorate in evangelism is supposed to be a better equipped churchman. And just maybe a homeschooled girl with a bachelor’s degree in homemaking, a seminary degree in women’s studies, and a nonresident Th.D. from the University of South Africa is supposed to make a better housewife.

Outlawed Baby names

CIA to release historical documents dating back to 1950s

This is going to be very interesting. It will hopefully outline some of the strategies and actions that the CIA have been involved in in that time. I have a feeling that this story will be big news next week (since the CIA will release the info next week) and some people will have their criticisms of America's foreign policy justified.

Former Pakistani Cricketer goes on Hunger Strike

Returning bodies from the Vietnam War

Dogs with personal trainers

Tom the Dancing Bug

If a Gay Bomb falls.

(you may need to pass through an advert)

Let's not be racist

Big Brother should show their non-racistness by throwing balloons of goo at the Australian flag too.

On a related note: Do people who create these programs have any brains?

22 June 1969

Desalinization

Both Sydney and Melbourne are seriously considering building desalinization plants to augment their water supplies.

It's a simple process, really. The plants get seawater and boil it at a very low air pressure. The salt is removed in this process, and (relatively) clean water is produced that can then be filtered like rainwater and pumped into the water grid. The remaining salt can be dried out and sold (for table salt or to food manufacturers) or dumped back into the ocean.

Desal plants are not unsightly industrial monsters spewing out black smoke.

Of course, the process requires energy, so some environmental groups are a bit unhappy. Moreover, the excess salt that these plants produce, if returned to the sea, can cause higher-than-normal salinity in the area of the sea where they are dumped.

The best argument against them is the idea that we should recycle our wastewater and stormwater before we start on the seawater.

But, of course, what process can we use to recycle our wastewater? Removing sewage from water requires all sorts of filters and power as well. Ironically, the process behind a desal plant (boiling water at low pressure) can also be used to separate the water from the waste. Same process, but different byproduct.

Building desal plants will go a long way to ensuring future water supplies. However I think it is important that we do everything possible to reduce our wasteful usage of water at the same time.

Redeemer Baptist church in trouble

About time too. I've heard so many bad reports about this church and the school it runs.

Shuttle return delayed by weather

The BBC reports.

The Shuttle is moving through an incredibly low pressure weather system at this very moment.

Indigenous Australians and child abuse

In my opinion, the latest action by the Federal Government smacks of panic. The election is within 12 months, the opposition party is polling well, and now a report comes out about Aboriginal health that is quite damning. I find it hard to believe that the government's action isn't related to damage control for the next election.

For one thing, the problem of child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities hasn't suddenly popped up out of nowhere. I'm certain that reports of this problem surfaced last year and made headline news then... but the government seemed to do little at that time.

What really concerns me is that the solutions that have been offered - banning alcohol and pornography - seem quite ignorant of the facts behind child sexual abuse.

I'm going to assume here that indigenous Australians are essentially the same as other Australians and have the same physiology and psychological actions and reactions. In other words, I am going to assume that they're just as human as I am.

Pedophiles and child abusers suffer from a form of paraphilia (sexual arousal by an inappropriate person or object). This is a learned condition that is reinforced by basic behaviourism over a long period.

Sexual attraction to children does not occur because a person views pornography, or has had celibacy forced upon him, or who drinks too much alcohol, or who is in constant contact with children. It is actually the other way around - pedophiles are more likely to view pornography (but it doesn't cause pedophilia); pedophiles want to work with children (but working with children doesn't cause pedophilia).

I therefore doubt that some of the government's proposals will actually work. They are assuming that grog and porn cause child sexual abuse. If that's the case then they should ban grog and porn all over Australia to prevent all drunken masturbators from unwittingly becoming child molesters. That does not happen, of course, in the white community... so why are we assuming it happens in the indigenous community?

Indigenous Australians have suffered since 1788. Long term problems require long term solutions. Increasing police presence is a good idea, but it needs to be permanent... not just for the duration of the election campaign. Resources need to be directed towards "early intervention" - the teaching and training of young indigenous Australians so that they can avoid having negative cultural traits being passed along to them. Greater access to meaningful long term employment is also essential, which may require economic resources to be directed to creating business opportunities in remote Australia.

