The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Dangerous foreigner

Wednesday 30 April 2008 at 9:00 am

Caged black swan at San Francisco Zoo

So fearsome and vicious are black swans that at the San Francisco Zoo they cordon off their specimen behind fences and high concrete walls and a huge moat.


Chinese protests, a maddening council, and the Pope

Tuesday 29 April 2008 at 6:25 pm

Ack! Here are some things I’d have posted about had I not been busy travelling and moving furniture and stuff.

  • It’s interesting how much the American news covered Pope Benedict’s visit to Washington and NYC. Admittedly, the former is pretty significant — most previous popes didn’t meet with the president — but then, the president does meet with a great many foreign leaders. (And no, there was no coverage here of the Ruddster’s visit.)
  • The situation in Zimbabwe is looking increasingly sad and leaves me scratching my head wondering what can be done … which puts it back to how it’s been for years now.
  • I read in a newspaper last week that the Chinese government is “concerned” about anti-Western protests in several cities. Of course, in a country where dissidents are usually cracked down upon long before they do anything public, it couldn’t possibly be the case that the Communist Party was complicit in said protests, or maybe even organised them to counter Western criticisms …
  • Speaking of protests about China and Tibet, this photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is quaint when thinking that the NSW government wants to ban laser pointers!
  • On the proposed waterfront project, oh City of Perth, what are you lot thinking? Wait, are you thinking? That must be it — increasingly it seems the biggest barrier to anything happening in the CBD is members of the council who are bereft of reason.
  • And finally I’m a little surprised that the State Government’s appeal against the native title ruling that covers Perth was successful — well, sort of. So much for using the previous court’s decisions as a base to move forward.
no comments »

Winding park road

Wednesday 16 April 2008 at 6:36 pm

Trees in the Presidio, San Francisco

It surprised me to learn that the park near the Golden Gate Bridge used to be an ugly military base …

1 comment »

Rudd in China, the GG, and transportey things

Tuesday 15 April 2008 at 6:37 am
  • The Ruddster didn’t do a bad job of communicating to the Chinese government their failings last week. Not that I expect this to achieve anything — he certainly isn’t the first leader to quiz ’em about Tibet — but it’s nice to see him not kowtowing. Although the greatest substance from this meeting seems to have been some muttering about clean coal, which won’t exactly save the world from Chinese pollution.
  • We are soon to have a new Governor-General, and like the bloke who appointed her, she’s from Queensland! (Oh, and she’s female.)
  • In the airline industry, I’m sad to see Oasis Hong Kong shut down — all the British backpackers I met in Hong Kong were raving about how cheap their fares were — and I wonder how many other airlines’ business models are in trouble.
  • Finally, I’m not yet sure that I trust Google’s Transit service, which recently added data from Transperth — apparently it takes twenty minutes to walk the platform bridge at Cockburn Central. And for all its flaws, the Transperth site is at least reliable in its recommendations since it knows about things like station closures. Compare to the Bay Area’s equivalent sites, which suck in general but also do wonderful things like leave me stranded in San Jose for an hour because a light rail station was being rebuilt.
no comments »

Staring at the flag by the bay

Tuesday 15 April 2008 at 4:27 am

Statue of Columbus, Coit Tower, San Francisco

Near the Coit Tower, a hilly walk up from San Francisco’s Chinatown.

no comments »

Not-the-republic, and Chinese relations

Tuesday 8 April 2008 at 4:20 pm
  • The PM was right about one thing during the London stage of his trip: there are more important issues than another referendum on becoming a formal republic. It would be nice to have, but really, there are plenty of things needing fixing which don’t require a constitutional change.
  • Over in Kiwi-land, Helen Clark and friends have gone and concluded a free trade agreement with China! Kudos to them, since this will hopefully set a precedent for more open trade across the entire region. It is also probably good for New Zealand’s economy, although hilariously their Foreign Minister disagrees because he’s from a different coalition party.
  • For all the value of trade agreements, though, the Chinese government isn’t exactly the most popular kid on the block right now. They are making extraordinary concessions (by their standards) — there’d have been a ridiculous amount of hand-wringing within the ministry of communications before their Internet filters were set to allow BBC News and Wikipedia — but it’s still clearly far from adequate. And even though Tibet has been the catalyst for these protests, it’d be nice to hear, oh, renewed calls for democracy maybe, or for reform of China’s draconian judicial system, or more transparent economic policy, or indeed any transparency at all. I do hope that some change comes of this …