30 September 2007
29 September 2007
From The Age (of 2 September)
Taken for a spin by messages ad nauseumand also
The Government spruiks its policies using the public purse, reports Jason Koutsoukis.
SBS advertising executive Sarah Keith observed last week that Canberra had become the pot of gold that no one in the industry had seen coming.
"August is traditionally not the best month in terms of bookings and revenue, but not this August," she said. "The Federal Government is our biggest client and it's putting a smile on the face of many people in the industry."
No wonder. Barely an ad break passes on TV without some spruiking of the Howard Government's brilliance on a range of policy fronts.
The ads are clean and simple. Nothing so crass as "Vote 1 John Howard", but still a less subtle attempt to reinforce the perception that his Government is doing good things for superannuation, national security, the "war on drugs" and workplace relations.
Such is the power of incumbency.
The way the High Court reads the law, the Commonwealth has virtually unlimited power to spend however much money it sees fit on information campaigns it deems to be in the public interest. Spending on advertising campaigns does not have to be approved by the Senate in the way other forms of appropriation do.
Yet the repeated use of taxpayer funds to promote government programs raise broader issues for voters as they ponder their choices for the next election.
Is the Federal Government misusing taxpayers' money to send a blatant party-political messages? And do the advertisements overstep the official guidelines, which say they should strictly inform taxpayers only of their "rights and responsibilities"?
And given the inherent cynicism that colours many a journalist's copybook, do government spin doctors have a point when they argue that taxpayers would never get a true understanding of how to access government programs if they relied only on media reports.
The rate of spending on advertisements increases in an election year. In the four months before the 1998 election, the Howard Government spent $32 million on advertising; before the 2001 election, it was about $78 million.
Before the 2004 election, that figure topped $100 million and about eight weeks away from the 2007 poll, the ad spend is threatening to surpass $200 million.
And a great satirical piece from Mike Carlton in The Sydney Morning Herald (29 September)
PRIME Minister John Howard has spent nearly $2 billion on government advertising and information campaigns since coming to power 11 years ago.
A Sunday Age investigation has found that just weeks from calling an election, the Government has 18 advertising campaigns on the air, with a $23 million climate change campaign to air after this week's APEC conference.
The Sunday Age investigation has also shown that since the last election in 2004, Mr Howard has spent a record $850 million of taxpayers' money on government advertising. The Government disputes this figure. "It's probably closer to $400 million," said Peter Phelps, chief of staff to Special Minister of State Gary Nairn.
Spending this year is expected to peak at $200 million before Mr Howard calls the election. After that, the Government will be prevented from airing any communication campaigns because they could influence the election.
The record spending comes despite Mr Howard being elected on a pledge to cut it back.
Today, there was a counter-advertisement during the football grand final.
A massive package of financial and practical aid for the struggling advertising industry will be a central theme of the Federal Government's campaign for re-election. Final figures have not been revealed, but the Prime Minister indicated yesterday it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to rescue advertising agencies from what he called "perhaps the worst of the many national emergencies we face".
The new money would be on top of the $213 million the Government spent on advertising in 2006 and the $1.42 billion outlaid since it came to power in 1996.
"This is not some election gimmick. We're already doing our utmost to help," Howard said. "The Government's multimedia advertising campaigns for our Work Choices policy, for climate change, keeping children safe on the internet and for becoming an Australian citizen have been a huge boost to the industry.
"But everywhere I travel around Australia I still find advertising people doing it tough. Account executives, copywriters and art directors are walking away from their desks, with nowhere to go but their Thredbo ski lodges or their Port Douglas holiday villas."
The Government will also offer more practical aid along the lines of the highly successful Work Choices campaign featuring the Workplace Authority executive director, Barbara Bennett.
I like this other perspective of our current National Security campaign
I am also tired of watching useless government advertising.
The AFL grand final was on today, so I watched that at home. The last two years, I didn't care much for the teams playing in the finals (Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles). However, this year I was gunning for Geelong Cats who really deserve the premiership and they thrashed Port Adelaide by 119 points (which is a huge margin). Woohoo!
This evening, Kim, Jordan and Liam came over for dinner. I made lamb rogan josh curry for dinner.
28 September 2007
Tullamore, Seymour, Lismore, Mooloolaba, Nambour, Maroochydore, Kilmore, Murwillumbah, Birdsville, Emmaville, Wallaville, Cunnamulla, Condamine, Strathpine, Proserpine, Ulladulla, Darwin, Gin Gin, Deniliquin, Muckadilla, Wallumbilla, Boggabilla, Kumbarilla;
Moree, Taree, Jerilderie, Bambaroo, Toowoomba, Gunnedah, Caringbah, Woolloomooloo, Dalveen, Tamborine, Engadine, Jindabyne, Lithgow, Casino, Brigalow, Narromine, Megalong, Wyong, Tuggeranong, Wanganella, Morella, Augathella, Brindabella
Wollongong, Geelong, Kurrajong, Mullumbimby, Mittagong, Molong, Grong Grong, Goondiwindi, Yarra Yarra, Bouindarra, Wallangarra, Turramurra, Boggabri, Gundagai, Narrabri, Tibooburra, Gulgong, Adelong, Billabong, Cabramatta, Parramatta, Wangaratta, Coolangatta;
Ettalong, Dandenong, Woodenbong, Ballarat, Canberra, Milperra, Unanderra, Captains Flat, Cloncurry, River Murray, Kurri Kurri, Girraween, Terrigal, Fingal, Stockinbingal, Collaroy, Narrabeen, Bendigo, Dorrigo, Bangalow, Indooroopilly, Kirribilli, Yeerongpilly, Wollondilly.