I don't want knee-jerk reactions, I want permanent solutions. While it is true that the Coalition have been sitting on this growing problem for over a decade, the ALP should also take the blame for not doing enough during the 13 years they were in power (1983-1996). Far too often, money the ALP channeled to Indigenous programs was squandered and wasted. I was therefore quite pleased to hear a joint press conference with Tony Abbott (Coalition) and Julia Gillard (ALP) in which Gillard stated that the ALP would not being using this to its political advantage. Very wise.

Only in India...

Bush plunges past Carter

When confronted with a statue of Jimmy Carter, the people of
Springfield protest. One yells out "He's history's greatest monster!".

Bush's long term poll numbers have now become worse than Carter.
The president's approval rating has slumped for about 2 years now,
indicating that the American people have had enough of the guy.

At least Carter brought peace to one part of the Middle East.

2007-06-21

Hunter School Problems

I've taught at these two schools:

A student from Rutherford High school was killed after colliding with a bus yesterday.

2 classrooms at Hunter Valley Grammar School were destroyed by fire.







It's Bill's birthday

Darwin is having a cold snap

From the ABC:

The wild weather further south has brought unprecedented cold and steady rain to much of the Top End in what is meant to be the sunny, dry season. With temperatures under 23 degrees Celsius, locals used to wearing thongs and shorts all year round have been wearing fleece-lined jackets and polo neck jumpers. Some Darwin residents do not even own a jumper or jacket but the weather is making tourists from Britain feel right at home.

Tom Hinkle takes on Sean Hannity

Old Unionism not welcome in the new ALP

Prime Minister (to be) Kevin Rudd has done the right thing in calling for the expulsion of Joe Macdonald for his on-camera behaviour. The issue, for me, is not name calling (which Macdonald definitely excels in) but the manner of his militancy. Macdonald refused to leave the employers' property. The idea that union officials can invade the property of the bosses is outmoded and ineffective - not mention illegal. There is a growing divide between bosses and workers as a result of Howard's IR laws, but old unionism is no longer the way of doing things (if ever it was in the first place).

Any political mileage Howard might get out of this, however, may be reversed by Rudd's quick actions to call for his expulsion. The Coalition message is to convince people that the ALP is full of baby-eating communists - but Rudd's quick call for expulsion may convince people otherwise.

Lake goes missing in Chile

A nation based on mob rule

A child is hit by a car in a Texas car park. A mob forms and attacks the driver and kills the passenger. The child is injured but will be alright.







2007-06-20

Australia's class war continues

How a good vs. evil mentality destroyed the Bush presidency

An excerpt from Glenn Greenwald's book:

In sum, the great and tragic irony of the Bush presidency is that its morally convicted foundations have yielded some of the most morally grotesque acts and radical departures from American values in our country's history. The president who insists that he is driven by a clear and compelling moral framework, in which the forces of Good and Evil battle toward a decisive resolution, has done more than almost any American in history to make the world question on which side of that battle this country is fighting. The more convinced President Bush and his followers become of the unchallengeable righteousness of their cause, the fewer limits they recognize. And America's moral standing in the world, and our national character, continue to erode to previously unthinkable depths.







Aids in Africa

Infection rates are still outpacing treatment. For every AIDS sufferer that is helped with antiretroviral drugs, more become infected.

South Africa's population is shrinking now because of AIDS. It will only get worse.

Bush finally acts on Global Warming

It's good to see America finally taking the lead and coming up with a practical solution.

20 June, 1631

Algerian pirates attack the town of Baltimore on the Irish coast. 108 Irish people were enslaved and only two escaped captivity to see Ireland again.



They didn't go to the moon. It was all a conspiracy. This picture proves it.



Courtesy Something Awful.

The Anglican Church in Second Life

Japanese War Crimes in Nanjing, 1937

Japan did lots of bad things prior to, and during, World War II. They paid for this, though, by losing millions of their own people to combat and/or starvation. Three major cities were reduced to smoking rubble by US Bombers and, when they surrendered, their land was occupied by the enemy they tried to destroy.

It's been 70 years since Nanjing, but people still want to get all political over it. Chinese people are getting huffy, Japanese officials are getting defensive... and for what reason?

Farming in New York City

Can it be done? Certainly. But I don't think this is a way to do it.

Brazil's Economy

Good news about "the big wet"

The BBC is reporting that Australia's winter wheat crop could double.

When I was in Griffith I spent time with a friend who was a "dry area farmer" (the technical definition of a wheat farmer). He had to get out of it because of, well, the complete lack of water.

