Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rabbit proof er, ...wall?

The sign reads;
"Built by Emperor Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out".

Image courtesy ImageShack

Now why would some tourists be standing on the Great Wall of China, holding a sign, and with grins on their faces?
(Warning, this is a bit of an Aussie 'in joke').

Have a look at this, it may help explain it all a little ;-)

Shows the power that television has on a nations 'culture' if nothing else (In a similar vein, 'Not happy, Jan' has also entered the vernacular).

Deep Thinking and Liquidity

A friend is just getting into blogging. He has a new project (He ALWAYS has a project!).

He's planned it well, and eventually it will have water in it. Hence the tag;

Deep Thinking and Liquidity

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sept 15th, 'Battle of Britain' Day.

Sept 15th has just passed. British 'chaps' put this as the day the Battle of Britain was won.

The Churchill speech is well known;
"...The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. ..."
(My favourite Churchillian piece though is this one;
"...Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender..."
However, we should also remember the Engineers, those who designed and built those wonderful, beautiful, Merlin Engines, which powered Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters, and later, Mustangs, and those who made that feat possible;

"This window commemorates the pilots of the Royal Air Force who, in the Battle of Britain, turned the work of our hands into the salvation of our Country".

(Inscribed under the stained glass window at the Rolls-Royce manufacturing unit in Nightingale Road, Derby, England).
Update 20Sep07: I found out here something even more interesting. The Merlin was 27 litres, the Daimler DB605 as used in the Messerschmidt Bf109 was 39 litres. (The FW 190's BMW801 was even larger at 42 litres). The Merlin out-performed them both. Rolls Royce had built an aviation 'hot rod'! What a wonderful engineering achievement.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jury duty.

One of my workmates returned to work today after a week's absence, on Jury duty.
What happens is that you may be picked at random from the electoral roll, and summonsed to Jury duty. In his case it was for a criminal trial.
"...39.. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right..." [Magna Carta, c1215AD].
He observed what I see repeatedly noted. Ordinary, 'common' people summonsed to take on an often onerous, sometimes traumatic responsibility, and though they be from a wide range of ages, ethnic backgrounds, rich, poor, they invariably rise to the occasion with common sense and objectivity.

I'm a believer in the Jury System, and in the Common Man generally.

14Sept: Welcome visitors from Club Troppo!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Malthus or (Adam) Smith. Some musings.

I made my previous post on Darfur (arguably an example supporting the Malthusian catastrophe theory?), and then visited some other blogs. At Catallaxy, I found a short quote attributed to Adam Smith;
"Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice.” [Adam Smith].
Now the ideas are at variance. Diametrically opposed you could say. One pessimistically says catastrophe is inevitable. One says utopia is there for the taking. The first world and the third world would arguably be examples proving each theorem (taken separately). But first world birth rates are slow (most W1 country's populations increase only because of immigration). However, there are plenty (usually of the green left) who subscribe to the Malthusian theory - The Club of Rome's 'Limits to Growth' being a classic example (I eventually found a copy of that! - 'twas hard to find).

Not simple? What makes the difference? Is it 'Guns, Germs and Steel'? I don't think it even gets down to that (though clearly having a technological advantage - or some other advantage, is usually telling).

I think differently. I'll observe there can be dramatic differences between places that should be similar. Look at the difference, economically and in quality of life between North and South Korea, for example, Or Israel and her neighbours (all the more interesting when they have lot's of oil revenue and Israel doesn't!), or Singapore. You could see the difference between one side of the 'Iron Curtain' and the other prior to 1989 (East vs West Germany, eg).
No, it's simpler than simply invoking the 'victim' mentality or argument. Culture, religion, attitude, social inertia (not necessarily bad - that's what 'custom' is isn't it?) play some sort of part, though which is the most potent factor is the $64 question.
Perhaps we should also look, favourably, on the example of Oz herself, ourselves, provide? Arguably, in terms of climate, environment, geology, the place we are most like as a 'place' is Africa. Yet Australia is so much better off than Africa by any measure. Why? I have a feeling that to answer that, and similar questions about, say Israel and Sth Korea, will go in large part towards explaining why some countries do well, regardless of 'place' and some badly.
I think Adam Smith is more likely to have the answer than Malthus.

Things get yet harder in Sudan.

My Blogger friend Peter over at Worldman reports things have taken a turn for the worse in Darfur, Sudan.

Whether you call it a 'haboob', a hurricane, or just a very bad storm (150k winds!), it certainly wreaked havoc on the temporary warehouses they had the food aid the local people rely on stored within.

As if they didn't already have enough problems. Read about the conflict that was a continuance in a line of catastrophes in that region here.
'The Darfur conflict is a complex crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. One side of the armed conflict is composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited mostly from the Arab Baggara tribes of the northern Rizeigat, camel-herding nomads. The other side comprises a variety of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, recruited primarily from the land-tilling Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups...."
"...The United Nations (UN) estimates that the conflict has left as many as 450,000 dead from violence and disease..., ...As many as 2.5 million are thought to have been displaced ...".
(From Wikipedia - 'Darfur conflict' entry).

Our thoughts are with you Peter.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

A day at the Drags (Drag racing).

It's Father's Day here today (sadly, neither I nor my wife have ours round to share today with). Partly because of F'sD, partly because I haven't been for a while, the wives packed myself, brother-in-law, and some of the nephews off to Eastern Creek to 'the Drags' yesterday. 'Twas the Eastern Nationals, and a great day was had.

I loooove drag racing. Formula 1 and roundy-round racing don't do much for me (Bathurst is of course exceptional to that!). With drag racing, you get to see the whole race, right in front of you and it's Quick, very, very quick.

Over 450 entries, so a very healthy competitive field, most classes raced.

In these days of (some say) of a looming fuel crisis/shortage, many question motor racing. The competitors use little fuel as compared to the daily use of the crowd there - or of any similar number of cars in daily use. And the group 1 cars don't use petrol (gasoline) as their fuel at all anyway, they use methanol or nitro-methane (liquid explosive basically) as their fuel.

There are some awsomely fast cars there which are street registered. But the crowd favourites are the group 1 class divisions. Especially Doorslammers, Top Alcohol, and Top Fuel. These last are awesome beasts. Using 'pop' or nitro-methane as their fuel, these race vehicles cover a quarter mile (400m) from a standing start in under 5 seconds (4.6 sec being the fastest last night), and in that distance reach over 300 mph (520+km/h). (And Australian competition is a little tamer than the American NHRA T/F events!). Drag racing and Top Fuel does also seem to have a following in Europe too though.
A Top Fuel race, or the first time you hear one run even, is one of life's experiences.

(Read this piece on a run and the engine rebuild that occurs between runs for a US -Tony Schumacher drag car. Last night, they were rebuilding and test running an engine in the less than 2 hours they had between heats, semi-finals and finals).

Have a look at this YouTube clip of TopFuel racing.

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