I haven't been everywhere, but I have been to or passed through the places, underlined above. Not bad hey?
What a week at work. Woohoo, we have a long weekend.
27 September 2007
"Childrens do learn," Bush tells school kidsIf poor literacy didn't stop a mediocre student from becoming president of the United States, then it shouldn't stop anybody else . As long as they have a rich and powerful daddy. So why should we care that he sets a bad example?Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:46pm EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Offering a grammar lesson guaranteed to make any English teacher cringe, President George W. Bush told a group of New York school kids on Wednesday: "Childrens do learn."
Bush made his latest grammatical slip-up at a made-for-TV event where he urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of his education policy, as he touted a new national report card on improved test scores.
The event drew New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plus teachers and about 20 fourth and fifth graders from P.S. 76.
During his first presidential campaign, Bush -- who promised to be the "education president" -- once asked: "Is our children learning?"
On Wednesday, Bush seemed to answer his own question with the same kind of grammatical twist.
"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured," he said.
The White House opted to clean up Bush's diction in the official transcript.
Bush is no stranger to verbal gaffes. He often acknowledges he was no more than an average student in school and jokes about his habit of mangling the English language.
Just a day earlier, the White House inadvertently showed how it tries to prevent Bush from making even more slips of the tongue than he already does.
As Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, a marked-up draft of his speech briefly popped up on the U.N. Web site, complete with a phonetic pronunciation guide to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.
26 September 2007
The 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Shanghai, People's Republic of China, 2 - 11 October 2007.
I bet not many people even know about the Special Olympics World Summer Games. I didn't!
We all know about the summer and winter Olympics and even the Paralympics.
The Special Olympics (which is allowed to use the word 'Olympic' by the International Olympic Committee) is for competitors with intellectual and/or learning disabilities.
It has been held since 1968.
Today was a busy day at work.
25 September 2007
24 September 2007
Every now and again I buy a bunch and cook it like spinach in a wok or fry pan until it wilts and add preserved bean curd.
The vegetable may not be available in some parts of the US, especially Florida and Texas, as it has been declared a weed.
Tonight I am watching Spiderman 3 on DVD. I missed it at the cinema.
23 September 2007
For all these years, this character from Sesame Street has been known as 'Big Bird'.
Even the grouch is called Oscar and Big Bird's friend Mr Snuffleupagus has a first name, Aloysius.
What sort of a name is Big Bird?
I reckon he should be named Stuart.
I had a lazy day today, though did some more house cleaning. Oops, I forgot to mop the floor.
22 September 2007
Today I did some house cleaning (still need to do some more) and even cleaned the bathroom. Then I started making pea and ham soup.
Devi came over with her electric hedge trimmer and trimmed the hedge by the drive way. She earnt her supper of pea and ham soup and a strawberry dessert.
We watched the season three finale of the new Doctor Who.
21 September 2007
Now if only the rest of the world had taken it up.
Aussie rules kicked off by Aborigines
Detail from an etching of Aborigines playing 'kick-to-kick' near Mildura, made by scientist William Blandowski in 1857.
Photo: Museum Victoria
September 21, 2007 - 2:33PM
An etching of Aborigines playing "kick-to-kick" near Mildura could be the first record of Australian football, experts say.
The black-and-white image, created from Victorian scientist William Blandowski's 1857 observations, precedes Australia's first known game of football - a match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar in 1858.
Dr Patrick Greene, Museum Victoria's chief executive, was thrilled with the historic find, which could ignite debate on Australian Rules Football's origins.
"We're suggesting this could be the first image of football in Australia," Dr Greene said.
"We're encouraging debate on this and if anyone can come up with earlier images."
The etching, created by German artist Gustav Mutzel in 1862, was unearthed recently during research for a Blandowski exhibition in Mildura.
It is believed Blandowski took his observations back home to Germany where he instructed Mutzel to etch the Aborigines playing football.
Blandowski returned to Europe after falling out with his Victorian colleagues, the museum confirmed.
"This is a remarkable image and we at the museum are delighted to be able to publicise its discovery," Dr Greene said.
"If what we are seeing is indeed an Australian 'football' game, involving both marking and kicking, then this image may be the earliest yet known."
Blandowski's 1857 notes describe a game played by the Yerre Yerre people near Merbein in Victoria's north-west.
"The ball is made out of typha roots - it is not thrown or hit with a bat but it is kicked up in the air with the foot," Blandowski wrote.
"Aim of the game: never let the ball touch the ground."
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said Tom Wills, who was influential in establishing the rules of Australian football, spent time with an Aboriginal community who played Marn Gook [sic], a game similar to football.
