trixtah: (Default)
This cracked my shit up on the weekend; it's on the wall of the Lyneham post office-cum-laundrette. It was particularly apposite given the fact I'd seen it (the uncommented emblem only) tattoo'd on the back of a young woman's neck, in size LARGE, the day before.

trixtah: (Default)
So, it seems like the wheels are coming off the pram when it comes to Aussies cashing in on the building boom in Dubai. The local govt has locked up two Australians for corruption, and it seems that they're no longer feeling quite so arrogant about making deals with corrupt and rapacious governments and organisations. While the idea of anyone in the UAE locking up anyone for corruption is laughable, so too for those who seemed not understand that if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas (and that goes for both sides of this dispute).

If you deal with people who think it's fine to pay labourers slave wages, perhaps they aren't going to have much regard for your sensitivies either when the shit hits the fan. Time to start conducting your business in an ethical way, perhaps, with other parties who also have a regard for simple ethics? What a notion.

trixtah: (Default)
Well, I'm not squeamy about spiders (unlike bugs), but I do confess to having been a little startled when a huntsman spider scuttled across my lounge floor half an hour ago. While I'm normally fine about picking spiders up and putting them outside, this one was just a bit too large for me to want to pick up raw, if you like. Yay spare Chinese food containers, but the bugger did move - I managed to nab him before he got under the couch, and now he is safely ensconced outside.

Kind of on the topic of Asian food, although Chinese food containers hardly counts, I'm really enjoying the re-invented Tasuke in Civic, which has recently morphed into a ramen bar. The ramen is nice and tasty, although not quite the best I've had, and the side dishes are suitable and yummy. And they still have quite a bit of their old range of food if you want to order something non-noodley. But nothing in the sushi line, as far as I could tell.

Finally, and apropos of nothing at all, except for the random web-reading I've been doing lately, I love Carolyn Hax's advice column in the Washington Post. Here's a random sampling of some of her more recent stuff (from the weekly chats rather than the advice page):

Carolyn Hax: The appropriate division of labor in any emotional partnership is to do your best to keep your partner happy and comfortable, as long as it's reasonably doable and doesn't involve changes to one's fundamental self.

True or false: The partner who cares less about Valentine's Day should be the one who makes the effort to please the one who cares more?

Carolyn Hax: See above. It's actually a versatile little guideline. There's a lot of wiggle room in the way two people might define what's "reasonable," but that's where actually liking each other comes in handy. It's incentive to find the middle.

Washington, D.C.: What's more important in a lasting, long-term, healthy relationship -- love or compatibility? What should be focused on and nurtured?

Carolyn Hax: Both. And probably a half-dozen other things. Your question is like asking what a person needs more, food or sleep--when deprived of either, we die.

Love vs. compatibility: Wait -- can you really "nurture" compatibility? It's my understanding that either you have it or you don't.

Carolyn Hax: Not true. The base has to be there, but a lifetime of decisions can thereafter drive a couple far apart or keep them generally side-by-side, depending on the way those decisions are made.

Alexandria, Va.: People always say that you have to make yourself happy. What goes into that? How does one make themself happy?

Carolyn Hax: Short description of a long process: Figure out the things that make you feel confident/fulfilled/energized; that give you a sense of purpose or accomplishment; that tap into your natural abilities and strengths; and that -don't- put you at the mercy of any one person, and orient your life around those.

Often, this requires another step--concurrently or as a precursor--of reducing the role in your life of things that make you feel worthless/empty/exhausted; that require skills that don't come naturally; that feel like a waste of time; or that put you routinely at the mercy of others.

Midwest: Seriously, is it SO hard for people to call someone they're dating??! I would worry less about not seeing him and more about the fact he can't seem to even ring you to say good night for 1.5 minutes before bed. EVERYONE has 1.5 minutes before bed.

Carolyn Hax: I know it sounds ridiculous, but yes, for some people, it is SO hard. We are not all the same person with the same thoughts, tolerances, comfort zones, priorities, appreciation for gestures, and habits or modes of expression. Some people live by the 1.5 minute call. Some people hate the phone. Some people would be happy to place a 1.5 min call, but know the recipient is incapable of hanging up after just 1.5 min. Some people think they're going to call but want to unwind for 1.5 min first in front of the TV, and then fall asleep in front of Law & Order.

Some people just operate on trust that their feelings are enough, and that means not having to punch an affection clock every day.

This is why compatibility is so important. When it's not there, you have two choices: have the strength to accept someone's differences as part of the deal, or bang your head against the wall wondering why s/he isn't more like you.

