Gegenschein 98 December 2003

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Another Brisbane trip

Monday 14 July 2003

We set out around 7:15, got to the Bruce Highway well before 8 a.m. and turned south, passing Proserpine Airport and Laguna Quays.

At the Proserpine Airport turnoff I was struck again by the confusion caused by airport and other names. The Whitsunday Shire Council has its headquarters in Proserpine, and was formerly called Proserpine Shire Council. They have renamed Proserpine Airport, about 20 kms inland, and 30 kms from Airlie Beach, to Whitsunday Coast Airport, despite being nowhere near the coast. The Whitsundays being the 70 odd islands off the coast here. Now there is already an airport actually in the Whitsunday Islands, namely Hamilton Island Airport. There is also a very busy, light plane airport on the coast five kilometers from Airlie Beach, and that owns and uses the name Whitsunday Airport.

Laguna Quays is even weirder. This is a totally isolated golfing resort on the coast at Midge Point (although they don't call it Midge Point in the advertising). It was built when there was an expectation of fleets of golf mad Japanese executives visiting, which didn't happen. The owner keeps claiming he will put in an international airport there, and claims he will move Proserpine airport there. This would be totally stupid, as it would make the airport even less convenient to the rest of the infrastructure. It isn't even with our local government area, which seems to me to make any local council support for it even weirder.

This whole thing causes no end of confusion for travel agents unfamiliar with the area.

We stopped about 60 km down the Bruce Highway at the service station in Bloomsbury to collect sandwiches for lunch and refuel Jean's Subaru. What we really wanted to do was use a different route to the Bruce Highway. Not for efficiency, but just to see different countryside. However, from Airlie, there simply isn't a way to get inland much short of Mackay, and that takes you a long way inland.

We stopped at Garrick's camera store at Caneland in Mackay to buy a Pentax 330GS digital camera, supplies of which were expected that morning. This was one I'd stumbled upon on special a few days previously when I had been in Mackay to collect Jean from the airport. Out of stock, but with more expected in that very day. Very helpful staff took one from the lay-by stock, and even set up the camera with time, date and other setup choices set to sensible options. I was impressed.

The lure of apple slices proved irresistible at Sarina, 30 km past Mackay, but these were not up to the standards of the bread shop at Emerald.

Just in the middle of Sarina we finally spotted the turnoff to Clermont, which we figured would take us onto the old inland Sarina Maryborough road that was once the main road. We wanted to see what that was like after being neglected for many years.

Took us a fair way inland, through more interesting rolling hills, and much more obviously cattle country. Not a lot of anything else along the way. We stopped at a clearing around midday to eat our sandwiches. I was interested to note that early in this diversion, the narrow gauge cane rail lines were being repaired with good ballast and concrete sleepers.

Tea and coke at Maryborough around 2 p.m., mainly to celebrate rejoining the main road at the Bruce Highway.

We stayed at the Ambassador motel at Rockhampton, our usual stopping place on the outskirts of the spread out town, mostly because it is convenient to the Sizzler restaurant.

Shopping centre walk, without much luck locating stores that sold anything we wanted. This is good, a finger in the eye of commerce.

To Sizzler where we had a works burger and a chicken burger, as these were the same price as the salad bar alone. They have some weird pricing policies. I contemplated a movie afterwards, but felt too tired.

The 24 hour service station on the walk back to the motel had milk and orange juice to go with our breakfast. That was good, considering the gigantic shopping centre had rolled up and closed around 5 p.m.

The phone connection at the motel was noisy, and after two attempts I gave up on trying to collect email that way. Jean wasn't willing to leave her email, and connected via her cell phone. I certainly won't pay top dollar for cell phone data calls except in emergencies.

Tuesday 15 July 2003

Electric jug provided in the motel room wouldn't fit under tap in the bathroom basin. Giant jugs and low taps do not mix. Jean had to fill it using tea cups, before she could have her tea. At least we had all the rest of our breakfast ready, with the milk and orange juice already in the room fridge.

Despite collecting it at 6:30 a.m., I got the very last copy of The Australian newspaper from the nearby 24 hour garage.

I was trying out a silk shirt, a test for our next trip, since they are compact and lightweight. I just wasn't sure of the comfort levels of silk with hot days and cold nights. I'd bought them ages ago, cheap, and basically packed them away without using them. The luggage space they take is great, however they feel a lot warmer than cotton, so I think they are for cool weather trips only.

We refueled Jean's car before leaving Rockhampton, but didn't get away before 8:30. We had covered a mere 543 km, which shows how slow we drive.

This time instead of travelling down the coast along the Bruce Highway, we turned inland through the twisted hill road to former mining town Mount Morgan. They were attempting to reinvent themselves as a tourist spot, and have a wonderful old train station with rides on weekends. We have reported on this interesting spot on previous trips.

We continued through Biloela, which is where we originally bought the motorhome we sold off in late 2002. Here we discovered a nice little mall just near where we parked, and were able to get kebabs for lunch.

One seeming characteristic of country towns in Queensland was each seemed to have a shop specialising in selling cloth, wool and sewing supplies. It seems the make your own clothes tradition continues here. I found that interesting, because my mother had been a seamstress in her early days, and so as a child I was used to seeing a sewing machine in constant use, and for clothes to be adjusted to fit, or salvaged.

About 12 km before Monto we turned off on the road through the tiny settlement of Moonford, to Cania Gorge National Park, about 540 km north west of Brisbane. There is a Cania Gorge tourist park near this turnoff, about 25km from the gorge.

Cania Gorge is similar to Carnarvon Gorge, in terms of the prominent 70 metre sandstone cliff walls, topped by open woodland, and caves seen from the road. Vegetation is eucalypt forest and dry rainforest, with ferns and mosses in the sheltered and moist side gullies. Lake Cania has fine lookout above a recreation and picnic area near the dam wall. The lake is stocked with bass, silver perch and saratoga.

Walked to Dripping Rock to view the ferns and mosses (although viewed from the boardwalk it was too dry to be dripping much), and then along an undulating track under the cliff edge and past caves with yellow and red ochre to the Overhang, besides a mostly still creek bed. That was about a 3.2km walk, with lots of ups and downs, and a good view of Piccabeen palms and tree ferns.

Since it was only 3 p.m. when we returned to Monto, we pushed on through tiny Eidsvold to Mundubbera. There we found the first motel was full of reps, and too expensive for our taste even if there had been a room available. Indications were the second (and last) motel was full also, so instead we checked one of the caravan parks that had on site cabins.

This Big Mandarin (yes, the office was a big mandarin) caravan park had seven astonishing motel units, converted from what was previously a local primary school. We had an entire classroom as a living and kitchen area, with a decent sized bedroom and a bathroom off it. The painting job was astonishingly good (we are not used to professional painters doing a professional job). The colour scheme really shouldn't have worked, but with the exceedingly high original ceilings, and featured picture rails, it looked very good. About the only thing lacking was a phone. Jean could get a CDMA connection, but my GSM didn't.

We went walking towards the main street, failed to find it in the gathering dark, and returned for the car, so we could get lost quicker. Luckily the business street was merely a little further away than we thought when walking.

The second of the two almost adjacent Mundubbera pubs we looked at was relatively quiet. They had a blackboard with the usual range of pub food. Jean asked for fish. Fish was off. Beef was available. No surprise, as every paddock we had passed that had any animal had beef cattle. We had a T bone each, with vegetables, which as usual consisted of pumpkin, potatoes and peas. Jean can't eat peas, and we always forget to ask in country pubs, and peas are always what they serve. Good food, and lots of it, and the beers hit the spot, all for $30. Country pub meals are no longer the bargain they once were, but still not bad.

Talk in the pub, between listening to the Country Music channel on the satellite, revolved around what TV show most influenced them as kids. The Dukes of Hazzard got the nod. Enough said. We sat in our spot and were silent. After that, the inhabitants played darts, with side bets. We noted that any cigarette and anti-smoking laws passed by state parliament didn't seem to have reached this area as yet.

Wednesday 16 July 2003

We stopped less than an hour further down the road at Gayndah, for fuel and a newspaper, and then couldn't resist an apple slice. Stopped again a few hours later for salad rolls for lunch. The areas we passed through were mostly low rolling hills or flat areas, with citrus trees in abundance.

Bunya Mountain national park is about 150 km from the coast in an isolated section of the great dividing range. We entered by passing beside Mt Kiangarow, the tallest of the two major hills here, at 1135 metres.

