Monday, January 29, 2007

My Ideal

230 posts just passed by, which really is only significant because its representing 10 posts for every year I've been alive. Which is not much in the end not even 1 a month.
Anyway that guy from black books I watched his stand up in Dublin where he was talking about how his ideal body would have suckers instead of teeth and an arse at the end of a long tube that was way over there so he didn't have to deal with it.
I liked how he took the catch cry of gym's possibly representing conventional wisdom and looked at it in a new way and then most importantly communicated it.
This I am bad at.
For sure I love to criticize but maybe just maybe I should expose how I think I would set things up and what I base these ideas on so I in turn can be criticized and maybe visualise a world that at the very least would be more convenient for me.

here it is.


That which underpins a society and investments have been shown to offer a 70:1 return on investment for a given economy.
So tax would go here and heavily, I can't say I do wholly agree in free education right up to undergrad I think some arbitrary payment should be absorbed by a student to incentivate them to give their education back to society, also I wouldn't want to discourage international students from using our educational institutions.
Ideally students would be able to also participate in the syllabus, learning what they want to learn and teachers play a consultative role in their development.
Why? because if kids can study what they are interested in they will be more interested, more motivated and will start to learn about not just subjects and topics but will start defining and better understanding their own personal nature.
I would hope the starting point for all this would be... philosophy!
Namely getting kids, teens and adults to determine the why's of the world around them. Objectively learning the geneaology of morality. In learning these things while technically anyone could get through the education system without learning how to read, write or arithmiticulate but I would be surprised if a childhood interest in space or even dynosaurs learnt from TV didn't result in that kid eventually studying physics.
An interest in foreign culture driving a pursuit of knowledge about the pharos of egypt (I don't know how to spell it) didn't naturully result in picking up a language, a study of history (to which reading and writing seem to naturally follow) and maybe even literature.
I guess ultimately in such an educational approach rather than simplifying and streamlining the starting point and forever pushing kids through hoops where they are categorized as stars or dunces they starting point is simply an approach.
A student defines their own values, they pursue their own interests.
Its virtually impossible to compare their progress to the fellow students because they are simply given the learning resources and teacher attention they define for themselves.
I'm sure it wont eradicate learning disabilities but it could I envision reduce drop out rates, have greater impact on people achieving job satisfaction and make students accountable for their own personal development.
You could still assess progress but also focus on setting very individual goals, furthermore it is not to say you wouldn't end up with plenty of opportunities to study in groups. It's a matter of first and foremost trusting the natural inquisitiveness of human nature.
But what about uni places? Let uni courses spend more time and resources picking their students. At the moment Uni is the first real place where a person can specialise and gain a clear perspective on how they can contribute to society (and of course apprenticeships, traineeships, tafe etc I'm just over simplifying) but apart from the umat your suitability to the course is only based on how you perform as a student in a very different system in subjects that can often have almost no relevance.
To leave it wide open it makes sense at the moment that for 80% of courses the only prerequisite subject is English (loosely enforced for international students) and then your ENTER score.
But why not have the subjects test the entrants to see how suited they are to the course, and test for all kinds of things - lateral thinking capacity, emotional intelligence etc. these things may not be perfectly testable but to look at them is broader and in my opinion better than what is done now.
Universities have a pretty high drop out rate, furthermore they are gearing towards training institutions in a lot of cases rather than education which although I haven't looked it up implies more than raw skills like 'balance sheets' or 'cash flow statements' but also teach an understanding of why these things are done. Which from my experience is deemphasised particularly in the testing stages.
Also fees would be accountable, at the moment your teacher calls in sick one day you are billed same as ever. The class is over booked and they don't let you in because of fire hazards you still get billed the same.
Every subject on earth wouldn't take 12 contact hours for 12 weeks plus an exam. Subject matter and contact hours would vary depending on what the subject demanded.
So it's an idea more than a functional system but if you put forward the specifications I'm sure societies most intelligent people could make a working system within 10 years.
For precedents of schools that have been set up as such - democratic schools


I belive society should pay its more valuable members more for their services and productive activities rendered. So no communism for me. And no 'to each according to their need by each according to their ability' or whatever it is. Let the market determine wages, but wages are a small part of wealth and I don't think anyone should be working just for money, if for money at all.
Survival again is also I different issue than wealth also. If a member of society is valuable lavish gifts upon them, I would hope the most capable and able and creative end up with the most resources.
If say however that person chooses to raise their children with said resources and raise their child in a life of leisure and recreation whilst employing their ability to ensure their alotment of resources are passed on to their offspring no matter the offsprings individual value to society, well that's unethical.
This is the gist of my problem with wealth and also how money can be invested - wealth can be preserved for people who can consume societies resources while not contributing to its betterment.
Now economists have worked on the problem of being able to accumulate wealth through non productive means for a long time however to me their are two main problems
1. relative to the rest of society an individual can become too wealthy.
2. individuals are encouraged to avoid tax because of their disbelief in its effective distribution to society.
We have whole industries built on dodging tax and they are by market determination one of societies most valuable services. But why should this be?
Tax is good, it's what we all pool as a community to build communal property, things like our own personal trains, schools and hospitals for us to use.
I believe and its my personal belief that private ownership of land and resources is to blame for both wealth and poverty. I would adopt the georgist doctrine of 'pay for what you take, not what you make' which is to say resource rentals. That is to say taxing people on their useable inputs rather than on their output (income) this way people are encouraged to use resources most efficiently to achieve the maximum output from minimum input (profit maximisation) it heavily favours sustainability, it makes it harder for one to also pass on ones accumulated wealth to yon juniours who arguably haven't earnt it through luck of their birth.
I mean you can give your offspring something though, like a good education and safe home and all that, you just cant leave them land enough to accomodate 30,000 people that they can then charge rent to.
So private ownership of land is gone, it seems ignorant and naive and stupid but check out progress if you are interested in understanding how it works or the Sustainable Living Festival coming up also will have a display on it.
In this way the 'wealthy' individuals amongst us would be inspiring role models and not hollow celebrity. People who are creating innovations and improvements that are valued and bought by society.
There's also the act of speculation itself that is trying to make money without earning it. Things like gambling is speculation, and what day traders on the stock market do is also largely speculation.
As such There would be no limit to how much wealth you can earn through investment in productive activity, like on the share market where you invest in companies that create products or render services.
So to put it bluntly the system would attempt to let you be wealthy if you can earn it and not if you can't earn it.
Land taxation takes time to understand but from my personal experience is not hard to understand. You simply have to do some imagining.
In my ideal world people could be wealthy but you'd lose hopefully the poor and dispossesed and also the deadweight wealthy individuals.


Work exists to sustain human existence and give us something entertaining to do. To me personally Job Satisfaction has more a bearing on my duties to perform and my ability to maintain a balanced lifestyle than directly just income although I do like most people have lofty financial goals.
Firstly my ideal world work hours would be reduced. From 8 to 6 to the dream 4 hour day.
This isn't a costello-esque underemployment strategy such as encouraging the workforce to drop full time positions in favor of casual jobs to boost unemployment figures.
Rather full time positions are based on a 4 hour day.
The second link being a second short article from the over enthusiastic flying solo, but the 4 hour day is really for corporations or traditional employers, the 4 hour movement is a frame work for entreprenuirs to get their head around looking at productive vs non productive time they spend at work.
I believe under the common notion of Economies of scale that there are diminishing returns on time spent at work. Similar to the realisation that after a while the return you get on any given input shrinks (ie 1 worker can make 40 shoes a day on one machine 2 workers 80, 3 workers 100, 4 workers 110) if we could lose half our hours and only drop 25% in productivity their would be in my opinion few things better that we could buy than more time to ourselves.
But that's the general framework for large employers, I realise there's two diametrically opposed problems with such a simple model - 1. Some people love their work and don't mind working overtime. 2. What about self employed and small business? different jobs have different demands you can't just restrict hours like this.
They both have the same answer - don't pay people for hours, stop connecting pay with hours.
Pay is based on results, ie the actual value you generate. That is to say the attractiveness of a salary but recognition that some days you will be flat out and some days you may as well not turn up at all.
So every participant in the workforce can more effectively manage their own workload.
So what's to prevent people from being lazy? same thing as always any rational employer would fire someone who doesn't achieve the work load their given.
Furthermore recognition perhaps that anyone who consistently works overtime (4+ hours) obviously needs assistence hire someone else.
The other thing to understand is not that you are halving the productive out put (unless a person performs a machine like function) you are simply compressing the time they spend trapped in an office trying to make a good impression.
Furthermore you reorganise your productive activities into a shorter more interesting time frame.
Then you go home, or wherever.
Did you know that in order to achieve the same relative standard of living as in the 1960's single income household you now have to have a two income household.
The simple reason being there's only so many resources going around, so the advent of women entering the work force whilst achieving the most important goal of recognising the right of everyone to enter the work force and take command of the economy didn't make anyone actually richer. The right to work came at the cost of lost time overall (except one can assume the economy has become more productive) but if in fact we ran the workforce same as the 1960's with an average of 4 hours per head (every second person working an 8 hour day) we could change it to 4 hours per head now (every person working a 4 hour day).
achieving a balance of lifestyles that is favorable. And say if I worked 10-3 with an hour of exercise built into my day and an easy start to the morning I would have a lifestyle that improved a thousand fold, having more access to daylight and better energy levels as well as more productive time spent at work.
But what of the nature of job roles themselves - structure it the same as education - a democratic work place which I have gone over two times in this blog already basically to see a precedent and gain a strong understanding of how life could be simply read this guys stuff
Furthermore hopefully the basis of work itself like education would be philosophy.
eg every individual is encouraged to understand 'why I work' at the moment we are locked in a growth fetish, the irony being as we power towards a vague and ambiguous goal (trying to produce more stuff than the year before it) yet these very processs look to be causing things like climate change.
We had a whole lifecycle stage of the sun to try and live and keep living beyond to meandre towards vague goals and instead we are charging towards a 50 year doomsday deadline with current economic practices.
So why not take it easy, produce less consume less and spend more time outdoors in the garden instead of fanatically tryign to achieve things. At the very least a workplace were individuals are challanged to ask why will at least achieve what they know consciously they are trying to achieve instead of simply 'more' or 'faster' goals.


