Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We shouldn't just scowl - we should also laugh at their folly

The continual refusal of the EU to reform its Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) has been widely cited as helping itself, at the expense of third world farmers. But the truth is, they are doing even more damage to their own economies than they do to third world countries. By failing to keep their own agricultural industries competitive, they have given free reign to Brazil and Australia (for example) on even products such as olive oil and wine. The truth is they can't afford to protect everything they hold dear for ever, and as each new niche presents itself in agriculture, they will be stuck making boring commodities at high cost, missing every possible new product and even variations on the commodities due to their regulated regime. In fact, the longer they persist in lavish subsidies, the lower the percentage of agricultural products that will have distorted markets. The inevitable demographic time bomb will mean that due to all of the pensions/aged health care increased costs, they just won't be able to afford the costs of the CAP for too much longer. I sniggered when the EU accused the Australian Wheat Board (AWB)of monopoly power abuse etc. The truth is that EU's subsidised wheat can't compete with Australia's unsubsidised Wheat especially when quality and service is factored in. EU took the opportunity now that the sugar price is high to reduce its subsidies on that commodity. They should have given up on sugar long ago anyway. I figure they will start to see the light too late to keep competitiveness in any of their remaining agricultural exports. I laugh at their folly, and us Australians should say "Thanks EU! You've made it so much easier for us." The lesson is - If a country, whether third world or first world wants to export agricultural products, reduce its subsidies especially on those products (instead use money to compensate struggling or exiting farmers), reduce tariffs on everything possible, and let the market do the hard work of allocating money correctly.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My "vision" for the future "Pax Islam"

This is more prediction than what I believe ought to happen or be made to happen. It is based on my theory that the net effect of people acting selfishly is fairly immune to "brute force" courses of action which try to change the world. It is also resistant to "self-fulfilling prophecies" and self-defeating ones, where the prediction itself can change the course of history. That is only because nobody will actually take much notice of my predictions due to my lack of qualifications in this regard.

The predictions are based on my own "thought experiments" based on elements of game theory and the political dynamics, at least the bits which show a non-random pattern. The initial precept is that Israel-Palestine will not reach lasting peace until Iran and Syria stop financing terror against Israel. This will not stop until these countries become democratic and peace-loving. Therefore, a lasting peace treaty there will be the last thing to happen in my prediction. I foresee "Pax Islam" not as a threat or a country swallowing monster, but as just another multi-country institution competing with all the others. If the constituent countries are all democratic. Israel will no longer be besieged.

This is my rough outline of order of significant events.
1) Presidents of democratic Iraq and Afghanistan sign a "peace and co-operation" agreement.
2) Popular revolt in Iran overthrows the council of clerics - a new constitution is drafted and voted for in a referendum - replacing Shi ite doctrine with more generalised mandate to not make laws contrary to Islam.
3) Syria becomes democratic in a process which involves incalculable casualties.
4) Iran's new president signs on its country to the "peace and co-operation" treaty, and gives it a name - say "Pan-Islam peace and free trade treaty" renamed to "Pax Islam" for short - you heard it here first.
5) Saudi Arabian royal family, under pressure from their population, re-writes constitution to allow democratic progress, then step down as supreme leaders.
6) With most surrounding Islamic countries now democratic, a US sponsored peace treaty in Israel becomes not only realistic, but guaranteed.

I Love Christmas

What I really hate is any combination of hot humid weather, drippy airconditioners, excessive family reunions, no money, bad business conditions, my house cluttered with little toys, cleaning up after parties, high electricity bills, not having back to school stock ready in time and people whinging about me being so negative.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Non-scientific medicine and healing

I am a little ambivalent about doctors at the best of times. To me there is a yawning gap between the assumption or theory of doctors using science to give every patient the best chance of healing and health, and the reality where for 99% of patients, scientific method has nothing to do with either typical or best possible results. That brings me to my thoughts on say, accupuncture, which has been practised for centuries (millenia?) before any scientific work was done on it. This goes for all mainland provinces medicine, I guess. Whatever the actual benefits of accupuncture, I don't think it has much to do with Yin and Yang energy flows. Just because it isn't scientific, doesn't necessarily mean practitioners are loopy, nor that we can generalise from any particular case that they are proven wrong to say that they always are, or even that they are more often wrong than are non-mainland provinces medicine. The placebo effect is a mighty powerful thing sometimes. It is way stronger when there is complete trust of the practitioner by the patient. What is my point here - Healing is often an art form rather than a science. I may therefore trust an experienced healer without a university degree, more than an inexperienced doctor with a degree. But if it is about advice, I trust my own research on the internet more than any professional's advice about anything to do with health.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

When BIG FEAR is over

Anonymous said...
When CHEAP OIL is over, Forecast to start in 2008, we will see a world wide depression, see
When this occurs the FULL force of the Laws will occur.
Unfortunetly, I do believe the Labour Party will gain control of both Houses of the Federal Parliment in the next election. If they do, that will be excellent. If they don't, we will have the Laws for a LONG time. So, we MUST find new innovative ways to make the IR Laws in operative. Can anyone make a CONSTRUCIVE suggestion.

This was a reply to my unfair dismissal entry of long ago, referenced due to the new IR laws coming in. As far as cheap oil is concerned, I confidently predict a fragmentation of the market, absolutely no economic depression, but a gradual uptake of competing alternatives to oil. I also confidently predict that the good effects of these IR laws will become obvious by the next election, meaning Labor might not even get in. The fear will evaporate with the pre-election optimistic vote-buying goodies always on offer on election years. These are my dated and confident predictions, fearmongering will recommence after the next election :-).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What on earth did I mean by Pax Islam

I had mentioned "pax Islam" in the context of various multi-country groupings or organisations, that I felt would compete yet coexist with UN, NATO, EU etc. in the near future until the next world war in a few centuries time. When the new Afghani constitution was first posted in english on the net, I had a quick read to see what they had to say about separation of "church" and state. Not unexpectedly, the very first line states that no law under the constitution is to be contrary to the law of Islam. That got me thinking that the Iraqi constitution is bound to have something similar, and that therefore three adjacent countries would have national laws under the overall umbrella of Islam - caliphate style (Of course without the "Caliph" for the moment). Of course, Mohammed would be the ultimate interpreter of the scriptures as to how they apply in the modern world, but he's dead. Without a central governing structure to Islam, this makes for a difficult balance of power between various religious officials and elected politicians, but perhaps time will tell whether that will matter. I don't see much chance of anything much like US's evolution of churches, given that religious freedoms are restricted, and Imam's get a say in public policy somewhat.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Another gem - game theory and democracy

This clipped article, People Power is a book review on a book which studies the formation of democracies. It perhaps elucidates my various thoughts on game theory and democracy, that I've gone on about from time to time (separately).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Invisible hands - the point

The net result of individuals selfishly pursuing self interest can make society "better". That is Adam Smith's economic tenet. In theory, greed should instead cause a lot of exploitative and abuse of power kind of behaviour. Economic structures such as competition policy, free trade, property law tend to lessen exploitative behaviour because it becomes less profitable. Dr Clam is theorising that because "voters" pursue selfish interests, the greater good can't be served. He also says that because we don't vote daily, the competitive pursuit of votes doesn't have a day to day influence on government policy. On both counts, my point is that economic and democratic process policies, have indirect effects far greater than the direct effects of any one mandate or another. These are somewhat measurable by experts, and many of the indirect effects are counter-intuitive.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Invisible hands - another try

The "invisible hand" concept I am trying to illucidate I believe can simplify complex topics. So I am stating some examples of how visible cause and effect is often countered and is weaker than the much less visible but stronger indirect cause and effects.

Unfair dismissal legislation - direct (visible hand) effect - Employer sacks or lays off staff whenever needed increasing unemployment rate.
Indirect (invisible hand) effect - Unfair dismissal legislation scares the bijeepers out of employers and they underemploy increasing unemployment rate. Careful studies show that the indirect effects have significantly more influence to the unemployment rate than the direct effects.