The abrupt rise from the surrounding pastoral country must have partly protected it from timbercutters and grazing interests until it became the second national park in Queensland in 1908, with 9303 hectares gazetted. The sawmills started in the area in the 1860's, and the last one closed in 1945. It is named for the bunya pine, which is seen at higher elevations along the tall moist rainforest. In dryer lower altitudes, the hoop pine replaces bunya. Aborigines are reported to have gathered here for ceremonies every three years, coinciding with the availability of the bunya pine cones. We didn't see the red necked wallabies, but king parrots and crimson rosellas are common, especially near picnic areas.

The first picnic and camping area we found, at Burton's Well, had a Donkey engine for hot water, and a copious supply of chipped wood. We were amused to note the bring your own bucket showers, where you heated a bucket of water, diluted with cold to taste, and then poured it into the overhead shower heads. There was a kid of about ten looking dubiously at the shower, so I explained how they worked. He said he didn't think it was worth the trouble.

Dark woods to drive through, trees arching overhead and blocking the sun, so you flashed through alternate darkness and sunbeams, as you plunged down steep inclines, and then climbed equally sharply to another ridge. I was surprised at how lush it appeared, almost rain forest, given the average rainfall is little over a metre, and the temperatures can go down to freezing on a winter night.

Although the park is relatively small, there are a number of walking tracks, ranging from a short stroll to 10km.

We exited the park close to the more populated Dandabah camping area where there are more facilities, near a mountain pass, Mt Mowbullan 1101 metres, which is high for this part of Australia. This was followed by a steep descent, where again I had to put the car into a lower gear to reduce dependency on the brakes.

I have a note we bought SE Qld map, but I can't think where that could have been. Certainly by then it was of considerable use, since I was usually lost.

We stayed the night 55 km past the park at Dalby, a town of perhaps 10,000, with a compact business centre and a fair range of motels nearby. It took little time to walk to a greengrocer nearby and collect fruit and milk for breakfast. Getting wine was a two block walk, and the cashier wasn't ringing the correct price according to the shelf price, but I was too tired to argue over a dollar. We collected a cooked chicken and washed a bunch down with the wine. This time we had a good phone connection in the Dalby motel, and collected our email easily.

Thursday 17 July 2003

A relatively short drive in the cold, along a busy major road with many repair crews slowing traffic. We passed through Toowoomba, a rather decent sized city of perhaps 100,000. Soon after we had another major descent down a steep road, surprisingly steep for a major road. We refueled at the bottom, in case prices were higher and garages harder to locate further in.

It turned out that Ipswich, our destination, was further than we expected, and thus closer to Brisbane than we had imagined. Just shows we should check maps more often. On the other hand, Jean hides every map I ever get.

Jean had a meeting with an editor at Ipswich. After two wrong turns (we were each at fault for one) we finally got the road to coincide with the map, and located the house. We were kindly provided with a fine salad lunch before their discussion. I was able to bring these notes more up to date as a result of being able to sit ignored in a corner for a period.

We also visited another of Jean's internet acquaintances, this one a Linux enthusiast working as a taxi driver. Very fannish character.

Jean had been unable to get a booking real near the conference venue, so we stayed instead at Navarre Holiday Lodge 29 Elizabeth Street, Towong.

Jean headed for the first part of the editor's conference in the late afternoon, while I took a walk around the nearby area. It is usually part of my job to find food for Jean locally.

Fish and chips for a late dinner, after Jean returns from her conference exhausted and hungry. As with many lodging places, we couldn't connect to the internet via modem due to line noise.

Friday 18 July 2003

Jean took her car and was at her conference all day. I wasted some time phoning Toshiba dealers about a laptop keyboard. If you want to buy one, you have to be a Toshiba repairer. This for a keyboard that can be removed or replaced in about 20 seconds without tools. Toshiba go on my shit list.

Take long walks, and collect some breakfast foods at Towong shopping centre. Not impressed by range of stores at this shopping complex, but they did have a Sizzler. I remain impressed by Jean's ability to plant us within (long) walking distance of a Sizzler.

Walk with Jean to Towong, seeking dinner. Sizzler has too long a waiting line. For us, any line at a restaurant is too long. Pizza at Towong instead. What a boring day!

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Saturday 19 July 2003

Packed car, which wasn't easy, and Jean left in the car for her conference around 9:30. I walked to Towong and took the train to Brisbane city to do shopping, but except for one computer shop and bookshops, sighted little of interest.

At the Myer centre I gave up, and went and saw Terminator Three. Arnie does a wonderful robot (take this however you like).

Late afternoon I walked out of the city and meet Jean at our new address, a self contained apartment called Dahrl Court 45 Phillips Street, Spring Hill

Off to the city Sizzler for dinner - at least we got in some walking for the day.

Sunday 20 July

Jean went to her conference, as usual. I did the laundry, which I guess is essential, but boring. Thank heavens for fractional horsepower electric motors, and automatic controls!

Jean was back early, so we walked to the midday markets at Eagle Street. We must have been hungry. My notes mention Sweet Dreams cheesecake, plus getting very fancy sandwiches for next few meals from a slightly overstocked shop that was closing as the markets ended. We closely inspected hats, much needed in our sunny area. We probably both sat around hunched over our computers most evenings.

Monday 21 July 2003

Went on the City Cat, after a bit of a wait, on a ticket valid from 10 a.m. Basically we took the Cat as far down the river as it went, and then went as far up the river as we could. A pleasant way to view the city from the river. More sandwiches collected at the market on way back, as we had been pretty impressed by that shop.

Another wander through Brisbane, mostly for the walk, but book shopping at several cheap book places. Our destination was a Pancake parlor for Jean's evening meeting. I was impressed. Near a giant bookshop, one that was mostly hidden behind an old facade. The pancake place had once been a old fashioned church building, and looked really great.

Tuesday 22 July 2003

Near where we were staying was the fine collection of hiking and camping store we had noted on a previous trip. Jean's shopped hard for a suitable paid of hiking shoes at Silk Road, and finally found a pair that fitted well.

We went over to Pulp Fiction, our last chance for science fiction books. Lunch with Ron, the owner, as prearranged. We had known Ron since his day in Sydney mumble, mumble years ago. Ron seemed to know (and be known) at good places to sit, eat and chat.

At Distinctive Accessories Shop, just near PulpFiction in Anzac Square Arcade, I was able to collect a decent hat for our next trip.

We were to meet Erika, but put it off, because we didn't think it reasonable to fall asleep while talking. Read some email, but was too tired to respond. Jean was already asleep at 7:30

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Wednesday 23 July 2003

More laundry. Why does my portion of the trip notes have notes of more laundry, while Jean has news of innovations in technical editing?

Jean had an interview with Virgin Blue, who had training some writers in mind, and that occupied her much of the morning. I went off to the hiking stores and eventually found a suitable bumbag at K2 for a planned future trip.

We drive off to Logan, where a number of shopping areas cluster together. To Ikea (this is once again a story of shopping at Ikea), where finally we get our missing shelves, and they were cheaper than expected. Remember we already had a set of them in Sydney, thanks to the efforts of Susan Batho. I commented on it at the time.

We met Erika at Sizzlers at Logan. Given her description of her heroic bicycle ride to the shopping area, we subsequently thought perhaps we should have checked distances more carefully. It seemed like it would have been the nearest shopping area. It was great to have a chat with her again. We got lots of first hand descriptions of her adventures in the state emergency services, and other activities those in ANZAPA had to wait to appear in her apazine.

Collected email that evening.

When packing up my computer I had time to note yet again that although it is a "portable", it certainly isn't convenient. Messy lead to a small power converter, and a power lead from that to a wall socket, making three more items to tidy up and carry. Another lead to the phone socket, plus an adaptor for all the times a different connector is required, plus a lead extender for when the phone is across the room from anyplace a computer can sit. A mouse, with its cable, although that is mostly because I can't stand those ghastly little mouse pointers built into keyboards, nor the even more annoying touch pads.

An extra bag because the CD and the floppy drive are external, and although I leave the floppy drive at home, I often find I need to read a CD. The CD isn't in the computer, because when I'm travelling, I have the spare battery in use. My experience of computers is they don't so much run on batteries, as hold their breath between power points.

Even the names for these devices are totally misleading.