One could imagine if the first couple of reforms go through there will be - more time, more evenly distributed wealth, better educated youth and so fourth. What may I hypothesise follow is a resurgance in a lot of things that dissapeared re advent of capatilist driven workaholia.
Namely spending ones time and energy on the community.
Maybe church attendance goes up as weekends decrease in value. Or maybe people watch more TV. Something I'd ideally like to see is the emergance of communal eating halls, like the bastion of the Sikh Langar which is a communal dining hall, of which every member of social strata is encouraged to eat in.
Sure maybe not stricktly vegetarian, nor with any religious overtones but otherwise I think if you have cross sections of society eating together and communicating the more closely the perceptions of different classes will match reality.
That is uneducated viewpoints are intermingled with educated viewpoints and hopefully wil result in different people educating each other. Which is to say almost everybody has a viewpoint on which they are more informed than their neighbour, hence phenomena like Wikipedia.
It also allows a community to actively define itself, and recognise its members.
With the advent of the internet which is a wonderful communication tool (people in countries all over the world are free to witness my ignorance) it also means a revolution in home delivery, now groceries can be delivered, one may never have to eat in the presence of strangers again.
I'd rather see it go the other way, my chinese friends always complain about 'white' restaurants because people are so quiet when they eat. Go to a restaurant in China town and conversation is abuzz. You can get seated next to anyone, I like it, I too am much more comfortable in this environment.
Thus I'd rather see the reverse of this trend, instead of the supermarket coming to the door, why not bring the cooking and eating to the supermarket. I think it could help a jackass like me understand what vegetables and foods are in season, reduce waste by feeding on a large scale and maximise the social aspect of dining whilst reducing the antisocial repressive relegation of a sole family member preparing food in the kitchen.
Furthermore ideally I'd like to see community ventures and enterprises. I'd rather see patriotic communities than patriotic countries.
Whether thats communal plots or gardens or community enterprises it allows for diversity and efficiency in any community seeking to better its lot by investing in itself (said land taxation reform helps a lot with this).


This is probably where my own ignorant beliefs come in. I believe every child should be able to choose their own religious beliefs and there is no place in any spiritual practice to pass one's own religious beliefs onto their children.
Particularly if there are customs associated such as circumcission etc. But also monotheastic religions can prove themselves remarkably intolerant of other view points. I want to read up and write on religion at length but I would basically say - every individual has the right to practice their religion in a manner that is safe to those around but not to indoctrinate any party with undue influence or promote their religion to people who are vulnerable to joining the religion without conscious knowledge of the full implications.
Furthermore to me an ideal world would have less organised religions and more personal ones so more or less an extention of the self determination theme running through education and work categories.


The least important, I don't care what, or who or how long someone holds power so long as it is a reflection of competency and responsibility. So I don't really care what form government takes so long as it knows where to intervene (humanitarian crisis, environmental crisis) and where not to (national values tests, other sovereign entities) much like wealth the aim is to recognise capable individuals and weed out the incapable.
A benovolant dictator or chosen representitive of fixed term I don't really care.
So long as they are competent in administering a state.
Ultimately I believe the government needs to be beholden to regulatory bodies, that restrict them from exerting undue influence. Good governance is more about what something absolutely shouldn't do under any circumstances than what they should do.
And what a government shouldn't do is discriminate, it should maintain universal standards of treatment and endeavor to enforce these and the UN Human Rights Charter I think gets it pretty right, you know freedom of association, freedom of religion* (of course a religion shouldn't have a blank cheque in how they administer their beliefs), blah blah blah.


It's sort of happening through the internet, Youtube is going to pay contributors part of advertising revenue, the UK factors in legal mp3 downloads into the charts, but basically break the monopoly, I don't mind if the value of the entertainment industry is reduced but I'd rather see more suppliers and more risk taking.
Furthermore there needs to be a seperation of Media and State. Similar to the Church and state arguement. It underpins a healthy democracy but I'm sure could underpin healthy tyrannies and meritocracies as well.
Australia for example has government run stations that make up a small proportion of what people listen to. Which seems healthy unless you know Rupert Murdoch decides in a reversal of the conventions that started up media regulations to throw his lot in voluntarily with the government, then you have the number one source of information in an election being channelled through a bias filter.
The media should just be a seperate entity all together. Laws strong enough to require a referendum to change, not a sitting government.
The media and the government need simply to owe nothing to eachother.

Anyway, as you can see my ideals aren't really anything I created myself, really I've just heard about things other people do differently and much like shopping pulled them from here and there and put them together.
But as you could guess having to go vote on election day between a bunch of policies of no appeal I question why I turn up at all.
But it's good to just represent myself.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gone (for awhile)

My beautiful blossom is gone, over the hill and far away. 3 months ago I was single, overworked and over-tired (not incedentally solely by my employer) life was fun, but life with a partner is funner.
I give myself a high five for being at ease knowing I will be seperated for over a month. My history has been that more or less in times of geographic seperation is usually the time I find myself singularized again.
But I'm not worried or scared, which is to say I don't feel it. I am left with only fondness. On the last morning in the hecticness of moving out, packing 'n' shit we managed to go to the park and blow bubbles with one of them 'kids 'r' cool' bubble making kits you get from the supermarket.
Man it was fun. Fun and special, it made me realise that there's a lot about bubbles I don't understand, like why are some bubbles green and purple, and others yellow and blue. It was a windy day and some of the bubbles went high up into the sky.
And a little dog came up to play with us.
Anyway it was quality time, I have no regrets when it comes to Miki, except maybe I should get a muffin tray so I can make her chocolate muffins.
Anyway I look forward to her return and shall occupy myself in the meantime trying to get my bball blog up and running and looking for a Paul Pierce Singlet.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


This is a magic formula for effective complaint behaviour. I tried to introduce it at work with limited success. But whenever I'm nervous about voicing a contrary opinion it works wonders. I picked it up from RYLA and it's one of the best things I got out of it.

B is for 'Benifit of Doubt' ie. when complaining give people the benifit of the doubt that they never intended to offend you, hurt you, inconvenience you etc. If you give someone the benifit of the doubt when complaining it is a) less acusational therefore less likely to put them on the defensive back foot and b) offers them a way to explain their behaviour and save face it diverts the blame from being personal to focussing it on the process or practice in question which is where you want attention to be.

O is for 'Own your own point of view or feelings' this stops you from making sweeping generalisations. A generalisation though it adds emotional impact can set up a criteria for your arguement that you can't defend eg. if you say 'everyone thinks this new timesheet is stupid' you have made the complaint supposedly on behalf of everyone, for whoever you are complaining to the quickest thing they can do is deflect the actual issue (the timesheet design) to the generalisation (everyone) and simply find one person who doesn't think the timesheet design is stupid (which often is easy to do) If you are complaining on behalf of everyone you need to do the polling first and hope they have the resolve to back you up. If on the otherhand you complain on your own behalf (so far it would be 'I know the timeshhet is relatively new and there where reasons for implementing it however I think...) then they have to deal with you there in front of them. The can't simply argue that other people have no problem and that you are being selfish.
I use this when I can't speak on others behalf and it also makes sure your complaint is only selfish insofar as you are complaining about the part of a process you have to deal with and consider the repercussions on others.

B is for 'be specific' much like owning your own opinion it's designed to stop generalizations and exaggerations if you complain that someone is late 'all the time' and you don't have any hard data then you set up another easily defensible condition that they aren't late all the time just 'sometimes' then it can descend into an argument about the frequency of lateness rather than the issues associated with the person being late, the repurcussions or the hurt. so eg. 'I know you have a busy lifestyle and you work hard but last tuesday when you were late I got frustrated because I was the only one left to answer the phones and it gives me a stressful start to the day...' sound's very different to 'you're always late' with some fingerpointing thrown in.

S is for 'state the goal' this is my least favorite failing of a complaint at all. When you simply lump a problem on someone to fix, it will frustrate someone because you are telling them simply what's wrong without stating a solution. This is crushing to receive and obviously my blog often takes the form of venting often without actually alluding to any solutions.
For example one I recently received was 'The engine's aren't up to date and it's creating backorders that shouldn't be there you need to fix this so it shouldn't happen anymore' it's much easier for me to get on side if someone said instead 'I know the engines are changing all the time but I'm getting frustrated because dealers are calling and abusing me when they are getting backorders and I have to fix them, I have had calls about the GX390... GX440 etc. is there a report you can run that allows me to update it on the system' to me that sounds like a real and genuine issue rather than someone taking their frustration out on me and wanting to shirk responsibility. Stating a goal paints a picture of an ideal world and let's the person you are complaining to know you want to be part of the solution and as such can avoid a meaningless emotional argument and replace it with constructive discussion.

