The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Russia, China, night buses, and the Google OS

Thursday 9 July 2009 at 11:30 pm
  • Ever wonder what American lawmakers do all day? Pointless dedications, apparently.
  • Meanwhile, President Obama has been off doing promising work to get new commitments towards nuclear weapons reduction. But I wonder: even with a superstar leader in Washington, is the Russian government really that keen on cooperating?
  • Hearing about the Rio exec detained in China worries me; Australia’s relationship with China is crucially important, and being that they’re a communist dictatorship it’s easier to anger them than your average liberal democracy. So while the scandal will inevitably pass, I hope no real economic damage is done. (Also, I’m chuffed that yesterday’s ABC article quoted my honours supervisor!)
  • In announcing yet more service cuts (sigh), the WA transport minister is quoted as saying taxis are preferred over NightRider; admittedly I never saw a full one of those buses, but seriously? You don’t think that could possibly be because the routes weren’t ideal or there wasn’t enough promotion? Heck, even the Bay Area (and most big US cities) run 24-hour buses on major routes that are slow-but-decent (despite the times I’ve seen shift workers outnumbered by creepy homeless people).
  • And finally, Fake Steve Jobs at his finest, explaining why Google’s Chrome OS announcement is barely worth caring about despite all the blog hype: “As Sarah Palin would say, the engineers at Google are ambitionistic about wanting to progress the world, and gosh, ya know what? That’s darn good for everyone.”
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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.
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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.
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Tibetian protests, and our military past and future

Monday 17 March 2008 at 6:04 pm
  • I’m saddened that what’s happening in Tibet sounds not unlike a smaller-scale version of previous Chinese crackdowns, what with the Communist Party governor denying that anything’s wrong while reports from Lhasa describe dozens of deaths and the Dalai Lama speaks of “cultural genocide” (though in this context he’s a thoroughly political figure, not the saint he’s portrayed as in the West). It’d be a shame if this just gets swept under the carpet and ignored when the Olympics come in August, but that also seems the most likely outcome.
  • Back in WA, it’s pretty impressive that HMAS Sydney has been found, finally — and so soon after that same team found the Kormoran. I look forward to hearing about what they learn when they send down a minisub …
  • It came out today that the Federal government isn’t going to cancel the order for Super Hornet fighter planes that basically amounts to throwing $6 billion into the bin over a few years. Worse, though, is that the announcement basically translates to “the previous government sucked, we don’t think we can do anything about it, la la laa not listening”.
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Plastic bags, eh?

Sunday 13 January 2008 at 11:40 pm

Torn plastic bag stuck on a tree
photo by z e n

Broadly speaking, I’m impressed that our rock-star minister has a clear intent to ban these crazy bags.

Naturally, supermarket owners are saying that legislation isn’t needed and that they can self-regulate the use of plastic bags down. Um, isn’t that what’s been going on since 2004? It’s been a good first step, but I’d laugh at anyone claiming the retailers have given us a full solution.

On that note, I’m not sure I’m convinced by the Chinese government’s plan to ban the bags. While there’s no doubting the communist leadership’s ability to put their foot down when they want to, there’s also the fact that everyone in China uses plastic bags all the time. (Buy a lone chocolate bar from a mini-mart, and lo! it’s given to you in a bag). There’s going to be some severe cultural change required to make a ban work, whereas in Australia the “bags + environment = bad!” message has been around for long enough that people should be able to adapt.

But that said, it is actually true that there are plenty of other environmental issues more deserving of everyone’s attention …


China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Pakistan

Sunday 30 December 2007 at 11:51 pm
  • News this weekend out of Beijing (and not just about the Olympics)! On the one hand, airy statements about how the Communist Party might one day deliver on the promise to bring full democracy to Hong Kong left the pro-democracy movement there feeling rightfully annoyed. 2017 is what John Howard would call a non-core promise …
  • On the other hand, the Japanese PM held meetings with the Chinese leadership that have been much more productive than anything either of the last two Japanese leaders achieved. But that’s not saying much.
  • In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has brought forth the aspirations of her son (who’s only 19!). I only hope that fresh leadership and public anger at the fundamentalists will put their party on a strong footing, rather than prompting more violence in an already-fragile part of the world.
  • Locally, I’m disappointed that the WA Turf Club and the Swan River Trust couldn’t sort out their bureacratic disagreement so as to let the former’s (awesome) redevelopment go ahead — if either side had any creativity, surely the plan could have been tweaked to minimise its environmental impact.
  • And finally, it’s pretty impressive that Wild Oats XI took line honours yet again, though I’m surprised by Rosebud taking the overall gong.