Unilaterally lowering trade barriers - direct effects - increase in imports, decrease in exports = worse balance of payments.

indirect effects - medium term self balancing of trade - cheaper and wider variety of goods to population. Increased scope of competition.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Supernanny style family analysis will become compulsory

Or at least it should. So many family problems that end up being family breakers or worse, can be nipped in the bud by a few weeks of analysis and training of the parents by experienced "nannies". The excerpts from the show seem extreme, but they are extremely common problems. Each family is a special case, and all parents have gaps in the understanding of the potential solutions. This is why watching the show isn't really enough. The three week program just has to be gone through for maximal society benefit.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My pod-sibling went to Earth and all I got was this lousy human host

I have managed to manufacture 30 of these in sizes M to XXL, and I will be posting them on ebay on THIS LINK. Some will be on auction, some at fixed price (maybe $15) any remaining will still be auctioned before Christmas (My guess is that the last ones may end up fetching the most)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The problem with invisible hand arguments

There is of course Adam Smith's invisible hand, but I believe in a rather larger number of them than the one associated with "greed is good" in relation to money. In the political sphere, if you translate money to votes one can imagine the invisible hand of democracy ensuring a country's well being, where even a well-meaning dictator, Pope or whatever cannot self-adjust to changing political, cultural and economic landscapes.
The real problem with promoting invisible hands as a "fact" as opposed to "unproven theory" is that, like black holes, dark matter and truthful politicians is that they are invisible. One can only look at the indirect effects and claim them as due to economic structure rather than direct visible action by a particular entity. Just as I grudgingly think that we should take the cosmologists word as to the existence of black holes because they are the experts; we should trust the economists when their studies show that lower awards, zero tariffs, less red tape etc. etc. are good for the country as a whole, and the compensation for those that may lose is cheaper than the cost of not making these changes.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The market is our guarantee

Do I really need a law to state that bread must be always available at every corner shop, that it be priced under $2.00 a loaf, and that it has to taste good? By rejecting bread (and sometimes all products from a particular shop) when a) It is more expensive than you’re willing to pay ; b) If they never seem to have the bread you want left or c) the bread is not nice in one way or another – we are acting as agents enforcing an implicit guarantee that we are getting acceptable value for money. * a statement saying that bread sellers should not overcharge is absolving ourselves of responsibility to keep them honest *
Why have a government agency to enforce bread standards when we are perfectly capable, as individual consumers, to in our own way dictate the standard by what we choose to buy. Poor quality, service or overpricing can still legally happen, but more efficiently adjusts to market pressure, than it could by direct mandates.
Similarly, do we need a law that states what hours you are allowed to work, that it must be at least a certain amount per hour, and that it should be fulfilling? All these criteria are important both for an employee and an employer, but by denying flexibility in the first two distorts the market mechanisms for all three. Different employees will have different priorities between remuneration, hours that can be worked and overall fulfilment in the job. Countries with price controls on bread end up having all bread at the same maximum allowed cost, not being readily available, and generally having dubious quality and no variety of choice. The free market in bread doesn’t necessarily make bread cheaper, but makes suppliers of bread compete to find breads that people will pay a high price for, while consumers will compete to find cheap but good quality breads.
A freer market in jobs will make employees and employers reputations much more important. Power will move from large unions and big companies to agencies, individuals, contractors, small employee groupings and nimble small businesses. The main difference to be seen will be a rise in the importance of job fulfilment over the letter of the industrial relations laws. The guarantees explicit in most awards are also guaranteeing that job fulfilment is a lower priority for employers than getting a reasonable fit in the costs and hours allowable.
Although large unions will lose a great deal of their power and influence, smaller unions and alternative worker groupings may actually have more clout by being able to favour certain employers over others for a range of tangible or intangible offerings.

Monday, October 31, 2005

If you quote someone on your weblog, they may find you!

This has happened to me. Appropriately with the Industrial relations changes happening in parliament, this person is a champion of the working mother. She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of lower socio-economic disadvantaged recent migrants. She has done it by attacking certain unhelpful law provisions that were proposed. Ironically, she is now being made to work up to 18 hours a day by her employer just to try to make a better life for her children. The system that allows this to happen is not being challenged......

Her employer is of course *herself* - The system that allows unlimited work hours is *EBAY*, the unhelpful law provisions she was attacking was the "fairwear" ones, which I also attacked - and migrants from a lower socio-economic status often have industrial sewing skills, children, and are perfect for helping out our sewer shortage, if only they were "free" to work from home, where they could be with their children. Vanthida Lao - You are a champion. Stop by my weblog anytime.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Evolution as a ladder

The entire evolution vs special creation debate as I have researched it, has been completely hijacked by people who refer indirectly to evolution as a ladder with amoebas (or whatever) at the bottom and humans at the top. Creationists arguments often centre on there being "missing links" (on the chain from bottom to top) , that the transformation from random jumbles of molecules to sentient beings breaks fundamental laws of entropy in a natural process. On the other side of the argument, David Attenborough's "Life on Earth" show moved episode by episode up the ladder. Even Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" (ok. these are 80's shows but I haven't seen much change) had one episode where they were calculating the approximate probability of life on other planets - by calculating the probability of life moving up the ladder of creation to sentient beings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Role of the catholic church

This Economist article has an interesting slant on the pope's reign and the church's future direction. However because it focuses on foreseeable consequences of policy, rather than moral principles of right and wrong: to be kind, the economist is showing fairly extreme moral contextualism - hinting that contraception and abortion policy may have to be more liberal in some contexts for the greater good of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I had commented sometime last year that I was not confident of a solution in Kashmir for peace without some serious bloodshed. I also commented how the Tsunami in Aceh had improved the prospects for long term peace there. I suspect the inevitable international relief effort due to the earthquake in the disputed areas would improve the chances of successful mediation leading to possible compromises. The bloodshed has basically already happened now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why am I mysteriously confident in ethanol?

It's not the technology - there has been no breakthrough in the burning of ethanol in an internal combustion engine.

It's not the economics. Even if the current high oil prices are prolonged, the economics of bio-ethanol is still marginal.(Although the future is hard to predict in this regard)

It's not the environment - I would be happy if we exclusively used fossil fuels until we had to mine Mars (Earth first! We'll strip mine the other planets later)

My reasoning is entirely "evolutionary". There is clearly going to be fragmentation of the fuel market as fossil-based fuels becomes less and less convenient over time. Which fuels become somewhat successful will depend on how we get from "here" to "there" - "Here" being little or no economies of scale to "There" being generally available at service stations. This is where ethanol is advantageous - Due to the economies of scale developed by Brazil (a huge loss making venture by its government so far) there is good availability of flex-fuel engines and ethanol producing capacity. Add in the fact that blends can be adapted to take advantage of price differentials between oil, ethanol and sugar, and ethanol blends can be increased when the price of oil is high, decreased again if need be, self regulated by the market, temporary shocks in oil price changes can be spread out to a few other commodities at the very least, and if oil becomes scarce permanently the market will allow for 100% ethanol to overtake fossil fuels.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Australia's lost ethanol opportunity

A couple of years ago, there was a plan to introduce broad scale ethanol blended fuel Australia wide. The plan hit a hiccup because there was just not enough domestic industrial production of ethanol in Aus. One avenue open was to import ethanol from Brazil as a stopgap until such time as local production could increase. However the (local) sugarcane lobby was feared by the government and the whole project got put in the back-burner. Because blended fuel then became a niche, car problems started being blamed on ethanol. This would not have happened if we had started to import heavily from Brazil. The sugar price may well have increased with the extra demand from cars, helping our farmers. We could be importing ethanol technologies while exporting sugar cane technologies.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why evacuate Houston?

I know the saying once bitten twice shy, but it made sense to me for Darwin to be completely evacuated *after* Cyclone Tracey struck, and I agree that New Orleans ideally would have been completely evacuated *before* Katrina - but Houston is almost all above sea level, so floods may come, but they would quickly go. It would be a lot easier to manage if most people stayed holed up in their homes, and just higher risk areas evacuated - such as Galveston, low lying suburbs and perhaps those exposed coastal areas. I know there is high labour mobility in USA - but such a sudden dispersal of huge numbers of people would have a negative impact on the economy.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina again

Dr. Clam said...
You can't avoid (3) without tearing up the Constitution and jumping up and down on the pieces. The United States still operates on a Federal system, to a much greater extent than Australia, and the states concerned in particular have a long tradition of telling the Federal government to bugger off and leave them alone, to the extent of being reduced to rubble over it. Normally this decentralisation of power is a good thing: in this particular case it was a bad thing. But a counterfactual that says 'don't inolve the states' is as silly as a counterfactual that says 'send in the cloned super-soldier penguins to rescue survivors'.

This is the whole point of "State of Emergency". Emergency powers have been abused in some countries, it's true; however, surely there are provisions for it in the US constitution. Levee breach in New Orleans = temporary suspension of decentralisation of power, just as I would hope it would have been had Cyclone Katrina hit us after Sid.

Incidentally, I have seen research regarding storm surges, and the figure was, any particular point on the tropical East coast of Aus gets a storm surge of average 4 m once in every three hundred years, based on geological time scales.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why the Katrina response was wrong

The response to the hurricane Katrina disaster was so obviously pathetic, that everyone is criticising it. Here I am putting my two bits worth. I will occasionally compare with Australia's response to Tracey in Darwin.

1) George W should have cancelled whatever he was doing when it became certain Katrina was going to make landfall. (He was on holiday or something)

2) He personally should have declared a state of emergency the very minute that he heard the levees had been breached. It was an absolute no-brainer that full scale military command and control was going to be required, requiring emergency laws.

3) Since several states were struck, it was absolute nonsense to involve state governments in any way whatsoever.

Contrast what happened in the aftermath of Tracey. Australia's top military commander was given carte blanche on Christmas Day, holiday of holidays. Communications and electricity being out, he had to make blind guesses as to the state of Darwin. Buses to evacuate the tens of thousands out were sent in from thousands of kilometers away. Proportionally to Aus population at the time, this was quite equivalent. The city was evacuated within a week.

All this argument over Bush going to war over Iraq, yet, I believe this is Bush's real shame.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Pax Americana vs alternatives

Dr. Clam has claimed in the past that the Pax Americana is the only show in town, and at some level that is true. However since the end of MAD, both the US and the UN have been artificially raised in stature and influence. I don't think it's about US vs UN as which is going to have primacy. They will both coexist and have certain specialties for generations to come. So much for the Pax UN - what about the Pax EU,or the Pax Islam, or the Pax China. Each sphere of influence will continue to exist indefinitely, with just the rules of co-existense to be fought over. This is where Pax Australiana comes in. We have a nice sphere of influence in the Pacific, and we are very well connected with the Pax Americana and the Pax China: and because of our free trade, we have generally good international connections with everybody. In the future Australia will have influence disproportionate to our GDP or population, mainly due to good overall policy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Side bar done

That's it for the side bar. My next writing will involve pax america vs alternatives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My sidebar will include this

Pills I'm ingesting: acidophilus, disprin direct for pain, panadeine for strong pain, sudafed for colds, Claratyne for hayfever, Robotussin for coughs, Selenium and multivitamin supplements.