Of course needless to say I only really remember to use BOBS with written complaints but still that's handy come the age of email and furthermore for the important issues makes sure I give myself the best chance of succeeding.
Needless to say I catch myself (often in hindsight) defending the emotional personal attacks from poor complaints just out of instinct or habit. Furthermore some times the little things that get me frustrated and caught off guard have me often on the attack.
Still sharing is caring and I strongly suggest you try it out if it sounds like it will be of use to you. I even went so far as designing a form that I could fill out before complaining.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tohm's top times to be alive (and powerful)

Hello you, here I am heading into the off season of a quiet season for power equipment due to prolonged drought conditions and stuck spending the same amount of time a day here as the same days when we are at our very busiest.
Yet another institution I'm sorry Peter Lalor that doesn't make sense. But I've been reading and perusing wikipedia it's a wonderful distribution of knowledge, along with blogs which are distributors of knowledge with the taint of stinking opinion.
Anyway since being a little boy I have oft fantasized about periods in time that it would have been better to be born.
Not that it isn't easier to be alive in this day and age, the age of ipod, no other time period yet has had something so magical as being able to have a varied and abundant soundtrack to your life. Amazing.
No doubt Parky would pick sime obscure period in history to be alive where he could debate some highly contentious piece of Polish Legislation however for me...

1. The Rennaissance - The time where man emerged from the dark ages to become more interested in the world around him. An artist or mathematician could earn a living from wealthy sponsors and have their own studios with apprentices and furthermore all food at market was organic.
Of course you don't want to be anywhen without being anywhen the place to be in the renaissance was Italy, or France. There were wars to be had between states. An arms race was in full swing. Trade was up and Christofor Columbo was making a Spanish funded Journey to the New World, in fact there was still world to go discover.
Instead of going to crappy tourist attractions to see what European culture was, it was being defined like never before.
It was an age for dreamers. For thought and you could wear something called a hose. Puffy hats, fencing swords and architecture. The air was clean and you had anywhere betwixt 1 and 3 popes at any one time telling you how to live while you openly defied the rules.
More than the 1960's it was a revolution for young punks to challenge the status quo. Everyone important spoke a romantic language and if you were rich you were expected to spend most of the time simply entertaining yourselves.
With all these time periods of course it was a good time to be alive if as always you are at the top of the food chain.
But seriously I can think of no better pursuits than painting, whilst pondering mathematical and philisophical questions that shake the foundations of that institution that spawned the dark ages.

2. The Golden Age of Piracy - The Caribbean, an ideal place for multiculturalism with the slave trade thriving, 4 European powers shipping Mexican Silver back home and a wholly undepleted Ozone layer.
The name of the game is 'casual wear' cruising around the Caribbean sea on the take performing acts of cruelty and sacking upstart foreign colonies.
You could start your own business with very little capital, simply throw the captain of your naval ship over board, start flying the black colours on the mast then cruise around ransacking settlements, taking hostages and going to dance's with Governers daughters or at least that's how Sid Meir depicts it.
I'll forget having your head cut off, and displayed on the helm of Naval Pirate Hunter's, the scurvy, lice and maggoty pork that came from the latest European sailing techniques.
What this is about is a life of high adventure in weather that promoted nothing more than a loose shirt and some pants. You got to swashbuckle and stuff.
If you had moral qualms you could hope to serve under Black Bart, or Roy Morgon as a Pirate Admiral.
Yes being a pirate would have been sweet.

3. The Industrial Dawn -
Top Hat's champagne and the respect of the world for building big impractical things. It was an age for pushing engineering to it's very limits. Finding ways to create luxury at all costs. Like the Leviathon, the Brooklyn Bridge and other such wonders that served a purpose 100 years after their creation. They were built to last and with foresight.
And the fact banks actually backed such impractical genius, labour laws were relaxed and the class system was in full swing. One of the only times it would have been kind of cool to be British.

4. The Mongolian Empire
A given, riding around on fast ponies, having completely outclassed every single opposing army that could hope to challange you. Recieving tribute, building a world capital to your exact specifications. Drinking fomented yoghurt and encouraging multi faith debates.
The 'Join the army see the world' lost all appeal after the Mongolian empire and had little appeal before hand. But in those days you just rode out of the mongolian steppes and explored Russia, China, India right through to Turkey me thinks. Pick up some souveneirs, hold public seminars and otherwise camp out as you had done all your life.

5. But for the Ladies -
I don't really think there was any time where women got their due, except maybe 600 BC Sparta, but even then that life was rough. At least it wasn't as rough as the boys got who were fair game once they went to school for pedetry.
Girls were encouraged to speak their mind and even criticize and mock men so that their menfolk would not be weak.
I mean much like being a man or woman to be powerful in any time is pretty sweet. Yet seldom were woman venerated for intellectual pursuits or high adventure and that sucks.

Yeah so pretty much as far as health and education goes by far you are better off to be born now.
But there are periods romantically idealised and others not. And the chances of discovering something new and revolutionary where large because in hindsight we know how much we didn't know at any given time now that we presumably know more.
That is to say, unless Physics itself is a sham, a huge hood to hoodwink us unsespecting people to the dominant control of a master race of half lizard half panda like creatures who can kill us with their very thoughts...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Office Culture

I caught up with a friend a few months ago, who works for tripple j. It's fantastic for her as she has landed a dream job and achieved what is truly most important in life which is waking up everyday excited about the day ahead.
I was overly harsh as triple j the icon of my youth parted ways in a manner upsetting to me suffice to say I have a lot of questions about the office culture of triple j and management staff that I couldn't resist questioning and was even worse at resisting the temptation to be judgemental and harsh.
But it's worth noting that even like the most conservative banking operation on Collins St melbourne triple j it seems has a culture as strong and uniform within it.
I find this interesting because to me it suggests that bright colours of many varieties can conceal a monoculture and a monoculture is how a company or organisation or political party can lose touch with the public.
One can look at the evolution of the Simpsons as an example of this regular cycle - simpsons was innovative when it came out, my parents wouldn't let me watch it. Nobody (in the west at least) had concieved of a cartoon for adults at all, dealing with adult themes and using sophisticated humour was an innovator. There were a few shortlived contenders in the early years against the Simpsons which grew to be a heavyweight in the entertainment industry.
But alas it became institutionalised and for it's original audiance when shows like South Park and to a lesser extent family guy came along it got left in the dust. Simpsons is now mainstream and one of the most wholesome comedy shows in the west beloved by Christians even used to educate young people about Christianity. In the decade of it's first years the simppsons went from controversial to Cosby.
Much like the good old stoner Bill Cosby himself.
In this regard if indeed jjj have formed a monoculture it would be particulalry upsetting as it has an undue monopoly as a government sponsored national youth radio station.
Furthermore with the rise of jmag and jtv triple j has become the conglomerate, the government now having one organisation representing its views on Radio, Television and Print. Which is neither unique nor unusual as the ABC itself has done the same for years. Yet talkback influential though it is and certainly proven again and again effective in helping create rightwing monocultures the world over isn't an organisation dedicated to propagating youth culture, the new, the cool and the trendy- namely alternative.
Which in the early 90's & late 80's if you look at it was still dominated by the California Bay Area and interspersed with British modern pop and techno outfits like the prodigy. I don't know enough about the international music market and what drove such a diverse range of groups - (At the time Alternative could mean Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Primus, Fun Lovin Criminals, The Eels, Ash, Oasis etc. with some subcategories such as Techno like the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers and Grunge which more or less was Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden, themselves three bands with little in common) and this era has become the one I stagnantly retain my expertise in. I used to know not only who's who in the music world but who knew who and what side projects they were in together and whose sister who had dated.
But then came New Metal and the vast alternative genre shrank a little with the rise of Korn and Limp Bizkit to lead into eventually down the track Emo which I don't understand at all.
Suffice to say kids will always find new upcoming bands the cool ones and as a process of aging people seem to get stuck on the bands they liked as teenagers. However morley did seem to write this about the Emo kids (well more about myspace):

Ugh. So I'm on Facebook now. I don't even know why. I hate myself so much for it. But my fucking moron friends kept hassling me and hassling me until I caved in and set up an account. God you people have no appreciation of how well I treat you. Anyway I don't want to talk about it too much because I feel like by being on Facebook I'm really just using myspace with a different colour scheme. And I swore I would never get on myspace. Not unless I released an emo single and want to market it to wussy whiny teenage kids with reverse mullets who are just going to pirate it anyway.