She's fab, and I love the way she handles everything from the sublime to the truly ridiculous.

trixtah: (Default)
Apropos of an article in the SMH today on Julia Gillard, the deputy PM:

But, I hear you ask, there is no mention anywhere in this column of her gender. Isn't that an issue? The good news is that the answer is no, it's not. Australian politics has matured to the point where a politician's gender is incidental. Performance, not sex, is the essential qualification.

Thank you, Mr Peter Hartcher, for assuring us that the inequity of women's representation in politics (67 out of 226 in the Australian Parliament), is nothing to do with their gender. That's wonderful, and I'm glad it's all just warm fuzzies all round.

Although at least he's saying nice things about Ms Gillard. She is pretty groovy.

(Women are slowly catching up in the public service too, in a similar proportion to parliamentary representation - 35% of the Senior Executive Service in 2007, although only three Commonwealth department heads I can track down. But forget about business: 12% in exec roles in the top 200 ASX companies)

trixtah: (Default)
If you were truly devoted to making the Freedom of Information laws truly about freedom of information, you wouldn't charge one red cent for processing an FOI request. Yes, I know they can be vexatious and time-wasting. So what? You build that cost into what it takes to run open and transparent government (although getting the higher-ups to fork out extra budget for those kinds of things could be challenging). That's nice that journalists and non-profits get to have 5 hours free time, while normal punters (and businesses) have to fork out after the first hour. At least querying information held about yourself will be free. But 20-30 years for releasing non-classified Cabinet documents and notebooks? Give me a break. I think that's disgusting, actually (although nearly half the current ridiculous span).

Still, they're appointing an Information Commissioner, and FOI commissioner, who will be aligned with the Privacy Commissioner in a new department. That makes sense. And the new rules will be much better than the current set, including the concept that disclosure should be assumed unless there are sufficient grounds for information to not be disclosed (which would not include such "grounds" as potentially causing embarrassment to the government).

In sum, B-minus, could do better. But it's a start.

ETA: I was also intending to mention a really good economics blog series by John Quiggan, which is about debunking various doctrines:

#1 The efficient markets hypothesis

#2 The case for privatisation

#3 The Great Moderation

#4 Individual retirement accounts

#5 Trickle down

Here's a bit discussing the "efficient markets hypothesis":

More important than asset markets themselves is their role in the allocation of investment. As Keynes said in his General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, this job is unlikely to be well done when it is a by-product of the activities of a casino. So, if the superficial resemblance of asset markets to gigantic casinos reflects reality, we would expect to see distortions in patterns of savings and investment. ...

The dotcom bubble was just one component of a massive asset price bubble that began in the early 1990s and is only now coming to an end. Throughout this period, patterns of savings and investment made little sense. Household savings plunged to zero and below in a number of developed countries (including nearly all English-speaking countries) and the resulting current account deficits were met by borrowing from rapidly growing poor countries like China (standard economics would suggest that capital flows should go in the other direction). The massive growth of the financial sector itself, which accounted for nearly half of all corporate profits by the end of the bubble, diverted physical and particularly human capital from the production of goods and services.
trixtah: (Default)
My friends B and C were unexpectedly over from NZ, and contacted me yesterday to see if I could visit them while they were in Sydney. This was most excellent timing. It was nice spending an afternoon hanging out and getting nurturing vibes, and we took the sproglet for a walk up King St to corrupt the child get some ice-cream for her and nice Campos coffees for the adults.

After that, I got along to Polymorph, and had my irritating tragus piercing swapped for a nice small internally-threaded 14ga circular barbell (no problems with stretching it slightly, despite what the other guy said - it's still soft from being such a recent piercing, and I didn't feel a thing), thank god, and I also got the rings in a more personal area upsized to 10ga. I've had Robert do stuff for me there in the past, but today I had Ben, and he was also fab.

Then some nice sushi and the trip back home, which was unusually good. My car is a little bit sick due to air leaking in somewhere along the intake to the carburettor (I can hear the whistling, but I can't find where it's coming from, for the life of me), which means it idles extremely fast when stationary, but on the plus side, it acts like a budget turbocharger when zooming up hills at speed. For once, the weather wasn't hosing down and/or blowing a gale, so it was a nice steady 75mph/120kph the entire way home.

trixtah: (Servalan)
You're doing lots of good things at the moment - apologising to Aborigines, dismantling the stupid industrial relations laws, admitting that certain ministers have too much power. I appreciate it, I really do.