"Notebook" for example. A notebook is something you open and can jot something down in instantly. A computer is something which may or may not wake reliably from suspend in anything from 15 seconds to a minute, or if you are unlucky decides that you need to boot it instead. And then you have to open your document again. By the time you are ready to use it, you have forgotten why you tried to start it.

"Laptop" is an even worse name. I am aware models in the advertising sit with one of these things on their lap, but have you ever tried it for real? If you cross your legs, the thing teeters from side to side as you type. If you sit with legs together, the screen hangs out past your knees, inviting the first person to walk past you to knock it to the floor. If you still manage to use it in that posture, within ten minutes it heats up so much that you will suffer burns, as happened to one unlucky (and apparently insensitive) victim.

Then there is the rest of the paraphernalia of modern connectivity. You will end up with a fleet of plug packs, all of them incompatible with each other. One for your cell phone. One for your camera batteries. One for your computer. Possibly one for your PDA. Bah, humbug!

Don't get me started on the merits of DSL and broadband at home. They are not portable. As soon as you travel, you end up needing an ISP account that will work over the phone line. At which point all your settings are wrong. Bah, humbug!

Thursday 24 July 2003

Pack to leave early, and were going the opposite way to most Brisbane traffic, which was handy. Jean always seems to know which expressways to take. Sandwich at a Matilda fuel station, not a thrilling experience. I think five years ago I must have encountered a Matilda with decent food at a time I was hungry. The experience has never been repeated, but I get fooled every time. We made up for that with an apple slice at Gin Gin. We basically drove without stopping.

At some point, many, many kilometres from Brisbane, Jean suddenly screams We got the wrong size shelves at Ikea!. Yep. It is suddenly totally clear to me also that the reason they were cheaper was they were 30cm deep instead of the 50cm we actually needed.

We got to Rockhampton late afternoon, refueled, and booked into the Ambassador motel again. Sizzler meal, too late to check shopping centre

Friday 25 July 2003

We left early, straight up Bruce Highway, on the long, boring drive to Mackay.

A quick stop at Harvey Norman, where Jean got a serial port modem for the desktop computer, reduced in price, to replace the PCMCIA card modem that won't work with BigPond (but continues to work fine in the USA).

Continued, stopped at Bloomsbury for fuel and food, and reached Airlie around 3 p.m. Here we stopped for shopping at Ono's Liquor Store (which may say something about the drive), at Bilo (which says something about our cupboards and fridge), at the Post Office (which says something about our priorities), so we didn't have to drive again. Took me about 9 trips up the stairs to empty the car boot. Later in the year it will take me 9 trips down the stairs with things to throw out, to compensate for the space taken by whatever we brought back with us.

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Air Travel Security and Other Fees

I hate the way these fees of 10%-20% are hidden on the ticket. Mind you, I hate it even more when you suddenly get asked to pay a Departure Tax, like the unexpected NZ$25 to depart Auckland, New Zealand. Sydney Airport Corporation charge international passengers A$22.63 (including GST), of which A$5.80 is for security. Domestic security is A$4.17 in Terminal 2. There is also a charge for the armed counter terrorism first response group at Sydney. Airline terrorism insurance levies range from $2.50 to $6.50. Australian departure tax is A$37. There are also noise levies of around A$3.75.

Anything But Green

I've previously mentioned the Green's leader Bob Brown managing to change from being in favour of invading Iraq and getting rid of Saddam (1991), to being totally against invading Iraq and getting rid of Saddam (2003). It struck me as being more than a little political and opportunistic, and indeed just like all the other political parties.

It isn't the only backflip. The Greens wanted to stabilise the Australian population and reduce immigration (1995), but now they say immigration, especially of refugees, is good (2003). They no longer seem to understand that if you want good environmental outcomes, you need a low population density. Any time they have a moral dilemma, they claim good intentions will overcome the problem. We already know that in a fragile ecology, like Australia, human activity has a serious degrading influence on the environment.

The Green party no longer has much to do with environmental concerns, merely opportunistic leaping on trendy left wing intellectual morality. That got them from 2% of the vote (1996) to 5% (2001) and perhaps 8% now, however it is unlikely to take them much further. As an environmental group, the party has no clothes, and no principles either.

I was interested in Brown's impolite outburst in Parliament during the Bush speech. Here I thought Harradine was more reasonable, in declining to attend. However Brown did have a good point about whether a joint sitting of parliament was a reasonable thing to do to listen to a political speech from another leader. I don't know of any justification for such joint sittings, in which case, why was it not held in another venue?

Buy Influence

No secret that political parties raise funds from business. No secret that business pay political parties to take into account business desires. Likewise, unions donate heavily to the Labor Party. The Australian Labor party has been pretty good at fund raising. Nationally in the 2001-2002 year, A$25M, NSW A$14M, Victoria A$7M, Queensland A$5.8M, SA A$3.7M, WA A$2M, Tasmania A$0.8M. Long serving NSW Labor premier Bob Carr set a record in NSW, asking $100,000 for a private boardroom lunch and pre-Christmas drinks.

These NSW ALP Business Dialogues and Victorian Progressive Business fundraisers give those who donate direct access to ministers and party officials who may be in a position to exercise discretionary power in decisions of interest to those donating. While money donations must be declared, there are multiple instances of the donation of expensive raffle prizes and to private foundations where funds have not been declared. In my opinion, such large donations and the favours that tend to go with them should not be permitted for any party. It strikes me as one step away from the habitual bribery and corruption of many third world countries.

Capsian Sea Oil

The region is estimated to hold a fifth of the known reserves, 270 billion barrels of oil, plus 665 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, about 12% of known reserves. That is second only to the Persian Gulf. From 1998 to 2000, the USA gave US$1.06 billion in aid to 8 states in the area. After the 11 Sept attack the USA set up bases in Uzbekistan, and supported extending control in 2002 in a rigged referendum by tripling US aid to US$160 million a few days later. The USA managed to get bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for its invasion of Afghanistan.

Do I need to mention all of these countries are authoritarian, and have repressed Muslim populations? Does this matter? It certainly didn't in Saudi Arabia, and now the same errors are being made all over again. Everyone knows it is all about oil.

Catholic Priests as Sex Offenders

I note yet another Catholic priest (McArdle) convicted and jailed in Queensland for over sixty sexual offences against children in his care. Just when are we going to recognise strong religious belief in some people as a delusional mental state often wrapped up with repressed sexual urges? Also, when will the cover-ups and transfers of offenders out of the area by the Church hierarchy end?

Container Deposit Legislation

Federal and state governments are negotiating a 10 cent deposit scheme on glass, plastic, aluminium and cardboard drink containers to help reduce dumping. At present, only SA still has such a scheme. Large retailers are expected to oppose the idea, as are Victoria and NT. Clean Up Australia are naturally in favour, as am I. I recall this being common when I was growing up. It provided a source of pocket money for a lot of children back in those days.

Defence Spending

Since we have no enemies, defence spending has fallen from 2.6% of GPD in the early 1980's to the current 1.9%, a mere 35% real term increase. If our growth continues, and expenditure isn't increased, in five years it will be 1.7% of GDP. Britain seems to need 2.5%, and the USA 3.1%.

Diabetes and Exercise

Type 2 diabetics are unable to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels. Their muscles tend to be underdeveloped, and blood flows in pathways that are not in proper contact with the muscle tissue that uses the glucose. In many people, diabetes can be controlled by diet and exercise. This has been known for a long time, however now new ultrasound techniques measure the blood flow through muscles (previously you found things were wrong in the muscles at the autopsy). Expect the half million type 2 diabetics in Australia to double if a screening process can be developed from these diagnostic techniques.

The bad side of a handy diagnostic like this is that doctors will have cause to be even more insufferable in demanding that you actually exercise. They will also have good evidence when you don't do so!

Drug Wars

No way this will be won, as long as world trade in it exceeds US$400 billion. Even the USA can only afford to spend about US$35 billion a year combating drug use. About 8% of world trade is illegal! Think of the possibilities for bribes and protection money from that.

Drug tests at work are getting into the news. Pilots haven't been able to drink within about a half day of a flight for ages, however Qantas are now fighting unions about extending drug tests to the entire staff. Coal miners have been subject to tests for ages. WMC Resources have done thousands of random drug and alcohol tests in 2002. In an interesting twist, the tests were right through the company, not just on people running mining and other heavy machinery. This was seen as a way of reducing blue collar union objections. The executives get tested as well. Given the influence of poor executive decisions on the bottom line of a company, this seems more than reasonable. On the other hand, they only got one positive from their Perth office, compared to 117 at Olympic Dam in S.A. I've flown in to the (deserted) airport at Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs), and as far as I can tell the only thing you can do there is drink.