Things I'm obsessing about : Selling on EBAY (look me up)

Interesting things that happened lately: Got hit in the head by a kookaburra while driving around a corner in my van with the window open.

DVD's I'm watching - Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank engine, Bewitched (original 60's series) Harry Potter (with the kids).

TV I'm watching: Big Brother, Landline.

Good food I'm cooking: Curry with Jasmine rice

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Economics and Terror

It is non premium content so this link should work to the great style of article which mixes science, economics and politics in interesting ways which is almost unique amongst popular magazines. In this other cut article Rules of engagement the mathematical differences and similarities between terrorist campaigns and more conventional wars is demonstrated.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trenchant political analysis???

All I've got to say at the moment about politics is that I read some great articles in recent editions of "The Economist". One about the mathematics behind terrorism, another about population's reaction to the fear associated with terror, and an insight into how China runs the world economy. Otherwise I am trying not to distract myself from work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"May contain traces of Buddha-Nature" polos

I have 1 size L and 2 size XL left I am selling for $5.00 + postage, since they didn't work out so well.

Otherwise look HERE ON EBAY.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Following some advice form Lexifab, and Anotherblog (and another etc..), I am starting a new line in trendy young person's shirts with witty quips. Just to start with, I'm just going to put them straight up onto Ebay, and let the market set the price. I have just put in the order to print 5 polos with "May Contain Traces of Buddha nature", which, with luck should be ready within a week. They are 3 size Large and 2 size XLarge. If there are any particular size requests I will put them in the next order.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why Unfair dismissal laws increase unemployment

I have been asked "How in God's green Earth would removing the protection against unfair dismissals possibly reduce unemployment?", by left leaning family members. What counts, to me is not the logic, but that it is statistically verifiable, which it is. The logic is that employers, not having perfect information, don't know exactly the level of employees they should have to make the most money. If they 1) underestimate, they may lose significant opportunities due to lack of staff. If they 2) overestimate, they will lose money due to having redundant employees on their payroll. Given that they are very unlikely to actually make a loss choosing 1), and that terminations are quite expensive anyway, the added fear of an unfair dismissal lawsuit is the clinching factor making employers invest in capital over investing in extra staff. A followup question is "Why are employers afraid?" implying that it is only "unfair" dismissals which warrant payouts and that employers are allowed to dismiss where it is fair to do so. The real problem is that the burden of proof is entirely on the employer: legal precedents usually favour the employee, and particular test cases scare the death out of even me. However, as an employer, therefore, it is an advantage for our business for there to be unfair dismissal protections. This is because all our competitors are disproportionately conservative, giving us real opportunities for growth. There are also a reasonable number of qualified unemployed, with other employers being this cautious. However, as a citizen of this country, it is a disadvantage to have such protections. Having overly cautious employers puts our whole country at a competitive disadvantage, and increases unemployment.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ebay good - Happy tenth birthday

I am selling this on ebay Posted by Hello

Click on this link here to place a bid - come on, I dare you to!

This is a spare rugby jersey manufactured in Townsville, Australia. It is made from very tough Polyester cotton blend used for players of Rugby union. The colours are knitted stripes of Dark blue, mid blue and white. It was made originally for seniors of Pimlico State High School and has their school logo embroidered on the left breast. It is a size XL (Cueldee sizing 22) and is designed to be worn as a jumper over other clothing. It has long sleeves with knitted rib cuffs. The collar is made from cotton drill.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'm a Rice Expert, Apparently

Ever since I read a background to some "Study of Rice Starch Structure" research at UNE, I have been extremely sensitive to the type of rice that is used for various home cooking dishes. I will no longer tolerate long grain rice in my risotto (nor my rice pudding for that matter); I will complain at arborio rice being used in fried rice etc. etc. Today, I was asked (because apparently I am now a rice authority) if one should wash the rice before or after cooking. Quite clearly the answer is that one should do neither. The whole point of cooking it in the first place is to kill any remaining organisms in it, and otherwise make it edible and delicious.
The result of my oversensitivity to rice type usage is that whenever I eat a dish with rice in it that someone else has prepared, everyone looks expectantly at me for a reaction.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Australia and Nuclear power

I feel compelled to talk about this issue because for some reason this entry regarding the subject is the one that had been cached by Google. The issue had also been raised (perhaps half jokingly) by Dr. Clam as a possibly left wing assertion that we should build lots of Nuclear reactors to avoid the horrible environmental desecration of our environment by Hydro-electric schemes. Of course the failure of the Gordon/Franklin Hydro power project back in the eighties completely convinced me that the environmental movement and their casual supporters had lost all sense of priority.

As far as it goes, Australia is already the worlds largest supplier, and has the worlds largest reserves of Uranium. Now I don’t think that Uranium can be treated like any other mineral, in the sense that we should allow for the fact that it is an important ingredient in making the worst weapons imaginable. However most of the consumption of Uranium has to be assumed to be for electricity generation. The Uranium that goes into making bombs will hopefully never be used, such that it can be a nuisance for the stupid country that thought it was a good idea to have these weapons lying around for “deterrence”. The reality is that much less a deterrent than an encouragement for an enemy country to use theirs against you, or organise a nasty accident with your own using a few suicide agents. Like buying guns for protection (statistics show that they are a hundred times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder), nuclear weapons are only good for risking ones own citizens.

It would seem silly to start generating loads of electricity using Uranium when prices are at an all time high, so I don’t see any reason to build lots of them. It would be a shame to waste the fact that we’ve got so much of the stuff, however. If only we could show the rest of the world really responsible ways to use Uranium as a resource! I think we should import a huge amount of nuclear expertise from USA, add in a large dollop of our own research, and develop a prototype nuclear electricity generator. It would be failsafe, could not be used for bomb making, and include a full lifecycle disposal system so that the end products could be buried and be no worse for the environment than the stuff that was dug up in the first place. I believe that technology (in this case) can come up with a clean, green and economical (when including the full lifecycle) electricity generation system. Once this technology is perfected, we could be exporting the design of the system. Hopefully, technology could find a way to export the Uranium such that it could only be used in these kinds of generators, and could not be made weapons useable.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

What we agreed upon - what we didn't.

Not having heard from Dr. Clam for a long time, and nevertheless changing my mission statement, I have decided to summarise a few conclusions boldly about abortion.

* Although we believe in an absolute good & evil, any action should be considered in the context of the various options at hand.
* As humans we should think of all killing as essentially evil.
* By any reasonable scientific definition of life, the typical abortion is killing.
* The future looks hopeful, in that we agree there is hope in a future where abortion is rare.
* We strive, in everything that we have influence on, to strive for the aformentioned hope, in various ways we both mentioned.

We also vaguely agreed on the following:
* Prohibition in this country or USA however it is implemented would at first greatly reduce overall abortion numbers, but make them much harder to measure, and we would have to assume a certain level of illegal abortions.
* There is a great democratic resistance (presently) towards even minor restrictions on abortion, especially in Aus, but to some extent also in USA.
* There are costs (short term and long term) with prohibition - hard to calculate, easy to argue about. The benefits of prohibition flow mainly to the individuals involved whose lives are "saved".
* We have both brought up the analysis of costs and benefits overall as a guide to specific policy, but could not agree on a baseline to make rough judgements that could be agreed upon case by case. e.g. What level of disability is insufferable or too expensive to keep alive.

These things we disagreed upon:
* The technologies that would make abortion rare: I believe that better contraception, education etc. and other factors mentioned at this link, for instance:
Making Abortion Rare will tip the balance.
* Dr. Clam believes womb replacement technologies will make abortion obsolete.
* I believe womb replacement technologies, even if they become available will not in themselves affect abortion rates *at all*
* Dr. Clam cited Demographic movement of immigrants from populations where abortion is rare/illegal as a hope for the future.
* I believe that, since immigrants tend to be relatively poorer than the rest of the population, economic pressures to abort will be higher for them, therefore it is likely their abortion rates won't be much different.