But, for the love of god, can you stop employing the term "working families" when you want to get all inclusive-languagey on us? I work. I don't have a family (ie. children), and I never will. I'm also old-fashioned enough to dislike the term "family" when used to refer to (generally married) childless couples. Plenty of people, who work and pay taxes, are single. Plenty of people, who are contributing members of society, are unable to work, for various reasons. Some of those (*koff*) layabouts aren't in "families" either.

So can we stop using the stupid bloody term? It's not inclusive, actually. Even if it did apply to me (and everyone else), it sounds as patronising as fuck. It's just as bad as the previous lot talking about "middle Australia", and that's saying something.
trixtah: (Servalan)
Despite the popular propaganda, most of NZ is not any further south than Australia is. Auckland (36°52S) is half a degree south of Canberra (35°18S), and 1½ degrees south of Sydney (34°S).

Wellington (41°17S) is 3½ degrees south of Melbourne (37°47S). Christchurch (43°31S) is not even a degree south of Hobart (42°54S). At 42 degrees, the length of a degree is 111km. Auckland is merely around 166km south of Sydney. ¾ of the country is thus in the same lats as the bottom half of Australia.

In other words, most of the people in NZ live in pretty much the same latitudes as most of the people in Australia. It is a bit colder in NZ over all, since it's surrounded by sea and is more mountainous. But it's not that cold.

(PS. I know plenty of Aussies who aren't so clueless - the ones on my flist, for example - but it amazes me to hear the same crap from people who should know better).
trixtah: (Default)
I'm being very bad, spending oodles of $$$, but since it tis the season, and I've only bought one Xmas present, and haven't travelled home to NZ, what the hell.

So, a sunny day out in Canberra, and a very pleasant 20-something degrees with a moderate breeze - perfect for riding one's new bike around the lake. Eee!


Of course, it blends in perfectly with contemporary design elements:

(I buggered up seeing what the lighting was doing here - the bike looks kind of grey here, where it's just as shiny as the sculpture.)

Most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. I'm a wee bit saddle sore, but I just need to toughen up a bit.

Also, while Canberra has its drawbacks with a kind of innate small-c conservatism, lack of cultural variety or interesting (to me) events/venues, combined with a higher level of bogan presence than I generally prefer, one of the best girlfriends evar lives here, working here is good, and it certainly is pretty around the lake here on days like these. It's fun checking out the sculpture garden by the NGA every once and a while, and the swamp hens had chicks! *squee* I feel grateful for days like these.
trixtah: (Default)
[Disclaimer: some of the top-end dining in Canberra is fantastic; I've had two of the best meals in my life here. But still, ranting is fun, and I do expect better of mid-range eating in a moderately-sized city.]

I've noticed some simple rules about eating in Canberra (in decent cafe  and low to mid-range restaurants), which are as follows:
  • If it has chicken in it, it must come with a chilli-mayo dressing (blech).
  • Or, it must come with an aioli that contains no discernible garlic.
  • If you don't like your chilli-mayo/aioli dressing and want to substitute the relish that comes with the steak sandwich, this may be done perhaps 30% of the time.
  • The only acceptable sides with chips in a "nice" cafe are sweet chilli sauce and/or sour cream (can't have too much of a good thing - cf. chicken dressing above)
  • Chips must be beer-battered to be sufficiently el-primo (one of my pet hates - why ruin chips by shoving them in batter - double or triple-fry them!). Otherwise, they're limp.
  • If a colleague tells you a restaurant is "great" and has "beeuuudiful" food, it's because they sell steaks by the metre. For about $5 per.
  • Leagues, Labor or bowling clubs are the best places to eat, since they sell the steaks-by-the-metre, and the piss is cheap. Also, those stupid fucking $5 memberships (I'm afraid I don't know what it buys that you can't find in a pub - ie. ugly "decor", pokie machines, big screen sports on volume LOUD, and pool tables), and signing in your "guests" makes you feel like a grown-up.
  • An ethnic restaurant that intends to cater to "skippies" may only have <50% of its dishes genuinely ethnic (there are a few notable exceptions in Dickson, which is as close as this place gets to a Chinatown).
  • Risotto contains cream.
  • The coffee is shit (98% of the time, at least). Avoid completely if you see Caffe Primo, Lavazza, Vittoria, or Sambaroma (complete with a logo featuring a fucking sambo). Cosmorex is bitter and dirt-tasting, but is at least fresh and drinkable in a milky drink (if adequately made). Coffee Guru is similar, but has less flavour. Starbucks, feh. Gloria Jeans, feh, with the added twist of bankrolling fundie Christians. Veneziano is decent, are the Kingston Grind coffees and the Wagonga coffee you can get at the Bus Depot on Sundays and Farmers' Market at Epic on Saturdays.
  • Anything that is "spicy" may have had 1/8 tsp of chilli waved over it at some point.
  • You are not trusted to wield your own pepper grinder.
  • Fried rice comes with ham, that traditional Chinese ingredient (I think that's an Aussie thing in general).
  • Squid/calamari must be deep-fried, preferably in batter. Even if it's in a "salad".
  • Salad comes with lettuce stalks. The brown cut marks are your assurance it's the real thing.
  • "Turkish" bread is a compulsory component of the menu. Other breads (eg. wholemeal) might be available if the usual meal costs around $18-20.
  • Bagels are stale crusty rolls with a dimple in the top.
  • Fresh fish? Don't make us laugh!
  • Mussels (cooked) are one inch long, maximum.
  • In fact, the more you fry everything, the better.
  • Good service is if you are served  within 10 minutes of your being seated, or <5 waitstaff with seemingly nothing better to do pass by. Really good service is when they embarrass you by putting your napkin on your lap.