It may be annoying here on the coast getting soaked and blown around these days, but I'm glad that enough of the wet stuff made it inland to make some difference.

The great firewall of China

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology

It's a fine organisation. I appreciate all the hard and thankless work these guys and their weather stations can do.

But I didn't realise just how friendly they are to people who email them.

For the past 8 months or so I have been checking out the weather in Sheffield, Tasmania. During Summer I look enviously to this part of Australia as I swelter in heat waves. I also like to see how cold it gets there.

In the past couple of days, though, the BOM weather site was not reporting. I began to get concerned. In the past the BOM have shut down certain sites and I began to get worried that my favourite part of Tasmania was about to get the shaft.

So, innocently, I emailed them.

And they emailed back, promptly.

They explained that it was a electrical issue and that it would be fixed up ASAP. Then I received another email to say that it was now operating.

I'm not used to getting prompt replies from government departments, even less from companies that have public email addresses that they never answer. Not only did I get a reply to my original email, but a second email to let me know the site was up again - without even emailing in return.

So to the folks at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology - and especially Ian Barnes-Keoghan - thank you for a great service and for communicating with interested weather watchers.

Carlingford plants yet another church

My old church in Sydney, St Paul's Carlingford, is planting yet another church. The aim of the church is to plant 20 congregations by 2013. The new church is congregation number 10.

This new one is in Baulkham Hills North, which is within a 5km zone of the "mother" congregation at Carlingford.

One of the people featured in the article linked above is a man by the name of Rob Binskin, who was my small group leader way back in 1989. Planting the church has forced people like Rob to take on a leadership role within the new congregation.

If only there was a decent bible-believing church in Newcastle that had the guts and the entrepreneurial spirit required to plant churches all over the Hunter Valley.

2007-06-19

19th June 1978

Ian Botham vs Pakistan:

108 off 110 balls.
5-2-17-0
20.5-8-34-8

Words of Mass Infuriation

From the Washington Post:
"Eager to preserve the English language against a rising tide of nonsense," a British newspaper asked readers last week to compose a piece of prose "crammed with as many infuriating phrases as possible." The results make entertaining reading.

"I hear what you're saying but, with all due respect, it's not exactly rocket science," begins one excellent example. "The bottom line is you wear your heart on your sleeve and, when all is said and done, this is all part and parcel of the ongoing bigger picture." Another declared, "let's face facts here, this could be my conduit to a whole new ball game. Awesome, or what?"

Some of the entries mocked bureaucratese: "Our own cost-benefit analysis of the ongoing target shortfall is that this predicament needs to be addressed proactively."

Iraqi Refugees

The UN now estimates that there are "almost 4 million displaced persons inside Iraq or in neighbouring countries"

About 1.8 million have left their homes within Iraq, with two million in Syria, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran.

According to figures collated by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, some 640,000 out of Iraq's population of 26 million fled their homes in the past year.

Thomas the Train Wreck

The New York Times reports on the paint-safety scandal that is forcing the recall of some wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toys. The company that sells the toys is called RC2:
RC2 is clearly not used to the spotlight. Crisis management experts generally advise companies to be as open as possible early in a crisis to show customers that they are aggressively addressing a problem, but RC2 has been quiet since it first disclosed the recall last week and listed the products involved on a Web site, www.recalls.rc2.com. Company executives did not return repeated phone calls left at their homes and offices. A manager at the RC2 factory in Dongguan detained a New York Times reporter for more than nine hours after he had been admitted to the premises by security guards to ask questions about the operation.


6-1-4

One thing I've noticed about the England Cricket team these days is their selection of 6 batsmen, 1 wicket keeper and 4 bowlers in their lineup. In the past, England would often go into a match with 5 bowlers - one of which would be the designated "all rounder".

With the advent of Adam Gilchrist as an all-rounder (wicket-keeper/batsman) teams are now thinking of picking wicketkeepers whose keeping skills are only moderate, but whose batting shows promise. Matt Prior is the current England wicket-keeper, who boasts over 6000 first class runs at over 38 and 267 dismissals in 111 games. He debuted against the West Indies this northern hemisphere summer and his batting form has been good.