Monday, June 06, 2005

New Mission Statement

To account for my changing priorities in this blog, I changed my mission statement as you can see. It might seem at a minimum optimistic/ambitious/kidding myself, but I believe that ideas disseminated on the web can change the world - especially original ideas. And an easy way to check if a train of thought or idea is original, just Google it (or Yahoo, whatever) first.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Schapelle Corby redirect

This link is where I'm posting further comments regarding Schapelle, because a greater number of people are stating their opinions there.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Licensing to control Irresponsible sexual behaviour

As one of the number of factors in society that will collude in reducing the abortion rate without making abortion illegal, I have suggested, without any detail whatsoever, that some kind of licensing/registering regulatory system is a likely trend, and one that as constituents we can influence its direction in a positive way. I will refer to marriage licenses, driving licenses, "blue" card for working with children, Apprehended violence orders, and student cards. The license I am proposing, I would envisage being just another card to carry like these. It would be called something like a dating license to start with. You wouldn't necessarily have to pass any tests or anything, but just have your details registered and police checked (as with the blue card). I would consider it an important form of ID for adolescents and young adults (as would a student card). It would be required to be shown to, say, go to a movie, restaurant, or disco in certain situations. Where it would shine would be with certain infringements. Convictions on date rape (or any kind) would disqualify you from having a date license. Lesser infringements such as inappropriate behaviour as registered by a complainant or by a third party would be registered as infringements (as speeding, parking infringements are) and wouldn't necessarily disqualify your license until you got a number of them. Complainants that make a number of complaints against different people may also be cautioned for vexatious behaviour. Teenage (or any unwanted) pregnancies caused or had can then be easily factored in the equation, and used as evidence of irresponsible behaviour as far as the dating license is concerned. I see this as primarily reducing the incidence of date rape and other hard to prove indiscretions/crimes, such as statutory rape. The reduced incidence of unwanted pregnancies will just be a side effect.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Schapelle - a statistical analysis

Now I have heard this statement a few times with respect to Indonesia's legal system. "Only facts relevant to the case should be considered" implying that things such as the relative percentages of people carrying drugs from Indonesia to Australia and visa versa, the prevalence of drugs in luggage in domestic Australian flights, unrelated cases of drugs mysteriously appearing in peoples luggage are completely irrelevant. This reminds me of a tragic case of a young male getting a screening for HIV. His initial screening came back positive, and his doctor told him that the test had a 4% false positive rate. Because this young individual only took into account facts relevant to the test, he calculated that he had a 96% chance of having AIDS. He committed suicide, not realising that the actual probability was only 1% that he had HIV. Anyone who knows statistics knows that in situations of imperfect information, a strictly statistical approach including (even highly approximate) data about the population in general will give a much better idea of probability of guilt. By the percentage of drug cases that the judge has found innocent, it seems that he is just rubberstamping the prosecution's cases. The Indonesians don't seem to agree with the adage that it is better for 99 guilty to be set free than for 1 innocent to be found guilty.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

So many things to write about

I feel I need to make (or retract) my case for licensing to control irresponsible sexual behaviour. I feel I need to respond to an anonymous comment regarding (S)chapelle Corby(late April/early may entry). I feel that I would probably like some answers to the other questions I posed to Dr. Clam. I would probably like at least a G'Day style comment from anybody who reads this (yes you know who I'm talking about, it's you, and I haven't got a single comment out of you, but I know you read this blog!). I will get to some of that!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pie in the sky technology vs pie in the sky legislation

Dr. Clam said:
The idea that children raised by parents who suck will do better than ones raised by a benevolent state or NGO is one that has too many historical counter-examples to bother refuting.

Humour me, how, in history have children been raised by the state? And is that from birth?

I find your 'licensing' system infinitely more terrifying than putting drugs in the water. Beyond the obvious axiom that legislative solutions are bad and fail, while technological solutions are good and succeed, it will have absoluely ruinous compliance costs except in the limit of the Global Village, where it will be superfluous.

Is having to have a driving license terrifying? Would it be better to just take cars away from people who have caused accidents and never let them drive again? Would it be better to think of the desire to drive as a mental illness? Maybe you should clarify your "obvious" axiom - at the moment it sounds like a gross exaggeration. Legislative moves such as making the wearing of seatbelts compulsory is much more cost-effective at saving lives than technological air-bags. Technological solutions such as shipping everyone to Mars to solve our population problems is not a helpful vision, because it isn't realistically feasible. The compliance costs of licensing can be quite low also. The "Blue card" system for suitability to work with children, for instance is not expensive and is a useful tool to police regarding paedophiles.

Also when you say:

I envision technology that would take the children away from unwanted parents at a very early age and raise them in tanks, so they would not be forced to bring them to term and would not be likely to form an emotional bond.

You ignore your own arguments with regards to legislation. Clearly, you need legislation to allow this technology. Even technology needs basic tweaking of legislation to develop properly. There was a policy of taking away children who were deemed to be in doubful circumstances in Australia. The children are invariably called the stolen generation. They weren't brought up by the state, but were moved in to well-adjusted families. I don't think they ended up any better than those that were left with their parents.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Future Caliphate

Dr. Clam said
Just one comment for now- you mentioned my hypothetical caliphate before (probably far from the most unlikely way for prohibiton to occur) and under such a regime unwanted children would be raised by the state to form a quasi-military caste, not left to fester with their unwanted parents.

The advantage I see with a caliphate system over a nation state system with full moral leeway for each state, is that people wouldn't be able to move from a strict nation to a more liberal one to avoid restrictions to their "choice". If a caliphate was broad enough , the rules would be consistent across national boundaries, and if the economy suffered as a "cost" of the moral rules, other countries couldn't take advantage of that (competitively). This was the main failing with communism in which there was the success of non-communist systems to compare with, so that communism was not so much a failing as an evolutionary dead-end. I don't believe that under even the most favourable conditions, children raised by the state could do any better than unwanting parents, even ignoring the fact that most unwanting parents will still want to do their best for "their" child, and would not give them up for adoption willingly, even if they had wished them dead at some stage.

Having read the preamble to Afghanistan's constitution back when we were talking about separation of church and state, it seems that newly democratising Islamic middle eastern countries would make their country's laws secondary to Islamic law - caliphate style. However with no central basis for Islamic churches, it is difficult to see how an Islamic caliphate woud be structured.

This, to me is all a little bit moot, because I believe a global caliphate highly unlikely to ever happen, barring a really huge Earth-changing "Act of God". As you, however, I believe structural change to be inevitable (in first world countries) but it will not involve womb replacing incubators, and demographic change will not be a big factor. I believe the change to be influenced by a convergence of many factors which make the life of the unborn more valuable to society. Better education (sex, child upbringing), better contraception technologies, better 4-dimensional ultrasound technology such that the life of the unborn is more visible, Stable popuation (more resources able to be allocated for the future generation), stricter regulation with the youth with a view to reducing date rape and other problematic situations. The future provision of "date licences" or "unprotected sex licenses", as well as parenting licenses also. The separation of sex and pregnancy seems to be a logical progression, and will reduce abortion rates.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A little bit of cost-benefit analysis

I am going to make a lot of dead reckoning judgements, on my way through this analysis, but I feel that the figures are accurate enough to make some broad observations. I am going to use Dr. Clam's figure of $100k as a reference value for the value of the life of the unborn at the stage they are typically aborted. I'm asserting that this value is well below the "market" value of the life of a born baby in our country, and well above the "market" value of said unborn at said stage. Based on the rough figures from the pre-Rowe vs Wade and post comparisons, it is clear that the actual numbers of illegal abortions was at least an order of magnitude lower with abortions illegal than legal. Because they can no longer be reliably counted when they are illegal, it's like the deaths in Iraq - applied best guess-work. But say that Australia's rate is reduced from 90k a year to 9k a year, we are talking about a "moral" gain of 81k*100k = 8.1 Billion dollars a year equivalent. Thats on the plus side of the ledger as far as I'm concerned. On the minus side of the ledger, the calculations get a lot trickier. There are clear indications that there is a considerable influence in demographics as the studies of the relationship of abortion law with crime in the US post Rowe vs Wade. Is 8.1 Billion dollars extra in todays terms enough to bring future crime down to the level of today? I would contend that it is by no means certain that it is possible to do that with 8.1 Billion a year. Is the level of unavoidable increase in crime a "cost" greater than 8.1 Billion? Is that cost going to include a large increase in illegal abortions? My reckoning would say yes - illegal abortions, starting from a very low base, would increase with the new generation, with criminals getting smarter at the same rate as the institutions put there to stop them - with technology to do so improving in line with the technology to stop them. Policing abortions would gradually become as tricky as policing any murder, once things reach equilibrium. I am contending that a policy of gradualism is better, where the "market" value of the unborn steadily increases year after year, pushed along with monetary incentives, until the value of the unborn reaches an equilibrium with their born peers. Then the push for prohibition will be more universal and satisfyingly less disruptive to demographics and society in general.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Axioms are the mother of all logical arguments

Dr. Clam asked
Gosh! Well, if you go back and read what I actually wrote, instead of what you thought I was saying, is there anything that you disagree with? :)

Well actually no - Axiom 2 pretty much stands. My main issue with good and bad is entirely to do with context. It maddens me when someone generalises by saying say "killing is bad" and comes to the conclusion that whatever the context, killing cannot be the most moral thing to do in any given situation. This is where I thought it must mean that good and bad are relative. I do think that societies with disparate moral laws can be reconciled by logical discourse and a developed moral sense - however in practical terms, this must meet certain cost-benefit criteria, which unfortunately has to be converted to dollar terms to be able to logically argue whether it is worth changing a law. Democracy is also an important process to reconcile disparities in moral sense across a population.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Life Brokers

No, I'm not talking about life insurance salesmen. Life has inherent resistance to being converted to a dollar term. However, my belief is that depending on the context, we do it quite often. Doctors are the main ones I am talking about because every day they have to make decisions about life and death, and how much money to spend on saving one life. However, it isn't the amount of money we spend on saving the life that determines how much we value a life, but how it compares to us saving a non-living but valuable item. For instance, if a fireman knew that there was a child inside a burning house, and also a box of jewellery worth $2.5 million dollars, and he could save only one or the other - which would he choose, or to put it another way, what value of object would we take the same effort to save as we would a human life. Homicide detectives are also life brokers - ie. a crime of what value of money would be given the same priority and resources as a murder investigation. This is extremely relevant to abortion debate, as with any crime, the better it is policed, the higher the black-market value becomes ie. the price to reliably get an abortion performed in a country in which it is illegal will give you a ballpark estimate of the nominal dollar value of the life of a fetus. If society does ever accept that most of our police resources should be split up between suspicious deaths of all descriptions evenly, it would mean that most of taxpayer-funded police money would be going to investigating pre-birth deaths. Not doing this would basically be saying that we should not equivalently value pre-birth life. Dr. Clam seems to think we can have it both ways - ie. illegal but low priority for police.