I'm sure there were more, so I may need to come back to this... :-)

Oh, two good things:

  • Burgers still come with beetroot (it's on a decline in NZ).
  • Vinegar is available in every fish-and-chipperie.
trixtah: (Default)
I was just checking flight prices, and what I'm looking for is around $US2000. My brain was reflexively going "eep!", but it works out to $2361 Australian dollars. Cheep! So much for the days when you had to multiply everything by 50%.

Also, I have... to... say... something... .... Ok ok, Canberra is better than Wellington in one respect (other than sunshine hours). It has a fab farmers' market at the Epic showgrounds. Nice tasty fresh veges of lots of kinds; organic meat; organic and tasty baked goods; an Asian lady with fresh wontons, noodles, tofu and plump bean sprouts (I had despaired of finding fresh ones here); two kinds of freshly roasted coffee beans (the Wagonga brand is there, yum yum - the other one isn't so tasty); a man with live chickens (for eggs); fresh fish; gourmet mushrooms; and nice cheeses. There are only a few things I could wish for. A few more Asian veges is one, although there was an Asian herb stall there, which is very handy. Also, for some reason, no-one seems to be selling (dead) poultry. A bit more range in the cheese dept would be good. I'm not into preserved meats (other than bacon), but no salami stall seemed like a bit of a lack. But, all up, very good. [ profile] saluqi and I have been on two expeditions so far, and the only hard part is trying not to spend too much. Oh, and there are chocolate-covered liquorice supplies for the Bear.

I love farmers' markets, especially when they're not overrun by general traders selling cheap tat, and there is plenty of prepared food to fortify oneself with while shopping. It's not quite at the level of the Borough Market in London, or the fab places on the Continent, or even the Queen Vic markets in Melbourne, but it is most excellent. Just makes it more glaring that Wellington, a place stuffed full of foodies and with more restaurants per head of population than New York, doesn't have such a thing. (Well, there's the Asian vege market on Saturdays, which is fantastic, but deli stuff and meats are part of what make a great market, IMO.) But I'm happy there's one here.
trixtah: (Default)
...and if you went near a train today, it was a safe journey.

On holiday

Mar. 22nd, 2007 12:48 pm
trixtah: (Default)
I'm currently in Melbourne and will be off to NZ on Friday night, yay!

It's been fun roaming around - I'm currently doing birthday present shopping for a friend of mine's baby (a year old on Sunday).

