Saturday, April 28, 2007

Triage Time

tri·age (noun) - the process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors (

Australia is going through its worst drought ever. Nothing new in that, people have been saying "this is the worst drought ever" since we first settled on this continent. But in the last couple of weeks, we've seen pictures of the Murray-Darling basin, which provides 40% of all food production in this country, that look like photos of the Simpson Desert. We've seen photos of 100 metre high dams with 10 km long dry lake beds behind them, where once were trillions of litres of water. And now we're actually beginning to evacuate entire towns because there isn't any water to drink, and it can't even be trucked in. Last week our Prime Minister said that if the basin didn't get rain in the next couple of weeks, all of the available water we do have would have to be diverted to the cities on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range, to ensure the survival of people there. That's a triage situation if ever I saw one. With no water at all for irrigation, the farms, towns and industries on the west side of the Range might never be re-established after just one season without water. And cutting off 40% of Australia's production might save the maximum number of people in the short term, but food prices would skyrocket, and the economy would be in tatters with the increased ratios of imported necessities.

It doesn't paint a very nice picture for the future, and there isn't much man can actually do when compared to the awesome whims of nature. All our Prime Minister, Mr Howard, could suggest was that people pray for rain. Australia's politicians usually avoid all mention of religion, in public at least, so Mr Howard calling for prayer shows the seriousness of the situation more than a thousand photos could.

That was a week ago, and after years of drought, its now raining. Not heavily, to be sure - perhaps enough to make a difference to one of the worst crises Australia has ever faced, or perhaps not. But either way, Christian or atheist, you have to wonder about the power of prayer when you see that rain.

Read the whole story at
The Big Dry - Australia's Water Shortage

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fruity Flies

Oh dear, fruit flies have been found in Tasmania. The larvae was found in fruit bought from a Hobart supermarket this week - it appears a shipment of fruit intended for Queensland was accidently sent to Tasmania after a mix-up at a vegetable market in New South Wales. Tasmania has maintained a massively complicated quarantine system for decades in order to keep the fruit fly out of the State, even to the point of regularly seaching people and vehicles on the interstate ferries and airlines. Because, the authorities say, it would absolutely destroy our fruit industries if they ever got in. Except it obviously hasn't destroyed the fruit industries in NSW, because that's where the shipment of fruit came from, and QLD wasn't worried about it, because that's where the fruit was supposed to go. Fruit flies haven't destroyed their industries, but they would destroy ours somehow.

I well remember science class at High School. We did experiments with ether and... fruit flies. We knocked the little mongrels out, examined them under the microscope, and tossed them out the window whenever the science teacher's back was turned. I reckon every science class in the State did the same thing, but somehow we never managed to wipe out the Tasmanian fruit industry despite our best efforts. Of course, that was then, when Kids Were Kids, and this is now, when Kids Are Young Persons With Unique And Valuable Skills And Assets Which Can Enrich The Wider Community Including People of Diversified Ethnic Backgrounds And Those With Differing Abilities. Whatever way you look at it, one crate of apples with a couple of fruit flies in it isn't anything to panic about, unless there's government money in panicking. In that case, like the so-called fox epidemic, it's "goodbye common sense and keep those cheques coming."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Wrong Flag

Australia is often described as the 51st state of the US, because so many of our habits, and our standard of living, are similar, and because our Politicians generally do exactly what the US tells them to. Much of our TV is US-made, but you notice one thing in almost every program which we here in Australia should learn from. The Yanks show their flag constantly. It hangs from businesses, ordinary homes have flagpoles in their front yard, its everywhere. 'Old Glory' is an affirmation of their pride about being American, and a constant reminder of their patriotism. At the risk of adding one more piece of American culture to our own, I suggest that we Australians should take a leaf from their book in this regard, and show the flag more often. We DO show the flag on special occasions and sporting events, but I'm suggesting that, like Americans, we should show it more, personally.

Anzac Day yesterday was awash in Aussie flags, of course, as is every war memorial occasion. Its just a pity it was the wrong flag. At the time of the Anzacs and Gallipoli, the flag we went to war under was the red ensign shown here. If you're going to commemorate an historical event, how about doing it accurately? We already celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ (who was born somewhere nearer the middle of the year), and Easter as his death (it was his resurrection). Perhaps in 50 years we'll use roses for Remembrance Day because poppies are controlled plants now. Perhaps in remembering Auschwitz we will mourn for all those Muslims who lost their lives there, because the Jews now all live in New York. Perhaps we'll move Australia Day to April 1st, and we'll have a giant white rabbit in Anzac uniform driving a sleigh and handing presents out to Moms and Dads only, so that we can roll all our mistaken holidays into one.

