Law of the Jungle, Survival of the Fittest, Also Known as Suburban Driving

I have to start by saying that I like to think of myself as a reasonably safe, assertive driver. After many years on a road, I’ve seen just about everything, been in a couple of bingles, avoided few more. But today’s been interesting…. I had 2 near-misses within as many minutes.

First one was a Four-Wheel-Drive, whose driver decided that it’s a good idea for his vehicle to occupy the same point in space as my car.

4WD attempts to push me off the road

4WD driver decides to change lanes without paying attention to cars around

As you can see from my highly technical picture here, my car is on the right, with nowhere to go and the other car is to my left, attempting to get into my lane. The guy didn’t even bother to see if anyone else is around, and was really surprised to find my car only a couple of inches from his…. after I’ve used the car horn to warn him.

 

Second incident happened only about a kilometer down the road, when I was trying to negotiate a T-intersection; normally not particularly difficult task.

Bus unable to perform a right turn

A bus driver was having a bad day

Once again, I’m proud to display my significant artistic skills here. The green rectangle is my car, ready to turn right. The blue one is some other car, about to turn left, and the big brown blob is a bus, whose driver is on a mission to flatten my car.

I don’t know-maybe he was having a bad day, or forgot that he’s driving a bus and not a bicycle, but there was absolutely no way that he could turn without running me over. Yet, I had to practically beg him to stop and wait for me to reverse my car about 30 meters back, to make it safe for both of us.

What really got me, though, was that both drivers – the 4WD and the bus were Asian. Here’s the part I don’t get: Asians are arguable the hardest working people on a planet, they are also some of the most advanced academically-just go look at the Law and Medicine Faculties of any university in Australia-majority of students there are Asians.

So here’s a question to all my Asian friends out there…. please someone, explain to me: what the fuck happens to you when you get behind the wheel?

 

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Life Without Internet in 21st century? Surely Not!

The other day I overheard a conversation between two young people, both in their 20th. The girl was trying to understand the concept of Facebook, and the guy was trying (without much success) to explain it to her.

You've Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail

I immediately felt the need to bud in on their conversation, and started asking questions of my own. It turns out, that the girl not only has no idea about Facebook, she also doesn’t own a mobile phone, and she doesn’t have an internet connection at home either. I must’ve had a stupid expression on my face, when on my question “How do you pay your bills?” she answered “At the Post Office”.

I must point out here, that the girl is NOT some sort of backwards person, unable to grasp the technology. She is a lovely girl, competent in her job, uses computer and internet at work, knows how to use them, so it’s a matter of personal choice not succumbing to the extra pressure of being on-line and available at all times.

I kept coming back to this conversation for the rest of the day, and I become curious as to how many other people are out there, that do not have internet?

Apparently, quite a lot. According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2013 there was 12,397,000 internet subscribers, of which, amazingly, over 200,000 were still on Dial-Up connections.  It appears that we are not as technologically advanced as I’ve always thought. Australia is only ranked 25th in a world by internet penetration, having 82.3% of its population on-line.

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

Some users are still stuck with a snail pace of Dial-Up

The list of countries and their internet penetration makes for a very interesting read – there are some surprises there.

First, Falkland Islands are ranked Number 1, which must piss Iceland off big time, as that little bit of rock  in South Atlantic is pushing the little bit of rock in a North Atlantic into the Second spot. Our cousins from across the Tasman Sea are doing real good, managing to secure a spot in the top 10. But the biggest surprise for me was Nigeria – I was sure that with the millions of e-mails from millions of relatives of the dead people, all promising me the guaranteed way to get reach, Nigeria would be high up on the list. But no – it only comes at a lowly 128th spot. Those poor scammers must be working overtime, to be able to contact so many unsuspecting winners  🙂

 

 

 

Social Dis-service

Yesterday my wife volunteered to help her mother and make few calls to some government departments – Social Security, Human Services, Aged Care….

Pension and Aged Services

Pension and Aged Services

It wasn’t anything complicated – she wasn’t asking government agency to divulge any secrets, or assign Member of Parliament size pension to a regular Australian, or anything like that.

All she wanted, was to have some information brochures and application forms to be mailed out to us. Simple, right?

Well, it might be simple for someone who doesn’t understand the complexity of the bureaucratic machine, but after listening to my wife, I now realize how complicated and self-important those departments are.

For starters, before she even had a chance to talk to anyone, she had to endure some horrible hold music, with a total “hold” time of close to 2 hours. Next, she was transferred from one department to another, person to the next. Each time the story had to be repeated, names and other details provided and an oath given, just in case….

At one point of this process, she got told that the material we requested is not being printed any more, and everything is available on line. When asked if he can e-mail us the documents, the bureaucrat on another end replied that it’s not their process to e-mail documents. Fair enough we thought, how about a link to where the document is on their web-site? Apparently, link isn’t available, and we have to search for it.