However, I'm doing this on very little sleep. When in Melbourne, do not stay at the Greenhouse Backpackers. For $78 a night I expect:
  • Walls that actually attempt to provide a modicum of sound-proofing. If the wall is barely attached to the ceiling (pinpoints of light shine through from the corridor from (admittedly small) the gaps at the top), that aim is not achieved. While I didn't hear too much from the adjacent rooms, if no-one talked, everything from the corridor came through crystal-clear. Including the goddamn squeaky door to the Ladies', which was directly opposite my room.
  • A bed that it at least somewhat comfortable. The foam mattress is so thin (5-6cm thick?) I can feel every single link in the wire bedframe. And it's a crappy bunk bed... and the whole thing squeaks every time I move. I've had more comfortable sleeps on leaky airbeds in wet tents in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter.
  • One of those holey plastic mats in the dressing area of the shower cubicle that allow the water to drain from under your feet, so that you don't dip your trousers into the pool of water on the floor while putting them on.
  • A bathroom floor that has a non-slip coating, so that you don't skid across the entire place when trying to walk slowly from your shower.
  • A light that doesn't flicker on and off in your room throughout half the night for no apparent reason. It stopped, eventually, again for no apparent reason.
  • The showers are hot, at least.
  • Free breakfast before 9am (which I was not up for, oddly enough).
In Sydney, I often stay at the Billabong Gardens backpackers. It's also central, and for $10 more, you get an adequately comfortable bed (no poxy bunk) in a large room, with tea/coffee, ensuite shower/loo, and thick brick walls. Ok, there can be noise if people are loud in the atrium area (through the door), but they are told to shut up by 11. Oh well, there's obviously a cost level I shouldn't go below.

Anyways, it's nice here in Melbourne, and I'll get back onto my tootling around shops. :-)
trixtah: (Default)
See that black/brown blob to the top of the radar? That's the weather right now. There's hail the size of large marbles, and the rain is exactly like standing under a waterfall. Fucking fantastic.

There have been lightning strikes for the last couple of hours, and then intermittent hailstones started bouncing off the cars parked below about an hour ago - I'm so glad I'm parked under cover.

Then, about 15 minutes ago, with a huge surge, the rain just poured down. You wouldn't be able to have a conversation over the noise right now, and there's a flat above me (I'm not right below the roof). God, imagine being under a tin roof right now. It's probably just as well, I wouldn't be responsible for my actions. :-)

The less fun part is that every time there's a big thunderstorm, the alarms in the apartment block next door go off. I can sleep through heavy rain, but not that so much. Bah.
trixtah: (Default)
I was about to go insane from the steady pressure of the last few weeks at work, and took Friday off and went to Melbourne for a couple of days. The initial plan was to rendezvous with an ex-colleague of mine who was going to be over for a training course, but we somehow managed to miss each other in our preparatory email interchange. I decided to go anyway due to the preceding work insanity.

Melbourne is one of those places, like Wellington, San Francisco, Brussels and Hawaii, where I immediately felt that it was my kind of place on first going there. You can walk across the CBD in a bit more than 1/2 an hour. There is a CBD. There are cool and funky inner-city suburbs. There is decent public transport. There are tall buildings (which I can take or leave, but they also give a certain density of people in the area), the river (nice for lunching by), the dinky little alleyways, swanky shops and grungy shops, people from zillions of cultures, fantastic food, and great coffee. Other than the ethnic mix, there are recognisable queers and goths and students and arty types and the lot wandering around and mixing and matching. There are even shops selling clothing I'd like to wear (suits! pretty pretty shirts!). There are lots of very attractive women in their suits roaming the streets in the lunch hours. Getting back to the coffee, it amuses me that I found no less than 3 cafes serving Coffee Supreme, which is based in Wellington. I think it's the best commercially-roasted coffee in NZ at present. It appears that they've started another roasting operation in Mebourne, and the stuff here tasted just as good as the coffee brewed in its city of origin. So I overdosed a bit, oh well.

I realise that I'm experiencing the place as a tourist, but some places are more "homelike". As I mentioned, I had that feeling about Wellington the first time I visited, and when I finally got to live there, I loved it. So, yay for spending time in a place that just fits.

I got to spend some excellent time with [ profile] damned_colonial and her SCA buddies. It was probably a little bit bad of me to take over the stoking and feeding of the experimental pizza oven that a couple of them had built, but it was a cool contraption, and well, I can't help myself around fire. And being controlling about properly-cooked food. :-) Also, it was nice to have an appreciative audience, and anything that gives me scope for my butchly liking of fixing things is good. Heh. [ profile] damned_colonial and I also hit the Victoria Markets the next morning, which is the best indoor food market I've encountered here in Oz so far. I admit to being biased towards places which have a good deli section. Sydney seems to have a much better seafood selection, interestingly enough. So, yay, hanging out with groovy people who like doing fun things is always a bonus. I will be doing it more often.

I also got to meet the charming [ profile] goatsfoot yesterday, which was fab. It's nice to put faces to names (and L/Js), and it's even nicer when they're people you hit it off with. I did my usual shy-and-talking-too -much thing, but oh well, that's better than the opposite problem. I'm looking forward to catching up again in a month and hopefully in a more leisurely fashion. Also, Plans were Being Hatched.

