Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Future of Australian Politics - I Wish!!

This is a great op ed piece on the ABC web site.

Probably need to have connections to Australia to follow the story........but it reads well. Not only that, there seems to be a lot of support judging from the comments.

DEFINITELY worth a read!


Friday, 27 May 2011

COOL Weather

Yes, it can get cool in Darwin. Most people never believe that to be true, but this week has seen quite a few cool nights - with last night a minimum of 17C. Likely to be even cooler over the weekend!

And...........there is a wind chill factor too. Cool weather usually means low humidity, often with east or south east winds from across the continent. So the apparent temperature is often 3-5 degrees C less than the measured temperature. A temperature effectively of around 13C this morning.

Most homes are designed to be open to breezes, so interior areas can cool quickly, and many have tiled floors. They get COLD on the usual bare feet when moving around the house, and there is a breeze blowing.

It is all relative...........but definitely cool for Darwin. Even daily maximum temperatures are below 30C. Cool nights are considered excellent for mango flowering........maybe a good crop this year.

Should even have another week of similar weather, driven by a slow moving, large high pressure system in southern Australia.

Cool but enjoyable........even a bit cool for swimming!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Aeroplanes Are Coming

Two types actually, live military ones and dead big ones.

First the live military aircraft.

We are about to be subjected to a month or more of serious military aircraft flying out of Darwin. The cream of the RAAF, FA-18s, will be here for an exercise, with lots of flying out of the Darwin airport. And NOISE.

We live about 2km directly N of the end of the main runway and in the dry season do get more aircraft noise, albeit at a modest level, due to SE wind patterns during the dry season.

A short while ago............yes, the RAAF arrived! Very noisy. But it is in short bursts and a necessary evil to provide pilot training and exercises. Trouble is, this now replaces the jets of the Singapore Air Force, who also use Darwin for training purposes several times a year.

Oh well.............usually not at night, so you still get to have a good night's sleep.

The second stanza is somewhat intriguing.

Alice Springs has just received approval as only the first site outside of the USA as an "aeroplane wreckers yard" for large aircraft. It is a significant industry in itself and today they announced that Alice Springs has approval for a 100ha site - potentially holding up to several hundred aircraft, as an aircraft graveyard, adjacent to the airport site [really part of it].

Desert areas are generally preferred for these sites and Alice Springs obviously meets the criteria..........even if last year was much wetter than just about any previous year on record!

It is expected to be quite an industry development. More here-

But let's wait and see when the first aircraft arrives.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Times They Are A'Changing

Or are they??

It is Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday today.

The voice is a bit more gravely, but he still performs. Most recently at the 2011 Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival here in Australia.

For the 65th birthday he kicked butt and released a fantastic new CD. A top seller, even.

And although some of the great tunes are over 40 years old...........they still are relevant, and make you think when you listen to the lyrics.

Yes..............I am a Dylan fan!!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Is Democracy Overrated??

Always an interesting conundrum. And to add another cliche - absolute power corrupts absolutely. Where is the productive mid point?

The comments below come from a recent newsletter from a writer on financial affairs, while writing and visiting China. It is quite true, based on my own observations during a working period on a project in China, over about 5 years. It also matches the some reflections on China by some friends who visited last year - they were impressed!

Corruption and guang xi were rife when I worked there , but things functioned.

Read it and reflect.

The article below is reflecting on the US, but would apply across many western countries. The issues around renewable energy are similar - the Chinese are rapidly embracing this option, while we all seem to be just stuffing around. Are western societies all getting too fat and lazy, just like a big fat cane toad ?


Americans must be the most gullible simpletons in the world. They will believe anything. No fantasy is too absurd. No lie is too ridiculous. Much of what they now take for granted an earlier generation would have taken for preposterous, outrageous, and criminal.

According to presidential candidate Donald Trump they are prepared to believe that China is to blame for their financial problems... No kidding. When asked what he'd do to fix the US economy, 'The Donald' says he'd 'get tough with China.'

What dastardly thing are the Chinese doing? What devious, underhanded act are they committing?
Ah ha! An act of commerce! They're delivering quality products to America at discount prices! Trump says he'll slap a 25% tariff on Chinese-made goods.

How exactly this would be better for Americans he didn't explain. Says our old friend Grover Norquist:
"Tariffs are not paid by the Chinese. They're paid by Americans who buy things made by the Chinese."

Americans are barely able to keep up with their expenses already; raising prices wouldn't do them any favor that we can see.

But in the US, crackpot ideas are as common as democrats.

In the '90s, Americans thought they could get rich by buying companies that weren't earning any money. Then, they thought they could get rich by buying a house. When that went bad, they whined for bailouts and handouts. And now they think the feds are helping them by printing more money.

Honestly, you can't make this stuff up!

But their delusions don't stop there. They also believe that for the last 10 years the world's only super-power has been at war with 372 Muslim extremists. And that somehow we'll be safer if we let TSA agents grope our grandmothers and pat down our toddlers.

