Monday, April 21, 2008

I don't Get it

Firstly, why I always get put in the hostel dorms with the man-child weirdo's with no concept of 'social conduct' that happens to me with such regularity I am starting to suspect that youth hostels is just where they happen to reside thus ensuring one to each dorm room.
I don't want to sound like an anti-semite or anything but the Germans sure know hospitality, I miss their hostels already and I've only been out for 2 days.
The second part I don't get for the past 3 days I've been cycling, from Dusseldorf to Emmerich am rhein, Germany to Arnheim to Ultrecht to Amsterdam to Gouda, Netherladns a 300km oddessey. The first thing I don't get was that in Austria I rode from Salzburg to Linz which is exactly 125 km in 1 day and Austria is full of hills, then it seems after that I haven't been able to cover more than 60 in a day, Bavaria that was understandable it is really hilly, but then once leaving dusseldorf I headed off at 8.30 in the morning, which is the earliest I had ever managed to get away (at that point) and had the usual mechanical which was too little pressure in my rear tire, but I fixed that. And I rode all day and suddenly I was in a race against the sun, before even hitting the Dutch boarder (but barely) and ended up just crashing into a cheap hotel in well...somewhere.
Then the next day my deflated ipod away I noticed an irritating sound, it sounded like the wheel every now and then was brushing against fabric, so I thought maybe one of the tent or saddlebag straps had got into the works but no.
And I stopped and wheeled it a while and the sound stopped, I couldn't locate anything fucking wrong with it the wheel spun fine even when I lifted it off the ground. It wasn't until a went soaring down a Netherlands bike road into a tunnel that I noticed all of a sudden my alternator lights where working, just barely and then I noticed that they shouldn't work because the alternator was popped up into the off position, except with my weight depressing the bike a little and the wheel buckled it was just catching it every now and then.
Hold that, my wheel was fucking buckled.
Now a wheel buckling is by far the most painful and emotionally taxing mechanical you can have.
Imagine hanging off a cliff edge by your fingertips, and suddenly your pinky slips off, and even though you are still hanging on, your pinky due to natural curvature is pushing against the cliff face almost like it wants you to fail when you are desperately trying to succeed. And furthermore you know that now the pinky is gone, it is only a matter of time before the ring finger slips off too.
Having a wheel buckle is worse than that, because at least once all four fingers go on that hand you can reach into your pocket and get out your mobile phone and call emergency services, really you should have let go before.
But a wheel buckling takes away what fixed gear riders pay for the priveledge of not having, it takes away momentum. If car drivers are frustrated by lights, bike riders who actually have to generate their own momentum and drive their own accelleration hate them more, fortunately its fairly easy to run red lights on a bike but a cyclist knows that conserving momentum is the name of the game.
When a wheel buckles it hits that brake pad every rotation and when really bad will force you to keep pedling even going downhill.
But the thing is, that depending on the state of the wheel getting it fixed is expensive, in either time, labor, parts or all three. and having done 955km Rosante was in particularly bad shape. by the time I reached amsterdam the spoke snapped, so I taped it to the next one knowing it wouldn't fix the buckle but at least got rid of the clack clack noise.
The next day I decided rather than wait for repair work in expensive Amstrerdam I would stubbornly gun for Rotterdam where I currently reside and get the necessary repairs there, where I could also peacebly chill out.
So I set out, just after lunch I had reached a place called Ter Aam, I wasn't going to train because the best thing to do here is ride the bike roads all over the country. Anyway just after lunch I heard the second load clunk and the noise from the buckle and traction got noticably worse, I was only 20km from Gouda so I decided to make it the fastest 20km of my life. Mistake, the extra strain caused a quick 3rd and 4th pop and then I had to dismount, 14km to go.
I simply could not ride Rosante anymore.
So I walked 14km to Gouda.
At the 9km to go mark there where disturbi ng noises, I started to get really worried that I soon wouldn't even be able to push the bike anymore. I heard more snaps and on closer inspection noticed that most of the spokes had broken away from the hub, meaning the rim would need to be replaced, not just a few spokes.
This made me very nervous because I knew Rosante would go from a convenient for pushing bike shape, to a major liability should the rear wheel stop spinning.
Fortunately it made it to Gouda, now I just need to get repairs.
But anyway if you are wondering why I went AWOL for 4 days, (probably not) its because I've been riding. And man it has been good.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Orange Tree

Anyone who knows me between 'moderately' and 'intimately' on the 'know-me' shitty facebook ap results, knows that from multiple choice question two of two before having to compulsorarily invite 18 friends to install the ap in order to obtain the dissapointing result, knows that I like analogies.
And I thought of a simple one for explaining the merits of resource rentals - the labor market. But resorting to a simple analogy is not characteristic of someone who 'loves' analogies. No I must come up with one that on the exterior seems superficially simple but is in fact much less simple than saying 'the labour market works on a rent based efficiency, why shouldn't land?'
So here it is - the Orange Tree.
Maybe the correct word is hypothetical? I don't know, but I do know that my love of analogies is so great that I would gladly have Bill O'Reilly tell advocates of hypotheticals to 'shut up' and appluad fox news for being 'fair and balanced'.
So an old man happens to own an Orange tree that has a fixed amount of Oranges on it 200 or so. And being old he has actually reached a stage where he is unable to make Orange Juice himself, but is happy to provide his Oranges to enterprising youths for a small token fee. He sees he has two choices, he can make the young boys pay for what they take (Oranges), or pay for what they make (Juice).
Of course the one that makes the most sense is to charge them for the amount of Juice they produce. I mean its just common sense.
So three boys with big dreams turn up and ask Old Man Peters (who I've just decided to call Peters) for some oranges, and the old man says 'sure help yourself, just come back to me with the Juice you've made and I'll charge you 25c for every litre you produce. Which of course Old Man Peters will reinvest on the boys behalf back into the community. Now something about the orange tree, its magic, and if picked the Oranges stay fresh for a week and then rot instantly and the tree produces the same amount of oranges overnight. I think that magic will make my Analogy work.
At anyrate the three boys get straight to business.
The first Bobby, picks about ten Oranges and then using a conical plastic device and a knife, extracts the juice and pours it into a jug, from his ten oranges he manages to produce 2 litres of Juice.
The second Timmy, picks about 68 Oranges and then proceeds to sit Orange after Orange on a slatted outdoor table with a corresponding Jug sitting approximately under the gap between slats that the orange sits on. He then repeats a laborious process of dropping a massive rock on orange after orange to crush out the juice which partially runs throgh the slats into the jug but mostly splatters wastefully ont Timmy and the surrounding environs. (Not to mention the damage he does to community property by dropping a massive rock on a table) through this laughably inefficient use of Oranges Johnny manages to extract 1 litre from his 68 oranges.
The last one Jimmy, picks the remaining Oranges which become his property, he does nothing with them knowing they will stay fresh for a week and have after observing Timmy and Bobby, knows they are the only Oranges in town.
Bobby and Timmy go to old man Peters to declare their juice production, Old man peters notes that Bobby owes 50c for his two litres, Timmy owes 25c for his one and Jimmy owes nothing at all, having produced no Juice.
Timmy and Bobby hand over their hard earned canadian quarters and then head off to market to recoup their losses. Jimmy registers his Oranges on ebay.
Timmy and Bobby after two days eventually sell their Orange Juice stores, critics acclaim Bobby's juice as 'fresh as summer rain' and Timmy's as 'earthy with subtle hints of oak or pine' nevertheless cashed up, Timmy and Bobby look for new raw materials to use, finding Jimmies on auction on ebay, Bobby has the most cash having sold two litres for a grand total of a dollar, and timmy has 50c.
They bid furiously over the Oranges remaining of which conveniently their are 136 enough for two liters in Timmy's method and thirteen by Bobby's. Thus Timmy's maximum rational bid is 99c where after paying 50c for the Juice provided he will emerge 1c better off having sold his 2l for the going price of a dollar and Jimmy earns 99c from speculation on the Orange market. For Bobby however the juice he plans to produce will amount to $3.25 paid to old man peters and he can sell the juice for $13 so his maximum rational bid is $12.99 but with only Timy to beat he need only bid $1 so Bobby makes a bid of $1 pays $3 more to old man peters and discovers demand isn't what it used to be and only manages to sell $8 worth of juice and wastes hours of his life because I hate Bobby and his enterprising efficiency.
Jimmy makes $1 for no work at all apart from commandeering as much of the Orange supply as he can, so assured he determines to get up early the next week and take all the Oranges to sell to Bobby and Timmy.
Old Man Peter's system is perfect, Timmy eventually becomes unable to bid and dies of malnutrition having no income, Bobby happily pays his dues to Old man Peters and pays his supplier Jimmy for Oranges that Jimmy picks and then makes available on ebay at no expense to himself.
Perfect.