After getting home again (I made the airport with 5 minutes to spare, due to being engrossed in conversation with [ profile] goatsfoot, bad me) and having some decent sleep, I got to spend some nice quality time with the CDL today, which involved some good and affirmatory "checking-in" conversation, healing massages, inspection of a few purchases I made in Melbourne, and other excellent stuff. Fucking yay. You know, this weekend, I pwned the world, and it was good.
trixtah: (Default)
Canberra is in the throes of a drought and has been for years. Literally. There has been below-average rainfall for the last 8 years. As of today, the dams that supply Canberra are 38% full. But you wouldn't be able to tell from the amount of reaction you get from the powers-that-be. They only implemented Stage 3 water restrictions a couple of months back (after a winter of no rain) and there still seems to be idiocies being carried out in the name of "civic beauty". One is the watering of the median strips on the roads into Canberra. There are eucalypts in two rows and grass on median strips about 15m across. The grass is watered, every other day. Why?

Then there are the fountains, which are my particular bugbear. I walk past four of them on my way into work. And without exception, they are all ugly. Ok, perhaps there is some merit in the Ugly Civic Fountain outside the Canberra Centre for some, but the rest of them are varying degrees of pathetic dribbles and/or algae breeders, with no aesthetic merit whatsoever.

Don't believe me? Here they are:ugly fountain pics )

Since the two "fountains" in the middle of the roundabouts on Parkes Way aren't on my route home, I didn't take pictures of them. About 20m across, full of true-blue disgusting scum, and maybe a pathetic dribble in the middle when they switch it on. The ducks seem to like them, though, when the lake is a bit rough. Shame they're plonked into the middle of a concrete desert, with no cover.

Before anyone accuses me of being utterly curmudgeonly, some of the fountains/water features around town are quite nice, and seemed to be nicely maintained (perhaps because there is little reservoir visible). I also value greenspace in town, and think the two nice green parks in Civic need to be watered, as does any multi-function park. I just don't understand the watering of the median strips, where you can't exactly have your lunch/a picnic (unless you think traffic fumes make a nice sauce). And I don't see the point of dissipating thousands of litres of water into the air when it doesn't rain back down again. Despite the disingenousness of their talk about "non-potable" and "recirculated" water, at least there has been some acknowledgment of the wastage involved on Parliament Hill. It's just a shame that the message doesn't seem to be tricking down. Ho ho.
trixtah: (Tattoo)
We've all heard about climate change. One thing that's hard for me to adjust to in Australia is the climate. Canberra has a huge temperature variation over the course of a year, but it's getting hotter. Being a New Zealander, if you're not a farmer, it's easy to be complacent about climate change (although I don't personally know any kiwis who are complacent, since we love our country so much), whereas here in Australia, the marginality of human civilisation on this continent feels more acute every day. It's in your face.

I went to see An Inconvenient Truth a couple of weekends back. It was interesting enough, stuff we know, yadda yadda, but for me, it was noteworthy for two things. One, if Al Gore's prestige makes the complacent tossers in certain large industrialised countries wake up and get their heads out of the sand, great. Forgive my cynicism in saying that big business won't make enough changes fast enough until they are made to do so. We'll see if people start putting their money where their mouths are, and, more importantly in the short term, if certain governments do as well.

Secondly, I was shocked by the graph representing the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the last few years. Follow the link to look at a version of that graph. It shows the cycle of CO2 levels found in Antarctic ice cores, going back a few ice ages. It also shows the trend for temperatures over that time, which you can see is closely associated with the rise or fall of CO2 - all well and good. What shocked me however, was that I'd read previously that the carbon dioxide levels had been fairly elevated compared to previous levels. Sure, 10% more, 15% more? Whatever. Silly me. Check out the graph again. See the red line heading up vertically at the far right of the graph? How about a concentration of CO2 nearly 50% more than it's ever been? The graph shows long cycles between the ice ages and warmer periods, with carbon dioxide ranging between 180 ppm (ice age) to 280 ppm. This is over 400,000 years. Since the modern age, that amount has gone up to 360 ppm. If we translate to the associated rise in temperature that has always gone with the rise in carbon dioxide levels in the past, the picture is not a pretty one. Ok, most of us knew that, but I seriously didn't realise it was so bad.

