Atsumu Ohmura discovered global dimming. A geographer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he checked sunlight levels in records. It dropped 10% from the 1960's to the 1980's. Satellite records of sunlight reaching Earth have however increased about 2% from about 1990 to 2001, according to Rachel Pinker of the University of Maryland.
Bruce Wielicki of NASA Langley had an article in Science suggesting more particulate matter and soot was in the air in the 1960s, forming nucleus for clouds. Such clouds have small droplets rather than the large droplets of particulate free areas. Small droplet clouds are more reflective. This increases the albedo (reflection) of the entire Earth. So as Clean Air laws took hold, particulate count dropped, clouds had larger droplets, albedo dropped, and more sunshine came through.
Maybe that is increasing global warming. As far as I know, the models don't say.
Rivers clothing advertisement on TV. This is a big discount clothing chain that advertises heavily. Get into our store. These coats won't last long. Doesn't anyone actually proof read anything intended for television these days?
Technorati track around 10 million blogs, a number they say doubles every five months. They suggest tagging your blog entries. They also suggest pinging Technorati. Of course, most of us are lost in the noise, unless we have some secure niche. Also, you really need an RSS feed.
My iMac G5 was delivered today. Several weeks late, but at least at a time I was home. Reminds me somewhat of my first few computers in the 1970's, which also were never available when promised.
Water infrastructure is in the news again. Dams half full, and most major cities have or are considering water restrictions. Recycling sewerage is at 6% in Brisbane, 2.5% in Sydney, Melbourne targets 20% recycling by 2010, Adelaide already reuses 19% of sewerage, Perth plans 20% recycle by 2010. Perth has a A$246 million desalinating plant commission, and Sydney is considering a A$2 billion plant.
However it isn't dams that are the problem. Australia has 500 dams, capable of holding 84000 GL. This is four million litres per person. The problem is we don't get the rainfall to fill them regularly. The Peter Faust dam at Proserpine filled soon after it was built, in cyclone conditions. It hasn't been close to full since.
Used Migration Assistant to set up my new iMac G5 with the files from my Powerbook. Trouble free update, with everything working as far as I could tell.
Your heart rate when young can predict your chance of a heart attack. If you have a resting heart rate over 75 per minute, your heart attack risk is 4 times higher. If your heart rate during exercise rises less than 89 beats you are six times as likely. If your heart rate after exercise slows by less than 25 beats after a minute you are twice as likely to die.
This was from a study of 5713 symptom free men aged between 42 and 53, who had undergone exercise testing between 1969 and 1972. They were followed over a 23 year period, during which 81 died suddenly. The New England Journal of Medicine 2005;352:1951-8 reported the study.
I was looking on the SAS site about some of their customers, including the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), founded by Professor Ann Harding at the University of Canberra in 1993.
I was particularly interested in the development of STINMOD (Static Income Model), a microsimulation model created with SAS software that provides a means of modelling socio-economic systems by simulating individual Australian families. NATSEM used SAS software to analyze four separate Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys on family income to obtain estimates of poverty in Australia from 1990 to 2000. Before the Australian federal government introduces new policies that affect income tax, the Medicare levy or social security, STINMOD is used to analyse the expected results for Australian families and government outlays.
Industrial reform is going to unleash a new age of productivity. Heard that one back in the 1980's. Turns out that Australian Bureau of Statistics has produced estimates of productivity since 1964. These are estimates, likely to be in error, but it is what we have. Looking at labour productivity (as distinct from multifactor productivity, which includes capital), and although there are a heap of ups and downs, labour productivity went up about 2.3% a year. Didn't matter whether it was in the past decade of reform, or when things were more static. Didn't matter if it was under arbitration, or deregulated enterprise bargaining. On that basis, I'd predict the current pressure for Australian workplace agreements will have equally little effect over a decade or so, whatever the short term fluctuations.
Leaving aside minor thing, like which nations have weapons in their flags, I can't see much hope of great compatibility between Western style democracies and Islamic nations. Key areas in Western style democracies (despite being under threat) include separation of church and state, individual rights, and the (as yet incomplete) discarding of monarchy.