At some point, however, average wicketkeepers with average batting skills may not be exactly what the team requires. Australian cricket got lumped with Wayne Phillips back in the 1980s. That guy was Rod Marsh's replacement and he never had the skill to replace him. He was originally selected as a batsman so obviously when Marsh retired the selectors thought it would be a good thing for Phillips to replace him (Phillips was South Australia's wicket keeper). Unfortunately neither his batting nor his wicket-keeping were of top standard after he started being the regular wicket-keeper, especially in a batting lineup that was increasingly fragile. He probably bore more than the regular amount of pressure from fans and selectors during that period, and was eventually dropped.

England, however, seem to be functioning quite well with 4 bowlers at present (Collingwood could never be considered a bowler). With 3 successful pacemen (Harmison, Sidebottom and Hoggard) and 1 spinner (Panesar), it is increasingly obvious that England's bowling stocks are getting better. If Flintoff makes a return, it would be better if he replaced a bowler rather than a batter (Harmison is looking quite out of form these days).

England will win the Ashes back in 2008 - that is my prediction.



Another image from Something Awful

Dirty work in Newcastle

This morning I was asked by my wife to help one of her work colleagues. Her house has been badly damaged by the recent storms and she asked me if I could go to her house and help out. Knowing my aversion to any form of physical activity (even typing wears me out) I nevertheless reluctantly agreed.

When I got there I was greeted by the woman's 22-year old son. As we sat and talked before beginning work he looked at me closely and said "You were my year 10 English teacher!". We compared notes and, yes, he was a student at the Christian school I taught at back in 2001.

The guy is now studying drama at Newcastle Uni and wants to be an English/Drama teacher. Together we mucked out their smelly garage, discussing our favourite films and interests. I vaguely remember him, and am glad that I made some sort of impression (he is studying to be a teacher after all!)

More scandal for the White House

It is illegal, apparently, to use outside emails to conduct government business. The reason? The potential for illegal activity. Looks like the White House has been doing this for years.

Chinese "Gold Farmers"

They go to work, log on, and play online games like World of Warcraft. They gain some "gold pieces", and, at the end of the day, they log off and get paid real money for their work. Their virtual gold is given to their "boss", who then sells it to Western gamers so they can get ahead in the game. Click here.

Interesting Weather System



Courtesy Bureau of Meteorology

For those of us on the east coast of Australia, all that rain is coming from the low pressure system you can see there. But what is really interesting is the cloud over North Australia. If you view a looped image you'll see all that cloud is being sucked from the tropics towards the South East by the low.

Williamtown had 40mm of rain last night. That's the record for June (as mentioned in a previous post).

2007-06-18

An Open Theist mourns his dead son

I don't know a great deal about the accident, but there's no doubt that this man is mourning heavily the death of his eleven-year old son. The post I have linked to has some good points about how NOT to speak to people who are mourning the death of a loved one. However, he does include this statement:
There is a difference between the ideas of pre-destination and pre-determination. Most people who claim pre-destination, actually believe in pre-determination. That God has mapped it all out, every full stop, every second, both good and evil. If that is your God – repent! God is not a despot, a dictator or a deranged maniac. God is, as it has so often been said (but not said enough), love.
I find such a comment very sad. I'm not one of these people who are offering stupid advice and yet if I hold the belief that God is determinist he calls on me to repent. Hmmm.

I have children too, and if one of my kids dies I, too, will experience, in my own unique way, the pain he is going through. I have no idea how this man feels and, to be honest, I hope I never do.

Yet I believe also that we belong to God, and that our very lives belong to Him. If God chooses to take one of my children away, then that is his prerogative. Life in eternity is a blessing. Death may be a result of evil, but God is not evil when he predetermines people's day of death. If God chooses to take me away from this world then that is his prerogative. Every minute, every second of my life belongs to God.

There are plenty of Calvinists around the world, throughout time, who believe in determinism and who have lost children too. I'm hardly going to speak to this particular guy about his devastating loss, but even the midst of tragedy a person can lose sight of the truth about God. Let's pray that, over time, he will rejoice in the complete sovereignty of God.

Colour Change

#FF6309

#C90016

#FFB515







New Airbus 350

Due to begin flying in 2012. This is a smaller one than the A380.

One problem with American Democracy

They elect officials like judges. Now it seems that judges get their elections backed by businesses and corporations for obvious reasons.







America is Paris Hilton

There are tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungle who were not unaware that Paris Hilton went to jail recently - such was the length and depth of the media coverage of the event. Like many, I have very little regard for Paris Hilton. Like all men, I obviously find her attractive, but her physique is probably the only thing attractive about her.

