Carbon tax

It is so imaginative reporting that energy intensive industries will face reduced profitability, as if that is a flaw in the carbon tax.  That of course is the whole point, if such industries wish to remain profitable they will need to work out ways to reduce their carbon ‘bill’….

Can’t understand why the pro carbon tax lobby, green groups, The Greens, and the ALP for that matter, often seem to put more emphasis on doing the right thing, rather than the huge economic potential in making that transition in our economy early on.

Like with Hawke’s removal of tariffs, the potential winners will vastly out way the noisy losers.  Trouble is only the future will determine the winners, and as they don’t necessarily know who they are yet, they don’t lobby for their self interest.

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Went outside and spent the first half hour sawing fire wood.  I think I have a slight fire wood obsession.  It’s like a constant through my life from boy scouts onwards.  It gives me some perverse pleasure as fire wood is almost like so many other commodities these days, unless it comes neatly packaged and to a standard length and look, people don’t see it as proper firewood.  And of course one would never hand collect and saw it. Rugged outdoor individualists have a chain saw, and a trailer with a 4 wd, and you travel far and wide to collect it, even if there is plenty of it right in front of you.  Guess it’s for the same as people growing vegetables.  You can buy them at woollies neatly packaged in plastic, regulation size, so cheaply that it makes growing them seem pointless.  However, there is an undeniable satisfaction in growing your own.

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Neva Mend

 “In this land there’s a race that time forgot,

And for the land – in this time the race was shot,

Under-estimation, no conciliation, 

Got to be blatant, speaking to the nation”

 Lyrics from Neva Mend by NoKTuRNL

I have just finished reading James Boyce’s 1835 – The Founding of Melbourne & the Conquest of Australia.

History seems to invariably paint humans as pretty bad, and 1835 is not happy reading.  Within five years basically, Victorian Aboriginals were pretty much wiped out, and through it all the official policy was one of protection and acknowledgement of the aboriginal peoples’ rights to continue using their land, in tandem with the settlers’ rights to graze stock.

Law and policy makers claimed that they couldn’t stop the expansion of squatters into new areas, even if they wished to.  Therefore they were better accepting it was going to happen and controlling it as best they could.  Aboriginal people would fare better this way than if nothing else was done, so therefore this was in the ‘best interests’ of Aboriginal people.  The consequence, that in five years effectively what was in the ‘best interests’ of Aboriginal people led to their annihilation!

Boyce concludes however that there was a choice.  Whilst law and policy makers claimed that the reality precluded them from acting differently, in effect they acquiesced to those who had the most to gain, whilst continuing rhetorically to pretend that wasn’t the case.  They ignored this incongruity because politically it was in their own best interests to do so.

Not much different to how things are now really in the sense of the rhetoric versus the reality.

Boyce poses the question – “Could there be a connection between the ingrained assumption that the squatter conquest of Australia could not have been slowed down and properly regulated, and the national difficulty in imagining that governments might do the same to coalminers today?”

“Governments continue to be seen as powerless to regulate effectively the invasion of the continent.  Enterprise remains imbued with a quasi – divine energy beyond the means of flesh – and – blood people to control.  The land rush (post 1835) is still presented as a natural wonder in which the human agency never stood a chance.  Principle continues to be described as an irrelevant irritant in the ‘real world’ of the frontier.”

The history of Australia’s settlement, and the black story, is part of the Australian story, and should be part of the joint narrative of who we are.  Many family stories include dark chapters, whether as perpetrators or as victims, and no doubt some families share both.

Ultimately there is not a black history and a white history, but our history, and it should inform us all.  Unfortunately some people, including some black people, play with it loosely and don’t really want to be informed.  Those that seek to emphasise division, or to claim that history, or for that matter ‘culture’, provide a mandate for discriminatory behaviour in the present, do so mostly because it backs their self interest.

We continue to pretend there is no solution to the ‘aboriginal problem’, for want of a better descriptor – that it is beyond fixing.  But there are so many people profiting from the way it is, that irrespective of how the deckchairs are arranged, business is likely to continue as usual, despite the inevitable rhetoric to the contrary.