It has taken many revolutions against the power of the church to get this far. Magna Carta in 1215, moving the king to act within the law, and starting to kill off the divine right of kings, even if it was mostly about a revolt by the barons. The English Civil War of 1646 to 1651, where Charles I was beheaded, preceded by the Bishops War. The army revolt when Parliament still considered Charles as King also showed the importance of not letting the armed forces get too powerful. Lilburne argued that as all men were equal before God, they should also be equal before the law, and the Levellers argued strongly for church dis-establishment, an extended franchise, and an end to censorship.
Democracy seems to me very messy, compared to the structure of royalty, military or church authority. I'm not saying that politics isn't played in all, because it is. However compromise seems a much larger element in democracies. Individuals have loyalty to self, to family, to employers, to trade unions, to church, to state, to interest groups, to political parties.
Individual freedom is another point of difference. Seventeen of the 21 Arab countries prohibit the publication of journals without a (reputedly hard to get) licence.
We were off to Tasmania's Wrest Point Casino hotel today, for Thylacon, a science fiction convention. Mid June subsidies for conferences that manage to drag interstate visitors to Tasmania mid Winter. Three flights (via Brisbane and Melbourne), and we got to Hobart pretty late.
Especially if you are a environmental charity. Government grants to environmental lobby groups have been capped at A$10,000 down from the former A$80,000. The spin is that they can be spread to more groups. I fully expect the local society devoted to preserving Muddy Bay to have improved chances to research dugong and mangrove habitats around town. However national environmental groups that attack the government over not signing the Kyoto Protocol and not carrying on about global warming are unlikely to do as well as in the past.
This should make Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason rather pleased. In March 2004 he addressed the Senate on the matter of tax deductibility of charities that engaged in political advocacy, something that is specifically disallowed. The Institute of Public Affairs members Gary Johns and Don D'Cruz provided ammunition, with examples of politicking by the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation. The Institute of Public Affairs is a splendid resource for those seeking to upset people about politics.
It will be very interesting to see exactly how the government treats charities after it takes control of the Senate in July.
This financially backs Australian films, and is generally expected to encourage the film industry. However if you look at the bunch of apparently boring duds it has produced, you have to wonder why bother? I haven't seen any of these films, which may for all I know be magnificent artistic productions. However the audience returns have been abysmal. Very few people care to watch. Reviews I've seen do not encourage me (nor anyone else) to attempt to see recent Australian films. So why not save the tax payer A$50 million a year, instead of producing unwatched films? If the government really wants to support the film industry (and as a potential export industry, and method of cultural colonialism, I think it should be supported), then the proper way is to provide tax concessions on the profits made by attracting an audience.
Each day I take a fish oil capsule, as apparently most of us eat insufficient fish oil and are thus short on omega-3 fatty acids. However fish is expensive, and will eventually be in short supply, due to poor harvesting methods and overfishing.
Range fed chickens that eat the weedy herb purslane (the richest omega-3 source in leafy greens) produce eggs containing 300 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, ten times what a normal egg contains. The eggs lack the fish taste and smell of eggs produced when chickens eat fish oil.
Perhaps the thought of competition in the labour market. Premier Carr has said that Sydney is full, implying that migrants should go elsewhere. It was Federal Labor who set up the detention camps for visa seekers, although it was the Liberals who privatised them (I don't believe any prison should ever be privately run).
Back when he was immigration minister, Philip Ruddock for seven years straight managed to increase skilled migration (to 115,000 for non-humanitarian immigrants in 2003) in the face of the most conservative government Australia has ever had. The only way he could have managed that was on economic grounds. Like almost every developed country, the birth rate is way below replacement rate. Treasury projections were for the number of people under 55 to remain pretty much static, while those over 85 quadruple. Economic growth is a function of the growth in individual productivity, and the growth in the working population. Only agriculture and manufacturing have made great strides in increased productivity. I'm a little surprised that Ruddock ever managed to show an increase in per capita productivity even from skilled migration, but that is what seems to have happened.
The current inquiry about ghastly errors at Bundaberg Hospital involving a foreign trained doctor are probably only the most visible sign of major problems in the health system. Doctors are amongst the smartest, most highly trained and skilled of all workers. However to a large extent, the individualist nature of their work turns them into craft workers, and never gives a chance at increased productivity.