And, as usual, the media have also spent a bit of time in introspection. Many have bemoaned the fact that Hilton's jail sentence and the kerfuffle around her release and re-jailing is some indication of the media's fascination with all things unimportant. The fact that elements of the media are criticising the media over this issue was always going to happen.

What I've begun to realise, however, is that Paris Hilton represents something far larger than herself. Her lifestyle and the media's focus upon it is actually representative of a larger truth - that being that she is a metaphor for the country she lives in.

I don't know much about the Hilton Hotel empire, but there's no doubt that quite a while ago an entreprenurial businessman with the surname of Hilton managed to construct a world-wide chain of Hotels that have lasted to the present day. No other hotel chain is so well known. Naturally this man and his family and his descendents have benefitted from this fortune, including party-loving Paris.

Similarly, over 200 years ago a group of men came together and forged the declaration of independence and created the nation of the United States of America. Further work led to the US Constitution. Since that time America has grown to be the most powerful nation in the world. The people of America today are heirs of the work these men did in the 18th century, just in the same way as Paris Hilton is an heir of the Hilton family's hotel business.

And America, like Paris Hilton, have squandered their wealth and their influence by frittering away their lives in the pursuit, not of happiness, but of mindless pleasure and personal gain. "Modesty" is not a word that describes Paris Hilton, and nor does it describe America. Paris' body is on show wherever you may want to look, as is America's basic instincts, behaviours and values.

Whenever the ordinary person is confronted by Hilton, they view her with a mixture of attraction and revulsion. Like a car accident, we cannot look away from this beautiful woman with the ugly heart. America, like Paris Hilton, stands in the international community, willfully exposing both its outward beauty and inward ugliness to astounded and disgusted onlookers.

America is inward looking. It is concerned only with itself and its own interests. Many Americans see this as a virtue, but in reality it blinkers their vision and prevents them from maturing. The irony is that focusing upon America's interests have, over time, resulted in America's interests being damaged.

Like Paris and her Hilton hotel fortune, America is richly endowed with the fruits of a previous generation's hard work. Any objective analysis of America's history will show that America's immense wealth and power today has resulted from decades of hard work (and more than occasional corruption) put in place by entrepreneurs and businessmen and individuals from 1788 onwards. The ability of America's system of laws in coping with the massive influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries has produced one of the world's greatest nations. Yet, like Paris Hilton, America is squandering this great inheritance.

One of the best examples of this is the idea of America exceptionalism. Although the belief that "America is not like other nations" has run through American culture for generations, it is increasingly obvious that this attitude has led to arrogance, ignorance and self-absorbtion. Just as Paris and her family worked hard to release her from jail, using their connections with people in power, so too does America somehow think that the rules they apply to other nations should not apply to them.

Take Abu Ghraib, or the Extraordinary rendition program. America has, on the one hand, argued that all international war criminals be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of international law. Yet America will not subject its own people to such a process. American soldiers will not be tried in international courts because America treats international law as merely an adjunct of its own interests - they will support it so long as America benefits. But bringing to justice the Abu Ghraib torturers or the CIA agents kidnapping foreign nationals in their own countries - that is something else.

And, of course, this is where the symbolism breaks down. While Paris has been dragged kicking and screaming and humiliated to her prison cell, America has yet to fully suffer the fruits of its actions. If any other nation had invaded a place like Iraq, the UN would have slapped economic sanctions on it at the very least, yet the UN cowers in its New York headquarters, manipulated and hated by its American puppet masters.

Hilton's jail time may be good for her - although reports of her having life changing religious or personal experiences after only a few days behind bars should be discounted as feigned. As for America - there is no doubt in my mind that America has yet to reap what it has sown in the last 5 years. Even voting in Democrats and having an intelligent and likeable president will not remove the negativity that has grown since the invasion of Iraq. America, like Paris Hilton, needs time "in prison" - suffering - in order to realign its thinking, move beyond its substantial inheritance and come out the other end a more humble and more likeable and less self-abosrbed entity.

I have often wondered what Paris Hilton will do after her jail time. Will she just go back to having parties, getting drunk and seducing the nearest stud... or will she take hold of her life, make a seachange and use her incredible wealth and fame for the good of the world? I hope the same for America.



© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/



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Car pulled from 1957 Nuclear bomb shelter

The shelter's makers stated that the shelter would be able to withstand a nuclear blast and any radiation that followed. Pity they didn't make it waterproof.