On to the personal. Canberra is arid, and it's not weather that works for me, at all. The last time it rained in Canberra was nearly a month ago. Remember, it was spring up until the beginning of this month.
Canberra rain graph )
November was quite wet, since it rained on 7 days, for a total of 40mm of rain. In all of October, there was 4mm of rain. In September, there was 18mm of rain, nearly half of which fell on one day, the 4th. Canberra's rainfall, for the entire year, has been 363.2mm They've just put in Stage III water restrictions, which means using a hand-held hose for watering, alternate days, during 4-hourly time slots. Why wasn't this done in October, with the piddly 4mm of rain then? Half of the rain this past year fell in two months: Jan (79mm) and June (74.4mm). How sustainable are dam levels when you have rainfall patterns like that?

If you look at the graph line with the yellow triangles showing the number of rainy days a month, you can see why it's not terribly sustainable. Even that number is somewhat misleading, since a large proportion of the days I've graphed had less than 0.2 mm of rain fall (which would pretty much evaporate when it hit the ground). On average this year, less than 5 days a month have had rain. For another disturbing trend, the pink line shows the highest rainfall on a single day in a month - see how closely the total rainfall navy line approaches that pink one. It's happening more often than not, showing that in most of the months of the year (except, again, January and June), most of the rain in that month fell on one day. In August, it all fell on one day (since the other day it rained that month, it was one of the 0.2mm jobbies).

Just for comparison purposes, the total rainfall in Los Angeles last year (you know, that place right next to a big desert) was 693mm. Since the average for LA up until the 90s was 391mm, it's obvious where the rain has gone. Heh. Wellington gets about 1700mm of rainfall a year, while London gets about 500mm. Before you think that only ducks live in Wellington, it's all in big storms which leave lots of clear days in between - and a lot more sunshine hours than London, as I can vouch.

Regarding sunshine, Canberra isn't at all short of that, given the lack of rain.
Canberra temperature graph )
It's already hotter than this time last year, oh joy. The max and min temps refer to the hottest or coldest one day reached that month. The averages for all the days that month aren't that far behind. See the 20 degree flucutation in max and min temperatures across the year? Auckland's range is half of that, only about 9 degs over the course of a year. One certainly can't get complacent about the weather here. And I won't even start on about the 14 bushfires currently burning 234,000ha (578471 acres) of bushland around Victoria... at least a couple of months early. I suppose that by peak bushfire time, February, there won't be anything left to burn.

So, while the NZ government is considering what to do with the Tokelauan and other Pacific refugees that will be turning up on the doorstep when their islands get flooded out, they might want to think about how many Aussies are going to think "bugger this" and go somewhere that it rains. As for support on the Kiwi side of the Tasman, while several groups of firefighters are over here helping out, big business is doing its bit too. Fonterra, the dairy export board, is "looking at markets Australian companies would not be able to supply". Well, how nice. Of course, I'm wondering why on earth Australia - given the unsustainability of large pasturelands here - is farming enough dairy to export bloody low-cost milk powder, but that attitude of Kiwi farmers saying "give us higher prices now" gives me the creeps. Of course, given the latest UN report saying that cows produce more greenhouse gases than cars, we'll see just how long that attitude lasts. I'd like to see that UN statistic verified, although I note they're counting all the ground clearance, fertiliser and feed costs into that output.

Finally, in the movie, Al Gore says that hope isn't lost, and points to the progress made with the ozone hole as evidence that people can smarten their ideas up. I think this particular problem is less tractable, although I suppose improvements made might work as precipately as the problems developed. But I can't help thinking a huge part of the problem is Malthusian, and what are we going to do about that? I'll qualify that slightly. I believe we might be able to adequately feed the existing population without overburdening our resources - if we start managing them properly now - but I don't think the Earth is capable of doing so for the projected population in the next century. And certainly not if we don't make any changes.
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Despite the fact I am quite enjoying living in Australia (while Canberra has its drawbacks, they're minor in the greater scheme of things), I DO NOT WANT TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN. *ahem*  Seriously, I do not. While the place is fairly similar to NZ culturally, there are still some significant differences (treatment of the indigenous population being a glaring example). Also, while NZ was in the 1950s politically up until the late 80s, and a lot of kiwis emigrated here to participate in a much more liberal lifestyle, that difference has done a 180 degree swap - Australia doesn't seem to be politically that far away from the US at present, while NZ is a bit like Scandanavia-in-the-South-Pacific. New Zealand is my home and my refuge, still.