What I found even more amusing (amusing because I wasn’t the one who had to listen to this rubbish), was the fact that apparently, there were some changes in rules and legislation affecting aged care. These changes came into effect on July 1st, 2014. All this was happening on July the 8th and guess what – new documentation wasn’t available ANYWHERE – not in printed form, not on-line not etched on cave walls.

If I was just as incompetent at my job, I would’ve been fired years ago, but I guess there is a benefit in being a government employee.

Auctioning Off Virginity

A couple of day ago, as I was driving home, I had a radio on, listening to a program almost entirely dedicated to a decision by a young woman to auction off her virginity.

So who is she? In her own words, she is a 27 year old sensually stunning, highly educated, and charismatic American woman. Well, she would say it, wouldn’t she? I mean, she has to present herself in a best light possible in order to achieve maximum result during the auction. It was mentioned on a show that she expects to fetch over $400,000.

Virginity Auction

Virginity Auction

Listening to this show got a whole bunch of thoughts stirring in my head.

First, why would anyone pay over $33,000 an hour to have sex with a woman with absolutely NO experience? Even high-end escorts in Cannes during Cannes Film Festival can only hope to earn about $40,000 a night, and for them it’s an event they wait for all year.

Second, what sort of a sad person would be so eager to engage in an act of “defloration” as to part with close to half a million dollars? I would say someone very desperate and I suspect with a major problems hidden somewhere in his childhood.

But it also got me thinking about something else…..

Regardless of her motives, she lives in a country where she actually can exercise the right to do with her body anything she wants, as long as she is not breaking any laws. The worst thing that can happen to her is some unknown to her blogger will compare her to a prostitute – no real harm done there J

To take it even further, she is lucky enough to live in a country where she is able to “save” herself till the ripe age of 27, and not being married off before she even reached her teenage years, the way it’s done in a lot of Middle Eastern countries.

Freedom of thought

Freedom of thought

I guess the conclusion I’m drawing from this is that regardless of this girl’s motives, regardless of how much (if any) money she will make out of this, there is one thing that becomes very clear.

This one thing is more important than a thousand virgins, worth more than any amount of money. This one thing is freedom. Freedom to do what we want, freedom to express ourselves in a thousand different ways. Freedom for a 27 year old girl. Freedom for a pathetic old man who wants to part with four hundred thousand dollars. Freedom for each and every one of us to discuss it and make our own decisions.

My Musings on Visiting Australian Parliament

A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to visit Canberra. The main reason for the visit was to see the exhibition that is currently at the National Gallery of Australia – Gold and the Incas. A word of advice – if you are in Canberra before the 21st of April, do yourself a favour and find 2-3 hours to include it in your itinerary.

One of the days, while doing our touristy thing,  we had few hours to kill and so decided to visit the nerve centre, the brain of our government, the place where the decisions making Australia “The Lucky Country” are made.

Parliament of Australia

Parliament of Australia

I am referring of course to Australian Federal Parliament. The complex is impressive – situated on top of a hill it looks elegant and imposing at the same time. Once inside, it’s still pretty impressive, but it also all business – security staff checking people out, some foreign delegations being escorted in, Parliament staff move around with a purposeful look on their faces… The place positively pulsates with energy; you can almost hear Edmund Barton stressing importance of the strong defence in his 1901 speech, or Gough Whitlam telling the Parliament “Australia needs change. Australia needs reform. Australia needs idealism. Australia does not need socialism” in his speech in 1975.

So you can imagine the feeling of anticipation I had as the door into the visitor’s gallery of a House of Representative opened and we quietly stepped in….only to see an almost empty chamber. The Deputy Speaker was there, as were 1 (one) member of Liberal Party and 1 (one) member of a Labor Party. The bubble popped, the feeling of anticipation got replaced by the one of bewilderment.

After listening to the two of them having a go at each other for a while, we walked out and decided that surely in the Senate there will be more activity. We were right. There was more activity, but only marginally. There was a Deputy Speaker, 3 members of Liberal Party, 2 members of Labor Party and 2 members of Greens. What I found incredible, was the fact that one of the Greens was totally engrossed in checking out Facebook on his iPAD.

I walked out of there in disgust. Instead of a hive of activity all I’ve witnessed were few people pretending to care, and one who didn’t even bother to pretend.

Parliament at night

Parliament at night

Now, I understand that there might be a reason for all the politicians to be absent – some might be busy in subcommittees, some meeting their constituents, others researching something in a Parliament library. But that’s just it – we have no way of actually KNOWING what our elected officials are doing.

What we need is a system that will make them accountable. What we need is a system that will record how many times each of them was present during the sitting of the Parliament, and for how long. We need a system that will record how many times each of them voted and how did he or she cast their vote. I’m not really a whinger, but shouldn’t our elected leaders be accountable to us for everything they do? In my work we have such terms as KPI Key Performance Indicators and OLA Operational Level Agreement. We need something similar introduced for our politicians. If they are missing Parliament without good excuse, they automatically not eligible for re-election. If they vote in a way that contradicts their pre-election promises, they automatically not eligible for re-election.