Broadband

18 June, 1940

White House condoned torture?

There is rising evidence that the White House not only knew about the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, but also worked to keep the facts from reaching the public.







2007-06-17

Can we pray for someone to die?

I've been mulling over whether I should pray that Robert Mugabe be killed somehow. The man's actions have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and led to massive poverty in the country he is running. In many ways he is your typical African dictator - corrupt, despotic and completely incompetent.

Given the situation, and taking into consideration that God may not save him despite our prayers for his conversion, is it right to pray for his death?







The Amazon is longer than the Nile

Newcastle Weather Records

Newcastle's big wet continues. We've had 2.2mm of rain so far today and 30.6mm yesterday. So far we've had 303.0mm (11.9 inches) of rain this month and we're only halfway through.

The big rains on 8/9 June produced a massive 135.8mm (5.35 inches) in one 24 hour period, which is now, officially, the wettest June day on record. Newcastle's wettest June ever recorded was in 1951, with 324.5mm (12.78 inches). With 13 more days to go, it looks like the current weather conditions will be the wettest in recorded history.

Which isn't good for all the houses damaged. But good for the dams.

Remember, remember, the 17th of June







(From Something Awful)

The Woolmer death

I have the notoriety of being the first blogger to officially declare interest in the death of Bob Woolmer - ie he was murdered.

Now, it seems, the guy died of a heart attack because he was unhealthy. Well, burn me in hell for that incorrect prediction.

Now, everyone's favourite English cricketer to never play test cricket or captain England has written an article about the whole affair. It's all very sad too.


Things here in Newcastle must be desperate

ALP Mud slinging machine misfires

Just get over the whole Lodge thing and move onto to something else.

Venezula Producing Its Own Linux PCs

Story courtesy of Slashdot.

Linux is making inroads into many poorer nations who run older PC systems.

Safari for Windows

Apple has surprised the technology world by releasing their web browser, Safari, for Windows.

As a Firefox user, I can see this negatively or positively.

In a negative light, Safari may take people away from Firefox. But, then again, if that happens then Firefox probably deserves it.

In a positive light, the emergence of Safari will probably have the medium term effect of further lessening the grip that Internet Explorer has upon Web Browsers. When Firefox came along, IE had around 95% of the marketplace. These days it is between 80-85%. The release of Safari, hopefully, will result in less IE being used.

The longer term effect will be interesting. Firefox introduces users to the world of Open Source Software. There's a chance that more PC users may opt for Linux because of their exposure to Firefox. With Safari, a similar thing may happen. But instead of being exposed to the world of Linux, they are exposed to the world of Apple computing. Safari, therefore, could essentially form the basis of Apple's future strategy by narrowing the barrier some people might have with using Apple computer products. iPods have already given Apple a popular boost, so might Safari.

My personal feeling is that it is great. Moreover, if Apple make a version for Linux I might even be tempted to use one. Firefox still has a lot of issues that need to be solved.

Update:
Safari has been downloaded 1 million times.

Phantom Pregnancies

France moving to the right?

The way media reports are going it will only be a matter of days before the French will be saluting the American flag.

The truth is, however, that it's merely a matter of perspective. The right-wing of France, at worst, could be compared to the centre of American politics.

It's an interesting historical observation that nations which formed in the 1800s out of disparate states - mainly Germany and Italy - ended up exceptionally conservative and right wing over a period of time (Nazism and Fascism in this case). With the European Union expanding, I expect that member states will become more conservative and right wing as well. One reaction against sudden and unwelcome change is a lurch to the right.



Newcastle Wikipedia meetup

Not a raging success, but we enjoyed ourselves... both of us.







2007-06-16





(Courtesy Something Awful)





I find your lack of faith disturbing

World unemployment

Here are the world's worst nations for Employment (more than 10%), courtesy of The Economist:

South Africa - 25.5%
Poland - 13.0%
Colombia - 12.0%
Turkey - 11.4%
Belgium - 11.0%
Slovakia - 10.8%
Indonesia - 10.3%
Venezuela - 10.3%
Brazil - 10.1%

And the world's best (Less than 4.5%):

Iceland - 1.1%
Thailand - 1.5%
Norway - 2.7%
Switzerland - 2.7%
Singapore - 2.9%
Malaysia - 3.0%
South Korea - 3.4%
Mexico - 3.6%
Denmark - 3.7%
Japan - 3.8%
New Zealand - 3.8%
Taiwan - 4.0%
Australia - 4.2%
Hong Kong - 4.3%
Ireland - 4.3%
Austria - 4.4%
Luxembourg - 4.4%
USA - 4.5%