Back in 1995, around 10,000 Australians died annually from medical errors. I doubt that figure has changed.
Commonwealth and State governments engage in buck passing about who should control which aspects of the health system. It is obvious that it should be either one or the other, but not both. That needs reform.
There is way too much attention given to acute health care, and probably too little given to preventive measures. Better sanitary facilities have probably saved more lives that all the surgeons in the world combined. Vaccination doubtless gives a better return for the money than pushing pills. There seems little public debate on the cost and benefits of various forms of intervention. Medicine should be based upon evidence of results, not wishes. The vast expenditure on alternate medicine is a clear sign that the public are not being well served.
The Apple Centre in Hobart had a Rain Design i360, a heavy duty rotating metal desktop turntable stand for an iMac G5. I had already made a tiny rotating desk top for my Powerbook, however I didn't have a lot of space for the iMac. I planned an office in a closet. In those close confines, and with no access to the rear, reaching behind the computer to get at cables was a problem. The i360 solved it rather neatly. I was also impressed by how heavy the device was. I thought it might put my airline baggage overweight, as it must have added more than 2 kilogram. It fits around the foot of the iMac, and an Allan key (supplied) is used to assemble the thing.
Postworx Speedball pocket laptop stand is the smallest laptop stand I've ever seen. It is basically a hightech version of the old stick under the back of the laptop trick. Raising the back gets the bottom of the laptop off the desk, and promotes airflow. The speedball kit consists of two stick on front glides, and two stick on back attachment patches. These are sort of like a reusable Velcro. The two hemispherical speedball halves click onto the rear patches. Instant laptop stand. Remove the hemispheres when you leave, clip them together and slip them in your pocket. I'm astonished at how well it goes. This one really works.
Large, graphic warnings on each cigarette package were planned by the Health Department. Department research showed large warnings were more effective at stopping smoking than small warnings. Junior Health Minister Trish Worth initially supported the Health Department plan. However the plan was downgraded to smaller warnings after correspondence with the three tobacco companies in 2003. The warnings are now set at 30% of the front of the package and 90% of the back of the package.
Treasury predicted with the larger warning the government would lose A$500 million in cigarette taxes, and save A$2 billion in health costs. Cabinet did approve a new A$25 million anti smoking campaign. Three million people in Australia smoke, about one in five of the population over the age of 14.
We finally returned home to the Whitsunday Terraces from Hobart after Thylacon, leaving at a fairly ungodly hour. I enjoyed the convention, if not the travel. At least the return was only two flights, rather than the three of the outward trip that it might well have been.
Unemployment benefits financed the long haired layabouts surfing their lives away in the 1960's and 70's counterculture. Next round in the generational conflict will be the same set of lazy people turning into pension bludgers in their 60's and 70's. Sea change is just another term for superannuated surf, sand and sin, to the extent these slackers can get away with it.
Coastal towns face infrastructure costs way beyond their normal means as pension loafers move away from city infrastructure, but demand the same level of public services. Clear water, tertiary sewerage plants (everyone wants to be green now, they just don't want to pay for it), uninterrupted electricity, medical services, hospitals, public transport, the list goes on and on. They want rebates on council rates, and half fare on the buses, but they don't want to work in the towns where local youth has moved to the big city to start careers.
Don't expect to see any postcards of me walking the beach at dawn. I'm in hiding from jealous young taxpayers, convinced I am a pension loafer.
At the very least, greed helps keep the economy turning over, as we are all exhorted to stay unsatisfied, grasping economic maws, always consuming more, more, I'm still not satisfied. Associate a product with sex and status, and then sell more of it when a little doesn't satisfy. No wonder most of us are overweight. Does anyone seriously believe we would starve to death if food were not advertised?
Substitute any other product. Trade in your car every year, and upgrade to an SUV, at least until you can get a Hummer. Buy a McMansion, you need a bedroom for each person, plus a spare or two each (although the children have left), and a home theatre room (for the films you can't spare the time to watch), a hobby room (likewise unused), a sewing room (but you haven't space for the clothes you buy), a family room (the family have left), a dining room (but you eat out or eat TV dinners), a kitchen and a four car garage for storage.