And now looking at the ridiculous option of pay for what you take (Oranges) Old man Peters decides to charge the boys 5c per Orange they pick calculating that the most efficient use of Oranges is 1l per 5 sold at 50c per litre according to market value for juice so he taxes the oranges at 50% of their realisable value.
Timmy thus faces going into debt if he doesn't adopt more efficient practices. Jimmy also risks going into debt because if he simply picks the oranges and Timmy and Bobby refuse to buy them off him, he is still liable for the paying his dues to Old man Peter at the end of the week. So he has to either use them for Juice or don't ick the fucking Oranges at all.
(Did I mention Old Man Peters is particularly harsh on tax evasion, impossible to hide when he never sleeps and watches who takes what oranges all the time). Thus Timmy, gets out ahead by picking all the oranges and using them efficiently, Old man Peters uses his proceeds to encourage competition by using a community enterprise scheme to buy Timmy and Jimmy knives and Orange Juicer things so they enter the market the next week and stop Bobby from having a crippling Orange juice monopoly.
SO plainly, one can see that the most effective way to redistribute income in society is charge people tax on their income to prevent them from getting too wealthy through efficient business practices and handing over their income to someone who has never worked but happens to own all the property available for these wealthy 'elites' to live on.
Thereby those who don't work efficiently at all can be forced onto the street and the government ensures that the revenues gained from the working elites can be redistributed in societies best interest to the noble property owners through tax refunds on the losses they make on bank loans in property speculation (apologies for not working out a way to add negative gearing into the Orange Tree analogy, I'm sure one day it will come with time).

So the simple way would have been to say if we treated land like labor then one would note that the appeal of firing an employee is derived from the fact that they cost a company money, so they either make money for the company or they don't. Now a large part of how effective an employee is, is actually dependant on the quality of management of the company hence the costs to firing to encourage employers to actually take some responsibility. But fundamentally it holds true, people talk a lot about he 'productivity' of their workforce, and almost never about the 'productivity' of land holdings.
If you had to constantly fork over cash to sit on land then you would sell it the moment it made you less money than it cost.
If on the other hand you treated labor like land, you could recruit every graduate out of university (providing you have the capital) then 'shelve them' until other productive employers came to beg you to sell your employees, you would then rent them at a profit having done nothing at all when compared to the desperate people that actually need employees.
Furthermore if capital is an issue, you should lobby for a tax break on interest charged for any lone when you fail to rent out, or rent an employee at a loss.
What a perfect system.

Unelectable

There comes a time, when once enlightened or at least enamoured of reason one rules oneself out indefinitely from ever becoming a leader 'of the people' due to the compromises inherent in the process of 'assuming' power.
What a great word 'assuming' is, noteworthy because it is a true representation of reality. It is my belief that power is never at base taken, only given. This doesn't mean things like coercian cant make the act of giving power seem very much like taking power. A fine example is the Pascal's wager base argument (note not the actual thought exercise) that if we love god, who is great and good and only an idiot wouldn't love him anyway we also have a choice between giving our will over to god's master plan in order to achieve etrnal bliss, or choosing otherwise, the MOST unpleasant everlasting experience ever with no chance of reform or repent.
But the emphasis must be placed not on the coercive aspect of hell, but the fact that as Dawkin's pointed out Hell would only have to be midly unpleasent to work as an effective disincentive to choose the path of light. That is that one chooses to give power to God by virtue of it being the only 'rational' thing to do.
But enough enough, what I really wanted to look at was Democracy not religion. I have been reading Chomsky's 'Deterring Democracy' which is a stunning book and well worth reading, if I could believe in a world where its hard enough to get a majority of people reading a piece of entertaining fluff like 'the life of Pi' or 'The Kite Runner' let alone persuade enough people to adopt a lifestyle where they don't have to take a holiday in order to find time to read (and usually light pieces of fluff) or choose a method of commute to work which takes their hands of a stearing wheel.
these are ironic thoughts to come from someone who writes a blog.
Infact the point I am trying to make of my own ineligibility to be elected can be demonstrated easily by reading the '1 star' reviews of 'Deterring Democracy' which for me inspire ammendments for my UN charter on Public Debate namely the old chestnut I also found in the Amazon.com review of 'My Isreal Question' which is that they simply have no place to comment or publish on their subject matter because their credentials aren't reliable enough. Chomsky being a linguist and Antony Loewenstein being 'I was very disturbed at his apparent lack of academic qualifications, which further reduces his credibility.' and I even hesitate to mention the two because when it comes to the Isreal-Palestine conflict, I don't care well not anymore than any other conflict in the world by two tribes that hate eachother.
And again you have a fine example of democracy at work. All three potential presidential candidates condemned Jimmy Carter's trip to visit the leadership of the PLO. And in the last Australian election you could vote between Rudd & Howard and subsequently between Apologising and not apologising, combating climate change or combating climate change, war in Iraq or Staged withdrawal but not any divergance on the 'peace process' in the middle east.
I mean we have come a long way in being able to vote on whether to stay in Iraq or not. Due to unfortunate timng we didn't have a choice about going, and the first time around we didn't have a choice about going to the first Gulf conflict.
And furthermore if you are running for president of the US the 'practical realities' are you have to believe in God, and that is something I and people like me can't do.
And furthermore if you believe in say Land Taxation you can't be elected because everyone knows that you need financing for advertising space to get elected.
And that means you need donations, and once you need donations you have boundaries on what you can actually do. You have to otherwise there is no incentive to donate.
And now my head is full of too many poisonous ideas to well documented here for me ever to be a contender and recieve donations.
So hereby I bow out of all leadership races ever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

KB81 for MVP

The web, the part that isn't pornography or social utilities is littered with one debate above all others - Kobe or Chris Paul for MVP.
And I have to say for some reason this season, I lost all interest in the New Jersey Nets and perhaps something about the indignity of Kobe not being MVP last season made me follow him more than others this season.
I say indignity because the MVP is like the Brownlow and other accolades, murkily concealed between an individual and team award. It isn't like many music industry awards (thankfully) and thus instead of being based on polls or voting reflects sales, if this was the case then Jordan would probably still be winning the award on credit.
But it is like the Brownlow in that if you are the best player in the world, THE WORLD, you can still lose it if your team loses it. As Naturally as the Brownlow is dominated by midfielders (who control the flow of scoring opportuities to the forward 50) so too will it appear that MVP will become dominated by Point Guards (who set up the plays).
And this accounts for the indignity of Kobe being overlooked at least last year and possibly every year since Shaq left.
Because Kobe is the man you can deliver the ball to, and can simply create a shot for himself. Not only that but he will do it in the clutch. Not just that but he gives on both ends, capable of pulling down rebounds and steals and blocks and being an all around defensive menace.
Chris Paul racks up steals to be sure, and for his age in the league to be in the MVP race means he is probably going to be huge for the next 5 years, and certainly is more promising than the marketed down our throats Lebron.
But maybe I'm sentimental. Kobe's stats put him clearly in contention, and then his team has the best record in the west.
But that aside Kobe is I believe still the one guy you could put in any team and guaruntee a trip to the playoffs. He failed once the second year after Shaq left, but Chris Paul failed last year in a much weaker western conference.
If I had to pick, right here right now a player that would win games, fill seats and generate excitement, you could pick either, but you would pick Kobe this year over CP3 so that's my vote, not that I have an official ballot slip.
But again perhaps the onion says it better:

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Mind as a Blue Print

For some reason whilst riding a train out of the Czech Republic...infact I think I have made the tenuous memetic connection, the Czech countryside is in various states of disrepair, I was remembering the last time I had felt that way which was a tour of a shoe factory that operates in Ballarat and how I (and vocally expressed by Brenton) had been motivated not to work in a factory by the experience, thats where the feeling stopped but I remember talking to my dad that night and commenting on the factory and him feeding back how observant I was about the factory conditions...I thought for the first time ever what my dad's profession and subsequently training in Engineering had had on the development of my mind.
I realised that it must have been profound, or maybe our inherent genetic mapping left our minds geared up for engineering, but I realised I evaluate everything in terms of mechanics.
For example, things are either useful or useless. Functionality occupies the highest cadre in my mind and functional efficiency is more or less how I evaluate everything.
More so I felt this was a reflection of one skill my former boss had that I would really like to have developed, that was he instructed through questions, or maybe more appropriately directed through questions...then the training guy at work mentioned that my boss's dad was a teacher and I did know he had studied the field of science.
But engineering is only questions in the profession of questioning the necessity of stuff, and otherwise its answers to problems. And I felt reassured that it was more a question of approach. My dad if he possesses one fault above all others is that he doesn't ask for help, nor rarely admits defeat.
This is something I've had to learn, but the habit has been passed on.
Hence the Trainer who was good at NLP which also creepily popped up when wondering what effect/impact Chomsky's expertise in linguistics could have passed on to his ability to construct almost perfect arguements, same same with Dawkins.
So here's something I think may explain a bit about myself, give me something to do and I will map it and redesign it, as a matter of course. And usually this results in me expending less effort. That's my approach, to everything. And while I may profess to no universal truths or answers, my behaviour doesn't reinforce this, I only generally accept modes of operation that work the same way every time.
For example, what is good for business is good in government, or else rejected. Therefore totalitarian style business I won't accept as good, because government exercises generally have proved it is bad.
Same same for perhaps how I responded to Georgism, I looked for the mathematical law that held it true in other forms, an example is that if Land Tax or Resource Rentals were applied I would observe it would operate on the same logic as the Labor market, that is an employee costs you money whether they are productive or not, so businesses tend to try and make employees and use them as productive as possible, this would be true of a land tax, therefore it is consistent with my world view that is that things should be as consistent as machinery.
The funny thing is, I can't remember my dad imparting these 'engineering' values like teaching us Asimov's three laws of robotics, but maybe that's not necessary, maybe its just about observed behaviour and other queus and quirks.
But take for example any accessory in the world and I will immediately evaluate it in terms of functionality, and my uncanny ability to look at something in a museum and guess what it is used for, which frustrated Chie no end.
But that's the way my mind works, on a threshold of functionality. Even with art evaluations it has to 'say something' and then I would value it in terms of its efficiency in doing that.
But enough about me...

500 time for a UN Charter on Public Debate

In the past couple of years, since the development of the 'Information Super Highway' the 'World Wide Web' 'Blogging' 'MySpace' 'Youtube' and the English language, a new superpower arose that proved great inconvenience to the entrenched elites. Noam Chomsky calls it the 'Second Super Power' and I certainly hope some dick doesn't label it 'Superpower 2.0' as they explain it to the computer illeterate and behind the times audiance of Oprah.
Furthermore with the discrediting generally of mainstream media by marching enthusiastically towards Vietnam, Operation Just Cause, Gulf War I, Bosnia, and Gulf War II (which is shame on you (me) since it was the identical bullshit that Gulf War I was (IDENTICAL)) this second superpower is really annoying for population control, because it seems the population is controlling itself.
And as a blogger now with 500 posts, and surely less posts that are just a youtube clip with some depreciatory comment like you find on Harvards blog I should be pleased to be a part of it. I should be basking in a smuggy glow that somehow my misinformed, grammatical nightmare rants are making the world a safer place, happy just to be a part of something bigger than myself.
But let me tell you a story about me, my makeup more than my history. It goes way back to when Bryce and I were chubby rosey cheeked children running around with camera's for ABCs shortlived youth spinoff series 'Race Around the Corner' it goes back further than that because we hadn't been given our camera's yet.
We had super happy days on the bus commuting from our all expenses paid school dorm accomodation to the ABC studio where our 'training' took place, and forever the day I first noticed that quiet voice that was Ben impersonating Bryce seems always fresh in my mind, almost as fresh as when Bryce, not realising he was being impersonated started unknowingly impersonating himself to be in on the 'I hate Julia she's such a bitch catchphrase' anyway, zaney as all good ABC 'yoof' programming should be; I announced a 'Pick on Tom day' (yes back before the superflous h had become naturalised into my name) and it was all going well, I had to sit alone by myself as other 'Racers' told me to shut up.
Except for Kim, my first girlfriend in the same sense that Mugabe is democratically elected, who had the surprisingly keen insight that I actually felt more comfortable under attack and dealt with it better than people being nice to me.
And that's the end of storytime, the point is, I would much rather listen to what is wrong with me, than tolerate 5 seconds of praise or admiration, even from children impressed by that thing where you look like you have one long double ended detatched finger (which isn't as petophillic as that sounded). I would rather hear the kids say 'You know tohm, it would be more impressive if you interlocked your fingers with your back toward us so we can't see it is a mere illusion' from a 5 year old than 'Wow thats magic!'
I love criticism, it makes me hard to like in a lot of circumstances, like Clevinger in Catch-22 girls that go to plays with me have to wait until intermission to find out whether they are seeing a bad play, and then find out immediately from me.
Bryce now just plain asks for my analysis straight up whenever I go see one of his shows (though maybe I just don't know what you are supposed to talk to the director about when you go see their show, kiss their hand and make Oscar Wilde Witticisms or something, I don't understand theatre people).
But naturally being set to critic always rubs people the wrong way, particularly when they are proud of something, and people are entitled to their opinion, self esteem and dignity and all that shit. But I do have a few rules I wan't recognised in international law, that I see as infuriatingly unethical, stupid and detrimental tactics. I will list them and these are the meat of my 500th post.

1. Not being able to disprove something does not have the same status as being able to prove something.

This is used for religious argument mainly, in that believers actually believe they are being rational and empirical and clever by asserting that you can't disprove the existence of an omnipotent creater entity. And so all sorts of 'debates' and 'talking circles' and 'events' are set up and attended under the false pretense that people who believe in entities for which their is not a shred of evidence apart from the popularity of the belief itself somehow enjoy the same standing as someone who can prove that say... 'the planets revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits' for example.
And of course this would mean that I might have to admit that my power to kill people with my thoughts that I vowed never to use using my magical unbreakable vow that I only use on things I will never break a vow for may just be a creation of my imagination, should the UN ratify that argumentitively not being able to disprove something is not the same status as being able to prove something.
Otherwise think of all the people that should go to Jail or even the chamber because they were unable to disprove that they didn't kill somebody else.

2. Hypocrisy does not deprive someone of the right to complain.

The US has an appalling human rights record in South America that peaked under the Reagan Administration, there are reports and historical facts to verify them, unlike say the existence of WMD's in Iraq. So if China has a questionable human rights record in Tibet or elsewhere, that doesn't mean that on account of hypocrisy America should not criticise. I also don't suggest that the US gets away with human rights abuses either. As a lover of criticism and debate, I would much rather see the two sides, three sides, eight sides or 120 sides point the finger at eachother and introduce these issues into public debate, than both respectfully ignoring them.
This I think is possibly the most benifitial of my proposed UN Charter, it annoys me most with to be honest the Zionest lobby, as one of the three groups of people it is most annoying to try to rationally debate with, the Zionest lobby whether it formally or informally exists or doesn't exist, is nevertheless annoying in its insistence that public debate, criticism and media coverage are somehow some complex legal game governernd by precedent and process.
An example is an accusation of bias, that is say when an extremely unlucky journalist manages to get some photage of say an Isreali tank bulldozing a Palestinian settlement in occupied territory, and because they fail to also capture photage of a Palestinian tank bulldozing an Isreali settler's property, the coverage is biased and therefore in the public interest should not be shown at all.
Or that Australia shouldn't criticise Japanese Whaling on account of being one of the most enthusiastic nations for demolishing old growth forests in order to protect some unskilled taswegian labor. I would rather have both parties criticised, then just one party criticised preferentially, because criticising none at all is a sure fire way for things to only get worse.