"The Aborigines played a sport that had elements we use in AFL," Mr Keane said.
"We have acknowledged their game (Marn Gook [sic]) in our history."
The picture is on exhibition at the Mildura Arts Centre until November 21.
Ah, what a strange week at work. The longer the election announcement is delayed, the stranger it will get.
20 September 2007
...What’s odd is that it looks – to users of both British and Australian English – to be unnecessary.So there you have it. Still, it sounds tidier to say it with two syllables instead of three.
However, it seems as though the Americans may have beaten us to the punch on this one.
The history is this:
“Burglar” is an old term from legal Latin, in use in English from the 13th century.
But for centuries it was a noun that didn’t have a verb.
The “burglar” broke in to steal, but there wasn’t a single word to name what he did.
Until, that is, the late 19th century. In 1872 the verb “to burgle” first appeared in English, and that’s the word most familiar to us today.
But a year earlier, in 1871, the Americans got tired of waiting for the English to coin a verb and they coined their own: “burglarize.”
It may seem odd, but it was first.
Bring on the election.
19 September 2007
The smiley face made by using the colon, dash and close bracket was first used by Scott E. Fahlman on 19 September 1982. Now everybody uses it! From Associated Press
Digital 'Smiley Face' Turns 25
By DANIEL LOVERING –
PITTSBURGH (AP) — It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon. :-) Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message.
To mark the anniversary Wednesday, Fahlman and his colleagues are starting an annual student contest for innovation in technology-assisted, person-to-person communication. The Smiley Award, sponsored by Yahoo Inc., carries a $500 cash prize.
Language experts say the smiley face and other emotional icons, known as emoticons, have given people a concise way in e-mail and other electronic messages of expressing sentiments that otherwise would be difficult to detect.
Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.
"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," wrote Fahlman. "Read it sideways."
The suggestion gave computer users a way to convey humor or positive feelings with a smile — or the opposite sentiments by reversing the parenthesis to form a frown.
Carnegie Mellon said Fahlman's smileys spread from its campus to other universities, then businesses and eventually around the world as the Internet gained popularity.
Computer science and linguistics professors contacted by The Associated Press said they were unaware of who first used the symbol.
"I've never seen any hard evidence that the :-) sequence was in use before my original post, and I've never run into anyone who actually claims to have invented it before I did," Fahlman wrote on the university's Web page dedicated to the smiley face. "But it's always possible that someone else had the same idea — it's a simple and obvious idea, after all."
Variations, such as the "wink" that uses a semicolon, emerged later. And today people can hardly imagine using computer chat programs that don't translate keystrokes into colorful graphics, said Ryan Stansifer, a computer science professor at the Florida Institute of Technology.
"Now we have so much power, we don't settle for a colon-dash-paren," he said. "You want the smiley face, so all these chatting softwares have to have them."
Instant messaging programs often contain an array of faces intended to express emotions ranging from surprise to affection to embarrassment.
"It has been fascinating to watch this phenomenon grow from a little message I tossed off in 10 minutes to something that has spread all around the world," Fahlman was quoted as saying in a university statement. "I sometimes wonder how many millions of people have typed these characters, and how many have turned their heads to one side to view a smiley, in the 25 years since this all started."
Amy Weinberg, a University of Maryland linguist and computer scientist, said emoticons such as the smiley were "definitely creeping into the way, both in business and academia, people communicate."
"In terms of things that language processing does, you have to take them into account," she said. "If you're doing almost anything ... and you have a sentence that says 'I love my boss' and then there's a smiley face, you better not take that seriously."
Emoticons reflect the likely original purpose of language — to enable people to express emotion, said Clifford Nass, a professor of communications at Stanford University. The emotion behind a written sentence may be hard to discern because emotion is often conveyed through tone of voice, he said.
"What emoticons do is essentially provide a mechanism to transmit emotion when you don't have the voice," Nass said.
In some ways, he added, they also give people "the ability not to think as hard about the words they're using."
Stansifer said the emoticon was part of a natural progression in communication.
"I don't think the smiley face was the beginning and the end," he said. "All people at all times take advantage of whatever means of communication they have."
Carnegie Mellon professor Scott E. Fahlman is shown in his home office on Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, in Pittsburgh. Twenty-five years ago, three keystrokes _ a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis _ were first used as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message by Fahlman, the university said. Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
My only comment? :-)
Yawn. Just two more work days before the weekend.
18 September 2007
From Chris Cook in The Age Blogs
Too much success can be a bad thing. My tip for the next big group is The Feeling. Get on board now while they are still relatively unknown.
Torture by Coldplay
While travelling in Morocco by car, a relative unknowingly subjected me to one of the most awful experiences I can imagine - a Coldplay album.
I tried, I really tried, to listen and appreciate. To understand why other people like Mr Gwyneth Paltrow and his irritatingly atmospheric pals. To get my head around why it's so popular.
And I couldn't. I hate it. It's just so bland, one-dimensional and insipid. And to hear Chris Martin bleating and whining in that awful falsetto was akin to fingernails on a blackboard. The last time I felt that was when Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill.
