QE2 in Sydney

A quick snap of the back-end of the Queen Elizabeth 2 at Circular Quay today (8 March 2012)... they say it's the largest ship ever to have docked at that terminal and about 10 meters too tall to make it under the Harbour Bridge.

Queen Elizabeth 2 at Circular Quay


Queen of Dreams - aligned

I caught this by chance the other day heading over the Sydney Harbour Bridge into the city. It's the cover image of Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni aligned with a train passenger. It has a dream like quality fitting for the book with the umbrella adding another Magritte-type layer.

Person reading book

Person reading book Queen of Dreams



She came to stay for a weekend-break from the pet shop...


They had lovingly pumped her full of so much food, she spent the next twenty-four hours pissing and shitting everywhere. She was the shape of a small hippo' at first but looked more like a staffy-shaped puppy on the last day. Tears of course upon having to return the beast to the shop. She stayed elsewhere on another occasion and caught ring-worm. It knocked her about a bit. Eventually she went to live with someone who sounded like they would take good care of her. Note the puppy spit in the image, she did a bit of that.

Puppy spit

Salivary Glands... okay, so I know you need to know, a dog (or cat) has four salivary glands, Mandibular, Parotid, Sublingual and Zygomatic. Got that?

  • Mandibular - the mandible, the jaw.
  • Parotid - in front of and below the ears.
  • Sublingual - under the toung.
  • Zygomatic - of the zygomatic bones, the cheek bones, Malars or Jugals.




newspaper clipping

An undated - clipping from a New Zealand newspaper, some time in the early '80s reads... 

Rock band really did

Brussells [sic] A concert on October 28 by the Irish new wave band U2 in Brussels rocked not only their fans but also seismic equipment at the Belgian Meteorological Institute, scientists said today. Martine Debecker of the Royal Meteorological Institute said its equipment measured unknown vibrations on October 28. The culptit has since been found: U2 which gave an ear-shattering concert in a music hall 5km away that critics have termed frightening and possessed.

New Wave?


Rant 'n' Rave

I saved this image years ago from a New Zealand news paper - a great set of characters. The text reads:

Mrs Iris Strickland - one of the few voices supporting the MP for Hastings, Mr David Butcher. Mrs Strickland said the National Government had hit superannuitants harder and she was now "living better than I ever have."

Clippping - The Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune - 1984

Newspaper clipping


It's All Been Done Before

It has - there's not a bloody original thought left in the world. Just try and come up with a catchy name for a web-site. Someone has always been there first. Pricks!


When I was a kid I used to look out the car window on long, boring, family holiday trips and watch the lolly-pop men at each end of the inevitable New Zealand roadworks - back then the concept of roadworks was to rip up the road, dump a whole heap of rocks all over the place and let the traffic pack it all down for a few weeks.

Anyway, on one of these trips, I thought up this idea (this is in the '70s) of portable traffic lights on a trailer at each end of the roadworks to control the traffic. Wireless technology didn't occur to me but I thought it would need long cables on poles so the wires didn't get crushed. I didn't realise what I was on to.


Global Nuclear Disarmament Would be Nice

Global nuclear disarmament would be nice, I'd be happy about that, but what can you do?

Regan and Gorbachev in Iceland
Regan and Gorby in Iceland, 1986

Various people have had a crack at it over the years but they all seem to loose traction after time.

In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan came close to taking an unprecedented step. During the Reykjavik Summit in Iceland, they almost agreed to get rid of all their nuclear weapons - but that fizzled out.

Closer to home, in 1995, then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating established The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It had an opening statement declaring it was...

...persuaded that immediate and determined efforts need to be made to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to it.

Later on in 1989, in reference to the Canberra Commission, Keating said, "I wanted to put the authority of a sovereign government behind the push to rid the world of nuclear weapons" - I like that.

The current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seems to have re-branded Keating's idea, and in collaboration with the Japanese government, has launched the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). It's a mouthful of a title but a worthy move, with the aim of reducing the number of nuclear weapons over time. It has a long term goal of eliminating them beyond 2025 - too long for my liking.

I much prefer Keating's "Elimination" to Rudd's "Non-Proliferation" but perhaps stopping the growth is a pragmatic place to start, what with the May 2010 deadline approaching for the review of The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Of course the United Nations were on the case from day one. The first resolution ever passed by the UN General Assembly, on 24 January 1946, was for the "Establishment of a Commission to Deal With the Problem Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy." They were to "...proceed with the utmost dispatch" to make proposals "for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction" - nice try UN.

There is one crowd who have actually had some success. The Nunn-Lugar project claims to have helped in the decommissioning of over 7000 nuclear weapons. Seven thousand! They also claim to be chronically underfunded, or in fact criminally underfunded. Just imagine what they could get done if we threw just a fraction of the Bush-Blair-Howard-Iraq-invasion-cash at them. Nunn-Lugar state a goal... lessen the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, to deactivate and to destroy these weapons, and to help the scientists formerly engaged in production of such weapons start working for peace.