The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission reports that 39% of all workplace deaths are associated with alcohol consumed at work during normal duties or at work sponsored functions. The executive liquid lunch is a long established tradition in some industries. Maybe that should be looked at before resorting to tests?

A household survey in 2001 indicated only 4.3% had gone to work while influenced by alcohol in the 12 months (but would they remember, or had they stayed home sick), and only 2.3% when under the influence of other drugs.

If these figures are right, drug testing at work is a pretty inefficient use of resources. This also assumes that the test procedures are accurate, which is open to considerable question. If the aim is really related to performance, rather than some moral crusade, then you should be testing for performance, not assuming that drug use equals poor performance. Poor industrial design can have major effects on productivity, as can swing shifts, fatigue and stress. If you want to test for alcohol and other drugs, how about testing for fatigue when the shift starts vs when it ends? How about testing for industrial byproducts at start of shift vs end of shift?

Gas Bags (of money)

Tasmania planned to have 100,000 homes using natural gas, subsidised by the Tasmanian state government to the tune of A$42 million (A$55 million if they didn't get Federal tax exemptions). New Zealand energy company Powerco must be celebrating. That is something along the line of a $500 subsidy. Unfortunately, the real numbers are a mere 38,500 houses by 2007, which sounds well over A$1000 subsidy per house. What a gas!

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Health Tithe

Medical spending in Australia reached A$66.6 billion, 9.3% of the GDP, after increasing at 6%, well ahead of inflation at 2.5%. Some of this is demographics. A high proportion of older people increases medical intervention. Pharmaceuticals increased by 9.2% over inflation during the last decade. Public hospital funding came 47.9% from Federal and 46.2% from State governments. Government paid for 67.8% of healthcare over the decade, low compared to say Sweden at 86.5%. The USA spends 13.9% of its GDP on healthcare, of which 44.1% was from government.

We keep hearing about how the elderly are driving up medical bills (not strictly accurate - more extensive treatments are driving up bills). If so, then on an actuarial basis, you would want to put up medical insurance premiums for high risk groups, like the elderly. If asset rich and income poor, maybe we should have an option of taking the costs of treatment from the estate instead of via increased charges.

Labor Policy

Federal Labor policy is merely to remain a small target, or so it seems to me. It isn't what you can do, but who will be offended, and how much of a target that would make Labor when the Coalition savage them.

We have heard Simon Crean say taxes should be lower, when attacking Coalition taxes. He has not said precisely what expenditure or concessions he will give up to make taxes lower. Not that this continued harping on taxes would be of the same magnitude were either side of politics willing to index taxation scales, like they should have decades ago. Neither side will even mention that taxes should be indexed, and bracket creep eliminated. The average wage earner in 1954 paid 17.5% tax on extra earnings. They had to reach 19 times average earnings to pay the top income tax rate. In 2000, you paid a staggering 43% tax on additional earnings, if you were at a mere 1.2 times average earnings. No wonder tax avoidance and minimisation occupies so much energy. It gives the best possible return on your efforts.

However Simon Crean said Labor had to be bold. Bold moves usually require even more taxes, not less.

Some Labor MPs, like Mark Latham and Lindsay Tanner, have put forward bold ideas. So has the iconoclastic Brian Toohey. It is likely that many wouldn't work, but it would be good to see a bit of debate at least.

Mark Latham suggested a first share ownership support scheme for low income earners. Personally I think that is dumb. Shares are volatile, and without massive restrictions, it is likely shares would be sold at the first downturn or first time the home budget got tight. It may have more merit than a straight cash handout, but I think it is just the equivalent of the existing first homeowner grant, except aimed at a more volatile asset class. Although, speaking of the first homeowner grant, isn't it about time that was also asset tested? When million dollar houses are being bought, you have to figure this isn't targeting the poor.

Instead of making it just a first home grant, maybe make it a worthy cause loan, including for a first home. You can already get HECS loans to get a university education (which statistically increases your lifetime income). Maybe that should be extended to trade and similar qualifications. Or to form a small business (mind you, four out of five small businesses fail, so maybe first you get a course to help improve your chances). If it is a loan, rather than a grant, it would eventually be mostly self funding.

However that doesn't mean that you couldn't do something more via the superannuation system. We all know that we need to move to an actuarially sound retirement scheme. Anything that moves us even closer to that should be considered. Present compulsory superannuation schemes will eventually help a lot for those in permanent full time work, however the underemployed are really missing out. That is the sort of thing Labor have traditionally been good at.

I've long wanted Telstra split into two sections, one a straight commercial organisation with the Mobile network, and a phone service, but not owning the last mile copper. The government owned part of Telstra owns the existing in-ground copper network. This teleco would be required to provide infrastructure, and sell access to all technically qualified users. If you want to support uneconomic infrastructure, say in country areas, make explicit grants for that purpose. As things stand, once Telstra becomes private, they will drop all uneconomic services, or raise fees until they become economic. I think Labor could do something with that sort of structure.

I'd like to see strict labelling laws relating to genetically modified and organic foods. If you can't prove it is unmodified, even if the modification is accidental and not deliberate, then it must be labelled as genetically modified. Let the buyers decide what they want. And if a bunch of companies get sued for polluting standard crops, then this is just fine too. While I personally think there is little risk from genetically modified materials, I can't help recall we were once told that atomic power was absolutely safe (and so cheap you wouldn't have to meter it). Why trust such changes when we are producing enough food already, and when we may be able to get a sales premium on guaranteed unmodified crops? We have the advantage that most of our food producing areas are well away from population centres. In addition, our soils are naturally low in heavy metals and chemical residues. We are in a great position to sell premium organic foods as well.

Drop the private health insurance rebate, and put the tax savings into public hospitals. The rebate is of more benefit to the mid to upper income groups, and many of them will continue to insure regardless of the cost. Medical care is always going to be a scarce resource anyway, since it is skilled labour intensive, and driven by very costly medical advances. You only have two ways to ration it. These are by cost, and by waiting list. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this is precisely what happens in Australia. I think we have generally a pretty good mix. Not as bad on the waiting list side as say the British National Health. Not as bad on the cost side as the unhealth USA system.

Our costs are helped by things like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme monopsony, which forces lower prices for drugs. Drug companies complain about the low prices, however if it were really a problem, they would not try so hard to get their drugs onto the scheme. That pretty much proves it is working. If not on the scheme, your sales are down.

One thing I'd consider is see if you could fund some medical entrepreneurs to specifically target high use, high cost medical items. Stuff like stents, plus a range of generic drugs where there isn't much competition already. The aim would be to reduce the cost of these in Australia, to provide specialist export items, and to make a profit for the government shareholder. We have a pretty good medical research establishment, and I see no reason not to expand this area.

If taxes have to go up, then death duties should be back. They have the advantages that they don't impact on economic growth nor on employment.

Abolish the 30% company tax, replacing it with a straight 30% witholding tax on dividends. That should catch (some) profits from overseas companies also. Dump those thousands of pages of company tax law, and all those loopholes. Put thousands of tax accountants into productive work. Apart from deferred tax on retained earnings, that should be revenue neutral. There might be some fine tuning needed to ensure private companies don't retain earnings to avoid tax.

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Old and Disgraceful

The Australian population is getting older, as natural growth falls well below replacement rates. This means productivity will drop, and living standards will drop. The past decade saw a growth in GDP of 2.4% per year per person, driven by a 2.5% labour productivity increase (we were working smarter and harder). Over the past forty years the 3.75% GDP increase per annum we experienced could be broken down into 2% from population growth, productivity growth of 2%, and participation in the workforce minus 0.25%.

However population rate declines (to under 1%) and aging will drop real GDP growth to 1.5% per annum over the next thirty years. Older people drop out of the labour force, just as Jean and I have done. You don't get a lot of productivity out of someone who has retired. Japan has already encountered this problem. The USA has pushed population growth, and will avoid it for a time.

Higher taxes are one item governments will consider, but that will just drive out investment and high wealth individuals. It is interesting to note that the Coalition government are working on cost containment, and higher GDP growth. Cost containment shows in the pressure towards making your own age pension arrangements through compulsory superannuation. More recently, restructuring of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, together with pleas to use it carefully. On GDP growth, there is pressure for increased workforce participation by older people, labour market reform to increase efficiency and thus productivity, and a push to increased skills.