I can't wait until we have our own 'Understanding over 50's show' in 25 years time. Suffice to say there seem to be decades to be a teenager in that are better than other decades and without knowing the scientific reasons why they were - the 90's and the 60's. I haven't researched much on the '30's so my every thirty years isn't the soundest theory.
Furthermore I noticed circa Marylin Manson Mechainical Animals we were already having 80's revivals in the 90's.
I'm going to hit enter a couple of times now because I'm back onto my broken record track

Anyway the point is Triple J is large, it's a huge player in the music industry and 'the hottest 100' has become a prize worth lots of shiney dollars though the organisation itself may claim not to be in it for the money. The fact is that getting that top spot provides enough incentive for a record company to try and claim top honours.
Furthermore for young aspiring Australian bands getting airtime on jjj is a must. Thanks to the internet almost anyone can apply - which is good. Thanks to the market monopoly triple j has, the people who decide which ones the public eventually get to hear are relatively few. Not I assume that any programming manager at SYN will ever tell you it's not a thankless task and's popular segment 'your band sucks' doesn't turf up a fair few bands that do truly suck. But again the danger presented is one of monoculture.
Similar to the Liberal party as it's power has increased has forced us to digest less and less appealing policy.
In fact the one major overhaul triple j underwent was driven by said government getting sick of the percieved bias triple j was 'pushing' leading to 30 minutes of current affairs programming and the awful under 18's night.
Before that there was the introduction of the net 50 aswell which was where the dj's sounded like commercial station dj's and I more or less stopped listening to it.
Which is to say one cannot doubt on looking at triple j that they aren't a business like NAB or BHP or Telstra because their dj's have trendy haircuts, were casual clothes and sponsor music festivals and talk to rock stars from overseas.
Yet my friend at jtv told me when she got to melbourne she felt self conscious about being dressed up in beads and bangles and 'alternative clothes' not in any way shameful about it or feeling their integrity has been compromised, but by the same token I'm probably worse off in that I hate wearing suits, so I don't I just wear hondarised polo shirts to work and If i bought some monogrammed shorts I'd wear those too.
But simply that they are self conscious of a corporate culture. Bangles are no more ridiculous and non functional than neck ties the most obscure but easily recognised symbol of the businessman (and alternative rock chick Avril Lavigne) which is the traditional dress of croatia worn by men to signify they were married similar to the wedding band in the west.
A corporate culture is simply whatever culture a corporation happens to have and that it's members feel obliged to mimic (whether they enjoy the style or not) to fit in.
I imagine a young person who wore french cuffed business shirts in the jjj offices and Zegna suits would feel as out of place as someone with forearm tattoos and purple hair would feel in most corporate companies, although this is changing.
What I expect though is that the international alternative music scene has more oligopolies than monopolies like triple j holds over the Aria awards.
Fact is if you want to make it in Australia a few people at triple j have to say 'I like you' whereas under britains new chart system a few million different people have to download your track from the internet (as they have recognised sales of singles as being diminishingly representative of actual tastes and preferences) now Britain land of pop has a music industry I don't understand where in the 90's the choices were Pop or Techno and produced relatively few bands that could play instruments.
But the big step forward is the internet is instantly global, and furthermore you don't need to have large government resources backing you to broadcast. No doubt jjj's podcasting will be more popular than overnight starters as they have a large invested brand name. But why get your hip hop from jjj's hip hop show when you could get it from a station on the east or west coast of the US?
Why get your Indie Rock from jjj when you could get it from K-rock. I realise if each genre ends up dominated by single radio stations and there's only 7 of them in the world then that is bad for discovering all the diverse acts in the world.
From a global perspective sure, but if that's what's been happening anyway except filtered through the tastes and preferences of jjj's programming manager, a station now with such a tradition of newness I doubt they'd tolerate music being discovered by another Australian station and having to promote that.
I even read Richard Kingsmill's justification for having Kanye West feature so predominantly in their hottest 100 and Bernard Fanning taking out top honours as 'We new they were going to be great albums we were playing them first' Kanye West yes, Bernard Fanning no.
So if the alternative music scene continues to have the same dj's on the same radio station (with dj's moving directly from jjj to vega fm) for another ten years my hopethesis will be it will form a monoculture and be undercut by a new up and comer.
Admittedly every major city has truly excellent community radio stations to chose from generally.
And there's always shitty myspace music failing that.


I got some feedback from bryce reciently about what was thought of my blog. Aparantly it reveals a dark and emotional side to my nature, apparantly also people at SYN where also reading it. Explaining the short term spike in hits it recieved.
Anyway he felt it revealed deep and unsettling emotional problems that I have, that I am unjustly angry at the world. Furthermore that it is a non participatory blog, it receives very few comments and that this is unusual amongst blogs.
The first comment I won't deny at all, I'm unjustly angry at the world. Bryce is fair to say this as he has watched me cruise through life with a majestic lack of effort. Life owes me nothing in short, but as a cynical arsehole that doesn't mean I'm not going to turn around and judge it harshly. Which I do tend to pick at the negatives and yet am a guy that is this close to laughing myself to sleep at night. Indeed if you knew me you could probably describe me as 'aggressively upbeat' or maybe just 'aggressive' at any rate Emo is often not the word.
If the curious person harked back to the original post you could see I never really deviated from the intention of the blog.
But I did notice my postings taking on a circular nature which is worrying namely

  1. land reform
  2. anti-nationalism
  3. how shit the music scene is
  4. I wish I was black
And even though I was afraid of being swamped by feedback the feedback I often got and only verbally from friends who were embarassed for me was that I never write in a style they can comment on, and if they did it would be:

"great stuff tohm :p"


"why don't you write something funny, this is boring and long"

what with correct spelling and grammer and shit. So fair enough probably not good to post inane comments although positive feedback can give someone a real boost.
Anyway I didn't mean for it to be non participatory, if anything the opposite was true. Plus people seem to generally hold that I'm an emotionally damaged fuck or so goes my theory the proof being people treat me no different now they can read my angry emotional thoughts than they did before.
I must admit sometimes reading Harvard's infrequent petty bitter posts
can live me wondering if Harvard needs an intervention or not which I'm sure he would at least prepare one of his delicious meals for, my primary motivation and no real concern for someone who used to wallow around IH wanting hot girls to take pity on him in a move as classic as the 2B pencil.
But alas a story maybe to explain I don't recall whether I told it before but: One of my uncles was gay and contracted Hep B or one of them back in the 80's so rather than face up to it drove down to St Kilda beach and ran a hose from his exhaust to his car and breathed in the monoxide fumes and died peacefully at the beach enjoying the sunset by his own hands. Maybe a little screwed up since I was 6 at the time when it happened.
Furthermore shortly afterwards my Aunt on same side of the family smoked a little too much marijuana and woke up one day to find monsters patrolling the corridors of her work place causing her to hole up in the copy room while her perplexed co workers didn't know what to do. Instead of expanding her perspective or even being cool she instead signed up for a life on the outskirts of society as a sufferer of schizophrenia.
Again I would guess my age when this all went down as at about 10-12. I have to guess because I wasn't told the particulars until I was 19. At that point my reaction was 'so what' to Janice who was crying beside me in the car. In hindsight perhaps I should have been driving for safeties sake. However the only real thing I objected to in the whole debacle was why his had been kept from me when it would have been simpler and easier to tell my weed smoking friends I had a schizophrenic aunt, and not to participate in discussions about relatives who had died from cancer.
Sure they make good neighbours scripts and probably could be held up as drama.
But really an important revelation I feel, an epiphany if you will is that most families despite all careful outward appearances have some messy emotional shit. Life's pretty hard for something as large as a family to cruise through without some snags along the way that when dealt with in the societally endorsed wrong way tend to escalate into some nasty skeletons in the closet that haunt people's waking thoughts and cause anxiety and stress instead of faint pangs every now and then that indicate for the most part you have moved on.
See between my mother and I lies what I must begrudgingly admit is most likely Whitlam reforms, Janice kept these 'family tragedies' as she puts it (which prompted me to imagine something far more sinister like incest or keeping a deformed freak in the attick) secret from me to protect me, as Janice feels that these things are something to be ashamed of and hidden.
Yet I have always found people these days are pretty forgiving. Furthermore the church has lost it's influence on trying to hold up an untenable '7th Heaven' family model that probably led to people dealing with all these issues in the wrong way.
I had some real Emo posts infact about being afraid of being alone and shit, that once voiced seemed to me to be pretty insignificant and all around embarrassing but probably all together common.
Now if say the internet was really a priest chat forum for the Catholic Church and I was the one member of the lay atheist community posing my inner thoughts on a blog, yes it probably would be a dumb idea.
Yet people must identify with some of the Emo shit I say here, because generally (and you see devoutly religious people do this a lot) if something doesn't in any way agree with something a person already believes, their perceptual cage rejects it. You won't let it in.
What people often like about other people are actually most often qualities they see in themselves.
Anyway... now I will go cry about how cruel the world is. But also keep in mind you've always been welcome to comment. I just tend to mostly not have time to reply.

Plus when I write a comment on my own blog it sends me an email notification which pisses me off because I just fucking posted it. I don't need a fucking email. Fucking google.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Big Day Out and flying the flag

Sure Australian bands are part of the draw to the big day out. Some years they even have to be headliners. I don't really know who organizes the big day out but I have to kind of agree with them. For the same reason I can't get into certain bars wearing a footy jumper a Victorian Icon, a huge part of Australian heritage and uniqeuness so to should the Big Day out be okay to ban Australian flags in Sydney.
Fact is despite what NSW premier some dude says it isn't a unifying symbol anymore.
Australian values are confused and the old way is sadly an indefensible position that is dyeing a slow death and like an unpopular alcoholic grandpa is making their death throws as unpleasant as possible.
I've been down this road so many times I feel less and less welcome in my own country every time it gets brought up. But just as protestors in America should be able to burn the US flag without fear of incarceration so should a private company be able to ban a flag that has been used to bully and intimidate in the past from the event they are paying for and the venue they have hired.
But people who say this is an insult and that it is a symbol of unity maybe we need to start considering:

1. The Australian flag includes the Union Jack -
yet we are in Asia it's a fact, undisputible we are nowhere near Europe, logically we are part of Asia, it's where our socceroos start playing and most of our international students come from Asia.
Furthermore the European population is in decline as a continent, so is the Ageing population of Australia. Migration still favors Britain but to a lesser extent. Furthermore since Britain is suffering the same brain drain as Australia on its youth it is untenable to think that European Australians will continue to sustain their majority population at the time.