Barack Obama chairs UN Security Council
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 
Barack Obama Chairs the UN Security
Council Summit on 24 September 2009

That's the practical stuff that needs to be happening. Nunn is also involved with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) who seem to be doing some good work. 

Revisiting Reykjavik would be a more dramatic place to start but perhaps a less idealistic proposal is to sink a few lazy billion into projects like Nunn-Lugar and NTI.

I know I'm probably being overly optimistic but there do seem to be a few glimmers of a positive new momentum for nuclear disarmament growing again. Obama is heading in the right direction by chairing a UN Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It's the first time a US President has done that.

Earlier in 2009, in his first address to the UN, Obama promised three important things...

America intends to keep our end of the bargain. We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers. We will move forward with ratification of the test ban treaty and work with others to bring the treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited.

We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts and reduces the role of nuclear weapons. And we will call upon countries to begin negotiations in January [2010] on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons.

I will also host a summit next April [2010] that reaffirms each nation's responsibility to secure nuclear material on its territory and to help those who can't, because we must never allow a single nuclear device to fall into the hands of a violent extremist. And we will work to strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat nuclear smuggling and theft.

If he just gets those three things happening he will have earned that Nobel Peace Prize several times over. Let's see what happens with those promises in 2010.

While Obama may be at the beginning of something new, some of our other institutions just continue to reinforce the same old thinking. Take the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for example, perhaps instead of the paradoxical statute of "...accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace...", we could lobby for someone who has been to the brink, like Mikhail Gorbachev, to be the head of a new United Nations body for Nuclear Abolition (UNNA). Screw peaceful use! Let's burry this crap for good. 

It will take a someone to make a move that is uncharacteristic of most of the conservative clowns mis-managing this stuff today. I suspect politicians are the wrong people to be running this disarmament show, their self-serving, small-minded, nationalism will continue to reinforce their little-dick militarism and get us nowhere. Take Chirac for example, who decided in 1995 it would be fun to screw the Pacificsome more with another eight underground nuclear tests - mutha-fucker! We don't need clowns like that in charge ever again.

We need a new paradigm of thinking to manage nuclear material. A structure that sits above nationalism and restates the purpose of the UN agencies. It should have two parallel streams of work, one to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the enriched material to make them and a second stream, to begin undoing the damage the nuclear power industry is inexorably storing up for future generations with waste from power generation that none of us can work out what to do with. We need a base-load of new thinking.

Get the power stations managed by a central global body, no one can own them any more, make nuclear power the possession of the globe. It will be a while before we can completely replace those things with clean energy options, but we have to start heading that way now rather than building more of them. If you want a nuclear power plant in the interim, it has to be managed by the one international body, the land it's on is excised from the national boundaries - no chance to get in there and start bomb making classes again.

Further to this we should link the possession or suspected possession of nuclear weapons or the material to make them to trade in a similar way to a carbon tax. Every gram of nuclear material you are suspected of possessing will increased a hefty tariff on your exports. This way there is an incentive for transparency, and for all nations, including the US, UK, France and the others holding on to this shit, to be seen to be giving it up. Now I know this is crazy talk, I have no idea how you would administer a tariff like that - but it's an idea.

Here ends my potted history of nuclear disarmament. Sweet dreams and throw down your guns.


The Feel of The Day

Landscape Oil Painting - The Feel of the Day

Waking up today and seeing the grey, overcast sky reminds me of working on the farm. The feeling of what the day would be like out in the the weather was tangible. What the wet grass, the frosty gate latch and crossing the ice on the wooden foot bridge would feel like. 

Wet dogs, finding a horse for the day in the dark before breakfast. Cracking the ice on the water troughs that never thaw out in the shade of the wool shed, so the dogs can have a drink.

The chill of the morning pine plantation that becomes a stifling heat in the afternoon in those woollen trowsers and working boots. 

...different to the days now, with office tower, fluros and computers. I can go a whole day in 21 degree air-conditioning without knowing what it's like outside.

Cutting Corners

wood block puzzleThis puzzle was hours of fun as a kid. A box of wooden blocks with pictures stuck on each side. There was a bus, car, plane, ship, a steam train and a second newer train. After a while we worked out that once you got one image correct, you could flip a whole row at once to see the other pictures. It wasn't quite the same thrill as working it out from scratch but it taught us to cheat and cut corners early in life and that was a valuable lesson that served us well from thereon in. See the different pictures...


Life Tips for the Risk Averse

A few life tips for the risk-averse, things I have picked up along the way that you may find useful:

  • Assume all car drivers want to kill you when you ride a motorbike
  • A tractor wants to kill you every second you are around it, even when it's off - remain conscious and deliberate in your actions
  • When sliding out of control down a wet hill on a tractor, resist the urge to apply the brakes or jump off - accellerate into the slide to regain traction
  • Never look up if someone talks to you when you are using a power saw - remain conscious and deliberate in your actions
  • Treat all electrical wires as if they are live - even if you know you turned the main off
  • To avoid jarring the wrist when digging in rocky ground always let go of the spade at the last moment
  • The right tool for the job - a boot is not a tool
  • Don't climb fences with a rifle - pass it through the fence first
  • Don't piss on electric fences




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