And how about this? It is obvious to the whole world that US Commander- in-Chief Obama ordered a hit squad to disappear Osama bin Laden; but in the USA, people think the SEALs were conducting a heroic military operation. And they dumped his body in the ocean because they didn't want to offend the Muslim brotherhood.

You have to like people who would believe something like that. They're loveable half-wits...earnest morons with the skeptical intelligence of a puppy.

Nor does it bother them that their national financial plan is a calamity. Everyone who has thought about it for more than a second realizes that the secret to gaining wealth is to make money...save it...and invest it in new and more productive business opportunities.

And yet, the government's financial strategy for 4 decades has been to encourage consumer spending and borrowing, a program that is sure to lead to poverty.

This strategy did not boost real economic growth in the US. But it did wonders for China. We are now on a plane, en route to Shanghai from Beijing. China is supposed to be a poor country. But there is no evidence of it so far.

Instead, there are automobiles, highways, skyscrapers - as far as the eye can see. Factories by the thousands. Warehouses. Docks and freight yards. Plants. Mills. Apartment blocks that New York would be proud of. Office towers that Baltimore would envy. Trains. Loading platforms. Bridges. Storage yards. Assembly units. Round buildings. Square buildings. Rectangles. Ovals. Low rise. High rise. The scale of activity is breathtaking. And we haven't reached Shanghai yet.

Is there any description of China that doesn't end in 'st'? It has the biggest, newest, most daring and innovative buildings. It has the fastest trains...the most roads and cars. The richest. The poorest. It has everything.

It has people too... Smart, hardworking people. Instead of borrowing to boost their standards of living, the Chinese save their money in order to reduce their standard of living...boost the next generation's.

The Chinese have already pulled off a miracle. It has only been 32 years since Deng Xiaoping opened up China to making money. In that time, the nation has gone from a third world dump to the world's 2nd largest economy...whose growth rate continues to be shocking.

What's their secret? China is a zombie-free zone. The 'safety net' is thin here. There is plenty of corruption and inside dealing, no doubt. But people work hard...save their money...and expect to live by their own efforts.

But the Chinese have gotten a lot of help from America. The feds encouraged Americans to buy things they didn't need with money they didn't have. The Chinese merely took the orders...and the money. Now they have the biggest stash of dollars in the world, while the US has the biggest, stinkiest pile of debt the world has ever seen.

And more thoughts...

We have just had our best airport and hotel experiences ever. Arriving at our hotel - the China World Hotel in Beijing - the staff again met us at the entrance. They greeted us by name and showed us directly to our rooms. There was no waiting to check-in. There were no lines. There were no incompetent or surly flunkeys.

Then, we drove to the huge Beijing airport - the largest in the world. There, uniformed airline employees met us at the curb...took our luggage...and whisked us through the check-in security process. The whole thing took only minutes, with almost no waiting at any step. It was a pleasure.

*** "You haven't seen the real China," one of our Dear Readers who has lived in China for many years explained. "You're just looking at the top cities. It would be like going to the US and only visiting New York and San Francisco. You wouldn't have a very good idea of what the country is like.
"If you go out to some of these second and third tier cities, you get another picture all together. They're pretty grim. And poor. And there are still millions of people who earn almost nothing.

"These poor people keep coming to the cities to find work. The government knows it has to keep the economy growing so that these people don't become a problem. But so far, I've been very impressed. The people running the country may be communists, but they're not stupid. And to tell you the truth, this is a much better system than we have in America.

"I don't know why the US would want to push democracy on the whole world. And I don't know why Hillary Clinton would want to lecture China about human rights either. China isn't intentionally killing people. China doesn't have troops in other countries. China is minding its own business...and building its economy - just like America used to do.

"And not having a democracy is really a good thing. A benign dictatorship can make the kind of changes you need to make. That's what they do here. They can do things that require huge capital investments but only pay off far in the future. They can do things that are unpopular, because they don't have to stand for election every 4 years.

"That's why the US is such a mess. We're digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole each year. But nobody can stop it. Because every member of Congress has to face the voters. And the people who vote are also the people who benefit from government spending - especially teachers and retirees. So you can't fix the problem. It just gets worse and worse until it falls apart.

"Democracy is very overrated."

[written by Bill Bonner writing for DR Newsletter - copyright acknowledged]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Standing Tall Helps Exude Power

Posture can affect how powerful you feel--and how powerful you are
Adam D. Galinsky and Li Huang Tuesday, January 4, 2011 in Scientific American

“The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense that Energy is the fundamental concept in physics . . . The laws of social dynamics are laws which can only be stated in terms of power.” -- Bertrand Russell

Three-quarters of a century ago, Bertrand Russell asserted that power is the driving force behind much of social behavior. Consistent with Russell’s theoretical musings, there has been an explosion of empirical research in the past decade – in social psychology, sociology, economics, and political science – demonstrating that power governs the many important social relationships that make up our political, business and family lives. Indeed, the dynamics of power even regulates the interactions of pre-school children. Power appears to be the central animating force of social life.