2. The Big Day Out features International Acts -
Yes they are in Australia but if I were performing in Iraq or the US I would be distinctly uncomfortable and feel excluded should the crowd be waving their flags the whole time. I'd probably mumble something about how great it was to be in Australia, America, Canada, Germany, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan etc. As a pro would do but that being said there are many people from other countries that make up todays youth culture and thanks to a few wars from entirely different backgrounds to farmers and convicts from the UK.
To have gangs using their flags as colours isn't really surprising because what else is a flag but gang colours?

To say a flag is a symbol of unity is correct, but it's a kind of gang unity a brothers in arms, we cant pretend it's a bridging symbol of piece. It's something that people have traditionally raised up over a piece of ground to say stay off. And it used to make sense because the world use to be much larger. The population was half what it used to be. It took days to walk over mountain passes to the next city in fact most countries were arranged into city states.
So you unified your local militia with a flag against the threat of outsiders?

But I think the threat of outsiders is an illusion, in the old days of warring states periods usually the unifying forces where infact the aggressors who came in, conquered and the lasting ones usually set about reforming land entitlements, political representation, tax collection etc birthing modern nations.
And if you take say a country as recently divided into city states as Italy (in the renaissance it consisted of several small countries The Republic of Florence, The Duchy of Milan, The Papel States etc.) and go there today the cities themselves retain their distanct cultures and cuisine and pride and generally take out their frustrations with eachother in soccer matches.
My point merely being that even with a massive influx of migration, and a transformation from Australia from a European Wannabe to a continental meeting point betwixt Asia, Africa and Europe (?) I'd say a lot of the European overtones wont be lost such as:

Organisation of Streets
Historical Architecture
Government Organisation (Unless we get conquered by Monghols)
Gregorian Calander
Public Holidays (except for maybe the Queens Birthday)

But some things may change and we have to say goodbye to:

Churches as the most numerous and popular religious venues
Single Language Brochure stands

And that's pretty much all I can think of. There may also be necessary some kind of land reform as All of Australia is now owned it's hard to accomodate new Migrants and provide them with gainful employment which is probably the main cause of anxiety over foreign invasion - that crime will increase.
The other thing a Nation like ours needs to get used to is the inherant changes with the passage of time. Namely the Baby Boomers and War Veterans present has passed into history, there's no longer a feeling that we are here to defend the Queen, we understand inflation and that we should stop asserting weak stereotypes from the past onto new generations.
Exhibit and one I truly can't comprehend is SYN fm and it's all Aussie music show 'The Hoist' it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out it was a reference to a Hills Hoist which were mostly removed from backyards when I was in my formative years.
Most SYN volunteers are under 18 and between 21-16 which if I can barely remember a Hills Hoist clothes line surprises me that they can apart from at the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony.
I'm not so ignorant as to pretend they don't exist anymore, and havent fearfully stood below one spinning around in my later years playing Goon of Death but my point is merely it's not an Australian institution any more. They were declared dangerous I'm pretty sure and at least an eyesore in another dissapeared urban Australian institution of 'the back yard' they are going, going, gone.
What baffles me is why a youth station chose such a relic of a bygone era as it's name for a show designed to promote up and coming Australian bands. Except that the campaign of the old deathrows Australia is winning and it can convince a generation of kids that the Hills Hoist, as decimated in population as most Australian Natives is still an icon to which the new generations can rally to.
thoughts. Should I be tried for treason?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

True Cost Economics

I's been almost two months since I touched KFC, McDonalds, Hungry Jacks or the Jehovah Witness' owned Red Rooster no tax paying expensive mother fuckin bastards. This was helped along by true cost economics and I find though I gained weight over the christmass break my financial position has much improved.
I hit that age bracket where I have to start paying my own health insurance. You see I used to enjoy KFC because they did nothing wrong. I hate the fact though that not only are they roughly $3 more expensive than their competitors they probably have the highest true cost as well.
Roughly every take away meal you have has a hidden cost of $2.75 in health damage that has to be paid off later. My first year lecturer used to boast how McDonalds offered better value than the Hare Krishna's but it's patently untrue.
Anyway I was getting out of the shower yesterday and I didn't want to get my wet feet on the floor yet I couldn't reach my towell because the shower door was in the way. So in order to prevent the minor inconvenience of wet foot prints on the floor I swung the shower door closed and cut my ankle in the process. This required dettol and left bloody footprints all over the bathroom floor. In terms of cost the wet footprint was much cheaper than the seven bloody foot prints I left.
Example the third - I was at the supermaket getting a phone recharge where I ended up buying a $49 dollar phone cap instead of a $50 one and I hate to sound like a baby boomer but got ripped off. the $49 one encourages me to use my phone much more in fact with reckless abandon and in 30 days to get full value for money whereas if I pay a dollar more I get three months to use $50 carefully, which I usually do quite easily.
Anyway this mother fucker in stubbies and blundstones interrupted a busy cashier and asked her to call the supervisor off of break. the conversation followed like this

Arsehole (AH): Where have you been.
Coles Employee (CE): Oh I was on my break how can I help you?
AH: Have a look at this what do you call this?
(AH shows CE his docket)
AH: $1.99 and this is $1.49
CE: Okay it's been keyed in incorrectly.
AH: Too right it has, where do you train your staff.
CE: I'll process a refund for you.
AH: You better crack out the carrot juice huh.
(AH proceeds to laugh at his own brilliance)
AH: So their eyes can read better.

50c fucking 50c is a cheap price for the etertainment of pulling someone in a shitty job out of their break, gettng to insult the staff and have people bow and scrape to your irrational point of view.
Any given cashier at a supermarket probably processes at least 100+ items a day, if their error margin is 1% I don't think this is anything to go fucking reprimanding anyone over. Further more if the proposed system to fix costly mistakes like this is to have the staff carefully read the price on every item then the lost profits from inconveniencing every single fucking person who ever shops their does not outweigh it.
If I owned coles and was faced with that customer who no doubt thinks
A) 50c is a lot of money
B) I have nothing better to do with my time than read my reciepts
I would simply ask him never to shop at any Coles Myer group outlets ever again.

I guess lastly something that has always surprised me is that as much as most people tunr their nose up at the prospect of working in a call centre I could never push myself into the depravity that is a retail job.
"The customer is always right" is a profit maximising statement, an ironic witticism if you will and not a moral code yet it has been etched into gospel faster than any other phrase out there.
I continually see people riding around on these high horses about how they fucking ruined someones day over an inconsequential amount of money weather they had a rational or irrational claim to it or not.
Agnus Skinner's request to the bag boy at her supermarket emphasises the attitude that when one is a paying customer they become an entity beyond moral reproach.
'I want all my groceries in one bag, but I want that bag not to be heavy.'
Maybe international - be nice to a retail employee day will catch on.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Writes

I had a day to myself this saturday and I spent it reading writing and laying about. For those of you that think I have plenty of time to kick around posting on blogs it's more of a discipline you know, like brushing your teeth sure we're all fucking busy.
Anyway I wrote for my, for my leisure and I got a real uncomfortable chair.
I'll get back to the blog later afterall we are all Time magazine's person of the year.
Just like we are all Marcos, I think that's what they were getting at.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


hara = stomach
kiri = to cut

To preserve honour Japanese warriors chose to commit suicide if disgraced in order to restore it.
Furthermore they chose an incredibly painful way to self inflict their own demise. Excruciating drawn out and utterly pointless.
I mean it wasn't pointless some samurai could avoid bringing disgrace and ruin down on their families and shit, but you know some romantic teenage samurai's might all to readily commit suicide to impress a girl.
As it became popular it started to lose meaning. It started to border on the ridiculous and interestingly

samurai = to serve

many samurai ended up concluding that they could almost never serve anyone in death. The samurai government started outlawing the committing of suicide when your lord died. What's this got to do with anything? everything.
I envision a future where our descendants (ascendants?) will look at the kind of office jobs we work and be filled with as much amusement and horrified fascination at the cultural peculiarities that where religious sacrifice, honor killings and ritual suicide.
But alack so many work jobs that can only be called bleak. How cruel the world is for a country boy or at least migrant from a fairly pedestrian town to find many of the most lucrative jobs here are uninspired.
The original companies, corporations and wall street brokers where exciting because they were as much anthropological experiments as they were a means to an end.
Yet at some point the organizations settled upon structural norms, often called 'worlds best practice' and legislative beurocratic burdens. One because there's a little bit of that fuck other's needs before my own attitude in everyone and also because if governments didn't constantly legislate they would have nothing to do but think and plan.
Not every organization has access to creative risk taking leaders who will attempt to reform and innovate. Furthermore that strong group/gang mentallity, that primative tribal need to affiliate means most people are highly uncomfortable differing from norms, feeling not just vulnerable but invalid targeted.
So it seems the best thing to do is obey conventional wisdom, which has more interest in preserving the status quo than moving us towards enlightenment.
This is my sixth or seventh attempt to structure this arguement into a coherant blog post so bare with me.