3. A unilateral ban on the 'You are either with us, or against them' tactic.

This is the Nuclear, the Chemical, the Child soldier, the rape as a weapon of debate tactic all wrapped up into one. It is by far the most insidious and the most counterproductive, and sadly one of the most effective.
Being employed currently by the CCP in the PRC to beautiful effect with the baffling phenomena of 'pro-china' protestors. This one is sadly personal for me too, as my beloved Andy sent me a whole bunch of 'facts' about Tibet, that probably are factual, truth is I don't care because (and the pro-tibet protestors are partly to blame here) the facts of Tibet aren't what it is all about.
It is about the right to protest, freedom of expression and largely while the protestors may say 'Stop Chinese Human Rights Abuses' or 'China is the enemy' they don't actually mean China, just like the more popular target of protests and demonstrations 'America' doesn't mean the two continents, nor does it even mean the country, but usually the administration that is most often responsible for whatever is going on that is pissing people off.
But here is where the tactic is really insidious, if the Beijing Olympics is a success, you can bet the CCP will say to the Chinese population 'The World loves and admires the CCP, aren't we great? aren't you glad to have us?' which is largely I think what the protestors of varying levels of hypocrisy and stupidity are trying to counter, and again trying to get as close in frame to the torch as possible is probably the only way protestors can assure it is as difficult as possible for the CCP not to edit them out of reality, so that is the 'You are with us' part, the thing though is that since it isn't running smoothely, the CCP can get up and say 'The World out there hates you! it doesn't want China to succeed, it hates you because you are Chinese' hence hencely, if it is good it is praise for the CCP, if it is bad it is an attack on the very Chinese people themselves.
An insidious little trap 'You are either with us, or against them' incidently this tactic also comes from catch-22 and was far more successfully, time and time again applied to US foreign policy, people who approve of it usually are approving of the specific administration (us) (Iraq - the Bush administration and his 'determined leadership' and his 'vision') or alternatively are 'anti-american' suddenly they hate all of america and their way of life (the french).
This is also popular way of transforming a mere Zion-sceptic into an Anti-semite. To not be an Anti-semite you have to enthusiastically support everything Isreal does, hence I have had to accept sadly that I am an Anti-semite merely because I am sceptical about the occupied territories.

4. People who claim sensitivity, should only be entitled to be called 'pussies' or 'morons'

On a camp for a certain economics group I support, a kid who was a kid of some missionaries called me up for making light of Jesus, and I apologised on the grounds that I recognised that Jesus meant a lot to him and not much to me at all.
I similarly have backed down on criticising Isreal in the past (yet have never backed down on paying out Islam curiously enough) and most recently had Andy again point out that the Tibet protests were sensitive for him on account of being Chinese.
But fuck them, fuck them all. I mean I don't have anything against them personally, and I do love Andy, but just because someone is sensitive doesn't entitle them to have me ignore and shut up or worse politely agree with them because they get emotional whereas I just want to argue.
For example, Andy feels personally attacked when people talk about boycotting the games over Tibetan Human rights abuses (for the record, I think Tibet is but one of the smaller reasons to boycott the games, it just happens that through savy marketing they have managed to get a majority share of attention from all the issues, the best reason is probably the environment which could kill us all) but what if they/I am right, as per charter proposal 3, I have already established that Andy's feelings of being personally attacked are not real, but what if he and others like him go to 'pro-China' protests and in 3 weeks time evidence surfaces that there are horrific human rights abuses being carried out by the CCP against indigenous Tibetan people. Surely this is worse than Tibet protestors being wrong about an absense of human rights abuses which sadly for logical reasons (see Charter 1) the Chinese government won't allow anyone to disprove.
Or say Jesus is your bet friend, and I happen to dislike the way some people use Jesus to convince people that believe some wrathful/loving God takes offense at them using condoms in a country where aids is widespread. Fuck you, I'm going to criticise some of the darker points of how your 'best friend' is used to influence the world.
Again, Saddam Hussein in Gulf War 1 claimed his invasion of Kuwait was provoked by Kuwait waging an economic war by siphoning oil out of disputably Iraqi oil fields, economic theft which could reasonably justify war since 'Operation Just Cause' was a US invasion of Panama on the grounds they could potentially threaten American Interests (Noam Chomsky's research not mine) meaning Saddam had more right to invade Kuwait in 1990 than the US did to invade Panama in the same year.
He also asked the UK and US to leave the matter to be resolved by 'Arab States' which was similar to the US asking the world to butt out of Western Hemisphere issues or Russia asking the world to butt out of the Chechen rebel issues.
The fact is that debate is better served all around by as few people as possible recognising 'sensitivities' adn instead handling these issues like adults instead of children. The children are the sensitive ones that need a 'G' rated life to pretend bad things never happen.

And that's my UN charter that I want to see ratified, so I can punch anyone in th mouth that tries to (for summaries sake):

1. Claim that an inability to disprove that something doesn't exist is the same status as proving something does exist.
2. Hypocrisy does not deprive someone of the right to complain.
3. It is either 'you are with us or against us' or 'You are with them or against them' and NOT 'You are either with us or against them'
4. You can't claim sensitivity to avoid unpleasent topics.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Free Career Advice 1: Earned vs Entitled

What a fruitful Canadian that guy was, and what a pleasent Hostel the Lettem' Sleep youth Hostel in N├╝rnberg is. I gotta say a half empty, comfortable hostel with fully equipped kitchen (that sadly I never used) was a very welcome relief for me.
Anyway, I was talking about how I plan to be a consultant as a cashmaker when I get back, focusing on getting higher performance & retention out of younger staff. (So in otherwords management) this was timely as a friend reminded me of both the high churn of my old employer and the confused issue of 'loyalty and career'.
Old school companies value loyalty, but old school companies also value country clubs, sexism and all that shit.
Also I find that a combination of our parents, natural selection, marketing, business oriented education and society in general produces graduates with inflated opinions of themselves. Just generally.
Now there's so many places I could screw up the moral of this career advice that its good that I'm roughing it out here rather than when I am hopefully paid to sit down with companies top prospect youth.
Some background maybe is what I need more than you. As far upstream as I can percieve, the cause is risk aversion. I was super fortunate to meet Bryce in my life who is a 'self made man' in my eyes, has a high risk threshold that he doesn't seem to even notice and has demonstrated the profits of which before me, thus in a way saving me from my own overanxious parents.
Not that they are deviating from anything parents are supposed to do, at least not in their circle, and unfortunately in the majority of the concentric circles that make up the developed worlds society. For every material gain a person makes becomes a source of risk that it may then be deprived of them.
So generally without going any more in depth, people are risk averse. That is to say, while the days where landing a government job brought relief to parents who despite the average pay would thank the lord you had a job for life, there is still a pervasive drive for parents to encourage their kids to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, hr, engineers and so fourth, to go to university and basically be an employee.
Whats wrong with being an employee? nothing, if it suits your risk profile, but this profile is hardly ever explored, it is just assumed that your risk profile is low, or that is average.
Because an employee vs say an entreprenuer is very low risk, low risk of failure (get fired - hard to do by most managers - get payout - get new job) vs the high risk of failure for an entreprenuer (business fails - easy to do - house repossessed - bad credit - hard to raise new capital).
The problem is that the same is true of the profits, you have very low risk as an employee of swimming through the filthy profits of your employer (at some level an entreprenuer) you instead may earn a decent salary that incrementally increases over time, but the majority of the profit of your labor usually is retained by the entity assuming all the financial risk - the entreprenuer who has a high risk of making a profit through owning a successful business and retaining profits or increasing capital and salary through appreciating stock.
That's part of why I'm becoming a consultant, I want to assume more risk, while I am young enough that failure doesn't necessarily send me into bankruptcy.
Anyway I did end up going way off track, the point is though that if you are a doctor, say a GP in a lot of countries you are going to be well off, people are always sick, and they almost always want to get better or at least complain about it. As such you can charge them decent money and put it in your pocket. However there is an upper limit to what you can earn especially in relation to the competition where you want to live, or you can specialise to eliminate some of that competition if you can face going to your 10 year reunion and telling those entreprenuer jerks that you are still in university learning all about colonoscopies and how to safely remove hamsters from lower intestines.
Not that I have anything against you, its that your parents encourage this and through a collective effort encourage schools to encourage you and the schools to encourage universities to encourage you.
But more than medicine which is pretty much game over for risk from the get go (think of famous doctors in the past...ever...Patch Adams & Dr Zhivago) yes its big fish in a small pond. Where this really comes to life is business.
Let me trace out the story of risk from conception to the relatively high churn rate of graduates today.
My own life, went to school, primary school was a walk in the park, then came secondary, faced with a choice between public and private, I went public (some hope of a risk profile there) got to public, didn't like it for the first couple of weeks and so signed up for a scholarship exam at a private school.
Got said scholarship, by the time I was informed though I had gotten used to public secondary life and was quite enjoying myself. At the encouragement of all, though and maybe convincing myself that it was riskier to change schools than stay at one, I changed for year 8. Went to private, no risk whatsoever. Infact it was living in the most risk averse institution in the world. I would like some happy medium, because I have it from friends that the public school I left, didn't get too enthusiastic about helping people that wanted to get into uni.
But private school is different, they pick subjects for you to maximise your score, your principal presents the VCE statistics that 'don't lie' to parents considering signing their kids up for primary school there.
Your teachers virtually drag you by the ear and throw you into university. They get their next batch of statistics which in turn gets enrolment up, which is a job well done for them. The catch is though that you 'earn' your place in Uni by paying the money, and who is the customer, the payer - your parents. Hence a private school can justly charge a premium for delivering you to universities doorstep as its the teachers that get you in, all you have to do is practice the necessary exercises like a showjumping horse. But at least philosophically, just paying money to go to a particular highschool doesn't 'earn' you a place in University, University places are earned on merit, as in you are the best and brightest you get the seat in the lecture.
But parents don't want a dumb kid to be exposed to natural selection if they don't have to, they have money and can skip the middle man in Australia by just buying a full fee placement or they can pay fees at a private school and rather than caring about education they just care about getting you into university.
The evidence I submit is just plane all around, go to a prospective parent night or pick up a copy of the good weekend and have a look at how private schools market themselves. Some school cum douche factory has the motto 'where success comes standard' or something similarly sickening, and the models for the photos are usually the calibre to make hitler proud, if they haven't had an ABC like multiculturalism flavor swabbed liberally all over them.
But with such demand to get into a good university, universities must just have a license to print money right? wrong, for some reason the university business structure seems to be highly unprofitable, and they go to extensive efforts to attract students from one another. I really only know the big 3 of Melbourne - Melbourne U. RMIT and Monash, but there's definitely a heirarchy, Melb is the big fish with the most beautiful campus and recognised name, Monash has the money, big campus again and Medicine and Law courses to rival Melbourne and then RMIT is the inner city tech and business focussed uni with the large international student population.
And there's a cat and mouse marketing job going on, Monash innovates its med course, losing a year and adding more practical experience to provide a meaningful update. Melbourne reacts because it has to. Before that RMIT came up with co-op a marketing ploy to make its business courses more relevant than Melb U, and Melbourne reacts because it has to.
And in Business more energy goes into what the uni's can market than what they can't. Of course you can't advertise on the merits of a course alone, no you have to reduce the risk that parents and by now Uni students worry about the most - the next step - getting a job.
So I can say that more noise (if not more time and effort) goes into job interview technique, resume construction, networking, job placement, career mapping, professional skills development and so fourth all to reduce the risk for us in the daunting process of selling ourselves to a company.
So in a nutshell, most peoples career path is as follows - go to a highschool that minimises the risk of not getting into uni - go to a uni that minimises the risk of unemployment.
And it can even relate to course selection, accounting is popolar for PR purposes and also employment, and I had logistics recommended to me not because it was exciting, interesting or fun but because it was guarunteed employment due to surplus demand.