Given power’s primacy in social life, it is not surprising that one’s position in a social hierarchy transforms people in fundamental ways. Simply placing a person in a powerful or powerless role immediately alters their thoughts and behavior. The powerful tend to see the forest whereas the powerless focus on the trees. The powerful are optimistic, take bold actions and embrace risky ideas while the powerless are psychologically conservative. As Lara Tiedens of Stanford University points out, this complementarity of behavior leads to an efficient division of labor and smooth social relationships. Because it provides survival advantages to groups, hierarchy is the most prominent form of social organization. As a result, the human mind has evolved to be incredibly sensitive to one's own place in a social hierarchy.

Given the wide range of behaviors and cognition that power pulls into its sphere of influence, a fundamental question is how do people acquire power: what are its sources and bases? Many people answer “money, fame, or an important role in one’s social group.” Indeed, each of these may give you asymmetric control over valued resources, which is the very definition of power.
But, are there other sources of power, other ways to both feel powerful and signal power to others?

In fact, there are many paths to increase one’s sense of power.

The most obvious method is to have actual control over valued resources. But, power is also housed in our memories – simply recalling a time in which one had power has the exact same psychological and behavioral effects as giving people actual resource control. As memories of past power dance in our heads, we feel more powerful and act as if we are in charge in the present. However, although reliving powerful experiences can make one feel powerful, it doesn’t signal power to others.

As it turns out, there is a simple method to both transform people psychologically and signal power to others: altering your body posture.

Across species, body posture is often the primary representation of power. From fish to reptiles to lower mammals to human’s closest evolutionary cousins, non-human primates, power is expressed and inferred through expansive postures, large body size, or even the mere perception of large body size through expansive postures.

The link from expansive postures to feeling and acting in a powerful way was elegantly demonstrated in a recent publication in Psychological Science. Dana Carney and Andy Yap from Columbia University and Amy Cuddy from Harvard University found that open, expansive postures (widespread limbs and enlargement of occupied space by spreading out one’s body), compared with closed, constricted postures (limbs touching the torso and minimization of occupied space by collapsing the body inward), increased feelings of power and an appetite for risk.

To measure the appetite for risk, these researchers gave participants $2 and told them they could keep this money or roll a die and risk losing the $2 for a payout of $4 (a risky but rational bet since the odds of winning were 50/50). Participants who had been placed in the expansive posture reported feeling significantly more “powerful” and “in charge” and were also 45% more likely to roll the die.

More impressively, expansive postures also altered the participants’ hormone levels.

Using salivary samples, Carney and colleagues found that expansive postures led individuals to experience elevated testosterone (T) and decreased cortisol (C). This neuroendocrine profile of High T and Low C has been consistently linked to such outcomes as disease resistance and leadership abilities. Although past research has found that occupying a powerful role leads to expansive postures, Carney et al.’s paper is the first to investigate the reciprocal relationship – the causal effect of posture on the mental experience of power.

Along with Deborah Gruenfeld and Lucia Guillory from Stanford University, we have further established the primacy of posture. In our studies, also appearing in Psychological Science, we empirically demonstrated that not only does expansive posture predict power-related behavior, but it might actually be the closest correlate of these behaviors. Across three studies, we found that when individuals were placed in high- or low-power roles while adopting an expansive or constricted posture, only posture affected the implicit activation of power, the taking of action, and the tendency to see the forest instead of the trees.

Together, these recent discoveries bolster the notion that power is grounded in the body. Not only does power change the body, but altering one’s postures changes one’s power, or at least the psychological experience of it.

These recent findings further suggest that if you want to predict how people will act in any given moment, it may make sense to look to their posture instead of their role or title.

The battle between powerful roles and powerful postures is humorlessly depicted in a cartoon on the cover of the December 5, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. President George W. Bush is slouching. The then vice president, Richard B. Cheney, has both arms expansively extended across the back of a sofa, his legs sprawled across a coffee table. The president has more power vested in him by the Constitution, but the cartoon suggests what scientific research has found: that a person’s posture is often more indicative of actual influence than their position in a hierarchy.

Are you standing tall?

Are your teenagers standing tall?

Some good hints here to help others improve self esteem.

Even snakes and frogs that are close to the ground try to stand tall to intimidate predators.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Oh, What a Drop!!

Oh what a drop!............Best red wine opened in this household so far in 2011. Outshines a bottle of 1999 Leasingham Bin 61 from a month or two back.

It had lots of Gold Medals, not that these always count from smaller Shows / Exhibitions, but with a Gold at Sydney Royal Easter Show, well...........that is a little different, with some serious competition usually.

Yes, a great bottle of Orlando St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 from Coonawarra, a very well respected terroir in South Australia. Very good drinking to complement a good steak and salad.

Best of all......with careful buying a few years ago and some cellaring –

it cost $27 a bottle..........and..............and...........and ........there are several more.

Current readily available releases [2006 and 2007] of the same wine are round $50 a bottle.