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31 March 2009

Is that how you treat me?

[After baking a chocolate cake that didn't rise and could be cut with scissors]
Me: Would you like a piece of chocolate cake?
Them: Yes I would.
[I walk over with some cake on a plate]
Them: EH! WHAT'S THAT?!
Me: Chocolate cake.
Them: Is that how you treat me?
Me: Do you not want it?
Them: I do.
[They eat cake. Short pause]
Them: Can I have another piece?

30 March 2009

Three Cuts

Mum has been hassling me to get a haircut. I hate them always, but the other day I tramped over to the Lebanese barber in Campsie to get it done. It was $15 and very bad. A day or two later I was hanging out at Merrylands house feeling awfully embarrassed by my hair, when Clair arrived only to make a jibe about it. She offered to fix it, which I gratefully accepted. However, the process failed somewhat and I ended up looking like a 10 year-old lesbian. Again. Fortunately, later that same evening I went to another party where there were some chums hoping to have a spontaneous radical haircut skill share. This was the outcome.

So I hope you're happy mum. Three haircuts in three days. It doesn't get more respectable than that.

Late Night Pharmacist

I just popped up to the late night pharmacist to get some late night bread. I decided to get some vegan pills while I was at it. While I was perusing their Vitamin B12 selection the pharmacist popped over to give me a hand. He was terribly kind and helpful. I told him I was vegan. He said that he and his wife didn't eat animal products either. That never really happens.

So many wonderful years

So we had to celebrate our anniversary together. We celebrated it over a cup of hot tea. Not really hot. Just... warm tea.

We've never had so many wonderful years together. We just had to celebrate it this year.

25 March 2009

Good Bank vs Bad Bank

Most of the coverage of the KFC has been absolute megacrap, but some of it is quite good. I read an article by William Buiter the other day called Zombie solutions: The Good Bank vs Bad Bank approaches and it was great. I agreed with most of his suggestions and he doesn't seem to get sucked in by same old bail out justifications.

For instance, most articles assume we have to bail out all the banks et al because not doing it it will be too messy and having a whole bunch of formerly rich people begging on the streets is too unseemly. They take the Lehman Brothers as the example of what happens when the government doesn't bail someone out. People act like the panic it caused was the government's fault - as though it was panic that could have been avoided. Lehman Brothers may have affected the exact timing of the start of the KFC, but it certainly didn't affect it's eventuality. It was inevitable. The panic that flooded through the markets after the Lehman Brothers collapse was a totally rational response to the discovery by traders that tax payers wouldn't cover every single dollar lost in the impending crash. It was when they all first realised that bluffing the government was not going to be bulletproof insurance against losses. It has been remarkably effective insurance so far, but not perfect.

I'm inclined to think that had the US government abandoned all the flaky institutions who'd earned above normal profits during the last decade, and invested more money in everything else then we'd be in better shape. William Buiter's suggestion is similar. Instead of the government buying all the dodgy assets, whose values aren't known, he suggests the government only buys the healthy assets. The result would be a massive goverment-owned bank and a whole lot of mostly insolvent but fairly irrelevant former banks. The shareholders and creditors would be left with the bad assets their banks had bought. They could sell them for a massive loss (probably), or they could sit on them for as long as they wanted waiting for a liquid market to appear.

The only real downside of this is that rich people would get slightly poorer and the government would become the biggest bank in the country. If you consider how bad a job the rich have done of being rich lately and how bad a job the free market has done of running banks, then I don't think either of these problems are terribly bad.

The article is worth a read. It makes sense of some stuff that I haven't heard other folk talk about and it's pretty free of madness.

24 March 2009

Stimulus Strategies

I'm not sure if the government is going to give me $900, but I have been thinking about the best way of spending it. I'd been planning to pay back my Tasmanian wilderness debt which is very large. However, I've been wandering about Campsie a lot the last few days and thinking that it would be better to spend it very slowly over six months on lunches in Campsie. Lunch is about $10 at most of the places. Today Kyung and I paid $12 each for a spectacular Korean feast. It seems like good value and it's putting money into the local economy.

I don't want to spend the money on things where the profits will go straight to the rich. It's good if we can keep the money circulating amongst the poor for as long as we can. If we tried harder to buy things from the working class and tried to avoid buying things produced by the intellectual class, then it we'd shift a bit of economic power away from the rich. So I've been trying to think of things I value that are made by the working class. Probably food is one of the best things. Although it obviously depends on what sort of food. But it probably excludes a lot of the imports I like, such as computers and digital cameras. A lot of those things are probably made by working classes overseas, but I suspect most of the profit goes to rich middle-men.