I can see a continued increase in retirement age from 65, given how much longer we now live and how much healthier we are. The age pension might eventually come in at 70 or so. Of course, if you have the income to retire without needing the age pension, you could do so. Double dipping would have to be prevented.

Overcrowded Homes

I recall when growing hearing tales of children sleeping a half dozen to a bed. It obviously isn't happening recently in Australia, where only three percent of dwellings are officially overcrowded (in need of another bedroom). Here, 75% of all houses have more bedrooms than needed, and 35% have two or three bedrooms more than are needed. A quarter of all houses now have four bedrooms, at a time when the average family size is dropping. In the 1990's, the number of dwellings increased by 21%, while the population increased by 12%.

In Western nations, half of all dwelling units contain either one or two people. It is claimed only 12% of dwelling units have children in them, in contrast to around 60% a century ago. A century ago, only 25% of older people lived alone or just with their spouse, whereas now it is 80%, so they are not attended to by their own children.

Police State

The NSW Criminal Assets Recovery act of the 1980's allows the Crime Commission, a secret police, to seize assets even when a crime hasn't been committed. This happened to Deniliquin farmer Keith Gardiner. His former wife, divorced 17 years previously, grew 56 marijuana plants and was convicted. The Crime Commission froze Gardiner's assets, on the suspicion they were proceeds of serious crime. Just how is someone to prove their innocence, as is required under this sort of legal banditry? Eventually Gardiner won the legal battle, but the Crime Commission still frozen $40,700. Eventually he got back all except $10,000.

There is no parliamentary oversight of this body, no Ombudsman available. You can't even report to the newspapers what happens if you are called before this outfit. Now this bunch of drug busters are expected to handle terrorism. However at least they have the law on their side. Labor's Bob Carr provides the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act which, according to Brian Toohey, specifically states police behaviour may not be challenged, reviewed, quashed or called into question on any grounds whatsoever before any court, tribunal, body or person in any legal proceedings.

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Saudi Oil

It probably hasn't escaped notice that the USA was once a big supporter of Saddam Hussein. You know, that horrible dictator fellow in Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld is on file shaking hands with him and smiling. However the feudal monarchy in Saudi Arabia wasn't much better, and they are still officially friends with the USA. The USA even had 5000 troops there to assist against internal problems. Mind you, having 15 Saudi citizens out of the 19 hijackers on 11 September 2001 sort of sounds more like a Saudi attack on the USA. Funding terrorism all over the place wasn't invisible either. But we have to be nice to the Saudi regime, because they have a quarter of the world's oil.


A$295 million was the direct salary cost of sick days off in the Australia Public Service in 2002. Public servants averaged 8.9 sickies, compared to the private sector average of 6.8 days a year.

Smoking in Films

Teenagers who watch frequent smoking scenes in films are three times more likely to take up smoking, according to a June 2003 study in The Lancet by Dartmouth Medical School. 3500 adolescents who had never smoked had their exposure to smoking in movies examined. In a follow up one to two years later, 10% had started smoking. Of those most exposed to smoking in films, 17% had taken up the habit, whereas in those least exposed only 3% had taken it up.

I've previously pointed out that the prevalence of smoking in movies has increased. Is this just a coincidence? Get real. The Cancer Council of NSW says scenes of smoking in movies have tripled since the 1970's. I'd suggest that if a movie depicts smoking at all, it automatically attract an adult only film classification. I don't trust the drug pushers running the tobacco companies to avoid pushing their shit to children, especially since they have a global history of trying to addict children and uninformed or illiterate adults in the Third World.

After former NSW Premier Nick Greiner left politics, one of the appointments he took up was as chairman of British American Tobacco (Australia). On Tuesday 8 July 2003, the University of Sydney senate decided not to endorse Greiner's appointment as chairman of the advisory board for the Graduate School of Government. Naturally Greiner's political background would make him idea for such a position. This refusal was partly because Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney brought up a 1982 senate resolution regarding accepting named endowment from tobacco companies. Nice to see an ethical decision from a large organisation responsible for young adults, even if tobacco dealing is still a legal activity. Slavery was also once a legal activity, so to me the issue is whether it is ethical to push a highly dangerous addictive drug that has profound health cost effects.

British American Tobacco executives, according to a 1995 internal document, are expected to push the company. Systematic contact should ... be maintained with ... key audiences whose goodwill and co-operation can help companies achieve their business objectives ... Steps should be taken to ensure that non-executive directors are given the opportunity to play a full and appropriate roll in relationships with government and other appropriate audiences. The objective of external relations activity is to ensure that the full support of key audiences is enlisted.

Australia is to sign the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as have about 70 other nations (but not Japan or the USA). As part of that, duty free cigarettes will be banned. Expect lots of complaints by airport duty free stores. In addition, health warning labels will have to cover half of each packet of cigarettes.

On a related topic, as tobacco use declines in countries like Australia which rightly discourage smoking, demand for the crop decreases, and the return of tobacco farmers decline. In north Queensland, there have recently been four failed smuggling attempts to move local tobacco leaf into the illicit Australian market for non-taxed tobacco (chop chop).

Soldier Ask Not

It is all very well to have Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant character want to kill, to eat dead, burnt bodies, but soldiers often run into problems of conscience. This doesn't go well with getting the job done. Training helps, which is why obedience and chain of command gets such a high priority in the military. Make killing a reflex. Dehumanise the other side with horror stories, claimed atrocities and even little things like calling them nasty names.

A cardiac drug, propranolol, is believed to reduce the mental effects of trauma, and is being tested by Roger Pitman at Harvard on car accident victims. Nobel laureate Eric Kandal at Columbia notes a gene that affects a fear inhibiting protein is under investigation. Panics and fears are mediated by the neurons in the amygdala, so drugs that damp down these effects may reduce post traumatic stress disorder (if this is not some sort of social construct).

Drugs may be good for victims of horrors, but perhaps equally good as a way of eliminating human conscience. Who needs the confessional when you can get better healing and better killing through chemistry?

Superannuation at a Loss

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia say that 90% of fund members believe they need A$30,000 plus a year when they retire. This is about three times the age pension. Given most people didn't start investing in superannuation until the last decade or two, when the government started seriously pushing it as an alternative to the age pension, it isn't likely that most people retiring soon will have a decent amount of superannuation income.

Superannuation isn't an asset class. It is a very tax effective way of investing, but you still need to note where the funds get invested. Most superannuation went into a mix that was mostly Australian and overseas shares, in an attempt to get a growth consistently larger than inflation. Great at the start of the 1990's, but a disaster for many towards the end. There are several periods, especially in the USA in the mid 1970's, where investment values after inflation halved. There have been ten year periods where total returns have been negative. Not good if it starts just as you retire.

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Tax Act

7000 pages this year, well up on the 120 pages of the original 1936 income tax assessment act. Those figures come from Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks. Any of the decreasing number of people still capable, through clenched teeth, of doing their own tax return will have noted the notes explaining how to fill in the form now exceed 120 pages. You can tell I just filled in mine. It is easily the most annoying bit of paperwork I handle each year.

If you had a straight witholding tax on dividends and income, like you do on pay as you earn salary, you could probably get away without doing a return unless you wanted to claim something unusual.

Jean noted the simplified Retirement tax pack can't be used if you happen to live where a Zone allowance rebate applies. This is just a straight, fixed amount rebate (unless you don't live there for a full year). When you consider many people retired to Zone allowance areas, this seems a really silly thing for the tax office not to fix.

In other notes, explicit regulatory functions by federal government agencies took 30,000 staff and cost A$4.5 billion. Another 170 acts were added to the 1800 existing commonwealth acts in force.

Video Games Online

Video games finally went online in Australia, with Sony's Playstation2 and Microsoft's Xbox both making deals with Australian ISPs to preconfigure access to online interactive games. Telstra's BigPond, Optus, OzEmail and Primus are all signed up. The games console and software market is claimed to be worth US$27 billion a year, and is also claimed to now be larger than the PC market. ISPs are hoping this will drive up the low cable and DSL takeup rates in Australia.

Nokia are finally launching their Symbian based NGage mobile phone games device. As with the DSL connections, I can't see that taking off in Australia, unless the bandwidth charging regime changes dramatically.