What does this do to our graduates mind? firstly when talking with the canadian it makes life seem like a process that is merely a matter of biding ones time. Secondly it makes success seem like a commodity that can be purchased. Thus most people having done what you are supposed to do, feel entitled to payrises and promotions and benefits and all in a timely way.
I notice two distinct symptoms, the obvious 'career advancement' generated churn, sometimes it is honestly justified, but a lot of the time it isn't and then the further studies/qualifications road to success.
Namely I have seen people getting their CPA expecting a payrise, but this logic is the equivalent to Lionel Hutz' babysitting spiel 'Sir I was just going through your dumpster and couldn't help but hear you were in need of a babysitte...now as I am a professional lawyer my rate is $230 per hour (or something like that)' those were the days, because the logic is that becuase today you are more qualified than yesterday, doesn't entitle you to a payrise. Generating more value may give you cause to request a payrise, being potentially more valuable does not. Pay is the work you do, not who you are.
And then there is the career advancement churn. This is justified when due to a pyramid heirarchy structure in your organisation, you reach a point where there are 3-6 contenders for 1 position of advancement, if you get offered an equivalent advancement in a different organisation you can rationally accept the offer.
This isn't justified when you have been out of Uni for 6 months, don't feel like you are getting paid the $100k per annum you feel you are worth, and take a job with a high paying recruitment firm.
Why? well because for 1 you signed a contract no doubt, and without discussing loyalty, lets discuss stupidity. A contract among otherthings, usually contains the initial provision for salary and a suggestion that it can be altered. Nothing more. And you sign it or you don't. In signing the contract you communicate to the employer 'this is how much I am willing to work for you for' and the employer says, 'this is how much we are willing to pay you to do this work' and by signing it and them writing it, you have communicated that you will work for how much they will pay you.
If you are not happy with it then, don't sign it. Don't sign it, register with a placement firm and surf the net for a higher paying job till something better comes along. Because then you have lied to a stakeholder (bad business practice) and two you are not putting energy into your career, you are putting energy into all this money you are supposedly entitled to.
If you want more money and to do this by building your career, put your energy into developing yourself within the opportunities presented by the job. or as I like to say it do what you are motherfucken paid to do.
As I have been travelling I have discovered one trap mentality is to pine the lost opportnity of where I have been and simultaneously long for where I am going next. Forgetting where I am at present. Sometimes this is justified, and if you aren't enjoying yourself, be it career or otherwise, my advice is to 'start enjoying yourself' or leave.

So here's the how to develop within your role there are a number of strategies I will attempt to put in a logical semblance of order.

1. Become more efficient - this is a favorite of mine, do your job for a while, then identify the bits that annoy you most or waste the most time/energy, then figure out ways to eliminate them. Then you will find yourself bored - the ideal state for good customer service btw, so that a customer with a problem becomes releavingly interesting.

2. Ask your boss/manager for more work - this is where development kicks in, once you have gained in efficiency, then you have more time to do more, your manager can handball to you the stuff they hate to do. Which has a number of steroids for your career, 1 unless you work at Semco, chances are your manager is paid more than you, therefore a task that takes him/her one hour that you can now do in the same time suddenly costs the company less. How much less? the amount of money different from what they pay you per hour and what they pay him per hour. The second thing is that something he/she hates you may enjoy, it might be a spreadsheet or it may be reporting or proofreading or making calls or purchases or so fourth, thus you may through sheer enthusiasm become more efficient at it than your manager.

3. Repeat step 1 after step 2.

4. Get job specific training or development. There is a big difference between getting a CPA for a role that any shitkicker accountant can do, and getting training in excel to make you better at your job. Or training in power point for you to prepare better presentations for your boss or sales reps. Do this and you actually increase your value, so don't 'initiative' train hoping to pleasently surprise your employer with a demand for a pay rise - they love that. No show initiative by sitting down with your manager and talking about how to develop in a way that yeilds value.

Now onto why acting like you are entitled to payrises, promotions etc is bad for you. Firstly, the number one determinant of your payrise is corporate performance. You are an expense that either generates value or makes a loss for the company, no ifs and buts. Each employee has an invisible ROI above their head. Even if your ROI is crucial, I wouldn't recommend going extortionist on them.
The company, unlike you isn't entitled to increased revenue, it has to earn them. Companies can't demand customers buy there products because they 'worked really hard' they have to win the business.
You are lower down on this ruthless foodchain. If the company only grew by 2% last year with what they currently have, you would have to be pretty special to get a 14% payrise. Furthermore, if payrises are determined in percentage terms, they compound each year hence a further reason from the company perspective that they are going to be reluctant to give you a payrise. Bonus's are a neat way around this.
So why increase your cost to the company, if your value hasn't increased. And better yet, realize that since its the company taking all the financial risk of employing you (that is they are paying you in the expectation that you will do some work) the incremental increase in value should be greater than the incremental increase in cost, that is they want you to be a more profitable asset of the company.
People who insist 'you have to demand what you are worth' are talking Lionel Hutz, because they rarely say, go to the financials and calculate your personal ROI and agree to a percentage of that, because that is high risk commission pay (something I am not averse to) but something that salary isn't. No people want to be entitled to the profits but not to the losses. Tax revenue that goes to corporate relief packages fall under this category aswell so employers aren't immune from the same ideology.
But if some firm offers you double your pay 6 months out of uni to switch to them, why not take it? risk again, I ask you why the fuck would a company pay double for a person they don't know to switch jobs after 6 months? because they are in a riskier business. And I would say on average that most recently these jobs seem to be in the field of HR, and recruiting firm start ups are going bankrupt every other week. The demand is their, but the clientelle is churning through the field, hence you get all these get rich quick startups and thats probably where you are heading.
Because they can't know how entitled you feel - aka how great you are - you only have a 6 month long resume, they are taking a gamble on you. And even if you are a genuinely good employee, if this is how the company recruits by snatching unproven talent at above market value, chances are the organisation is going to have shoddy expensive employees.
So don't speculate the market with your own career, invest in it by trying to be more profitable.
That's fucken business.