Altruism doesn't work as a motive, at least not for many, and not for long, but greed nearly always works. The tragedy of the commons shows what works.
Happiness is a real economic disaster. Happy people are not dissatisfied with their lives, don't have the itch to go out and spend. Happy people are traitors to the economy, so we need to plant insatiableness and alienation to ensure most people remain unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. Nothing else translates as well into frivolous spending and looming credit card bills.
Personal saving can't really be encouraged. Greed guru Leon Levy points out that in the USA, a 1% rise in savings translates to an 11% fall in corporate profits.
Flight to Brisbane, and then by land to the Gold Coast so Jean could attend a conference. That was a Network 21 thing at the exhibition centre at their Jupiter's casino. Imposing building, within walking distance from where we stayed.
DNA screening, which will eventually be cheap enough to do routinely, can detect potential disease risks. If detected early enough, some can be treated before they cause organ damage.
People with two copies of a particular gene eventually get potentially fatal haemochromatosis, where the body absorbs and stores too much iron. Donating blood every two months will stop the problem. Simple, cheap, and detection can occur before injury sets in.
However, will employers and insurance companies discriminate against people with genetic conditions? On the trial that tested for this problem (reported in The Lancet in late April 2005), the researchers made an agreement with the Investment and Financial Services Association (umbrella organisation for life insurance companies in Australia) that those found at risk of the problem would not be discriminated against. When DNA tests start showing up fatal conditions without treatments, will the insurance companies continue to be as helpful?
Both the Airbus A340-500 and the Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner can carry commercially marginal loads of 180-200 passengers from London to Sydney, non-stop, if the tailwinds are right. The Airbus A340-500 has been doing the Singapore to New York run of 19 hours for over a year. At present Sydney to London takes 23 hour, with a single 75 minute stopover, or 22 hours the other way. A non-stop run over China and Siberia would be 21 hours to London, 20 hours to Sydney. Boeing claim they could manage 240 seats into Sydney, but won't say how many to London (the harder flight).
The thing that most amuses me with these long range planes are the illustrations of spacious interiors, grand vistas sparsely populated by passengers lounging around bars. We all know the reality. Take off late, so you can worry about arrival times the entire flight, sit down, shut up, do up your seat belt because we expect turbulence, and hope your neighbour doesn't spill over half your cramped, uncomfortable chair while you wait for a drink that may possible stave off either dehydration or aircraft rage for another half hour.
New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, and announced a broad based carbon tax of NZ$15 a tonne to start 1 April 2007. It was expected to cost households NZ$4 a week extra. Well, April Fool. The government expected to earn NZ$450 million in carbon credits. Instead different assumptions on gas emissions changed the figures by a billion dollars (2.2% of their annual budget) to a contingent liability of NZ$543 million from 2008-2012.
When are people going to get real about the voodoo economics of the climate change activists? This change will cost New Zealanders real money. Meanwhile, Australia, USA, China and India are not staking out their economies on the anthill of dubious assumptions.
Ever pulled the wrong power plug out? Kableflags help you avoid that error. Just put a nice clear tag on your cable, so you can tell which one is which. Lots of us label cables with cardboard tags or other markers, but these save you a little trouble, and look a little neater. Great idea. I've seen them at Altronics, Jaycar, OfficeWorks, although not the full range. They come in packs of 10 at around ten dollars (and yes, there is a blank pack).
Rabih Moughelbay and Joe Diaz, the two South Australians who founded the Navisafe, have done a fine job in getting awards, publicity and distribution for their company.
If Kableflags are too expensive, try a pack of 25 Altronics 100mm Cable Tie Marker for A$3.85. Standard small nylon cable tie, with a small cross piece you can write your cable details on. I use both, for various wires. Yes, labelling cables is probably anal retentive.
TV has basically failed as an entertainment media. I'd swear that the three free to air commercial TV stations now run at least 30% commercials, and there are a limit to the number of snack and toilet breaks you can take. The ABC basically doesn't do new drama, and hasn't a lot to attract anyone (as its ratings prove). News is less biased and more detailed when accessed via the internet.
Austar, the sole cable company in country areas, does have a bundle of movie channels. However each seems to run a cycle of about three new movies a month, repeated for the next few months. It just doesn't seem a good deal, compared with the wider range and lower prices of video stores.