But that's not what gets me riled up so much. I like a lot of music that most people can't stand, and I'm OK with that. Music, for the most part, is subjective. I hate your music, you hate mine. Whatever. We move on.
But what really gets to me the most about Coldplay is that a band so average and unchallenging can be so popular and the subject of much unwarranted praise. It simply doesn't make sense.
I find myself repeatedly returning to a piece that Michael Dwyer wrote for EG last year in which he concluded that Coldplay are obscenely popular because they're so safe and bland:
"The unsettling fact was and remains that Coldplay are the monster rock'n'roll sensation the 21st century wants. They're sober, sensitive, safe, soothing and benign in a world that's mad, cruel, menacing, alarming and horrific.They're also at the vanguard of the progressive reduction of music from art into digital information, a comforting development in a modern consumer paradise eager to trade quality for control and convenience."
And I find it frightening. Coldplay's popularity reflects a consumer majority that's more concerned with safety and security than artistic challenge or creativity; a society that would rather elect the guy who'll keep their mortgage safe than the one who wants to make serious change on social issues. It seems that most people don't want music, or often lives, that are creative or challenging.
It's a feeling emphasised by an excerpt from a review of X&Y by Pop Culture Press:
"While sweeping numbers like Speed of Sound reach the pinnacles of timeless pop, X&Y mostly washes by in a bland mid-tempo blur and some of its slower ballads plumb the murky depths of banal self-indulgence. Martin's wallowing presence often bogs things down, his lyrics frequently recalling weepy 'woe is me' diary entries by a 13-year-old girl, cluttered with awkward couplets: 'Tears come streaming down your face/When you lose something you cannot replace,' he bleats on Fix You. This is what it sounds like when millionaires cry. On Swallowed in the Sea, Martin brags 'I could write a song a hundred miles long.' Oh no. X&Y consolidates Coldplay's status as a famously anti-corporate band who make paradigmatic corporate rock music: slick,inoffensive and self-absorbed; flawlessly executed, meticulously produced and ready for global export."
And that's it really. It's music for mass consumption and maximum profit, not art for art's sake.
Happily, however, it seems that a large number of people out there are just as incensed by Coldplay. According to the UK's Telegraph, if you Google "Coldplay" and "insufferable" there are about 9633 pages of comment, much of it highly abusive of the whining Brits.
But how many people are going to bother taking my little rant about Coldplay as a symbol of an apathetic society seriously? Probably very few, but at least I feel better for putting it out there. I'm happy to say it. I can't stand Coldplay.
In the interests of balance, you can find a piece from the Telegraph here that canvasses the for and against Coldplay arguments equally.
But for those who just prefer to take the piss, there's an anti-Coldplay myspace site, with a wonderful little spoof of that most awful of songs, Yellow. Click here.
When I woke up this morning, I thought it was Wednesday. Not a good sign.
17 September 2007
'UN Membership: Taiwan belongs in UN, experts say' (15 September 2007)
Taiwan's application for UN membership represents the political will to self-determination of all Taiwanese people, and the UN, the US and the international community should support the idea that the nation belongs in the UN, US academics said yesterday.'Taiwan's statehood is undeniable' (17 August 2007)
As Article 55 of the UN Charter stipulates that the organization respects self-determination of peoples and promotes human rights, the UN General Assembly and the Secretariat have no right to reject Taiwan's application, Jordan Paust, a law professor at the University of Houston, said in an address to a conference on Taiwan's UN application hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy in Taipei yesterday.
"Taiwan functions as an independent state and it is time for Taiwanese self-determination to ripen into a far more widely recognized statehood status for Taiwan and membership in the United Nations," he said.
'The evolution of Taiwan's statehood' (9 August 2007)
One theory is that Taiwan is part of China. This is what the People's Republic of China (PRC) argues, citing history, the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Declaration, succession to the Republic of China (ROC), UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, and that "Taiwan is an internal affair of China," to support its position.
Yet Beijing's argument fails the tests of both reality and international law, for the following reasons.
One, Taiwan has been fought over by foreigners for hundreds of years, while the Taiwanese have battled for their existence and self-governance. There have been the indigenous peoples and the Han Chinese, the Dutch and Spanish colonial empires competing over Taiwan, Cheng Cheng-kung's (鄭成功) family dynasty, the nominal rule of the Qing dynasty (which ceded Taiwan to Japan shortly after making it a province), the brief establishment of the Republic of Formosa, 50 years of Japanese colonial rule and the military occupation following World War II.
Taiwan has evolved into a sovereign and independent nation. Clearly, Taiwan has not been "an inseparable part of China since ancient times."
I don't think much of their chances. Is 'Taiwan' now claiming that their Republic of China never existed and which claimed to govern mainland China? History of their own making now comes back to haunt them.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sent an official letter of application for UN membership using the name "Taiwan" to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 19. However, Ban ignored realities and UN procedure and had the UN legal department return the letter.
The Chinese government fiercely opposes Taiwan's UN application on the grounds that Taiwan is not a country but only a part of China. Whether or not Taiwan is a state or a country will become a central topic for international political forces.
Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation, not a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It's status is therefore not an internal issue of China.
