The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Is Labor even running anyone besides the Ruddster?

Thursday 30 August 2007 at 11:27 pm

[flyer for Melissa Parke in Fremantle] Party propaganda is hardly surprising given the upcoming election, but as soon as this flyer landed in my mail last week something didn’t seem right.

Ostensibly, I’m being notified about my new Labor candidate now that Carmen Lawrence is retiring … but looking through the text, that matter is dispensed with in three sentences. In fact, the flyer’s really about Kevin Rudd being a great leader, and his grand plan for a wonderful and prosperous Australia, and don’t you think this is wonderful too and should therefore vote Labor?

This didn’t sound very grassroots to me. And it was followed by the “my industrial relations rules are better!” TV ads of two days ago, in which the Ruddster was the only speaker and Julia Gillard the only other Labor face to appear (for all of three seconds).

Heck, this last week was also the first time I can remember reading a newspaper article quoting Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson (Robert McClelland, apparently). Aside from the rock-star environment rep and the oft-parodied second in command, does anyone actually know who’s in the shadow cabinet?

This campaign is increasingly looking to be a race between one man from Queensland and That Other Lot, and I have to wonder whether the populace really love the Ruddster that much …


A long-term infrastructure solution

Wednesday 22 August 2007 at 4:46 pm

[Qantas and Malaysia Airlines planes at Perth Airport]

Dear Macquarie Bank,

Please buy Perth Airport. No, really, please.

The current owners are so spineless they’d probably hand over control if you so much as sneezed in their direction.

All you need to do is get your airports fund to weave some of that debt-engineering magic for desperately-needed upgrades — there’s even a decade-old master plan to tell you what needs to be done. Then you could start talking to people like Gulf Air or EgyptAir and set Perth up as a transit point for Melburnians going to Africa or the Mid-East.

This would be far better than the current upgrade strategy: an extra carpark from the airport’s owners, and a patch-up of the terminal owned by Qantas, who announced yesterday that they’re splurging $50m for an entire two extra check-in counters, a single new aerobridge, and a single new baggage carousel. Whoop-de-freakin’-do.

Unlike Qantas management, you’ve shown yourselves able to locate Perth on a map (even if just for your failed Alinta bid; ’tis a shame, since the winning offer is so very messy). Despite the criticism of what you’ve done at Sydney Airport, I really don’t think your management could be anything but better than what we’ve currently got.

a disgruntled Perthling and airport user

P.S. while I’ve got your attention, have you been speaking to the PM lately? All this talk of hoarding away tax dollars sounds like he’s trying to turn the Commonwealth into an investment bank or something.


Strip clubs and sinners and stock markets, oh my!

Sunday 19 August 2007 at 10:11 pm

I’m holed up in bed with a cold (which seems to have come from either Webjam or Jam for Sudan, both of which were immensely awesome!). Tis a mystery how I ever lived without WiFi.

  • I would care if Kevin Rudd had ever spoken to the military leadership of Burma, or had an audience with Robert Mugabe. But a strip club in New York City? Bah, next there’ll be reports that he visited a casino in Las Vegas. Problem is, I fear this will dent his popularity — but then maybe the coming week’s polls will agree with Peter Beattie, since no one trusts MPs to be upstanding citizens anyway. Also, isn’t it just a little suspicious that it was a News Corporation editor who led Rudd and Snowden into the club, followed by the News Limited papers plastering it over their front pages today?
  • Speaking of Robert Mugabe, am I the only one left with a bitter taste at the Foreign Minister’s decision to cancel the Australian student visas of his leadership’s children? Even aside from the “sins of their parents” question, exactly how will this help towards getting Zimbabwe out of its current situation?
  • Earlier this week, we had the Treasurer issuing warnings and saying there was no need to panic-sell shares, and today he’s expressing “concern” at the state of the mortgage market. Now I’m just as miffed as every other investor that the market has dropped, but I have trouble seeing what the Federal Treasurer’s action or inaction has to do with the poor decisions of American home lenders. Oh wait, my mistake: this is the responsible economic management we keep being told about.
  • Two things that caught my attention yesterday: a fluff-piece in the West Australian about the construction projects planned or underway around town, and a (rather expensive-looking) State Government brochure outlining the new infrastructure being paid for by taxpayers. But both of them miss what I think is the more important discussion — the subtler changes needed, if you will, to our city’s ‘software’. Things like giving priority to pedestrians in the city, engaging more closely with the arts (e.g. using white walls around town as canvases), and actually promoting the small bars that the liquor licensing changes were supposed to deliver …

The Verandah, pork-barrelling, and syndication

Wednesday 15 August 2007 at 9:14 am
  • I haven’t seen much comment about yesterday’s announcement from the new director of PIAF to dump the Beck’s Verandah and replace it with a “Music Box” on the Esplanade (presumably using the much-vaunted but really not that great stage built there by the City of Perth). I admire the goals of bringing the music closer to the city centre and strengthening the new urban axis along the underground line … but wasn’t a lit-up Concert Hall half the appeal?
  • Team Howard is going to drop two hundred million in the pockets of Internet filtering vendors to automate the task of supervising kids with Internet connections. Putting the politics aside (at least this is an opt-in policy), someone should tell them how the modern Internet renders such software useless. Many filters still use the old blacklisting method, which might have worked with old-school porn sites, but what about an XMLHttpRequest from Gmail with porn spam? And the vendors have only recently figured out how to monitor BitTorrent clients, nevermind the minefield of MySpace (block it to create a huge incentive to disable your software, or allow it and try to distinguish between innocent messages and porn spam friend requests …).
  • An anecdote: during a recent unexpected visit, a member of my extended family made a passing remark that “at least the Federal conservatives aren’t spending up big like Labor would” — and do, apparently, in the State. But I’m reminded of the striking similarities in both tiers’ budgets from May: no shortage of vote-buying, but at least both were responsible enough to not touch funds allocated to basic services. That is, assuming you don’t think those services need extra funding. (If ever I doubted the second-year lecturer who said class is a minor factor in Australian elections, I need only look at my family — it’s almost entirely working-class, but hosts quite a few Liberal supporters.)
  • Finally, for the LiveJournal users in the audience: ever wanted to read this blog from your friends page? Courtesy of Alex, now you can!

Introducing Lichen

Tuesday 14 August 2007 at 8:51 pm

[screenshot of message list in Lichen] E-mail is something that’s fairly important to me, and I need to be able to check it from the Web. So when setting up a new mail server a few months ago, I looked around at the open-source webmail clients, hoping in particular for something with an AJAX interface. But none of the available options seemed good enough.

Thus, I enlisted Daniel‘s aid and we started to write our own.

Read the rest of this post »


The WA Nationals sink to new lows

Tuesday 7 August 2007 at 11:25 pm

Once upon a time, when the Coalition were in power and Labor in opposition, Parliament House in West Perth would (occasionally) host moments of real debate amidst the normal mud-slinging and childishness. And for a while after going into opposition, the Coalition were organised and vaguely competent and strong in their criticism … sometimes even with valid logic!

That, of course, was then. Nowadays the coalition is dissolved, the major partner is struggling to find relevance, and the best that the minor partner can do to influence policy decisions is to mount civil disobedience on a rather minuscule scale.

It’d be nice if the 2009 election isn’t a one-horse race, but I don’t have high hopes.

(And a nitpick to the news reports: WA already has two timezones, since the hundred-odd people living around Eucla unofficially set their clocks to UTC+8:45.)

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