Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cone of Silence

I haven’t worked in the City for a long time and I’d forgotten about the things I liked and disliked about it. Last time I worked in the CBD mobile phones were the size and weight of 6 housebricks. Even so, some people did take them from their car and walk around the streets with them. If they happened to bump into your leg you would just about need a full knee reco such was the damage that could be done.

So phone manufacturers have a lot to answer for. Miniaturization of mobile phones now means we put up with people being totally oblivious to everything going on around them. And I have been guilty of the same thing myself of course.

People wander all over the place, cutting others off, stopping in the middle of footpaths and wandering aimlessly, totally oblivious to everyone else around them.  It's even worse if they happen to be texting instead of talking.

Once we would never have discussed issues as private as some I overhear in such public places. I sometimes feel like I’m in the midst of a town full of Maxwell Smarts under the cone of silence. Today I heard one girl breaking up with her boyfriend, steam coming out of her ears, another, whose every second word was “like” talking about how good in bed the guy was she’d picked up at a night club last night and how wasted she was, and another who was talking about dear Aunt Molly’s hysterectomy.

I reckon there might be a TV show in following people around recording what they talk about, a sort of Candid Phone Conversation, or True Confessions. You could run the whole gamut of human emotion, comedy, pathos, hatred, all the weird and wonderful things that make us human. Or maybe you could just follow people around and drop a cone of silence over their heads.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Train Travelling and Books

One of the things that I enjoy about my train commute is the chance to read for a couple of hours each day.   Getting lost in a good book is it's own reward.  So here are some that I've read over the past few months.

Simple Genius is the third book featuring Sean King and Michelle Maxwell and one in which Michelle's demons are revealed.  Baldacci is a great read, perfect for dipping into for an hour or getting lost in an adventure for several.  If you like a thriller then I thorougly reccomend him.

As a kid I read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively.  Nah, not almost,  it was all I read except when school text books intervened, and they were more of a chore because of the joy I got from the other genres.   Still somewhere along the way I missed Lois Mcmaster Bujold even though she is a multi Hugo and Nebula award winner.  I am glad I have belatedly found this Vorkosigan series.   Cordelia and her partner Aral Vorkosigan are introduced in this book, Cordelia's Honour, a classic space opera with strong characters you come to care about.  No great dwelling on the technical details here, these are novels of relationships and politics, which I guess is the same thing anyway.  I am now deep in the second multi volume book and I'll report on that later.
 American Gods by Neil Gaiman has become one of my all time favourite books.   What does happen when old Gods lose their worshippers.  This is a road story with a difference and I urge everyone to enjoy the journey.
A lot of reviews of The Good Thief talked about the Dickensian atmosphere of the book, but not having read Dickens I can't comment on that.   What I will say is that this is a terrific and moody story of a young orphan and his adventures on being claimed from an orphanage by a bloke best described as a grifter.  I'll certainly be reading more of Hannah Tinti's books.
I really enjoyed Eric Flints 1632 and 1633 books about a west virginian township transplanted back to Germany during the 100 years war, but this spin off, 1634 The Galileo Affair, although OK, didn't grab me as the others have.  I found myself wanting to know more about the characters who had been introduced in the first two books rather than follow this side show.   I'm not saying it wasn't entertaining, just not as good as the first two.   So if you read this one first I'd urge you not to give up on the series and make sure you grab the first two books.
S.M. Stirling is another in the growing line of writers of alternate histories and I have yet to read a bad book of his, having thoroughly enjoyed his Island in the Sea of Time series and the companion volumes of The Change series.   The Peshawar Lancers is set mainly in 21st century India but after a comet hit earth in the late 19th century with devastating effect.  A rollicking tale of adventure with great stiff upper lip very English heroes and well worth  whiling away a few hours.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Morality and the police

I've been a cop in my life, for sixteen years in fact, although I did resign in 1997.   And there were times of moral dilemma that occured throughout that time, particularly in the early years when the old school coppers were still around.  I saw no great evidence of corruption, although there were times when blind eyes were turned to minor crimes and other times when people were bricked for offences when the evidence for conviction wasn't quite enough.   And I hasten to add that I never falsified evidence at any time, although I did let some people off minor offences using my discretion.    But I did know some old school coppers who did push boundaries at the time.   Blokes who learnt the ropes in the 60's and 70's when the world was a differnet place.    For the most part the old school detectives knew they may have to stretch the truth and the old school crooks knew it was a fair cop anyway.