When the Republic of China (on Taiwan) had the chance, they should have admitted defeat and recognised the communist regime on the mainland instead of continuing the 'civil war'. Then they should have declared Taiwan as an independent state at that time instead of the farcical 'one China' which continues to this day, and which Taiwan now pretends never existed.
They may carry on, and some of the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese diaspora may have some strong views, but the rest of the world has no interest in this matter.
Still, it is a fascinating case study in international relations.
I arrived at work this morning earlier than usual. After I arrived home from work, I fell asleep for an hour or so. Clearly I have my limits.
16 September 2007
New from Evian - 'the most important body of water is your own', enough to make you thirsty for bottled Evian water.
What I actually want is this cool looking water bottle.
Now for an interesting article from Fast Company magazine of July 2007 called 'Message in a Bottle '.
Worldwide, 1 billion people have no reliable source of drinking water; 3,000 children a day die from diseases caught from tainted water.
We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year -- in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.
I don't actually like the taste of Evian.
24% of the bottled water we buy is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi.
I didn't do anything today either. What a 'do nothing' weekend. Sometimes they are the best. In the morning, I did visit Tim and Toni at the house around the corner, which they bought a few months ago. Even their adopted daughter Phrim let me carry her. Aside from that, nothing.
15 September 2007
He has now decided to try Marmite. And he likes it.
DARK SIDE: Paddington tucks into Marmite sandwich in new TV advert
I like Marmite. It has a sweeter taste compared to Vegemite. I wonder if Paddington would try Vegemite.
I meant to clean the house today and do some gardening (weeding), but I didn't.
14 September 2007
The Emirates Palace (hotel) in Abu Dhabi features an equally spectacular spiral staircase called the Wings Staircase
The Arc de triomphe in Paris also has a spiral staircase inside.
And this one is in the Vatican Museums.
Yawn... it has been a dull week at work. Thank goodness the weekend is here.
13 September 2007
Here is an interesting article from the BBC - The trials of Ramadan fasting.
Even President Bush issued a Presidential Message, which was very nice of him.
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 12, 2007
Presidential Message: Ramadan, 2007
September 7, 2007
I send greetings to Muslims observing Ramadan in America and around the world.
Ramadan, the holiest days of the Islamic faith, begins with the first light of dawn and commemorates the revelation of the Qur'an to the prophet Muhammad. During the days of fasting, prayer, and worship, Muslims reflect and remember their dependence on God. Ramadan is also an occasion for Muslims to strengthen family and community ties and share God's gifts with those in need.
America is a land of many faiths, and our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens. May the holy days of Ramadan remind us all to seek a culture of compassion and serve others in charity.
Laura and I send our best wishes. Ramadan Mubarak.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Not even having a drink of water must be very difficult and the challenge of staying focussed at work in the afternoon would be great.
Tonight I managed to remember Ghost Whisperer on tv. I don't understand people who don't like Jennifer Love Hewitt.
12 September 2007
Jacek Holówska, a philosopher at Warsaw University, wrote:
Poland blocks EU protest over death penaltyIan Traynor in Brussels
Wednesday September 12, 2007
Poland is blocking a move by all other EU countries to inaugurate a continent-wide day of protest against the death penalty, with the conservative and staunchly Roman Catholic government in Warsaw arguing for parallel European condemnation of abortion and euthanasia.
Frantic efforts were under way behind the scenes yesterday to try to persuade the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister, to end its opposition to making October 10 Europe's day against the death penalty.
Capital punishment is outlawed everywhere in the EU. All 26 EU countries, except Poland, support the proposal which was scheduled for agreement next week at a meeting of EU ministers.
The decision may need to be scrapped because of Poland's opposition which has exasperated many EU governments and added to the Kaczynski government's reputation as the most troublesome in the union.
The measure requires the support of all EU governments to be implemented.
The issue was to have been discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels today but has been dropped because of the prospect of failure.
Instead ministers from Portugal, currently chairing the EU and hosting next week's meeting, were lobbying the Polish government yesterday to lift its veto.
While Poland observes the European ban on the death penalty, its president, Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister's twin brother, has called for a re-examination of the ban, while Roman Giertych, leader of a far-right party and, until recently, deputy prime minister, wants it to reintroduced for convicted paedophiles.
Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP and vice-president of the European parliament's human rights subcommittee, said Poland's position brought into question its commitment to European values. Any attempt by Warsaw to reintroduce the death penalty could see its EU membership frozen, he added.
"The Poles think it's very restrictive to talk only of the death penalty," said one source. "They want a discussion on a larger scope, on the right to life, on abortion, on euthanasia."
Polish officials confirmed their government's opposition.
"Our position is quite clear," said one official. "We want to discuss this in a broader context. Maybe we could call [the day] differently."
In my opinion the protest against the European day against the death penalty was aimed at forcing the states of Western Europe to change their stance on abortion and euthanasia. This moral blackmail seems uncalled for. It exploits human life for political purposes. The government seems to be saying - although it won't admit it - that we would agree to ban the death penalty if abortion and euthanasia are banned at the same time... You can't seriously argue that the moral status of a foetus is equal to that of an adult person - although you can state that both were created by God. For agnostics and atheists this argument is irrelevant.Moral blackmail it is. 26 EU member countries derailed by lone protester Poland which wants to push its own agenda unrelated to the original plan.