Regrettably, until all Australian’s come to share a common history, we will continue living as if alienated from the environment and a significant number of Australian’s are likely to continue living miserable lives.

Or as Bob Marley sang, “Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, there will be war.”

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Ian Stapleton on Spargo’s Hut in 2003

“It’s a shining example of the best way to ensure that historic places are preserved and respected – just don’t put a road or a signpost anywhere near them, and let those who really want to seek them out, do just that” – Ian Stapleton talking about Spargo’s Hut p 138 – 139 Hairy Chested History 2003

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‘The First Born’ by A.D. Hope

There is something different about them. Almost all voices of eldest children give them away. I know for I am one myself of that secret clan. They have listening faces, their stance. Their steps recall a guarded alertness from an earlier day far back in the dangerous history of man

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Food Miles

Progressive’ people talk about food miles, and mostly wouldn’t contest that eating ‘organic’ food is a plus, but then progressive people often talk about what feels good for them as being superior to what others do!

The two obvious flaws in this are:

Measuring how far away from you that food was grown really doesn’t tell us much about the energy that has gone into that food. It might have been grown only 10 km’s away, but it may well have been loaded and unloaded multiple times to get to you. It might have been carted in small vans in comparison to a large goods train.

Where it’s grown says little about the ‘efficiency’ of how it was grown. Some environments are naturally suited to growing particular types of food, including our staples. Most people use dairy, but dairy is most efficiently produced in particular climates and at a particular scale of production. How far away from you it was produced tells us little about that. So in considering what foods to eat that are good for the ‘planet’, one needs to look at all the factors that add up to the finished energy input, not just how far it’s travelled.

Similar analysis should be used when considering organic products. The fact that they are mostly more expensive, suggests very strongly that they are more expensive to produce, if not they would be the same price as food produced non – organically. Paying more for food means you’ve got less to spend on other things, including your donations to Medicines Sans Frontier, or you need to take more in terms of income to support your decision.

For me it just makes sense to eat simply and to choose low cost items. These are the ones that usually have the lowest energy inputs and also those that are in season, so most likely to have been produced close to home. That way I don’t need to earn us much, leaving more for others, and I have surplus income which I can use to support those with less than me, or other actions that help others and the environment.

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Leg Shavers

Human beings are almost hilarious when you consider some things they do on mass. Why for example do Australian’s buy Holden and Ford V8’s in such large numbers when all they do with them is mostly go shopping and commuting? They are almost the least efficient means one could devise for doing so, apart from of course a large 4WD or SUV, but that’s a different form of stupidity all together. And as for the long haul inter or intra state, well our speed limits are a maximum of 110 km’s an hour anyway, unless of course you’re deranged enough to live in the Northern Territory. Yet we love to lumber round in cars with badges proudly proclaiming how many unusable kilowatts they make. It’s just as well we have such speed limits, because we couldn’t afford the petrol bill at German autobahn type speeds.

Well cyclists, now they do some pretty weird things. Take shaving ones legs. I’ve never been able to find a rational reason for doing it, yet it’s almost without exception a universal practise amongst cyclists. Bit like Christians and the fish thing, except I don’t recall a period in human history where being a cyclist was a particularly risky business that could result in persecution or arrest.

Ask a leg shaver and they’ll tell you it’s either about going faster or to do with scabs and wounds. Scabs and wounds are supposed to heal faster and with less discomfort. This doesn’t really follow. Modern wound protocol is to cover a wound with a wet dressing and avoid scab formation. Oh, I missed the point did I – it’s easier to clean the wound before applying the dressing. Well maybe sometimes. I mean really how many people who spend all that effort shaving their legs on a regular basis are in serious danger of regularly crashing. Firstly they’d have to regularly ride their bike. Me, on the off chance I crash I’ll take the unlikely risk of an angry medico pissed off I’ve still got body hair! And as for going faster, research shows that you would only save a few seconds over a 40 km time trial. I’m a fairly keen and competitive cyclist, and I’ve never done a 40 k time trial. In fact only a tiny portion of those cyclists who shave would have ever done a time trial of any description.