The drive to ascend: Success too often is relative. People want to feel valid, and the most valid member of any organisation is a leader, simply because from the viewpoint of a vassell the leader is in control, unquestionable. Not realising the questions you ask yourself don't stop out of deferance once you too become a leader. You want to be the big fish in a small pond, not the small fish in a big pond. So of course power is desirable, the way power is created though is not through the organisational chart. Power is given not produced in almost every circumstance, people want to give over their personal power to another individual and thus create a leader. This giving is an individuals choice otherwise known as cooperation.
It's hard to see and observe how often this cooperation will flow in complicated directions to varying degrees, it's perception, and preference.
A much easier way is to see how the power should flow by observing an organizational chart. It shows who cooperates with who and in which direction the power flows.
It has two major faults - 'who cooperates with who' and 'which way the power flows'.
The difference between an organizational chart and the actual power structures is known as organizational politics, this has common occurances such as one executive having undue influence over the director, a subordinate that manages on behalf of someone else, a person of equal rank that other members of the department treat as a superior.
Blah fucking blah, every organization, so people take on informal roles and others become men of straw (occasionally a woman of straw may occur often to disguise a sexist male dominated organization). That is the people that should be high up on the chart probably don't need to actually do anything to qualify themselves for a higher position on the chart, they possess leadership. Their peers given the choice of alternatives will elevate them naturally as they often already do albeit informally. A good director should just be able to recognize this and pick them out as they float to the top.
But their are other things going on too. Namely problem numero B the way the power flows, power being given not taken should flow up, like ions building up a charge to make an object more attractive for a lightning strike, a natural leader would most likely achieve this, so similar to Karl Marx's 'the workers control the means of production' the base of the pyramid is what should make the top great. But what tends to happen is the organisation gets created top down rather than bottom up. Management often attempts to take power, that is 'legitimately' reinforce their position, with policy, laws and procedure. They instruct and expect the organisation to change to it's whim, consulting few below and instead relying on their goals and whatever they read is trendy in BRW or Fortune Magazine.
But if power is taken not given how does this work? well it is given albeit in a negative way, through the requied submission of will, once we submit to pressures (often now placed on ourselves by ourselves) we give the power away not voluntarily but through sheer necessity.
We tolerate a bad boss through fear of the mortgage, we tolerate bad policy for fear of judgement by our peers, we tolerate blaim for fear of further reprimand.
And furthermore a status quo is reinforced with status symbols.
If I do something nice for someone they may bake me a cake, one should conclude is if you do something nice for someone you may get a cake. Leaders get these kinds of rewards and gifts all the time as they are genuinly appreciated. They give a leader status, the cake becomes indicative of one's leadership abilities. Successflly steering a company may result in a windfall of cash, share options etc with which you can buy things.
However if I do something nice and get a cake, and you consider yourself my equal, then you might reasonably demand a cake, to indicate you are my equal in leadership ability.
So the indicator not the cause suddenly gets important. Hence the birth of the status symbol, indicators of leadership, often given unearned. These then become 'a given' fo a position or role. So you are promoted into someone's footsteps and recieve the same accolades for commencing their job as they have for completing it.
From this is born the desire of promotion, to be a leader without your necessarily possessing the qualities.
Organisational charts really just indicate one's entitlement to status symbols, the projection of status rather than reality.
After all management is it's own school, it's on skillset and differs greatly in style between individuals but not so between contexts.
In this regard I have a rather bleak conclusion for you, no matter how hard you pursue 'success' and to be a leader in your organisation, you may never achieve it.
And most organisational charts reinforce this.
Above all other faults think of the classic organisational chart:

It's a pyramid. It's the simplest and most stable power structure it ensures the leaders influence is felt all the way to the bottom. If you were to draw the powerflows of any real organisation you would end up with some pretty interesting shapes. Shapes that could still work well but are constantly constrained by the charts impositions on reality, trying to herd the sheep into a triangular pen.
But don't think of it as a pen...

Think of it as a highway this really helps a lot. Imagine wherever you are in your career imagine you are in a car, when you start out there are a lot of lanes. However this highway is triangular, by the time you reach your destination there is one lane (and one sweet car park space) so you look to your left and your right, there are a lot of young people on this highway in the 30 lanes next to you, some are timid and meekly give way as the lanes narrow down to 25, others brashly and arrogantly try and knock others out of there way and some just get off. You cruise along feeling successful and discover the lanes narrow again to 15 lanes...
and so on you can see if you were having to drive in this traffic you would be expecting numerous shit fights along the way and the further you get the higher your stakes for the more time you have invested in reaching your desired destination.
But this is how most organizations and conventional wisdom work.
And there's no deferance for your natural merit among those sharing your prospective laneways, for the goal is equally desirable even if the reasons for pursuing it are not all as equally valid.
Such a contest will certainly deliver a leader that has strengths, but by no necessity the best one.
If you were driving in this highway you would want to be in a humvee or at least a ferrari enzo.
The humvee is armoring yourself against your pears, this is dirty politicking and empire building, making yourself indespencible, rallying support, trying to muster as much clout and bullying and intimidating your peers. A popular and oft rewarded strategy. The ferrari is working harder and harder trying to fast track promotion. Equally bad, a popular strategy that is often not as effective as the humvee.

KPI's: Rudy Juliani claimed Compstat lead to a reduction in crime in all 5 burroghs of New York. I don't understand the New York system but the Compstat system perhaps had more merit for the way it determined KPI's rather than constantly monitoring and pushing improvements in the KPI's. It asked each department to determine their own Key Performance Indicators (KPI's).
An obvious KPI is sales measured in both unit quantity (000's of toothbrushes) or dollar value ($k's revenue).
KPI's are indicators. Not causes. And there they are useful and there they fail. KPI's are what push people to simply try harder.
As economics is a philosophy more than a science, the Macro agenda is often flimsy in principle, for example what we measure the success of our governments on is GDp. In the first Macroeconomics lesson anyone ever takes ever anywhere in the world is that it has major flaws eg. pollution is good for GDP, disasters are good for GDP. One billionaire and millions of poor looks as good as millions of relatively middle income people etc.
GDP is an indicator and like a bikini what they reveal is important and what they cover up is vital. So are most KPI's. For example, one can rack up large unit sales by discounting heavily. A person can look good for no real reason at all. Hundreds of ways exist to cook the books on this front.
In the case of a runner, it's simple to adopt the hard work theory - all you have to do is run faster than other people in the race. You can guaruntee more wins in your career by reducing the time it takes yoiu to run a certain distance.
What a runner doesn't ask is - why run? why run at all, what are you running from? a fucking lion? once, or enemy soldiers, but just to run to beat other runners is not really meaningful at all.
So why try harder and harder to run faster and faster.
In many ways we work harder and harder to sell more and more toothbrushes and thats where you start - encouraging people to change tooth brushes more frequently than they need. - reducing the useful life of the product (Eddison's light bulb still works I'm told) etc.
A bad leader clings to the KPI's because they can't produce a broader vision (exactly the only thing a leader should provide) so they cling to something that is readily identified as a measure of success. But it is an indicator of what? precisely what it is. It may be one but not enough of an indicator of good leadership.
So many people seeking advancement push and push the KPI's and as a result create unenjoyable work environments. They don't even enjoy it themselves, the irony being everyone is actually in business to produce something for society that makes lives easier and more enjoyable.
Conventional wisdom though idolises self sacrifice and hard work, conventional wisdom advocates we hollowly pursue KPI's.

Kids who live in houses with lots of books tend to do better in school than kids who don't - therefore if you buy heaps of books and put them in your house your kids will become smart.
The books in the house of the kids indicates the parents enjoy readng and are possibly smarter than average. As such the kid has probably genetically inherited their intelligence.
A good manager creates a synergistic free flowing and inspired work environment, good sales follow. His successor desperate to establish himself, increase the work hours, reduces recreation times, cuts costs, monitors socialisation closely and pushes his sales force monitoring and dogging them constantly. His sales exceed his predecessors and he get's promoted.
However - other indicators tell a different story, on his promotion three of his senior staff resign or transfer. Staff turnover increases, sales decline. He fires his replacement and eventually he himself is fired by his board.
In other words the KPI of unit sales appears to indicate he is an even better manager than his predecessor. But he simply inherited his predecessors managerial fruits and sucked all life out of them. A shortterm boost, but in the longterm dramatically destructive. It's why it happens so often.
High sales indicate a good manager but they are never explicitely the indicator.
A bad manager can acheive a better KPI.