See also - European Union - policy and action on the death penalty
Tonight's episode of The Chaser's War on Everything showed the clip of the Chaser's stunt at APEC. Check them on MySpace. Australian satire at its most extreme - no wonder our politicians hate them!
11 September 2007
It is from a Flemish language kids show in Belgium and some smarty pants decided to to err transliterate the Flemish dialogue (of the song) into English and put in subtitles. Of course it is not an actual translation.
(WARNING: implied profanity may offend some viewers)
Yes, I have a childish sense of humour sometimes.
By the way, the character singing the song is Kabouter Plop (he's a leprechaun called Plop) and he's singing about 'gat in mijn da' - the hole in his roof.
10 September 2007
Hotel Everland is a project by Swiss artist-duo L/B (Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann). L/B are known for their Installations that invite the viewer to get involved and become part of the artwork.
Everland is a Hotel with only one room. It includes a bathroom deluxe, a king-size bed and a lounge. The bounteous dimensioned room represents the subjective dream of a hotel: the architecture, the playful details, as well as the request to steal the golden embroidered bath towels. All Everland guests are partaking in the project.
Hotel Everland was first developed for the Swiss national exhibition Expo.02 and was located on the lake of Yverdon. Afterwards the mobile pavilion was brought to Burgdorf and placed on the factory roof at L/B's studio.
From June 2006 until September 2007 Hotel Everland is placed on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Germany. During the opening times of the museum, visitors can take a peek at the Hotel.
After closing hours it's reserved to the happy ones that have booked the room for a night.
In October 2007 Hotel Everland moves on to Paris where it will be installed on the roof of Palais de Tokyo. It will also be exhibited and run as a hotel for one year, but this time with a view on the Eiffel Tower.
Hotel Everland - Leipzig 2006
lounge - Leipzig 2006
bed and wardrobe
This is so cool...
Nothing on tv. What to watch?
09 September 2007
Sadly, I tend to agree with what Erin O'Dwyer wrote. Not only is general knowledge lacking and any interest in the world at large, but standards of literacy have also fallen. Too many young people have appalling spelling and grammar skills, even those attending university. Not only that, but they don't even care to learn from their mistakes.
For centuries universities have been held up as hallowed halls of light and learning. Even in this country, where a decade of budget cuts has crippled classics departments and left research funding pools in drought, universities are valued for their contribution to intellectual debate. They are also seen as a salve for unemployment and social disharmony.
But Australian educators face a serious problem: how to enliven a student body that thinks googling a wiki is a serious academic endeavour. In a world swamped by information, many students have little interest in accessing it. We have law students who have never read a case, English students who do not read books and journalism students who do not buy newspapers. Don't laugh, it's true.
Each semester I ask my students how many of them buy newspapers. Five at most raise their hands. The showing is even more dismal when it comes to listening to radio. Television and online news sites are more popular. But when I ask how many get their main news from headlines on their Yahoo! webmail there is a round of sheepish laughter.
Another law faculty lecturer recalls how her discussion about Nixon and Watergate drew a blank. No one had any idea about either.
A health sciences lecturer recalls how she played her students a YouTube clip of geriatric musicians covering the Who's My Generation. "My students had no idea who the Who were," she says. "And no idea why it was significant that the single was recorded at Abbey Road."
Plagiarism is rife. Academic references include wikis and lecturers' notes. Cut-and-paste technology has made libraries redundant. Many students do not know where the library is and some leave their laptops only reluctantly to attend classes. Some academics believe that in an industry worth almost $10 billion, as many as one in two students are cheating.
It must be said, this is not a criticism of students. Students for the most part are doing it tough. Most full-timers work part-time jobs and all part-timers arrive straight from work. ...
What must be addressed is the ideology of the ignorance. Students know what needs to be done and they'll be damned if they'll do any more. One colleague pointed me to the book Age of Extremes, in which the historian Eric Hobsbawm recalls a student asking whether the description "World War II" meant there had also been a first world war.
After such a busy day yesterday, I finally managed to do the laundry and do some grocery shopping. I was meant to visit Devi for afternoon tea, but did not make it. This meant I missed out on her home made Portuguese custard tarts. Serves me right.
08 September 2007
Somehow, this huge round table was able to be placed inside the Sydney Opera House for an APEC meeting.
Great looking table, but sometimes a circle, while 'diplomatic', is not always the most efficient shape. It not only takes up too much space, but also wastes a lot.
I spent most of the day out of the house, going to Sue B's new place for lunch as Elizabeth was visiting from Melbourne (for work). Sue made a prawn sambal dish served with rice, and her mother Betty made a great dessert with strawberries. After dropping Elizabeth off at the airport, we went to the factory outlet near the airport where I bought a new pair of shoes to replace my current pair which has a hole in the leather.