HuH??? I'm not a moral relativist after all!

After 27 years of thinking that I didn't believe in absolute good or bad, I decided to actually look up moral relativism in google. I read what the philosophers had to say about it all, and I realised that I wasn't a moral relativist at all, as they'd explained it. I seem to be just excessively skeptical, as in the environmental skeptic is skeptic. This would indicate to me that deep down its not that I don't believe there is an absolute right or wrong, I just don't believe anyone who tries to lecture me about it, and I feel I must contradict them somehow. To think I had it backwards all this time jumping to conclusions as to what I thought moral relativism was all about.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Changing Hats

For the remainder of the abortion discussion I'm going to take off my hat of relativism and place my hat of righteousness. As far as that goes I agree with the formula for calculating cost benefit analysis as a goal for humanity, as Dr. Clam replied. However, I came up with a figure of $2.5 Million as a value that in developed countries is used for cost/benefit analysis. Dr. Clam seems to have rejected this value as at least an order of magnitude too high - However, in a number of different ways I can demonstrate this to be the value we use and voters vote in a way which backs up this value. I am not sure if he is contending that we value life too highly in the western world, or whether my value is not the relevant one.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Theory of Relativism

Relativism to me is a philosophy with a number of implications. For instance, there are ways at looking at things that have nothing to do with morals in a relative or absolute way. A relativist, to a food which he did not like the taste of, would say "this doesn't taste nice to me"; an absolutist would often say "this food is bad". An absolutist would see a woman and say "she is beautiful", a relativist would say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Similarly, an absolutist looking to buy a product would ask their peers what they thought of particular "brands" being good or bad, while a relativist tends not to look at the brand at all and concentrate on price/feature signals. A relativist believes the judgement of creative works such as movies/books to be completely subjective, while an absolutist does believe movies/books to be good or bad in an absolute sense. When picking who to vote for, an absolutist would tend to view parties as good or bad, while a relativist would look at the policies and predictable results thereof that would most closely meet the ends they are looking for whether they are selfish ends or selfless. In other words, I would expect Dr. Clam to preference coalition parties because they are most likely to mention abortion. However, to more thoroughly explain my argument, there is a block which will vote labor, a block which will vote coalition, the swingers I divide up into selfishists, which will tend to cancel each other out (because the parties have an equal amount of money they can convincingly promise), and thinkers, which will be looking at policies for the betterment of the country. My argument is that that gives the thinkers a lot more power than in other countries.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Moral value versus market value

I have come to a conclusion as to why I think prohibition of abortion the way Dr. Clam envisions it is doomed to fail (for the moment) and the required pre-conditions for it not to fail in a self-defeating heap (n.b. these pre-conditions are by no means impossible, so it does not mean he shouldn't aim in that direction). The reason I believe that homicide laws work well for between birth and "old" age is that the "moral" value given to life based on Dr. Clam's assumptions match up fairly well to the "market" value of life as judged, voted on and paid for through our tax system, or otherwise translated (eg. insurance). Before birth this match starts to deviate markedly, as people are not prepared to allow the same amounts of money for investigating miscarriages as they would other deaths. If the example of 1960's Italy is anything to go by, abortion laws generate into a farce as people with means could get them at no risk of being prosecuted, while those without were often scapegoated. As the entire point with abortion was mostly that the parents (or society) could not afford to bring them up effectively - this meant the artificial selection of people without means by breeding beyond their means (relatively speaking). This point was not lost on voters who eventually voted in a referendum to scrap the abortion laws as they stood (in Italy). Therefore the pre-condition for anti-abortion laws to work (in my opinion) is for the moral value to be reconciled with the market value as decided by voters. A sign that this could be happening would be a heap of money being poured into miscarriage research. This doesn't seem to be happening - however there definitely does seem to be a case for later term deaths/abortions law reform.

Australians Embrace "Nationality" and their own relative good

This Economist Article entitled God Under Howard, to me demonstrates the results of thinking with starting assumptions of "relative" good, as opposed to "absolute" thinking. This comes from decades of concentrating and studying swinging voters, an obvious subset that are relative thinkers.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Of GoodEvil & EvilGood

Evil Dr Clam asked: Can you give us an example of a particular case that you would consider good and evil simultaneously?

Well, for starters the kind of situation I am thinking of is not like your supporting the war in Iraq, or shooting abortionists. When it is about an authority punishing evil behaviour, this does not conflagrate good and evil. The punishment is a response to rid the world of something evil and/or deter others who would think of copying the example. The concept is clear, and there is no deception involved. With relativism of course these same situations could be classed as EITHER good OR bad depending on whose perspective, but not both at once. The situations I'm talking about involve :

- Privileged Information - the good/evil entity has access to knowledge that is not generally known, and is definitely not known by the victims/benefiting public. This could be knowledge like knowing the details of a terrorist plot, knowing which police are corrupt and not, or knowing whether someone is pregnant or not.

- Public Backlash - When an obviously evil thing happens, there is a predictable backlash against what the assumed perpetrator stands for. For instance when a respected politician (in say Lebanon) gets blown up, there is a considerable (predictable) backlash against an occupying army associated with things blowing up. When abortion was illegal in Italy in the 70's there was considerable public backlash due to the impossibility of fairness the way society was. The public victims were the visible persons whose lives were perceived to be wrecked unnecessarily. I assume there would be backlash the other way if the suffering of the unborn were made more visible and tangible (such as when that 8 month pregnant Chinese lady was deported) in our society.

- Clever and virtually undetectable deception. In certain situations and certain countries, fraud, theft, even murder can be perpetrated by certain people with virtually no risk of being suspected or charged. These people have opportunities of making innocents (of a particular crime) the obvious suspects. These innocents may well be guilty of other crimes but not of the one in question.

- An end with these means which is honourable - such as adding momentum to changing laws which would save lives (eg. banning guns), enabling "Just" wars to be won more effectively, adding momentum to laws which would restrict abortions etc.

There is no specific example which combines these elements which I can demonstrate actually happened - but that is what I'm getting at.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Of Good and Evil

Evildrclam has realised, as a side note, that I don't believe in an absolute good and bad. This is an important philosophical point, and I realised back in 1987 that both he and Sandor believed in an absolute sense of good and bad whereas I didn't. However, I think that I initially had taken this assumption by default, and although it is the basis of virtually any argument of consequence that I make, I have no particular attachment to it. I can see that a lot of our diferences stem from this starting point. If this proves to be our major difference in philosophy, we may well find ourselves delving more deeply into this particular aspect. Already, I see that most of my opinions of what happens behind the scenes is based on my view that some things are morally good and bad simultaneously, depending on the perspective and our view of what calculations are happening in people's minds. Moral clarity has always been less important for me than trying to engineer an end with means that you are given - and that the end you are trying to reach is an "honourable" one. For instance, I see that an end in which the numbers of abortions are reduced considerably is an honourable one. I ask myself what means I have at my disposal, this blog, people who trust me, my family and I think that I can have actions that can move things in that direction. The moral clarity that comes from the statement "Bad things like this should be prohibited" is meaningless to someone like me who thinks that "Bad" is relative to the voting population of which I can't think of a way that I personally could engineer a seachange in said public opinion (well I kind of can, but it is a kind of sinister plot type of scheme which is definitely not honourable)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Chapelle Corby etc.

I feel I must write my views about this unfortunate state of events in Bali: When Chapelle was first arrested, her guilt started out as self evident. Her own piece of luggage under her control had the drugs in it. As it turns out over the course of the trial, considerable doubts are thrown up especially regarding motive and alternate theories as to how the "stuff" got to be in her possession. This throws up an intense dillemma for the Indonesian judiciary. If they find her not guilty due to reasonable doubt, there is a considerable loss of face (which can't be underestimated with SE Asian countries), not to mention likely copy-cat defendants riding with similar arguments. If they find her guilty, this may well irretrievably harm the Australian-Indonesian relationship, which seemed to be going rather well of late. However, with the arrest of the "Bali 9", there has been a considerable face-saver. Now the judiciary can afford to make an example of the Bali 9 (or at least the ringleaders) while being able to be maximally lenient (or find her outright not guilty) with Chapelle's case. I don't think that the arrest of the Bali 9 is a coincidence. The Australian Federal Police were well aware of the predicament of their relationship with the Indonesians. The final result may well be a win all round, with a considerable deterrent effect against the smuggling of drugs through a number of Asian areas, and a drop off of supplies to Australia, while allowing reason to prevail when there is "reasonable doubt".