SBS here say they will be experimenting with digital TV. However the downlinks from the satellite to our cable are digital, and as a technology, it sucks. If you have interference on analogue TV, you can still see a (distorted) picture with snow. If you have weather (and in the tropics, you do), digital breaks up entirely. However this isn't my objection. My objection is that if you can't fill a dozen channels now, how can you fill even more under digital?
While at Hobart and the Gold Coast I managed to buy a bunch of DVDs of various science fiction films, since TV was a dead loss. My criteria was that DVDs had to be cheaper than a paperback book, since both were competing for the same beer money. Given paperbacks tend to cost close to A$20 this did give me some purchasing scope.
Why buy now? I mentioned that TV was a dead loss. The other reason is that I fear in the future the media industry will try to put movies entirely onto a pay for view system. There is a window of opportunity to buy VCR tapes and DVDs of movies and so on you may want to watch more than once.
DVDs are particularly attractive, since they are digital, and thus can be copied without loss onto new media as DVDs become old fashioned. VCR tapes are on the way out, like many other storage systems. However with digital, once you have the bits (the data), you don't need the atoms (the storage media). Buy once, use forever. Provided you can break the copy protection. Obviously if you can't break the copy protection on a digital media, you would never buy it.
I read a report that 6000 coal miners die in accidents in China each year. The report mentions the 8000 workers at the state owned Jinhuagong in Datong, Shanxi province, where 28 miners died in an explosion in 1992. Those at the coal face get danger money, earning up to 3000 yuan ($470) a month. The workers live in a compound with school, shops and hospital. China has 28,000 coal mines, and accidents mostly happen at primitive privately run town and country mines. The other side of this appalling accident statistic of 6000 miners is to recall that China has 2 million mine workers. Australia has about 440 traumatic deaths in industry a year, but this does not include long term problems like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Trauma deaths are only about a third of all industrial deaths, with long term problems, especially dust related, another third, and motor vehicle accidents also a large portion of the rest.
Coal consumption in China provides 70% of its power, although planners hope to drop this by 10% in the next 15 years using gas and hydro. It is increasing more rapidly than anywhere else in the world, with blackouts as shortages hit. World coal prices have doubled, some Australian sales have tripled in price. China wants to double electricity generation by 2020. This would add 570 gigawatts, 13 times Australia's total capacity (it took the USA 50 years to do this). It also wants to quadruple its GDP over the same 15 years. However this won't all translate into Australian sales. China has the largest coal reserves in the world. If it can curb chaotic transport problems (like only having a third the rail capacity it needs) it can bring far more mines online. The coal export boom for others like Australia will only last until China can produce its own supplies.
If society were serious about drug abuse then there are plenty of high profile things you could do. Especially things that an enterprising newspaper could point out. The Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun took swabs in bathrooms at the Crown Palladium room during the annual TV Week Logie awards, where a thousand celebrity guests gathered. Tests were done during the awards, and after the awards.
Analysis showed cocaine in two of seven swabs from the female toilets, and 12 out of 13 swabs in the male toilets, three of which also showed speed.
Collected visitor Joe Siclari from Proserpine airport. he seemed to enjoy the impromptu visit to the Proserpine show. In particular, the extensive range of strange poultry. Alas, the unseasonal rain made a trip to the Great Barrier Reef a problem.
I was interested to note the release of the 1974 cabinet papers seemed to finger Des Moore as the Treasury mole who leaked about then Prime Minister Whitlam and the Middle East funding crisis, when cabinet tried to get interim funding following the Liberals blocking supply. Moore denies it.
With ginger groups like the H R Nicholls society (are they still here?), once called the industrial relations wing of the Ku Klux Klan pushing for a complete dismantling of the fine detailed industrial relations infrastructure, and the conservatives finally having control of the Senate, the right is getting some of its wishes. Labor hates it. The unions hate it. However selfish acts by bosses are the quickest way to build up union memberships. There will always be some bosses who are absolute bastards, and thus always a need for a counterforce. Typically this is a union.