My compromise might be that I don't buy any digital cameras or computer upgrades, but I spend half the money on local food and the other half on debt. It's always nice to pay off debt.

23 March 2009

Weekly Petrol Price Cycles

I just been looking at the ACCC website to check out their petrol price monitoring stuff. I've known for a while that some days of the week were much cheaper than others, but I've never known which day it is. It turns out that at the moment Wednesdays are the cheapest and Thursdays are the most expensive. It's not just a small difference either. The average increase from November 2008 to February 2009 was 9% from Wednesday to Thursday. So if you want cheap petrol, buy it on Wednesday. If you want maximum incentive to save the planet, then buy it on Thursday.

17 March 2009

Nude Garlic


Nude Garlic, originally uploaded by Nutloaf.

How we roll at Campsie House.

11 March 2009

Hippies use backdoor


Hippies use backdoor, originally uploaded by Nutloaf.

This was from my favourite cafe in Tasmania. More favourite even than the cafe in Hobart that had better coffee.

8 March 2009

Dogville x 4

Kyung and I just watched Dogville, me for the fourth time. It really does bear rewatching. What a wonderful piece of film-making. It is extraordinarily dense with reflection and parable. It makes me so happy and so grateful and reminds me what art can sometimes be.

Milk

While I was in Hobart I went to see a few films and Milk was one of them. I thought it might be a bit annoying and self-righteous although I figured it would still be pretty good. It was all of those things, but quite a bit better than I'd expected. Sean Penn was ridiculously great. It was very romantic. Harvey's last boyfriend drove you totally crazy, but it was scripted that way so he did a fine job of it.

I have to say that I didn't really buy the assassination. The fellow who did it really seemed pretty decent and reasonable. Perhaps that was how it came across in real life, so maybe the film not going further into was the honest thing to do.

Dinner blast from the past


Dinner blast from the past, originally uploaded by Nutloaf.

7 March 2009

The Lonely Man, the Fool and the Wise Man

There was once a sad fellow who was very lonely. In his youth, possibly he'd had a passing friend or so, and even a measure of happiness. But as he aged he became more lonely and more unhappy. However, not only was he sad and lonely but he was something of a wily man who would attempt to manipulate those around him using the most shameless of tactics. It was not uncommon for him to cry in public places in order to win the sympathy and company of those passing by.

One day a jolly fool was walking cheerfully through the park and he came across the lonely man on a park bench. The lonely man was wimpering to himself pitifully. The fool thought he might comfort the poor fellow, so he sat down next to him and started chatting. Being a fool, he did not see through the lonely man's charade. The lonely man, having tricked the fool into befriending him responded heartily and they struck up a firm conversation. As it happened, the relationship developed and the two became fine friends. They would sit together in the park chatting away for hours. The lonely man stopped feeling so lonely and no longer spent so much time trying to evoke cheap sympathy from random strangers. The fool was glad for the friendship and glad the lonely man no longer cried.

However, one day the fool ate too many potatoes and died of digestive complications. The lonely man, having lost his dear and only friend, was deeply affected and cried himself to sleep for months. After some time he returned to the same park bench and began, once again, quietly wimpering in the hope that someone would be moved to sit next to him.

Around this time a wise man was walking through the park. He approached the lonely man wimpering on the bench. But the wise man understood human psychology and saw through the act easily. He could tell the lonely man was only crying to attract attention to himself. He almost pitied the lonely man for his pathetic transparency. So helpfully, he sat down beside the lonely man and briefly but firmly explained to him that he was not fooled. The wise man explained how crying was a common attention seeking behaviour and why he would not be sucked in. The lonely man was terribly embarrassed and stopped crying. The wise man, pleased that he had been able to help the lonely man better understand his problem, got up and walked cheerfully away.

The International

The International was pretty stupid. Despite that, it managed to frighten or disturb most of the folks who came to it tonight. It drove one of our number almost to the point of flight, so a speedy hot chocolate stop was in order (by my calculations at least - the decision did cause some controversy).

In the film Clive Owen is great, and manages to add class to even the most appallingly directed lines and facial expressions. Naomi Watts is beautiful, and I am intensely grateful to her for actually ageing, since actors don't seem to do that sort of thing anymore.

