Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Billions of blue blistering barbequed barnacles

I loved reading Tintin when I was a kid. Captain Haddock, a real old seadog, used to swear tremendously without really using swearwords. He would utter awesome streams of words like “billions of blue blistering barbequed barnacles!”


I always found this really funny, although I had no idea what it meant.

Until Monday 22 March 2010, when I saw what billions of blue blistering barbequed barnacles looked like when they came down from the sky.

What a show! The sky turned pitch-black, and the wind started howling like an angry dog. Trees were bending sideways like they were made of paper.


Then came the hail. Raining down mercilessly, it pounded the earth and anything else that dared to stand in its way. The ground turned white, and for a moment it looked like it snowed.

I was up in the office sitting in my newly occupied window seat, watching all this happen. No one really thought it was too serious. Then we saw a massive lightning bolt strike down to the east of us, and the lights went out.

Ten thousand thundering typhoons!

I immediately realised that traffic was going to be a nightmare. When I finally scraped together enough courage to get going, I saw that the road just outside our building had turned into a little dam.

22032010 22032010(001) 22032010(002) 22032010(003)Getting onto the freeway took me more than 40 minutes – this trip usually takes me about 5 minutes, if that much. All the traffic lights in Leederville were down, and everybody seemed to have the right of way. (Except for me, of course…)


Crawling along the freeway wasn’t any better, and half an hour later I saw IKEA on my left. A snail balancing an egg on its back would go faster than we did.

There were two spots on the freeway where three traffic lanes were forced into one emergency lane due to the “small dam” that formed.

Finally getting onto Warwick road, it was obvious that things hadn’t really improved. Trees were scattered all over the place. The road had a greenish colour due to the leaves that were spread all over it. The smell of eucalyptus was heavy in the air.

OK, this was not on Warwick road but it gives a pretty good idea...

Most traffic lights were not working, and the normal driver correctly assumed that this meant that the intersection should be considered to be a 4-way stop. But not some of our younger hoons, who sped through intersections as if a dead light was considered to be a “go” signal.

A few words came to mind when I saw this:

"Troglodyte," "bashi-bazouk," "kleptomaniac," "ectoplasm," "sea-gherkin," "anacoluthon", "pockmark, "nincompoop", "abominable snowman", and "freshwater swab" were among the more decent ones – all thanks to Captain Haddock, of course.

Arriving home, I was glad to see the lights burning. More than 150000 other homes were not so lucky. Here is some of the damage that occurred:

perth stormm Northbridge tunnel

1 Cambridge St West Leederville 22nd March 2010 4.49pm 1 12420_1404013618229_1169016050_31222586_278858_n Train station 25138_376879553123_605393123_3867303_7025479_n UWA Library Hail image016  perrth What a way to break a dry spell!  We haven’t seen a drop of rain since November.  OK, maybe I’m lying: we did see a drop – it rained 0.2mm in February…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Two 20-Year stories compared

At the end of the Second World War, in 1945, Germany was totally destroyed.  Buildings were levelled with the ground, and the economy was down to the basics of scraping around on the floor for a piece of bread.

The country was divided up by the occupying nations, who also took away anything that was deemed valuable. 

The Allies confiscated intellectual privileges of huge value, such as all German patents, both in Germany and abroad, and used them to strengthen their own industrial competitiveness by licensing them to Allied companies.[5][6] Meanwhile some of the best German researchers were being put to work in the Soviet Union and in the U.S.

From 1939 to 1945, Nazi Germany waged total war. In 1945, the nation faced total defeat. An estimated 3.5 million German soldiers were dead or missing, along with some 750,000 civilians. Millions more were crippled or imprisoned. Food was scarce. Inflation was rampant. Refugees were everywhere. Allied bombs had flattened 25 percent of Germany's available housing. An entire district in Hamburg had to be walled in to prevent the spread of diseases from the corpses piled there.

The country was razed to the ground, and looted by the Allies for all of it’s material and intellectual wealth.  Germany was cut up into four occupied zones, and later divided into two separate countries, called West Germany and the DDR (“Democratic” Republic of East Germany). 

The joke in the eighties was “if a country’s name has the word “democratic” in it, it isn’t.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Marshall Plan, which was extended to also include the newly formed West Germany in 1949, was not the main force behind the Wirtschaftswunder.[7][8]

Had that been the case, other countries such as Great Britain and France (which both received higher economic assistance from the plan than Germany) should have experienced the same phenomenon.

In fact, the amount of monetary aid (which was in the form of loans) received by Germany through the Marshall Plan was far overshadowed by the amount the Germans had to pay back as war reparations and by the charges the Allies made on the Germans for the ongoing cost of occupation (about $2.4 billion per year).

In 1953 it was decided that Germany was to repay $1.1 billion of the aid it had received. The last repayment was made in June 1971.

In less than 20 years after being declared fully sovereign, Germany had paid back all it’s debt, and ranked number 4 in terms of largest GDP in the world.