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Just as an a completely irrelevant aside, SPIT has 3 songs in the top 5 on mperia's comedy rock songs chart. While we haven't been looking, this site has been doing some really good work. Perhaps we need to try to capitalise on it by perhaps putting in more songs, getting more people to review them on Mperia etc!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Valuing life etc.

As I had iterated on DR.Clam's blog, earlier, I do now consider myself to be *nominally* pro-life, both in a personal sense and a personal influence sense. However, I definitely don't consider myself to be anti-choice. We had only just touched on on the issue of cost-benefit analysis both specifically and in a general sense when talking about "regulation" of the unborn. This Economist Article makes a case for cost benefit analysis when talking about any regulatory change. The "Economics Focus" section of "The Economist" is my particular favourite. Basically, I think it is inevitable that we take into consideration cost-benefit analysis when we consider abortion law reform. Whether we face these costs and benefits "squarely" or not, they are inevitably there. We may argue about how much to value what, but I think the methodology should use the tools that we have to calculate costs and benefits. This might all seem a bit esoterical to some readers (not DR. Clam of course), but I think our remaining differences amount to the moral cost of abortion law the way it is.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Blog links

Jenny said...
Woo hoo.
I googled and it came up as number one...via Andrews page. Obviously Anotherblog is much loved by google

Yeah, trust Andrew to be the popular one :-) incidentally the photo of the four of us there reminded me of the fourth Beatle remark you made, as I'm the one with no gloves (for the wedding ring, you realise)....

Friday, April 15, 2005

13 years ago - and we still keep in contact! :) Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How to get more hits

I was just reading Jenny's Procrastination Page , where she was commenting that try as she might to self google as it were, Jenny's Procrastination Page was just not coming up. Now it wasn't as if she was looking for someone who likes to make words up, or anotherblog with a current guitar obsession. My comment would be to pick some choice phrase such as "Jenny's Procrastination Page" and use it as the title of the blog in question and then get as many other bloggers to link to that page using the same phrase. This way, Jenny's Procrastination Page will no longer be lost in cyberspace, and all that anyone would have to do is type the words Jenny's Procrastination Page into their favourite search engine and they would find the perfect page to procrstinate with.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Film Foren(sic) - Monster's Inc

State of body - looks real, but is computer generated.
Detail of inspection - Inspected repeatedly but with regular interruptions.
Forensic investigator - marco
Comments - I almost missed the vital flaw.

Having briefly discussed this movie in the comments of my blog, I decided to give it another once-over with my magnifying glass, and realised that something should have dawned on me somewhere along the line - It seems so obvious now! More on that later, but first, a general impression of the movie.
I can just imagine the scene at Pixar, everyone patting each other on the back as they work out how to model various monster fur, realistic eye movements and various monster attributes. The creative types at Disney however are fairly perturbed as they don't have any plots involving monsters. Then one of them pipes up and says "Hey, what if the monsters are just as scared of kids as they are of them?" The rest of course is history, and I really believe with this rendering technology the movies are being written to suit the new features (bottom up) rather than the more usual top down approach of having the story worked out first and then making the animators/renderers do their best to follow suit. This has the positive effect of getting the creative juices of the scriptwriters flowing. The plot could have gone really badly had they stuck strictly to a good vs evil structure, or not had any other concept other than "monsters being scared of children" duality to work with.
Looking at the kid's reaction, once again they really take to the violent bits, and in this case also the sentimental Sully/Boo relationship. At the movies, Nikolas (6 at the time) started to sob at the bit where Sully was never going to be able to see Boo again. Admittedly the visual Mike gags work for children as well, but the main thrust of the comedy seems to work more for the parents watching with the kids than the kids themselves. Kids movies can no longer afford to just appeal to kids; and this movie does the dual appeal almost flawlessly.
Now this movie does a really good job of keeping adult (humans) out of the picture almost completely. It's like as if they didn't exist - They are invisible to the monsters and the monsters are invisible to them. The one bit towards the end of the movie where Randall gets beaten over the head by a frying pan (seemingly by an adult woman in a caravan) does spoil this sense and I would call this a definite flaw in the movie - But that's not the really major flaw.
The movie is an excellent display of modern 3D animation. The scriptwriters actually did something original with what they had. It is only vaguely formulaic (especially for a Disney movie) so this movie was certain to be a success from the start. But the Disney marketing machine blew it. There is absolutely no evidence of anything remotely resembling a Sequel strategy in place. With such a sure fire winner there should be at least Monsters Inc. I II & III. Or what about a video only release of short monster "skits" or something like they have with Timon & Pumbaa. The only thing that I can think of is that they were so sure that it would flop that they didn't even leave an opening for a sequel in their story. Good movies like this should be milked for profits again and again and not just be placed on a pedestal to say "Gee that was good, let's just leave it at that!" It's absolutely autrocious. I go to the shops, and in the toy aisles there's saturation Barbie, Bob, Buzz etc. but where's my little Mikey?
So in conclusion, Monster's Inc breaks new ground, but Disney just seems to have temporarily forgotten how to print money in this case!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

To explain my last entry

Dr. Clam Said
You know, your post doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Did Kylie get you some weird drugs for your anniversary?

A few things have happened just recently that have culminated on our anniversary - making it very special and perhaps lucky. Our salesperson of the last 12 or so years has given us notice. It was largely my own actions that caused him to quit - and it has contributed to the general feeling of stress. However, this stress has made me retain such focus and determination that in this case it is turning out to be a blessing. This might mean that I blog less often - because I have a renewed committment to making Cueldee a better business.

Evildrclam said
I always remember my own anniversary by the fact that it is exactly one week after yours. Do you have any advice for us newlyweds arising from your extra week of experience? :D

Well as a matter of fact I do! Just recently, me and Kylie started reading a book that has the excellent mix of Intellectual and moral sense that I believe you crave. Find it here at fivelovelanguages. It is written by dr. Gary Chapman.

On another note, I've been meaning to get a photo of my wedding scanned which has me and fellow bloggers on it. Maybe I'll get around to that.

Monday, March 21, 2005

It's a New Dawn, It's a new life, It's a new day....I'm Feeling Good

It's our Lucky 13th wedding anniversary. Today is a day I will never forget. I took time out when I don't really have any time, because I just have to write about it. Our Salesperson for the last 13 years is leaving. I have realised that I can actually achieve things by shouting and getting angry, that I'd never be able to achieve any other way. I also have discovered that I am much more focused when I am under stress. I have started reading a book which is probably the best self-help book I've ever read "Learning the Five Love Languages" or something like that - I don't have the book with me to check the title. It's written by a (christian) marriage counsellor and for the first time, all the mumbo jumbo makes complete sense. More about that another time.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Anthropogenic Global Warming

Dr. Clam said (he unusually believed)
4. Anthropogenic global warming is a fact, but we shouldn’t do anything about it.

Then I said:
(4) after a 90 degree turnaround (a few years ago) do believe that global warming is a fact and we shouldn't do anything about it

Then Dave said:
I'm curious about both your views on (4) that we shouldn't do anything about global warming - what's the rationale?

Well before my 90 degree turnaround I believed that there was negligible global warming, but an excess of fearmongering and selective use of statistics for the sole purpose of instigating fear and getting loads of government money for "greenhouse effect" research. Urban bias - ie. most historical temperature data comes from cities, which have been growing as countries urbanise and temperatures within cities are higher than surrounding areas, was my explanation for most longer term studies showing increased temperatures. After reading "Pale Blue Dot" by Carl Sagan, which was rather more objective on the subject and showed that trying models on other planets and finding a signature of the effects of both CO2 and Sulphur on Earth, I could both believe and quantify what the reality actually was. If doing something about it means something like Kyoto, which raises the priority of greenhouse emissions over all other environmental and political problems without it having much chance of achieving its original stated goals - I say scrap Kyoto. The biggest threats to biospherical environment is the tragedy of the commons, nuclear warfare, and rogue asteroids. Increasing the priority of greenhouse gas by doing something about it is not real smart, and we may possibly miss some other factors which need research because of our false sense of security with regards to global warming.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Nikita vs Hizbullah

Dr. Clam said:
you have been unduly infuenced to consider French skullduggery by overexposure to 'la femme Nikita'

I watched it exactly once! Anyway, I always believed France's secret service to have a more mercenary, cold outlook than the average. That made Nikita all the more believable to me. The American remake was watered down and more timid - just like I imagine the American secret service to be (before 9-11). France had to go its way out of necessity to fight the various organised terrorist forces. Italian secret services have also adapted similarly to counter its mafia. If the Greenpeace boat had sank with no casualties, would France have ever been suspected?