No Country: Some thought exercises

Well here we have, aside from comments which are always available never used, my first ever interactive post!
Boring.
Anyway I was talking to a Canadian dude in my hostel in N├╝rnberg about my 'life sickness' that seems to crop up everytime I get too sedentry while travelling, and this lead to my unpatriotic outlook discussion, and I thought I might share some examples of why I say I am 'no-god, no-country' even though society generally accepts and lauds both piety and nationalism.
So without furtherado, ponder these motherfuckers:

You are Australian, that is an Australian. Through some sever misfortunes you end up in a POW camp somewhere in a nasty tropical region of the world, you are stuck there with a fellow Australian Prisoner, whom you hadn't met before your incarceration, and also a Czech Republican prisoner whom you also didn't know.
The Aussie calls you mate and all that, the Czech struggles with English, but is talkative nonetheless.
Over the months, you are beaten, starved, forced to construct a pyramid all of that glamorous POW stuff, you get to know the fellow prisoners and find the Australian to be largely pig ignorant, rude, lazy, annoying, stupid, inconsiderate, greedy, abbrasive and generally unpleasent to be around or even know. The Czech on the other hand is polite, friendly, supportive, amiable, worldly, helpfull, resiliant, determined, ambitious and generally quite pleasant company.
Now one day the nasty tropical warden decides sadistically, to free you and gives you the choice of saving one of the other inmates, you can't puss out and give up your own freedom to save both of them, furthermore the choice is forced upon you, so you must take responsibility for it.
Who do you choose?



Now see I compare this choice to the 'buy Australian' logo or even the decision to support the 'defence force' going to war or occupying another country. I chose Czech because it was the country other than China that I have liked the least so far, and note that if the character of the nationalities where reversed so to would be my decision, thus nationality here for me at least is irrelevant, however, buying Australian and 'the war on terror' the question of nationality as to who recieves unpleasent fates and who I grant relief and protection to apparantly is. So by the results I get I'll know where this should slot in aswell.
But on to question 2:

You are Australian, and like other Australians your parents were born in Ethiopia and migrated here as refugees. Australia day is rolling round in a couple of weeks and both Today Tonight and A Current Affair are running stories on 'What it means to be Australian' there are photos from early Australian History depicting 'battlers' cutting down forests to settle farms, and interviews with old people. Experts talk about 'mateship' and 'a fair go' and other stuff that appears as values in your religion of Islam. Lamingtons and Pavlova also feature heavily, but nothing like your African cuisine, infact nothing like your Sudanese cultural heritage.
Worried that you might get picked on at school for the way you are dressing, the food you eat and so fourth as being 'Un-Australian' and eager to prove your love for a country where the tap water is safe to drink and your parents earn good money as cleaners and taxi drivers and you can go to school for free what do you do?



This one I say don't assimilate, as for me it highlights that 'Australia' like 'God' is a term that doesn't physically exist, it was made up by mankind to serve a function and furthermore is sufficiently vague to be extremely hard to define and also has a habit of claiming common humane traits and labelling them as 'Australian' other examples of this I have come across is the 'Loving way we Italian's have of shortening eachother's names, to make it more intimate' as a fine example of something almost every culture does, but it takes nationalism to suddenly make something so common unique. In short birth is the criteria for membership, and since we can't exactly choose where we are spat out we shouldn't hold people at any more obligation.

Lastly, you are Australian, forced to work in Savageland, a small pacific Island Nation rich in resources, your work has sent you here and you have noticed the local government is nothing but a gang looking after its own self interest, it sits on a commanding natural resource of oil reserves and under the watchful eye of world public opinion Australia is reluctant to take it by force. Fortunately the leader of Savageland is a local massmurderer who isn't so concerned with the welfare of his people as he is with his own ability to retain power. As such he will sell the oil cheap to a popular Australian government in return for enough money to give himself first class living standards and his militant force an incentive to suppress their fellow countrymen.
This lack of fair negotiations you, through your company contacts, could change, because the downside for you is that having to live in Savageland will be unpleasent under a propped up dictator, thievery and violence would diminish greatly if the people got a fair price for their oil and could get industry jobs and investment in infrastructure that would otherwise go at a much cheaper price to the dictator and his goons.
The flipside is your fellow Australians will have to pay more for oil, so what do you do?



This last dimension of my aversion to nationalism was the hardest to do and I think I failed, but basically its the issue of scope, which Chomsky is probably best at pointing out, namely if you look at the behaviour of 'the free world' when it comes to foreign policy, you will notice near to no actual evidence that they actually believe in spreading freedom. That is its still about retention of power even in a democracy, so that if your voter base wins or at the very least is placated nobody else is important, therefore rationally it makes sense to encourage dictatorships that are cheaper to deal with and exploit anyone weaker than you in order to win more for your electorate and thus win votes. But that is to say that members are 'important' and non-members are 'unimportant' thankfully Australia has only sold out the East Timorese and a few other pacific nations in the past, America has more to answer for, but this brand of nationalism makes the world as a whole less pleasent and a smaller pie for all.

Anyway thats it douchebags, I hope you got a 'thrill' from the 'polls'

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Beijing 08 watch 4: Maybe there is hope

Rudd impressed me by actually being representative to some degree in China. good job Rudd.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Karmic Retribution

So I was in the Czech republic, which gave me my second reference to my theory that cheap is not free, I mean it is miles better than the cheap countries in Asia for one thing it seems to have a good old sensible birth rate.
But here is what is, 1. the commons is what makes you rich and 2. a country that has cheap prices has reasons for it.
Here I was cycling in picturesque Austria, how picturesque you ask, well for one thing I have pictures and can you see them? no. I probably wont hit a net cafe with decent bandwidth for a while now that I am tightening my arsehole in unexciting germany.
But to put it in perspective, I got up early in Linz, Austria and by 8.30 was on my way to Ceske Budovice or something, I gave up on roman alphabet in Czech you just can't trust it.
It was all uphill, 14 km of uphill, I had lost tire pressure probably due to the cold Austrian nights and had to pump up my rear tire, which involves taking off all my packs, in the rain on the side of the road on an incline with trucks slushing through puddles as they passed me.
I then continued up hill for whatever remained of my 14 km (about 12) in 1st gear because the incline must of been around 4 degrees. And it rained all the time, with no small towns inbetween to stop off at, (unless they were really small) and I took about 40 photos, they were beautiful and I really enjoyed the ride.
I then coasted at the top of the incline for 8km with no peddling at all, and that once you are soaked, is painful. Easy transport yes, but the windchill is deadly.
Then it was all picturesque countryside, just beautiful, I had a hailstorm and sunshine and took photos till my batteries went dead.
As such I unfortunately could not photograph the psuedo momentus bordercrossing from Austria into Czech republic.
Except I was wrong, I assumed that it was farms on one side of the border, and over the next side would be much of a muchness, just let the pleasentness role.
My assumption was so wrong, it was actually momentus, I crossed the border and all of a sudden, everything was shit.
Creepy looking gypsies looking at me from the woods and roadside stalls, 'American Casinoes' open 'Non-stop' that looked dingier and dodgier than the most dero zone 3 taberat. The Brunswick Club would look inviting by comparison, it would fucking look classy by comparison.
Billboards for strip clubs, planted in the middle of rundown derelict paddocks, derelict paddocks! fucking ill kempt grass and fences, there isn't much less you can actually neglect than a paddock.
The roads were wider that was a plus though, but everytime I wanted to stop, there was a prostitute waiting and I didn't want to talk to no eleventeen year old slavic trucker prostitutes.
I pulled into Kaplice thinking I was just going to hop a train straight to Prague, but wouldn't you know it the Kaplice station isn't in Kaplice, its about 10k out of town.
I get there and they only have cash payment, and foolish me hadn't exchanged my euros yet, which even though he could have ripped me off, the guard refused to take. blah blah blah, locals looked at me funny, got wrong train information, nobody cared, got stranded in some other town, found a nice hotel just barely, got to Prague and by then, Czech republic had well and truly failed to make a good first impression on me.
Prague is nice, its pretty cool, but if it gets just a bit more expensive it wont be worth going there. Thats my verdict.
It has that real, we'll fleece you and your the idiot attitude to pricing and contracts and descriptions of stuff.
Anyway by the time I got out of there I was glad and looking forward to a civilization that was at least straightforward to understand.
But in my carriage suddenly a guy appeared, and asked me if I spoke German in German, I said no English only.
Then he told me in english he had been on the train, fallen asleep, thieves had taken his bags while he slept taking his money and ticket. Then asked for help?
Knowing the worst way to help is to suggest what they could have done in hindsight and making people feel foolish I instead opted for 'How?'
He asked me to buy him a ticket to Germany.
I told him I didn't have the money.
And to be honest I didn't, but also because in Melbourne the sob stories of people needing to get to Bendigo but had their wallet stolen were familiar in my mind and I wasn't handing cash or buying tickets for anyone I couldn't verify, and furthermore I thought in the same predicament here is what I would try: 1. Police 2. Embassy 3. Reverse charge call to a friend 4. Desperately ask complete strangers on a train to have mercy on me and buy me a ticket or hand over cash.
I think the odds of actually needing no 4 are relatively small, small enough to make the guy suspicious. But he gave up quickly and moved on.
He could though have been telling the truth, and in his panic gone for the flight instinct of finding a way home as quickly as possible.
I don't know but knowing that there are police and embassies to help people out in these situations comforts me at night.
Ironically though when I got out at the station at Nueremberg, and went to withdraw some cash, and was refused I discovered my transaction of funds hadn't gone through as I thought it had when my earlier purchase of my train tickets went through, leaving me with no real funds for 24 hours. Fortunately I found a hostel that said I could pay at checkout rather than upfront and I had some yen I could exchange, and then good old options 2, 3, 4, 5. but still it could have been karma, stuffing up my transactions and delaying me a day.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