You Can't Win

When average full time hours worked increase, we are told workers are being exploited and that their family and social life will suffer (mind you, average full time hours have decreased). If more people are working part time, then we are told workers can not get a reasonable income from the time they work. If a worker is in a casual job, they have no security. If in a steady job, they have no flexibility in their social life. If a woman works, she is taking the job of a male breadwinner. If a woman earns less than a man, it is because of discrimination.

According to ABS studies, 2 in 3 full time workers are happy with their hours and pay. 15.6% want longer hours for more pay. 8.7% want shorter hours for less pay. In short, twice as many are underworked as overworked, and the vast majority think hours and pay are fine.

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Other Fiction Books

Quake by Albert J Alletzhauser

Bloomsbury, 1997, 383pp, ISBN0747533407

Interesting and detailed novel of the effects of a major earthquake that demolishes Tokeo, causing vast numbers of deaths. Lots of stuff about money and fraud in business and government, corruption and gangland bosses. If a big quake hits, I hope the Japanese have better luck than many of the characters in this novel.

Rare Earth by Michael Asher

Harper Collins, 2002, 403pp, ISBN 0007142501

A rare mineral discovery in North Africa could be worth billions to whoever can get permission from the tribes controlling this remote area. Dan Truman enters a world of betrayal and double crossing as crime syndicates race for the prize. His experiences with the tribe bring him a new perspective on what he might be doing to them, and what his own life has been. Fast paced adventure.

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

Pocket, 2000, 399pp, ISBN 0743428900

Growing up on a struggling Virginia mountain farm after the Depression and through the war years. Struggles again a company promising much for their land. Well told pastoral novel, from well known novelist.

Trance State by John Case

Arrow, 2002, 538pp, ISBN 0099416484

Her sister kills herself, and it turns out the sister's therapist has only two patients, and isn't who he says he is. However he believes in himself, and even passes a lie detector test. Who is he, and why has he lost his past? Then the question becomes who is trying to kill both of them as they run from an unknown controller to a major conspiracy. Manchurian Candidate style mind control.

Broken Wings by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Pocket, March 2001, 366pp, ISBN 067100395X

Prominent criminal profiler writes another novel drawing heavily on his real FBI experience. Lots of plot complications when the FBI director suicides after a blackmail threat. But was it a suicide, and was there blackmail? Interesting read, both for the story and the background detail.

Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn

Pocket, 2003, 549pp, ISBN 0743468252

Terrorists take over the White House at gunpoint, trapping the President in a secure bunker. However how long before they can open it? With the President blocked from communicating, who takes over, and what do they intend.

Rhinoceros by Colin Forbes

Pocket, 2000, 471pp, ISBN 0743415221

Political aides are being killed in various countries. Trent and his allies take a fast paced trip around Europe while being chased by various bad guys. Felt very old fashioned, as do many spy type stories, and I feel I've read it previously. Lots of pace, but not many conclusions.

Hot Springs by Stephen Hunter

Arrow, 2001, 543pp, ISBN 009941497X

In 1946 a decorated ex-marine is recruited by an ambitious county prosecutor to train a crime busting team to take on the gambling mob. The attempt becomes all out war, too hot for the prosecutor as the marine finds it has become a personal fight. Fast paced and bloody, based partly on real events in Hot Springs. Well done novel.

Passage to Mutiny by Alexander Kent

Arrow, 1977, 319pp, ISBN 0099141604

October 1789, New South Wales. Richard Bolito must take his unsupported frigate Tempest against a pirate king who has more experience, more cunning, and bigger guns, in the aftermath of the Bounty mutiny.

The Cassandra Compact by Robert Ludum and Philip Shelby

Harper Collins, 2001, 396pp, ISBN 0007101708

A secret plot to steal smallpox from Russia, and enhance it as the ultimate bioweapon. A small group work against a large corporation in areas from Europe to Florida and beyond. Well enough done action, given all the characters are ciphers.

Medusa's Child by John J Nance

Pan, 1997, 564pp, ISBN 0330354280

The ultimate revenge, as a mad former nuclear scientist tricks his separated wife into taking the mockup Medusa device to the Pentagon. However the Medusa device is a working version, able to destroy all electronic devices for thousand of miles via EMP, and the trigger is a 20 megaton nuclear bomb. Once it reaches the airspace over the Pentagon, the timer is ticking. Only a cargo plane on which it is loaded can get it away in time. Fast paced aviation thriller. The 727 landing at the end of the book is a real classic.

To The Bitter End by Marcus Palliser

Arrow, 2001, 440pp, ISBN 0099281864

Set in 1708 in the cold wastes off Newfoundland. Captain Loftus tries to win the hand of a widow, but is involved in a dangerous attempt to lay claim to northern Canada, while the ice closes in. Fairly typical sea story, with the usual battles.

Contest by Matthew Reilly

Pan, 1996 (2001), 405pp, ISBN 0330362712

Seven involuntary contestants appear in the New York State Library one night. Only one will survive as they stalk each other. Dr Stephen Swain is one of them, and his young daughter Holly has been dragged along. The only way out is as victor, and the only way to win is to kill the others. Six of them are not human. Very fast paced first novel from a young Australian lawyer who became a best seller.

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

Pan, 1999, 611pp, ISBN 0330360892

Shane Schofield in Antarctica, in a battle against external and internal enemies for a secret buried in the ice. Incredibly fast paced, totally unbelievable, and totally forgettable. The only thing I can recall is the pace. Faster than most action movies.

Temple by Matthew Reilly

Pan, 2000, 682pp, ISBN 0330362143

Set around an ancient temple in the jungles of Peru, where a US army team attempt to translate an ancient manuscript, before enemies external and internal take over. Incredibly fast paced, totally unbelievable, and totally forgettable. The only thing I can recall is the pace. Faster than most action movies.

Area 7 by Matthew Reilly

Pan, 2001, 550pp, ISBN 0330363654

A base in Antarctica, where a secret from the past must be protected before enemies external and internal take over. Incredibly fast paced, totally unbelievable, and totally forgettable. The only thing I can recall is the pace. Faster than most action movies. Reilly has his pacing done to perfection. He throws in a bunch of tech terminology, but some of the action scenes depend upon cartoon physics that simply can't be made believable. Mind you, while reading stuff like the hovercraft chase, you may not care.

The Big Killing by Robert Wilson

Harper Collins, 2002, 381pp, ISBN 0006479863

Bruce Medway is stuck on the Ivory Coast, fixing problems for others, not being paid as often as he would like, and rapidly killing himself with alcohol. A little delivery, that pays far too well, gets him involved in more deaths than can be explained. A simple escort job for a diamond trader puts him directly in the line of fire, while the battle for political position across the border gets direct, bloody and raises lots of possibilities for cashing in. One of the most thoroughly nasty novels I've read, but well done.

Blown Away by David Wiltse

Berkley, Sept 1997, 355pp, ISBN 042515971X

A mad bomber is threatening New York, with home made bombs that work very well indeed. FBI agent and his team seek the bomber through a landscape of criminals who have interacted with the bomber. Lots of legwork get them close, but close is not good enough.

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Non Fiction Books

Above and Beyond by Paula Bycroft and Anthony Griffis

Hodder, 1998, 275pp, ISBN 0733608310

Stories by a reporter and a producer of Beyond 2000, telling the behind the scenes stories of some of their science and technology reports (and of some that got away). Some very amusing stories here.

Net Spies by Andrew Gauntlett

Frog/Vision, 1999, 169pp, ISBN 1883319781

Who's watching you on the web? More realistically, who is data mining everything you do? Remember there is no privacy. Your email is sent as postcards (do you PGP encrypt and use stenography?) Your browser stores every site you visit, and they track your every move (do you refuse cookies, turn off referrer logging, and clean out your cache on exit?) Your mobile phone tracks where you are (do you remove the battery between calls?) Do you remove identifying information from your Word documents? Do you remove your ethernet card (and thus its fixed MAC address) before connecting to the internet? Do you overwrite deleted files as a matter of course?

it's not the BIG that eat the SMALL's the FAST that eat the SLOW by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton

Harper, 2000, 262pp, ISBN 006093672X

How to use speed as a competitive tool in business. Secrets and tactics of the fastest business people. Staying close to the customer, anticipating and spotting trends. Case studies of Schwab, Clear Channel, AOL, HandM, Hotmail, Telepizza, Lend Lease.