On another note Hizbullah, although set up by Iran, and still partly financed by them, is a completely independent unit. It is just as much financed privately and via Syria than by Iran these days. You seem to portray it almost as an extension of Iran's military, while in reality, its more a gun/suicide terrorist for hire, with the capabilities to act independently of both Iran and Syria.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

France vs Iran

Dr. Clam, being unusually orthodox in arguments pointing a finger at Iran('s secret service) is relying on Shiite vs. Sunni sentiments. He is saying that division in Lebanon is good for Iran. I want him to see where I'm coming from and I would like him to think a little outside the box. My game theory results point to arab vs arab division playing into Israeli hands. The arab street in Lebanon definitely thinks that Syria was behind the bombing. In other countries the Arab street is quite confused despite protestations by Iran and Syria that they had nothing to do with it. My thesis is that Iran (and Syria) wanted to sit tight in Lebanon until the US was out of Iraq. The last thing they wanted was to divert international attention away from Iraq & Israel towards either of them. Why have I picked France in particular? Mainly because no-one would suspect them! Even a lateral thinker like you has trouble even considering them. You might have trouble with motive but, as a former colonial administrator in Lebanon, a renewed international interest in Lebanon would benefit France. Both as a country that could get the UN involved there, and gain advantage through renewed commercial interests, it has a lot to gain. The victim however, was "innocent" in that they had nothing against France. One would have to assume a complete cold, calculating, mercenary attitude (the movie "La femme, Nikita" demonstrates the attitude to a T). An attitude pertaining to the "Iron Law" which is that the end justifies the means, rather than the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do to you. I would have to say, as revolting as the assassination was, the ends probably did justify the means, and it is definitely fighting fire with fire.

Friday, March 11, 2005

No good American imitation of Nikita

Andrewww said:
Watched two Japanese horror films: "Cure" and "Spiral". The first was provocative and mysterious to a slightly irritating degree, and Spiral was very, very silly

To which I replied:
We got a dvd yesterday. Another Bob the Builder one - Seen it ten times already it was that good :) Have you seen the french (original) version of "the Assassin"? That one still gives me goosebumps ten years on.

and David C replies:
I'm not sure how we got from Bob the Builder to Nikita, but I'll be in that! I'm a great fan of the original movie, and like most of the spin-off stuff as well (which includes a TV show, 2 remakes plus sequel, possibly Leon, and various miscellania)

Well to explain, our family has probably 30 DVD's and 30 videos that we have bought :- Absolutely all of them were for the kids (admittedly, a few of them are also suitable for adults). The only time I watch any movies is if they come on the free to air TV and they catch my eye. This happened in about 1995 when "La femme, Nikita" came on SBS. It was one of the few movies that I watched to the end. When the American remake came on TV just this year, it had the effect of making me relive the original (cold sweats, etc.) However, I think it was a watered down imitation, and if I had seen it first I certainly wouldn't have watched it all. Why am I bringing it up now? Well, the movie demonstrated to me how the French secret service deal with organised crime and home grown terrorism - and it is very effective. I'm not exactly sure why, but I see the same signature in the Lebanese assassination. I think somewhere in my blog I mentioned that I was boycotting French products. Well, I've turned again...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Modus Operandi vs signature

Dr Clam said
As for modus operandi, blowing up people with bloody great bombs in Beirut is pretty much par for the course for Iran, viz. the 1983 truck bombing of the US Marines.

I heard once in a crime show(Law and Order Criminal intent) that you can copy someones MO, but you can't copy their "signature". I don't quite think this particular strike has the hallmarks of the Iranian secret service. I would have thought that they would rely on suicide bombers within the sphere of Lebanon. Also(on the motive side) the noises I am hearing from Iran seem to still be to find common cause against Israel rather than what you are suggesting to break ranks with Syria. Their motives by my game theory reckoning is still for untraceable support for attacks against Israeli, western and democratic targets opportunistically (in that order), rather than an attack which seemed the target was more important than the timing, and that the target didn't fit the "enemy of Islam" criteria particularly well. In my quick flip through various net sources, I found an Iranian one that claimed that it was the work of Israel or US, based on the political leverage they have both gained.
If you want to know, "the Economist" made a quick comment regarding the mysterious circumstances, but ever since they've been gushing over how the feeling on the "Arab street" has seemed to change for the better in such a short time.

Who killed Rafiq al-Hariri?

Since no skilled impartial forensic analysis is likely, or even possible, I will go through the circumstantial evidence impartially with no pre-conceived ideas, to see what insight I get. The things I will use as evidence are signature of the crime, possible motives from entities that match the signature, credible claims of responsibility or denial, opportunity, and a quick game theory check that the results make sense.

Signature of the crime: Analysts are in no doubt that the signature of the crime strongly suggest a secret service organisation "hit" and almost certainly of a state backing/state ordering variety. This rules out a random killing, opportunistic attack, or even a terrorist organisation therefore.

Claims of responsibility: A previously unheard of islamic organisation is said to have claimed it, but it seems likely to be a red herring. Syrian government officials have denied all knowledge or involvement in the assassination, and seemed genuinely surprised at it happening.

Motive: At first sight, the Syrian government would have a motive, as Hariri was openly campaigning for Syrian withdrawal. However, the consequences of the killing were predictably against the interests of the Syrian government, so you would have to assume irrational decision making. If you had such a complex and long running assassination plot, you would have to be sure the results would go your way. Non-intuitively, therefore, the motive would point to a non-arab country. As to which non-arab country, I will move to opportunity.

Opportunity: The smidgen of reliable information of the crime scene points to a pre planted explosive within the road itself, set off via remote control. Therefore, the culprit organisation would have been posing as a roadworks/utilities contractor. There would likely be several planted explosives at various locations waiting for the right opportunity. As Syria has been controlling the country rigidly for the last several years, American or Israeli companies would have drawn too much suspicion and would not have had operational access. That pretty much leaves Russia and France as the most likely perpetrators. I'm leaning towards France due to their historical association with the country

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

spin doctor clam

Dr. Clam said
Although there are many layers of spin and dissimulation, I am going to go out on a limb on the basis of your other posting and say that we actually agree with each other!I think we are arguing about semantics
Well, yes, we are now arguing about semantics, but if we agreed then either I would stop accepting "the Economist" as a primary source of authority, or you would start to. Therefore there must be a point of disagreement - it just isn't very obvious. I am going to come up with another stupid analogy. If a set of referees was employed to referee a sports match, is it better to have a set from each of the two countries playing, or a set from neutral countries? Which one would judge the game more "correctly". Clearly, in sport it is of advantage for the referees to be disinterested in the result, because they have the power to affect the result somewhat. (I am making journalists the referees here, see) And although even the neutral umpires make mistakes, it wouldn't be a case of brinksmanship between the judges as to who can try to get away with the most biased calls. It would be much harder to tell which team was the best and fairest (or either or) if the referees from the playing countries took turns. This is why I think it important to find "disinterested" sources of journalism.

Parallel universes vs created universes

Dr. Clam said
There are of course two ways of looking at any sub-created phenomenon: trying to understand it from the viewpoint of the creator, and explaining its characteristics that way; and treating it as a self-contained universe that is real on its own level. I always try to extrapolate from the small slice of a universe revealed to us in any art form features of the rest of the universe. While the intentions of the creator are an 'explanation' on one level of phenomena within an art form, and have some interest to me, I am far more interested in the level of explanation that applies within the sub-creation. As a sub-creator myself, I like to feel that I am only ever sketching out the merest outlines of something that is, in its essence, far realler than I could ever make it. The true form of each of my sub-created universes,like the Theory of Everything, lie perfect and eternal within the mind of God.

To which andrewww replied (I deleted his reply, that's why you can't see it)

I don't think of myself as a "sub-creator" but a creator among many in my own right. Because I have had the experience of going all the way from idea to finished movie, I can empathise with movie-makers and judge from various angles why the movies were good and where they could improve, to improve my own "creativity" as such. The Monster world gateways were fairly casually modelled in a sense that quite a few physics consequences were ignored (see "The Fork" for more rigorous gateways). The Monsters Inc. world in particular was aimed at kids and their parents, so they didn't concentrate as much on the suspension of disbelief as they would for a purely adult movie.

To which I reply that I don't see movies as a creation of the writer, but as a creation of society. Society after all decides which movies are "successful", which genres become "extinct" and what features are important. The writer is merely the "parent" of the movie. And much as each individual person has a mother and father who "created" them, they can hardly take credit for their creation in a theological sense. After all, it is the whole of society which moulds an individual, and the eons of history etc. which make them who they are!

The EX- Factor

Dr. Clam said:
Just a minor quibble- you haven given me a dreadful shock by referring to me as an 'ex-catholic'

Sorry, by ex- I meant ex-hausted, ex-tracurricular, ex-amined, and possibly ex-pired :-). With the Uniting Church I was attending, I was surprised to find that I was a voting member, purely on the fact that I regularly turned up! The fact that for instance, I didn't believe that JC actually did anything supernatural etc. etc. seemed to have nothing to do with it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I might read "the Economist" but I read "the Accidental Blog" first!