An Issue of Trust

First of all this news just in: It's official I'm tired, I raced up to prague and it was exhausting, but I don't want the race to stop, I'm tired of Europe of behind the Iron Curtain, of the remnants of the Third Reich, of Cathedrals, overpriced everything and the ceaseless march of tourists. I now want to get to Valencia as quickly as possible, and there I fear I will crash in an exhausted heap and not move for weeks. I have hit the wall, my mind is decaying I am becoming some kind of tourist animal, I contribute nothing, I do not exist beyond the money I have to spend and 6 months is a long time to live like this. The freedom of ceaseless holiday is become prison and you office jerks don't know how luxurious a life of eating KFC in your underpants on the couch watching monday night offerings from SBS truly is, so take your KFC box and tell it you love it this Monday, for me, for you, for all of us.

A man called Mahmut approached me and asked me the time on my third last day in Istanbul, I told him I didn't have a watch and didn't know. We got to chatting and then (first stupid clue I missed) I eventually reminded him he still didn't know the time, he found someone asked them and then kept walking along and chatting with me.
I noticed an earring drop on the ground, I pointed it out and then pointed to a lady in a red jacket who I thought it belonged to, I don't like yelling unintelligibly in a foreign language but I pointed it out to Mahmut and he chased after the lady. He came back with the earing still in hand and curled it around his little finger, and then we kept on talking. I liked the guy, he was friendly and shit. (the earring keeping was the second clue I missed, who keeps one earring?)
We walked and I achieved my stated purpose, it was incidently about 3 in the afternoon, I bought my chocolate and then Mahmut offered to buy me a drink, I told him I didn't drink, he said coke no problem, if I was hungry I could stop and eat.
I figured we were going to some kebab stand so I agreed, choosing to trust this welcome chatty stranger, he was a nice guy.
Thinking I was heading into a cafe I walked through a doorway into a dark sovietesque, shoebox of a nightclub, my momentum carrying me beyond two large waiters and I knew, from them I had been had.
I had to watch this sad scenario of a scam I had been warned about numerous times unfold. I refused drinks, made an excuse to leave, refused to buy drinks for two homely girls but alas, Mahmut when he asked for the bill was still charged about $600 for their bottle of wine, something I was suddenly expected to deal with.
I thought, 'oh well just endure a beating and get thorwn out' tried suggesting they call the police since I couldn't settle my bill. Refused to help out mahmut, tried to force passage, eventually after much verbal abuse and manhandling they had me reveal the contents of my wallet and took about $100 from me. And then I walked.
I walked to the police who wondered why I was bothering over such a measley sum.
I was perplexed because I felt, well to be honest I was still in the 'trying to say I fucked up without sounding stupid - which is a very hard thing to do' which seems to be the chief human occupation so don't judge me.
Anyway I'm a policemans wet dream, my memory for detail, my ability to sketch and so fourth is so good, but the police just weren't interested.
I felt the bar crew had been stupid for trying to push on with the scam even though they never secured my agreement to buy drinks for anybody including myself.
But alas it was my word against six, so nothing came of it except I wasted 6 hours tring to make a police statement.
Still what peeves me is that I am stupid, for trusting someone nice, that in all the moral people will focus on and expound is 'don't trust people' a statement akin to 'take no risk' and 'stay at home'. Now who would I be to come home and have this as my advice?
I thought fuck it, yes there were specific things I should have done, like take a photo of the guy before hand, or even with the guy, asked more about him, got his history and shit, and just plane not walked into a shady little bar in a sidestreet in the middle of the day. That's what I learned, but I was determined not to learn 'don't trust strangers'
And then about 4-5 weeks pass and I am in Austria, specifically I am exiting Salzburg for Linz, embarking on my longest bike ride yet 125km. I head out right at 10am, stocked up with sugary energy food a map and drinking water, I can't get onto road 1 which should take me directly there, and in winding from nth to east attempting to hit the onramp I eventually wind up following a small alley onto a path through a park.
I take some snaps because it turns out to be picturesque and seems to bend towards a major road which I figure is the one I want.
I follow the bike path and come to a sign that says some place name is in 7km.
So I decide to check the place name on my map, I figure I'm somewhere between the A1 Autobahn which is a no go and the 1 which is a go go, I place myself as somewhere obscured by annoying blue dots on my map.
'What do they mean?' I aks myself and look lazily over at the legend spotting something I had never botherd to look for, a bike road. A road dedicated to bikes that winds its way through the countryside from Salzburg to Linz via lakes and shit. Mindblowing.
I follow it, my luck seeming to have won out again, just like the day before when I dropped my camera and it only took red photographs. I desperately tried to find a camera store that could repair it without causing anymore delay only to find them all closed, where in frustration I hit my camera and it came good. Perfecty good.
Anyway, I don't want to dwell on it too much, but riding through Austrian countryside was truly special, and when I get close to a decent enough computer I will upload pictures to my facebook account.
It was a truly memeroble day and even now as I set in unkempt Prague I long for the warm weather and endless green fields, and smell of cowshit for that well kept Austrian countryside.
I arrived in Linz in a race against dusk, like vampires where chasing me or shit, and had no real problem because the bike roads took me right into the city. But by then I was exhausted.
I pulled open my travel guide to get directions to my hostel, found the address but no further details. I peddled around a bit hoping to spring upon signs directing me or a map of the city.
I had to give up on this the signage was really poor in non historical linz, so I quickly ducked into a net cafe, got the address, put it on a map, got my bearings and headed off.
Unfortunately my bearings didn't reflect true distance and I soon got lost again, heroically I asked directions and got my course corrected. started to find signs that directed me to the hostel, unfortunately the hostel was called 'jagengesthaus' or something and I confused this with a sign that pointed uphill to a place called 'jagenmayhoff' which after ten minutes off steep ascent turned out to be an art gallery, I cruised back down hill, near exhausted, near despair into the relieving lobby of the hostel, only 50m from where I had originally lost track.
It was 10.15, it was then that I read a sign saying the reception closed at 9pm, something my guidebook one lonely planet guide neglected to mention. Infact the lack of opening times and services in Europe is I think the thing more likely to catch a naive foreigner out than anything else, supermarkets being closed on Sunday, infact every sunday is as dead as Easter Sunday in a lot of Europe.
Anyway, I got out the guidebook and moved to next cheapest on the list.
I got back into the city around 11pm, rang the doorbell of the guest house, no answer, and everything in town was shutting for the night, no tourist information no nothing.
So I resolved I would have my first night outdoors.
On my way to Venice I had met a guy who had offered me accomadation for as long as I stayed in Padova Italy due to our shared enthusiams for cycling, I thought here was a perfect chance to trust someone but never took up the offer because frankly I was too tired to deal with people at all when I got there and crashed in a hostel, slept most of the next day and felt dissapointed but merciful on myself.
Now it was 3 am, I had 4 chapters left of 20,000 leagues under the sea, was wearing every bit of warm clothing I had, sitting in a deserted plaza in Linz and the warm spring night was quickly becoming cold.
Streets are really deserted in Linz at night, once or twice a reveler (not drunk or dissorderly though) would cruise through on the way home, then a guy rode almost past on his bike, then circled back towards me and asked if I was on a journey.
I explained my situation hoping he would leave me alone, then he offered m a room. At 3am when its turning cold and you are all powerful from a diet of riding and carrying a 40kg bike up staircases and over bridges for a month I said 'I'll check it out if I may'
I asked the guy who he was, noted his address when we reached it, the room had a lock on the door and a bed and I wasn't saying no. Georg my benefactor gave me a towell, stuff to drink, made breakfast, gave me a phone, maps everything, let me use his shower and I washed my hair for the first time in six weeks.
I stayed two nights, bought him some chocolate and some Australia pins, and was really glad I trusted a stranger, not insensibly, but the fact was, that I trusted someone who seemed nice, and was nice, because if we punish nice people, by not trusting them, just because not nice people can do a fair imitation of them, then I think we are all fucked.
Yes I was vulnerable, but we are all vulnerable to things far worse, and that far worse is a life without risk.
Yes I'm tired of travelling, but I am also transformed, seasned, hardened, tasty.
As thomas Jefferson puts it: I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