The Innovation Premium by Ronald S Jonash and Tom Sommerlatte

Perseus Books, 1999, 151pp, ISBN 0738201103

How next generation companies are achieving peak performance and profitability. Speed of action and ideas as a way to profits, with comments on various companies.

Net Slaves by Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin

McGraw Hill, 2000, 246pp, ISBN 0071352430

True tales of working the web, well, information technology in general. Nicely cynical description of the various job classes enslaved within the cogs of the computer revolution. Very funny, and very true.

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The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

Coronet, 2001, 258pp, ISBN 0340770864

Four chapters, by the author of The New New Thing. In six months, 14 year old Jonathan Lebed made money by posting stock market tips about small companies on the internet, and selling his own holdings when the stocks rose. The US SEC charged him with stock fraud, then settled on making him pay back $285,000, thus proving crime doesn't pay. What they didn't mention was that he made $800,000, didn't get charged, and kept most of his profits. Jonathan could clearly see the stock market was just a rigged gambling game, and he treated it that way. He could also clearly see the SEC existed mainly to reassure the public that the game wasn't rigged. His parents couldn't even work out what he was doing.

How a 15 year old became the most highly rated lawyer on, and his audience told real lawyers to stop harassing him, because the audience found his answers more use than the answers from real lawyers.

Justin Frankel got known for writing a free music player called WinAmp, and made millions of dollars on donations before selling Nullsoft to AOL for $70 million. While an AOL employee, he wrote Gnutella, as a response to the RIAA attack on Napster. This demonstration peer to peer program let people share computer files without a central server. Naturally users promptly shared music, books, and programs.

Technology and especially the internet is forcing a drift away from central control towards fringe institutions. You can find a way around most of the controls these days. You can find a way of getting information. Political lies and spin are revealed more quickly. Control of the TV set passes from the network programmers to the consumer with a TiVo or a Replay box, or the open source equivalent. At the same time, information about your viewing preferences flows back to the company that makes the set top box.

Stupid White Men by Michael Moore

Penguin, 2002, 281pp, A$22.95 ISBN 0141011904

Recent version of the polemics of Philip Wylie or Ambrose Bierce, but lacking the savagery or wit. Humourous and cutting rants against much of contemporary American politics and business. Since so few do this at all, I'd have to give it the thumbs up.

The Customer Revolution by Patricia Seybold

Random House, 2001, 395pp, ISBN 0712669841

Customers never out of touch, partly an opportunity to target specific audiences. Equally, customers have detailed pricing information, and increasingly can buy anywhere on the planet, and specify precisely what goods they need. Businesses will have to shift product design faster and faster, or lose out to those who can. Customer relationships and good experiences matter, as increasingly customers do go elsewhere. Measuring and monitoring customer value and experience. Lots of case examples from various companies, especially those online.

Information Rules by Carl Shapiro and Hal R Varian

Harvard Business School Press, 1999, 349pp, ISBN 087584863X

The place of internet economics, and how speed of information transfer can substitute for some other factors of production and distribution. Points out that economic principles do not disappear in the internet age, whatever the changes of technology. Covers pricing strategies, intellectual property, strategic implications of lock-in and switching costs, compatibility and standardisation, impact of government policies. Points out that information is costly to produce, but cheap to reproduce, that is, it has a very low marginal cost. Thus pricing needs to be related to consumer value, not production cost, which then leads to differential pricing across consumers (student versions, lower cost for old versions or old information, hardcover vs paperback style pricing).

Designs on Space by Richard Wagner

Simon and Schuster, 2000, 138pp, ISBN 068485676X

Blueprints (well, actually conceptual sketches by Howard Cook) for 21st century space exploration. Covers low orbit stations, various X prize rocket designs, Mars explorers, asteroid encounters, other planetary destinations, plus a brief final look at solar sails, solar power, space tethers and finally interstellar travel. Good gift for a younger audience I'd imagine.

I, Cyborg by Kevin Warwick

Century, 2002, 212pp, ISBN 071262526

Kevin Warwick is a British professor of cybernetics with lots of energy and a talent for publicity. He made news by having an RFID tag embedded under his skin in 1998. Realistically this is no big deal. Lots of people have implants, and RFID tags probably work even better if not buried in the body. However being your own identifying device does allow a lot of computer mediated interaction with any sort of sensor equipped smart environment. In 2002, he had an array of electrodes implanted aimed at connecting to a major nerve to his left hand. Results seem to show we don't know near enough about reliable connections to the nervous system, however some of the electrodes did pick up nerve impulses well enough to allow interfacing to external devices. Driving a wheelchair was probably the experiment of most use to the medical profession. Certainly you could do a certain amount of controlling of the external environment, given appropriate wiring being built into the outside world.

Dish by Jeanette Walls

Perennial, 2001, 376pp, ISBN 038081045X

Subtitled How Gossip became the News and the News Became Just Another Show. This goes through the history of the US press moving to personal gossip, mostly about show business personalities, in response to what consumers can be persuaded to accept (or refuse to give up). Covers the decline of the gossip columnist like Walter Winchell, after the founding of magazines like Confidential, and through to People. Then covers tabloid newspapers like Gene Pope's New York Enquirer, which eventually became the National Enquirer. Next comes checkbook journalism via the TV shows like 60 Minutes, and its various rivals such as Murdoch's A Current Affair, named and based on the Australia version. Gives a lot of examples of how film celebrities and the like became the news, with details of the coverage of Donald Trump, Elvis, Diane, as well as movie stars. Tells how Hollywood publicists eventually captured the whole publicity machine, by allowing or denying access to their client lists, and blackballing publications and reporters that transgressed. Mentions the rise of internet citizen reporters, such as Matt Drudge.

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Alan Sandercock

Tue, 07 Oct 2003

Your account of your wandering around the Sydney area were somewhat interesting to me. For the first time since 1986, I spend more than a few hours in Sydney last year, when Maria (my then 17 year old daughter) and my wife Jane actually got to spend about a week in and around the city. I was surprised at the whole Darling Harbour enterprise - I said that it had been a while since I'd spent much time there - but was also pleased to see other things much the same as they have always been over the decades. Manly still manages to provide, what at least for the spectator looks like, reliable surfing conditions.

After being in the city for a week we rented a car and drove up the coast as far as the Byron Bay area before heading inland for a few Km to visit Joy Window and her partner Andrew. I've kept in touch with Joy now for some 30 years, and it's pleasing to be able to even more easily communicate with email. I only wish that I hadn't just contacted the New Zealand branch of my family days before our trip to Australia. I haven't seen my 80 plus year old Uncle in over 25 years and certainly his children (now in their 40's) were still pre-teens when I saw _them_ last time. Of course we didn't have the resources for a last minute diversion to Wellington. I guess we'll just have to make that a future destination.

I recently bought a Canon Powershot 45 camera, but of course the US price was somewhat different than those you are quoting, as you certainly will know. I'm more of a photo enthusiast and have some 27 years of slides and so I do want to do things with digital photography that are more serious. Of course Moore's Law is acting with a vengeance in this area with the new Digital Canon Rebel at $1,000 equaling the capabilities of a camera that cost $30,000 just 4 years ago - at least that's what I recently read. I think I'll wait another couple of years before jumping up to Digital SLR from the 4 Megapixel Powershot which, to be quite honest, is really as much memory capacity as I need for producing the occasion 8 x 10 print. I do like to crop in software, so the extra resolution helps out there.

For your information I was able to comfortably read your latest issue using Mozilla 1.3 running on Mandrake 9.1 Linux. I won't go into the possibly boring computer details except to say that I'm presently using Evolution 1.4 as my email client. I know this probably is not what I should be using if I want to be a bonified linux hacker, but I guess I'm just attracted at the moment to it's look and feel.

Anyway thanks for the email, and keep sending email in my direction even if I can't always promise to be this quick in replying. I'm trying to do better in this regard, and of course I have to have improved since I've never (in recent memory) sent you a LOC. By the way remember me to Jean. I don't think we've ever met, but I once talked to her on the phone when a friend (technical editor) called her from Atlanta.

Gordon Lingard

Wed, 08 Oct 2003

Thanks for the Geg link. I do read them when I get the chance. Nice to know what you folks are up to these days. Lots of things happening to me these days. Firstly, I'm now living in Woolongong (Figtree to be specific) with my partner Sim - (yes, I'm living in sin again - I'm all for it). Was a big move but worth it to be out of the city a bit. Still commuting to work but it's not as bad as it sounds. Secondly, I'm starting a PhD after I vowed 'never again' after doing my Masters. Actually, with all the stuff I've been doing on plagiarism detection it turns out I've done half the work anyway. It was the only reason I decided in doing it. So hopefully in about 2 years time I'll be Dr Lingard. Makes me laugh thinking about it.