On 5 May 1955 West Germany was declared "fully sovereign". The British, French and U.S. militaries remained in the country, just as the Soviet Army remained in East Germany. Four days after becoming "fully sovereign" in 1955, West Germany joined NATO. The U.S. retained an especially strong presence in West Germany, acting as a deterrent in case of a Soviet invasion. In 1976 West Germany became one of the founding nations of the Group of Six (G6).

In 1973, West Germany which was home to roughly 1.26% of the world's population featured the world's fourth largest GDP of 944 billion (5.9% of the world total). In 1987 the FRG held a 7.4% share of total world production.

What an amazing tale.  In 1990, after re-unification, West Germany had to also take up the additional burden of rectifying all the damage that communism had done to East Germany.  Never once did they wait for someone else to do it.  They did not sit around and blame the Allies for destroying their country, and thereby claiming some magical right to foreign aid.  They just made their hands dirty, lifted their chins up, and worked.

In contrast to this, there is Namibia.  In 1989, still under South African control, this country had an average life expectancy of over 60 years and unemployment of 25%.  Even during the long bush-war in the North of the country, the life expectancy rate was climbing steadily every year. 


Crime was something that people only heard of – something that happened in other countries.  The biggest crime that featured, was in the form of bombings and landmines planted on farms by Swapo terrorists.  People parked their cars in the middle of the city without locking them, and no one had burglar bars or alarm systems.  Armed response was unheard of because the Police were competent and efficient, and they knew how to take fingerprints and how to do basic stuff like take down sworn declarations and making signatures.

The much hated South African government left behind a legacy of schools, hospitals, roads, railway lines, and an impressive water  and electrical supply infrastructure that was considered to be among the best in Africa, if not in the southern hemisphere.

Namibia now celebrates 20 years of so-called “independence”.  The government still begs for handouts from Germany (how ironic), the USA and China, to name a few.  Actually they don’t beg, they demand

Some of the state-funded organisations like the national airline and the NBC broadcasting Corporation, had to be bailed out numerous times due to bad management. 

The Transnamib railway corporation is considered a joke, and also struggles to keep itself financially viable.  Chinese trains stand around doing nothing because parts and competent maintenance staff are not available for them.  All over the country old water supply schemes that were built by the “previous regime” struggle to continue providing water, because maintenance and capital spending is insufficient.

In a normal everyday working environment, people address each other as “comrades” during meetings, and those who don’t use this kind of socialist label are frowned upon as racist imperialists.


But there has been progress.

The Swapo government has managed to double the unemployment rate in 20 years’ time.  (Before you applaud this as a good thing, it’s actually a figure that you might want to reduce.)

It currently runs at 51%, more than double the 25% that was left behind by the South African government.  This ranks among the 10 highest in the world.  Not quite something to celebrate.

Life expectancy is below the level that it was when a full-scale war was waging in the country’s Northern areas.

Just like Mugabe’s terrorist government, this government lives in a paranoiac state of confusion, and unseen enemies are always to blame for their failures.  They still live in a constant fear that the west will subversively force “regime change” on them, and their greatest dream is to re-instate previously-failed communist systems like collective farming.  Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro are hailed as heroes of the “struggle”, and are lovingly entertained as special guests.

Today, a house without burglar bars is unmarketable.  Of course, this is only available to the very small elite group of rich and middleclass people, as the gap between rich and poor is growing without mercy.

Without armed response, your alarm system is pretty useless.  Electric fences and barbed wire are considered fashionable.  You will not be able to own a car without an alarm and immobiliser for more than a day.  Even your wheels get stolen off your car if you’re not careful.

When you call the police, they take half an hour to answer, and respond by informing you that they don’t have a vehicle to their disposal.  Going to a police station to make a sworn declaration will take at least a few hours of your time, because the police officer first has to scrape around to find a piece of paper and a pen, and then struggles to spell the word “burglary”.  Obtaining something as simple as a national Police Clearance Certificate takes at least four months.

On official registration papers, a fork lift is classified as a “fok left”.  One can clearly see that the government has created a great national educational system, and an awesome efficient public service.

Twenty years of utter failure and incompetence.  It’s not even fair to try to compare these two countries.

One may want to give this government more time – after all, 20 years go by so quickly.  But sadly, one cannot see that 10 years from now things are going to be any better.  The trend seems to go in the wrong direction.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dead bodies, toilet paper and other exciting stuff

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Or surfing, rather.  There are some really funny things going on all around the world.  One of the creepiest stories I’ve read, was about this woman whose dead body was hidden under a mattress in a motel.

Yuck.  Just imagine how the people must feel who used this hotel room in the meanwhile – sharing the bed with a corpse, and not knowing it!  Especially the latest visitors – imagine getting into bed, only to wonder what that foul stench is that seems to linger around your nostrils?  Imagine getting up in the middle of the night trying to find the source of this aroma.  Yikes.

The bed in which the victim was located is a metal box frame which sets directly on the floor and the box springs and mattress set inside the metal frame. The room had been rented approximately five times and cleaned by the hotel staff numerous times since her death.