Long term vs Short Term thinking: One thing can be said about Saddam. Back in '91 he probably wasn't thinking he would eventually be hung. And he should have. He should have because that was the only possible way he could get himself removed from power. To piss off someone capable of removing him.
Of course he didn't really.
He carried on as he had done for pretty much 10 years. He never aggravated anyone enough to come topple his regime, an indicator of long term planning. But some other dude flew a plane into a building in America which pissed off an incompetent short term thinking leader. He was incapable of catching the actual culprit and so in an extraodanary logical leap Saddam found himself at the mercy of this short term thinker.
In dying a martyr Saddam won the war on terror, he was killed by an Enemy whom before his execution had been brought to admit that their causes for war were based on faulty evidence and were being punished sorely for their short sightedness.
I don' believe in any cause of Saddam's but the contrast between a leader with ongoing responsibilities and a long term need to preserve power and leave a legacy vs. a fixed term president that merely has a window of opportunity to push through as much self interested policy as possible. Otherwise live it up while the times are good.
I don't know how Moderate any dictators are - frankly I don't give a shite what goes on in the middle east just so long as I never have to go and fight any of those crazy fuckers whether they be a muslim, catholic, christian, jew or gentile or terrorist.
But in the end most western institutions encourage short term thinking, because they feel it is safer to install power in limited installments. We want a leader to be powerful and command however not to go too far.
So we don't limit their powers, just their time frames. But enough about governemtn, the office! Laws thankfully prevent us from adopting a fixed term style of management where one has the power to ask for blowjobs from any inferior employee (which is to say he can't take one legally but you might give him one you suck).
Instead the opposite, employees have rights but a manager is employeed in turn by people more powerful than him rather than people whose managerial skills he will actually effect. They have rights too, and powers though limited and if they can deliver they can stick around as long as they want. In between every slot on the rung becomes a short term goal. A distraction from the overall vision of the nature of the organisation and what it gives to society being the broader wider reason as to why you are at work. Why get a mortgage on a place to live if you don't enjoy living?
That's because short term goasl require far less thought, consideration, creativity and discipline. Often just a fair bit of mindless effort is all you need to achieve.
As warren buffett said - 'too often managers shoot the arrow of managerial excellence and paint the target around where it lands' that is managers define the own terms of their success.
SO what we have is most of the worlds energies being channelled into inefficient mindless machines which are incapable of providing most people with a decent chance of succeeding.
Pretty depressing, but I must note this isn't the fault of managers. Because manager in itself is a status symbol as much as it is a societal symptom - an indicator. A manager is someone we have given over the responsibility for deciding what we do day in day out.
A real employee DOES NOT NEED A MANAGER AT ALL, ie they don't need to be told what to do. Maybe just a leader to follow. This in anarchy ridden times like fuedal japan's warring states period tend to rise to the top naturally because the short term goals of the multitudes require them for survival.
Now if there's someone at your work or a teacher at your school that you wouldn't trust with the petty cash box or to do what they are supposed to do without supervision clearly managers are still necessary. But they could just be leaders, in the confucian ideal of leading by example in matters of principle and virtue whilst staying clear of the micro management level.
Organisations where created by the mediocre, the average in it's desire to change it's fate. For the worker controlling the means of production to ascend to a leadership position it has not earned.
It wants it's power to be handed down by a real leader unearned. Most orgnisations are riddled with these people the self same people who when younger made it unsafe to drive, and make it unsafe to drive still.
Anyway it's all those primal needs that keep organisations around by people with no sense of purpose after they have lost the power to inspire but not motivate. Maybe we would be better off if a few people admitted defeat and sliced open their own abdomens.

The 'Big three' of the warring states period met the following fates:

1. Oda Nobunaga abolished the ineffective and corrupt Ashikaga Shogunate was stabbed in the back by a traitor.
2. Toyotomi Hideyoshi his successor unified Japan and died of dimensia a revered Samurai who had risen from the lowest ranks)
3. Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun and the founder of a rule that lasted 200 years sparking the renaissance from which Geisha, Kabuki and most artwork emerged dying in retirement a happy old man.

None committed suicide).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Getting Learned

Every parent no matter what they think of themselves think the world of their child, and do everything in their power to help them succeed. Infact to deviate from this basic recipe of parenthood makes one a bit fucked up in the head.
Yet fundamentally it's selfish because success is not available to everyone and in some cases is purely relative.
At least wealth is relative we know that 1 1966 salary is the equivalent of 2 incomes in 2006 in terms of the real income. So now both Mum & Dad work to achieve the same quality of life as before. Infact it's harder now to be succesful in terms of wealth (purely of wealth) because not only do you have to be a success but you have to marry a success to to combine fortunes into a fortune. Really you are more successful if you just manage to marry someone who is exceptionally successful.
But kids, yeah you want your moron kid to be a big success so he can jump the class gap. Maybe even support you in later life. Furthermore your kids now want to be a success, an exceptional success - almost all kids have ambitions of being famous in either sports, music or film.
Many kids are pushed to be brilliant in all areas. Like you can just make a kid brilliant.
Chicago in an attempt to desegregate schools removed zoning laws and allowed high-school students to apply to any school in the district, to prevent total and utter chaos it was still a lottery, you could apply to change to any school but were not gaurunteed being allowed to move.
What was the outcome - they determined choice of school had no bearing on a students success. Why because it was almost a perfect empirical experiment one could observe cases where two students of near identical ability applied to change schools (a better school) and one gets through and the other stays, outcomes where the same.
It makes sense, teachers best students in most cases in my experience where already smart by the time the teacher got their hands on them, they weren't transformed from a dumb student into a smart student by the teacher.
However in Australia at least my opinion is that it isn't that clear cut. The VCE system at least from my experience is highly irregular at identifying intelligent students.
It makes education big business for private schools, which I attended. VCE is one of the education systems designed to determine a schools ENTER which tells them where they are in line for popular universities and their courses.
For those expats that don't know every subject you do in final year highschool recieves a study score out of 50 the average mark being pinned at 25. To encourage students to take more intellectually demanding subjects scaling is applied, so if you get a study score of 48 in say Cake decorating it may get scaled down to 28 as one assumes below average intelligence students take Cake decorating as a subject. Whereas of course all the genius kids take Specialist maths (scaled up 9 points) and Latin (scaled 14 points) because they are of above average intelligence.
Sounds perfect doesn't it?
But the system like any system is full of loopholes.
Some subjects aren't scaled down enough to make them unattractive to intelligent kids, one popular way for private schools to bump up its performance is to enrol all it's students who would do specialist maths into further maths - the fundamental mathematics subjects, really a no-brainer. Because mathematics holds such high esteem in academic circles it is only scaled down 2 or 3 points, yet an above average student can get a high mark with little effort or difficulty.
Public schools will tend to honor the system and enroll only average students in this subject, they have no incentive to perform well in most cases, their funding is guaranteed and enrolment for future years is usually in higher demand than they can supply.
Furthermore Private schools have fairly simple resources available to them - like photocopies of the last 10 years of exams for almost any given subject. Particularly the most reliable and ironically lucratively scaled subjects like Specialist Maths, Maths Methods, Physics, Chemistry etc. Rather than educate along lines of critical thinking and other truly valued transferable skills in a private school you learn the questions by rote.
Give or take a few panicked mistakes in an exam you cruise through with little difficulty, some numbers will be changed but effectively you have seen the entire exam paper and it's answers before (you just study it in an inefficient way by learning ten times the questions that are rotated through an exam) many of my teachers new exactly what questions would be asked plus three or for that didn't get asked because the exam papers don't vary that much, with only a few new topics swapped in and a few swapped out).
There's a simple reason for this: students have to be taught something to be tested on. Furthermore given the number of institutions this 'learning' has to occur in across the state it has to be simple enough to be delivered by a fairly consistent amount of staff and examined year after year. It also has to produce enough students to fill places in Universities, of which there are tens of thousands of places across many courses. If you mixed up the exam questions enough to test students innate grasp of physics and mathematics, pushed them back to a theoretical level you would probably discover the vast mass does exceptionally poorly, relatively few people read for their own recreation except for when the new Harry Potter book is released. It wouldn't be a surprise. I am not as smart as pythagoras, so really instead of identifying a couple of 1000 genius and then the rest relegated to a lottery the learning has to be accessible to the majority.
That is a descent teacher has to teach 'the motions' to most people. That is how to slot numbers into a formula to determine when thermal equilibrium will be reached with no understanding of what happens on a molecular level or where the fuck in real life you would apply such learning.
So a motivated student (motivated to succeed in the competitive sense rather than learn for learnings sake) at a school with a decent teacher or at least pushy principal and a decent photocopy budget can more or less guaruntee those students a score above 90 (top 10% of the state) that is I firmly believe that within VCE anyone can get a 90+ enter if they want it for maybe $100 extra photocopy budget per student you can charge that student a $2000 premium to study per year, and the only real time you have to ramp up that spending is in their final year subjects so multiply that by 6 years and that a $10k premium per student a private school charges over public. In Melbourne it would be in the $100k ball park due to demand being so high.
I have seen some of the dumbest people, the most ignorant, lazy and selfish score in the 90's. I would have been dux at 6 other schools in my home town but ranked 15th at my cumwad school.
and it is just one of many that get by on amatuerish marketing in Victoria with buzzwords on every page like: 'driven,success,inspiration...' pick up the age Wesley, Xavier, Carey all do it. They build buildings of the utmost technological advancement, give students laptop computers, hire marquees and put on wine and cheese nights, build cafes for students to feel soffisticated in and fail to produce one student who is smart as a crazy greek dude like pythagoras. And again if they do, it's probably already been determined by the time they get to the school.
The buildings, laptops and everything are distractions of course. If you think backwards how is a laptop computer going to enhance the learning experience? educational software is not big business but textbooks are, that may change in the future. What wireless hotspots and notebooks give students access to is more distraction, if anything student learning outcomes should decline with the introduction of laptops.
Buildings sure, having a rock climbing gym or a sound stage is impressive to give young people an opportunity (and actually heading in the right direction of what educational institutions should deliver) but come exam time final year it all gets pushed aside, the facilities and innovations are somewhat cosmetic only because at the end of the day the exams must examine knowledge that can be delivered in any institution. In the start of my school year in year twelve my laptop broke down. I didn't bother repairing it because it was a heavy piece of shit, and I didn't need it.
But it was mandatory for all students to have one at my school. I had one I just couldn't use it to play games in my physics class anymore. I finished in the top 15 students of 100 in a year level. and top 5% in the state. It more than got me where I wanted/needed to go. More of a hamper to my score would have been my decision not to do the pathetically downscaled further maths subject.
At the end of the day it came down to experienced teachers ( a good thing in any system) and extra photocopy money (a bad thing in any system). For sure VCE in the days of take home CAT assignments used to be worse, restricting all examination to class time observed assignments sure did take a lot of pressure off students but possibly made private schools less attractive.
I'm not saying private schools are evil by the way, I would definitely send my kid to one, and recommend it to everybody. I'm merely highlighting how poorly designed VCE is and don't automatically accord any respect to 90+ students, they probably aren't as good as they think they are/or much better than they think they are, judge by their character.
But surprisingly whenever I pick up the Age education supplement there aren't may letters by students condemming the general system by which their next couple of years are determined. Maybe rightly they realise university isn't all that important. And it obviously isn't...
While I say private schools are easy money (and one asks if it's so easy why don't I go and do it?) it isn't easy to get into, it requires a fuckload of capital to buy school premisis and decades to build up a brand name within the community to attract high school fees and teachers who know the system in and out. Frankly I got better things to do.
Public schools don't implement (relatively) anywhere near the number of easy loopholes in VCE to get a better outcome from their learning. As my friend Bryce said of his school (a very good public high school) 'It's like they don't even care'
and they don't, put simply there is no incentive for them to get the best result for their students. Most major public schools that could compete with private schools have no board members to please with record enrollments and profitability. They can't put up their fees and charge more. They can't charge any fees at all legally. They can't take students from all over the state, offering them scholarships and accommodation. They don't want to. They don't have to do any recruiting drives for prospective parents. They have no incentive to get results to flash up on a projector in front of some obsessive parents who's kid is entering kindergarten to bring in more money.
Private schools do.
University doesn't matter.
Why? Whilst a high school may wish to put in it's magazine a former student who has achieved some level of fame and accomplishment, most private schools mention very few of their alumni past their enter score statistics because frankly too many of them perform poorly post high school.
Surprisingly parents get short sighted on this point too. Most likely because for them so long as you had a uni degree you had a free meal ticket. Or they assume their child is that smart.
But if you take an average kid and spoon feed them into uni then take it away when the knowledge becomes specialized, and simultaneously introduce them to more sex, drugs and gambling of which they have all just reached legal age to consume
this tends to be the most overlooked period for a young smart student to go off the rails, get sexually harassed, get problems, get arrested or more commonly just fail and drop out of uni.
But a highschool isn't responsible for that, they can't send a teacher out with every student to guide them through university and shit.
Which wouldn't be necessary if a student knew how to learn.
So the problem I pose to society is that uni graduates, high school graduates are actually a russian roulette flooded with people who on paper look the same but range from brilliant to incompetent, simply because we test the wrong things.
It would be wrong to test say genetics, or go by demographics. But more or less that's what we already have anyway, wealthier people can get into university either, explicitly (full fee paying positions) or implicitly (private schools).
An MBA used to say you were a pretty smart person, now it says you are a person with an MBA. A doctrate and even Bachelors degree where the same, now they are necessary but almost meaningless.
And I'll end by tying back to my leadership pyramid of doom. Why do so many people want to go to university? Why do so many people want good jobs? What are their dreams? Some people the answer to the last questions makes the first two obvious, they dream big, have ambitions, want to change the world, contribute to human development and make the world a better place, they want more resources to use, they want a lever by which to move the very earth. Good on them, that is precisely why you should, not just want to go to Uni, but want to learn constantly. Some people I know never completed Uni but in my estimation are so far by no means impeaded in their dream of changing the globe.
But some people just don't want to be left behind, or want to be rich. Have a nice house. They infact are really just mindless consumers. People who will later want a promotion for more money whether they like the job or not, would be good at it or not and unfortunately too often get the job for sheer brutal lack of dreamers.
Most people want to jump on the bandwagon but don't know why, or don't care where it is headed. Simply because people, love to be on the bandwagon.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Leadership: The Pyramid of Doom