Dr Clam said:

Please don't call me objective! The sense-impressions I chose to notice, and the intepretations I put on them, are obviously conditioned by my status as an employee of a publicly-funded institution, as a married parent, as an Australian (specifically as a rural and regional Australian), as an American(specifically as a blue county in red state American), as a more-or-less collapsed Catholic, and as a fanatical raving looney! You should always bear this in mind... :)

The main reason that I didn't go around reading both sides (to the extreme?) views on both Israel/Palestine and higher education say, is partly because there are "agents" like you that have done it for me already! (For Israel etc.) I basically adjusted for your conditioning as an American ex-catholic which in my mind would make you take at face value more what the democratically elected leaders (of Israel) are saying, than other figures in the region. When I read an "Economist" analysis on Israel/Palestine, I am confident that there is very little "country bias" and almost no "government bias", basically, there is no country or person which they are afraid to offend - However, like all private media, it will tend to "sensationalise" situations in their articles (to make a mark, increasing sales) which I do usually adjust for as well.
I don't think reading a whole heap of articles on higher education funding issues from various (likely biased) sources will get me closer to a model of the reality of the situation which I crave. Both the Economist article on Higher education and your reply to it are "objective" in my mind as being objective doesn't make you provably right, but much more useful than articles from sources which I don't know their connections or can't adjust for them. I do however think that the article in question was spotted by someone else at UNE who brought it to your attention? It is quite easy to see that if everybody in your work peer disagrees with a concept, it will be seen as not objective by all of you. I fight very hard with myself when management start complaining about cheap imported clothing, because I want our tariffs reduced even more, against the feeling of my peers.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Lies, lies and journalism

Dr. Clam said
I am asserting that no reportage is objective. I believe it is more valuable to read obviously subjective reportage from various sources, aware that they are subjective, and try to disentagle the reality from the biases of the reporters, than it is to look for a truly 'objective' source of news in some mare's nest on Big Rock Candy Mountain. This way you not only learn the 'facts' but just as important for any political issue, what the different players believe the facts to be, and the way these facts fit into their worldview.

There is hiding somewhere here an important difference between our thinking. I find, it can be very erroneous to even take at face value what an article (biased or otherwise) says about what the different players believe the facts to be. Journalists all too often pick and choose which bits to show to not so obviously spin the article such that even what major players say has been doctored. I am finding that I try to model the reality, and try to explain to myself the factors that are making all these journalists and politicians lie, and what end they are trying to achieve with those lies as opposed to the truth.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Andrew claims Monsters were created - didn't evolve

In the latest news andrewww claims that Monsters Inc. (world) was created by some "artists" ex nihilo, complete with myriad newly invented monsters, ready to multiply at the merest hint of a sequel. "Evolution had nothing to do with it" he cries lamely, ignoring thousands of years of evolution of the concepts, drawings of various monsters these ones obviously came from. "It was an completely original concept" he claims emphatically, ignoring formulas, jokes and storyline segments borrowed with required changes from previous movies. Even the style and techniques of 3-d animation used have been gradually evolving to keep up with the competitive environment of movie-making. If there was ever a movie which demonstrated evolution, this is it!

This is how I judge objectivity, how do you judge objectivity?

Before I even read any article at any time, I make a quick calculation in my head about objectivity. The way I countenance various factors boils down to one thing, I guess - conflict of interest. For instance, any article in any of the Australian press that talks about (aus) politicians, I will completely ignore. Why? Because the Australian press relies very heavily on political advertising for its basic revenue stream, and there is no way that any would risk offending either of the two major parties (or if they offend one they're deferring to the other major - not the minor parties!). This is fine by me, as it entrenches a stable two party preferred system, but it does not make for objective political journalism in Australia! Similarly, if I was reading something from a trusted friend about Public vs Private funding of Universities, would I really believe they were being objective if they are being paid for doing research by a publicly funded university? I certainly wouldn't if I didn't know him so well:-), but he is certain to be surrounded by people not as objective as he is. Would I think an article was objective about Israel if it was in the Jerusalem Post? No, probably not. It's not about whether it matches with my sense of reality, but what possible conflicts of interests there are. Sources, proof, evidence, calculations don't necessarily make an article objective; and even if it (like the Economist article we are talking about) is essentially making a free market analogy demonstration of the concept that by letting the market for higher education run its course with less government involvement, universities will more effectively match both the needs and desires of students and researchers alike, much as grocery stores match the needs and desires of our stomachs. Power to the appetite for learning!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Economist is objective journalism at its best

I feel I must reply to Herr Fellows assertion that this article, "free degrees to fly" is

Just an extreme example of a highly non-objective article from the Economist- it is not an incontestable dogma that the private sector always and everywhere does everything better than the public sector! That is why we have a public sector :)

Let me reply to his sentences one phrase at a time. It is not an extreme example of anything, for a start. I don't think I have extreme views regarding Universities, but I certainly felt that while I was at uni, private enterprise was limited by too much government control and interference in the hierarchy of learning. It seems to me you are demonstrating that it is non-objective because "the Economist" is the only journal that is taking this line. In this case, I am asserting that it is all the other journals which dismiss this kind of argument which are the ones that are not objective! My point being that virtually every other entity which would even talk about this subject has a vested interest in Government funding! "The economist" is one of the only journals in the world which is not afraid of offending government sensibilities of one country or another. I admit that "the Economist" is big on ideology of liberalism and privatisation, when the political reality of a lot of countries don't lend themselves to possible changes, but they don't claim that it is "incontestable" they are actually contesting the need in particular facets and are clearly on the side of more privatisation in most cases. There was however articles and surveys from time to time about the sorts of things which should not be privatised and from memory, the judicial, law enforcement and lawmaking sides as well as most aspect of the military. Even basic education and emergency health were thought to be necessarily a function of government. I am not sure why Herr Fellows would think banks should be nationalised? It doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Films I can and will talk about

Danny Darko???? never heard of it (him?)

I'm sorry, but if it hasn't been a cult film in my household, I just will happily stay out of the conversation. Not that there isn't a menagerie of movies that have been on autoplay for days at a time at our place, I will list them here as ones I could authoritatively talk about, and Andrewww's mr. 40 may need some tips if he is going to have children as a DVD is an effective baby sitter from a very young age.

Bob the Builder in "the Knights of Can-a-lot"
Batman - the mistery of the catwoman.
Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper.
Justice League animated series - eg. "Justice on Trial"
Monsters Inc.
Rugrats go Wild
Rugrats in Paris
Toy Story I & II
Lion King I, II & III (Lion king I FF'd here)
Timon & Pumbaa's holiday video
Buzz Lightyear battlestar Galactica
The Land before time I to X (any one of the ten!)
any wiggles or barbie videos

Monday, February 28, 2005

Film Forensics - Lion King

Lion King 1

State of Body - Father is dead, but child is still alive and kicking.

Detail of inspection - The kids put it on autorepeat for days at a time!

Comments - Child appeared dead, but had just gone away for a little hakuna matata.

Although I view this movie to be a typical Disney kids animated movie, and not really a "serious" movie, its sheer general popularity make it a movie that people house-sitting for you would want to watch it, if you only hadn't taken it in the car with you for the kids. Of course the completely unbelievable combination of a warthog and a meerkat, make for the humerous, relaxed interlude of "no worries" which the kids tend to gloss over as boring - in between the Violent plot to take over a throne, and the just as violent return of the rightful king to reclaim it and save the kingdom. Of course this wouldn't be a kids movie if the hero's father didn't have an agonising death sequence early on in the movie. Felicia (5) would certainly pick "the one where Mufasa dies" as her favourite of the three Lion King Movies. The obvious educational aspect would be of the circle of life, and that good leadership counts for a lot both in a family and for a country. I kind of think that the "good vs evil" is a bit over done in films, and I would have loved to see the hint of Scar having a good side to him. Not only does he disregard life in his plans for power. He extends to not having a single good intention shown in the whole movie. Even for the Hyena's. All in all, its got some nice violent bits for the kids, and some great comedy for the adults - therefore making it one of the only DVD's we have which visitors lust for. "Hakuna Matata" - "Its our Motto" - What's 'a motto - why nothing, what's 'a matto with you??

Ten things I've done that I don't think anyone reading this has

Yes, it's a Livejournal meme.

1. I've climbed down the outside of a hotel from the sixth storey(1)

2. Hit a legal winning tennis shot that went no more than 10 cm height from the ground and no more than 1 m travel after bouncing twice (2)

3. Eaten raw Warthog meat (3)

4. Brought into Australia a package for my father when I was seven and waved it around in the airport, not realising it was a marijuana blend (4)

5. Juggled two balls while playing the marseilleise on my trumpet (5)

6. Accidentally said something in French instead of Japanese (6)

7. Hypnotised my wife to take her shopping for a ring, ao that I could surprise her with it for Valentines day, but still know that it fit (7)

8. Write my diary entries on the web log, because that is where it is most safe from my better half's prying eyes (8)

9. Had four children, trying to get the right sex (gender) and succeeding in girl, boy, girl, boy sequence (9)

10. Graduated in University as an engineer but decided to work in my parents business instead (10)

(1) Yup, had to bring that one up again.

(2) This one is only possible when a ball lands on my side of the court but due to spin or wind goes back over the net - you are then allowed to lean your racket over the net as long as you don't hit the net. It helps if the umpire also knows the rules.

(3) I was about four years old, and hungry as usual - a nearby adult yelled out that it was raw. I thought that raw must have meant yummy and ate a few more mouthfuls before he managed to get the bone off me.

(4) Me and my brother (9 at the time) came to Australia unaccompanied from Italy. My father told me to bring his packet of snuff or whatever it was - so when we arrived I showed him that I remembered it.

(5)At a french/german camp. The idea was to perform something french, so I learned to play the french national anthem by ear.

(6) That's what happens with languages learnt later in life - I never confuse either with Italian or english!

(7) I can't prove that she's not just pretending not to remember, but I swear she has no idea how I managed to get a ring she liked in exactly the right size.

(8) There's no safe place at home or work, but she would never think to look on the internet :-)

(9) On a sad ironic note, the times when Kylie miscarried, the pregnancy wasn't planned.

(10) No real regrets there - I now refer to myself as a "clothing engineer", rather than "bosses son" or "manager" or whatever.