We need to remember that the Labor Party sprang out of events at Barcaldine and the 1894 shearers's revolt. Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda was in part a protest song about the squatocracy, and Henry Lawson was keeping his head down out of sight after poems such as the 1891 Freedom on the Wallaby, with its final lines
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting O' those that they would throttle; They needn't say the fault is ours If blood should stain the wattle!
Were ignorance to be accepted as a lawful excuse for illegal behaviour, then everyone would claim to be unaware. However if ignorance is not accepted, then the law should be understandable. However instead the thicket of regulations gets ever more impenetrable. It is next to impossible to obey the law. For example, if you get caught short, and piss off the stern of a boat in Queensland coastal water, you have broken the law. Next thing they will want sealed bathing costumes, to ensure swimmers are not sneaking a piss. Well, it is about time someone took the piss out of stupid laws.
The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) found the Federal Government produces around 9,000 pages of regulations a year, up from about 1000 in the 1980's. Victoria alone produces 1500 pages of state rules a year. In business in Victoria 69 regulators administer 170 acts totalling 19,600 pages. IPA estimated regulation cost 7-15% of the GDP, and adds A$4580 to the cost of a house.
Does regulation of companies help reduce shareholder risk? Consultants Booz-Allen and Hamilton checked 360 worst performing companies in the USA out of 1200 capitalised above a billion dollars between 1999 and 2003. 87% of the losses were strategic and operational blunders, only 13% were due to compliance failures.
Do regulators actually notice problems? Most seem better at threatening punishment than at detecting problems. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority didn't notice FAI, HIH, One.Tel and Ansett, although key figures were eventually jailed.
We drove off for Cairns with Joe, and took a few days showing him the countryside. Jean did all the driving, as that way she didn't have to sit in the back seat. I must say the back seat was better than I expected given we drove for three days. I sure hope Joe enjoyed the countryside.
Seeing tax forms in newsagents reminded me of rumours of tightened rules for service trusts this year. A service trust is a tax structure used by professional service partners (like doctors or lawyers) to hold assets for protection and tax reasons. Professionals can't form partnerships except with others in their profession, so a spouse can't be a partner. Hence the service trust. This will especially hit sole practitioners who own a trust, since they can't very well negotiate with themselves. This year the tax office will be looking at market values for each service provided, so owners will be expected to actually check market values, not just lump 30% margins on everything like many do.
The asset might be a surgery or a business office, including all its business assets and staff costs. The partners lease back the assets, and claim the cost (which includes the profits) as a tax deduction. To maximise tax deductions, the trust marks up the costs, and makes a higher profit. The trust income is distributed to beneficiaries with lower or zero tax rates, such as spouses and children.
Ergon Energy replaced streetlights in Maidenwell, near Kingaroy, Queensland. The replacement streetlights were yellow-glow lamps, which Ergon spokesman Eric Gibson said would also make the town safer for drivers.
Astronomer Jim Barclay, who opened his South Burnett Maidenwell Astronomical Observatory in 2004 was the person pushing for less light pollution. Great to see more people get a chance to see the stars.
Saw Joe off at the Cairns airport as dark fell. He has a long journey home to the USA.
I notice research showing mice that lack the ADAMTS5 enzyme seem to avoid arthritis. The aggrecanases enzymes are believed to contribute to osteoarthrtis by destroying part of the cartilage that makes it elastic and tough. If there are few side effects, it seems an interesting result. A single gene knocks out the enzyme.
We drove back home to the Whitsunday Terraces from Cairns. For us that is a long drive.
Stopped at Office Works to pick up an Imation Disc Stakka. The chances of my discs being better organised may be enhanced by this. I'm not willing to bet on the chance however.
The Disc Stakka was added to the Notebook Computer Stand I got at Townsville on the way up to Cairns. The Australian Institute in 2004 are said to have reported that Australian households wasted $1226 on things they never used. That is a bit of a worry.
We had a late lunch at Sizzler Townsville, and got home around 6:30 p.m. I didn't get much done after all that driving.
Eating at Sizzler reminds me of a Planet Ark report that Australians waste 3.3 million tons of food a year, a quarter of our food supply. And it cost A$5.3 billion. McDonalds responded to reports on the cost of their fries and what they paid farmers for the potatoes by claiming half the weight of the spuds was lost in processing and so on.