So let trust be your default setting, and don't scold people for trusting.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cool Hunted

Cool, or worse 'kool' what an elusive indescribable term. When one tries to understand it no matter through what means it alludes one. Even with trusty white person analysis.
I was perusing and noticed a website for knog and was dissapointed to hear handsome boy modelling school - 'I've been thinking' a track I enjoy an a rainy moist autumns night riding under the sodium bulbs of the streetlights that perch around princes park. Also the Japanese model and risque lesbian kiss. Infact for a company that sells pretty ikea-esque bike accessories (I have a light in my backpack from them) its alltogether inappropriately risque. It is what you exactly wouldn't expect from North Face or Kathmandu and thats the sort of semantic space knog occupies in my mind aswell.
Then there was the book 'Pattern Recognition' by william gibson, I will say there are two books that if you have lost touch with everything and wondering where the 90's and also maybe 80's went this book and 'The World is Flat' together probably could bring you up to speed.
Pattern Recognition lost its steam towards the end, but the protagonist is a cool hunter who gets hired by a cutting edge marketing firm to pursue some user generated content and becomes a cross continental journey into paranoia and fashion and shit.
And it kind of made me sick, Neil Gaiman put an endorsement on the cover saying Gibson takes the present day world (now only two years or so out of date) and shows it to us in a way as if we are seeing it for the first time. And more than the World is Flat, I think this book does achieve that.
In all the sickening pointlessness of it all. The descriptions of brands are overwhelming, and once you become aware of brands its almost sickening to wander any pavement anywhere and look at people, because all you see is a grotesque multitude of brands.
But it goes deeper than that, because cool hunters are the seekers of opinion leaders, they facilitate basically making the cool into banality for the majority of the market to accept and mass producers to capitalise.
These are your professional readers of fruits magazine and wanderers of Soho district London, people who turn up to the big day out to take photos of kids in line to figure out what is cool, compose it into a list sell it to a big company and then they mass produce it and stamp a brand on it (like the billabong, quicksilver, rip curl thai fishermans pants a few years back) that makes it okay and safe for most people to put on.
Let's bring you up to speed on the core of the fashion foodchain, basically you have opinion leaders - the big fish, the sharks, the apex of the foodchain, no natural enemies (until cool hunters came along) these people go into an op shop, find a blue blazer with brass buttons and chuck it on, then when immediately ridiculed by their mass of friends at school on casual day say unto them 'fuck off, I like theme'
Now memetically what traditionally happened was that their opinion after some initial resistance spread organically to their close friends who adopted their latest stylings.
Their other friends are opinion seekers - the pilot fish, the bottom feeders, the weakest link on a very short foodchain of fashion, the kind of people that ask bikesnob 'I'm interested in getting a fixed gear, what are they exactly?' in that order as he aluded too. Chances are, and I'm just speaking of probabilities and also that if you are reading this lets face it, you must be seeking my opinion. Anyway in consumption terms, these people seek the opinion from their external reference, this used to organically speaking be the simple process of following the lead of the larger more charismatic shark.
But the waters are muddy! now there are sneakerheads, armies of otaku from japan and furthermore, the insidious marketing practice of cool hunting that can make an opinion seeker confuse themselves for being an opinion leader. yes now you can log onto the internet, find a special interest page, actually just follow the lead of a whole community that already exists and probably copied someone too cool and too unemployed to ever access the internet and suddenly in your local stratosphere you appear to be an expert, a leader, a pioneer. Whereas really you are a johnny come lately.
But that isn't even the worst thing, its that yes, you if you are cool are literally being hunted.
In a big indirect circle, your loser friend are paying premiums to big brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton and Rip Curl and FCUK and other mainstreamers to go and figure out how to immitate you (if you are cool) and then what makes you you makes everybody the same before you know it, forcing you to move on like, I don't know, the dinosaurs in Land Before Time or some shit.
Here's how it works, you are walking through your local shitty street market, and at some Vietnamese stall you see a $3 pair of sunglasses that crazily, match your chuck taylors, so you buy them and where them in September as the weather is turning nice, but because you hung out in the wrong bar, went to the wrong underground bands concert etc, somebody takes a photo of your new 'eccentric glasses' and then takes them to a company who looking through a pile of such photo thumbnails and with a report identifying 'trends' they figure out a way to stick 'DG' on virtually the same glasses and sell them for $120.
They look just as stupid, moreso because of the ungainly woggy brand on the frames but now that it is expensive and recognisable (and that's the key for people who rely on external reference) its okay for a mass of pilot fish bottom feeders to buy, and you not only have lost the relish for your glasses, but also possibly the chuck's they matched, and furthermore everytime you look at your friends wearing their glasses you are reminded that they at least financially speaking are idiots.
SO everybody loses,
but that isn't the part that bothers me, its the fact that its so aggressively predatery now, how appropriate 'cool hunter' is, and if dodo's and blue whales are any indication of what human hunting behaviour is like, it may not be long before there is no such thing as 'cool people anymore' if they still or ever exist/ed.
If you become cool, be cool in a reserve, or a bunker.
I thought I had my loop holes in only getting into stuff that was cool, but had already been dropped, but now I'm worried about them becoming retro cool and ruined again, and then I thought there was a way out by declaring 'cool is cheap' but chinese goods just don't have the design esthetic to A) make this true B) keep it necessarily exclusive.
And it isn't just a matter of having a limited supply of genuinely cool brands, because this escalates the price, and then only idiots who buy louis vuitton purses have their hands on them and they definitely isn't cool.
SO I don't know, but I am afraid. Fortunately the odds of me becoming cool are some of the longest in the world.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beijing 08 watch 3: The Australian pursuit of incompetence

George Bush's administration lies in tattered ruins, having lost both the house and the senate, Bush has dropped off the radar in favor of Obama and Hilary's struggle for power and a rising John McCain. Howard his old buddy got sent packing, Blair retired gracefully before him, and spain got its self respect back a long time ago.
The legacy of Bush though, is he was almost unique in being destined for disaster and failure from the get go, his policies and visions requiring an active lack of thought to not do the mearest projection to see how they might fail exhibit A: war on terror - time taken to see it will fail - 3 minutes terrorism is reactionary in nature and organised informal through an internet like structure of cells connecting to eachother versus centralised state based armies take it the rest of the way from there. exhibit B: regime change in Iraq - time taken 2 minutes, this was easy based on their never being an officially stated reason supported by evidence for the war, thus thusly it is easy to see that without a reason, and therefore a goal it had to fail.
So now I notice rudd is visiting Japan to allay concerns over Australia's relationship with China and it occured to me, wouldn't it be ironic to finally be rid of a prime minister that brown nosed the walking disaster that is George Bush, only to replace it with a prime minister that enthusiastically brown noses the perpetual disaster that is China.
If we want to break such a worrying partnership early, boycotting the Olympics is a good place to start. Not because I'm anti chinese, I'm anti stupidity, and the Chinese rising is the stupidest thing I've ever witnessed.

btw this isn't an April fools joke.