The next time I check into a motel I’ll make sure I check under the mattress before it gets dark. Who knows what could happen if you don’t check out all the closets and hiding spots before you get comfortable.

Then there’s a cool story about toilet paper.  This machine, although inefficient from a financial point of view, does an amazing job of turning your latest newspaper into a nice roll of White Gold at the press of a button:

As one of my mates commented when he saw this – in Africa we’ve seen an easier way of turning newspaper into toilet-paper...

I also found an article where they claim that they can make a car run on laser hydride CD’s.  Don’t believe me?  Read it here.

The novel approach is to use Laser hydride CD storage. What this means is that a hydrogen car owner will refuel their vehicle at a regular hydrogen fueling station. The compressed hydrogen fuel will flow into the car and microwaves will ionize the H2 onto CD, similar to what we would put into a CD player in which to listen to music.

And much like the process of listening to music, the device would use a laser to release the hydrogen on demand from the magnesium CD as the car needs it for fuel. The CD’s would be stacked in a series and could provide a range of over 300 miles for the average hydrogen fuel cell car.

And then I read about this criminally insane kangaroo who attacked a poor defenceless jogger in Canberra.  What’s this world coming to, if even these fluffy little animals turn to crime and violence these days?

In local politics, the heavyweights are insulting each other like it’s going out of fashion, with ex-prime ministers and MP’s joining in the brawl.  Some of the words that were slung around this week, were as follows:

…Mr Abbott quickly recovered to accuse the Rudd Government of lying to voters.  Forced to withdraw his lying charge as unparliamentary, he accused Mr Rudd of telling “grotesque untruths”.

“What a complete fake,” Mr Abbott yelled across the chamber at the Prime Minister.

"Don't stare at your notes, listen.''

“Not for nothing was he known as Dr Death in Queensland” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Rudd slammed Mr Abbott’s response, claiming he had a weather vane as a moral compass.

“He knows that the weather vane actually constitutes his moral compass. That is, whichever way it blows so then will he take the politics of his position.”

Asylum seekers were next on the agenda, with Tony Abbott blaming old Kev for the death of boat people:


Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has linked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the deaths of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.

The opposition has resumed its attack on the government's asylum seeker polices in recent days, having branded Mr Rudd a "border protection sceptic".

Peter Costello attacked one of his own party members by saying

…Mr Abbott had taken a "Crocodile Dundee approach" to policy - a reference to a scene in the movie of the same name when Dundee was confronted by a mugger with a knife and produces a larger one, saying, 'That's not a knife, this is a knife'

Even the ladies took off the gloves:

When asked by ABC News Online whether she thought female voters would be in favour of a Gillard ascension to the top job, Ms Bishop replied: "I would see her being from the left wing of the Labor Party, truly a socialist who has taken to wearing pearls."

Then Kevin Rudd gave a cold shoulder to one of the premiers, Kristina Keneally, who is the current Labor premier of New South Wales.  (This is the same party that Mr. Rudd belongs to).  This incident caused headlines all over the country.

And there you were, thinking that Australian politics was boring?

Of course, all of this was dwarfed by a boring story of an elephant who gave birth in a zoo.  Puhleaze…

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tsunami watch

If by now you haven’t heard about the massive earthquake in Chile, and the fact that an earthquake of that magnitude can potentially cause a tsunami, then you probably also have no clue who Barak Obama is.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami warning for Australia’s east coast after the earthquake hit Chile.  What did some local idiots do? – they went to the beach to go and see “what a tsunami looks like”.

Some of them actually thought that sitting on higher ground would make it perfectly safe for them to sit and watch the destruction and carnage going on around them.  Some of them actually brought their kids along for the show.

Fortunately enough for them, nothing happened. 

One bloke defends himself in this manner:

Lets see:

1. The media make a beat-up about tsunami's, without researching the facts.

2. The bureau of meteorology lists the expected wave height at Southport as 0.1m.

3. People in no risk of danger enter the water and are labeled stupid.  I reaserched (sic) the danger and decided I could handle the 0.1m waved expected. I think this was irresponsible reporting of the media when there was no actual threat on the Gold Coast. Perhaps it's time to read 'The Boy who Cried Wolf'

This idiot thinks the science is so accurate as to predict waves of 0.1m.  Apparently he knows enough – he’s done “research”.  Would the sum total of that research incorporate googling it?

Where was he when the Boxing day tsunami hit?  One of the most important issues that came out during that event was that we cannot always predict nature as well as we want to. 

How many times has the weather bureau had it wrong?  If you can’t trust them for a simple temperature prediction or a rain forecast, how on earth can you trust a prediction of a 0.1m tsunami wave?  What happens if that wave turns out to be different?  The prediction may even change within an hour, and you won’t have time to respond by the time you have done some more “research” on the beach. 

The tsunami prediction system is still in it’s infancy.  Taking the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre to court after you were killed does not really bring you back.

Guess what’s going to happen next time?  There will be more idiot families who turn up for the freak show, and they will pack the beaches.  As one commentator said - “not a big loss for humanity's gene pool if a real tsunami had struck”…