But the movie was largely trash. I think there is a new film genre emerging. Or perhaps it is well established by now, but still I am unable to find an appropriate label. I feel that "thinking person's trash" may sum it up, and it certainly applies to this film. It's the sort of film that takes itself very seriously and almost manages to persuade its viewers to do this same. It feels clever without being anything of the sort. In fact, these films are quite the opposite of clever and original. This one was uninteresting, tragically scripted, lazily charactered and painfully plotted. However, the intensity (and possibly even sophistication) of the direction the production values, at times, made these failings somehow feel out of place. These sorts of films tend to be well shot and well produced. They may even have a few very good scenes, as this film did. But even so the dominant vibe is and was trash. Quite elegantly stupid at times, but elegant stupidity still has more in common with conventional stupidity than it does with much else.

Pancakes

One of the few disappointments I have with L'Arche is the number of pancakes we have when we have pancakes. We have them frequently, but when we do there seems to be an unspoken rule that we are only to have two or three pancakes (although sometimes it is spoken quite loudly). Previously I would content myself with six or seven or eight pancakes, so things have changed for me quite dramatically. But I am struggling through. Everything else about L'Arche is pretty great, so I get by.

Dead Drug Dealers

In one of the many wars the US has declared on various stuff, they are apparently winning. In Mexico, thousands of people "involved in the drug trade" have been killed in recent months - many of them at the hands of the Mexican army and others at the hand of other people involved in the drug trade. With all this socially constructive death being dealt some congratulations must be in order. The United States has decided it can no longer stand by and watch those "involved with the drug trade" idly wander the streets of Mexico without being killed. So it has helped fund a fairly hearty war against them.

Many had previously thought the matter of drugs, corruption and governance in Latin America was a complex matter, but thanks to a recent editorial at the WSJ this complexity has all but vanished. All the situation really required was for the United States to step in and support a leader willing to apply the necessary military force. The US has found that leader in Felipe Calderón. Surely this is the beginning of the end of all those "basket case" countries in Latin America who have allowed the drug trade to flourish. The end of all those corrupt Latin American leaders forcing their nasty hard drugs down the gagging throats of a vulnerable American populace.

But seriously, this story sounds very much like busy as usual for the US happily throwing about vats of drug war money to help out their latest tough guy chum. A fresh approach it is not.

Drupal and WordPress

Having spent quite a bit of time with both Drupal in WordPress in the last 12 months, I really have to say that Drupal is totally pants and WordPress is spectacular shit. I have trouble thinking of anything at all kind to say about WordPress. The sad thing is that it seems to be getting worse with age.

3 March 2009

Closing the Gap

I don't like the Close the Gap campaign we have here in Australia. I know it is mostly about trying to help Aboriginal people live longer, but it the campaign feels to me massively presumptuous. If white people refuse to be happy until incomes and educations and life expectancy and teen pregnancy are the same for black and white people, what is that going to mean for black communities? There are going to be thousands of white people running around town camps telling people they need to change their lives. Telling kids to go to school. Telling them to brush their teeth. Telling them not to drink more than two standard drinks a day. Telling people to live better is not necessarily the end of the world in some contexts. But for the white community to be trying to make huge social changes to black communities, I think is a problem.

The "gap" is not mostly about resources. It is mostly about lifestyles. That's probably a big claim, but I think it is true. The life expectancy for professional football players in the US is maybe 22 years lower than average. If it was just about the amount of benefits or health care people got then it might be different. I suppose you can make the argument that Aboriginal people are living bad lifestyles because they are miserable because white people have been mean to them. Perhaps there's some truth in it, but I don't feel comfortable arguing it. Once again it is white people evaluating certain lifestyles as bad and feeling like we need to fix them.

From an outside perspective, I don't think the "problem" is life expectancy or education levels. I think it has more to do with creating meaning when your local community's value are so different to those of the broader community. Which is just another white theory about black people. But possibly the difference is that I have no idea how white people can help black people create meaning.

I end up coming back to the idea that we can't keep talking about a black problem that white people need to do their part in fixing. I'd rather we all just live together happily ever after and eat bread.

That was a slightly lunatic rant and I may have got a bit sidetracked, so I will try to sum up. I don't see the problem as the "gap" because that is a product of many things - partly a product of different cultures with different priorities. If there are simple things we could do that would lessen the gap without demanding dramatic social change, that would be good. And if we aren't doing those things because we're too blind or muddled that is a tragedy. But I don't think the gaps people are talking about can be eliminated without making people change their lives.

Nothing

A: (very loudly) He's gone away! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!
B: What was that?
A: (very quietly) Oh nothing.

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