To put simply, we need a system to keep the bastards honest.

Your Local School – Rewarding Experience or a Danger Zone?

Our Victorian Government announced extension to nominations and applications for the Victorian Education Excellence Awards.

This award is there to celebrate outstanding achievements of teaches and education support staff in Victorian government schools. What I like about it, is that parents and students are also eligible to nominate. This is a great opportunity for a wider school community to show their appreciation for teachers and other staff who are genially there for one reason, and one reason only – to give their best to our children.

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

This award should not limited to a school principal nominating who s/he thinks is a good teacher; or just looking for a way to give “the right person” a $50,000 bonus. It should not be limited to teachers doing favours to each other (you nominate me this year and I’ll nominate you the next).

As parents, we are the ones who ultimately responsible for bringing our kids up, for making sure they get the best education available. Who better than to assess the teaching efforts? Who will only nominate teachers that bring out the best in their children? So take this opportunity, weight all the candidates at your child’s school, think it thru and do your bit to make sure that the winner of this award is a truly Excellent educator.

While looking through internet pages, reading up on this Excellence Award, I’ve noticed quite a bit of excitement around the other bit of school-related issue – plans to install CCTV cameras in government schools. I almost skipped this news, until my eyes stumbled upon the main reason for the cameras…. apparently, it’s to reduce the number of attacks on school principals. Who would’ve thought that being surrounded by a bunch of seven-year-olds can be so dangerous? All jokes aside, being a principle of a Victorian school is a life-threatening occupation. The Australian Principals Federation even has a study from the Monash Uni to back it up. What’s in this study? Well, according to ABC, school principals were five times more likely to face threats of violence than the general population . Not to be outdone, The Age informs us that Australian principals experienced physical violence at more than six times the rate of the general population. I personally prefer the take on the matter by The Australian – they clearly are more serious about this whole issue than the rest. According to them, school principals were seven times more likely to experience physical violence than the general public. Seriously though, why would anyone attack a school principal? I remember a principal of Mordialloc Primary School back in the 90th, and a principal of Parkdale Secondary at the same time – no one would EVER even think of attacking these principals, because everyone in a wider community knew that these men live a breeze their schools.

CCTV in schools

CCTV in schools

So why the sudden fear of attacks? Is it because we are faced with a generation of violent, irresponsible parents? Or is it because the schools today quickly becoming a safe heaven for rejects, people who have this perverted idea of teaching being nothing more than a profession with a really long summer holidays?

Maybe it’s because some teachers don’t know how to spell, and feel intimidated by parents (and children) who do? Or maybe it’s because some teachers feel that they are allowed to bully their students?

Or maybe the real reason is that the principals are scared more of getting in trouble with the Australian Education Union for kicking out under-performing teachers , than they are scared of unruly parents?

Celebrity Gossip Vs News

To be fair, the title of this blog might be a bit misleading. It’s not really celeb gossip VS news. Today, celebrity gossip IS the news.

Just think about it…..

Dennis Rodman making headlines

Dennis Rodman making headlines

Dennis Rodman travels to North Korea to bring birthday presents to his mate, dictator Kim Jong Un. Is it a gossip, or a news item? Or a fusion of both? What about AFL legend Doug Hawkins standing for Palmer party in a last election? Or U2’s front man Bono speaking about Mandela. Gossip? News? Search Google News for “Schapelle Corby” and the top result is about the bidding war for her first post-jail interview. Does anyone really give a shit?

Do we really care what celebrities think or say? (the two are not necessarily the same) What’s even more important, when did it become acceptable to substitute facts of political, economic or cultural news with titbits of celebrity gossip disguised as news?

So what have we got here….Rodman is breaking the United States law that forbids the flow of luxury items into North Korea. Hawkins? He was, without a doubt, an extremely talented sportsman and a bit of a court jester on The Footy Show, but that doesn’t make him even remotely qualified to enter politics. Bono – hardly a person inspiring respect. He is known for his “efforts” to eliminate poverty in Africa; however some experts say that what he does is actually causing more damage than good. Also, Bono – the citizen of Ireland, is not the most popular Irish son, all because he chooses not to pay his taxes in Ireland.

Schapelle Corby - alleged drug smuggler

Schapelle Corby – alleged drug smuggler

Schapelle? An alleged drug smuggler who somehow managed to attain status of quasi celebrity.

So why are we being forced to accept these celebrity gossip – turn – celebrity-flavoured news?

 

The answer is two-fold. First, it is much easier for local news crews to regurgitate already substandard overseas news than to report it’s own. Second, and probably more important, is the fact that the news business is a money making venture. This makes it impossible to report the news objectively.