Comment
  • South Africa is surely in terrible trouble. The Economist does not mention Zimbabwe, where unemployment is more like 75%
  • Low unemployment nations can be either European social democracies or developed/developing Asian nations.
  • A person is more likely to get work in Mexico than in America.
  • New Zealand has a lower unemployment rate than Australia.
  • No Eastern European nation has low unemployment.
  • Islam does not seem to make any difference. Both Indonesia and Malaysia are predominately Muslim.
  • I want to live in Iceland.

The Economist analyses the Bond Market Massacre

It's not pretty. The article points out that a large investor - probably an Asian central bank - began to pull out some of its reserves. The impact?
A higher risk-free rate will eventually raise the financing costs for everyone, from American homeowners fixing their mortgages, through hedge funds using leverage, to private-equity groups planning bids for quoted companies. It should also bear down (eventually) on economic growth.

Lesson for us? Pay off debt. Avoid borrowing more.



2007 MotoGP

Back when I was a younger, more attractive person (!) I rode a VT-250F motorcycle and really got behind Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan as Australia's 500cc World Champions.

These days, two more Aussies are charging into the same field: Casey Stoner (a local boy from Kurri Kurri) and Chris Vermeulen. They are running 1st and 5th respectively after 7 rounds. Stoner has won 4 of the 7, Vermeulen 1, and Italian legend Valentino Rossi winning the other 2.

The series would be even better for us Aussies if Troy Bayliss was competing as well.

Whose hands?

Some say this is an image of the hands of God. Methinks Goatse.

The cycle of stupidity

Modern politics is horrible. What makes it especially worse is that it sometimes ends up costing lives.

Take "the surge", the plan by Bush to crack down on violence in Iraq. The idea was that increasing the troops would result in a drop off of attacks.

Naturally, right wing supporters of the President announced proudly that the strategy had worked and all those who disagreed with the plan were baby-eating serial killing atheists.

Then, of course, the real facts come out and everything has been proved wrong.

People get upset, the right wing start moaning about the evils of the MSM and how you can't trust them.

And then the cycle begins again.







Class Warfare back in fashion in Australia

Adele Horin is not always my favourite SMH columnist, but today she's right on the money. I have been quite dismayed in the last few weeks to hear the Coalition spin machine churn out terms like "Union thugs", and for public statements from the marketing arms of big businesses that indicate their wholehearted support for the government's IR legislation.

And yet, as I have said a few times previously, the average Aussie seems to be very unhappy with these laws. My own experience of talking with working class parents at school indicates a great deal of stress and fear over wage and job security that was communicated to them by their employers.

This quote from Horin sums up what I feel:

The political consensus that brought workers and employers closer over two decades, through the union accord of the 1980s, the end of the closed shop and centralised wage fixing, and the conversion of Labor into a business-friendly party that championed free trade, free markets and privatisation has been torn asunder by Work Choices.

John Howard brought ideology back into politics when he delivered all the power in industrial relations to employers. He smashed the consensus that governments must maintain a delicate balance between protecting workers' rights and employers' rights.


The rich and their carbon usage

The Age is reporting that the Carbon footprint of rich Australian households is twice that of poor Australian households.

So which sector of the economy will be hit by things like a potential carbon tax? The very sector that can afford it the most - the ones with the most money.

And Costello says we can't afford it.







Weapon found in Whale dated from 1800s

Slashdot has reported a CNN story in which a Whale caught off Alaska last month was probably over 115 years old.

How do they know the age?

A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt -- more than a century ago.

Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3½-inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old.





Southern Baptist Politics

Read this posting from Baptist Blogger. In it he describes how he was able to get the SBC meeting in San Antonio to vote for something important.

They even have electronic equipment for people to come along and press buttons for voting or other things. Only in America...







Bush and Republicans losing financial support

One thing that all US presidents of all political parties do is raise money for their party. Clinton did it. Reagan did it. Bush #1 did it. Bush #2 obviously still does it.

The problem is that the amount of money Bush is raising for the Republican party is drying up. According to AP, Bush raised some $27 million at some annual gala for the Republican party last year. At the same event this year he raised $15.4 million.

The problem is simple - Bush and the Republicans are "on the nose", just as I predicted in 2005.