Imagine my horror on learning that some Aussie MPs are suggesting that NZ unite politically with Australia. Ack! I don't have problems with the notion of a shared currency, if it's handled well. The current CER trade agreement works well (and is light-years better than any "free trade" agreement with the US, which the NZ government raises as a possibilty from time to time. God knows why). But as Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn points out:

... on the minus side there's the fact that our "shared values" aren't that shared. Quite apart from the obvious point of difference on race relations, there's also our divergant foreign policies and differing stances on Iraq, climate change, refugees, human rights, and the Pacific. Political union with Australia would mean losing our voice on the international stage, and would see our policy stance dictated by Texas-over-the-Tasman. And that's something I don't want a bar of.
Also, given the number of kiwi jokes that abound here (more than the other way round, I've noticed), why on earth would they want to have us? It's amusing there's still provision in the legislation that forms the Australian Commonwealth for the addition of NZ as another state. It's kind of sweet, in a way (ignoring the imperialistic aspect).
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(?) Industry House, which is a new building that has gone up over the road from work, is using a bark-and-(possibly) native-grasses garden as part of the surrounds. There are still a few too many concrete slabs covering the rest of the space, but at least it's not a water-hungry garden or another fucking fountain. It amazes me how a city, which has been in a drought for 8 years, can still be so gung-ho about running the stupid things.


I don't know if it's a "trend", but the number of women walking around in dark outfits and light-coloured heels is astounding. I don't pretend to be a fashion expert, but it's just a bad look. Also, to the woman with the navy suit and lilac heels, I hope you're colourblind, because otherwise there is no excuse.

PS. Got both eps of Torchwood today. Eee!
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It's no secret that I have my issues with Canberra, not least the fact that I don't consider it to be a real city, more a conglomeration of four shopping malls connected by suburbs and roundabouts. (Actually, I like roundabouts. Whee!). While it's well-served by museums and galleries, it's by virtue of the fact it's the national capital, not that there is a particularly lively arts scene here. But my biggest issue is the fact that the people are so homogonised. It's been a bit of an adjustment living in such a white-bread city.

Anyway, enough of the gripes. Canberra is, however, spectacular in the autumn. The city is fairly flat, but has substantial greenbelt (mainly eucalyptus and scrubby shrubs - it's too arid for ferns or podocarps) areas and conical tree-covered "mountains" which pop up from the landscape at semi-regular intervals. Canberra is an artificial city, kind of like Australia's version of Milton Keynes, but, it must be said, a lot more attractive.

In the 1910s, the city was designed (complete with circles and roundabouts), and the Molongolo River was finally dammed in the 1960s to form Lake Burley Griffin. The actual building of the city started shortly after its design, with brickworks being built in Yarralumla, as well as the Yarralumla Nursery also being founded at that time. Now, the nursery is crucial, since they grew all the trees which are currently showing beautiful colours, especially in the inner (lakeside) suburbs and around the lake itself.

There are gorgeous reds and purples and yellows and golds, with the leaves in huge drifts in the parks. There are still enough trees with bright green leaves to provide contrast, and there is always the dusky purple/green/grey of the eucalypts as the underlying note. The weather is cool enough that you can actually walk around for more than 10 minutes without expiring and engage in other vigorous physical activity, ditto. I went for a nice walk by the lake on Sunday morning, and happily quacked to the ducks who were fossicking around on the shore. (The two joggers who went past gave me googly-eyed looks, but if they don't want to quack at contented ducks, that's their problem). The sky was dark with imminent rain, but there were shafts of sunlight through the clouds which highlighted the leaves against the dark backdrop. Quite spectacular, really.

The other useful thing is that the Yarralumla Nursery cultivated the "Canberra Gem" Grevillea, which I am going to plant for my girlfriend as a hedge this weekend. The bushes grow 2m high by 3 wide (which is sufficiently hedgelike), are drought-resistant, love full hot sun, prefer low-nutrient acidic soils, and happily resist frosts down to -10 deg, as well as attracting nectar-feeding birds. I got out there with the soil-testing kit a few weekends back and ascertained that the soil pH is between 5 and 6, so we're good to go. I did think of camellias, but they tend to be more disease-prone, want more water, and aren't native or so bird-friendly. Also, grevilleas are just cool. Anything to avoid the dreaded conifer-hedge blight. If you live in sub-Arctic regions, great, or if you're surrounded by native varieties, also great. Otherwise, I hate the buggers. Anyways, with a 30m long frontage, I'll need to get 20 plants. I think they'll fit in my car boot (if I lie them down).

Eee! I like digging things. And pruning. And it's apparently the perfect time of year to plant the grevilleas. Yet another reason to love autumn.


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