There is only one thing worse than being ignorant of our history, and that is thinking you know it. As Mark Twain said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”

Australia's Forgotten Flag - The Red Ensign

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anzac Day 2007

The Anzac tradition - the ideals of courage, endurance and mateship that are still relevant today was established on 25 April 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was the start of a campaign that lasted eight months and resulted in some 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8,700 who were killed or died of wounds or disease. The men who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula created a legend, adding the word ‘Anzac’ to the Australian and New Zealand vocabularies and creating the notion of the Anzac spirit.

In 1916, the first anniversary of the landing was observed in Australia, New Zealand and England and by troops in Egypt. That year, 25 April was officially named ‘Anzac Day’ by the Acting Prime Minister, George Pearce. By the 1920s, Anzac Day ceremonies were held throughout Australia. All States had designated Anzac Day as a public holiday. Commemoration of Anzac Day continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s with World War II veterans joining parades around the country. In the ensuing decades returned servicemen and women from the conflicts in Malaya, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, veterans from allied countries and peacekeepers joined the parades.

Anzac Day Official Site
Educational Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Audio Downloads
Anzac Day entry on Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Inglish as She is Goodly Spoken

You may laugh at the title, but today's heading is actually the name of a real book. We often laugh at foreign languages, like the French swear-phrase "Sacre blu", which literally means... as you might guess... 'sacred blue'. Why 'sacred blue' should be their equivalent of English's 'f^%@!' is anyone's guess. And what about foreigners trying their best to write signs in English using only a Local-Language to English dictionary, and some of the hilarious signs which result? See for heaps of examples. But when its all said and done, you can't really blame them for having trouble. These are just some of the reasons why English is so hard to learn:

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
There is no time like the present, so he thought he would present the present.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
He did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
The oarsmen had a row about how to row.
He was too close to the door to close it.
A stag does strange things when the does are present.
After a number of injections my jaw became number.
The artist saw a tear in his painting and shed a tear.
She had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
An army chef decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

And of course, there are no eggs in an eggplant, and no apple or pine in pineapple. Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square, Guinea pigs are neither from Guinea nor are they pigs. Writers write but fingers don't fing. A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, so are quite a lot and quite a few. But overlook and oversee are very different. You fill in a form to fill it out, an alarm goes off by going on, when the stars are out you see their light but when the lights are out you see nothing. And why do you wind up a watch to start it, but wind up a story to finish it? Why is a parcel that goes by car called shipment, and one by ship called cargo? And why do you drive on the parkway, but park in the driveway?

Monday, April 23, 2007

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night

A man came up to me in the street today and pointed a key at me. I said "Don't start anything, mate". "What's it to you?", he demanded. "It's a two-letter word to me", I said, looking daggers at him. He dodged the daggers and snarled "You wanna make something of it!?" "Can't make much out of it", I said, "except maybe ti, and that doesn't make sense anyway." "No", he replied, "besides there aren't enough letters in that to make sense". "This is stupid", I said. "No", he replied, "THIS is stupid", holding up a piece of paper with the word stupid on it, "but I see your point." "Sorry", I exclaimed, and did my loose fly back up. "Right then", he said, "I'm off", so he went off to the right, while I left to the left. Unfortunately his right was my left and we ended up back where we started from. Some days you just can't win.

The post-title comes from that old poem: One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead men got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A paralyzed donkey passing by kicked a blind man in his good eye, cracked his head on a rubber wall, fell into a dry ditch and drowned them all.

And let's not forget that creepy ghost-story: The other day upon the stair, I saw a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today! Oh how I wish he'd go away!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

And Now, Good News!

No news is good news, they say. And certainly a look at world news today indicates that it must have been a very good day indeed. The authorities have called off the search for the crew of a catamaran near Queensland. Or to put it another way, they're not looking for some people who weren't on a boat that wasn't where it should be. Kevin Rudd, Opposition Leader, is not releasing any information about IR. And there's a possibility that the bodies of two young women, found close to where two young women went missing last week, could be them. Mufti is still defiant, just like he was yesterday. Victoria's health chief has said the source of a salmonella outbreak at a Melbourne nursing home may never be found. Islamic prison gangs may be cracked down upon, because it is feared they might be forming gangs behind bars. There could be no irrigation water for farmers in the Murray-Darling basin if rain doesn't fall. Queensland's borders will remain open, says Deputy Premier Anna Bligh. And the first blind pilot to fly half way around the world hasn't arrived yet in Darwin.

Does anyone else notice a trend here, to report News that isn't actually based on anything happening, but on things that didn't happen, might happen, or won't happen? These weren't stories specifically chosen from a larger list to illustrate my point - the above are genuinely the first 9 stories in Google News (Australia) today. When did the media decide that there wasn't enough actually happening in the world, and start to report on anything they liked, whether it happened or not? From a young age I was taught that the essence of writing a report was to know Who, What, Why, Where, When and How. Nowadays, it must be Nevermind, Perhaps, Anyway, Maybe and Whatever.