Another reason given is it’s better when receiving a massage. As we know cyclists are such highly tuned performance athletes they require regular massages to aid with recovery and stiffness, so that they’re ready for the next arduous training session or stage in a race. We’ve all seen photos of the heroes of the Tour getting their rub down. Well that might be a good point if you really are a hero of the Tour who needs regular massages if for nothing else than to relax you after hours in the saddle. Me I’ve never met or ridden with such a person, nor for that matter do I spend hour after hour in the saddle. Everybody I’ve ridden with has a regular job. Boring I know, but hey somebody’s got to bring home the bacon. I’m probably not alone. Apparently 40% of cyclists with a Cycling Australia licence are Masters – that’s over 35 years of age. Now Eric Zable might be over 35, but he’s considered the grand old man of professional cycling. Most of the guys and girls out there punting a bike wouldn’t even know what a Cycling Australian licence was. And if they don’t then they ain’t racing, except perhaps to the coffee shop, but that doesn’t stop them getting out the razor.

So if there’s no plausible articulated reason for the shaving business then there must be other unspoken factors at play. Taking into consideration other elements of cycling fashion I’ve started to come to some conclusions. Plenty of the fellas dressed in their kit wouldn’t look out of place on a float at the Gay and Lesbian Mardigras. That’s not to denigrate anybodies sexuality. But it does help make a point. This shaving legs business has more to do with group identity, fashion and feeling good than scab formation, wound cleaning or going faster. And just like some of the fellas on one of those floats, perhaps we’d all feel better if those cyclists who do it could just come out and say so.

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Bike Paths

At times when I’m out riding my bike it seems that the motor vehicle has taken over the world. You can feel pretty insignificant out on a four-lane highway, or using that bike path on the side of a major road. What are all these people doing, where are they going? Why are they so focused on getting there so quickly, oblivious to the places they’re passing through, oblivious to the danger of travelling at such speed? It’s easy to feel superior at such times. But that feeling doesn’t compensate for how unpleasant and dangerous the situation can be. It’s enough to make one consider taking the car next time.

Yet that’s absurd, particularly given our concerns about the cars contribution to greenhouse gases. Bicycles must be close to the most efficient means of transport devised. They go about their business quietly and modestly, and can bring great joy to their rider. Most people would agree the world could only be a better place if more people rode them more regularly.

Bicycle advocates often argue the need for more bike paths. There is an opportunity cost in the investment in bike paths. Money spent on cycling this way, is not available to be spent in other ways.

In recent times there has been substantial investment made in the building of dedicated bike paths on the side of some freeways and major roads. I’d be interested in use statistics, but my observation when passing in my car, is they remain largely unused.

This doesn’t surprise me. As a rider I’ve found paths on the side of freeways very unpleasant places to be. What’s more they’re often littered with debris, which can puncture my tires, or even cause me to crash.

Other bicycle paths rarely take the most direct or flattest route. They are also shared with other users including pedestrians, skateboarders, people walking their dogs, or kids learning to ride their bikes. Swift travel is dangerous and unrealistic. Such paths are great for recreational riding and there definitely should be more of them. But if we are serious about people commuting on bikes and leaving their cars at home, then bikes also need to use the road. For this to happen then roads need to become friendlier places for cyclists.

The major reason that roads are not cycle friendly is the antagonistic attitude of a minority of car drivers. I’m sure that much of this antagonism results from a lack of appreciation of why cyclists do particular things, combined with misunderstanding of the legitimate and legal rights of cyclists to use the road.

For a fraction of the cost of adding dedicated bike paths to the side of freeways, we could run education programs to help both cyclists and car drivers better understand each others realities. Why is that you can get a car licence without being tested on the rights of other road users, especially cyclists? It wouldn’t cost anything to add relevant questions to the drivers test. And perhaps as part of driver education, drivers should be seated in a chair and have a two tonne object travelling at 60 kilometres per hour pass 20 centimetres from their head. Let them feel the wind I say. It might help them understand how scary it is when they pass you with no margin for error.

Let’s face it, how many people who don’t ride a bike appreciate why we do some things, or how scary it can be when riding a bike. Perhaps it’s also up to us to explain these things to our friends.