Times change of course.  Footing a kid up the bum when they were wrecking letter boxes became unacceptable, beating confessions out of armed robbers is no longer allowed, and that's not a bad thing.   One of the things that has really changed is the release of information.  In the old days it was common practice to pass on information to outsiders, other agencies, law enforcement professionals, private investigators etc., but that can't be done anymore.

That's why the revelation that Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said something to Collingwood Football Club President Eddie Maguire about the recruitment of Ben Cousins raises a number of concerns in my mind.  The Chief has to practice what she preaches.  Now the information is public it is in the public interest to know exactly what was said and in what context.  If it was innocent then there should be no issues.  If you are head of a department that prosecutes it's own for unauthorised release of information then you must be prepared to put yourself up to scrutiny when it appears you have done the same.   Of course people can have an opinion but when you are in the public eye and your opinion counts you have to be very sure of what you say.

At this stage it is Ben Cousins who stands to lose out because of what may have been said by the Chief Commissioner.  And in many ways it doesn't matter whether what she said was correct or not.  Perception is what is important here

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blink of an eye revisited

It's only around 9 weeks to Christmas and the year has flown, admittedly a lot has happened - new house, lost job, new job, new dog, overseas holiday.   But the rush of years continues apace.  

Somewhere I read of the major measurements of stress and when I look back over the past four years they're pretty much all there - death of a parent, collapse of a marriage, shift of house, sacking from a job.   I look at that and wonder sometimes how I've still ended up relatively sane.   And I look in the mirror and see an older man, greyer, more wrinkled and more tired at times.   But for all that I feel that I have changed for the better in many ways.   I am a better communicator, although in saying that I've lost people along the way who I do care about.  I understand the neceesity of change because it does lead to growth.   So whilst there have been times of incredible sadness, there has also been great happiness.  For someone who did lock himself away for so long these changes are ones I intend to continue to embrace.

Over the past six months I've let the blogging slip.  Firstly because of the negative comments and secondly because I'd simply lost time.   I also worried about having it exposed when I was looking for work.  It was bad enough that there were articles out there telling the story of my sacking and former employers out there spreading false stories about the nature of my departure. 

And I let the anger take hold.  I was angry with lots of people and I've come to realise that I cannot change what any of them say or do.  Whatever is said about me to other people by other people is their problem and not something I can control.   I've lost a lot of friends through no desire of mine and that's also made me angry.    I suppose that is something I simply have to accept given that it is also again out of my control.   So there are some days when the anger ages me, when I feel the weight and rush of years far more than others.   And days when reflection is worthwhile and I suppose others when it is nothing more than a burden to bear until the next good day dawns.

So in the spirit of a midlife moment and at the risk of boring people with an old post may I point you to this one  - In the Blink of an Eye

And here is a song for the moment as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

To fart or not to fart

I work in a 50 odd story office building in the city with a revolving door at its base. The door is one of those with three arms, not a huge four armed beast I’ve seen in some places. This morning as I entered, peristalsis kicking in, I wondered what would happen to a fart if I dropped it at the air lock stage of the door cycle. Would it exit with me or would it continue to revolve with the door?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Financial Crisis

Now I'll put my hand up here right now and say that I am not a socialist but I've come up with a socialistic solution to the current financial crisis.  Kevin Rudd has pledged $4b to be given to non-4 big bank home loan lenders to make it easier for them to get funding and hopefully increase some competition into the market.

Now $4b is $4,000,000,000,000 if my high school memories serve me right.  So if we divide that by our 20 million population you get a figure of $200k per person.   If we give every man woman and child $200k most of them will be able to pay off their mortgages and there would be a flood of money into the banks that could be released for other purposes.

It would mean that all those people who currently rent could afford to enter the housing market and think about the construction boom that would ensue.    I guess maybe we would have to put a freeze on house prices to stop inflation caused by people bidding too much money for whatever was on the market, but that wouldn't be a bad thing.  Those who already own houses would be able to upgrade with the extra money anyway, thus freeing up the lower end of the market for poeple who currently can't afford a home.

And for those who don't want to own a home they would have $200k each to plough into other investments - new businesses, superannuation, or even just household goods which would help the economy even more.

Maybe there would need to be some caveats on when it was spent and in what manner, maybe half would need to be put into some sort of savings account or government bonds.  But it seems to me that rather than give the lenders the chance to make more money for their shareholders, that all of us who are contributing to the payout should get some direct benefit.

I guess those sort of ideas are why I'm not an economist.  Sounds like a good solution to me.