07 September 2007
Chinese pandas 'a symbol of friendship' with Australia
Posted Thu Sep 6, 2007 3:47pm AEST
Updated Thu Sep 6, 2007 4:13pm AEST
Chinese President Hu Jintao says two giant pandas bound for Australia are a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
China has agreed to send the endangered animals to the Adelaide Zoo after talks were held today between Mr Hu and Prime Minister John Howard.
The Chinese leader says they will be part of a joint research program.
"I would like to stress that this is the first time that a pair of Chinese giant pandas have ever settled in Australia and to be more specific in the Southern Hemisphere," he said.
"I believe that this will certainly become a new symbol of our friendship."
Prime Minister John Howard says Australia welcomes the gesture from China very much.
"It's important when you're talking about billions of dollars of resource contracts and you're talking about tens of thousands of students, it's also important to find in the relationship, the warmth and exhilaration that can come from the temporary residence of such lovely creatures," Mr Howard said.
The Adelaide Zoo is hoping the arrival of the pandas from China will provide a major tourism boost for South Australia.
The male and female pandas are expected to arrive in 2009 and will be on loan to the Zoo for 10 years as part of the joint research program.
Adelaide will be one of only a handful of zoos in the world to house the endangered species.
The Zoo's director of conservation programs, Kevin Evans, says they will be a huge drawcard.
"We feel that people will come from New Zealand and interstate to see pandas as they do internationally," she said.
"People will travel vast distances to see giant pandas because they are so interesting and have been the flagship for conservation for over 30 years ... so we think we'll certainly have a huge spike in visitation when they arrive."
Wangwang (a two year old male)
Funi (one year old female)
I will definitely go and visit them in Adelaide.
The last and only time I have seen a panda was in Washington DC at the (Smithsonian) National Zoo some ten years ago - the panda was Hsing Hsing who was a gift (along with Ling Ling) from China in 1972 to the American people. Ling Ling had died and I am glad to have seen Hsing Hsing before he died not long after my visit.
Today was rather busy at work.
06 September 2007
He had one of the best tenor voices in the world and in history. His passing is a loss to the world.
Amongst my favourite opera recordings are those with Pavarotti in Lucia di Lammermoor (with Sutherland), La Traviata (with Sutherland) and La Bohème (with Freni)
Lucia di Lammermoor (a veranno a te sull'aure)
La Traviata (Brindisi)
La Bohème (che gelida manina)
La Bohème ( O Soave Fanciulla)
The maestro's voice lives on forever more.
I came home very late as we had a work trivia/quiz night. Our team also won. The quiz night was a fund raiser for the Starlight Children's Foundation.
05 September 2007
Why do some wives still change their names? Catherine Deveny September 5, 2007
Insecure or conservative or stupid women are bowing to the wishes of their husbands.
WHO the hell is Jana Rawlinson? Jana Wendt I know, Jana Pittman I know, but Jana Rawlinson? So I check out the snap. It looks exactly like Jana Pittman. But her name is Jana Rawlinson. How bizarre. That has to be some crazy coincidence. A woman called Jana with a different surname who looks exactly like Jana Pittman. And, get this, she's a hurdler too. Freaky.
Oh, I get it. She has put a few noses out of joint in the past so she's keen on a bit of incognito action. You'd think she'd change her first name too. Then it dawned on me. She has got married, bizarre enough in itself these days, and changed her last name to her husband's. What an anachronism. Maybe she changed her name to go with the chastity belt, the crinolines and the stick "no thicker than his thumb" that her husband is allowed to beat her with.
Wake up! We are in 2007. Women are no longer owned by their father and then their husband. So why are some women still changing their surnames? And why do some men still want them to? It's sad, it's misogynous, it's archaic, it's insecure and it's unnecessary.
Why would you do something so drastic simply because you decided to delude yourself it was easier? Because you are deeply insecure, deeply conservative or deeply stupid. And in deep denial.
I ask women why they change their last name. They tell me "it's just easier". It's not. How easy is it changing the name on everything from your driver's licence to your library card? It's not. Many of the families I know have up to three different surnames and have no problem at all.
If people really believe that mum, dad and the kids having the same surname is easier, why doesn't the guy change his name? Why don't they flip a coin and it's heads we go for her surname and tails we go for his? Because it is not about it being easier. It makes me despair. We've come all this way and we're still here.
Many women will say that their husbands wanted them to change their surname. So they did. Here's a flash for you sister: if you do everything that your husband wants you to do, you may find yourself teetering round in a pair of stilettos and an apron all day saying, "Shall I fix some more food for you and the boys?", or wearing a burqa.
Thanks to feminism, women should be allowed and encouraged to do anything they want. But the question I ask is why do some women still want to change their surnames?
And not the stock answer they give, but why, deep in their hearts, they feel the need to dilute themselves.
So I kept reading the article and Jana has won a couple of gold medals. Good on her. She has an eight-month-old son and she was doing it for him. Here's a reality pill for you, Jana. You weren't doing it for him, you were doing it for you. He doesn't care.
Then it goes on to use the word "supermum" to describe her. How can a woman who has handed over her kid to be cared for by someone else while she has pursued her dreams with little or no thought to what the child needs or wants be described as a supermum? A supermum is a woman who has done the weekly shop with four kids under five and not killed any of them. If Jana had won the race with the baby strapped to her back while pushing a shopping trolley, I would have called her a supermum.