Posting after a certain hour of the evening often leaves thoughts unfinished. Here is something I don't understand entirely: Group mentallity. I've always associated it with stupidity, or in fact it has always been for me the definition of stupidity. That is to surrender your will to others.
From my marketing studies I know that Affiliation is a basic human need. People need reference groups. That's okay, identifying with a group, whether it be artists, rock stars or emo pussies can be a powerful form of group expression.
Yet I must admit once you enter a certain strata of the general public I tend to find the groups people tend to affiliate with get bigger and blander until they effectively obscure themselves from all interest.
It may be regarded as the country town telephone conversation, to overhear one of these does things to the ear and brain. Talking about things of such little consequence and entertainment values one wonders how they could talk about them at all.
It's not that I have anything against country people, in fact since moving to the city I've discovered almost 93% of interesting people have moved here from somewhere else and 60% that somewhere else is the country.
But they are starved of information, you may say there's plenty interesting in any conversation a notted up ball of string might entertain an economist or mathematician for months. But I digress and I digress hard...
what I mean to say is the subscription of most people to common sense, common knowledge and common appearance.
I never thought I'd lose my ability to keep it real, but I've started arrogantly using the term 'white bread' even though I personally eat more white bread than multi-grain.
I think the fact that I've managed to immerse myself in a broad cross section of society to the degree I have to use this term means I'm keeping it realer perhaps than when I lived in IH.
Anyway one baffling mystery to me is the power of ACA and Today Tonight, they are quite the conundrum, the rate better the less informative their stories are. They can have people believing Chappelle Corby a white bread drug traffiker is innocent and David Hick's a confused and emotional man locked up in an UNCONSTITUTIONAL prison, with no charges, NO CHARGES... is guilty of treason. Which he obviously can't be because he hasn't been charged with treason.
Yet most people would probably vote this way. Yet there's obviously an undercurrant as well, there are no street protests to free Chappelle. There is no more money pooring into appeals.
There is however for David Hicks, there's also decent quality lawyers defending him, voluntarily. In fact they stepped up to prosecute the Government.
But it isn't just that I've heard ignorant opinions on, the most overwhelmingly depressing subscriptions aren't social injustices, they are far more mundane.

1. Overtime - Hard work will be rewarded. The most conventional wisdom of all with the least backing it.
2. Tennants have too many rights - I work every day doing activities of value to someone, I pay roughly 28% of the proceeds to some dude I don't know so I can live in a room he doesn't need. Arguably he is providing me with the service of a room and this is of value to society but I would argue it would be much more value to society if it where given to me who doesn't have somewhere to live and he could keep living in his house not working.
3. Public transport is useless I need a car - If public transport had the potential to make as much money for our economy as the car industry (which we pay taxes to support as well) you could bet it would be fantastic - you could even bet you wouldn't need a car.

And so on and so on.
Fact is everyone wants a piece, but not everyone is a leader. I read Freakonomics which had some important studies in it I'll give you the conclusions though - in terms of success at school it matters who parents are but almost not at all when it comes to what parents do.
In all studies money has not helped elect any candidates, votes don't follow money, money follows votes.

Companies look for leadership these days, everyone looks for leadership. Leaders can be good or bad. A leader I must admit may well be something you are or aren't.
What companies and individuals have alike in there desire for leadership is that they place stock in indicators not causes of leadership.
I'm pretty sure we all could agree we've been told various indicators we should aquire to get better jobs, like working for McDonalds, part time work, volunteer work, being school captain blah blah blah.
But these things don't cause leadership, they may indicate someone who is a leader.
I would suggest leadership is a relative thing too, all of us have some propensity to lead but it tends to be relative to the other members of the group.
A douchebag at your work for example may go home to be leader of a family of douchebags, their douchebag kids may even look up to and respect their douchebag parent.
But we all tend to bow down to a stronger leader, there's a price for everyone in finding someone older and more experienced to defer judgement to, again one of those affiliation needs.
Yet it's far more complicated than that, or simpler I don't know what I mean. In most countries the big leader has most appeal to the lowest common denominator. Democracy especially favors this outcome.
Brilliance can be alienating.
If the majority of people are average (which by definition we must be) what are the chances they will relate to someone brilliant?
None. Unless of course they feel threatened by someone else brilliant. This is what I like to call the 'he's a bully but he's our bully' it probably in early times and times of conflict led to feudal lords, someone who felt they owned all the social pyramid below them, and has in turn propagated brilliant people into popular imagination.
What surprises me is that a person will subjugate their will to that of another person in any context. Just give it up and toe the line. There's agreeing with someone (implicit cognitive process) and there's towing the line (no thought whatsoever) which is where most demand for leadership comes along in greater society.
It leads to gang mentality.
Honest Abe says: 'You can please All the People some of the time, or you can please Some of the people all the time, but you can't please All the people All the time.'

I would say:

'You can please some of the people, some of the time.' and leave it at that. If you can please someone all the time there's something wrong with that person.
Even the closest relatives have enormously divergent experiences so at some point you can hav a disagreement with your sibling (if you have one) why be loyal, unswervingly loyal to anyone.
From this basic human downfall erupts, religion, politics, office culture etc.

More thoughts later.