It really upsets some motorists that many cyclists ride a meter or so in from the edge of the road, often where the cars left side wheel travels. As riders know the edge of the road is often littered with glass and other potentially damaging debris that can puncture tyres. Similarly cracks, ridges and drain holes can make it difficult to safely control the bike. Hugging the edge of the road invites cars to try and squeeze past leaving little room for error.

How many car drivers are aware of these cycling realities? How many car drivers know that cyclists have a legal right to occupy a lane, like any other vehicle? They’re also allowed to ride two abreast and to feed through the inside of vehicles at intersections.

This doesn’t mean cars have the right to knock the cyclist out of the way to regain their position once the traffic starts flowing again! Ironically it’s not cyclists who are causing congestion or delay. By leaving my car in the shed and riding my bike, I’ve created more room on the road for cars. Instead of working themselves into an indignant state, drivers should be thanking me with a beer.

Bikes often travel in excess of 40 kms per hour, particularly down a hill. And with only two wheels and a limited amount of rubber on the road, bikes can’t break or swerve as suddenly as a car, or a truck. If drivers realised this, I’m sure they would wait those extra seconds instead of pulling out causing me to break hard and then having to use a fair amount of energy to get going again.

Particularly when riding into a headwind it’s hard to hear an approaching vehicle, yet drivers assume we know they’re coming. It wouldn’t hurt for them to give a brief toot to let us know, particularly on the open road. Also their high beam can blind us at night.

Of greatest mirth to non- riders is our love of lycra. It must seem we’re a bunch of incontinent cross dressers. But the jokes stop when you explain why a chamois with tight shorts stops chaffing and catching on the seat, or how by wearing bright colours we are more likely to be seen. There is no excuse though for cyclists who provide free advertising space, but then in that regard they’re no different to many non-cyclists.

And if we expect respect on the road, then we also need to observe the road rules. We should say something when our fellow cyclists run red lights or don’t wear helmets. We should expect them to be prosecuted in the same way as car drivers who break the law. We should pay attention to approaching vehicles and not unnecessarily impede their progress. And when motorists cause us grief we should explain in friendly terms why. Gesticulating and abuse will only vindicate their bad driving. Understanding and empathy makes us feel good and can only increase our enjoyment of riding a bike.

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Max Biaggi – surely history will rate him as one of the best ever – right up there with Mike Hailwood

Max Biaggi – I’ve been a fan since watching his amazing exploits on the Aprilia two stroke.  When he came to 500’s his team boss told him before his first race to go out and show them who was the ‘true champion’, and despite being on a privateer machine, he did just that, winning the race. I came across these comments about Max on another site and have played with them a bit, but largely reproduce unchanged.

The guys trashes everybody on an Aprilia in 250’s then defects to Honda who hadn’t won a championship in years and proceeds to thrash everybody on the NSR250. He then steps up to 500’s wins his first race with the fastest lap and pole position almost gets the title but is robbed at catalunya by a moment of madness. He then signs for yamaha coz he needs to ride a factory bike to win the title and he aint gonna get a factory Honda coz mr Doohan occupies the seat. He then drags the YZR out of the depths and starts winning races and starts challenging for the title, something that hadn’t been done on the YZR since Rainey. Then his nemesis arrives mr Rossi and really gets in his way but he still runs rossi really close for the title in 01. then the four strokes come along, the Honda is really strong straight out the box and the yamaha less so. He then develops the bike over the course of the season and eventually wins two race and comes runner up to Rossi once again. Him and Rossi are still the only riders to date to win four stroke races on two different manufacturers. A few more seasons in the top flight coming runner up to Rossi and he heads for SBK, wins his first race. He then signs for Aprilia and develops a V4 that Aprilia have never raced with before into a race winner…the guy is a class act and a legend in his own time, if it wasn’t for rossi he would be a god

One thing is certain about Max, and like the great Hailwood, he is fast on any motorcycle he rides, unlike a certain other Italian who only seems to be able to go fast when he’s on the best bike.

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Rudd vs Julia

Couldn’t help but notice that those who lined up with Rudd were nearly all men and the women almost completely lined up with Julia…sign of a rear guard action by old school males perhaps… does her being a women have something to do with her struggle to be respected out there in the broader community?

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