People are bagging Jana for putting her career above the needs of her young child. Which I can understand. What I can't understand is why the father is not mentioned at all. And never is.
Whenever two parents are working and the child is propped up on the sideline waiting for its turn, why is it only the woman who gets bagged, as if the father has no responsibility for the care of his own child? Why, when a woman is working, does she always get asked, "Who's looking after your children?", but the father never does? We need to take the focus off the role of mother and put it on to parents as a team.
Men have become much more hands-on fathers in the past 10 years and it has been magnificent to see. The kids, the dads and the mums have benefited greatly but we still have a long way to go. Dads, here's a sure-fire way of getting lucky tonight. Try this line: "I've made the lunches, done the reading and filled in all the excursion forms. The clothes are all laid out and I'm just going to put the kids to bed."
Non-Australian readers really do not need to know who this Jana Pittman/Rawlinson is. It was used as an illustration. But click here if you want to know.
Thank goodness half the working week has gone. Two more work days before the weekend again.
Last night's episode of Torchwood was really cool (which I had recorded).
04 September 2007
I'm watching Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette at the moment, which is really cool. The scenes of the morning rituals are awesome.
Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette
03 September 2007
I like this bit "Religion is faith-based, while psychiatry is science-based". Once upon a time scientists were deemed heretics, such as Galileo for thinking that the earth revolved around the sun.
SURVEY | A third of psychiatrists do not believe in God -- so where does that leave religious patients?
September 3, 2007BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter/ firstname.lastname@example.org
A new survey has found that psychiatrists are much less religious than other doctors.
Decades after Sigmund Freud declared religion an "illusion," the rift between religion and psychiatry seems to be as wide as ever.
The survey found that 17 percent of psychiatrists have no religious affiliation, compared with 10 percent of other doctors.
One-third of psychiatrists do not believe in God and fewer than one-half believe in life after death. Only 29 percent attend religious services twice a month or more, compared with 47 percent of other doctors.
"Religious patients who prefer to see like-minded psychiatrists may have difficulty finding a match," University of Chicago researcher Dr. Farr Curlin and colleagues wrote in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Researchers asked non-psychiatrist doctors how they would refer a hypothetical patient who is deep in grief two months after the death of his wife. Religious doctors were more willing to refer patients to clergy members or religious counselors and less willing to refer to psychiatrists.
Researchers surveyed 1,144 doctors, including 100 psychiatrists. Twenty-nine percent of psychiatrists were Jewish, compared with 13 percent of other doctors.
Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, knocked religion. While psychiatrists have largely replaced Freud's talk therapy with drug therapy, Freud "remains a very dominant figure within psychiatry," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a Duke University psychiatrist and co-author of the study.
Religion is faith-based, while psychiatry is science-based. Some psychiatrists have expressed fears that religious influences might destabilize patients, Koenig said.
Koenig has heard anecdotal reports that as recently as the early 1990s, patients in at least one psychiatric ward were prohibited from having Bibles, and chaplains could not visit without a psychiatrist's permission.
Clergy as competition?
Some psychiatrists also might see the clergy as competition, Koenig said, although as many as 80 percent of patients with mental disorders could benefit by seeing clergy members.
Some studies have shown practicing religion can be good for your mental health. And in recent years, there has been a movement to merge psychiatry and religion. Christianpsychiatry.com connects patients to psychiatrists and other providers who believe prayer "can be a powerful adjunct to their treatment."
Despite such fledgling cooperation between religion and psychiatry, "the long-standing tension seems to be an enduring one," Curlin said.
Some religious fanatics don't believe in science (like Scientologists who don't believe in psychiatry), so why should psychiatrists and other scientists believe in God?
Monday. Another four more days to go before the weekend again.
02 September 2007
St Pancras is a pretty cool station and much more central - it is linked to Kings Cross and a number of underground lines.
St Pancras International will actually be five stations in one: Eurostar, High Speed domestic services to Kent (from 2009), Midland mainline, Thameslink and six London Underground lines at Kings Cross St Pancras.
I sort of did some housecleaning today, but need to do more.
I went over to Margaret and Mary's place for dinner. Mary made a rare roast lamb with roast pumpkin and sweet potato, and a green salad. Momo was being a crazy puppy. I can now get him to sit.
GEELONG 5.2 9.4 15.10 22.13 (145)
BRISBANE LIONS 2.1 6.6 9.10 15.13 (103)
GOALS Geelong: Mooney 4, Ottens 4, S Johnson 3, Stokes 3, Chapman 2, Byrnes 2, Ling 2, N Ablett, Kelly. Brisbane Lions: Brown 7, Copeland 3, Brennan 3, Adcock, Johnson.
BEST Geelong: Selwood, S Johnson, N Ablett, Stokes, Enright. Brisbane Lions: Lappin, Selwood, Brown, Adcock.
INJURIES Geelong: Egan (ankle).
UMPIRES: Grun, Wenn, Woodcock.
CROWD: 34,107 at the Gabba.
Blacky being tackled
two Chrises, Scotty and Johno