Gregory Benford

Wed, 8 Oct 2003

I'm always interested in your travels. Do you recommend the long train ride from Adelaide to Perth?

{{That is a long way by train. Anyone done it of late who wants to comment? EL

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Hugh Gregory

7 Oct 2003

Anne and I are planning another down under venture at this time (already got our air tickets) and where we will end up on the reef is dependent on the local water temperature. We found the water off Fitzroy Island back in 2001 in October to be just great for extended our daily two hour plus extended "drift with the tide" style of snorkleing. But it hasn't got much reef so we are looking around a bit.

Must dash, lots of news to tell (like our visit to the Xi-Chang spacecentre in China last April) but unfortunately have to get ready for work in the morning.

Gary Peter Dalrymple

9 Oct 2003

Thanks for the notification. I have not read Geg 97 all the way through, but I notice that a lot of your reviewed reading is Fiction by Best Selling Authors who seem to be borrowing standard SF items to furnish their plot and storyline. This is I suppose another side of the Atwood debate less frequently visited, mundane trespass and occupation rather than genre denial?

Given Supreme Executive Power in this matter I would declare a National (International) Day of Retribution. SF fandom would rise as one at dawn to storm the shops of the chain store booksellers to take the books by Best Selling writers that have borrowed from SF and place them in the SF section where they belong, drag the Best Selling SF books from the SFandF ghetto at the back of the shop and place them in the front of the shop Best Seller shelves and then settle in for a day of sorting the SFandF shelves into Science Fiction and Fantasy shelves.

Well, on a day when California elects the Terminator as Governor, one can dream of unlikely things?

Hope Leibowitz

08 Oct 2003

Thanks, but going to Ditto in Eugene on Friday and already up late tonight working. No time to read before Ditto. But thanks for thinking of me!

Wish you were going to Ditto - it is going to be another very small one!

Justin Ackroyd

Thanks for the latest Gegenschein. I'm about to post my GUFF vote to you. The amount enclosed will include money raised by me at auctions (Swancon and Continuum) from material I donated, money raised by selling books I received for consideration for the World Fantasy Awards (I was a judge this year), and/or as my voting fee. I'm off to WFC and Novacon on Oct 27th. I'll encourage both candidates to do Swancon AND Conflux since they're two weeks apart...

{{Thanks for your continued support for GUFF. You must have done somnething right about encouraging the candidates, because Pat McMurray says he will attend both cons. EL}}

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Pamela Boel

13 Oct 2003

As ever I'm delighted to hear from you. You may well have heard that the UK has enjoyed an exceptionaly dry and warm year. Bad from the garden but great for boating, in fact we have only just started bringing stuff home to lay up the boat for winter. Putting a few things in the car, having our lunch and spending the rest of the day fishing.

I will if you will forgive me wait for the paper version of Geg. Once again my eyes are playing up. My optician wants to wait a bit before giving me a new prescription as my right eye in particular seems to be going through a phase of rapid change. Thank goodness though for e-mail, as writing letters or rather posting them will soon be a problem. {{The paper versions are running a long way behind now. Just sent you 95 and 96. EL}}

Derek is going in to hospital (to have a repair of a very large aneurism in his aorta) we are stocking up with food and I can order stuff over the phone and pay for delivery but odd jobs like posting letters may be a bit iffy. Our elder son may be able to come and stay with me for the duration as he can work from here using Derek's computer. It depends on a number of business meetings he has. It's all a bit chaotic, as luck would have it my best friend is also in a poor state of health just now her husband will pop over as and when he can but I can't impose.

Nick Stathopolous

16 Oct 2003 two really get around!

I've been outback myself, spending 3 weeks in Ernabella, an aboriginal community about 250 km south of Uluru...I painted a mural at the school there. You can see images on my website, at:

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Glen Crawford

19 Oct 2003

I hope this gets through alright, as I'm not exactly that computer friendly remember, and hints about fiawol email addresses mean b.... all to me.

Ok I'm glad to hear from you, and yes please, keep spamming me with Geg updates. I enjoy reading them even though I'm now officially out of ANZAPA and just about anything else fannish. I found my writing output was diminishing rapidly a few months back, and began cutting my output (fannish, social) to preserve what I needed to continue doing (scriptwriting etc). Great idea, problem was it didn't work. No matter what un-essential writing I ceased, my pro writing kept falling off too. I just didn't seem to be able to face the screen at night., especially after a long hard day selling ill-fitting shorts at Lowes (See Mark, you never know who's reading...)

I finally caught on, the problem was with my eyesight. I'd already light-heartedly mentioned in ANZAPA that I thought I was 'going blind' and a last ditch visit to the optometrist confirmed my suspicions. I've only worn glasses for the last 8 months or so, ever since I had some minor trouble passing the licence eye test (which has since been removed from the renewal process). I went back to the same optometrist for a pair of stronger specs and he informed me he couldn't help me, my vision was past being corrected by glasses.

The problem is cataracts, really dense ones, that have robbed me of almost all the sight in my right eye, and over half the sight in the left one, in less than twelve months. I couldn't even read the top line on the eye chart with my right eye, the line with ONE LETTER on it! The end result of this drama was an urgent trip to hospital last Wednesday (15th Oct) for cataract surgery on my blind right eye, the decision to attack that one first based on the presumption that the operation is 96% effective, but even if they blew the op totally on that eye, I'd be no worse off vision-wise.

The op was a success I'm delighted to say, and I can finally perv again! (No point in living on the Gold Coast if you can't see the girls, is there?). My distance vision is superb in the right eye, I can see silly things like drops of rainwater on leaves, the uneven gaps in paling fences, I can even read all the meaningless crap they put on the back and sides of cars in chrome lettering! My close up vision will now ned to be corrected with glasses, so I'm afraid you'll have top spell check this email if you want to use it as a LoC, but other than that, I'm going great guns, and I've started writing again.

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Brad Westervelt sends a revised email address (please do advise me of any CoA).

Fred Lerner Will this issue be in an upcoming FAPA mailing? (If so, I'll wait to see it there rather than reading it online.) {{95 and 96 went to ANZAPA for December, and FAPA for February 2004. I hope to convert 97 in December, and print soon after (now done). Depends a lot on how the printer holds out during summer - if it is too humid then printing has to wait. Late news. The printer died just after doing Geg 97. That may be the last printed issue. EL}}

Bounced Email

Looks like Vicnet are rejecting email, based on spam lists. They are blocking great slabs of BigPond's IP addresses. Just great!

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Fanzine appearance

This fanzine is hand written to comply with HTML Strict 4.0, and is syntax checked using the free CSE checker. It is then validated against the public DTD using the official W3C SGML parser. It uses only CSS1 formatting, and the style file is checked by the W3C style sheet validator. I attempt to prevent known buggy browsers (Netscape 4.x) from applying styles by using other bugs to stop netscape 4.x reading the style sheet. All links were checked at the time of upload with the W3C link checker. The HTML file alone should display in a readable (but plain) fashion in any browser, no matter what age or type, including PDA and mobile phone browsers. However, I am unable to test the result against all browsers. In particular, I do not have any versions of Internet Explorer, nor can I check results on a Macintosh.

The zine should be in black san serif on a pale yellow background, with blue or blue on grey headers, outdented from the general text. Paragraphs should be only very slightly separated from previous paragraphs, and the first line of each paragraph should be slightly indented. If you are seeing different (or especially hard to read) results, please let me know which operating system and browser version you are using, and what problems you encounter (a jpeg screen capture of poor results is really helpful).


The GUFF race from the UK for 2004 is over. Pat McMurray was the winner, after a very close race, with a tie on the last weekend until the last few votes arrived in the mail on the last day. Talk about nail biting! Pat will attend NatCons in both New Zealand and Australia, and we would appreciate offers of hospitality. Australian and New Zealand fans, please consider who should be nominated for the 2005 race to the UK for the Worldcon. Fandom needs You!

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A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay. Please note that my address is now fijagh (fiawol is now dead, thanks to spammers) at my domain. Please do not put this address on a web page.
ISSN #0310-9968